updated 4/1/2004 11:04:46 AM ET 2004-04-01T16:04:46

Guests: Katie Vlitalo, Jim Thomas, Clint Van Zandt, Ron Fischetti, William Fallon, Jean Casarez, Karen Russell

ANNOUNCER:  Now THE ABRAMS REPORT.  Here is Dan Abrams.

DAN ABRAMS, HOST:  Hi everyone.  Missing Wisconsin college student Audrey Seiler found alive four days after vanishing from her off-campus apartment.  The man who allegedly held her at gunpoint still at large.  We‘re waiting for a press conference expected to begin at any moment.  We will bring that to you live.

Jeannie Ohm is at the site where this is occurring.  We‘re expecting that press conference to begin at any moment and we are going to go to—no, it looks—there‘s the—let‘s listen. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  ... have spellings and the titles...

JEANNIE OHM, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  Dan, what they‘re doing right now is giving the names of the people expected at the news conference which we‘ve just been told will be pushed back another 15 minutes at this point. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  We have Officer Larry Kamholz and that is spelled...

ABRAMS:  All right.  So while they give some of the names here, and as Jeannie Ohm tells us there is going to be a delay here, let‘s talk to Katie Vlitalo, a friend of Audrey‘s.  Thanks very much for taking the time to join us on the MSNBC live line.  We appreciate it. 

KATIE VLITALO, AUDREY SEILER‘S FRIEND (via phone):  Oh, no problem. 

ABRAMS:  So what are you hearing about how she‘s doing? 

VLITALO:  I think she‘s doing really good.  She is at the hospital right now with—her family is there and I believe her roommate Heather and boyfriend Ryan.  She is eating, she‘s—I don‘t know at the present how well she‘s doing.  I believe the family actually will be - it‘s just going to be a long (UNINTELLIGIBLE) will not be joining everyone who‘s been looking for her until tomorrow.

ABRAMS:  I‘m sorry I wasn‘t able to hear the last part of what you said.  Could you repeat that again?

VLITALO:  Sure.  Audrey will be joining everyone who has been looking for her and has come out from Rockford or wherever they‘ve come from to look for her, tomorrow. 

ABRAMS:  I see, I see.  Have you gotten to speak to her parents or anyone who has been with her since she was found?

VLITALO:  Not anyone who has been with her, no... 

ABRAMS:  And the, I assume, you know that the sense amongst the people who have been looking and searching has got to be one of incredible relief. 

VLITALO:  Oh, yea, yes.  It was just unreal.  When we—we had just come back from a search and we walked—people were walking in the doors and Stephanie and some other people came just running out—they had just heard and it was just—I just could not describe.  I mean everyone‘s feelings are just—it was a miracle. 

ABRAMS:  And am I correct that the reason that you had to join us on the phone today was because you have been asked not to leave the hotel where you‘re located right now? 

VLITALO:  Yes.  Well, for a long time nobody could leave the hotel, anybody that was in there remained inside there in the lobby.  The streets were all closed up around here because Audrey was found less than a block from here and the suspect was believed to be in, you know the very close perimeter.  I couldn‘t—the - some of the streets between here and the hospital are still closed off. 

ABRAMS:  And have you gotten any sense from the police or anyone else as to who they believe the suspect may be? 

VLITALO:  No.  Just that it‘s a white male.  He—Audrey gave them the description of a taller—I think she said around six feet, wearing dirty clothes and a black baseball cap. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  Katie, actually if you could just stick around for a moment, we want to just go back to Jeannie Ohm.  Jeannie, you‘re there at the press conference, another delay in terms of when it‘s going to start? 

OHM:  Yes Dan.  They‘re busy organizing various speakers who will be coming down here.  At this point it looks like we‘re still about 10 minutes away from that news conference starting.  We—hospital officials are saying that Audrey‘s parents, Keith and Stephanie Seiler, along with the police chief, the emergency room physician here at St. Mary‘s Hospital who treated Audrey and several other people will be here including the University of Wisconsin provost because obviously, this is an incredible story.

All experts will tell you that after several days go by, the outcome is generally not good for a person who has disappeared, and Audrey Seiler disappeared five days ago.  Saturday—early Saturday morning, 2:30 in the morning surveillance video from her off-campus apartment building had shown her somewhat waiting for someone perhaps or looking outside, hesitating before finally going outside.  That was the last time family and friends had seen or heard from her. 

And it wasn‘t until this afternoon at 1:00 p.m. that someone looked outside of their office in a marshy area just a few miles from Audrey‘s neighborhood and they did see something suspicious, called police, they responded immediately and made the confirmation that in fact was the missing college student.  So while we are waiting here for this news conference, we should also point out there is still an active scene in that very location where Audrey Seiler was found because as you had heard, there has been a description of a white male in that area, possibly armed, and that is what police right now—they have been using dogs and borrowed a TV helicopter and attached infrared equipment on it to try and narrow down and search down if there is still a person in that area.  So while there is incredibly good news here at the hospital that Audrey Seiler has been found alive, of course, police also want to figure out who did this and who the alleged abductor might be and find that person—Dan. 

ABRAMS:  Jeannie, very quickly, who are you expecting to speak at this press conference? 

