PoliticsNation, Tuesday, February 18th, 2014
Read the transcript from the Tuesday show
February 18, 2014
Guests: Allan Williams, John McNeil, Irving Joyner, John Wisniewski
REVEREND AL SHARPTON, MSNBC ANCHOR: Good evening, Ed. And thanks to you
for tuning in.
Tonight`s lead, the retrial of Michael Dunn. As lawyers for both sides get
ready for what could be a second murder trial, we`re learning more about
what Dunn was thinking and saying while he was in jail.
Newly released phone calls and letters reveal some disturbing comments Dunn
made after he shot and killed Jordan Davis. Dunn repeatedly says he fired
in self-defense, and insisted he was the victim.
Here is part of one phone call to his fiancee.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL DUNN, SHOT AND KILLED JORDAN DAVIS: I`m the victim here. I was
the one that was being preyed upon, and I fought back.
RHONDA ROUER, MICHAEL DUNN`S FIANCEE: Right.
DUNN: And, then, you know, it`s not quite the same, but it made me think
of like the old TV shows and movies where, like, how the police used to
think when a chick got raped. It was her fault because of the way she was
DUNN: And I`m like -- so it`s my fault because I asked them to turn their
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: He is comparing himself to a rape victim who was blamed for what
happened? And that wasn`t the only time he called himself a victim.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DUNN: You know, I was thinking about that today. I`m the (bleep) victim
here. I was the one who was victimized. I mean, I don`t know -- how I`m
to put it. Like they attacked me. I`m the victim. I`m the victor, but I
was the victim too.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: I`m the victor, but I was the victim too. What about Jordan
Davis, who would have turned 19 years old this week? Jordan`s parents
certainly think he`s the victim in this case. And here is what Dunn said
about his fellow inmates.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DUNN: So being in a room by myself kind of sucks, but I guess it would be
better than being in a room with the animals.
ROUER: Well, you know, they probably wouldn`t think too highly about what
is going on. And so it is best, but I can only imagine.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: He called the other people in jail animals. And that`s not all.
In a letter from jail, Dunn wrote, quote, "we were talking about how racist
the blacks are up here. The more time I`m exposed to these people, the
more prejudiced against them I become." And, quote, "this gangster rap
ghetto talking thug culture that certain segments of society flock to is
These phone calls and letters are shocking, but none of them were part of
the trial. The judge ruled they were irrelevant because they came after
the shooting. But prosecutors say they`ll pursue a new trial. Does that
mean we could see a new ruling? What about new arguments, new strategies?
How will both sides adjust to a new jury?
Joining me now are former prosecutor Faith Jenkins, Florida criminal
defense lawyer Ken Padowitz, and former prosecutor Marcia Clark. She is
also the author of "killer ambition."
Thank you all for being here.
MARCIA CLARK, FORMER PROSECUTOR: Thank you, Reverend.
KEN PADOWITZ, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Thank you.
FAITH JENKINS, FORMER CRIMINAL PROSECUTOR: Thank you.
SHARPTON: Faith, let me good to you first. Lawyers may understand why the
judge would not let jurors see these letters and hear these phone calls.
But to regular everyday people, it seems to defy common sense. Can you
explain this, why the judge wouldn`t let the jurors hear and read this?
JENKINS: Yes. Well, prior to the trial, Dunn`s attorney, Cory Strolla,
actually filed a motion called a motion eliminate to actually address these
issues with the judge and try to keep all of the statements and phone calls
out of court. He said that they were too inflammatory. They would be
unfairly prejudicial, and it would be impermissible character evidence
against to Michael Dunn.
And so, the judge looked at all the evidence, looked at the statements and
essentially made a judgment call here. The prosecutors argued that these
statements went to Michael Dunn`s state of mind even on the night of the
shooting when he used the term "thug music" before he started shooting. So
they argue that these statements were evidence of a certain racial animus
and bias that he held and so, therefore, they wanted to use them.
