updated 1/11/2006 11:46:47 AM ET 2006-01-11T16:46:47

Guests: Peter Rubin, Adam Ciongoli, Andrew Goldberg, Steven Zeitchik, Doug Edwards

DAN ABRAMS, HOST:  Coming up, Samuel Alito tells senators he‘s got an open mind on abortion, so, how does he explain his comments where he strategized how to end the legal right to one? 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ABRAMS (voice-over):  Senators also hit him with questions on wiretaps, the president‘s powers in wartime, minorities and even whether he thinks women belong in colleges? 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  And how could he have done anything to Laci? 

There was no reason.  There was no reason for him to kill Laci. 

ABRAMS:  Laci Peterson‘s mother, Sharon Rocha, speaks out about when she first came to believe Scott Peterson murdered her daughter and how she feels about him getting the death penalty. 

Plus, security cameras catch a criminal in the act as he finds out the woman he‘s trying to rob is not the pushover he was hoping for. 

The program about justice starts now.  

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ABRAMS:  Hi everyone.  First up on the docket, day two of the confirmation hearing of Samuel Alito to the United States Supreme Court otherwise known as the let‘s see if he trips up hearings.

He answered questions ranging from whether he belonged to one of Princeton University‘s exclusive eating clubs to his philosophy on the constitutional boundaries of presidential power, oh yes, and he talked a little bit about that issue called abortion as well.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  And I would approach the question with an open mind.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  But with the longest judicial record of any Supreme Court nominee in over 70 years, Samuel Alito had much more than his view on abortion to explain.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Let me come down to the statement that you made in 1985 that the constitution does not provide a basis for a woman‘s right to an abortion.  Do you agree with that statement today, Judge Alito? 

JUDGE SAMUEL ALITO, SUPREME COURT NOMINEE:  That was a statement that I made at a prior period of time when I was performing a different role.  And as I said yesterday, when someone becomes a judge, you really have to put aside the things that you did as a lawyer at prior points in your legal career and think about legal issues the way a judge thinks about legal issues. 

Judge Alito, you stated in that same job application that one element of the conservative philosophy that you believe very strongly—quote—

“very strongly”, was the—quote—“legitimacy of a government role in protecting traditional values”—unquote.  What traditional values were you referring to? 

ALITO:  I think a traditional value that I probably had in mind was the ability to live in peace and safety in your neighborhood. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Do you believe that the president of the United States is above the law and the Constitution? 

ALITO:  Nobody in this country is above the law, and that includes the president. 

SEN. EDWARD KENNEDY (D), MASSACHUSETTS:  Now, in 1985 in your job application to the Justice Department you wrote, I believe very strongly in the supremacy of the elected branches of the government.  Those are your words, am I right? 

ALITO:  It‘s an inapt phrase and I certainly didn‘t mean that literally at the time and I wouldn‘t say that today.  The branches of government are equal.  They have equal—they have different responsibilities, but they are all equal and no branch is supreme to the other branch. 

SEN. PATRICK LEAHY (D), VERMONT:  There was something in your background that I was very troubled with.  That‘s the concerned alumni of Princeton University, CAP.  They were hostile to what they felt where people did not fit Princeton‘s traditional mold, women and minorities. 

ALITO:  Well, Senator, I have racked my memory about this issue, and I really have no specific recollection of that organization. 

SEN. ORRIN HATCH ®, UTAH:  So let me just ask you directly, on the record, are you against women and minorities attending colleges? 

ALITO:  Absolutely not, Senator, no. 

HATCH:  Now, I felt that that would be your answer.  I really did.

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Tough question, Orrin.  A tough question.

HATCH:  It‘s a good question, though.  It‘s one that kind of overcomes the implications that you were. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Joining us now is Adam Ciongoli, who is a former clerk to Judge Alito on the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, and Peter Rubin, a former clerk to Justice David Souter and a professor at Georgetown University Law Center.  Thanks a lot to both of you.

All right, you know, the question everyone is going to ask is how did he do?  How did he do?  And I‘m afraid that it‘s going to—that that answer is going to be determined by your political persuasion, but let‘s give it a shot.  Professor Rubin, how did he do? 

PETER RUBIN, FORMER SUPREME COURT CLERK:  Well, he‘s still in the middle, Dan...

ABRAMS:  How‘s he doing? 

RUBIN:  ... and we‘re not even through the first...

ABRAMS:  How‘s he doing?

RUBIN:  ... round of questioning.  It‘s a pretty boring hearing.  Now maybe that means he‘s doing great.  I don‘t think that he‘s done anything to really assuage the fears of those people who feel that he would support executive power, for example, to wiretap citizens without warrants.  Those who are concerned about his position about privacy and choice...

ABRAMS:  But he‘s answering more questions—I‘ll be honest.  I think he‘s answering more questions than I expected.  Meaning, there were a lot of these questions where he could say, you know, or other nominees have said, you know, that could come before me, and as a result, I can‘t answer. 

RUBIN:  Well, he really has said that in a very artful way.  In some ways he‘s following the mold that now Chief Justice Roberts said when he testified earlier last year.  But he has said that when push came to shove about wiretapping, and as the president, does he have authority...

