updated 1/9/2006 10:35:02 AM ET 2006-01-09T15:35:02

Guest: Byron Spice, Larry Kaye, Susan Filan, Jim Nolan, Clint Van Zandt,

Brian Neary, William Fallon

DAN ABRAMS, HOST:  Coming up, why did everyone think that those 12 miners were alive?  We now have the tape of the phone call.  A rescuer worker saying just that. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ABRAMS (voice-over):  The calls led many family members to celebrate.  It was only hours later they found out there was only one survivor.  We have an update on his condition.

And our exclusive interview with the captain of the Royal Caribbean cruise ship honeymooner George Smith disappeared from.  It is causing quite a buzz.  We hear from Smith's furious mother and we'll play more of what the captain had to say and compare it to another interview you'll hear only on MSNBC, Smith's wife Jennifer.  They tell very different stories. 

Plus, a judge sentences this man to just 60 days behind bars even though he confessed to repeatedly raping a girl from when she was 6 until she was 10, just 60 days? 

The program about justice starts now. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ABRAMS:  Hi everyone.  First up on the docket, finally some answers as to why family members of those West Virginia miners were told their loved ones were alive.  Their celebration ended hours later with anger and despair when it became clear only one of the 13 had lived. 

These were the calls between first responders on the scene and the 911 center in Buckhannon, the town nearest to the mine.  The responders passing on information they apparently got from rescuers who were wearing oxygen masks deep inside the mine.

(BEGIN AUDIOTAPE)

VOICE 1:  You might as well just stand still right where you're at, Gary.  They did find them and they're all OK, I guess so, I think we might be transporting them.  I'm not exactly sure, but we're stuck right here.

VOICE 2:  10-4, Matt.

VOICE 1:  OK and what am I telling them?

VOICE 2:  (INAUDIBLE) 12 and they're bringing them out.

VOICE 1:  And they're all alive?

VOICE 2:  (INAUDIBLE) as far as I know.

(END AUDIOTAPE)

ABRAMS:  Also the family of mine foreman Martin Toler released this note.  His last words to them. 

Quote—“Tell all I see them on the other side.  It wasn't bad.  I just went to sleep.  I love you.  Junior.”

The sole survivor, 26-year-old Randal McCloy, Jr., was transferred to Allegheny General Hospital in Pittsburgh Thursday.  He spent more than 40 hours trapped underground.  No one knows how long his brain was deprived of oxygen.  McCloy has been receiving special oxygen treatments in the hospital.  Dr. Richard Shannon who is treating McCloy just told reporters McCloy suffers from six or seven life-threatening issues, but is stable and has made considerable progress, at least with respect to his heart and blood muscles.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. RICHARD SHANNON, TREATING RANDAL MCCLOY:  With respect to his brain, we have repeated a CAT scan, which shows that the small areas of hemorrhage that we reported this morning and the small lesions in the white matter that Dr. Valeriano discussed in detail are stable.  There has been no evidence of further bleeding, no evidence of enlargement of the areas of hemorrhage and by all accounts clinically stable. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  All right.  Before we play the—some of the 911 tapes, remember these are the—we also have the tapes of when the explosion was initially reported.  Let's check in with Byron Spice.  He's the science editor for the “Pittsburgh Post-Gazette”.  He has been covering this story. 

Byron, thank you for taking the time to come on the program.  Appreciate it.  It sounds like the doctors are saying that his age, his youth really may have helped him.

BYRON SPICE, “PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE” SCIENCE EDITOR:  Yes, they seem to think that's—has a big factor here, as well as his underlying good health.

ABRAMS:  Give us the bottom line here.  Is the prognosis good or—he's still in real danger? 

SPICE:  Oh, he's in real danger.  He's in critical condition.  He's suffering from multi-system organ failure, which has affected his heart, his lung, his kidneys, his liver.  They're seeing improvement in all those areas but he's not out of the woods yet. 

ABRAMS:  What does that mean?  When we say improvement, we obviously know that means it's getting better.  Better than what? 

SPICE:  Well he doesn't need kidney dialysis.  Some of the inflammation in his lung has improved.  The heart—he had some heart problems.  That apparently is fine now.  His heart is working fine.  So he is in—his condition is stabilizing but he still has a ways to go before he's in the clear.

ABRAMS:  All right.  Let me play—this is the 911 call.  This is reporting initially the mine disaster.

(BEGIN AUDIOTAPE)

VOICE 1:  Yes, ma'am.  We need an ambulance at the Sago mine.

911:  OK, (INAUDIBLE) what's going on?

VOICE 1:  Something happened inside the mine here.

911:  You don't know exactly what happened?

VOICE 1:  No.

VOICE 1:  Be advised, we are being informed, we are on scene, we are being informed that there are several men trapped inside.  We're going to need a lot of help.

911:  (INAUDIBLE) 10-4.

(END AUDIOTAPE)

ABRAMS:  And Byron, let's be clear.  No one is alleging that they didn't get help there quick enough, right? 

SPICE:  No, I don't think that's the issue.  I think it was simply a matter of miscommunication. 

ABRAMS:  Yes.  All right.  Byron Spice, thank you very much for coming on the program.  We appreciate it. 

