updated 4/20/2004 10:22:56 AM ET 2004-04-20T14:22:56

Guests:  Stacey Honowitz, Jeralyn Merritt, Gary Casimir, John Urquhart, Ken McKenna, James Comey

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

DAN ABRAMS, HOST:  Hi everyone.  For the first time, the mother of the woman accusing Kobe Bryant of rape speaks out, telling a crowd she admires her daughter‘s courage.  Her words and our reaction coming up. 

Plus, a Nevada mother whose son died while drinking and driving now suing Coors Brewing Company, saying it was her son‘s favorite beer and the company should be held responsible.  How are they responsible?  We‘ll talk with her lawyer.

And a story we brought you last week, a serial child molester who has admitted to raping or molesting more than 200 young children released from prison on a technicality.  Residents along the West Coast fearing he might strike again.  Well, over the weekend he was arrested on a minor charge, but the question—how long can authorities keep him behind bars?  We‘ll talk to the Seattle police chief. 

But first, tonight for the first time, the mother of Kobe Bryant‘s accuser speaking out.  Her parents at an event in Denver observing National Crime Victims Rights Week, also in attendance, the man prosecuting Kobe Bryant, Eagle County District Attorney Mark Hulbert.  In a short statement the alleged victims‘ mother staunchly supported her daughter. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Victims‘ rights are about protecting and supporting people in their struggle to reclaim their lives.  Victims‘ rights are about changing and rewriting laws to give victims equal protection under the law.  I want to thank my daughter for teaching me about courage.  I‘m proud to be her mom.  Keep fighting, keep trying, keep supporting victims‘ rights.  We can have a positive impact.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Even though this is the first public appearance by the family, it is not the first time we‘ve heard from them.  In a letter to the court last month, the alleged victims‘ mother pleaded with the judge to set a trial date, saying her daughter can‘t get on with her life until the case is over.  My take—and by the way, we‘re going to start doing this on a lot of these stories—I‘m going to tell you my take so there‘s no ambiguity and you know exactly what I‘m thinking going into it. 

I say it‘s about time that the family went public.  Her daughter has been getting slammed by the defense and in the tabloid media and I think if she believes she‘s being mistreated, she should stick it to them.  Let‘s bring in our “A” team—Stacey Honowitz, Broward County Florida prosecutor who works in the sex crimes and child abuse unit there, criminal defense attorney Jeralyn Merritt who says that by speaking out, the mother, she thinks is in violation of the gag order, and Gary Casimir who is a civil and criminal litigator.

All right, Stacey, let me start with you.  So, the mother is coming out finally.  I say it‘s about time.  I think that if they feel that she‘s been mistreated all this time, she should have come out a long time ago. 

STACEY HONOWITZ, ASST. FLORIDA STATE ATTORNEY:  I agree.  I mean this is a time for the mother to speak.  She‘s not violating the gag order.  She‘s not speaking about the facts of the case.  She‘s speaking about the general mental, you know, problems that her daughter is going through and saying that she‘s a victim, we want equal protection, we want it to come to an end.  We want her to be treated fairly and she has every right in the world to come out and speak on her behalf. 

ABRAMS:  Jeralyn Merritt, what do you make of it?

JERALYN MERRITT, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY:  What I think is that the mother should not be discussing the details of the case.  The judge issued a gag order...

ABRAMS:  What details is she discussing? 

MERRITT:  I don‘t know that she did.  I didn‘t hear the press conference before.  When you said that I had said she had violated the gag order...

ABRAMS:  All right.

MERRITT:  ... that was in reference to if she had discussed details of the case.  Now I also think we need to keep a few things in mind about the mother, which is one, she‘s calling her daughter a victim, but her daughter has not yet been found to be a victim.  In fact, her daughter is at this stage only an accuser.  So the Victims‘ Rights Act does not really apply to her.  And I also think that she is prejudicing the jury pool and that is the reason why she shouldn‘t be doing what she is doing.  Trials take place in courtrooms; they don‘t take place in living rooms...

HONOWITZ:  If the defense...

MERRITT:  ... and there is plenty for the jury—the defense has not spoken.  They‘re under a gag order...

ABRAMS:  Not true.

HONOWITZ:  That‘s not true.  The defense talks...

MERRITT:  They speak through pleadings...

HONOWITZ:  ... about Kobe Bryant all the time. 

MERRITT:  They speak through pleadings.  They do not speak to the press and I do—and they do not speak to the public and I think that this woman, this mother while she may be upset and believe totally in her daughter, should recognize that we‘re in a criminal justice system here, Kobe has rights also, we should try this case in a courtroom. 

ABRAMS:  Gary Casimir, what do you make of this?

GARY CASIMIR, CIVIL & CRIMINAL LITIGATOR:   Well there‘s no doubt the mother is reaching out to the public and getting sympathy for her daughter.  There‘s no doubt that has an effect.  The daughter may not be speaking, they may not be speaking about the facts of the case, but there‘s no doubt your heart goes out to any mother whose daughter has gone through this, alleged victim or victim. 

But there is some sense that this message is coming from the daughter in the case.  Second of all, there are victims‘ rights that she has that Kobe doesn‘t have.  Her name has been protected.  Her picture gets blurred out and news organizations do that voluntarily, so there is some level of protection.  While Kobe is trying to live his life as an innocent man, is not allowed those protections. 

HONOWITZ:  You know it‘s so interesting that they could malign her in the press, they could say terrible things about her, they can call her and make her out to be a slut and that‘s what they‘re trying to do and then the mother comes forward and says I believe in her, I believe that she‘s a victim and why should we take that away from her.  She‘s the one that‘s living with the daughter.  She knows what she‘s going through.

CASIMIR:  Well there‘s nothing wrong...

HONOWITZ:  I don‘t think she‘s doing anything to violate.  She‘s not talking about the facts of the case.  She‘s saying...

CASIMIR:  Well there‘s nothing wrong...

HONOWITZ:  ... my daughter is going through. 

