updated 2/24/2006 10:12:04 AM ET 2006-02-24T15:12:04

Guest: Mike Rounds, Mathew Staver, Brigitte Amiri, Clint Van Zandt,

Michelle Suskauer, Susan Filan, Bob Wilkins, Robert McCrie, Charles


DAN ABRAMS, HOST:  Coming up, one state prepares to pass a law outlawing almost all abortions. 


ABRAMS (voice-over):  Do South Dakota legislators think this law, which only permits abortions if the woman's health is in danger, is even arguably constitutional?  Or are they just hoping that this will encourage the new justices on the court to overturn Roe v. Wade?  We talk with South Dakota's governor, who's expected to sign the bill. 

And suspect Joran van der Sloot speaks out about leaving Natalee Holloway on the beach, and lying to her mother.  Plus, reaction to our exclusive interview with the chaperone who was in charge of Natalee's trip to Aruba.

And police make arrests in the biggest bank heist in British history, more than $70 million stolen.  The brazen bandits had kidnapped the bank manager and then his family in a movie-like plot. 

The program about justice starts now.  


ABRAMS:  Hi, everyone.  First up on the docket, a direct attack on Roe v. Wade is coming from the South Dakota legislature.  The new bill, which outlaws abortion, makes no exceptions, not for a pregnancy caused by incest or rape.  It would only be legal—the only exception if it would save the pregnant woman's life. 

Doctors who perform abortions would—could face up to five years in prison.  The bill passed the State Senate 23-12.  It's expected to pass the House again and then go to Governor Mike Rounds' desk.  The bill's sponsor says he thinks the antiabortion movement has momentum on its side and a—quote—“change in national policy on abortion is going to come in the not-too-distant future.”

“My Take” (INAUDIBLE) the state lawmakers have got to know this bill effectively spits in the face of the U.S. Supreme Court precedent.  Not just because of Roe v. Wade, because the high court reaffirmed Roe when it revisited the abortion issue in 1992 in Planned Parenthood v. Casey.  A majority agreed that women have the right to have an abortion before the fetus is viable and to obtain an abortion without undue interference from the state. 

So whatever you think of abortion, this law is almost an insult to the court.  Republican Mike Rounds is the governor of South Dakota.  He has not yet announced whether he'll sign this bill into law, and he joins me now by phone.  Governor thanks a lot for coming on the program.  We appreciate it.

Look, I know you've made it perfectly clear you support many abortion restrictions, but this is not an abortion restriction.  This is outlawing it.  I assume you've got to know that this wouldn't pass the court's test. 

GOV. MIKE ROUNDS ®, SOUTH DAKOTA (via phone):  I think most of the legislators that voted for this particular law expected to be enjoined immediately upon its effective date, which would be July 1.  I think what they want to do is to send a message that says if the court is prepared to look at Roe v. Wade they will look at a whole host of different challenges. 

Some will be limited in nature.  Some of them would be very, very significant.  This would be the most significant one, because it would be a direct frontal challenge to Roe v. Wade.  I think they fully recognize that and they proposed this two years ago, as well. 

There were some technical flaws in the bill that caused a—what we call a technical veto on my part, but philosophically I think the vast majority of the legislature truly believes that this is one approach that should be tried or at least be offered as an option for the new court to take a look at Roe v. Wade.

ABRAMS:  But look, I mean every—sort of all the people on the right and I think all the people who are being honest about this during the confirmation hearings of Roberts and Alito pointed out that even if Roberts and Alito were to believe that Roe v. Wade should be overturned, there still wouldn't be enough votes on the court to overturn it.  So is this just sort of a waste of time, symbolic procedure to say hey look everybody, here's what we believe? 

ROUNDS:  I know that there are a number of people within the pro-life community that believe that to be the case.  Apparently among our legislators, there were enough of them out there that said look, what's wrong with taking a number of different approaches, including this all-out attack directly on Roe v. Wade. 

ABRAMS:  Do they have nothing better to do?  I mean...

ROUNDS:  Well actually during the 35-day session, which is all that they have this year, they worked their way through about 460-some bills or somewhere in that neighborhood, so they've got a lot of things on their plate.  This is one of those items, which they have considered.  I think they probably considered it before the 35-day legislature actually started. 

But they look at it.  They—every single bill has the opportunity in our state to be heard.  It passes through a committee in the House...


ROUNDS:  ... the full House, a committee in the Senate, the full Senate, and with a minor modification it's going back to the House.  So there's apparently within our legislative body very strong support to overturn Roe v. Wade and they most certainly understand that there's a cost involved to it. 

They're actually setting up a fund to help pay for the—not only the cost to the state for defending the law, but they also want to set up to have to pay for—we know that the folks who would challenge it would also be able to collect their attorney's fees and the legislature has gone so far as to suggest that there would be funds made available through donations that might even help to offset some of that. 

ABRAMS:  Yes.  As you know, the legislature doesn't decide whether Roe v. Wade gets overturned or not, and as a result of that, and look, it's clear you're familiar with the law.  You're familiar with the precedent on this.  You can't sign this, right? 

ROUNDS:  Well one of the things that we do is before any bill gets to us, we do not decide and publicly discuss what our position would be on a specific bill...

ABRAMS:  Give us a clue. 

