Sherman says he planned to steer media,
lived high life with celebrities
HARTFORD, Conn. -- At a seminar in Las Vegas a year
ago, Kennedy cousin Michael Skakel's lawyer described
his plan to shape newspaper headlines and his life
Michael Sherman's presentation, titled "High Profile
Cases," is available on an hourlong compact disc now
sold by the Nevada Bar Association as part of its
Continuing Legal Education library, The Hartford
Courant reported Thursday.
Sherman at one point in the seminar conceded that he
forgot lawyers' cardinal rule: "The case isn't about
you, it's about your client."
Skakel, 42, a nephew of the late Robert F. Kennedy,
was convicted in June of beating Martha Moxley to
death with a golf club when they were 15-year-old
neighbors in Greenwich in 1975. He was sentenced to 20
years to life in prison in August.
Skakel maintains his innocence. When he was arraigned
in March 2000, he told Moxley's mother, "Dorthy, I
feel your pain, but you've got the wrong guy."
Sherman insisted that he did not orchestrate the
exchange and said he was surprised as everyone else.
But he told at different story to lawyers at the
Nevada Bar Association seminar in October 2001, six
months before jury selection in the Skakel case began.
Sherman also spoke candidly about how he bartered an
interview about the case with now-defunct Talk
magazine in exchange for a ticket to the Academy
Awards "and all the cool parties."
He also described to fellow lawyers at the seminar how
he dined at Manhattan's fabled Elaine's, and how he
used part of his $2 million fee from the case to rent
a beachfront apartment in Greenwich and buy
After the verdict, several people complained that
Sherman was late in paying them thousands of dollars
for services related to the case.
Sherman said he discussed the subject of Skakel
speaking to Dorthy Moxley at the arraignment the day
before with Skakel and a bodyguard. The conversation
took place at Sherman's office.
"When we go to court the next day, I know the headline
is going to be all over the world. And I'm thinking,
'I want to try to control that headline,"' Sherman
told the lawyers.
Sherman said he told Skakel to say something to Dorthy
"I don't care what you say. Just make it from the
heart," he said. "If you don't say anything, the
headline's going to say, "Skakel snubs" or "Skakel
ignores mother" or something like that.
Sherman said Skakel at first wanted to tell Moxley,
"I'm really sorry, but it wasn't me."' Sherman agreed.
But the bodyguard interrupted, telling Sherman, "You
know, Mickey, you're making a mistake. If he says the
words, 'I'm sorry,' that's the headline," Sherman
"And I said, 'Geez, you're so right.' He was so right.
And I said, 'No matter what you say, Michael, don't
use the words, "I'm sorry."
"So after the arraignment, which takes all of about
two seconds," Sherman said, "Michael goes up to the
mother, who's a lovely lady, and says, 'Dorthy, I feel
your pain, but you've got the wrong guy.'
"And every paper picked that up. And that became the
headline on the story the next day, not just on the
local publications, but in the New York Post, the
(International Herald Tribune), even The New York
Times bought into it," Sherman said.
Sherman told the Courant on Wednesday that his denial
of any involvement in Skakel's confrontation with
Dorthy Moxley pertained only to whether he actually
scripted the comment Skakel made.
"I did not tell him what to say," Sherman said. "I
think that is key here. I felt it better to say
something than not to say something."
Asked about his quote at the time about being
surprised, Sherman said that was "as to what he said,
only to the content."
"It's not manipulating the media," Sherman said
Wednesday. "It's trying to deal with the media."
At the seminar, Sherman described how he dined with
cast members from "The Sopranos," HBO's popular mafia
series, on the night of Jan. 19, 2000, hours after
Skakel was arrested.
The Nevada lawyers also learned how Sherman tricked a
witness at Skakel's probable-cause hearing into
believing the defense team had a transcript of the
outtakes - segments not broadcast - of a television
interview the witness had done while under the
influence of crack and heroin. Sherman had downloaded
the NBC logo and pasted it onto an impressive-looking
folder. Prosecutors never challenged him to reveal its
contents; it was hollow.
"I kept waiting for the prosecutor to grab this thing
from me," Sherman said. "It would have been
Sherman also described how Tina Brown, then publisher
of Talk magazine, enticed him into an interview for
the story by inviting him to "all the 'A' parties in
"I live 45 minutes from Manhattan," Sherman said. "I'm
getting invited to the launch party for 'Sex and the
City.' I'm just going to the great parties and having
a great time.
"I said, 'Tina, you're playing me like a fine
Stradivarius and it's working.' So she said, 'OK, I've
hired a guy named Gerald Posner, who is a historian
lawyer who's written a bunch of books. He's going to
do the article.'
"And I still don't want to do it, so she says, 'All
right. I'll do the interview anywhere you want.'
"I go, 'Anywhere?'
"And she says, 'Yeah.'
"So I said, 'OK - the Academy Awards and all the cool
parties.' And this is what happens. Horrible.