updated 1/6/2006 9:01:53 AM ET 2006-01-06T14:01:53

Guest: Michael Lachtaridis, Brett Rivkind, Jim Walker, Larry Kaye, Nancy Dillon, Joan Neff, Andrew McCarthy

DAN ABRAMS, HOST:  Coming up another ABRAMS REPORT exclusive.  The captain of the cruise ship honeymooner George Smith disappeared from speaks out for the first time.


ABRAMS (voice-over):  That‘s the captain‘s theory as to what happened to George Smith.  He also accuses Smith‘s wife of lying about what happened in the hours after he went missing. 

And new details in the killing of a Virginia musician and his family, lyrics from one of his rock songs eerily similar to the way his family was killed in their basement found bound with their throats slit. 

Plus, the Justice Department prepares to meet with members of the secret court that approves international wiretaps.  How will they possibly convince the judges that they shouldn‘t need to go to the court for permission even after they begin a wiretap? 

The program about justice starts now.  


ABRAMS:  Hi, everyone.  First up on the docket, honeymooner George Smith disappeared from a cruise ship sailing between Greece and Turkey six months ago today.  His family convinced he was murdered.  They‘re suing Royal Caribbean for wrongful death.  They have blasted the cruise line and the captain for how they handled the investigation. 

Now for the first time in another ABRAMS REPORT exclusive, the captain is speaking out and he has a very different take about what happened on that ship. 


MICHAEL LACHTARIDIS, FORMER ROYAL CARIBBEAN CAPTAIN:  He wanted to get some fresh air from the balcony.  He was sitting on the railing and he lost his balance. 

ABRAMS (voice-over):  Captain Michael Lachtaridis thinks it was just an accident that honeymooner George Smith likely returned from a late night out, hurt himself in his room and eventually fell overboard.  In fact, he says he initially feared it was Smith‘s new wife, Jennifer Hagel Smith, who had the accident based on where his crew found her at 4:30 that morning. 

LACHTARIDIS:  They found her asleep in the corridor. 

ABRAMS (on camera):  Not near her room? 

LACHTARIDIS:  No, no, away from the room. 

ABRAMS:  Sleeping meaning she was drunk?

LACHTARIDIS:  I don‘t know.  She was sleeping.  They found her asleep so—and then the reports say that they took a wheelchair to bring her to the cabin.

ABRAMS (voice-over):  Jennifer didn‘t learn her husband was missing until the morning when blood was discovered on an awning underneath their cabin.  She was paged and found at the ship‘s spa. 

(on camera):  What did she say about...

LACHTARIDIS:  She said that they were partying and that maybe her husband is in another room. 

ABRAMS (voice-over):  Smith‘s family believes the captain is part of the problem.  That from the get-go he and his crew never took the possibility of foul play seriously.  That they tried to cover up the incident and effectively abandoned Jennifer in a foreign land. 

JENNIFER HAGEL SMITH, GEORGE SMITH‘S WIFE:  Somebody just decided you know to throw it all together and get her off the ship as soon as possible and get her things off the ship and just, you know George and Jen who? 

LACHTARIDIS:  (INAUDIBLE) not true.  We did everything that was possible to be done and to help her.  Really I felt sorry for her because you come for your honeymoon and then your husband is gone. 

ABRAMS:  The captain says he followed protocol.  Contacted local police and they insisted Jennifer leave the ship to be questioned. 

(on camera):  She‘s furious.  She feels like Royal Caribbean left her in the middle of a country that she knew nothing about, with no money, no clothes and no help.

LACHTARIDIS:  Why she‘s lying, I don‘t know. 

ABRAMS:  She says that she‘s taken to a Turkish police station basically alone. 

LACHTARIDIS:  No, this is lie.  This is lie...

ABRAMS (voice-over):  Captain Lachtaridis says she was accompanied by a guest services manager.  According to Jennifer, the captain promised two Royal Caribbean security officers would stay with her at all times. 

(on camera):  Do you think that you could have done anything more...


ABRAMS:  ... to encourage the Turkish authorities...


ABRAMS:  ... to question her on the ship? 

LACHTARIDIS:  I think I told you that we asked the authorities to come aboard and they refused.  They said no.

ABRAMS (voice-over):  The Smiths believe the captain and Royal Caribbean wanted to just put this behind them as quickly as possible. 

JIM WALKER, JENNIFER HAGEL SMITH‘S ATTORNEY:  This captain made a decision to come up with an opinion that would make the company look good.  And they blame this young man, putting aside all the forensic evidence, putting aside all the evidence of foul play. 

ABRAMS:  Including washing the blood off the canopy later that day. 

LACHTARIDIS:  When they complete the investigation, I asked the police before they leave the ship, can we secure now the cabin, can we clean the blood?  They said, oh, yes.  It‘s clear now.

ABRAMS (on camera):  Apart from the technical aspect of the authorities saying we have completed our investigation, doesn‘t Royal Caribbean also have an obligation to say you know what, one of our passengers...

LACHTARIDIS:  Is missing.

ABRAMS:  ... is missing and as a result it‘s probably better for us not to just continue with the cruise? 

