updated 5/9/2006 11:37:15 AM ET 2006-05-09T15:37:15

Guests: Susan Filan, Keith Bennett, Carolyn Jessop, Flora Jessop, Isaac Wyler, Loren Steffy, Joel Androphy, Michael Wynne, Georgia Goslee, Yale Galanter, Mark Dana

DAN ABRAMS, HOST:  Coming up, the FBI adds a polygamist to its Top 10 Most Wanted list, offering a $100,00 reward for a man accused of forcing young girls into sex and marriage. 

The program about justice starts now.  

Hi everyone.  First up on the docket, breaking news in the Zacarias Moussaoui case, the al Qaeda conspirator now wants to change his plea even though he‘s been sentenced to life in prison.  Last week, a jury recommended life rather than the death penalty, Moussaoui had pled guilty to six conspiracy counts related to the attacks on 9-11, but now he‘s saying he lied on the stand about being involved in the terror plot and is trying to withdraw his guilty plea, apparently another effort to game the legal system. 

Joining me now is former prosecutor and MSNBC analyst Susan Filan.  All right, Susan, let me read to you from this affidavit that is attached to the filing.  This is what Zacarias Moussaoui says.  Because I now see that it is possible that I can receive a fair trial even with Americans as jurors and that I can have the opportunity to prove that I did not have any knowledge of and was not a member of the plot to hijack planes and crash them into buildings on September 11, he goes on to say, that‘s why he wants to withdraw his plea and have a trial instead.  Not going to happen.

SUSAN FILAN, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST:  It‘s definitely not going to happen, Dan.  I think the reason he wants to withdraw his guilty plea is because he‘s on his way to a very severe prison in the United States, and of course he can have a fair trial here.  This is America, after all, but you don‘t get to change your guilty plea because you like the jury not giving you the death sentence. 

ABRAMS:  That‘s right.  I mean we‘re not talking about just the plea.  We‘re talking about the fact that on the witness stand he starts talking about how oh Richard Reid and I were going to fly another plane, the fifth plane on 9-11, et cetera.  Oh so now he‘s saying oh, now that I see, I‘ve tested, I‘ve tested the American system, and I see that they are fair, so as a result, I all powerful one have decided I‘m going to withdraw my guilty plea. 

FILAN:  Exactly.  And that‘s exactly what the rules are designed to prevent.  The canvas, when you plead guilty, which is the series of questions that the judge asks you, are very carefully designed to make sure that you know what you‘re doing at the time and that you‘re told look, you can‘t withdraw your plea if you change your mind later...

ABRAMS:  Yes.

FILAN:  ... so are you very sure this is what you want to do now and if you like your jury that doesn‘t give you the death sentence and you want to start all over again, so now you go for the big not guilty...

ABRAMS:  Yes.

FILAN:  ... rules don‘t allow that at all. 

ABRAMS:  You know what?  I don‘t want to even spend any more time on this guy.  He wants the attention.  I don‘t even want to talk about him anymore.  The thing is going nowhere.  All right, Susan, stick around.

FILAN:  Sure.

ABRAMS:  A polygamist is now one of the FBI‘s 10 most wanted fugitives.  Warren Steed Jeffs now on the list alongside the likes of Osama bin Laden and James “Whitey” Bulger wanted on among other things 18 counts of murder.  Jeffs is the leader of a polygamist sect known as the Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints and is apparently considered some sort of prophet by an estimated 10,000 followers.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KEITH BENNETT, FBI SPECIAL AGENT:  We do not know where he is right now, however, as I say, there are several locations where we know that he has followers, and we believe that he travels between those locations.  There are allegations that he does travel with armed bodyguards and that contributes to the statement of his dangerousness.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  According to the FBI, Jeffs has known connections to Utah, Arizona, Texas, Colorado, South Dakota, as well as Mexico and British Columbia, faces charges in Arizona of sexual assault on a minor and conspiracy to commit sexual conduct with a minor in 2002.  In Utah, he‘s charged with rape as an accomplice. 

Joining me now by phone Keith Bennett, assistant special agent in charge of the FBI‘s Phoenix division.  Thanks a lot for coming on the program.  Appreciate it.  All right, how does a guy like this land on the FBI‘s 10 most wanted list?

BENNETT (via phone):  Well, Dan, certainly we consider crimes against children very serious, but additionally, we look at opportunities where the public can provide assistance in helping to apprehend a fugitive, and any instance where we can gain more publicity to help us in doing that, we certainly solicit that.

ABRAMS:  And lay out for us exactly what it is he did.  We hear these charges and they sound very legalistic, but the bottom line is this is a guy who is essentially forcing children into sex, right? 

BENNETT:  You know the underlying charge is out of Mojave County here in Arizona and it is for charges of sexual conduct with a minor.

ABRAMS:  What does that mean? 

BENNETT:  The—you know, the basics, I would—I‘m not really in a position where I can give you the specifics on the charge, as far as what allegations there are, but the essential charge is that he did have the sexual relations with a minor.

ABRAMS:  And here‘s from one of the charges where he‘s an accomplice in Utah.  The defendant encouraged, commanded or intentionally aided another to have sexual intercourse with a victim between the age of 14 and 18 without the victim‘s consent.  The information does not allege Mr. Jeffs was present or personally committed any sexual acts with the victim.

Do we know how many children he‘s done this to?  Do you have any estimate?