ABRAMS:  You don‘t expect...

RUBIN:  ... to violate the criminal laws...

ABRAMS:  Professor, you don‘t expect him to answer that question.  That—of all the issues, right, I mean, that‘s one that the court hasn‘t ruled on and one that really might come in front of the court. 

RUBIN:  I agree with that, Dan, but you said that he hadn‘t said he wasn‘t going to answer, and on the hard questions he hasn‘t answered.  He hasn‘t answered on Roe.  He did admit candidly, and I think this was impressive, that it was his actual opinion, his legal opinion, in 1985 is a 35-year-old attorney, his personal opinion of the Constitution that it did not protect the right to choose.  I think that that is a reason for concern among people who care about the right to choose, but he didn‘t say, and therefore I will vote to overrule Roe or not. 

ABRAMS:  Did—Adam, did you hear it the same way? 

ADAM CIONGOLI, FORMER ALITO CLERK:  I heard the Judge Alito that I know, and I‘m glad the American people finally have a chance to see him.  I think he presented himself today as the man he is, which is very thoughtful, very intelligent, and very credible.  I think you‘re right, Dan.  He went very far in answering a lot of questions and getting into a lot of substantive legal detail, and I think the fact that some of his opponents think that it‘s boring is a testament to the fact that this is going extremely well. 

ABRAMS:  But it is boring.  I mean come on.  I mean look, the bottom line is that to most people watching this, you know, this is not like watching NASCAR. 

CIONGOLI:  But that‘s good.  This is supposed to be boring. 

ABRAMS:  No, it‘s not. 

CIONGOLI:  This is supposed to be a nonpolitical branch.  The American people want politics out of the Supreme Court, which is exactly why Judge Alito is going to be an ideal Supreme Court justice when he‘s confirmed, because he‘s not going to politicize the process.  Because he‘s going to approach it in a lawyerly way.

ABRAMS:  I don‘t know how that relates to it being boring or not, but...

CIONGOLI:  Well lawyer—look I‘m a lawyer.  Being a lawyer really isn‘t that interesting a job.  When I start talking about what I do... 

ABRAMS:  I‘m sorry. 

CIONGOLI:  ... you know, but no, it‘s true.  People in my family start rolling their eyes and start gagging. 

ABRAMS:  Really? 

CIONGOLI:  Of course... 

ABRAMS:  My family‘s full of lawyers.  We have great conversation at the dinner table. 

CIONGOLI:  Well sure, lawyers find lawyers interesting.

(LAUGHTER)

ABRAMS:  All right.  Let me ask you this one, Adam.  All right...

CIONGOLI:  Sure.

ABRAMS:  Because this bothers me that Judge Alito won‘t answer this question and it relates to Bush v. Gore, OK...

CIONGOLI:  Yes.

ABRAMS:  Now, the Supreme Court justices specifically said in Bush v.  Gore, this can never be used as precedent.  This is a once-in-a-lifetime case.  We don‘t want to hear about it again.  And so there‘s—then assuming that is true, there‘s no chance that Bush v. Gore is going to come in front of the court again, and so you would think that Judge Alito can talk about it.  Here‘s what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HERB KOHL (D), WISCONSIN:  So Judge Alito, I‘d like to ask you, was the Supreme Court correct to take this case in the first place? 

ALITO:  And my answer has to be, I really don‘t know.  I have not had the—I have not studied it in the way I would study a case that comes before me as a judge, and I would have to go through the whole judicial process.

KOHL:  That was a huge, huge case, and I would like to hope and I would bet that you thought about it an awful lot, because you are who you are. 

(CROSSTALK)

KOHL:  And I would like for you to give an opinion from the convictions of your heart. 

ALITO:  There‘s the issue of whether they should have taken and the issue of how it should be decided.  And Senator, my honest answer is I have not studied it in the way I would study the issue if it were to come before me as a judge. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  All right, Adam, come on.  I mean...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  ... that‘s a real dodge on that one.

CIONGOLI:  I don‘t think it‘s a dodge.  I think that if you know Judge Alito, it‘s self-explanatory, which is that he‘s very careful.  It‘s one of his best attributes.  It‘s one of the things that should make people really comfortable and confident...

ABRAMS:  But the senator wasn‘t saying to him, I‘m suddenly giving you the power to decide whether Bush v. Gore gets accepted by the Supreme Court.  He‘s saying I‘m asking you your opinion.  Are you telling me he doesn‘t have opinions about anything that isn‘t before him as a judge? 

CIONGOLI:  No.  But I think that his opinions, his personal opinions, if he were...

ABRAMS:  His legal opinions. 

CIONGOLI:  But he‘s got to be very careful about giving his legal opinions because of the job for which he‘s been nominated.  He‘s—it‘s not like me giving a legal opinion.  I mean I can give a legal opinion and it doesn‘t matter...

ABRAMS:  No, even worse is when I give a legal opinion and it really doesn‘t matter.  Sorry, go ahead...

CIONGOLI:  But I really think that it‘s an example of how careful Judge Alito is.  And he twice used the same standard.  He said I have not given it the kind of thought...

ABRAMS:  Yes...

