updated 12/28/2005 10:32:44 AM ET 2005-12-28T15:32:44

Guest: Ken Jones, John Timoney, Herbert Smith, Frank Curreri, Marc Klaas,

Patty Wetterling, Jonna Spilbor, William Fallon, Paul Rothstein

LISA DANIELS, GUEST HOST:   Coming up, New Orleans‘ battered police department under investigation again, after officers shoot and kill a man. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DANIELS (voice-over):  Officers open fire after a man with a knife lunges at them.  Much of the incident caught on tape, but did police go too far? 

And Miami police capture the accused rapist who escaped from jail by tying bed sheets together and crawling down the side, so did he have help from the outside?  We ask Miami‘s police chief. 

Plus, the Bush administration takes sides in Anna Nicole Smith‘s battle to keep millions her husband left her.  The White House backing the ex-playmate at the Supreme Court. 

The program about justice starts right now. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

DANIELS:  Hi, everyone.  I‘m Lisa Daniels.  Dan is off tonight.   

First up on the docket, another controversy surrounding the New Orleans Police Department.  On Monday a man dared police to approach him as he waved a knife wildly in circles.  Several police officers moved in on the man. 

They say they asked him many times to drop the knife, even tried to subdue him by spraying him with pepper spray, but he apparently continued with his threats.  Police ended up shooting and killing the man and now some are wondering whether they needed to take such deadly action. 

And joining me now reporter Ken Jones from our New Orleans affiliate WDSU with more on the story.  Hi Ken.  Fill us in on this. 

KEN JONES, WDSU REPORTER:  Good afternoon, Lisa.  It was an interesting shooting to say the least.  The gentleman was known to frequent a Burger King in the area on St. Charles Avenue, a main avenue in New Orleans, every day to get a cup of coffee.  They say he was spotted by a police officer from another jurisdiction actually assaulting someone else, and that‘s when they called the New Orleans Police Department. 

New Orleans police walked with the man about two blocks or so and ordering him to stop.  He did not, of course, and then produced a knife which we saw flashing in the sunlight, the blade maybe about four or five inches, waving at police.  Police kept ordering the man to stop, put down the knife.  He refused.

They sprayed him with pepper spray.  Officers say that they—the man took a rag out of his pocket and just simply wiped the pepper spray off of his face and kept walking backwards and waving the knife.  Finally after ignoring police orders, police then of course opened fire and shot the man. 

DANIELS:  So what is the community reaction to this? 

JONES:  Well, I mean a lot of witnesses who were out there say the police showed a lot of restraint, because the ordeal lasted for about I would say 15, 20 minutes as the man walked backwards.  They ordered him and ordered him and the man was wildly swinging.  Not a lot of criticism at least from the witnesses who saw the police actually try to subdue the man before actually shooting him. 

DANIELS:  It‘s such a strange scene to see all these police officers surrounding this man.  I guess the argument is...

JONES:  Yes.

DANIELS:  ... why not shoot him in the leg, why not try to get him on the ground without using deadly force? 

JONES:  Well, as police say when they do decide to use deadly force, obviously you draw your weapon not to injure.  You draw your weapon to use deadly force, so your object is not to shoot in the leg, according to police.  It‘s actually to shoot to kill. 

Now the question did come up why didn‘t police have batons or Taser guns.  We don‘t know at this point.  The police in New Orleans generally don‘t carry batons.  As far as Taser guns, some were on order, but we have yet to see the police rank and file actually carry them.  So at this point there‘s still some questions, but not the criticism you might think from the people who witnessed the shooting.

DANIELS:  Ken Jones thanks so much for all those details.  Really appreciate it. 

JONES:  You bet.

DANIELS:  Now we‘re going to go to the capture of a man who terrorized Miami for days.  Accused serial rapist Reynaldo Rapalo broke out of jail last week where he was awaiting trial.  He climbed through a vent in his cell apparently and used bed sheets to scale down from the roof of the building.

Police were on a massive manhunt for the man, suspected of seven rapes and four other attacks.  He allegedly targeted women from the ages of 11 to 79.  But thanks to a tip, he was found on the streets of Miami and brought into custody.  He even smiled as police officers escorted him back to jail. 

Rapalo had shaved his mustache.  He also changed his hair, and he told police officers who chased him down that he was homeless.  He was ultimately picked up last night outside a video store and brought to another jail.  He apparently had no comment at a brief court hearing this morning, where he was denied bail. 

John Timoney is the chief of police in Miami and he joins me now. 

Chief, how relieved are you that Rapalo is back in custody?

CHIEF JOHN TIMONEY, MIAMI POLICE DEPARTMENT:  Oh I personally am very relieved, but not as relieved as the people of Miami, the Miami-Dade area, who basically have been terrorized over the last six days since this guy escaped.  You know we suffered back in—two years ago of the summer of 2003 where he went on his prey for three months and literally terrorized the neighborhoods of Little Havana and Shenandoah, to the point that women and young girls wouldn‘t walk the streets. 

We thought he was away safely only to find out last week he made this bizarre escape.  Again, we had this renewed reign of terror, if you will.  Even though he didn‘t strike, the notion that he was out there struck heart into—struck fear into the hearts of many residents. 

