updated 2/17/2006 4:09:55 PM ET 2006-02-17T21:09:55

Guests: Susan Filan, Stephen Hrones, Lauren Lake, Rusty Hierholzer, Brian Wice, Ron Christie, Rick Hahn, Lou Ferrigno

DAN ABRAMS, HOST:  Coming up, Neil Entwistle in court officially charged with the murder of his wife and baby daughter.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ABRAMS (voice-over):  He pleads not guilty as he stands only feet from his wife‘s family for the first time since the murders, his lawyer now questioning whether Entwistle can get a fair trial near his Massachusetts home. 

And the sheriff‘s department investigating Vice President Cheney‘s hunting accident says case closed, but was proper protocol followed? 

And don‘t get him angry.  The former bodybuilder who played “The Incredible Hulk” has just become a deputy sheriff.  He joins us to tell us why.

The program about justice starts now. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ABRAMS:  Hi, everyone.  First up on the docket, here he is, Neil Entwistle accused of killing his wife and baby daughter less than 24 hours after being brought back to the United States from England.  He was in court and arraigned on murder charges. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  (INAUDIBLE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes and I have and he understand them.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Entwistle‘s attorney entered a plea of not guilty, the parents and grandparents of the victims sitting just inches away.  Moments later they expressed their feelings through a family friend.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE FLAHERTY, FAMILY FRIEND AND SPOKESMAN:  Seeing Neil Entwistle standing accused of this awful crime, it gives us little comfort and in fact only adds to our enormous pain and suffering.  To think that someone we loved and trusted, opened our home to, could do this to our daughter and granddaughter is beyond belief. 

The betrayal to this family, to Neil‘s family, to our family, to our friends here and in the U.K. is unbearable.  What we have learned through the course of the investigation, we are now only coming to realize the level of his deceit. 

We are astonished and devastated to learn of the hidden life of Neil Entwistle.  We never suspected that Neil was anything other than a loving father, a trusted son-in-law and a husband.  Neil betrayed our trust in so many different ways that it is almost impossible to describe. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Entwistle was issued a standard orange prison jumpsuit, was cuffed, led away.  He‘s due back in court on March 16.

Now joining me now former prosecutor, MSNBC legal analyst Susan Filan who was inside the courtroom today and criminal defense attorney Stephen Hrones in Massachusetts.  All right, Susan, first let‘s talk about the courtroom.  You have the victims‘ family members, the parents of that woman, the grandparents of that child sitting inches away from him for the first time.  Did you notice anything inside the courtroom? 

SUSAN FILAN, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST:  They all filed in, Dan, carrying flowers.  It was absolutely scenarial (ph).  The mom could hardly look at Neil Entwistle.  Neil stole one look over at the family and then never looked back.  He had no expression on his face whatsoever.  He looked more like Scott Peterson today than ever before. 

ABRAMS:  And there were other family members in court, as well, all there to make sure that he knew we‘re in court and we‘re looking at you. 

FILAN:  That‘s right, Dan.  There were three solid rows of family members, each and every one of them carrying the identical flower.  It really did send a powerful message that this is a united group in mourning over the tragic, tragic crime that this man who they trusted and loved is accused of committing. 

ABRAMS:  Entwistle is a big guy, right, in person.  I mean it seems from the video that he looks like he‘s a fairly large gentleman. 

FILAN:  You‘re right, Dan.  He‘s a big guy.  He‘s big, tall.  He‘s got broad shoulders.  He holds his head high.  He doesn‘t look away.  It‘s very, very strange how he doesn‘t look embarrassed or shying away from the spotlight at all.  He just stands there like the big guy that he is. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  Here‘s what Entwistle‘s attorney is saying, is basically saying what we have heard so many times before from defense attorneys and I want to talk about this. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ELLIOT WEINSTEIN, NEIL ENTWISTLE‘S ATTORNEY:  I don‘t know that Mr.  Entwistle will ever be able to get a fair trial on these charges.  And my concern that he can‘t get a fair trial is because of what has occurred in the publicity surrounding this event.  I am certain that anybody watching this telecast or reading the reporting of today‘s arraignment has already formed an opinion with respect to Mr. Entwistle‘s guilt and that opinion is based upon the reporting and that opinion is based upon absolutely no facts and absolutely no evidence. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Stephen Hrones, I could play a tape of this and in every single high-profile case we hear the same complaint from defense attorneys.  My client can‘t get a fair trial, can‘t get a fair trial, can‘t get a fair trial, and the reality is in almost every case the client does get a fair trial because people aren‘t watching quite as much as we in the media and we in the legal community seem to think that they are watching. 

Mr. Hrones?

STEPHEN HRONES, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY:  Yes.

ABRAMS:  Do you want to comment on that? 

HRONES:  (INAUDIBLE)

ABRAMS:  You don‘t have to.

HRONES:  Certainly I‘d like to comment on that. 

ABRAMS:  OK.

HRONES:  You asked whether or not it‘s possible to get a fair trial. 

You say that you always get one anyway.  How do you know that? 

ABRAMS:  I‘ll tell you how I know...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  All right, so then you‘re going to say that—let‘s be honest about what your position is.  Your position is that in general jurors lie and that you don‘t think that jurors are straightforward and honest when they are asked questions, when they‘re being questioned for jury selection and that we really have a system that doesn‘t work.

