updated 11/29/2005 4:45:07 PM ET 2005-11-29T21:45:07

Guests: Ramsey Clark, Joseph Brucia, Michelle Suskauer, Pam Bondi, Sheila Vaughan, Wayne Johnson, Davidson Goldin, Clint Van Zandt

DAN ABRAMS, HOST:  Coming up, Saddam Hussein back in court, this time with a one-time U.S. attorney general by his side. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ABRAMS (voice-over):  The former Iraqi dictator takes on the judge, is upset with his American guards.  I sat down with his attorney, Ramsey Clark.

And jurors hear emotional testimony from 11-year-old Carlie Brucia‘s mother and father, as jurors decide whether the man convicted of abducting, raping and killing Carlie should die. 

Plus, police still searching for two of nine inmates who escaped from a Washington jail by punching a hole in the roof, this just days after two others in Iowa broke out over a prison wall and a death row inmate escaped from Texas.  What the heck is going on?  Why are so many prisoners escaping? 

The program about justice starts now.  

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ABRAMS:  Hi everyone.  First up on the docket, Saddam Hussein in court in Baghdad today facing murder and torture charges for the deaths of nearly 150 Iraqi villagers back in 1982.  Within minutes of the start of the court proceedings, Saddam began arguing with the chief judge, Rizgar Mohammed Amin, telling him that he had been deprived of pens and paper by the United States and claiming the judge should not allow U.S. guards in an Iraqi courtroom.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator):  I want you to order them.  This is our country.  They are in our country.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator):  We will inform them to apply the law. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator):  You are the one who has the sovereignty here.  You‘re an Iraqi.  They are occupiers.  They are invaders.  They are foreigners.  You have to order them with the truth. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  After Saddam‘s outburst, the video feed from the courtroom was abruptly cut off for several minutes.  When it resumed, Saddam had calmed down, seemed to be taking notes for most of the proceedings.  Also in the courtroom as a legal advisor to Saddam, former United States Attorney General Ramsey Clark. 

We‘ll have my interview with Clark in a moment.  The trial was adjourned until Monday, December 5, to allow Saddam‘s co-defendants to find new lawyers.  Two defense lawyers involved in the trial were killed after the trial began on October the 19th

Joining us now live from Baghdad, NBC‘s Richard Engel who was in the courtroom today.  So Richard, why did they cut off that video feed in the middle of the proceedings?  What happened? 

RICHARD ENGEL, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  There was a considerable debate about that today on Arabic television.  A lot of people here were accusing the Americans specifically of trying to manipulate information about this trial.  It was being broadcast with a 20-minute delay.  So there was a program already in place so that in case Saddam had some sort of outburst, in case he was calling for a—for incitement against Americans, a call to arms, that they could, in effect, control what information was coming out of the courtroom. 

And there is some controversy today that it appears that that feed was deliberately blocked for some time to prevent this situation from getting out of control.  At least that‘s what people here in Iraq accuse the U.S. administration of doing.  There is a lot of mistrust about the media aspect of this court, particularly since it is being controlled by the Americans. 

ABRAMS:  You know, Richard, two witnesses testified via videotape.  One of them is actually dead at this point.  So there hasn‘t been the actual issue of witnesses coming to court yet.  But I understand that fear is a real factor here in terms of witnesses coming to testify against Saddam. 

ENGEL:  That, according to the prosecution and defenses, is a major factor in this case.  In the courtroom itself, a small booth has been constructed that—it‘s a wooden box with curtains all around the sides.  And witnesses are expected to give testimony from inside this box. 

However, both defense attorneys and the lawyers from the prosecution say they‘re having trouble convincing witnesses to come forward because they think they will—their identities will become discovered once they start to give their testimony.  And that has been a major problem.  And today some of the lawyers were arguing that the trial must proceed more quickly because the witnesses have already come to Baghdad and that by being here waiting for this trial to proceed, they are putting themselves in greater danger. 

ABRAMS:  You know, Richard, parts of Baghdad, as you‘ve told us so many times, are effectively cordoned off, they are protected.  The goal there is to be able to say there‘s a green zone or an area where Westerners, journalists can walk and other people can go without fear of being harmed. 

Is that taken to a new level at the courthouse?  Meaning, when you‘re talking about security in one particular area of Baghdad, OK.  At the actual courthouse, is that at another level? 

ENGEL:  It certainly is.  The green zone is not an area that‘s secured to give people a sense of security.  It is not like a public park here.  The green zone is the government compound in the center of the city.  It is completely surrounded by blast walls.  There are many U.S. troops inside of it. 