CIONGOLI:  ... and attention that I would give. 

ABRAMS:  But isn‘t that what Professor Rubin called an artful dodge? 

CIONGOLI:  I don‘t think it is an artful dodge.  I think that if you watch Judge Alito carefully, what comes across most is sincerity.  I think that when you talk to his colleagues on the Third Circuit, which by the way, is one of the more liberal—probably one of the most liberal courts in the country, across the board he is very highly regarded because he is careful and thoughtful, and because he‘s a very nice...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Dan...

CIONGOLI:  ... decent man, and I really think that‘s what you‘re seeing in these answers.  I don‘t think they‘re dodges. 

ABRAMS:  Go ahead Professor Rubin. 

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  Let me let Professor Rubin...

(CROSSTALK)

RUBIN:  I think you‘ve hit on something quite important, because I think there was a lack of candor in that answer, and one of the gravest concerns I think people have about Judge Alito is has he been candid?  He said that he opposed Roe v. Wade then later he said it was only a job application.  He claims not to remember being a member of Concerned Alumni of Princeton, although he proudly asserted on a job application in 1985 that he had been a member...

CIONGOLI:  Do you remember...

(CROSSTALK)

CIONGOLI:  ... every job application you filled out in the last 20 years? 

RUBIN:  Twenty years ago, well if I—when I was a 35-year-old as he was, a 35-year-old lawyer applying for a top job in the Justice Department, he‘s a very careful man as Adam said, I don‘t think that there were things that accidentally slipped onto that.  It wasn‘t a...

(CROSSTALK)

RUBIN:  But my point is this.  He has—I don‘t think he‘s helped himself in the candor department...

ABRAMS:  Let me ask you about the candor department...

RUBIN:  His demeanor is excellent...

ABRAMS:  Professor, let me ask you about the candor department because I was impressed with his candor on this particular issue, and that is on this issue about Vanguard.  A brief explanation.  He owned a mutual fund, all right, in Vanguard.  There was a case before him, which related to the company Vanguard. 

There‘s an argument that what the company does has nothing to do with whether the mutual fund goes up or down.  But regardless of that, he was basically saying that if he could do it again, he‘d handle it differently, because he did hear a case.  He did rule on the case and the people in it were saying oh he had a conflict, et cetera.  Here‘s what Judge Alito said today. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ALITO:  If I had it to do over again, I would have handled this case differently.  There were some oversights there. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I‘m sure you might have. 

ALITO:  One of the reasons judges tend to invest in mutual funds is because they generally don‘t present recusal problems, and prose cases in particular generally don‘t present recusal problems.  No light went off.  That‘s all I can say.  I didn‘t focus on the issue of recusal. 

KENNEDY:  Well this is important, when the lights do go on and what the lights do go off. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Professor, I think he loses public brownie points for refusing to answer Bush v. Gore.  I think he gets them for coming forward and saying look that case I would have handled it differently. 

RUBIN:  Well the issue there isn‘t so much recusal for its own sake or because of the stock going up and down as you suggested.  He promised the Senate Judiciary Committee when he was confirmed as a judge in the first place that he would recuse from all cases in which Vanguard was a party...

CIONGOLI:  Initially...

(CROSSTALK)

CIONGOLI:  Initially...

RUBIN:  And he gave no explanation.

CIONGOLI:  Initially...

(CROSSTALK)

CIONGOLI:  The question to which he was responding...

RUBIN:  If I can finish, Adam. 

ABRAMS:  Go ahead.  Professor, go ahead and I‘ll let you respond, yes.

RUBIN:  Sure.  His commitment to the Senate Judiciary Committee was not initially.  It was a commitment that he made.  And all he said—the only explanation he gave today was it was 12 years later.  I don‘t think that...

ABRAMS:  See, I‘m less concerned about...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  ... what promises he made in the Senate Judiciary Committee. 

I mean they‘re concerned about that.  I‘m, as an outsider...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  ... less concerned about that than I am about what he‘s doing on the bench and whether he‘s doing it right or not. 

RUBIN:  Well but if he promised that he would recuse himself to the Senate Judiciary Committee and didn‘t live up to that promise, it really casts appall as this candor question again. 

(CROSSTALK)

RUBIN:  And I‘m not saying it‘s determinative, but these are real questions...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  Adam, final word on that.  Go ahead...

CIONGOLI:  This is all part of a three-part strategy.  First, distort the opinions of Judge Alito to try and indicate that he supports results that he doesn‘t actually do.  When that doesn‘t work because independent journalists like Stuart Taylor disprove it, then the left moves to specious ethics claims, and when those are disproven by Professor—like Professor Hazard (ph) from the University of Pennsylvania, then we go to a candor question, because that‘s all that they‘ve got left. 

(CROSSTALK)

CIONGOLI:  The fact is that Sam has been incredibly candid with the American people.  That at each step his opponents are sort of distorting what he stands for, what he‘s done, and it really—it casts more of a light on their credibility than anything else. 

ABRAMS:  All right...

CIONGOLI:  He‘s doing a great job. 