HRONES:  Well, certainly they lie.  They want to be on the jury.  And in some states like Massachusetts, you don‘t have the right to voir dire the jury.  The lawyers don‘t.  So you really can‘t get at whether or not they are not biased.  You cannot believe what they say on the surface.  You have to probe to determine what their real feelings are.

ABRAMS:  Why is it - I mean I guess your position would be that every high-profile case, the person or many of them, the person hasn‘t gotten a fair trial and it‘s not based on the evidence that they are getting convicted.  It‘s based on some sort of hoopla surrounding the case, right? 

HRONES:  Well in many of these cases, that‘s true. 

ABRAMS:  Name one...

HRONES:  There‘s so much public outcry.

ABRAMS:  Name one where the evidence wasn‘t there.  You‘re going to tell me the Scott Peterson case wasn‘t based on evidence.  It was based on just the media attention?

HRONES:  Well that‘s not the point. 

ABRAMS:  It is the point.  The point is...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  The only reason someone is not going to get a fair trial is if they are falsely convicted because of the media attention as opposed to the evidence. 

All right, Susan Filan, you want to jump in here?

FILAN:  Sure, Dan.  I think that what Weinstein is setting up is a motion to dismiss and a motion for change of venue.  The motion to dismiss is basically going to say there isn‘t a juror in America or in fact the world that can be fair to this defendant now based on the pretrial publicity.  That‘s a loser.  That‘s not going to happen.  There‘s no judge that‘s going to grant that.  Motion for change of venue may be granted but he‘s going to be moved from this half of Massachusetts to the other half.  It‘s not going to leave the state of Massachusetts.

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  What I can also tell you, Susan, from covering all these cases is that as much as we who watch these cases believe that everyone is following the details, the bottom line is most of my friends don‘t know who Neil Entwistle is.  Most of the people in Massachusetts won‘t be able to—they‘ll say oh yes—some of them will say oh yes I heard something about that case.  The question is not do they know anything about it.  The question is...

FILAN:  Exactly.

ABRAMS:  ... have they developed an opinion about it? 

FILAN:  Exactly.  And the other thing I think you‘ll find when you talk to jurors is that they may have heard something about the case but when it comes right down to it and they have got someone‘s life in their hands and they have to convict or acquit, they always say, we just did it based on the evidence that we heard inside that courtroom and we did follow the judge‘s instructions.  Look at Michael Jackson.  I mean think about the pretrial publicity surrounding that and look at the stunning verdict there, acquittal on all counts. 

ABRAMS:  Yes, but see Lauren Lake, I got to tell you—Lauren Lake joins us now, a criminal defense attorney.  It irritates me when there is like this mantra among criminal defense attorneys in a high profile case that the first thing you do is you go outside and you immediately talk about the fact that you don‘t think your client is going to be able to get a fair trial in this community because there has been so much attention.  This guy is saying I don‘t think he‘ll be able to get a fair trial anywhere.  I mean that‘s nuts. 

LAUREN LAKE, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY:  Well Dan, you say it‘s nuts.  We say it could be true.  It is extremely problematic with such publicity to say OK that people haven‘t formed an opinion.  And when people form an opinion they use the evidence to in some way validate their opinion or maybe not.  It‘s tough when you get in the circumstance, Dan, to say you can really find impartial jurors.  This case is all over the place.  So that attorney did the right thing by standing up, protecting the rights of his client and immediately showing what he sees to be...

(CROSSTALK)

LAKE:  ... initial issue of concern.

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  This to me is the typical defense attorney smoke and mirrors nonsense...

LAKE:  Well why is this so typical...

ABRAMS:  It‘s the—I‘ll tell you why.  Because in every single high profile case we cover on this program, every single one, the defense lawyer blames the media.  It‘s the media.  It‘s the publicity.  It‘s not the evidence.  No, no, no.  Of course, they got the wrong guy.  Of course they did...

LAKE:  He didn‘t say they had the wrong guy...

ABRAMS:  He said...

LAKE:  He only said...

ABRAMS:  He said...

LAKE:  ... he‘s concerned about the ability to get a fair trial. 

ABRAMS:  And that opinion...

LAKE:  And I think that statement...

ABRAMS:  That opinion is based upon reporting.  The opinion is based upon absolutely no facts and absolutely no evidence.  It‘s all based on false reporting from the media...

LAKE:  Well right now a lot of people‘s opinions on this case, prosecutors and people (INAUDIBLE) opinions on this case is not based on any facts or any evidence thus far either. 

ABRAMS:  Wait.  Wait.  Wait.  We have documents.  OK.  It doesn‘t mean that all of them are...

LAKE:  Well we don‘t have the evidence that‘s in the courtroom yet. 

ABRAMS:  That‘s right.  That‘s fine.  And that‘s why when you have the power to take away someone‘s freedom you have a standard that‘s beyond a reasonable doubt and there are rules.  We don‘t have the power to take away someone‘s freedom out here.  And I think that it‘s very...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Exactly.

ABRAMS:  ... insulting to the jurors in this country for all these defense attorneys to always be saying oh, well all the jurors are lying...

