January 26, 2006

Trump the billionaire? (Dan Abrams)

He's 83rd on the latest "Forbes" list of the 400 richest Americans.  The magazine says he's worth $2.7 billion. 

But is he really? Claims by anonymous sources--that Donald Trump is  " … Not remotely close to being a billionaire ..." have the Donald marshalling his forces to take on the dark side.  Trump's filed suit against New York Times business reporter Timothy O’Brien for putting those claims in his book "Trumpnation: The Art of Being the Donald."

Trump says O'Brien is knowingly misrepresenting his net worth, which those anonymous sources estimate is a measly $150 to $250 million.  He's also not happy that O’Brien allegedly told people at a "Trumpnation" promotion that the developer was "'…The walking embodiment of financial pornography ... and a train wreck of a businessman ..."

Of course, if O’Brien's claims are true, they could also damage Trump's own publishing career.  How can you possibly "Think like a billionaire" (the name of one of Trump’s books) if you're only worth a paltry $250 million?  And would you really want to follow the Donald's "Way to the Top" (the name of another one of Trump’s books) if it stopped short of putting you in the billion dollar tax bracket?

Of course, if Trump wins his suit and actually collects from O'Brien and his publisher, he won't have to worry about those pesky numerical details.  He is asking for $2.5 billion in compensation and another $2.5 billion in damages. 

Maybe Trump's next best-selling "how-to-be-rich-like-me" book will focus on topping off your assets with some hard-fought lawsuit billions.

Watch The Abrams Report each weeknight at 4 & 6 p.m. ET

E-mail: Sidebar@msnbc.com

January 25, 2006 |

ABA ratings: They can't have it both ways (Dan Abrams)

I am getting tired of hearing certain Republicans touting Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito's well-qualified rating from the American Bar Association--not because I dispute the rating, but because I can’t stand the hypocrisy.  They are clearly suggesting that with the ABA's stamp of approval, there's no explaining why eight democrats on the committee would vote against him.  Yesterday, President Bush joined the chorus:  “His judicial philosophy is clear and his judicial temperament is sound. That's why the American Bar Association gave him the highest possible rating."

Well, I'm glad to see the President and Senate Republicans showing so much deference to the ABA ratings.  After all, President Bush is the first president in 50 years to shun the ABA’s advice when considering nominees for the federal courts.  As far back as President Eisenhower, the president informed the ABA ahead of time who it was considering for the federal courts.

A 15-member committee then evaluates the candidate's professional competence, judicial temperament, and personal integrity.  An ABA report then offers one of three ratings: well qualified, qualified or not qualified. A  "well qualified" rating means the nominee is considered to have won the ABA’s stamp of approval.  They are not asking how judges would decide cases, just whether they are qualified to do so--a legal evaluation, not a political one.           

Nevertheless, in his first year in office President Bush announced he wouldn't use the ABA to screen judicial appointments anymore.  Apparently he buckled under pressure from some conservatives still bitter over past ratings of then Judge Robert Bork and current Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.

The ABA still issues reports once the nominee's name is made public.  "Not qualified" ratings have been rare--only six so far since President Bush took office, a number entirely consistent with previous administrations

They can’t have it both ways.  If this administration doesn't trust the ABA enough to give it the same respect it has been afforded by presidents from Reagan to Kennedy, Bush I to Nixon, then don't cite them.

I'm still hoping this signals the extension of an olive branch to the ABA.  That by citing the ABA so widely, the administration and the ABA critics in Congress are acknowledging a mistake in excluding the ABA--An organization that is as fair and impartial as a group can be on a topic this sensitive.

Watch The Abrams Report each weeknight at 4 & 6 p.m. ET

E-mail: Sidebar@msnbc.com

January 18, 2006 |

Should single guys trade their pinstripes for prison stripes?  (Dan Abrams)

Is it just me or is it starting to feel like single guys should trade in their pinstripes for prison stripes?  It seems just about every convicted murderer from a high-profile case has a bevy of babes waiting in the wings once they get to prison.