OHM:  Well I don‘t know if you can see behind me, but they have a number of chairs set up here.  We are told that Audrey‘s parents, who traveled here from Minnesota, their hometown there, Keith and Stephanie Seiler will be here at this news conference along with the emergency room physician that—the doctor who treated Audrey.  Audrey was brought to this hospital after police had found her in that marshy area, along with the assistant police chief and the provost at the University of Wisconsin, Madison (UNINTELLIGIBLE).  A number of people expected here at this news conference, which should begin in about perhaps five minutes or so.  It originally was scheduled for more than 30 minutes ago, but they had so many logistics to coordinate and get that all situated before they can begin here.

ABRAMS:  All right, Jeannie Ohm, we are going to come back to you.  We are going to cover this press conference live when it happens, so please stand by because we are going to check back in with you. 

In the meantime, let‘s move on to some of the other stories that we‘re going to cover.  Coming up, Michael Jackson meeting with congressional leaders on Capitol Hill.  We‘ve learned that another accuser from 1993 has been subpoenaed to appear before the grand jury.  That‘s in addition to the one you may have already heard about.  It‘s another ABRAMS REPORT exclusive.  The details are next. 

And Martha Stewart‘s lawyers want a new trial.  They say one of the jurors lied about his past criminal record.  Could that, might that mean a new trial for Martha? 

Don‘t forget your e-mails abramsreport@msnbc.com.  I‘ll respond at the end of the show.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Coming up, another ABRAMS REPORT exclusive on the Michael Jackson case.  A second accuser from 1990‘s, from the early ‘90‘s, expected to testify before the grand jury deciding if Jackson will face molestation charges.  Coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  You are looking at a live picture of the room where a press conference is expected to begin at any moment in the case of Audrey Seiler, that Wisconsin college student who has been found alive and apparently well.  We‘re expecting to hear from her parents and from some of the hospital officials as to her condition.  There is allegedly an armed gunman still on the loose who may have been connected to this case.  We are following this.  We will bring you that press conference live when it happens. 

To the Michael Jackson case—another ABRAMS REPORT exclusive.  We‘ve already reported that the boy who accused Jackson of molestation in 1993 could be called to the grand jury.  Remember in that case Jackson settled out of court for a reported $20 million.  But now another accuser may be called as well, one who made similar accusations also in 1993, but the incidents apparently occurred in 1990.  That boy also reportedly settled with Jackson for an undisclosed sum. 

I‘m joined now by Jim Thomas, former Santa Barbara County sheriff and NBC News analyst.  So Jim you were in charge of both cases back in ‘90 and ‘93.  First tell me about this 1990 boy and why we‘re expecting him to testify in front of the grand jury. 

JIM THOMAS, FMR. SANTA BARBARA SHERIFF:  Actually, Dan, what happened is in the 1993 case about three months into the investigation our investigators learned that there was a boy who at one time or was the son of an employee of Michael Jackson‘s family, may have been molested in 1990.  Our investigators did an interview where he did allege that he had been molested, not to the degree of the other two boys, but that he had been inappropriately touched.  He would have testified had the other boy testified, but he was embarrassed and said he wouldn‘t do it alone and so it was never pursued after the boy with the very large settlement decided not to testify.

ABRAMS:  And now we are expecting that other boy to be testifying in front of the grand jury as well? 

THOMAS:  Well we have confirmed that he‘s been notified that he may testify in front of the grand jury.  And I‘m presuming that he would do that to show a pattern in the way that things are said or done would show pattern amongst at least three boys of molestation.

ABRAMS:  But when you say that the allegations weren‘t as serious what does that mean in terms of this 1993 boy?

THOMAS:  His allegations to our investigators that it was inappropriate touching mainly on the outside of the clothing which in California would qualify as a misdemeanor violation as opposed to a felony.  So it wouldn‘t be nearly to the seriousness.  However, what led up to that molestation at the beginning could be very similar to the other two and would establish that pattern. 

ABRAMS:  Did he...

THOMAS:  It‘s also important to note, though, that his mother found out about this and pulled themselves out from the relationship with Michael Jackson and so it never continued. 

ABRAMS:  All right, Jim, I‘m going to have to interrupt you here for a moment because that press conference is now beginning.  This in the case of Audrey Seiler, that Wisconsin college student who had been missing since early Saturday morning when she left her dorm with basically everything still in the room, the door open.  A big mystery as to what had happened to her.  She had been attacked on February the 1st; she had no memory of that.  The question, are these two connected?  Those are her parents sitting there.  She has been found apparently alive and well.  Let‘s listen.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  We‘d like to welcome you here.  We‘re going to give you a quick overview of what has happened today, and first, to do that, I‘m going to turn it over to Assistant Chief Noble Wray, who can give you a sequence of events of things that took place today and where we kind of stand right now with the investigation—Chief.

NOBLE WRAY, ASSISTANT CHIEF MADISON P.D.:  OK.  Good afternoon.  First of all before I get into my brief statement, let me say that the entire city of Madison and indeed the nation is happy and pleased that we have the safe return of Audrey Seiler.  We just can‘t say enough.  Having said that, I‘d like to give you a brief statement here. 

On March 31 around 12:50 p.m., the Madison Police Department received a call from a witness in the area of John Nolan Drive and Rim Rock Road who reported seeing a female who appeared to be in need of help.  Officers responded to the area and found the female later identified as Audrey Seiler, was contacted and quickly transported here to St. Mary‘s Hospital.

The Madison Police Department received additional information that another subject may be in the area where Audrey Seiler was found.  Officers set up a secure perimeter to the area and currently—and are currently taking appropriate steps to identify other persons or persons who may be in the area.  We have received a description of a suspect who was described as a white male in his late 20‘s to early 30‘s, 5‘11” to 6‘, tall, last seen wearing a black sweatshirt, jeans with a black cap.  Suspect is believed to be armed with a gun and a knife. 

