updated 4/25/2006 1:28:31 PM ET 2006-04-25T17:28:31

Guests: Ed West, Susan Filan, Yale Galanter, Norm Early, Dr. Bruce Levy, Angela Burt-Murray, Vinda de Sousa, Joe Tacopina, Brian Wice, Loren Steffy

DAN ABRAMS, HOST:  Coming up, breaking news in the Duke lacrosse rape investigation right here, defense lawyers have just filed their first legal papers in the case, demanding that prosecutors turn over certain information and some of it not so nice about the accuser. 

The program about justice starts now.

Hi everyone.  First up on the docket, the breaking news out of Duke where defense attorneys have just fired their first legal salvos in the Duke lacrosse rape case.  They are calling for the prosecutor to release possible evidence.

Quote—“The limited material provided by the state is inconsistent and sources indicate that the complaining witness has more than one version of her story.  Her story is also disputed by other irrefutable facts and witnesses with knowledge of the complaining witnesses and those accused by her.”

They go on to say, “Upon information and belief, the complaining witness has suffered from mental and emotional problems for a portion of her life and based on the presently known facts of this case and the criminal history of the complaining witness, there is a good chance she may have been committed at least once to a hospital or drug treatment program.”

We also expect that they will try to have her identification thrown out based on how that was conducted.  So the question, is all of this relevant? 

Joining me now former prosecutor and MSNBC legal analyst Susan Filan, Norm Early, former Denver D.A., MSNBC legal analyst, criminal defense attorney Yale Galanter.  Ed West is a North Carolina criminal defense attorney and Tennessee State Medical Examiner Dr. Bruce Levy.  Thanks to all of you for coming on the program.  Appreciate it. 

All right, Ed, since you‘re our North Carolina lawyer, let me start with you.  Look, they‘re basically saying she‘s told different stories here, we don‘t know why, we want to get all this information about her background, they‘re talking about stuff going back as far as high school.  Are they going to get all this?

ED WEST, NC CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY:  Well, they should get all of it and they should get all of it soon.  However in North Carolina, sometimes it takes a little while for things to dribble out, but if she‘s giving inconsistent statements, first of all, they certainly need to be able to see that, but they also need to be able to see if she has prior things that would speak to her credibility as a witness, things that might impeach her credibility and so, they absolutely are entitled to it.

ABRAMS:  It goes on, the complaining witness has a history of criminal activity and behavior, which includes alcohol abuse, drug abuse and dishonesty, all conduct which indicate mental, emotional and/or physical problems, which affect her credibility as a witness.  Since these problems do not occur overnight, they probably began in her teenage years and continue to exist.

I mean, Susan Filan, I get why they want to go back, for example, criminal history with regard to dishonesty, et cetera, relevant as a witness, but she‘s 27.  How far back do they get to go? 

SUSAN FILAN, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, I don‘t think they get to go back yet.  I think they clearly get to know any statements that she made and any inconsistencies are fair ground for cross-exam.  They certainly get to know her criminal background, but any commitments, any psychiatric commitments, certainly they could ask the court for an in camera review, meaning judge, you look at them in chambers.  If there‘s anything you think we get, give it to us.  But this motion goes beyond that.  It says judge, don‘t you look at it.  Give it straight to us and I‘m not quite sure that they‘re entitled to that.

WEST:  Well, if I could interrupt for a moment...

ABRAMS:  Yes, go ahead, Ed. 

WEST:  I agree that sometimes there are times when things should be said in camera to a judge, but there‘s no question in this case, it sounds like that she has this background, this history and if does speak to her credibility and the prosecutor is aware of it and it sounds like he is, or should be well aware of it, because of people that he may have talked to in his investigation, then he‘s got a duty to turn that over...

FILAN:  But if you were committed in high school does that impeach your testimony when you‘re 27 and you‘re giving testimony at a trial?  I don‘t think so.

ABRAMS:  Let me ask you this, Yale...

WEST:  It depends, if I can interrupt.  It absolutely depends.

ABRAMS:  Quickly, yes.  All right.

WEST:  There may be cases where it doesn‘t...

ABRAMS:  Right.

WEST:  ... but certainly in this case where you‘ve got serious allegations, like this, if you‘ve got somebody who does have a prior mental illness or has given statements like this before, you need to know about it...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  There‘s a big difference between made statements like this before, I don‘t think there‘s anyone on this panel that is going to suggest that they shouldn‘t be able to get those statements.  The question is do they get to go back into her high school days and talk about you know her mental state, et cetera.

Yale Galanter, my concern is that the defense has some ammunition here, right, I mean in terms of the public perception, in terms of the alibi that Reade Seligmann says that he has, et cetera, do they need to go here?  Meaning, do they need to go in to what is so—often viewed as the typical attack in a rape case, when in this case, they‘ve got so much more it seems than in a typical case.

YALE GALANTER, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY:  Well, Dan, as a lawyer, you really can‘t make that decision on behalf of a client.  They have a legal obligation to go there.  They‘ve got to know everything there is to know about this woman‘s background that would affect her credibility. 

They‘re going to the courts to get an order to get that information.  Now that‘s different than whether or not it will ultimately be admissible, but they are entitled...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Absolutely.

GALANTER:  ... to a full background check on this complaining witness and as a lawyer you just—you know when your client‘s liberty is at stake as it is with these very, very...

ABRAMS:  Yes.

GALANTER:  ... serious charges, you can leave no stone unturned...

ABRAMS:  Norm...

GALANTER:  ... so they are legally obligated to go there.

