updated 3/7/2006 11:21:32 AM ET 2006-03-07T16:21:32

Guests: Bernard Kerik, Clint Van Zandt, Casey Jordan, Gary Casimir, Veronika Belenkaya, B.J. Bernstein, Michelle Suskauer, Roland Amundson

DAN ABRAMS, HOST:  Coming up, New York police question a potential suspect in the murder of criminal justice student Imette St. Guillen, a bouncer who works at the bar where she was last seen alive. 

The program about justice starts now.  

Could this be the scene of the crime?  Police in New York City scouring the bar where Imette St. Guillen was last seen, hunting for clues in her murder yesterday.  Officers from the NYPD search from the basement to the rooftop, carting away bags of potential evidence and today police are questioning a bouncer from the bar, The Falls, in connection with this brutal crime. 

Hi everyone.  First up on the docket, the murder of Imette St.  Guillen, the 24-year-old criminal justice graduate student was laid to rest on Saturday, a week after her battered body was dumped in a vacant block in Brooklyn, New York about 15 miles from where she was last seen.  She was beaten and bound, her face wrapped in packaging tape, her body in a floral blanket, she had been sexually assaulted, strangled and suffocated. 

Now police seem to be zeroing in on a 41-year-old bouncer.  They have not officially named him a suspect, but he is being questioned by police.  He is a black male, 41 years old.  He lives in Queens, New York with his aunt and has an extensive criminal history, including charges of armed robbery, bank robbery, drugs, and grand larceny. 

We‘re going to talk to a reporter who spoke with him in a moment.  But joining me now, former New York City Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik, Casey Jordan, a criminologist from Western Connecticut State University, Clint Van Zandt, former FBI profiler and MSNBC analyst, and criminal defense attorney Gary Casimir. 

All right, Bernie, you hear that they‘re questioning this guy.  It makes sense that they‘d be questioning first of all anyone and everyone who had any contact with him. 

BERNARD KERIK, FORMER NYPD COMMISSIONER:  Right.  Well, they‘re going to question everybody she had contact with, anybody she may have had contact with in the bar, coming into the bar, going out of the bar.  There are reports that she was seen talking to this gentleman, the suspect, or the bouncer...

ABRAMS:  Right.

KERIK:  ... at this point, outside the bar, standing at the doorway next to the bar itself.  So they‘re going to question everybody.  But it looks like they‘re leading at this point in one direction. 

ABRAMS:  Here‘s some of the evidence that‘s been laid out in some of the local newspapers, based on what they have been able to discern.  The bouncer‘s cell phone tracked to an area near where the body was found.  Tape and wires similar to those used on the body were found in the basement of The Falls bar.  A cat apparently lives in the basement of The Falls bar and cat hairs apparently found on the blanket.  Skin found under the fingernails, again, they haven‘t been able to link that up, but that is evidence that they know of at this point.  All right, so Clint, with all of that, that‘s not good news for this guy. 

CLINT VAN ZANDT, FORMER FBI PROFILER:  Well, it‘s not, Dan.  First, they‘re going to have to link it.  They‘re going to have to find his skin under her fingernails.  They‘re going to have to say the cat hairs came from the same cat.  They‘re going to have to say the restraints came from the same spool of wire or plastic, so they‘ve got a lot ahead of them, but again that DNA, the DNA could very easily be the clincher for this guy.  If that‘s his skin cells under her fingernails, book him, Dan. 

ABRAMS:  Casey, we‘ve been talking about the fact that he had been convicted of crimes in the past, but nothing like this.  And as we‘ve been talking about this case, we have been talking about it with the assumption this may be someone who is a serial killer, is it possible that this guy did what he did, cutting her hair, torturing her, possibly cutting the body before or after death, in an effort to make it look like somebody else did it? 

CASEY JORDAN, CRIMINOLOGIST:  Well, what you‘re supposing is that he actually staged the scene or even postured the body to throw investigators off, they call these contra indicators, but frankly, I find his criminal history pretty much in keeping with what we often see with violent crime.

ABRAMS:  Tell me why.

JORDAN:  There‘s a trajectory that many criminals follow, that they start out with smaller crimes and misdemeanors.  This guy has actually graduated.  We know he‘s an ex-con, served time for armed robbery, bank robbery, he‘s not afraid of confrontation.  I‘ve read that he is a power lifter, a bodybuilder, and that very much fits with a person who is probably trying to over compensate for personal insecurities, so in my mind and we have to be careful here because sometimes we are wrong, but from what I‘ve read about his past history, this is completely in keeping with somebody who has blossomed into more sexual and sadistic crimes from a criminal history. 

ABRAMS:  Bernie, you‘re nodding? 

KERIK:  I‘d agree.  You know you have armed robbery, bank robbery, assault type things.  What happens is in this arena, they usually graduate from one to another, and it only gets worse over time.  So I tend to agree.  This could be, you know, that type of thing.

ABRAMS:  We‘ve been talking about this case for days now and we keep saying that it was going to be crucial what tips they got, who called in saying I saw this or I saw that.  And it seems that that is becoming crucial. 