We are extremely, extremely happy that Audrey has been found, reunited

with her family and in good physical condition.  Unfortunately, due to the

ongoing investigation, we will not be able to answer questions regarding

any specifics of this incident.  On behalf of the Madison Police

Department, I would like to thank everyone who has contributed to Audrey‘s

·         to finding Audrey.  We are dedicated to the continued investigation and urge people to continue calling our department with information regarding Audrey‘s case.  We will continue helping family in responding to any needs that they may have as we attempt to identify anyone who may be involved.  We have some other people that would like to make some statements.  I will turn it back over to police officer Larry Kamholz.  He will lay out the agenda from here.  Thank you.

LARRY KAMHOLZ, MADISON, WI POLICE SPOKESPERSON:  We‘re going to provide a couple of people to talk, as always we‘re going to save the questions to the end.  The Seiler family has offered—I‘m sorry the Seiler family has offered to make brief statements about their daughter and again they‘re going to keep that very brief and we‘ll try to help them out (UNINTELLIGIBLE) with the questions.  So, Keith and Stephanie...

KEITH SEILER, AUDREY SEILER‘S FATHER:  First of all, we‘re so grateful that Audrey is back safe with us and many of you interviewed us through the course of the last few days and we kept telling you that we were confident that Audrey would return, and that‘s due in large part to the efforts of the Madison Police Department, the media, our friends and family, the college, too many people that I can mention right now, but they‘re all in our hearts and our thanks go out to everybody that was involved with Audrey‘s safe return.  Audrey is doing well.  She‘s happy to be back.  Needless to say, she‘s thrilled to be home again with her family and friends.  Thank you. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Thank you.  Many of you are questioning the status of Audrey, and so we have asked the ER doctor, physician, to give a few comments about her condition.  So I‘ll turn this over to Dr. Philip Schultz. 

DR. PHILIP SCHULTZ, ST. MARY‘S EMERGENCY SERVICES:  Well, Audrey is in good condition, remarkably so, I think.  She was pretty cold when she came in, more her extremities than her actual core temperature, so I wouldn‘t say she was really hypothermic, but she was not comfortable either.  She‘s really gotten through her ordeal remarkably well. 

Physically she has lots of muscle aches from being confined during this period of time and she‘s relatively dehydrated, so what we‘ve been doing basically is just kind of replenishing her fluids.  But, she already looks a lot better than she did when she came in.  She is smiling a lot and clearly is a lot more comfortable.  So we‘re very happy that she‘s doing as well as she is.  So, we‘re going to anticipate that she‘ll be able to be discharged home with her parents.  So that‘s her wish.  She doesn‘t particularly want to stay in the hospital.  We‘d be pleased to have her, but I think she would much rather be with her family. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Next the University of Wisconsin provost Peter Spear would like to make a few comments and then we‘ll take questions and answers after that.

PETER SPEAR, UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN PROVOST:  I‘d just like to say on behalf of the University of Wisconsin at Madison how relieved and thrilled we are that Audrey is back and safe and I also want to thank everyone in the university community who has come together to support each other and the family and to help with the search—students, faculty, and staff.  Thank you. 

KAMHOLZ:  All right.  We will open this up for questions.  Again, we will not get into specifics of the case, but we‘ll try our best to answer some of your questions. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Can you tell us how she got free at all?

KAMHOLZ:  Again, I don‘t think at this point we‘re comfortable with giving any specifics...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Was this officially an abduction and also the doctor said she was confined, her injuries, can you tell us anything more about that?

KAMHOLZ:  Captain, do you want to—take these? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Again, this obviously is a new phase of the investigation.  As you know within the past several days we have concentrated on pursuing leads and the focus and our primary objective had been to locate Audrey and to reunite her with her family.  At this point, now that she has been located, obviously it kicks into a different phase of the investigation, making sure that she‘s well, that she‘s treated medically, that she‘s reunited with the family.  We will slowly and again very methodically process the scene where Audrey was located, but at this point, it would be premature to be able to provide you with any kind of information regarding the circumstances regarding the location where she was found. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  (UNINTELLIGIBLE) abduction at least?  Can you tell us that? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  At this point, again, we are working with it. 

Keep in mind that this has been a very traumatic experience for Audrey.  That we are proceeding slowly.  That at this point the detectives have had an opportunity to meet with her, but it‘s much too early to be able to go into depth and details...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  What about the doctor saying she was confined? 

What about the doctor saying she was confined?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  But as it relates to the investigation it is still too early to get into specifics.  We have really not had an opportunity to sit down and really talk to her in great detail so it‘s still too early. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Sure, you can‘t get into specifics but there‘s an armed gunman out in the community, so should everyone in this community be fearful that that person may go after someone else on the street or do you think that perhaps he knew Audrey.  I mean doesn‘t the community...

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  ... have a right to know?  You have an armed gunman out there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Absolutely.  At this point, we still and I‘m glad you brought that up, we still have officers out set up on the perimeter currently right now dealing with that particular situation.  That has not been resolved.  We have a secure perimeter and they are right now in the process of dealing with that particular situation.  So, you‘re absolutely correct. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Is this suspect still within the perimeter, do you know? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  That is what we believe at this point in time. 

Based upon the information that we have that is what we believe. 

