Prosecutors plan to subpoena the lawyer for one suspect in the Martha Moxley murder case and an attorney who formerly represented another of the suspects, ordering them to appear before the grand jury that is investigating the Greenwich teenager's 1975 slaying.
Manhattan attorney Thomas Sheridan Jr., who represented suspect Michael Skakel until earlier this year, yesterday said he was informed last week by a state inspector that he would be subpoenaed to appear before the grand jury later this month.
The Oct. 8 telephone call from State Inspector Frank Garr was made as a "courtesy call" to inform Sheridan that he would be subpoenaed to appear before the grand jury sitting in Bridgeport on Oct. 30, the attorney said. Sources said a similar call was made the same day to Stamford attorney Emanuel Margolis, who continues to represent the other suspect in the Moxley case, Michael Skakel's older brother Thomas.
Margolis, while declining to confirm or deny he had been contacted by Garr, said if he is subpoenaed he "would be totally shocked," and vowed to try to quash the order to appear before the Bridgeport grand jury. "I will respond in every way that is appropriate to protect my client's interest," the attorney said, declining further comment. Sheridan said he, too, would fight attempts to bring him before the investigative body that is focusing on his former client. "There is little or no doubt in my mind that Michael Skakel has a right to attorney-client privilege," Sheridan said, "and I don't think it is appropriate for the authorities in Connecticut, who know I represented this young man for many years, to be calling me before a grand jury."
According to Sheridan, Garr had called him on behalf of State's Attorney Jonathan Benedict. The prosecutor is assisting Superior Court Judge George N. Thim, who is heading the Moxley probe as a one-judge investigative grand jury. Garr refused comment yesterday, and Benedict did not return calls to his office. Michael and Thomas Skakel, who at the time were 15 and 17 years old, respectively, were neighbors of Moxley and were with her prior to her murder the evening of Oct. 30, 1975. Police have identified a golf club belonging to the Skakel family as the murder weapon.
Sheridan represented Michael until shortly after the grand jury was convened in June. He said he had not tried a criminal case in many years, and so referred his client to Stamford criminal defense attorney Michael Sherman. Margolis has represented Thomas Skakel since 1976.
Should the Skakel brothers' attorneys be subpoenaed, the grand jury could be faced with another skirmish concerning claims of privileged information that is set to be played out Friday morning. That is when Superior Court Judge John Ronan is to be asked by Benedict to compel testimony from Joseph Ricci, owner of a school for troubled adolescents in Maine who allegedly overheard Michael Skakel confess to murdering Moxley.
Benedict has stated in court documents that Michael Skakel attended Elan School from 1978 to 1980, and the prosecutor claimed "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."
Complying with a subpoena, Ricci appeared before the grand jury behind closed doors at the Fairfield County Courthouse on Sept. 24, but he refused to answer its questions on the basis anything said by residents of his licensed mental health facility is protected by law from disclosure.
Benedict immediately afterward filed a motion to compel testimony. When attorneys on Friday argue whether Ricci should be compelled to answer the grand jury's questions, they will be joined by Sherman - Michael Skakel's current lawyer - who is seeking an injunction to bar both Ricci's testimony and the introduction of Elan School records as evidence.
Sherman said if Sheridan or Margolis is subpoenaed, "it would be chilling" because "when you start calling people's lawyers as witnesses against them, the scales of justice become a little tipped in the wrong direction." While acknowledging that attorney-client privilege is waived under certain circumstances - such as when conversations are held in the presence of a third party - Sherman said, "Both of these attorneys represented their clients for 22 years. What possible basis could the state have to want to violate that privilege and confidentiality?"