KERIK:  Honestly, Dan, you have a couple of things.  You know, there are reports that have come in, who saw what, where they saw it, when they saw it, but there‘s one thing that you can‘t mistake, and that is that his cell phone was bouncing off the switches in the area where the body was found on and around the time that the body was supposedly found. 

ABRAMS:  And this guy is from Queens, and the cell phone is found in Brooklyn.

(CROSSTALK)

KERIK:  So that, there‘s no mistake, you know, that is going to be a key indicator as well, as far as putting him at the place of the crime so to speak. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  Gary Casimir, guy hasn‘t been charged with anything, right?

GARY CASIMIR, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY:  No, not yet, he hasn‘t been charged with anything, Dan, but you know there are a lot of factors.  Of course, one of the things I don‘t understand, usually when we have sexual offenders, we go through this litany of explaining how they‘re serials and how they are traditionally sexual offenders, and now it‘s easy to say that he just graduated into becoming a sexual offender. 

I don‘t know if that is much of an explanation of anything.  I do know this DNA evidence is going to be crucial, what was underneath her nails.  He is a convicted felon, if he‘s in New York City‘s database with DNA testing, this case wouldn‘t be very hard to solve, in fact, if the DNA doesn‘t match under her fingers.  Right now it seems as if he did cooperate initially.

He‘s been secured by the police department on a parole violation.  I understand that the parole violation was not telling his employer that he‘s a former convict, so I mean, so they‘re trying to hold him and watch over him.  They‘re putting a case together.  Right now the case is not—you know the best evidence they have as I understand it reading the papers is that a lawyer for The Falls now says they saw him and her leave together when before they said they did not see them together, so here we have a little contradictory testimony from the owner of the establishment and workers there now saying they did see them leave together. 

ABRAMS:  Well in fact, again, what the reports are is that the owner may have ordered—may have asked the bouncer to escort her out and as a result, may have been the last person...

CASIMIR:  Wow.

ABRAMS:  ... to see her, so we shall see.  The “New York Daily News” reporting the following.  Cops were investigating whether a decomposed corpse found yesterday in a plastic bag a mile from the Belt Parkway in eastern Queens was somehow linked to this slaying.  While the body‘s age, gender and race have not been determined officially, cops believe it was a black teenage girl. 

Clint Van Zandt, I‘ve got to assume that any time they find a body now they‘re going to be investigating whether there could be a link to other crimes in the area.

VAN ZANDT:  Oh I think they‘re going to, Dan.  I mean, you know, when you ticked off all the brutality that was done to this young woman, you know if this guy is a suspect for that, you know, there‘s nothing to say this is the first one or the fifth one he did or something else.  You know many, many times we‘ll find people with a rich criminal history. 

You don‘t get all the crimes they commit.  So that doesn‘t make this guy a serial killer.  It doesn‘t even make him Imette‘s killer, but it says he will continue to be this politically correct term, a person of interest and again, if he left any evidence, any DNA, any physical evidence with Imette that can be linked back to him, I would think if he did these similar type things to anyone else, we would probably hopefully find the same level of physical evidence that could link him to the crime. 

ABRAMS:  Let‘s do this.  Let me ask everyone to stick around for a minute.  Because coming up, we‘re going to talk to the only reporter we know of, who spoke to the bouncer on the phone.  He called a reporter to complain the police were harassing him.  What could that say about this guy?  The reporter joins us next. 

And a major surprise in the trial of a socialite charged with hiring a hit man to kill his wife.  Prosecutors thought the hit man was going to get up there and say yes, I killed her and that‘s the guy who paid me to do it.  Well, that‘s not what he‘s telling jurors in court today.  Suddenly he‘s saying, I didn‘t do it.  We‘ve got the tape.

Plus, where‘s the last place most judges would want to find themselves?  Maybe behind bars next to the inmate they put there.  That‘s exactly what happened to this former judge when he was sent to prison himself.  He joins us. 

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)  

(MUSIC)

ALEJANDRA ST. GUILLEN, IMETTE ST. GUILLEN‘S SISTER:  There are so many things I wish I could have said and done for you, to reach out to you in all your times of need, but I know you wouldn‘t want me to be filled with regret.  I want to wrap my arms around you, and ease any ounce of pain you have ever felt in your whole life.  I can‘t say good-bye to you.  I just can‘t find the words.  I‘ll be saying good-bye to you every day for the rest of my life.  

MAUREEN ST. GUILLEN, IMETTE ST. GUILLEN‘S MOTHER:  You were and are the love of my life.  And when I need to speak with you, it will be private.  And I will go into my heart where you will always be.  You knew and know that I love you with all my heart and soul.  You are my heart, my soul, my courage, and my life. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Those are the actual words of her friends and family members at the funeral for Imette St. Guillen.  Her mother, her sister saying their last goodbyes.  Now it is looking like police may have a break in the investigation into her brutal murder.  NYPD detectives today questioning a bouncer from the bar where she was last seen, a 41-year-old man who before he was picked up by the cops, called a “New York Daily News” reporter asking her if she wanted to know more about the case and wanting to talk to her about it. 