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  ... were shots were fired at officers, Chief?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  No shots were fired at officers.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  ... Audrey indicate that she knew this person? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I‘m sorry.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Has Audrey indicated that she knew this person? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I will not get into that detail.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  The suspect, you have some information on him, but have—do you know who he is?  Do you have a name? 

WRAY:  At this point in time the information that I have provided you with is what we want to go with.  It is enough to provide anyone that—for the officers, we‘ve got the information that if they need to, if they‘re trying to locate this guy that that‘s all we‘re going to give at this point in time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  But if you have a suspect why aren‘t you at least saying that foul play was in some way involved otherwise it‘s very murky...

WRAY:  Sure.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  ... and you‘re not helping the community...

WRAY:  What we have is we have a suspect that we believe that may be in a perimeter where we have officers set up on that particular perimeter. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Chief, was she sexually assaulted, Audrey sexually assaulted? 

WRAY:  The medical staff just provided you with the information related to her medical condition and that‘s all I‘m going to get into. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  So yes, no? 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  What is he a suspect of...

WRAY:  Pardon me.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  What is he a suspect of?  What can you say he is a suspect...

WRAY:  He is at this point in time we have—we had a missing person investigation and we have a suspect in relation so that missing person. 

OK.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  And can you read the description before...

WRAY:  Sure.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

WRAY:  The description was—we have—received a description of a suspect who is described as a white male in his late 20‘s to early 30‘s, 5‘11”, 6‘ tall, last wearing a black sweatshirt and jeans with a black cap. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  The doctor said the she was cold when she came in.  Can you talk about what period of time she may have been exposed to the elements?  Was she indoors during the time that she was missing?  Any details about the length she may have been exposed...

WRAY:  Cannot get into that.  That is part of what we will do in terms of our continuing investigation. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Can you tell us what she was wearing when she was found?

WRAY:  I don‘t have that information...

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Can you tell us what she was wearing?  Did she want anything to eat?  What did she say to you?  Can you the parents get into that at all? 

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  What she‘s eaten...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Or at least her first words...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Audrey...

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Thank you.

K. SEILER:  Audrey was overjoyed to return back to us.  Just relieved, glad to be warm, to see her friends and family, a bit surprised at the big hullabaloo, but other than that, you know she‘s just content right now. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Do you expect to take her back tomorrow, tonight sir? 

K. SEILER:  We haven‘t made plans on a time.  Don‘t have a timetable. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  She‘ll be staying here tonight? 

K. SEILER:  At the hospital? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes, sir. 

K. SEILER:  We haven‘t decided yet. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Mr. Seiler...

(CROSSTALK)

K. SEILER:  We haven‘t even—we haven‘t discussed any plans...

STEPHANIE SEILER, AUDREY SEILER‘S MOTHER:  Right now we‘re just very happy to be reunited with Audrey and she‘s happy to be with us.  And you can‘t—we just can‘t tell you how good this makes us feel and to all of you for helping all of these efforts.  Audrey will learn about all of this someday, but right now we‘re just focusing on being together and holding each other and hugging each other and just reaffirming to each other that we are here for her and she is here for us right now. 

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  What has she told you about what happened? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Stephanie, we were with you this morning there was a composure that you had.  Was there a feeling that you had about her—I mean there was a strength about you and your husband, was that a feeling that you had all along that she was out there and she was OK? 

S. SEILER:  Well that‘s the feeling we stayed with.  Yes.  We needed to stay strong for Audrey and Audrey needed to stay strong for us and we believed in that.  I don‘t—I can‘t explain it any other way. 

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Mrs. Seiler, a couple of times you spoke during interviews of speaking to Audrey.  Did she hear you, do you know?  Was that effective at all?

K. SEILER:  We don‘t know that at all. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Those words—I know it seemed at times you were pleading with whoever might know where she was, is there any idea if that helped out in this? 

S. SEILER:  You know...

K. SEILER:  We thought any words we said would be beneficial to our efforts in finding Audrey safe. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Was Audrey coherent when you found her or was she disoriented? 

WRAY:  Let me try and put this really in perspective.  We have a family here that has been looking for her daughter—their daughter for the last four or five days.  I mean we‘ve been—the entire city putting a lot of energy and effort, a lot of support, a tremendous number of people, it‘s just been in the last few hours that they‘ve had an opportunity to be reunited with their daughter.  At this point in time as it relates to this investigation, we‘re going to provide some time for them to be together number one.  Number two is that we have a continuing investigation, we still have a command post set up, we still have a perimeter that is set up, and this is still ongoing.  We have a suspect that we believe that is contained within that perimeter.  What we plan on doing is that once that perimeter is closed down and we don‘t believe that we have exhausted everything within that perimeter, we will update you on that particular point, but at this juncture we do have a continuing investigation and we still have to talk and interview—talk to and interview a number of people related to this missing person, now not missing person, but an investigation.  So I mean that‘s really where we are. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  A couple more questions. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  What is the perimeter? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  When was she found?  I mean when was the call made (UNINTELLIGIBLE) time that she was located (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

WRAY:  The call came in around 12:50 p.m. so, you know, in terms of the investigation identifying, confirming that this is the person we‘re probably looking at roughly about 1:30 is when we thought we were there. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Was she found wet?