So, the judge ruled that the prosecutors could use some statements and not
others. And they gave them an opportunity to perhaps use them on cross-
examination if Dunn took the witness stand and testified and somehow opened
But in the end, the judge decided that allowing all of that evidence in
would probably be unfairly prejudicial, and he went and erred on the side
of caution and not having this issue that could be brought up on appeal,
SHARPTON: Marcia, other quotes from letters that Dunn wrote from jail
letter are now public. He says, quote, "this jail is full of blacks, and
they all act like thugs." Another quote, "this may sound a bit radical,
but if more people would arm themselves and kill these idiots when they`re
threatening you, eventually they may take the hint and change their
behavior." Arm themselves and kill these idiots, Marcia.
SHARPTON: Don`t comments like this shed some light on Dunn`s state of mind
when he shot and killed Jordan Davis, who was not armed?
CLARK: That would certainly be my argument, Reverend. This shows a state
of mind that is actually helpful to prove premeditation. It might even be
a state of mind helpful to prove a hate crime. And perhaps the prosecution
will rethink the charges that they bring if they go back and they go for a
retrial, they can add charges, especially, you know, if they follow Florida
procedure and add a hate crime. This seems to indicate there is some basis
for it, but at a bare minimum. It certainly shows a state of mind that is
highly relevant to premeditation and deliberation. They should arm
themselves and kill these thugs, and he is talking about thug music.
And let`s not forget, he is the one who provoked this confrontation. When
I hear him say he was the victim, excuse me? You`re the one, sir, who went
over to the car and started complaining about the music. They didn`t go to
you. So don`t talk to me about a victim and certainly don`t compare
yourself to a rape victim.
SHARPTON: Now, Ken, this young man was unarmed as far as we know. Of
course, we`re told by Mr. Dunn, he had a gun, no one ever found a gun, no
one corroborated a gun and he never told anyone, including his fiancee
about a gun. So how he comes back as a victim, we don`t know.
Prosecutors charged Dunn with first-degree murder. But they needed in
charging him with first-degree murder to prove premeditated design to cause
the death and convince 12 people of the jury of that. For second-degree
murder, they need to show proof of depraved mind, but no premeditation.
And in Florida, there would have been only six people on the jury. Should
Angela Corey change the charge to just second-degree murder or
PADOWITZ: Well, the state attorney in Jacksonville, Angela Corey held a
press conference, and she defended her charges in this case from the grand
jury and defended the first-degree murder charge. You know, she can defend
all she wants. This isn`t open to argument anymore. It`s already settled.
Twelve people sitting on a jury sent her a message. We might as well put
it in blinking lights in Times Square in New York. That message is count
two, count three, count four, we`re not buying attempted first-degree
murder. We`re coming back lesser. We find a reasonable doubt on attempted
first-degree murder. And so, they came back with the lesser crime, the
lesser included attempt of second-degree murder.
So the message is clear, the state attorney`s office in Jacksonville
overcharged this case. They could have charged second-degree murder. They
would have gotten a conviction for second-degree murder. And the jury has
already sent a verdict and the message to Angela Corey, you`ve overcharged
on counts two, three, and four. We`re coming back attempted second-degree
murder, not attempted first-degree murder that you got an indictment for.
So it`s clear here, Angela Corey is probably not going to change the
charges at this point in time. She is going to maintain that she made no
error, and she is going to go forward on the charges that were originally
placed before this jury.
SHARPTON: Now, faith, state attorney Angela Corey did say she hopes to
speak with some of the jurors. Watch. This.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANGELA COREY, FLORIDA STAT ATTORNEY: You all heard the judge say the
jurors are at liberty to speak with whomever they please. So we hope to
hear on them on what we could do better. Well frequently have had cases
where a juror will call the office and say I`d like to call you what we
talked about back there.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: Now, how could talking with the jury and the jurors affect with
a she goes in the second case, Faith?
JENKINS: Well, you have another opportunity here, basically, a second bite
at the apple to get justice for Jordan Davis. So they should absolutely
talk to the jurors and find out what the hang up was for this hung jury.
Did some jurors actually buy into and credit Dunn`s story of self-defense?
Or is it perhaps as what Ken just discussed, was it a discussion or a
debate between first degree, second degree or manslaughter? So you want to
get into the minds of those jurors, find out where the conflict was, what
was the reason that they couldn`t come to an agreement. Why did the jury
hang on that top count and make a decision and perhaps adjust your strategy
going forward into the second trial.
