updated 2/6/2006 10:29:18 AM ET 2006-02-06T15:29:18

Guest: Ragan Ingram, Michelle Paradise, Del Harvey, Emmett Hanger, Jr.,

Jeralyn Merritt, Jake Goldenflame, Paul Walsh, Richard Spirlet, Deborah


DAN ABRAMS, HOST:  Coming up, “Dateline NBC” at it again tracking down potential sexual predators online and once again it's hard to believe who they are. 


ABRAMS (voice-over):  A teacher, an actor, an employee of the Department of Homeland Security, all busted by a hidden camera investigation.  What can be done to stop this from happening?  One state is proposing surgical castration.

And five Alabama churches burn in one night, three of them destroyed.  Authorities believe it is arson.  We will talk to the official in charge of the investigation. 

Plus, an exclusive look at the wedding of George Smith and his wife Jennifer just days before he disappeared on a honeymoon cruise.

The program about justice starts now. 


ABRAMS:  Hi everyone.  First up on the docket, five suspicious Alabama church fires overnight.  Three of the churches burned to the ground.  Most were Baptist.  All were in Bibb County, just 25 miles from Birmingham.  Authorities also are investigating a possible link to another Baptist church burned yesterday in a nearby county.  No arrests have been made.  And unlike a series of arsons in 1996 that damaged several black churches in Alabama, yesterday's fires targeted both black and white congregations.

Joining me now on the phone is Ragan Ingram, assistant commissioner for the Alabama Department of Insurance, which oversees fire investigation in the state.  Thanks very much for coming on the program.  We appreciate it.  Do we know anything more about what may have been the motive here? 

RAGAN INGRAM, ALABAMA DEPARTMENT OF INSURANCE (via phone):  At this point we do not.  It is still early in the investigation.  Our office, the state fire marshal's office is working closely with ATF, FBI, the Alabama Bureau of Investigation and local officials and trying to sort out five different scenes in Bibb County and then also we are investigating the fire in neighboring Chilton County.

ABRAMS:  Now I read in one report that all of the fires or almost all of them started at the pulpit, is that true? 

INGRAM:  Witnesses at two of the locations said that is what happened at the two churches that were not destroyed.  Because of the destruction of the three other churches, that determination has not been made yet.  One thing we're really watching for right now is that bad weather is actually moving into the area from Mississippi and we are having to watch the weather a little bit.  We are a little concerned because we don't want the scenes to be compromised in any way.

ABRAMS:  Is it pretty clear that whoever did this went from one site, zoomed off to the next site, set the next church on fire, and then went to the next one after that? 

INGRAM:  I don't think we can make that determination yet if it was a situation of—particularly in the two that—there is more evidence available at this point regarding the two that were not destroyed because of you know what is left behind.  I don't think you can make a determination yet.  Our investigation is going to move forward.  And if it's determined that all five are arsons, then we will be looking for any and all that may have had anything to do with it.

ABRAMS:  It would be pretty coincidental, would it not?  I mean...

INGRAM:  It would be amazingly coincidental.

ABRAMS:  Yes.  Right.  So, I mean certainly that's the...

INGRAM:  Well I mean until we extract the evidence that we need to say the word arson we need to continue to call them highly suspicious I mean because of the proximity and because of the timing of the fires being in a relatively tight time period and in a relatively small area in Bibb County.

ABRAMS:  And this was in the middle of the night.  No one was—was anyone hurt in the churches?

INGRAM:  No, no one was hurt.  Most of the fires apparently started probably just before midnight and the last call we were aware of was around 3:30 on one of the fires that did not destroy a church. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  Well good luck in the investigation, Mr. Ingram. 

INGRAM:  Thank you very much, Dan.

ABRAMS:  Thanks for coming on the program.  All right, switching gears.

Once again “Dateline NBC” goes undercover into the dark world of children and sex, pairing up with Perverted Justice, an online vigilante group that uses decoys posing as teenagers to catch potential predators.  You've seen it before and yet, the offenders don't seem to be learning the lesson. 

This time “Dateline” was in Riverside, California.  They rented a house, created a virtual control room upstairs, wired the house with hidden cameras and computers.  They got to work with volunteers posing as 12, 13, and 14-year-old children in chat rooms waiting to be solicited for sex.  But this time they got help from the authorities.

Once again “Dateline NBC's” Chris Hansen was leading the charge.


CHRIS HANSEN, “DATELINE NBC” (voice-over):  This is 43-year-old Walter Edward Babst.  He is here to meet a 12-year-old girl after a sexually charged online conversation, but Babst was really chatting with a decoy from a computer watchdog group Perverted Justice and now he is about to meet me.

(on camera):  Well why did you come here?  Help me to understand.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Because I am a sick son of a bitch. 

HANSEN (voice-over):  A married man with children who wrote that he wanted to get naked with a child spends every day with a classroom full of them. 

(on camera):  What grade do you teach? 


HANSEN:  High school?