LAKE:  I don‘t think it‘s insulting at all...

ABRAMS:  ... in the jury selection process.

LAKE:  ... Dan, and you know what I have to say as well, we have turned into a country with our justice system that has a climate where jurors are trying to get on cases, not just be a part of the justice system, but to become stars themselves. 

ABRAMS:  Wait.  Wait...

LAKE:  They‘re writing books. 

ABRAMS:  I hate to tell you this...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  Yes, yes, I know...

LAKE:  And they are doing that, Dan...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  Apart from the...

LAKE:  ... and a defense attorney has to look at that. 

ABRAMS:  Yes.  Apart from the O.J. Simpson case and maybe the Peterson case, apart from those, the bottom line is jurors don‘t get book deals based on being jurors...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  They don‘t...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Dan...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  Go ahead, Susan...

(CROSSTALK)

FILAN:  Dan, the bottom line is most people that I have ever met in my life say how do I get off jury duty?  They don‘t want to serve as jurors.

LAKE:  That‘s most people.

FILAN:  That‘s the question most frequently posed at me.  Well that‘s what we‘re talking about.  We‘re talking about most people...

LAKE:  But you may still get...

ABRAMS:  But you know what...

LAKE:  ... inside your pool...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  You know what...

LAKE:  ... those jurors that may not be able to be fair...

ABRAMS:  Wait. Wait.  Wait.

(CROSSTALK)

LAKE:  ... and that‘s all the defense attorney is saying. 

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  What is wrong—I will guarantee you throughout history there have been people who have boring lives who go in to serve on a jury and they say you know what, this is kind of exciting. 

LAKE:  Yes.

ABRAMS:  It‘s exciting to listen to evidence...

LAKE:  Yes.

ABRAMS:  ... and to hear a trial and to hear smart lawyers making arguments.  Is that so awful if that‘s the case?

LAKE:  Nothing so awful about it unless they go into it with the thought that hey this is going to be high profile, which means I‘m going to get to be high profile and after this I‘m going to be talking to the media and signing book deals. 

(CROSSTALK)

LAKE:  You‘ve already said it happened...

FILAN:  Dan, Dan...

LAKE:  ... and that‘s what a defense attorney has to guard against in terms of protecting their client. 

(CROSSTALK)

LAKE:  It‘s just a part of the system. 

ABRAMS:  It‘s just so dishonest. 

LAKE:  That‘s just the way it goes...

ABRAMS:  It is.  It just...

LAKE:  It isn‘t, Dan...

ABRAMS:  It‘s a downright dishonest argument...

LAKE:  Everybody talks about...

ABRAMS:  ... for him to suggest that he can‘t get a fair trial anywhere. 

LAKE:  But Dan, everybody suggests that defense attorneys are so unfair until their father, their brother, their mother...

ABRAMS:  I understand.  That‘s fine...

LAKE:  ... or their cousin gets in trouble. 

ABRAMS:  That‘s fine...

LAKE:  And the first person they call is a defense attorney. 

ABRAMS:  That‘s right.  That‘s right.

LAKE:  And the first person...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  That‘s right.

LAKE:  ... protect my rights...

ABRAMS:  That‘s right.

LAKE:  ... and can I get a fair trial. 

ABRAMS:  That‘s right.  That‘s right.  On this program what we do is we actually evaluate the truth.  Apart from whether myself, if I get in trouble, I‘m calling you.  I‘m telling you right now and I‘m going to be very glad that you‘re out there defending me.  But you may be lying for me and then there‘s a problem...

LAKE:  I won‘t lie for you...

ABRAMS:  Yes.

LAKE:  ... but I will stand for you as an advocate and say I am concerned...

ABRAMS:  Yes.

LAKE:  ... since this case against Dan Abrams is all over the nation and the world...

ABRAMS:  Yes.

LAKE:  ... I‘m concerned whether he can get a fair trial and you know what you‘ll do when I go back in there with you?  You‘ll say thanks a lot, Lauren...

ABRAMS:  I‘m sure I will, but you know what...

LAKE:  And that‘s what this justice system is about. 

ABRAMS:  That‘s great.  That‘s great, but I don‘t have particular sympathy right now until I get arrested for killing someone for the people who are charged with these crimes.  Susan Filan, you want final word on this? 

FILAN:  Yes, please, Dan.  I think the bottom line is the trials are actually really hard work for the prosecution, for the defense, for the judge and for the jury.  And most jurors find that sitting and listening to the evidence day after day...

ABRAMS:  Yes.

FILAN:  ... weighing the enormous responsibility of somebody‘s (INAUDIBLE) isn‘t a walk in the park.  It‘s a very difficult and very demanding job. 

ABRAMS:  I just—I got to tell you.

FILAN:  We need to have more respect for the truth...

ABRAMS:  And I got to tell you...

FILAN:  ... what happens in the courtroom.

ABRAMS:  ... I‘ve done an editorial on this before...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  ... the fact that I‘m sort of irritated and I‘m sick and tired of the same old crap coming out of every defense attorney‘s mouth in one of these high profile cases.  But they blame the media.  Blame the media. 

Susan Filan and Stephen Hrones and Lauren Lake, thanks a lot.

HRONES:  Can I say something?