ABRAMS:  We shall continue to follow this and debate it and play it.  Every day we‘ll—you can make sure you can tune in here and see the greatest hits, so to speak, from the—if there‘s such a thing.  All right.  Adam, Peter Rubin, thanks a lot.  Appreciate it.

CIONGOLI:  Thanks.

RUBIN:  Thank you, Dan.

ABRAMS:  Coming up, the author of last year‘s most popular non-fiction book under fire accused of making up key details in his tell-all memoir. 

And Laci Peterson‘s mother in a rare interview.  She talks about when she first noticed Scott Peterson was acting strangely. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I remember when we got down into the park.  I jumped out of the car and I was running everywhere just screaming her name.  And I remember watching him walk near the creek.  He never opened his mouth.  He never called out her name.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  The article is called “The Man Who Conned Oprah.”  It suggests the author of one of the country‘s best-selling books may have bluffed his way to the top.  In his memoir “A Million Little Pieces”, which has sold over three and a half million copies and was the latest Oprah Book Club selection, James Frey graphically recounted his dark days in rehab getting treatment for his drug and drinking addictions.

He says when he was 10 he had his first drink, 12 he started drugs, crack addict by 20, and claims he spent months behind bars.  Well now the Web site, The Smoking Gun, which is owned by Court TV, says either he exaggerated or made up information about his criminal past, jail time, and outlaw status. 

Joining me now is Andrew Goldberg, managing editor of The Smoking Gun Web site, and Steven Zeitchik, New York reporter for “Variety” magazine, who‘s been covering the story as well.  Thanks to both of you for coming onto the program. Appreciate it.

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  All right.  Andrew, how did this happen?  You guys were looking for a mug shot? 

ANDREW GOLDBERG, THE SMOKING GUN MANAGING EDITOR:  It‘s what we do pretty commonly.  Somebody saw him on Oprah, wrote us an e-mail and said hey, this guy says he‘s been arrested a number of times.  Why don‘t you post his mug shot?  He‘s, you know, a top selling author, so we started the search, and that‘s the sort of thing that should probably only take us about an hour to do after all these years, and we weren‘t finding anything where we thought we should have been finding things.  So it started to raise some question marks for us. 

ABRAMS:  And when you say question marks, I mean it was—you were questioning whether he had actually been arrested? 

GOLDBERG:  Well, I mean, if you say you‘ve done three months in jail, then some sheriff somewhere should have had you in their custody, should have had you in their jail. 

ABRAMS:  So are you convinced that he was never arrested?  Is that what you‘re saying?

GOLDBERG:  Oh no, no, no.  We—there‘s documents on the site.  He

was arrested.  In fact, we know of two times that he was arrested.  But

what happened is both of those arrests are mentioned in the book, but the -

one of them—the one in Michigan when he was 18 years old and says he does a week in jail, we know for a fact he never did any jail time because he had the chicken pox. 

He also describes that a time when he blew a county record when given a blood alcohol content, Breathalyzer as .36.  We know it was a .20, but he never did any jail time.  The one in Ohio is sort of a maypole in the book where a lot of events revolve around it where, you know, he was driving in a car, hit a police officer with his car, started a melee, had crack on him.

It was a crack-filled melee.  He had already been using the drug and had to be dragged out.  We know that that was basically an open bottle of Pabst Blue Ribbon and the refusal to take a Breathalyzer test and driving without a license, very different, which also didn‘t result in any jail time. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  Here‘s—remember, this is not the first time this issue has come up.  The “New Yorker” magazine in its review of Frey‘s book in 2003 said the cinematic quality of some of Frey‘s exploits make you wonder whether the facts in this memoir have been enhanced.

And then there was Matt Lauer questioning him about it back in 2003 as well. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  But did you take any poetic licenses with some of the stories of what happened to you in that clinic?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  No.  I cut out all the boring stuff.  But I didn‘t invent anything.  Everything I wrote about happened and I didn‘t want to write a book that would bore people, so I took out everything, you know the days where we just sat there and smoked cigarettes.  Nobody wants to read about that. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  All right.  The response from his attorney, Martin Singer, my client‘s criminal records are unavailable to the public because among other reasons they‘ve been expunged.  It is therefore inappropriate and inaccurate for you to draw any inference that my client lied about his past.

What about that, Andrew? 

GOLDBERG:  You know, we got that letter from Marty, and the truth of the matter is he did have expungements done at the court level.  They should have probably trickled down to some of the police levels where we were looking, but the police records still existed.  I don‘t think Marty realized when he wrote that letter that we did have the police report in our possession describing the incident.

The truth of the matter is you know we have it.  It‘s the—in many ways the incident that‘s described with the beer and the electric pole where he describes it as a cop and crack, it‘s almost exactly the same in a lot of the general details—general ideas as it is in the book.  You know, he‘s driving through a bank parking lot.  He drives up on a sidewalk. 

I mean, we have what‘s out there.  And plus we‘ve had conversations

with him where he said you know that‘s the incident.  He‘s pinned it down

to the general timeframe that we found this report in, and there‘s no other

I mean, this is a small-town police department, which you know we‘ve been through the records there. 

ABRAMS:  Steve, how big a deal is this? 