ROUNDS:  Well, I am pro-life and I do know that my personal belief is that the best way to approach elimination of abortion is one step at a time.  And I do think that this court will ultimately take apart Roe v.  Wade one-step at a time.  Personally, do I think that they're going to step in and do a frontal attack or accept a frontal attack?  No, I don't.  But there are a lot of people in South Dakota and across the nation that believe that it's worth a try. 

ABRAMS:  But that's—but again, that's a different issue.  I mean see that issue to me is a completely separate issue, to say certain restrictions on abortion—because I think that there is a legitimate debate within the Supreme Court and in the nation about what restrictions should apply on abortion.  But what troubles me about this is as you've pointed out this is not about restricting abortion.  This is about banning it, and the court has said you can't do that. 

ROUNDS:  That's correct.  But once again it's the court's interpretation of the Constitution. 


ROUNDS:  The last time I think that they actually looked at it was about 16 years ago (INAUDIBLE) be about 14 years ago if I'm not mistaken.

ABRAMS:  Well there have been other cases since then...

ROUNDS:  Yes.  And once again, I think a number of the legislators have made it clear that this may very well go to an appellate court. 


ROUNDS:  The existing Roe v. Wade will be upheld; it will move to the next court.  It will be upheld.  And the only place that it could make an impact or go into effect is if the court at the time that this law were to reach it were to say first of all that they would even consider it, which is...


ROUNDS:  ... to a lot of people highly unlikely. 

ABRAMS:  Yes and for that reason, I would say—I would think that you wouldn't sign this particular law, even if you do support certain restrictions on abortion.  But we'll be watching, Governor, and we'll see what you do.  And we thank you very much for taking the time to come on the program.  We do appreciate it.

ROUNDS:  Sure.

ABRAMS:  All right.  Joining me now to discuss, debate, Mathew Staver is president and general counsel of Liberty Counsel and Brigitte Amiri is staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union Reproductive Freedom Project.  Thanks to both of you for coming on the program. 

All right.  Mat Staver, look, you'll concede, right, I mean this law is not constitutional as far as the U.S. Supreme Court's interpretations up until now, right? 

MATHEW STAVER, PRES., LIBERTY COUNSEL:  That's right.  I think you said it right at the very beginning.  This is not for what the other lower courts are going to do.  This is really a direct attack at the United States Supreme Court and by the best understanding of who's on that court right now it's probably a 5-4 decision to strike down this law...


ABRAMS:  Isn't there something insulting about it?  I mean it's basically saying we don't care what the court has ruled.  We don't care that the court has sort of laid out these rulings and they've laid out what restrictions are going to be acceptable and which ones aren't, with regard to a woman's health, et cetera.  And instead they're sort of creating this language—and this is number eight from the South Dakota law. 

It says why abortion (INAUDIBLE) to fully protect the rights, interest and health of the pregnant mother, the rights, interest and life of her unborn child and the mother's fundamental natural intrinsic right to a relationship with her child, abortions in South Dakota should be prohibited.

I mean, first of all just that language, to me, sounds somewhat disingenuous, the notion that you need a legislature to create a mother's intrinsic right to a relationship with her child. 

STAVER:  Well Dan I think the bigger insult is the Supreme Court's decisions on the Constitution, when it invented a decision that...


STAVER:  ... abortion on demand. 

ABRAMS:  Look, you can dispute—look there's a lot of dispute about Roe v. Wade and I think that most people actually think that in retrospect probably doesn't make a lot of intellectual sense, but now it is the law of the land.  And it is the law of the U.S. Supreme Court.  And my concern is that people like you are saying we don't care what the court says. 

STAVER:  Well I think this is an issue that has to go back to the Supreme Court.  This is the only way to get it directly there.  It will be no doubt enjoined at the lower court levels.  I'm sure you're going to find some major dissents at the appellate court that will say this law is constitutional and Roe v. Wade and Casey are unconstitutional...

ABRAMS:  I don't think you will. 


ABRAMS:  Brigitte Amiri, I would be stunned, because that would basically be saying, I, as a lower court judge, am going to say I don't—not only do I not agree with the U.S. Supreme Court, but because I don't agree with the U.S. Supreme Court I'm going to create my own rulings and disregard the higher court.

STAVER:  Well but I think you'll find a number of judges that will say this is the Supreme Court's ruling, but it's not well reasoned and I disagree...


ABRAMS:  That's not...


ABRAMS:  Wait.  That is—maybe I'm wrong.  Maybe I forgot my law school classes, but Brigitte Amiri, that's not what I thought lower court judges are supposed to do. 

BRIGITTE AMIRI, AMERICAN CIVIL LIBERTIES UNION:  Right.  They're absolutely bound by precedent and certainly not only are lower courts bound by precedent, but individual legislators are as well.  So I think what's also remarkable about this move by South Dakota lawmakers is that they have completely forgotten their duty to abide by the Constitution when passing laws. 

And I think that that's an extremely frightful situation.  And I also think that what's significant about this move is that we are actually seeing the true colors of the anti-choice movement.  What they are trying to do is ban abortions on a national level.  And that move is blatantly unconstitutional. 

ABRAMS:  But some of them.  I mean let's be fair, Brigitte.  Some of them are trying to do that and others are just trying to pursue certain restrictions on abortions...

