updated 7/6/2007 2:38:11 PM ET 2007-07-06T18:38:11

Guest: Kris Kobach, Lanny Davis, Larry Pozner, Emily Heil

DAN ABRAMS, HOST:  Tonight, the legal fallout from the president’s decision to spare Scooter Libby’s from prison, defense attorneys now savoring that clemency order, preparing to utilize the president’s words in the Libby case as part of their defense in a whole host of other cases, including terrorism.  My take in a moment.

Also, the mom of WWE wrestler Chris Benoit now saying she wishes the DEA had stepped in earlier to stop her son’s drug use.

But first: Today, Scooter Libby paid a $250,000 fine, the remaining crumbs of a punishment for obstruction of justice, making false statements and perjury.  The meat of his sentence, 30 months in prison, forgiven by President Bush on Monday.

Now the legal fallout, “The New York Times” reporting that, quote, “Mr. Bush’s argument’s for keeping Mr. Libby out of prison have become an unexpected gift to defense lawyers around the country, who scrambled to make use of them in their own cases,” “The New York Sun” reporting on a terror suspect whose lawyer is already saying, quote, “We’ll definitely be bringing it up to the judge.”

My take.  Herein lies the fruit of rank hypocrisy.  This administration has long advocated for tougher sentencing guidelines, guidelines that often do not permit judges to consider the very issues the president cited in his clemency order.  The guidelines state, “Employment record is not ordinarily relevant,” yet the president pointed to Libby’s, quote, “years of professional work in the legal community.”

The guidelines state that public service and other good works are not ordinarily relevant.  But Libby’s years of exceptional public service mentioned in the clemency order.  Family ties and responsibilities not ordinarily relevant, according to the guidelines, and yet President Bush sympathetically described that Libby’s, quote, “wife and young children have also suffered immensely.”

But the icing on this hollow cake, the president offered the legal assessment that the sentence was based on allegations never presented to the jury.  Of course, judges do that every day.  But I guess employment record, public service and family ties are also factors never presented to the jury, as well.

You can’t have it both ways.  Again and again, this Justice Department has ignored and overruled local and federal prosecutors who’ve fought for more flexibility based on the particular facts of the case, facts like those the president considered for his pal, Scooter Libby.  Do what I say, not what I do, appears to have been the extent of the legal reasoning here.

I’ve said before this commutation sends the wrong message about justice in America, particularly because specific Justice Department procedures for commutation were completely ignored.  With that said, the increasing hysteria about the potential impact on the legal system—I think it’s overblown.  I think judges will summarily reject any legal argument that this decision can or should have any impact.  But it certainly will ensure this administration has forfeited any remaining shards of credibility on a host of issues related to our criminal law.

Here now, former Clinton White House special counsel Lanny Davis, well-known criminal defense attorney Larry Pozner, and Kris Kobach, former counsel for Attorney General Ashcroft.  Thanks to all of you for coming on.  Appreciate .

All right, before I get to whether this will help criminal defendants, Kris, you would concede, would you not, that this decision is rife with hypocrisy.

KRIS KOBACH, FORMER COUNSEL TO ATTORNEY GENERAL ASHCROFT:  Well, you know, it depends on who you’re comparing it to.  Actually, if—I took a look at the fiscal year ‘05 penalties imposed for obstruction cases.  There are 184 cases, and 55 of the 184 did not result in any prison time served.

ABRAMS:  Wait, wait.  Let’s do two studies here.  The A.P., on obstruction of justice, 382 people convicted of obstruction of justice over the past two years, three of four convicted were sent to prison, the average prison term 64 months.

KOBACH:  Right.  And...

ABRAMS:  This according to “The LA Times” -- 198 people convicted of obstruction of justice, 75 percent jail time, average prison term 70 months.

KOBACH:  Right.  But you got to remember that in ‘05 or—it doesn’t matter whether you look at the last two years or last year, that’s 25 to 30 percent of the cases no prison time served.  And obstruction can occur in a wide variety of circumstances, everything ranging from murder to bank robbery to a highly-charged political case like this one.

ABRAMS:  But Kris, you’ve got to admit that there’s massive hypocrisy here.  For example, if you’re a president and you’ve been opposed to stiff sentences for non-violent drug offenders, right, and then you pardon or you commute the sentence of a non-violent drug offender, that’s not hypocritical.

KOBACH:  Well...

ABRAMS:  But this is in direct opposition to everything this administration has stood for.

KOBACH:  I don’t think it’s that simple.  I mean, you have to remember a couple of things here.  One is the sentencing guidelines, they constrain judicial behavior.  Commutations constrain executive behavior.

ABRAMS:  Right.

KOBACH:  And so to a certain extent, we’re talking apples and oranges.

ABRAMS:  No, no, no.  But both are about the philosophy.  I mean, you can say president has the power to commute.  No one’s challenging that.  It’s about what you say and what you advocate and what you stand for.

KOBACH:  Right.  But you started your segment by invoking a number of things that are not to be considered by judges.  Well, that doesn’t mean that the executive branch can’t consider those things.  That’s my point.

ABRAMS:  Well, OK.  You’re right, but that—to me, that doesn’t address the hypocrisy issue.  Let me bring Lanny Davis in.  Lanny, bottom line, you said to our producers you think that this decision is handing a gift to defense attorneys on a silver platter.

LANNY DAVIS, FORMER CLINTON SPECIAL COUNSEL:  Well, it certainly is handing a gift (INAUDIBLE) argument.  I have no doubt that this particular judge, who is a conservative Republican appointment, gave the 30-month lower end of the sentencing guidelines for both perjury before a grand jury and obstruction of justice.  He could have gone higher, as much as 37, 38 months within the guidelines.

But the real hypocrisy here is the deafening silence of Republicans who huffed and puffed about, for example, President Clinton making false statements in a civil deposition, where he was never before a grand jury, and the case that he made the false statements in, which he admitted to and he lost his law license over it, was thrown out on summary judgment.  Do you remember all the huffing and puffing about perjury?  Where are these folks now?

ABRAMS:  That’s a good question.  Before I go to Larry Pozner on this other issue, Kris, you want to respond to that?

KOBACH:  Well, yes.  I mean, I think there is—there are clearly some differences here.  One is that there was no underlying event that anyone can—no underlying crime that was committed in this case.  In the case of the Clinton perjury, that was with regard to a civil case that was on the side, where underlying events did actually occur.  In this instance...

ABRAMS:  But it just seems to me...

DAVIS:  Underlying events?

KOBACH:  Right, underlying events.

ABRAMS:  Yes, the underlying events argument...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  Underlying events, underlying crimes, it’s this argument that’s made in so many perjury cases, and the bottom line is, a lot of the time, the reason perjury cases are brought is because they weren’t able to get the evidence that they needed to prosecute on the underlying crime.

KOBACH:  Right.  But in this case, you had a special prosecutor who could go wherever he wanted.  He could have charged anyone in the executive branch, and he didn’t even charge Richard Armitage, whom we now know was the person, if anyone, who would be most likely person to charge.

ABRAMS:  Right.  But he didn’t...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  He didn’t lie to the federal authorities and to the grand jury.

KOBACH:  But there’s no evidence indicating that whatever Scooter Libby said or didn’t say covered up for anyone.

ABRAMS:  I got to bring in Larry Pozner here.  Larry, bottom line, you’re a criminal defense attorney, you see these words.  People are going to say, we’re already seeing defense attorneys around the country saying, We’re going to use this, this is great.  You think it’s going to really have any impact, though?

LARRY POZNER, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY:  I think it is.  I think it’s ignited the debate.  I don’t think America understands what’s going on.  And this is an important step the president has taken.  Whether it is legal does not change that it is completely hypocritical.  Setting politics aside and taking Scooter Libby out of this, what the president has done is said a sentence is too harsh, that a judge should consider factors that the president knows the judge is not allowed to consider.

ABRAMS:  So are you going to cite that in a similar case?  If you’ve got a defendant who’s accused of similar types of crimes, are you going to cite it and think it may actually have an impact?

POZNER:  Count on it tomorrow in sentencings across the United States.  The American people need to understand that federal judges are forbidden to use the arguments the president used.  They’re not allowed to say what will happen to the wife and family.  They’re not allowed to say there are other methods of punishing.  They’re not allowed to say the guidelines make no sense.

What the president has done is important, and I want to side with him on this, Dan.  Whether politics are involved or not, a judge should be allowed to consider the collateral consequences of a prison sentence.  It is time for us to reexamine the federal sentencing guidelines and say, If it was fair for Scooter Libby, shouldn’t a federal judge consider all of these factors in the tens of thousands of other sentences?

ABRAMS:  Lanny, is this going to change, do you think, the policy of

the administration?  Are they going to say, You know, God, we just got to -

we got to back off now on that issue?

DAVIS:  Look, what we all know is the case, and it’s why I feel some sympathy for Scooter Libby and why I understand why George Bush did what he did—Scooter Libby served loyally George Bush and Vice President Cheney.  He was so loyal that he lied to a grand jury, according to the jury.  He committed obstruction, according to the jury.  And he declined to take the witness stand to look at the jury and explain that he made an honest mistake.

So all this sidebar about not being underlying crimes—he never took the stand and looked at the jury and said, I made an honest mistake.  Why?  Because he was protecting Dick Cheney.  Everybody knows that.  Now that the president has let a friend and somebody who was loyal to him not go to prison, that should be his explanation, and that would be the honest explanation.

ABRAMS:  Kris, let me give you a quick response, and then I want to move on to the 2008 candidates and how they’ve been responding to this.  Go ahead, Kris.

KOBACH:  Look, there is no evidence in any of Fitzgerald’s investigation that Dick Cheney was at the end of some chain of events and that this—this one little link in the chain was protecting Dick Cheney.  He could have gotten to Cheney through any number of ways.  He could have called Dick Cheney.  He could have charged Dick Cheney.  I mean, this whole conspiracy theory is ridiculous.

ABRAMS:  Well, but look, he was lying for some reason, right?  I mean, it wasn’t just because he likes to lie.

(CROSSTALK)

DAVIS:  Actually, Dan, according to his evidence about Dick Cheney and the prosecutor in his closing argument said this is about the vice president.

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  All right, let me...

KOBACH:  ... was an honest mistake.

ABRAMS:  Let me ask you about the 2008, all right, because the candidates are now weighing in.  And I want to know whether there’s mass hypocrisy here on both sides, but more with the Republican candidates, but some with Hillary Clinton, as well.

All right, so Rudy Giuliani—he says, “The president came to a reasonable decision.  I believe the decision was correct.”  In 1987, he said a one-year sentence for perjury was very lenient.  Mitt Romney has said the commutation was reasonable, and this is a guy who’s bragged all the time how he’s denied every request for a pardon or a commutation.  That’s my favorite one.  You know, that one, I don’t see how you defend.