STEVEN ZEITCHIK, “VARIETY” MAGAZINE:  I think it‘s a pretty big deal I mean for a couple of reasons.  First of all, the fact that as you said I mean you know Frey‘s book is the biggest non-fiction book of the year last year and you know his whole premise rests on the fact that this is true.  And you know of course, the other thing here that hasn‘t been mentioned is that this book was an Oprah pick. 

I mean Oprah went on the air with a full hour show basically endorsing this guy and you know saying that she was moved by his story.  He reached out to members of the audience.  Members of the audience were moved by him.  And if it turns out it was either embellished or fabricated, I think it‘s a big problem for both him, for his publisher, and for Oprah. 

ABRAMS:  He says—this is number four.  He says this is the latest investigation into my past and the latest attempt to discredit me, so let the haters hate.  Let the doubters doubt.  I stand by my book and my life.

Andrew, you are convinced that not everything in the book is true? 

GOLDBERG:  Not only is it not true, I mean he‘s inserted himself into events that actually didn‘t involve him.  He talks about a girl he knew when he was in eighth grade who actually ended up dying in a car crash.  He says and you know the town turned on him instead of the person who is responsible for the train crash that killed her.

In reality there were two girls who died, seniors in high school, in the town he lived when he was a junior, both of them you know in a train crash.  It involved alcohol, neither of the two girls but the driver of the car, and he was never mentioned anywhere in the police report. 

He wasn‘t turned on by the town.  He wasn‘t questioned by the police.  And in fact, the—what it was, was he claimed a date, she was going with a football player.  It wasn‘t that.  It was totally a different situation.  But he inserted himself into this situation and made himself the victim. 

ABRAMS:  Steve, here‘s what he says.  He says some of them are, some of  them aren‘t.  I mean I just sort of tried to play off memory for that stuff with regard to his juvenile crimes at least. 

Is there an argument to be made that, all right, so he takes a little bit of poetic license, but the fundamental part of his book, his surviving, his drug addiction, et cetera, is true? 

ZEITCHIK:  Yes, you know I think there‘s been that argument made before with memoir, Dan, and I think that certainly you know the definition of it is looser than it would be for a biography for a history book certainly.  But at the same time I think literary license only takes you so far. 

You know I think that you know if you‘re exaggerating a couple of details, if maybe you‘re leaving out some of the boring conversation, as he said, then yes maybe you can get away with it, and maybe publishers would allow that and maybe the readers would accept it.  But I think in this case you know if in fact what Andrew is alleging is true, I think we‘re really dealing with a situation where, you know, he is not nearly the sort of legend, the hard-core legend that he claims to be, and I don‘t think you can hide behind that in this case. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  Andrew Goldberg and Steve Zeitchik, thanks a lot. 

Appreciate it.

GOLDBERG:  Thank you. 

ZEITCHIK:  Thank you. 

ABRAMS:  Coming up, Laci Peterson‘s mother, Sharon Rocha, finally speaking out, first time since her son-in-law was sentenced to death for the murder of her daughter and unborn son in her new book “For Laci: A Mother‘s Story of Love, Loss and Justice”.  Sharon Rocha shares personal stories of her daughter and her relationship with Scott Peterson. 

Remember, she initially defended Peterson, but that resolve started to fade as the days went by and then about three weeks after Laci disappeared Rocha and the rest of the world learned that Peterson had been having an affair with massage therapist Amber Frey. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SHARON ROCHA, LACI PETERSON‘S MOTHER:  I just said or cried, he didn‘t have to murder her.  I mean, I knew, when they said those words, I knew any of the suspicions I had been having, you know, all of his unusual behaviors, odd behavior, I knew that moment.  That just confirmed everything I was afraid to admit to myself and afraid to even think about, that he had killed her. 

KATIE COURIC, CO-HOST, “TODAY” SHOW:  You at one point called him and accused him of murdering Laci.  When was that? 

ROCHA:  January 16. 

COURIC:  And what did you say? 

ROCHA:  I think it was in that conversation where I asked him, where‘s Laci?  Where did you put her?  I want to bring her home.  And he kept denying it, and it just—the more he denied it, the angrier I got because he was so unconvincing.  When I asked him, did you murder Laci?  And he said no.  I mean, it was so unconvincing.  I would have been saying, what? 

Exactly.  Why on earth would you think that?  Why would you ask me that question?  You know, some kind of emotion there, something. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  When we come back, more of Katie Couric‘s exclusive interview.  Sharon Rocha tells about her premonition that Laci wouldn‘t survive the pregnancy, and her thoughts about Scott Peterson‘s new life on death row. 

Plus, a man breaks into a check cashing business to try to make off with some of its cash.  Little does he know the husband of that woman, the woman he‘s trying to rob, is on the phone.  It‘s all on tape. 

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

Authorities are looking for Bryant Angeletta.  He‘s 42, five-five, 135, was convicted of aggravated oral sexual battery, indecent behavior with juveniles, and sexual assault.  He has not registered his address with the state.  If you‘ve got any information about his whereabouts, that‘s the number, 800-858-0551.  Be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Coming up, Laci Peterson‘s mother shares her story for the first time since her son-in-law was sentenced to death.  Sharon Rocha is next.  First the headlines. 

