Sparks fly in Moxley murder hearing
By Thomas Mellana, Greenwich Time, Staff Writer
10/17/98

BRIDGEPORT - Prosecutors yesterday began their fight to force the owner of a private Maine school "46 testify before a grandjury searching for Martha Moxley's killer. The prosecutors are investigating claims that Joseph Ricci, (AP photo), owner of the Elan School in Maine, heard former Belle Haven teenager Michael "'Skakel admit to killing Moxley, who was 15, when Skakel was attending 'Elan two decades ago.

Ricci has refused to testify before the grand jury in Bridgeport, claiming anything a student says at his school at the time a licensed mental health facility is protected information and must remain so if treatment programs are to succeed. I The hearing to decide whether Ricci will be made to testify got off to a rocky start in state Superior Court in Bridgeport.

The school owner, repeatedly clashed with Executive Assistant State's Attorney Domenick Galluzzo, who said he would show Ricci's claims of protection are groundless. Skakel attended Elan from 1978 to 1980. At the time, the school was a place for troubled teens and included alcoholism and drug rehabilitation, as well as special education facilities. It currently is a private special education school.

After a lengthy exchange in which several of the school's licenses were read into the record, Galluzzo questioned Ricci about the layout of classrooms and dormitories at Elan. He also had Ricci take him through a typical day there in the late 1970s, which would have included job training, classes, encounter groups, seminars in which students "might discuss Nietzsche or Kant," and community meetings, in which boys had to "pull themselves up and ask for help." The school at the time had a facility and staff ranging from 18 to 30, and 300 residents. Most of the 'staff was not involved in treatment, Ricci said.

Lawyers for Skakel and Ricci are expected when the hearing resumes at 10 a.m. Monday to produce evidence they say will prove all communication at a facility such as Elan is privileged. Michael Sherman, a Stamford attorney representing Skakel, also was present at the hearing yesterday, joined by attorney Linda Kenney of New Jersey, who is assisting on the confidentiality issue. The two attorneys took exception to many of Galluzzo's questions, including those about whether there was a treatment plan for Skakel. Simply divulging that would be a breach of confidentiality, Kenney said. Kenney also asked for a copy of Skakel's academic record that Inspector Frank Garr retrieved from the school via a search warrant last year. Attorneys for Skakel only learned about the search, which occurred this past October, on Thursday, she said. "If his questions relate to matter they got from the search warrant, we are allowed to have a copy," Kenney said. "Those records may have some private information in them, and they may have information regarding the privacy issue itself." It was revealed during the session that only scholastic, not psychiatric, records were retrieved during the search.

Skakel was sent to the school by his father following a drunken driving incident in Windham, N.Y., Sherman confirmed yesterday outside of court. Superior Court Judge Edward R Stodolink allowed the records to be made available to Skakel's and Ricci's attorneys in a sealed court file. The question of privilege arose last month, after State's Attorney Jonathan Benedict subpoenaed Ricci to appear as a witness before the grandjury. Ricci initially refused to comply with the subpoena, but relented on the order of a Maine judge. But, before the jury on Sept. 24, he refused to answer questions. Benedict had filed court papers

asking that Ricci be made to testify because the prosecutor "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." Police have named Skakel and his brother Thomas, then 15 and 17 years old, respectively, as suspects in the Oct. 30, 1975, beating and stabbing death of Moxley. Police said the girl died from blows that came from a golf club owned by members of the Skakel family, who lived across the street from the Moxleys. Before entering the courthouse, Ricci said he was troubled by prosecutors' efforts to obtain his testimony. "I feel it's unsettling, it is always unsettling when an attempt is made to unsettle people's lives," he said. "This argument has profound implications for thousands of people who have undergone therapy."