DANIELS:  Chief, tell us about this tip.  Who called in and what did the police officers respond—how did they respond to that? 

TIMONEY:  We‘ve gotten at the Task Force Headquarters over 280 tips that police officers responded to over the last six days.  All of them didn‘t pan out.  However, last night, a very good tip with a very, very good description of his clothing and his location.  And so clearly the person who gave that tip knew him, knew where he was, and that was the tip that broke the case. 

DANIELS:  And am I correct that when police approached him, he gave this story that he was a homeless immigrant from Nicaragua?  Is that true? 

TIMONEY:  That‘s true.  That would be his M.O.  You know he‘s a lot of things.  He‘s a violent rapist.  He‘s also a con man that gets over on people.  He‘s very charming and endearing.  And so last night he tried the I‘m a homeless person from Nicaragua, but the officers suspected he looked like the pictures, even though his features had changed dramatically in two and a half years. 

The hair, he had lost a great deal of weight, and so he looked different, but the officers suspected it.  When they began to question him, they sat him down, and then he bolted, which really raised their level of suspicion.  They kind of knew they had their guy.  They chased him and they chased him down. 

DANIELS:  Can I just ask you—we‘re looking at the video right now. 

It looks like he‘s...

TIMONEY:  Yes.

DANIELS:  ... talking to the cops.  He‘s smiling. 

TIMONEY:  Yes.

DANIELS:  You talk about him being a con man of sorts, but what is up with that, this big smile and the chatter with the police officers? 

TIMONEY:  Yes, it‘s very strange.  I spoke to him two and a half years ago when we first arrested him.  His demeanor was completely different.  He was crying, sobbing, begging for forgiveness and begging for mercy and he was sorry for what he did.  But I saw him last night with the detectives.  He had not a smirk, but a smile on his face. 

He was very proud of his accomplishment of being able of to, you know making good his escape and then evading police for six days.  He‘s quite proud of himself. 

DANIELS:  Speaking of that escape, it seems like a lot of work went into it.  Do you think he got some outside help? 

TIMONEY:  Yes.  Well he definitely got help whether it was outside or inside.  An investigation will be conducted by Director Bobby Parker (ph) from Miami-Dade Police Department.  Bobby is a seasoned vet, and so he‘s going to look at a whole host of things, including the institution itself, its vulnerabilities and then what if any help—we‘re convinced he had some help either on the outside or inside make good his escape.  Clearly there was a conspiracy afoot and so Bobby will unravel all of that and then make recommendations. 

(CROSSTALK)

TIMONEY:  And I‘m assuming there will be arrests.

DANIELS:  Just give us a reassurance, do you think he‘s in a jail this time where he won‘t escape? 

TIMONEY:  Yes, I think I can pretty much assure you of that. 

DANIELS:  Well it sounds like some great police work and a great tip really led you to your guy.  I know that Miami is very relieved that this guy is behind bars. 

TIMONEY:  Yes.

DANIELS:  Chief John Timoney thanks so much for joining us...

TIMONEY:  Thank you, Lisa.

DANIELS:  ... providing all those details.  All the best. 

And joining us now...

TIMONEY:  Thank you.

DANIELS:  ... is Herbert Smith who is the attorney representing Reynaldo Rapalo.  Thanks again for being here.  How is your client doing? 

HERBERT SMITH, ATTY FOR ALLEGED MIAMI SERIAL RAPIST (via phone): 

Aside from being a little bit injured from the apprehension, he‘s doing all right. 

DANIELS:  And have you gotten a chance to sit down with him and talk to him? 

SMITH:  I have.  I actually had a brief conversation with him to find out how he was doing. 

DANIELS:  Obviously that‘s attorney/client privileged.  I‘m not going to ask you about it, but what were you thinking when you heard that he escaped? 

SMITH:  It was a shock.  It was quite a shock and it was unexpected. 

DANIELS:  But what does it do to your rape case? 

SMITH:  Well, it may have an affect on the trial date of the rape case and it may have an affect on where the case actually gets tried. 

DANIELS:  Yes, because if I were representing him, I‘d have a serious concern whether there‘s anybody in that county who has not seen some sort of description of this man.

SMITH:  Well, actually, interestingly, for the last two years, we have been keeping the case out of the media, by not having Mr. Rapalo come to court and the media has lost interest in the case.  And then after the escape, of course, we‘ve had seven days of non-stop coverage. 

DANIELS:  We‘re looking at some of the video here where he‘s chatting with the police.  He‘s smiling.  Do you think your client is stable?  Is there a mental issue here? 

SMITH:  I don‘t know at this point.  At the time that the escape occurred we had retained somebody to examine Mr. Rapalo, because I was—I had some concerns and I really can‘t tell you. 

DANIELS:  So do you think definitively that this will delay the 2003 charges, that trial? 

SMITH:  Well, it all depends.  It depends on whether the prosecutor‘s office is going to try to introduce any of the evidence of the escape at the trial that we were planning on having in February, and it also depends upon issues regarding venue.  I don‘t know. 

