updated 2/28/2006 10:51:42 AM ET 2006-02-28T15:51:42

Guests: Evan Kohlmann, Zoe Lofgren, Tim Susanin, Jerry Peace, Jack Levin, Sandra Miesel, David Hooper, Eddie Jordan

DAN ABRAMS, HOST:  Coming up, the deadline for American hostage Jill Carroll passed yesterday.  But some Iraqi officials say they think she‘s still alive.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ABRAMS (voice-over):  Iraq‘s interior minister says he now knows who abducted the American journalist and thinks she‘ll be released.

And an elementary school teacher arrested, accused of having sex with her 11-year-old student.  What is with all these female teachers having sex with young boys?  Are we just hearing more about it now? 

Plus, “The Da Vinci Code” on trial.  Author Dan Brown accused in court of stealing some of the best material for his bestseller. 

The program about justice starts now.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ABRAMS:  Hi everyone.  First up on the docket, did terrorists who threatened to kill kidnapped American journalist Jill Carroll yesterday act?  Now the day after the deadline, the Iraqi interior ministry says quote—“he is optimistic the 28-year-old reporter will be released”, telling ABC News this morning that he knows who kidnapped her, and believes she is alive and well.  This despite the fact that the terrorists demanded, among other things, that all female prisoners being held in Iraqi jails be released or Carroll would be killed. 

Joining us now MSNBC terrorism analyst Evan Kohlmann.  Evan thanks a lot for joining us.  We appreciate it.  All right, so you‘ve got this Iraqi minister saying she is going to be released.  How would he know that?  I mean if they know that, you would think that they‘d be able to do something.

EVAN KOHLMANN, MSNBC TERRORISM ANALYST:  Yes, I think we should look upon this pretty skeptically.  I think the Iraqi interior ministry may have gone beyond what it actually knows.  What it apparently knows is the name and address of someone who may have once held Mrs. Carroll—Ms. Carroll, excuse me.  It‘s not clear right now whether that person still is in the possession of Ms. Carroll, whether that person might have traded her off to an actual militant faction, or whether that person is anywhere near their actual residence and obviously, I think if the interior ministry really knew where Ms. Carroll was, she would be in their custody by now.

ABRAMS:  Well here‘s the U.S. ambassador to Iraq said this.  Yes, I did talk to the minister of interior late last night.  He said that based on the information that he has that she is alive and they have information with regard to where she might be held.  I mean if they know where she might be held, again you would think that they would be going there. 

KOHLMANN:  Yes again, I think we need to look upon that very skeptically.  If they knew where she was, she would be in their custody...

ABRAMS:  So why all the optimism, Evan?  I mean why saying we‘re confident she is alive.  We think we know where she is, et cetera.  What‘s the strategy behind that?

KOHLMANN:  Well look I hope that they‘re right and all along I believe that it really was not a political group that took her.  I don‘t think that these demands are real.  I think that they had something else in mind, but we don‘t really know here the identities of who exactly took her, whether they even may be Sunni or Shiite.

And I think the Iraqi interior ministry has ulterior motives that should be obvious to almost anyone.  No one really trusts the interior ministry thoroughly.  The Iraqi army apparently doesn‘t.  U.S. military forces don‘t.  It‘s been thoroughly infiltrated by sectarian militias, like the Bata Corp (ph), so look I hope that he‘s right and I hope that he‘s telling the truth, but there are political motives that the Iraqi interior ministry has in doing this and certainly one of those is to try to promote the idea that there is stability in Iraq that they are making progress when every other indicator...

ABRAMS:  Yes.

KOHLMANN:  ... is going the other way. 

ABRAMS:  But based on what you know of this situation, based on what you know of their demands, based on what you know of what we‘ve heard from the Iraqi interior ministry, there‘s no reason to believe that she‘s not alive. 

KOHLMANN:  No.  I think she is alive.  And I think that it‘s important to state here that the group that took her is looking less and less like a political group, like it was a military group.  It looks more and more like this was a kidnapping for another purpose, and let‘s hope that‘s what it is, and let‘s hope that the original people that took her still have her. 

But the fear is that these folks in the interim may have traded her off to somebody else.  And that‘s maybe why we have different tapes coming out of different times from different sources.  That would explain some of those incongruities and that would make things a lot more difficult, but I think underlying all of this is that it‘s presumptuous from the Iraqi interior ministry to say that they knew she is, because if they knew where she is...

ABRAMS:  Yes.

KOHLMANN:  ... they would have her by now. 

ABRAMS:  Yes, exactly.  All right.  I just wanted to put that into context.  MSNBC terror analyst Evan Kohlmann thanks a lot for coming on the program. 

KOHLMANN:  Thank you.

ABRAMS:  Appreciate it.

