"Hearing to Compel Testimony is Delayed
School Owner Fighting Grand Jury"
Greenwich Time, Oct. 8, 1998
By J.A. Johnson Jr., Staff Writer

A hearing meant to compel a reluctant witness to testify before a grand jury about whether he heard an admission to the 1975 murder of Martha Moxley has been postponed until next week. An attorney for the witness said the hearing, scheduled for today, was postponed because more time was needed to prepare arguments that the alleged murder confession would be protected by law from disclosure because it supposedly occurred at a licensed mental health facility. The hearing has been rescheduled for Oct. 16, when a Superior Court judge will be asked to order Joseph Ricci, owner of the Elan School in Maine, to answer the grand jury's questions concerning the alleged confession. Meanwhile, prosecutors have renewed their efforts to have the 74-year-old brother of Ethel Kennedy testify before the grand jury. According to Portland, Maine, attorney John Campbell, attempts still were being made as of yesterday to obtain documentation from state agencies that Elan School had been licensed as a mental health facility. He said the documentation is needed to bolster Ricci's claim that anything said by a student of Elan School was confidential information which, by law, cannot be disclosed without the student's permission. "We're still trying to obtain from Maine archives licenses which had been issued to Elan in the 1970s," Campbell said. One of two suspects in the Moxley murder, former Greenwich resident Michael Skakel, attended Elan School from 1978 to 1980, according to court papers filed by State's Attorney Jonathan Benedict, who is assisting Superior Court Judge George Thim with the grand jury in Bridgeport. Benedict said in the court documents that he "has been informed by several former residents of Elan that Joseph Ricci was present and overheard Michael Skakel make admissions to the murder of Martha Moxley." When Ricci appeared before the grand jury Sept. 24, he refused to answer its questions on the basis the sought information was privileged, at which time Benedict filed a motion to compel testimony. Outside of court, Ricci said he knew of no statements by Elan students admitting complicity to murder. That same day, Skakel's attorney filed a motion seeking an injunction against Ricci's testimony and the use of Elan School records. The motion said any statements Skakel made during counseling sessions, as well as records concerning his stay at Elan School, "are confidential communications and, as a matter of law, cannot be disclosed to this grand jury, absent a waiver of Michael Skakel's claim of privilege." Attached to the motion was an affidavit, which had been signed by Skakel in Martin County Court in Florida, attesting to the fact he had not authorized the disclosure of statements or release of records. Since Skakel's motion and Ricci's objections concern the same issue of privilege, both matters will be decided at next week's hearing before Superior Court Judge John Ronan. Only three people have ever been identified by authorities as suspects in the Moxley case. One of them, Kenneth Littleton, a then-23-year-old live-in tutor who moved into Skakel's house the night of the murder, was given immunity in return for his testimony in August. The move left Michael Skakel and his older brother, Thomas, as the only remaining suspects. Michael and Thomas Skakel, who at the time were 15 and 17 years old, respectively, had been with Moxley prior to her murder the evening of Oct. 30, 1975. Police identified the murder weapon as a golf club from a set of clubs owned by the Skakel family, who lived across the street from the Moxley's in the Belle Haven section of town. Another reluctant witness in the Moxley case has been the Skakel brothers' father, Rushton Skakel Sr., who now lives in Hobe Sound, Fla. The elder Skakel, brother of Ethel Kennedy, last month refused to comply with a subpoena to appear before the grand jury, and after the subpoena was upheld by a Florida judge, Skakel's attorneys claimed their client was incompetent to testify due to unspecified health problems. A competency hearing was then scheduled, but Benedict canceled it for unexplained reasons. Benedict's office this week reapplied for a competency hearing, but it had yet to be scheduled as of yesterday. Thim will decide whether Skakel is competent to testify, said Frank Garr, an inspector in the prosecutor's office. "We'll fly him up here in an ambulance if we have to," he said. The Associated Press contributed to this report.