updated 4/3/2006 10:12:23 AM ET 2006-04-03T14:12:23

Guest: Mike Nifong, Michelle Suskauer, Susan Filan, Mickey Sherman, Dean

Johnson, Dan Murphy, Jack Jacobs, Joseph Bocchini, Jennifer Moroz

DAN ABRAMS, HOST:  Coming up, the father of the woman who says she was raped at a Duke Lacrosse Team party speaks out for the first time and the D.A. is here to respond to lawyers for the co-captain's calling the alleged victim's story into question. 

The program about justice starts now. 

This is the first TV interview with the father of the alleged victim in the Duke University rape investigation.  His daughter says three members of the school's lacrosse team beat and raped her for 30 minutes at a party they were having at their off-campus house. 

Hi everyone.  First up on the docket, the alleged victim's father spoke to our local Raleigh station WNCN. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The same boys who did this, if she don't do anything, then they're going (INAUDIBLE) the same thing again.  If they can get away with this, if money will get them out of this, they're going to do it again.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  And in the past 24 hours, the lawyers for the lacrosse players have come out swinging; one of them even saying the rape allegation may have been a setup. 

Joining me once again is the Durham district attorney, Mike Nifong.  District Attorney, thank you for coming back on the program.  We appreciate it. 

MIKE NIFONG, DURHAM, NC DISTRICT ATTORNEY:  Sure.

ABRAMS:  All right, first let me just ask...

NIFONG:  Thank you. 

ABRAMS:  ... let me just ask you about the status of the investigation.  I assume that the DNA results are not in yet.  Do you have any sense of when to expect those? 

NIFONG:  Well, there's really nothing that's changed about the status.  I have spoken with FBI evidence technicians, both yesterday and today, we are still, as far as I know, on schedule to receive those results back, probably towards the end of next week, but nothing to report along those lines right now.

ABRAMS:  Now, the police at the time had said, and this is in their effort to get DNA tests from the 46 of the 47 players, they said DNA tests would show conclusive evidence as to who the suspects are in the alleged violent attack upon this victim.  Do you stand by that comment? 

NIFONG:  Well, you have to understand how DNA is used.  Obviously the first step that is involved in DNA testing is determining whether or not there is any DNA evidence that is left with the victim that does not belong to her, and so the initial tests are to determine whether or not DNA foreign to the victim can be detected on the samples that are taken from her body. 

Now, if there is no DNA left, then there is obviously nothing to compare.  For instance, if a condom were used, then we might expect that there would not be any DNA evidence recovered from say a vaginal swab. 

ABRAMS:  But she would have told you, would she have not? 

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  I mean you've spoken to her.  She would have said either they used condoms or they didn't. 

NIFONG:  Well, if you are being forced to have sex against your will, you may not necessarily notice whether or not somebody behind you is using a condom.  This was not a consensual sex situation.  This was a struggle, wherein she was struggling just to be able to breathe.  So I'm not sure that she would really have much way of knowing whether a condom was being used. 

Under any circumstances, the first step is to determine whether or not there is DNA that can be identified, foreign to the victim, and then once we get past that stage, we could then compare any DNA that was found.  Now obviously if there is a DNA match, then that's very strong evidence, but the absence of DNA doesn't necessarily mean anything other than no DNA was left behind. 

ABRAMS:  Right.  Because that's what I was going to ask you.  So the bottom line is if there is no DNA match in this case, you're saying that is not going to be the death nail for your case? 

NIFONG:  Well, you have to remember that DNA is a relative latecomer

to the forensic scene.  There have been many successful rape prosecutions

involving nothing more than the statement by the victim that she was raped

by a particular individual. 

ABRAMS:  Yes.

NIFONG:  Obviously, we would always prefer to have forensic corroboration for the victim's statement, but the fact is that we have enough to go forward any time that the victim identifies a particular person as the perpetrator of a sex crime against her. 

ABRAMS:  I want you to listen to Kerry Sutton, who's one of the attorneys for—she's an attorney for one of the co-captains, Matt Zash.  We were also joined by another attorney for the another one of the co-captains who echoed these statements when I asked were they cooperating in the investigation? 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KERRY SUTTON, ATTY FOR DUKE LACROSSE CAPTAIN MATT ZASH:  My client has given a written statement, an oral statement, he volunteered to take a polygraph, but the police said no thanks, that's too much trouble.  He has been entirely cooperative, followed every piece of advice he's been given, and I can't see where it's coming from in relation to my client that he's not been cooperative.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  There has been the suggestion, D.A. Nifong that some of these people have not been cooperative.  Have they? 

NIFONG:  Well, you need to understand that Mr. Zash is one of the three young men who actually rented the 610 Buchanan address where this assault took place.  And those three young men did come down pursuant to an invitation from the police department, they did make written statements.  They listed the other people who were present.

They did voluntarily consent to having suspect kits taken.  So in that sense, those three young men were in fact cooperative.  Now, if they made statements that were not true during the course of this, then obviously to the extent that the statements were not true, that would not be cooperative. 

ABRAMS:  Is there anything...