And then there’s, of course, Hillary Clinton, saying that the Bush administration considers itself above the law.  Then, of course, President Clinton issued a lot of pardons, some probably mistakes, including Marc Rich, and then also had his problems with lying under oath in a civil deposition.

So is it fair, Larry Pozner, to make the comparisons here on both sides?

POZNER:  Yes.  There’s so much hypocrisy going around.  What he has done, his fundamental crime, is that he has distorted the system of justice.  There is nothing more important than the system of justice, and when you get convicted of misleading the system of justice, you deserve to go to prison.

ABRAMS:  But I mean, Lanny, look, you’re involved in these political decisions all the time.  I mean, you know, Mitt Romney has a tough time explaining the fact that he brags about never having given a commutation of a sentence or a pardon, and now he’s saying that this is reasonable.

DAVIS:  This is the same guy who said that he went hunting without licenses.  Look, I do think there’s hypocrisy on all sides here.  The fact is, the president of the United States is given the absolute right to pardon and to commute sentences.  I don’t criticize President Bush for exercising that right.  I disagreed, in some cases, with President Clinton when he exercised that right, but he had that right.

The hypocrisy here is the deafening silence.  Look at the sanctimonious Rudy Giuliani, the prosecutor, the tough law-and-order guy...

ABRAMS:  Yes.

DAVIS:  ... who wouldn’t criticize police who shot a man 40 times...

ABRAMS:  Kris, what about that?

DAVIS:  Now all of a sudden, he’s the compassionate...

ABRAMS:  Kris, what about—what about...

DAVIS:  ... bleeding-heart liberal.

ABRAMS:  Let’s talk Romney and Giuliani on this.  I mean, you know, it’s tough, isn’t it, to justify?

KOBACH:  Well, you know, we have to remember a couple of things here.  One is that the first argument out of the bag—whenever any president commutes any sentence or issues a pardon, the first argument out of the bag is going to be hypocrisy because, of course, there will always be hundreds of other people who are serving time or have...

ABRAMS:  Not if you’re opposed to long-term sentences...

KOBACH:  Right.

ABRAMS:  ... for drug non-violent drug offenders and then you commute a long-time drug offender’s sentence.

KOBACH:  And you know, the other thing I would say is that all of these cases are different.  And the Scooter Libby case is almost a case in and of itself.  You have this massive political football game going on around the circumstances.  No one’s with the underlying crime.  It appears that maybe it might have been impossible.  So it’s really hard to say, well, just because a governor, you know, said that he hadn’t commuted any sentences...

ABRAMS:  All right...

KOBACH:  ... that’s akin to this.  It’s just—it’s such a unique case.

ABRAMS:  Ten seconds, Larry.  I got to wrap it up.

POZNER:  Sure.  Why should the president of the United States be allowed to commute a sentence based on factors that are denied to every other American?

ABRAMS:  Larry Pozner...

POZNER:  We are a hypocritical nation.

ABRAMS:  ... and Kris Kobach, thanks a lot.  Appreciate it.  Lanny’s going to join us for another segment coming up.

Up next: Al Gore’s son arrested for drug possession.  The real inconvenient truth here may be how children of well-known politicians are treated by the law.  We’ll get to that case.

And later: The mother of wrestler Chris Benoit says her son might still be alive if the DEA busted his doctor sooner.  Is the DEA really responsible for Benoit’s drug use and ultimately what he did?

Plus: You got to give Fox News credit.  They can make it seem as if everyone is out to get them, even the Bigfoot field research organization.  Yes, now a mythical creature is on the front lines of their culture war. 

Ahead in “Beat the Press.”

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  We’re back.  Al Gore’s son busted by police yesterday on suspicion of possessing marijuana and prescription drugs after they pulled him over going 100 miles per hour in California.  The deputy said they smelled pot smoke in the car.  They searched it, found less than an ounce of marijuana, along with four drugs Gore allegedly didn’t have a prescription for.  He spent 12 hours behind bars until he was bailed out by his sister for $20,000.  He now faces four drug charges and was cited for speeding.

Here’s what Papa Gore said about it this morning.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ALBERT GORE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  We’re dealing with it as a private family matter, Meredith.  And we love him very much, and we’re glad that he’s safe and that he’s getting treatment.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  My take.  Al Gore’s son was going 100 miles per hour in a Prius?  Who knew that environmentally sound vehicle could even get up to 100 miles an hour?  But seriously, though, the question now, will he get treated any better or worse?  The officers say Gore told them who he was and that he was still treated like any other defendant.  Of course, that’s what they are saying.  They have to say it.

I believe in many high-profile case for minor crimes, defendants a la Paris Hilton can get a stiffer sentence because judges and prosecutors want to send a message.  But maybe it’s different with the children of powerful politicians.  So how will he fare?

Here’s Emily Heil from “Roll Call’s” “Heard on the Hill, and still with us is Lanny Davis.

All right, Emily, from what you’ve seen in Washington, do these politicians’ kids get it tougher or easier?

EMILY HEIL, “ROLL CALL”:  I think, in some ways, it’s a double-edged sword.  I’ve talked to plenty of kids of members of Congress and kids of people who’ve run for Congress, and they say that there are definitely perks, but there’s a huge down side.  If you’re, you know, the son of Joe Schmo the garbage man and you get busted for something, maybe you’ll get grounded.  But if you’re the kid of a member of Congress, you know, your mug shot is up on the Internet and there are headlines.  So there’s a down side to it, too.

ABRAMS:  All right, Lanny, California law, the sense we get is he could face, you know, a DUI charge, could be sentenced to rehab, community service, possible license suspension, probably no jail time.  You agree with that?

DAVIS:  You know, I just don’t want to make a judgment on something like this because...

ABRAMS:  OK, well, then, let me ask Emily.  Emily, so what—so what do you—in terms of...

DAVIS:  I was going to say something else.

ABRAMS:  Well, I know, but Lanny, if you don’t want to make a judgment on it, then, you know, then I’ll ask somebody else.

DAVIS:  I did want to say that there is a real issue involving the double standard that Emily pointed out, where kids who are the sons and daughters of high-profile celebrities are sometimes held to a different standard than people who are not.  And in this case, this young man almost lost his life crossing the street when he was 6 years old, and I just feel badly for the family and...

ABRAMS:  But he’s also...

DAVIS:  ... hope he gets treated.

ABRAMS:  But look, he’s stopped for drunk driving in 2003 -- sorry, not for drunk driving -- 2003, December, stopped for driving without headlights, arrested for possession of marijuana.  His punishment was a substance abuse program.  In 2002, arrested for drunk driving.  In 2000, just a speeding ticket.

But you know, look, this is the sort of stuff that will come in to hurt him on a bust like this.

DAVIS:  And it could be dangerous to other people, so I’m not belittling the seriousness.  The Gores—and clearly, this young man has serious problems and he could be a danger to people around him.  And he needs treatment and he needs discipline.  But I just feel very badly for this family.

ABRAMS:  Well, Lanny, the problem is, what I don’t want you to do is, on the one hand, when we’re talking about Scooter Libby, say, you know, Oh, they’re taking about the family, the effect it’s having on the family with Scooter Libby, and say, you know, that they shouldn’t be considering that, and here you’re saying I feel bad for the family, we got to think about that.

DAVIS:  Well, I think I said I feel sympathy for Scooter Libby in your previous segment.  SO I can feel sympathy and still think that this young man has a problem.

ABRAMS:  That’s fair enough.  Let me talk to Emily about Jenna Bush, all right, because both the Bushes, Barbara and Jenna, were arrested, Jenna in April 2001, charged with underage drinking, pleaded no contest.  Punishment was alcohol counseling, community service, $600 fine. driver’s license suspended.  Then in May 2001, busted with sis, charged with using a fake ID to buy alcohol.  Charges dropped, alcohol awareness.  Barbara the same May 2001, accused of underage possession of alcohol.  Charges dropped, an alcohol awareness class, and $100 fine.

And the lawyers that we spoke to about Texas law suggested that Jenna Bush got a harsh punishment, probably should have just been counseling, Barbara Bush mainstream punishment.  But let me ask you this, Emily.  You know, I heard someone on Fox suggesting, Oh, you know, that when Jeb Bush’s kid got in trouble, that somehow that was treated differently than Al Gore’s kid.  And of course, Fox is suggesting some sort of media bias and some sort of bias in the way that they’re treated here.

But do you think it matters, Emily, which politician it is?

HEIL:  Well, you know, in one of the cases with the Bush twins, one of the waitresses or bartenders—there was some speculation that she had refused to serve her when she was underage or called her on her bad ID because she didn’t like her father.  And so, you know, there may be some, you know, consideration of who the father is, but—or who the parent is, but it’s hard to say on a case-by-case basis.

ABRAMS:  Real quick, Emily, most of the time or a lot of the time, famous politicians’ kids may get pulled over and nothing happens, right?

HEIL:  Well, that can happen to, you know, the son of the, you know, chief of police in a small town, too.  So you know, it’s hard to say how often that happens, or if it does at all, because there’s no record of it.

ABRAMS:  All right, Emily, thanks very much.  And Lanny Davis, I always have fun with Lanny.  Thanks for coming back on.  Appreciate it.  Good to see you.

Still ahead: The DEA says it was investigating WWE star Chris Benoit’s doctor before the wrestler killed his wife and 7-year-old son.  Now his mother is wishing the authorities should have acted sooner, and WWE defenders are discussing that, as well.  Is it really fair to pin it on them?

But first, CBS’s Hannah Storm comes out of her shell, referring to this conch as, well, a rooster.  Cover your ears.  “Beat the Press” is next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Time for tonight’s “Beat the Press,” our daily look back at the absurd and sometimes amusing perils of live TV.  First up: Over at “The Early Show” on CBS, they had a wacky morning with weatherman Dave Price in the Florida keys, drinking Margarita’s and playing a local instrument.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVE PRICE, “THE EARLY SHOW”:  Millions of people visit the keys every year.  This is Dave Parker (ph).  He’s a conch expert.  Locals here are called “conchs.”  The high school here is “the fighting conchs.”  It’s known as “the conch republic.”  Kimmy (ph) and Samantha (ph) are here to teach me to how to play this thing.  How do you do it, Dave?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  A conch shell.  That doesn’t sound like what Hannah Storm says here.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PRICE:  Back to you, Hannah!

HANNAH STORM, “THE EARLY SHOW”:  But Dave, you on the cock!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Could you hear it?  Hannah, he’s not on a rooster, it’s a big shell.

