updated 7/16/2004 9:25:29 AM ET 2004-07-16T13:25:29

Guest: Dean Johnson, Jeralyn Merritt, Lisa Bloom, Aitan Goelman, John Coffee, Ira Sorkin, Christina Dress

DAN ABRAMS, HOST:  Coming up, we‘ve got the transcript of the phone conversation between Laci Peterson‘s mother and Scott Peterson a month and a half after Laci disappeared. 


ABRAMS (voice-over):  It sounds like a cross-examination by Laci‘s mother as her defensive son-in-law tries to provide some answers.  And more testimony about why Scott Peterson may have had concrete in his truck.  The defense says it was not for anchors to weigh down Laci‘s body. 

Plus, a win for the prosecution in the Kobe Bryant case.  The judge rules that a jury will hear two of the most incriminating pieces of evidence against Bryant. 

And Mary Kay Letourneau went to prison for having sex with her 12-year-old student.  Now her cellmate (UNINTELLIGIBLE) to talk about Letourneau‘s life behind bars.  Does she think her sexual relationship with the boy was wrong? 

The program about justice starts now.  


ABRAMS:  Hi everyone.  First up on the docket tonight, the Scott Peterson case.  We are getting our first look at transcripts of a phone call between Scott and Laci‘s mother, Sharon Rocha, from February 13, 2003.  Now, remember, at this point Laci is still missing and police have not ruled out Scott as a suspect.  The family is suspicious, to say the least. 

But remember, at the beginning, Sharon Rocha believed in Scott Peterson‘s innocence in the month and a half before she had the conversation—we‘ll tell you about in a moment.  On December 30, she appeared on “The Today Show” to talk about Laci and she said—quote—

“she was looking forward to having her son.  She and her husband were—are very, very happy together.”  She slowly became convinced Peterson was responsible.  Let‘s listen to some of her statements as she becomes more and more suspicious. 


SHARON ROCHA, LACI PETERSON‘S MOTHER:  They have to rule out every possibility and Scott is not the only one they are trying to rule out.  They‘re talking to everybody.  And we believe that Scott has nothing to do with Laci‘s disappearance. 

Just the fact that he‘s not talking, he doesn‘t seem to want to answer questions that we have put to him.  And we feel that he needs to tell everything that he knows in order for Laci to be able to come home to us. 

What we have said were we weren‘t convinced about his story about where he had been that night. 


ABRAMS:  Well the day after that last piece of sound you heard, Sharon Rocha talked to Scott Peterson on the phone and she pressed about what happened the night before Laci went missing.  She says—quote—“I just have some questions I need to have answered.”  You were—you went to bed at what time? 

Scott says, oh I don‘t know, probably 10:30 or something. 

Sharon:  What was she wearing when she went to bed? 

Scott:  (UNINTELLIGIBLE) my pajamas, the blue ones. 

Sharon:  Your blue pajamas? 

Scott:  Yes.

Sharon:  How come she was wearing your blue pajamas?

Scott:  Because they fit her.

It goes on and on with this sort of cross-examination-type of questioning.  The question I have is you know, is the state allowed to use her?  Can they use all of this testimony?  Can they use all these statements from Scott Peterson, I should say? 

Let‘s bring in the legal panel—Court TV anchor Lisa Bloom, defense attorney Jeralyn Merritt, and former San Mateo County prosecutor Dean Johnson, who has been in the courtroom for most of the trial.

All right, Dean, so has this come into evidence yet, and if it hasn‘t, will it, and how important will it be? 

DEAN JOHNSON, FMR. SAN MATEO COUNTY PROSECUTOR:  It has not come into evidence yet.  I imagine it will come into evidence along with the tapes we‘re hearing now.  It‘s very important because you can see throughout all of these interviews that Scott consistently gets tied up in his story—he can‘t get his story straight and when people start asking him those tough questions, he tries to avoid the question.  So yes, it is very important. 

ABRAMS:  Let me read from more of this conversation between Sharon Rocha and Scott Peterson.  This is number one here. 