SPICE:  Certainly.

ABRAMS:  Who knew that our exclusive interview would cause such a stir?  The captain of the Royal Caribbean ship from which honeymooner George Smith disappeared spoke out for the first time on this program.  He said he thinks Smith fell overboard.  Now the family is convinced it was foul play.  It has got all the cable shows buzzing about our interview and it even led George Smith's mother, Maureen, to call in to MSNBC last night to tell us how furious she is with the cruise line. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) 

VOICE OF MAUREEN SMITH, GEORGE SMITH'S MOTHER:  This is Royal Caribbean's common approach to blame the victim whether dead or alive to detract attention from their wrongdoing, their cover-up.  And we're not letting this go because something really bad happened to my son on a Royal Caribbean ship.

ABRAMS:  All right.  Well that's not all Mrs. Smith took issue with.  She questioned why the captain no longer works for the cruise line insinuating it might be a result of this incident.  We're going to play more of my interview with the captain.  Compare it to another MSNBC exclusive, the interview with George Smith's wife. 

But first, Smith's mom was also very upset with one of the guests who appeared on this program last night.  Larry Kaye was talking about new information.  We confirmed that Smith's wife Jennifer was found sleeping or passed out in the ship quarter about 4:30 in the morning that George disappeared, same night, and that around that same time three young men were seen leaving the Smith's cabin. 

LARRY KAYE, MARITIME ATTORNEY:  What I'm 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:  I got to give Jim...

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

SMITH:  I'm appalled, absolutely appalled by my dead son's character assassination today.  My son is not here to defend himself and how can he attack somebody else's character when the law firm that he represents they defend corporate felons and he's turned around today and he said my son's marriage was a marriage gone awry.  How dare he make statements like that?  And you know what, I have a message for Mr. Kaye.  My son would have made 10 of you, Mr. Kaye.

ABRAMS:  But doesn't Royal Caribbean also have an obligation to say you know what, one of our passengers...

MICHAEL LACHTARIDIS, FORMER ROYAL CARIBBEAN CAPTAIN:  Is missing.

ABRAMS:  ... is missing and as a result...

LACHTARIDIS:  Right.

ABRAMS:  ... it's probably better for us not to just continue with the cruise? 

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

SMITH:  My son was missing and murdered on the ship and he said what for?  He would not leave that ship in Turkey and he was—he had no sympathy whatsoever.  I was outraged by that behavior especially of the captain how he sat there and I actually went to the little town of Samos (ph), where I know that the captain is from and I got more sympathy from the Coast Guard and everybody who lived in Samos (ph) than I seen on that captain's face all day today. 

He's also a former captain.  Now I wonder if his contract up conveniently or—I don't know why he's a former captain now. 

ABRAMS:  Did this have anything to do with your retirement? 

LACHTARIDIS:  No.  My retirement was planned two months—two years ago. 

ABRAMS:  So you didn't get pushed out...

LACHTARIDIS:  No, no, no.

(END VIDEOTAPE) 

ABRAMS:  All right.  Joining me now former prosecutor and MSNBC analyst Susan Filan, who has followed this case closely and the man who caused a lot of the controversy, Larry Kaye, you saw him there in that piece.  He's been in contact with the Royal Caribbean legal team as well.

Larry, do you owe George Smith's mother an apology? 

KAYE:  Well I don't know if I owe her an apology, but I will gladly give her one because she is a woman, along with her family, who has suffered immeasurable loss.  She's lost her son and if anything I said sounded insensitive to that I do apologize...

ABRAMS:  Let me ask you what relevance is it? 

KAYE:  That was not my intention at all.

ABRAMS:  It is interesting and the Royal Caribbean team would say where she was found is relevant in being able to explain why they don't have as much information as they'd like to have, et cetera.  But you know, you made a lot of comments about you want to know why her husband is sleeping in a different room.  You want to know why she's found—why do you want to know that stuff? 

KAYE:  Well I think most people I've talked to and most people who've been following this story want to know.  In any...

ABRAMS:  But apart from just a prurient --  but apart from just a sort of prurient interest, what relevance does it have to the investigation?

KAYE:  Oh, no it's not a prurient interest at all.

ABRAMS:  OK.

KAYE:  It's a legal interest because in any lawsuit, which is what the Smith family and Jennifer Hagel Smith have been talking about pursuing you need to understand how all of the actors fit in and specifically what were the circumstances leading up to Mr. Smith's disappearance.  Now, if there was any problem between that couple, if there was any type of jealousy, there—any of these circumstances could explain motives. 

I'm not accusing anyone of anything.  I have no idea what happened.  I'm looking for answers just like anyone else, but until people come forward and speak frankly about their actions on that ship, about where they were, why they were apart, why these strange circumstances on a honeymoon and we all have to admit they are somewhat strange existed, we're never going to find out what happened.

ABRAMS:  Susan? 

SUSAN FILAN, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST:   Baloney.  What does that have to do with the price of tea in China.  What the law enforcement people have to piece together on this case is what happened to George Smith.  Where Mrs.  Smith was sleeping is of absolutely no moment to this case.  She's been cleared as a suspect.  They're not looking at her.  She's not part of this ongoing investigation into potential criminal...