DANIELS:  Herbert Smith thanks so much for coming on the show, explaining it.  It sounds like you‘ve got some work to do.  All the best to you.

SMITH:  Thank you.

DANIELS:  Coming up, police track down a professional bodybuilding couple accused of killing their assistant.  And get this, he thought he could get away with it by disguising himself, by shaving his head.

And we look back at the year‘s youngest crime victims.  Justice finally served for some of them, but has it been enough to protect other children from violent predators?  We‘re going to talk with the parents of two young victims.

Plus, we learned Anna Nicole Smith‘s battle over her husband‘s money was going to the Supreme Court.  Now we learn the Bush administration is taking sides in the case, all the details.

And of course, your e-mails.  Send them to abramsreport@msnbc.com.  Remember to include your name and where you‘re writing from, and we‘ll respond at the end of the show. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DANIELS:  ... Craig Titus and his wife Kelly Ryan are accused of killing their personal assistant Melissa James and lighting her body on fire in the couple‘s Jaguar, then skipping town, leading to a nationwide manhunt.  They were arrested on Friday far away from the gruesome Las Vegas crime scene in Canton, Massachusetts.

That‘s about 15 miles from Boston.  Ryan was in a salon getting a pedicure and Titus was waiting in their truck drinking a root beer.  James was living with the couple and Titus told police he was having an affair with her, an affair he says his wife didn‘t know about.  The couple was questioned after James‘ body was found almost two weeks ago, but let go after telling police they kicked James out of the house because she was stealing money from them. 

Joining me now is Frank Curreri, reporter with the “Las Vegas Review Journal”.  And Frank let me ask you, is that report true, that he was arrested while she was getting her nails done? 

FRANK CURRERI, “LAS VEGAS REVIEW JOURNAL”:  That is correct.  She had went in for a pedicure, he was out there waiting.  I guess that it‘s possible that authorities were aware he had made some calls to some other friends, perhaps they traced those calls, and they I guess, SWAT came and surrounded him shortly thereafter. 

DANIELS:  Well it certainly doesn‘t seem like she was in a rush.  What was the tip here?

CURRERI:  Well, I guess there had been a lot of people talking apparently.  He—I talked with his attorney, and his attorney says that the couple did not know until about an hour before the SWAT team got there that they were even wanted, that there was a manhunt for them, which I find hard to believe.  But—so apparently they were making some phone calls, the authorities found out they‘re there, and then they surround them.

DANIELS:  I mean it does seem a little unlikely, given that it‘s been all over the news, even on Friday, but who knows if they saw that.  How disguisable were these people?  Obviously looking at the pictures, it is hard to disguise Craig Titus, especially if you‘re familiar at all with bodybuilding.  I mean shaving you know some facial hair here and there doesn‘t seem to do the trick. 

CURRERI:  Well Kelly Ryan, in some of the photos we‘ve seen of her, she‘s had much lighter hair.  It looks like her hair had been dyed.  Of course, he doesn‘t have any hair.  It‘s interesting to see photos from them maybe going back 10 or 12 years to now.  They both seem to have aged considerably.

I don‘t know if it‘s just stress or what.  Of course Titus is now 40 years old.  He used to be a 250-pound guy.  He was known as the bad boy of bodybuilding and he was very flamboyant, ruffled a lot of feathers, criticized a lot of his opponents, and people either loved him or hated him.  Now I‘m told that he—since he‘s 40, his best years are behind him, that now he‘s down to about 225 and in the photo, he obviously looks a little bit disheveled. 

DANIELS:  Yes.  What‘s the connection with Melissa Jones?  A lot of theories out there that there was a love triangle.  That she was stealing from them.  That she might have witnessed the couple taking steroids.  Do we have any evidence to support any of those theories?

CURRERI:  Well I think part of what makes this an interesting case is that there are so many possible motives for the murder of Melissa James.  One is that the couple claims that she was embezzling from them, another is that she was Craig Titus‘ secret mistress.  Another is that according to Laura James (ph), the mother of the victim, Kelly Ryan and Melissa James did not get along well.  They were always fighting. 

And in the days right before Melissa James was discovered dead in that

·         in the trunk of that vehicle, a burning vehicle, she had told her mother that she would be coming back to New Jersey and might be not only coming home for the holidays, but for good.  That opens up the possibility did Craig Titus not want her to leave him? 

Because she had been with him for a number of years.  She had only been out here to Las Vegas for about two months.  She had lived with them in southern California, she‘d went home, and then Craig Titus called her about three months ago and said hey can you come back and live with us, help us out, and she did come back.  And then the indications were that she might be going back for good.

And he apparently knew that, because he bought her ticket, he bought her plane ticket back to New Jersey, but it was a return flight.  But the mother said she didn‘t know if her daughter would be returning. 

DANIELS:  Was there any evidence that you‘ve seen that shows that the couple might have been trying to go to a country that won‘t extradite them back to the U.S.? 

CURRERI:  Well there‘s information in the police report and there‘s also information from the FBI that there was intelligence that they might be trying to get to Greece.  Craig Titus is of Greek descent and so he wanted—he had expressed an interest in going somewhere where they wouldn‘t extradite him. 

