updated 7/19/2007 11:21:36 AM ET 2007-07-19T15:21:36

DAN ABRAMS, HOST:  We‘ll have more on the Harry Potter hijinks.  We‘ll ask whether it‘s worthwhile for the publisher to even bother suing over the alleged leak later.

But first, a new “DATELINE” sex predator undercover investigation.  This one is different.  For three years, we have watched as predators have come one after the other to a home where they thought they would find a teen home alone, a teen they‘d communicated with about sex.  They were then confronted by “DATELINE‘s” Chris Hansen, who was armed with transcripts of sexual conversations between the man and someone posing as an underage teen.

Well, now the cameras have moved to the New Jersey shore.  For the first time, we see the potential predators actually interact on camera with what they think is a teen they‘ve come to meet for sex, describing in graphic detail exactly what they‘re there for.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You‘re Chris Hansen?

CHRIS HANSEN, “DATELINE”:  I am.

(voice-over):  Here‘s a man who actually appears happy to meet me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  It‘s nice to meet you.

HANSEN:  And here‘s is one not so happy.

(on camera):  I‘m Chris Hansen with “DATELINE” NBC.

(voice-over):  And for the first time, here in New Jersey, men tell our decoy in person what they want to do to her sexually.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  We‘ll have kissing, caressing...

HANSEN:  We‘re operating out of his multi-million-dollar house on the Jersey shore.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  It‘s sort of nice outside.  I want to sit out on the beach.

HANSEN:  The Perverted Justice volunteers have set up profiles of girls and boys age 12 to 14 in chat rooms.  Some PJ members in the house and others on computers across the country are waiting to be hit on by adults.  PJ says its decoys never make the first contact.  Once a man solicits sex, the decoy will agree and invite the man over.

We‘ve hired 18-year-old Casey (ph) to play the part of the young teen home alone.  She is 5 foot 2, and weighs 95 pounds.  This is 44-year-old Gregory Stuart (ph), screen name whosurdaddynj.  He‘s a credit and collections consultant who drove an hour-and-a-half to get here.  He thinks Casey is the 13-year-old girl he‘s been chatting with on line, the girl whose virginity he planned on taking.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  “Once we‘re naked in bed, we can do all kind of stuff.”

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  “Really?  What kind of stuff?”

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  “Rub our bodies together and feel how excited each other are.”

HANSEN:  In person, and he tells Casey he brought the presents he mentioned on line.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  You brought me stuff?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes, the supreme (ph) with pineapple.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Oh, yes.  That‘s my favorite.

HANSEN:  And he brought one more thing.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Did you bring the condoms (INAUDIBLE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes, I did.  They‘re in my coat.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  They‘re in your coat?  OK.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  (INAUDIBLE) you like younger girls?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Yes?

HANSEN:  Now it was time for this consultant to meet someone closer to his own age.

(on camera):  What kind of consulting is going on today?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Nothing.

HANSEN:  Nothing, huh?  What‘s happening?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Just getting ready to go.

HANSEN:  What were you doing here, though?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Nothing.  I just came down to hang out.  That‘s all.

HANSEN:  Come and hang out?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes.  I‘m not going to do anything.  I‘ll leave right now.

HANSEN (voice-over):  As he leaves, he‘s arrested by officers with the Ocean County, New Jersey, prosecutor‘s office.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Face down!  Face down!  Face down!  Hands behind your back!

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Hey, come on up.  I‘m just going to go check (INAUDIBLE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  OK.

HANSEN:  Here‘s 53-year-old Eugene Daily, here to meet a girl who told him she was 13.  He tells the girl what he wants to do when they meet.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  “Play with u, hold u, kiss u.”

HANSEN:  He then asks her if she‘s game to perform a sex act on him. 

And now he‘s on our beach.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You just relax, and I‘ll just take care of everything, OK?  You just be yourself.  I‘ll just touch and explain as I go.  Tell me if you enjoy it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  What kind of things did you want to do?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Oh, just hold you, kiss you, touch you, you know, try to get you excited.

HANSEN:  But now he‘s the one who‘s going to get excited, but not for the reason he had apparently hoped.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  That‘s your father?

HANSEN (on camera):  How‘re you doing?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  OK.  This the police?

HANSEN:  What‘s going on?  Do me a favor and take your hands out of your pockets, will you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Not much (ph).

HANSEN:  What are you up to?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Nothing, nothing whatsoever.

HANSEN:  That‘s not what you just said here.  You talked about her being the daughter you never had.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You saw that in the chat room.  I know.  I mean, this is embarrassing.  This is what I knew—I knew all along this was going to happen.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ABRAMS:  I‘m joined now by Chris Hansen, the man, of course, you see in those—that “DATELINE” piece.  Chris, thanks a lot for joining us.  We appreciate it.

HANSEN:  Thank you, Dan.

ABRAMS:  First question.  We just go to get it out of the way.  That girl is 18, right?

HANSEN:  She is 18.  She‘s a college student studying theater, and as you saw, very adept at engaging these guys in conversation.

ABRAMS:  She looks awfully young.

HANSEN:  She looks very young, and that‘s why she was so, you know, perfect for that role.