LACHTARIDIS:  To do what in Turkey?  To wait there?  For what? 

ABRAMS:  Any news.

LACHTARIDIS:  No news.  They complete the investigation.  They didn‘t say anything.  I mean I cannot see a reason to stay still there. 

ABRAMS (voice-over):  While Jennifer chose not to return to the ship, three young men seen leaving Smith‘s cabin the night he went missing did.  The man staying next door said he heard a commotion in the room around 4:00 a.m.

LACHTARIDIS:  He heard a very loud noise like boom, a very loud noise and after, quiet and after, nothing.

ABRAMS:  Captain Lachtaridis says those same men had been disrupted and warned days earlier. 

(on camera):  A few days after George Smith went missing, those same young men...


ABRAMS:  ... were accused of raping a woman...

LACHTARIDIS:  Well this is...

ABRAMS:  ... on the boat. 

LACHTARIDIS:  Yes, they were kicked off the boat...

ABRAMS:  The same men who were seen...



ABRAMS:  We should say the Italian authorities investigated that and decided there was not enough evidence to charge anyone with rape.  And we‘ve reached out to the attorney for two of those men.  He had no statement. 

Joining me now Jennifer Hagel Smith‘s attorney Jim Walker and the attorney for George Smith‘s family, Brett Rivkind.  Thanks to both of you for coming on the program.  Appreciate it.


ABRAMS:  All right.  Let me start with you Mr. Rivkind.  As you listen to the captain, this is probably the first time that you have heard the captain speak out because it‘s the first he‘s spoken publicly.  Let‘s first focus on the issue of how George Smith died.  He‘s saying, look, based on everything he sees, he believes it was likely an accident.  Why is that so far-fetched to you? 

BRETT RIVKIND, ATTORNEY FOR GEORGE SMITH‘S FAMILY:  Well I think you got to ask yourself too you know he wrote a report like two days later.  The FBI is investigating six months now still that‘s suspected foul play that where does he get this expertise.  You know I think investigative agencies throughout the country are going to be lined up at his door to hire him that he has some special super skills before analyzing the forensic evidence...

ABRAMS:  I asked him that question and he basically was saying to me that you know that he doesn‘t know for sure.  That it was his assumption, that he believed that it was likely an accident, but that‘s why he called the police because it might have been foul play.  I mean apart from sort of whether he should have drawn conclusions, all right, what is—why is it so hard to believe that maybe this was an accident? 

RIVKIND:  Well because of the evidence that you have...

ABRAMS:  What evidence? 

RIVKIND:  You have blood inside the cabin.  You have blood on the balcony and you have a passenger next door complaining about hearing loud noises, fighting, arguing, until he hears a loud thumping noise and then complete quiet.  Our point is before you complete an investigation, which is still going on, you as captain of a ship don‘t notify authorities and tell them it was an accident.  Because the FBI, I spoke to them, and they confirmed that they thought it was just an accident.  And had they been told all of the information before that ship left port in Turkey, they would have done their investigation differently. 

ABRAMS:  Wait.  You‘re not saying that the FBI is suggesting that they would rely on the captain‘s assessment and say OK, you think it was an accident we won‘t investigate.  I mean the FBI doesn‘t work that way. 

RIVKIND:  Well just so you understand, what happens is the cruise line has a tremendous control of who they notify and when they notify them.  And how they do it is a question.  I think that what you need to understand is the risk management department in Miami was notified first by the cruise ship, not their security department, which is also interesting. 

And then they send either on a phone message of a telefax some basic general information.  So the FBI can only act on what the cruise line is telling them.  If they would have said you got a U.S. passenger here and there is enough evidence that maybe there was foul play, maybe there was a murder, things would have been different. 


RIVKIND:  And that ship didn‘t need to leave Turkey so quickly. 

ABRAMS:  Yes.  All right.  Well here‘s—Jim, I want to you listen to the captain.  This is probably something you haven‘t heard because this is the first time we‘re playing it.  This is the captain again talking about why he believes it was an accident and not murder.


LACHTARIDIS:  I saw that it was one chair of the balcony chairs by the railing.  It‘s a glass railing and the handrail on top wooden.  And I saw this chair touching the railing.  And I saw that someone step on the chair, was sitting on the railing and so easy to fall over.  It was very easy.  So that was my thought. 

ABRAMS:  You see this pool of blood...


ABRAMS:  You find a wife who doesn‘t know where her husband is and you‘re getting suspicious, you say? 

LACHTARIDIS:  Right.  Right.

ABRAMS:  You close off the room...


ABRAMS:  No one else can come in. 


ABRAMS:  Sounds like what you‘re saying is that you were thinking there might be a crime.

LACHTARIDIS:  An accident or a crime, I didn‘t (INAUDIBLE) much evidence.

ABRAMS:  His family is convinced he was murdered.


ABRAMS:  You don‘t buy it?

LACHTARIDIS:  I don‘t think so.  I don‘t think so.

ABRAMS:  And why would there be blood in the room?

