STAMFORD, Conn. – A classmate of Kennedy cousin Michael Skakel testified Wednesday that he told attorneys before Skakel's 2002 trial about a claim implicating two other men in the 1975 murder that sent Skakel to prison.
Crawford Mills, who went to a private school with Skakel in exclusive Greenwich, testified that he told Skakel attorney Michael Sherman and prosecutor Jonathan Benedict in January 2002 about Tony "Gitano" Bryant's claim that two other men were responsible for killing 15-year-old Martha Moxley.
Skakel, 46, is serving 20 years to life in prison for beating Moxley to death with a golf club. He was convicted in June 2002.
Bryant's account surfaced in 2003 after Skakel cousin Robert Kennedy Jr. did his own sleuthing in an effort to clear Skakel's name. To win a new trial, Skakel's attorneys must show that the account is evidence not available at the time of his trial and that it likely would have changed the verdict. Bryant also went to school with Skakel and Mills.
Though Mills told Sherman and Benedict about Bryant's claim in 2002, he said he withheld Bryant's name at his request. He later provided it to Kennedy.
Hope Seeley, one of Skakel's attorneys, said outside of court that there was no way to investigate the claim without knowing Bryant's identity.
"If you don't have the name, how can you find out the information?" Seeley said.
Mills testified that he also tried to tell Moxley's mother, Dorthy, about Bryant's claim while he was working in a CBS studio where she was being interviewed about the case. He said he was fired from his job after she complained.
Moxley said outside court Wednesday that she did complain about Mills.
"We just convicted Michael and he told me we convicted the wrong person," she said. "It was a very upsetting situation."
Neal Walker, another former classmate who talked to Bryant about his claim, testified that he remembers Bryant and the two men he implicates being in the posh Belle Haven neighborhood where Moxley was killed but doesn't remember seeing them the night of the murder. Bryant has said that he remembers seeing Walker that night.
Walker, son of Beetle Bailey cartoonist Mort Walker, and Mills both testified that Bryant had told them he was an entertainment lawyer who had written some screenplays, including for "Walker, Texas Ranger."
"I believe he didn't get credit for it," Neal Walker said.
In the late 1980s, Bryant was hired as an attorney at a law firm in Texas after he claimed to be a licensed attorney in other states, but when he failed the Texas bar, the law firm learned that Bryant was never licensed anywhere and he was fired, according to a former attorney who interviewed him.
Also on the stand Wednesday was Vito Colucci Jr., a private investigator working on the Skakel case who taped a 2003 statement from Bryant.
Robert Kennedy testified Tuesday that he put Skakel's attorneys in touch with Bryant, who implicated Adolph Hasbrouck and Burt Tinsley in the crime. Bryant said he was with the two men in Moxley's Greenwich neighborhood the night she was killed, but left before his friends.
According to court papers, Bryant said one friend had met Moxley and "wanted to go caveman on her," and that the two later told him: "We did what we had to do" and "We got her caveman style."
Hasbrouck's wife has called the claim a lie, while Tinsley has not returned telephone calls. Bryant and the other two men have invoked their Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.
The non-jury hearing before Superior Court Judge Edward R. Karazin Jr. could last as long as two weeks.
In November, the U.S. Supreme Court decided not to take up Skakel's appeal, which claimed a statute of limitations had expired before he was charged.