BENNETT:  No, I do not. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  Keith Bennett thanks a lot for coming on the program.  Appreciate it. 

BENNETT:  Thanks, Dan.  Appreciate it.

ABRAMS:  Joining me now, Flora Jessop who escaped Warren Jeffs‘ polygamist sect and Carolyn Jessop, no relation to Flora, who was born into the sect and escaped with her eight children when she was 35.  Isaac Wyler, who was born into the Jeffs‘ sect was later kicked out by Jeffs himself joins us on the phone.  All right.  Thanks to all of you for coming on the program.  Appreciate it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Thank you.

ABRAMS:  Carolyn, let me start with you.  How dangerous is this guy?

CAROLYN JESSOP, ESCAPED FROM POLYGAMOUS SECT:  I believe he‘s quite a danger to the public, and the people following him.  We have cases of welfare fraud, crimes against children; the list goes on and on.

ABRAMS:  Did you witness crimes against children that he was involved in? 

C. JESSOP:  I witnessed a marriage where he married an underage bride. 

She was my stepdaughter.

ABRAMS:  How old was she? 

C. JESSOP:  She was 16. 

ABRAMS:  And what does he do?  He basically sort of forces/psychologically encourages everyone to make this stuff happen?

C. JESSOP:  Well, as a woman in this society, if you are assigned by the prophet to marry a specific man, you have no refuge, nowhere to turn and no right to refuse.  And this particular episode, he married the girl to himself...

ABRAMS:  How did you...

C. JESSOP:  ... and I witnessed the marriage. 

ABRAMS:  How did you get out? 

C. JESSOP:  I escaped in the early morning hours with all of my children.  It was very difficult to get out. 

ABRAMS:  Flora, did you have similar experiences? 

FLORA JESSOP, ESCAPED FROM POLYGAMOUS SECT:  I fortunately did not have to run with children and I can‘t even imagine what that would be like.  I got out as a teenager.  But yes, the abuses are so rampant within the community that the children don‘t have a chance. 

ABRAMS:  Well tell me about that, because I think some people are going to look at this and they‘re going to say, oh, you know, not that the crime isn‘t serious, but some people are going to say well you know how did this guy end up on the FBI‘s most wanted list and as the special agent we were just talking to points out, we‘re talking about crimes against children.  Will you just lay out for us some of what you saw or knew about while you were there?

F. JESSOP:  There is child molestation, child rape, incest.  There‘s fraud.  These—his bodyguards, if you will, or the God squad as we refer to them, have beaten children severely.

ABRAMS:  How old are the children when they‘re—the girls, when they‘re forced into these marriages? 

F. JESSOP:  Well, the majority of them are between 14 and 16.  However, we see now coming out of there 15-year-olds with three children, which means that they had to have had been impregnated first when they were 11. 

ABRAMS:  How did you first get involved in this? 

F. JESSOP:  I was born into it. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  And so this was your life, right, for how long? 

F. JESSOP:  I escaped when I was 16 and I now for the last six years have been fighting for the women and children, because of my sister, who was another of his victims at 14, was forced to marry her step brother, and raped so brutally on her wedding night that she almost died from the hemorrhaging.  That is common stories.

ABRAMS:  So you are relieved, are you not, that he‘s now on the top 10 list?

F. JESSOP:  Absolutely. 

ABRAMS:  Yes.

F. JESSOP:  Absolutely.

ABRAMS:  All right, Isaac Wyler look, you were also born into the sect, but you were—quote—“kicked out”.  What happened to you? 

ISAAC WYLER, EXILED FROM POLYGAMOUS SECT:  Well, I just went to

meeting one day, and he was there talking and he told him that God had told

give him a list of men that needed to repent and he said these 21 men, he wants them to leave town, leave their families, homes, businesses, everything, just go, and basically he wanted us to write up a list of all the sins that we had ever committed and he‘d compare that list to the sins of—the list of sins that God gave him.  He said and then if we, you know, if we—if our lists matched, then of course, he could be able to say that we had repented of them and confessed them and basically he‘d invite us back in or he might.  He never said he would. 

ABRAMS:  Before I ask Carolyn about whether you think that they‘re going to be able to catch this guy, because you all point out that he‘s got these bodyguards.  Here‘s the Utah attorney general talking about the crimes that he‘s committed.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARK SHURTLEFF, UT ATTORNEY GENERAL:  He is a fugitive from justice.  He has victimized hundreds if not thousands of women and children in the states of Utah and Arizona and other states now.  He‘s torn apart families.  He has been directly responsible for, well over 400 boys between the ages of 12 and 17 being kicked out of their communities and left to fend for themselves.  The man is a despot.  The man is we believe a criminal and we have not been successful in locating him.  It is the closed nature of the society that he lives in, the fact that he travels with security that he can go anywhere he wants makes it important that we try this additional tool to see if someone will provide evidence so he can come in and answer to justice.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  That was a statement from July.  Carolyn, is he going to be tough to catch based on what you know of him? 

C. JESSOP:  Based on what I know of him, he‘s going to be next to impossible...

ABRAMS:  Why?

C. JESSOP:  ... to catch without a lot of help.  Well, first of all, he has unlimited resources.  He is being funded a large amount of money from this community.  The other aspect is he has an unlimited amount of people that will put themselves at risk to protect him.  And so it‘s going to be very difficult for the FBI to catch this man. 