Switching topics, 18 House Democrats unimpressed with the legal

arguments in the administration in support of the NSA‘s domestic spying

program, have sent a letter to President Bush.  They want him to—quote -

“immediately direct Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the program‘s legality.”  The Democrats say—quote—“the program appears to violate the rights of U.S. persons under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.  But at the White House today, it sure didn‘t sound like that was going to happen. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SCOTT MCCLELLAN, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY:  It went through a careful review process.  There were a lot of legal officials that were involved in this at the National Security Agency, at the White House, at the Department of Justice, and I really don‘t think there‘s any basis for a special counsel, and I think the attorney general has spoken about that as well. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren is a California Democrat and a member of the House Judiciary and Homeland Security Committee.  She‘s leading the effort (INAUDIBLE) Democrats to have a special counsel appointed.  Tim Susanin was an associate independent counsel during the Whitewater investigation and a former federal prosecutor.  Thanks to both of you for coming on the program.  Appreciate it.

All right, Congresswoman Lofgren, I mean what is the reasoning to need a special counsel here?  I mean apart from the fact that people are debating whether it should be done or shouldn‘t be done, it sounds like what you want is you want the administration—you want someone to investigate the administration.

REP. ZOE LOFGREN (D), CALIFORNIA:  We all want to make sure that if al Qaeda has conspired with someone that our government finds out about it.  That‘s the point of total agreement.  The point of dispute is whether that eavesdropping occurs within the body of American law or outside of the law. 

ABRAMS:  Well that‘s actually not what we‘re talking about though. 

Because what we‘re talking about is a special counsel...

LOFGREN:  Well no, actually it is...

ABRAMS:  No.  Because look...

(CROSSTALK)

LOFGREN:  ... and if you let me finish...

ABRAMS:  ... I am on your side when it comes to the issue...

LOFGREN:  ... if you let me...

ABRAMS:  No—I got to stop you because you‘re starting with a speech and the bottom line is I agree with you on the NSA spying.  I think that it is a circumventing of FISA, but I want to know specifically...

LOFGREN:  Well you don‘t even know what it is. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  I know.  I know.  I don‘t understand...

LOFGREN:  You don‘t even know what it is and neither do we. 

ABRAMS:  OK.  OK. 

LOFGREN:  We don‘t know exactly—we don‘t—nobody in Congress except for eight individuals even knows exactly what the NSA is doing... 

ABRAMS:  We know...

LOFGREN:  ... it appears...

ABRAMS:  ... that what the administration admits to have done publicly even, just accepting that that‘s what they‘re doing, my legal...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  ... analysis of that is that that‘s not OK.  What I don‘t understand though is why you now need another special counsel here.  That‘s what I want to talk about.

LOFGREN:  We want to find out exactly what is going on and to make sure that the efforts to keep us safe comply with the law either by tweaking what the NSA is doing, or, if necessary, amending the statute.  It appears from what has been said that what is happening does not comply with the statute.  We have asked the inspector general of the Department of Justice to look at this, they refused. 

We asked the inspector general of the Department of Defense to look at this.  They refused.  We asked the General Accountability Office to investigate.  They declined.  We asked the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee and the chairman of the Intelligence Subcommittee and Homeland Security to investigate.  They didn‘t answer the letters. 

I think to have a special counsel review this is a very good solution for us.  We can in a way that‘s discreet sort through all the issues and make sure that what is going on complies with the law.  We want to be safe from terrorists, but we also want a country that is guided by the rule of law. 

ABRAMS:  Tim Susanin, that‘s the argument.  She just laid it out there for why they want a special counsel.  What‘s the response? 

TIM SUSANIN, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR:  I think that‘s a terrible argument.  I certainly—what I‘m hearing from Congresswoman Lofgren, Dan, is a frustration that the oversight function is not being carried out and initiating a criminal investigation is not the right way to do that.  I understand that the congresswoman‘s letter to the Justice Department has actually been referred to the—a different unit within justice, the Office of Professional Responsibility, the OPR...

ABRAMS:  All right...

SUSANIN:  ... and also as we all know, there are hearings going on, on the Senate side, but really what we‘re talking about here is criminalizing or at least making a criminal investigation out of the president‘s inquiry into how far can I go to prosecute this war on terror.  Running that through the legal mill, getting advice from the...

(CROSSTALK)

LOFGREN:  ... a misunderstanding...

SUSANIN:  ... office of White House Counsel, from the Justice Department and briefing select members from both sides, from both parties on the Hill, and then somehow trying to shoehorn that into a criminal investigation.  It doesn‘t work.

ABRAMS:  Congresswoman? 

LOFGREN:  For a guy who was involved in prosecuting—not prosecuting

investigating President Clinton for sexual indiscretion, he should know that not the only result of an inquiry is a prosecution.  I think that the best result would be to come through with the facts, to understand exactly how the law is or is not being complied with, make sure there is compliance.  I believe that the president wants to live within the law.  I strongly suspect that this endeavor falls short of complying with...

ABRAMS:  What about...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  ... Mr. Susanin‘s comment...