KAYE:  She was the last person in the cabin...

(CROSSTALK)

FILAN:  Excuse me.  She was quite possibly a widow now because her husband was murdered onboard a Royal Caribbean ship.  What did Royal Caribbean do in response to this?  They threw her off the ship.  They threw the two Russians off the ship.  They set sail.  They can't even stay for five minutes and find out what happened.  They cleaned up evidence.  We have missing forensics now that are extremely critical...

KAYE:  You are completely...

FILAN:  ... to this case. 

KAYE:  ... wrong.  What you are saying is completely wrong.  It's completely contrary to the facts that been released.  That cruise line called the Greek Coast Guard, the FBI, the Turkish police, all the authorities that were available...

FILAN:  Is the blood evidence...

KAYE:  ... immediately—excuse me...

FILAN:  No, did they clean it up...

KAYE:  Excuse me...

FILAN:  Yes.

KAYE:  ... immediately came...

FILAN:  It's gone now. 

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  One at a time.  One at a time.

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  Larry, go ahead.

KAYE:  They did not clean anything.  They sealed the cabin the entire day and for six more days.  And you are well aware of that because I've appeared on prior shows with you when that has been discussed.  So for you to come on national television and accuse anyone of destroying evidence is outrageous.  You know darn well...

FILAN:  Is the blood there...

KAYE:  ... that did not happen. 

FILAN:  It's gone.

KAYE:  That did not happen.  It's gone because it's six months later but the FBI participated in the investigation.  They went on the ship on July 7 before the cabin was cleaned and inspected the cabin themselves...

ABRAMS:  All right.

KAYE:  That's in the statement.  Maybe you should read it.

ABRAMS:  All right.  Let me take a quick...

FILAN:  Are you saying that the blood was destroyed...

ABRAMS:  No...

FILAN:  ... six months later? 

ABRAMS:  No...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  We know what happened to the blood. 

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  There's no question the blood was washed off the captain said...

KAYE:  ... July 7 it was still there.

ABRAMS:  The captain says he was given permission by the Turkey authorities.  Should that have been enough?  That's the question.  Susan Filan and Larry are going to stick around because coming up here's what we are going to do.  More of my exclusive interview with the ship's captain.  Play you some stuff we haven't heard before. 

The question is just how different is his account from Jennifer Hagel Smith about what happened that night.  We're going to compare them.  Two interviews you won't see anywhere else.  We put them back-to-back.  They debate effectively through the interviews. 

And police release new details about how a Virginia musician, his wife, and his two daughters were killed in their home.  It's gruesome.  The authorities now say they have some real clues. 

Plus, this man confesses to repeatedly raping a 10-year-old girl for years.  What does the judge do?  Well sentences him to 60 days.  Sixty days?  How does he justify that?

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  We're back with more about the case of George Smith.  It's believed he went overboard on a honeymoon cruise.  My exclusive interview with the ship's captain causing quite a stir.  MSNBC is the only place you can see interviews with the captain and the only place you can see interviews with Smith's new wife Jennifer, who spoke with Joe Scarborough.

They were on their honeymoon on the cruise at the time.  Jennifer and

the captain tell very different stories about what happened.  The family is

convinced he was killed.  The captain thinks it was an accident.  Jennifer

says she was effectively abandoned by the crew in Turkey.  The captain says

·         quote—“that's a lie.”

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) 

JENNIFER HAGEL SMITH, GEORGE SMITH'S WIFE:  He had said to my father two of the ship security officers will with your daughter at all times.  She will be off the ship and she will be on the ship just as quickly, just a few questions.  We promise that we will take—you know basically, ensuring my father that I was in good hands.

JOE SCARBOROUGH, “SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY” HOST:  Did they keep their promise? 

HAGEL SMITH:  No.  I was taken after that first interview or interrogation on the docks.  Then from there taken to a Turkish police station.  Those two security officers that were, you know, around when my father was on the phone with the captain were no longer there. 

LACHTARIDIS:  I don't know why the safety officer came back.  But Marie stayed with her all the time.

ABRAMS:  But your promise had not been kept? 

LACHTARIDIS:  I didn't use the word I promise to you.  I said Marie—

Jennifer will be escorted with two officers to the station, to the terminal.  I didn't know that after the terminal she will go to another place.

ABRAMS:  What difference does that make?  I mean wasn't the promise that she was going to be OK?  She was going to be safe...

LACHTARIDIS:  Right.

ABRAMS:  ... and Royal Caribbean...

LACHTARIDIS:  Right.

ABRAMS:  ... would take care of her. 

LACHTARIDIS:  Yes.

ABRAMS:  And it sounds like what you're saying is after she went to what's called the terminal...

LACHTARIDIS:  The terminal, yes.

ABRAMS:  ... and before she went to the police station, Royal Caribbean abandoned her. 

LACHTARIDIS:  No, we did not abandon.  Marie was always with her.  And Marie is an officer. 

HAGEL SMITH:  There's nothing that I am going to sort of release that happened to me that night.  I am excited in the future to be able to talk freely and openly because that will mean that the FBI solved their case. 