Joining me now is that reporter, Veronika Belenkaya and also joined by my panel.  Veronika, thanks a lot for taking the time to come on the program.  Appreciate it.  All right, can you explain to me how is it that he came to call you? 

VERONIKA BELENKAYA, “NEW YORK DAILY NEWS” REPORTER:  Well, my assignment was to go out and kind of retrace her steps at the Pioneer and at The Falls that night, so I went out Friday night with several other reporters, and just about the time when everybody cleared, I saw a man standing in the doorway of the bar, once the bar already closed being The Falls and he was sitting in the side doorway, which leads up to the second floor and where all the employees were exiting from and I just came up to him, started chatting, say oh do remember seeing this girl Friday night and he said yes, and he started chatting.

And then you know he asked me are you by the way.  (INAUDIBLE) he knew I was a reporter and (INAUDIBLE) won‘t use your name, just tell me what you saw, and you know he just kind of told me that he saw her, he saw you know this girl that he later realized was Imette, you know, sitting in the middle of the bar having two drinks, two dark colored drinks in a small glass, but he couldn‘t remember what she was wearing or what she looked like or anything, which was kind of odd, since he knew what she was drinking.  So...

ABRAMS:  All right.  So then he calls you...

BELENKAYA:  I gave him my card. 

ABRAMS:  You gave him your card and then the police start to investigate him, and he calls you? 

BELENKAYA:  Right.  He called me about 10:50 a.m. on a Sunday morning, woke me up and said, just so you know, I‘m sorry to wake—you know sorry to bother you, can you talk, seemed a little apologetic in the beginning and was just saying the police have been following him.  They followed him on the train.

They followed him—you know there‘s two—and he said you know there‘s SUVs sitting in front of my house right now.  They‘re police.  You know, just kind of like why are they following me, I came up to them, they won‘t tell me.  They pretend like they don‘t know me.  He seemed a little offended by that and just said you know everybody up at the bar is like family, you know, they search another manager, why can‘t, you know, why can‘t they just talk to me, they‘ve questioned me before. 

ABRAMS:  And...

BELENKAYA:  That kind of thing.

ABRAMS:  ... completely denying having anything to do with this, right?

BELENKAYA:  He said I have nothing to hide.  That was his exact words.  I have nothing to hide.  You know he struck me as a nice guy.  I—you know I personally would never have thought that.  You know, he just seemed like a good witness at the time. 

ABRAMS:  Anything else inconsistent?  I mean you mention that on the one hand he could describe exactly what color her drink was, but then he was saying he didn‘t know what she was wearing or what she looked like.  Anything else that sort of struck you?

BELENKAYA:  I‘m trying to recall that right now.  I‘m trying to go through all of that right now in my mind. 

ABRAMS:  Let me do this.  Let me read a couple of quotes...

BELENKAYA:  Sure.

ABRAMS:  ... from your article.  You write that he said I‘m not taking away what happened to this lady and not to play the race card...

BELENKAYA:  Right.

ABRAMS:  ... but you are singling out the only black guy. 

BELENKAYA:  Right.  He certainly said that. 

ABRAMS:  Yes.  Let me ask you to just hang on for one second.  Bernie Kerik, former New York police chief that is playing the race card, I mean whether they‘re investigating him or not. 

KERIK:  Well it is.  And you know you look at this two ways.  One, he wants to get his message out perhaps.  That‘s why he‘s calling her, a reporter...

ABRAMS:  Yes, what do you make of that?  What do you make of the fact that he‘s calling the reporter and he‘s saying hey...

KERIK:  Well...

ABRAMS:  ... protect me here? 

KERIK:  ... you know it‘s not even protecting him.  He wants to get his voice out there.  You know, he knows it‘s going to be in the paper, he knows he‘s being looked at.  He believes these police officers are conducting the surveillance, so he sort of wants to get his message out in front of them, or get out in front of it.  The other thing that may happen sometimes is they may call the reporter to find out, you know, have a discussion, find out exactly what the reporters know.  In this case it doesn‘t appear that he asked her anything.  He was more talkative, but a lot of times they want to know what the story is, so they can sort of respond to it. 

ABRAMS:  And Veronika, he did say and I‘m reading again from your article, do you still want to talk to me? 

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  Am I going to see this in the paper tomorrow?  What did he mean by that? 

BELENKAYA:  When he was talking to me he seemed just like you know at first very apologetic, then he kind of did want to know like my sense of him was like you know, what do you think they think of me, like—you know kind of like are they—you know are they looking at me or something?  And I told him you know I‘ll call you back if I hear anything like that.

And then you know, he said you know you seem like a real nice lady, so you know I just wanted to like you know find out if you know anything and then he asked me am I going to see this—is it going to be in the paper tomorrow?  Am I going to see this in the stands?  And usually when a witness says this, you know they don‘t want to be, you know, quoted and I said you know—well, you know, it‘s up to you.  You know I don‘t want to like step on your privacy or whatever and he—you know he didn‘t really seem to mind. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  Casey Jordan, profile the situation for me. 