LOFGREN:  ... best result...

ABRAMS:  What about...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  All right, best result—all right, but what about Tim Susanin‘s comment that this is criminalizing effectively, that you‘re trying to sort of move this into a different realm because you‘re frustrated that you can‘t get anything done and so you‘re saying, hey, this is our last resort. 

(CROSSTALK)

LOFGREN:  ... simply wrong. 

ABRAMS:  Go ahead.

LOFGREN:  It‘s simply wrong.  As he well knows, special counsels have great authority to look at the facts, they are professionals, and they should be discreet.  And so the result could be really a determination of where this—these procedures fall short, if they do.  I‘d be delighted if we found out that we were wrong, that our concerns were wrong...

ABRAMS:  Yes.

LOFGREN:  ... but if we do need to make some changes in the law or the program...

ABRAMS:  Tim...

LOFGREN:  ... we would be able to do that and I have no reason to believe that the president wouldn‘t embrace that opportunity...

ABRAMS:  Tim, let me ask you this. 

LOFGREN:  ... that he wouldn‘t want to live within...

ABRAMS:  It seems that there is a growing sense now in the country and

when I say in the country, look, I‘ve made it very clear that my legal

analysis of this is that they do not have the right to do this without any

reference to the FISA court and simply to say well the FISA court is a

nicety.  But apart from that, it now seems Republicans are joining in the chorus.

You‘ve got the Democrats.  You‘ve got many Republicans now saying that they are troubled by this program.  What can Congress do that you think would be OK for them to say, you know what, we need to check this out?  We need to know a little bit more about this.  Even if it‘s in secret, we‘ve got to do something. 

SUSANIN:  Well I think there are a number of ways this will play out.  I think as a practical matter, Dan, what we‘re—from what we‘re hearing on Capitol Hill is there will be some kind of accommodation, maybe legislation, but don‘t forget, while that process plays out, as the congresswoman knows from one of the responses she had to her letters to one of the executive agencies, there are several federal district court matters pending and that‘s really what we‘re talking about here.  Individuals who feel that their privacy rights have been violated have a recourse.  They go to the court...

ABRAMS:  Wait.  Wait.  But Tim, come on.  That‘s a copout.  Most people don‘t...

SUSANIN:  I don‘t think that‘s a copout at all.

ABRAMS:  Of course it is.  Most people don‘t know that they‘re being -

that surveillance is being engaged on them. 

SUSANIN:  Well then...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  You have people who are suing who are saying oh—we had one of the people on.  They‘re saying oh you know what, I think I was probably one of the people that they were monitoring.  They have no idea. 

SUSANIN:  Well, as I say, I think before those cases come to a head, Dan, I do think we will see some result through legislation or maybe modification of FISA or some new act on the Hill, but let‘s remember, I mean Congresswoman Lofgren back in the ‘90‘s was the first one to say when the previous administration was being investigated for clearly criminal acts, obstruction of justice, perjury and the like, that impeachment, this type of criminal investigation should be used only when we‘re near a subversion of government and the phrase you used in your lead-in, Dan...

(CROSSTALK)

SUSANIN:  ... a difference of a legal argument certainly can‘t be the basis for the criminal investigation...

ABRAMS:  Congresswoman gets the final word...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  ... and then I‘ve got to wrap it up. 

LOFGREN:  I‘ll just say, this is about the separation of powers.  And whether the executive branch has the ability to basically tell the judicial and the legislative branch that they are—have nothing to say about the government. 

ABRAMS:  Yes.

LOFGREN:  That cannot be the way the American government works. 

(CROSSTALK)

SUSANIN:  I agree, but that doesn‘t warrant a criminal investigation. 

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  Representative Lofgren and Tim Susanin, thanks a lot. 

Appreciate it. 

SUSANIN:  Thanks, Dan.

ABRAMS:  Coming up, another teacher charged with having sex with her student, this time he‘s only 11 years old.  What is it with all these women sleeping with boys?  Is it really happening more often or are we just hearing more about it?

And as Mardi Gras rolls through New Orleans, one judge there warns defendants accused of all sorts of crimes that they may have to be set free if they‘re not put on trial soon.  We‘ll talk to New Orleans district attorney about that. 

Plus, he wrote one of the best selling books ever.  Two authors say the author of “The Di Vinci Code” stole some of the plot from them.  Today the trial got started.

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:  We‘re back.  It‘s happened again.  Another female teacher charged with having sex with her student.  What‘s going on here?  This time she‘s 36, her male student is 11.  Wendie Schweikert is being held on $100,000 bond.  Prosecutors say she‘s a danger to the community and a flight risk.  According to the boy‘s mother, the fifth grader is now terrified that his former teacher will get out on bond. 

Joining me now is Jerry Peace, solicitor of the 8th Judicial Circuit in South Carolina, who‘s handling the prosecution of this case.  And Jack Levin, a criminologist from Northeastern University.  Thanks to both of you for coming on the program.  Appreciate it. 