ABRAMS:  Do you think he may be in disguise?  I mean I assume that he‘s going to now know that he‘s on the top 10 list.  Would you expect that he‘s going to do everything he can now to avoid justice? 

C. JESSOP:  Well, he‘s been doing everything he could to avoid justice long ago.  He‘s been wearing a disguise from what I‘ve heard, changed his appearance to some extent, and changed the way he dresses.  So yes, he‘s doing everything he can to avoid being caught.

ABRAMS:  Carolyn, how are your kids doing? 

                C. JESSOP:  My kids are actually stabilizing pretty well.  It‘s been

three very rough years of removing them from this cult and doing everything

in my power with professional help to break down the indoctrination of many

years.

ABRAMS:  All right. 

F. JESSOP:  I would like to add something...

ABRAMS:  Yes, please go ahead.

F. JESSOP:  ... on the money that he‘s getting. 

ABRAMS:  Yes.

F. JESSOP:  Last year, Colorado city—in light of everything that‘s happened, Colorado city still received the third largest homeland security grant in the state of Arizona.

ABRAMS:  OK.

F. JESSOP:  He‘s being funded through our government too. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  Well look, I don‘t know about that.  But Flora Jessop, Carolyn Jessop, and Isaac Wyler, thank you very much.  Appreciate it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Thank you.

ABRAMS:  Coming up, a new report is out in the Duke lacrosse rape investigation.  Get this; it suggests that Durham police, at least some of them, had serious questions about the accuser‘s credibility from moment one. 

And the defense rests in the trial of former Enron chiefs Ken Lay and Jeff Skilling.  Both men took the stand for hours.  The question, will they walk?  We‘ll ask people who have been watching it all. 

Plus...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Tom was ripped out of our lives.  We never had a chance to say good-bye. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  A hundred people killed in a Rhode Island nightclub fire, now a judge deciding on the sentence for the manager of the rock group that put on the show. 

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JEFF SKILLING, FORMER ENRON CEO:  You know it‘s been a long time coming, so I feel good.  I feel good.  I think we had the opportunity to make our case.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Former Enron CEO Jeff Skilling walking out of court today.  But a lot of people don‘t necessarily agree with what he had to say.  Said the future might not look so good for Skilling and co-defendant Ken Lay.  After nearly 60 witnesses, including Skilling and Lay themselves, the defense rested today in the fraud and conspiracy case against the two major Enron executives.  Closing arguments will be next week.  So what‘s going to happen? 

Joining me now, “Houston Chronicle” business columnist Loren Steffy, who has been in court blogging the trial, Houston criminal defense attorney Joel Androphy, former United States attorney for the southern district of Texas where the case is being tried, Michael Wynne.  Thanks to all of you for coming on the program.  Appreciate it. 

All right, Loren, let me start with you.  A lot of promises made by the defense at the start of this case.  Both defendants testified.  What‘s the betting down there as to which way the case is going to go? 

LOREN STEFFY, “HOUSTON CHRONICLE” BUSINESS COLUMNIST:  I think it was very surprising in a couple of ways.  If you ask people, if you had taken a survey in Houston prior to the defense beginning its case, I think most people would have told you that they thought Jeff Skilling was probably going to blow up on the stand, lose his cool, probably do more harm than good with his testimony and Ken Lay would come off as everybody‘s grandpa and everybody would love him.

And in fact what happened, we saw the exact opposite.  Skilling‘s testimony was reasonably controlled.  He probably helped himself somewhat in the way he approached it.  Lay, on the other hand, seemed to be in a lot of ways trying to vindicate himself, trying to strike back at the prosecutors...

ABRAMS:  Yes.

STEFFY:  He came across as being very angry, so at the end of the day, I don‘t know that the defense accomplished everything they wanted to do but they definitely made some progress. 

ABRAMS:  Now I know as a reporter I can‘t ask you what you think should happen or what you hope will happen, et cetera.  That‘s not what I‘m asking.  What I‘m asking is give me the sense down there as to the people who are watching the case; you are there with them, what is the sentiment amongst the reporters, the lawyers watching the case?  Is it—do people think there‘s a good chance that either Skilling or Lay will walk? 

STEFFY:  I think that people have been impressed with the prosecution‘s case and the effectiveness with which they put it on and the fact that it‘s been pretty streamlined and I think that they haven‘t been overly convinced that the defense managed to raise reasonable doubt on a lot of the issues. 

ABRAMS:  Right.  So Joel Androphy, it sounds like what Loren is saying is that the sentiment down there is that it will be very difficult for either of these guys to walk.  Do you agree? 

JOEL ANDROPHY, HOUSTON CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY:  That is the sentiment from the courthouse.  But I‘m not sure if that‘s the sentiment in the community.  There are a lot of people that I‘ve talked to that just didn‘t like the deals that the government gave these witnesses.  They reduced the potential for a probated sentence, the opportunity to keep a lot of the money that was obtained in this case, whereas obviously a lot of people lost...

ABRAMS:  So wait...

ANDROPHY:  ... so a lot of these witnesses are keeping their money. 

ABRAMS:  So the result is going to be that two other guys get to walk?  I mean the bottom—the reason—look it happens in every case.  People cut deals, they get breaks, and so you‘re saying that because people cut deals, the jury‘s response to that is going to be you know what, we should just let everyone go free.

