updated 1/16/2006 9:20:48 PM ET 2006-01-17T02:20:48

Guests: Davidson Goldin, Marcia Robinson Lowry, Duncan Kilmartin, Mark Kaplan, Joe Tacopina, William Fallon

DAN ABRAMS, HOST:  Coming up, a rash of brutal attacks on homeless men in Florida, one man beaten to death, two teens caught on a videotape in one attack. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ABRAMS (voice-over):  Surveillance tape shows two young men beating a homeless man with bats.  The police are still trying to identify the culprits and need your help.  They think there could be up to four of them. 

And it‘s happened again, online sexual predators caught red-handed.  Another “Dateline” investigation catches more than 50 men coming to a house to meet what they thought were boys and girls after having sexually charged conversations online. 

And dramatic courtroom video in the trial of the man accused of killing pedophile priest John Geoghan.  Officers desperately trying to open the cell of the defrocked priest and dragging out another inmate now accused of killing him.  The defendant says he did it for the children. 

The program about justice starts now. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ABRAMS:  Hi everyone.  First up on the docket, disturbing videotape of a group of men severely beating a homeless man in the middle of the night.  A total of three homeless men attacked in Fort Lauderdale, Florida in under two hours.  One died from his injuries, two are in serious condition.  Police think the attacks are connected and are looking for two to four men responsible. 

NBC‘s Kerry Sanders joins us from the Fort Lauderdale Police Department with the latest.  Hey Kerry.

KERRY SANDERS, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  Well Dan, this is really disturbing.  The Fort Lauderdale police are quite baffled.  They think—they are hoping somebody out there will give them a lead, but they have the videotape, which of course is giving them some evidence of where to go.  And as you look at this videotape it‘s quite disturbing. 

This videotape is from a security camera at a downtown campus building in downtown Fort Lauderdale from the Florida Atlantic University.  And you see the two men come in there with a baseball bat swinging at the homeless man on the ground.  Now, just a short time later they move to another location where they attacked another man. 

That man they beat so badly they beat him to death.  And then a short time later another homeless man was beaten.  Now the police are not sure that it‘s the same group that‘s attacking but they believe it certainly appears to be the case.  All of these attacks took place in a four square mile area. 

They believe that while on the security camera—we see two people in the security camera; they believe there may be more people who are also participating.  Their guess is that the attackers are somewhere between the ages of 17 and 20.  Of course, the homeless community is now frightened.  They‘re not sure what to do. 

The Salvation Army has opened up additional emergency shelters so that folks who are normally on the streets will have a place to go to at least remain safe until these people are caught.  Unsure how long they‘ll remain open, but they say they‘ll be open long enough so that these people are taken into custody. 

Also homeless advocates are out handing out cell phones to the homeless.  Now these are not the cell phones that can call anywhere.  They‘re old used cell phones that have been handed over and still work for 911.  So they have charged the batteries, they‘re telling the homeless there are places they can go and charge their phones and dial 911 if they come under attack.  This is what they had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEAN CONONIE, HOMELESS ADVOCATE:  When someone does a hate crime, you can never explain it.  The hate would have to be so evil in their hearts that that would be the only explanation. 

LYNN WILLIAMS, HOMELESS PERSON:  I really haven‘t experienced anything like this since I‘ve come here until now.  And yes, I do feel like that we‘re—we have something to be afraid of. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SANDERS:  And so there‘s Lynn Williams, homeless, not by choice but homeless nonetheless and now fearful for her life, as are so many others.  The Salvation Army says that they hope to be able to accommodate up to 400 people tonight in their shelter. 

There‘s no real hard number that we can come up with of how many homeless there are by the very nature of who they are, but the authorities are concerned that not—it‘s just not normal for a homeless person to have access to a television, to a radio, maybe even to a newspaper to know that this is going on and they are fearful as it could happen again and that those who are out there are not on guard to protect themselves—Dan. 

ABRAMS:  Well these guys, the culprits here ought to be real nervous right now because in almost every one of these cases where they are caught on videotape, someone calls in, someone says, I know who that is and the police are asking for your help if you do recognize that guy, please, please call the Fort Lauderdale authorities. 

Kerry Sanders thanks a lot.  Appreciate it. 

SANDERS:  Sure.

ABRAMS:  All right.  Now to a heart-wrenching story out of New York, 7-year-old Nixzmary Brown found dead in the apartment she shared with her stepmother, stepfather and five brothers and sisters.  The same stepfather now charged with her murder. 

Cesar Rodriguez apparently beat her with his bare hands and a belt allegedly because she took some yogurt from the refrigerator.  He then plunged her head in a tub of cold water and smashed her head against the faucet or wall according to reports.  Little Nixzmary laid moaning for two hours, the cries for help ignored by her mother, they say. 

Nixzaliz Santiago, she‘s now charged with manslaughter.  The moaning stopped when little Nixzmary died.  This after dozens of phone calls, letters, please, and caseworker visits to her home over the course of about six months.  Teachers, neighbors, friend reported she had been beaten, tortured, bound to a chair, deprived of food on a regular basis. 