DANIELS:  And in terms of how James‘ mother is doing, did you actually speak to her? 

CURRERI:  I did and I‘ve interviewed many people unfortunately who have had someone killed and I would say that she‘s remarkably calm and composed.  A very loving mother and just sort of in disbelief that she—her daughter trusted both Kelly and Craig, and she‘s just still trying to grasp the gravity of what happened and the fact that—she‘s particularly concerned, because her daughter was burned.  And in American culture, of course, a lot of people, the final time they see someone is in the casket and she doesn‘t have that privilege. 

DANIELS:  But does she believe that this couple had some responsibility in her daughter‘s murder? 

CURRERI:  Oh absolutely.  Absolutely.  She believes that—well, let me say this.  There‘s—I‘ve read many police reports.  There‘s an avalanche of evidence against Kelly and Craig Titus.  They have a real uphill battle, absent of the police lying in the reports, it‘s a pretty strong case against them. 

I mean you flee.  That never looks good.  You go at 3:30 in the morning—the morning the body‘s found you go at 3:30 in the morning to Wal-Mart to buy seven bottles of lighter fluid.  That doesn‘t look good.  You‘ve got a lot of cell phone records, you‘ve got them, you know, contradicting themselves throughout the—the police actually interviewed them within hours after Melissa James‘ body was discovered in the trunk.

They—the vehicle had been burned, but they got a license plate.  Within hours of finding that body in the trunk, they‘re knocking on Kelly and Craig‘s door saying hey what‘s up?  We found a dead body in your car.

DANIELS:  There are a lot of questions to be answered here.  That‘s for sure.  Frank Curreri, thanks so much Frank for all those details.  Really appreciate it. 

CURRERI:  You‘re very welcome. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SUSAN SCHORPEN, CARLIE BRUCIA‘S MOTHER:  He couldn‘t be dead fast enough for me.  I want him dead.  I want him dead now.  My daughter‘s not breathing.  She‘ll never breathe again.  I can never hold her again.  I‘ve got to wait for appeals before you know he dies? 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DANIELS:  Susan Schorpen is just one parent who has to deal with the unimaginable reality of having a child murdered.  As the year comes to an end, we‘re looking back at some of the youngest crime victims in the news this year.  Most sexually assaulted and killed by previously convicted sex offenders. 

Nine-year-old Jessica Lunsford snatched from her Florida bedroom in February.  A convicted sex offender admitted to sexually assaulting her before burying her alive in his backyard.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN COUEY, CONVICTED SEX OFFENDER:  I went out there one night and dug a hole and put her in it and buried her.  I pushed (INAUDIBLE) I put her in a plastic bag, plastic baggies.

DETECTIVE:  Was she dead already?

COUEY:  No, she was still alive.  I buried her alive.  Like it‘s stupid, but she suffered.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DANIELS:  A few months after Jessica was murdered, Shasta and Dylan Groene were allegedly abducted from their home.  Their older brother, their mother and her boyfriend were bludgeoned to death.  Weeks later Shasta was spotted with her alleged captor, a convicted sex offender and was returned home.  Unfortunately, Dylan‘s remains were later found in the Montana woods. 

While those cases are still making their way through the courts, two others ended in guilty verdicts this year, hopefully giving the victims‘ families some closure.  Joseph Smith was convicted of abducting, sexually assaulting and strangling 11-year-old Carlie Brucia. 

The jury recommending the death penalty for his crimes.  And earlier this year a judge told Alejandro Avila he had—quote—“forfeited his right to live” after he was convicted of kidnapping, sexually assaulting and murdering 5-year-old Samantha Runnion.  But Samantha‘s mother had even harsher words for her daughter‘s killer.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ERIN RUNNION, SAMANTHA RUNNION‘S MOTHER:  I have written and rewritten and I would say to the man who killed Samantha, and you better pay attention because I never want to address you again.  You don‘t deserve a place in my family‘s history, and so I want you to live.  I want you to disappear into the abyss of a lifetime in prison, where no one will remember you, no one will pray for you and no one will care when you die. 

You killed a child with a loving and passionate heart.  Samantha was outrageously bright and funny.  She wasn‘t demanding, she didn‘t ask for everything under the sun, just to play and have fun as much as humanly possible.  Why would you want to take that away?  I have researched and really thought about pedophiles and your psychology and blah, blah, blah. 

You‘re a human being.  You know pain and you know fear.  How dare you pretend she wasn‘t real.  In choosing to destroy Samantha‘s life, you chose this.  You chose to waste your life to satisfy a selfish and sick desire.  You knew it was wrong and you chose not to think about it. 

Well now you have a lot of time to think about it.  Don‘t waste it.  Write it down, so that the rest of us can figure out how to stop you people.  You‘re a disgrace to the human race. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DANIELS:  And joining me two people who are all too familiar with what these other parents are going through.  Patty Wetterling, her 11-year-old son Jacob was abducted back in 1989.  Neither he nor his abductor have been found.  Patty is also a Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate for Minnesota.

