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Report: Skakel expelled over threat

By DAVE HASKELL   |   April 29, 2002 at 10:28 AM
BOSTON, April 29 (UPI) -- The lawyer defending Kennedy kin Michael Skakel against a murder charge branded as "absurd" Monday a newspaper report his client threatened a woman with a ski pole more than two years after he allegedly killed Martha Moxley with a golf club in 1975.

The Advocate of Stamford, Conn., reported Sunday Skakel was expelled from a private Vermont boarding school in 1978 because of the threat.

"It's absurd," attorney Michael Sherman told United Press International. "Twenty-four years ago he supposedly brandished a ski pole? It makes no sense at all."

Sherman said the woman reportedly involved "doesn't want to speak to anybody about it," but said when he asked her if it happened, "'Of course not.'"

Still, Sherman said was concerned the newspaper headline may have poisoned the recently selected jury.

Sherman was expected to ask the judge in the case to poll jurors to make sure they weren't tainted by the Advocate report that alleged Skakel was expelled from the Vershire School after the alleged threat against the wife of a teacher at the school.

"We will certainly canvass the jury," Sherman said.

Skakel, 41, the nephew of Ethel Kennedy Skakel, is set to go on trial next week in Norwalk, Conn., on charges of murdering his Greenwich, Conn., neighbor when both were 15 years old.

Because the Skakel jury is not sequestered, Sherman said though jurors have been instructed by Judge John Kavanewsky Jr. to avoid news reports about the case, they still could have been exposed to the headline: "Headmaster: Skakel expelled for 'threatening' woman with ski pole."

"I want to make sure this hasn't poisoned the jury," Sherman said in Monday's Boston Globe.

Sherman denied the incident ever happened.

Skakel "categorically denies anything of this nature," Sherman told the Advocate. "He never threatened anybody at any time with a ski pole."

Sherman also said the story "has nothing to do with this case" and would not be admissible.

In the article, the founder and former headmaster of the Vershire School, Richard Wright, described an incident in which Skakel allegedly "threatened" to strike the wife of a teacher with a ski pole in early 1978.

"It was just some kind of flare-up," Wright said. "I guess he didn't like being told what to do by a woman. As I recall, it was a trivial dorm control issue. She told him not to make noise, or something like that, and he was feeling nasty."

The woman and her husband lived in the dormitory with Skakel and some 25 other students, and were responsible for maintaining order in the dorm, Wright said.

Wright said while Skakel didn't physically harm the woman, "She felt some fear. She thought she was going to be hit."

Skakel was immediately sent home, he said.

About two weeks after being expelled, Skakel was enrolled in the Elan school for troubled youths in Maine. It was while at Elan that Skakel allegedly confessed to other students that he had killed Moxley.

© 2002 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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