NIFONG:  And that would go on to say...

ABRAMS:  Is there anything you know for certain at this point that is not true? 

NIFONG:  Well, they denied that a sexual assault took place inside that residence, and the position that the state is taking is that that is not a true statement and I would go on to say that none of the other members of the team, other than these three have made statements to the police. 

ABRAMS:  Let me ask you, has there been an examination of any of the players, because the woman has said that she effectively tried to fight them off, that she broke off some of her nails in the process of grabbing someone's arm I guess it was.  You would think that the person involved in that would have marks on his arm if that were the case. 

NIFONG:  That's a possibility, and certainly we did investigate that particular possibility.  But let me point out that the evidence that she would present with respect to that particular situation is that she was grabbed from behind.  So that in essence, somebody had an arm around her like this, which she then had to struggle with in order to be able to breathe, and it was in the course of that struggle that the fingernails—the artificial fingernails broke off. 

Now as you can see from my arm, if I were wearing a shirt, a long-sleeved shirt or a Jacket of some sort, even if there were enough force used to press down, to break my skin through the clothing, there might not be any way that anything from my arm could get on to those fingernails.  So again, whether or not there would be any evidence would depend on exactly the situation.  Were the fingernails actually in contact with the skin or were they in contact with clothing?

ABRAMS:  Understood.  Another controversial issue has been this 911 call that was made presumably about an hour before the alleged assault occurred.  I'm going to play the 911-call and then I want you to listen to some of the comments made by one of the attorneys for one of the co-captains who seems to be suggesting this all might be a plan hatched by this woman to make a false allegation.  Let's start with the 911-call and then I want you to listen to the statement made by the attorney.

(BEGIN 911 CALL)

911 DISPATCHER:   Durham 911.  Where is your emergency?

CALLER:  I don't know if this is an emergency, but I'm in Durham and I was driving down near Duke's campus and it's me and my black girlfriend and the guy, there's like a white guy by the Duke wall and he just hollered out (BEEP) to me and I'm just so angry.  I saw them all come out like a big frat house and me and my black girlfriend are walking by and they called us (BEEP).  I'm not going to press the issue I guess, but I live in a neighborhood where they wrote KKK on the side of a white station wagon and that's near right where I'm at.  They didn't harm me in any way, but I just feel so completely offended.

(END 911 CALL)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAMES “BUTCH” WILLIAMS, ATTY FOR DUKE LACROSSE CAPT. DANIEL FLANNERY: 

You listen to the tape and listen to the discrepancies in the tape, first I was driving by, then I was walking by and if you go ahead to the second tape, they gave the address.  You can't—there's no numbers on that particular house, so anyone looking at that house at night could not be able to identify numerically what the number is on that house unless they've been there. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Mr. Nifong, so first on the issue of the possibility of walking by versus driving by, I mean, how significant is this 911-tape? 

NIFONG:  Well, first let me tell you that I have heard the tape and I have also heard the speculation that the tape might be in some way—or might contain false information.  That is not an issue that I really want to discuss right now.  Other than to say that as far as I'm concerned, it has no direct bearing on the situation about what happened inside. 

The allegation that I've heard that this is all some kind of a setup is quite an elaborate allegation, and I haven't heard any convincing circumstances or—being discussed about not only who would do such a thing, but why such an elaborate plan would have been discussed.  And whether or not the people that are supposedly involved were even capable of such an elaborate deception, but you have to understand that defense attorneys, their job is to cast doubt upon any evidence that casts their clients in a bad light...

ABRAMS:  Yes.

NIFONG:  ... so this is exactly what defense attorneys do when allegations are made against clients, which I might point out no one has yet been indicted or charged in this case.

ABRAMS:  Right.

NIFONG:  We are still waiting to see what the evidence will show in terms of that, but obviously...

ABRAMS:  Let me do this...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  Let me play a little bit more from Mr. Williams, just so you know I'm—so you're not in the position of speculating about what he might be saying, et cetera.  Let me play a little bit more of Mr. Williams and see if you want to elaborate any more on this theory.

NIFONG:  All right.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS:  Why hasn't the person who made that call come forward?  I mean it's been in all of the news outlets, all in the—the news media has printed it.  Why haven't they come forward to say yes, I made that 911-call that night and why was a certain emphasis on me and my black friend.  I mean people don't call and make phone calls like that.  You know, we're going to get to the bottom of what the motives are in this particular matter. 

ABRAMS:  So it sounds like you're saying you think it might have been one of the women involved here making the call? 

WILLIAMS:  Oh, OK.  Now you're starting to see where I'm going.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  All right.  Well, I saw where he was going, but what do you make of it, Mr. Nifong?

NIFONG:  Well, again, I have—certainly one of the theories that I've heard is that the woman who was not inside was the person who made that call.  And again, I don't really intend to comment on any of that to the extent that any of that is relevant.  That is evidence that will be heard at trial.

ABRAMS:  Have you identified the person who made the 911-call?

NIFONG:  Have I personally identified...

ABRAMS:  Yes.

NIFONG:  Do I know if the...

ABRAMS:  Do you know who it is?