Next up: Over at Fox, they can make anything and everything about how the world is out to get them.  Who knew the Bigfoot field research organization was part of the culture war against Fox News?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The Bigfoot field research organization is set to go out on a search expedition next week.  Fox News Talk Radio’s Griff Jenkins (ph) was invited to go along.  Then he was disinvited.  Why were you disinvited?  And why might you be reinvited?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  They don’t usually take the media, and I was trying to get them to take me.  And I don’t know what, he looked at the Web site or some—for some reason, he decided I wasn’t a, quote, “serious journalist.”

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  It must be because any group that believes Sasquatch could exist is somehow affiliated with PETA or some other far-left-wing, environmentally-conscious, tree-hugging organization.

Finally, on Fox’s premier business show, Neil Cavuto quickly dispensed with one of the biggest business stories of the week, private equity firm Blackstone buying Hilton Hotels.  The program for business news then transitioned to the real significance of the story.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NEIL CAVUTO, HOST, “YOUR WORLD”:  All right, time for “Fox Stocks.”  Hilton Hotels accepting a $26 billion buy-out offer from the Blackstone Group.  Paris Hilton isn’t commenting on the sale, but instead speaking about something she knows a little bit more about.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Nice video and relevance.

Up next, a new twist in the Chris Benoit case, authorities investigating the wrestler’s steroid use before his death.  His mother now says they could have stopped him.  Plus, an 11-year-old girl leads police on an unbelievable high-speed chase.  Coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWSBREAK)

ABRAMS:  We’re back.  New developments tonight in the double murder-suicide of former wrestling star Chris Benoit.  A report within the wrestling industry tonight suggests Benoit recently took out a life insurance policy which listed his ex-wife and oldest two children as the beneficiaries rather than his wife, Nancy, and son, Daniel, he’s now accused of killing.  According to that report, which has not been confirmed by NBC, Nancy Benoit confronted Chris about the policy.  He refused to change it. 

Also, tonight Chris Benoit’s mother is making headlines, suggesting that if the DEA had stepped in sooner and busted Chris’ doctor, and maybe even Chris himself for steroids, the whole thing might have been prevented.  She told a reporter, “It’s so late now, too late you can’t turn the clock back.”  Asked if quick reaction could have saved her son, quote, “We would certainly hope so; we just don’t know.”

My take, Benoit’s mom is not going nearly as far as some defenders of the WWE, who suggest the DEA is to blame here.  Please.  Everyone is trying to shift the blame around in this case.  Let’s blame the DEA.  Let’s blame the doctor.  Bill O’Reilly blaming the wife for not leaving sooner, instead of focusing on the real perpetrator, Chris Benoit.  Let’s say for argument’s sake the DEA did step in and bust this doctor months ago, every wrestler I’ve talked to has said doctor-shopping for steroids is as common in that world as a trip to Wal-Mart in ours. 

Here now, former professional wrestler Marc Mero.  He wrestled with Benoit and knew him well.  Defense attorney B.J. Bernstein and Dave Meltzer, editor of the “Wrestling Observer” newsletter.  Thanks to all of you for coming on.  Appreciate it.

All right, B.J., you know, look, there a lot of people saying oh, the DEA, they should have stepped in earlier, they were making a case here.  You know, blaming the DEA at this point on a steroid investigation about the fact that he killed his family to me seems kind of ridiculous. 

B.J. BERNSTEIN, DEFENSE ATTORNEY:  Not really completely ridiculous.  Think about the indictment that’s come out now.  It’s an indictment from 2004 and 2005.  Why does it take the DEA two or three years to bring a case against a doctor if the doctor, in fact, is medicating people improperly?

ABRAMS:  Well, look, whether they could have or should have, it’s so easy to go back and say, “Oh, you know, if x, then o, then look what we could have prevented.”  The DEA says, “This is ridiculous for anyone to think we could have known that anything like could have happened.”  Then they go to say, “We can arrest and prosecute users, but they’re not the target or focus of most investigations.  We want to bring charges that are legitimate.  Cases take time.”  And, B.J., what I fear is that everyone, because Benoit’s dead, everyone’s looking for someone else to blame here. 

BERNSTEIN:  But it’s not really a scapegoat to say that a doctor who put someone at risk—I mean, remember, we went after—in state cases, we go after crime immediately when it happens or shortly thereafter.  Yes, there’s an argument for the feds to take a little bit longer to build a case.  But at a certain point, it’s an issue of potentially just raising the numbers to put someone behind bars longer under the federal guidelines, as opposed to realizing that you are potentially killing people every time you give a prescription to someone who shouldn’t have it. 

ABRAMS:  Well, that’s fine, but, Marc, the bottom line is what you told me on this program many times is that you had a lot of doctor fans who, if you wanted, if one doctor wouldn’t give it to you, you’d either get the name from somebody else, or you knew somebody else, or you’d see them backstage. 

MARC MERO, FORMER PRO WRESTLER:  Absolutely, and that’s problem.  You know, we’re going after—we need to go after the doctors, OK?  There’s probably a lot of guys also on that list besides Chris Benoit.  There may be hundreds or thousands.  Does the DEA even have the time or the manpower to arrest every single user?  You might as well go and lock up probably three-quarters of professional wrestlers then. 

ABRAMS:  Dave, are other wrestlers going to be linked to this doctor that you know of? 

DAVE MELTZER, “WRESTLING OBSERVER” NEWSLETTER:  I think—I mean, as far as linked to them, as far as other wrestlers, did they go to Dr. Astin?  Absolutely.  I mean, he was well-known in the Atlanta wrestling community and, for that matter, in the Atlanta sports community about Dr. Astin.  I would think that, when all is said and done, I don’t know that he improperly prescribed stuff to other wrestlers.  I don’t know that he improperly prescribed stuff to other athletes.  But as far as, are there links?  Did other athletes see him?  Absolutely. 

And, you know, the reason that Chris Benoit was turned onto him by another wrestler, you know, who was in WCW at the time Chris Benoit was, and, you know, it was not uncommon.  All the Atlanta wrestlers—I shouldn’t say all of them, but a lot of Atlanta wrestlers were seeing Dr.  Astin because he had the reputation as being the handyman with a prescription pad. 

ABRAMS:  He was a personal doctor and friend of Benoit.  He’s under house arrest now, after posting $125,000 bond.  Authorities raided his office twice, charged on seven counts of improperly prescribing medication.  He apparently—Benoit apparently visited Astin the day authorities believe he killed his wife.  And the DEA—let me finish one thing, I’ll let you go. 

MELTZER:  Can I also make a statement about that?  OK.

ABRAMS:  The DEA now saying Astin prescribed the Benoit the 10-month supply of steroids every three to four weeks.  Yes, go ahead, Dave.

MELTZER:  Yes, I mean, one of the things and Astin and Benoit that you have to realize was Chris Benoit lived about 50 miles away from Dr. Astin’s office.  And in traffic, you know, that could be an hour and a half-plus ride.  And most people, when they go to the doctor, their doctor isn’t that long of a ride, and there’s a reason for that. 

ABRAMS:  And, Marc, was that—is that relevant, do you think, here? 

MERO:  You know what?  You’re going to get them wherever you can.  But it just sounds to me like, Dave, you’re kind of sugarcoating the whole issue, though.  You know, the point is, you can get steroids wherever you want.  You know, if this doctor is not going to write you a script, another doctor will.  They’re not hard to get your hands on. 

But steroids is not the big problem.  There’s bigger problems than steroids in professional wrestling, OK?  There’s the pain medication, the sleeping pills, the GHB, all the other drugs involved, the cocaine, the pot.  It’s the wrestlers’ cocktail.  It’s the lifestyle of the professional wrestler on the road for up to 300 days a year.  It’s got to be regulated.  We’ve got to stop it. 

ABRAMS:  Dave, let me ask you about this life insurance policy, something you’ve reported on.  Have it make sense for us.  I don’t quite understand what the issue is. 

MELTZER:  Well, what happened, before Nancy was murdered, she had told one of her friends about—she had poured her heart out to one of her best friends about a lot of things having to do with problems that were happening with Chris.  And one of the things that she mentioned was—and I don’t know that this is a true story, I know that the conversation is a true story, that Nancy told her friend that Chris had taken out a life insurance policy and had named as his beneficiaries Martina, who is Chris’ first wife in Edmonton, and her sons Megan and David, who are the two older sons, and did not list Nancy and Daniel.  And she had confronted him, and they had a big argument over that thing, you know, probably within—I don’t know, maybe in the last week or so, but it was a recent argument.  And they had a lot of arguments about financial—a lot of their arguments had to do with finances and things like that. 

ABRAMS:  Just so I understand, you know that that conversation occurred; you simply don’t know...

MELTZER:  I know that that conversation occurred.

ABRAMS:  You don’t know whether it’s true about the life insurance policy.

MERO:  I don’t have a record of a life insurance policy in front of me.  I know that the conversation occurred.  I know what Nancy had told her friend, you know, right before she died.  And we know—she was in fear, and she was in fear as far as certain things.  Yes. 

ABRAMS:  All right, everybody’s going to stick around here, because, coming up, we’ve got a live report on the latest developments in this case.  We want to check in there. 

Plus, we look at the leading theories as to what happened here.  We’ve got a whole bunch of theories here about what might have happened and why. 

And later, he may be 72 years old, but this Marine still packs a punch.  We’ll talk to this man who fought back against a pickpocket half his age, coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  In a moment, we’re going to get to the competing theories over what could have led Chris Benoit to do what he did, murdering his wife and his child.  There’s everything from ‘roid rage to domestic dispute, some even suggesting that maybe there was actually a murder here.  We’ll talk about all that in a minute. 

But first let’s go check in with NBC’s Mike Boettcher with the latest developments on the case from Atlanta.  Mike, what do we know?

MIKE BOETTCHER, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  Well, Dan, the mother, as you talked about earlier, says this could have been prevented.  Now, what happened here was the fact that this murder-suicide occurred in the middle of a big federal investigation of illegal steroid distribution.  And it’s forced the Drug Enforcement Administration to move up their timetables somewhat. 

She says that they knew that he was on the radar screen, and that came out in federal court papers last week, that the feds knew he was a heavy user of steroids.  But they did not act on it.  The DEA says that they were trying to build a case.  Now, Dr. Astin—and your previous guest talked about it—he actually really wasn’t on their radar.  He was on the radar of the local authorities in Carrollton, Georgia.  And when this case came up, they decided to move against him.  He’s actually a small fry.  They’re looking to fry much bigger fish, Dan. 

ABRAMS:  All right, Mike, just stick around for a minute, because I want to talk about this.  You may want to weigh in on some of this. 