ANDROPHY:  No it‘s not.  If you look at it in total perspective, you may think that, but let‘s just look at the witness‘ credibility.  If the government has to basically pay for someone to testify...

ABRAMS:  They always do. 

ANDROPHY:  They always do and it creates problems for them in this case, especially since most of the plea deals were more than generous.  A lot of these people instead of getting an opportunity to maybe get five years, a lot of them could get probated sentences.  Some of them, what I thought was really unbelievable in the first part of the case is several of them have kept millions of dollars that the government...

ABRAMS:  Yes.

ANDROPHY:  ... should have seized.  Why didn‘t they seize it?  Were they concerned that the witnesses would turn on them?  That is an integrity issue for the government and a lot of people at the end of the day could say, hey, but for the deals, we may not have heard the correct story in this case. 

ABRAMS:  Yes.  I don‘t know.  Michael, I mean look that—it‘s true, that‘s always the risk in every case, but in just about every case I‘ve seen go to trial, where you have cooperating witnesses, which is often the case in federal trials, you‘ve got an issue that occurred, meaning someone got a reduced sentence, someone got to keep something, they got some incentive to testify. 

MICHAEL WYNNE, FORMER ASST. U.S. ATTORNEY:  And that‘s the nature of it.  Very rarely do you have a smoking gun, especially in a case like this and you have to rely on the accounts, the oral accounts of the people who were there, and that means that you‘re dealing with people who are themselves guilty of criminal offenses.  Now, Joel makes a very good point, but it begins to wear thin when you get the number of witnesses that you have in this case, telling a story, that generally weaves together fairly well.  Maybe one or two, it‘s one thing—when you start getting to be 10, 12 witnesses, it‘s hard to believe everybody is willing to perjure themselves.

ABRAMS:  Here‘s Daniel Petrocelli, the attorney for Jeffrey Skilling today. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DANIEL PETROCELLI, ATTORNEY FOR JEFF SKILLING:  We do think that the jury has heard enough to make a fair decision.  I believe very firmly this jury is open-minded, this jury has not made up its mind either way.  This jury intends to listen to the arguments and they will go in there and they will have a vigorous debate and discussion, and they will then make up their mind.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  I hope he feels that way if his client gets slammed as well and I hate it when criminal defense lawyers say how they respect the juries.  They‘re open-minded.  The minute if their clients get convicted, oh it‘s the media coverage.  They got swayed and they could never decide this case fairly from the beginning. 

But—all right.  Loren Steffy, again, because you‘ve been there, you‘ve been blogging this trial literally every day.  Let me ask you a more specific question.  The testimony of Ken Lay, does he come across as a credible guy? 

STEFFY:  Well, I think that was one of the key problems with his testimony.  There were several issues that they gave him trouble.  One was the stock sales, the sales of Enron stock back to the company, which most employees didn‘t know about, Ken Lay gave the impression that he was the net buyer of the stock, when in fact he was selling the stock back to the company.  That was one area that prosecutors kept kind of harping on, kept coming back to and it‘s an area that clearly has given him trouble on the stand. 

ABRAMS:  Michael, what do you think is going to happen? 

WYNNE:  It‘s hard to handicap a case like this.  If I had to place a bet, I would say the government is ahead, but again, this is a very hard case.  A lot is going to rest on the closing arguments, more so than in many cases, because it has been so long and a lot of the early testimony has been overshadowed by what‘s happened on the defendant‘s cross-examination.

ABRAMS:  It‘s possible we would see something like a compromise verdict, right, Michael, where they convict on some charges, not on other counts, et cetera?

WYNNE:  As a practical matter, under the federal sentencing guidelines, it does not matter whether they‘re convicted on one count or...

ABRAMS:  They don‘t know that, do they?

WYNNE:  ... 12 counts.

ABRAMS:  They don‘t know...

WYNEE:  And the jury—no, the jury...

ABRAMS:  Right.

WYNNE:  ... does not know that.  I think it would be—it‘s probably unrealistic to expect an acquittal.  I think the best the defense can hope for is to be able to appeal to a handful of jurors and get them to be defense advocates during deliberations and that‘s what they‘re going to be doing during closing. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  Loren Steffy, Joel Androphy, Michael Wynne, thanks a lot. 

STEFFY:  Thank you. 

ABRAMS:  Coming up, there is a new report just out on the Duke rape case and it suggests that the Durham police, at least some members of the Durham police, had serious doubts about the accuser‘s story from the get-go, the details after the break. 

And 100 people died in a fire at a Rhode Island night club concert, now victims‘ families get their turn to speak as the judge decides how much time the rock group manager will get behind bars.

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

Authorities are looking for Brandon James.  He‘s 35, six-foot, 170.  He‘s been convicted of child molestation and hasn‘t registered his address with the state.  If you‘ve got any information on his whereabouts, please contact the Sioux Falls Police Department, 605-367-7212.  We‘ll be right back.

(NEWS BREAK)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  The Durham D.A. Mike Nifong is putting the squeeze on Duke lacrosse captain David Evans, reinstating charges that he had an open container of alcohol in the passenger seat of a car last August.  As part of the deal, Evans had to do 60 hours of community service and pay $310 in fines and court costs.  Also he had to stay out of trouble for six months.