NIFONG:  ... to my knowledge that—I do not. 

ABRAMS:  OK.  So that person has not come forward to say I was the one who made the call. 

NIFONG:  To my knowledge, no one has done that yet.

ABRAMS:  How did she get to the party?  There's been talk about someone else having driven her to the party, in addition to the other woman who was going to be dancing with her, that there was some guy who supposedly had driven them to the party.  Any truth to that? 

NIFONG:  Well, you have to understand that these women did not know each other prior to this incident.  They arrived separately.  They did not know each other before.  They met each other for the first time that night, but any specifics other than that I don't really wish to go into at this time. 

ABRAMS:  And finally, in terms of the timing here, when would you expect a decision will be made as to whether charges will be filed? 

NIFONG:  I am hoping that I will have the information necessary to make that decision approximately two weeks from today.  That doesn't necessarily mean that decision will be announced on that day.  I would anticipate at some time having a press conference to announce what the decision would be.  I would not anticipate that that would occur any earlier than two weeks from today.

ABRAMS:  Finally, I'm going to play one more piece of sound, this is from one—the other attorney, Kerry Sutton, who is laying out in unequivocal terms, their position that there was no sexual assault.  Here's what she said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SUTTON:  My client certainly denies that he had sex of any kind with this alleged victim, and to his knowledge nobody at all at the house had sex with any of the women who were there. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  You are convinced that that is not true? 

NIFONG:  Well, I have no idea whether that's true about her client or not at this point.  It's obvious that if you have 40-some people at a party and it's alleged that three of those people had sex with the victim, then the vast majority of the people there did not have sex.  I also think that it's quite possible that at the time that they left the party, many of those people might not have been aware of what had occurred, although I think it is unlikely, given the closeness of the team's relationship that that would still be the case today.  But if you're asking me specifically, whether or not Ms. Sutton's client is telling the truth, I am not in a position...

ABRAMS:  All right.

NIFONG:  ... to say that right now. 

ABRAMS:  Finally, are members of the team not being cooperative with the authorities?

NIFONG:  That again is a matter that you would have to comment on.  If somebody hires an attorney, and the attorney says, don't talk to the police, then obviously that is legal advice that you sought...

ABRAMS:  Understood.

NIFONG:  ... and you're probably going to follow. 

ABRAMS:  Understood. 

NIFONG:  And that...

ABRAMS:  Yes.  All right, Mike Nifong, you've spent a lot of time with us.  I appreciate you taking the time and we hope you'll come back as this case continues to unfold.

NIFONG:  All right.  Thank you. 

ABRAMS:  Our legal team weighs in on this next. 

Also ahead, Scott Peterson's family and friends offering a $250,000 reward to anyone who can help them find out who really killed Laci Peterson.  Oh please.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS:  They have said from day one that no one in the house had sex with that particular young lady, and that they all categorically deny to the man that any sexual activity occurred other than her dancing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Well, that is the attorney for one of the co-captains of the Duke Lacrosse Team saying categorically that there was no sex.  Not that it was consensual.  According to him, that's not going to be coming up.  According to him, they're going all or nothing on this.  They are saying that no sexual activity occurred.  You heard it just a few moments ago.  The D.A. from Durham County on this program once again saying he is convinced that there was a sexual assault. 

Joining me now, MSNBC analyst and former prosecutor Susan Filan and criminal defense attorney Michelle Suskauer.  Michelle, I think one of the most difficult issues that the defense is going to have to grapple with are the items of hers that were left apparently at the home.  According to the affidavit for a search warrant, that the alleged victim may have left a purse, wallet, makeup bag, cell phone with camera, a shoe, acrylic fingernails, clothing, up to $400.

MICHELLE SUSKAUER, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY:  I think that's a problem too, I agree with you, Dan.  Why would she be leaving them?  We—there's so much that we don't know about the circumstances of this.  I think that is a problem, but we don't even know whether or not they've collected in terms of the DNA, whether they've even been able to collect anything that...

ABRAMS:  Yes, but...

SUSKAUER:  ... is not her DNA.

ABRAMS:  Right, I know, but that's not what I'm asking about.  I'm asking about...

SUSKAUER:  No, no, no, I agree with you.  I think that's a problem because why would she be leaving those things if she wasn't leaving in a rush or if she wasn't running out of the house and those things are going to have to be answered to if there's a case that ever comes to court.

ABRAMS:  Well, Susan, it sounds to me and again based on what the defense team is saying to us, that they may allege this was some sort of setup...

SUSAN FILAN, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST:   Well...

ABRAMS:  ... that this was all in the planning and that it was all done to make it look like she might have been sexually assaulted.

FILAN:  OK, but here's the problem with that.  Somebody is lying.  Now who has more motive to lie?  Is it the guys who are trying to cover up something that they did or is it a victim?  Now what pleasure is she going to get out of making a false report...

(CROSSTALK)

FILAN:  ... going to the police...

(CROSSTALK)

FILAN:  ... humiliating herself this way, going to the hospital, submitting to go a rape exam kit and then trying to bamboozle a very experienced district attorney.