ABRAMS:  Norm, what do you make of it? 

NORM EARLY, FORMER DENVER D.A.:  Don‘t think of an elephant.  You know, if you don‘t think of an elephant, the first thing you do is think of an elephant.  They have thrown these charges out there, these allegations.  Nobody knows how accurate they are...

ABRAMS:  Well we do know about her criminal background.  I mean we do know...

EARLY:  Well we know the criminal background...

ABRAMS:  Right.  We know she...

EARLY:  ... we don‘t know how many inconsistent statements have been made and we certainly don‘t know whether there‘s a mental health history here, which may well be protected by law and—but the allegations have been made, so people are going to be thinking, the public from which the eventual jury will be selected will be thinking that this woman has all kinds of mental health problems, drug problems, alcohol problems, and you know, quite frankly, she may not and secondly if she does, it may not be relevant. 

ABRAMS:  Well they‘re saying it with pretty much certainty here.  I mean they‘re not saying if.  They‘re saying...

EARLY:  Well that‘s what they‘re doing, but that doesn‘t make it...

ABRAMS:  No, I understand.  I understand.  I‘m just saying that they are taking the position, and I would hope that they can back it up, the complaining witness has a history of criminal activity and behavior, et cetera, which includes...

EARLY:  That they may be able to back up. 

ABRAMS:  Yes.  But it goes on, which includes alcohol abuse, drug abuse, dishonesty, all, et cetera, et cetera, and they go on from there.  Bottom line, Susan, are you surprised that we haven‘t already seen the defense‘s effort to throw out the identification?  I mean we were thinking that might be what this motion was going to be, basically saying they did this all wrong, they put in only Duke lacrosse players.  One of the lead officers there may have been suggestive, et cetera, but that motion may take a little more time. 

FILAN:  Yes, that motion may take a little bit more time to develop.  They‘ve got to allege that very specifically and very carefully, although from what I‘ve read of that police report, it‘s not going to be that hard a motion to draft and unfortunately, Dan, it may not be that hard a motion to win. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  Let me move on here because what I want to talk about is the fact that the D.A. is saying nothing going to happen until May 15.  Our DNA results aren‘t coming back until May 15th?  It‘s what, the 24th of April.  That seems like a long time.  Let me—hang on.  Let‘s listen to—here‘s what the D.A. said and then I want to ask our expert on that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I don‘t do the testing.  I have no idea.  It‘s just that he told me that May the 15th would be the earliest that they could guarantee it. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Dr. Levy, you do, do the testing.  I‘ve never heard, at least in recent times, maybe 10, 15 years ago DNA tests took that long.  I didn‘t know the DNA tests took that long. 

DR. BRUCE LEVY, TENNESSEE STATE MEDICAL EXAMINER:  Well the actual tests don‘t take that long.  The problem is, is all of the DNA labs, all of the forensic labs in this country are overloaded.  The president in fact has put in a huge initiative to try and improve turnaround times in labs, so while the testing in this case may not be taking until May 15, they may have to wait several weeks until this particular case comes up in the lab. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  Let me...

FILAN:  Yes, I‘m surprised, because my understanding is he has sent this now to an independent private lab that apparently...

(CROSSTALK)

FILAN:  ... the state is paying for privately, so that doesn‘t make sense to me. 

(CROSSTALK)

FILAN:  The only other thing is someone has said that they‘re analyzing hair, which is a mitochondria DNA exam, which may take a little bit longer to do the report, but May 15, you know what I‘m afraid of?  It‘s post election, Dan.  That‘s what bothers me. 

GALANTER:  Exactly.  Dan, this was a private lab that it was sent to.  This was not sent to the SBI, so the prosecutor has complete control over when it occurs and how long it occurs. 

ABRAMS:  All right.

GALANTER:  The expert is right.  The tests themselves are very short...

ABRAMS:  Let me throw it back to Dr. Levy then.

GALANTER:  ... should take until May the 15th.

ABRAMS:  Doctor, assuming that‘s the case, does that change your view?

LEVY:  Well, you have to ask the question, if it‘s a private lab of how busy is that lab and how much priority are they going to give this case.  I would agree that...

ABRAMS:  It seems like in all the other cases we cover, somehow they‘re able to get back the DNA results in faster than a month. 

LEVY:  And they should be able to get that DNA result...

GALANTER:  And this is the number one case in the country right now.

WEST:  Well, if I can interrupt for a moment, I‘ve had some experience with prosecutors who have gotten one thing from the SBI lab in North Carolina and then wanted to send something to a private lab and I totally agree that you can get them more quickly.

ABRAMS:  Yes. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Right.

ABRAMS:  So what does this mean?  I mean why May 15? 

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  I was surprised to hear the D.A. say, Norm Early that he is not going to be presenting any additional people to the grand jury next week.  We heard that a third arrest could be imminent.  I don‘t think he‘s going to make an arrest without a grand jury.  He could, but I don‘t think he‘s going to.

EARLY:  Probably not, Dan, and let‘s be clear, the district attorney, once they turn information over to a private lab, the district attorney does not have the capability of speeding up the results or delaying the results.  As has been said here, it‘s purely a matter of how far busy that lab is at this time.  And if they‘re real busy, they don‘t care if this is the number one case in the country or the number one case in the world, they have a sequence of events of when specimens came to them and they will take care of them in the order that‘s been assigned them.

FILAN:  Norm, anything can be expedited.  Anything can be...