CASIMIR:  ... with the mom speaking.

ABRAMS:  Gary, what about—let me ask you this. 

CASIMIR:  (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

ABRAMS:  This is a ceremony to honor victims‘ rights, so to speak, and they had other people who had been victims of rape, et cetera.  What do you make of the fact that Mark Hulbert, the D.A., is present there as the mother is speaking.  Any problem with that?

CASIMIR:  Well, the problem is it does take the jury‘s mind because it legitimizes the daughter‘s case.  It says that we believe in her.  She did it.  I‘m not saying she may not have the right to do it, but it surely formalizes the situation and makes it more credible that this did happen to her.  I understand that the gag order is not in effect over the mother, and the mother has a right to speak over her child, but to think that this has no effect is just not true.

MERRITT:  Well, but wait a minute...

CASIMIR:  And you know it‘s not true.

MERRITT:  ... the mother has been called, has been subpoenaed by a—as a witness by the defense...

ABRAMS:  All right...

MERRITT:  ... and the gag order applies to witnesses...

ABRAMS:  Let me...

MERRITT:  ... so I think she is covered.

ABRAMS:  Just so we‘re clear, let‘s play again—this is the only relevant sound, she spoke for a minute, one minute.  And what I‘m going to play again is the only really even—she thanked a few people, that‘s about it.  But here‘s the sound again that was relevant, the 30 seconds of the one minute she spoke. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Victims‘ rights are about protecting and supporting people in their struggle to reclaim their lives.  Victims‘ rights are about changing and rewriting laws to give victims equal protection under the law.  I want to thank my daughter for teaching me about courage.  I‘m proud to be her mom.  Keep fighting, keep trying, keep supporting victims‘ rights.  We can have a positive impact. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Jeralyn, how is that arguably even a violation of any gag order?

MERRITT:  I‘m not sure it‘s a violation of the gag order.  She didn‘t address the specifics of the case, but let me tell you, she sure polluted the jury pool. 

ABRAMS:  Oh come on...

MERRITT:  She‘s sure endorsing her daughter as a victim.  She uses the word we as if she and her daughter are victims, and that is what the jury has to decide, not her.  And for the prosecutor to sponsor her at a crime victims‘ day celebration in Colorado when Colorado is where this jury is going to be picked I think is ill advised and poor judgment.

ABRAMS:  Stacey...

HONOWITZ:  Do you think a jury is really going to be concerned about the fact that a mother is supporting her child through some...

CASIMIR:  Absolutely.

HONOWITZ:  ... an ordeal like this?

CASIMIR:  Absolutely. 

HONOWITZ:  ... a jury is not going to find...

(CROSSTALK)

CASIMIR:  Absolutely.

HONOWITZ:  A jury is not going to find Kobe Bryant guilty because the mother of the victim came forward and said I support my daughter. 

(CROSSTALK)

HONOWITZ:  Any parent in the world would do that. 

(CROSSTALK)

MERRITT:  It‘s whether or not they come to the table with a clean slate...

ABRAMS:  All right.

MERRITT:  ... whether or not the playing field is even when they start and this makes...

ABRAMS:  You know...

MERRITT:  ... the playing field uneven. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  I say there was absolutely nothing wrong with this.  I think it‘s perfectly fine for the mother to go out and speak and defend her daughter regardless of what you think about this case and it‘s certainly not a violation of the gag order.  My legal team is not going anywhere. 

Coming up, the serial rapist who admitted to molesting more than 200 children, he was out due to a legal technicality.  Over the weekend, he was arrested, not on molestation charges.  So we ask, how long will they be able to keep him and why can‘t they charge him for one of the 200-plus cases he says that he was involved in?

Plus, can a beer company be held responsible for the death of a 19-year-old boy because he was drinking and driving?  His family says yes.  I don‘t get it, but we‘ll talk to their lawyer coming up. 

And controversial parts of the Patriot Act set to expire next year. 

The administration now going on the offensive trying to get it extended.  We‘ll talk with the deputy attorney general and incidentally, he filed the charges against Martha Stewart as well.   We‘ll ask him if he thinks she‘ll get a new trial. 

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Coming up, a serial child molester walking free due to a legal technicality, now back in custody, but maybe not for long.   What‘s going on?  Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  An update now on a story we first told you about last week.  A serial child rapist set free on a technicality after being convicted of chaining a 16-year-old boy in the desert, raping him in a California motel room.  And the boy apparently was far from the first. 

In a letter to his therapist Edward Stokes admitted—quote—“For the past 26 years, I have used and abused the small, helpless and weak.   Over 212 young people in the form of fondling, sexual abuse and rape.”

But Stokes‘ conviction was overturned because his accuser committed suicide before the defense could cross-examine him about new discrepancies in his story.  Earlier this month, Stokes left prison and then disappeared, but late last week police in the Seattle area discovered he had given a false address while applying for a driver‘s license.  They issued a felony arrest warrant and Stokes was picked up Sunday in Oregon. 

I‘m joined again by Sergeant John Urquhart, the spokesperson for the King County Sheriff‘s Office near Seattle.  Sergeant, thanks again for coming back on the program.  All right...

SGT. JOHN URQUHART, KING CO. SHERIFF SPOKESPERSON:   Thank you Dan.

ABRAMS:  ... how did you get him?

URQUHART:  He was in a laundromat in Gresham, Oregon and a citizen recognized him from all the publicity, called the Gresham police and they picked him up a few minutes later. 

ABRAMS:  Now how long is he facing?  I mean are you going to be able to hold him on this?  This is a pretty minor charge you got him on. 

URQUHART:  I‘d like to say that we‘ll keep him in jail for a long time, but I would be surprised if he did any significant jail time, much less prison time. 

ABRAMS:  Wow! And explain, you know, to the lay people out there, why is it people say there are 211 other cases out there, you know he grew up in the Seattle area, why can‘t they try and track down some of the other victims?  He gave some names, some first names at least in his—quote—

“manifesto”.  Why can‘t you get him on some of these other charges?