ABRAMS:  Michelle, I think the answer—I mean I'm not saying it happened, but the answer is somewhat self-evident, right?

SUSKAUER:  Well, if we look at that 911-call, which the D.A. seems to want to be glossing over right now, as not being related or he's really not looking into it, I mean it—the defense is going, you're right, Dan, all or nothing on this...

ABRAMS:  Well, Susan, let me—I'll answer the question again. 

FILAN:  Sure.

ABRAMS:  The point is, again, I'm not saying that this is a legitimate or a defensible position, but it sounds like what they're saying is maybe she did it as a setup for money. 

FILAN:  Well, is she going after anybody with a particularly deep pocket?  If it's a setup for money...

(CROSSTALK)

FILAN:  ... who there has money?  I mean these kids...

ABRAMS:  All these Duke lacrosse players. 

FILAN:  Well no, they're off their parents' homeowners' insurance policy.  They're college students.  I mean what—if you're going to set somebody up for money, go for a CEO of a corporation, go for a deep pocket, and I mean, usually, if there's a money setup, somebody knows somebody, and what I understand here is these women did not know these people beforehand and I also have to say, I think the 911-tape before is a little bit of red herring.  I don't really think...

SUSKAUER:  Oh, I disagree.

FILAN:  ... that it's very involved in this case. 

SUSKAUER:  I think maybe there was something that was said to them, if they actually were there.  I mean, if this is where the defense is going with this that they were—there was some racial slurs that were made...

FILAN:  OK, so somebody...

SUSKAUER:  ... and maybe they said you know what, we're going to get these guys.

FILAN:  What do you do?  Then falsely accuse them of forcible rape, you call it a gang rape...

SUSKAUER:  You know what, Susan...

(CROSSTALK)

SUSKAUER:  You know what, Susan...

(CROSSTALK)

FILAN:  ... fingernails and leave them behind, throw your cell phone...

(CROSSTALK)

FILAN:  ... throw your purse, throw your money, leave your clothes, go to the police and say I was gang raped from behind, I was choking.  She's got marks on her.  Her own dad says that she was physically traumatized (INAUDIBLE)...

SUSKAUER:  OK, but you know...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  All right.  Let Michelle respond.  Michelle...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  Hang on Susan.  Hang on. 

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  Go ahead. 

SUSKAUER:  But are you saying that these things never happened before?  I mean, how many years ago did the whole Tawana Brawley thing happen?  I mean these things happen.  So it's not completely out of the universe that this could be made up, it's possible, and that's what the defense is going to be going with here.  They're saying there was no consent, this just did not happen...

ABRAMS:  Yes.

SUSKAUER:  ... she patently made this up and the 911-call does have something to do with it. 

ABRAMS:  And I found it interesting that the D.A. is now saying—and again, he would say it's not a change in his position, but it's interesting to hear him say that even if they don't get a positive DNA match that it doesn't sound like that's going to change their case...

(CROSSTALK)

FILAN:  Well the problem...

SUSKAUER:  And Dan, Dan...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Yes.

FILAN:  The problem with that, though, is it doesn't sound like without the DNA this victim is able to identify her assailants...

SUSKAUER:  That's right.

FILAN:  ... particularly if the assault occurred from behind. 

ABRAMS:  Yes.  That's true actually.  Yes.

SUSKAUER:  That's right.  That's right. 

ABRAMS:  Yes.

SUSKAUER:  No DNA, no I.D., no confessions, no case.

ABRAMS:  Yes.  All right, Susan Filan and Michelle Suskauer, thanks a lot.

SUSKAUER:  Thank you.

FILAN:  Thank you, Dan.

ABRAMS:  Now to the Scott Peterson case.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARK GERAGOS, SCOTT PETERSON'S ATTORNEY:  We've set the bar extremely high and that's to prove that Scott is not only factually innocent, but to figure out exactly who it is did this horrible thing to Scott's wife and to Scott's son and to their grandson. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  I know that sounds old, but it's actually relevant again today.  Almost three years ago, Scott Peterson's attorney vowed to find out who killed Scott Peterson's wife and unborn son.  Well as far as the jury is concerned, that's the person right there, Scott Peterson.  Spent more than a year in his new home, a place called death row, but today Peterson's friends and family announced a $250,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person who abducted and killed Laci and her unborn son or for information leading to Scott Peterson's exoneration and release. 

Joining me now, criminal defense attorney Mickey Sherman and former California prosecutor, Dean Johnson.  Mickey, this is like monopoly money, right?  I mean they're just sort of throwing it up there and they're saying, oh, we'll give it $250,000.  I mean I feel like adding a little bit of money into the pot here.

MICKEY SHERMAN, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY:  Why not make it a million?  You know there's no downside to doing this.  I mean what are people going to do, think less of Scott Peterson?  You know I think that ship sailed.  You know, I—but again, there's no downside and problem with this is, as you know, Dan, the big case brings out the big nuts and will these people start responding who have these cockamamie stories and somebody is going to follow their leads and—I mean, that's really the only downside, which is not so horrible. 