SHARPTON: Marcia, I`d be very interested in your thoughts on this. You`ve
been a prosecutor. Would you try it again on murder one, or would you drop
to murder two, or would you have stayed at murder two in the first place?
CLARK: Reverend, I would certainly proceed with murder one. I think that
there is ample evidence here for murder one. I disagree with Ken. I don`t
think that the verdict finding attempted second-degree murder is a
dismissal of the first -- murder in the first degree because the intent is
different. The intent that he had with respect to Davis, the actual victim
and the one that he fought with is one thing. The intent he had with
respect to others in the car whom he confronted belatedly and probably
didn`t realize where there is a different thing.
The fact that the jury did not acquit him of first-degree murder is
telling. I`d like to know what the count was. I`d like to know how the
jury hung. Was it 11-1 for acquittal on first degree? Was it 11-1 for
conviction on first degree? We don`t know that. But the fact that the
jury left the first degree on the table and did not acquit him of it is to
me evidence that they should proceed with. I certainly would.
SHARPTON: Now, Ken, what do you think the defense will do differently? If
you were defending Dunn, what would you do differently?
PADOWITZ: Well, they`re definitely going to do the same exact thing the
prosecutors are going to do. They`re going to wait to hear and see if any
of the jurors speak up. If they give a window to both the prosecution and
the defense as to what was going on in that jury room and in the minds of
the jurors. What evidence was important to them, what cross-examination or
direct was important? What was said in opening statements during the trial
that they hung on to or that they rejected? So all these things are a good
defense attorney is going to examine closely if one of the jurors speak out
in public and tell what`s was going on in there. And they`re going to
dissect their case and adjust it accordingly if they get that information.
SHARPTON: Faith, the state attorney Corey has said quote, "we intend to
fully push for a trial right here in Jacksonville, Duval County, Florida."
Everyone in Jacksonville knows about the case. Everyone in Duval County
knows about the case and probably has an opinion. Should she move for a
change in venue for the retrial?
JENKINS: You know, it`s something that she will consider, and I`m sure
that Cory Strolla will consider it as well because the ultimate question
will be can they find jurors that will be fair and impartial and decide the
case based on the evidence in spite of all the media coverage. And that`s
going to be the judge`s decision and up to the judge to use his discretion
in determining that.
If she has the confidence that there are people in the community that can
come in, listen to the evidence, listen to the arguments, and they need to
be really careful in jury selection this next time around. They have an
opportunity here to really vet these jurors. They know how that there are
going to be some issues that come up, some stereotypes and some narrative
that is going to be formed by the defendant to these jurors. They need to
be very careful now with selecting jurors this next time around. If they
believe that they can get jurors that are fair and impartial and decide the
case based on the evidence which is overwhelmingly in favor of the
prosecution, then they have no reason to leave Jacksonville and that
SHARPTON: Faith Jenkins, Marcia Clark and Ken Padowitz, thank you all for
your time tonight.
CLARK: Thank you.
JENKINS: Thank you.
PADOWITZ: Thank you.
SHARPTON: Coming up, fighting to stop the injustice of stand your ground.
Will Michael Dunn`s mistrial finally end this unfair law?
And a deeper look at our criminal justice system. We`ll talk live to a man
freed after six years in prison for shooting a man who attacked him with a
knife. Why didn`t the jury accept his claim of self-defense?
Also, big developments in the Christie bridge scandal. I`ll talk to the
lawmaker leading the investigation.
And my meeting with President Obama and civil rights leaders today. What
we are doing to advance the dream. It`s a big show ahead. Stay with us.
SHARPTON: After the Michael Dunn verdict, Americans are looking once again
at the stand your ground law. It`s confusing, confounding, unfair, and
unjust. Even many judges and lawyers are against it. And now there is a
new fight to roll it back in the state where it all began, Florida. That`s
SHARPTON: In the aftermath of the Michael Dunn verdict, everyone I see is
asking me, how did we get here? How did we get a law that says if you
reasonably feel threatened, you have no duty to retreat before using deadly
Here is how. The law was actually created by the National Rifle
Association. Yes, the NRA is the driving force behind the law. In fact,
Florida legislators admitted they, quote, "lifted the law`s language from a
proposal crafted by Marion Hammer, a former NRA president." Here is the
photo of then Florida governor Jeb Bush signing the law. And who is next
to him? Marion Hammer, then president of the NRA.