LACHTARIDIS:  That‘s the only question.  Now if George—let‘s say he fell and then if you fell, you break your nose and start bleeding and then you take a towel and then you wipe it there and then you go outside to get some fresh air.  And then you are sitting on the railing and you fell over, so, that‘s the whole thing.  I mean blood on the towel or wherever you pass by to go outside to the balcony to get some fresh air and you fall over. 


ABRAMS:  Jim Walker, isn‘t that possible? 

JIM WALKER, JENNIFER HAGEL SMITH‘S ATTORNEY:  It‘s not possible given all the circumstances, Dan.  What he‘s not telling you is what other information he knew.  He knew that there was complaints of loud noises in there, other passengers had heard what sounded like furniture being moved around.  The—Clete Hyman, passenger next door said that there were loud voices and an argument out on the balcony. 

Even Mr. Hyman said he heard a thud, which sounded like a body hitting the balcony.  They need to put all this evidence together rather than just going for some conclusion, which makes this captain who‘s ultimately responsible for the safety and security of all passengers look good.  You know when he prepared his report it was two or three days later.  That‘s after the defense attorneys are on the ship, after risk management is making the decisions.  Do you think it‘s just a coincidence that they came up with an explanation, which made them look good? 

ABRAMS:  Isn‘t it—but wait.  Isn‘t it possible that he actually believes that it was likely—you all make it seem like it‘s definitely a conspiracy on the part of the captain.  Isn‘t it possible that he believes that it was likely an accident? 

WALKER:  Well what‘s the explanation for destroying the evidence?  Why are you out there cleaning the blood away?

ABRAMS:  Well he just explained that. 


ABRAMS:  He just explained that in the piece.  He basically said he asked the Turkish authorities.  They said...

WALKER:  The Turkish authorities...

ABRAMS:  ... we‘re done. 

WALKER:  Dan, Dan, the Turkish authorities don‘t have jurisdiction over this.  Anyone with first year law school maritime experience knows that.  This is the FBI...

ABRAMS:  But he doesn‘t have first year law school experience. 

WALKER:  Well the cruise line does and they notified their attorneys immediately.  Richard Fain said to the American people many years ago we‘re a safe company, we have a great record, we‘re a gated community, but if there is any crime we‘ll notify the FBI.  The FBI will be the bureau that has control over this.  They rushed the Turkish people on and off.  You can‘t rely upon amateurish investigators from a third world country to make decisions like this.  Why didn‘t they ask Mr. and Mrs. Smith back in Greenwich?  Why didn‘t they ask my client...

ABRAMS:  Whether they should clean up the blood? 

WALKER:  These are the last mortal remains of this man.  Our clients...

ABRAMS:  I‘ve never heard of an investigation where they ask—where it is not in someone‘s home where they say it is part of the investigation where they ask the victim‘s family members can we clean the crime scene.

WALKER:  Of course in a civil context it‘s violation of evidence.  Our clients have a right to have all relevant evidence preserved.  We have a legal right to that.  My client has a legal right to that.  You can‘t go out and destroy evidence just willy-nilly without asking the victim‘s families.  We absolutely have a right to that and that‘s recognized in maritime law and in Florida law. 

ABRAMS:  Larry Kaye has had a lot of conversations with the Royal Caribbean team.  What do you make of this, Larry? 

LARRY KAYE, MARITIME LAWYER:  Well I may not be a first year maritime student.  I‘ve been practicing maritime law for 27 years, spent most of that time working with cruise lines, representing cruise lines.  I am familiar with the two gentlemen you have on your show who of course have a financial stake now in the outcome of this case. 

I think what we‘re hearing is patently ridiculous.  This cruise line called the FBI at 9:15 that morning immediately upon discovering that George Smith was missing.  They sealed the cabin.  They wouldn‘t even allow Mrs. Smith back into the cabin to get her clothing.  They also called the Turkish authorities and to suggest that the Turkish authorities did not have jurisdiction when the ship is sitting in the Port of Kusadasi is ridiculous. 

ABRAMS:  All right.

KAYE:  Of course they had jurisdiction.

ABRAMS:  I know Brett and Jim are going to want to respond to that. 

You‘ll get a chance.  We‘re going to take a quick break here. 

Coming up, more of my exclusive interview with the captain and a Virginia rock musician found murdered in his home with his wife and two daughters all of them bound with their throats slit.  Could lyrics in of one of his songs provide any clues?

Plus, the judges who approve international wiretaps get ready to hear from Justice Department lawyers who will explain why they should not have to get approval from those judges before wiretapping certain Americans.  Can they really convince them of that?  That they really don‘t need them? 



ABRAMS:  Did you feel sympathetic towards Jennifer? 

LACHTARIDIS:  Oh, yes...

ABRAMS:  When we talk now it sounds like you really—you don‘t have a lot of sympathy...

LACHTARIDIS:  No, no, no, no, no, no, no.  This is not true.  Because when the police, the Turkey police on the end they asked me, what you think about the wife?  I said the poor thing.  The poor thing, look at her, she‘s crying all the time.  I think—she want to find out what‘s happened to her husband. 


ABRAMS:  Back with more of our ABRAMS REPORT exclusive.  It‘s been six months since George Smith disappeared from his honeymoon cruise.  His parents are convinced it was murder.  The captain says probably accident.  Now for the first time we‘re hearing from that man in charge of the ship that night, Captain Michael Lachtaridis. 