ABRAMS:  And so, getting some information on the homecoming for Audrey Seiler.  Here‘s what we know.  First of all and most importantly, we know that her family is thrilled to have her back.  That‘s the most important thing we know.  We also know that at about 12:50 p.m. a witness saw a girl in need of help, called in to the police, the police found Audrey Seiler.  She apparently was cold, almost sounds like suffering from frostbite, although not quite, the doctor saying she was very cold in her extremities, although not to the point where it was frostbite.  There is a suspect at large, a white male, late 20‘s to early 30‘s, wearing a black sweatshirt, jeans, a black cap.  They say he has a gun and a knife. 

We also know according to a doctor who spoke only moments ago that she was apparently confined for a period.  Other than that, the authorities are saying very little.  Why?  Because this investigation is continuing.  The suspect is still at large.  They will not say even if it is—if it was an abduction, whether she knew or didn‘t know the person, but they are still actively searching for that person. 

Clint Van Zandt joins us.  He is a former FBI profiler.  He‘s dealt with a lot of these cases where someone is missing.  Clint, you know look, some of the questions were legitimate from the media, some of them I think just outright silly...

CLINT VAN ZANDT, FMR. FBI PROFILER:  ... and overly aggressive because I think they knew that they weren‘t going to talk a whole lot more, but what‘s going on here? 

VAN ZANDT:  Well number one, I agree with you.  I mean it‘s just joyous that a child could be reunited with her parents especially all the efforts that these community‘s put out to get her back safe.  So that‘s the bottom line.  What—when we move on from that point, Dan, I find it remarkable the lack of information that we‘re given about a alleged kidnapper armed with two weapons that has already allegedly held someone against their will for three or four days, and I also find it you know interesting that the victim in this case was—I forget the term her father used—surprised at the hullabaloo that was taking place.  That‘s an interesting remark on the part of someone who has been held as a kidnapped victim...

ABRAMS:  Clint...

VAN ZANDT:  ... for multiple days. 

ABRAMS:  ... why are you surprised that the authorities are giving so limited information?  I mean their position is we‘ve got an ongoing investigation here.  You‘re surprised that they‘re not even saying do we believe it‘s an abduction, do we believe a crime was committed, right?

VAN ZANDT:  Well I am Dan.  I mean if they were confident in what they had, if they were confident that they had an abduction, a kidnapping, a sexual assault, whatever it might have been, I think they would be telling us, but right now they seem to be very careful.  They‘ve accomplished their mission.  They‘ve got this young girl back.  Now they‘ve got to sort out the pieces.  Dan, they‘re putting a puzzle together on the table in front of them and the picture that‘s coming up is pretty hazy right now.  So I think the police are going to be very cautious until they find out exactly what they really have here. 

ABRAMS:  Katie Vlitalo is a friend of Audrey‘s and she has been kind enough to wait with us on the MSNBC live line.  Katie, what do you make of what you heard?

VLITALO:  I guess I‘m not surprised that they‘re giving out too many details, you know being they haven‘t caught the suspect yet, but I‘m glad to hear she‘s doing well...

ABRAMS:  Yes.  How did the parents look to you...

VLITALO:  I couldn‘t see them.  I‘m just hearing them over the line here.  They actually sounded really good. 

ABRAMS:  Yes I got to tell you they looked—they sure did look relieved.  I can only imagine...

VLITALO:  Oh yes...

ABRAMS:  ... what that is like.  You know very quickly before we move on, give us a little bit about Audrey.  We‘ve been talking so much in the sort of abstract, we‘re talking about investigations, we‘re talking about her condition, tell us who she is. 

VLITALO:  Audrey is a real high achiever.  She‘s very, very well known, well liked.  She is a serious student.  She (UNINTELLIGIBLE) -- this whole situation is—was you know a real shock to a lot of people, which explains the numbers that have come up to Madison each day to help look for her. 

ABRAMS:  And Katie, did you talk to her after this February 1 assault where someone apparently came behind her and hit her on the head?  She doesn‘t remember, just found a few blocks away. 

VLITALO:  Yes I did. 

ABRAMS:  What did she say about that?

VLITALO:  She was pretty upset (UNINTELLIGIBLE) that happened to anybody would you know be obviously be very, very upset.  (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

ABRAMS:  Did she have any sense of who had done it or anything like that? 

VLITALO:  No...

ABRAMS:  No?

VLITALO:  ... she—I asked her if she had heard or seen anybody and she said that no she had not.  She (UNINTELLIGIBLE) next thing she knew she woke up 15 minutes later between (UNINTELLIGIBLE) dumpsters or something (UNINTELLIGIBLE) two blocks from where had been walking. 

ABRAMS:  And according to the authorities at the time she had not been assaulted.  I mean she‘d been hit on the head.  She hadn‘t been sexually assaulted...

VLITALO:  No...

ABRAMS:  She hadn‘t...

VLITALO:  ... no evidence of anything...

ABRAMS:  Yes.

VLITALO:  ... like that and nothing was taken.  She still had her purse. 

ABRAMS:  All right, look Katie, hey thanks a lot for taking the time.  And this is a good moment for you, for the family, I think for all of us who had been watching...

VLITALO:  Oh yes.

ABRAMS:  ... this case and following it.  It‘s just—it is just so nice to sometimes...

VLITALO:  Yes.

ABRAMS:  ... have a good outcome in these cases.  And you know I know how great it must feel for you, so thanks a lot for taking the time. 

VLITALO:  Oh you‘re welcome. 

ABRAMS:  All right, we‘re going to take a break.