In exchange, his charges were dismissed.  Now the ADA argued today that he violated the agreement by hosting a party on March 13 for the lacrosse team and at the party served alcohol to minors.  That‘s the same party where an exotic dancer alleges that she was raped by three members of Duke‘s lacrosse team. 

Six other players could be facing similar fates as Nifong tries to reinstate other minor charges against them.  But we‘ve also got breaking news to report in connection with this case.  A committee established by Duke University president, Richard Brodhead, is criticizing the university‘s response to the lacrosse case, calling it—quote—“much too slow”. 

The committee revealed that the Durham police initially questioned the alleged victim‘s credibility.  Let me read and this is from the report that has just come out.

Key Duke administrators seriously underestimated the seriousness of the allegations, relying too heavily on initial reports from members of the Durham police force that the alleged victim kept changing her story and was not credible.

Now, members of that committee just held a telephone press conference. 

NBC‘s Michelle Hofland was on the call and joins us now with the latest. 

All right.  Michelle, I know that they‘re talking a lot about how the university responded.  I want to focus on this issue of the fact that the university was apparently relying on Durham police officers, saying that the alleged victim kept changing her story.  Did they talk about that? 

MICHELLE HOFLAND, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (via phone):  I asked them, where did this information come from and what they told me it was widely circulated information in the hours and days immediately after that alleged party.  And there was information circulating from the Durham—excuse me, the Duke police that they received from the Durham police, and then it was sent to different deans in the university, including the dean of student affairs and on to President Brodhead. 

That this was all widely circulating information that the alleged victim in this case kept changing her story and that she was not credible.  Brodhead said—quote—“and this is the main fact that could explain why we acted the way that we did in this case” is what he said just a few minutes ago. 

ABRAMS:  And we should be clear that the report is not criticizing the president but other university administrators as to how they responded.  And again, this is a committee that includes civil rights attorneys and local officials.  This is not just Duke people.  Michelle Hofland, go ahead.  Real quick.  Yes.

HOFLAND:  Yes, what they‘re saying in here too is that they did not see a Durham police report.  What they have here is just information that the Duke police—from the Durham police, so it‘s—perhaps just a case of telephone—playing telephone, just passing information around to different people. 

ABRAMS:  All right, Michelle Hofland, thanks a lot. 

Joining me now criminal defense attorney Yale Galanter, MSNBC legal analyst, former Connecticut prosecutor Susan Filan, and former federal prosecutor Georgia Goslee.  Thanks to all of you for coming on the program.

All right, Susan, so what is—what happens with this information?  I mean as Michelle points out, it could be inaccurate information.  It is a game of telephone, but it‘s still the idea that the Duke police force is hearing from the Durham police force early on in this case that the accuser had real credibility problems. 

FILAN:  I don‘t know.  I just have trouble believing it.  I mean I‘d like to see something in writing.  It really doesn‘t sound right to me that the Durham police are saying to the Duke police (INAUDIBLE) it‘s nothing.  She‘s a whacko.  Don‘t believe her.  Tell the guys in charge not to worry about the boys involved.

ABRAMS:  So, you think the Duke police are lying? 

FILAN:  I‘m not saying they‘re lying, but I‘m just not sure.  I mean maybe they misheard.  Maybe they misunderstood.  But it‘s just in my experience not terribly likely that one law enforcement body is going to say to another law enforcement body, not in writing, not officially released, not an official report, something off the cuff like that.

I just—and I‘d like to see—Michelle said something it is writing.  I‘d like to see what‘s in writing.  Is it e-mails?  What are these communications to the administrators?  I‘d really like to see that. 

ABRAMS:  I mean, Georgia, it seems to me that regardless of what you think should happen, it happens all the time that law enforcement organizations speak to each other kind of on background. 

GEORGIA GOSLEE, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR:  I think they do, Dan.  Good evening.  And I think it is so unfortunate that this young lady‘s credibility was challenged by the very people who are paid to protect and serve.  If she made a legitimate complaint and there were physical injuries consistent with being raped, as she said she was raped, and she said she was sodomized with a broomstick, that‘s pretty serious stuff. 

And I think really what happened, the truth as I see it, is that someone initially made a judgment that she was not credible in an effort to minimize and to marginalize her story.  And it‘s unfortunate. 

ABRAMS:  But was it also possible that it wasn‘t an effort to minimize it but that the person maybe didn‘t believe it? 

GOSLEE:  Absolutely they didn‘t believe it.  Because of expectations, they probably thought it would just go away as it has in so many other cases.  But I think as this case continues to develop, Dan, I think we‘re going to see maybe—there may be other women who are coming forward on Duke and other campuses around the country...

(CROSSTALK)

GOSLEE:  ... because they‘re tired of this. 

ABRAMS:  Yes.  All right.  But, again, that has nothing to do with...

GOSLEE:  Well I mean it‘s just...

ABRAMS:  It has nothing to do with whether these guys committed this crime.  I don‘t—I mean however many people come out across the country doesn‘t tell me whether this crime was committed...

GOSLEE:  I understand that. 

ABRAMS:  Yes.

GOSLEE:  I understand that. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  Yale, what do you do as a defense attorney with this information?

YALE GALANTER, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY:  Well, you probably can‘t do a whole lot with it.  However, it is consistent with everything we know about this case, Dan.  I mean it‘s really double hearsay.  It‘s the Durham police telling the Duke police.  The committee is really doing the opposite. 

