- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 8, 2002

NORWALK, Conn. Kennedy cousin Michael Skakel was convicted yesterday of fatally beating Greenwich neighbor Martha Moxley in 1975 when they were 15 a case that opened a window onto a world of privilege and raised suspicions that his family ties had protected him over the years.
Skakel, 41, could get anywhere from 10 years to life in prison for murder. The jury deliberated for more than three days.
Skakel, the nephew of Robert F. Kennedy's widow, Ethel, slumped slightly as the verdict was read. He looked at the jury and then the courtroom audience with a surprised expression, and appeared on the verge of tears.
Martha's mother, Dorthy, and brother, John, wept and hugged prosecutor Jonathan Benedict. "Isn't it wonderful?" Mrs. Moxley said.
Skakel was handcuffed and immediately led off to jail. Sentencing was set for July 19.
"As long as there is breath in my body, this case is not over as far as I'm concerned," defense attorney Michael Sherman said outside the courtroom. He vowed to do "whatever it takes" to free his client, adding: "It will happen. It will happen."
Jurors had no comment.
Martha's battered body was discovered under a tree on her family's estate in the gated Greenwich community of Belle Haven. She had been bludgeoned with a golf club later traced to a set owned by Skakel's mother and stabbed in the neck with the shaft of the club.
According to testimony, Skakel had a crush on Martha and got upset because his attractive blond neighbor seemed more interested in his older brother, Thomas.
Skakel's attorney contended he was visiting a cousin in another part of Greenwich at the time of Martha's slaying.
Prosecutors had a 27-year-old case with no eyewitnesses and no forensic evidence such as DNA that could directly connect Skakel to the slaying.
Instead, the case was based almost entirely on people who said they had heard Skakel confess over the years. Among them were several former classmates of Skakel's from the Elan School, a drug and alcohol rehab center for rich youths in Poland Spring, Maine.
For more than two decades, the case had gone unsolved, stirring speculation that wealth and the Kennedy connection protected the Skakel family. But after a flurry of books about the case in the 1990s, including works by former Los Angeles Detective Mark Furhman and crime writer Dominick Dunne, a one-judge grand jury investigated and Skakel was arrested.
By then, Skakel had been transformed from the lanky athlete of his teen-age years into a pudgy, divorced father battling alcoholism.
One prosecution witness from the Elan School, Gregory Coleman, was dead of heroin use by the time Skakel's trial began. But prosecutors were permitted to read Mr. Coleman's pretrial testimony into the record, including an accusation that Skakel once told him: "I'm going to get away with murder, because I'm a Kennedy."
Dorthy Moxley, who had waged a determined campaign for justice, was a dignified fixture during the two-month trial. Even defense lawyers acknowledged the weight of her presence, asking potential jurors if they could acquit Skakel knowing it would bring her pain.
Outside the courtroom, Mrs. Moxley said: "This is Martha's day. This is truly Martha's day. I hope that people remember that." She added that she has "great empathy for the Skakel family."
"It's bittersweet," John Moxley said. "It's a hollow victory."
David Skakel, Michael's younger brother, said: "Michael is innocent. I know this because I know Michael."
He said the trial "felt like a witch hunt," and added: "Twenty-seven years of insinuation and intimidation is enough."
The trial opened a window on a privileged world where adult supervision of the teen-age Skakels was often limited to nannies, gardeners and cooks. Skakel's mother had died in 1973; his father was on a hunting trip the night of the murder.
That night the night before Halloween, often called "Mischief Night" was described by witnesses as chaotic, with teen-agers darting around the dimly lit Greenwich estates. Witnesses, including Skakel's siblings, said he and several others had gone to a cousin's home in another part of Greenwich, where they smoked marijuana and watched TV.
Skakel himself did not testify. But prosecutors used Skakel's words to place him on the Moxley property that night.
They played a tape of Skakel telling an author in 1997 that after he returned home from his cousin's house, he went to the Moxley estate, thinking: "Martha likes me. I'll go get a kiss from Martha. I'll be bold tonight."


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