ABRAMS:  Yes.  All right.  There is something spookier, seeing these guys talking.  I mean, in the past, a lot of the “DATELINE” episodes, we‘ve seen you reading.  We‘ve read, we‘ve seen the words that were used.  But there‘s something more visceral, isn‘t there, about actually hearing these guys say it to what they think is a little girl.

HANSEN:  Well, it shows their intent, Dan.  And it also shows this grooming process in real time.  Again, we see this over and over in the transcripts, almost like it follows a template.  But now for the first time, we see it in person, and it‘s startling.

ABRAMS:  Did you need to beef up security because of the enhanced interaction with the decoy?

HANSEN:  We did.  We have a security protocol that is adjusted for every location, so this was taken into account, and the security folks adjusted for it, yes.

ABRAMS:  And do you view this as significantly different in how you had to go about doing this because of the amount of interaction with the decoy?

HANSEN:  Well, we had to change things up.  It was a technological challenge.  You know, the guys who do the hidden camera work obviously had to set this up, you know, on the beach, as well as inside the house, so we had two different locations.  And you know, you can‘t have microphones being seen, for instance, so these guys had to literally hide microphones in seashells in order to make this thing work.  But they did, as you saw, a fantastic job.

ABRAMS:  You know, Chris, the fact that a lot of these guys now recognize you now, people see that and they smile or that‘s part of the whole experience of watching this.  But I think it‘s also important in saying people are out on notice.  This may lead some of the less brazen guys to think twice and not do it.

HANSEN:  Well, I think so.  I mean, I would like to say that it has been a deterrent.  I mean, I think we‘ve raised awareness and created a dialogue that perhaps didn‘t not exist three years ago.  But I tell you, you know, in this latest New Jersey investigation, 28 guys, three-and-a-half days, and a third to a half of the guys recognized what was going on the moment I walked out.  You know, you saw that one guy in the earlier taped piece.  You know, he told me he was a religious “DATELINE” viewer and a “To Catch a Predator” viewer, that he had seen every episode.  And before I could get a word out of my mouth, he says, Oh, yes, I heard you on “Opie and Anthony.”  You were pretty good.  And I said, you know, Do you get what you‘ve just done, what you just walked into?

ABRAMS:  Let me ask you a couple of other questions about this “DATELINE” series more broadly.  First of all, there‘s a prosecutor in one county who is refusing to prosecute any of the men arrested in connection with the sting.  What‘s the latest on that?

HANSEN:  Well, the latest on that is the DA in Collin County, Texas, John Roaches (ph), said that he has jurisdictional problems and some issues with the way those cases were investigated.  And thus far, he has said that he will not prosecute those cases.

I can tell you a couple things.  One, we‘ve never experienced this in past investigations where the police and prosecutors have run a parallel investigation.  I can also tell you, Dan, that I know that other jurisdictions are taking a close look at these cases and very well may prosecute them.  We put in a request for an interview with the DA, and we‘ve not heard back just yet.

ABRAMS:  There is a relative of someone who is now threatening to sue “DATELINE NBC” over something that happened.  But apparently, this relative wasn‘t on one of the episodes of “DATELINE,” correct?

HANSEN:  This was an assistant district attorney from another county who was chatting with a Perverted Justice decoy on line and then had an explicit phone conversation later, the transcripts of which, you know, we‘ve seen.  The police, after seeing this in the course of the Murphy, Texas, investigation, decided there was enough evidence to go seek a warrant for on-line solicitation of a minor.

Two judges signed to different warrants.  They went and executed the warrants.  And as they were doing that, Bill Conradt, the ADA in this other county, shot himself, committed suicide.  His sister has retained a lawyer who is now talking about suing NBC for wrongful death.  I can tell you that the NBC statement is that there has been thus far no actual lawsuit on behalf of Mr. Conradt‘s estate.  If there is, NBC will defend it vigorously, as we believe the accusations have no merit.

ABRAMS:  All right, more from Chris in a moment.  We ask him to take a look back at what he considers the three most satisfying “Predator” busts so far.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Oh, no!  Oh, my God!

HANSEN:  He brought his son with him.  He brought his son with him. 

He‘s got his child with him.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ABRAMS:  Chris Hansen tells us why these three cases, of all the ones that he‘s been involved in, were the worst of the worst.

Plus: Craig Stebic, now considered a person of interest in his wife‘s disappearance, drops divorce proceedings against her.  That‘s nice.  I guess he thinks the trial separation is working.  His lawyer says they hope to be able to reinstate the divorce proceedings if she returns.  Oh, that‘s even better.

Plus: Star quarterback Michael Vick charged with taking part in an illegal dog-fighting ring, one so vicious that even officials who see this stuff all the time say they are stunned.  The details so gory, we‘re going to ask, should the NFL should take action now, even before trial.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You just relax, and I‘ll just take care of everything, OK?  You just be yourself.  I‘ll just touch and explain as I go.  Tell me if you enjoy it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  What kind of things did you want to do?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Oh, just hold you, kiss you, touch you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ABRAMS:  Oh!  We‘ve been talking to “DATELINE‘s” Chris Hansen about his latest sex predator sting operation on the Jersey shore.  Almost 30 men showed up over a three-day period allegedly looking for sex with an underage teen they met on line.  This time, we watch as the men tell what they think is a teen exactly what they want to do to her.  These stings have snared more than 280 men across the country over the past three years, leading to more than 100 convictions.