All right, Mr. Peace, let me start with you.  How did this come to light? 

JERRY PEACE, SOLICITOR OF 8TH JUDICIAL CIRCUIT:  Last Thursday evening, the mother of the 11-year-old child was told by the child that he had been having sex with his teacher.  She immediately reported that to the police, the police started an investigation.  They actually arrested the mother on Friday. 

ABRAMS:  They arrested the teacher you mean? 

PEACE:  They arrested the teacher on Friday.  That‘s correct. 

ABRAMS:  Right.  Right.  And how long was this alleged abuse occurring? 

PEACE:  Well, in the warrants that were obtained, the abuse was alleged to have occurred between January the 4th of 2006 and February the 9th of 2006. 

ABRAMS:  And has she confessed? 

PEACE:  I can‘t go into what she has done, but I can say based on the investigation, the warrants were sought and obtained. 

ABRAMS:  And how—the boy apparently afraid that she‘s going to be released, that‘s coming from the boy‘s mother? 

PEACE:  That‘s coming from the boy‘s mother.  We had a bond hearing on Saturday morning and the mother wanted to address the court, she became too upset to address the court.  She had told me before the bond hearing that the young man was just absolutely terrified and he was in fear that the teacher would be released on bond. 

ABRAMS:  Wow.  So did he go to his mother basically saying mom, help me? 

PEACE:  Well this had developed over several months.  The mother had noticed that the teacher was paying more attention to her child than she thought was normal for a teacher to do.  And she kept asking her son if anything was happening, and the son kept saying that it was not happening.  The teacher was going to basketball games, she was giving the son gifts, she was hugging him every time she encountered him, and finally on last Thursday, the son admitted that the teacher was having sex with him. 

ABRAMS:  And what kind of sentence is she facing? 

PEACE:  She faces 20 years on each count.  We have two counts of criminal sexual conduct with a minor.  It‘s a 20 -- each count carries 20 years.  It is a violent offense, so in South Carolina, it carries 85 percent of whatever sentence she receives.  She will have to serve. 

ABRAMS:  Jack Levin, are we seeing more of this now?  I mean it seems every week there‘s another female teacher being arrested, young generally, young female teacher being arrested for having sex with a child. 

JACK LEVIN, CRIMINOLOGIST:  Well, Dan, first of all, there are still very few teachers who are sleeping with their students.  I think we have to say that.  But at the same time, there are more women who are acting the way that men have always acted.  You know, we‘re seeing more women joining the gangs, we‘re seeing more women committing simple assault, even aggravated assault, and you know, it stands to reason that there would be an abuse of power among women, the way there‘s always been a few men who have abused their powerful positions as well. 

ABRAMS:  Is it possible that now the men know what the consequences are going to be, an older teacher having sex with a female girl student knows?  There‘s no question.  They are going to be in big, big legal trouble if anyone finds out about it.  Is it possible that some of these women think they‘ll be able to get away with it? 

LEVIN:  Well, if that‘s true, it won‘t take much longer before the women will know as well, I can tell you that, but it is true at the same time that we don‘t as a society seem to condemn a female teacher who has an affair with a young boy the way we do when it‘s a male teacher with...

ABRAMS:  Well I have to tell you, I—look, I have distinguished to a

certain degree on this program, because there have been cases where I think

the case I think actually of the teacher we‘re seeing there—where the 16, 17-year-old boys may have actually been taking advantage of her alcoholism.  That‘s very different than the kind of case we‘re talking about here...

LEVIN:  Right.

ABRAMS:  ... where you‘re talking about an 11-year-old boy, I don‘t care if it‘s a girl or a boy.  When you‘re talking about 11 years old, that is just pure unadulterated molestation. 

LEVIN:  No, it is.  You know I have to say that puberty starts much younger now than it did 10 or even 20 years ago and an 11-year-old boy could very easily look as though he‘s 14, but that‘s about it.  It‘s still immoral and it‘s still illegal, there‘s no question about it.  I guess over time there will be more teachers who understand that and don‘t make advantage of the youngsters. 

ABRAMS:  We‘ve been showing a lot of pictures of the various teachers, Debra Lafave, Mary Kay Letourneau, Beth Geisel.  Why do they do it you think?

LEVIN:  Well you know for some people taking a risk, having a challenge makes them feel powerful and in control.  And keep in mind that there are pedophiles who are able to justify having an affair with a child on the grounds that they‘re doing something wonderful for the child, that it‘s therapeutic for a youngster to have a sexual relationship with an adult.

But one thing is clear that a lot of pedophiles like the acceptance.  The pressure is off.  They‘re in absolute control of the child and that makes the affair that much more interesting. 

ABRAMS:  Mr. Peace, are you in discussions for a possible plea deal?  It seems in many of these cases to avoid the child having to testify because the facts really aren‘t that much in dispute that they‘re able to work out some sort of deal.