You know, I don't think it's such a bad move on the Peterson's part.  I don't think it's going to make a difference—excuse me, on Scott's part.  I don't think it's going to make a difference in the end, but why not. 

ABRAMS:  You know, Dean, is there any way to check to make sure someone has actually got the money?  When they put out like an offer like this, is there any legal requirement to say, hey, you've got to put this in escrow until they find the person.

DEAN JOHNSON, FORMER CALIFORNIA PROSECUTOR:  No, absolutely not and Mickey is correct.  You know, I could walk around here in San Francisco, probably find you half a dozen people within an hour, who would tell you who actually killed Laci Peterson.  I could find a couple of guys who would confess to it, but I don't think they're ever going to collect that $250,000. 

I do think that the Peterson family is focusing in the wrong direction here.  They're focusing on innocence claims.  They probably sincerely believe that.  There are substantial legal issues in this case.  I think there's probably a better than 50 percent chance that some day we are going to see a retrial of the Scott Peterson case...

ABRAMS:  Oh, come on.

JOHNSON:  ... but it's not because—it's not because the real killer came forward.  It's because of the legal issues that were raised in the case.

ABRAMS:  More than 50 percent chance, Dean?  Come on.

JOHNSON:  Absolutely.  Absolutely.  You have—not from the state courts because the state court here has the lowest reversal rate in the nation on death penalty cases, but the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal reverses something like 60 percent of our death penalty convictions...

SHERMAN:  Yes, but you're dealing with Scott Peterson...

JOHNSON:  ... and this is a case that has got some good lawyers working on it. 

ABRAMS:  But wait a sec.  But very often, Dean, you'll just get a new phase in the penalty phase.  You won't necessarily...

JOHNSON:  Yes.

ABRAMS:  ... a new trial from the beginning. 

JOHNSON:  Yes, most of the errors are penalty phase errors...

ABRAMS:  Yes.

JOHNSON:  ... constructional errors or that sort of thing, but you may very well I think even get a new guilt phase trial in this case.

ABRAMS:  Come on.  Mickey, you don't think—I mean look...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  I'm not saying it's out of the question, but it's not likely.

SHERMAN:  I was out at that trial with you guys, I didn't spend that much time in the courtroom as Dean, but you know the moral outrage factor, even though it's not supposed to play a part in the appellate process is absolutely going to kick in.  The appellate court is going to be thinking, even though they're not supposed to...

ABRAMS:  Yes.

SHERMAN:  ... about those crocodile tears to Diane Sawyer and the way everything kind of backfired. 

ABRAMS:  Well and let me ask you this, Mickey.  Can stuff like—I mean look, you know they're going to make an argument about the jurors who were dismissed, et cetera...

SHERMAN:  Yes.

ABRAMS:  You know they'll make—it will be interesting legal arguments, and you never know, but is this kind of nonsense, these rewards for the real killer, et cetera, coming forward, could this you say, that the news effectively can impact appellate judges. 

SHERMAN:  No.

ABRAMS:  Do you think something like this stuff could affect them as well? 

SHERMAN:  No, I don't think this is going to bother them at all.  I think that they'll see this as some type of a desperation move.  And you know, who knows, maybe he's innocent.  You never know, you know, stranger things have happened. 

ABRAMS:  Oh, come on.  Well, name one apart from O.J. getting acquitted. 

SHERMAN:  Sacco and Vanzetti, I mean you know sometimes innocent people get convicted. 

ABRAMS:  Yes, sometimes...

SHERMAN:  (INAUDIBLE) he's got a list a mile wrong...

ABRAMS:  Yes, sometimes.  But not in cases where the world is watching and you've got a high profile, well paid defense attorney representing you, but anyway.  All right...

SHERMAN:  I don't think that makes a difference. 

ABRAMS:  Sure it does.  A lot of the reason people are convicted all the time in courts and improperly so is because they don't have the funds to do the sort of testing and the examination and the sort of cross-examination they need. 

SHERMAN:  Yes, but sometimes people are convicted on moral outrage and the fact that they want to do something good for the victim and their family. 

ABRAMS:  That's not what happened here. 

SHERMAN:  Well, that's a matter of opinion obviously. 

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  No it's not.  I mean it's not.  I mean, you know, I guess everything in this world is a matter of opinion, but all right.  Mickey, good to see you.  It's been too long. 

SHERMAN:  Good to be here, Dan.

ABRAMS:  Dean Johnson, you too. 

JOHNSON:  Nice to see you.

ABRAMS:  Coming up, new questions about how American journalist Jill Carroll was released from captivity.  Did someone pay a ransom to free her?

And a college freshman goes missing after a night of partying, last seen returning to his dorm.  Now authorities focusing their search on a landfill after finding his blood on a dumpster. 

And our continuing series, “Manhunt: Sex Offenders on the Loose”, our effort to find missing offenders before they strike.  Our search today is in New York.  Authorities are looking for Angel Rivera, 52, five-eight, 180, was convicted of sexually abusing a 13-year-old boy, hasn't registered his address with the state.  If you've got any information on his whereabouts, New York's Most Wanted tip line wants to hear from you, 800-262-4321.  Be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Coming up, new questions raised about the release of American reporter Jill Carroll, held captive in Iraq for almost three months.  The details are coming after the break. 

