Judge: Statements by RFK nephew admissible in murder case

12/11/98 03:17:33 AM

By DENISE LAVOIE Associated Press Writer

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. (AP) -- A grand jury investigating the 1975 murder of a Greenwich teen-ager will be allowed to hear allegedly incriminating statements made by a nephew of Robert F. Kennedy.

Michael Skakel, whose father is a brother of Kennedy widow Ethel Kennedy, is being investigated in the Oct. 30, 1975, bludgeoning of Martha Moxley.

Skakel and his brother, Thomas, are suspects in the unsolved slaying of Moxley, a neighbor and friend. Both have denied any involvement in her killing. Skakel was 15 at the time of the slaying, Thomas 17.

Moxley was beaten to death with a golf club belonging to Skakel's family. No one was ever charged in the death. Interest in the case was revived this spring when two books were published on the killing.

On Thursday, Superior Court Judge Edward Stodolink rejected a request by Skakel's lawyers to bar grand jury testimony from former students and the owner of a school for troubled teens where Michael Skakel allegedly made incriminating statements.

Stodolink ordered Joseph Ricci, the owner of the Elan school in Poland Spring, Maine, to testify before the grand jury about what Skakel may have told him or others about the slaying of Moxley.

Skakel attended the Elan school from 1978 to 1980.

Defense lawyers argued that any statements Skakel made at Elan are protected by psychiatrist-patient privilege. The judge rejected that argument, saying Skakel received treatment at Elan for an alcohol problem, not psychiatric counseling.

Skakel's attorney denounced the judge's decision and said the testimony from the owner and former students of Elan will not give the grand jury any ``smoking gun'' to incriminate Skakel.

``My belief is that Michael Skakel did not confess to anyone in this case,'' attorney Michael Sherman said.

Skakel's lawyers filed a motion to stay the judge's order pending appeal, which effectively prevents prosecutors from calling Ricci before the grand jury for 20 days.

Also Thursday, Sherman confirmed that he has asked prosecutors to investigate claims by a man who says a teen-ager in blood-stained clothes confessed the night of the killing.

Sherman said he was contacted by the man last week. The man would not identify the teen-ager but said it was not Michael or Thomas Skakel. He also refused to identify himself but gave Sherman the name of his lawyer.

Sherman said he is skeptical about the man's claims, but turned the information over to prosecutors ``for whatever it may be worth.''

AP-CS-12-11-98 0414EST