The courthouse is located in this fortified area in the former headquarters of Saddam Hussein‘s Baath party.  And just to get anywhere near this building is a major security endeavor.  The journalists who were or who had you know be screened to go into this courthouse first had to have a retina scan. 

Then we were told we were not allowed to bring any kind of pens or paper or—only documents.  And that other kind of pens and paper would be provided once we were inside.  Then we went through several layers of X-rays.  So it would be a—it is—was an exceptionally secure location. 

ABRAMS:  A retina scan.  Wow, unbelievable.  All right, well I guess I shouldn‘t be that surprised. 

Richard Engel, keep up the great work out there.  Really appreciate it. 

ENGEL:  Thanks.

ABRAMS:  As we said earlier, Saddam Hussein‘s defense team now includes former United States Attorney General Ramsey Clark.  Clark had been working with Saddam‘s original defense team earlier this year.  Those lawyers fired by Saddam‘s family in August. 

Clark is now part of Saddam‘s new defense team and sat in on today‘s proceedings.  In April I sat down with Clark and asked him why he volunteered to represent Saddam. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RAMSEY CLARK, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL:  When we saw the pictures of Saddam Hussein having been captured, I was particularly distressed about the photos of him.  He looked in disarray and his hair was a mess.  He hadn‘t shaved.  And some guy had his hand in his mouth and pictures that were clear violations of the Geneva Conventions but also of human dignity in the worst way.  So I knew then they weren‘t going to be treating him well. 

ABRAMS:  How did you get in touch with his family? 

CLARK:  They were in Amman.  They started trying to contact me about the 13th of December.  A lawyer from Ramadi met with him, we believe, and the message that he came out after that meeting seemed authentic to me.  And once we had that contact and he said that Saddam Hussein had mentioned a desire to see me. 

ABRAMS:  Why Ramsey Clark, the former attorney general, a man whose name is familiar in the United States?  Why give Saddam the benefit of having your name associated with him? 

CLARK:  Well, if that‘s a benefit to him, I hope it won‘t tarnish his reputation.  But I became deeply involved in civil rights in the ‘60‘s when I left government and I go wherever these problems are.  So it became clear to me immediately—and it would seem obvious to anybody, not only that he had to have effective counsel of his choice, but that a great deal more depended upon his effective representation, effective in fact and effective in appearance, credible. 

ABRAMS:  Sure, Saddam deserves effective representation.  But as someone as you say, who cares so much about human rights, why—he needs a lawyer.  He doesn‘t need this lawyer.  Why, when it‘s someone who is clearly someone who has not cared about human rights in his past, why should he have you? 

CLARK:  Well that‘s—to me that‘s...

ABRAMS:  Is that irrelevant? 

CLARK:  No.  I think in fairness—I know—you‘re a good lawyer.  But in fairness, you really test human rights in a crisis.  With his trial, a fair trial is a human right, and to show that an American stands up for human rights against those people that have been demonized by his own country seems to me to add validity to the idea that human rights are universal. 

ABRAMS:  Isn‘t there moral choice also?  I mean you‘ve given me what‘s strictly sort of a legal answer, which is that he deserves, as does everyone, a fair trial and that you want to make sure that happens.  But isn‘t there also a moral choice to say he needs somebody, but I don‘t want to be that person based on what I know he‘s done in his past? 

CLARK:  That thought doesn‘t occur to me because that‘s me being the judge.  A lawyer is not the judge. 

ABRAMS:  But you reached out to him...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  But you reached out to him.

CLARK:  I reached out to him because I could see what a crisis it was for human rights and what‘s happening right now.  I mean his human rights are violated every moment.  He has not seen a lawyer.  He has not seen his family.  He‘s kept completely incommunicado and it‘s imperative that you in a crisis like this, in cases of most importance that you fight hardest for human rights and—but the idea that you don‘t represent someone because they‘re awful, if they are, is contrary to the idea of their right to counsel.

ABRAMS:  It sounds like when you talk about Saddam Hussein you presume him innocent...

CLARK:  Of course I do.

ABRAMS:  And yet when it comes to the U.S., it seems you presume them guilty.

CLARK:  I don‘t know why you say that, but really?

ABRAMS:  Every time you talk about the U.S., it sounds like you are indicting them.  And when you talk about Saddam Hussein, you restate the presumption of innocence.

CLARK:  Indictment is based on probable cause, not an assumption of guilt.  You know, we don‘t deny shock and awe, do we?

ABRAMS:  But do we deny the gassing of the Kurds?  Is there any question that Saddam has committed human rights...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  ... violation?

CLARK:  I‘m here to say he‘s entitled to a fair trial.  I will tell you that he‘s been so thoroughly demonized that it‘s almost impossible to hope for a fair trial.  He‘s been demonized for years and years.  Above all, you go with the rule of law and you have to have a court that is duly constituted, that is legal, that is competent, that is independent, and that is impartial.  And you‘re not going to get one in Iraq.