Tonight, we ask Chris Hansen which three of the busts were most significant to him.  He told us, starting with a man named Thomas Bodnar, who was caught in Riverside, California.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HANSEN (voice-over):  There‘s 42-year-old Thomas Bodnar.  We found him on line, chatting with a decoy posing as a 13-year-old boy.  Bodnar said he loved him and asked if he could be his first.

(on camera):  How‘re you doing?

(voice-over):  Bodnar runs out the door as soon as he sees me.  Then he gets by investigators.  And with his head still bleeding from the tackle, Bodnar speaks to the detective at the booking station.  It‘s not his first arrest.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  What‘d you do your time for?  What were you charged with?

THOMAS BODNAR:  I‘d rather not say (INAUDIBLE)

HANSEN:  What he doesn‘t want to say is that he molested a child more than 20 years ago, Desiree Holcomb (ph).  “DATELINE” tracked her down and told her about this man from her past.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I can‘t believe that he‘s still, I mean, out there doing this.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ABRAMS:  Chris, this is a guy with blood coming down his face, obviously a tough takedown from the authorities.  What was it about this guy that was so important?

HANSEN:  You know, I never really got a chance to talk to Bodnar because he ran off and he was actually tackled by the sheriffs in Riverside County, and that‘s how he got the cut there.  But come to find out later that Bodnar, you know, some 20 years before he walked into our house, sexually assaulted three children in the same family.  The mother of these children had gone to this organization to get mentor help for her children.  The father was not on the scene.  He volunteers for this and ends up sexually assaulting each one of these three children.  After that, he‘s convicted again for sexually assaulting kids in another city in California.

And so here we have this guy for the third time engaging in this sort of behavior.  You know, that‘s a good guy to get off the streets.

ABRAMS:  All right.  This is—this next one is Kevin Westerbeck.  This one is in Ohio, another one of the ones you said was probably one of the three most significant exposes that you were involved in.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Hey, come on in.  I got to finish getting changed, OK?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Huh?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I got to finish getting changed, OK?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Well, I‘ll watch you.

HANSEN (voice-over):  But he won‘t get the chance to watch our decoy finish getting dressed.  Instead, he‘ll meet me.

(on camera):  Hey, how are you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Fine.  How‘re you doing?

HANSEN:  Would you do me a favor and have a seat right over there on that stool, please.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes.

HANSEN:  What‘s going on?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  (INAUDIBLE) How‘re you doing?

HANSEN:  Good.  How are you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Fine.

HANSEN:  Please have a seat.

(voice-over):  It takes him a second to get on the stool because he‘s under 5 feet tall.

(on camera):  Who asked you to come over, exactly?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Huh?

HANSEN:  Who asked you to come over?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Destiny (ph).

HANSEN:  Destiny.  How did you meet Destiny?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  On the computer.  She said hi and stuff.

HANSEN:  She says, I like kissing.  You say, Would you get naked?  I just don‘t want to get cold, she says.  You say, Have sex.  Now, a moment ago, you told me this wasn‘t a sexually-oriented conversation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I was just talking.

HANSEN:  Just talking.  It would be fun, then OK?  You say then, I‘m big.  She says, Really?  Yes, how?  Then you give the dimension of your penis.  That‘s not sexual?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Just BS talk.

HANSEN:  Just BS talk?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  To me it was.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ABRAMS:  Now, this is a man, just based on his appearance, who may garner some level of sympathy, Chris.  What about—why is he—why was he so important?

HANSEN:  Well, it turns out that when Kevin Westerbeck walked into our hidden camera house in Dark County, Ohio, on a Sunday night, he was just four days away from reporting to court to be sentenced in another on-line solicitation case.  So here he is in our basement, trying to hook up with a young teenage girl, and he‘s going to go to court for the very same thing in a few days.

Come to find out, another police department had been investigating him for allegedly sexually assaulting a young female relative.  Well, once he was caught in our case and in the other case, he ultimately pleaded guilty and is now serving 10 years in prison.

ABRAMS:  Finally, look, this is one I think a lot of people are going to remember just because it was so striking.  This Clifford Wallach coming into one of the homes with his son.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Oh, no!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Oh, my God!

HANSEN:  He brought his son with him.  He brought his son with him. 

He‘s got his child with him, coming in the back door.

(voice-over):  Holding his son‘s hand, the 40-year-old walks into the house.  Because we don‘t want to scare the little boy, we immediately tell the man what‘s going on.

(on camera):  I got to tell you something, and I‘m going to tell you just straight up right now.  I‘m Chris Hansen with “DATELINE NBC.”  We‘re doing a story on adults meeting children.  And since you have your child here, I‘m not going to pursue this.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  OK.

HANSEN:  But I think you know what you‘re doing here, don‘t you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  No, I was just (INAUDIBLE)

HANSEN:  My point is because your child is here, I think it would be best if you just went ahead and left.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  (INAUDIBLE)

HANSEN (voice-over):  Since the police know the man has his son with him...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Hold it right there!  You come here!  You come here!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Let go of the child!