HANSEN (voice-over):  Walter Babst was just one of the nonstop parade of potential predators who showed up at our sting house apparently expecting to have sex with minors.  Men like Chris Moore, who says he's a stand-in actor. 

(on camera):  You know how people will react when they see this?  I mean this does not look good. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I know.  I know.

HANSEN (voice-over):  Or this man, an antiques dealer.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Well you better—I will shove that camera down his throat.

HANSEN (on camera):  I don't think you're going to want to do that. 

(voice-over):  Several men made a run for it as soon as they saw me.


HANSEN:  But unlike our previous investigations they didn't get very far.  They ran right into the arms of the Riverside County Sheriff's Department, which cooperated with Perverted Justice.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Get on the ground.  Get up.


HANSEN:  Over three days, 50 arrests. 

MICHELLE PARADISE, RIVERSIDE COUNTY, CA DEPUTY D.A.:  I was surprised at how many actually came in just that period of time.  It was alarming. 

HANSEN:  The cops worked from morning until night booking the suspects.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Did you understand each of those rights that I've explained to you?


HANSEN:  Guess what this man does for a living? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  My father was a police officer.  I was a police officer.  I work for the Department of Homeland Security. 

HANSEN:  And this man, he's a registered sex offender. 


HANSEN:  Apparently so eager to have sex with someone who said they were a 13-year-old boy online that he boards a bus and walks more than two miles to get to our house. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Hey, sir.  Sir, can you come back over here please and have a seat right...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Why were you in such a hurry to (INAUDIBLE)...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Oh, I'm looking.  I thought I was looking for somebody.  That's all. 

HANSEN:  But it gets worse.  This man arriving at the undercover house has a long history of preying on children.  And this woman was one of his victims. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I can't believe that he is still I mean out there doing this.  I am just floored.  It's just sickening. 


HANSEN:  That woman, Desiree Holcomb (ph), was sexually assaulted 20 years ago by the man you saw walk into our house.  She says she still suffers nightmares.  In all, four men, four registered sex offenders out of a group of 50 people walked into our house looking to have sex with a 12 or 13-year-old boy or girl.  Tonight, we will explore exactly what should happen to these guys.  Is prison enough of a deterrent and is there any sort of a treatment program that works—Dan. 

ABRAMS:  All right, we're going to talk later about the possibility of surgical castration one state is considering.  All right, 50 people come to this house, Chris.  This is in a matter of how much time?

HANSEN:  Three days. 

ABRAMS:  And let's be clear.  These are not—the decoys are not going online saying I want sex, right? 

HANSEN:  The decoys are going into chat rooms and they set up a profile with a picture that is unmistakably under age and they wait to get approached by an adult.  Now in some cases, once the conversation starts, yes, the decoys open to the idea of a visit and open to the idea of sex.  I mean they are not (INAUDIBLE) but at the same time, they're not the ones making the first approach.

ABRAMS:  Now, Chris, did any of the men—I understand that there was some effort to prevent “Dateline” from airing this report? 

HANSEN:  Subsequent to their arrests, there have been some court appearances, Dan, in Riverside County, California.  A half a dozen or so men have gone to court, have pleaded not guilty.  One of the defense lawyers in the case tried to get the judge to impose a gag order on the prosecutor in the case and on “Dateline NBC”.  In other words, what they tried to do is prevent us from airing this story.  They were worried that perhaps there would be too much pretrial publicity and they wouldn't be able to have fair jurors and  -- or impartial jurors...


HANSEN:  ... and a fair trial.  The judge struck all that down including the gag order on the...

ABRAMS:  Yes, as I would have expected.

HANSEN:  Exactly.

ABRAMS:  The excuses, Chris, the same—each time you go to different places, different places in the country, different men show up and yet it sounds like you hear the same excuses again and again. 

HANSEN:  Well you know they get—they change a little bit.  For instance, we had one man who walked in, who was 65 years old and I startled him and I said what are you doing here?  He said well I'm selling a house and I thought there was a guy here who might be interested in buying it. 

I said well the only problem with that is where is a 13-year-old going to get the money to buy your house?  And he sat down and suddenly he starts telling a different story about how it is OK to have sex with a 13-year-old kid.  And he's got a book and this is how it works.  And the next thing you know the police are raiding his home and they find what they say are 500 imagines of child pornography.

ABRAMS:  I've asked you this question before, but hearing the one guy on tape say he was going to stick that camera down your throat, any potential or close to violence occur? 

HANSEN:  Well you know we're always prepared for that.  We always talk about the possibility, but the reality is that in the vast majority of these cases the people either run or they sit down and talk.  Some feel relieved to get it off their chest.  Some want to explain that they've got an addiction or a compulsion, but no one really came at us this time.  We never felt that we were in any incredible danger. 

ABRAMS:  And of course initially when you ask them to sit down they don't know that the cameras are rolling, right?