PEACE:  We are not that far along in the process yet.  She had her bond hearing on Saturday.  As of Saturday morning, she was not represented by an attorney.  She did request that an attorney be appointed for her, so that should be done in the next few days. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  Mr. Peace, thank you for taking the time.  Jack Levin, as always, good to see you. 

LEVIN:  Thank you.

PEACE:  Thank you.

ABRAMS:  Coming up, Mardi Gras is back in New Orleans, but the city‘s justice system is far from normal.  One judge even warning that some accused murderers could be set free if their trials don‘t start soon.  We talk to the New Orleans D.A. up next.

And “The Da Vinci Code” on trial.  The author accused of stealing some of the best material from his bestseller—for his bestseller.   

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 Nebraska. 

Authorities are trying to find Gerald Dobbs, 34, five-six, 195, was convicted of sexually assaulting a child.  Has not registered his address with the state.  If you‘ve got any information, please contact the Nebraska State Patrol Sex Offender Registry, 402-471-8647.  Be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  “The Da Vinci Code” on trial.  The book, the author in court. 

First the headlines. 

(NEWS BREAK)

ABRAMS:  “The Da Vinci Code,” it‘s one of the most anticipated movies of the year and among the world‘s best selling novels, but if two authors have their way, it may be a little while before we get to see it on the big screen.  Dan Brown, the man who wrote the bestseller, was in court today accused of lifting some of the best stuff.  The authors of “The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail” published in 1982 accuse Brown of stealing their high ideas and research and are suing the publisher, Random House. 

The author‘s attorney told the court—quote—“Brown copied from ‘The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail‘ and therefore the publication of the resulting novel is an infringement of my client‘s copyright.”  If the authors succeed, the scheduled May 19 release of the movie based on the book starring Tom Hanks and Ian McKellen could be in jeopardy. 

Joining me now, intellectual property attorney David Hooper and Sandra Miesel, author of “The Da Vinci Hoax: Exposing the Errors in the Da Vinci Code”.  Thanks to both of you for coming on the program. 

All right, Ms. Miesel, let me start with you.  Look, you have read both of these books in your research, you‘ve also read “The Da Vinci Code”.  Is it a rip-off? 

SANDRA MIESEL, “THE DA VINCI HOAX” AUTHOR:  Well, I‘m not in a position to say what the legal ramifications are, but the things that make “Da Vinci Code” most interesting to the reader is the sexual relationship between Jesus and Mary Magdalene is taken from “Holy Blood, Holy Grail”.

ABRAMS:  But is it taken word for word?  I mean because look...

MIESEL:  No, no, no...

ABRAMS:  ... it‘s a novel, right?  I mean it‘s making things up...

MIESEL:  No...

ABRAMS:  ... and it‘s saying...

MIESEL:  ... it‘s a novel...

ABRAMS:  ... so he read a couple of books, which were historical books...

MIESEL:  Well...

ABRAMS:  ... presumably, I know you disagree with them, but let me just ask you this question first.  But do you think that based on what you saw that he‘s really just taking—lifting the words and putting them in his book? 

MIESEL:  No, he‘s not lifting it word for word, but he is taking the plot line, the historical plot line, if you will, and adapting it as the plot line of his book.  Exactly where the responsibility lies, that‘s for the court to decide.  I‘m not in a position to do that. 

ABRAMS:  Understood.  Understood...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  And I‘ll talk to the lawyer. 

MIESEL:  Yes.

ABRAMS:  Go ahead.  Do you want to finish? 

MIESEL:  No...

ABRAMS:  OK.  I was going to—let me ask you this.  Before I go and deal with the legal issues, bottom line is you think that just about everything about what you just talked about in “The Da Vinci Code” and in these other two books, you say not true?

MIESEL:  It‘s not true.  Nothing is true.  Occasionally, the people who wrote “Holy Blood and Holy Grail” have some correct facts, where Dan Brown will reverse those and introduce a falsehood of his own. 

(LAUGHTER)

ABRAMS:  Well—all right.  Let me ask David Hooper about that.  I mean all right let‘s assume that‘s true for a moment.  Let‘s assume that there are certain things that experts would say were true from these other books, that a novelist is making untrue.  Does that help him in protecting him legally and saying of course I didn‘t take their research, their material.  Some of the things I viewed completely differently. 

DAVID HOOPER, INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY ATTORNEY:  I think they took this book as a starting point, then they did their research and that is what you‘re normally allowed to do in this country.  What you‘re not allowed to do is to lift great chunks of text.  You can‘t under copyright have a monopoly of ideas.  What they‘re doing is something very intangible.  They‘re saying you took the architectural or the themes of the book, well I mean that‘s been going on since the time of Shakespeare, so absent some clear evidence of copying, of lifting material, one would expect Dan Brown to successfully defend...