ABRAMS:  Coming up, the sheriff investigating Vice President Cheney‘s shooting accident says that it is just what it was, an accident.  Case closed.

Plus, a new plea for the release of reporter Jill Carroll, the American held hostage in Iraq, a public service announcement being played on Iraqi TV urging for her release.  Will it work? 

And later, there‘s a new deputy sheriff in town.  That guy, the former “Incredible Hulk”.  Lou Ferrigno is now a deputy sheriff.  And he joins us to tell us why. 

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:  Case closed.  The Kenedy County Sheriff‘s Department will not file charges against Vice President Dick Cheney for shooting his hunting buddy over the weekend.  Sheriff‘s incident report is out and it strongly backs the vice president‘s account of what happened on Saturday. 

Harry Whittington walked to retrieve some quails he shot down.  At the same time, the vice president apparently walked about 100 yards towards another grouping of quails.  Took aim at a bird and fired, spraying Whittington with birdshot.  Whittington was rushed to the hospital.

The Secret Service reported the incident to the sheriff‘s department about an hour after it happened.  We all heard it about 24 hours later.  What about the lapse in time between when the accident occurred and when the vice president was interviewed by the authorities?  They only interviewed the man who pulled the trigger until—they only interviewed him after 12 or 14 hours after the accident, the next day.  Is that unusual? 

Joining me Kerr County, Texas Sheriff Rusty—sorry, I forget the pronunciation of your name here—Hierholzer, who‘s investigated a number of hunting accidents.  Former deputy assistant to Vice President Cheney Ron Christie and criminal defense attorney Brian Wice.

All right.  Thank you for coming on the program.  Appreciate it. 

Sheriff, let me start with you.  Give us a sense—I mean you have investigated hunting accidents before.  When do you investigate generally?  When do you question the person who actually pulled the trigger?

SHERIFF RUSTY HIERHOLZER, KERR COUNTY (via phone):  Well it just depends on the circumstances of the coincidence.  If you actually have eyewitnesses that you can interview first you normally want to interview those eyewitnesses first.

ABRAMS:  You‘ll interview them before you interview the person who pulled the trigger? 

HIERHOLZER:  Yes.  I would like to find out as much about the case and exactly the facts about what happened before I actually interview the person who pulled the trigger.

ABRAMS:  How many hunting accidents with someone shooting someone else have you had to investigate? 

HIERHOLZER:  In 25 years being with this department, I really couldn‘t even recall how many.  We‘re in the heart of the Texas hill country and unfortunately, we do have a number of hunting accidents that occur up here. 

ABRAMS:  And so the point being that there are too many for you to count? 

HIERHOLZER:  Right.  It is one of those things that happened, all the way from some that end up being fatalities to other ones kind of in a way like this one that are more of being peppered with birdshot when you‘re out dove hunting or something.

ABRAMS:  So Brian Wice, I mean it sounds like case closed.  I mean is there anything left here?

BRIAN WICE, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY:  Well you know, I‘m shocked, shocked that this investigation is over almost as quickly as it started.  Dan, what has concerned me from the beginning, first of all, is that this is an investigation that was apparently not performed, as it would be in any other incident. 

Anybody that‘s everybody watched “Law and Order” understands you take the people who were involved and you separate them.  You get their individual stories before they can influence everybody else.  Really the only critical thing I see in terms of the time lag is if there had been any alcohol in the vice president‘s system, of any market effect at all, clearly that would have already...

ABRAMS:  Yes, let me ask the sheriff about that.  Sheriff, do you generally test for alcohol? 

HIERHOLZER:  Yes, do you.  But one thing you have to remember in this case, y‘all reported earlier that it was a, you know the sheriff down there in Kenedy County had contacted a friend at his ranch.  The thing y‘all didn‘t report is the friend of the sheriff out on the ranch that was there was the former sheriff of Kenedy County who is currently a constable there. 

There were law enforcement officers at the scene and the sheriff got the word immediately from them and the Secret Service actually contacted him within about eight to 10 minutes of him first hearing about it.  It wasn‘t any two hours later or anything like that that he was advised of it.  And looking at the offense report that the sheriff from down there faxed me, I‘ll be honest, I think his department did a fabulous job on this investigation. 

They did find out about it.  Of course the first thing you got to be concerned about is the injured party.  And that‘s where every—all the attention should go to immediately is getting help for the injured party.

ABRAMS:  But generally and again, you know I‘m not that familiar with hunting accident investigations, but I am very familiar with investigations of other cases.  They do both.  At the same time that they are evaluating the condition of the victim, making sure the victim is getting everything he or she needs, the investigation is also beginning immediately.

HIERHOLZER:  Right.  That‘s exactly correct. 

ABRAMS:  Ron Christie, so is this it? 

RON CHRISTIE, FMR. DEPUTY ASST. TO V.P. CHENEY:  This is it, Dan.  Case closed.  I‘m going to take off my political hat—I know it scares you, but I‘m going to put my lawyer hat on.  I had the opportunity again—

I talked about last night—to speak to a reporter who actually spoke and interviewed the county attorney at Kenedy County, Texas.  There is no legal requirement to report a hunting accident on private property in the state of Texas...

ABRAMS:  Unless someone dies, right.

CHRISTIE:  That‘s correct.