JORDAN:  Well, I find that he—it‘s very interesting, again, that he is calling a reporter when he says he has nothing to hide, why doesn‘t he just call the police and tell them he wants to cooperate and talk to them fully.  Instead he calls a reporter because that‘s part of his manipulation, part of his exercise of power and control over a situation.  He wants to make sure his side of the story gets out in his terms, nobody else‘s terms. 

ABRAMS:  Well but on the other hand, look, he‘s also saying and I‘m quoting again from the article, anyone—he‘s basically saying, look, these police officers are following me around and they think that I don‘t know it.  Anyone who has seen two TV shows could figure it out, they were cops.  A child could figure it out.  I mean it sounds like he‘s not trusting the police. 

JORDAN:  He thinks he‘s smarter than they are.  He‘s trying to come across as a really intelligent person.  You know, I hate to draw huge lines here, but BTK did the same thing.  He loved to talk about how stupid the police were and how smart he was.  And this guy, very typical, just wants a reporter to get his side of the story, he wants to be in control.  And he figures that if he gets out there first, then he can make everybody believe him, and not listen to what the police said. 

ABRAMS:  Gary, you‘re not buying it? 

CASIMIR:  Well it‘s not that I‘m not necessarily buying it.  And Casey and I go back a long way.  It‘s just that the circumstances here are no different than anybody who finds themselves in a position where all of a sudden they‘re the focus of a crime here. 

Now first of all, this guy has got a criminal history.  We‘ve already decided that his criminal history makes him a sexual predator who would cut a woman‘s hair off and easily graduate to this type of situation.  So is it uncanny that he‘d want to speak out about his side?  Let‘s say he hasn‘t said anything to Veronika, we‘d only be left here with one side of the story here if he didn‘t.

Second of all, I‘m not sure if it‘s such a manipulative thing that he calls this woman to speak to her about the circumstances.  He‘s asked to speak to the police.  He approached the police.  They pretend they don‘t want to talk to him anymore. 

They already have spoken to him.  They were just watching to make sure he wasn‘t going to flee, so I don‘t see at that point how irrational it is for him to go through another source to try to find a resource, not that he didn‘t do it...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  Right.  No I understand.

CASIMIR:  ... didn‘t do it. 

ABRAMS:  I understand.

CASIMIR:  The DNA will probably spell this case out.  I‘m just saying here the facts have not exactly led conclusively...

ABRAMS:  All right.

CASIMIR:  ... to him being...

ABRAMS:  Clint, what do you make of the phone call to Veronika? 

VAN ZANDT:  Well you know there is this old Shakespearean term, me thinks she protests too much.  And I found over the years when you find someone who really—now the police are looking at a lot of potential suspects and sure they‘re following this guy.  This guy has been around the block a couple of times, but again as has been stated, this particular crime, whoever did this to this young lady...

ABRAMS:  Right.

VAN ZANDT:  ... this is someone who wanted to dominate, who wanted to be in control, and we‘re seeing these same type of things take place in his call to the reporter...

ABRAMS:  The problem...

VAN ZANDT:  Does that make him guilty...

ABRAMS:  The problem I have, Clint...

VAN ZANDT:  No, that doesn‘t make him guilty of anything...

ABRAMS:  I understand...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  The problem I have is that when they don‘t say anything, we sit here and we say oh why aren‘t they talking if they‘ve got nothing to hide and when we they do say something, we say oh you know you‘re protesting too much.  I mean look, I have no idea.  All I know is what I‘m reading right now with regards to this guy, he‘s not considered a suspect yet, but you know on the one hand, we say talk and on the other hand we‘re saying don‘t. 

CASIMIR:  Can I just say one thing about the Belt Parkway cell phone issue?  According to the paper, he lives somewhere, Dan, in that area off the Belt Parkway and Queens, so the cell phone towers, if they‘re interconnected at all, I mean he‘s going to have a problem.  I‘m not saying he doesn‘t.  It‘s not a good grounds—a good lead...

ABRAMS:  Let me ask Veronika...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  ... about that.  Veronika, what do we know about the cell phone records? 

BELENKAYA:  From what I know from our police sources that you know they‘ve placed him at (INAUDIBLE) you know in that area nearby, and he does live about three miles away from where the body was found.  He lives in South Jamaica.

ABRAMS:  All right.  So—but would it be—do you know if it would be a different cell phone...

BELENKAYA:  I wouldn‘t know about that. 

ABRAMS:  ... tower?

BELENKAYA:  I don‘t want to speculate.

ABRAMS:  Bernie, you‘re nodding. 

BELENKAYA:  I wouldn‘t know.

KERIK:  Yes, I think it would be a different cell phone tower. 

(CROSSTALK)

KERIK:  Three miles is pretty extensive. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  It is.

KERIK:  You know you‘ll have those—you‘ll have the cell switches about every half a mile, every three quarters of a mile, and you know, if they can place him where that cell phone bounced, if they can place him there for any prolonged period of time, outside the range of his residence, and they‘ll know what switch his residence bounces off of, then they‘ll probably use that as a confirming factor. 

