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Michael Skakel Sentenced

Aired August 29, 2002 - 13:38   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: We are interrupting our program just to take you live to Connecticut where Dorthy Moxley, the mother of Martha Moxley, is about to step up to the microphone. As you know, just a short time ago, Michael Skakel was sentenced to 20 years to life in prison for the murder of her daughter, Martha Moxley. Let's listen in.
(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

JOHN MOXLEY, MARTHA MOXLEY'S BROTHER: I want to thank everybody. It's been a long haul. You know, it is difficult, you know, 20 years to life, it is just difficult to compare that to what life would have been like with Martha. There is no such thing as fair here. There is no celebration. There is no party to go to. There is no special treat.

I'm sure that, you know, going forward we will remember this date. Martha's birthday was August 16. That will be easy to remember. You know, without a lot of help, we would have never been able to get here. We have been very fortunate. And you know, in the worst at times, you see the best in people.

So thank you very much.

QUESTION: What went through your mind as you heard Michael Skakel's final answer?

J. MOXLEY: Too little too late. You know, I'm sure everybody there is a little good and a little bad. I'm sure that Michael -- this may sound harsh, but without booze and alcohol, booze and drugs and what have you, know, and his counseling A.A., he would have nothing else. I was a little surprised, quoting his -- talking about his ex-wife being rough like his beard. You know, somebody said -- and I don't know how appropriate this is -- but you know, everybody in jail and foxholes has religion. You know, I think part of, you know, being a good Catholic is confessing to your sins, not running from them.

QUESTION: Mrs. Moxley, did you have any feeling of sympathy toward him while he was up there? Any feelings?

D. MOXLEY: You know, it is my general nature to have a little sympathy toward everybody. I did, but you know, I still feel as though he -- you know, he has to be punished for what he did to Martha and what he has done to so many other people. So you know, I just can't thank people enough for all the help. I mean, I had wonderful, wonderful help all this time, starting with (UNINTELLIGIBLE) pushing very hard it get his article printed. And I mentioned my team of angels, and those are the people -- I might as well get religious too -- those are the people that I felt, they just were sent to me. I didn't ask any of them. They were sent to me, and they have done a wonderful job, wonderful job.

And I can't thank the state of Connecticut enough. The state of Connecticut. The state of Connecticut has been so generous, and they -- and the wonderful people that we have to work with here in the state of Connecticut.

You know, it's been a long time for everyone. But everyone has been so nice. Everyone has been so good, that you know, it has been very sad because of Martha and my husband, but on the other hand, it is been a privilege to work with all these people. And I thank you so very, very much.

QUESTION: What do you think of the sentence of 20 years to life.

D. MOXLEY: Twenty years to life seems reasonable, it really does.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) all the extensive discussion of all of the good things he has done for other people, Mr. Sherman said that they didn't start after he was arrested for this crime.

J. MOXLEY: One of the things that is really sad is that, you know, there probably is some good in Michael. He probably is a great counselor. That's what Elan was, drug addicts helping drug addicts. And I hope that, you know, in prison that he will continue to be a counselor for people. And maybe, you know, if that's his legacy, that he is the best prison counselor that these guys have ever known, then you know, maybe that's something positive that will come out of it.

QUESTION: Do you have any way to (UNINTELLIGIBLE) closure, the feeling that it is over, any kind of feeling about what's (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?

D. MOXLEY: Very thankful that so many people have worked so hard to help us get here. We owe a great debt of gratitude to a great many people, don't you think?

J. MOXLEY: Absolutely. I'm just numb.

D. MOXLEY: Yes.

J. MOXLEY: It is too much to take in. It means too much. Where do we go from here, you know? Work on Tuesday. Paint the bathrooms. You know, mow the lawn. There's is just no word. I think with time, you know, we'll get a sense. But right now, I'm just numb.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

D. MOXLEY: Oh, not today. Not today, not today.

J. MOXLEY: Not today. QUESTION: You wanted so bad to hear him say he was sorry, show some regret. What are your thoughts on what he said and what he didn't say?

D. MOXLEY: Well, he didn't say -- I mean, he didn't say he was sorry to us. I have no doubt that he is the one that killed Martha. And I'm sorry that we aren't able to prosecute other people, but the statute of limitations has run out.

And you know what, I'm getting sopping wet.