(NEWS BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROCHA:  I want these men to stop murdering our daughters.  I mean, this is not their way out.  If they‘re unhappy in their relationship, then get a divorce.  Don‘t murder your wives. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Three years after Laci Peterson‘s murder, her mother, Sharon Rocha, finally telling her story in a new book about how her support for Scott Peterson turned to suspicion.  She told Katie Couric about Scott and Laci‘s relationship and about how thrilled Laci was to be pregnant.  But she also told of an experience she had with Scott and Laci that indicated Peterson might not have been as thrilled at the prospect of becoming a father. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) 

ROCHA:  I remember Laci and I were standing at one end of the dining room table and Scott was sitting at the other.  And she said oh, Scott‘s having a midlife crisis.  And I looked over at Scott and I said, a midlife crisis?  I said why are you having a midlife crisis? 

And as usual Laci answered, she said that, oh, he‘s feeling that way because he‘s turning 30 and becoming a father all in the same year.  And I looked over at him and, you know, I said oh, get over it. 

COURIC:  Around that time you write, I just feel like there‘s a dark cloud hanging over me. 

ROCHA:  What I was feeling was I had this concern that Laci wasn‘t going to survive her pregnancy, and I don‘t know why I felt that.  I just...

COURIC:  Like a very frightening premonition. 

ROCHA:  Yes. 

COURIC (voice-over):  The final events that made that premonition come true came as Christmas approached.  Scott Peterson was dating Amber Frey two and a half weeks before Laci‘s disappearance.  He was confronted by a friend of Frey‘s who had heard he was married.  Two days later he searched the classified ads for a small boat.  On Christmas Eve 2002, having no idea what was happening with her son-in-law, Sharon Rocha received the call that would change her life forever. 

(on camera):  And around 5:15 the phone rang, and it was Scott, and what he said frightened you immediately, didn‘t it? 

ROCHA:  He said that when he had gotten home, that the car was in the driveway and McKenzie was in the back yard with his leash on and Laci‘s missing.  And I can remember thinking, missing?  You know, that‘s not something you say.  You know, looking back, I was the very first person he called, and he used the word missing.  He didn‘t call her doctor.  He didn‘t call the hospital.  He hadn‘t called anybody else, yet he told me she was missing.  It‘s because he knew she was.  He knew she was gone. 

COURIC (voice-over):  She first noticed Scott acting strangely that very night in this Modesto park where the search for Laci began. 

ROCHA:  I remember when we got down into the park I jumped out of the car and I was running everywhere, just screaming her name, and I remember watching him walk near the creek.  He never opened his mouth.  He never called out her name.  And I was screaming his name.  And I remember thinking, I know you can hear me.  Why aren‘t you turning around and acknowledging me? 

COURIC:  The day after this candlelight vigil, eight days after Laci‘s disappearance, Sharon Rocha met with Peterson. 

ROCHA:  I described to him what I was going to do to the person who took Laci when we get Laci back.  I was making like I had a knife in my hand and I said I‘m just going to, you know, take chunks out of his body and go up one side and down the other side.  I mean that‘s just how I felt about this, and he just smiled.  And I remember thinking afterwards, you know, there was no, well, I get him first, or you‘re going to have to get in line, or I‘m going to help you or—it was just a smile. 

COURIC (on camera):  And he was actually grinning, like full-out grinning? 

ROCHA:  (INAUDIBLE) I never once heard him say, mom, where‘s Laci?  Who would have done this?  Why can‘t we find Laci?  Never, ever, ever did I hear him say anything to that effect.  Not only to me, I never heard anybody else say that he said it to them. 

COURIC:  You write about, and this just breaks my heart, I mean many things do, but about being obsessed with what happened to Laci. 

ROCHA:  (INAUDIBLE)

COURIC:  And how her life was ended.  Can you stop thinking about that? 

ROCHA:  I mean I was just beside myself thinking about what he had done to her, and did she know that it was happening and...

COURIC:  Was she afraid? 

ROCHA:  (INAUDIBLE) And how could he have done anything to Laci?  There was no reason.  There was no reason for him to kill Laci, other than pure selfishness. 

COURIC (voice-over):  As unbearable as it seemed to her at the time, she attended almost every day of Scott Peterson‘s trial. 

ROCHA:  I was there because I wanted to know what happened to Laci.  There were so many times I would look over at Scott and he was just in another world, which is what he did the day that I was testifying.  I‘m waiting for him to acknowledge that I‘m sitting here, and he never once looked at me, and that just infuriated me. 

Because he leaned over to Geragos, and they were laughing, and I‘m thinking just how disrespectful all the way around.  I‘m sitting here talking about Laci and how this has affected me, how much I miss her, what he‘s done to her, and he‘s laughing about it. 

COURIC (on camera):  Did you believe that Scott should get the death penalty? 

ROCHA:  You know, as far as I was concerned if he was convicted, it was the death penalty because he was going to die in prison.  I mean the life—life in prison is the same as a death penalty as far as I‘m concerned.  He‘s not going anywhere.  All I needed to hear was that the jury had found him guilty, and the trial was over for me. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ABRAMS:  My heart goes out to Sharon and her family.  The book is titled “For Laci: A Mother‘s Story of Love, Loss, and Justice”.  It‘s in bookstores now. 