ABRAMS:  And let‘s be clear, Veronika.  He said that he did not speak to her that night, correct?

BELENKAYA:  He said he couldn‘t remember what she was wearing.  I asked what color coat, what color shirt, nothing.  Yes...

ABRAMS:  No conversation with her.

BELENKAYA:  He said—his exact quote to me that day was, you know, we walked out of the bar, she stood in front of the bar, we went back inside. 

ABRAMS:  So Bernie, if they are able to find someone who can say that there was more conversation than that that could be trouble for him? 

KERIK:  Well it‘s inconsistency in the statements, you know, and that could be a problem.  He‘ll have to explain it, but you know, it‘s premature to say right now. 

ABRAMS:  Yes.

KERIK:  You know they‘re going to have to figure it all out. 

ABRAMS:  Clint, final thought.  I got to wrap it up.

VAN ZANDT:  Yes, there‘s going to be hopefully enough physical evidence that we don‘t care about the profile. 

ABRAMS:  Yes.

VAN ZANDT:  We care about let‘s link this guy with physical evidence, either rule him in or rule him out and move on to somebody else. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  Veronika, well it seems like good old-fashion reporting got you a big scoop, walking down to the scene, handing out business cards, doing the old-fashioned reporting paid off for you.  Congratulations. 

BELENKAYA:  Doing my thing.  Thank you. 

ABRAMS:  Thank you for coming on the program.  Appreciate it.  Bernie Kerik...

BELENKAYA:  You‘re welcome.

ABRAMS:  ... great to have you on. 

KERIK:  Thank you.

ABRAMS:  Really appreciate you coming in.  Casey Jordan and Clint Van Zandt and Gary Casimir, thanks to all of you. 

CASIMIR:  Thank you.

ABRAMS:  Coming up, a major about-face in court.  Prosecutors expecting an alleged hit man to tell jurors I killed an Atlanta socialite because a wealthy businessman paid me to do it.  That is not what he said on the stand despite a plea deal. 

And a judge ends up on the other side of the law, sentenced to prison alongside criminals he‘d been responsible for keeping there.  Now he‘s out, talks to us about his experience. 

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

Authorities would like your help finding Robert Francis.  He‘s 51, five-five, 175, was convicted of sexual assault and lewdness with a minor.  Has not registered his address with the state.  If you‘ve got any information on his whereabouts, please contact the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, 702-229-5712.  Be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Coming up, drama in an Atlanta courtroom.  The hit man allegedly hired by a millionaire to kill his socialite wife takes the stand, changes his story, denies he did it.  First the headlines. 

(NEWS BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I told him I did not kill his wife. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  What did he say? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  He said someone did. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Then what did you say? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  That was it.  We went back outside.  I mean back to the table. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  So why did you tell Mr. Sullivan I did not kill your wife?  Why did you tell him that? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Because I didn‘t kill her. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  But wait.  This guy is in prison for the murder, got a plea deal for agreeing to testify against the man who allegedly hired him to kill his wife.  Now the prosecution‘s key witness is even saying the first time he saw the victim was on the news. 

James Sullivan is on trial for the murder of his wife Lita Sullivan almost 20 years ago.  The man testifying, Phillip Anthony Harwood, the hit man Sullivan is accused of hiring to kill her.  Prosecutors arguing Sullivan had his wife killed to avoid losing up to $1 million in their divorce settlement.   

So what happens now?  Joining me now former Georgia prosecutor B.J.  Bernstein and criminal defense attorney Michelle Suskauer.  All right, B.J., this guy supposedly makes a plea deal.  I assume his plea deal is going to be thrown out now, right?

B.J. BERNSTEIN, FORMER GEORGIA PROSECUTOR:  Well it‘s not necessarily so in Georgia and this is a big difference between the federal system and the state system.  Normally if there would be a plea in the federal system you‘d have something over his head.  But it‘s a done deal in Georgia now.

ABRAMS:  So there‘s nothing they can do.  So he‘s now saying I didn‘t do it, and the deal is done? 

BERNSTEIN:  That‘s correct.  There‘s—I apologize, Dan.  Hang on one second. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  You know let me go to Michelle.  Take a sip. 

Michelle, what do you make of this? 

(CROSSTALK)

MICHELLE SUSKAUER, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY:  Yes.  Well, you know, this guy obviously is not going to have a whole lot of credibility before this jury, because he already pled to it.  He already said that he did it and in exchange for reduction of his sentence.  So I don‘t think it‘s going to fatally hurt the prosecution in this case.  I think that along with all the other evidence and the evidence that Sullivan (INAUDIBLE) afterwards, I think it‘s still going to be a real strong case against him. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  Here‘s the witness, this is the alleged hit man, all right?  And here he is in court saying or describing what it is Mr.  Sullivan said to him about his wife. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You know I‘ve got this wife of mine up in Atlanta and she is just trying to take everything I‘ve got.  And I don‘t know what to do about it.  I need someone to take care of my problem.  Do you know anybody that could possibly take care of my problem for me?  Because I need some help here.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  All right.  So he‘s conceding that he was asked to go kill her.  He‘s conceding that he was sort of there, but he‘s saying I didn‘t pull the trigger.  All right.  So here‘s what he‘s saying now about what happened. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PHILLIP ANTHONY HARWOOD, ALLEGED HIT MAN IN ATLANTA SOCIALITE MURDER: 

The agreement was to take care of her, that was what was spoken to me, and as far as participating my intentions was never to participate. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  What do you mean when you say take care of her? 

