Sherman says he planned to steer media,
lived high life with celebrities
Associated Press

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 with celebrities.

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 watercraft.

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 Moxley.

"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 said.

"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 hysterical."

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 New York."

"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. Horrible."

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