Now they‘re saying they should have acted quicker.  I think they acted too quick.  I mean they got a coach to resign.  They suspended the team.  This woman does have credibility problems.  We know for a fact from the first officer on the scene, at the Kroeger when asked, does she need medical help, he said no, she‘s fine. 

FILAN:  Oh, Yale...

GALANTER:  She‘s just passed out drunk. 

FILAN:  Oh, Yale...

GALANTER:  That is a fact...

FILAN:  That is taken so completely out of context. 

GALANTER:  It‘s in the record.  It is not out of context, Susan. 

FILAN:  It is out of context. 

GALANTER:  Then we know...

FILAN:  They asked if she needed medical attention...

ABRAMS:  Hang on.  Hang on, one at a time. 

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  Yale, finish...

(CROSSTALK)

GALANTER:  We have her giving statements to the district attorney, and we have her father giving statements to news reporters saying that what her daughter said is completely untrue.

ABRAMS:  All right.

GALANTER:  It never occurred...

ABRAMS:  Susan, I want you to respond and then I want...

GALANTER:  ... so her credibility is an issue.

ABRAMS:  Susan, go ahead, respond and then I want to switch topics.

FILAN:  I mean, Yale, when you‘re right, you‘re right, but when you spin something so wildly around, I think it lacks credibility.  They said she didn‘t need medical attention in the context of her being a drunk.  Now maybe what the Durham police...

GALANTER:  No, Susan, the 911-operator...

FILAN:  Hey, wait a second...

GALANTER:  ... said do you need a medical...

FILAN:  Maybe what the Durham police...

GALANTER:  ... and the officer said no...

ABRAMS:  All right.  Hang on.  Hang on.  Let her finish.  Let her finish.

GALANTER:  ... she‘s fine.

ABRAMS:  Go ahead...

FILAN:  Maybe what the Durham police said to the Duke police about casting doubt on her credibility, we thought it was a drunk call, then we find out it is a rape call, maybe that‘s the misunderstanding here.  But when they said she didn‘t need medical assistance, it‘s because they thought she was intoxicated (INAUDIBLE).  But when they found out it was a rape and they took her to the rape exam and they found injuries, well of course then she needed medical assistance.  So when you‘re right, you‘re right, Yale, but don‘t spin it out of context.

GOSLEE:  I think it‘s—yes, I think it is terrible for the officer to make an initial judgment.  In his judgment, she‘s fine and she‘s been obviously brutally beaten and there were obvious bruises on her. 

ABRAMS:  But see...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  I think you‘re going to get into trouble with that argument because...

GOSLEE:  Why...

ABRAMS:  I‘ll tell you why. 

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  I‘ll tell you why.  Because...

GOSLEE:  Tell me why. 

ABRAMS:  I will.  The reason is because I think it is actually going to be a stronger argument for those who support the prosecution to say she may not have had visible bruises on her.  She may not have had obvious signs of a struggle, even if she did have a struggle. 

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  Because I think you‘re going to have a real tough time establishing, as her father initially claimed, that she was somehow completely bruised and beaten because then you do run the risk of why would the officer have said no medical attention is necessary and continued to take her to the drunk tank, effectively, if she had all this bruising and assault—evidence of assault on her face.

GOSLEE:  Well you can be distressed without having extremely visible bruises...

ABRAMS:  That‘s my point. 

GOSLEE:  Yes.

ABRAMS:  That‘s my point.  All I‘m saying, Georgia, is you I think are doing your side a disservice by saying oh she definitely had all this stuff on her face. 

GOSLEE:  I‘m not saying...

ABRAMS:  I don‘t think...

GOSLEE:  ... she had stuff on her face...

ABRAMS:  I think you‘re going to have a real tough time proving that. 

GOSLEE:  Listen, Dan, if this police officer is a seasoned police officer, and I assume that he‘s had some minimal experience, when a woman is in distress and she said she‘s been brutally beaten and raped...

ABRAMS:  She hadn‘t said yet, though.  She hadn‘t said...

GOSLEE:  There are signs.  There are signs and there is visible evidence of that.

ABRAMS:  Right, but she didn‘t—apparently she didn‘t say it until...

GOSLEE:  Well I mean if he‘s trained, he should have seen it.  He could actually make a determination...

ABRAMS:  Or...

GOSLEE:  She obviously was not fine. 

ABRAMS:  Right.  Right.  Or there is the other possibility, which is self-evident.  All right.  Let‘s switch gears real quick about this business about taking these players to court on these minor violations.  Susan, what do you make of it?

FILAN:  Well, you know everybody is sort of saying, gosh, this is sort of mean spirited and aren‘t we beating up on these kids?  But these kids are on probation and this young man in particular is on probation for an alcohol violation, so he knows.  The rule when you‘re on probation is stay out of trouble. 

By hosting this party, he got himself right back in trouble.  So for him to say hey everybody is picking on me, either to get me to roll or because they‘re just being mean I think is failing to take responsibility for the situation that he put himself in by his own actions.  If the district attorney is doing it to get him to roll, so what?  And he‘s also right to do it, like I said, because when you‘re on probation and you commit another...

ABRAMS:  Yale, what do you make of that?

FILAN:  ... what do you think is going to happen?  Your probation is going to get revoked. 

ABRAMS:  Yale, what do you make...