LACHTARIDIS:  She was found on a corridor on deck nine far from her cabin.  And then they escort her to her cabin.

ABRAMS:  She was literally sleeping in the middle of the hall? 

LACHTARIDIS:  Sleeping in the hall, yes. 

ABRAMS:  Sleeping, meaning she was drunk? 

LACHTARIDIS:  I don't know.  She was sleeping.  They found her asleep.  So—and then and the report say that they took a wheelchair to bring her to the cabin. 

At the time that I met her she was crying.  She was crying.  And then really I felt sorry for her because you go for your honeymoon and then her husband is gone. 

ABRAMS:  Did you express that to her at the time? 

LACHTARIDIS:  Oh, yes, yes, even I went and I patted her on the back here.  Come on, Jennifer.  It's OK.  We will take care of the business now, so...

SCARBOROUGH:  Was there a grief counselor that the cruise line provided?

HAGEL SMITH:  No.

SCARBOROUGH:  Was there anybody that...

HAGEL SMITH:  No.

SCARBOROUGH:  ... hugged you or said they were sorry or...

HAGEL SMITH:  No.  These men—you know as quickly as they told me what happened to George, they just seemed—you know they did it in sort of a callous way.  They just looked at each other and they seemed more concerned about how are we going to fix this. 

This isn't like, you know, something you take, you know, you hire someone and they fix the problem for you.  It was three men dressed in white uniform from Royal Caribbean.  They basically approached me and said, you know, your husband has gone overboard. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Did they tell you he was dead?  He'd gone overboard...

HAGEL SMITH:  They...

SCARBOROUGH:  ... and died.

HAGEL SMITH:  They said he had gone overboard and they found blood.  And over—actually they—I found out from them that they believed he went over in Greek waters and here we are in Turkey. 

ABRAMS:  Are you comfortable with the way that your staff informed Jennifer about what had happened?

LACHTARIDIS:  I am comfortable, yes.

ABRAMS:  And you take full responsibility for the way it was handled? 

LACHTARIDIS:  Oh, yes, yes.

ABRAMS:  And you don't think that it was callous? 

LACHTARIDIS:  No, no, no, not at all.  Not at all. 

SCARBOROUGH:  And you're in Turkey.  You—obviously you don't speak the language.  Did they give you money? 

HAGEL SMITH:  No.

SCARBOROUGH:  Did they give you transportation?

HAGEL SMITH:  No.

SCARBOROUGH:  Did they give you any guidance at all? 

HAGEL SMITH:  No and...

SCARBOROUGH:  They just threw you...

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  ... a young woman in the middle of Turkey. 

HAGEL SMITH:  It was getting later in the evening.  I was aware that the ship was going to sail around 7:00 give or take.  As I kept watching the clock in the Turkish police station there came a point when you know I said, hey, I don't think they're really going to be holding this ship for me.  You just knew.  And if I hadn't been able to leave with somebody who had finally shown up from the American embassy later in that day, I would have stayed there you know for as long as it took.  Maybe forever. 

ABRAMS:  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 is lying I don't know.  We have to ask her why she's lying.

ABRAMS:  You say she's just making all this up? 

LACHTARIDIS:  Well I guess so.  We have to ask her why she's lying.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ABRAMS:  All right.  Boy, those really are different.  Susan Filan, as you listen to those accounts and we were able to sort of put them together, you know it seems that the primary disagreement here is to how she was treated, right? 

FILAN:  Yes.  I mean it's really strong language of the captain of this ship to call Mrs. Hagel Smith a liar.  And I question his motive and I question his timing in his statement to you, Dan.  I find that striking, indeed.  She doesn't look like her credibility is in question as she's talking to Joe Scarborough, but the captain clearly treats her really like dirt in that interview dismissing her claims outright. 

ABRAMS:  Larry? 

KAYE:  Well, I think that the captain was shocked to hear some of these allegations because from his standpoint she was sent ashore with two officers, the staff captain and the customer relations' manager.  That customer relations' manager, as we now know, stayed with her the entire time in Turkey, as was a U.S. consular representative, as was an FBI representative.

She was never left alone and yet here she is appearing on national television stating she was abandoned and left alone.  Now there's obviously a credibility problem here somewhere.  I don't think the captain would invent that he sent a female officer with her.  In fact, she'll be appearing on Larry King tonight...

(CROSSTALK)

KAYE:  ... to tell what she did.

ABRAMS:  But he did concede.  He did concede in the interview, right, that he sent two people, he says.  He actually says initially there were three people. 

KAYE:  Correct.

ABRAMS:  He says there was someone who was effectively a guide, someone who was taking them from place to place.  Initially...

KAYE:  Correct.

ABRAMS:  ... there was a security officer and then there was Marie, this guest services manager. 

KAYE:  Correct.

ABRAMS:  It seems everyone else except for Marie left from the time that they went from the first place to the second place and the captain even said to me they came back to the ship and I asked him...

KAYE:  Yes, that's not exactly correct.  Because if you look at the timeline they provided and it's very detailed and very clear.  The Turkish police originally questioned her in the terminal...

ABRAMS:  Right.

KAYE:  ... and all during that period...

ABRAMS:  That's not what I'm talking about...