AMIRI:  Well, the South Dakota lawmakers who voted for this...

ABRAMS:  Right.  Right.  The South Dakota lawmakers who voted for this are clearly trying to make sure that no abortions are available in the state of South Dakota.  But to sort of brush it and say oh well this means that everyone in this movement all feels the same way—a lot of them feel that certain restrictions should apply. 

AMIRI:  That's correct.  And in fact South Dakota has a number of restrictions already in place.  And also what we should be concerned about is not just the frontal attack on Roe, which we're seeing coming out of the South Dakota legislature now, but the slow chipping away of Roe v. Wade that's been going on for decades. 

And South Dakota is a perfect example of that.  The South Dakota legislature has put a number of restrictions on abortion and there's a complete dearth of availability of abortion in South Dakota.  Ninety-eight percent of counties in South Dakota lack an abortion provider.  So...

ABRAMS:  Yes, but is it so bad for it to say—when you say Roe v.  Wade is being chipped away, I think if you look at what the public at large thinks, a lot of them do think that there shouldn't be just the opportunity for every woman or girl to get an abortion at any time in the first two trimesters.

AMIRI:  Well the vast majority of the public upholds—supports upholding Roe v. Wade and I think we have to look at the practical affect of the various restrictions that have been placed on abortion, like—in a state like South Dakota, where it's very, very difficult for women to obtain the constitutionally protected procedure.  And so I think what's interesting about what's going on and significant about what's going on in South Dakota is we are seeing a frontal attack, which really kind of reveals...


ABRAMS:  Mat Staver, here's what Republican State Senator Clarence Kooistra said about this bill. 

What can we as a state possibly gain by passing a bill that's unconstitutional?

STAVER:  Well I think what you can possibly gain is when this goes to the United States Supreme Court, you may have one justice switch his or her opinion, you don't know.  But you certainly might have another change in the justices.  And this bill, taking maybe a year and a half to two years to get there, you could have a different Supreme Court and you could have a Supreme Court that says in a 5-4 decision that Roe v. Wade and Casey were wrongly decided and not consistent with the Constitution.  I don't think the majority of Americans do support Roe v. Wade, because that says you can have an abortion...

ABRAMS:  It depends...

STAVER:  ... all nine months...

ABRAMS:  ... how you ask it.  Look...

STAVER:  ... for any reason.

ABRAMS:  All of this stuff depends on how you ask the question and then it changes the results.  Do you support Roe v. Wade?  Yes.  But do you support restrictions?  Yes.  You know, it all depends on how you ask the question.  So Mathew Staver and Brigitte Amiri thanks a lot for coming on the program. 

AMIRI:  Thank you so much.

ABRAMS:  Appreciate it.

STAVER:  Thank you.  It's my pleasure.

ABRAMS:  Coming up, Joran van der Sloot admits he wanted to have sex with Natalee Holloway.  But wait until you hear why he says he didn't before leaving her on an Aruban beach, next, more of the exclusive interview with Joran. 

And reaction to our exclusive with the man in charge of Natalee's trip to Aruba, the school chaperone, who says it wasn't his job to keep 18 years old out of bars. 

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.  Joran van der Sloot, the main suspect in Natalee Holloway's disappearance, is speaking out in an exclusive interview with ABC News, admitting now that he was planning on having sex with Natalee.

Quote—“My intention was to take her to my house to have sex with her.  I asked her if she wanted to have sex and she was fine with it.  I didn't have a condom with me, though, in my wallet and I won't have sex with a girl without a condom.” 

This just released surveillance video shows Joran and Natalee together at a casino in Aruba walking in and then sitting near each other.  That's the night she disappeared.  Now, Joran says he regrets leaving Natalee behind on the beach the last night she was seen.


JORAN VAN DER SLOOT, CHIEF SUSPECT IN NATALEE HOLLOWAY CASE:  At that moment in time, for me it wasn't the wrong thing, but it's definitely the wrong thing to do.  I mean it's not something a real man would do.  It's not normal.  It's not right at all. 


ABRAMS:  Joining me now MSNBC analyst and former Connecticut prosecutor Susan Filan, criminal defense attorney Michelle Suskauer and MSNBC analyst and former FBI investigator Clint Van Zandt. 

All right.  Let me play a little bit more from Joran van der Sloot.  This is number one.  This is what—how he says he reacted when he heard that Natalee was missing. 


VAN DER SLOOT:  The first thing that popped into my head was (EXPLETIVE DELETED) was something happened to her.  What if she went swimming, I was thinking after everything she told me she probably might have gone back to her hotel, hooked up with—gone to someone else, hooked up with someone else and wanted to stay another day on the island. 


ABRAMS:  Oh, Clint, you know when he says stuff like that, you know...

CLINT VAN ZANDT, FORMER FBI PROFILER:  For crying out loud, Dan...

ABRAMS:  Right.  I mean even—let's even assume for a moment, OK, that he's totally innocent...


ABRAMS:  ... that he's been totally unfairly treated, et cetera...


ABRAMS:  ... to then just throw out about a woman who is almost certainly dead the notion that, oh, well maybe she wanted to hook up with someone else on the island.