(CROSSTALK)

HOOPER:  ... of evidence.

ABRAMS:  That‘s what I thought.  I mean that was my initial reaction when I heard about this lawsuit.  I was thinking boy they‘re going to have to show that they really lifted text.  That they‘ve copied way he—they were writing, et cetera.  To say in a novel that you took ideas from a historical analysis, can that ever succeed? 

MIESEL:  Well, Dan...

ABRAMS:  Let me ask Mr. Hooper...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  Hang on.  Let me ask Mr. Hooper.  Yes. 

HOOPER:  I think it‘s very difficult because it‘s so intangible.  It‘s a (INAUDIBLE).  I mean after all this book has been around for 20 years.  There‘s a great deal of other stuff around and I think the evidence will be that Dan Brown and his wife spent two years researching their work, so there‘s not—it‘s all very intangible...

ABRAMS:  But it‘s a novel. 

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  I mean, again, what I keep thinking is it‘s a novel.  It‘s not supposed to be real.  And so they‘re saying, you took our real research and you put it in your book.  Let‘s even assume that‘s true.  Let‘s assume for the sake of argument that he took the research from these books, that he read these books and he thought, wow, that‘s interesting.  I‘ll use that as part of the plot line for my novel.  As a legal matter, that still can‘t be grounds for a lawsuit. 

HOOPER:  If you can be shown to have lifted somebody‘s research lock, stock and barrel then—and there‘s evidence of actually copying their research over.  But I mean you can use their information.  What you‘re meant to do is you can look at this as a primary source and then you must go and do your own research. 

And there‘s no evidence that Dan Brown didn‘t do his own research.  I mean he uses it.  And the other thing that I think will help him in this case is that he clearly acknowledges the existence of that.  So it isn‘t as if he‘s quietly gone into the library and copied out somebody else‘s book. 

ABRAMS:  So why hasn‘t...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  Why hasn‘t this lawsuit been thrown out then, Mr. Hooper, already?

HOOPER:  Well it‘s a question for—I mean theoretically Baigent and Leigh could win.  There is a case involving a novel by James Herbert where he did roughly what is alleged against Dan Brown.  He took historical book and took too much of it, it was called “The History of a Spear” (ph), same sort of mythological history and he produced his own book “The Spear” and the judge said you‘ve taken too much and that‘s copying, and he lost his case.  But there they were able to point to real similarities (INAUDIBLE) hard stop on the page...

ABRAMS:  Let me ask you one...

HOOPER:  ... and this is all (INAUDIBLE).

ABRAMS:  One final question about the law.  Is there a reason that they sued in England as opposed to the United States? 

HOOPER:  That I—that I‘m afraid you‘ll have to ask...

ABRAMS:  All right.

HOOPER:  ... people tend to come to light to sue here because...

ABRAMS:  Libel cases I know...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  Libel cases I know why people go to England...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  ... but, yes.  Let me ask...

HOOPER:  And also the defenses are a bit more helpful under American copyright law...

ABRAMS:  Yes.

HOOPER:  ... than they would be here. 

ABRAMS:  All right.

HOOPER:  They‘re a bit stricter here. 

(CROSSTALK)

HOOPER:  I think...

ABRAMS:  Ms. Miesel...

HOOPER:  ... they made the right decision...

ABRAMS:  I‘m sorry.  Ms. Miesel final question to you about the books as a whole. 

MIESEL:  Yes.

ABRAMS:  It must be frustrating for you, because you‘re basically saying, you think that the two original historical books are inaccurate, you think “The Da Vinci Code” is even more inaccurate...

MIESEL:  Yes.

ABRAMS:  ... and basically what the two authors are saying is hey, you stole our original material and you‘re sitting there going wait a second, it‘s all wrong. 

MIESEL:  (INAUDIBLE) but he sold it as fact.  It has a fact page at the beginning of the book.  It was reviewed and praised as the subject of deep and profound research and being true.  People take it for true, people spend money to go on “Da Vinci Code” tours because they are so confident that it is true. 

ABRAMS:  And you‘re saying it‘s just not? 

MIESEL:  No.  It‘s not.  Not a thing, not a thing other than Paris is in France, you know, that part of it is true. 

ABRAMS:  David Hooper and Sandra Miesel thanks a lot for coming on the program.  Appreciate it.

HOOPER:  Thank you.

MIESEL:  Thank you.  Thank you.

ABRAMS:  Coming up, Mardi Gras, thousands going to New Orleans.  One judge there now saying some accused murderers could soon be free unless they get a trial soon.  We‘re going to talk to the New Orleans D.A. 

And we love to complain about airline food, but now many travelers are complaining about having to pay for it, and other things like pillows on board.  Forget the pillows for a minute, but I say get over it, unless you want your fares to go up.  It‘s my “Closing Argument”. 