HANSEN:  Exactly.  We've got multiple hidden cameras in this house and when they come in they don't have any idea they are being recorded and I don't tell them right away who I am.  I just you know calmly ask them to sit down and start asking them questions.  If they ask, you know I say yes, I'm Chris Hansen with “Dateline NBC” and at some point I always say that and that's when the regular cameras come out and if they have something more to say, then you know we'll hear it.  If not, they can go.

ABRAMS:  You have done this a number of times now.  Does it still surprise you how many men show up in such a short period of time? 

HANSEN:  It really does.  In this case it was a little more challenging because obviously Perverted Justice had been in contact and brought the Riverside County sheriffs into this.  So not only did we have to worry about men running into each other, we had the component of the Sheriff's Department arresting these guys and trying to get them off the scene before the next guy would show up. 

We had one case where a guy shows up while the detectives are arresting a previous visitor.  The guy sees this, Dan.  He calls the decoy.  He says what is going on.  She makes up a story that OK there was a drug bust next door.  He says fine.  I'm on my way.  He shows up.

He comes into the house.  It turns that out not only did this guy see police activity.  He had been caught by a Perverted Justice and posted before and he had seen our last story on “Dateline NBC” and he still came into the house to meet a young girl. 

ABRAMS:  And very quickly—and what did he say when he acknowledged that he had seen the “Dateline” report before? 

HANSEN:  He said he was stupid and bored. 

ABRAMS:  Yes.  All right.  Chris Hansen, keep up the great work. 

Thanks a lot.  Appreciate it. 

HANSEN:  My pleasure, Dan.

ABRAMS:  You can see Chris' entire report tonight on “Dateline” at 9:00, 8:00 Central. 

Coming up though, what's going to happen to all these men.  It's the first time “Dateline” has worked directly with the authorities.  We're going to talk to the prosecutor.

Plus, Massachusetts authorities says he was hunting homosexuals when he allegedly walked into a bar asking—quote—“Is this a gay bar?”  He opened fire, went after a customer with a hatchet.  He is now a wanted man. 

And later, an exclusive look at the wedding video of George Smith and his new wife just days before he disappeared on his honeymoon cruise.

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


ABRAMS:  We're back.  With more on “Dateline NBC's” undercover sting in another pairing with Perverted Justice, an online vigilante group.  “Dateline” rented a house, rigged it with cameras and computers, put the Perverted Justice decoys to work, having them pose as young teens in chat rooms, waiting to be solicited for sex.

Oh, the men came to the house.  They came hoping to meet the teen, but were not so pleasantly surprised to be greeted instead by “Dateline NBC's” Chris Hansen.  Some ran.  Others sat around and chatted for a while, but this time local police were waiting outside for them, arresting the men on the spot.

Joining me now Del Harvey with Perverted Justice and Michelle Paradise, the deputy district attorney in California's Riverside County, where the “Dateline” house was set up.  Thanks to both of you for coming on the program.  Appreciate it.

All right, Ms. Paradise, let me start with you.  They've had problems in the past prosecuting these cases.  There have been jurisdictional issues.  There have been other legal reasons that they couldn't move forward and prosecute them because for example the fact that the decoys weren't actually teens.  Are you facing any of those problems?

PARADISE:  No, the fact that they are not actually teens just means that we can't charge an actual child molestation charge, but instead an attempt child molestation charge.  So the intent is still there to commit the crime against a child, so we do have laws that govern that. 

ABRAMS:  Are you prosecuting all of the men who were in the house? 

PARADISE:  We are prosecuting all 49 that were arrested, yes.

ABRAMS:  Del, why has it been in the past that they have had such trouble prosecuting these people? 

DEL HARVEY, PERVERTED JUSTICE:  Actually, even in the past, we've increasingly had them come back and say we will try prosecuting them after all if you guys don't mind.  Even the Fairfax cases are being prosecuted.  There was initially a lot of backlash about whether or not they would be. 

They are now actively prosecuting them.

ABRAMS:  And when you say actively prosecuting them, not all of them but a good number?

HARVEY:  Actually, even those that did not fall within the Fairfax County jurisdiction were referred to other jurisdictions, so I believe that hopefully eventually they're all going to be prosecuted. 

ABRAMS:  Ms. Paradise, had you seen this “Dateline” report before they did this in Riverside County?

PARADISE:  Yes, I had seen the second one that was done.

ABRAMS:  So you weren't—I mean the first time I saw this I was stunned.  I was stunned to see in how quickly they post these—they put these things online and how quickly the men start soliciting sex and how quickly they end up at the house.  It just shocked me and I was just wondering your reaction to the numbers.

PARADISE:  It was the numbers that was actually surprising.  I wasn't surprised that it was happening or the types of persons or classes or anything like that—where it was occurring, but rather just the numbers, 49 men showing up in three days, that part was surprising. 

ABRAMS:  How much time are they facing? 

PARADISE:  If each case is individual, so a sex registrant may be facing more time than someone that has no history, someone with strike offenses will be facing more time than someone that doesn't have any history, but minimally they—the maximum exposure is four years. 

ABRAMS:  Del, how different has it been this time working with the authorities? 