VAN ZANDT:  What we see here, Dan, is classic, where he dehumanizes, he devaluates the victim.  And you know pretty son he's had nine months to finally come up with some kind of story.  We give him three more months and he's going to become a victim of Natalee.  She drug him to the beach, she almost beat him to death.  He fought her off.  I mean his story, Dan, has had nine months to evolve to this point and this is the best he can tell us?

ABRAMS:  Yes.  Michelle, this...


ABRAMS:  ... I mean come on, this is...


·         another thing is—you know you said let's presume him to be innocent. 

I mean I don't know—it would be nice to presume him to be innocent.  I mean everybody's already jumped on the...

ABRAMS:  Well we don't have to...

SUSKAUER:  ... bandwagon...

ABRAMS:  Wait.  Wait.  We're not a court of law. 


ABRAMS:  We don't have the power to take away...

SUSKAUER:  No, no, I understand that...

ABRAMS:  ... his freedom here...


ABRAMS:  ... and as a result we can talk honestly and openly, unlike in a courtroom, where they intentionally stack it in favor of the defendant because the government has the power to take away his freedom... 

SUSKAUER:  OK and you don't want to get...

ABRAMS:  I do...

SUSKAUER:  ... you don't want to get started...

ABRAMS:  I've said this so many times...


ABRAMS:  I—on this program I will not and cannot—I've said it many times—presume people innocent.  Because that would mean that in every case I'm presuming that the police got it wrong.  It would mean that in every case I analyze...


ABRAMS:  ... I say I'm going to presume the police got it wrong.  In this case he hasn't even been arrested.



SUSKAUER:  We're going to save that conversation for another time because as a defense lawyer it is an absolute uphill battle when you're in the...

ABRAMS:  I'm so sorry. 


ABRAMS:  So good luck to you inside the courtroom. 


ABRAMS:  That's not what we do on this program. 

SUSKAUER:  OK, but Dan, Dan, he really had nothing to lose by going on television, because everybody's already demonized him, anyway.  So he really...


SUSKAUER:  ... it was—in terms of P.R. he really didn't have anything to lose, but no, I mean changing his story 500 times, yes, that's very harmful to him. 

ABRAMS:  Here's what he said about why he changed his story. 


VAN DER SLOOT:  I didn't want anyone to know.  I didn't want anyone to know I left her at the beach. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Why would you lie if you had nothing to hide about Natalee Holloway?

VAN DER SLOOT:  I lied because yes, I was scared.  I had a girlfriend at the time.  I didn't want my dad to think bad of me.  I didn't want my friends to think bad of me.


ABRAMS:  All right, on the other side of the coin, here, Susan, not an entirely horrible defense. 

SUSAN FILAN, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST:  I think it's an awful defense. 


FILAN:  Because it's so blatantly inconsistent.  First he makes her out to be somebody like himself...


ABRAMS:  Look, I agree with you on that one.


ABRAMS:  He shouldn't—that was a dumb, insulting thing to do. 

FILAN:  Trying to hook up with somebody else.  Well maybe that's what he's like.  Surely she's not like that.  We've certainly heard from her mother and her friends and other people that have spoken about her character.  That's not what she was like and then to say that I didn't want my dad to know, I didn't want my girlfriend to know.  So he's a liar and a cheater and he...


FILAN:  ... lies to his own dad.  There's absolutely nothing redeeming in his story whatsoever...

ABRAMS:  Well no, look, he wants—he's happy to admit that he's a liar and everything else...


ABRAMS:  ... just as long as you don't view him as a murderer. 


ABRAMS:  I'm serious.

FILAN:  Well it's not working. 

ABRAMS:  I think he'd be—I think he would accept all the scorn for everything else, but. 

FILAN:  Yes, but you know when they say in one lie lies several lies, so if he's lying to his dad, he's lying to his girlfriend, do you really think he's telling us the truth?  Do you think he's being truthful...

ABRAMS:  I don't know...


ABRAMS:  I don't know.  I don't know.

SUSKAUER:  I mean he admitted he's a liar. 

FILAN:  It's preposterous. 


FILAN:  Yes and an admitted liar then cannot be afforded the opportunity to be believed when he's trying to get himself out of murder.

VAN ZANDT:  No, if he wants to do, Dan, if he wants to do this why doesn't he do a Scott Peterson imitation?  Grow his hair long, dye it red, wear sunglasses, and disappear...


VAN ZANDT:  ... somewhere for two years...


VAN ZANDT:  ... and it's going to go away.  But instead he insults the intelligence of anyone who watches a program like this and says oh here comes lie number 21.  See if he'll buy this one. 

SUSKAUER:  OK, but you know this is also not an adult too.  This is a 17-year-old kid at the time, who—you know 17 year olds and teenagers you know have a tendency to go into self-preservation mode and make up all kinds of things. So you know I mean he was also 17.  So...

ABRAMS:  All right.  Let me switch topics for a minute.  We had an exclusive interview with the chaperone from the trip.  Everyone had been wondering—so many viewers writing into this program, what about the chaperone, what about the chaperones, where were they?  Here was the chaperone—number five—on this program last night. 



the kids each day.  We were around them all day, every day.  But like I said, these were 18-year-old students who were going to be leaving home within two months, going to different cities throughout the United States and some out—throughout the world to different universities, living on their own, going places, whatever they wanted to do, doing what they wanted to do. 