J. MOXLEY: Thank you.

D. MOXLEY: Thanks.

PHILLIPS: You were just listening to Dorthy Moxley, the mother of Martha Moxley, and also John Moxley, the brother of Martha Moxley, both in tears, both saying they feel pretty numb, but pretty relied that this is over with. John saying there is no such thing is fair, no party to go to, no celebration here. They will definitely remember this date. Making the point too, when asking about Skakel and his statement, John Moxley saying too little too late, that everyone has foxholes -- everyone in foxholes has religion. A lot of people have been really surprised by Michael Skakel coming out and saying he is a changed man, he is a religious man, God is by his side.

But for right now, the Moxley family very thankful for support that they've had, Dorthy Moxley even saying 20 years to life seems reasonable. She says it's her general nature to have sympathy towards everybody, but he must be punished for what he did to Martha. And she said she has no doubt that he killed her daughter when she was 15 years old.

For a look at the other side of this story, and that is from the attorneys representing Kennedy cousin Michael Skakel, Deborah Feyerick out there in front of the courthouse.

She is going to bring us what they have to say -- Deborah.

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Kyra, I am joined here by Hubert Santos, Hope Seeley and Mickey Sherman, the three lawyers who were in court with Michael Skakel.

Let me just get to the meat of it: What did Michael Skakel say to you immediately after the sentencing.

HUBERT SANTOS, SKAKEL'S ATTORNEY: He said to us what he has consistently said since the start of this prosecution, that he is an innocent person, that he is going to continue to help others as he has in the past, and he's hopeful that our Supreme Court or our appellate court who will reverse this case and dismiss it.

FEYERICK: He was crying during his statement to the judge. When you last saw him, what was his demeanor?

SANTOS: He was composed. I think this is the first opportunity he has had to speak publicly. So I think that, in fact, released some of the tension. He has greatest sympathy for the Moxley family. But a jury in Connecticut has made a mistake.

FEYERICK: Was there some sense of relief at all? We all knew the sentencing was coming, we just didn't know what. Sometimes the unknown is worse than what we do know. Was there some sense of relief?

SANTOS: I think the relief for Michael was the fact that finally got to be able to speak. And I certainly saw in his face a sense of relief for him being able to say that I am innocent. And most certainly, when we went back to see him, after everybody left the courtroom, and that is what he talked about, the feeling of good of being able to speak.

FEYERICK: He is -- the sentence itself, what do you think of the sentence of 20 years to life effectively?

MICKEY SHERMAN, SKAKEL'S ATTORNEY: I see the kairon on the last bite that Mrs. Moxley gave. And I agree, it was reasonable sentence, if he was guilty. Our problem is he is not guilty. So we have got a real problem. The judge saw it, called it as he saw it. We tried to be as fair as possible, and we take no issue with that. But he is not guilty. So two days is too much time.

FEYERICK: There was range of sentencing, 10 years being the minimum, Life being the maximum. It seems that the judge was sending the message, I'm giving you a minimum of 20. I know you can't count on him being paroled earlier at the 10-year mark. But what the judge is in some ways giving him the minimum?

SANTOS: Well, I don't think. The minimum would have been 10 to life. He gave somewhere in between. He did not give him the maximum he could under the law, of 25 to life. He recognized the tremendous good works that Michael has done all his adult life. That was the key, as was pointed out very clearly by Mickey Sherman at the time of sentencing. That is what the judge recognized. That is why he did not give him the maximum sentence.

SHERMAN: He gave us five year. We got a 5-year credit for Michael's good works, which is great, and it would have been wonderful if he was guilty -- but he is not.

FEYERICK: So you really do think that the judge did weigh all the letters, all the statement that were made, and you feel that impacted the sentence that he did give.

HOPE SEELEY, SKAKEL'S ATTORNEY: Most certainly. I think he articulated that. I can't see how anyone could be impacted, both by the letters as well as the speakers that we presented to the court.

FEYERICK: Very succinctly, the grounds for next appeal: What do you see those as being?

SEELEY: There will be many grounds for the next appeal. But before the appeal, the major issue is the statute of limitations, that Michael Skakel should never have been tried because the statute of limitations in 1975 for murder was five years. And he should never have been tried at all.

The second issue on appeal that is of some import is whether or not this should have been tried in adult court. Our position was juvenile court was 15 years old, and there was if reason to try him as an adult.

FEYERICK: The final question: Will his son be able to visit him in prison? Has he express that desire? Has he made those arrangements?

SANTOS: Michael desperately wants to see his son George, who is 3 years old. He loves him dearly. He is totally dedicated to him. We are hoping with the passage of some time that can be arranged.

FEYERICK: OK. Hubert Santos, Hope Seeley, Mickey Sherman, thank you very much for joining us. We appreciate your time.