So Florida was the first state to add the stand your ground language to its
books in 2005. Since then, it quickly spread across the country to 24
other states. But in Florida alone, I think you can say inconsistencies in
the application of the law. So what do we do? How do we fight for change?
We`ve seen peaceful protests, including this one at the Jacksonville gas
station where Jordan Davis was gunned down. And in response to the Dunn
trial, one Florida lawmaker is already working to repeal the law.
Joining me now is that Florida state representative, Allan Williams, and
Lisa Bloom, legal analyst for avo.com and author of "suspicion nation: the
inside story of the Trayvon Martin injustice and why we continue to repeat
Thanks for being here, both of you.
LISA BLOOM, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: Thank you.
REP. ALLAN WILLIAMS (D) FLORIDA: Thank you for having me.
SHARPTON: Representative Williams, what have you done in response to the
WILLIAMS: Well, I will tell you today we had a groundbreaking development
in what we believe will hopefully change the moment here in the state of
Florida. Today the vice-chairman of the task force that Governor Scott
commissioned about a year and a half ago when the lieutenant governor
Jennifer Carroll was also named the chairman, the vice-chairman of that
committee, Reverend R. B. Holmes here in Tallahassee, Florida has called
for a repeal of the law. Before that task force came out that and talk
about some recommendations that the governor had provided no leadership on,
even in past session.
And so today, Reverend Holmes, along with Attorney Benjamin Crump, we stood
together in front of the governor`s office calling on the governor for him
to provide leadership. If this bill cannot be repaired, if this law cannot
be repealed, we need to repair it. You know, we cannot wait to go to the
ballot box to change the law, because we got too many folks that are being
placed in casket boxes here in Florida.
And so, it`s up to the governor to provide leadership. You know, a few
years ago when the Casey Anthony trial was on display in front of the
world, a year later, less than a year later we had Caylee`s law. And the
legislature and the governor acted. And so, we`re asking for the governor
to do the same thing now. He can use his bully pulpit to make sure.
SHARPTON: And that`s a major development, because Reverend Holmes was on
the committee that they had looking for this. I know him very well, have
worked with him, and work with him. And for him who had been part of that
task force to come out, should at least be something the governor cannot
WILLIAMS: Well, you know, last year they put a bill out, Senator Simmons,
who is the state senator for where the tragedy took place in Sanford. He
put the bill out. Our governor provided no leadership. Never called a
speaker, never called the Senate president to say move this bill forward.
He did that for a number of other bills, but he didn`t do it for the bill
for the task force that he commissioned.
And so, you know, we`re just fed up here in Florida. We`re tired of
politics as usual. We know that young men are -- don`t even make it to
their 18th birthday, Reverend Al. And so, we`re trying to make sure that
these young men there is a voice for them. And that`s what we`re doing
every day here in the legislature. I will say there is some movement in
the Florida house, and there is some movement in the Florida Senate to at
least repair the law.
My colleagues, Senator Chris smith, along with Representative Bruce Antone
from Orlando, they`re working to do just that.
SHARPTON: Now, let me ask you, Lisa, I want to show you a graph that
really caught my eye. It shows justifiable homicides after stand your
ground. Here are the murders in Florida from 2000 to 2005. In April of
2005, stand your ground was signed into law. Check out the spike in
homicides after stand your ground became law, Lisa. Tell me what the graph
BLOOM: Yes. Well, it shows the huge increase in justifiable homicides.
Translation, people shooting and killing other people and getting away with
it, without any legal accountability. And I have a chapter about this in
my book. It`s not just Florida. You see that pattern repeated in all the
stand your ground states. And you don`t see it in the non -stand your
ground states where the numbers stay roughly flat. So we are talking about
a real body count here.
SHARPTON: So wait. Let me stop you right there. The graph you have shown
and it`s on your book and on the screen in Florida shows that there is a
spike in the states with stand your ground laws in justifiable homicides,
but there is not a spike? States that do not have this law. So it`s not
like this was a natural rise in shootings.