ABRAMS:  Right.

CHRISTIE:  And in fact the county attorney had been involved in a quail accident, a quail hunting accident where there was a shooting and the county attorney did not report the accident to the authorities.  Vice President Cheney the next morning spoke to the sheriff‘s authorities.  We know about the Secret Service of course having made the contact with the local authorities. 

The vice president participated in that investigation.  He wanted to make sure that the facts were out.  So those who were saying that Dick Cheney is stonewalling or this hasn‘t been handled properly, there is no legal duty to report a hunting accident in the state of Texas without a fatality.  The only person who has a duty to make a reported requirement is a physician if that individual treated somebody with a gunshot wound. 

ABRAMS:  That‘s true, Brian.

WICE:  Right.  But what we‘d expect from everybody else in the free world, Dan, I don‘t think we should expect from the second most powerful man in the western hemisphere, which is Dick Cheney.  I think he really ought to act to a standard that‘s a little bit above what your typical Joe six-pack in the valley might hold his own self to after he clips somebody on a hunting trip.  I mean again, did he have a legal duty?  No.  Did he have a moral responsibility to try to do the right thing in a way that would have made everybody happy?  Absolutely, Dan. 

CHRISTIE:  Oh, Dan, give me a break.  Dick Cheney‘s moral responsibility right after this, he had just wounded one of his friends.  His first thought was oh my goodness, is my friend in a good condition?  Is my friend going to make it? 

Is my friend—how terribly injured is my friend?  The fact of the matter now, people are saying oh there is no legal requirement, there‘s no legal requirement to report, but Dick Cheney should be held to a different standard.  I mean and when is enough going to be enough?  People need to get off this man‘s back.  We need to talk about the serious issues of the day.  There‘s no legal requirement there. 

ABRAMS:  But there is still—look, there is still the possibility, depending on what happens, of civil action.  It doesn‘t seem that...

CHRISTIE:  Dan...

ABRAMS:  ... there would be any based on the friendship, right? 

CHRISTIE:  Dan, Dan, Mr. Whittington said it was an accident.  Mr.

Cheney said it was an accident.  It‘s over.  Let‘s move on.  Case closed. 

HIERHOLZER:  I agree 100 percent.

(CROSSTALK)

HIERHOLZER:  ... more serious things...

(CROSSTALK)

CHRISTIE:  Thanks, Sheriff.

ABRAMS:  Yes.  Well you know look, I mean I‘ll concede that the media can sometimes focus on issues, but it‘s not just Vice President Cheney when you know the whole thing with Bill Clinton was happening, we were spending a lot of time talking about a lot of details about what is means and this and that and you know...

CHRISTIE:  Right.  But Dan, we‘re not talking about somebody who was lying under oath in this case...

ABRAMS:  Oh, we‘re just talking about somebody who shot somebody...

(CROSSTALK)

WICE:  ... somebody who almost killed...

ABRAMS:  I mean come on, come on...

(CROSSTALK)

CHRISTIE:  Dan...

ABRAMS:  Yes, I mean...

CHRISTIE:  ... Brian said someone almost killed him.  He didn‘t almost kill him.  It was an accident...

ABRAMS:  I understand...

CHRISTIE:  Guys, it‘s an accident.  Let‘s get real here...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  I‘m not saying one...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  I‘m not going to start getting into the business of comparing these two because they are totally different...

CHRISTIE:  Thank you.

ABRAMS:  ... but I was talking about really just from a media perspective.  That you know look there‘s a lot of time spent on these kinds of issues.  It‘s not because everyone wants to get Dick Cheney, as some people are claiming.

CHRISTIE:  Yes, they do. 

ABRAMS:  Well, other people...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  ... on the other side people were saying people just wanted to get Bill Clinton.  You know this is the way things happen for better or for worse in the way these things get covered. 

All right.  Sheriff thanks a lot for taking the time.  Ron Christie and Brian Wice, appreciate it. 

CHRISTIE:  Thanks, Dan.

ABRAMS:  Coming up, a new plea to spare the life of an American journalist being held hostage in Iraq.  There are public service announcements being aired on Iraqi TV begging the terrorists to release Jill Carroll.

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

Authorities are looking for Benjamin Edwards.  He‘s 24, five-ten, 174, was convicted of sexually assaulting a 14-year-old girl.  Has not registered his address with the state.  If you‘ve got any information on his whereabouts, please contact Missouri‘s Greene County Sheriff‘s Department, 417-868-4040.

Be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Coming up, a new plea for the release of reporter Jill Carroll who was kidnapped in Iraq, first the headlines. 

(NEWS BREAK)

ABRAMS:  We‘re back.  New developments in the effort to free Jill Carroll, the American reporter kidnapped in Baghdad, January 7, her captors say they will kill Carroll by February 26 unless all their demands are met.  The one demand we know of that women prisoners in Iraq be released.  Carroll‘s dad and the rest of her family have been pleading for her release and now the “Christian Science Monitor”, one of the papers Carroll had worked for, is having public service videos played on Iraq state-run television.  Iraqis telling the kidnappers let Jill Carroll go.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator):  Let her free because she has a family and works for humanity.  Let‘s not deprive humanity of all the good work she can do. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator):  The terrorists have sisters, mothers, and wives.  Let them close their eyes and imagine if she were your daughter, sister or wife, what would you feel? 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Will an appeal to their humanity work with the thugs who kidnapped her and killed her translator?  Rick Hahn is an MSNBC analyst, former FBI agent and terrorism expert.  You know Rick, what struck me is the way that they seem to be appealing to the kidnappers by talking about the fact that she is a woman. 