Basically, you know, the D.A. in the case, it’s seeming pretty clear, that it all leads to murder-suicide.  But the officials are still ruling out the possibility—they said they’re still following up on all the leads, et cetera.  So let’s take a look through the competing theories as to what happened here.  And what is the evidence behind it?

First, the ‘roid rage theory, that steroids and other medications were found at Benoit’s home.  That’s evidence piece number one. 

Number two, that from May 2006 to May 2007, a doctor prescribed a 10-month supply of anabolic steroids every three to four weeks.  The doctor recently treated Benoit for low testosterone levels, which may have originated from steroid use.  Steroid side effects include aggression and paranoia, at least they can.  And friends say that he was obsessed with his body image. 

Dave Meltzer, do you think that this remains—and let’s not even use this term ‘roid rage, but that the combination of the use of drugs, uppers, downers, steroids, whatever it is, is what led him to act out like this? 

MELTZER:  Well, I don’t think there’s any question that the combination of all the uses of drugs probably led to a bigger depression than Chris was probably already feeling through normal channels.  I think that it made things that were bad worse. 

I cannot come up with any reason for him killing his son.  And nothing

drugs, you can say anything you want, I can’t use any of those, because I just—I mean, I suppose they all play a part in it, in the big picture, but I just cannot conceive of that crime under any circumstances.  That’s the problem. 

ABRAMS:  All right, before I get to the domestic dispute theory, let me ask, Mike Boettcher, is anyone talking about the possibility, the possibility that this was not done at his hands, that someone else was there? 

BOETTCHER:  No.  I’ve talked to the district attorney, and he says he believes there is no doubt it was a murder-suicide.  And as Dave was just saying, don’t get stuck just on steroids.  I’m being warned that painkillers may be involved, and as well alcohol, because there were the empty wine bottles and beer cans around there, and the combination of that is not good. 

ABRAMS:  Here’s the issue, theory two.  And, again, it could have been both, but theory two, a domestic dispute theory, all right?  Nancy has filed for divorce in May 2003.  They worked things out, requested a retraining order saying that Chris had threatened her and broke furniture, dropped the petition three months later.  Friends observed the couple having major fights. 

Think about putting a note in a safe deposit box, saying, if anything happened, Chris did it, I don’t even think that’s true.  I’m going to check in with Dave in a minute on that.  And reports that Nancy found out Chris set up a bank account in the name of his ex-wife, a new insurance policy, those are some of the other reports out there. 

But, Dave, before I ask B.J. about this, my understanding is that there was just a statement put out by the authorities saying that this business about a note in a safe deposit box actually isn’t true. 

MELTZER:  I don’t know about that, but I know that they are investigating a safe deposit box...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  Yes, there was a safe deposit box.  Mike Boettcher, do you know about this, Mike? 

BOETTCHER:  Say that one more time, Dan?  We were switching microphones. 

ABRAMS:  No problem.  No problem.  Look, here’s the bottom line.  Is it that—I just read a statement from the authorities saying, yes, there was a safety deposit box, but, no, there was nothing in there that specifically suggested that she was saying, “Hey, if anything happens to me, here’s what happened,” or anything of that sort. 

Let’s go to number three here, the problems with the—this is about the son, OK?  And there’s a lot of talk about whether the son having this Fragile X or not having the Fragile X could have led to some sort of problems, could have led to anger, who knows?  It’s certainly not an excuse, but needle marks on the boy’s arm.  The D.A. was told the parents considered Daniel undersized and may have given him growth hormones.  And there are, again, these conflicting reports about him having this Fragile X syndrome in the days before the tragedy, Benoit and his wife reportedly argued over how to best care for their son. 

Look, Marc Mero, you knew this guy.  You knew about his relationship.  You talked to everyone in the wrestling world.  You know, what is the latest on sort of how bad their relationship was? 

MERO:  You know, like I said, the Chris Benoit that I knew wasn’t capable of these things.  I’ve never seen it in him.  I’ve wrestled him, like I said, between 25 to 50 times.  The relationship with his wife, I mean, I thought was fine.  You know, I’d never even seen the guy angry.  So that really concerns me, because there are so many guys in the locker room where you would say, “Man, that son of a gun is going to snap someday,” and Chris wasn’t one of those guys. 

ABRAMS:  Well, let me ask you.  You know, a lot of people say that wrestling, at least parts of it, are staged.  It’s still very, very difficult.  It’s still very physically challenging. 

MELTZER:  Very physically demanding. 

ABRAMS:  Yes, very physically demanding, physically challenging, whether it’s staged and fixed or not, but, Marc, when you’re wrestling a guy, can you kind of tell which of the guys that you feel like are kind of ready to snap, which ones maybe aren’t going to stick to the script? 

MERO:  Well, I mean, there’s certain guys that you talk to.  You talk about the match before you go out and wrestle it, exactly what you’re going to do, what the finish is going to be, and there are guys that are hard to work with, they’re a little aggressive, and they’re like wanting to do more stuff to you than they want you to do to them.  But, you know, it’s hard to say.  There was just certain guys that you knew were on the juice and, you know, you would think sometimes, “That guy’s going to snap someday.”

ABRAMS:  All right, Marc Mero, Mike Boettcher, Dave Meltzer, and B.J.

Bernstein, thanks a lot.  Appreciate it. 

Up next, the day’s “Winners and Losers,” including an 11-year-old girl who led police on a high-speed chase, caught on tape. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Time for tonight’s “Winners and Losers” for this fifth day of July 2007.  Our bronze loser, the 2014 Olympics.  The Black Sea resort of Sochi, Russia, won the bid for the winter games today.  The problem?  The city doesn’t currently have any winter sports facilities. 

The bronze winner, the new champion in the Olympics of hot dog eating contests, Joey Chestnut downed 66 dogs in 12 minutes at the July 4th Nathan’s dog fight, a new record. 

The silver winner, Bob Barker.  Two women at a parade screamed with excitement when they thought they caught a glimpse of the—that’s not Bob Barker.  That is definitely—of the womanizing game show host.  It turns out it was actually Bill Clinton instead. 

The silver loser?  Ann Chamberlain-Gordon, who may have discovered her husband was one of them, by swiping a sample of DNA from her husband’s underwear.  The Michigan state forensic scientist tested it and found what she said was another woman’s DNA.  The DNA, the death knell for cheating men.

But the gold loser of the day, the parents of an 11-year-old girl charged with DUI after she led police on a high-speed pursuit this week.  Alabama police spotted a car driving erratically at more than 100 miles an hour, reporting going airborne, hitting a fire hydrant, and flipping the car before being stopped by police, an 11-year-old girl.

But our big gold winner of the day, 72-year-old Bill Barnes.  The ex-Marine and Golden Gloves boxer pounded a pickpocket more than half his age who tried to swipe $300 bucks from him.  It was all caught on tape.  We’ll talk to him in a minute.

First, NBC’s Kevin Tibbles has the story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KEVIN TIBBLES, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  Surveillance cameras were rolling when Bill Barnes felt a pickpocket going for his cash.  Barnes says gut instinct took over, as he defended himself, throwing several punches before his assailant, a much younger 27-year-old, even knew what hit him. 

BILL BARNES, BEAT UP PICKPOCKET:  He wouldn’t let go of my pocket, so I just kept punching him.  I thought I hit a couple of times, but on that video it shows I hit him more than that.

TIBBLES:  By the time police got to the convenience store outside Grand Rapids, the pickpocket had packed it in.  Barnes and a store manager held the suspect until police arrived. 

JON HESS, KENT COUNTY SHERIFF’S DEPARTMENT:  He had some great punches.  If you look at the video, again, I would have to stop the fight because there were some kidney shots back to the head, but he did a great job.

BARNES:  I didn’t want to hear from my wife, “You just lost your ATM money.”

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  He was right.

(LAUGHTER)

TIBBLES:  Unbeknownst to the thief, 50 years ago, Barnes was a Marine and a Golden Gloves boxer. 

BARNES:  They picked the wrong guy, didn’t they?

TIBBLES:  Now retired and working part-time at a golf course, friends and family say Barnes has become a hero for senior citizens everywhere. 

BARNES:  Oh, it’s, “How’s Rocky today?” 

BRANDI COBB, BILL BARNES’ DAUGHTER:  I think he felt for a while that senior citizens had been pushed around.  And now I think the senior citizens are really encouraging him, and they’re shaking his hand everywhere he goes. 

TIBBLES:  As for the pickpocket, he’s due in court in the next few weeks.  Like they say, don’t mess with the Marines, even one who’s a grandfather.

Kevin Tibbles, NBC News, Chicago.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ABRAMS:  On the phone now, the man himself, 72-year-old Bill Barnes.  Thanks a lot for taking the time.  We appreciate it.  Your form still looks really good on the punches.  Hey, Bill, are you there? 

BARNES:  Yes, I am. 

ABRAMS:  Hey, I was saying your form on the punches still looks great.  So, Bill, let me ask you, when this happened, was it just instinct that kicked in?

BARNES:  Yes, it was just instinct.  It just happened, I guess.

ABRAMS:  You know, I thought I was throwing you a compliment with the comment about your form, but, you know, I guess you were just sort of doing what you had to do, huh? 

BARNES:  Yes, I didn’t want to catch the dickens from my wife.

ABRAMS:  And are you going to have to testify, do you know, against this guy?

BARNES:  Yes, I think.  Well, I’m not sure.  I went to the preliminary hearing.

ABRAMS:  All right.  All right, Bill.  Well, look, I don’t want to waste your time anymore.  You’ve had a good day, joining us on the phone.  And I appreciate it.  You were our gold winner of the day.  Thanks a lot, Bill.

BARNES:  Thank you, Dan.

ABRAMS:  Have a great day.

BARNES:  Thank you very much. 

ABRAMS:  You know, I don’t want to—you know, the guy intimidates me. 

It’s all that time we’ve got for tonight.  Up next, the premiere of a fascinating story, “Deadly Mission.”  It is the first-ever television interview by Diane Zamora.  I covered this story.  She talks about her role in the so-called Texas cadet murder case. 

END   

Content and programming copyright 2007 MSNBC.  ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.  Transcription Copyright 2007 Voxant, Inc. ALL RIGHTS  RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material other than for research. User may not reproduce or redistribute the material except for user’s personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon MSNBC and Voxant, Inc.’s copyright or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.

Guest: Kris Kobach, Lanny Davis, Larry Pozner, Emily Heil

DAN ABRAMS, HOST:  Tonight, the legal fallout from the president‘s decision to spare Scooter Libby‘s from prison, defense attorneys now savoring that clemency order, preparing to utilize the president‘s words in the Libby case as part of their defense in a whole host of other cases, including terrorism.  My take in a moment.