GALANTER:  Susan, that‘s not what happened.  This really is a desperate man putting the squeeze on a case that he knows has gone down the toilet.  What happened was this young man voluntarily cooperated.  When they searched his house, he gave a non-represented statement to the police officer that said, yes, I had this party and yes, there was under age drinking.  Now Mike Nifong uses his own words against him to violate him on an open container violation. 

FILAN:  Is he supposed to get a gold medal then...

GALANTER:  Susan, clearly the court...

GOSLEE:  Yes, so what is he supposed to do?

GALANTER:  ... system has better things to do than prosecute college-age kids for drinking violations.

FILAN:  Says you, Yale?

GALANTER:  The only reason...

GOSLEE:  But you know what, Yale...

GALANTER:  ... he‘s revoking this—Susan, the only reason he‘s revoking this agreement is because he needs to get somebody on the inside and up until today, he hasn‘t been able to do that. 

ABRAMS:  Georgia gets the final word and then I‘ve got to wrap it up. 

Georgia.

GOSLEE:  Well, I was just going to say unless these youngsters are held accountable for their conduct, they have a higher rate of recidivism.  And if you‘re on probation, you have to respect the law and adhere to not violating it. 

ABRAMS:  Yale Galanter, Susan Filan, and Georgia Goslee, thanks a lot. 

Appreciate it. 

GALANTER:  Thanks, Dan.

ABRAMS:  Coming up, emotional testimony from family members whose loved ones died in the worst fire in Rhode Island history.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  The fact that our son and others were placed in harm‘s way is unforgivable.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  A hundred people killed at that nightclub rock show.  Now a judge deciding how many years the manager of the rock group will spend behind bars. 

And Congressman Patrick Kennedy stopped by police after a car crash.  A lot of talk about preferential treatment and now a lot of you writing in saying what about Rush Limbaugh.  You‘re getting me on both sides about the coverage on that one.  Your e-mails are coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Coming up, victims and family members get a chance to speak out after that Rhode Island nightclub fire that killed 100 people.  The issue, what sentence does the rock band‘s manager deserve?  He is the one who ignited the fire.  Coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) 

JESSICA GARVEY, SISTER DINA DIED IN NIGHTCLUB FIRE:  Every time I imagined her, I saw her lying on the floor in the dark fighting to stay awake and all she was thinking about was her son.  These images haunted me for a long time. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, victims of the deadliest fire in Rhode Island history spoke out today.  A hundred people died in The Station nightclub on February 20, 2003.  Remember the story?  After Daniel Biechele, tour manager for the band Great White, lit fireworks that kicked off the band‘s show.

The fireworks set off foam insulation in the club.  The fire quickly spread through the building.  By the time it was over, 100 were dead and more than 200 hurt.  Police say the band didn‘t even have a permit to use the fireworks.  The band claims it got permission from the club‘s owner, who deny it and are still awaiting trial. 

But today relatives of some of the victims testified about the impact the loss has had on their lives (INAUDIBLE) prosecutors.  Biechele can serve no more than 10 years, even though he pled guilty to 100 counts of involuntary manslaughter, one for each victim who died.  Here‘s some of what the victims‘ families had to say. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GARVEY:  My mom sat watching the news as she always did after a long day at work.  But on this night, she sat and watched as the building my sister was working in began to burn.  The terror my mother must have felt as she watched the fire spread and as people began to panic.  I can‘t imagine what was running through her mind as she frantically searched the images on the TV, looking for any sign of my sister in the crowd, in an ambulance, anywhere but inside The Station as it burned. 

ROSANNA FONTAINE, SON MARK DIED IN NIGHTCLUB FIRE:  Not knowing the extent of the disaster, my husband and I raced to the scene to collect our children.  We could never have imagined what awaited us.  We were witnesses to the fire until approximately 3:00 a.m. that morning, searching frantically for our children and not finding them. 

WILLIAM BONARDI, SON WILLIAM DIED IN NIGHTCLUB FIRE:  By losing our only child, a part of us died with him.  As a result, we will never enjoy the luxury of having grandchildren, because this horrific tragedy also destroyed our family name.  Bonardi will no longer exist.  Our surname died with him. 

LELAND HOISINGTON, DAUGHTER ABBIE DIED IN NIGHTCLUB FIRE:  It doesn‘t make any difference if I‘m struggling to find a reason to get up in the morning or I happen to go out in the yard and see her car all falling apart now.  There‘s no end for me.  There‘s no end for the people that relied on her and I just—there‘s no end here. 

ANDREA SILVA, UNCLE THOMAS DIED IN NIGHTCLUB FIRE:  Judge Darigan, one of the hardest things is to look at our grandfather.  I will never forget the look on his face and the screams that came out of the strongest man I know when my aunt and I told him his youngest son was missing.  Three years later and that same look of sadness is still etched on his face. 

TAMMY AYER, TWIN SISTER TINA DIED IN NIGHTCLUB FIRE:  They say time will heal all wounds.  But I‘m living proof that time has not begun to touch the hurt and the loss I feel since Tina left us that tragic night.  My permanent depression that affects every aspect of my life is an every day reminder that she is gone. 

