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Kennedy cousin tries to stop tapes being played in murder retrial

By Richard Weizel

STAMFORD Conn. (Reuters) - Michael Skakel, a Kennedy cousin awaiting retrial after serving 11 years in prison for the murder of a teenage girl in Connecticut, wants to stop incriminating audiotapes from being used again as evidence, according to court filings on Wednesday.

One of Skakel's attorneys, Stephan Seegar, filed two motions in Stamford's superior court to keep recordings of a 1997 interview with writer Richard Hoffman from being presented as evidence, as they were during Skakel's first trial in 2002.

Skakel's attorneys are asking that the tapes be returned to him along with photos and other documents, arguing he is the legal owner because of a confidentiality agreement signed between Skakel and Hoffman.

The tapes include Skakel describing how he masturbated in a tree outside the home of 15-year-old neighbor Martha Moxley on the night that she was beaten to death with a golf club in October 1975. Skakel was also 15 at the time.

Jurors at Skakel's first trial in May 2002 were permitted to listen to the recordings, which included his recalling "Mischief Night" - the night before Halloween - in his affluent Greenwich community.

Skakel says on the recording he "drank rum and tonics" at a local club, then climbed a tree outside Moxley's house while drunk and feeling "horny."

He states on the recording: "I remember thinking, 'Oh my God, if I tell anybody that I was out that night, they're gonna say I did it."

Skakel, a nephew of Ethel Kennedy, the widow of slain U.S. Senator Robert Kennedy, was convicted of Moxley's murder in 2002 as an adult in a highly publicized trial.

He served 11 years in prison until a judge overturned the conviction last October on grounds of improper legal representation. No date has been set for the retrial. He is free on $1.2 million bond.

Skakel's attorneys maintain that state investigator Frank Garr "duped" Hoffman in 1999 to obtain the audiotapes. Hoffman, according to the motions, "had no choice but to provide the private and confidential materials to Garr."

The motions alleged that Garr also unlawfully obtained materials for his collaboration with the journalist Leonard Levitt for Levitt's 2004 book "Conviction: Solving the Moxley Murder" in violation of Skakel's civil rights.

Hoffman testified at a hearing last year that Garr said he had a warrant for the Skakel materials. At the same hearing, Garr said he did not recall the exact nature of the documents he presented to Hoffman.

(This story was corrected in paragraph 4 to show Skakel said he masturbated on night of Moxley's death, not the night before. Corrects to show in paragraph 11 that the book "Conviction" was by Leonard Levitt, not Frank Garr, and published in 2004, not 2013)

(Editing by Jonathan Allen, Peter Cooney and Eric Beech)

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