So the question, how did the administration for Children Services, the very organization put in place to protect children like Nixzmary, miss so many chances to save her life?  And what about those other people? 

Joining me now, Marcia Robinson Lowry, the founder and executive director of Children‘s Rights, a group that works to improve the lives of children and Davidson Goldin, columnist for “The New York Sun”, who‘s been looking into this story all day. 

All right, Davidson, we hear about this horrible story about this little girl and then we hear that it probably could have been prevented or it seriously should have been prevented.  Was it only the Child Services‘ fault here? 

DAVIDSON GOLDIN, “THE NEW YORK SUN”:  Well it seems to be only the Child Services fault, although in some sense you could also blame doctors who examined...

ABRAMS:  Yes, but you were saying a moment ago that in December she‘s found with a black eye and of course the typical response, oh, she fell, right...

GOLDIN:  And a doctor said, a doctor who examined her, her father, who apparently had been beating her brought her to the emergency room, a doctor there said he believed the story, that she had fallen.

ABRAMS:  How many reports and what are we talking—we‘re talking about all these different reports of abuse of her.  Give us a sense of how many of these reports are actually being called into Child Services. 

GOLDIN:  Well the reports go all the way back to last spring when she didn‘t show up—she was in school last May for just two days.  Teachers filed a report saying she had been absent.  There were later reports that she was malnourished.  When she died, Dan, she was only 36 pounds, so there were problems going back to last spring. 

When those problems were looked into the administration for Children Services bought the parents story.  They had six kids.  They were too busy to get her to school.  She wasn‘t eating that much.  They would feed her more food.  Whatever happened then the authorities bought it. 

Then this December a new report that she had a black eye, again, wasn‘t going to school.  The doctor said that he believed the parents‘ story that she had fallen and at that point they went back, the administration for Children Services caseworkers went back to her house and tried to take another look at her and her family and the stepfather wouldn‘t let them in.  At that point everybody seems to now agree they should have gone to the courts and gotten a warrant to make sure that she was OK and they didn‘t and that was a mistake. 

ABRAMS:  Yes, the commissioner from ACS here says I am deeply disturbed that despite our involvement with her family we were not able to protect Nixzmary Brown from what was apparently horrific abuse.

Marcia, is this is out of the ordinary?  I mean are we just highlighting a single story here where everything went wrong or is this a systemic problem, because I‘m going to talk to David in a minute about other problems in New York with very similar issues occurring.

MARCIA ROBINSON LOWRY, CHILDREN‘S RIGHTS ADVOCATE:  There have certainly been too many deaths of children previously known to the child welfare system recently and it certainly is very troubling.  I don‘t think that any of us can say definitively right now what happened, but it‘s clear that any time a child dies, it is tragic and it‘s even more tragic if we don‘t examine that case and really thoroughly investigate it. 

ABRAMS:  Well look, we can say she was murdered.  I mean she didn‘t die of natural causes. 

LOWRY:  Well I think that‘s clearly right.

ABRAMS:  Right. 

LOWRY:  The question—the real question here is was it a preventable death?  When a child is killed and the family hasn‘t previously had any contact with the Child Welfare Agency, that‘s horrible.  But here we have a child, and this isn‘t the only child, who was already under the purview of the Child Welfare Administration.  That‘s the situation and this isn‘t the only one when one has to say, what could an agency already alerted to the problems in this family have done differently?  And is there any pattern here between this case and other cases that we can use to change what we‘re doing so the next child doesn‘t die? 

ABRAMS:  Well and that‘s what I want to talk—I mean the bottom line is, David, this is the fourth death of a child, what, in the last couple of months...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  ... that arguably could have been prevented?

GOLDIN:  Well what they call them there are cases, children that are known to the system, a year-old boy beaten to death in the fall, another 16-month-year old boy who had been removed from his family because his parents put scalding water on him.  He drowned.  And then a 7-year-old girl whom doctors had said we should watch out for her because it looks like she‘s being beaten.  She was kneed in the stomach by her father and died...

ABRAMS:  And all of them, in all of those cases there had been reports to Child Services...

(CROSSTALK)

LOWRY:  There had been previous reports...

GOLDIN:  There had been reports...

LOWRY:  Yes.

GOLDIN:  ... in all of those cases and what the city points is that consistently over the last decade about 30 or so children each year that are known to the system do die, are in some cases killed or neglected by their parents. 

LOWRY:  Now it doesn‘t matter from my standpoint on behalf of children if the number is staying the same or going up.  What matters is how many if any of these cases are preventable. 

ABRAMS:  Yes.

LOWRY:  If it (UNINTELLIGIBLE).  Now one of the problems in New York is that the investigations subsequent to a child‘s death of what the circumstances were are done within the city Child Welfare Agency...