(NEWS BREAK)

ABRAMS:  More questions surround the release of Jill Carroll, the 28-year-old freelance reporter for “The Christian Science Monitor” kidnapped in Baghdad, her translator killed.  She was then held 82 days.  Her kidnapers warning she would be killed unless women prisoners in Iraq were set free.  Then suddenly on Thursday, Carroll packed into a car, pushed out onto a Baghdad street and told to go to a Sunni Islamic Party headquarter with a warning not to go to the U.S.-controlled green zone, which they claimed was swarming with insurgents or to cooperate with any Americans. 

Carroll did go to the green zone.  She could be home this weekend, but as of now, there's no official word on who kidnapped her, why she spoke so kindly of her kidnappers, why she was held, whether any ransom was paid, or why she was released.  Though in a video posted on the Internet, a group claiming to be her captors say Carroll was freed because—quote—“The American government met some of our demands by releasing some of our women from prison.”  Richard Bergenheim is Carroll's editor with “The Christian Science Monitor.”

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICHARD BERGENHEIM, “THE CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR” EDITOR:  I don't believe that Jill has any idea what led to this, and as I mentioned yesterday, and I can confirm again today, there were no negotiations that the family or the “Christian Science Monitor” were aware of.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Colonel Jack Jacobs is an MSNBC military analyst.  Dan Murphy is the Middle East correspondent for “The Christian Science Monitor” and joins us by phone.  Thanks to both of you for coming on the program.  Appreciate it.

All right, Dan, let me start with you.  You're joining us from Cairo there.  Have you gotten any sense from being I guess a little bit closer to the ground and also working for “The Monitor” as to exactly what happened here. 

DAN MURPHY, “THE CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR” (via phone):  In terms of her release, you know, the mechanics of how she got out, I can give you chapter and verse on that.  I think why did she get released?  There was no ransom paid.  Essentially, the people who kidnapped her and murdered (INAUDIBLE) eventually realized that murdering Jill as well was going to hurt them more than it was going to help them and they were in a bind and they found a way out by releasing her to this party, which had some you know weak ties to the insurgency and so I think that's what happened.

ABRAMS:  Did she seem almost either in shock or a little bit brainwashed to you when she emerged? 

MURPHY:  Not at all.  Brainwashed is a very strong term.  Certainly she's emotionally fragile, been through an incredibly (INAUDIBLE) experience and you know these people told her that she would be killed if she went to the green zone and participated with the Americans, because as you said, they alleged they had their people all over the place and she didn't know what was true and what wasn't after three months, but after about an hour she did and she did go and she did cooperate.  You know, she's recovered brilliantly.

ABRAMS:  Jack Jacobs, I mean there still are a lot of unanswered questions here.

COL. JACK JACOBS (RET.), MSNBC MILITARY ANALYST:  Yes, I think there are a couple of possibilities.  First, the thing was a complete hoax, but that's not believable, because a translator was killed, she was entirely believable and absolutely petrified on the video.  Possibility that it was as advertised, a hither to unknown political group for political reasons kidnaps her, makes demands, and the demands are not met, by the way, and she's released, that doesn't make any sense at all.  These guys are not on our radar screen.  We hadn't seen them before or since.

ABRAMS:  Wait, before you go to number three, let me ask you about that.  Why isn't it possible that they wanted an out?  That they said you know what, we're holding her for all this time, it's not getting us—we're not getting anywhere.  We're not making any progress and we can get out of this by saying oh, look, you know they released some women, we're going to connect it to this and we come out victorious. 

JACOBS:  What do they have to gain?  They have absolutely nothing to gain whatsoever.  I mean it's not like these guys are in some kind of poker game or something like that.  They're not in it for moral suasion or anything like that.  We don't even know that these guys even exist.  We never heard of them before and haven't heard of them since...

ABRAMS:  Number three...

JACOBS:  ... except in the context of this. 

(CROSSTALK)

JACOBS:  Yes, the most likely event is that they were bought off, that this...

ABRAMS:  Ransom...

JACOBS:  Well, I think it was a straightforward bunch of thugs who had made up a name, kidnapped her to start with and probably negotiating over the past 82 days for the ransom amount.  Somebody coughed up the money and she was released.  It's the only thing I can think of because everything else doesn't make any sense. 

ABRAMS:  Dan is laughing.  Go ahead, Dan. 

MURPHY:  I'm sorry.  I don't know who this gentleman is on your show, but he doesn't seem to know very much.  He has a lot of speculation to offer you.  Yes, the name Revenge Brigades was rarely heard before, but a lot of the established groups in Iraq use different names when they do public operations and they make videos, and I'm not going to say you know who, if anybody, it was or wasn't, because I don't know for sure, but really the one thing we know for sure is that we don't know for sure in this case, and hopefully we will eventually and you know speculation like that is just not helpful or enlightening for people.