(CROSSTALK)

EARLY:  ... but there is no way in the world that he can control it.  He can ask it to be expedited and his request may be honored or it may not be honored. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  Well, let‘s—I mean all right—Norm, real quick.  I got to wrap this up, but do you think if the DNA comes back negative on May 15, post election, charges could be dropped? 

EARLY:  I doubt it very seriously, Dan.  I think that in spite of the fact that the defense attorney is guaranteed that this would not be a consent offense, that the district attorney proceeded anyway and I think that the district attorney thinks they have a case, based upon the victim‘s story, that may not be inconsistent with no DNA.

ABRAMS:  May be not inconsistent with no DNA...

EARLY:  By saying that...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  All right.  I got it.  I got it.

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  Took me a second.  All right.

EARLY:  The act itself...

ABRAMS:  Yes.  All right.

EARLY:  ... may not be what...

ABRAMS:  Got it.  Got it.

EARLY:  ... we‘ve been thinking of as a traditional rape...

ABRAMS:  OK.

EARLY:  ... and it may be an act which would not leave DNA.

ABRAMS:  Right.  Right.  Right.  All right.  Everyone is going to stick around.  We‘ve got more on this case. 

Coming up, a new report says that the alleged victim is considered pulling out of the case altogether.  We‘ll get more details next and we‘ll hear more from the second stripper at the party who says that there‘s been a lot of lies being told. 

And Aruban authorities release the Dutch teen they arrested in connection with the Natalee Holloway case.  They say he‘s still a suspect and another young man was arrested in the case over the weekend. 

Plus, former Enron CEO Ken Lay takes the stand in his trial.  Our lawyer in court says he deserves an Oscar.  What does that mean?  Does that mean he was really good or he was acting? 

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:  A new report suggests the alleged victim in the Duke rape case has considered pulling out altogether.  We‘ll get details next and hear more from the second stripper at the party. 

Joining me now though Angela Burt-Murray, editor-in-chief of “Essence” magazine, a writer for the magazine, spent a lot of time with the accuser‘s family and the article is in this week‘s issue of “Essence”.  Thanks a lot for coming on the program.  We appreciate it.  All right, so is the sense that your reporter got that she has considered pulling out on occasion?

ANGELA BURT-MURRAY, “ESSENCE” EDITOR-IN-CHIEF:  Our reporter spent a significant amount of time with the family and what they were able to learn is that over the course of the last couple of weeks, she has talked to family members about feeling so overwhelmed by the media scrutiny and also the death threats that have come to both herself and her family members, that she has talked about pulling out of the case. 

ABRAMS:  And is it pretty clear to her that people know who she is? 

BURT-MURRAY:  People are aware of her identity and I think that that has made it even more difficult for her to deal with these last couple of weeks.

ABRAMS:  Did she say anything about the facts of the case, as to the level of her certainty, et cetera, about who was involved?

BURT-MURRAY:  Well, we did not speak directly with the alleged victim.  We‘re just getting information from the family members that have been in contact with her.

ABRAMS:  And did they give you any sense as to how certain she is about what happened? 

BURT-MURRAY:  She feels like according to the family members that the prosecutor is handling the case very well, and that things are heading in the right direction. 

ABRAMS:  And do you get the sense or did your reporter get the sense that based on the family members‘ accounts that she will go forward with the case? 

BURT-MURRAY:  Absolutely.  Our reporter spoke with her cousin, who said that the alleged victim has said that she wants to see justice done. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  Angela Burt-Murray, thank you very much for coming on the program.  Appreciate it.

BURT-MURRAY:  Thank you.

ABRAMS:  The second dancer at the party, Kim Roberts, is now saying that she thinks the alleged victim may have been drugged at the party.  The 27-year-old accuser says she was raped there.  And this woman is saying that she thinks that that woman may have been drugged by someone at that party. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KIM ROBERTS, DANCER AT DUKE LACROSSE PARTY:  I was there from the beginning to the end.  The only thing I did not see was the rape, because I was not in the bathroom at that particular moment.  Everything leading up to it I was there, everything leading from it I was there, and mind you, I believe I was the only sober person in the place.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  For them to say there‘s something wrong because she didn‘t tell the police until later that she had been raped. 

ROBERTS:  If you could have seen her there, it makes perfect sense to me.  Because she—I don‘t even want to go into it.  She was definitely out of it.  It was hard to see.  When the police got there, it was hard to see.  I felt very guilty and bad at that moment.  In hindsight, I look back and I don‘t even know how to feel about the fact that if something horrible did happen to her in that house and I was right there and I didn‘t help her, you don‘t know what that does to me.  I‘m the one who has to live with that.  My job is not to figure out if they are guilty or innocent, you know.  Because my opinion has changed, the facts of the story will never change.  The facts will never change, ever, ever.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  OK.  Dr. Levy, you‘re a fact guy.  Can you detect a date rape drug in a toxicology test? 

LEVY:  You absolutely can.  If you do that testing within a few hours of the time that drug was administered, you should find it both in the blood and in the urine. 

ABRAMS:  So would you expect that this—because the D.A. has even stressed the toxicology test.  Would you expect that that test would have been done when someone has alleged rape? 

LEVY:  Well, I think it should be done when someone has alleged rape.  I think it goes to the state of mind of the person; it goes to the issues you talked about as to whether they were given something in order to make them more pliable.

ABRAMS:  All right.  Let me play a little bit more from Kim Roberts, because she is now saying, laying out what she says are the lies in this case and the first two I‘m about to play here are crucial, because remember, the account from the players is that she and the accuser go into the bathroom for about 10 minutes after they stop performing, presumably that‘s how fingernails got in the bathroom, presumably because the accuser was putting on artificial fingernails at the time, and the second woman, the woman you just saw there, was changing her clothes, et cetera, and the young men claim that in that same time, they were literally trying to get them out of the bathroom by slipping money under the door.  OK, that background, here‘s what she says. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS:  Then they say they slipped a $100 bill under the door. 