ABRAMS:  Do you have any former colleagues or friends who come up to you and they say Ramsey, what are you doing?  What are you doing getting involved in the Saddam and Slobodan Milosevic and these other people?  Come on.

CLARK:  It may seem strange, but among my friends and acquaintances, I have not had a single critical comment.  I think in part because it‘s—they know me by definition and that‘s what they expect me to do.  But I‘ve had some—hundreds, I haven‘t tried to count them of people who say thank you and he deserves a fair trial and we‘re glad somebody stands up.  And I—but I read in the press that it‘s not a popular thing.  I see in the media that it‘s not a popular thing and I never live the popular thing.

ABRAMS:  Would you be proud to stand up and say Ramsey Clark for Saddam Hussein?

CLARK:  I don‘t believe in pride.  I believe in doing the right thing.  I think pride is one of the sadder...

(VIDEO/AUDIO GAP)

CLARK:  ... do the right thing and let others judge whether it was right or wrong.

ABRAMS:  Any chance you think that he‘ll be acquitted? 

CLARK:  I see virtually no chance. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ABRAMS:  Clark‘s expected to be back in court next Monday when the trial against Saddam Hussein resumes in Baghdad. 

Coming up...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  An hour does not pass that I don‘t think of my daughter, an all-American girl, my daughter Carlie.  I miss her. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Eleven-year-old Carlie Brucia‘s parents testify about their daughter, as the jury that convicted Joseph Smith of abducting, raping and murdering Carlie decide whether he should live or die?  We‘ll talk with the man you see there, Carlie‘s father.

And two escaped inmates still on the loose.  They got out by punching a hole in the roof just weeks after two others climbed over a wall, then a death row inmate showed a fake I.D. to get out.  What is going on in our prisons?  One of my guests says the holidays may have something to do with it. 

Your e-mails abramsreport@msnbc.com.  Please include your name and where you‘re writing from.  I respond at the end of the show.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE BRUCIA, CARLIE BRUCIA‘S FATHER:  Carlie was a truly loving and giving child.  Parents are likely to be biased, but Carlie grew up in some very turbulent times, much of which I was unaware at the time.  She never complained.  Never commented on such things, which is a testament of what an exceptional child she was and an extraordinary woman she would have grown to be, if only given the chance. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Carlie Brucia‘s father talking about his daughter who will never see her 12th birthday.  He‘s going to join us in a minute.  Almost two weeks ago, Joseph Smith, convicted of raping, kidnapping, murdering Carlie, her abduction on Super Bowl Sunday in 2004 caught on this car wash surveillance video.  But now it‘s life in prison or death for Smith, who sat in court today as Carlie‘s family looked him in the face and told him what he took from them the day he killed Carlie. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SUSAN SCHORPEN, CARLIE BRUCIA‘S MOTHER:  I can no longer watch her grow.  I no longer can plan for homecoming and shop with her for a gown, proms, birthday parties, her wedding day, her children, my grandchildren.  These dreams are no longer days I will share with my daughter, Carlie.  I can only imagine her in a wedding gown walking down the aisle.  Now, that‘s a dream that I no longer look forward to. 

I am not able to cuddle and hold my daughter.  I can no longer hear her precious innocent soft voice with the silly giggle.  I don‘t have her to talk to.  She was and still is very special to me and I miss her.  I lost the light of my life, my buddy, my best friend, most of all, my daughter.  I cry for her all hours of the day.  I cry for her at night. 

I am broken.  I will never heal.  I will never have closure and never again have my daughter by my side.  I am in physical pain all the time.  I am hoping in time I will become a better person and be able to deal with this loss.  But I will never be whole again.  My heart will always have a void, a tremendous loss. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  The jurors later heard from Smith‘s family members and friends who talked about his love for animals, a wedding toast he made to his cousin about his drug use over the years and the hope it will somehow save his life. 

Joining me now by phone is Carlie‘s father, Joseph Brucia.  Mr. Brucia thanks a lot for taking the time.  I know this isn‘t an easy time for you...

BRUCIA (via phone):  Thanks for having me. 

ABRAMS:  Tell me, today you had to read from a written statement, a court-approved statement.  Was there anything that you wanted to say that you couldn‘t say inside the courtroom? 

BRUCIA:  Well, there was portions that were redacted by the judge and by the prosecution that apparently aren‘t permissible in the state of Florida.  But you know I said most of what I wanted to say.  A few things, you know other—you know there was portions taken out in-between.  And I don‘t know if you want me to read the whole statement or over—unedited or...