ABRAMS:  All right.  But the administrative procedural way they go about it is something they can evaluate later.  But in New York, I‘m interested in the fact that they actually have more money—I mean people always say oh we‘ve got no money, we got no money, but in New York they actually have more money than in most places to monitor this, right? 

GOLDIN:  Well 10 years ago there was a tragic death of a 6-year-old girl who for her entire six years on earth was being monitored by the administration for Children Services.  After that occurred, when she was beaten also, a very similar to this case in many tragic ways, the whole system was revamped.  More money was pumped in.  Management was changed.  Since then New York in many cases has been revered as a national model...

ABRAMS:  So is the head of the ACS now going to get fired?  I mean is he out because of this? 

GOLDIN:  He might be out.  We don‘t know yet...

ABRAMS:  We asked him to come on the program.  I should say we asked the mayor to come on the program.  No one seems to want to talk about this...

GOLDIN:  Well they‘re hunkered down trying to figure out what happened.  I mean he‘s not just on your program.  You won‘t see John Mattingly anywhere until they get to the bottom of this.  His job right now today is safe, but next week could be in jeopardy depending where this investigation goes. 

ABRAMS:  Yes.

GOLDIN:  What happened in all four of these cases in the last three months...

ABRAMS:  Yes.

LOWRY:  Well let me just say with regard to John Mattingly that in fact he is I think a very, very strong commissioner, which is not to say that the city ought to be excused...

ABRAMS:  Right.

LOWRY:  ... from responsibility here.  So when in fact that case took place 10 years ago, within a month after that my organization brought a class action lawsuit against the city because of how abysmal the services were...

ABRAMS:  Right...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  The question now is though how abysmal is it today and I guess the investigation is going to determine that...

(CROSSTALK)

LOWRY:  ... that‘s right, but...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  I understand.  Thank you.  I appreciate it.  We‘re just out of time. 

LOWRY:  OK.  Thank you.

ABRAMS:  Thank you so much for coming on the program.  Davidson Goldin, appreciate it.

GOLDIN:  My pleasure.

ABRAMS:  Coming up, I‘m not the only one upset with a Vermont judge who sentenced a man to just 60 days in prison even though he confessed to sexually abusing a young girl for years.  So is Vermont‘s governor.  So will the judge do the right thing and change his sentence?  We‘ll talk to the lawyer for the convicted pervert up next.

And “Dateline NBC‘s” hidden cameras are rolling again and again catching dozens of men coming to meet 12 or 13-year-olds or at least what they thought were, after having a sexually charged conversation online.  Once again, the man confronting them, “Dateline‘s” Chris Hansen, joins us with the latest sting operation. 

Plus, jurors see dramatic video of prison guards trying to open the cell of pedophile priest John Geoghan.  They pull out another inmate accused of murdering him.  The man‘s defense, I was doing it for the children. 

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  The thought of my niece enduring four years of sexual abuse sickens me.  For four years she was a prisoner in her own home.  For four years she had to fear going to bed at night. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  The serial molester who abused that woman‘s niece for years beginning when she was just 6 years old will likely be out of jail soon, sentenced by a Vermont judge to only 60 days.  Prosecutors have just filed a motion asking the judge to change his decision and extend the sentence. 

Judge Edward Cashman said a longer sentence would keep the now convicted sex offender, Mark Hulett, from getting timely treatment.  The judge‘s decision has people across the country outraged, some even calling for his resignation.  Vermont‘s governor is furious.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. JIM DOUGLAS ®, VERMONT:  And I think it was very inappropriate.  I was appalled at the modesty of the sentence for a child rapist.  I think the victim needs to be respected more.  I think our communities need greater protection.  And I was very, very disappointed in that sentence.  I was also shocked by the judge‘s comments that he doesn‘t believe in punishment. 

That‘s contradicted by people with very wide philosophical views.  Everyone agrees that a key element of the criminal justice system is punishment for a crime of that magnitude.  So I‘m deeply troubled that someone who is responsible for presiding over a criminal court makes the statement that he doesn‘t believe in punishment.  And if that‘s true, then I really think that person really ought not to be on the bench. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  On the day he sentenced Hulett, Judge Cashman said about punishment—quote—“I discovered it accomplished 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.  It‘s not my job.  I‘ve got to do something that solves problems.  The one message I want to get through is anger doesn‘t solve anything.”

Joining me now is Mark Hulett‘s attorney, Mark Kaplan, and one of the state representatives calling for Judge Cashman‘s resignation Duncan Kilmartin.  Thank you both for coming on the program.  Appreciate it.

All right.  Mr. Kilmartin, let me start with you.  The prosecutors are now asking for a longer sentence.  Do you think it‘s going to happen? 

DUNCAN KILMARTIN ®, VERMONT STATE REPRESENTATIVE:  I really can‘t predict that.  I do know that Judge Cashman is a careful thinker.  He‘s got a long and I think good history on the bench.  The question is will he be able to set aside what he‘s already said in writing and now that the governor or the secretary of administration has ordered the department to provide treatment, I think the judge has a lot of pressure on him to change the sentence and extend the minimum to protect especially, as the governor said, the victim. 