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Coming up, Mardi Gras rolling through New Orleans.  But one judge there is warning defendants accused of all sorts of crimes may be set free if they‘re not put on trial.  We‘ll talk to the New Orleans district attorney up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Hundreds of thousands of locals and tourists enjoying the first post Katrina Mardi Gras.  The celebration reaches its climax tomorrow.  Less than six months ago 80 percent of this city was under water.  Now at the time, a number of arrests were made in the city.  There was even a makeshift jail set up at a bus station that we visited while we were down there. 

But now, six months later, the criminal justice system is still struggling to bounce back with limited resources and staffers and a staggering number of inmates are awaiting trial.  Some reports say that there aren‘t enough public defenders in the county to provide everyone with a lawyer.  And one judge warned the courts would soon be forced to release inmates arrested for anything from drugs to murder and dismiss the charges unless they can be brought to trial soon. 

Joining me now is the man in charge of prosecuting all of those arrested, New Orleans District Attorney Eddie Jordan.  Mr. Jordan thank you for coming back on the program.  We appreciate it.  All right.  What do you mean of this judge‘s comment that...

EDDIE JORDAN, NEW ORLEANS DISTRICT ATTORNEY:  You‘re welcome, Dan...

ABRAMS:  ... a lot of serious potential criminals could be released? 

JORDAN:  Well, I don‘t think it‘s something that‘s going to happen and obviously it‘s something that we as prosecutors are going to vigorously fight.  Obviously it‘s not the appropriate remedy if we have a problem with the indigent defender program.  The proper thing to do would be to fund the indigent defender program appropriately. 

ABRAMS:  Is the problem that the money for that program used to come from parking tickets and bottom line is there really aren‘t any parking tickets now?

JORDAN:  I think that‘s a big part of the problem.  The way that the funding system is structured for the indigent defender program in Orleans Parish is such that the program to my understanding does not have sufficient funds to pay for non-attorney staff members as well as attorneys. 

ABRAMS:  So this judge is warning, saying unless we get these people to trial, these people are going to get released.  You‘re saying it‘s not going to happen? 

JORDAN:  I‘m saying that there is no precedent for that kind of remedy to this particular problem, and I think that it would be a solution that would not be supported by the law or the facts of this particular set of circumstances. 

ABRAMS:  Now, we‘re hearing reports that there are some people who are behind bars, who are basically begging to plead guilty so that they can just have served—time served.  Meaning, they‘ve been sitting in jails or prisons, and they are claiming they would like to plead guilty so they can just get out with time served.  Is that true? 

JORDAN:  I don‘t think that that‘s true.  I think that the people who have indicated that they‘re interested in pleading guilty have pled guilty for the most part.  Now there are some individuals who would like to plead guilty to a reduced charge, and that is not something that we are willing to allow as prosecutors. 

ABRAMS:  Have you been able to figure out a way to deal with people who were arrested for petty crimes, let‘s say right before Katrina hit, public intoxication, something like that, such that they have not been sitting in prisons for the last six months? 

JORDAN:  We have sorted out all of those individuals charged with minor offenses.  Those individuals have largely—in fact, I think almost all of them have been released since the storm.  So that took a while to take place, but it has happened and we have identified all of the defendants charged with minor offenses, who would have served their prison terms if in fact they had pled guilty. 

ABRAMS:  Have you been able to figure out how to deal with all the lost documents?  I mean you and I have talked about this a number of times that so many of the documents that are so important for the legal system were under water. 

JORDAN:  That‘s an ongoing process.  It‘s something that we‘ve really just begun to do.  But I am pleased to say that we have determined that there are cases where we do have sufficient evidence available, physical evidence to go forward with the prosecution.  So we‘re very hopeful that we will be able to go forward with the vast majority of our cases, even where the evidence was subjected to the storm waters.

ABRAMS:  Are you going to be able to have fun there tomorrow? 

JORDAN:  I‘m going to try to have fun.  It is difficult given the fact that this is against the backdrop of just enormous human tragedy.  But the city is determined to be resurrected and we‘re determined to go forward, so that‘s the reason why we‘re holding Mardi Gras this year. 

ABRAMS:  All right, Mr. Jordan, as I‘ve said to you many times, you have got one of the toughest jobs in America right now, and keep it up.  Thank you very much for coming back on the program.  We appreciate it. 

JORDAN:  Thank you, Dan.  Thank you. 

ABRAMS:  Coming up, why it‘s time to stop complaining about new efforts by airlines to charge from everything from soda to peanuts.  I say why should they be free?  I‘ve got a real argument as to why, but it‘s my “Closing Argument”.

And later, your e-mails on the Natalee Holloway case and the exclusive interview with Joran van der Sloot, chief suspect in the case.  Many of you writing in with discrepancies. 