ABRAMS:  You know I just—rather than read, I‘m just—I‘m more interested in just hearing from you just if there was something that you had really wanted to get out there about your feelings about him or about Carlie that you weren‘t able to get out. 

BRUCIA:  Yes, well I have a lot of strong feelings, obviously, about Joseph Smith and my daughter.  And—but the piece I wrote, I was conscious of what I was allowed to write and I‘d just like Joseph Smith obviously to be—have the worst possible life that he can have from this day forward, and I miss my daughter.

ABRAMS:  How hard was it for you to have to sit there looking at him like that? 

BRUCIA:  It was extremely difficult.  I mean, as anyone can imagine, I mean, you know, instinctively you want to lash out and get revenge and you know—but I don‘t want to dishonor my daughter in any way and know I could not be successful in those endeavors, I just—I chose to keep quiet and maintain dignity for Carlie and you know in her memory. 

ABRAMS:  Before I ask you—I mean I know that you actually don‘t think that the death penalty would be the best punishment here.  Let me play a little piece of sound.  This is from you in court today talking about the effect that this has had on your life. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BRUCIA:  When Carlie was taken from my family and me it hurt us to the core.  Afterward I would also seclude myself and drink excessively in the evenings alone, isolated in the dark.  I would think surely this could not be real.  This is some terrible thing you read about. 

Then life continues and the thoughts fade.  But this was my child.  It did not fade.  Life continued with no enjoyment.  There were many times when I no longer wanted to go on.  I was close to taking my own life.  If not for a great support system and a loving family and friends, I would not be here today. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  It is absolutely heartbreaking to hear you talk about that.  And, yet, you do not want to see the death penalty imposed? 

BRUCIA:  Well, it‘s certainly not to show any leniency to Joseph Smith.  If the death penalty could be done in an expeditious manner and he could be executed this year or this month or something of that nature, then I would be all for it.  But I just think he might be more uncomfortable in prison and where he would have to have fears of his own—of reprisals from other inmates. 

But I‘m told that there could be 16 to 18 years of appeals and it just doesn‘t seem like that he should be protected and watched over and fed and then have a painless death ultimately in almost two decades from today.  It just doesn‘t seem appropriate. 

ABRAMS:  Mr. Brucia, thank you for taking the time.  Good luck to you.  I know how hard a day this has been. 

BRUCIA:  I would like to comment on the—what‘s going on with the media, if I could. 

ABRAMS:  Sure. 

BRUCIA:  I‘m having a problem and I just—asking for any support with the Channel (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Channel 8, the “Herald Tribune”, and “Tampa Bay Tribune”.  I‘m filing suit in the second district court to get access to the photos of my daughter and the autopsy and the condition she was found and it‘s going up to the Supreme Court level. 

And I just ask for anyone‘s support if they can be behind me and there are many people ready and I‘d like that to continue.  Hopefully the court will make the right decision.  Right now we‘re waiting to hear and just for anyone that could help and has some input on that.  I‘d appreciate that. 

ABRAMS:  All right, Mr. Brucia, thank you.  Appreciate it. 

BRUCIA:  Thank you very much. 

ABRAMS:  Joining me now, Florida prosecutor Pam Bondi and Florida criminal defense attorney Michelle Suskauer.  All right, Michelle, you‘re the attorney for Joseph Smith and you‘re trying to do what?  Trying to just make the jurors look at him as something other than a monster? 

MICHELLE SUSKAUER, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY:  That‘s right.  You need to—if I was his attorney I would try to put a human face on him and humanize him and explain to the jury and ultimately to the judge who‘s going to make the final decision that his life is worth saving, that his life has some value...

ABRAMS:  Michelle...

SUSKAUER:  ... and that‘s ultimately what the jurors are going to have to decide. 

ABRAMS:  They played this—let me play this home video that they played in court today of Joseph Smith giving a toast at his cousin‘s wedding.  I‘m not exactly sure how this helps, but let‘s listen. 

SUSKAUER:  OK.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I‘d like to make a toast to my cousin Peter and his new wife Rose.  I‘d like to welcome her into our family with open arms and lots of love.  May their life together be full of joy and happiness. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  You know, so he made a toast. 

SUSKAUER:  They obviously don‘t have a lot to work with.  So they‘re also showing him probably before he started going deep into that dark abyss of drugs.  He looked different.  He was dressed up.  He was at a wedding.  It‘s a happy occasion.  He has family connections. 

That‘s what they‘re trying to show.  They just do not have a lot of work with here.  And unfortunately, ultimately what‘s going to happen is that the statutory aggravating factors are going to outweigh the mitigating factors.  The bad is going to outweigh the good here and the jury is not going to have much of a choice. 