ABRAMS:  Here‘s what the judge said at the—in response to the initial effort to increase the sentence. 

I‘m aware that the intensity of some public criticism may shorten my judicial career.  To change my decision now, however, simply because of some negative sentiment would be wrong.  I owe it to the judiciary and to my own conscience to maintain a stand that I believe is the best possible option in a very difficult situation.

Mr. Kaplan, you would concede that your client got a surprisingly light sentence, right?

MARK KAPLAN, CLIENT SENTENCED TO 60 DAYS FOR MOLESTATION:  Well I mean I think to understand his sentence you really have to understand where the judge was coming from.  If the judge were to go back and reconsider the sentence and actually, in my opinion, it would be consistent with what he said at the time of the sentencing, I think it would be consistent with his latest opinion.  The judge‘s concern was the Department of Corrections gave him a pre-sentence report that said we want to punish this guy for three years but we will not provide any sex offender treatment for him while he‘s inside. 

And the judge essentially said to the Department of Corrections, and I think this is on the record and it‘s also in his memo that he just referred to, he indicated that look, I‘m going to give him to you for 60 days to 10 years and you‘re going to have an opportunity to re-evaluate your programs and see whether or not you actually can treat Mr. Hulett inside...

ABRAMS:  So that problem has been resolved.  I mean now the department is saying look we will give him treatment.  So it sounds like even you as his attorney expect a longer sentence. 

KAPLAN:  All I‘m saying is I think it‘s inappropriate to say Judge Cashman was opposed to a jail sentence.  He‘s made it clear from day one that he would have put this individual in jail for three years if he could have received sex offender counseling...

ABRAMS:  Right, but he made a choice between the amount of time in prison and treatment and he chose treatment over time in prison.

KAPLAN:  Well he did that because the Department of Corrections classified him as low risk...

ABRAMS:  Well I understand that, but he still made a choice between making him serve time and—because what the judge was saying—not everyone agrees with this—but, what the judge was saying was that he was effectively put in a position where he had to make a choice.  He said either I‘ve got to choose a short sentence and treatment or a long sentence and no treatment, he claims and he says that he chose the short sentence and treatment.  That‘s fair, right? 

KAPLAN:  Sure, that‘s fair, but he was hoping, you know, from my perspective that the Department of Corrections would bail everyone out and do the right thing...

ABRAMS:  Am I wrong in saying that it sounds like you think your client should get a longer sentence too? 

KAPLAN:  No, I‘m not suggesting that at all.  But you asked me I believe you know what the judge was thinking at the time that he issued the sentence and that‘s what he was thinking.  If he were to go back and indicate to the defense that he intended to reconsider what the sentence is, then I‘d have to sit down with my client and decide between us what he would like to do. 

It doesn‘t mean necessarily if the judge wants to give him three years that my client will accept that.  He may decide to withdraw his plea.  But all I‘m saying is I think that the criticism the judge has been receiving it just isn‘t—it isn‘t fair because it doesn‘t speak to all the facts that are...

ABRAMS:  Look, on this program we‘ve been laying out all the facts every time.  And the facts are he chose treatment over punishment, period.  I mean, Mr. Kilmartin, I don‘t think that‘s a radical way to view this.  He chose—he viewed it as a choice between treatment and punishment and he chose treatment over punishment. 

KILMARTIN:  And I think—I agree with that statement, but to me the larger issue is he ignored his constitutional mandate to provide a minimum sentence that would provide adequate assurance to the victim.  And I think the aunt expressed that very well.  It‘s really the common sense. 

We lawyers can sit around and talk about punishment and retribution, but taking care of the victim in these circumstances knowing what we know about the science of pre-puberty victims like this young lady really militates a substantial minimum to provide her with the appropriate assurance. 

ABRAMS:  And you do not agree, correct, Mr. Kilmartin that the judge had to choose between treatment and punishment, you don‘t agree with the judge...

(CROSSTALK)

KILMARTIN:  I agree with your statement. 

ABRAMS:  Right.

KILMARTIN:  I do not agree with the judge.  And in fact, his opinion doesn‘t have coherency.  He initially claimed on the second page that he was put in this position by a plea bargain, but in the next paragraph he recognizes he rejects the plea bargain, the defendant did not withdraw his plea and go to trial and then the judge deviated from the plea bargain and the judge at that point had a free hand as far as the written opinion suggests...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  And you‘re a criminal defense attorney, right? 

KILMARTIN:  I—for the first 21 years of my practice I did very serious criminal—I did serious felony defense work.  And in the last four or five years I have taken on some cases, yes. 

ABRAMS:  All right, let me—Mr. Kaplan, what has your client done to try to make amends for the horrible things that he‘s done? 

KAPLAN:  That‘s an interesting issue, because a defense expert testified at sentencing that one of the compelling reasons to start treatment immediately as opposed to waiting three to five years is that there is a restitution component to treatment which benefits the victim. 