SHARPTON: It was basically along the lanes of the states that had this
BLOOM: That`s rights, Reverend Al. And you know, we don`t always have a
perfect laboratory when we`re looking at crime statistics, with stand your
ground we do. Because in roughly half the states there are stand your
ground laws. Other states like California where I live, we don`t have
stand your ground. So you can do a comparison. And homicides in
California, for example, are roughly flat. In many places they`re going
down. In stand your ground states, those justifiable homicide numbers are
going up and that includes many children and teenagers.
And so, I think we really have to ask ourselves, do we value human life?
Do we value the lives of children and teenagers, or do we think that`s more
important to just satisfy our macho impulses and have the feeling that we
can walk around with a gun and shoot back if we feel somebody is aggressive
towards us? Because that`s what stand your ground allows.
SHARPTON: And even lawyers and judges are questioning this law.
State representative Allan Williams and Lisa Bloom, I`m going to have to
leave there it. Thank you both for your time tonight.
BLOOM: Thank you.
WILLIAMS: Thank you for having me, Reverend Al. We`re going keep fighting
to make sure this law gets changed.
SHARPTON: Yes, sir.
Still ahead, I`ll talk to man freed after more than six years in prison for
shooting a man who attacked him with a knife. Why didn`t a jury accept his
claim of self-defense? Where is the justice in our criminal justice
Also, big developments in the Chris Christie bridge scandal. Two former
Christie allies are refusing to cooperate. We`ll talk to the lawmaker
leading the investigation, live.
SHARPTON: We cannot have a law on the books that I believe emboldens
people into confrontation. I call stand your ground a shoot first, ask
questions later law. What kind of message does it send to potential
shooters? What kind of message does it send to our kids?
This political cartoon in the "Miami Herald| really struck a cord with me.
It called standing their ground, and it shows a cemetery with phrases like
"wore a hoodie"," played music too loud," looked like a thug, looked a bit
That`s not justice. It is profiling. Some things has to be done to change
this law. So the timing could not have been better for meeting at the
White House today with civil rights leaders. I brought up the stand your
ground law and how we must protect our kids, all kids in America. More on
the meeting ha and what we`ll do moving ahead on many fronts, ahead.
SHARPTON: I brought up the stand your ground law and how we must protect
our kids, all kids in America. More on the meeting and what we`ll do
moving forward ahead on many fronts. Ahead.
SHARPTON: The Michael Dunn mistrial has once again shined a light on self-
defense laws and whether they are applied fairly or unfairly. Take the
case of John McNeil. He claims self-defense, but was sentenced to life in
prison for shooting Brian Epp, a contractor who threatened McNeil and his
family. It all began in 2005 when John McNeil and his wife hired Epp`s
construction company to build their new house. Over time, McNeil says, Epp
became increasingly threatening.
One day John McNeil`s 15-year-old son called to say that a man was on their
property, threatening him with a box cutter. McNeil recognized that man`s
voice over the phone. It was Epp`s. He told his son to go inside and wait
while he called 911 and headed home. When McNeil arrived home, Epp was
next door grabbing something from his truck and stuffing it in his pocket.
McNeil jumped out of the car and fired a warning shot at the ground,
insisting that Epp back off. Instead of retreating, Epp charged at McNeil.
McNeil fired again, this time fatally striking Epp in the head. Witnesses
confirmed the story. And police ruled the shooting self-defense. But 274
days later, the local D.A. charged McNeil with murder. He was convicted
and sentenced to life in prison. For years, his wife fought for his
release, despite her own battle with breast cancer.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANITA MCNEIL, WIFE OF JOHN MCNEIL: I stand here today because my husband
is not a murderer. He is a homeowner. He is a homeowner who knows his
right to protect our home. He is a homeowner and a father who knows his
right to protect their child. And he is a citizen, an African-American
citizen, an American who lost the right to protect and defend himself on
our own property.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: John McNeil was eventually given a plea deal, making him a free
man after more than six years behind bars. But his release came just ten
days after the death of his beloved wife.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN MCNEIL, RELEASED FROM PRISON AFTER SIX YEARS: I`m breathing love.