ABRAMS:  You know Pam, it was interesting to me that they couldn‘t say whether they thought the parents—whether Joseph Smith should get the death penalty or not. 

PAM BONDI, FLORIDA PROSECUTOR:  Right.  And, Dan, that‘s because in Florida it‘s called victim impact testimony.  And it‘s actually pretty bizarre in that it‘s not included as one of the aggravating factors.  And jurors are told that.  All that parents and family members are able to say is what Carlie meant to them and what loss she is to the community. 

Nothing about Joseph Smith nor their feelings about him.  And when he—when Mr. Brucia said the prosecutors and the defense redacted portions of that, I‘m sure they did.  I guarantee you those statements have been written and rewritten and rewritten to ensure that this won‘t come back on appeal because the courts have given very strict guidelines in that. 

ABRAMS:  Because this is what Susan Schorpen, Carlie‘s mother, I think really wanted to say.  This is what she said on our program last week. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SCHORPEN:  That was my little girl.  The penalty phase I‘m looking forward to, you know his sentencing.  I want him dead.  He didn‘t give my daughter any, you know any choices, any options. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  And so Pam, there are going to be people out there who are going to say wait, I don‘t get it.  I mean they can talk about how much this loss has meant to them.  They can talk about how angry they are and their feelings about it.  But they can‘t say I want him dead? 

BONDI:  No, Dan, they can‘t, not in the state of Florida.  And, again, the jurors aren‘t even going to be able to consider what they heard from her parents as one of the aggravating factors.  And, of course, what they‘re going to be told to do are weigh the aggravating factors and the mitigating factors. 

Really, frankly still, as prosecutors, we‘re just glad that we can present any testimony from the parents still because the courts have really gotten tough on death penalty issues.  So, no, not at all, they can‘t.  They need to keep those...

(CROSSTALK)

BONDI:  ... very focused.  And in fact, the courts have told us, Dan, they can‘t get emotional when they‘re reading these prepared statements. 

ABRAMS:  Yes, well there‘s no way to prevent that.  I mean...

BONDI:  Right. 

ABRAMS:  And I think Michelle is right, that this guy‘s in a lot of trouble.  We shall see.  All right, Pam Bondi and Michelle Suskauer, sorry, went a little long with Joseph Brucia, but you know he‘s got a lot to say and I wanted to hear it. 

Coming up, nine inmates break out of jail, two still on the run.  Just weeks after two others climb over the wall of a maximum-security prison.  Others escaped in a garbage truck.  Why are so many prisoners breaking out right now?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Coming up, two inmates in Washington State, the latest in a series of prison breaks across the country.  Why does it seem that so many are making it out of the big house?  First, the headlines. 

(NEWS BREAK)

ABRAMS:  It is the great stuff of great thrillers, movies, books.  Inmates locked away in prison, scheming, finally coming up with a plan to break out from behind bars.  But it seems prison and jailbreaks have been happening a lot lately in real life. 

In just the past month, a convicted murderer and attempted murderer used a handcrafted rope and improvised hook to escape from escaping from a maximum-security Iowa prison by scaling the walls when a guard tower was empty.  A man accused of abduction and assault in Ohio snuck out of a jail by hiding in a trash dumpster.  Two violent inmates escaped a maximum-security prison in South Carolina the same way. 

They were taken out with the trash.  In Texas, a death row prisoner flashed a fake I.D., was allowed to walk out of a jail in civilian clothes.  And on Friday night, in Yakima County, Washington, nine inmates escaped by climbing through a hole in the ceiling and tying together bed sheets to repel from the roof.  Four inmates escape the same jail in ‘94 with a similar plan.

How and why is this happening?  Joining me now Wayne Johnson of the Teamster‘s local 760 Union, which represents the Yakima County Jail‘s corrections officers and clerical staff and Sheila Vaughan, a former...

(AUDIO GAP)

ABRAMS:  ... former warden.  Thanks a lot to both of you.  Appreciate it. 

All right.  Ms. Vaughan, I understand that you think part of the issue is the holiday season? 

SHEILA VAUGHAN, FORMER CHIEF, NYC DEPT. OF CORRECTIONS:  Well, that‘s been our experience.  And it was something that we concentrated on, on Rikers Island for the 23 years I was there.  During the holiday season emotions among the inmate population certainly are strained. 

They can‘t be with their family.  They can‘t help their families.  They are separated.  Perhaps they‘re not getting any visits.  So there is more of a tendency to risk whatever it would take to possibly escape. 

ABRAMS:  Really?  I mean what, Thanksgiving, Christmas?  I mean that—it‘s that time? 

VAUGHAN:  Yes.  It‘s that time of year, as the song says. 