Also, the mom of WWE wrestler Chris Benoit now saying she wishes the DEA had stepped in earlier to stop her son‘s drug use.

But first: Today, Scooter Libby paid a $250,000 fine, the remaining crumbs of a punishment for obstruction of justice, making false statements and perjury.  The meat of his sentence, 30 months in prison, forgiven by President Bush on Monday.

Now the legal fallout, “The New York Times” reporting that, quote, “Mr. Bush‘s argument‘s for keeping Mr. Libby out of prison have become an unexpected gift to defense lawyers around the country, who scrambled to make use of them in their own cases,” “The New York Sun” reporting on a terror suspect whose lawyer is already saying, quote, “We‘ll definitely be bringing it up to the judge.”

My take.  Herein lies the fruit of rank hypocrisy.  This administration has long advocated for tougher sentencing guidelines, guidelines that often do not permit judges to consider the very issues the president cited in his clemency order.  The guidelines state, “Employment record is not ordinarily relevant,” yet the president pointed to Libby‘s, quote, “years of professional work in the legal community.”

The guidelines state that public service and other good works are not ordinarily relevant.  But Libby‘s years of exceptional public service mentioned in the clemency order.  Family ties and responsibilities not ordinarily relevant, according to the guidelines, and yet President Bush sympathetically described that Libby‘s, quote, “wife and young children have also suffered immensely.”

But the icing on this hollow cake, the president offered the legal assessment that the sentence was based on allegations never presented to the jury.  Of course, judges do that every day.  But I guess employment record, public service and family ties are also factors never presented to the jury, as well.

You can‘t have it both ways.  Again and again, this Justice Department has ignored and overruled local and federal prosecutors who‘ve fought for more flexibility based on the particular facts of the case, facts like those the president considered for his pal, Scooter Libby.  Do what I say, not what I do, appears to have been the extent of the legal reasoning here.

I‘ve said before this commutation sends the wrong message about justice in America, particularly because specific Justice Department procedures for commutation were completely ignored.  With that said, the increasing hysteria about the potential impact on the legal system—I think it‘s overblown.  I think judges will summarily reject any legal argument that this decision can or should have any impact.  But it certainly will ensure this administration has forfeited any remaining shards of credibility on a host of issues related to our criminal law.

Here now, former Clinton White House special counsel Lanny Davis, well-known criminal defense attorney Larry Pozner, and Kris Kobach, former counsel for Attorney General Ashcroft.  Thanks to all of you for coming on.  Appreciate .

All right, before I get to whether this will help criminal defendants, Kris, you would concede, would you not, that this decision is rife with hypocrisy.

KRIS KOBACH, FORMER COUNSEL TO ATTORNEY GENERAL ASHCROFT:  Well, you know, it depends on who you‘re comparing it to.  Actually, if—I took a look at the fiscal year ‘05 penalties imposed for obstruction cases.  There are 184 cases, and 55 of the 184 did not result in any prison time served.

ABRAMS:  Wait, wait.  Let‘s do two studies here.  The A.P., on obstruction of justice, 382 people convicted of obstruction of justice over the past two years, three of four convicted were sent to prison, the average prison term 64 months.

KOBACH:  Right.  And...

ABRAMS:  This according to “The LA Times” -- 198 people convicted of obstruction of justice, 75 percent jail time, average prison term 70 months.

KOBACH:  Right.  But you got to remember that in ‘05 or—it doesn‘t matter whether you look at the last two years or last year, that‘s 25 to 30 percent of the cases no prison time served.  And obstruction can occur in a wide variety of circumstances, everything ranging from murder to bank robbery to a highly-charged political case like this one.

ABRAMS:  But Kris, you‘ve got to admit that there‘s massive hypocrisy here.  For example, if you‘re a president and you‘ve been opposed to stiff sentences for non-violent drug offenders, right, and then you pardon or you commute the sentence of a non-violent drug offender, that‘s not hypocritical.

KOBACH:  Well...

ABRAMS:  But this is in direct opposition to everything this administration has stood for.

KOBACH:  I don‘t think it‘s that simple.  I mean, you have to remember a couple of things here.  One is the sentencing guidelines, they constrain judicial behavior.  Commutations constrain executive behavior.

ABRAMS:  Right.

KOBACH:  And so to a certain extent, we‘re talking apples and oranges.

ABRAMS:  No, no, no.  But both are about the philosophy.  I mean, you can say president has the power to commute.  No one‘s challenging that.  It‘s about what you say and what you advocate and what you stand for.

KOBACH:  Right.  But you started your segment by invoking a number of things that are not to be considered by judges.  Well, that doesn‘t mean that the executive branch can‘t consider those things.  That‘s my point.

ABRAMS:  Well, OK.  You‘re right, but that—to me, that doesn‘t address the hypocrisy issue.  Let me bring Lanny Davis in.  Lanny, bottom line, you said to our producers you think that this decision is handing a gift to defense attorneys on a silver platter.

LANNY DAVIS, FORMER CLINTON SPECIAL COUNSEL:  Well, it certainly is handing a gift (INAUDIBLE) argument.  I have no doubt that this particular judge, who is a conservative Republican appointment, gave the 30-month lower end of the sentencing guidelines for both perjury before a grand jury and obstruction of justice.  He could have gone higher, as much as 37, 38 months within the guidelines.

But the real hypocrisy here is the deafening silence of Republicans who huffed and puffed about, for example, President Clinton making false statements in a civil deposition, where he was never before a grand jury, and the case that he made the false statements in, which he admitted to and he lost his law license over it, was thrown out on summary judgment.  Do you remember all the huffing and puffing about perjury?  Where are these folks now?

ABRAMS:  That‘s a good question.  Before I go to Larry Pozner on this other issue, Kris, you want to respond to that?

KOBACH:  Well, yes.  I mean, I think there is—there are clearly some differences here.  One is that there was no underlying event that anyone can—no underlying crime that was committed in this case.  In the case of the Clinton perjury, that was with regard to a civil case that was on the side, where underlying events did actually occur.  In this instance...

ABRAMS:  But it just seems to me...

DAVIS:  Underlying events?

KOBACH:  Right, underlying events.

ABRAMS:  Yes, the underlying events argument...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  Underlying events, underlying crimes, it‘s this argument that‘s made in so many perjury cases, and the bottom line is, a lot of the time, the reason perjury cases are brought is because they weren‘t able to get the evidence that they needed to prosecute on the underlying crime.

KOBACH:  Right.  But in this case, you had a special prosecutor who could go wherever he wanted.  He could have charged anyone in the executive branch, and he didn‘t even charge Richard Armitage, whom we now know was the person, if anyone, who would be most likely person to charge.

ABRAMS:  Right.  But he didn‘t...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  He didn‘t lie to the federal authorities and to the grand jury.

KOBACH:  But there‘s no evidence indicating that whatever Scooter Libby said or didn‘t say covered up for anyone.

ABRAMS:  I got to bring in Larry Pozner here.  Larry, bottom line, you‘re a criminal defense attorney, you see these words.  People are going to say, we‘re already seeing defense attorneys around the country saying, We‘re going to use this, this is great.  You think it‘s going to really have any impact, though?

LARRY POZNER, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY:  I think it is.  I think it‘s ignited the debate.  I don‘t think America understands what‘s going on.  And this is an important step the president has taken.  Whether it is legal does not change that it is completely hypocritical.  Setting politics aside and taking Scooter Libby out of this, what the president has done is said a sentence is too harsh, that a judge should consider factors that the president knows the judge is not allowed to consider.

ABRAMS:  So are you going to cite that in a similar case?  If you‘ve got a defendant who‘s accused of similar types of crimes, are you going to cite it and think it may actually have an impact?

POZNER:  Count on it tomorrow in sentencings across the United States.  The American people need to understand that federal judges are forbidden to use the arguments the president used.  They‘re not allowed to say what will happen to the wife and family.  They‘re not allowed to say there are other methods of punishing.  They‘re not allowed to say the guidelines make no sense.

What the president has done is important, and I want to side with him on this, Dan.  Whether politics are involved or not, a judge should be allowed to consider the collateral consequences of a prison sentence.  It is time for us to reexamine the federal sentencing guidelines and say, If it was fair for Scooter Libby, shouldn‘t a federal judge consider all of these factors in the tens of thousands of other sentences?

ABRAMS:  Lanny, is this going to change, do you think, the policy of

the administration?  Are they going to say, You know, God, we just got to -

we got to back off now on that issue?

DAVIS:  Look, what we all know is the case, and it‘s why I feel some sympathy for Scooter Libby and why I understand why George Bush did what he did—Scooter Libby served loyally George Bush and Vice President Cheney.  He was so loyal that he lied to a grand jury, according to the jury.  He committed obstruction, according to the jury.  And he declined to take the witness stand to look at the jury and explain that he made an honest mistake.

So all this sidebar about not being underlying crimes—he never took the stand and looked at the jury and said, I made an honest mistake.  Why?  Because he was protecting Dick Cheney.  Everybody knows that.  Now that the president has let a friend and somebody who was loyal to him not go to prison, that should be his explanation, and that would be the honest explanation.

ABRAMS:  Kris, let me give you a quick response, and then I want to move on to the 2008 candidates and how they‘ve been responding to this.  Go ahead, Kris.

KOBACH:  Look, there is no evidence in any of Fitzgerald‘s investigation that Dick Cheney was at the end of some chain of events and that this—this one little link in the chain was protecting Dick Cheney.  He could have gotten to Cheney through any number of ways.  He could have called Dick Cheney.  He could have charged Dick Cheney.  I mean, this whole conspiracy theory is ridiculous.

ABRAMS:  Well, but look, he was lying for some reason, right?  I mean, it wasn‘t just because he likes to lie.

(CROSSTALK)

DAVIS:  Actually, Dan, according to his evidence about Dick Cheney and the prosecutor in his closing argument said this is about the vice president.

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  All right, let me...

KOBACH:  ... was an honest mistake.

ABRAMS:  Let me ask you about the 2008, all right, because the candidates are now weighing in.  And I want to know whether there‘s mass hypocrisy here on both sides, but more with the Republican candidates, but some with Hillary Clinton, as well.

All right, so Rudy Giuliani—he says, “The president came to a reasonable decision.  I believe the decision was correct.”  In 1987, he said a one-year sentence for perjury was very lenient.  Mitt Romney has said the commutation was reasonable, and this is a guy who‘s bragged all the time how he‘s denied every request for a pardon or a commutation.  That‘s my favorite one.  You know, that one, I don‘t see how you defend.