I`m breathing family. I`m breathing sons, friends, breathing, getting
myself back together, getting back to establishing to the communities. I
lost my best friend, my lover, my wife, my everything.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: John McNeil won his freedom, but he paid the price. And now
we`re all wondering what happened to the justice in our criminal justice
system? Where was John McNeil`s right to self-defense?
Joining me now is John McNeil and Irving Joyner, a law professor who acted
as an adviser to the McNeil legal team. Thank you both for coming on the
IRVING JOYNER, LAWYER TO THE MCNEIL LEGAL TEAM: Thank you for having us.
MCNEIL: Thank you Mr. Al Sharpton for having us. And I want to also thank
the North Carolina NAACP and the Georgia State NAACP as well for their
fight along with my late wife, Anita McNeil. You`re looking at a miracle
here. And I believe that if it hadn`t been for these guys fighting and
believing in me and my family and what was done unjustly to me and my
family, I wouldn`t be sitting before you right now, speaking with you.
SHARPTON: Well, Reverend William Barber from North Carolina has certainly
been on me about this case. Let me ask you first of all. We`re certainly
sorry about your loss. It`s exactly one year since your release. How are
you doing? How are you coming back?
MCNEIL: It`s still hard. I can sit here before you right now and say that
going into a difficult situation such as being incarcerated and coming out
and acting as if you can jump right back into society, it`s hard. I`m
sitting here before you telling it`s hard. And it`s still hard even to
SHARPTON: Now, do you think you got equal treatment under the law in this
case? I mean, did self-defense claim get as much respect as someone
MCNEIL: I don`t really feel and if we get over talking about the logistics
of it, I would have to ask the lawyer, Mr. Joyner to comment.
MCNEIL: But I don`t think that justice was served.
SHARPTON: Let me ask you, Irving. This seems like a clear case of self-
defense. Why were charges pursued? First police said it was self-defense.
Then 274 days later, the D.A. comes in. Why do you think the D.A. didn`t
charge sooner? Why 274 days later, Irving?
JOYNER: Well, the evidence was very clear that John McNeil acted in self-
defense. And there is probably not a more perfect case of self-defense
than what we have here. We don`t know what factors led the D.A. to
eventually bring these murder charges, but they did. And the system was
spewed with racism throughout. We ended up with a jury of ten whites and
two blacks, and they just ignored what was obviously a perfect self-defense
and John McNeil should never have spent a day in jail or in prison.
SHARPTON: Now other people who hired Epp had testify that they`d were
scared of him. One said, quote, "It got to the point where my wife and I
were in total fear of this man." And just as a precaution, I carried a
gun. Irving, wouldn`t this have been important in proving Mr. McNeil`s
belief that he felt threatened?
JOYNER: Yes. It would have. But that wasn`t even necessary in this case,
because all of the witnesses who observed what had occurred concurred with
Mr. McNeil in his scenario of how he was threatened, how he was placed in
fear and apprehension from a man charging at him, and that his only option
was to use a fatal force.
SHARPTON: Charging at him with a knife?
JOYNER: With a box cutter.
SHARPTON: John, given your own experience, do you feel as if self-defense
laws have protected people fairly, regardless of race?
MCNEIL: No, I do not. Because if it had, I would have never went to
prison in the first place. And also, looking at what had took place you
would have thought if there was the law and it was on the books, it should
apply to every American, not just one side American or one culture.
SHARPTON: Let me ask you this, John, before we run out of time. Your wife
showed great culture. Never gave up, fought all the way until the end.
Tell us in America something about the courage of this woman.
MCNEIL: Well, you`re looking at a legendary, she was an angel. She
believed in this fight, and she believed in me as her husband, as a human
being. And she also believed in herself and she believed in her family.
Her thing was if you don`t support family and you can`t protect your
family, then what good is America? It`s supposed to be for everybody, not
just one-sided. And she believed in it and she died for it.
You know, that`s the one thing that hurts me more and more to know that she
fought as hard as she fought and that she gave up the fight before I could
get a chance to thank her personally. And I got out on the 10th -- I mean,
on the 12th, excuse me. And I got to visit her in the funeral home on the
13th. And then we laid her to rest on Valentine`s Day on the 14th. You
know, that`s the way to remember somebody who worked so hard and fought so
hard and that I couldn`t get the opportunity to thank her while she still
SHARPTON: John McNeil, Irving Joyner, thank you both for coming on the
JOYNER: All right. Thank you.