KAYE:  ... it wasn't just escorting to her one place.  It was all during that period there were two ship's officers present.  Then the Turkish police wanted to take her to the police station to question her some more.  She was perfectly agreeable at that time to going with Marie.  Marie was holding her hand.

ABRAMS:  How do you know? 

KAYE:  Marie was comforting...

ABRAMS:  How do you know she was...

KAYE:  Because this is the information from Royal Caribbean. 

ABRAMS:  Oh, all right, let's be clear.

KAYE:  This is the information from Marie and you can ask Marie. 

ABRAMS:  Yes, OK.

KAYE:  She'll be on television tonight. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  Yes, all right.

KAYE:  But what she has said was that she was abandoned in Greece.  Now she's saying well I was promised three and I got two.  Isn't that kind of form over substance?  She was never left alone.  She was in the company of a female who brought her magazines, who brought her CDs, who sat with her, who held her hand.  This isn't a company that abandoned Mrs. Hagel Smith.  They did everything they could to be there with her...

ABRAMS:  Susan...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  Let me let...

KAYE:  And she also had a representative of the U.S. consulate there. 

ABRAMS:  But see—but that's—all right, look, for part of the time there was a representative.  There's a question as to who called the consulate.  Was it Jennifer's parents that got them there...

KAYE:  Oh no, it was Royal Caribbean.  They say that...

ABRAMS:  I know.  Yes, that's what they say.  I understand, but there's still a dispute.  I'm going to let Susan respond but I'm going to tell you that right after she responds I'm going to let you in to something that the captain told me in that interview that we haven't played.  But go ahead, Susan.  Why don't you respond first?

FILAN:  Well my first question, Dan, is I believe your other guest actually works for a law firm that represents Royal Caribbean.  He has a vested interest in the outcome in this case and he has a vested interest in what...

ABRAMS:  I've been introducing him saying that he's been in contact with Royal Caribbean's lawyer.  So, go ahead.

KAYE:  And I do not represent Royal Caribbean in this matter...

ABRAMS:  All right.  But your firm does, whatever, OK.  So you have connections with Royal Caribbean, no big deal.

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  I'm not saying you're representing them, but you're obviously representing their point of view.  Go ahead, Susan.

FILAN:  I'm just not sure how impartial...

ABRAMS:  He's not impartial. 

FILAN:  ... these guy's comments are.

ABRAMS:  Neither are you, though. 

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  I'm not impartial either.  We don't—this show isn't about impartiality.  It's about admitting your bias. 

KAYE:  Good...

(CROSSTALK)

KAYE:  Let's get that out in the open.

ABRAMS:  It's about your opinion and on this one—look, on this—you hear—when I do on this show I say my take.  I don't have a take.  I don't know what to make of this.  I'm listening to both of you guys.  Larry knows the Royal Caribbean side.  Susan, you're very close with a lot of the local U.S. authorities who have been investigating this, et cetera.  That's why I have both of you.  Susan, do you want to have a final word on this? 

FILAN:  Well, again, I don't see why attacking Mrs. Hagel Smith is going to help solve this case.  I think it is a typical blame the victim strategy and I think it does...

ABRAMS:  All right.

FILAN:  ... divert attention from what really is the issue at hand...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  What I wanted to say before was that the captain said to me that he only found out that Jennifer was saying all these things the day before I did the interview with him.  He didn't know.  For all these many months he says he had no idea.  Who knows?

Anyway, Susan, Larry, thanks a lot.  Appreciate it. 

KAYE:  Thank you, Dan.

ABRAMS:  Coming up, police still don't know who killed a rock musician and his family in their home on New Year's Eve.  They've got the murder weapons.  They don't think this was a professional job.  It was brutal, it was gruesome and it looks like the murderer found what he or she needed inside the home.  It's coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Coming up, new details in the brutal murder of a Virginia family found bound in their basement on New Year's Day.  First the headlines. 

(NEWS BREAK)

ABRAMS:  We're back.  We've got new details about Richmond, Virginia's gruesome New Year's Day massacre that left a family of four dead in their home.  Bryan Harvey, his wife Kathryn and their two daughters, 9-year-old Stella and 4-year-old Ruby were not only bound with their throats slit.  We're now learning they were also victims of blunt force trauma and the weapons used to kill them came from inside the home. 

The four were found in their basement by firefighters responding to a 911 call that smoke was filling the home just 15 minutes before they were expecting a houseful of people for a New Year's Day party.  Bryan was a member of a band called House of Freaks, which was a pretty successful band about 10 years ago. 

Joining me now is “Richmond Times-Dispatch” writer Jim Nolan, who's been covering this story since it broke, and MSNBC analyst, former FBI investigator Clint Van Zandt.  Thanks to both of you.

All right.  So Jim, what else do we know about the types of weapons that were used? 

JIM NOLAN, “RICHMOND TIMES-DISPATCH” REPORTER:  Well, Dan, we know that they were obviously sharp cutting items that were used including knives and all we're saying about the other objects is that they came from the home and they were used to inflict blunt force trauma.  There have been other reports specifying particular kinds of both cutting items and blunt force trauma items, but we're not naming any of those.  We're not convinced that some of those were necessarily involved in the crime. 