URQUHART:  Well, as we found out in the state of California, we need a victim to be able to convict him and we don‘t have any more victims that he hasn‘t already been charged with those crimes.  Hopefully from all this publicity we‘ll get some victims that come forward that know what went on and are willing to testify.  Remember that he preyed on homeless youth, teenagers, people that had run away from home, that were hitch hiking, that may not be missed, they may not want to talk about even after all this long period of time.  He‘s been in jail for the last eight years in California.  We really do hope that some other victims come forward.  The other thing the police departments are doing in Washington and Oregon is looking at their old cases that they had where he was a suspect but never charged and hopefully they may be able to come up with some charges out of those old cases. 

ABRAMS:  You know Sergeant it‘s not that often we talk about these cases, a lot of these cases are an outrage as a matter of sort of justice, but this case, this guy is a real danger to the community, isn‘t he? 

URQUHART:  He certainly appears to be.  If in fact he ends up he registering as a sex offender in the state of Washington, at least in King County, we would expect to classify him as a level three sex offender, and level three means very—highly likely, very likely to reoffend.  We certainly expect that he will do that and he‘s been out of jail for what, less than two weeks, and as you probably know, he bought an ambulance down in Oregon over the weekend.  Why was he buying this ambulance?

ABRAMS:  Sergeant, stick around for a minute, all right.  I want to bring in my legal panel here.  We‘re talking about a man who wrote about himself—quote—“I have become the monster that every parent warns his children about”.  The question—why can‘t we do more about this?  Let‘s bring back the legal panel.  Stacey Honowitz, why can‘t they do more? 

HONOWITZ:  Well the only way that they‘re going to be able to do more is if they get victims, like the sergeant said, to come forward.  They‘re not going to go through and track down people that only gave first names.  If somebody sees this, if somebody knows some information, if somebody was a victim years ago...

ABRAMS:  But you can‘t use his confession at all in any way, the fact that he says...

HONOWITZ:  No...

ABRAMS:  ... I abused over 200 kids? 

HONOWITZ:  No, you know, in cases you need a corpus and you can‘t...

(CROSSTALK)

HONOWITZ:  ... confessing without the corpus...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  Wait a second.  Cases are prosecuted all the time where they can‘t find the alleged victim‘s body and they still prosecute...

HONOWITZ:  But you have other...

ABRAMS:  ... someone for murder. 

HONOWITZ:  Right, but you have other evidence and at least I know in Florida you can never admit just the confession without having any other evidence.  If there‘s medical evidence, there‘s somebody else that witnessed something, then you might have a shot, but in this case...

(CROSSTALK)

HONOWITZ:  ... you really don‘t. 

ABRAMS:  Gary Casimir, let me read you more from this letter to his therapist. 

I was becoming more violent after each release from prison.  I‘m scared of what my next action might be and how far I have might go if my pattern continues.  He goes on—I like to seduce and coerce young boys and men for my own pleasure and that I don‘t give a damn about what I‘m putting them through. 

That‘s not—I mean, you can‘t do anything with this information?

CASIMIR:  (UNINTELLIGIBLE) it sounds animalistic.  Is castration available?  I mean you know they have a one-strike law out in Washington and I wonder if that played a role in the judge‘s mind.  Generally a lot of judges will look for evidence beyond the cross-examination material to see if they could have kept this guy in jail.  I‘m wondering if the one-strike rule that says you have to go to jail for life after one incident of this kind occurs, may have played a role in it.  It‘s hard to imagine that this man is loose and is walking around even though he‘s admitting to the kind of things that he could do and still will do on just impulse. 

ABRAMS:  I find this so frustrating.  Jeralyn, I know—let me just explain to the viewers, again a reminder, the reason that this guy got out on this charge was because before the trial, the boy dies and they‘d already cross-examined him, but new information came out that the defense said we‘re entitled to cross-examine him about this new information to show that there were discrepancies.     My problem—those discrepancies have nothing to do with whether this guy molested the boy and here‘s why.  Because during the trial, we found out they found handcuffs, leg irons, padlocks in his home, a defendant‘s friend corroborated the story.  Another boy testified about sodomy performed on him.  He‘d been convicted multiple times.  I mean Jeralyn, this is a real travesty.

MERRITT:  Well, I disagree with you that it‘s a technicality.  The right to cross-examine one‘s accuser is one of the bedrocks of our constitutional system.

ABRAMS:  But any time you talk about the bedrock...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  ... of the Constitution and it doesn‘t relate to the specifics of this case...

MERRITT:  It does...

ABRAMS:  ... to me is a technicality.

MERRITT:  Well, Dan, you‘re wrong.  Dan, let me finish.  You‘re wrong because one of the issues in this case is whether the new information about this young accuser who then committed suicide are not only are his statements inconsistent, but the inconsistencies may go to the issue of whether or not he consented to have sex with this man.  If he consented to have sex with this man, then maybe he wasn‘t guilty of the crime that he was charged with.  So you may have a case where he wasn‘t guilty of the crime.  You cannot...

ABRAMS:  He...

MERRITT:  ... deprive someone of their Sixth Amendment rights just because you don‘t...

ABRAMS:  ... told a friend...

MERRITT:  ... like the victim—the accuser...

ABRAMS:  He told a friend about how he went to the desert and basically chained up some kid to scare the heck out of him. 

MERRITT:  That wasn‘t this kid. 

ABRAMS:  That corroborates the story that the kid told. 

MERRITT:  But this kid, OK...

ABRAMS:  This kid. 

MERRITT:  The courts in Washington have vacated the conviction.  They have said he did not get a fair trial under the Sixth Amendment.  He was denied his right of confrontation. 

ABRAMS:  Yes, I know...

MERRITT:  You may not like the result, but don‘t blame it on the system.  The system...

ABRAMS:  No, I do blame—I‘ll tell you...

MERRITT:  ... has to be the same for everyone.