So again, just to recap the sentence, 20 years to life, the judge telling basically the department of corrections that while he thinks that 10 years is a good minimum, he does not think it should be a full life sentence, at least that according to some of the experts that we have spoken to.

But again, Michael Skakel has to be on his best behavior -- Kyra?

PHILLIPS: Deborah Feyerick, thank you so much.

And if you are just tuning in, we are following the breaking news, sentencing of Kennedy cousin Michael Skakel, sentenced to 20 years to life in prison for the murder of Martha Moxley, a crime that took place when the two were just 15 years old.

Right now, stepping up to the podium, Jonathan Benedict, one of the prosecutors in this case, as he gets ready to address reporters there in the rain in Connecticut. We can tell you from -- here we go, let's listen in.

QUESTION: The question a lot of people are asking is what does this sentence mean in terms of 1975 guidelines? I think that people are just a little unclear.

JONATHAN BENEDICT, PROSECUTOR: The corrections apparently is computing that as we speak. We had already received their sheet that would have applied had it been a 25-year minimum. And what it looks like they are going to come out with is just right at a dime is 11 years, 10 months. And that is a point at which he will become parole eligible. And beyond that, it is going to be up to the parole board.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) does not provide for up to exactly 50 percent (OFF-MIKE).

BENEDICT: That formula of 2/3 of first five years and 50 percent of the balance of the 15 outstanding comes out, I believe, to 11 years, 10 months. Someone did the math from the inside -- don't hold me to it.

QUESTION: It is not automatic. He's simply eligible.

BENEDICT: That is simply parole eligibility. You see these California cases all the time, guys like Sirhan Sirhan and Charles Manson, which Michael Skakel clearly is not. But they are up for parole hearings all the time and they are always denied. What will happen is something that we'll determine in 11 years.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

BENEDICT: You have to decide whether to believe it. It sounded to me like he was trying to characterize himself as a person who is being crucified. And I didn't buy that for a second. We've always felt that Michael was somewhat of a manipulative character, and I think that showed in his comments to Judge Kavanewsky today. And obviously, the judge didn't buy it.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

BENEDICT: My reaction to the judge giving is something less than what we have asked? You know, it is certainly the most difficult sentencing procedure I have ever been near. It was a lot easier for me, representing the state, to simply ask for the maximum on the basis of brutality of the crime. But the Judge Kavanewsky was obligated to take all factors into account, and that included the defendant's age, at 15 when the crime happened, and other factors as well. We certainly wouldn't argue with that sentence. I don't envy the Judge Kavanewsky whatsoever, the difficult task he had today. We think he did a fine job.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) can you explain the statute of limitations challenge (OFF-MIKE)?

BENEDICT: The challenge is very, very simple. A claim was made early on in this case that the statute of limitations that applies is the five-year statute of limitations that applies to all felonies but murder. And that is one of those things that we took a great deal of care to cover before we ever bothered to apply for a grand jury. This whole thing would have been a waste of time were we not confident we would e able get through that issue. Connecticut law is very clear, and we have argued that clearly, already before Judge Kavanewsky, that the appropriate statute of limitations in this case, and there's good Connecticut precedent on it. In fact, there is a New Haven case that was resolved shortly before this one, State versus Grant, and they had the same issue. We feel strongly and are very confident that if they want it pursue it -- and they are welcome to -- that we will prevail on that issue.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

BENEDICT: I can't -- you know, I think I would go to jail if I tell you. But I don't know.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) over after all of these years? BENEDICT: Well, you know, it is a wonderful feeling for it to be over, or at least to have reached this point. In criminal prosecutions, it seems that it is never over until it's over, to quote Yogi Berra, I guess. We have got a lot of work to do, and we're a good ways through, but now we're on trial, as happens after every criminal conviction. And we have got to defend our conviction.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

BENEDICT: Yes, yes, primarily Ms. Gill, who is one of the top- notch, best appellate judges in Connecticut, not to mention an excellent trial attorney.

QUESTION: Do you know where he heads off to (OFF-MIKE)?

BENEDICT: No. Again, that's up to the department of corrections. They have some serious strictures about anybody saying anything if they know. If I told you, I would have to kill you. And I don't know.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

BENEDICT: Oh, yes, his time starts on June 7, the day of the verdict.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you.

PHILLIPS: Now you have heard from Jonathan Benedict, prosecutor in the case. If you are just tuning in, Mr. Benedict saying he always felt that Skakel was a manipulative character and this was the most difficult sentencing procedure he has ever been to. Wonderful feeling to reach this point. He says he felt the judge didn't buy Skakel's testimony, therefore getting the sent sentence that he did. Still a lot of work to do defend the conviction.

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