ABRAMS:  We're hearing that the killer or killers didn't do a very good job of covering their tracks.  What does that mean? 

NOLAN:  Well I think the—I think what these reports are suggesting is that to some extent this may have been a makeshift murder.  Those items that were used and recovered while they might not represent all of the items used in the killings were certainly items that were found in the home and left in the home.  The fire, which was started, had been started probably we're being told about an hour or so before it was discovered. 

If you suggest that the timeframe during which these attacks may have occurred, may have predated the starting of the fire by an hour or two hours, then the fire had not really gotten enough of a steam or a head of steam up to cause extensive damage to the crime scene.  Clearly it did compromise the crime scene, but it's not the kind of thing where it had the earmarkings of a particularly well-planned or executed type of hit. 

ABRAMS:  Yes.  All right.  Clint, so we got more details.  What do you make of them? 

CLINT VAN ZANDT, FORMER FBI PROFILER:  Well you know this is one of the things the profilers are going to do, Dan.  They walk in and they draw a line down the middle of a piece of paper and they put disorganized on one and organized on the other side.  From what Jim has been reporting and others, this seems to be a disorganized crime.  There's a lot of emotion involved. 

When you look at both a sharp stabbing instrument, blunt force, whether it be you know a flashlight or a piece of pipe or a hammer or whatever was used inside the house it looks like the killer probably found some of his weapons in the house suggesting maybe he didn't plan this, maybe he didn't plan it to this extent.  When he got there it had just got out of hand. 

So that starts to suggest again either someone, an unknown offender would probably be somebody on drugs who just stumbled in and I don't think that's the case.  I think law enforcement is correct to look at friends, relatives, associates, anyone that they had any monetary problems with, emotional problems with.  This is an emotionally based crime, so that's where the pool of offenders is going to have to come from. 

ABRAMS:  Clint, are we reading tealeaves by reading some of the songs written by Bryan Harvey?  There was that one song in the 1990's, which the lyrics...

VAN ZANDT:  Yes.

ABRAMS:  ... I'm sure you've heard about this...

VAN ZANDT:  Sure.

ABRAMS:  ... say who's that man coming, hey, hey, hey, sharpens his knife, singing hey, hey, hey, flashes of pain, hey, hey, hey, heartbroken woman, hey, hey, hey, in the basement, hey, hey, hey, begs for mercy, hey, hey, hey.

VAN ZANDT:  Well, you know there sure is a lot of similarities and you can't dismiss that.  And part of what law enforcement has to do is say who would have been aware—as you suggest that song is rather dated.  Who would have been aware of that and who would have saw some sick, sick way to kind of make this family, this singer eat his own words should that have been the case? 

But you know this is—when the police told the local residents down there they don't have to be afraid that this is someone walking the streets that this is going to happen again, should they have that knowledge that suggested they have a pretty good idea.  And Dan, as Jim is suggesting, there's going to be a lot of forensic evidence there. 

ABRAMS:  Yes.

VAN ZANDT:  There's going to be footprints.  There's going to be DNA, fingerprints.  You know I'm surprised the police haven't wrapped this up by now, but I think within the next few days or a week that there's enough suspects and if this is emotionally based...

ABRAMS:  Yes.

VAN ZANDT:  ... if it's somebody who knew the family...

ABRAMS:  Right.

VAN ZANDT:  ... the authorities are going to find out who that is real quick. 

ABRAMS:  Jim, what do you think of that? 

NOLAN:  Well I think Clint, as usual, is pretty much on target, but I would disagree with the notion that this case should be wrapped up any time soon.  Certainly this is a wide-ranging investigation.  Dan, it has extended beyond Richmond.  The Harveys had many entry points into the city, the musician aspect, the business aspect, a large circle of friends...

ABRAMS:  Yes.

NOLAN:  ... neighbors.  There are many different places in which this investigation can go.  And I think we're only five days really removed from what happened.  We're still waiting for the results of forensic tests...

ABRAMS:  Yes.

NOLAN:  ... to come back and that includes some blood evidence that was submitted.  Clearly the investigators have done everything they have to do to this point. 

(CROSSTALK)

NOLAN:  They've talked to the circle of friends.  They've gotten samples.  Now they're waiting for results. 

ABRAMS:  I'll tell you I bet Clint is right on this.  My—I'm—and this is purely guessing, but I'm guessing based on this type of case and this type of crime, I bet they solve it within two weeks.  But we shall see. 

Jim Nolan...

NOLAN:  Certainly...

ABRAMS:  ... Clint Van Zandt, thanks a lot.  Appreciate it. 

Coming up, this Vermont judge sentenced a man who confessed to raping a little girl for four years to just 60 days in prison?  What?

And your e-mails and my exclusive interview with the captain of the Royal Caribbean cruise ship where George Smith disappeared.  Many of you not buying the captain's story. 

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Coming up, a Vermont judge sentences a man who confessed to raping a 10-year-old girl over a period of four years to just 60 days in jail.  Wait until you hear why.  Coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  We're back.  We dedicate a lot of time in this program trying to help track down sex offenders who are out of prison but haven't registered with the authorities in the hope that they get them before they do something.  Well one sex offender in Vermont might be back on the streets in a matter of weeks, even though he just pled guilty to repeatedly raping a young girl for four years.