ABRAMS:  ... I understand it and I have to tell you, even after reading the opinion as a legal matter, I do understand it.  It is still incredibly frustrating, particularly with all the corroborating evidence.  Stacey Honowitz, doesn‘t this drive you crazy? 

HONOWITZ:  Well of course it does.  I mean anybody can look at this case, any person on the street and say how is this guy out, this guy is an animal, but there‘s nothing that you can do and there‘s the right to confront the witness against you.  The court is saying listen, they have to be able to know what this kid said.  If he consented to sex, so while we can all look at this and say it‘s disgusting, the courts have to follow basically the Constitution. 

CASIMIR:  Is there any way possible we can look at it a little differently, since the harm here is so egregious?  Could we treat these guys a little differently than other defendants?  Is that a possibility...

ABRAMS:  And also because you have corroborating evidence, that can—the prosecutors argued in this case because we have so much corroboration, this doesn‘t go to the ultimate question of guilt or innocence and as a result it becomes sort of irrelevant, you know, important but not particularly relevant issue.  This case just makes me crazy, I have to tell you.  The fact that there‘s a guy who has confessed to over—molesting over 200 children and we‘re all sitting here saying you know what, there‘s nothing we can do about it, the guy is going to get out, I mean it‘s just infuriating...

HONOWITZ:  Well it‘s not a matter of saying—I mean what are we supposed to do?  Everybody knows that he should be behind bars for the rest of his life, but when the court...

(CROSSTALK)

HONOWITZ:  ... looks down and says there‘s a right to confrontation, there is nothing you can do.  The issues are collateral.  They are irrelevant.  I don‘t know why the court with all the—with the confession and the corroboration wouldn‘t keep him, but they have to abide by what the Constitution says. 

ABRAMS:  This guy has a rap sheet...

MERRITT:  And he may...

ABRAMS:  This guy has a rap sheet...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  This guy...

MERRITT:  I mean we don‘t know that he committed this offense 200 times.  We know he said he did. 

ABRAMS: He—oh that‘s right. 

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  Wait, wait.  I love that. 

MERRITT:  ... confess all the time.

ABRAMS:  Right.

MERRITT:  People will confess to things that they didn‘t do.  Maybe he wanted to seem more dangerous than he really was. 

ABRAMS:  Well you know what...

MERRITT:  So I don‘t take him at his word.

ABRAMS:  ... if he wants to seem dangerous, I‘m happy to take him on his word on that.  Let me give you his rap sheet.  Do we have a full screen of his rap sheet because I have a list here?  Yes or no?  All right.  We don‘t. 

Anyway, ‘76, ‘80, ‘86, ‘87, ‘91, ‘93, ‘93, ‘95 sex abuse, sex abuse, sex abuse, indecent liberties, kidnapping, child sex, child sex, furnishing liquor to a minor.  I mean this guy has been doing it his whole life. 

MERRITT:  Well...

ABRAMS:  Sergeant...

MERRITT:  ... but you have to punish someone for the crime they‘re convicted of.  You can‘t punish someone for a crime that they haven‘t been charged or convicted of and they can recharge him if they have enough evidence to convict him...

(CROSSTALK)

MERRITT:  ... and in the other cases if they‘re not beyond the statute of limitations, they can charge...

ABRAMS:  If there are...

MERRITT:  ... him with other cases. 

ABRAMS:  ... any families out there who are reluctant to come forward, and I can understand why you would be, you need to do it to protect everyone else.  Because as the sergeant pointed out a moment ago, they‘re probably going to have to release this guy almost immediate—I mean Sergeant what would you estimate, let‘s even assume he‘s found guilty or pleads to the charge that you charged him with, with filing the false driver‘s license, how long would you estimate this guy is going to be behind bars?      

URQUHART:  Well, Dan, first of all, he‘s in jail right now in Monomer (ph) County held on a fugitive warrant.  He can bail out on that.  He does have some means, so conceivably he could get out of jail today or tomorrow.  If that doesn‘t happen, he‘ll be extradited back to Washington in a few days.  He‘ll go before a judge, again, he can bail out on these two felony charges, but they‘re Class C felonies.  They‘re fairly minor. 

There‘s no way to predict what kind of a jail sentence he‘s going to get.  In the state of Washington, the legislature sets a sentencing range and the judge is not allowed to go outside that without...

(CROSSTALK)

URQUHART:  ... very good reason.  It may or may not happen.  A couple of things that were said a few minutes ago is Washington does not have a one-strike you‘re outlaw at all, unlike California.  There was one in this last session of the Washington legislature, it died.  It didn‘t get out of committee.  Maybe this particular case might change that. 

ABRAMS:  All right. 

HONOWITZ:  You just got to pray that somebody comes forward...

ABRAMS:  Yes and again, you know, Sergeant says call 911.  On our Web site, we have the number for the D.A. who‘s prosecuting this case.  Anyway this case just—this guy scares me.  He scares the heck out of me and I‘m really hoping someone else comes forward.  Sergeant, thanks a lot for your time.  Our legal...

URQUHART:  Thank you Dan.

ABRAMS:  ... team is going to stick around. 

Coming up, your e-mails.  Many of you wrote in expressing outrage that Stokes was out on the streets.  I‘ll read some of them at the end of the show. 

Plus, a 19-year-old boy dies in a drinking and driving accident.  His mother says he was drinking his favorite beer Coors. Now she is suing Coors, saying the advertisements like these promote reckless underage drinking.  Come on, holding the company responsible for her 19-year-old‘s actions.  We‘ll talk to the lawyer.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Welcome back.  A few years ago, 19-year-old Ryan Pisco was killed in a car accident.  He had been drinking beer at a party and borrowed his girlfriend‘s car, which he later drove into a light pole apparently at about 90 miles an hour.  Now his family is suing a number of people and organizations, including Coors Brewing Company, which makes the beer that Ryan Pisco allegedly was drinking the night he died.  They say Coors promotes underage drinking in its advertisements and sponsorships and that the company should be held responsible for Ryan‘s death.