Coming up, a robbery caught on tape.  The victim fights back begging for his life—her life, right in the middle of the attack, get this, her husband calls on the phone.  He hears what‘s happening.  It‘s all caught on tape.  That‘s next. 

And later, I‘ll admit it, some of the Alito confirmation hearings can be boring, but that does not mean we shouldn‘t care.  I say listening to it is sort of like the first day of work at a new job.  I‘ll explain.  It‘s my “Closing Argument”. 

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 robbery caught on tape.  The victim fights back trying to talk her way free.  Her husband overhears the whole thing on the phone.  We‘ve got all the tape up next. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  A robbery in Utah caught on tape, and it seems accidentally caught on the phone as well.  The victim‘s husband just happened to call at the right time allowing him to listen in as his wife was assaulted and robbed.  The incident lasted three minutes.  Armed with what he said was a toy gun bought at a Kmart he said later—at a Kmart down the street, the man vaults over the counter in a check-cashing store and attacks the owner of the store.  Holding her down by force he makes his way over to the safe and takes money.  But he doesn‘t leave. 

He tries to tie the woman up using duct tape.  She‘s struggling to get free, pleading with the man to leave her alone, telling him she‘s got a family and children, then right in the middle of all of this happening, the woman‘s husband just happens to call.  Now you saw him there pull the phone out.  Well, the assailant tried to rip it out of the wall, ends up knocking it off the hook allowing the woman‘s husband to hear everything, including his wife‘s pleas that the robber just take the money and let her go.  He immediately called 911. 

(BEGIN AUDIOTAPE) 

911 DISPATCHER:   9-1-1 Emergency.

HUSBAND:  I need to report an emergency at 590 North State Street in Orem.

911 DISPATCHER:   OK, are you calling from the business?

HUSBAND:  No I‘m not.  I just called my wife there and she knocked the phone off the hook while the guys were robbing her.

(END AUDIOTAPE)

ABRAMS:  Wow! Joining me now is Lieutenant Doug Edwards with the Orem Utah Police Department.  Lieutenant, thanks for taking the time.  This is unbelievable.  This guy‘s now been caught, arrested.  He‘s behind bars, right? 

LT. DOUG EDWARDS, OREM, UT POLICE DEPT. (via phone):  He is and he was picked up shortly after the robbery with information that we got from the business itself. 

ABRAMS:  Did you catch him there? 

EDWARDS:  We didn‘t.  This is a man who had actually been in the business earlier in the week and dealt with the same woman that he robbed, and had secured a loan from the business.  And so they had a file on this guy with a copy of his photo I.D., his home address, work address, and the officers were actually waiting for him at his home when he arrived at home. 

ABRAMS:  So this guy falls into the idiot criminals department? 

EDWARDS:  It‘s tough enough to live a life of crime, but it‘s even harder when you‘re stupid. 

ABRAMS:  Yes.  All right.  So we see him here.  He‘s really assaulting her.  I mean this is not light stuff.  I mean he really appears to be trying to grab her and trying to put duct tape on her or something.  Did she say she recognized him right away? 

EDWARDS:  No, I don‘t think that she ever let on to him that she recognized him.  And if you look at that video, he tried to keep her in front of him and bury her head in his chest to avoid being recognized, but it was all to no avail. 

ABRAMS:  And did he know that there was a camera there catching it all? 

EDWARDS:  I don‘t know whether he knew that or not. 

ABRAMS:  Now, we were saying that it‘s a toy gun.  Do we know it was a toy gun? 

EDWARDS:  We do. 

ABRAMS:  OK.

EDWARDS:  We recovered that gun when he returned home along with the clothing he was wearing and all the money that he took. 

ABRAMS:  How much money did he take? 

EDWARDS:  Well, we‘ll let that go for now.  We don‘t want to encourage anybody else to try that. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  That‘s fine.  And he literally—I mean just so we understand the context.  We‘re seeing what looks like a chair there and a desk, and there‘s what appears to have been a glass partition or something.  Did he have to climb through glass? 

EDWARDS:  No.  There was no glass partition. 

ABRAMS:  OK.

EDWARDS:  And that‘s one thing the business has said that they want to do.  He was able to just vault right over that counter. 

ABRAMS:  And when the—how quickly was it—how much time elapsed between the time the husband calls 911 until the time your folks are on the scene? 

EDWARDS:  Once the husband called, the officers responded, and they knew that the victim was all right and the suspect was gone, and so they didn‘t hurry their response to the business.  Rather, they were trying to close in and see if they couldn‘t catch this guy on foot leaving the area.  So it was several minutes before they were actually able to get to the business, and she stayed on the line with dispatchers. 

ABRAMS:  And he‘s confessed, right? 

EDWARDS:  I‘m sorry.  One more time? 

ABRAMS:  I said, he‘s confessed? 

EDWARDS:  Yes.  We feel like we have the right guy. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  Lieutenant, thanks a lot for taking the time. 

Appreciate it. 