JACOBS:  Well I can tell you, it may ease things to suggest that “The Monitor” had nothing at all to do with collecting up the money and if we do that and assume that some third parties did it, it becomes much easier to swallow. 

ABRAMS:  Dan?  The suggestion that “The Monitor”...

(CROSSTALK)

MURPHY:  You know, again, these folks are definitely criminals, you know, they seem to me to have a political agenda.  There were a lot of political demands made over the months, and you know, obviously they were unmeetable political demands.  You know they wanted all women prisoners in Iraq, not just in American custody, released and you know that's a lot of people...

ABRAMS:  Yes.

MURPHY:  ... and it was never going to happen.

ABRAMS:  All right. 

MURPHY:  And really, you know, people have been released in the end after people have you know got a lot of propaganda value out of it...

(CROSSTALK)

MURPHY:  ... got a lot of videos out there...

ABRAMS:  But you have to admit, her condition...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  ... it sounds like...

MURPHY:  ... sometimes they don't.

ABRAMS:  Dan, it sounds like her conditions were much better than any other hostage we've heard about.  I mean she was saying that the furniture was nice.  She had her own bathroom.  She got as much food as she wanted, et cetera.  That does make it a bit different. 

MURPHY:  What's the question?  She definitely had better conditions than a number of hostages.  Some other women hostages have had pretty comfortable conditions.  Some people have had just horrific experiences where they're bound and practically gagged the whole time...

ABRAMS:  Yes, I only meant that...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  I only meant that in terms of accessing who this group was.  I didn't mean this in any kind of judgment about Jill or et cetera.  I meant it simply in terms of figuring out are these people simply criminals versus a political group, et cetera.  But anyway, as you point out and as...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes.

ABRAMS:  ... Colonel Jacobs points out, a lot of questions still unanswered. 

JACOBS:  (INAUDIBLE)

ABRAMS:  We'll continue to follow it.  Colonel Jacobs, Dan Murphy, thanks a lot.  Appreciate it.

MURPHY:  Bye.

ABRAMS:  Coming up, the search for a college student missing for nearly a week.  Police now say his blood was found in and around a trash dumpster near his dorm.  The details are up next.

Your e-mails abramsreport@msnbc.com.  

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Coming up, the search for a missing college freshman last seen in his dorm moves to a landfill after police find blood in a dumpster.  Details are up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Nineteen-year-old college freshman John Fiocco has not been seen since early Saturday morning and now police have identified his blood in a dumpster behind his dorm, which has led them to start scouring two Pennsylvania landfills. 

Joining me now by phone, Jennifer Moroz from “The Philadelphia Inquirer” and Mercer County, New Jersey Prosecutor Joseph Bocchini, Jr.  joins us as well.  Thanks a lot to both of you for coming on the program. 

All right, Ms. Moroz, let me start with you.  Can you tell us exactly when was John last seen and when was he reported missing?

JOSEPH BOCCHINI, JR., MERCER COUNTY, NJ PROSECUTOR (via phone):  This is Prosecutor Bocchini.  I'm having a very difficult time hearing your voice.

ABRAMS:  OK.  Let me try and get that resolved.  Jennifer, can you hear me?

JENNIFER MOROZ, “THE PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER” (via phone):  Barely. 

ABRAMS:  OK.  Seems we're having a problem with both of you, I'll try and speak up.  Jennifer, will you lay out for us when he was last seen and when he was reported missing?

MOROZ:  He—according to authorities, he was last seen about 3:00 a.m. early Saturday morning, and he was reported missing about 36 hours later on Sunday afternoon. 

ABRAMS:  Mr. Bocchini, can you hear me now? 

BOCCHINI:  Yes. 

ABRAMS:  What was it that led you or led the authorities to the trash chute in the dumpster?

BOCCHINI:  Well, once Mr. Fiocco was reported missing and the authorities came into play, any missing persons investigation, you take the normal steps of canvassing the immediate area where he or she was last seen, so the state police in conjunction with my office and the College of New Jersey did a thorough search of the dormitory facility, that being Wolfe Hall and as part of that search, it led them down eventually to the basement area outside where the dumpsters are located. 

ABRAMS:  Do you suspect foul play? 

BOCCHINI:  In all honesty, we can't say.  You know there—nothing is ruled out, and at this juncture, I can't tell you that this is some type of a—this is a result of a criminal activity.  Now you don't know if it was horseplay, you have no idea—we have no idea at this point in time unfortunately.

ABRAMS:  Jennifer, is there still any hope amongst people in the community, family members, friends, et cetera, that he may be alive? 

MOROZ:  I think there always has to be a little bit of hope at the very least, but today's developments certainly didn't add to any hope.  They were ominous details and I think folks are—until there are any definitive answers, people are going to hold on to some hope, but the fact that the investigation has now turned to two landfills certainly is grim sounding. 

ABRAMS:  And again, so we're clear, Mr. Bocchini, the reason that the search has moved there is because it was identified not just as blood in the dumpster, but it was actually his blood, correct?