Quote—“Coors actions were a direct and proximate cause of the death of plaintiff Pisco by targeting him with the images of conquest achievement and success and promoting underage consumption of their product.” 

Again, we‘re going to do my take.  My take—Coors doesn‘t promote underage drinking.  In fact, they warn against it and just because they have compelling advertisements, that doesn‘t mean the family of a 19-year-old who drank too much beer is entitled to sue the company. 

Joining me now is Ken McKenna, attorney for Jodie Pisco, Ryan Pisco‘s mother, who is bringing the case against the Coors Brewing Company.  Mr.  McKenna, thank you for coming on the program.  I like to put out my position there...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  ... to be honest with my viewers so you know and they know where I‘m coming from on it—your response. 

KEN MCKENNA, ATTORNEY FOR MOTHER SUING COORS:  Well I appreciate that

position and it kind of reminds me of the thoughts people had about alcohol

·         or about tobacco 20 years ago, that if you smoked a cigarette you should know you‘re going to get cancer.  You know, it‘s time for alcohol distributors and manufacturers to pay the price for the destruction their products do.  It‘s $115 billion-a year industry; $10 billion a year are made from underage drinkers.  That‘s $10 billion they‘re making people under 21 drinking their product...

(CROSSTALK)

MCKENNA:  ... and when something like this happens...

ABRAMS:  But they...

MCKENNA:  ... they need to pay. 

ABRAMS:  But they‘re doing a lot—look, they put out these ads—

Coors puts out an ad, 21 means 21.  To get on their web site, you have to put in your year of birth, all their advertisements they say all the models are at least 25 years old.  I mean it sounds to me like what you‘re saying is no beer company should ever be able to advertise in any kind of compelling way because if they do and someone drives drunk, they‘re going to be held responsible and have to pay for it. 

MCKENNA:  I appreciate what Coors‘ policy is.  The problem is that‘s propaganda.  Coors advertises on college campuses.  Half the population is under 21.  Coors sponsors bicycle motocross.  The participants are 12 and 14 years old.  Coors sponsors wakeboarding.  The stars of wakeboarding are 19, 17 years old.  I have got a photograph of Peter Stewart holding up a can of beer on a wakeboard Web site, he‘s 19 years old.

So Coors can say they‘re responsible and being a good citizen, but the truth of the matter is they‘re promoting their product to underage drinkers so that they can hook them on their product at 17, 18, 19 years old and have them for customers until they‘re dead.  So, they...

(CROSSTALK)

MCKENNA:  ... can say what they want. 

ABRAMS:  But how...

MCKENNA:  The truth is they‘re promoting it. 

ABRAMS:  How is it any different than you suing a car company—let‘s say that he‘s driving a car, a sports car and that car is advertised in one of these cool ads where they‘re driving around curves and this and that and at the end it says, this is a stunt driver.  It seems to me that you could make the same argument that says oh you know what, they‘re targeting kids who like to drive fast because 70 percent of the kids who are—people arrested for speeding are young people, et cetera, et cetera. 

It just seems to me that once you start holding Coors responsible for the fact that this 19-year-old drank, and I get holding responsible people who served him alcohol, that to me is a non-issue.  I mean if they did, if they were responsible for it, I understand the legalities surrounding that.  I don‘t get how this is any different than, for example, fast car ads. 

MCKENNA:  Well, we hold all kinds of products responsible when they cause harm.  Tires that blow out, cars that are defective, exploding pop bottle cans...

ABRAMS:  But there‘s nothing defective about Coors...

MCKENNA:  In this country, if you make a product...

ABRAMS:  There‘s nothing defective about it. 

MCKENNA:  It‘s defective if you drink it when you‘re under 21.

ABRAMS:  Why isn‘t that the parents‘ responsibility, though? 

MCKENNA:  We have laws...

ABRAMS:  Why are you holding Coors responsible?  Why doesn‘t the mother say you know what, it‘s my fault for allowing him to drink as opposed to Coors. 

MCKENNA:  And let‘s look at the reality of that.  Mom tells you what to do, what not to do, but commercials and television and peer pressure and sponsorship have great influence.  Do you think moms in this country really want to pay $150 for a pair of tennis shoes?  But they do it.  Why?  Because the kids say I‘ve got to have that brand name.  Coors knows what they‘re doing.  They have a very strong brand name.  They promote it to underage drinkers and of course underage drinkers are going to drink it. 

ABRAMS:  All right.

MCKENNA:  It doesn‘t matter what mom says. 

ABRAMS:  That‘s fine, but as a legal matter, that doesn‘t seem to be much of a defense.  Ken McKenna, stick around.  I know some of our panelists want to get in on this.  And I want to hear some more of your thoughts on this topic.  When we come back, I‘ll let you defend the suit some more. 

Plus, does the man responsible for prosecuting the Martha Stewart case think she‘ll actually get a new trial?  I‘ll ask him in a rare interview. 

And don‘t forget your take on the show.  E-mails abramsreport@msnbc.com.  Please include your name and where you are writing from.  I‘ll talk about them at the end of the show.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  We‘re back.  I‘m joined again by Ken McKenna, attorney for a mother suing Coors Brewing Company, claiming the beer maker is at least partially responsible for her son‘s drunken driving death because they say the advertisements—quote—“glorify a culture of youth, sex, and glamour.”

Back with me are Broward County Prosecutor Stacey Honowitz, criminal defense attorneys Jeralyn Merritt and Gary Casimir.  All right, you all heard now Mr. McKenna make his case.  Let me start with Gary.  What do you make of the case here Gary? 

CASIMIR:  Well I think he may have a cause of action against the host of the party.  I see a, you know a direct nexus...

ABRAMS:  Right.

CASIMIR:  ... between being served alcohol and being underage...

ABRAMS:  I agree with you on that.

CASIMIR:  ... and possibly giving out the keys to the car and people were standing around.  But here you have Coors who was not at the party, who didn‘t sponsor this event.  There‘s a—I think there‘s a stretch beyond the imagination to say that Coors was directly responsible for this kid drinking.  Who knows, the owner of the party could have brought different beer.  Why did they buy Coors...