The critical time period starts at about 4:00 in the morning on July 5.  This is likely around the time that George Smith went overboard and is also around the time when a passenger in an adjoining cabin called the desk to report loud noises coming from the Smith‘s cabin.


LACHTARIDIS:  He heard in the cabin next-door lots of noise, loud, people like drinking.  And he knocked the wall, the bulkhead.  Then they became quiet and then after they start again I guess drinking or partying or whatever.  And then he called the reception, the front desk.  Then he said that he heard something like people leaving from the cabin. 

And he opened a little bit the door and he see that three guys, they were leaving the cabin.  Then he heard the balcony door open, towards the balcony, and moving furniture.  And then he heard a very loud noise, like boom, very loud and after, quiet and after, nothing.  This was between 4:00 to 4:30.  Four-thirty they found this lady, (INAUDIBLE) Jennifer, and they brought her back to the cabin.  Of course nobody was in the cabin. 

ABRAMS:  Did they see the balcony door open?

LACHTARIDIS:  The balcony door was closed they said. 


ABRAMS:  All right. So back with me are the attorneys for both Jennifer Hagel Smith and the Smith family as well as Larry Kaye.  He‘s had a lot of conversations with the Royal Caribbean team.

All right, Brett Rivkind, let me ask you the same question again.  I mean both you and Jim have been talking a lot about what the next-door neighbor heard and it sounds like what the captain is saying is what the next-door neighbor heard is consistent with the possibility that George Smith hit his nose or something in the room, then walked out to get fresh air and then fell over. 

RIVKIND:  Well first of all, let me just suggest, Mr. Kaye, because I too know Mr. Kaye.  Mr. Kaye represents Royal Caribbean on a regular basis so he has a big financial stake in represent Royal Caribbean and the cruise line has the biggest financial stake here.  Regarding what the captain just said he heard next door, that supports what we are saying here. 

Loud noises, a big loud thump, there‘s fighting going on.  The balcony door is closed.  George Smith falling, breaking his nose and bleeding and then going and sitting on the railing and falling overboard, there is absolutely no evidence of this.  What we are saying is there is no evidence to support the captain‘s theory. 

On the other hand, there is evidence to support likely foul play.  It should have been investigated on the side of likely foul play.  They always investigate a case or turn it into just an accident so they can rush out of port, get to their next port on time and not worry the passengers. 

What we‘re saying if you are a United States passenger and you‘re onboard that ship and you have all this information, blood in the cabin, blood on the balcony, complaints by that passenger next door that suggested, let‘s just give them the benefit of the doubt, possible foul play.  You as a United States passenger should have the rights to have that ship secured and what‘s the rush...

ABRAMS:  But he says that‘s why he called the police.  Let me let Jim Walker respond to this.  He said that‘s why they called the police.

WALKER:  Well, first of all, it‘s questionable whether he did anything.  The Royal Caribbean (INAUDIBLE) and their playbook requires the captain or the staff captain to communicate only with risk management back in Miami and then it‘s risk management who work with thee attorneys to make the decision who‘s going to be notified.  They don‘t notify the FBI—it was about 2:00 in the morning or something like that. 

The FBI is not going to be in a position to respond.  And then they give, we believe, false information to the FBI.  It‘s just an accident.  The Turkish police are going to come on and off of that ship in a hurry.  Five, six-hour investigation, I‘ve seen minor traffic accidents with no injuries have a longer investigation like that. 

ABRAMS:  But it sounds to me like you‘re asking...

WALKER:  What‘s the rush? 

ABRAMS:  ... that the captain be—sort of have law enforcement background and act as if he is a member of the FBI as opposed to a captain on a ship. 

WALKER:  No, we want them to ask in a responsible manner the same way you would act if you had someone die on your set and there was forensic evidence all over the place.  You‘re going to call—you might have to move your studio.  You might have to shut your business down. 

We have been saying for months and months, they should have shut the ship down, disembarked them.  They have business interruption insurance.  They wouldn‘t have been out money at all.  And they could have had a methodical investigation if they had just acted responsibly. 

ABRAMS:  Larry Kaye...

WALKER:  That‘s all we‘re saying.

ABRAMS:  What do you make of that, Larry? 

KAYE:  Yes, Dan, I‘d love to respond to this because while it makes for a very interesting story as far as I can see it‘s complete fiction.  The ship did call the FBI.  The FBI had its legal attache in Turkey and had an investigator on the scene.  Now to suggest that the FBI is going to decide it‘s an accident because that was the captain‘s informal opinion is preposterous.  The FBI is in the business of deciding what the facts are and deciding whether there was foul play. 

ABRAMS:  Let me ask you this...


ABRAMS:  ... Larry...



UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  That‘s a traveling FBI agent...

ABRAMS:  Right.  No, that‘s fair enough...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  ... was on vacation with his wife. 


KAYE:  But he participated in the investigation. 

ABRAMS:  That‘s fine.  But he did happen to be there on vacation. 

KAYE:  That‘s fine.  That‘s fine.  It is fine because he did do it...