HARWOOD:  Well, you know we looked at a lot of different ways, take care of her, you know, but I assumed and I don‘t like to assume anything, but I assumed that he meant to kill her.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  All right.  B.J., so this guy is still saying—the guy is sitting on trial there was looking for someone to kill his wife.  I was involved in it, I took the money, but I didn‘t pull the trigger.  How bad is that for the prosecutors? 

BERNSTEIN:  It‘s not great, but there are two things they are going to be able to do.  One is you‘re going to argue really hard to the jury, that anybody who is a hit man is never going to be the type of person to be truthful on every account, and that his initial telling of them when he entered his plea under oath and the fact that he even agreed to go to prison for that period of time indicates that he knew he was directly involved.  Then the second part of it is, is his girlfriend, who has been a key witness who was on the witness stand for two days, and went in to today a little bit, and she extremely clear about him accepting money and being there when part of the transaction was going on between Sullivan and the triggerman, Harwood. 

ABRAMS:  Well in fact, she even says that it was her idea to get flowers—remember, that the hit man allegedly shows up at the door holding flowers, so in an effort to get Lita to answer the door, when she sees someone with flowers...

BERNSTEIN:  Precisely.

ABRAMS:  ... that she might answer the door, and here‘s what the girlfriend, the hit man‘s girlfriend said about that. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BELINDA TRAHAN, ALLEGED HIT MAN‘S FORMER GIRLFRIEND:  Anyone knows that if you wanted to get a woman to answer the door, all you would have to do is take flowers to the door. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  B.J., was she charged in this case? 

BERNSTEIN:  I don‘t believe she was. 

ABRAMS:  Yes.

BERNSTEIN:  And you know, she—the—part of the reason being is she was the break in this case.  It wasn‘t like Harwood went to them first.  She actually went to authorities back in ‘98.  Now the defense really tried to shake her up this afternoon and tried to say oh, you‘re just confusing this by the high media coverage, because this case has been getting a lot of attention in Atlanta, but she was really strong and clear back to them, no, I know what you‘re trying to do to me, I know what you‘re trying to say, but I am absolutely sure that the person we sat down with...

ABRAMS:  Yes.

BERNSTEIN:  ... was Sullivan. 

ABRAMS:  Because Michele, without the hit man and his girlfriend, the prosecutors didn‘t have a lot.  In fact for a long time they suspected that he was involved but they couldn‘t prove it. 

SUSKAUER:  That‘s absolutely right.  Certainly right away he was the prime suspect but it was because this woman, Trahan, came in, I think it was about 11 years later and finally showed up and that was really the break in the case.  She is a crucial, crucial witness and that‘s why the defense spent so much time cross-examining her, trying to pick her apart with different inconsistencies, and, you know, there‘s a problem, as to her explanation as to why it took her so long and I think what they‘re trying to say is that it‘s because of that pretrial publicity, after the murder, as to why she‘s...

ABRAMS:  What‘s interesting is that the alleged hit man, I‘m calling him alleged hit man I guess now because he‘s denying it, but I guess you‘re still the hit man if you take money, if you kill someone and you‘re involved in it. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Well he pled guilty. 

ABRAMS:  Yes, so he‘s not alleged.  I‘ll stop calling him alleged...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  No.

ABRAMS:  The hit man, all right, hit man, hit man.  This is what the hit man had to say about the flowers, because he‘s admitting that he bought them. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HARWOOD:  Got the flowers and got back in the car and he drove down the street and parked and he took the flowers and went into the condo and I heard two shots and here he come running back, and I drove off. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  B.J., we don‘t know who the he is though, right?

BERNSTEIN:  Well, he‘s not—now he‘s backing off that the he is somebody you know who is with him, but I think the other real interesting thing is there was some testimony earlier on today where a person came and testified that ties Harwood helping move items to Sullivan‘s house down in Palm Beach, so you get someone who‘s completely independent of the case putting those two together and you got to remember, this is a man who testimony has said he is worth $5.5 million at that point, you know, and you‘re hanging out in Palm Beach society, then how is it that you‘re even associated, friends with, connected to, phone calls from...

ABRAMS:  Yes.

BERNSTEIN:  ... someone like Harwood...

ABRAMS:  Yes.

BERNSTEIN:  ... unless you‘re up to something wrong.

ABRAMS:  Yes.  You know it seems that all these people who want to kill someone that they love seem to find the, you know guy that worked for them somehow or I guess Robert Blake went and tried to solicit a stuntman according to them.  B.J. Bernstein...