That‘s such a...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  (INAUDIBLE)

ROBERTS:  Under the bathroom door is what I heard.  Lie, turkey (ph) lie, ain‘t going to go into it, turkey (ph) lie.  They also said fingernails were painted while we were in the bathroom.  I never—all I can say is I never saw any fingernails painted.  Never saw it, that‘s all I can say. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Did you go into the bathroom at all? 

ROBERTS:  (INAUDIBLE) I‘m not going to talk about it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  See, Yale, look, she‘s not helpful to the defense‘s case, but she does—when the point was made they also said fingernails were painted while we were in the bathroom, she says, never saw it, which does seem to suggest that they were in the bathroom. 

GALANTER:  Yes.  I mean she—they were definitely in the bathroom.  This woman says during this current interview, that the facts are the facts and the facts are when she gave her first interview, she said she didn‘t see a rape or she didn‘t hear a rape and you know I can understand her not saying it, but if this woman was struggling for her life, Dan, in that very small house, how could Ms. Roberts have not heard anything?  The problem I have with the interview she‘s giving now is it‘s after she contacted that P.R. firm...

ABRAMS:  Right, but I want to focus on the facts.

GALANTER:  ... and after she sends the e-mail on how to spin...

ABRAMS:  That‘s right.  That‘s right...

GALANTER:  ... her testimony and facts are the facts...

ABRAMS:  Right, but that‘s what I want to focus on. 

GALANTER:  ... and this woman is trying to spin it to her advantage.

ABRAMS:  But that‘s what I want to focus on because we dealt with this on Friday, the business about the P.R. firm. 

GALANTER:  Right.

ABRAMS:  It makes her as a witness a very, very difficult witness for the prosecutor...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  ... but I‘m asking a separate question, Ed West, and that is, whether what she is saying might actually be able to help the defense, because remember, that the accuser says we were dancing, we went outside to my car, we were coaxed back into the house, and then separated, and I was dragged into the bathroom.  If they were in that bathroom together, that is very helpful to the defense. 

WEST:  Absolutely.  I would agree.  At the same time, I do have to comment that I do think that the P.R. firm business is going to affect...

ABRAMS:  I know.  I know.  I know.  I know...

WEST:  ... her credibility, but...

ABRAMS:  ... but I want to stay focused...

WEST:  ... absolutely.  If she‘s going to testify, you can be sure that the defense lawyers are going to look at that and they‘re going to say hey, this helps us, this goes with what we‘re saying.  Absolutely.

ABRAMS:  But what about the fact, Susan, that she says there were no fingernails being painted in the bathroom?  I mean if she‘s so certain about that, then her credibility does become crucial, right? 

FILAN:  Well, she says never saw it.  Never saw it, Dan.  I don‘t know that she‘s saying it didn‘t happen, but for her to know for a fact that no $100 bill was slipped under the bathroom door says to me she had to have at some point been inside the bathroom...

ABRAMS:  Right.

FILAN:  ... but I don‘t know that there isn‘t a gap in the story that we went into the bathroom, we went out, we went outside, then she got coaxed back in, then we got separated.  So this may not be such a great you know plus for the defense like you‘re making it out to be.  But I‘ve got to say when I saw her in that interview at the end they asked her what about the bathroom...

ABRAMS:  Yes.

FILAN:  I‘m not going to talk about it.

ABRAMS:  Yes.

FILAN:  I‘m not going into it.  What‘s that? 

ABRAMS:  Well I‘ll tell you what—is that she doesn‘t want to talk about anything I think that might help the defense. 

FILAN:  She doesn‘t know what‘s going to help the defense and what‘s going to help the prosecutor...

ABRAMS:  Of course she does...

FILAN:  No, she...

ABRAMS:  She‘s been following this case so closely she‘s sitting there

listen to this.  Here‘s more of the lies she says were told, then you tell me she hasn‘t been listening to the facts of this case. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS:  They say she was visibly intoxicated when she arrived.  Everybody has heard that.  Hasn‘t everybody heard that?  She was visibly intoxicated when she arrived and the pictures will prove it.  The pictures will prove she was visibly intoxicated when she arrived.  Where is it?  Where is the proof?  Another lie. 

I was basically told by somebody who actually saw the pictures before I actually saw the pictures myself that she looked at them and saw no bruises.  Well I mean, I don‘t know what a bruise is to you, but you know I fell down and you know I scraped my knees here.  I don‘t know if they would consider that a bruise, you know what I mean?  So—and she saw nothing of the sort, so another lie that they were caught in. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  She‘s a piece of work.  I‘ve seen the pictures and I can tell you the bruising in the photographs is not going to be a big issue.  I can tell you that right now.  She‘s got some small like bruising on her knee and on her leg, et cetera.  The significant—quote—“bruising” you see is afterwards when she‘s—the defense says she‘s fallen on the back stoop when you can see just a little—there‘s like a cut on the back of her leg, and you know, they say that she slipped on the porch.

The prosecutors may allege that that was post rape, but again, the types of cuts you see in the pictures afterwards are not sort of what you would view as typical sort of rape or struggle bruising, but again, the prosecutors may be able to make something about that, because we couldn‘t see her face in that photo later on.  But Norm Early, this woman is a piece of work, (INAUDIBLE)?