Sharon Rocha says, it didn‘t even register that Laci wasn‘t in the house when you walked in?  This (UNINTELLIGIBLE) returning from fishing.

It was a dark house.  Didn‘t smell like she had been cooking.  Everything was cleaned up and neat and tidy and nothing even registered to you?

Peterson:  No, again, I grabbed a piece of pizza out of the fridge and jumped into the shower immediately.

Jeralyn Merritt, how important is this? 

JERALYN MERRITT, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY:  I don‘t think it‘s all that important.  I think that we have to remember Scott Peterson is trying to either hide the affair or he‘s trying to minimize the affair and that‘s really what‘s making him nervous about answering questions. 

ABRAMS:  Even answering questions about where Laci was when he came home from fishing?  What does that have to do with the affair? 

MERRITT:  You know—go back to the original question, which is, is this stuff admissible?  Under what theory?  I can see that if he has made contradictory statements and they want to admit it to show a prior inconsistent statement, then possibly, but this is really just rank hearsay.  And if he didn‘t make any admission during these calls, I don‘t see why they come in. 

ABRAMS:  Lisa Bloom, I‘m going to read you a little bit more of the conversation. 

Sharon Rocha:  She went to bed about 10:30 and everything was just fine.

Peterson:  Yes.

Rocha:  And everything was fine at 7:00 when she got up.  Of course, prosecutors believe she was dead at this point.

Peterson:  Oh yes, great.  She was excited about you know doing the cooking stuff.  So...

But you said she set the table.

Peterson:  Setting it up for Christmas Day.  Oh yes, the table was set.

Rocha:  No it wasn‘t. 

Then Peterson says three or four days ago and they have a dispute about what that means.  Lisa Bloom, go ahead. 

LISA BLOOM, COURT TV:  Well you know I think the devil is in the details.  And you always want to get a defendant if you are a prosecutor to make statements about all the details.  I‘ve read this transcript.  I‘ve read the Brocchini transcript that was also just released. 

I think Sharon Rocha is like junior FBI agent.  She does a terrific job of grilling him.  And Jeralyn Merritt, you know I love you, but when are you going to think something makes some defendant look bad?  For example, in this transcript, Sharon Rocha catches him saying he comes home, the dog still has its leash on.  He takes the leash off.  First thing he does, doesn‘t look for Laci Peterson.  He takes a shower and washes his clothes and then he begins to wonder where his pregnant wife is that was supposed to be home cooking all day...


MERRITT:  But why should he think his wife was missing?  He came home and she wasn‘t there.  I mean...

BLOOM:  Because she said she was going to be there according to his story, all day long baking...

ABRAMS:  And she‘s seven and a half months pregnant. 

MERRITT:  Well come on.  That doesn‘t mean...


MERRITT:  ... she could haven‘t gone for a walk or gone to visit a girlfriend...


BLOOM:  Well, don‘t you think it‘s strange...


BLOOM:  ... if you‘re a dog owner the dog still has its leash on all day long.  Something is askew if you come home and a dog has got its leash on and it‘s all by himself.

ABRAMS:  Dean, go ahead.

JOHNSON:  Yes and according to Scott‘s story remember, he called about two hours before and couldn‘t raise her on the phone, so he‘s got to be worried for about two hours.  He gets home and finds the dog dragging its leash.  He has a glass of milk, pizza, takes a shower, come on, you‘re saying that‘s not suspicious...


MERRITT:  No it isn‘t...


ABRAMS:  Jeralyn...

MERRITT:  ... and what do you mean he couldn‘t raise her on the phone?  You mean he called home and there was no answer, just like if you call home and your wife is out?  Why is that he couldn‘t raise her on the phone...

ABRAMS:  Jeralyn, let me tell you something...


ABRAMS:  ... let me...


JOHNSON:  Oh come on.  He can‘t talk to her on the phone for two hours...

ABRAMS:  I‘ll tell you what persuades...

JOHNSON:  ... and comes home and the dog‘s leash is missing.  You‘re not going...