When we come back, Martha Stewart‘s lawyers are asking for a new trial.  Why?  They say they can prove that one of the jurors lied on his questionnaire.  Is that good enough for a new trial?  We‘ll find out.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Martha Stewart wants a new trial and now her lawyers say a juror‘s lies should mean that she gets one.  Each of the jurors were asked to fill out a questionnaire before the trial started.  Some of the questions were about any criminal history or other connections to the justice system. 

In today‘s filing the defense says that juror number eight, Chappell Hartridge, who did numerous interviews after the verdict—quote—“gave material false answers to questions contained on his juror questionnaire.  Hartridge omitted the fact that he had been arrested for assault on a woman with whom he was living.  Further omitted that he had been sued on at least three occasions.  These facts in and of themselves establish that Ms.  Stewart is entitled to a new trial.”

Really?  Is that true?  Is it possible she‘s really going to get a new trial based on that?  Let‘s bring in our legal team—William Fallon, former prosecutor and Ron Fischetti, who is a criminal defense attorney who has handled many of these cases.

All right, Ron, look I know that you know Robert Morvillo well and you are a defense attorney who has handled in particular a lot of appellate issues.  It seems to me that this is a fair point to make in a legal document after the verdict has come down, but a real long shot for the defense.  Do you agree or disagree?

RON FISCHETTI, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY:  I don‘t think it‘s a long shot.  I think this is like a defense attorney after losing a case, as Bob Morvillo did, finding a little nugget of gold.  I think he‘s got a good possibility, if he proves what‘s in these affidavits, and he hasn‘t proved them yet, that he‘s got a good chance of getting a new trial.  I mean don‘t forget this is a man, we‘re claiming, that beat up his girlfriend, I mean, beat her up so badly that she went to the hospital and he stayed three days in jail and the questionnaire is very explicit.  It says, I mean were you ever in court?  Were you ever accused of a crime?  He answered those questions no under penalty of perjury.

ABRAMS:  But see, so prosecute him for perjury is one thing.  I mean look, they may—I wouldn‘t be surprised if the prosecutors go after him for perjury, but the idea that they‘re going to give her a whole new trial based on the fact that this guy wasn‘t fully honest on his jury questionnaire, it seems to me you start doing that and you‘re going to start reviewing a whole of verdicts in this country...

FISCHETTI:  Oh no, now wait a minute.  Fully honest is one thing, but to lie on something like this, beating up a woman when Martha Stewart is on trial and then have the same man go on television—don‘t forget, he‘s the first one who went out there and said this is a victory for the little guy, you could be safer in your 401 (ks), indicating he wanted publicity, this is a very, very serious motion.  And one other point, they will never prosecute him for perjury.  If they do that, I think she‘ll get a new trial.  What they‘ll do is basically say he made a mistake...

ABRAMS:  No...

FISCHETTI:  ... the records were sealed.

ABRAMS:  Oh I disagree.  See, I think what they‘re going to do is just the opposite.  I think the prosecutors are going to come down hard on this guy to make it clear they don‘t stand for it.  On the other hand say but look, it didn‘t affect the outcome of the case.  Go ahead Ron. 

FISCHETTI:  You‘re never going to know that.  I mean the only way we have a Sixth Amendment right to a fair and impartial jury is if the void dire questions are answered honestly...

ABRAMS:  But...

FISCHETTI:  ... and the court of appeals says very clearly you only have to prove two things.  The first thing you have to prove is if the answers were not honest.  I think he can do that.  And the second thing you have to prove is if they were honest would you have a challenge for cause.  You don‘t have to show the verdict to be different.  You just have to show you‘d have a challenge for cause...

(CROSSTALK)

FISCHETTI:  ... which he would. 

ABRAMS:  But proving that—Bill Fallon, proving that does not get you a new trial.  That‘s what gets you in the door. 

WILLIAM FALLON, FORMER PROSECUTOR:  That gets you in...

ABRAMS:  That‘s not what gets you a new trial. 

FALLON:  Right.  You‘d have to prove that there was impartiality here and it would affect the impartiality.  What‘s amazing to me in this discussion, and I don‘t think it‘s a nugget of gold, I think it‘s a nugget of rock now.  We‘ll have to see if it‘s a nugget of gold.  It‘s something that at least somebody wants to like—cling on to, as I usually say, and this is what the defense has to do with a guilty client. 

It‘s interesting—I find the civil part of this more interesting

than the criminal.  A prosecutor would never want someone who had in fact

some kind of criminal conviction or criminal record on it because they‘d

figure, guess what, they‘re not going to believe the state, the government,

or the commonwealth here.  They‘re going to be pro defense.  So if

anything, when you first read this at first blush, it‘s why they wouldn‘t -

·         why the prosecutor wouldn‘t have wanted them, why not the defense.  Now I think there are two things.  Is it in fact a lie?  Is it a material lie?  And then does it have any impact on impartiality?  At least right now I don‘t think we have...

ABRAMS:  Let me read you some of the questions...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  ... that he was asked that the defense says that he did not answer honestly. 

Have you ever been in court before other than for a minor traffic violation?  Have you or has anyone close to you ever been sued by someone?  Been accused of wrongdoing on a job?  Have you or has a family member or close friend ever been questioned by law enforcement accused of, charged with or convicted of any crime or been the subject of a criminal investigation other than a minor traffic violation? 

Bill, what can they do?  What can the prosecutors do here...

FALLON:  The...

ABRAMS:  ... that‘s somewhere in between that says you know what, they‘re not going to give Martha Stewart a whole new trial because of this guy, but is there any remedy at all other than that? 