ABRAMS:  Susan, I accept that.  I mean look, I think that this notion that oh everyone's blaming the chaperones.  And you know his position was look we were just told to sign—the parents all signed papers that basically said we were there in case there was an emergency, we were the contacts, we were making sure the 17 years old weren't going to the bars.  And in Aruba it was legal for 18 year olds to go to a bar.  I mean there wasn't enough chaperones I assume for every chaperone to be monitoring every person. 

FILAN:  By my math there was one chaperone per 20 students.  And the thing is his statement was inconsistent.  First he says we're not there to monitor and we're not there to supervise them.  But then he says we made sure that there was a head count.  That they were in their room and if they weren't and someone said they were, we made them come.

Well what is it?  You're policing them or you're not?  The other thing that I thought was ridiculous is he says they're going to be going off to college soon, well they are not yet.  And when you do go off to college, you get on campus, you get an orientation.  You get some kind of a transition from being a kid living under your parent's roof at home and having been...

ABRAMS:  When you go on this kind...

FILAN:  ... going out into the world.

ABRAMS:  Wait a sec.  Wait a sec.  Then the bottom line is if that—if it's the sort of moralistic position about don't send—I guess your position is then that Natalee's parents are at fault for sending her on this trip? 

FILAN:  Absolutely not.  My position is be square about what your position is.  Say it like it is.  You're either there to really police and monitor those kids or it's a free for all...

ABRAMS:  Why can't it be somewhere in between?  Why can't it be the reality that they're not there to monitor each and every one of their movements, but they're generally there to make sure that the kids are all right.  And you can say well they didn't do a very good job.  OK, you know someone ended up being hurt and missing and they noticed it the next morning.  So now we're blaming the chaperones for everything that happened?

FILAN:  I'm not blaming the chaperones.  I just didn't think his statement added up, I thought he was talking out of both sides of his mouth.  And that was the problem that I had.  Tell us what it was.  What was the actual situation?  You're there to monitor them or it's a free-for-all and they're on their own.  I don't think that what he said squared.  I thought it sounded like...

ABRAMS:  Clint...

FILAN:  ... very defensive explanation...

ABRAMS:  Am I being naive, Clint, to just...


ABRAMS:  ... believe that maybe it was somewhere in between as to the role of the chaperone? 

VAN ZANDT:  You know what the reality is, Dan, is parents beware.  If you drop your 4-year-old off at daycare or you send your 17-year-old off to spring break, you have a responsibility to know where they're going and to talk to them about it.  But when you launch them out...

ABRAMS:  I'm not willing to blame the parents on this. 

VAN ZANDT:  That's the way it goes.

ABRAMS:  I'm sorry. 


ABRAMS:  I know a lot of my viewers are because we get e-mails like this all the time.

VAN ZANDT:  No, but there's a balance there, Dan.  The parents take the responsibility by talking to their child and saying take care of yourself.  But just, you know you cannot tell five chaperones to chase 150 kids all over an island of 62 square miles.  It's just not going to happen. 

ABRAMS:  Michelle...


VAN ZANDT:  They can't do it.

ABRAMS:  Quick final word, Michelle.

SUSKAUER:  I say the chaperones do have some responsibility and I'm surprised that they weren't named in any civil suit, because they should be.

ABRAMS:  And you're basing that on what? 


SUSKAUER:  On the fact that you know what, they do have some responsibility...

ABRAMS:  You mean just...

SUSKAUER:  I'm sure that the parents...

ABRAMS:  ... general sort of moral culpability. 

SUSKAUER:  No.  That the parents are not sending these kids alone to Aruba.  They sent them knowing that this is a fun place, of course, but that there are going to be chaperones...

VAN ZANDT:  ... who would ever chaperone...


VAN ZANDT:  ... a group like this again?  Who would ever voluntarily be a chaperone again? 

ABRAMS:  Yes.  Yes.  No...


ABRAMS:  Anyway.  All right.  Look, I know the e-mails are already coming in.  Everyone's—you know a lot of you have been writing in saying you know you can't stand the chaperone.  We got the e-mails later in the show.  But I don't know.  I found it to be kind of credible.

Susan Filan and Michelle Suskauer and Clint Van Zandt thanks a lot. 

VAN ZANDT:  Thank you.

SUSKAUER:  Thank you.

ABRAMS:  You can catch Joran's entire interview tonight on prime time 10:00 p.m. on ABC.

Coming up, on the anniversary of the night Jessica Lunsford went missing, a top D.A. is fighting efforts to make mandatory minimum sentences for sex offenders.  He says it will make the cases harder to prosecute. 

And police make two arrests in one of the biggest bank robberies in history.  Brazen thieves kidnapping the bank manager and his family.  They made off with more than $70 million.  This story is unbelievable.  It's coming up. 


ABRAMS:  A year after Jessica Lunsford went missing, one of the nation's leading prosecutors is fighting a so-called Jessica's law in his state.  He says mandatory sentences for sex offenders just make it harder to prosecute.  First the headlines.


ABRAMS:  It's a year to the day since 9-year-old Jessica Lunsford was last seen.  She was abducted from her Florida bedroom by convicted sex offender John Couey, who has admitted repeatedly raping her over three days before burying her alive in the backyard. 


COUEY:  I went out there one night and dug a hole, put her in it, buried her.  I pushed.  I put her in a plastic bag, plastic baggies.