ABRAMS:  Wow.

VAUGHAN:  You can imagine being separated from your family, being uncertain about what your future holds.  Perhaps the embarrassment of what your arrest has caused your family.  All of these emotions are very high.  They‘re very—certainly prevalent among...

(VIDEO GAP)

VAUGHAN:  ... among the inmate population. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  Mr. Johnson, you know what some people are saying.  Some people are saying, you know, it‘s the corrections officer‘s fault.  They didn‘t do enough.  The other side I guess the argument is you‘re not giving us enough money (UNINTELLIGIBLE)? 

WAYNE JOHNSON, UNION LEADER FOR JAIL‘S CORRECTIONS OFFICERS:  We believe it‘s staffing levels.  They escaped from the fourth floor.  And this is the same floor that they escaped from prior several years ago.  And they‘ve got about 180 inmates up there versus four officers.  And it happened during feeding time. 

They were down on one end of the facility feeding the other inmates and these other—the inmates that escaped had about 20 to 30 minutes to punch a hole through the roof and escape without being seen until later, when one of the officers noticed them on the tower. 

ABRAMS:  But if it‘s happened before in the same prison, the same sort of situation, using the same kind of stuff, isn‘t there some way apart from more staff to try and stop that? 

JOHNSON:  Well, actually, that building is not built for what they‘re using it for.  If they—the fourth floor is probably not the correct floor that they should have those inmates on.  Those are more high-end inmates and they should probably be on a lower floor, so if they do try to punch through the ceiling, it‘s concrete. 

ABRAMS:  Have you guys been saying that for a long time?  I mean is this the first time you‘ve complained about this? 

JOHNSON:  We‘ve complained more about staffing levels.  It is the facilitators of the jail‘s responsibility to move those inmates.  But I was talking to some of the staff today and they brought it to my attention that on the lower floors the ceilings are concrete, and on the upper floor on the fourth, basically what it is, is chicken wire with kind of some plaster and cement over it, so it was fairly easy for them to punch a hole through it. 

ABRAMS:  You know Ms. Vaughan, we do hear in prison after prison, jail after jail, courthouse after courthouse, we‘re understaffed, we‘re understaffed, we‘re understaffed, and that‘s why this is happening.  You don‘t buy it. 

VAUGHAN:  No, in my experience it‘s not always the understaffing.  It has to do with supervision of the officers making sure that they‘re doing their job.  Unfortunately, a correction officer has a very, very difficult job.  He is on duty for his entire eight-hour tour.  He‘s constantly working. 

He‘s got to be constantly alert.  That is a very draining job.  Supervisors are therefore required to keep the officers on point, to keep them making their tours of inspection, to ensure that they do it.  It‘s unfortunate that an inmate‘s cell door was left open for that length of time. 

ABRAMS:  Are we overstating the amount of times this is happening, Ms. Vaughan?  Because I‘ve never heard of this many jail and prison escapes. 

VAUGHAN:  I‘m not sure about that.  As I said, we used to remind staff at this time of year to be alert to these and fortunately, we‘ll never know how many escape attempts or suicide attempts...

ABRAMS:  Right...

VAUGHAN:  ... have been thwarted...

ABRAMS:  Prevented, right...

VAUGHAN:  ... by officers doing—simply doing their job. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  Wayne Johnson and Sheila Vaughan, thanks a lot.  Appreciate it. 

VAUGHAN:  You‘re welcome.

JOHNSON:  Thank you.

ABRAMS:  Coming up, the latest on the search for this guy.  New York police say he dressed up as a firefighter for Halloween, set small fires, forced his way into a woman‘s apartment, drugged and assaulted her for 12 hours.  More sightings this weekend.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Coming up, new details in the search for a journalist police say dressed up like a firefighter, broke into a woman‘s apartment, sexually assaulted her for hours.  It‘s coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(VIDEO/AUDIO GAP)

ABRAMS:  ... Halloween sex assault, reportedly used the name gulagmeister, which more or less means prison master when he shopped on eBay in the weeks before the attack.  According to a “New York” magazine story, gulagmeister bought fireman pants.  Braunstein allegedly wore a pair when he pretended to be a firefighter to gain access to the victim‘s apartment. 

An obsolete Detroit police badge, perhaps so Braunstein could pretend to be a cop, as well as a firefighter, and a DVD copy of the first season of “Nip Tuck”, a show about plastic surgeons that also features a character called “The Carver”, a fictional serial rapist and slasher, who uses a knife to carve a smile on to his victim‘s faces. 

Gulagmeister was also apparently the top bidder on another item, one he failed to claim, a voice changer can make the user sound like “The Carver”.  Braunstein‘s alleged victim said to be too frightened to go home.  His picture distributed to New York soup kitchens over Thanksgiving in case he was looking for a free hot meal.  No luck there. 