ABRAMS:  Right.

KAYE:  ... and you are saying he didn‘t and you know he did. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  Let me...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  He didn‘t go on the ship. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  Let me play—because Larry I want to challenge you on this point.  Because there were these people on the ship—and again we have no idea what happened, didn‘t happen, but the families would say this is a reason to be suspicious about foul play.  Here is Captain Lachtaridis talking about the fact that there had been complaints about particular individuals, three young men on that ship.  And here‘s what the captain says he did. 


LACHTARIDIS:  We talked to their parents and we talked to the young kids, so—to behave, not to drink, not to be noisy and not to use foul language. 

ABRAMS:  And a few days after George Smith went missing, those same young men...


ABRAMS:  ... were accused of raping a woman...

LACHTARIDIS:  Well this is...

ABRAMS:  ... on the boat. 

LACHTARIDIS:  This is under investigation.  I cannot say more about this. 

ABRAMS:  They were kicked off the boat, weren‘t they? 

LACHTARIDIS:  Yes, they were kicked off the boat.

ABRAMS:  Why did you decide to kick them off the boat? 

LACHTARIDIS:  Because this was—this accusation was too much now.  I mean you have like a pre-warning.  You have a warning and then you cannot hold them anymore.  That‘s it. 


LACHTARIDIS:  Even the Italian police, they say that for them was not a case. 

ABRAMS:  What do you mean? 

LACHTARIDIS:  Was not a rape case for them. 


ABRAMS:  Larry Kaye, but these are the same people who were seen leaving George Smith‘s room that night. 

KAYE:  Yes and they are the same people that at least George Smith if not Mrs. Hagel Smith spent their time with.  What I am certainly interested in knowing is why were two people on their honeymoon who were pushing 30 spending time with these 19-year-old characters during their cruise?  Why was Mr. Smith partying with these individuals while his wife was passed out in a hallway on a different part of the ship? 

Why wasn‘t Mr. Smith sleeping in the cabin with his wife on their honeymoon?  You know we have had pictures painted throughout this story by the lawyers, by the families of this picture perfect couple on their honeymoon when in fact he‘s not sleeping in the cabin...

ABRAMS:  All right, I got to give...

KAYE:  ... she‘s partying separately.  And there are very serious questions about whether was this a marriage gone awry...

ABRAMS:  All right...

KAYE:  Was he despondent?

ABRAMS:  A lot of allegations there Jim, your response. 

WALKER:  This is the typical attack by Royal Caribbean on the victim. 

Mr. Rivkind...

KAYE:  Well I don‘t represent Royal Caribbean. 


WALKER:  Your firm does...


WALKER:  Your firm does...


WALKER:  ... and you know that.  And the point of the matter it‘s the typical way Royal Caribbean responds.  I can tell you this.  That Jennifer and George, their best friends on this cruise was another honeymoon couple who were married on the same day.  They spent most of their time with them.  They did have the misfortune to run into these guys very late in the cruise. 

I‘m not making any allegations against these men.  That‘s the FBI‘s job, but to suggest that they were pushing 30 and they were out with teenagers.  Jennifer was 25.  She was in love with her husband.  They were having a nice time on the cruise. 

Something very, very bad happened.  And Mr. Kaye does not help things by attacking our client.  We‘re hearing all these types of attacks.  The captain feels comfortable in calling her a liar four times today on national...

KAYE:  Listen, I‘m not attacking anyone. 

ABRAMS:  All right...

KAYE:  I‘m just asking questions...

ABRAMS:  All right, that‘s fine...

KAYE:  ... I think most people are asking. 

ABRAMS:  I want to ask a follow-up question on this and let me let you hear this piece of sound.  This is from the Smith family appearing on MSNBC in December.  They were asked if they are satisfied with the information they are getting from Jennifer Hagel Smith. 


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I think we‘d like to have a little more...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I would like to have a little bit more from her. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  She hasn‘t given us totally everything that I think she possibly...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  But I think she has stated that the FBI has requested that she keep certain things...


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  ... from that evening quiet.  So you know that could be the reason why...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Right and I think the truth will come out. 


ABRAMS:  Jim, you and Brett are sitting right next to each other there.  Why can‘t the two of you talk about it and tell each other everything that you know?

WALKER:  Well you‘re assuming we don‘t.  I mean Mr. Rivkind and I came out of the same law firm a long time ago.  We‘re friends and we practiced law together in Miami and we have a full communication between us...

ABRAMS:  So why is the family saying they‘re not getting information they want from Jennifer? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Well they also answered...


WALKER:  No, they answered the question, too.  Bree Smith, Jennifer‘s sister-in-law said because the FBI asked her to.  Jennifer has been very patient.  She has the patience of Job and it‘s been five months.  Now it‘s the cruise line that‘s come out with an eight-page Talking Points memo.  They‘re talking about...


WALKER:  ... forensic evidence.  The FBI is upset they‘re coming out with this.  Now Jennifer is ready to talk.  She will meet and talk with anyone and the truth will come out.

ABRAMS:  All right...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  But isn‘t it...

ABRAMS:  We invite her...