(LAUGHTER)

EARLY:  Dan, they say when you cast a play in hell, you don‘t get angels for characters...

ABRAMS:  Yes.

EARLY:  ... you know and in terms of the bruising, I thought the nurse at the hospital indicated that there was bruising consistent...

ABRAMS:  That‘s right.

EARLY:  ... with someone who had been sexually assaulted. 

ABRAMS:  That‘s right.  That‘s right.  I—and that may be the case.  I‘m simply saying that there was the suggestion that the pictures were going to show, oh, there was this massive bruising on her beforehand.  I‘m saying that that‘s going to be I think a non-issue even for the defense in this case, because I‘ve seen the photos and for them to claim based on the photos that you see that somehow the bruising is so significant, I don‘t think that that‘s the sort of argument that would make a lot of sense for them.

EARLY:  Well one of the things that happens, Dan, is oftentimes bruising doesn‘t show up as well...

ABRAMS:  Yes.

EARLY:  ... on a photograph as someone...

ABRAMS:  Fair enough.

EARLY:  ... who is visually observing it in the hospital. 

ABRAMS:  Fair enough. 

EARLY:  So I would rely upon that person.

ABRAMS:  Fair enough, but I‘ve got to go, Susan.  She knows the case. 

(LAUGHTER)

ABRAMS:  Susan Filan, Norm Early, Yale Galanter, Ed West, Bruce Levy, thanks a lot. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Thank you.

ABRAMS:  Coming up, Aruban prosecutors take a new person into custody in the Natalee Holloway case and they release the Dutch suspect they arrested last week.  What is going on?

Plus, the man many say ran Enron into the ground takes the stand.  Ken Lay telling jurors he accepts responsibility for what went wrong but denies doing anything illegal.  We‘ll hear from a lawyer who has been in court all day. 

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

Authorities are looking for Samuel Brown.  He‘s 33, five-nine, 211.  Convicted of lewd or indecent acts with a child, has not registered his address with the state.  If you‘ve got any information on Smiley over here, contact the Oklahoma Department of Corrections, 405-425-2500.  Be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

ABRAMS:  What is going on in the Natalee Holloway case on the island of Aruba?  Suspect Geoffrey von Cromvoirt arrested April 15, released in this parents‘ custody today.  Another suspect, a 20-year-old with the initials E.V. (ph) arrested Saturday, then released six hours later and reports from the police commissioner, Gerald Dompig, that his 19-year-old son Michael has twice been questioned by police, once after von Cromvoirt was arrested. 

NBC‘s Michelle Kosinski is in Aruba with the latest.  Michelle, lots of activity.

MICHELLE KOSINSKI, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  Yes, they have definitely been working.  In fact, we saw investigators called in special this weekend and then working specifically on this case all weekend long.  As regards to Geoffrey von Cromvoirt, they took him out of jail twice, brought him downtown, likely questioning him, but things started not to look so good when we talked to prosecutors on Saturday and at that point, so close to the time when he was scheduled to be released, they said they didn‘t make a decision yet as to whether or not they would seek more detention for him, go before a judge.  That would have likely happened today. 

In fact, today some people were even expecting there to be a hearing.  And keep in mind, this arrest is what so many people involved with this case had seen as a potential breakthrough in this case that had been quiet for so long.  A culmination of the activity that had been building up over the last couple of weeks and many had said you know this is exactly what prosecutors didn‘t want to see.  To arrest somebody only to have them released again.  Some of the other attorneys in this case were saying they really can‘t afford to do that. 

Keep in mind the other suspects prior, the Kalpoe brothers, they were arrested and then released and then rearrested and re-released, so obviously prosecutors once again in this case, they tried, they had investigators work on this 19-year-old, but did not have enough evidence even to bring him back before a judge and ask for another eight days of detention.  They are though making it clear to us; they took pains to say, hey, this kid is still considered by us to be a suspect.  But what role they think he played exactly is still quite a mystery. 

All they would say was that he‘s expected of criminal offenses that may relate to the disappearance of Natalee Holloway and criminal offenses that related to dealing illegal drugs on this island.  In the past, too, his attorney over the past two or three days has come out to debunk some of the myths and some of the statements that were made by other attorneys in the case.  For example, the attorney for suspect Joran van der Sloot was saying that documents that he had seen indicated that police thought that von Cromvoirt actually spent time with Natalee Holloway while she was here on the island last May.

And von Cromvoirt‘s attorney in a statement that she has been putting out, she debunked the fact that he was working on beach patrol during this time.  That he was knowing these three other suspects, but she never really denied that he knew Natalee, so that had been a big question.  Was that the link that prosecutors thought they had?  But today his attorney did clearly deny that they knew each other. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Did your client know Natalee Holloway?  Did they ever meet do you know? 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  No, they never met. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KOSINSKI:  So again, not enough evidence to bring him back before a judge and keep him in jail, but still according to prosecutors, a suspect, Dan. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  Michelle Kosinski thanks very much.  We should say that the prosecutor‘s office now saying the initials are A.B.  And remember, this is the statement from the prosecutor‘s office after this guy was released or after he was arrested.  GVC is suspected of criminal offenses that may be related to the disappearance of Ms. Holloway and of offenses related to dealing in illegal narcotics, but of course he has been released now. 

Joining my now is Vinda de Sousa, an Aruban attorney who‘s represented the Holloway family in the past.  Vinda, thanks for coming back on the program.  Appreciate it.

All right.  It‘s hard to understand exactly what is going on.  I mean, it seems like these arrests are coming and going, people are walking in and out of the police station there.  What are we to make of that?