HANSEN:  ... a female officer quickly takes the little boy and whisks him away so he doesn‘t have to further witness his father‘s arrest.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Just give my son, please!

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ABRAMS:  Chris, was it the fact that he came in with his child that really made this one so important to you?

HANSEN:  Yes, that‘s what it was, Dan.  I mean, this is a guy whose chat was actually very short.  He was what, you know, Perverted Justice called a fast mover.  He had an explicit conversation on the phone with a decoy posing as a 14-year-old boy, said was coming over for sex.  And here he comes in his SUV, pulls up—we‘re all watching on the monitors—and he reaches in the back seat, and we think he‘s going to grab beer or something, and he grabs the hand of his 5-year-old son and walks up the driveway.vehicle.

Now, the guys and gals who work with me on these stories have been with me in some of the darkest parts of the world, investigating some pretty tough stories.  We‘ve seen some tough stuff.  But these guys, some of them were in tears at the sight of this man walking in with his boy.  It was—it was one of the most disturbing things I‘ve seen in three years of doing this.

ABRAMS:  Chris Hansen, keep up the great work.  You can catch the entire hour on “DATELINE” tonight at 10:00 PM Eastern time on NBC.  Thanks, Chris.

HANSEN:  Thanks, Dan.

ABRAMS:  Still ahead: NFL star Michael Vick will have to appear in court on dog-fighting charges the same day he‘s due back at training camp.  The indictment against Vick is gruesome, one dog doused in water and electrocuted because it got hurt in a fight.  The question: Should the NFL suspend him now, before any trial?

But first: Turns out my so-called biggest fan has been cheating on me. 

A heart-breaking “Beat the Press” is up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  It‘s time for tonight‘s “Beat the Press,” our daily look back at the absurd and sometimes amusing perils of live TV.

First up: One thing professional wrestlers know how to do is please an audience.  I thought I was special when wrestling legend superstar Billy Graham said this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILLY GRAHAM, PROFESSIONAL WRESTLER:  You‘re better than that, Dan Abrams.  I believe what you report.  You are the man.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  So you can imagine my shock and dismay when I realized I wasn‘t that special.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GRAHAM:  I‘d like to thank you for inviting me onto your show.  As you know, I‘m a big, big fan of yours.

First of all, thank you for having me on, Bill.  I‘m a big fan of yours.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Just a cheap (INAUDIBLE)

Next up: Who knew the wife of Louisiana Republican senator David Vitter would create a fashion trend after she showed up at her husband‘s press conference Monday to talk about the fact that he was on the logs of the so-called D.C. madam.  The next day, it sure looked like our own Contessa Brewer had taken notes on more than just Wendy Vitter‘s comments.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CONTESSA BREWER, MSNBC:  Well, it was an inadvertent wardrobe selection that I made this morning.  I will say I must compliment Mrs.  Vitter on her choice of dresses there.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Finally, what‘s wrong with this promotional ad that aired on our local NBC station in New York last week?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  When news breaks, America watches “Today” first.

KATIE COURIC, FORMER CO-HOST:  We have stunning exclusive video of Hurricane Katrina...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Live (ph) for “Today” on NBC.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Psst!  Katie Couric, she‘s that TV news person (INAUDIBLE) doesn‘t work here anymore (INAUDIBLE)

Coming up: NFL star quarterback Michael Vick innocent until proven guilty, but evidence that he took part in an illegal dog-fighting ring is mounting, and it is gruesome and ugly.  We‘re going to debate whether the NFL should suspend him now.

And later: Al Gore learns an inconvenient truth.  Harry Potter‘s ending is bared on line, supposedly.  And a Vermont town known for northern exposure bans public nudity.  A revealing edition of “Winners and Losers of the Day” coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Coming up, a strange twist in the case of missing mom Lisa Stebic.  Her estranged husband, who‘s also a person of interest in the case, is dropping his request for a divorce.  Does he know something that we don‘t?  that story in just a few minutes.

But, first, he‘s one of the biggest names in sports, one of the highest paid, but NFL star Michael Vick‘s next major public appearance will be in a Virginia federal courtroom, accused of sponsoring and participating in a gruesome dogfighting ring.  Among the accusations, that Vick took part in killing dogs that weren‘t ferocious enough, the methods of execution included drowning, hanging, electrocution.  The NFL has said they will allow the legal process to determine the facts. 

My take?  These allegations are downright diabolical.  Wetting and then electrocuting it?  Installing rape stands for unwilling female dogs?  The indictment comes as the NFL and its new commissioner, Roger Goodell, have been trying to crack down on illegal behavior.  This is a league with a lot of players getting in a lot of trouble.  One team alone, the Cincinnati Bengals, has had 10 players arrested in a year-and-a-half. 

While these are just allegations at this time, it‘s clear dogs with injuries and scary stuff was found at a home Vick owned.  I salute the NFL for even now saying they‘re “disappointed” that Vick put himself in this position.  But I wonder whether a superstar like Michael Vick, a franchise player and a face of the NFL, will ever be suspended or fired? 

I‘m joined now by ESPN‘s Stephen A. Smith, John Goodwin, from the Humane Society of the United States, and sports attorney David Cornwell.  Thanks to all of you for coming on the program.  Appreciate it.