KAYE:  Dan...

ABRAMS:  We invite her to come on the program...

KAYE:  Dan, can I just ask...

ABRAMS:  I got to give them the final word.  I‘m sorry...

KAYE:  Can I just ask one question? 

ABRAMS:  Brett, Jim, Larry...


ABRAMS:  ... I‘m sorry.  I‘m out of time. 


ABRAMS:  I appreciate it.  Thanks to all of you.  Thanks to the captain for doing that interview.  Be right back. 


ABRAMS:  Coming up, the murder mystery of a Virginia musician and his family.  Lyrics from one of his rock songs eerily similar to the way his family was killed in their basement.  The details coming up after the headlines. 



ABRAMS:  Well the lyrics are a little hard to understand but if you listen to them and you know what they say, Bryan Harvey is singing a song eerily close to what really happened New Year‘s Day in Richmond, Virginia.  A family of four found dead, bound with their throats slit.  Bryan Harvey, his wife Kathryn, and their two children, 9-year-old daughter Stella, 4-year-old Ruby were discovered in the basement of their home, which was set on fire just before their friends were coming over for a New Year‘s Day party.  Bryan was a member of the nationally known band House of Freaks.  He wrote a song over 10 years ago with lyrics, which appear to be similar to what appears to have happened to his family just days ago. 

Who‘s that man coming

Says hey, hey, hey, hey

Sharpens his knife singing

Hey, hey, hey, hey

Flashes of pain

Hey, hey, hey, hey

Heartbroken woman

Hey, hey, hey, hey

In the basement

Hey, hey, hey, hey

Begs him for mercy

Hey, hey, hey, hey

Joining me Nancy Dillon, writer for the “New York Daily News” and Joan Neff criminal justice and sociology professor at the University of Richmond.  Thanks to both of you. 

All right.  So Nancy, as far as you know, are the authorities looking into any possible link, meaning maybe a groupie or something? 

NANCY DILLON, “NEW YORK DAILY NEWS”:  Well they say that there is no known evidence to suggest a connection, but they are not ruling anything out. 

ABRAMS:  Do they have any leads?  I mean this seems—we talked to Clint Van Zandt, a FBI profiler, yesterday, who was talking about the fact that it‘s such a vicious crime and seems so personal that automatically they would look to people who know them or have knowledge about them. 

DILLON:  Right.  We have heard that as well.  The police today

released a few new items in the case.  Basically they have a new reward,

offering $5,000 for information related to an arrest.  They are saying they

confirming they brought in a profiler from not just the Virginia State Police, but the FBI themselves.  They for the first time confirmed that their throats were actually cut, although they say they are still waiting for news from the medical examiner as to whether or not that was the cause of death.  And they‘re placing flyers everywhere, so you know they are not saying really anything about any suspects at this time. 

ABRAMS:  Did the authorities tell you about Bryan‘s lyrics or did you find them? 

DILLON:  I have a colleague here who was a fan who told me about them but the local Richmond paper, “The Times-Dispatch” was the first to print them I think on Wednesday. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  Joan Neff, are those lyrics going to become relevant in the investigation? 

JOAN NEFF, CRIMINAL JUSTICE & SOCIOLOGY PROF.:  Possibly.  It‘s hard to say.  Obviously, there are certain things that could be could coincidental in terms of the lyrics of the song and the way the crime was committed, but it‘s also possible that there is some type of connection, that the individual or individuals who committed the murder may have somehow either known the song or been connected in some way to the song. 

ABRAMS:  What do you make of the fire? 

NEFF:  The most obvious answer is that the fire was started in order to cover up any potential evidence that the killer or killers might have left behind.  However, there could also be other possible interpretations. 

ABRAMS:  You know it seems to me this is one of those—these cases, Professor, that‘s going to get cracked pretty quickly. 


ABRAMS:  I‘ll tell you why I think that.  It just seems to me that when you are talking about children who were—had their throats slit and parents who had their throats slit, it‘s someone who didn‘t want to rob the house or something like that.  It was someone who was after this family for a particular reason.  And those are the cases, it seems, which are easier to crack. 

NEFF:  Well that‘s entirely possible.  It‘s hard to know exactly whether the children were killed because they could have been, for example, potential witnesses and it might be that they were witnesses who would have been valid because they actually might have recognized the killer or killers as people who knew the family or whether the children were killed, perhaps, as a way of further increasing the suffering of the parents.  It may—we don‘t know who was killed first.  But certainly, watching your children killed would have increased the suffering and the pain of the parents if they were killed before the parents. 

ABRAMS:  Nancy, how well known was this band, House of Freaks? 

DILLON:  They were pretty big on college radio.  They were an Indie Rock band.  They were featured on MTV‘s Indie Rock showcase, “120 Minutes”.  They played here in New York at the Knitting Factory, Mercury Lounge, a lot of big venues, so they were pretty well known in Indie Rock circles.

ABRAMS:  So it‘s possible that they had groupies?  I mean I guess that‘s why I‘m asking the question. 

DILLON:  Sure.  Yes, I would think so. 

ABRAMS:  And...

