Updates to our Terms of Use

We are updating our Terms of Use. Please carefully review the updated Terms before proceeding to our website.

Friday, June 14, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Kennedy Cousin Accuses|Nancy Grace of Libel

STAMFORD, Conn. (CN) - Michael Skakel, a cousin of the Kennedy family, claims in court that Nancy Grace and the TBS network defamed him in comments about evidence in the 1975 murder of which he was convicted.

Skakel was convicted in 2002 of murdering Martha Moxley.

The day before his latest parole hearing, Skakel sued Grace, Time Warner, Turner Broadcasting System and Tru-TV correspondent Beth Karas, a former assistant district attorney in New York.

In the segment, which is still available online, Grace prefaces her statement to Karas by reminding viewers that Karas covered the Skakel case.

"When it happened, you were there in court," Grace tells Karas "reinforcing both the defendants' knowledge and experience with the case," according to the complaint in Stamford County Court.

"After Karas responded to Grace's request for the 'crux' of the facts of the case, Grace asks: 'Isn't it true that the Kennedy cousin apparently was up in a tree masturbating trying to look into her bedroom window?' referring to Martha Moxley's window," the complaint states.

"In response to Grace's question Karas states: 'Well, his DNA was found yes ... up in the tree. [Ellipsis in complaint.]

"Thereafter, Grace purports to clarify what she appears to take as Karas' unnecessarily sensitive and/or politically correct account of the alleged incident, and she states: 'Beth, I love the way you put it so delicately, "his DNA," you know, it was sperm, there I said it, so he places himself there up in a tree masturbating looking down at her window, and whoa she turns up dead within a couple of hours.

"When Grace states 'it was sperm,' Karas utters the words 'correct,' before Grace's statement ... is completed.

"The Grace and Karas comments are false, and do not constitute protected speech," the complaint states.

Skakel claims that Grace and Karas are familiar with the evidence in the case, including the petition for a new trial and statements implicating two other men, one Asian-American and one African-American. He claims that hairs from both ethnic groups were found on Moxley's body and entered into evidence.

Skakel claims the defendants knew the statement about the sperm was false.

"At all material times the plaintiff, Michael Skakel, had an interest in protecting his reputation in light of his currently exercised constitutional and statutory rights which are being asserted in support of a reversal of conviction and/or new trial, and to protect his reputation in the interest of ensuring that any future remedy including a new trial is not diminished by a tainted jury poll, or fact finder, who may be influenced by false claims reported in the media," the complaint states.

It adds: "As a direct and proximate result of the false and defamatory statements made and publicized by the defendants via HLN website, members of the public have been led to believe that plaintiff is an individual with an aberrant personality."

Skakel seeks punitive damages for defamation, and wants the network ordered to delete the video from its site and YouTube.

Skakel is the nephew of former Senator Robert F. Kennedy's widow, Ethel Kennedy.

He was sentenced to 20 years in prison for Moxley's murder, which occurred when they were both 15 years old and living in Greenwich, Conn.

He is represented by Stephan Seeger.

Categories / Uncategorized

Subscribe to Closing Arguments

Sign up for new weekly newsletter Closing Arguments to get the latest about ongoing trials, major litigation and hot cases and rulings in courthouses around the U.S. and the world.