ABRAMS:  ... is you—hang on a sec, Dean.  Sharon Rocha at the beginning of this refuses to accept the possibility that Scott Peterson was responsible.  I remember at the beginning of this case thinking to myself, you know what?  If her mom thinks he didn‘t do it, she‘s got to be right.  She‘s the one who knows him.  And then as you see this evolve and she sees the evidence and she becomes convinced more and more, I think you know at least for me personally that‘s what made me start asking questions about Scott Peterson—was seeing...


ABRAMS:  ... Sharon Rocha‘s reaction. 

MERRITT:  ... found out he was having an affair. 

ABRAMS:  What?

MERRITT:  I think she changed after she found out that Scott was having an affair.

ABRAMS:  But you know it seems maybe that‘s part of it, and I think

the timing—I think it‘s a fair point to make.  But it‘s hard to believe

·         you have—that‘s really not giving her almost any credit to basically say she finds out he is having an affair and therefore as you always say, she assumes it was murder. 

MERRITT:  (UNINTELLIGIBLE) I think that‘s what happened. 


BLOOM:  Yes, but on December 23 and 24, which is the events we are talking about in this transcript, Scott Peterson didn‘t see Amber Frey, even according to him and according to Amber Frey.  So every excuse that defense attorneys make about him lying always goes back to, well, he‘s having an affair so we give him a pass when he lies.  Well what about when he‘s not lying about the affair.  He‘s lying about his whereabouts on the day that his wife went missing.  He‘s lying about details on what he did on the day that his wife went missing and it has nothing to do with the affair.  Can‘t we hold that against him? 

ABRAMS:  All right.  Let‘s take a quick break here.  I think they will hold it against him, but we‘ll see if the prosecutors are able to put these pieces together.  We haven‘t even talked again about what happened in the courtroom. 

Lisa, Jeralyn, and Dean are all going to stick around.  When we come back, we get to today‘s testimony.  Mark Geragos, the defense attorney, grilling a detective about why he found no other evidence in the San Francisco Bay after Laci‘s body washed ashore.  What is he suggesting? 

Kobe Bryant‘s defense team loses its bid to keep key evidence, including a blood-stained shirt out of his trial. 

And Martha Stewart will be sentenced tomorrow.  Will she really be heading to the big house?  And I mean really is the question we‘re going to answer.  What a day in the world of the law. 

Your e-mails to abramsreport@msnbc.com.  Please include your name and where you‘re writing from.


ABRAMS:  Coming up, Scott Peterson‘s lawyers offer up an explanation for the cement found in his warehouse.  Guess what?  They say it was not for anchors to weigh down Laci‘s body.


ABRAMS:  We‘re back with more in the Scott Peterson case.  On the stand again today a detective who gathered evidence from Peterson‘s home and warehouse after Laci went missing and talked about the search of the San Francisco Bay after her body was found. 

MSNBC‘s Jennifer London is live outside the courthouse again in Redwood City with the latest.  Hi, Jennifer. 

JENNIFER LONDON, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT:  Hi, Dan.  Detective Hendee on the stand again today, but only half a day of testimony.  He did face some tough questions from defense attorney Mark Geragos.  Geragos first focusing on the search of the bay after the bodies of Laci and Conner were recovered.  The upshot, they didn‘t find anything of relevance to the case despite many, many hours of searching using the latest in high-tech equipment and having multiple dive teams go down below the water in the bay.  Mark Geragos saying, well, you found sticks, you found pipes, all kinds of debris, but you didn‘t find anything related to this case, right? 

Hendee said yes.  And let‘s talk about the warehouse.  Under direct, Hendee testified about some concrete powder that was found at Scott Peterson‘s warehouse.  But the defense say what the prosecution didn‘t tell you was this—Mark Geragos saying, did you see brick work here along the edge of the yard—here being at the Peterson home.

Hendee:  Yes, I did. 

Mark Geragos:  Does it appear to you cement was used to put bricks on top of each other? 

I would guess so, yes, from Hendee.  Geragos then saying, was brick work there when you were there on 12-26? 

Hendee:  Yes, sir. 

