"Skakel Lawyers Claim Greenwich Police Report Backs Privilege Claims"
By J.A. Johnson Jr., Staff Writer, Greenwich Time

BRIDGEPORT - Defense attorneys yesterday produced in court a 2-decade-old Greenwich police report they said proves investigators knew that statements concerning suspect Michael Skakel's stay at a drug and alcohol rehabilitation facility where prosecutors allege Skakel confessed to the 1975 Martha Moxley murder were privileged information.

The 1978 police report was presented at the close of the fifth day of an open- court hearing in which Skakel's attorneys are seeking to block grand jury testimony concerning the murder confession prosecutors allege was made at the Elan School rehabilitation center in Poland Spring, Maine.

"This is the information the Greenwich Police Department was acting on," Skakel's defense lawyer, Michael Sherman, told Superior Court Judge Edward Stodolink.

The attorney's remark prompted State's Attorney Jonathan Benedict to reply, "We're not concerned with what the Greenwich Police Department was acting on in 1978; we're concerned about what the state's attorney is acting on in 1998." Benedict is assisting the grand jury, which was convened in June to further probe the 15-year-old Greenwich girl's murder that was the focus of a full reinvestigation launched in 1991.

The 20-year-old police report was ordered marked for "identification only" by Stodolink, and Sherman said it may be offered as a full exhibit when the hearing on the privilege issue resumes Dec. 1.

The police report, dated May 12, 1978, details how Skakel had been arrested in Windham, N.Y., after allegedly trying to intentionally run down a police officer before crashing his car during a police chase. The report states that following his court appearance on drunken driving and other charges, Skakel was taken to a local airport where he was met by a doctor before being handcuffed and placed on a plane to be taken to "a hospital in Maine."

Portions of the report were deleted prior to its public release in 1983. The report was part of the Greenwich Police Department's case file on the Moxley murder investigation that was ordered released by the state Freedom of Information Commission after a 1982 complaint by Greenwich Time.

The report states: "Investigator contacted (name deleted). Investigator advised (name deleted) of the homicide investigation of this department, and we had received information that Michael Skakel was in a hospital in Poland Springs (sic), Maine, and were attempting to ascertain the location and type of hospital where he might be. "(Name deleted) advised there is a federal and state funded hospital in Poland Springs, and it is identified as Elan."

After the report's next paragraph, which is entirely deleted, the Greenwich detective refers to having been contacted by Skakel's then-defense lawyer, Manhattan attorney Thomas Sheridan, who wanted to know why inquiries concerning his client were being made at the Poland Spring "hospital."

"Mr. Sheridan felt that Michael would be unwilling to cooperate by agreeing to an interview, and he felt that Michael was progressing forward and he did not wish a relapse," the police report states. The remainder of the police report is deleted.

In Stodolink's courtroom yesterday, Dr. Daniel Greenfield, a New Jersey psychiatrist hired by defense attorneys as an expert witness, testified that drug and alcohol rehab facilities that obtain federal funding must abide by federal confidentiality laws.

In an interview after yesterday's court proceeding, Sherman said Greenfield's testimony, along with the 1978 police report, would prove "knowledge on the part of the Greenwich Police Department that there is a privilege because they already had information that Elan was a federally funded program."

Sherman said he also plans to enter into evidence an Oct. 7 affidavit signed by Sheridan, in which Skakel's former defense lawyer refers to reassurances he said he received from Elan School's then-medical director, the late Dr. Gerald Davidson, that Skakel's activities at the center would remain confidential.

"I advised Dr. Davidson that any statements, actions, treatment programs and/or plans made at Elan were privileged under the psychotherapist relationship, and he advised me of the same," Sheridan's affidavit states. "There was no doubt that I communicated this expectation of privacy to Michael Skakel and (his father) Rushton Skakel, nor is there any doubt that Dr. Davidson communicated the fact that since Elan was a psychotherapy school, and since everything done and required of Michael was at Dr. Davidson's direction for the treatment of Michael, everything was privileged."

The hearing on the physician-patient privilege was prompted by the Sept. 24 refusal by Elan School owner Joseph Ricci to answer grand jury questions concerning prosecutors' allegations that he heard Skakel confess to having murdered Moxley during Skakel's stay at the facility from 1978 to 1980.

The grand jury already has heard testimony from witnesses who had attended Elan with Skakel, and should Stodolink rule information about Skakel's stay at the rehabilitation center is privileged, the grand jury would be ordered to disregard that testimony.

Attorneys on both sides of the issue are expected to make their arguments before Stodolink when the hearing resumes Dec. 1, and the judge alerted the attorneys his ruling would soon follow. "I'm not going to write a long memorandum," Stodolink said.