FALLON:  Well, there‘s no real remedy unless there‘s a little talk between counsels to say look, if we in fact agree to a new trial and you (UNINTELLIGIBLE) go guilty and go for the original thing to stay out of jail, you can work that out if you think you‘re going to lose this in front of the judge.  But remember they‘re not going to do that unless they really think they‘re going down the tubes.  The judge in many cases usually says, what can we do here and somebody might say when they get to sentencing stage hey can we work something out here.  You take away all your appellate rights.  I‘m not sure Martha would have done that before or Morvillo would have don‘t it, but who knows they might.  I will tell you though they‘re not going after someone...

ABRAMS:  Yes.

FALLON:  ... for perjury in this case unless the judge when he makes these findings says there really is something rotten here...

ABRAMS:  Look, it‘s a very straightforward question, I‘ve got to wrap it up because...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  ... a very straightforward question, though, as to whether he‘s been in court before.  Have you been sued?  Have you been accused of wrongdoing, et cetera.  Look, if this guy has been arrested and been in jail before, you know it seems pretty clear that‘s a lie. 

FALLON:  Dan, unless...

(CROSSTALK)

FALLON:  ... what we have here is we have the record sealed and if the record is sealed it is very unclear how you proceed with that as a defendant or a witness.

ABRAMS:  All right...

FISCHETTI:  And you know what‘s going to happen?  I think they‘re going to have to adjourn the sentence because I think Cedarbaum is going to give them a hearing.

ABRAMS:  I got to wrap it up.  Ron Fischetti and Bill Fallon, thanks a lot. 

Coming up, why didn‘t Jayson Williams take the stand in his manslaughter trial?  The prosecution had presented a pretty strong case, so was this a defense team blunder?  Our legal team will take a look. 

Plus, a New York Supreme Court judge says she was targeted for a drunk driving charge because she‘s black, even though the arresting officers were both minorities and her defense offered no proof to back up the charge.  The issue even if she‘s convicted, she‘s probably going to get to continue being a judge.  Is that fair?  It‘s my “Closing Argument”.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  The defense has rested in the trial of former NBA star Jayson Williams.  Williams charged with aggravated manslaughter in connection with the death of his limousine driver Costas Christofi.  Other charges for allegedly lying to cover up the shooting and trying to make it look like a suicide.  Williams‘ lawyers called four witnesses.  Their goal?  To show that the gun misfired in Williams‘ hand and that the shooting was a mistake, not reckless behavior.

The prosecution called 36 witnesses.  Two said they heard Williams going on a tirade, uttering profanity at the drive before the gun went off.  Others said he tried to cover up the shooting by wiping down the gun and trying to put the victim‘s handprints on the weapon.  Another recalled Williams putting his hands on his head after the shooting saying, oh, my God, I messed up my life.

Nevertheless, this morning Williams announced he‘s not going to testify. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAYSON WILLIAMS, STANDING TRIAL FOR MANSLAUGHTER:  I understand my rights, under advice of my counsel I will not testify.  I‘m innocent.  I put my trust in God and I have great confidence in this jury. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  All right.  Let me ask the question to our legal team tonight

·         was that a mistake?  Former prosecutor Bill Fallon, criminal defense attorney Karen Russell and Court TV reporter and attorney Jean Casarez. 

All right Jean, let me start with you.  Were most people surprised that Williams is not testifying? 

JEAN CASAREZ, COURT TV ANCHOR:  A lot of people were very surprised because people have believed since Billy Martin in his opening told the jury you will hear, Jayson Williams will tell you, so everyone believed he was going to take the stand, but some of us, myself included, I didn‘t believe it because there have been many things that have not come true from that opening, and I just wasn‘t sure they were going to take that risk. 

ABRAMS:  Well but Jean, it sounds like this is a defense in trouble.  I mean what you‘re saying is they haven‘t followed up on other things that they promised to this jury.  Now Jayson Williams isn‘t testifying, maybe because of the strength of the prosecution‘s case that certain things he just can‘t explain? 

CASAREZ:  Well there are things he can‘t explain because if they put Jayson Williams on the stand—remember in the prosecution‘s case all of the eyewitnesses have come to the center of the courtroom and the prosecutors have given them the actual gun and they‘ve said show us what Jayson Williams did that night.  If Jayson Williams took the stand, they‘d put him in the center of the courtroom, say here‘s the gun, what‘d you do that night?  Show it to us.  After that they‘d go into gun safety, talking about drinking that night and coming home and selecting one out of four guns that were loaded already in your gun cabinet, opening it up, flipping it shut, when you had people in the room.  And then they‘d go beyond that to a 1994 incident where he admitted that he had a pistol in the Continental Arena parking lot and it accidentally discharged, accident, and so there‘s just too much I think.

ABRAMS:  Karen Russell, you know this just seems like this is a guy who is in big trouble. 

KAREN RUSSELL, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY:  I disagree. I mean I think that conventional wisdom is that he is in trouble, and I think Billy Martin may have made a mistake by over promising and under delivering, but maybe they feel like that they did a good job.  And I think that the gun testimony was very compelling.  I think they did a great job of discrediting the liars who made deals to put Jayson behind bars and so maybe they‘re optimistic and they didn‘t need to put Jayson on.  But I do agree with Jean that would have been very dangerous and he would have, you know opened up the character issue and then brought in the dog killing and all this other stuff.  So, I understand why it happened, but I think it‘s a little too early to be measuring...

