"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.