And then there‘s, of course, Hillary Clinton, saying that the Bush administration considers itself above the law.  Then, of course, President Clinton issued a lot of pardons, some probably mistakes, including Marc Rich, and then also had his problems with lying under oath in a civil deposition.

So is it fair, Larry Pozner, to make the comparisons here on both sides?

POZNER:  Yes.  There‘s so much hypocrisy going around.  What he has done, his fundamental crime, is that he has distorted the system of justice.  There is nothing more important than the system of justice, and when you get convicted of misleading the system of justice, you deserve to go to prison.

ABRAMS:  But I mean, Lanny, look, you‘re involved in these political decisions all the time.  I mean, you know, Mitt Romney has a tough time explaining the fact that he brags about never having given a commutation of a sentence or a pardon, and now he‘s saying that this is reasonable.

DAVIS:  This is the same guy who said that he went hunting without licenses.  Look, I do think there‘s hypocrisy on all sides here.  The fact is, the president of the United States is given the absolute right to pardon and to commute sentences.  I don‘t criticize President Bush for exercising that right.  I disagreed, in some cases, with President Clinton when he exercised that right, but he had that right.

The hypocrisy here is the deafening silence.  Look at the sanctimonious Rudy Giuliani, the prosecutor, the tough law-and-order guy...

ABRAMS:  Yes.

DAVIS:  ... who wouldn‘t criticize police who shot a man 40 times...

ABRAMS:  Kris, what about that?

DAVIS:  Now all of a sudden, he‘s the compassionate...

ABRAMS:  Kris, what about—what about...

DAVIS:  ... bleeding-heart liberal.

ABRAMS:  Let‘s talk Romney and Giuliani on this.  I mean, you know, it‘s tough, isn‘t it, to justify?

KOBACH:  Well, you know, we have to remember a couple of things here.  One is that the first argument out of the bag—whenever any president commutes any sentence or issues a pardon, the first argument out of the bag is going to be hypocrisy because, of course, there will always be hundreds of other people who are serving time or have...

ABRAMS:  Not if you‘re opposed to long-term sentences...

KOBACH:  Right.

ABRAMS:  ... for drug non-violent drug offenders and then you commute a long-time drug offender‘s sentence.

KOBACH:  And you know, the other thing I would say is that all of these cases are different.  And the Scooter Libby case is almost a case in and of itself.  You have this massive political football game going on around the circumstances.  No one‘s with the underlying crime.  It appears that maybe it might have been impossible.  So it‘s really hard to say, well, just because a governor, you know, said that he hadn‘t commuted any sentences...

ABRAMS:  All right...

KOBACH:  ... that‘s akin to this.  It‘s just—it‘s such a unique case.

ABRAMS:  Ten seconds, Larry.  I got to wrap it up.

POZNER:  Sure.  Why should the president of the United States be allowed to commute a sentence based on factors that are denied to every other American?

ABRAMS:  Larry Pozner...

POZNER:  We are a hypocritical nation.

ABRAMS:  ... and Kris Kobach, thanks a lot.  Appreciate it.  Lanny‘s going to join us for another segment coming up.

Up next: Al Gore‘s son arrested for drug possession.  The real inconvenient truth here may be how children of well-known politicians are treated by the law.  We‘ll get to that case.

And later: The mother of wrestler Chris Benoit says her son might still be alive if the DEA busted his doctor sooner.  Is the DEA really responsible for Benoit‘s drug use and ultimately what he did?

Plus: You got to give Fox News credit.  They can make it seem as if everyone is out to get them, even the Bigfoot field research organization.  Yes, now a mythical creature is on the front lines of their culture war. 

Ahead in “Beat the Press.”

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  We‘re back.  Al Gore‘s son busted by police yesterday on suspicion of possessing marijuana and prescription drugs after they pulled him over going 100 miles per hour in California.  The deputy said they smelled pot smoke in the car.  They searched it, found less than an ounce of marijuana, along with four drugs Gore allegedly didn‘t have a prescription for.  He spent 12 hours behind bars until he was bailed out by his sister for $20,000.  He now faces four drug charges and was cited for speeding.

Here‘s what Papa Gore said about it this morning.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ALBERT GORE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  We‘re dealing with it as a private family matter, Meredith.  And we love him very much, and we‘re glad that he‘s safe and that he‘s getting treatment.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  My take.  Al Gore‘s son was going 100 miles per hour in a Prius?  Who knew that environmentally sound vehicle could even get up to 100 miles an hour?  But seriously, though, the question now, will he get treated any better or worse?  The officers say Gore told them who he was and that he was still treated like any other defendant.  Of course, that‘s what they are saying.  They have to say it.

I believe in many high-profile case for minor crimes, defendants a la Paris Hilton can get a stiffer sentence because judges and prosecutors want to send a message.  But maybe it‘s different with the children of powerful politicians.  So how will he fare?

Here‘s Emily Heil from “Roll Call‘s” “Heard on the Hill, and still with us is Lanny Davis.

All right, Emily, from what you‘ve seen in Washington, do these politicians‘ kids get it tougher or easier?

EMILY HEIL, “ROLL CALL”:  I think, in some ways, it‘s a double-edged sword.  I‘ve talked to plenty of kids of members of Congress and kids of people who‘ve run for Congress, and they say that there are definitely perks, but there‘s a huge down side.  If you‘re, you know, the son of Joe Schmo the garbage man and you get busted for something, maybe you‘ll get grounded.  But if you‘re the kid of a member of Congress, you know, your mug shot is up on the Internet and there are headlines.  So there‘s a down side to it, too.

ABRAMS:  All right, Lanny, California law, the sense we get is he could face, you know, a DUI charge, could be sentenced to rehab, community service, possible license suspension, probably no jail time.  You agree with that?

DAVIS:  You know, I just don‘t want to make a judgment on something like this because...

ABRAMS:  OK, well, then, let me ask Emily.  Emily, so what—so what do you—in terms of...

DAVIS:  I was going to say something else.

ABRAMS:  Well, I know, but Lanny, if you don‘t want to make a judgment on it, then, you know, then I‘ll ask somebody else.

DAVIS:  I did want to say that there is a real issue involving the double standard that Emily pointed out, where kids who are the sons and daughters of high-profile celebrities are sometimes held to a different standard than people who are not.  And in this case, this young man almost lost his life crossing the street when he was 6 years old, and I just feel badly for the family and...

ABRAMS:  But he‘s also...

DAVIS:  ... hope he gets treated.

ABRAMS:  But look, he‘s stopped for drunk driving in 2003 -- sorry, not for drunk driving -- 2003, December, stopped for driving without headlights, arrested for possession of marijuana.  His punishment was a substance abuse program.  In 2002, arrested for drunk driving.  In 2000, just a speeding ticket.

But you know, look, this is the sort of stuff that will come in to hurt him on a bust like this.

DAVIS:  And it could be dangerous to other people, so I‘m not belittling the seriousness.  The Gores—and clearly, this young man has serious problems and he could be a danger to people around him.  And he needs treatment and he needs discipline.  But I just feel very badly for this family.

ABRAMS:  Well, Lanny, the problem is, what I don‘t want you to do is, on the one hand, when we‘re talking about Scooter Libby, say, you know, Oh, they‘re taking about the family, the effect it‘s having on the family with Scooter Libby, and say, you know, that they shouldn‘t be considering that, and here you‘re saying I feel bad for the family, we got to think about that.

DAVIS:  Well, I think I said I feel sympathy for Scooter Libby in your previous segment.  SO I can feel sympathy and still think that this young man has a problem.

ABRAMS:  That‘s fair enough.  Let me talk to Emily about Jenna Bush, all right, because both the Bushes, Barbara and Jenna, were arrested, Jenna in April 2001, charged with underage drinking, pleaded no contest.  Punishment was alcohol counseling, community service, $600 fine. driver‘s license suspended.  Then in May 2001, busted with sis, charged with using a fake ID to buy alcohol.  Charges dropped, alcohol awareness.  Barbara the same May 2001, accused of underage possession of alcohol.  Charges dropped, an alcohol awareness class, and $100 fine.

And the lawyers that we spoke to about Texas law suggested that Jenna Bush got a harsh punishment, probably should have just been counseling, Barbara Bush mainstream punishment.  But let me ask you this, Emily.  You know, I heard someone on Fox suggesting, Oh, you know, that when Jeb Bush‘s kid got in trouble, that somehow that was treated differently than Al Gore‘s kid.  And of course, Fox is suggesting some sort of media bias and some sort of bias in the way that they‘re treated here.

But do you think it matters, Emily, which politician it is?

HEIL:  Well, you know, in one of the cases with the Bush twins, one of the waitresses or bartenders—there was some speculation that she had refused to serve her when she was underage or called her on her bad ID because she didn‘t like her father.  And so, you know, there may be some, you know, consideration of who the father is, but—or who the parent is, but it‘s hard to say on a case-by-case basis.

ABRAMS:  Real quick, Emily, most of the time or a lot of the time, famous politicians‘ kids may get pulled over and nothing happens, right?

HEIL:  Well, that can happen to, you know, the son of the, you know, chief of police in a small town, too.  So you know, it‘s hard to say how often that happens, or if it does at all, because there‘s no record of it.

ABRAMS:  All right, Emily, thanks very much.  And Lanny Davis, I always have fun with Lanny.  Thanks for coming back on.  Appreciate it.  Good to see you.

Still ahead: The DEA says it was investigating WWE star Chris Benoit‘s doctor before the wrestler killed his wife and 7-year-old son.  Now his mother is wishing the authorities should have acted sooner, and WWE defenders are discussing that, as well.  Is it really fair to pin it on them?

But first, CBS‘s Hannah Storm comes out of her shell, referring to this conch as, well, a rooster.  Cover your ears.  “Beat the Press” is next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Time for tonight‘s “Beat the Press,” our daily look back at the absurd and sometimes amusing perils of live TV.  First up: Over at “The Early Show” on CBS, they had a wacky morning with weatherman Dave Price in the Florida keys, drinking Margarita‘s and playing a local instrument.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVE PRICE, “THE EARLY SHOW”:  Millions of people visit the keys every year.  This is Dave Parker (ph).  He‘s a conch expert.  Locals here are called “conchs.”  The high school here is “the fighting conchs.”  It‘s known as “the conch republic.”  Kimmy (ph) and Samantha (ph) are here to teach me to how to play this thing.  How do you do it, Dave?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  A conch shell.  That doesn‘t sound like what Hannah Storm says here.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PRICE:  Back to you, Hannah!

HANNAH STORM, “THE EARLY SHOW”:  But Dave, you on the cock!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Could you hear it?  Hannah, he‘s not on a rooster, it‘s a big shell.