VINDA DE SOUSA, ARUBAN ATTORNEY:  Well, first all it could be a strategy not to seek for a prolongation, an extension of his pretrial detention.  People have a tendency not to talk very much when they are under arrest and if that‘s the case here, they might just have let him go to see if he can talk—he will talk some more when he‘s outside of jail.  That is one possibility. 

Secondly, if they don‘t want to risk—it could be the case that they don‘t want to risk bringing him before a judge, the judge commissioner, to extend his detention and the judge commissioner throwing the ball back at them saying you don‘t have enough on him to justify an extension of his detention so they might be waiting, because he‘s still considered a suspect, so they might be waiting to see what else they can get on him and question other people and maybe bring him back in.

ABRAMS:  Vinda, this is going to sound like an odd question, but when people are in jail in Aruba, can they bring their own pillows and stuff?  It seems like he‘s carrying out pillows and blankets, et cetera.  Are they allowed to bring their own? 

DE SOUSA:  No, they‘re not. 

ABRAMS:  OK.

DE SOUSA:  They‘re not allowed to bring their own, especially the first 10 days, they are kept in police—in the police quarters, the police station and cells that they have there...

ABRAMS:  OK.

DE SOUSA:  ... so they‘re absolutely not allowed to have that.

ABRAMS:  All right.  Yes I—we just keep seeing this video of them carrying out all these pillows, et cetera.  All right.  The former police chief, Gerald Dompig, has said about his son, Michael was merely one the many people who were questioned as witnesses in this investigation, was never considered a suspect.  It‘s pretty odd, isn‘t it, that even as a potential witness, the former—I guess his position was the deputy chief of police there, son is being questioned in connection with this case? 

DE SOUSA:  Well you see when you‘re questioned as a witness, it doesn‘t mean necessarily that you know what happened.  In this case then, what happened to Natalee.  It could be that he was questioned about maybe his acquaintance with this young man, Cromvoirt, or maybe a possible acquaintance, I‘m speculating here, as knowing maybe Joran van der Sloot or any of the other suspects in this case.  It doesn‘t mean necessarily that he knows or knew what happened.

ABRAMS:  It‘s kind of weird, right?  I mean the fact that the deputy police chief‘s son is being questioned, even as a witness?  No?  I don‘t know.  It seems odd to me.

DE SOUSA:  Well, I don‘t see it as weird. 

ABRAMS:  It‘s a small island...

DE SOUSA:  They would be questioning everybody who might know any of the kids.  It‘s a small island, so most of the kids that age know each other. 

ABRAMS:  Vinda de Sousa, as always we appreciate you taking the time. 

Thank you. 

DE SOUSA:  You‘re welcome.

ABRAMS:  We‘ll have more on the Natalee Holloway investigation. 

Coming up, we‘re going to talk to Joran van der Sloot‘s attorney.  I got to tell you, from what he‘s been saying, it sure sounds like he‘s getting ready to file some lawsuits against people who have been making comments about his client and the one person I can think of who has been talking the most about Joran van der Sloot is Natalee‘s mother.  Is that possible?  Coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Coming up, Aruban police release the Dutch teen they arrested in the Natalee Holloway case.  We‘re going to talk to the attorney for one of the other suspects, Joran van der Sloot, when we come back. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  There are new suspects in the Natalee Holloway case, but both of them released by police, one after he reportedly said nothing during a week‘s interrogation.  The other one only arrested for six hours. 

Joining me by phone, Joe Tacopina, attorney for Joran van der Sloot.  Joe, thanks for coming back on the program.  All right, it seems like the attorneys for the man arrested for eight days or so is trying to debunk things that you‘ve said.  He‘s basically coming out saying, you know, this guy Joe Tacopina, he is out there saying all these things about my client being on beach patrol and this and that, sort of suggesting that maybe he was responsible and they‘re saying, Joe doesn‘t know what he‘s talking about. 

JOE TACOPINA, JORAN VAN DER SLOOT‘S ATTORNEY (via phone):  Well, it‘s another case I think of people sort of trying to connect dots.  I‘ve never said this guy was responsible.  As a matter of fact, what I‘ve always said was that you know when I relay the facts that I find in police reports, I always say that I don‘t want to do what‘s happened to Joran for the last 11 months, which is to speculate someone into guilt. 

I‘ve never said this kid was responsible.  But clearly, look, I don‘t think I‘m wrong.  I mean if anyone is wrong, I guess the prosecutor is wrong because they held him.  They held him on charges.  They got an extension to hold him and they still deem him a suspect, so I don‘t know what anyone is talking about when they say, you know, it was wrong to suggest that he has any relevance, because clearly they held him and they still deem him a suspect. 

And these police reports, Dan, speaks for themselves.  I mean his father‘s company runs the beach patrol.  And according to one of the reports, at least one of the reports I‘ve seen, he was an active member of it in May of 2005.  You know whether he has anything to do with this, I don‘t know, but I think they should be more worried about Caren Janssen‘s assessment than mine.

ABRAMS:  Joe, it sounds to me from other things you‘ve said publicly, like you‘re thinking about suing people over comments made about Joran van der Sloot.  True?

TACOPINA:  Yes.  We‘re past the thinking stage, Dan.  We‘re at the—you know, at this point, we‘re just looking at all the transcripts.  And it‘s people that have said anything publicly, you know on television or in prints media that have said things about him that are slanderous, that are libelous, that are pure slander, that are things like you know coming to the factual conclusion that he‘s a murderer, a rapist, a predator, things that are not true that they had no business saying.