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

Police are searching for William Sieler.  He‘s 62, six-foot-one, 220.  Convicted of lewd and lascivious with a child, has not registered his address with the state.  If you‘ve got any information on his whereabouts, Nebraska, they want to hear from you, 402-471-8647.  Be right back. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  My “Closing Argument”—why columnists and some consumer groups need to stop moaning about airlines charging for services we used to get for free.  I know.  We‘ve come to accept free meals, drinks, emergency exit row seats as sort of flyer‘s constitutional rights.  Well it‘s time to accept the fact that flying is a business, not an entitlement, and these days it has not been a very successful one at that.  Four of the six largest U.S. airlines have filed for bankruptcy, with fuel prices soaring, the money has to come from somewhere.  And I would much rather have to pay for peanuts than have fares go up across the board.  American Eagle now charging $1 for sodas or a bag of chips. 

For $5, you can be the proud owner of your own pillow and blanket kit.  On American and United, you‘ll now pay $2 per bag for curbside check-in and United is offering three to five inches more leg room in economy class if you‘re willing to pay a $299 annual free and free alcoholic drinks even on United international flights are now a thing of the past.  OK, so now the airlines are finally running their businesses like everyone else. 

You pay for food and better seats.  Why shouldn‘t the person who wants to fly cheap bring his own food and drink and sit in a middle seat while letting the person with more to spend pay for an aisle, a soda and a meal?  If I don‘t want to eat a nearly frozen roll with ham and cheese, why should I have to pay for the guy next to me to chow down as part of my ticket price. 

What about carry-on baggage?  Look, most of us would love to bring our suitcases on the plane.  After all, who wants to wait at the carousel sometimes for up to an hour just hoping your bags weren‘t lost, but there just isn‘t enough room.  A few people hog the overhead bins after sneaking their huge bags onto the plane, so why not just make people pay for overhead space?

Again, that should mean those who check the bags saves money.  Sure, you can argue that the airlines can make cuts elsewhere and they should, but when you go see a show or a ballgame, you pay for better seats.  You pay for snacks.  Airlines have long done it with first class anyway.  And in my book that sure beats raising prices for everyone. 

Coming up, a lot of e-mails on the Natalee Holloway case.  Many of you not buying Joran van der Sloot‘s account of what happened the night Natalee disappeared.  Your e-mails are next. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  We‘re back.  I‘ve had my say, now it‘s time for “Your Rebuttal”.  On Friday I spoke to Beth Twitty, the mother of missing Alabama teen Natalee Holloway, response to what the chief suspect Joran van der Sloot said in an interview.

Gwen Eliza in Los Angeles, “Joran van der Sloot told his story and answered the questions and his words were perfectly credible.  Beth and your legal talking heads are repeating the same old tired stories and they still show no proof of any of them.”

From Minot, North Dakota, Carman Popiel, “First Joran said he planned on having sex with Natalee.  Later he said when they were on the beach he declined her advances because he didn‘t have a condom.  Am I missing something?”

And Saundra Brown, “Is Ms. Twitty alleging that the entire law enforcement establishment conspired against her in her efforts to find out what happened to her daughter?”

From Maggie Valley, North Carolina, Pam Williams, “I just want to say that I believe your friend Chris Cuomo did a great interview with Joran van der Sloot.  I believe this interview has brought valuable information to the investigation into the disappearance of Natalee Holloway.”

I agree.  He did. 

And in my “Closing Argument” Friday, the Internet rebellion against actor Daniel Craig, the new James Bond.  They got a list of reasons why in life he‘s not Bond-like.  I said he‘s an actor, should be judged on how well he fakes it.

Our friend Shannon Brent in Coos Bay, Oregon, “Your theory doesn‘t fly.  If you were right, we should accept Pee Wee Herman in a role as Winston Churchill in World War II.  Not very convincing.”

Shannon, I said if he‘s not convincing, then he shouldn‘t have the job, but whether he wore a life preserver during a press junket doesn‘t really address that.

And Donna writes, “He shouldn‘t appeal to you.  He should appeal to me.  And let me tell you that girlie boy just doesn‘t do it and in more ways than looks.”

Marian Rockwood, “Actor or not, one has to be cool inside and out in order to be Bond.”

Barbara Torrens, “Most women I know would have been able to fantasize about being in the shoes of the Bond girls.  This actor has the totally opposite effect on me.  I don‘t care how good an actor he is.  He doesn‘t have what it takes to make me want to go see the movie.”

From Greer, South Carolina, Jacki Jean, “Would you feel the same way about an unattractive, larger woman being the Bond girl?”    

The one example I have gave was Julia Roberts playing a prostitute in the 1990 movie “Pretty Woman”.  Candice Mueller asks, “How do you know that Julia Roberts did an excellent job playing a prostitute in ‘Pretty Woman‘?”

That‘s funny, Candice.  Yes, I know exactly what a prostitute is like. 

I know.  I get it. 

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

That does it for us tonight.  Coming up next, “HARDBALL” with Chris Matthews.  Anna Nicole Smith at the Supreme Court tomorrow.  See you then.

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