ABRAMS:  You mean money? 

KAPLAN:  No, not money, but restitution in terms of the defendant receiving the kind of treatment that he needs to be in a position to express an appropriate apology.  It may be the victim isn‘t interested in receiving it...

ABRAMS:  Well...

KAPLAN:  ... but the defense expert spoke at some length about that being an integral part of treatment and that...

ABRAMS:  Well, that‘s not a particularly sympathetic position, the fact that he has to get treatment in order to apologize, I don‘t think anyone is going to feel you know any compulsion to get him treatment just so he can be in a position to apologize...

KILMARTIN:  This gentleman, as I understand it from Judge Cashman‘s...

ABRAMS:  Quickly, yes.

KILMARTIN:  ... memorandum is really a 35-year-old who has an emotional development of 12 to 14 and shows little empathy.  And I don‘t think it takes rocket science to realize that he does have some serious problems...

(CROSSTALK)

KILMARTIN:  ... if he is arrested at that and makes young girls...

ABRAMS:  Yes.

KILMARTIN:  ... particularly vulnerable to his fragility. 

ABRAMS:  Yes.  All right.  Mark Kaplan, Representative Kilmartin thank you very much for coming on the program. 

KILMARTIN:  Thank you.

ABRAMS:  Appreciate it.

KAPLAN:  Thank you.

ABRAMS:  Coming up, first it was a rabbi and a teacher who showed up at a house to meet what they thought were young teens after having a sexually charged conversation online.  Now “Dateline‘s” hidden camera is rolling again catching dozens more.  “Dateline‘s” Chris Hansen is the one confronting them.  He joins us. 

Plus, dramatic video of officers trying to open the cell of pedophile priest John Geoghan dragging out another inmate accused of killing him.  The defendant says he did it to protect the children. 

And our continuing series, “Manhunt: Sex Offenders on the Loose”, our effort to find missing sex offenders before they strike.  We‘re in Louisiana.

Michael Gowen, he‘s 40, green eyes, brown hair, six-one, 200 pounds, convicted of molesting a juvenile in ‘99, hasn‘t registered his address with the state.  If you‘ve got any information on his whereabouts, please contact the Louisiana State Police Sex Offender Child Predator Registry, 1-800-858-0551. 

Be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Coming up, another “Dateline” undercover investigation into online predators.  Chris Hansen is the one confronting the pedophiles again and he‘s back with us again.  First the headlines. 

(NEWS BREAK)

ABRAMS:  We‘re back.  A few months ago we told about you a “Dateline” undercover report that caught online sexual predators preying on children.  Remember Chris Hansen confronted a doctor, a teacher, even a rabbi, who all engaged in an explicit conversation with someone posing as a minor on the Internet, then came in person seemingly hoping to meet them. 

Well Chris is back, this time with a report from the West Coast where “Dateline” uncovered many more adults apparently looking for sex with minors online.  We‘ll talk to Chris Hansen in a moment, but first here‘s what he found.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CHRIS HANSEN, “DATELINE NBC” (voice-over):  Just this week “Dateline” was back in action for a third investigation into online predators, this time in southern California and as you‘ll see some men are simply not getting the message. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Hello.

HANSEN:  Meet 40-year-old Daniel Polito (ph)...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  ... come on in.

HANSEN:  He‘s hoping to meet a 13-year-old girl home alone. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I‘ve got to finish brushing my teeth, OK.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  OK.

HANSEN:  He sent her pictures over the Internet of his genitals and then asked if she‘d give him oral sex.  He‘s in for a big surprise when I walk in. 

(on camera):  How are you tonight?

(voice-over):  Like so many others he says he wasn‘t really here for sex.  He tells me he was here to teach the girl a lesson about the dangers of talking to strangers online. 

(on camera):  You posed naked on your webcam so a 13-year-old girl could see it because you wanted to teach her a lesson? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Well you could say that...

HANSEN:  So this is like a tough love thing...

(voice-over):  Daniel Polito (ph) may really be the one who needs to learn a lesson.  You won‘t believe what he admits to me.

(on camera):  You ever watch “Dateline NBC”?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes. 

HANSEN:  Have you ever seen our stories on computer predators? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes. 

HANSEN:  This is one of them.  Now if there‘s anything else you would like to say for yourself...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  No, that‘s it. 

HANSEN:  ... then obviously you‘re free to leave. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Thank you.

HANSEN (voice-over):  Unlike our previous hidden camera operations, where after leaving the house some men were able to make a run for it...

(on camera):  Want to talk to you for a minute...

(voice-over):  ... this time things will be different. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  You‘re not calling me to tell me like...

HANSEN:  For our new investigation, Perverted Justice, the watchdog group that regularly catches online predators set up a plan with the Riverside County Sheriff‘s Department. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Black Saturn doesn‘t ring a bell with anybody...