ABRAMS:  Oh, it‘s not too early at all.  It‘s the end of the case.  This is exactly the time we‘re supposed to be evaluating.  We‘ve heard the prosecution‘s case.  We‘ve heard the defense‘s case and now we hear that Jayson Williams...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  ... isn‘t testifying.

RUSSELL:  ... the defense has done a very good job at showing that Gus was further away and maybe he wasn‘t in Jayson‘s line of sight and that you know, there is evidence on both sides that he was berating or not berating and I don‘t know that the judge can...

ABRAMS:  Really?

RUSSELL:  ... the defense‘s case can be proven beyond a reasonable doubt...

ABRAMS:  Jean...

RUSSELL:  ... and I think at a minimum we may not get to reckless.  I think we may get to aggravated, that we may only be looking at reckless...

ABRAMS:  Jean, has the defense done as good a job as Karen is suggesting? 

CASAREZ:  Well I think the defense believes they have and I think that they have created that reasonable doubt in their eyes with the dirt and the gook and the grime in the gun.  And also, the witnesses...

RUSSELL:  The debris.

CASAREZ:  ... they all lied.  Every single person lied and every single person made a deal or was granted use immunity and there is so much inconsistency.  But on the other hand there is so much consistency in the testimony.

FALLON:  You know Dan, let me just say we all want these perfect cases.  I think it was almost a Perry Mason moment when we proved how bad the gun was.  On the other hand, it‘s fascinating where the defendant doesn‘t take the stand, if he is in fact found guilty, there‘ll be an appeal because (UNINTELLIGIBLE) ineffective assistance counsel because the defense attorney promised them that.  I think if I‘m in a jury  I‘d want to hear from him because guess what, his attorney told me I would hear from him.  No matter...

RUSSELL:  And the judge is going to give an instruction that he has a constitutional right not to take the stand and it shouldn‘t be held against him...

FALLON:  Absolutely Karen.  But I‘m saying, as you well know, if you say that, that‘s the number one reason we always get ineffective assistance.  The counsel claims after the fact to say, oh, my poor client shouldn‘t be penalized because I fouled up here.  And that‘s exactly what I think the problem is.  I‘ll tell you Jayson Williams, they must know something we didn‘t know, because when he does all those interviews he is certainly a compelling witness.  He finds Jesus now, it saved Mel Gibson, maybe he thinks it‘s going to save him, but I‘m telling you I am not as convinced...

RUSSELL:  He may have been a compelling witness just in the courtroom...

(CROSSTALK)

RUSSELL:  ... you heard that that clerk got booted because she found...

(CROSSTALK)

RUSSELL:  ... him so charming.  So maybe it was enough for him to be sitting there.  And I think you know it‘s so unfair to say, make fun of him finding Jesus...

ABRAMS:  All right...

RUSSELL:  (UNINTELLIGIBLE) it‘s just unfair to mock him for that.  I think it‘s...

ABRAMS:  We shall see. 

RUSSELL:  ... sincere.

ABRAMS:  We shall see.  Karen Russell, Bill Fallon, and Jean Casarez, thanks a lot.

Coming up, my “Closing Argument” on a New York State Supreme Court judge on trial for drunk driving.  Seems to be playing the race card and guess what, even if she‘s convicted she still will probably remain a judge.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  My “Closing Argument”—a real travesty of justice, coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  My “Closing Argument” - a justice on trial that‘s become a real travesty of justice.  In July 2002, New York State Supreme Court Justice Donna Mills was arrested after she hit two parked cars in a parking lot with her dad‘s Rolls Royce.  She allegedly reeked of alcohol, had difficulty standing, allegedly slurred her words.  She then refused a sobriety test and yet she is still hearing cases. 

Now, before even talking about the trial, a citizen has a right to refuse a sobriety test, as does a judge.  But since a citizen at least gets his or her license suspended, I say this judge should have been suspended from the bench pending the outcome of her trial.  Everyone else gets a certain presumption of guilt when you refuse a sobriety test, so should she, but it gets worse.  The judge is now claiming that the black and Hispanic officers who arrested her only targeted her because she‘s black. 

The defense didn‘t present any evidence to support that.  The prosecution called police officers to talk about drunk Judge Mills was and then the most important witness, a business associate testified that she drank with Mills all night, that the judge staggered to her car, needed help to cross the street and the associate says she begged Mills not to get behind the wheel.  After trying to get out of a parking space five or six times, the judge allegedly just hit the cars while police officers watched. 

Now the biggest travesty, even if she‘s convicted, she likely doesn‘t lose her $136,000 a year job as a judge.  The state commission on judicial conduct almost always just scolds judges accused of this conduct, even drunk driving.  Well I would hope this is a case for an exception.  If she is convicted, this is not just a drunk driving case.  It‘s a case of a judge who tried to use the race card, who tried to manipulate the system to avoid responsibility for her actions.  That‘s not the sort of person who should be judging anyone. 

Your e-mails abramsreport@msnbc.com.  Please include your name and where you‘re writing from.  I‘m sorry we didn‘t get a chance to get to those today, but we will tomorrow. 

Coming up next, “HARDBALL” with Chris Matthews.”  Chris has controversial former terror czar Richard Clarke on for the full hour. 

Thanks for watching.  See you tomorrow. 

END   

Copy: Content and programming copyright 2004 MSNBC.  ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.  Transcription Copyright 2004 FDCH e-Media, Inc.  (f/k/a Federal Document Clearing House Inc., eMediaMillWorks, 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 FDCH e-Media, Inc.‘s copyright or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,