Now the prosecution has implied that Peterson used the cement to make the anchors that were used to weigh down Laci Peterson‘s body when he dumped it in the bay.  And also a little bit more about these anchors.  Hendee also testifying today that police originally found a picture or a mold, if you will, that they thought was used to create this anchor.  Well, it turns out that it wasn‘t. 

Hendee saying when they tested the mold, it didn‘t fit with the anchors.  Dan, Hendee isn‘t done yet.  He will be back on the stand when testimony resumes on Monday.  The jury sent home early today so both sides could talk about some evidentiary issues, in particular, what parts, if any, of taped television interviews of Scott Peterson will be played in court.

ABRAMS:  Jennifer, very quickly, it seems like every day either court is cut short or there‘s no court or Fridays or—I mean am I wrong in feeling that way that it seems rare that we get a full day of testimony in? 

LONDON:  No, Dan, I wouldn‘t say you are wrong because lately that‘s been the case.  And Judge Delucchi, he appears sensitive to this because he has reminded the jury repeatedly in a very sort of fatherly manner...


LONDON:  ... if you will, that, look, we‘re ahead of schedule.  We‘re doing OK here, so please don‘t worry about these delays and just a point of interest, Dan, every time Delucchi dismisses the jury, he says you know please take care and we‘ll see you soon.  So, you know they‘re aware of the delays, but again...


LONDON:  ... Delucchi thinks that they are ahead of schedule and it really won‘t...

ABRAMS:  All right.

LONDON:  ... have a negative impact. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  Well we‘ll see.  Jennifer London, thanks a lot. 

All right, Dean Johnson, this seems (UNINTELLIGIBLE) be a big, big point in the defense‘s favor here.  The fact that these—the anchor molds don‘t fit.  I mean one of the key theories of the prosecution is that there were these five little rings where the prosecutors believe that these anchors may have existed.  Those were the anchors that may have weighed down Laci Peterson‘s limbs and now they are saying the picture doesn‘t even fit? 

JOHNSON:  Yes.  Well finally the prosecution comes up with what we have been waiting for, concrete evidence, and the defense is in a position to say if it doesn‘t fit, you must acquit...

ABRAMS:  Oh...


ABRAMS:  That was good Dean.  Did you think about that one before the show?  Come on.  You prepared that line.  Come on.  All right.

JOHNSON:  Oh come on...

ABRAMS:  Go ahead. 

JOHNSON:  We have an anchor here and it sort of fits what the prosecution feels is the mold, but it doesn‘t exactly fit.  There are certainly explanations for why that might happen in the way concrete cures and so on, but the prosecution didn‘t take care of it.  So one of their best points of evidence, once again, defused...

BLOOM:  Dan...

JOHNSON:  ... by the defense simply because the prosecution, if they can, doesn‘t steal their thunder that‘s created on cross-examination. 

ABRAMS:  Yes, Lisa? 

BLOOM:  Yes, Dan, look, I am not a licensed contractor, but I think there is a difference between concrete anchors and concrete, which has a lot of applications.  Concrete could have been used on the brick wall, but there are still those rings, which indicate five concrete anchors, circular anchors were made.  Only one was found.  Where are the other four?  I don‘t think concrete anchors were used on the driveway.  They‘re still missing.  That still needs to be explained. 

ABRAMS:  Yes.  Jeralyn, big deal? 

MERRITT:  I don‘t think it‘s a big deal.  I mean I think the defense did a very good job of showing that this evidence is not linked to Scott Peterson‘s guilt.  I mean what he‘s done is just negate it.  And then the jury is going to be told that there‘s two explanations for something, one of which could make Scott guilty and one of which can make him innocent, they are supposed to go with the one of innocence. 

BLOOM:  But you don‘t use concrete anchors...

MERRITT:  So for everything the prosecution picks up, it seems that Mark Geragos has another explanation. 

BLOOM:  Look, anchors are used to weigh something down.  I mean are things floating up off of Scott Peterson‘s driveway?  They need to be held down with anchors.  Of course not.  Anchors are used to hold something down like a body and let‘s keep in mind that...