HARVEY:  Well we've been increasingly working with authorities as is, but I really can't say enough great things about the Riverside Police Department.  They have just done an amazing job this time around.  They made it so easy to work with them and they came onboard (INAUDIBLE).  It was a great experience all around. 

ABRAMS:  When you heard, Del, that one of the men had said he had seen a previous “Dateline” report, pretty amazing (INAUDIBLE)? 

HARVEY:  He was actually the same one—I was actually the verifier for that, so he called me and I said yes, there's a meth lab next door, so I already kind of knew that he wasn't the brightest guy to show up afterwards. 

ABRAMS:  Yes.  A lot of these guys are idiots also, in addition to being perverts, right? 

HARVEY:  Yes, I'd agree with that. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  And Ms. Paradise, how long until these cases work their way through the courts? 

PARADISE:  You know that's a good question.  Sometimes it is an individual case-by-case basis.  We have some that have been arraigned already.  We had about 10 that were arraigned today I believe and we've still got more coming in.  So depending on what—whether or not a particular defendant pleads or...


PARADISE:  ... decides to go to a jury trial, that will determine how long it actually takes to get through the process.

ABRAMS:  All right, Del Harvey and Michelle Paradise, thank you very much for taking the time.

PARADISE:  You're welcome.

HARVEY:  Thank you.

ABRAMS:  One legislator in Virginia has a controversial proposal to help stop sexual predators, castration.  Not chemical, surgical castration.  Republican State Senator Emmett Hanger Jr. is talking about castrating adults who finish their sentences for certain violent sex crimes.  He wants physical castration mandatory for adults who rape children.  Other offenders could agree to be castrated instead of being civilly committed. 

Joining me now is Virginia State Senator Emmett Hanger, who's behind the castration proposal, and criminal defense attorney Jeralyn Merritt joins us as well.

All right.  Senator, why castration? 

EMMETT HANGER, JR. ®, VIRGINIA STATE SENATOR:  Well, I was looking basically for a deterrent and effective treatment and really as a part of an overall cost containment strategy that I've been working on because of the costs associated primarily with the secure behavioral treatment program that we've set up here in Virginia. 

ABRAMS:  So this proposal would mean that anyone who is convicted of raping a child, boom, they are castrated? 

HANGER:  Well that actually at the moment isn't a part of the bill.  Every—the bill—the posture that it's in right now is a voluntary measure.  We go through a screening process.  The treatment program that we have here in Virginia is relatively new. 

We have 22 individuals in the program.  Most of them pedophiles.  But it's costing us about $300,000 a year per individual for this program for the taxpayers and it's going to mushroom as far as the numbers in the program.  So it's a cost containment strategy.  It would require a court order with voluntary submission to this as a part of a conditional release, which also would involve electronic surveillance and behavioral treatment including anger management in an outpatient setting. 

ABRAMS:  So you don't—am I wrong?  I mean I thought that one of the things you also wanted though was mandatory castration, even though it's not in the bill.  What you wanted was mandatory castration for anyone...

HANGER:  No question. 


HANGER:  I think that that is an appropriate punishment and it's certainly a deterrent to go straight to the problem in this instance and remove the testosterone.  So you know I'm a realist at this point in time.  I don't think I can get legislation like that through the legislature in Virginia, but I wanted to begin a conversation...

ABRAMS:  All right.

HANGER:  ... I am serious when I say that I would support it and hopefully we'll get the public thinking that that's a very good idea. 

ABRAMS:  Jeralyn, let's take these separately.  Let's take the mandatory one separate from the voluntary one.  First let's deal with the issue of the senator saying that anyone who rapes a child mandatory castration. 

JERALYN MERRITT, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY:  Well I think it's a publicity stunt.  It's not going to be constitutional.  The courts are not going to endorse that and I think that it's not even well advised.  I think if Virginia really wanted to save money in the treatment of sex offenders and make the community safe, it ought to be providing sex offender treatment in prison during the—you know from the minute these people get to prison.  It should lengthen the prison terms if necessary through the legislator and that's the way to do it.  These—you know testosterone is not going to solve every sex offender's problem.  They're not all driven by testosterone.  Some of these crimes are violent and you know furthermore, the castration could cause these people to become violent in other ways and act out on that.

ABRAMS:  What about the voluntary?  What about the notion that they can get a choice either deal with a whole bunch of requirements or be civilly committed versus having the option to be castrated? 

MERRITT:  You know I don't like that because I think it's going to end up targeting those who really want to get out of jail and have no other way to get out of jail.  It's like forced sterilization.  You know it's just not a good idea.  And you know what we need is treatment.  And until the legislature realize that sex offender treatment in prison works, then we are going to have this problem and as the legislator just said it is going to keep mushrooming...

ABRAMS:  But do you disagree...

MERRITT:  ... have to attack the problem.

ABRAMS:  Do you disagree—if we were just going to say what works better castration or treatment, you are saying that just strictly forget about money.  In terms of treating sex offenders, preventing them from doing it again, you are saying you think that treating them in prison will be more effective than castrating?