EILEEN DIBONAVENTURA, SON ALBERT DIED IN NIGHTCLUB FIRE:  The fact that our son and others were placed in harm‘s way is unforgivable.  We seek justice, your honor.  It is our opinion that harsh consequences are warranted. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Mark Dana is a defense attorney and former prosecutor in Providence.  He was in court for some of the statements that you just heard.  Thanks a lot for coming on the program.  Appreciate it.  Explain to us how this works...

MARK DANA, RHODE ISLAND DEFENSE ATTORNEY:  Thank you, Dan.

ABRAMS:  A hundred counts of manslaughter, how does that equal no more than 10 years? 

DANA:  Well that is something that is agreed upon between the prosecution and defense counsel.  The way the defense counsel would work this is say that you know there‘s 10 years here that his client would be amenable to as a cap, but of course, the factors that play into this on the prosecution side is that this is a person with no prior history, clearly remorseful, and somebody who has written letters, 100 letters to the families of the victims stating that he was sorry for what happened.  So... 

ABRAMS:  Were the families asking for the maximum or were they simply talking about their pain?  I mean were they angry at this deal? 

DANA:  I think some were.  According to reports, some were angry.  Recently, this week, it‘s come out that defense counsel is going to be seeking less than jail and I think that outraged many of these families.  But be that as it may, Judge Darigan, who is an excellent judge, has a determination to give anything from less than jail up to the 10 years. 

ABRAMS:  What do you think he‘s going to get? 

DANA:  It‘s not for me to say.  That‘s why I wear a suit and not a robe, but...

ABRAMS:  But I assume as a good lawyer, you can have an estimate.  I mean you must be able to tell clients when they ask you do expect is going to happen, you give them an estimate.

DANA:  Yes, I would think that he‘s going to get—my estimation would be that it would be somewhere between six and eight years, possibly seven years.  I think he might get the high end of that 10.  I don‘t know if he‘s going to get all 10. 

ABRAMS:  And again, what he did...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  ... what this guy did was he was the one who lit the fireworks to start with, and there‘s still some question as to whether there had been permission given to do that, right? 

DANA:  Absolutely.  I mean it is a statutory offense to light them without the proper paperwork that you need.  There is a dispute as to whether or not the Derderians, the owners of the club had given, or had told them that it was ok to do that.  There is a whole other aspect of this case which deals with the foam insulation that was placed within the building, a previous time obviously than the fire, so there is a lot more going on and more will come out as the Derderians go to trial.

ABRAMS:  Yes and those are the owners of the club, right?

DANA:  That‘s right. 

ABRAMS:  Right.   Ok.   

DANA:  Jeffrey and Michael. 

ABRAMS:  Yes.

DANA:  And Michael is scheduled for July. 

ABRAMS:  Mark Dana thanks a lot for coming on the program. 

DANA:  Thank you. 

ABRAMS:  Coming up, when it comes to Congressman Patrick Kennedy talking about a drug addiction, many of you making comparisons to our coverage of the Rush Limbaugh case.   Your e-mails are next.

Our continuing series, “Manhunt: Sex Offenders on the Loose”, our effort to find missing offenders before they strike.  This week we‘re in South Dakota.  Police are looking for Scott Hoenie.

He‘s 31, six-foot, 160.  He was convicted of third-degree rape, hasn‘t registered his address with the state.  If you‘ve got any information on his whereabouts, please contact the Sioux Falls Police Department, 605-367-7212.  We‘ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Now it‘s time for “Your Rebuttal”.  On Friday Congressman Patrick Kennedy announced he‘s going to seek treatment for addiction to prescription pain medication after a car crash into a security barrier near the Capitol Thursday morning.  This after Kennedy blamed the crash on two prescription drugs he was taking, one of them included the sleep medication Ambien. 

But many asking if he received preferential treatment after he was escorted home by Capitol police without a sobriety test and was seen stumbling after the accident. 

Carol in Herndon, Virginia, “Patrick Kennedy in his statement said that he didn‘t ask for preferential treatment at the scene of the accident.  In a later statement he said he had no memory of the accident, so how did he remember he didn‘t ask for special treatment?”  That‘s a good question, Carol.

In Toronto, Canada, Reva Pearlston responds to my comment that neither of the drugs he said he was taking at the time was a pain medication.  “So Representative Kennedy didn‘t say anything about having taken any pain meds when he was pulled over by the Capitol police.  But pain and fatigue create a vicious cycle and it‘s not the least bit unusual to be prescribed sleep meds if you‘re a pain patient.”

From Woodstown, New Jersey, Edna Birch asks, “Why don‘t you be as hard on Limbaugh as you are being on Kennedy?”

But Darrell B. on the other side of that one from Orlando, Florida, “Is Kennedy going to be prosecuted for doctor shopping as Rush was?  What‘s good for Rush certainly should be good enough for a Kennedy.” 

Here‘s the problem, Darrell, is that we don‘t have any evidence that Kennedy engaged in doctor shopping, but we‘ve got both sides.  Everyone says well you guys are harder on Rush, you guys are harder on Kennedy. 

Finally, Doug Mayes in Evansville, Indiana, “If it is found that evidence exists regarding the report that he was at a local bar and he was drinking, things change significantly.  It all sounds fishy to me.”

Your e-mails abramsreport—one word -- @msnbc.com.  Please include your name and where you‘re writing from.  We go through them at the end of the show.  

We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  That does it for us tonight.  Coming up next, “HARDBALL” with Chris Matthews.  Have a great evening and I‘ll see you tomorrow.

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

END   

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