Back in 1987, the Supreme Court unanimously held that prison inmates have a constitutional right to marry and it seems most of the wel- known ones are freely exercising that right--sometimes more than once.

Convicted murderer Daniel Pelosi is the latest this weekend.  He and his new 28-year old wife Jennifer Zolnowski married at a state prison in upstate New York.  Pelosi was convicted of bludgeoning wealthy New York financier Ted Ammon in 2001.  

Jennifer may want to limit the amount of spending money she brings on prison visits.  After all, Pelosi married Ammon's widow shortly after the murder and managed to spend $6 million of her money before he was arrested.

The very high-profile inmates could go head to head with B-rate rock stars when it comes to numbers of marriage proposals.  Just a few weeks ago, I interviewed Tammi Menendez, the wife of man who topped the most eligible jailbirds list.  Erik Menendez, one of the infamous and now "prison-hot" Menendez brothers, convicted of murdering their parents back in 1996.  Tammi and Erik have never spent time together outside of the prison visiting area over their 7 years of wedded bliss.

Erik's older brother, Lyle Menendez, has actually been married twice while in prison.  The first time, he married pen pal and former model Anna Erikkson.  They married over the phone in 1997.  But Lyle and Anna divorced in less than a year after she found out he was cheating!  He was writing to another woman.  Lyle remarried magazine editor Rebecca Sneed in 2003.

California death row inmate Scott Peterson has apparently received scores of marriage proposals while on death row at San Quentin for killing his wife Laci and their unborn child.  “Night Stalker” Richard Ramirez--also known as the “Death Row Romeo”-- killed 13 people but still married his prison pen pal Doreen Lioy, a magazine editor, in 1996. He said he married her because she was a virgin.  Considering the fact that Ramirez is still on Death Row, I guess she still is. 

Former Green Beret Jeffrey Macdonald has been in prison for nearly thirty years, convicted of murdering his wife and two young daughters.  His case became a bestselling book, "Fatal Vision."  A young Maryland woman named Kathryn Kurichh wrote to Macdonald and eventually married him in a prison ceremony in 2002.  You have to wonder, fatal or tunnel vision?

And then there was young TV journalist Jodie Bell.  She was a reporter in Baton Rouge, when she landed a prison interview with infamous Louisiana murderer, Billy Wayne Sinclair.  They began corresponding and eventually she came to see another side of Billy.   She became Jodie Sinclair in 1982.  When he's released in 2011, they will have been married for 30 years.

They all believe their -no- snuggle bunny is either innocent or redeemed.  And membership in this club has its privileges.  None have to worry about their man cheating, at least not with another woman.  And they always know where to find him.

It makes you wonder--do the single guys behind bars have more options than the free ones who go to bars?

Watch The Abrams Report each weeknight at 4 & 6 p.m. ET

E-mail: Sidebar@msnbc.com

January 16, 2006 |

Covering Alito (Dan Abrams)

A note to those complaining that we should have covered the Alito hearings without interruption rather than offering explanations and context: I have a nice little stack of e-mails here echoing that sentiment. 

Frank Holcomb from Bradenton, Florida says: "I don’t really need to be hearing you or your guests try to explain what is going on.  Many of the viewers can think for themselves."

Andrew writes more simply "shut up." 

In effect, they and others would like me/us, and the other cable networks covering the hearings to become C-Span for the course of the proceedings.  Well, I guess those few purists are a lot smarter than I am. 

For days, I have been watching and listening to each and every word of the hearings.  The senators often made reference to specific cases, obscure legal principles or used acronyms. Ribar, qui tam, qualified immunity, Lopez, unitary executive, stare decisis, EDPA...the list goes on and on.

To only a few of us are these terms and hearings self-explanatory. Sure, as the legal correspondent I knew many of the cases, but still found myself on the set asking my guests questions for clarification.  Then in many instances, I would ask them those same questions on the air.

Now to be honest, we received far more mail from those of you asking for explanations of terms or concepts than from those asking me to shut my yap. But beyond that, at other times the proceedings were just downright dull with senators droning on more about themselves than trying to elicit information from Judge Alito.