MERRITT:  Yes.  The Bureau of Justice statistics and the Justice Department's own Web site will tell you that there is less of a recidivism rate among sex offenders who are released, who got sex offender treatment in prison than non sex offenders who got released.  In other words, recidivism...

ABRAMS:  Right, but that doesn't address...

MERRITT:  ... can be controlled. 

ABRAMS:  ... the question of castration. 

MERRITT:  You don't need castration.  You asked me which I thought was better.

ABRAMS:  Right.

MERRITT:  I think the treatment is better. 

ABRAMS:  Well but I'm—you are not telling me how effective or not effective castration is.  I mean you're saying that treatment is effective compared to non-sex offenders.  But I'm saying might it even—the senator is basically saying it would be even more effective to castrate them. 

MERRITT:  Well I don't know, but it's cruel and it's inhumane and as a society, we shouldn't be you know operating on people's bodies. 

ABRAMS:  I got to give --  I'm going to give the senator a chance to respond in a minute.  You both are going—if you could both stick around.  I know the senator wants to get back in. 


ABRAMS:  I promise you'll get an opportunity to respond.  And when we come back, we're also going to talk to a convicted sex offender.  What does he think about it?

And Massachusetts' authorities are looking for this teen after he allegedly attacked people in a gay bar with a hatchet and a gun.  Now he's on the run.  Police need your help finding him.

And later, an exclusive look at the wedding of George Smith and his wife just days before he disappeared on his honeymoon cruise.

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

They're looking for Dwight Hawkins.  He's 22, five-six, 150.  He was convicted of criminal sexual conduct, has a felony warrant and a sex offender violation warrant issued for him.  If you've got any information on his whereabouts, please contact the authorities at 866-501-SORT.

Be right back.


ABRAMS:  Coming up, if sex offenders can't be treated with therapy, is surgical castration the answer?  One state is debating it.  We will talk to a convicted sex offender, up next, first the headlines.


ABRAMS:  We are back.  We are talking about a Virginia state proposal to have physical castration as an option for dealing with violent sex offenders once they get out of prison. 

Joining me now is convicted sex offender Jake Goldenflame.  Back with me is the Virginia state senator, Emmett Hanger, who's behind the proposal, and criminal defense attorney Jeralyn Merritt as well.

All right, Jake, what do you make of this?  I mean you have been someone who has been trying to help people stay away from sex offenders and help sex offenders avoid doing the horrible things that they do.  What do you think of this solution?

JAKE GOLDENFLAME, CONVICTED SEX OFFENDER:  I think it will get a lot of little children killed.

ABRAMS:  How do you figure that? 

GOLDENFLAME:  Well for the past year now, I've been getting death threats to the nation's children sent to me from prisons across the country.  I brought some of them with me today and what they are saying unmistakably is that if the penalties become any more harsh, the men will be so desperate not to get caught that they will kill the children next time and I fear that this proposal of the senator's would trip wire that into taking place.  I suspect if that bill were passed...


ABRAMS:  Jake...


ABRAMS:  Look, that's allowing the prisoners to dictate the laws.  I mean they're saying I am going to get you back if you increase sentences.  They could say that for any crime where you want to increase—if you guys do it we're going to do something worse. 

GOLDENFLAME:  Well let me put it to you this way, Dan.  When I was a kid I had a little dog that did something she shouldn't have done one time and I gave her a smack on the rump and she yelped.  I gave her a second smack and she yelped again.  The third time she began to growl at me menacingly and I realized that even a dumb animal knows when justice has been transgressed. 

I think that even sex offenders, as condemnable as their acts may be, know when something goes too far they say wait a second.  This goes too far.  If you put a man in a place where he's got nothing left to lose, if the penalty is so horrible in his mind that he says I have nothing left to lose, he is going to act desperately and you're going to wind up with innocent casualties.

ABRAMS:  All right.  Senator Hanger, why don't you respond to that and whatever else you wanted to say from the last segment.

HANGER:  Well thank you because it's been hard to sit still listening to your last two guests there.  Certainly, certainly this is an issue that I think we need to deal effectively with, straightforward in a cost effective manner.  We are going to be spending $100 million here in Virginia in short order for about 300 that we're going to have in these behavioral treatment programs.

We have had behavioral treatment programs that have been I think probably some of the best in the nation that have been developed here, but they don't work.  And I really think when you talk about this is inhumane you have to also look to the crimes that these individuals are perpetuating where they get their jollies from raping 10 years olds with inanimate objects as an example...


GOLDENFLAME:  ... one of the pedophiles in our system here.  So I think it's very appropriate.  It doesn't work for everybody.  It has to be done in conjunction with other behavioral treatments, electronic surveillance, but you know I started a conversation here in Virginia and that was my aim.  And I was pleased to listen to the opinions from your two guests because I am learning as I go with the dynamic of this.