RICK HAHN, TERRORISM EXPERT:  Well certainly, that is one of the key aspects of this, Dan.  And in that society, of course, that really means something.  I think they are really trying to not so much get the kidnappers to roll over and say OK she‘s a good person or it‘s a woman, we shouldn‘t be doing this, but to try and build a ground swell of sympathy with the public there.  The terrorists themselves are fighting a war for the hearts and minds of the Iraqis and that‘s what we‘ve engaged in here. 

ABRAMS:  But does it really matter?  I mean does it really mater what the community thinks in terms of what the terrorists will do? 

HAHN:  Well I think so, very much so, Dan.  I think that you know inside of Islam there is a war going on between the fundamentalists and those who are more moderate.  And the fundamentalists are saying that a person like this is somebody who is a (INAUDIBLE), somebody who is a infidel and doesn‘t deserve any sort of sympathy.  To try and humanize her certainly goes a long way in taking that away from them. 

ABRAMS:  But when you say taking away from them, this isn‘t going to

change—I mean I guess the question is how much really what other people

and let‘s say some moderates think about it—how much will that affect what these crazies do?

HAHN:  Well you‘d certainly hope that it‘d affect them to some degree.  Again, you don‘t expect them to change their perspective, but you do expect that it might have a real political influence on them.  They do the things that they do to try and show that they are acting in part of Islam, for Islam to try and defeat the Western thinking that has invaded their country. 

ABRAMS:  Does it matter, do you think, how she‘s perceived as a reporter?  Meaning, if she‘s perceived as having been pro-Iraq or anti-American, et cetera?  Does any of that matter?

HAHN:  Oh I think very much so, again, with the community at large with the more moderate people in Iraq.  And I don‘t think that—the fundamentalists that are behind the terrorism in Iraq don‘t really represent the majority there or they wouldn‘t be terrorists.

ABRAMS:  Right, but this isn‘t an election, Rick.  I mean this is a question of whether these terrorists are going to release her—let her go. 

HAHN:  I agree, Dan.  It‘s certainly not an election.  But as much as possible, they are doing the things that they are doing for some sort of political advantage to try and if not convert people to the fundamentalist way of thinking, at least try and cower them into not opposing them.  And to that degree, they have to fight for the minds of the moderate and more secular Iraqis. 

ABRAMS:  Here‘s the most recent video of Jill Carroll that was released. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JILL CARROLL, KIDNAPPED AMERICAN REPORTER:  Thursday, February 6, February 2, 2006.  I am with mujahideen.  I sent you a letter written by my hand, yet you wanted more evidence.  (INAUDIBLE) sending this letter now to prove I am with the mujahideen.  I‘m here.  I‘m fine.  Please just do whatever they want.  Give them whatever they want as quickly as possible.  There is very short time.  Please do it fast.  That‘s all.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Interesting, Rick, that that was in English, right?

HAHN:  Right.  The other aspect of this, of course, is the possibility.  Somebody knows who—where this person is, somebody who is possibly not completely converted to being a fundamentalist.  And there is the possibility of course that this will some sort of influence on that individual and they may leak information somehow to the Americans or to the Iraqi police. 

ABRAMS:  Rick Hahn, thanks a lot for coming on the program. 

Appreciate it.

HAHN:  My pleasure, Dan.  Thank you.

ABRAMS:  Coming up, don‘t get him angry.  “The Incredible Hulk” has just been sworn in as a deputy sheriff.  Lou Ferrigno joins us live up next. 

And later, shy did Vice President Cheney sit down with FOX News to talk about his hunting accident?  I have my theory and I say it reflects a growing trend. 

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, from hulk to cop.  Former bodybuilder and actor Lou Ferrigno joins us live, up next. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  We‘re back.  He used to become a monster when someone made him mad or really mad.  Well now Lou Ferrigno who played the big green monster on the TV series “The Incredible Hulk” can actually cuff someone who‘s giving him trouble.  Ferrigno was sworn in earlier this week as a reserve deputy with the Los Angeles Sheriff‘s Department.  So would-be criminals in the area, be on your best behavior.  While he won‘t necessarily be a cop on the beat most of the time, the former hulk went through training and firearms, first aid, and high-speed driving techniques.

Joining me now is Lou Ferrigno.  Lou, thanks a lot for coming on the program.  Appreciate it.

LOU FERRIGNO, “THE INCREDIBLE HULK”:  How are you doing?  How is it going? 

ABRAMS:  It‘s going great.  So how does it feel to have the uniform on?

FERRIGNO:  Well it feels great because it‘s the real thing and I‘m very happy to be sworn in and be a part of the L.A. Sheriff‘s Department and we got the best sheriff, Sheriff Baca.

ABRAMS:  What led you to you want to do this? 