SUSKAUER:  He was found not guilty though. 

ABRAMS:  Yes, except not by a civil jury.  Michelle Suskauer and B.J.

Bernstein, thanks a lot. 

Coming up, this Minnesota judge once faced down robbers, rapists and murderers, then he was sent to prison with them.  He‘s now out, joins us to tell us about his experience. 

And later, whether elite law schools like it or not, military recruiters are coming back to campus.  Why I say this is one of the easiest Supreme Court cases ever.  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 you, a judge ends up behind bars, serving time next to some criminals he‘s responsible for sending there.  Now he‘s out, tells about his experience.  He joins us next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  We‘re back.  A Minnesota judge who tended to hand out heavy sentences got an unusual chance to check up on the men he sentenced during their prison time.  Appeals Court Judge Roland Amundson was caught stealing more than $300,000 from a trust fund he set up for a mentally retarded woman.  He used the money to remodel his house and for personal items.

Amundson pled guilty and was sentenced to 69 months in prison, ended up serving time with some of the very same criminals that he had sent away.  Roland Amundson joins me now.  Thanks very much for coming on the program. 

We appreciate it.

ROLAND AMUNDSON, FORMER JUDGE WHO SERVED TIME IN PRISON:  You‘re very welcome.

ABRAMS:  So tell me about the experience of seeing or being confronted by some of the people you were responsible for putting behind bars. 

AMUNDSON:  Well, I actually didn‘t run into very many of those people.  Of course, I sentenced people when I was on the district court, but I had been on the court of appeals for over a decade before I went to prison, so I—while I did run into some, there weren‘t very many, and by and large, most of those occasions were respectful between the two of us.  It wasn‘t anywhere near as nightmarish as one might expect... 

ABRAMS:  You would think that someone would want to have a word with the judge who sentenced him or even upheld the sentence on appeal, gets a chance behind bars, but it wasn‘t what one might fear. 

AMUNDSON:  Well, it wasn‘t in my case.  I mean they did have a word.  In fact, the last night I was in prison I was working on the computer, and one of the guys who I‘d actually been living with for almost a year said I want to talk to you, and he‘s sort of a fearsome guy and pulled a chair up next to me and said you don‘t remember me, do you, and I said well, I mean I know you. 

And he said well you don‘t remember that you upheld my sentence, doubling my sentence, and I sat and listened to him.  We talked for almost two hours in a very respectful way and I explained to him what the—you know, what the role of an appellate judge is compared to a district court or sentencing judge, and you know, he talked about you know his perspective on the whole scenario and I certainly learned a lot from him.  I think he learned a little from me, and we parted and each indicated to the other that we wish we would have had that conversation earlier.

ABRAMS:  While you were stealing this money, you were also serving as a judge at the time and involved in criminal cases, et cetera, were there ever times when you said to yourself in the middle of a case, this is me or this certainly can be me? 

AMUNDSON:  I was very—first of all, Dan, I don‘t want to offer any excuses for what I did.  There is no excuse for what I did.  There‘s no legal or moral excuse for what I did.  I can give you some explanations about it, but I never want anyone to read it or infer from it any excuse... 

ABRAMS:  But with that said, you knew what you were doing, you were a lawyer, a judge, smart guy, you knew what you were doing was illegal and improper, and I guess I‘m wondering just in terms of the thought process, while you were serving as a judge, did it ever sort of hit you, I could be the one who gets sentenced to this or did you just keep that out of your mind? 

AMUNDSON:  It largely was out of my mind.  Because of the emotional state or the mental state I was in when I was committing the crimes, but it certainly did occur to me.  I used to go to the head of the county work house every Christmas Day, and I spent Christmas Day with the inmates there, just talking to them, having coffee with them, you know, just listening to their stories.  And it did occur to me on more than one occasion that I could be there. 

ABRAMS:  Very quickly, prosecutors used some of your own decisions against you when you were sentenced, right? 

AMUNDSON:  Yes.  Well, you know, they used—one case in particular, in which I said, correctly I believe, that Minnesota law says that it‘s up to the discretion of a trial court to increase a particular sentence above the Minnesota guidelines and I think that is Minnesota law.  It‘s probably textbook law everywhere.  I don‘t think by the way, Dan, I was known for particularly harsh sentences.  I think that‘s...

ABRAMS:  All right.  Fair enough.  That‘s been media created...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  All right.  Fair enough. 

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  Fair correction.  Roland Amundson thanks a lot for coming on the program.  We appreciate it.

AMUNDSON:  Thank you. 

ABRAMS:  Coming up, the Supreme Court tells elite law schools, don‘t ask, don‘t tell.  Just let the military recruit on campus.  It‘s one of the court‘s easiest decisions ever.  Why was this controversial?  It‘s my “Closing Argument”. 