But clearly we've got a societal issue here that we are going to have to address.  And taxpayers simply can't afford to coddle these individuals and allow them just light sentences so they can—so they won't be upset with the fact that we want to punish them...

ABRAMS:  What do you make of Jeralyn's...


ABRAMS:  What do you make of Jeralyn's comment that the bottom line is that treatment works better? 

HANGER:  That treatment works best?  Yes.  Treatment—there are some treatments, but I think they don't work well for everyone.  And I think the real issue is here you have to make an evaluation, so I'm not suggesting—with the voluntary physical castration there would have to be an evaluation done on the specific individuals...

ABRAMS:  Yes, what about that Jake?  What about the voluntary castration? 

GOLDENFLAME:  We had something like that happen here in California.  We had somebody in a civil commitment program who voluntarily chose castration.  And while nobody really wanted to admit it, I think we all knew when he went to court and got released (INAUDIBLE) conditional program instead of being confined, we all think that may have made the difference. 

The next man they allowed out, however, was not voluntarily castrated.  So I can see it as a bargaining chip a man might use.  On the other hand, let me volunteer this if I may.  There is an alternative available to either where Virginia is now or going into this castration scenario.  What Virginia could do if it wanted is this.  It could take these men and I believe in my heart that all states should do this, that anybody who harms a child sexually should be given a life sentence to begin with.  Treatment should be available from day one.  They should not get out...


GOLDENFLAME:  ... until their treatment team says they're ready...

ABRAMS:  That would mean...


ABRAMS:  That would mean—wait—that would mean you should remain behind bars, right?

GOLDENFLAME:  Wait.  Wait.  Wait.  Wait.  They should stay in until the treatment team says they are ready to get out and if they don't cooperate with the treatment team or they don't prove that they're ready to get out, they stay in for life.  Now a person like myself, I don't know.  I was in and I went through treatment while I was in prison voluntarily.  They let me out because the law—had to let me out at that time.  That's the way it was set up...


GOLDENFLAME:  ... and that was 15 years ago.  I remain re-offense free, so I say treatment works.

ABRAMS:  Senator, take a final word on this.  Let me just give the senator (INAUDIBLE).

HANGER:  Thank you.  It's an issue that I don't talk about lightly.  It is uncomfortable to discuss this subject, but as been indicated here, we have the problem in front of us...


HANGER:  ... and I think it should be placed out there as an option, which can be very effective.


HANGER:  It's not inhumane when you look at the nature of the crimes that are being perpetuated...

ABRAMS:  Jeralyn, final 15 seconds.

HANGER:  ... against our children.

MERRITT:  You know we are using a few high profile cases around the country to create hysteria about sex offenders.  We are branding them.  We should be treating them from day one in prison, making them take the treatment so that they can come out of prison...


MERRITT:  ... they'll be productive...

ABRAMS:  The senator doesn't disagree with you about—he doesn't disagree with you about the treatment.  He's just saying that there are other things you can do in addition to the treatment, but anyway...

MERRITT:  Well, but he wants to give the treatment in—for civil commitments after the prison.  You got to start it on day one of the prison sentence.

ABRAMS:  All right.  Jake Goldenflame, State Senator Emmett Hanger, and Jeralyn Merritt, thank you very much.  Appreciate it.

MERRITT:  Thanks.

HANGER:  Thank you.  Pleased to be here.

ABRAMS:  Switching topics, a manhunt is underway for 18-year-old Jacob Robida.  Police in New Bedford, Massachusetts say he is a suspect in Wednesday night's assault on patrons at a gay bar called Puzzles.  A bartender says a teen in a black hooded sweatshirt and black pants showed a fake I.D., ordered a drink, asked if Puzzles was a gay bar.  When the answer was yes, he finished his drink, pulled out a hatchet, and attacked two men, hitting one in the head.  When other patrons intervened, the teen pulled a gun, shot two men, one in the chest.  One of those victims is in critical condition.  Here's part of the 911 call that followed the attacks. 


CALLER:  I need an ambulance.

911 OPERATOR:  You need an ambulance?  What's the problem?  What's the problem?

CALLER:  (INAUDIBLE) Someone's been shot. 


ABRAMS:  Captain Richard Spirlet is a public information officer with the New Bedford Police and Paul Walsh is the Bristol County, Massachusetts district attorney.  Both join me on the phone.

Gentleman thanks very much for joining us.  We appreciate it. 

Mr. Walsh, let me start with you.  Has there been any progress in finding this guy as far as you know? 

PAUL WALSH, D.A. BRISTOL COUNTY, MA (via phone):  We have an all points bulletin out for most of New England and on the East Coast.  We are actively looking for him and it's about all I can say about it at this point. 

ABRAMS:  Captain Spirlet, are the accounts pretty consistent as to what happened inside that bar? 

CAPT. RICHARD SPIRLET, NEW BEDFORD, MA POLICE DEPT. (via phone):  As we know it at this time, yes. 