They had no facts to back it up.  And as you know, a complete defense for a slander case is absolute truth, so you know they‘ve said these things and hopefully they were saying them with some knowledge part.  If anyone called him a murderer, a predator, or a rapist, Dan, they‘re going to be called to answer for that...

ABRAMS:  All right.  Well here‘s one...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  ... here‘s one of the people who was saying it and then I want to hear your response.

TACOPINA:  (INAUDIBLE)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BETH HOLLOWAY TWITTY, NATALEE HOLLOWAY‘S MOTHER:  We know that Deepak and Satish and Joran took Natalee.  We know the sexual assaults they committed against her by both of the suspects‘ admission, by Joran van der Sloot‘s and Deepak Kalpoe.  What we don‘t know is what they did with Natalee when they were finished with her.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  All right, Joe, that‘s the mother of Natalee.  Are you going to sue her?

TACOPINA:  Well, Dan, I‘ll be honest with you.  That decision has not been made yet.  And the people that we plan on suing I‘m not going to reveal at this point.  But let me just say this.  I need to respond to that because clearly she is doing two things. 

One, she is so emotionally invested in the notion that Joran is involved in her daughter‘s disappearance and I understand that.  She took that position from the early stage of this case and locked into it and can‘t get off it.  Despite the fact that the evidence screamed his innocence when it comes to her daughter‘s disappearance.  And despite the fact that her own attorneys don‘t even take that position, she still needs to repeat that...

ABRAMS:  So, with that in mind, Joe, is it possible you‘re going to sue her? 

TACOPINA:  Is it possible?  Absolutely.  And the reason why it‘s possible is because they brought a lawsuit against us.  The way that I can envision Beth Holloway—Beth Twitty being called to answer...

ABRAMS:  Yes.

TACOPINA:  ... those statements is on a counterclaim in the lawsuit.  I fully expect this lawsuit to be dismissed, you know, when we go to argue on May 17.  But if it is not, counterclaims will come and that will be part of it because despite what she is going through, as horrific as it all is, it doesn‘t give anyone the right to misconstrue facts and to hurt and defame and slander innocent people. 

People who have you know done nothing to deserve those sort of statements.  And she misstates things.  She‘s relying on a tape there, Dan, that was doctored and altered and she knows it.  And Joran never admitted to sexually assaulting her daughter.  I mean I have a letter from the chief prosecutor that states as much.  That despite her repeated statements that she said that, Ms. Twitty, the chief prosecutor has written a letter saying that‘s just not true. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  Joe Tacopina, thanks a lot.  Appreciate it.

TACOPINA:  OK, Dan.

ABRAMS:  Coming up, the former Enron CEO Ken Lay takes the stand.  He says he‘s responsible for what happened to the company, but never broke the law.  Our next guest was in court watching everything.  He says bravo to the performance...

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Another make or break day at the Enron trial.  The man who built the company, founder Ken Lay took the stand in his own defense.  He faces six counts of conspiracy and securities fraud and will be tried separately on—for bank fraud counts.  Lay told the jury the first 12 weeks of his trial have been filled with—quote—“a lot of lies and a lot of misinformation about him and the company”.  He laid most of the blame at Enron‘s collapse on a run on the banks and the road dealings of Enron‘s former CFO.  Lay‘s testimony comes just days after former Enron CEO Jeff Skilling spent eight days on the stand. 

Joining me now two people who were in court, “Houston Chronicle” business columnist Loren Steffy, who‘s been blogging this trial for the “Chronicle” since it began, and Houston defense attorney Brian Wice.  Brian, how did he do?

BRIAN WICE, HOUSTON DEFENSE ATTORNEY:  I thought he did great, Dan. 

Listen, the contrast between Ken Lay and Jeff Skilling couldn‘t be greater.  Jeff Skilling is the big brother that used to get you in a headlock and give you noogies.  Ken Lay is the grandfather that said Jeff cut it out.

Look, all Jeff Skilling had to do was win the Oscar.  Ken Lay just has to win a Golden Globe.  Again, the contrast with no paper trail, with fewer counts in the indictment, and just the likeability factor, Dan, that I think dwarfs him out.  I think that Ken Lay has helped himself immeasurably today. 

ABRAMS:  Loren, is the cross-examination of Lay going to be harder for the prosecutors than it was of Skilling? 

LOREN STEFFY, “HOUSTON CHRONICLE” BUSINESS COLUMNIST:  Well, I think it‘s going to be more difficult because they have less to work with.  You‘re going to have Lay on the stand for less amount of time.  The charges against Lay—of course, there are fewer charges.  It‘s going to be much more focused. 

I think the big issue though is going to be how Lay does under cross-examination.  We saw today that he‘s sort of is disagreeing with his own attorneys, kind of giving them orders from the witness stand.  And that raises the question in my mind, what‘s going to happen when the government starts asking him questions.  This is a guy who has been a CEO for a long time and he‘s not used to being criticized or having his decisions questioned at all.

ABRAMS:  What do you mean he‘s disagreeing with his lawyers? 

STEFFY:  Well, he—at several times, you know, he‘s asked his lawyer, where are we going with this line of questioning or things like that.  He has kind of raised some issues about how the testimony is being handled. 

ABRAMS:  Brian, that‘s not real good, right, when you seem to be chastising your own lawyers? 

WICE:  No, Dan.  And I can‘t make up my mind whether he is just preparing for cross-examination in a couple of days with John Hueston.  Look, everybody knows that it‘s difficult to replace a legal legend like Mike Ramsey.  He is the gold standard.  There was that trust and preparation...