BOCCHINI:  Yes.  The blood samples that were taken earlier in the week were sent to the state police forensic labs in Hamilton Township in Mercer County.  The results came back late yesterday afternoon confirming that it was in fact John Fiocco's blood.  As a result of that, the dumpsters have been emptied and we contacted the waste management companies and were able to ascertain the two landfill areas that are normally used by the companies, and we right now are preparing to search those facilities. 

ABRAMS:  Could someone fall into the trash chute that we're talking about?

BOCCHINI:  Pardon me?  Can you repeat that?

ABRAMS:  I was saying could someone accidentally fall into the trash chute that we're talking about here? 

BOCCHINI:  Well, if in fact it were—he ended up going down the trash chute, and we don't know that for a certainty, but in response to the question, you could not go into the trash chute without either deliberately wanting to do that, you're not going to accidentally fall into it, or having someone place you into it. 

ABRAMS:  Yes.

BOCCHINI:  It's approximately two foot by two foot opening, with a door that opens, then you slide your trash down.  Thereafter it opens to approximately, three, three and a half feet wide...

ABRAMS:  Got it.

BOCCHINI:  ... chute, then it goes straight down to the dumpster. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  Jennifer Moroz and Joseph Bocchini, I apologize for the technical problems, but thanks for coming on the program.

MOROZ:  Thank you.

BOCCHINI:  You're welcome.

ABRAMS:  Coming up, you can argue the coverage and the camera in the O.J. Simpson case changed the way we cover trials.  Can't make that argument for the U.S. Supreme Court, there are no witnesses and jurors.  Well it seems finally the Senate is preparing to tell the court it's time to let the cameras roll.  The justices will not be happy.  I say so what, and what took so long?  It's my “Closing Argument”.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  My “Closing Argument”—bravo to the Senate Judiciary Committee for finally telling the U.S. Supreme Court enough is enough, that it's time to open their doors to the rest of us.  The bill, which passed by a vote of 12-6 would require the Supreme Court to permit television coverage of all open sessions unless a majority of the justices decide that in a particular case it would violate the rights of a party. 

Well this could mean Justice Souter will be taken out on a gurney.  After all, he once said—quote—“The day you see a camera in our courtroom is going to be over my dead body.”  All the justices who have spoken out about the issue have announced their opposition to it, including Justices Kennedy and Breyer.  It seems they believe staying out of the public eye can help them maintain a sort of grander than life mystique. 

Their opinions, they say, ought to be the sole basis for judgment. 

One justice even talked of not wanting to be recognized at the supermarket.  Too bad.  Then find a lower profile, less important job.  The justices need to remember they're being paid by us.  Their opinions shape our everyday lives.  In fact, apart from the president, in a time of war, I would argue the nine justices choices impact Americans more than any other government officials.

They bring their own sensibilities to the interpretation of laws, so why should they be permitted to cloak their professional activity in secrecy.  Unlike the argument we hear opposing cameras in trials, there are no witnesses who might be intimidated, no jurors who might be affected.  They just think it's unseemly.  Then there's Justice Scalia who said he would not be opposed to a camera if and only if somehow the media could be forced to present the arguments from beginning to end. 

Justice Ginsburg has echoed a similar sentiment about gavel-to-gavel coverage.  Well, it's nice to hear they wanted to be editors in another life, thereby allowing them to decide what makes it in the newscast and what doesn't.  But that's not the way it works and it's also not an issue unique to a camera.  Think about it, when a print reporter rights an article about a Supreme Court argument, he or she picks and chooses which quotes to put in the article.  They don't print the argument from beginning to end. 

TV reporters do the same thing.  The distinction makes no sense.  I've got the utmost respect and admiration for the Court and its members, but when they're making all-important decisions about all of our lives, I say they need to emerge from that marble covered bubble. 

Coming up, a lot of you writing in about the investigation into the alleged rape at a Duke Lacrosse Team party.  Some have questions about that 911-call we played.  Your e-mails are next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  We're back.  I've had my say, now it's time for “Your Rebuttal”.  Lots of e-mails on the woman who says she was raped at a Duke Lacrosse Team party.  The lawyers for the players were on the show yesterday.  One said he thought the allegation seemed contrive and that a 911-call made an hour before the alleged attack complaining of racist slurs coming from the same home was questionable as well.

Mary Ann K. from Brunswick, Maine, “How can they contend that there is some planned attack upon these traumatized athletes?  There's medical evidence, her fingernails, and other personal effects left behind in the bathroom, a neighbor's corroboration of the racial slurs to passers-by, and yet, they maintain their innocence and further have the audacity to claim no sex took place?”

From Little Rock, Arkansas, former police officer Tom Powers, “There is a discrepancy in the short call, which may lead to a valid point made by one of the defense attorneys.  The woman calling initially says she and the friend are driving by the house.  Later she says they are walking by the house.”

From Orlando, Bob writes, “You were either driving or you were walking, not both.”

Beverly from Gibsonville, North Carolina, “Why is it that whenever a woman reports that she was raped the common theme is that it did not happen, she's lying, or she was asking for 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.  Have a great weekend.  Up next, “HARDBALL” with Chris Matthews.  See you Monday.

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

END   

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