ABRAMS:  And the accounts are from other patrons who are saying that this guy just walks into the bar, asks for a drink, finishes his drink.  Does he scream is this a gay bar?  I mean was this clearly a hate crime or is that a subject to debate?

SPIRLET:  As far as the police is concerned...


SPIRLET:  ... it would be a hate crime. 

ABRAMS:  And would that mean a different kind of prosecution, Mr.


WALSH:  Well we have a whole (INAUDIBLE) of offenses at which this individual will be charged.  We start with the top offenses, assault with intent to murder, assault and battery, dangerous weapon, and of course assault and battery, which by means of intimidation would qualify it as a hate crime. 

ABRAMS:  Captain, they went back.  You found his computer, et cetera. 

It seems this guy had some nasty things on there, (INAUDIBLE).

SPIRLET:  Well I know we executed a search warrant.  Right at this time we're really not divulging what was taken out of that home due (ph) because it is such an ongoing investigation.

ABRAMS:  Who should people call, Captain, if they've got any information? 

SPIRLET:  If they have any information, call our detective division at area code 508-991-6320 or 508-991-6340.  We are working in conjunction with (INAUDIBLE) with the state police assigned to his unit, so we have been on this case probably an hour after it happened and we haven't let up.  We haven't stopped and we are looking at every lead that we can find. 

ABRAMS:  How did he get away, real quick, Captain?

SPIRLET:  Well that's a good question.  One thing we like to put out and—is where it's really interested in finding that green Pontiac Grand Am.  Last (INAUDIBLE) know it had a Mass registration of 85E-Echo-C-Charlie-58.  We are also asking people if they look out, sometimes you look out in the street and you say gees, I don't remember seeing this car around here for a couple of days.

Please call.  One of the plates is different.  You know the car doesn't belong in the area.  It may be parked in an empty lot or someplace where it's not logical to put a car.  Give us a call or the police department within your jurisdiction.  They'd run the VIN number and when they would put that in the NCIC computer, it will kick back to us.  So we hope that we can at least locate that vehicle.

ABRAMS:  This guy is going to get caught.  I am predicting he will be caught in the next couple of days.  Captain, District Attorney Walsh, thank you very much for coming on the program.  Appreciate it.

WALSH:  You're welcome.

SPIRLET:  Thank you.

ABRAMS:  Coming up, an exclusive look at George Smith and his bride during happier times, their wedding just days before he disappeared on his honeymoon cruise.


ABRAMS:  Coming up, an exclusive look at the wedding video of missing honeymooner George Smith, coming up right after the break.



JESSICA HAGEL, JENNIFER HAGEL SMITH'S SISTER:  No relationship in this world like that of two sisters especially when you're a sister with Jennifer.  I couldn't be happier for you that you found true love with someone like George. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I wish them you know the best luck and good health and love until the day they die.


ABRAMS:  Toast from the bride's sister and the best man at the wedding of George and Jennifer Hagel Smith last June.  Just a few weeks later George disappeared from their cabin between Greece and Turkey during their honeymoon cruise.  It's been nearly seven months since he disappeared.  A lot of questions have been asked about the relationship between George and his wife.  Of course, she's been cleared as a possible suspect in the case. 

Syndicated program “Inside Edition” has obtained exclusive video of what may have been George and Jennifer's happiest day.  Deborah Norville anchors “Inside Edition” and joins me now.  Deborah, thanks for coming back on the program. 


ABRAMS:  We appreciate it.  All right, you had a chance to look at the full three-hour tape. 


ABRAMS:  What struck you?

NORVILLE:  What struck me was the typicalness of it to be honest with you and also what an incredibly gorgeous couple this is.  I mean she is beautiful.  He's handsome and it was a picture perfect fairytale kind of day.  And so I think what the totality of it is it hits you with what a loss.  What a loss for the families, what a loss for this young couple.  What a tragedy, which only makes the fact that there are no answers in this now seven-month-old mystery that anyone can find satisfaction in. 

No one knows what happened to George Smith.  And obviously this video doesn't lend any light to that, but it certainly points to the devastating loss that both of these families have endured. 

ABRAMS:  Jennifer Hagel Smith was upset that this was released, correct?

NORVILLE:  You know it's interesting she was.  It was, as she said, the happiest day of her life.  But curiously we got a call from one of her representatives today who thanked us for the sensitivity with which we have put this video out there and shared this very special day. 

I think there probably have been some people who thought oh this video, the wedding reception.  It's going to give us a glimpse of the wild drinking and the crazy carousing that went on.  We don't see that.  What we see is a wedding party where people are having a great deal of fun.  There are toasts.  There is champagne.  You would expect that at a lavish wedding.  We don't see anything that would in any way point or foreshadow to the tragedy that happened 10 days after this video was shot.

ABRAMS:  All right.  Here's the—here is George Smith taking the wedding vows. 


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  To love and to cherish...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Till death do us part. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Till death do us part.



ABRAMS:  I'll tell you, for me, Deborah, having covered this story for as long as I have, I know you've been covering it too, to hear George's voice, there's something about it that make it a bit more personal as well.