And Marc Klaas joins me as well.  His 12-year-old daughter Polly was abducted and murdered back in 1993.  And thank you so much, both of you, for coming on the show. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Thank you.

DANIELS:  Marc, I know you addressed Polly‘s killer in court.  A lot has been said about the word closure, but did it give you some sort of finality to this horrible nightmare? 

MARC KLAAS, DAUGHTER ABDUCTED & MURDERED IN 1993:    No.  Really, Lisa, all that it does is it releases his hold upon us.  Now that these guys have been sentenced to whatever they‘ve been sentenced to, they can as Erin said disappear into the abyss where no one cares.  There‘s little more or less that‘s accomplished by this kind of an action. 

DANIELS:  Patty, did we make any progress this year in passing legislation that will stop sexual offenders? 

PATTY WETTERLING, 11-YEAR-OLD SON ABDUCTED:  Actually, there was a Child Safety Act, which had a great initiative and a lot of energy over the summer, but at the end of the year, the legislators went home and didn‘t get it done...

DANIELS:  And why is that?  Why wasn‘t it passed?

WETTERLING:  There were different versions in the House and the Senate.  They were so far apart that they never even made it to conference committee and that is unconscionable.  It‘s not part of some politics.  It‘s just not getting it done.  There‘s over 100,000 missing sex offenders and we‘ve got to address this problem. 

DANIELS:  Marc, is it frustrating to see more getting done when another child is abducted?  I mean unfortunately being in the news business we do read so many of these child cases who are missing, adults, teenagers, and it seems that things pick up steam when we announce it, but then things just sort of sputter.  What happens? 

KLAAS:  Well actually if you look historically you‘ll find that every progressive move made towards child safety occurs in the aftermath of a horrible crime.  It raises public attention and it‘s usually the family of the victim or sometimes it‘s the community in which the victim lived that is so outraged that they demand and get the kinds of changes they need. 

Unfortunately, as Patty said, we did run out of steam this year.  The Senate chose not to vote on this piece of legislation, which is unfortunate, but I think it is also something that is kind of predictable, given the fact that very few senators in the United States Senate have children of an elementary school age.  Hopefully Patty will help change that culture.

DANIELS:  But again why was the Child Safety Act not passed immediately?  You know you hear lawmakers saying that something has to be done. 

KLAAS:  Yes.

DANIELS:  Was there something controversial in that act that...

KLAAS:  Yes. 

DANIELS:  What was it? 

KLAAS:  Well there was a couple of amendments that were tagged on at the last minute.  One was a gay rights hate crime amendment, which is really pretty ironic.  Because if you look at it, you‘ll see that almost every segment of our society is covered by hate crimes, except children.  That never should have been.  That is a poison pill. 

The other amendment that was put in there that shouldn‘t have been put in there was a restrictive—it‘s an amendment that restricts Hollywood‘s ability to use children in anything that engages sex in any way by basically claiming that they need to be under the same protections that they are under in the porn industry, which, given the fact that there‘s never been any cause to think that Hollywood is harming children is an absurd amendment...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Yes.

KLAAS:  ... that deserves no consideration. 

DANIELS:  It‘s just...

(CROSSTALK)

DANIELS:  Yes, Patty, go ahead...

WETTERLING:  I would like...

DANIELS:  Yes.

WETTERLING:  Yes, we need to be more visionary.  We need to look long range.  We can‘t just do knee-jerk legislation and I think that that‘s often what happens.  There were other versions—other differences in terms of how you treat juvenile offenders.  And many of those states need tiers because not all sex offenders, you can‘t clump them all together.  They‘re not all the same.

And we have to look at the incidents of the circumstances around the crime and put them in tiers and then have concrete actions.  Plus, we need to have ways that they can communicate between state-to-state.  That‘s not happening and you cannot do that unless you put funding there.  We always spend a lot of money...

DANIELS:  We‘re going to have to leave it there because we‘re going to have more after the break...

WETTERLING:  OK.

DANIELS:  Patty Wetterling and Marc Klaas...

WETTERLING:  Thank you.

DANIELS:  ... thank you so much for coming on the show.  Coming up, will new laws really do anything to help protect our kids?  We‘re going to ask our legal team.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DANIELS:  Coming up, after the brutal murders of children like Dylan Groene, Jessica Lunsford and Sarah Lunde this year, will new laws do anything to protect others?  But first the headlines.

(NEWS BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEVE GROENE, SHASTA & DYLAN‘S FATHER:  There‘s been so many times I‘ve seen the local news put out the bulletins about sex offenders being released in their community, and they‘re described as level three sex offenders with a high likelihood to reoffend.  That‘s unacceptable.  Totally unacceptable.  People need to get on their congressmen, their senators, and even the president to—this needs to change, now. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DANIELS:  Steve Groene‘s kids abducted and held for weeks, allegedly by convicted sex offender Joseph Duncan, who served more than a decade in a Washington state prison for raping a 14-year-old boy at gunpoint back in 1980.  Duncan was out on $15,000 bail on other child molestation charges in Minnesota when he allegedly killed three people and kidnapped Shasta and Dylan Groene. 