HANSEN:  Frag, a Perverted Justice volunteer, who is inside the house alerts detectives when a potential predator is on the way.  Once the man leaves the house he can run, but he can‘t hide. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Sheriff‘s Department, come out to the street. 

Turn around...

HANSEN:  And Daniel Polito (ph) is just one in another parade of potential predators. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Anything sharp in your pocket?

HANSEN:  Dozens of men show up, some who have already been convicted of sex crimes with minors. 

(on camera):  So you‘re on probation for having sex with a boy how old? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Fifteen. 

HANSEN:  Fifteen.  And now you are in this house to meet a 13-year-old boy. 

(voice-over):  While our first two investigations saw almost 20 men show up each time, as you‘ll soon see those numbers were dwarfed by what we found in our latest investigation in southern California. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ABRAMS:  Joining me now is “Dateline‘s” Chris Hansen.  Chris, thanks a lot for coming back on the program and again congratulations on keeping up this important work... 

HANSEN:  My pleasure, Dan.

ABRAMS:  ... that you guys are doing.  How did you get the authorities involved this time as opposed to in the previous occasions? 

HANSEN:  Well it was really Perverted Justice who had contact with the Riverside County Sheriff‘s Department and they pretty much worked it out.  I mean we did our usual investigation in the house.  Obviously, Perverted Justice is in the house because the group is supplying the decoys and the volunteers to do this and then Perverted Justice would let the sheriff‘s department know when somebody was coming.  Perverted Justice would give the sheriff‘s department the chat logs so they had some information and once they left the house after we talked to them it was really up to the sheriff‘s department at that point to make the arrest and make the charges stick and prosecute the...

ABRAMS:  Because there have been problems.  You mention making the charges stick.  There have been problems in the past with making the charges stick.  In fact, if I recall correctly, only one or two or something like that of all the people who you have caught on camera have actually been charged with crimes. 

HANSEN:  Well in the last case in Fairfax County, Virginia, at least four people are being prosecuted either by the District Attorney‘s Office or by military prosecutors. 

ABRAMS:  (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

HANSEN:  What happened in that case, Dan, was there were some jurisdictional questions as to whether or not the Fairfax County District Attorney‘s Office could take the cases because some of the guys weren‘t in Fairfax County when they were on their computer actually having this conversation, the alleged solicitation, if you will, the actual crime. 

Those issues in some of these cases were worked out so now we are seeing prosecutions in the past case, but obviously you are right.  I mean if you have the police outside and they can react to this in real time, it‘s a lot easier to make a case.

ABRAMS:  Is it getting easier for you to confront them?  I mean I would think that at the beginning it‘s a little bit uncomfortable—we‘re showing a video of you giving a naked guy a towel.  But I mean I would think that it‘s generally uncomfortable to be confronting these guys.  Is it becoming almost second nature to for you to say hey, sit down? 

HANSEN:  Well you know it‘s interesting because the first guy to walk in this time, I was absolutely just as anxious as the very first time we did it.  It really doesn‘t change because as much as you think you‘re thorough with your research and your background on who this fellow is, you really don‘t know what this guy could do when he walks in the door, so you‘re pretty anxious when he walks in. 

ABRAMS:  Chris Hansen, we appreciate it.  Thanks a lot.

HANSEN:  My pleasure, Dan.

ABRAMS:  You can see more of Chris‘ report on “Dateline NBC” tonight at 9:00, 8:00 Central. 

Coming up, dramatic courtroom video showing officers trying to open the cell of defrocked priest John Geoghan and then dragging out another inmate now accused of killing Geoghan.  The defense?  I did it for the kids. 

And later, all week I urged people to watch the Alito confirmation hearings.  You know what though?  In retrospect, I wonder how much we really learned?  I wonder whether we even need those hearings.  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 Boston jury shown dramatic video taken after the murder of defrocked priest John Geoghan.  We‘ll show it to you after the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  The man accused of murdering notorious pedophile priest John Geoghan in prison said moments afterwards he was acting as a savior of abused children.  Joseph Druce seen here being forcibly removed from the prison cell—this was played in court—where he allegedly strangled 16-year-old Geoghan using socks and sneaker strings in August 2003.  Druce confessed to a state prison investigator just moments after he was dragged from the cell to the prison‘s infirmary.  The investigator told the court that Druce said this. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I killed the child molester.  He won‘t touch any more kids. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Druce‘s attorney admits his client killed Geoghan who was serving a nine to 10-year prison sentence for molesting a 10-year-old boy, but Druce‘s attorney says his client shouldn‘t be held criminally liable because he was insane and that he thought he was doing the right thing. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  He conveyed to you the impression that he thought what he was doing was right, was morally right? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Correct. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Joining me now former Massachusetts‘ prosecutor Bill Fallon and criminal defense attorney Joe Tacopina.  All right, we‘ve talked about this before gentlemen, but Joe, it sounds like on cross-examination there the attorney is using exactly the argument we talked about before, which is this guy kind of deserved to die but as a legal matter that can‘t be his defense, right? 