ABRAMS:  Well apparently...

CASIMIR:  ... unless they‘re saying that he brought the Coors himself...

ABRAMS:  No, they say...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  ... Mr. McKenna, am I right that your argument is that “A”, Coors was his favorite beer and “B” that you‘ve got evidence that he was drinking Coors that night, correct? 

MCKENNA:  Yes, that‘s correct.  Even being 19, he already had a favorite beer, which you have got to think about that. 

ABRAMS:  But that‘s his fault. 

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  Again, that‘s his mother‘s fault. 

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  I mean you know again, like the idea that that‘s Coors‘ fault is just shocking to me. 

MCKENNA:  Coors‘ fault because Coors advertises their products to young people.  That‘s the bottom line. 

HONOWITZ:  So does everybody. 

ABRAMS:  All right, who was that?  Stacey Honowitz, go ahead. 

HONOWITZ:  Yes, you can imagine the floodgates that will be opened if this cause of action actually goes through.  I mean to say—to hold them responsible, to reach as far as that I think is ludicrous.  I think—you can‘t even imagine what people are going to go after if Coors is found liable on something like this.  I mean you have a kid who assumed the risk, who obviously at age 19 knows what it‘s like to drink, knows that he shouldn‘t be drinking and driving and everyone seems to forget about the fact that he was going 90 miles an hour when this accident occurred.  And now you‘re going to try to blame it...

MCKENNA:  Well, he‘s going...

HONOWITZ:  ... on a beer company? 

ABRAMS:  Mr. McKenna...

MCKENNA:  He was going 90 miles an hour because he‘s drunk.  Because he‘s intoxicated from drinking Coors beer. 

MERRITT:  How do you distinguish...

MCKENNA:  ... Coors is responsible...

MERRITT:  ... between the Prozac and the beer?  How do you distinguish between Prozac...

MCKENNA:  Coors is...

MERRITT:  ... and the beer?

(CROSSTALK)

MCKENNA:  Coors is responsible because Coors markets to underage drinkers.  Now specifically, Coors just made a deal with Miramax Films where it has product placement in 15 films.  These are films starring Mike Myers, films starring Drew Barrymore, the film “Scary Movie”...

(CROSSTALK)

MCKENNA:  ... that is a PG-13 movie...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  Hang on.  Hang on.  Hang on.

MCKENNA:  Who goes...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  Hang on.

MCKENNA:  Who goes to a PG...

(CROSSTALK)

MCKENNA:  Who goes to a PG-13 movie? 

ABRAMS:  All right.

MCKENNA:  Not 21-year-old people...

ABRAMS:  All right, look...

MCKENNA:  ... so Coors knows exactly what they‘re doing. 

ABRAMS:  How about this?  If they promise not to advertise in any Drew Barrymore films...

(LAUGHTER)

ABRAMS:  ... would that then be satisfactory to you, Mr. McKenna?  I mean come on. 

MERRITT:  Dan...

MCKENNA:  Yes, I would prefer they not advertise to children age 13...

ABRAMS:  Yes.

MCKENNA:  ... and sponsor events for 12 and 14-year-olds. 

MERRITT:  Dan...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  Before I let...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  Hang on.  Before I let...

MCKENNA:  We‘re going to make them pay so they stop doing this. 

ABRAMS:  Before I let Jeralyn in, let me just tell you, I didn‘t—we picked a three-person panel with diverse views, I didn‘t intentionally pick a group that was going to all beat up on you.  It just so happens that on the other topics, they were...

MCKENNA:  I have no problem with it...

ABRAMS:  All right, Jeralyn...

MERRITT:  OK...

MCKENNA:  ... you know when you‘re doing something like this you expect to be beat up. 

MERRITT:  OK, well let me...

MCKENNA:  Ten years from now...

ABRAMS:  Jeralyn Merritt...

MCKENNA:  ... they will look back on this and they will hold Coors...

MERRITT:  OK, Dan...

MCKENNA:  ... and alcohol responsible just like tobacco. 

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  No, they won‘t.  Jeralyn...

MERRITT:  Dan...

MCKENNA:  Same thing.  Absolutely.

MERRITT:  OK, Dan...

ABRAMS:  Go ahead Jeralyn.

MCKENNA:  Mark my words. 

MERRITT:  Dan, these sporting events...

MCKENNA:  Pull this tape 10 years from now and I‘ll be the one that‘s right.

MERRITT:  Dan, these sporting events that he‘s talking about are also attended by adults.  Coors has a right to advertise at these sporting events.  There is no connection that he is going to be able to prove that Coors was a direct or proximate cause of this child‘s death.  He was also taking Prozac.  We don‘t know what caused his death, whether it was a combination of the alcohol and the Prozac or whether it was just the Prozac or whether it was this kid on his own just driving too fast...

ABRAMS:  Let me...

MERRITT:  ... but Coors does not market...

MCKENNA:  ... I‘ll take my chances with a jury...

MERRITT:  ... underage kids...

ABRAMS:  Let me read...

MERRITT:  ... we do not have prohibition in this country and you cannot hold Coors liable because this kid chose to drink more...

ABRAMS:  Right, I agree with you...

MERRITT:  ... than he should have and then engage in a dangerous act.

ABRAMS:  Let me read a little more from the complaint. 

Coors targets the youth of America with false images of conquest, achievement and success that are reckless, willful and a deliberate disregard for the impact of illegal alcohol consumption by underage youth.  They go on.  Coors sponsors and supports events that are attractive to minors and youthful persons, glorifying a culture of youth sex and glamour while hiding the dangers of alcohol abuse and addiction.

So, Mr. McKenna, I guess what you want is really old people in these advertisements who are all decrepit and gross sitting there with like a bunch of Coors looking horrible and saying (UNINTELLIGIBLE) this stuff is gross.