DETECTIVE:  Was she dead already?

COUEY:  No, she was still alive.  I buried her alive, like it's stupid, but she suffered.


ABRAMS:  Since Jessica's body was found and John Couey was arrested, Jessica's father and many others have been pushing for tougher sentences for sex offenders.  Florida passed Jessica's law requiring a minimum sentence of 25 years for certain sex offenses and other states are following suit.  Lawmakers in Missouri are considering more than a dozen versions of Jessica's law.  But now a prominent Missouri prosecutor says that tougher sentences for sex offenders will backfire and actually put children in danger. 

Joining me now is that man, Jefferson County Missouri prosecuting attorney Bob Wilkins, who until recently was also the president of the Missouri Prosecutors Association.  Thanks for coming on the program.  Appreciate it. 


ABRAMS:  Good.  So what is wrong with making sentences tougher for sex offenders?

WILKINS:  Well the problem is that not every case is the same.  And unfortunately most of the bills that have been sponsored in the Missouri legislature basically eliminate every child sex case statute in the—on the books.  And it says, in its place, if you touch a child under the age of 12, you do 25 years or 30 years or life. 

ABRAMS:  Are you comfortable though with saying, for example, if you have sex with a child under a certain age, if you force sex on a child under a certain age that you get a minimum of 25 years?

WILKINS:  We have no problem with that.  And let me first say that I certainly believe that every child molester in this country ought to be behind bars for at least 25 to 30 years.  The reality, however, is that more of them will be on the street, unregulated and unsupervised if we pass Jessica's law in the form that we...

ABRAMS:  Why?  What's going on happen? 

WILKINS:  Because we have situations where very young children are being victimized by people within their own household and the—in many cases, the father, the grandfather, the stepfather.  We have difficulty with the victim testifying.  We have difficult with the family cooperating, and the prosecutors are going to have to look at these cases on an individual basis, review the facts, and determine one, that they believe beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant is guilty. 

Two, that based upon the difficulties of the victim that the juries will convict.  And then you have to add in are they going to convict and establishing minimum 25-year sentence.  And as prosecutors, we have the obligation morally and ethically not to file charges if we don't believe that the jury will impose that kind of punishment.  And what's going to happen unfortunately...

ABRAMS:  Wait.  If there's a mandatory sentence, though, I mean are the jurors always going be to told about the sentence?

WILKINS:  Well that's an interesting question.  And every state is different, but in Missouri we have jury sentencing and we have what is called a bifurcated trial.  We have a guilt phase and a penalty phase. 

ABRAMS:  Yes.  OK.

WILKINS:  And the judges in this case in this state are going to allow the defense to put on evidence in the first part and argue to the jury that they should be allowed to talk about punishment because of the harsh reality of a 25-year sentence.

ABRAMS:  Basically, it sounds like what you're saying is it's going to make it a lot harder to plea bargain.  Meaning, in a lot of these cases what you'd like to do is say all right, we don't want the victim to have to testify here.  As a result, we'd like to be able to make sure this person gets 12 years, eight years, as opposed to 25.

WILKINS:  Absolutely.  The—not every case is worth 25 years and I know that that is difficult to understand...

ABRAMS:  Give me an example of a case that under one of the statutes you're concerned about that someone would get 25 years, when you don't think they deserve it?

WILKINS:  An 18-year-old neighbor in a backyard pool with his 11-year-old next-door neighbor, and he touches her on the outside of her clothing on the breast.  Under most of the bills that have been filed in Missouri, that would be a 25-year minimum sentence for an 18-year-old young man.

ABRAMS:  All right.  See, because I've long been troubled by the idea of sort of an 18-year-old having sex with his 16-year-old girlfriend and then suddenly you know being prosecuted, getting serious time and being branded as a sex offender.  Those have always disturbed me.  But let's focus very quickly and finally on the issue of people who are committing violent acts against children.  Let's be clear. 


ABRAMS:  You're not opposing 25-year sentences, correct? 

WILKINS:  That's absolutely correct. 

ABRAMS:  All right.

WILKINS:  For any forcible act involving a child under the age of 12, Missouri's prosecutors are 100 percent in support.

ABRAMS:  And bottom line, though, any act committed upon a child who is 7 or 8, that is sexual, has got to be considered forcible. 

WILKINS:  Well that's an interesting question.  In most cases it is easier for prosecutors to allege that it is a statutory offense, because the child is under the age of 12.  And in many cases where you would make the argument...

ABRAMS:  You don't oppose it.  Let me just get your position.  If you force—if you have sex with a 9-year-old and you're a 30-year-old guy, that's forcible sex.

WILKINS:  I agree with that. 

ABRAMS:  All right.

WILKINS:  Absolutely.

ABRAMS:  Fine...

WILKINS:  There also is the statutory offenses, as well. 

ABRAMS:  Understood.

WILKINS:  An 8 or a 9-year-old child and we've seen them much younger than that...

ABRAMS:  All right.

WILKINS:  Absolutely.  That is forcible. 

ABRAMS:  Look, I think all of this stuff is important to lay out there and debate and figure out what's the best way to put these guys away for the most time and at the least problems and the least hardship for these children and for these families involved.  And that's why we're having this debate.  Bob Wilkins, thanks a lot. 