All right, John, let me first talk to you about some of the details here.  I mean, look, you‘ve been involved in a lot of investigations of this sort.  That‘s what the Humane Society does.  How does this compare? 

JOHN GOODWIN, DEPUTY MANAGER, HUMANE SOCIETY:  Well, I‘ll tell you.  When you look at the methods of execution that were used to kill some of these dogs that Michael Vick and the co-defendants in this allegedly did not think were suitable for organized dogfighting, it‘s just outrageous and it‘s extreme.  Hanging dogs, killing a dog by slamming him into the ground, drowning them, this is some very barbaric animal cruelty, and I‘ve seen a lot of terrible things in the dogfighting world, but this is really excessive. 

ABRAMS:  John, do you think that the NFL should step in now, even before the trial, even before the allegations have been proven, that directly link Vick to these actions?

GOODWIN:  Yes, I do.  There are other NFL players who have not been convicted of crimes but are suspended right now, for example, Pacman Jones.  He‘s suspended for a whole year.  I absolutely think that Michael Vick, who has federal felony indictment, there should definitely be some sort of disciplinary action.  I would expect that the NFL would have a higher standard for off-the-field conduct and not just simply let the court system determine what they‘re going to do but have a higher standard. 

ABRAMS:  Stephen A. Smith, what do you make of that?

STEPHEN A. SMITH, ESPN:  I think that‘s ridiculous.  Let me be very, very clear about that.  If Michael Vick is found to be guilty of any of these charges, he should be placed in prison.  Nobody is going to debate that.  Nobody is going to debate how abhorrent these allegations are.  There‘s no question about that. 

But the reality is, is that Michael Vick is innocent until proven guilty.  He met with Commissioner Goodell months ago.  He looked him in the face.  He said he had absolutely no involvement.  This indictment obviously implies that he was involved, which would mean he has lied to the commissioner.  If that is proven, then Roger Goodell could bring the heavy hand down on Michael Vick.

But when John compares it to Pacman Jones, let us recognize and remember that Pacman Jones has been involved in incidences and had been visited by the police in excess of 10 different times.  That is not the case with this situation with Michael Vick.  This is a first-time situation right now.  Clearly it‘s a very serious matter.  And if he‘s guilty, he will be dealt with. 

But in America, I believe that you are innocent until proven guilty. 

And the last time I checked, an indictment is not a guilty verdict. 

ABRAMS:  All right, well, let‘s bring in our lawyer here.  David, let me read you Vick‘s comments at the time of the raid, all right?  This is what Vick‘s defense was.  He said, “I‘m never at the house.  I left the house with my family members and my cousin.  They just haven‘t been doing the right thing.  It‘s unfortunate I have to take the heat.  When it all boils down, people will try to take advantage of you and leave you out to dry.  Lesson learned for me.”

It sounds like, at the very least, Vick is admitting that there were some really bad stuff going on at that house. 

DAVID CORNWELL, SPORTS ATTORNEY:  There‘s no way he can deny that there was bad stuff going on.  But the reason the commissioner is not going to discipline him now is that, first, the commissioner would have to do an investigation, the key element of which would be talking to Michael Vick himself.  He‘s not going to put Michael Vick in the position of having to give incriminating answers when he knows he‘s about to go to a criminal trial. 

GOODWIN:  Well, actually, NFL security has interviewed me several times and a lot of other people.  They‘ve been investigating this for months.  And Pacman Jones, he‘s never been convicted of a crime.  He‘s a first-time offender.  I mean, Michael Vick, you know, your guest here is talking about he‘s a first-time offender, but he‘s had all sorts of controversy surrounding him.

ABRAMS:  But controversy is different.  Look, controversy is different.  He, what, flipped the bird to somebody, to a fan...

GOODWIN:  He had a water bottle with traces of marijuana.

(CROSSTALK)  

SMITH:  And what did they find?  What did they find?

CORNWELL:  Stephen A. is right.  Stephen A. is right.  Commissioner Goodell is not going to do something to Michael Vick just because he did something to Pacman.  He‘ll treat each case on its own merits.  And in this particular case, Michael has been indicted with federal charges, and they are not going to bring him and force him to testify against himself.  But I will tell you that it‘s likely that the federal government is going to subpoena the records from NFL security to see what they found in their own investigation. 

ABRAMS:  Here‘s the evidence or here‘s what we know that they have found, OK?  Whether they‘re able to link, directly link it to Vick or not, here‘s what we know, all right?  That Vick allegedly purchased this property for $34,000; 54 dogs were reportedly removed from the property, total of actually 66; the police allegedly seized equipment associated with dogfighting.  I mean, that seems pretty clear, bloodstains found on the walls of a room, blood-stained carpet that was on the property.  Stephen, as far as you know, has there been an ongoing problem at all with dogfighting in the NFL? 

SMITH:  You know, not to my knowledge, not at all.  And, clearly, obviously, all of this stuff is very disturbing.  Your guest, I respect his sensitivity to the situation.  All of us should have that.  But, again, this is an indictment.  It is not a guilty charge. 