NORVILLE:  I think that's really the impact of this video.  I mean up until this point George Smith has been a photograph on a boat with his beautiful bride next to him.  George Smith has been an idea.  This video makes George Smith real.  And I am sure it is difficult for the family, but it also underscores what may be the next step in this case and that is a lawsuit.

And one of the things that we did is we took this video and we shared excerpts of it with Mickey Sherman, an attorney who I know you have frequently on your program as a guest and one of the things that Mr.  Sherman told us was that in his opinion there is nothing on this tape that would point to oh, they drank to excess.  That of course explains what happened.  Rather he said if there were a lawsuit and someone were found liable, civilly liable or criminally liable in this case, this could be effective in pointing out the extent of the loss and play some role in determining damages.  This young man's life was caught off way too soon.

ABRAMS:  Can you tell us anything about how you got the tape?  We know that it was paid for.  Can you tell us anything about...

NORVILLE:  I don't know anything about that.  You know, we get tape the same way that you guys do at MSNBC.  You know in the course of developing news stories one of the first questions we in television ask is do you have pictures.  Do you have video and in this case we all knew that there were photographs of the wedding and video of the wedding and we were just able to get access to that in a way that the other folks weren't.

ABRAMS:  Deborah Norville, thanks for coming on the program. 

Appreciate it. 

NORVILLE:  Thanks, Dan.  Nice to see you again.

ABRAMS:  You can see more of the wedding video on “Inside Edition” tonight and Monday.  Check your local listings for times.

Coming up, listening to administration officials on Capitol Hill you'd think the disclosure of the NSA spying program means we can't catch any more al Qaeda terrorists in this country.  How many have we really caught thus far?  It's my “Closing Argument”.

And later, many of you writing in telling us why this nude model, an adult entertainer, should be allowed to stay in the United States.  Your e-mails are coming up.

And our continuing series, “Manhunt: Sex Offenders on the Loose”, our effort to find missing sex offenders before they strike.  We wrap up our search in Michigan.

Looking for Johnnie Loggins.  He's 41, six-four, 210, was convicted of criminal sexual conduct and hasn't registered as a sex offender.  If you've got any information on his whereabouts, please contact the Tri County Sex Offender Registry, 866-501-SORT.

Be right back.


ABRAMS:  My “Closing Argument”—who knew that court-ordered warrants made terrorists feel so protected?  According to various administration officials testifying in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee yesterday, the disclosure that the NSA was monitoring certain overseas phone calls without a court warrant has changed everything.  I don't get it.

Are they really suggesting that terrorists have changed their behavior now that they know that the secret FISA court may have been bypassed, the same terrorists who even before 9-11 only spoke in code?  I guess they're suggesting that now NSA monitoring won't lead to as many al Qaeda terrorists working in this country getting caught.  How many have been secretly monitored and then nabbed since 9-11? 

Well FBI Director Robert Mueller's testimony sure made it sound like none.  I thought the president said one of the people on the phone has to be al Qaeda or suspected al Qaeda.  Look, it's crucial to be monitoring the communications of suspected terrorists, particularly if one or both of the people talking are in this country, but let's debate how to best do it with real facts and fair analysis.  Enough with the exaggerations and false scare tactics. 

Coming up, Andrea Yates out on bail while she waits for a new trial for drowning her five children.  Your e-mails are next. 


ABRAMS:  We're back.  I've had my say, now it's time for “Your Rebuttal”.  Yesterday, Andrea Yates, the Texas mom who admitted to drowning her five kids, released from jail and heading straight to go a state mental hospital until her trial begins in March.

Mikki in Stockton, California, “It is true Andrea Yates showed that she knew killing her children was wrong.  That doesn't mean that she was not psychotic.”

Maria Walsh in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, “She should be locked up just like all the other murderers in this world.  Find me a psychotic murderer who doesn't need treatment.  Why should she be given more freedom?”

And last Friday, the immigration attorney for Argentinean nude model Dorismar said his client has—quote—“extraordinarily abilities” that entitle her to a visa to live in the U.S. and work here.  And we want special permission from the INS to do it.  Says her notoriety in the Latino community meets the high threshold the U.S. government has set for getting that kind of visa. 

Many of you have the same idea as Richard Miller in Maryland.  He writes, “Would a marriage license keep her in this country?  Sign me up.”

From Indianapolis, Indiana, Peter Kortum, “Why doesn't that performance artist from Argentina just find some desperate guy from the U.S. to propose marriage?  I'd volunteer to trade a diamond ring for a G-string, but am not convinced she is not just another cross-dressing man.  Please send more pictures.”

Finally, Jen Mahoney in Wall, New Jersey has a specific solution in mind.  “Dan, you should marry the nude model.  It's a win-win situation.  She gets to stay in the country.  You get a hot wife and your babies will be gorgeous and brilliant.”

Thank you, Jen.  She is married and I'm not interested.

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

Have a great weekend.  I will see you next week.  “HARDBALL” is up next.



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