"Rehab Owner's Cousin to Testify
as Skakel Privilege Hearing Nears End"
By J.A. Johnson Jr., Staff Writer, Greenwich Time

A court hearing on the admissibility of an alleged confession to the 1975 murder of Greenwich teenager Martha Moxley is expected to conclude today, with the state calling as its final witness a relative of the owner of a Maine substance abuse treatment center who prosecutors allege heard the possible confession.

Court sources said the testimony of Naples, Maine, resident John Ricci will be offered in rebuttal to previous testimony that anything said by residents of the center is confidential information protected by the doctor-patient privilege.

Ricci is the cousin of Joseph Ricci, owner of Elan School in Poland Spring, Maine, who has said in interviews that he knew nothing of the alleged confession, and that even if he did, he could not testify about it because of confidentiality laws. John Ricci did not return telephone messages left at his residence.

His testimony is expected to cap six days of the hearing on the confidentiality issue, which was prompted by Joseph Ricci's refusal on Sept. 24 to answer the grand jury's questions about the alleged confession.

In an affidavit filed in September in Cumberland County Superior Court in Maine - in a successful bid to have Ricci ordered to appear before the Bridgeport grand jury - State's Attorney Jonathan Benedict stated he had "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; that said admissions were made by Michael Skakel in response to being confronted by Mr. Ricci and other Elan staff members as to Skakel's involvement in the matter."

Benedict stated in the affidavit that the alleged admissions were made during Skakel's stay at Elan from 1978 to 1980. Greenwich police reports indicate Skakel was admitted to the treatment center three years after Moxley's murder following a drunken-driving incident in Windham, N.Y., in which Skakel allegedly tried running down a police officer before crashing his car into a telephone pole. Skakel and his brother Thomas, who were 15 and 17 respectively at the time of the murder, both were with Moxley prior to her death the evening of Oct. 30, 1975. The murder weapon was identified by police as a 6-iron from a set of golf clubs owned by the Skakel family, and officials have said both brothers remain suspects in the death of their 15-year-old neighbor.

The hearing on the disputed grand jury testimony began Oct. 16, and attorneys representing both Skakel and Elan School claim anything said at the rehabilitation center is legally protected confidential information because the facility provided therapy overseen by a licensed psychiatrist. After several former Elan School residents and staff members testified on the state's behalf, attorneys for Skakel and the rehab facility responded by calling only two witnesses - Elan School Senior Director Martin Kruglik and Dr. Daniel Greenfield, a New Jersey psychiatrist.

Greenfield testified Nov. 17 that peer pressure - which Kruglik previously testified was a technique Elan School heavily relied upon - was an accepted form of substance abuse therapy. Greenfield, hired by defense attorneys as an expert witness on substance abuse treatment, also testified that drug and alcohol rehab facilities that obtain federal funding - as Elan School had - must abide by federal confidentiality laws.

The hearing on the admissibility of the alleged admissions has been held in open court before Superior Court Judge Edward Stodolink on the fifth floor of the Fairfield County Courthouse in Bridgeport. The grand jury that has been probing the Moxley murder since convening in July has been taking testimony in a sealed room on the courthouse's third floor.

Should Stodolink rule that testimony concerning Elan School is inadmissible, the grand jury will be instructed to disregard any related testimony it already heard.