SHARPTON: And John, thanks for sharing your story with us tonight.
MCNEIL: Thank you so much, Mr. Sharpton.
SHARPTON: We`ll be right back.
SHARPTON: The Chris Christie bridge scandal exploded over one month ago
with that notorious e-mail, "Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee."
We still don`t know why it was sent, and who else knew. Today big news
involving the author of that e-mail. Former Christie deputy chief of staff
Bridget Kelly, under pressure to hand over documents. Her lawyer once
again says she won`t comply with the subpoena. We also learned Bill
Stepien, Christie`s former campaign manager is refusing to comply. They`re
both potentially critical figures to unlocking this mystery. And yet both
are still taking the fifth.
However, lawmakers are getting more information from David Wildstein, the
official who ordered the lane closing. Newly uncensored messages are
currently under review by the investigatory committee. Forty five pages of
documents Wildstein originally submitted contained redactions. A month
after this broke, it`s still a mystery. Where is this investigation
headed? And what`s next for those refusing to cooperate?
Joining me now, New Jersey Democratic Assemblyman John Wisniewski, the co-
chair of the select committee investigating the bridge scandal. Thank you
for being here, Assemblyman.
ASSEMBLYMAN JOHN WISNIEWSKI (D-NJ), SELECT COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: Thank you,
SHARPTON: How will you respond to Bridget Kelly and Bill Stepien refusing
WISNIEWSKI: Well, we`ve sent them our message that we reviewed their
objections and that our counsel has reviewed those objections, and that
while we understand that their lawyers are doing their job, that those
objections are not objections that the committee will except, and that we
expect compliance. And obviously, there`s a disagreement, we`ve heard from
one of the person`s attorney today. We heard from Mr. Stepien`s counsel.
And we expect that ultimately we`ll get these documents. But I think the
process has to work itself out.
SHARPTON: Now, what will you do next? Contempt charges? What happens
WISNIEWSKI: Well, our next step is to advise them that we insist on the
production. We don`t have any expectation based on the letter we received
today that that`s going do it. So we`re going to consult with counsel and
we`re going to take the appropriate next legal steps that the committee
feels is going to result in us getting the documents. Look, I understand
why their attorneys are making the objections they`re making. We just
don`t believe that ultimately those objections really stand up to scrutiny,
and that the documents are important for the committee`s investigation.
They help answer a very basic question, which is why on earth would Bridget
Kelly send the e-mail that she did. It doesn`t make sense. Somebody else
had to have been involved in those discussions. We just don`t know who.
We don`t know for what purpose, and we would like to find out.
SHARPTON: Now in rejecting the subpoena demand, Bill Stepien`s lawyer
wrote that the matter should go to court. Let me quote him. I
respectfully suggest seeking a judicial determination. Is this headed to
WISNIEWSKI: It may ultimately head to court. I think that if there can`t
be agreement between counsel, if there can`t be agreement between the
parties, it`s going to have to be resolved in that fashion. I don`t want
to prejudge anything and I don`t want to predict where this is going to
wind up. My hope is that we can reason with their attorneys and convince
them of the importance, the vast public importance in us getting this
material so that we can solve this mystery. But ultimately, we`ll have to
pursue the legal remedies that are available to the committee if they
refuse to cooperate.
SHARPTON: Now let me move to David Wildstein a minute.
SHARPTON: Have you seen the unredacted documents from David Wildstein?
SHARPTON: And can you tell us what is in these documents?
WISNIEWSKI: Well, let me tell you where we`re at. The counsel has
reviewed them, and under an agreement with Mr. Wildstein`s attorney, he has
reviewed those documents and has expressed to Mr. Wildstein`s attorney that
while many of the redactions make sense from the standpoint that they`re
either outside the time frame of material the committee sought or outside
subject matter the committee sought, there are a number of documents that
we believe should be part of the committee`s record, and we`re in
discussions with Mr. Wildstein`s council. We`re hopeful that we`ll get
those documents, that he`ll agree to voluntarily turn them over. So I
don`t want to prejudge exactly what is going to happen there. But I think
the dialogue is productive, and we`re hopeful that we`ll get those
documents as part of our record very soon.