FERRIGNO:  Well my father was a New York police lieutenant for the New York Police Department (INAUDIBLE) talking to.  It‘s always been a dream of mine to be involved in law enforcement.  I ran into Sheriff Baca a year ago and he invited me to join the organization.  So I went through all the rigorous training, the firearms, the CPR, and the hot pursuit driving because it made me a better person and basically I want to give back to California and also with the L.A. Sheriff‘s Department.

ABRAMS:  So are you going to actually be doing any beat work?  I mean is there the possibility that you‘ll be out there and some would-be criminal is going to Lou Ferrigno walking the beat? 

FERRIGNO:  Well, I‘ll let you do that, but I‘m not going to do police work.  (INAUDIBLE) mostly I want to focus on working with our DARE program, getting kids off drugs, and also recruiting deputies for the L.A. Sheriff‘s Department because we are short 1,100 deputies. 

ABRAMS:  Did they have to make a special uniform?  You are a big guy. 

I mean did they have to like tailor it special...

FERRIGNO:  They have a size to fit me, but of course it‘s a little trim, small, around the waist (INAUDIBLE).

(LAUGHTER)

ABRAMS:  All right.  Now Arnold Schwarzenegger is the governor of California and you know there‘s that movie “Pumping Iron” where he‘s razing you during the movie, et cetera.  Does this mean he‘s now and I don‘t know what the line of command is there, but does that mean theoretically he is your boss? 

FERRIGNO:  It‘s great what he‘s done because you know we both have a history.  His father was a captain on the police department.  So basically we‘re going in the same direction.  We want to give back to California (INAUDIBLE).  We live in a great country and defending and supporting the Constitution of California. 

ABRAMS:  You guys became friend, right?

FERRIGNO:  Pardon me? 

ABRAMS:  You and Arnold Schwarzenegger have long been friends now, right?

FERRIGNO:  Yes, about 30 years.  We go way back because we were in competition together and I have the highest respect for him being governor, even though he has a lot of, you know he‘s under a microscope.  I should take my hat off to him.

ABRAMS:  All right, so give us a sense of how much time you‘re going to actually spend on this now as a practical matter? 

FERRIGNO:  I‘m sorry.  Say that again.

ABRAMS:  I was asking you how much time you‘re actually going to be able to spend in your work as a deputy sheriff.

FERRIGNO:  Well basically it will be about 20 hours a month because I‘m going to work with different areas and mainly I‘m going to you know support whatever they need because it goes in many different areas to deal with (INAUDIBLE) deal with the criminal department (INAUDIBLE) different divisions.  So I want to give my time, it could be like basically supporting the department.  Mainly most of all recruiting deputies and working with kids and getting gangs off the street because we need that support, so whatever support I can give, so basically it‘ll be 20 hours a month. 

ABRAMS:  And is there any effort to get more people like yourself, well-known figures to get involved with the sheriff‘s department? 

FERRIGNO:  Yes.  Because also people later in life like for example my class, we had different people with different walks of life.  They bring great asset and value to the department because of the fact that we are older, smarter, and wiser and we come on the other end and also the beauty about this that Sheriff Baca (INAUDIBLE) ethnic group and bring (INAUDIBLE).  That‘s what we need is the support of all the ethnic group.  That‘s why - one of the reasons why I‘m involved.  And also I like to see other people like myself, my age or other peers do the same thing as well. 

ABRAMS:  Do you still work out a lot? 

FERRIGNO:  Who?

ABRAMS:  Do you still work out a lot?

FERRIGNO:  My dad?  No, he...

ABRAMS:  I was asking if you still work out a lot?

FERRIGNO:  (INAUDIBLE)

ABRAMS:  You‘re at the gym.  I mean you know we have this image of you.

FERRIGNO:  Oh yes, every time.  I train five or six days a week.  I train like an hour and a half and also I‘m very involved.  Still film, doing the “King of Queens”.  But I‘m still very active physically and I never miss workouts.  I‘ve been training now for like 42 years and I still pump iron like I used to.

ABRAMS:  Really?  No injuries? 

FERRIGNO:  No.  It‘s just I‘m very careful how I train.  I‘m not going to do anything silly like I did 30 years ago. 

(LAUGHTER)

FERRIGNO:  I train with the same intensity, but (INAUDIBLE) smarter about it.

ABRAMS:  All right.  Lou Ferrigno, thanks a lot for taking the time to come on the program.  We appreciate it.  Good luck with your...

FERRIGNO:  Thank you...

ABRAMS:  Go ahead.

FERRIGNO:  And I watch you all the time and the same to you. 

ABRAMS:  Oh well thank you.  Thank you. 

FERRIGNO:  You‘re welcome.

ABRAMS:  And I admire you for doing this because this is really is a -

I think people should know this is not some sort of stunt that you had to put in a lot of time to prepare and train.  And you‘re now going to be putting the time in, putting your money where your mouth is, so to speak, so I appreciate it.

FERRIGNO:  Thank you.

ABRAMS:  Thanks for coming on the program. 

FERRIGNO:  Thank you.  My pleasure. 

ABRAMS:  Coming up, why would Vice President Cheney give an interview to FOX News about his hunting accident?  Well I think it reflects something more than just a choice for an exclusive.  It‘s my “Closing Argument”. 