WILKINS:  OK.  Thank you, Dan.

ABRAMS:  Coming up, it's like a plot out of a new movie.  Bank robbers make off with $70 million by kidnapping the bank manager and his family.  Police have just made some arrests.  We get the latest next.

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

Authorities are trying to find Donald Hanson.  He's 48, five-eight, 155, was convicted of first-degree sexual assault on a child.  He has not registered his address with the state.

If you've got any information on his whereabouts, please contact the Lake County Sheriff, 406-883-7301.  Be right back. 


ABRAMS:  Coming up, police make arrests in one of the biggest bank heists in history.  More than $70 million stolen, the bandits kidnapped the bank manager and his family in a plot right out of the movies, coming up.


ABRAMS:  In the new Harrison Ford thriller “Firewall”, a bunch of robbers kidnap a bank manager and hold his family hostage, telling them they'll kill him if he doesn't help them get their hands on the bank's millions.  In England that edge of your seat Hollywood plot was a reality.  Six people, some disguised as police officers, pulled off the biggest bank heist in British history yesterday.  Police now have two suspects in custody, a man and woman who are being questioned about the heist.


ADRIAN LEPPARD, ASSISTANT CHIEF CONSTABLE:  The arrests are significant.  They are directly related to this investigation.  The arrests are for conspiracy to rob and those people will be interviewed (INAUDIBLE) tomorrow.


ABRAMS:  NBC's Jim Maceda has more. 


JIM MACEDA, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  Kidnappers disguised as police abduct a cash depot manager and his family, then drive the manager to one of the largest cash depots for ATM machines in Britain, tying up a staff of 15.  An hour later a seven-ton truck drives off into the night with up to 40 million pound sterling, about $70 million, making the robbery Britain's biggest ever cash heist, stunning the real police, who see an inside job. 

DEP. SUPERINTENDENT PAUL GLADSTONE, KENT POLICE:  This was clearly a robbery that was planned in detail over time.

MACEDA:  And it dwarfs other infamous heists like the $40 million from Northern Bank in Belfast in 2004, allegedly carried out by the IRA.  Or the legendary great train robbery of 1963, where the gang hid $4 million in bank notes for years, but almost $70 million in bills? 

JEFFREY ROBINSON, AUTHOR, “THE LAUNDRYMEN”:  They will have a real problem transporting it, hiding it, and keeping it from other bad guys. 

MACEDA (on camera):  But already this robbery seems to have all the necessary ingredients to become a blockbuster with the British public. 

(voice-over):  A daring target, the bad guys get away, insurance covers the loss, and no one is physically hurt. 


ABRAMS:  That's NBC's Jim Maceda in London. 

Joining me now is Robert McCrie, professor of security management at John Jay College in New York.  And Charles Shoebridge, a former detective Scotland Yard, London, England.  Thanks very much to both of you for joining us.

All right.  Professor McCrie, have you ever heard of anything quite like this in real life? 

ROBERT MCCRIE, SECURITY MANAGEMENT EXPERT:  Well, the Brits are specialists at these amazing mega robberies.  They've had three of them in the last 43 years—four of them, really.  And they are well planned.  They involve many people.  It's a description of (INAUDIBLE) of organized crime. 

ABRAMS:  But in terms of the methodology used here, I mean really it almost sounds like you know they were watching movies and thinking about you know following the tricks of—used in a film, et cetera.  Do you find that often in these bank robberies it sounds like life is mirroring the movies? 

MCCRIE:  Yes, that's what I thought of when I heard this.  And “Firewall” was probably produced after they started the planning, but might have helped them refine some of the actions that they took. 

ABRAMS:  Charles Shoebridge, in terms of British bank robberies, I think people here have a pretty good sense of how often they happen here.  Are they—is it a more regular occurrence over there than here, less often?

CHARLES SHOEBRIDGE, FMR. DETECTIVE SCOTLAND YARD:  Oh it's quite common here.  It's been declining in recent years simply because the technology is so great in terms of—as you know, we have extensive CCTV coverage here, which tends to identify people attempting to this very (INAUDIBLE) crime.  And also the sentences for armed robbery in particular are very harsh.  So it's been regarded for a long time as an increasingly a mug's game, but I have to say that the technique used in this successful attempt over the last 24 hours has been used in Britain on a relatively large number of occasions. 

Not on the big heists, such as we've heard of internationally, but certainly at a local level, kidnapping the family, kidnapping the—some stakeholders' relative and then proceeding to effectively blackmail a manager...


SHOEBRIDGE:  ... over keys is relatively common.  And so although it's a part of a blockbuster movie, it's also the case that of course those who were responsible for the security of this type would also of course been well aware of this potential scenario.

ABRAMS:  Charles, in the case do we know, did they—did the kidnappers and bank robbers show the bank manager that they had the family also?  Did they bring the family to the scene?

SHOEBRIDGE:  It appears not at this stage.  I must say the details are still sketchy from the public point of view.  A phone call normally would suffice.  And also it would make sense to keep the two groups separate from the criminal's point of view. 

So that may have been what happened in this case.  It's quite clear that some form of inside involvement is likely in this case, and the fact that these two arrests have been made I think gives police an early lead with this.  And certainly the fact that the kidnappers and the gunmen were actually visible to the staff, plus of course would—presumably heard their accents, and heard them speaking and so on will be a great assistance to the police along with all the other methods the police have.