SHARPTON: David Wildstein will talk with the immunity he says. Where does
WISNIEWSKI: Well, it`s been pointed out, I think and it pointed out by Mr.
Wildstein`s attorney that his concern was what the federal investigators
may take a position on or perhaps what the state attorney general may take
a position on. So his concern was not so much with regard to the
committee, but was with regard to other investigatory agencies. I`m sure
that he is having discussions. I`m not aware of them. But I think, you
know, that is something that he is looking for from, for instance, the U.S.
attorney, not from this committee.
SHARPTON: Now, there are new questions about the role of State Senator
SHARPTON: He`s a Republican on your committee.
SHARPTON: "The Bergen Record" reports on what happened after Bill Baroni`s
November 5th testimony about a traffic study. Quote, "Baroni texted
Wildstein afterward looking for feedback from officials in Trenton. During
that exchange, Wildstein told Baroni O`Toole`s statement ready." So it
appears Senator O`Toole was communicating David Wildstein, communicating
with him the very day Bill Baroni testified before your committee.
WISNIEWSKI: Right. Senator O`Toole had an opinion piece that appeared in
an online blog site several hours after Mr. Baroni`s testimony concluded
that day. I`m aware of the controversy that has been raised by that and
some of the calls that have been made about his service on the committee.
Look. I`ve got to work with --
SHARPTON: But maybe that same day, Assemblyman, there was a critical piece
on the -- O`Toole`s website criticizing the hearing.
WISNIEWSKI: Correct. That piece that is on his website also appeared in a
New Jersey political blog that carried that piece. But my point is this,
I`ve got to work with Senator O`Toole. He is a member of the committee. I
don`t do the appointing of the members to the committee. And so, as long
as he is a member of the committee, I have to work with him. I`m aware of
the controversy. My hope is that Senator O`Toole can clear this up by
explaining exactly what happened and providing all the cooperation that the
SHARPTON: Assemblyman John Wisniewski, thank you for your time tonight.
WISNIEWSKI: Thank you, Reverend.
SHARPTON: Ahead, more on my meeting with President Obama and other civil
rights leaders today.
And here is Jimmy! Jimmy Fallon takes the tonight show stage. And with
the help of Will Smith, brings us the evolution of hip-hop. That`s next.
SHARPTON: Here`s Jimmy! A big congrats to Jimmy Fallon on his premier on
"The Tonight Show." It was a star-studded event with Will Smith as his
first guest. And in true Fallon fashion, there was even time for some
dancing. The evolution of hip-hop dancing.
That was pretty good. Especially the Carlton. But how does the evolution
of hip-hop dancing stack up to POLITICS NATION`S favorite, the evolution of
We hope the First Lady Michelle Obama brings her best dance moves this
Thursday when she is a tonight show guest. We`ll be watching.
SHARPTON: Finally tonight, Advancing the Dream. Earlier today, I was at
the White House with other civil rights leaders meeting with President
Obama and Attorney General Holder. We covered a range of concerns,
fighting for jobs, training workers, boosting the minimum wage, fighting
for voting rights. And the issue of the criminal justice problems in
America. Three days after the Dunn mistrial, we had an opportunity to talk
about the issues facing our community. I brought up the stand your ground
law and the message it sends. After the Zimmerman verdict last summer, the
president talked about his own personal experiences with race.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRES. BARACK OBAMA (D), UNITED STATES: There are very few African-American
men in this country who haven`t had the experience of being followed when
they were shopping at a department store. That includes me. There are
very few African-American men who haven`t had the experience of walking
across the street and hearing the locks click on the doors of cars. That
happens to me, at least before I was a senator.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: My colleagues of other civil rights organizations as they`re
being presidents and a president of mine firmly laid out our concerns. The
president firmly took his positions and the administration`s record in
jobs, in training, in health care, in issues of civil rights as we continue
to move forward to secure and sustain and protect civil rights for all
Americans. Just remember, really maintaining civil rights does not just
come from the White House. It comes by and it comes from what you and I do
in our houses as well.
Thanks for watching. I`m Al Sharpton. "HARDBALL" starts right now.
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