Next up: Over at Fox, they can make anything and everything about how the world is out to get them.  Who knew the Bigfoot field research organization was part of the culture war against Fox News?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The Bigfoot field research organization is set to go out on a search expedition next week.  Fox News Talk Radio‘s Griff Jenkins (ph) was invited to go along.  Then he was disinvited.  Why were you disinvited?  And why might you be reinvited?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  They don‘t usually take the media, and I was trying to get them to take me.  And I don‘t know what, he looked at the Web site or some—for some reason, he decided I wasn‘t a, quote, “serious journalist.”

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  It must be because any group that believes Sasquatch could exist is somehow affiliated with PETA or some other far-left-wing, environmentally-conscious, tree-hugging organization.

Finally, on Fox‘s premier business show, Neil Cavuto quickly dispensed with one of the biggest business stories of the week, private equity firm Blackstone buying Hilton Hotels.  The program for business news then transitioned to the real significance of the story.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NEIL CAVUTO, HOST, “YOUR WORLD”:  All right, time for “Fox Stocks.”  Hilton Hotels accepting a $26 billion buy-out offer from the Blackstone Group.  Paris Hilton isn‘t commenting on the sale, but instead speaking about something she knows a little bit more about.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Nice video and relevance.

Up next, a new twist in the Chris Benoit case, authorities investigating the wrestler‘s steroid use before his death.  His mother now says they could have stopped him.  Plus, an 11-year-old girl leads police on an unbelievable high-speed chase.  Coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWSBREAK)

ABRAMS:  We‘re back.  New developments tonight in the double murder-suicide of former wrestling star Chris Benoit.  A report within the wrestling industry tonight suggests Benoit recently took out a life insurance policy which listed his ex-wife and oldest two children as the beneficiaries rather than his wife, Nancy, and son, Daniel, he‘s now accused of killing.  According to that report, which has not been confirmed by NBC, Nancy Benoit confronted Chris about the policy.  He refused to change it. 

Also, tonight Chris Benoit‘s mother is making headlines, suggesting that if the DEA had stepped in sooner and busted Chris‘ doctor, and maybe even Chris himself for steroids, the whole thing might have been prevented.  She told a reporter, “It‘s so late now, too late you can‘t turn the clock back.”  Asked if quick reaction could have saved her son, quote, “We would certainly hope so; we just don‘t know.”

My take, Benoit‘s mom is not going nearly as far as some defenders of the WWE, who suggest the DEA is to blame here.  Please.  Everyone is trying to shift the blame around in this case.  Let‘s blame the DEA.  Let‘s blame the doctor.  Bill O‘Reilly blaming the wife for not leaving sooner, instead of focusing on the real perpetrator, Chris Benoit.  Let‘s say for argument‘s sake the DEA did step in and bust this doctor months ago, every wrestler I‘ve talked to has said doctor-shopping for steroids is as common in that world as a trip to Wal-Mart in ours. 

Here now, former professional wrestler Marc Mero.  He wrestled with Benoit and knew him well.  Defense attorney B.J. Bernstein and Dave Meltzer, editor of the “Wrestling Observer” newsletter.  Thanks to all of you for coming on.  Appreciate it.

All right, B.J., you know, look, there a lot of people saying oh, the DEA, they should have stepped in earlier, they were making a case here.  You know, blaming the DEA at this point on a steroid investigation about the fact that he killed his family to me seems kind of ridiculous. 

B.J. BERNSTEIN, DEFENSE ATTORNEY:  Not really completely ridiculous.  Think about the indictment that‘s come out now.  It‘s an indictment from 2004 and 2005.  Why does it take the DEA two or three years to bring a case against a doctor if the doctor, in fact, is medicating people improperly?

ABRAMS:  Well, look, whether they could have or should have, it‘s so easy to go back and say, “Oh, you know, if x, then o, then look what we could have prevented.”  The DEA says, “This is ridiculous for anyone to think we could have known that anything like could have happened.”  Then they go to say, “We can arrest and prosecute users, but they‘re not the target or focus of most investigations.  We want to bring charges that are legitimate.  Cases take time.”  And, B.J., what I fear is that everyone, because Benoit‘s dead, everyone‘s looking for someone else to blame here. 

BERNSTEIN:  But it‘s not really a scapegoat to say that a doctor who put someone at risk—I mean, remember, we went after—in state cases, we go after crime immediately when it happens or shortly thereafter.  Yes, there‘s an argument for the feds to take a little bit longer to build a case.  But at a certain point, it‘s an issue of potentially just raising the numbers to put someone behind bars longer under the federal guidelines, as opposed to realizing that you are potentially killing people every time you give a prescription to someone who shouldn‘t have it. 

ABRAMS:  Well, that‘s fine, but, Marc, the bottom line is what you told me on this program many times is that you had a lot of doctor fans who, if you wanted, if one doctor wouldn‘t give it to you, you‘d either get the name from somebody else, or you knew somebody else, or you‘d see them backstage. 

MARC MERO, FORMER PRO WRESTLER:  Absolutely, and that‘s problem.  You know, we‘re going after—we need to go after the doctors, OK?  There‘s probably a lot of guys also on that list besides Chris Benoit.  There may be hundreds or thousands.  Does the DEA even have the time or the manpower to arrest every single user?  You might as well go and lock up probably three-quarters of professional wrestlers then. 

ABRAMS:  Dave, are other wrestlers going to be linked to this doctor that you know of? 

DAVE MELTZER, “WRESTLING OBSERVER” NEWSLETTER:  I think—I mean, as far as linked to them, as far as other wrestlers, did they go to Dr. Astin?  Absolutely.  I mean, he was well-known in the Atlanta wrestling community and, for that matter, in the Atlanta sports community about Dr. Astin.  I would think that, when all is said and done, I don‘t know that he improperly prescribed stuff to other wrestlers.  I don‘t know that he improperly prescribed stuff to other athletes.  But as far as, are there links?  Did other athletes see him?  Absolutely. 

And, you know, the reason that Chris Benoit was turned onto him by another wrestler, you know, who was in WCW at the time Chris Benoit was, and, you know, it was not uncommon.  All the Atlanta wrestlers—I shouldn‘t say all of them, but a lot of Atlanta wrestlers were seeing Dr.  Astin because he had the reputation as being the handyman with a prescription pad. 

ABRAMS:  He was a personal doctor and friend of Benoit.  He‘s under house arrest now, after posting $125,000 bond.  Authorities raided his office twice, charged on seven counts of improperly prescribing medication.  He apparently—Benoit apparently visited Astin the day authorities believe he killed his wife.  And the DEA—let me finish one thing, I‘ll let you go. 

MELTZER:  Can I also make a statement about that?  OK.

ABRAMS:  The DEA now saying Astin prescribed the Benoit the 10-month supply of steroids every three to four weeks.  Yes, go ahead, Dave.

MELTZER:  Yes, I mean, one of the things and Astin and Benoit that you have to realize was Chris Benoit lived about 50 miles away from Dr. Astin‘s office.  And in traffic, you know, that could be an hour and a half-plus ride.  And most people, when they go to the doctor, their doctor isn‘t that long of a ride, and there‘s a reason for that. 

ABRAMS:  And, Marc, was that—is that relevant, do you think, here? 

MERO:  You know what?  You‘re going to get them wherever you can.  But it just sounds to me like, Dave, you‘re kind of sugarcoating the whole issue, though.  You know, the point is, you can get steroids wherever you want.  You know, if this doctor is not going to write you a script, another doctor will.  They‘re not hard to get your hands on. 

But steroids is not the big problem.  There‘s bigger problems than steroids in professional wrestling, OK?  There‘s the pain medication, the sleeping pills, the GHB, all the other drugs involved, the cocaine, the pot.  It‘s the wrestlers‘ cocktail.  It‘s the lifestyle of the professional wrestler on the road for up to 300 days a year.  It‘s got to be regulated.  We‘ve got to stop it. 

ABRAMS:  Dave, let me ask you about this life insurance policy, something you‘ve reported on.  Have it make sense for us.  I don‘t quite understand what the issue is. 

MELTZER:  Well, what happened, before Nancy was murdered, she had told one of her friends about—she had poured her heart out to one of her best friends about a lot of things having to do with problems that were happening with Chris.  And one of the things that she mentioned was—and I don‘t know that this is a true story, I know that the conversation is a true story, that Nancy told her friend that Chris had taken out a life insurance policy and had named as his beneficiaries Martina, who is Chris‘ first wife in Edmonton, and her sons Megan and David, who are the two older sons, and did not list Nancy and Daniel.  And she had confronted him, and they had a big argument over that thing, you know, probably within—I don‘t know, maybe in the last week or so, but it was a recent argument.  And they had a lot of arguments about financial—a lot of their arguments had to do with finances and things like that. 

ABRAMS:  Just so I understand, you know that that conversation occurred; you simply don‘t know...

MELTZER:  I know that that conversation occurred.

ABRAMS:  You don‘t know whether it‘s true about the life insurance policy.

MERO:  I don‘t have a record of a life insurance policy in front of me.  I know that the conversation occurred.  I know what Nancy had told her friend, you know, right before she died.  And we know—she was in fear, and she was in fear as far as certain things.  Yes. 

ABRAMS:  All right, everybody‘s going to stick around here, because, coming up, we‘ve got a live report on the latest developments in this case.  We want to check in there. 

Plus, we look at the leading theories as to what happened here.  We‘ve got a whole bunch of theories here about what might have happened and why. 

And later, he may be 72 years old, but this Marine still packs a punch.  We‘ll talk to this man who fought back against a pickpocket half his age, coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  In a moment, we‘re going to get to the competing theories over what could have led Chris Benoit to do what he did, murdering his wife and his child.  There‘s everything from ‘roid rage to domestic dispute, some even suggesting that maybe there was actually a murder here.  We‘ll talk about all that in a minute. 

But first let‘s go check in with NBC‘s Mike Boettcher with the latest developments on the case from Atlanta.  Mike, what do we know?

MIKE BOETTCHER, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  Well, Dan, the mother, as you talked about earlier, says this could have been prevented.  Now, what happened here was the fact that this murder-suicide occurred in the middle of a big federal investigation of illegal steroid distribution.  And it‘s forced the Drug Enforcement Administration to move up their timetables somewhat. 

She says that they knew that he was on the radar screen, and that came out in federal court papers last week, that the feds knew he was a heavy user of steroids.  But they did not act on it.  The DEA says that they were trying to build a case.  Now, Dr. Astin—and your previous guest talked about it—he actually really wasn‘t on their radar.  He was on the radar of the local authorities in Carrollton, Georgia.  And when this case came up, they decided to move against him.  He‘s actually a small fry.  They‘re looking to fry much bigger fish, Dan. 