And you‘ve got to remember—there‘s an important fact that you didn‘t point out there.  I spoke to Roger Cossack, the legal analyst for ESPN, earlier this afternoon.  He said one of the individuals actually not being charged is the guy that was actually living in the home.  I wonder why that is.  It sounds like the guy is diming Michael Vick out and basically using Michael Vick to make sure he doesn‘t receive any jail time. 

ABRAMS:  Well, but it‘s not just Michael Vick who‘s charged, Stephen. 

It‘s four people...

SMITH:  I understand that.

ABRAMS:  ... and that is the life of prosecutors.  They have to make deals with bad guys every day. 

SMITH:  That‘s irrelevant though.  My point to you, that I‘m understanding and I‘m not debating it.  I‘m simply saying there‘s a motivation on the part of others ready to attach a guilt to Michael Vick.  I‘m not here saying he‘s innocent.  I don‘t know the guy personally.  I watch him on Sundays.  I think he needs to throw the football better, quite honestly.  But at the end of the day, what it comes down to is, we don‘t know for sure.  It is an indictment.  It is not a guilty charge.  And let‘s not sit here and say he definitely deserves to be punished, based on allegations.  Allegedly is the word I want you to remember.

GOODWIN:  Sir, have you actually read the indictment?  It is clear that the feds have some very detailed information that comes from very good inside sources.

SMITH:  That‘s great.  They have stuff on people all the time that ends up getting no time.

GOODWIN:  Have you read the indictment? 

SMITH:  Yes, I have.  Yes, I have.

GOODWIN:  They have statements from people that have sold Michael Vick dogs.  They have statements from multiple people.  They have enough intelligence to know where on that property they could go and dig up 17 dogs.

(CROSSTALK)

CORNWELL:  One of the critical things about that, that information, Dan, is that this is a conspiracy charge.  If the government can prove an agreement and one act in furtherance of that agreement, then Michael Vick will be held accountable for the actions of these co-conspirators.  So even if he wasn‘t there, even if he didn‘t kill a dog, he‘s held responsible because of the conspiracy charge. 

SMITH:  And, Dan, and that‘s the reason why that‘s important, Dan, because with all of these charges that have been levied against him, combined with the conspiracy charge that he just explained, the reality is, why rush to judgment?  Michael Vick will get his day, and he will pay, because the preponderance of evidence clearly seems to be against him.  Why rush to judgment, if the evidence is there?  He‘ll get his due.

ABRAMS:  John, let me ask you a separate question, and that is about one of the gory details that I read about.  I didn‘t even know this existed, something called a rape stand was found in this house.  I didn‘t even know what that was.  What is it? 

GOODWIN:  Well, game-bred American pit bull terriers are bred for high levels of aggression so that, when they fight, they will just maul and destroy each other.  And then, when you breed a male to a female in these fighting dog lines, sometimes the female will accept the male, but other times she won‘t.  Other times she‘ll just want to fight.

And so they have this rape stand that they strap the female dog down to when she‘s in heat so that the male can mount her and breed a new litter of puppies to be fought.

ABRAMS:  All right, on that note, John Goodwin, thanks very much for coming on.  Stephen A. Smith and David Cornwell, some real interesting thoughts.  Thanks a lot for joining us.  Appreciate it.

CORNWELL:  Thank you.

ABRAMS:  Still ahead, Craig Stebic drops the divorce case against his missing wife. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DION DAVI, CRAIG STEBIC‘S ATTORNEY:  We are still hopeful that she will return and we will be able to reinstate the case. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Wait a sec.  His attorney is saying they Lisa to come back so they can re-file the divorce case?  Are you kidding me?  That‘s next. 

And later, a Harry Potter lawsuit that gives new meaning to a golden snitch.  Harry‘s publishers are trying to shut down a Web site which claims to reveal the new book‘s secrets.  That‘s ahead in our day‘s “Winners and Losers.”

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  We‘re back.  Craig Stebic, currently the only person of interest in the disappearance of his wife, suddenly decides he doesn‘t want to divorce her after all.  Lisa Stebic has been missing for over two months.  Police suspect foul play.  The couple reportedly going through a nasty divorce and custody battle before her disappearance.  Lisa had been trying to evict Craig from the house that they were still sharing.  Now, Craig‘s attorney says he has withdrawn the request to divorce because legal fees were mounting, and the case couldn‘t proceed in Lisa‘s absence. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DION DAVI:  We, of course, asked the course to have leave to reinstate the case within a year should she return.  We are still hopeful that she will return and we will be able to reinstate the case. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Wait a second.  Did he did say that he and his client, Craig Stebic, are hopeful that the wife will return so he‘ll be able to reinstate the divorce case?  Not he‘s hopeful she‘ll return because her kids want their mother back, or he‘s hopeful she‘ll return because her family misses her?

Craig Stebic maintains he had nothing to do with his wife‘s disappearance.  Police say he‘s not helping.  He won‘t even let his kids, who may be the key witnesses, talk to police anymore.  This guy and his lawyer seem to me to be doing everything wrong. 

Joining me now is Jon Leiberman, the correspondent for “America‘s Most Wanted,” Susan Filan, MSNBC senior legal analyst and former prosecutor, and criminal defense attorney Mickey Sherman.