Davidson Goldin is the star anchor and reporter with New York‘s local news cable station, New York 1 and Clint Van Zandt is the star former FBI profiler.  Gentlemen thanks for joining us.

All right, so Davidson, what‘s the latest? 

DAVIDSON GOLDIN, NEW YORK 1 ANCHOR:  The latest is police don‘t know where he is.  There were no new leads, at least no new meaningful leads over the Thanksgiving weekend.  They‘ve now transferred the case from the Special Victims Unit—“Law & Order” fans probably know...

(VIDEO/AUDIO GAP)

GOLDIN:  ... is now looking for Mr. Braunstein.  They‘ve been all the way to Ohio in their fruitless effort to find him.  But cops say at some point they‘re competent he‘ll make a mistake and they‘ll find him. 

ABRAMS:  Clint, what do you make of this?  I mean it sounds like they‘re kind of at a dead end for now. 

CLINT VAN ZANDT, FORMER FBI PROFILER:  Well, I mean that‘s why we call it a fugitive hunt.  I mean this guy is out there somewhere, Dan.  He‘s not real good at covering his tracks.  Just as you suggested, he‘s left electronic trails all over eBay. 

The police followed him across New York City when he was using his train or subway pass until he found out from the media, perhaps, that that was the way they were following him.  So you know this guy is like the proverbial Nazi U-boat.  He‘s going to have to come up for air some time and when he does there‘s going to be marshals or FBI agents or NYPD is going to be there.  The issue is can they get him before he strikes again. 

ABRAMS:  This is his dad on this program a couple of weeks ago. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ALBERTO BRAUNSTEIN, PETER BRAUNSTEIN‘S FATHER:  Peter, I beg of you, please turn yourself in voluntarily.  Don‘t wait for the police to capture you.  Just call and walk in voluntarily, and we‘ll try to cure you as soon as you surrender.  You are sick.  So please, don‘t prolong this agony.  I beg of you put an end to it and call the police. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  David, this is a guy with a history of incidents, right?  I mean nothing quite like this, but those who knew him are suddenly popping up with stories about his antics before this. 

GOLDIN:  And, Dan, not only is there nothing quite like this, but there were some indications that maybe he had something like this in mind.  Back in February when he was picked up for harassing an ex-girlfriend, the cops seized his computer and they found what his dad I think described as a movie script, what the police say were writings that described an incident just like what occurred on Halloween night, when he allegedly—he did it, but somebody set a fire outside the victim‘s apartment, dressed as a firefighter, used the fire as an excuse to gain entry and then tortured or at least harassed a woman, sexually abused her, videotaping it and making fun of her the whole time.

ABRAMS:  Clint, I find it hard to believe that he‘s still in New York.  People were saying oh yes he wants the attention.  This and that.  They went to Ohio looking for him.  There‘s sighting of him in Brooklyn...

VAN ZANDT:  Yes.

ABRAMS:  ... here and there.  But you know the one place that he‘s going to get caught is in New York. 

VAN ZANDT:  Well you would think so.  But Dan, you know this guy, he has this rich fantasy history.  This is a guy who, you know for whom life really imitates the movies.  And he likes the part he‘s playing, perhaps of this psychotic stalker, serial rapist, whatever he may think he‘s playing. 

And as you know, when he committed this alleged assault, the last thing he did was take the high-heel shoes from the victim.  You know, what you and I would know to be a trophy that a serial rapist might take.  So you know I think his father‘s right. 

I think there are some serious perhaps mental challenges that‘s going on.  And, again, I think his dad‘s advice is the best...

ABRAMS:  Yes.

VAN ZANDT:  ... that this is a time for the guy to raise his hand and say, hey, here I am...

ABRAMS:  I hope so...

VAN ZANDT:  ... before NYPD has to take him the hard way. 

ABRAMS:  Yes.  All right.  Davidson Goldin, Clint Van Zandt, thanks a lot. 

GOLDIN:  Any time. 

VAN ZANDT:  Thank you. 

ABRAMS:  Coming up, how one family showed the holiday spirit by not filing a huge lawsuit after an unfortunate accident at the Thanksgiving Day parade.  Wow, how low we have sunk, holiday spirit means not filing a lawsuit.  It‘s my “Closing Argument”.

And our continuing series, “Manhunt: Sex Offenders on the Loose”, our effort to help find missing sex offenders before they strike again.  We are focusing our efforts in Idaho. 

Authorities need your help finding Donovan Robert Carlton, 55, convicted of assault with intent to commit lewd acts, considered a violent sexual predator, registered with the state.  If you‘ve got any information, that‘s the number, 208-884-7130.