DILLON:  I don‘t know.  I mean this was 1994, their last release, so it would have been 11 years ago. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  There is the tip line, 804-514-TIPS.  If you have got any information about this horrible, horrible murder case, please give them a call.  Nancy Dillon and Joan Neff, thanks a lot for coming on the program.  Appreciate it. 



ABRAMS:  A special court was supposed to approve secret wiretaps.  The White House says it doesn‘t need their permission when it comes to the war on terror.  Now the Justice Department is apparently going to try to convince the justices on the court of that.  What can they say? 

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


ABRAMS:  Coming up, the Justice Department gets ready to meet with members of the secret court that approves international wiretaps.  Can they convince the judges that they don‘t need them?



RICHARD B. CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  If we had been able to do this before 9/11, we might have been able to pick up on two hijackers who subsequently flew a jet into the Pentagon.  They were in the United States communicating with al Qaeda associates overseas, but we did not know they were here plotting until it was too late. 


ABRAMS:  Is that really what the Bush administration is going to say on Monday when it‘s expected to meet with judges from the super secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court?  Vice President Cheney made those claims Wednesday, part of his defense of the National Security Agency performing wiretaps and e-mail searches without a warrant even from the court that‘s supposed to approve secret intelligence wiretaps.

Judge James Robertson resigned in protest from the court last month after “The New York Times” exposed the program.  Now “The Washington Post” reporting that the judge who presides over the secret court raised concerns last year the administration‘s secret wiretapping could undermine its work. 

“My Take”—I don‘t know how you possibly convince a team of judges that what they are doing in secret in the words of one of our guests last week is a feel good measure.  Andrew McCarthy, a former federal prosecutor and a senior fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracy thinks the administration is doing nothing wrong. 

Andrew, thanks for coming in. 


ABRAMS:  All right, first of all, they are not to going to make the argument that Vice President Cheney just made, right?


ABRAMS:  Right.  OK.  So they‘re going to make a more legal argument; they‘re going to lay out to the judges, here‘s what we‘re thinking.  But it is a tough argument, is it not, to say to these judges hey, you guys are real nice and we appreciate the fact you guys are working hard...


ABRAMS:  ... but we don‘t really need you. 

MCCARTHY:  Well I would expect a couple of things.  First of all, I imagine that they will underscore that Judge Kollar-Kotelly, the chief judge of the court, was notified about this in 2004 to at least set the tone that if anything this outrageous there was about this program that obviously she would have been in an uproar over it at the time that it was disclosed to her and obviously that didn‘t happen. 

I would think that they would want to set the tone that way.  And then I would expect them to hone in on really three points.  Number one, the court of appeals that the FISA Court answers to has basically held in the 2002 decision that they rendered that the president maintains the authority under article two to conduct electronic surveillance for national security purposes. 

ABRAMS:  But let me...


ABRAMS:  ... take one point by one because that‘s what the judges will probably do, right?  They‘ll probably stop them and say wait a sec, Counselor...


ABRAMS:  ... let me ask you this.  I mean in that decision they weren‘t saying, we don‘t need the FISA Court. 

MCCARTHY:  Right. 

ABRAMS:  They were not really evaluating whether they can do this. 


ABRAMS:  Right?

MCCARTHY:  And I don‘t think the administration will say that we don‘t need the FISA Court either.  In fact, the sounds we‘re hearing out of them in the last week or so is that they still think FISA is important...


MCCARTHY:  ... the court has an important role. 

ABRAMS:  Right, but how is—I mean I‘m sure the judges will say how are we necessary if you are saying you can invoke national security whenever you so choose and then as a result you can circumvent us? 

MCCARTHY:  But I don‘t think, Dan, they are saying that whenever you so choose you can invoke it.  I think what the president is saying is that this is wartime.  I expect that he would rely quite heavily on the fact there is a use of force resolution, which connects up to an argument that penetrating enemy communications is historically a fundamental incident of warfare and that war is different.  So that to the extent that we are in a war that‘s been recognized by Congress and to the extent that penetrating enemy communications is an important part of that war, while we are in wartime, the president has to what he has to do in order to penetrate...

ABRAMS:  But the follow up is going to be Congress didn‘t authorize this.  I mean there was no intent on the part of Congress to say oh yes, we‘re saying you can go fight in Afghanistan.  We weren‘t saying as a result of that you can do whatever you want and violate any federal law you want in the United States. 

MCCARTHY:  Well no, I don‘t—but I don‘t think that you have to take that broad a position.  I think the administration‘s position is number one, the use of force resolution does say that because it did authorize the use of force and penetrating enemy communications is a fundamental aspect of that and secondly, it plainly wasn‘t limited to Afghanistan because we knew enough about the 9/11 attacks to know that we weren‘t just fighting in Afghanistan. 

ABRAMS:  These judges are going to be skeptical of those arguments, aren‘t they?  And even if you agree with them...


ABRAMS:  ... if you‘re a FISA judge...


ABRAMS:  ... you‘re not loving these...

MCCARTHY:  Well I think the judges should be of a skeptical bent because that should be the judicial mindset to begin with, but I would also think that they should be very hesitant outside of the factual context to make any split decisions or quick decisions about whether this is right or wrong. 