MERRITT:  Anybody who has a boat has an anchor...

BLOOM:  ... Laci‘s body was found without the head and without the limbs.  Something did hold those body parts...


BLOOM:  ... down in the bay.

MERRITT:  But doesn‘t anybody...


MERRITT:  ... who has a boat have an anchor? 

JOHNSON:  This is the continuing debate.  This is the continuing debate that we‘re going to have.  The prosecution is going to say look at the forest.  The defense says look at the trees.  You take the whole of this, you know Scott Peterson is at his house.  Scott Peterson is at the place where the bodies are dumped.  Whoever dumped those bodies needs to have anchors.  Scott Peterson is making anchors.  Look at that whole...


JOHNSON:  ... and it is a lot to swallow, but of course, any time a defense attorney can take out one fact and say oh, there‘s an innocent explanation for this, that, and this and that‘s the continuing debate that we‘re going to have until this case is over. 

ABRAMS:  But this is a crucial issue...


MERRITT:  But you know you have to look at where Mark Geragos is going here and where he is going here is that the body was dumped in the bay after somebody heard Scott Peterson‘s alibi and that Scott Peterson was framed.  And that‘s why it‘s so important that he‘s grilling these investigators about that they didn‘t find anything in the water during all these hours of searching. 

ABRAMS:  But see...


ABRAMS:  ... that to me...


ABRAMS:  ...that to me is a red herring you know... 

MERRITT:  It was dumped later.

ABRAMS:  ...because the bottom line is that you know there are treasure hunters out there who have been looking to you know find the treasures that were lost in the 1800‘s for years and years and they haven‘t been able to find that either. 

BLOOM:  And those are churning tides out in that area of the bay.  There is a lot of silt that covers things over.  It‘s next to impossible to find things out there.  Look, the best evidence in this case is the bodies themselves.  Something was holding down poor Laci‘s...

ABRAMS:  All right.

BLOOM:  ... head and her limbs, most likely concrete anchors, something that Scott Peterson has familiarity with.  And those rings are still there indicating there were once anchors and now they are gone. 

ABRAMS:  All right...

MERRITT:  Well maybe the killers used anchors, not Scott.

ABRAMS:  I‘ve got to wrap it up.  Hey Dean Johnson.  Happy birthday. 

It‘s Dean‘s birthday today...

BLOOM:  Happy birthday Dean...

MERRITT:  Happy birthday Dean.

ABRAMS:  Happy birthday to you Dean.  Dean has been a great addition to the show as we continue to cover this case.  Wishing you a very...

BLOOM:  Twenty-nine.

ABRAMS:  All right.  Exactly. 

All right.  Jeralyn and Lisa are going to stay with us.  Coming up, a big win for prosecutors in the Kobe Bryant case.  The jury will get to hear about two of the most incriminating pieces of evidence against him—a t-shirt stained with the alleged victim‘s blood and an audio taped interview. 

Later, Mary Kay Letourneau is about to get out of prison, but does she think it was wrong to have sex with her 12-year-old student?  We‘ll ask her friend and former cellmate. 


ABRAMS:  What I say is a big win for the prosecution in the Kobe Bryant case, the judge rules he will allow prosecutors to bring in key pieces of evidence to the trial, evidence the defense has repeatedly asked the judge to throw out.  The prosecution will be allowed to play a 75-minute audiotape of an interview Bryant did with detectives just 24 hours after the alleged victim went to the police. 

Bryant‘s attorneys argued that the interview was essentially done illegally.  The judge‘s ruling also allows prosecutors to use a shirt stained with the alleged victim‘s blood.  The judge did throw out the results of a medical exam ordered by detectives because the police did not have a proper court order for the exam. 

I‘m back with my legal team.  Jeralyn, would you agree with me this was a big victory—these to me are the two most important pieces of evidence against Kobe Bryant.  Seems to me a big win for the prosecutors.

MERRITT:  The court ruling is a win for the prosecutors, but I don‘t think it‘s going to have that much effect.  The judge in his order said that the basis of what Kobe was saying in there was he was explaining to the officers why the sex was consensual.  So, if people are looking for some kind of admission that he committed a sexual assault in that statement, I don‘t think they‘re going to find it. 