ABRAMS:  All right, Mike, just stick around for a minute, because I want to talk about this.  You may want to weigh in on some of this. 

Basically, you know, the D.A. in the case, it‘s seeming pretty clear, that it all leads to murder-suicide.  But the officials are still ruling out the possibility—they said they‘re still following up on all the leads, et cetera.  So let‘s take a look through the competing theories as to what happened here.  And what is the evidence behind it?

First, the ‘roid rage theory, that steroids and other medications were found at Benoit‘s home.  That‘s evidence piece number one. 

Number two, that from May 2006 to May 2007, a doctor prescribed a 10-month supply of anabolic steroids every three to four weeks.  The doctor recently treated Benoit for low testosterone levels, which may have originated from steroid use.  Steroid side effects include aggression and paranoia, at least they can.  And friends say that he was obsessed with his body image. 

Dave Meltzer, do you think that this remains—and let‘s not even use this term ‘roid rage, but that the combination of the use of drugs, uppers, downers, steroids, whatever it is, is what led him to act out like this? 

MELTZER:  Well, I don‘t think there‘s any question that the combination of all the uses of drugs probably led to a bigger depression than Chris was probably already feeling through normal channels.  I think that it made things that were bad worse. 

I cannot come up with any reason for him killing his son.  And nothing

drugs, you can say anything you want, I can‘t use any of those, because I just—I mean, I suppose they all play a part in it, in the big picture, but I just cannot conceive of that crime under any circumstances.  That‘s the problem. 

ABRAMS:  All right, before I get to the domestic dispute theory, let me ask, Mike Boettcher, is anyone talking about the possibility, the possibility that this was not done at his hands, that someone else was there? 

BOETTCHER:  No.  I‘ve talked to the district attorney, and he says he believes there is no doubt it was a murder-suicide.  And as Dave was just saying, don‘t get stuck just on steroids.  I‘m being warned that painkillers may be involved, and as well alcohol, because there were the empty wine bottles and beer cans around there, and the combination of that is not good. 

ABRAMS:  Here‘s the issue, theory two.  And, again, it could have been both, but theory two, a domestic dispute theory, all right?  Nancy has filed for divorce in May 2003.  They worked things out, requested a retraining order saying that Chris had threatened her and broke furniture, dropped the petition three months later.  Friends observed the couple having major fights. 

Think about putting a note in a safe deposit box, saying, if anything happened, Chris did it, I don‘t even think that‘s true.  I‘m going to check in with Dave in a minute on that.  And reports that Nancy found out Chris set up a bank account in the name of his ex-wife, a new insurance policy, those are some of the other reports out there. 

But, Dave, before I ask B.J. about this, my understanding is that there was just a statement put out by the authorities saying that this business about a note in a safe deposit box actually isn‘t true. 

MELTZER:  I don‘t know about that, but I know that they are investigating a safe deposit box...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  Yes, there was a safe deposit box.  Mike Boettcher, do you know about this, Mike? 

BOETTCHER:  Say that one more time, Dan?  We were switching microphones. 

ABRAMS:  No problem.  No problem.  Look, here‘s the bottom line.  Is it that—I just read a statement from the authorities saying, yes, there was a safety deposit box, but, no, there was nothing in there that specifically suggested that she was saying, “Hey, if anything happens to me, here‘s what happened,” or anything of that sort. 

Let‘s go to number three here, the problems with the—this is about the son, OK?  And there‘s a lot of talk about whether the son having this Fragile X or not having the Fragile X could have led to some sort of problems, could have led to anger, who knows?  It‘s certainly not an excuse, but needle marks on the boy‘s arm.  The D.A. was told the parents considered Daniel undersized and may have given him growth hormones.  And there are, again, these conflicting reports about him having this Fragile X syndrome in the days before the tragedy, Benoit and his wife reportedly argued over how to best care for their son. 

Look, Marc Mero, you knew this guy.  You knew about his relationship.  You talked to everyone in the wrestling world.  You know, what is the latest on sort of how bad their relationship was? 

MERO:  You know, like I said, the Chris Benoit that I knew wasn‘t capable of these things.  I‘ve never seen it in him.  I‘ve wrestled him, like I said, between 25 to 50 times.  The relationship with his wife, I mean, I thought was fine.  You know, I‘d never even seen the guy angry.  So that really concerns me, because there are so many guys in the locker room where you would say, “Man, that son of a gun is going to snap someday,” and Chris wasn‘t one of those guys. 

ABRAMS:  Well, let me ask you.  You know, a lot of people say that wrestling, at least parts of it, are staged.  It‘s still very, very difficult.  It‘s still very physically challenging. 

MELTZER:  Very physically demanding. 

ABRAMS:  Yes, very physically demanding, physically challenging, whether it‘s staged and fixed or not, but, Marc, when you‘re wrestling a guy, can you kind of tell which of the guys that you feel like are kind of ready to snap, which ones maybe aren‘t going to stick to the script? 

MERO:  Well, I mean, there‘s certain guys that you talk to.  You talk about the match before you go out and wrestle it, exactly what you‘re going to do, what the finish is going to be, and there are guys that are hard to work with, they‘re a little aggressive, and they‘re like wanting to do more stuff to you than they want you to do to them.  But, you know, it‘s hard to say.  There was just certain guys that you knew were on the juice and, you know, you would think sometimes, “That guy‘s going to snap someday.”

ABRAMS:  All right, Marc Mero, Mike Boettcher, Dave Meltzer, and B.J.

Bernstein, thanks a lot.  Appreciate it. 

Up next, the day‘s “Winners and Losers,” including an 11-year-old girl who led police on a high-speed chase, caught on tape. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Time for tonight‘s “Winners and Losers” for this fifth day of July 2007.  Our bronze loser, the 2014 Olympics.  The Black Sea resort of Sochi, Russia, won the bid for the winter games today.  The problem?  The city doesn‘t currently have any winter sports facilities. 

The bronze winner, the new champion in the Olympics of hot dog eating contests, Joey Chestnut downed 66 dogs in 12 minutes at the July 4th Nathan‘s dog fight, a new record. 

The silver winner, Bob Barker.  Two women at a parade screamed with excitement when they thought they caught a glimpse of the—that‘s not Bob Barker.  That is definitely—of the womanizing game show host.  It turns out it was actually Bill Clinton instead. 

The silver loser?  Ann Chamberlain-Gordon, who may have discovered her husband was one of them, by swiping a sample of DNA from her husband‘s underwear.  The Michigan state forensic scientist tested it and found what she said was another woman‘s DNA.  The DNA, the death knell for cheating men.

But the gold loser of the day, the parents of an 11-year-old girl charged with DUI after she led police on a high-speed pursuit this week.  Alabama police spotted a car driving erratically at more than 100 miles an hour, reporting going airborne, hitting a fire hydrant, and flipping the car before being stopped by police, an 11-year-old girl.

But our big gold winner of the day, 72-year-old Bill Barnes.  The ex-Marine and Golden Gloves boxer pounded a pickpocket more than half his age who tried to swipe $300 bucks from him.  It was all caught on tape.  We‘ll talk to him in a minute.

First, NBC‘s Kevin Tibbles has the story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KEVIN TIBBLES, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  Surveillance cameras were rolling when Bill Barnes felt a pickpocket going for his cash.  Barnes says gut instinct took over, as he defended himself, throwing several punches before his assailant, a much younger 27-year-old, even knew what hit him. 

BILL BARNES, BEAT UP PICKPOCKET:  He wouldn‘t let go of my pocket, so I just kept punching him.  I thought I hit a couple of times, but on that video it shows I hit him more than that.

TIBBLES:  By the time police got to the convenience store outside Grand Rapids, the pickpocket had packed it in.  Barnes and a store manager held the suspect until police arrived. 

JON HESS, KENT COUNTY SHERIFF‘S DEPARTMENT:  He had some great punches.  If you look at the video, again, I would have to stop the fight because there were some kidney shots back to the head, but he did a great job.

BARNES:  I didn‘t want to hear from my wife, “You just lost your ATM money.”

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  He was right.

(LAUGHTER)

TIBBLES:  Unbeknownst to the thief, 50 years ago, Barnes was a Marine and a Golden Gloves boxer. 

BARNES:  They picked the wrong guy, didn‘t they?

TIBBLES:  Now retired and working part-time at a golf course, friends and family say Barnes has become a hero for senior citizens everywhere. 

BARNES:  Oh, it‘s, “How‘s Rocky today?” 

BRANDI COBB, BILL BARNES‘ DAUGHTER:  I think he felt for a while that senior citizens had been pushed around.  And now I think the senior citizens are really encouraging him, and they‘re shaking his hand everywhere he goes. 

TIBBLES:  As for the pickpocket, he‘s due in court in the next few weeks.  Like they say, don‘t mess with the Marines, even one who‘s a grandfather.

Kevin Tibbles, NBC News, Chicago.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ABRAMS:  On the phone now, the man himself, 72-year-old Bill Barnes.  Thanks a lot for taking the time.  We appreciate it.  Your form still looks really good on the punches.  Hey, Bill, are you there? 

BARNES:  Yes, I am. 

ABRAMS:  Hey, I was saying your form on the punches still looks great.  So, Bill, let me ask you, when this happened, was it just instinct that kicked in?

BARNES:  Yes, it was just instinct.  It just happened, I guess.

ABRAMS:  You know, I thought I was throwing you a compliment with the comment about your form, but, you know, I guess you were just sort of doing what you had to do, huh? 

BARNES:  Yes, I didn‘t want to catch the dickens from my wife.

ABRAMS:  And are you going to have to testify, do you know, against this guy?

BARNES:  Yes, I think.  Well, I‘m not sure.  I went to the preliminary hearing.

ABRAMS:  All right.  All right, Bill.  Well, look, I don‘t want to waste your time anymore.  You‘ve had a good day, joining us on the phone.  And I appreciate it.  You were our gold winner of the day.  Thanks a lot, Bill.

BARNES:  Thank you, Dan.

ABRAMS:  Have a great day.

BARNES:  Thank you very much. 

ABRAMS:  You know, I don‘t want to—you know, the guy intimidates me. 

It‘s all that time we‘ve got for tonight.  Up next, the premiere of a fascinating story, “Deadly Mission.”  It is the first-ever television interview by Diane Zamora.  I covered this story.  She talks about her role in the so-called Texas cadet murder case. 

END   

Content and programming copyright 2007 MSNBC.  ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.  Transcription Copyright 2007 Voxant, Inc. ALL RIGHTS  RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material other than for research. User may not reproduce or redistribute the material except for user‘s personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon MSNBC and Voxant, Inc.‘s copyright or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.

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