EDWARDS:  You‘re very welcome.  Thank you. 

ABRAMS:  Coming up, all day, every network you watch the confirmation hearings of Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito.  You can admit it.  At times it‘s boring.  Up next I‘ll tell you why listening is kind of like the first day of work.  You‘ve got to do it, at least kind of.  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 we are trying to help the authorities in Louisiana. 

They‘re looking to locate Glenn Businelle.  He‘s five-seven, 140, was convicted of indecent behavior with juveniles.  Has not registered his address with the state.  If you have got any information of his whereabouts, please contact the Louisiana State Police, 800-858-0551.  Be right back. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  My “Closing Argument” --  I‘ll admit it.  I got a little bored watching the confirmation hearings of Judge Samuel Alito.  They‘re often arcane and predictable.  One of my producers remarked today this is what C-SPAN was created for.  The Republicans puff him up and then follow the praise with softballs.  The Democrats go after him as if he‘s a defendant accused of perjury.

This really is more political theater than a pure legal showdown, but let‘s make sure we don‘t lose sight of how important this is.  Who fills Justice Sandra Day O‘Connor‘s spot will likely affect all of our lives either directly or indirectly.  Her seat has evolved into a swing vote, the single vote that determines which way the court will decide so many of the 5-4 decisions.

Former Supreme Court Justice William Brennan once said the most important skill for any justice on the court was—quote—“counting to five”.  During O‘Connor‘s 24 years on the court she provided that fifth vote more frequently than any other justice on the court today.  Some of the 5-4 cases the court could revisit include laws banning late-term abortions with or without provisions to protect the health of the woman, whether the university should be allowed to use affirmative action in the admissions process, last year‘s decision that the Ten Commandments couldn‘t be displayed in a state courthouse but could be displayed if they were placed in historical context, whatever that means. 

The decision that race can be considered where congressional districts are drawn.  The list goes on and on and on.  In all these 5-4 decisions, O‘Connor‘s single vote made the difference.  Alito will likely have a different take than O‘Connor in many of these cases for better or for worse.  He will almost certainly be more conservative.  Now that matters.  Watching these hearings is sort of like the first day of work at a new office. 

With all of the new informational speeches, it can be a bit overwhelming, often confusing, sometimes boring.  You don‘t really listen to every detail, but you know it can affect your life.  So we should listen or at least try or at least read what was said.  But then again, this is day two, and then there‘s day three and day four and oh well...

Coming up, the Vermont judge who sentenced a man to 60 days for repeatedly raping a 10-year-old girl for four years.  The judge said the only way to get the guy counseling right away.  One of you agrees with the judge‘s sentence coming up. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  We‘re back.  I‘ve had my say, now it‘s time for “Your Rebuttal”.  That Vermont judge, Edward Cashman, who sentenced a man to 60 days for repeatedly raping a 10-year-old girl for fours years.  The judge claimed it was the only way to get him counseling right away. I was outraged at the sentence.  I said the rest of us didn‘t like it.

Allison Dunham responds.  “You‘re actually dead wrong.  Most reasonable rest of us Americans want someone if need be a judge to find solutions to crime and counseling to provide effective treatment for psychological disturbances in order to prevent recidivism.  Very few Americans share your lock them up and throw away the key mentality.” 

Yes, right Allison.  I‘ll bet you can‘t find one national politician who supports this ruling.  They‘re representing the Americans you‘re talking about. 

Lyn Ford in San Diego, “This case smacks of judicial sexual bias.  That man had four years in which to consider his actions on his child victim.  His possible anger at a longer sentence is of no interest to me or any other sane and moral person.”

Last night in my “Closing Argument”, Andrea Yates back in court preparing to be tried again for killing her five children.  I said it‘s a waste of time and resources, we already know what happened.  Everyone agrees, she was mentally ill and she was when she killed her kids.  And she admits she did it effectively. 

Why can‘t we work out a deal?  This would help get her assistance, medical—I mean mental assistance, save taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars, and make sure she doesn‘t walk. 

Robin Duffey in Alaska, “Your closing argument is absolutely right on the money when it comes to retrying the Yates‘ case.  Need I say more?”

No, Robin, when you agree with me, you need say nothing more. 

I also said there‘s no statute of limitations for murder, so if they‘re going to try and release her, say she‘s cured, prosecutors can retry her and then try to make sure she never walks free.

Alan Greenberg in Sunrise, Florida, “If Texas tries Andrea on three of the killings and then waits let‘s say 10 years to try her on the other two killings, you run smack dab into the speedy trial rule.  You can‘t wait 10 years to charge someone with a crime.”

Oh, contraire, Alan.  Texans have a constitutional right to a speedy trial, but that right kicks in after they‘ve been indicted.  There‘s no statute of limitations on charging someone with homicide, period. 

Finally, Janis Fensch in Bellingham, Washington.  “Right on.  Particularly since there are so many more pressing cases and investigations waiting in line and no time nor no money to deal with them.”

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

That does it for us.  Tomorrow on the program, we will be talking a little bit more about that Vermont judge and the sentence that was imposed. 

Coming up next, “HARDBALL” with Chris Matthews.  I will see you tomorrow.

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