C-Span is a wonderful network.  I watch it sometimes. But, I hope that we offer more than that.  That is not to say that we should never cover an event without interruption.  Thou shall not speak is an often ignored commandment for many anchors.  We should and I do try to let compelling and important live events speak for themselves. 

But in my years of covering long-form legal stories at Court TV and here I have become convinced that context and analysis can make sometimes Byzantine legal language accessible to everyone, including me.  So, while I am sure Frank, Andrew and the other critics understand all of the proceedings without any clarification, those who aren’t lawyers and aren’t journalists found some of it to be arcane. And I hope they appreciated what expert guests can add.  

Watch The Abrams Report each weeknight at 4 & 6 p.m. ET

E-mail: Sidebar@msnbc.com

January 10, 2006 |

Andrea Yates: New trial a waste of resources (Dan Abrams)

I can't believe Texas mom Andrea Yates was back in court today preparing to be tried again for killing her five children.  What a waste of time and resources.  This trial will be the antithesis of a search for the truth. We know what happened.  She drowned her five kids in the bathtub and then called the police. She has never denied it and experts from both sides also agree she suffered from severe post partum depression and schizophrenia.  She apparently thought she had to kill her kids to save them. 

OK, but under Texas law you are only legally insane if you did not understand what you were doing was wrong.  The jurors did not believe that was the case here. After all she did call the police.  But they did not give her the death penalty because of her mental illness.  The first verdict was thrown out because a key prosecution psychological witnesses testified falsely.
Since the verdict was overturned, she has been in a secure mental institution instead of a prison. The only question now is what should happen to her.  Where should she be held? The prosecutors want her back in prison immediately.  I say, what is the rush?

Would it be so horrible if this mentally ill woman continued to improve psychologically at a secure mental institution? If the concern is that she might be deemed cured and then released.  Well, let me allay those concerns.  She hasn't been tried for two of the children's murders.  And there is no statute of limitations for murder so if they are going to release her.  Prosecutors can re-try her then to make sure she never walks free.

If everyone agrees she is and was mentally ill when she killed her kids why can't they work out a deal that would get her help, save taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars, and yet also ensure she does not walk.  Let’s not let grandstanding lawyers or politicians prevent that sort of real justice from taking hold.  

Watch The Abrams Report each weeknight at 4 & 6 p.m. ET

E-mail: Sidebar@msnbc.com

January 6, 2006 |

The lovey-dovey pre-nup (Dan Abrams)

Exhibit A that even a lovey dovey contract can't save a marriage. 

Sally Erickson and Renzie Davidson thought they had the ultimate cutesy tootsy pre-nuptial agreement.

She promised to cook breakfast at least three days a week and once each weekend in return Renzie Tenzy promised not to wake her up on her "days off."  He also pinky swore in the prenup it said he would rub her back three times a week for five minutes.         

And he had to pay five dollars each time he complained, nagged or made a "fuss about Sally's expenditures."         

She promised with a cherry on top to do an hour of yard work if she ever used the F word.         

Well shocker, this lovey dovey marriage pooped out within three and half months, he decided to go bye-bye.         

Maybe here is what happened: The breakfast eggs were too runny because she was spending too much time in the yard after dropping F bombs.  Maybe she was just angry because her back was getting sore from all the raking and he wouldn't give her deep tissue instead of just an ordinary Swedish massage. Who knows?  To top it off she sued saying she didn't even know he had moved forward with it and gotten a divorce.           

But for the pre-nup to have any bite it would have been better if it said if we get divorced he has to come over every day and give massages to her and her new boyfriend whoever that may be, or she gets to use the F word at his new love at least twice a week, whatever.         

Well, all's well that ends well.  After she sued, he asked the court to throw out the divorce, he probably promised the judge that he would be a very good boy.

Watch The Abrams Report each weeknight at 4 & 6 p.m. ET

E-mail: Sidebar@msnbc.com

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