In February registered sex offender John Couey allegedly kidnapped, assaulted and killed 9-year-old Jessica Lunsford in Florida.  Less than two months later also in Florida, convicted sex offender David Onstott broke into his ex-girlfriend‘s home and killed her 13-year-old daughter, Sarah Lunde.

And Alejandro Avila sentenced to death this year for kidnapping, molesting and murdering 5-year-old Samantha Runnion.  He had been tried in 2001 for molesting two other young girls, but he was acquitted. 

And joining me now former prosecutor Bill Fallon and criminal defense attorney Jonna Spilbor.  Thanks so much for being here, both of you.  Appreciate it. 

JONNA SPILBOR, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY:  Hi Lisa.

WILLIAM FALLON, FORMER ESSEX COUNTY MA PROSECUTOR:   Thanks Lisa.

DANIELS:  Bill, what more can be done to protect our kids?  A lot?  A little?  What needs to be done here? 

FALLON:  I actually think we need a huge overhaul here, Lisa.  What we‘ve done is we‘re coming up with these big types of activity.  Let‘s put everybody on a GPS tracking system.  Let‘s try to get everybody on registration.  But I‘ll tell you, it‘s really going to begin locally, statewide and then nationally. 

People are going to have to realize when they look at these horrific

crimes, these parents, you basically want to cry when you hear your parent

·         these parents and they have a wonderful point.  Their eloquence is outstanding.

But, really, you‘re not always going to get the children victimized by the big boys.  That is the convicted child molester.  We have to come to a realization that most child molestation is done at a local level by people who have not been convicted before.  Your children are very prey of the people they know, not of the people they don‘t. 

So I think it starts with an education on sexual abuse at a very young stage and then goes up to serious, hard sentences.  We really have to think about how we‘re going to put that voice out there that children need to be protected...

DANIELS:  OK...

FALLON:  ... not just talk about it. 

DANIELS:  Let‘s get Jonna‘s opinion here.  I heard you sigh, I think, when he mentioned the GPS system.  But what‘s your problem with it?  Because obviously something has to be done and these offenders are out and about time and time again.

SPILBOR:   I don‘t have a big, big problem with GPS, but I do see a couple of things.  And Bill was actually right about something.  We need to...

(CROSSTALK)

SPILBOR:   You‘re welcome.  We need to start at the very first offense.  Let me give you an example.  My first criminal case ever was a child molester, 33-year-old uncle, molesting a 14-year-old niece.  His sentence, probation.  I handled hundreds after that.

Their first time sentences, probation.  That‘s not OK.  Because once these guys get probation, they‘ve got a slap on the wrist, they go out and they can reoffend.  As far as GPS goes, we can‘t overreact because your other guest, Mrs. Wetterling said it perfectly, not all sex offenders are created equal. 

We have to separate those that can be redeemed from those who cannot be redeemed.  And those who can be redeemed, let‘s not turn them into giant leper colonies where they can‘t get a job.  They can‘t reintegrate into society because then what?  If they think they‘re better off in jail, they‘ll reoffend because that‘s where they will go.

DANIELS:  But Bill...

FALLON:  But Jonna, you really—let me just say, everybody has a right—every parent, every person has a right to know that there‘s a convicted child molester in their neighborhood.  That doesn‘t mean they‘re going to turn into a murderer.  It doesn‘t mean they‘re going to rape their kid, but I think we have this false sense of well, it‘s only a minor molestation. 

If I‘m a parent, if I‘m a neighbor, I want to know who‘s in my neighborhood.  I don‘t want them babysitting.  I don‘t want them hanging around the school.  Now, I agree that they don‘t all have to be convicted, but you know for life—sentenced for life, but I‘ll tell you I think we have to take a hard look at shouldn‘t neighborhoods know, shouldn‘t there be less of maybe one, two, and three types of offenders. 

But everybody should know it.  We shouldn‘t have to go to the police station, see if they live in our neighborhoods.  Because parents have to start saying to their children, not scaring them to death, but giving them the 101 and the 102, as I call it, of child molestation...

DANIELS:  Jonna, Jonna, what‘s your reaction to the list idea? 

SPILBOR:   We have a list.  Every state has lists.  And here‘s the problem with the lists, one digit off in a zip code bill and guess what, you‘re not going to find the guy who‘s living next door to you who‘s a registered sex offender.  And you could do a check right now and in 10 minutes I guarantee you you‘re going to find zip codes that don‘t match street addresses and that means that some of these guys are going to slip through the crack...

(CROSSTALK)

SPILBOR:   ... and keep them in there longer.  What‘s that?

FALLON:  We haven‘t done—I agree.  We have to keep the ones in jail that belong there, but the ones that are out, you‘re saying because of a zip code, isn‘t it a disgrace in the United States of America...

SPILBOR:   Yes.

FALLON:  ... zip code error...

SPILBOR:   Yes.

FALLON:  ... and that you can‘t get this information?  So we have to take this seriously how to protect these children...

DANIELS:  Bill...