ABRAMS:  All right.  Yes, he‘s gone, OK.  Yes...

WICE:  ... but absolutely.  But ultimately, you know Dan that on direct, it‘s not about the director.  It‘s about the actor.  And as long as Mack Secrest is framing questions to give Ken Lay a chance to tell this jury his side of the story, then it‘s probably no harm, no foul.  Look, one of the major differences between Jeff Skilling‘s testimony lecturing the class of Harvard MBAs is that Ken Lay is talking to the Kiwanis Club. 

ABRAMS:  I don‘t know what that means, but...

WICE:  It just means he‘s a regular guy.

ABRAMS:  OK.

WICE:  He‘s taking complicated issues and breaking it down.

ABRAMS:  OK.

WICE:  With Jeff Skilling, you wanted to like him and couldn‘t.  Ken Lay, you don‘t want to like him, but ultimately you have to. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  Here‘s what he said on the stand.  As far as the problems with the company, I think that I and before me, Jeff Skilling, were being very candid about those problems.  We were addressing these problems.  We were solving those problems.  There was this loss of confidence.  It was increasingly based on confidence of the parties doing business with us and confidence of the financial market. 

Loren, that‘s the heart of the defense, right?  It wasn‘t our fault. 

Just everyone sort of threw in the towel. 

STEFFY:  That‘s right.  I mean clearly what Ken Lay is going to argue is that everything was fine at Enron.  He wasn‘t aware of these problems until it was really too late to do anything about it.  And he‘s kind of hit on the same defense that we‘ve heard him say in other public speeches that it was basically Andy Fastow‘s stealing, short sellers out there in the market working against...

ABRAMS:  Yes.

STEFFY:  ... the company and then just sort of the broader economic situation at the time.

ABRAMS:  Loren Steffy and Brian Wice...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  ... thanks a lot. 

Coming up, one of you says our coverage of the Duke rape investigation shows I should have chosen a different career.  Your e-mails are coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  We‘re back.  It‘s time for “Your Rebuttal”.  On Friday the other woman working as a stripper at the Duke lacrosse party came forward saying she may not know everything that happened at the party but believes the defendants are likely guilty, although she said she can‘t say necessarily that a rape occurred and said—quote—“if they‘re innocent, they should feel good.”

John Callahan, “Now in addition to being stupid enough to go on camera as an exotic dancer, she‘s giving legal advice as to what the defendant should feel about this whole absurd prosecution.”

Mark Bruch in Richmond, Virginia, “It appears to me that there is an attitude among the team players that their loyalty to each other is above the law, the truth and the consideration of others.”  Look, Mark, I‘m convinced if something happened in that house, players will come forward and tell the police if only to save themselves. 

John McIntosh in Dallas asks about the suspect Reade Seligmann and his alibi.  “Has anyone asked the question why Reade called a cab at 12:14 a.m.  and made sure a bank camera got his face at 12:19 -- it‘s actually 12:24 -- and why he used a cab to get back to the dorm?” 

Maybe to leave the party and get money?  We don‘t even know that the bank surveillance camera caught him.  We do know there is a receipt. 

Cathy Hansen in Ruckersville, Virginia, “It‘s appalling to hear so many conservative pundits frothing at the mouth bemoaning these poor boys may have had their characters besmirched and that Duke has rushed to judgment.  Duke should expel these jock jerks even if there was no rape.”  Somebody has an agenda. 

Kat in New Orleans writes, “I don‘t know if anything happened at that house, but I do know that before an attorney brings rape charges against anyone he should be relatively sure of the evidence.”  He has. 

From Vallejo, California, Barbara Frazer, “No one wants the wrong guys to be prosecuted and the case against Reade Seligmann looks shaky at this point.  But something happened to that woman unless the rape examination was completely off base.  When you ridicule the D.A., you do so on behalf of the defense.”  So Barbara, you think the case against Reade Seligmann appears shaky and neither you or I have seen the medical report and yet, when I ask legitimate questions, I‘m doing so on behalf of the defense? 

Marie in Pennsylvania, “I was a victim of a violent rape at college 20 years ago.  It is so obvious the D.A. has made this a media event only to further his political goals.  He should be ashamed.”

From Mercerville, New Jersey, Donna Santa Maria, “Did Prosecutor Nifong study criminal investigation in Aruba?”

Tom Shaw from Glen Allen, Virginia, “I wanted to thank you for the outstanding job you and your crew have done covering the Duke rape case.  As a career fraud investigator, I appreciate a good investigation and you have certainly been ahead of the curve on the story.”  Thanks.

But Duke grad Bryan Williams in Washington, D.C., “I think you‘re doing Duke a disservice, not because of your coverage‘s content, which has been meticulously evenhanded, but because of its relentlessness.  It hurts Duke.  Durham and Duke should be allowed to carefully resolve an alleged crime that could take place anywhere.”

Look, Brian, I am a Duke grad but I refuse to let that influence my coverage of a story.  What, so I should say well it‘s best for Duke that I not cover it?  Not going to happen.  I‘m sorry.

I hope that if what we‘re doing—I hope by what we‘re doing, meaning the best coverage, will make Duke and its alums proud for that in and of itself.  That‘s it.

Finally, Elaine Griebel in Falls City, Nebraska, “Dan, you may have missed your true calling.  You should be a private detective.  You got more information than the police on the rape case.”  Thank you.

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

That does it for us tonight.  Coming up next, “HARDBALL” with Chris Matthews.  This is the place.  Watch all the latest developments in the Duke case.

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

END   

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