ABRAMS:  You know, Professor McCrie, I've got to assume that for the people who followed murder cases, and when a wife or a husband is killed, very often the police immediately go and question the spouse. 


ABRAMS:  And they want to be able to rule that person out first. 

MCCRIE:  Yes. 

ABRAMS:  When it comes to bank robberies, is it the same sort of thing when it comes to people who worked at the bank? 

MCCRIE:  Certainly.  Not just current employees, but recent employees, as well.  Anyone who has been fired for cause or has left under suspicious circumstances from that securities depot would be a person of interest to the police right away. 

ABRAMS:  Yes.  All right.  Professor McCrie and Charles Shoebridge, thanks a lot.  Appreciate it. 

SHOEBRIDGE:  You're welcome.

ABRAMS:  Coming up, Barbara Dolan walked out her front door, slipped on her mail, hurt her back and sued.  It sounds like a perfect case for Jacoby and Meyers.  No, Barbara got her case before the U.S. Supreme Court, even got an opinion offered by Anthony Kennedy.  The U.S. Supreme Court issued a lot of whacky opinions last weeks.  It may surprise you that they were dealing with pizza, hallucinogenic tea, and slip and fall cases.  It's my “Closing Argument”.

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


ABRAMS:  My “Closing Argument”—what is going on up at the U.S.  Supreme Court?  You know the austere body with nine justices' opinions on abortion, executive power, affirmative action or other broad constitutional principles become the law of the land.  Well this week the court set precedent on crucial legal questions related to tripping on your mail, drinking hallucinogenic tea, and pizza franchises.  Not exactly the topics that divided the country during the confirmation hearings of Samuel Alito and John Roberts.  Who thought that a woman who said she stepped on her mail, tripped, and hurt her back and wrist would make it past the doors of Jacoby and Meyers, much less into the grand halls of the Supreme Court. 

The court ruled she could sue the post office in what has become an American tradition, of slipping, falling, and then suing.  And thank goodness we now have some closure on that other issue the nation had been debating so vigorously, whether an obscure sect of Brazilian church members can drink hoasca, a hallucinogenic tea found only in the Amazon forest.  The answer, yes. 

The 130 members of the church can now trip at teatime without fear of legal repercussions.  And then there was the guy who tried to sue Domino's Pizza for violating his civil rights.  No, not because the pizza wasn't delivered to his home, not because he was fired or couldn't get a job, but because after Domino's paid him not to open franchises in Las Vegas, he then claimed he was entitled to more because of discrimination.  The Court said no. 

Thank goodness there's now established Supreme Court precedent governing an individual's right to sue the nation's largest pizza chain.  If that all sounds a bit tabloid, just wait until next week when Ms. Smith heads to Washington, former stripper and “Playboy” model Anna Nicole Smith will be at the court, arguing she's entitled to money from the estate of her 95-year-old husband.  I guess if that's a bust, she can always claim she tripped on his mail. 

Coming up, lots of e-mails on last night's exclusive with the man in charge of Natalee Holloway's trip to Aruba.  The school chaperone says it wasn't his job to keep 18-year-olds out of bars. 


ABRAMS:  I've had my say, now it's time for “Your Rebuttal”.  Politicians from both sides lashing out at the White House over a deal where an Arab company based in the UAE acquired port operations of six U.S.  cities.  We asked is this really different from other foreign countries that have run port terminals for years. 

Terry McCue in Idaho, “When was the last time a Chinese fundamentalist flew an airplane into one of our buildings?”

Dennis Poledna in California, “This administration has made its bones by demonizing by Arab nations to the extent of invading one under false pretenses.  Now we're all supposed to sit down and sing Kumbaya together because these guys have the money.”

And Dave Todd in Tennessee, “A rattlesnake in the desert is not much of a threat unless someone encroaches on his territory.  However, if you open the door to your house and give a rattlesnake free access, it becomes only a question of time until you get bit.”  Thank you, Dave Confucius Todd.

Also last night I spoke exclusively to Bob Plummer, one of the chaperones in charge of missing Alabama teen Natalee Holloway's trip to Aruba.  Plummer said that they were not there to baby-sit the kids, but were there mostly for contact purposes in case there was an emergency.  Many of you angry.

“The fact that the chaperone seemed to think it wasn't his place to keep the kids from going to the bars just stuns me.  I always was under the impression that chaperones were supposed to make sure your kids don't get into trouble or hurt.”

And Jean Marquis, “If you chaperone a class trip, you're responsible for the whereabouts of the kids you're there to supervise.  Why  bother to send chaperones if they aren't there to supervise the students?”

From North Carolina, Nathala Deaver, “What a way to celebrate an academic achievement to go to a place to drink excessively, gamble, no curfew.  Why would a group from Alabama without proper research of this faraway remote island take these girls there?  Why not go to Miami, Nassau or Jamaica?”

Come on.  I mean you know, that's not the issue, about whether they were in Nassau or Jamaica or Aruba. 

Finally Dave Bartlett on a random topic.  “Love your show.  Anything that gets my wife yelling at the TV can't help but be both informative and entertaining.”  Thank you, Dave and thank you to your wife. 

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

Chris Matthews, “HARDBALL”, up next.



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