The abuse started when she just 6.  Mark Hulett will spend only 60 days in prison for the sex assault.  He faced up to life.  State Corrections Department found he was a low risk for committing a similar crime and they said therefore would not offer him sex offender treatment in prison.  So Judge Edward Cashman gave Hulett the lightest sentence saying it was the only way to get him counseling right away. 

He said keeping society safer from the guy sexual deviancy in the long run.  When he's released Hulett will be supervised by the state and receive treatment.  If he doesn't cooperate, he goes back to prison for life.  The judge also announced that he arrived at the sentencing decision because after 25 years on the bench he no longer believes in punishment. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HON. EDWARD CASHMAN, SENTENCED SEX OFFENDER TO 60 DAYS:  My heart goes out to this family and I would hate to be in the situation this family is.  But there's other families out there and there's other people who could be victimized and I'm trying to take the long view. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  (INAUDIBLE) “My Take”—I generally find myself defending judges on this program, but in this case no way.  Who cares whether he believes in punishment or not.  The judge said he feared the guy would just get angrier in prison and the treatment would be more effective.  What?  Prison is tough, yes. 

It's not a reason for him to be sending a child rapist back on the streets after two months.  Our criminal justice system is based on more than just rehabilitation.  Some of it is purely punitive.  Why not give him the stiffer sentence recommended by the prosecutor, at least eight years, then he can get treatment if he wants it.  Talk about a guy becoming a poster child for the term activist judge. 

Joining me now to debate criminal defense attorney Brian Neary and former sex crimes prosecutor Bill Fallon.  Bryan, I saw you on TV last night.  I couldn't believe you were defending—I mean because look you can say in certain cases, right, that sentences can vary, et cetera, but this is a judge effectively saying you know what, I don't like the system. 

BRIAN NEARY, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY:  If he says that punishment is no good that is not right for the criminal justice system.

ABRAMS:  Right.

NEARY:  What he's now done though is stir a debate with regard to may be very important for Vermont, it may be important for all of us, as to whether or not there's any issue of treatment to stop.

ABRAMS:  But who is he to stir debate?  I mean is that a judge's job?

NEARY:  Well if he was outside the law he would be subject to an appeal.  I think he's probably sentencing within the statute in Vermont, so the debate is now whether he's outside the law.  It's whether or not he's applying...

ABRAMS:  No...

NEARY:  ... his authority correctly. 

ABRAMS:  Well that's right.  We can still have a debate...

NEARY:  Right.

ABRAMS:  ... about whether he's applying the right sentence.  The prosecutor here asked for eight years.  And I think there was no one suggesting anything like this.  I'm sure his defense attorney was.  But the Department of Corrections, et cetera, and the judge comes back saying well, you know what, I think that he's going to get angrier while he's in prison and a result the treatment will be more effective if he gets it now.  What kind of, you know, what kind of softy mumbo jumbo is that? 

NEARY:  Dan, if it's just soft mumbo jumbo, then maybe it's really bad judicial temperament and judicial judgment.  But I think there was another agenda going on here.  I think that this judge is trying to stir something in the prison system...

ABRAMS:  And that's good? 

NEARY:  Well...

ABRAMS:  Well shouldn't we be criticizing...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  I mean that's fine, but he's not the one to be fostering this debate.  Because there is now going to be a guy who after two months is going to be walking the streets because this guy wants us to have a debate. 

(CROSSTALK)

WILLIAM FALLON, FORMER ESSEX COUNTY MA PROSECUTOR:   Kick him off the bench. 

NEARY:  He may be right.  In Vermont people may have to make that decision, but we now see that the Vermont legislature has started a debate on two things.  One, should there be stiffer sentences, but also seems to be some sorts of required treatment, as many states have, for people with these particular offenses. 

ABRAMS:  Go ahead.

FALLON:  Dan, you know what the outage of this is, if we have a judge, number one, who doesn't believe in punishment off the bench.  If we have a judge who is deciding I'm going to make this social policy about all other cases, that's off the bench.  Now that doesn't mean he's a horrible person, but it means he's a horrible judge. 

The prosecution recommended 48 timed what he gave.  To think that you could have four years of rape—he pled guilty to four years of rape.  This wasn't like a plea bargain where they say if you say something we'll get you on the record...

ABRAMS:  Yes.

FALLON:  To say somebody would have 60 days for four years of raping this is pedophilia.  She's 6 to 10 years old.  She's so far prepubescent and for somebody to say after 60 days maybe we'll get him help.  The Justice Department, the Corrections Department was only asking for three years.  That was a slap on the hand.  I didn't think the prosecution was way out even asking eight years.  You do get something for a plea, but for somebody to have another agenda is an outrage to the criminal justice system...

ABRAMS:  And here's his agenda...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  All right.  Here's the judge.  I'm going to read—this is from the judge. 

It accomplishes nothing of value.  It doesn't make anything better.  It costs us a lot of money.  We create a lot of expectation and we feed on anger.  The one message I want to get through is that anger doesn't solve anything.  It just corrodes your soul.