JOE TACOPINA, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY:  Right.  You know the real defense in this case, Dan, is I did it for the kids past and future.  The kids he‘s molested, the kids he may molest if he gets out and works in that camp that he wanted to work with and children that Druce overheard Geoghan talking about with his sister on the phone.  He thought he was going to go work for some children‘s camp.  That‘s not a legal defense. 

Mental defect is a legal defense.  But in this case it may be the real defense.  I mean this jury may just say, look, you know Geoghan was a monster.  He was a predator.  He preyed on the most innocent victims and he abused the highest position of trust you could abuse.  He didn‘t deserve to live. 

You know it‘s not right to kill someone, but this guy, Druce is in jail.  He‘s going to spend the rest of his life in jail.  You know do we really need to convict him of the murder?  You know they may feel that hey, you know what, Geoghan deserved to die and while they wouldn‘t have done it, you know maybe we don‘t convict for it. 

ABRAMS:  And I think that the prosecutors have to do something very different. 

TACOPINA:  Absolutely.

ABRAMS:  They have to try and show, Bill, and I‘m going to let you listen to this piece of sound from today from Lieutenant Edward Hammond.  They have to show in essence this guy wasn‘t doing it for the kids.  He was doing it to be infamous or thought it would be—make him notorious or something like that.  Here‘s what Edward Hammond said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LT. EDWARD HAMMOND, MASS. DEPT. OF CORRECTIONS:  (UNINTELLIGIBLE) he appeared to be very pleased with himself and boast all about his actions throughout the entire interview.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  That‘s really the key, isn‘t it Bill?

WILLIAM FALLON, FORMER ESSEX COUNTY MA PROSECUTOR:  Dan, I think so.  The other day, as we said, I think that the important thing is this guy is a manta (ph) type person and he wants to be a star.  Remember, what the prosecution has to do, as Joe kind of says, is make this jury care, not so much that this guy is dead.  They‘re not going to care so much even though Geoghan was 68, particularly with this plan to work with children.

That works against him.  But they‘re going to have to care that this guy, a convicted murderer, remember he‘s not in there for something else, is murdering again.  The system cannot allow it.  He cannot do it and he cannot be the star of the show.  And I think that that to me is what is different. 

And I will say I think the murder conviction, he maybe wouldn‘t be convicted if in fact right after he heard that they were going to work with children when he got out...

ABRAMS:  Yes.

FALLON:  ... he just reacted, went nuts and did it.  This was a planned...

ABRAMS:  Joe, what about the tape...

FALLON:  ... extermination.

ABRAMS:  How do you think the tape plays?  Which way does that cut in terms of all the police officers there trying to get into his cell and he‘d actually sort of jimmied it so that they couldn‘t get in? 

TACOPINA:  Yes I mean look, you can have a mental defect to the point where you‘re not criminally culpable and still have intelligence and even be (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and be able to maneuver like that.  You know, it doesn‘t make you sane for the purposes of the law.  But it‘s not a good tape for the defense because it does put some life to the murder. 

It does show you know that all these law enforcement officers had to get involved and pull this guy out and Dan, Bill just hit on it.  If I‘m the prosecutor in this case, in some in substance (ph) on my summation I would say something about the victim in this case isn‘t John Geoghan ladies and gentlemen.  The victim in this case is the rule of law.  We cannot have the inmates running the asylum.  We can‘t now condone murders of people who are almost scourless (ph).

ABRAMS:  And Bill real quick, the standard in Massachusetts is not such a tough one as we have seen in some other states.  I mean a person is not responsible for criminal conduct if at the time of such conduct as a result of mental disease or defect he lacks substantial capacity either to appreciate the criminality, wrongfulness of his conduct or to conform his conduct to the requirements of law.  I mean he could certainly argue he didn‘t appreciate the criminality wrongfulness.

FALLON:  Well Dan except of course he planned it.  He said I talked him into letting him think nothing was going to happen.  I then kind of made it so I couldn‘t get out.  I think they‘re going to lose on the wrongfulness. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  That‘s right.

FALLON:  I think it‘s going to be whether this jury nullification...

ABRAMS:  I think so too.

FALLON:  ... and that‘s up to the prosecutor.

ABRAMS:  I think so too.  All right Bill Fallon and Joe Tacopina, thanks a lot.  Appreciate it. 

Coming up, all week I urged everyone to watch the confirmation hearings for Samuel Alito.  Now I must say it was an interesting civics lesson, but I‘m just not sure it helped assess whether he‘s the man for the job.  It‘s my “Closing Argument”.

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

Authorities are trying to find Joseph Alford, he‘s 39, 5-11, 300 pounds.  Alford was convicted of molesting and fondling a child, hasn‘t registered his address with the state.  If you‘ve got any information on his whereabouts, please contact Louisiana State Police Sex Offender Unit, 800-858-0551.