ABRAMS:  Andrew McCarthy, thanks for coming in.  Appreciate it.

MCCARTHY:  My pleasure, Dan.  Thanks. 

ABRAMS:  Coming up, guess what happens when you have the prenup agreement from hell?  You guessed it.  It‘s doomed from the start.  It‘s my “Closing Argument”.

And our continuing series, “Manhunt: Sex Offenders on the Loose”, our effort to find missing sex offenders before they strike.  Today‘s search is in Maine.  Have you seen this guy?

Melvin Harper, 57, six-two, 200 pounds, convicted of gross sexual misconduct, hasn‘t registered his address with the state.  If you‘ve got any information on his whereabouts, please contact the Maine State Police Sex Offender Registry, 207-624-7270.  Be right back.


ABRAMS:  My “Closing Argument”—exhibit A.  That even a lovey-dovey contract can‘t save a marriage.  Sally Erickson and Renzie Davidson thought they had the ultimate cutesy-tootsie prenuptial agreement.  She promised to cook breakfast at least three days during the week and one each weekend, oh.  In return Renzie Teensy (ph) promised not to wake her up on her—quote—“days off.”  He also pinky swore, OK, in the prenup it said he would rub her back three times a week for five minutes.  And he had to pay $5 each time he complained, nagged or made a—quote—“fuss about Sally‘s expenditures.” 

She promised with a cherry on top to do an hour of yard work if she ever used the “F” word.  Well shocker, this lovey-dovey marriage pooped out within three and a half months.  He decided to go bye-bye.  Maybe here‘s what happened.  The breakfast eggs are too runny because she was spending too much time in the yard after dropping “F” bombs.  Maybe she was just angry because her back was getting sore from all the raking and he wouldn‘t give her deep tissue instead of just an ordinary Swedish massage.

Who knows?  But to top it off, she sued saying she didn‘t even know he had moved forward with it and gotten a divorce, but for the prenup to have any bite, it would have been better if it said if we get divorced he has to come over every day and give massages to her and her new boyfriend, whoever that may be, or she gets to use the “F” word at his new love at least twice a week.  Whatever.

Well all is well that ends well.  After she sued, he asked the court to throw out the divorce.  He probably promised the judge that he‘d be a very good boy. 

Coming up, a lot of you upset with the media coverage of that inaccurate information about the miners trapped in that West Virginia coal mine.  I say it‘s not time to blame the media, but your e-mails, some of them angry, next.


ABRAMS:  We‘re back.  I‘ve had my say, now it‘s time for “Your Rebuttal”.  Last night in my “Closing Argument” I said the inaccurate mine disaster reporting should be a lesson to the media, not because it was the media‘s fault.  Most in the media heard the news of 12 of the 12 surviving from the families rather than the other way around, but I said it should serve as a reminder about how important it is to get it right. 

Pamela Repp in Nashville, “FOX, MSNBC, CNN, et cetera, should have gone directly to authority figures, not just the family members and friends they passed in the streets for their feelings about the news.”

From Santa Clarita, California, Eric Denney.  “It‘s your responsibility to accurately report information, which all of the other networks failed to do repeatedly throughout this whole ordeal and that means checking your sources and your facts.”

John Nguyen in California, “What happened to the basic rule that you the media should have at least two reliable sources before reporting?  Some are saying according to my sources.  Can they name them?”

All right.  Look, John, Eric, Pamela, let‘s name the sources, all right.  MSNBC confirmed it with a local fire chief, the vice president of the West Virginia Coal Association, and the local hospital spokeswoman, where the people were supposed to be coming.  That‘s in addition to the family members. 

Now Senator Rockefeller from West Virginia said he got it from the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration.  Many other media outlets got it from the governor.  Is that really sloppy reporting or maybe, just maybe in this case, it was someone else‘s fault?  There‘s only so much we can do. 

Trish H. in Maryland, “I really don‘t think people are blaming the media.  The officials were in charge and should have taken control as soon as the incorrect information was out there.”

Sandra in Friendswood, Texas, “The news media needs to stop making such a big deal out of the miscommunication issues and start making the issue why the explosion occurred to begin with.”

Travis Lee in Carson City, Nevada sees it just the opposite.  “Why are all the news networks and anchors making such a big deal as to the why the mining disaster happened in West Virginia?  Isn‘t it common sense that when you dig holes in the ground there‘s a possibility of it caving in?”

Come on, Travis.  So it‘s not useful for the future to analyze how one mine is compared to another?  We shouldn‘t look at it to try and prevent it from happening again?  Come on. 

Finally, Suzi Talbott in Sago, West Virginia.  “After just having spent the last two days at the church trying in some way to comfort the families, I have to say I was very impressed with the respect the press showed the families and friends.  I was treated with respect and compassion.  Thank you.” 

Thank you, Suzi, for everything you‘re doing out there.  You‘re the one doing the hard work.

Your e-mails, abramsreport—one word -- @msnbc.com.  We go through them at the end of the show.

That does it for us tonight.  Coming up next, “HARDBALL” with Chris Matthews.  The program on politics.  See you tomorrow.


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