Moxley Prosecutors Press For Witness
Associated Press
This story ran in the Courant October 20, 1998

BRIDGEPORT - Prosecutors continued their push Monday to force the owner of a school for troubled teenagers to testify about a confession they believe he overheard from a nephew of Robert F. Kennedy in the 1975 slaying of a Greenwich teenager.

Joseph Ricci, owner of the Elan School of Poland Spring, Maine, has refused to testify before a grand jury investigating the 1975 death of 15-year-old Martha Moxley.

Prosecutors believe Ricci overheard Michael Skakel admit involvement in Moxley's death while Skakel was a resident of Elan from 1978 to 1980.

Attorneys for Ricci and Skakel have spent most of a two-day court hearing arguing that Ricci should not be forced to testify because of the confidentiality laws that protect communications between psychiatrists and their patients. Elan was a residential drug treatment program and school where troubled adolescents received psychotherapy.

Monday, Ricci said he never heard Skakel - directly or indirectly - make any admissions in Moxley's death.

``At no time did anyone ever say to me Michael Skakel had committed a murder. At no time did I overhear it,'' Ricci told reporters outside court.

Inside the courtroom, Ricci said he had never heard a murder confession. In response to questions from Linda Kenney, one of Skakel's attorneys, Ricci said reports that he had overheard a confession were ``an absolute lie.''

In court papers, however, Bridgeport State's Attorney Jonathan Benedict said he ``has been informed by several former residents of Elan that Joseph Ricci was present and overheard Michael Skakel make admissions as to the murder of Martha Moxley.''

Benedict goes on to say that the admissions were made by Skakel ``in response to being confronted by Mr. Ricci and other Elan staff members as to Skakel's involvement in the matter.''

No decision was made Monday on whether Ricci will be forced to testify.

Ricci, a millionaire who owns the Scarborough Downs race track, is also a two-time unsuccessful candidate for governor in Maine.

Superior Court Judge Edward Stodolink continued the hearing to Nov. 4, when prosecutors are expected to call witnesses to rebut Ricci's view that any conversations Skakel had while a student at Elan were protected by privilege.

Michael Skakel and his brother Thomas have long been identified by authorities as suspects in Moxley's death. Their father, Rushton Skakel, is the brother of Ethel Kennedy, Robert Kennedy's widow.

At the time of the killing, the Skakel family lived near the Moxleys in Belle Haven, an exclusive gated community in Greenwich.

Michael, then 15, and Thomas, 17, were among a group of friends who were with Martha the night she was beaten to death with a golf club, Oct. 30, 1975. The golf club used to kill her came from a set owned by the Skakel family.

No one has ever been charged in the killing. Both Michael and Thomas Skakel have repeatedly denied any involvement.

Interest in the case was revived this spring after two books were published, including one by former Los Angeles police Det. Mark Fuhrman.

In ``Murder in Greenwich: Who Killed Martha Moxley?'' Fuhrman contends Michael Skakel admitted during a group therapy session at Elan that he had killed Moxley with a golf club.

Judge George Thim was appointed to serve as a one-man grand jury in June.

Emanuel Margolis, an attorney for Thomas Skakel, was in court Monday to monitor the hearing. As he listened to the testimony, he was served with a subpoena to testify before the grand jury Oct. 30, the 23rd anniversary of Moxley's death.

Margolis reacted angrily, calling prosecutors' attempts to call him as a witness ``an abuse of power.''

``Once they start subpoenaing lawyers, we're into a very, very serious area of privilege,'' he said.