Robert F. Kennedy Jr. Says His Cousin Michael Skakel Is Not a Killer: 'Police Can Target Innocent People'

In a new book, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. claims Michael Skakel did not kill his friend Martha Moxley in 1975

Photo: Chris Buck

Fourteen years after Michael Skakel was convicted of murdering 15-year-old friend Martha Moxley, his cousin Robert F. Kennedy Jr. has written an explosive new book, Framed, that claims they got the wrong man.

In the new book, Kennedy writes that Skakel, whose conviction was set aside in 2013 and now faces the possibility of a new trial, was “framed” for a murder he never could have committed.

Kennedy, 62, also names the two men – Adolph Hasbrouck and Burr Tinsley – he believes are guilty of the murder. (Neither man was ever charged with the murder and neither could be reached for comment for this story.)

“Michael deserves to have his story told,” says Kennedy in an exclusive interview in this week’s PEOPLE. “Nobody understood what the facts were in the case. There was a narrative and a kind of prevailing orthodoxy and it was almost altogether untrue.”

Kennedy’s book, out July 12, also includes a list of alleged suspects in addition to Hasbrouck and Tinsley.

“My aim is not to persuade people that Adolph and Burr committed the crime,” he explains, adding “I believe that they did and I believe that the evidence is almost incontrovertible.”

Moxley died after being bludgeoned with a golf club and stabbed in the neck with its broken shaft in upscale Greenwich, Connecticut, in 1975.

“You could read the facts here and you could say there might be a reasonable doubt about whether they did it or not but I don’t think you can read the book and know the facts and come away believing that Michael Skakel could have had anything to do with this crime,” he continued.

In the end, he says, “It’s a backdrop to a bigger story about how police can target a number of people who are innocent.”

For more from Robert F. Kennedy on Michael Skalel and his new book, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands now

Kennedy, the son of slain Sen. Robert F. Kennedy and Ethel Kennedy – whose brother Rushton Skakel was Michael’s father – argues that Skakel was partly “framed” by a cast of characters who “ended up at the confluence of where a number of people’s ambitions intersected.”

He says that group includes Michael’s defense attorney Mickey Sherman, disgraced LAPD detective Mark Fuhrman, who wrote Murder In Greenwich: Who Killed Martha Moxley, author Dominck Dunne, who wrote a fictional account of the murder, A Season In Purgatory, and prosecutor Jonathan Benedict, who tried the case.

“It was all about ‘the Kennedy cousin,’ ” says RFK Jr. “Michael never saw himself as a ‘Kennedy cousin.’ He would have never been prosecuted if they had not given him the first name, which was ‘Kennedy cousin.’ ”

For many years, he writes, the Skakel family never had anything to do with the Kennedys.

“They were an independent family with their own gestalt and they were suddenly dragged into this typhoon that ended up sweeping up Michael and destroying his life, ” says Kennedy. “It had to do with the hostility – a very toxic relationship between the press and my family. Michael got swept away by a storm that was generated by the press relationship with the Kennedys. The whole notion of a rich Kennedy kid getting away with murder – that was like fly paper to the press.”

Meanwhile, Moxley’s mother and brother tell PEOPLE they believe Skakel is guilty.

“I believe Michael is the one who swung the club,” says Dorthy Moxley. “It has been 41 years since Martha died. When you gather all this information for that long a time, you get to a point where you put it all together and it just fits.”

Skakel’s conviction was set aside in 2013 when a judge ruled his attorney had not provided him with an adequate defense. He now awaits the State Supreme Court’s decision on whether he will receive a new trial or be sent back to prison.

“He wears a GPS bracelet,” says Kennedy. “He calls it his Lindsay Lohan bracelet and he wears it on his hand because he takes his son skiing every weekend. His son’s a ski racer and he tunes the skis for him and other kids on the team and coaches.”

Meanwhile, he says that Michael is “very frightened” about the prospect of going back to prison.

Still, he adds, “He is a deeply spiritual person. He spends a lot of time praying and he believes that everything happened for a reason. He said that when God wants him out of prison he will get out. Then nobody will be able to keep him in.”

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