Video: Man who attacked reporter not sorry

msnbc.com
updated 9/12/2006 3:14:22 PM ET 2006-09-12T19:14:22

TUCKER CARLSON, MSNBC HOST: Remember this caught on tape attack on a reporter in San Diego earlier this week? Well, John Mattes became a national celebrity overnight after he was punched and kicked by Assad "Sam" Suleiman and his wife, Rosa Barraza. He was trying to interview them about a suspected real estate scam. And all the while the camera kept rolling.

Our own Rita Cosby has an exclusive interview with Sam Suleiman -- Rita.

RITA COSBY, MSNBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Thanks, Tucker, so much.

And joining us now for his first interview is Mr. Assad Suleiman and also is his attorney, Mr. Kerry Steigerwalt.

Mr. Suleiman, this video of you fighting with the TV reporter has been shown all over the world. How do you defend your actions tonight?

ASSAD "SAM" SULEIMAN, ACCUSED OF ASSAULT: Are you asking me a question?

COSBY: Yes, how do you defend your actions when people see this video? What do you want to say to people who have seen this videotape? Video: TV reporter brutally attacked by couple

SULEIMAN: It's -- I don't even know where to start. I -- you know, the media has portrayed such an image of me in terms of allegations of fraud and allegations of identity theft. And the truth is far from that.

I feel like I've been the victim, exclusive of what happened with the reporter, which was really my boiling point. There's been so many events that have been happening that have led me to such -- to such an act. There's a lot more than meets the eye.

COSBY: Let me -- let me just -- because you bring up good points here, but let me first bring up, you know, you'd reached a boiling point. But how do you explain kicking and scratching him? You know, if you're upset about the reporter call the cops, call an attorney. But you're seen beating him. How do you explain the brutality of your actions?

KERRY STEIGERWALT, ATTORNEY: Rita, let me respond to that, because I went on and agreed to do this interview with the understanding that as to the -- what happened on tape happened on tape. He's not going to talk about what happened to tape, because it says a story in and of itself, but it's not the complete story.

You don't understand the tremendous amount of background that fueled the fire of what happened here. And I will defer to Mr. Suleiman, but he -- when he came on scene he saw his wife in considerable distress by this -- what I consider to be a very rogue reporter.

COSBY: And Mr. Suleiman, explain the background, too, but also explain do you regret your actions tonight, because the American public is watching. Do you regret that you let it get to that point?

SULEIMAN: You know, that's a good question. You know, it's a double-ended sword. I mean, I would love to sit here and say I'm sorry.

But I cannot really -- there's a lot of anger.

I mean, you know, violence is never the answer, so I'm not going to just say what I did was -- was OK. I'm not going to say that.

But by the same token, like my -- like my attorney is saying, so many things -- this attorney, John Mattes, has taken this opportunity.

He's using me as a way to get popularity. And it's been behind me and my family. He's been out there for the past four months. He's made my life miserable. I mean, wherever we go he talks.

What started out to be as an alleged identity theft, with the sources behind these allegations were a convicted felon by the name of Mr. Salerno, and a terminated broker that I had terminated because of his fraudulent activities, that he was involved before I came, that I found out later calling Mr. Ed Winters, and he also acted as a counsel.

Based on the...

COSBY: Let me ask you, if I could, Mr. Suleiman, because I think you bring up a good point. Were you defrauding anybody? Were you doing any illegal activity? Because that's why the reporter says that he was -- he was investigating you.

STEIGERWALT: Rita, nothing could have been further from the truth.

This man, Mr. Suleiman, is a very successful developer in real estate.

He was incredibly successful in stocks and bonds, making several million, frankly.

COSBY: So he was doing nothing illegal?

STEIGERWALT: That's correct. He was doing nothing illegal.

COSBY: Mr. Suleiman, what do you want to say to the reporter?

SULEIMAN: I want to answer to that question first.

COSBY: Please.

SULEIMAN: First of all, before Mr. Mattes went on air, when he called me, he says, "I'm going to go on air."...My previous counsel, and I, at this point we had been getting harassment threats.

We had been getting all kinds of stuff from these sources that were providing him this information.

All we requested Mr. Mattes to do is please, the FOX unit, the FOX channel, Mr. Mattes, please investigate a bit further before you actually go out and put these false allegations on.

COSBY: We do have a few seconds left here. What would you want to say to the reporter tonight?

SULEIMAN: To which reporter?

COSBY: ... the one who got scratched, Mr. Suleiman.

SULEIMAN: I'm sorry; I could barely hear you. What?

COSBY: What would you like to say to the reporter, real quick?

SULEIMAN: Mr. Mattes?

COSBY: Yes.

SULEIMAN: I think Mr. Mattes is a disturbed man. He's a pest.

COSBY: Are you sorry?

SULEIMAN: He has made my life horrible. I mean...

COSBY: Are you sorry for beating him?

SULEIMAN: I'm sorry?

STEIGERWALT: Well, of course. He...

COSBY: Are you sorry for beating him, Mr. Suleiman?

STEIGERWALT: He doesn't condone any violence or acts of aggression.

He doesn't condone that. But he recognizes and wants the audience to recognize this Mr. Mattes was a disturbed individual.

COSBY: Both of you. Both of you could hold on. Hold on one second, because we've got to go, actually, out here. And stick with us if you could, everybody.

Let me go right back to Tucker if we could. Again, this was the first response from them, and we'll have much more later on MSNBC.

And Tucker, we're going to go right back to you.

CARLSON: Thanks a lot, Rita.

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