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

Looking for Allen Combs, he is 44, five-nine, 183, was convicted of molesting a 9-year-old child, has not registered his address with the state.  If you‘ve got any information on his whereabouts, please contact Missouri‘s Greene County Sheriff‘s Department, 417-868-4040.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  My “Closing Argument”—why we all should be wary of senior government officials who reward or punish reporters based on how friendly their coverage is.  Yesterday Vice President Cheney chose to make his first and only statements about accidentally shooting his friend to FOX News channel Brit Hume.  Hume is a well-respected newsman who asked many of the same questions any good reporter would have posed. 

But if you listen to Hume‘s commentary on the shooting incident, it‘s clear he also offers a comparatively sympathetic ear to Cheney, seems that‘s why the vice president chose Hume over many others, and more importantly, why he chose him over a more unpredictable press conference.  But I‘m not even that concerned about that.

I‘m far more troubled by another event that occurred yesterday.  A federal court of appeals ruled that Governor Robert Ehrlich of Maryland could bar all state employees from speaking with two “Baltimore Sun” reporters whose coverage he didn‘t like.  While public officials picking favorites should be frowned upon, this sort of retaliation by a governor should be unconstitutional.

It‘s clearly just an effort to strong-arm the reporters and paper into providing more favorable coverage of him.  We seem to be getting perilously close to a system when the reporters who get access are not the ones who are necessarily the fairest or most even handed, but instead the ones who say what the officials want to hear.  To anyone who suggests it‘s somehow sour grapes on my part, I‘m pretty sure I wasn‘t in the running for the Cheney interview, but I get a lot of exclusive interviews on this show from people who like the program or my reporting.

Sometimes it‘s because I do take a position they like.  Other times it‘s because they think I‘m fair.  But it‘s different when it‘s the vice president making his only comments on an issue of national interest or the governor trying to influence the reporting about him.  These are the very people our founding fathers wanted the press to scrutinize, to question, to hold their feet to the fire.  I know political leaders want to encourage people to say nice things about them, but that‘s not good for the rest of us. 

Coming up, a lot of you writing in about the attention Vice President Cheney‘s hunting accident is getting.  Your e-mails are next. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  I‘ve had my say, now it‘s time for “Your Rebuttal”.  Last night Vice President Cheney finally speaking out about the accident shooting of his friend on a hunting trip.

Shawn in Connersville, Indiana, “Is it really our business that the V.P. shot his friend?  If I or a friend shot a person it wouldn‘t make news.  What I‘m asking is, is it anyone‘s business what they do in their free time?”

Well, I got to tell you I think it is when you‘re the vice president.  But Arlington, Virginia, Missy Snelling responds, “The vice president is an elected official and the second in command of the United States.  Whether he‘s on vacation or spending private time is meaningless.”

Ed of New Jersey, “I feel a lot of the hoopla about the Cheney is the fact that a gun is involved.  If he was backing out of his driveway and hit his friend, it would be an accident even though as the drive he would be responsible.”

From Makawao, Hawaii, Bonnie McFadden responds to that one.  “If Vice President Cheney had been in an auto accident, in which someone was injured, police would have been on the scene immediately and given him a sobriety test.”

And Leo writes, “Leave Dick Cheney alone.  Thank heavens for the Internet where one can get the real news that is unbiased.”

Unbiased news on the Internet, (INAUDIBLE) Leo? 

Also last night, we had a heated debate over new legislation in some states that require pregnant women to acknowledge their fetus will experience pain before the woman can get an abortion. 

Christopher Schuler, M.D., “Shouldn‘t women considering an abortion be informed of the distinct possibility that their unborn child should feel pain?  This bill merely facilitates the exchange of information between physicians and their patients.”

Finally, Colleen in Maryland, “With her ridiculous logic, referring to the woman advocating the bill, is she also going to put forth a bill requiring women who want to give their babies up for adoption to sign papers acknowledging that their baby may be adopted by someone who could potentially abuse it.”

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

All right, we‘ve got about a minute and a half left, and I want to tell you about a lawsuit that has been filed in connection with the case in Aruba, of missing girl, Natalee Holloway.  The family of Natalee has filed a lawsuit against the chief suspect, Joran van der Sloot and his father. 

They‘re not claiming wrongful death.  What they‘re claiming is that Joran van der Sloot willfully caused personal injury to Natalee as the result of his sexual assault upon her.  They‘re saying the he wrongfully, unlawfully and intentionally detained and directly restrained Natalee, depriving her of her personal liberty through force and/or the threat of force.

They‘re saying that he abducted her, prevented her from returning to her parents, and then they‘re also blaming the father, basically saying that Paulus van der Sloot knew that Joran had a long history of sexual assaults on young women.  This is again according to the lawsuit.  That he owed a duty of care to all reasonably foreseeable victims of his son‘s dangerous and violent proclivities.

Now, the family has been in the United States to do an interview, and so it seems that they were served while they were here.  Unfortunately, we didn‘t have time to cover this as much as we would like, but we will talk about this more in depth tomorrow, and you can watch it on “RITA COSBY” tonight at 9:00 Eastern Time.  She‘ll have full coverage.

That does it for us tonight.  Coming up next, “HARDBALL” with Chris Matthews.  Thanks for watching.  See you tomorrow.

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

END   

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