Be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  My “Closing Argument”—who would have thought a reason to celebrate this holiday season would be someone choosing not to file a high profile lawsuit?  That‘s right.  The father of 26-year-old Mary and 11-year-old Sarah Chamberlain has said he will not sue after the sisters were injured when a 500-plus pound M&M candy balloon hit a New York city street light at the annual Macy‘s Thanksgiving Day parade. 

The fallen debris left Sarah with nine stitches and Mary who is in a wheelchair with a bump on her head.  Stephen Chamberlain defined the holiday spirit when he said—quote—“we just count our blessing that they weren‘t seriously injured.”  Accidents just happen he said when asked saying the family would not sue. 

Bravo to the Chamberlains for avoiding the legal lottery mentality and bravo to Macy‘s for making the Chamberlains feel cared for.  So many lawsuits could be avoided if companies or people for that matter just showed they care.  The Chamberlains‘ mother, Suzanne, said—quote—“everyone treated us like royalty.”

Macy‘s immediately offered to cover the family‘s medical bills, pay for any damage to Mary‘s special touch screen speaking device, and offered up presents, including tickets to the Radio City Christmas show and VIP treatment at next year‘s parade.  The parade director showed up at the hospital nearly in tears and they had Santa pay a visit as well. 

People who‘ve been wronged want to know someone is listening and acting on it.  Now it is fair to question whether Macy‘s did that out of altruism or just necessity.  After all, in 1997, a 33-year-old investment banker was left brain damaged after a light pole was struck by a “Cat in the Hat” balloon.  She sued and settled for millions, a payout she certainly deserved.

And it led to some change in the parade as well, so how could this happen again many will fairly ask?  Well that question is being asked by everyone from the mayor to all the executives at Macy‘s.  This is not one of those cases where a lawsuit is needed to exact necessary changes.  And don‘t get me wrong.  It is not always bad to sue.  But it is bad to always sue. 

And regardless of Macy‘s motives, they did the right thing here, as did it seems the Chamberlains.  So with all that in mind, 11-year-old Sarah still wants one more thing, should come as a relief to the maker of M&M‘s, a lifetime supply of the candy.  It seems she is still willing to let them show that the candies melt in your mouth, not in your hands, or on your head. 

Coming up, a lot of e-mails about last week‘s teacher sex stories.  A lot of you saying there is a double standard and that that is just OK with you.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  I‘ve had my say, now it‘s time for “Your Rebuttal”.  On Wednesday I spoke to Owen Lafave, ex-husband of Debra Lafave, that Florida teacher who avoided jail time, even though she admitted having sex with her 14-year-old student.  Owen wasn‘t too happy with her sentence. 

I said I‘m sometimes willing to accept lesser sentences for certain women in statutory rape cases because it is more important to send a message to men than to women.  Not surprisingly, some of you disagreed. 

Zeke Putnam, a therapist, who says he works with sexually abused men—quote—“I find your flippant attitude towards women who abuse unconscionable.  Large numbers of men are abused by women, which goes unreported because of societal attitudes exactly like yours.”

But most agreed with my take, I got to tell you.  Danny Thomas in Delaware, “I think you‘ve said something that everyone else has been too afraid to say.  Male sex offenders are far more of a problem than female sex offenders.”

Mary Eastman in Ohio, “There are differences.  In relations with a woman, a boy would have to physically cooperate no matter how unwilling he is.”

In Portland, Maine, Jessie Sweeney, “If Debra Lafave went to trial, her attorney would have asked the 14-year-old boy she had sex with if he was traumatized by the experience.  This kid would have smiled and said I want to be traumatized more by her.”

Former junior high school teacher Tracy Bay in Ormond Beach, Florida, “The only mental problems this boy will suffer is guilt over this teacher being punished at all.”

Martin in Fort Worth, Texas, “Most guys in the 14 to 15-year-old range wouldn‘t call the experience with a young teacher rape, but would instead call it a blessing.”

Finally, Brian Blinstrup, “Ask any man if they would have welcomed a sexual experience with Debra Lafave at age 14.  If they said it would have been a traumatic experience, similar to being molested by a man or that of a young girl being molested by a man, they would be lying.”

Let‘s remember here, I am not saying that it is not traumatic for some boys, but I have no problem with taking all of the circumstances into account when sentencing.  I get it.  I hear you. 

But those of you who are writing in saying, Dan, you know you think that they should get away Scott-free, no, that‘s not what I said.  I said that there are times when it can be different and that people just don‘t have the guts to say it. 

Your e-mails abramsreport@msnbc.com.  “HARDBALL” with Chris Matthews up next.

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

END   

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