MCKENNA:  What I don‘t want is people that look 17, 18, and 19-year-old picking up girls and looking like life is wonderful because they have a Coors in their hand.  Coors is going to pay in this case.  We‘re asking for punitive damages. 

ABRAMS:  (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

MCKENNA:  We wants 10 percent of their net worth, which is $80 million, and then maybe they‘ll stop advertising and they will leave that $10 billion...

ABRAMS:  Let me read...

MCKENNA:  ... youth market alone.

ABRAMS:  Let me read...

(CROSSTALK)

MCKENNA:  ... $10 billion in illegal alcohol sales...

ABRAMS:  Let me read Coors...

MCKENNA:  ... in this country every year.

ABRAMS:  Let me read Coors statement.  A message from Pete Coors—we do not want our products consumed by anyone under the legal drinking age.  As I‘ve said for many years, if you‘re under the legal drinking age, we‘ll wait for your business.”

Was that Gary who wanted to jump...

(CROSSTALK)

CASIMIR:  Yes, I just want to say one thing. 

MCKENNA:  This is not true.

(CROSSTALK)

CASIMIR:  I think he‘s going to...

MCKENNA:  This is not true.

CASIMIR:  ... he‘s going to have a difficult time getting over emotions to dismissing this case.  But I want to back his argument in one instance.  If there is an occasion where they are sponsoring events where there‘s only young people, 14, 15-year-olds, he had a better case and they went to that event and got drunk at that event, then you could say there was a better nexus between Coors‘ advertisement, the kid drinking at the young event and then crashing, but here that doesn‘t exist. 

ABRAMS:  I‘ve got to...

MERRITT:  But Coors...

ABRAMS:  Hang on.  I‘ve got to wrap it up. 

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  You guys are going to...

(CROSSTALK)

MERRITT:  It would have been the distributor...

ABRAMS:  All right.

MERRITT:  ... or the person at the sporting event. 

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  Look, he‘s suing the distributor too Jeralyn...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  All right.  He‘s suing the distributor as well...

CASIMIR:  He‘s suing everybody.

ABRAMS:  Don‘t worry.  He‘s suing everybody who even had anything to do with this kid from the time he was 8 years old.  All right, Ken McKenna, thanks a lot for taking the time and taking the abuse. 

MCKENNA:  Hey, thank you.  Thank you.

ABRAMS:  Stacey Honowitz, Gary Casimir and Jeralyn Merritt, thanks a lot for...

MERRITT:  Thanks.

ABRAMS:  ... being our panel...

HONOWITZ:  Thank you.

ABRAMS:  Coming up, defending the Patriot Act.  President Bush says we need to review key provisions in the act that are set to expire.  I‘m going to talk to the deputy attorney general about it and he‘s also the one who filed the charges against Martha Stewart.  Does he think she‘ll get a new trial?

Plus, lots of e-mails on my “Closing Argument” Friday night—why Alabama Judge Roy Moore should foot the bill for fighting to keep the Ten Commandments in the Alabama Supreme Court.  It‘s coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  The terrorists declared war on the United States of America, and the Congress must give law enforcement all the tools necessary to protect the American people.  So I‘m starting today to call on the United States Congress to renew the Patriot Act and to make all of its provisions permanent. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  With some of the provisions in the Patriot Act set to expire next year, President Bush pushing for its support today in Hershey, Pennsylvania.  Tomorrow he goes to Buffalo to promote it again.  Certain provisions set to expire on December 31, 2005, and the president wants them renewed, specifically, making it easier to wiretap in terrorism related cases, as well as roving wiretaps, taps on any phone used by or close to the person being tapped.  Also set to expire, provision that makes it easier for various agencies to share wiretap and foreign intelligence information and one that allowed prosecutors to access certain personal information such as in certain cases employment records.  Earlier today I have spoke with Deputy Attorney General James Comey and asked him what is the most important provision that needs to be renewed.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JAMES COMEY, DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL:  That‘s an easy one.  The most important, the most groundbreaking and breathtaking change, in fact the only one in the Patriot Act, the destruction of the wall between Intel investigators and criminal investigators.  If that goes away and that wall goes back up, we‘ve got big problems. 

ABRAMS:  A lot of this relates to surveillance and the ability of the government to monitor what they believe are possible terrorists.  The critics have said it goes too far.  It allows, for example, surveillance of American citizens without much proof that authorities might be able to sneak in a request, not because the person is a possible terrorist, but just because they want to use a tool against the individual.  What do you say to that? 

COMEY:  The folks who say that need to take some time to understand how these tools work.  The surveillance that goes on under the Patriot Act visa (ph) authorities to do Intel searches requires federal judges to approve any search based on a written showing by a sworn affidavit by the FBI that establishes probable cause.  The same standard that‘s familiar to people from the criminal side, so the standards are not any different.  Judges are supervising it.  I just don‘t see that danger. 

ABRAMS:  But what about this—the section 215, often described as the library records provision.  This is basically saying the ACLU and others have said this can allow people to have access to employment records, medical records, even books you check out at the library. 

COMEY:  Yes.  For the life of me, I can‘t figure out how that got known as the library provision.  As you know, the word library doesn‘t appear anywhere in the Patriot Act.  What that is, is a provision that allows intelligence investigators to go to a federal court, file an affidavit saying they need certain records as part of an international terrorism investigation and get an order from a federal judge that allows them to get those records.  That‘s the kind of thing that we do every single day in criminal cases with one big difference. 

There‘s more judicial involvement in the Patriot Act authority because you have got to go to a federal judge.  In a criminal case, we can get those same records just with a grand jury subpoena issued by a federal prosecutor.  So, again I—there‘s been a lot of confusion about that, but it‘s a fairly simple tool that has tremendous procedural safeguards, especially when compared to our normal criminal work. 

ABRAMS:  And I think that‘s what people forget all the time, is I think people forget about the fact that it‘s not that the government can go do X, Y, or Z.  It‘s that the government can go to a court and get X, Y and Z with certain permission.  I think it‘s an important distinction.