(CROSSTALK)

DANIELS:  Let me ask you this.  Who gets the blame here?  And I say the word blame with some force here.  Is it the people of the United States who are not crusading and not telling their legislators change the law, or is it the lawmakers who seem to be, as I say, sputtering and not really moving on some of these laws, like the Child Safety Act? 

FALLON:  Lisa, there‘s lots of blame to go around.  I tell this very quick story.  One year the Supreme Judicial Court in Massachusetts came down and said you had to prove lack of consent and there are Massachusetts laws to make it a crime to molest a child.  It took us three years through our legislature to get that changed.  That seemed like a no-brainer. 

It seemed like you‘d go to the legislature and say if a 50-year-old molests a 9-year-old, it should be a crime.  We had to have lack of consent made part of the law.  So I think everybody stands back.  Everybody wants to protect everyone‘s rights but the kids are really not coming first. 

What we know is everybody tacks on something because it‘s in their interest.  I think it‘s a huge issue, by the way, and I think it‘s a very complicated issue. 

DANIELS:  Yes...

FALLON:  It seems to me every year we should be able to do something. 

DANIELS:  It‘s discouraging to have these same conversations over and over...

FALLON:  Absolutely.

DANIELS:  ... and nothing seems to be getting done about it.  And the sad thing is the children are the ones that pay the price.  Bill Fallon...

SPILBOR:   Right.

DANIELS:  ... and Jonna Spilbor thanks so much for coming on the show. 

Appreciate your different perspectives. 

SPILBOR:   Thank you.

(CROSSTALK)

DANIELS:  Coming up, ex-playmate Anna Nicole Smith headed to the Supreme Court and she‘s got an unusual legal ally, try the Bush administration, which believe it or not, has filed a brief on the former stripper‘s behalf. 

Plus, Arnold Schwarzenegger‘s Austrian hometown takes his name off a stadium because he didn‘t spare convicted killer Tookie Williams‘ life.  Are they going a little too far?  That‘s my “Closing Argument”.

And our continuing series, “Manhunt: Sex Offenders on the Loose”, our effort to find missing sex offenders before they strike again.  Our search today, Kentucky.

Authorities trying to locate this guy, Dwayne Gough.  He‘s 45, six-foot-one and weighs 230 pounds.  He was convicted of rape.  He has not registered his address with the state. 

If you have any info, there‘s the number to call, 502-227-8781.  We‘ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DANIELS:  Coming up, former “Playboy” playmate Anna Nicole Smith gets the support of none other than President Bush. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DANIELS:  You may recall that the United States Supreme Court announced back in September it would hear former stripper and “Playboy” model Anna Nicole Smith‘s appeal in her effort to claim 474 million bucks from her ex-husband‘s estate.  Ms. Smith made clear she planned to attend the oral arguments, guaranteeing that we would all see the blond bombshell ascending the hallowed steps of the nation‘s highest court come February and you thought this case couldn‘t get any better, well, it has. 

Because now none other than the Bush administration is giving Smith‘s legal case a substantial lift, throwing the administration‘s hat in the ring of support of her appeal.  She‘s been involved in a long running legal battle with her son of her late husband, oil tycoon J. Howard Marshall, II.  Smith married Marshall in 1994, when he was 89 years old.  She was just 26 years old. 

He died one year later and she claims she is entitled to part of his vast estate.  A state court in Texas rejected her claim, but a federal bankruptcy court awarded her the money.  The Supreme Court will decide who exactly has the jurisdiction, the state court or the federal court. 

But the Department of Justice agrees with Nicole, filing a brief on her behalf, asking the justices to protect the federal court‘s jurisdiction over cases involving wills.  Joining us now Supreme Court watcher and Georgetown Law School professor Paul Rothstein.  And just give us a simple explanation of why the Bush administration wants to get involved in this.  I know it‘s very technical.

PAUL ROTHSTEIN, GEORGETOWN LAW PROFESSOR:  Because the question is whether a federal court can adjudicate claims which normally fall within a state court‘s province, but can the federal court adjudicate those claims when it somehow impacts the federal court enforcing some federal law.  Here, the bankruptcy law.

Anna Nicole Smith declared bankruptcy when she thought she wasn‘t getting any money.  The federal bankruptcy laws are exclusively federal jurisdiction, federal courts, because of the Constitution the founding fathers and Congress wanted to have a national economy, so they had national federal bankruptcy law.  So she declared bankruptcy in federal court. 

A federal court has to decide how much money she really has, what money does she have coming to her from other sources, from, for example, estates, from lawsuits she might have for someone who hit her with an automobile.  Does she have some money coming in?  They have to decide if she really is bankrupt and if she is, how much money does she have to divide among all the people who she owes money to. 

So in order to that, they would have to adjudicate, say, a possible or pending automobile accident lawsuit that she might have against somebody who hit her.  She might have a lot of money coming in from there.  Similarly she might have a lot of money coming in from a will and there might be a contest about the will.  Who should take?  Was it a bad will?  Was it a good will? 

DANIELS:  OK, but you would agree that the government doesn‘t really care if Anna Nicole ever gets her money? 