Mickey, I mean, I‘m almost laughing at how ridiculous this is.  I mean, this lawyer gets up and says, “We hope that this woman comes back and is no longer disappeared so we can reinstate our divorce case against her.”

MICKEY SHERMAN, DEFENSE ATTORNEY:  Yes, his last job was spinmeister for Paris Hilton.  You know, this guy is put in the spotlight.  He‘s not exactly sure how to express himself.  All he was trying to say was, look, we‘re not going to go after her now because we don‘t know where she is.  You know, he should have stopped right there and saying that when we find her, and if she‘s alive, that‘s great, because we can then humiliate her in divorce court. 

I mean, you know, bottom line is that they stopped the clock on the divorce lawyers.  There‘s nothing wrong with that.  It‘s totally appropriate.  And, also, Dan, you know, what were his options, to keep going with the divorce?  Then we‘d be screaming about him for that.  So he was in a no-win.

ABRAMS:  You know, and Jon Leiberman, my understanding is that he thought that he was sort of being accommodating to the search, correct? 

JON LEIBERMAN, CORRESPONDENT, “AMERICA‘S MOST WANTED”:  Yes, absolutely ludicrous, Dan.  He indicated today that the reason why they were stopping this whole divorce hearing was so that the focus could be on the missing persons search.  That is the most ridiculous thing.  If they want the focus to be on the missing person search, then Craig Stebic needs to cooperate with investigators, take a polygraph, and let cops talk to those kids.  To suggest that the divorce hearing was taking away from that is just ludicrous. 

ABRAMS:  All right, here‘s another piece of sound from the attorney who—I think we‘re going to have to start giving this guy a name relating to foot in mouth.  Here he is again. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DION DAVI:  It‘s interesting we‘re going to try this poor man and convict him before we have any evidence.  All he has done is be a good father to his children.  All he has done is taken my counseling. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  You know, Susan, this is a strategy we see in a lot of cases, where the lawyers claim, “Don‘t blame the client.  He‘s just taking my advice.  He‘s just listening to me.”  I mean, the bottom line is there‘s got to be some level of accountability, when your wife is currently missing, and you are saying, “You cannot interview our children,” even though they may be crucial witnesses.  And then the lawyer says, “Hey, don‘t blame him.  That‘s just the advice I‘m giving him.” 

SUSAN FILAN, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST:  Oh, that‘s baloney, because lawyers give advice, but clients don‘t have to follow it.  And lawyers can‘t do anything that isn‘t at the direction or the behest of the client.  So to make himself the shill behind which the client hides is just stupid.

And the whole “stop the clock” argument is nonsense, because if they did nothing the case would be dormant, it would be dismissed.  The clock is only running while they‘re working on it.  If there‘s nothing to work on, there‘s no hourly fees to run up.  And I think he‘s paying him a lot to mess it up on the criminal side.

ABRAMS:  All right, here‘s another somewhat idiotic comment that the lawyer makes.  Again, we‘re talking about the fact that they have just dropped the divorce proceedings for now because she‘s missing.  Let‘s listen. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DION DAVI:  We had hoped that Lisa Stebic would return and we could proceed, but that didn‘t happen. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  I mean, Mickey...

SHERMAN:  You know, I think we‘re beating up on this guy a little too much.  I mean, maybe he could have said it better, but the bottom line is, all he‘s saying, hey, there‘s no evidence against my client, which is true, that he was a good father, which may be true, and he‘s listening to my advice.  So where‘s the smoking gun there? 

ABRAMS:  I‘m not talking about a smoking gun.  I‘m talking about the fact that, when you‘re involved in a case like this, where the world is watching, and everyone is focused on finding her, this is a guy who is apparently advising his client not to let their kids be interviewed.  If he doesn‘t want to cooperate, fine.  He says, oh, you know what?  I‘m the focus now.  All right, fine.  His lawyer says to him, “Don‘t answer questions,” OK.  But not letting the kids cooperate, and now backing off on the divorce proceedings because apparently, you know, it‘s costing a lot of money, it‘s taking up a lot of time, et cetera, just seems to me just... 

SHERMAN:  But, Dan, wouldn‘t we be damning him even more if he went through with the divorce?  Wouldn‘t we be more ticked off at this guy?  Look at this.  He‘s getting a divorce.  He‘s getting the custody of his kids, and he‘s probably killed his wife.  I mean, he‘s basically putting that on hold.

ABRAMS:  What about that, Susan?

FILAN:  Well, the problem is, the first thing he did, right after she was missing, aside from not reporting her missing, but go straight to court and say, “Hey, I want sole custody of the kids.”  And now he‘s saying, oh, gosh, I want to make sure she comes home so I can go ahead and divorce her, it‘s so inconsistent, it‘s...

ABRAMS:  He doesn‘t have a criminal defense attorney, is that it? 

LEIBERMAN:  No, and that‘s what I‘m saying.  The reason why he wants to save money now is because he‘s putting it in the bank to hire a good criminal defense attorney.  This guy is just a divorce attorney.  He‘s a civil attorney, and I think Stebic is putting money away to hire a criminal defense attorney. 

SHERMAN:  At least then the story has a happy ending:  He‘s got enough to pay the lawyer.