Be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  My “Closing Argument”—it‘s time to end the Judiciary Committee review of Supreme Court nominees as we know it.  I watched and/or covered almost all the questioning by the senators and wonder what have we or the senators really learned from the hearings of Judge Alito or even Chief Justice Roberts, not from their past writings, comments or opinions but from the hearings themselves? 

Their supporters would say that we have seen that both Roberts and Alito are well versed in the law and have the judicial temperament and knowledge to make it on the nation‘s highest court.  Their detractors cite their extreme views and their refusal to answer important questions.  It‘s all political gobbledygook. 

We knew they were well versed in the law and that they have taken some controversial positions before the hearings and we knew that they could not and would not answer the questions everyone wanted answered.  What significant matter regarding either candidate‘s judicial philosophy has been elucidated based on their answers?  The partisan Congress has effectively created a system where the nominee‘s only goal is to avoid slipping up, a sort of judicial drool test. 

Now if there is a specific issue, which could be truly clarified, then it should be asked and answered.  It was fair to ask Clarence Thomas to explain the sexual harassment allegation against him and for Judge Robert Bork to have to explain some of his more radical positions, and it sure was nice for Judge Alito to be able to address the issues about whether he should have recused himself from a case involving a mutual fund he owned shares in and his controversial membership in a Princeton alumni group. 

But the assault went on for days with senators repeating their questions.  Judge Alito repeating his answers.  Generally it was the senators telling us how outstanding or frightenly dangerous the nominee is or will be.  The Senate‘s role of advise and consent seems to be transforming into advising the judge on how to interpret law rather than advising the president about his choice. 

There is nothing in the Constitution that demands a Senate Judiciary Committee review.  In fact, the fist time any nominee went before the committee was in 1925.  Harlan Fiske Stone was asked to do it as a result of a political tit-for-tat between certain senators and President Calvin Coolidge.  He answered questions for five hours, didn‘t become regular practice until 1955, but a lot has changed since then.  The court has been drawn into the fierce political divide.  These hearings unnecessarily politicize and demean the Supreme Court and I expect it‘s only going to get worse. 

Coming up, many of you writing in upset at Oprah for defending author James Frey.  Your e-mails are next. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  We‘re back.  I‘ve had may say, now it‘s time for “Your Rebuttal”.  Last night James Frey, the author of the Oprah Book Club selection “A Million Little Pieces” under fire for making up details about his criminal background in his book, which recounts his battle with drug and alcohol addiction.  He insists it‘s not a big deal.  I didn‘t buy it. 

Elizabeth Floyd from Albany, New York, “The writer of a memoir is not a biographer.  He‘s telling his own story with all the occasional embellishments you would expect of a novelist, poet, or raconteur.”

Nonsense.  Even Webster‘s dictionary cites an autobiography as a synonym for memoir.  We expect it to be true, period. 

Karen Johnson from Westchester, New York, “It doesn‘t matter one bit if Mr.

Frey embellished his writing.  He is an outstanding writer.”

Darryl Johns from Philadelphia, “Mr. Frey did not merely embellish.  He made up situations that did not happen.  He lied.”

Oprah announced she still supports him.  Mary Wagner from Colorado, “I was shocked and appalled at how Oprah defended James Frey, defended the book and tried to blame it on the publisher.  People have to wonder if James Frey made up parts of the story covering his time in rehab.”

From Brunswick, Georgia, Teri Gregg.  “I don‘t care if it‘s a memoir or a complete work of fiction.  What I do care about is that this is a powerful book that affected me deeply.”

Rich Reilly from Gaithersburg, Maryland, “I could understand him remembering drinking 24 beers when he actually had 12 when he had his epiphany.  But to turn a five-hour jail stay into a three-month prison term is not only checkable but knowingly dishonest.”

Lori from South Dakota seems to know a thing or two about police reports.  “You cannot always go by police reports because they are not an accurate account of what happened from experiences I‘ve had with them.  They leave a lot out.”

My “Closing Argument” last night some complaining we should have covered the Alito hearings without interruption rather than offering explanations in context.  I said my years of covering long form legal stories I‘ve become convinced that context and analysis can make sometimes difficult legal language assessable to everyone including me. 

Most of you agreed including Cindy Saver.  “I watched MSNBC because of the interruptions, which I found helpful and understanding the background behind the questions and responses.”  Thanks Cindy.

But Jim Abromitis, “We the viewers rarely see these types of hearings.  We would like to see them in their entirety.  Trying to get cute or fancy bringing the news is not as effective as just bringing the news.”

From Savannah, Georgia, Danielle Daley, “I‘m glad we viewers have you to stay on top of things.  Those who criticize you have nothing better to do.”

Michael Havener, “Yes, there were a couple of times I thought to myself hey, Dan, shut your yap.  Trying to listen here.  But in the end the explanations and opinions were well worth the interruption.”  Thank you, Michael.

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

That does it for us tonight.  Thanks for watching.  “HARDBALL” with Chris Matthews is up next.  See you tomorrow—oh next weekend. 

END

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