ROTHSTEIN:  That‘s right.  They don‘t care about the money, but they want the federal court to be able to take cases that sound in the area of wills, because this also comes up in tax matters, when they‘re trying to collect a tax, a federal tax from somebody, they have to know how much money the person has coming in from what sources.  They might have a big inheritance, something like that.

So the federal government wants the federal court to be able to decide these claims that are normally state court jurisdiction, wills and things.  In this case, the real question is she has made a claim against the son.  She has said he defrauded her out of money that she was supposed to get pursuant to an agreement by the old man. 

That the old man agreed to give her some money and that the son did something called tortuous interference with (INAUDIBLE).  He interfered with that.  He lied about her.  He got the old man to not leave her any money.  That‘s what she‘s claiming.  Now, if the court characterizes this as a will‘s case, contesting a will...

(CROSSTALK)

ROTHSTEIN:  ... when the old man left it all to the son, then they will probably say that‘s exclusively state jurisdiction and the state court that said she doesn‘t get anything will govern. 

(CROSSTALK)

DANIELS:  I‘ll tell you this much, Professor.  February 28 is going to be one busy day outside the Supreme Court. 

(CROSSTALK)

DANIELS:  Thanks so much for...

ROTHSTEIN:  OK...

DANIELS:  ... explaining it to us. 

(CROSSTALK)

DANIELS:  We‘re running out of time, but it‘s bringing back days of law school here.  Paul Rothstein, thanks so much.  Appreciate it.

ROTHSTEIN:  OK.  My pleasure. 

DANIELS:  Coming up, an Austrian city that once boasted Arnold Schwarzenegger as its most famous son has now seriously ticked off the terminator, not such a great move there. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DANIELS:  And now my “Closing Argument”.  He may be the golden child of the Republican Party here in the U.S., but there is one place where actor and California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is now seriously persona non grata, that‘s his hometown of Graz in Austria.  Early yesterday morning officials in Graz removed large steel letters from on top of what was formerly the Arnold Schwarzenegger Soccer Stadium. 

Arnold himself asked for his name to be removed after natives of his hometown criticized him for failing to grant clemency to death row inmate Stanley Tookie Williams.  Now, in response to the criticism, Arnold also returned a ring of honor the city awarded him back in 1999, saying it—quote—“has lost its meaning and value to me.”  Schwarzenegger also demanded his name no longer be used in any promotional materials for the city. 

Williams was executed two weeks ago after being convicted of four homicides in California.  One day after the execution, the local opposition in Graz, secured a majority in favor of a vote to remove Schwarzenegger‘s name from the stadium at an upcoming municipal meeting, but the officials in Graz didn‘t stop at just tearing down the Schwarzenegger name from the stadium. 

Today, they erased every reference to Arnold from their Web site, including erasing him from the site‘s famous sons and daughters page.  Now I understand that the death penalty is illegal in the country of Austria, but Arnold isn‘t the president of Austria.  He was simply born there.  He became a citizen of the U.S. more than 20 years ago and now he‘s the governor of California where the death penalty is very legal. 

And when a jury has found a man guilty of quadruple murder and his appeals have been unsuccessful, it is up to a state‘s governor to follow the procedures of the state, to determine whether clemency is appropriate.  Arnold decided it wasn‘t.  California residents have every right to criticize him and then to refrain from voting for him in the next election, but the residents of Austria don‘t really have a say in the matter. 

Arnold told an Austrian paper last week this—the death penalty is law here and I have to uphold the law of the land and the will of the people.  I think well said, Arnold.  Whether the death penalty is illegal in (INAUDIBLE) Austria, it doesn‘t matter much over in Sacramento, California where California laws are made.  The local council members in Graz should have realized that before they permanently alienated their most famous native.

My “Closing Argument”.

Coming up, Monday, you all saw Dan‘s interview with Matt Dalton, former attorney for Scott Peterson.  He shared his theories of Scott‘s innocence and what he thinks really happened to Laci.  Apparently, we‘re not the only ones who followed the trial closely.  I‘ll have your e-mails. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DANIELS:  And welcome back.  I‘ve had my say, now it‘s time for “Your Rebuttal”.  On last night‘s show Dan interviewed Scott Peterson‘s former defense attorney Matt Dalton on his new book.  In it he argues the Peterson should not be on death row because he uncovered evidence that was never presented at trial that proves Scott is innocent. 

Apparently, some of you feel very strongly about the Peterson trial.  Dan Tyler writing this.  “I followed the case and I missed something.  Can you recall one, just one piece of evidence that said Peterson committed the murder?  After the verdict, I saw the jury interviews and not one of them could say what evidence they heard or saw that convinced them that he murdered Laci.  Can you?”

With a different take, Molly Hoover from Pittsburgh.  “I‘m curious to know if Jamie Foxx, Jesse Jackson and all those Hollywood people left are going to support Scott Peterson since he has been sentenced to death?  They have a lot of time on their hands now that Tookie is out of the picture.”

That‘s going to do it for us. Coming up next, “HARDBALL” with Chris Matthews.  Norah O‘Donnell sitting in today for Chris.  Have a great night.  See you tomorrow.

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

END   

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