Very quickly, Martha Stewart case, you were the prosecutor at the time who led the initial investigation into Martha Stewart.  You had left the office since then.  What do you make of all these appeals by the defense based on juror misconduct?  They‘re saying that they‘re going to get a new trial.  Any shot you think? 

COMEY:  Well, that‘s for the judge to decide.  These kinds of claims are frequently made, particularly in cases where the defendant has substantial resources to do post trial investigation.  From what I know of the case law, it‘s a mighty steep hill she‘s looking to climb, but that‘s for the judge to decide. 

ABRAMS:  They‘ve got no shot.  Come on, you know...

(LAUGHTER)

ABRAMS:  They have no shot on appeal...

(CROSSTALK)

COMEY:  ... you can say that...

ABRAMS:  I‘ve said it many times on this program that those appeals won‘t work. 

COMEY:  That‘s for Judge Cedarbaum to decide. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  James Comey, thank a lot.  Appreciate you coming on the program. 

COMEY:  Thanks Dan, great to be here.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ABRAMS:  Coming up, there‘s never a shortage of coverage when terrorists strike worldwide—like this time in Spain just weeks ago.  Coming up, why we need to talk more about the attacks that were prevented. 

It‘s my “Closing Argument”. 

Plus, should porn star Mary Carey be a permanent contributor to our show?  One of you thinks so—your e-mails coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Coming up, why it‘s time to appreciate the sometimes imminent terror attacks that have been stopped worldwide.  It‘s my “Closing Argument”, coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  My “Closing Argument”—why it‘s time to take a moment to appreciate the imminent terror attacks that have been stopped worldwide.  So often, we only seem interested when a terrorist succeeds.  How about when they don‘t?  When the authorities succeed.

Last week a possible chemical attack foiled in Jordan.  A group of Islamic terrorist nabbed in a series of arrests at their home.  Explosives and 20 tons of chemicals found.  King Abdullah said they intended to use explosive-packed cars and that thousands of lives were likely saved.  And we learned today that Saudi authorities arrested another eight suspects with three tons of explosives apparently intended for attacks on foreign embassies in Saudi Arabia. 

Three weeks ago, eight British citizens of Pakistani origin arrested in 24 raids around London, a half-ton of ammonium nitrate fertilizer seized.  Fertilizer that the authorities believe could have been used in an Oklahoma City like bomb or bombs.  At around the same time in the Philippines, the president there announced that a Madrid-style terror attack on the capital had been foiled with the arrest of four Islamic terrorists and the seizure of 36 kilograms of TNT. 

And as always is the case in Israel, they say they stopped 10 to 15 terror attacks in just the past few weeks, including one where the wannabe suicide bomber intended to use Aids-contaminated blood in the explosive.  And I‘m just talking about the last few weeks.  Now some can argue that in certain cases the authorities may be overstating just how imminent or dangerous the attacks might have been, but who cares?  There are any terror operations here and abroad that are succeeding and while it‘s important to cover the failures, it‘s also important to recognize the good, hard work that so many are doing to keep these attacks off the front pages and out of our lives. 

All right.  I‘ve had my say.  Now it‘s time for “Your Rebuttal”.  Last week, we told you about Edward Stokes.  We told you about him again today, convicted child molester, admitted to attacking more than 200 victims, yet was walking free over the weekend after a California appeals court threw out his conviction on what I describe as a legal technicality.  I told you earlier he was arrested on Sunday in Oregon after applying for a driver‘s license and giving a false address. 

Jess Woodward from Winston-Salem, North Carolina.  “The Stokes case is another example of our criminal justice system falling all over itself in order to give a defendant his Constitutional rights.  Doesn‘t the justice system also have a duty to protect the public from this pervert?  All of us are left to defend ourselves and our children from him.”  I agree completely with you that this man got off on a technicality. 

From North Providence, Rhode Island, Paul Hiatt.  “Please keep on this child molester case until we see him behind bars for good.  You would be doing so much for those of us who were molested as children.  Great show and great job.”  Thanks Paul.

And Michele Del Favero from Fort Leavenworth, Kansas—“Your advocacy for victims is greatly appreciated.  Keep following your own drummer.”

My “Closing Argument” on Friday that taxpayers of Alabama now being left to pay $550,000 in attorneys fees for rogue justice, Roy Moore‘s defiance of repeated court orders to remove that Ten Commandments monument from the Alabama Supreme Court.  I said Moore or his supporters should pay the fees that they did for the monument itself, not the taxpayers. 

Cathy Freelon seems to disagree.  “Your editorial on Judge Moore made me want to vomit.  Judge Moore can‘t let people know his opinion on the matter.  You make me sick.”

And from New York, Patricia Hirsch Hambrook.  “Are we not free to practice our beliefs in this country?  I am glad that this issue came up because I think we are all misreading the Bill of Rights in many instances and this is one of them.”

All right, both of you are missing the point.  As I said, he can think whatever he wants.  He can interpret the Constitution however he wants, but he cannot defy court orders, thereby forcing taxpayers to pay for his defiance. 

Lorri Mitchell from North Carolina gets it.  “Mr. Moore was within his rights to fight for what he believed in, but when he lost, he should have shown the humility that everyone who doesn‘t get their way learns at some point in their childhood, not to mention their profession.”

Finally, adult film star and former California gubernatorial candidate Mary Carey was on the show Friday to discuss a major porn star testing positive for HIV.  The porn industry effectively shut down for two months.  I said I was amazed that this did not happen before. 

Doug in Virginia—“You said you always wondered how porn stars had so much unprotected sex without catching anything.  Really?  Always wondered.  More than I wanted to know about you.”

And from San Francisco, California, Jim Keef—“Please, please make Mary Carey a regular on your show.  I‘m serious.  In your panel discussion she could represent the point of view of lesbians, bisexuals, porn stars and politics.”  Good idea, Jim. 

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

Coming up next, “HARDBALL” with Chris Matthews.  See you tomorrow.

END   

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