And I said I am tired of people saying that Imette St. Guillen is somehow to blame for her murder.  A lot of you still writing in oh why was she out so late, why was she drinking?  You know, your e-mails, my responses, it‘s all coming up again. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  My “Closing Argument”—a slam-dunk today for the U.S.  Supreme Court.  The justices ruled unanimously that universities, in particular, certain elite law schools, must welcome military recruiters on to their campuses if they want federal funds.  They have got to treat the military like other recruiters.  Always seemed like a no-brainer to me.  The universities had tried to keep the military out saying the don‘t ask, don‘t tell policy with regard to homosexuals is discriminatory.

They claim they should not be forced to associate with military recruiters or promote their campus appearances.  Chief Justice Roberts writing for the court said—quote—“A military recruiter‘s mere presence on campus does not violate a law school‘s right to associate, regardless of how repugnant the law school considers the recruiter‘s message.”  As I‘ve said before, the don‘t ask, don‘t tell policy doesn‘t make any sense to me, but why shouldn‘t the government be allowed to say no to funding for schools that exclude them from campus? 

Somehow the lower court ruled the school should be able to make a statement if they don‘t want to associate with organizations that discriminate on their campus and so the solution is to prevent recruiters from speaking on campus.  It‘s not just any organization.  It‘s the federal government whose money they want.  I love the irony.

The solution to the school‘s First Amendment problem is to prevent students from hearing what the military has to say.  The recruiters want a room, not a soapbox.  Anyone can protest outside.  The military just wants to be treated like every other employer.  And a federal law says they should get it.  I‘ve never understood why this is even a close case and was stunned the lower court ruled to the universities.  I‘m glad to see the court unanimously knock some legal sense into some of the great law schools. 

Coming up, I was furious about people blaming Imette St. Guillen for drinking and staying out too late the night she was abducted.  A lot of you writing in about this one.  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 in my “Closing Argument” I was furious at those people who were saying Imette St. Guillen should have been more responsible the night she was abducted, raped and murdered.  They say she shouldn‘t have been drinking, she shouldn‘t have been out so late, she shouldn‘t have been alone, effectively blaming the victim.  I said I‘m not going to let it go unanswered.  These people seem to suggest she should have prevented her own murder.  Only one person here to blame and that is the killer. 

Most of you agreed.  Caryn Wallace from Bloomfield, Connecticut, “Bravo Dan for sticking up for the victim.  Should have, would have, could have always works well in hindsight.”

From Santa Cruz, California, Steve Disharoon, “Thanks for holding the sexist, blame-the-victim crowd accountable for their absurd statements.”

Rose in Muscatine, Iowa, “I can hardly type for my tears of thanks.  My sister was murdered in 1986 by her common-law husband and believe it or not the media and people around us blamed her.  I know Imette St. Guillen‘s family is thanking you for your commentary tonight.”

Mary Finnegan writes from Pismo Beach, California, “Thank you Dan for taking to task all those holier-than-thou people blaming that poor young woman for her own death.  Are we supposed to believe these people have never done anything ill-advised?”

All right.  The other side.  Matt Jackson writes, “Are you completely clueless?  Are all adult women delicate little flowers not to be held accountable, liable and responsible for their decisions?  What does someone need to do at 3:30 a.m. in a bar that they couldn‘t do at 10:00 p.m.?  The choices she made directly led to her predicament and death.”

And Matt, who are you to judge what time she should be in?  What is her curfew, Matt?  Why doesn‘t papa Matt tell every woman in this country what time she should be home?  How condescending and insulting that is.

Sylvia writes, “You are much too defensive of Imette and other female victims of crime in that you fail to give credence to the fact that if a woman who is vulnerable by just being female and more vulnerable when consuming alcohol use better judgment by not being herself—being by herself at 3:00 or 4:00 a.m. whether in NYC or any other town, then the likelihood of her safety is much higher.”

Thank for the safety tip, McGruff.  Look, as I said, if anyone wants to use this as a lesson to their kids, fine, but I will not tolerate people blaming Imette. 

From Pittsburgh, Antoinette Jucha and family.  “You may think you are a white knight in shining armor defending Imette, however, you‘re actually putting more people in danger by making them think they can throw caution to the wind and still be safe.  We, your longtime loyal viewers, have a good way of dealing with folks like you, who use the public airwaves to spout misguided nonsense.  We don‘t watch you anymore.”  See you. 

Like Lynne Elmlinger, she‘s going to keep watching, Oakland, Maryland.  “People blame the victim to make themselves feel safe.  I don‘t go to bars late, yada, yada, so it won‘t happen to me.  What it ends up being is self-righteous.  Thanks for giving some dignity to Imette‘s life and to her family.”

Lisa from Centreville, Virginia, “I guess if a 13-year-old cheerleader was walking home from a game in her short uniform and raped and murdered on the way, it would be her fault too.”

Jenny Gamble from Baltimore, “Are people suggesting that women should not drink at all or not walk the streets at night because we‘re unfit to handle society in these given scenarios and if an unfortunate event occurs, then it‘s our own fault.  Should we expect the worst when we go into a bar or walk home from a bar or hop into a cab?  This also suggests that women are back to being inferior to men.”

Your e-mails abramsreport@msnbc.com.  “HARDBALL” with Chris Matthews up next. 

See you tomorrow.

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

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