I mean...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  ... he'd be a nice country music singer, but...

FALLON:  Billy Graham is sick.  Billy Graham is sick and I think if his son weren't taking over, this guy should.  This is an outrage right here that a judge would say this.

ABRAMS:  Brian, go ahead.

NEARY:  But why would a judge who's been on the bench for 25 years say these kinds of things? 

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  ... exactly the reason you said...

NEARY:  ... or...

ABRAMS:  He wants to create a debate. 

NEARY:  If he wants to create a debate...

ABRAMS:  But we should be criticizing him for doing that.

NEARY:  Well...

ABRAMS:  He has no right as a judge to decide I want to create a debate and therefore I'm going to give a crazy sentence and people are going to go nuts and start talking about it. 

NEARY:  Yes, but he's got the right to give a sentence.  He's got the right to give that sentence.

ABRAMS:  Whether he has the right or not...

FALLON:  Brian, he doesn't have the right.

ABRAMS:  ... doesn't make it right. 

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  Whether he has the right doesn't make it right.

(CROSSTALK)

FALLON:  ... and this is why you get rid of judges who take improper things into account.  That discussion is a discussion for the legislature.  It might (INAUDIBLE) but not when you're sentencing somebody for raping a young child for four years.  That is the outrage here, much more than the sentence.

NEARY:  You know in terms of I've been asked (INAUDIBLE) of course the reaction is (A), it's terrible and (B), there has to be a punish element in the criminal justice.

ABRAMS:  Yes.

NEARY:  There has to be. 

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  You want to take it back, right?  You don't really want to be defending this judge...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  Now that you hear the whole circumstances Brian...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  ... you don't really want to be defending this guy...

NEARY:  ... by defending it, I think we can get to the point of discussing how we get to this point.  I might have come up to a conclusion that agrees it's completely outrageous.  Let's talk about it. 

(CROSSTALK)

NEARY:  Just don't say oh this judge is crazy...

ABRAMS:  No...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  I won't let this judge dictate the debate.  I'm going to only talk about whether this judge is crazy.  If we decide on another day to debate the policies in Vermont, et cetera, we'll do it, but not because this judge makes a decision to say oh, I want there to be a national—I'm not going to have that debate.  I'm going to have a debate about whether this judge, as Bill Fallon says, should be kicked off the bench, whether this judge should be roundly criticized by everyone.  That's the debate I'm going to have.

(CROSSTALK)

FALLON:  Dan, what does this say to other victims...

(CROSSTALK)

FALLON:  What does this say to other victims of abuse?  Are they saying that four years of rape is worth nothing?  That's what I think...

ABRAMS:  Brian, final word.

FALLON:  He has minimized rape. 

NEARY:  Bill is making the right point.  There has to be a sense of general deterrence.  What this judge is saying is that we might be able to protect more people by having some forms of treatment within a prison system...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  I know that's what he's saying, but you don't really buy that.  Come on.

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  You know what Bill? 

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  Even Brian doesn't buy it. 

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  He doesn't buy it either. 

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  Brian Neary and Bill Fallon, thanks a lot.

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  I got to... 

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  Coming up, a lot of comments on my exclusive interview with the captain of the Royal Caribbean cruise ship where George Smith disappeared.  Some of you not buying the captain's story. 

And our continuing series, “Manhunt: Sex Offenders on the Loose”, our effort to help find missing sex offenders before they strike.  Today's search we're in Maine. 

Authorities are looking for Raymond Beltran, 40, six-two, 190.  Convicted of four counts of gross sexual contact.  Hasn't registered 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.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Time now for “Your Rebuttal”.  Last night another ABRAMS REPORT exclusive.  My interview with the captain of the cruise ship where honeymooner George Smith disappeared.  The captain offered up his theory that Smith was sitting on the railing and—quote—“lost his balance.”  No foul play. 

Some of you don't buy it included Jan and Jim Wright in Los Angeles.  “Sure Dan, it's possible that Smith fell overboard.  It's also possible that Smith was abducted by extraterrestrials or knows how to walk on water.  How often do cruise passengers just fall overboard?”

Family of George Smith questioning why the captain didn't end the cruise early and keep the ship docked in Turkey.

Rebecca Sexton in Columbus, Ohio, “Yes, this was a tragedy for this family, but there were hundreds of thousands of other passengers expecting the cruise they had booked.  Why would it be necessary for the ship to remain anywhere for the investigation to be thorough?”

Finally last night in our continuing series, “Manhunt: Sex Offenders on the Loose”, we previewed missing sex offender Melvin Harper.  He's 57, six-two, 200 pounds, was convicted of gross sexual misconduct.  Hasn't registered his address with the state of Maine. 

Well viewer Merlin Harper writes, “As if I haven't had all my life to deal enough with the name Melvin.  The alter ego, told you so, goody-goody Melvin Paige, continually having my first name being remembered as Melvin, now having this desperado Melvin Harper having a name people will mistakenly think of me, Merlin Harper.  Lost another one to Melvin.  Thanks a lot for continuing the curse of Melvin.”

Be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  That does it for us tonight.  Coming up next, “HARDBALL” with Chris Matthews.  Have a great weekend. 

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