FILAN:  But it‘s like he‘s having his appendix taken out by a throat surgeon.

ABRAMS:  I‘ve got to wrap it up.  Jon Leiberman and Mickey Sherman, thanks a lot.  Susan will be here for our next segment.

If you‘ve got any information about Lisa Stebic, please, Plainfield Police Department, 815-267-7217.

Coming up next, the day‘s “Winners and Losers.”  Plus, Harry Potter‘s chamber of secrets supposedly exposed online.  His publisher fighting back against leaks of the new book.  Is that really the move though, to sue?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Time for tonight‘s “Winners and Losers,” this 18th day of July 2007. 

Our first loser, a robbery suspect in Texas who got stuck in a dirty drainpipe while trying to evade police.  His rescue took 10 hours. 

Our first winner, 21-year-old Tennessee porn star Barbie Cummings, who got dirty trying to evade an illegal pills charge after being pulled over for speeding.  She allegedly performed oral sex on the officer.  The speeding charge stuck.  His career now down the drain. 

Our second winner, ligers.  Yes, they‘re real, and two are alive and well at a German zoo.  These rare exotic mutts the result of the union between lions and tigers. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  What‘s a liger?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  It‘s pretty much my favorite animal.

ABRAMS:  Our other loser, Al Gore, whose daughter‘s wedding menu featured a rare and exotic form of Chilean sea bass, creating an inconvenient union of green activism with a broiled endangered specie of fish.

AL GORE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  What were they thinking? 

ABRAMS:  But the big winner of the day, Brattleboro, Vermont, which has saved us all from the dark, disturbing vision of naked senior citizens.  The town placed an emergency ban on public nudity Wednesday after too many residents were walking in the buff, warts and all. 

Our big loser of the day, Hogwarts hero Harry Potter, whose battles against the dark and disturbing Voldemort were leaked before the final book is released Saturday.  

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Oh, my god.  I‘ve killed Harry Potter. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  No, we did not just give away the ending.  That was a scene from “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire,” but the people at Scholastic, Harry Potter‘s publisher, is so upset about the possible leak, they have taken legal action against the companies they think are responsible.

We bring back in Susan Filan, our MSNBC legal analyst.  Susan, do they have any case here?  And let me add this.  We‘ve got some new information tonight.  That is, the “New York Times” is breaking the embargo, and they‘re going to review the book.  Does that change the legal case?

FILAN:  No, they have a great case.  I mean, this is a violation of all of the contractual agreements, all the non-disclosure agreements that were signed.  This is, plain and simple, wrong.  The courts are going to help the publisher here, and they‘re going to issue an injunction and try to get all the early copies off. 

ABRAMS:  But what do they get?  I mean, what do they get?  I mean, the book‘s coming out Saturday, right?  I mean, how much are they going to actually achieve here? 

FILAN:  Well, again, don‘t forget two parts.  Injunctions stop everything going out from before.  And then, secondly, damages.  I mean, the damages are going to be really hard to value, but I think they‘ve got a pretty good case.  Dan, I can‘t stop looking at you without laughing. 

ABRAMS:  Really, why? 

FILAN:  I don‘t know.

ABRAMS:  I don‘t understand what you think is funny. 

FILAN:  About the “New York Times,” you know, they can legitimately review this.  It would be unfair if they gave away the ending.  But any journalist that legitimately gets a copy of it, assuming they weren‘t involved in the illegal leak of it, can review it and can write about it.  That‘s where the First Amendment comes in.  On the other hand, you‘ve got a copyright and trademark infringement with this book getting kind of pilfered and release early. 

ABRAMS:  A hundred and twenty books released prematurely.  Scholastic is ordering—I‘ve got to take off.  Sorry, let me do this.  I will take off my glasses to read for a minute.  OK, Scholastic is ordering two companies to remove possible copies of the book from their Web sites.  They‘re taking legal action against two other companies for mailing the books early.  Look, when it comes to mailing the books early, right, there‘s an agreement, a very firm—they are really strict about the rules when it comes to this book.  They apparently have some GPS devices on some of the trucks that have the books. 

FILAN:  They‘ve spent about $25 million in security, both physical guards, decoder tracers on computers to make sure that this doesn‘t get out.  And if it does get pre-released early to people who are supposed to review it, they‘re supposed to sign non-disclosure agreements and not reveal the book early.  So I think they‘ve been wronged.  I think they‘ve been harmed, and I think the courts are going to jump right in, get this stuff off the Internet.  I think eBay is going to pull it voluntarily.  I think anybody that‘s got it that shouldn‘t have it is going to cooperate, but I think they‘ve got to go after the leakers.  And I think it‘s going to be really easy for them to figure out who the culprits are. 

ABRAMS:  Yes, all right, Susan Filan, I have removed my glasses.  Thank you very much for coming back on the program.  It‘s an interesting topic.  I like the Harry Potter movies. 

FILAN:  It is.  Well, you just have to wait until Saturday, Dan. 

ABRAMS:  I know, all right.  That‘s all the time we have for tonight.  Stay tuned for “Catch Him If You Can,” a man who says his last name is Rockefeller, offers unsuspecting people incredible opportunities, but then he vanishes.

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

END   

Copy: 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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