ABRAMS:  But why would the defense have fought it if everything he says is entirely consistent?  Why—wouldn‘t they have said hey, great, this supports our case? 

MERRITT:  I think there may be some of the way he—some language issues, maybe some of the way he expressed himself that they might find embarrassing to Kobe that he wouldn‘t want out there.  Plus, you know, I mean if the evidence was illegally obtained, it‘s the defense‘s job to raise it.  As to the t-shirt, I don‘t think we can call it a bloodstained t-shirt.  I think we can call it a t-shirt that has a couple of drops of the accuser‘s blood.  And the main point to keep in mind is that you can have bleeding with consensual sex and you can have a...


MERRITT:  ... sexual assault without any bleeding or trauma...


MERRITT:  ... so I don‘t know that that goes one way or the other. 

ABRAMS:  Well...

BLOOM:  Dan...

ABRAMS:  ... it certainly doesn‘t help Kobe Bryant. 

MERRITT:  No, it doesn‘t help. 


BLOOM:  I think most people have bloodless consensual sex when they have consensual sex, but boy, I‘ve got to tell you when the defendant—the defense team tries five times—five times to keep evidence out, which they did with regard to Kobe‘s statement, I think it‘s more than just a language issue.  If this looked good for Kobe, they would try zero times to keep it out.  They would let it come in.  It‘s got to look bad for Kobe.

Remember, Kobe lied to the press initially saying that he hadn‘t done anything wrong, implying strongly he hadn‘t had sex at all with the woman.  After the DNA test came back, hen he said OK, I did have sex, but it was consensual sex, the way that most men lie when they were cheating on their wives.  Well, I suspect 24 hours after...


BLOOM:  ... the incident he was lying to the cops on some level and he looks bad on that statement.  That‘s why they tried five times to keep it out. 

ABRAMS:  Yes and Jeralyn, does it matter that this—that they won‘t be able to introduce—the prosecutors won‘t be able to introduce Kobe Bryant‘s medical exam?  I mean it seems to me if he‘s admitting they had sex then that medical examination that‘s been thrown out really doesn‘t matter. 

MERRITT:  Dan, I think you‘re right.  I don‘t think—I mean clearly it‘s a win for the prosecution, but again, what did they win?  So...

ABRAMS:  A win for the defense, you mean...

MERRITT:  I mean a win for the defense...

ABRAMS:  Yes, yes.

MERRITT:  ... but what did they win?

ABRAMS:  Right. 

MERRITT:  Because you know the—with the information we have had so far is that there were no injuries on Kobe and he admitted he had sex.  So I mean it‘s not really a big win for the defense. 

ABRAMS:  Lisa, we are expecting a ruling still on how much of the alleged victim‘s sexual history is going to be...

BLOOM:  Yes and that has been a big issue for all this year of pretrial proceedings, all of that behind closed doors.  There has got to be some significant stuff there that they‘re fighting about so much.  I hope that her sexual history is kept out beyond a couple of days before this incident.  Way before that it is so irrelevant and so damaging to rape victims who are watching this case, probably fearful of coming forward if they have to go through what this accuser has gone through. 

ABRAMS:  Wait.  Jeralyn, very quickly, are they even asking for anything more than the days before and immediately after the incident? 

MERRITT:  No, what they‘re asking for is the contemporaneous alleged sexual activity of the accuser to come in.  The issue with her prior history has to do with her medical records and her alleged self-destructive episodes. 

ABRAMS:  And that‘s already been ruled on. 

MERRITT:  Yes.  So, the issue with the rape shield statue now is should the defense be able to bring in who else she may have slept with in the 72 hours prior to the time she was with Kobe...

ABRAMS:  Right.

MERRITT:  ... and the 15 hours after.  And I think that makes or breaks the case.  I think if that goes in Kobe‘s favor, I wouldn‘t be surprised if the accuser decided she did not want to go through with the trial...

BLOOM:  Oh I disagree...

ABRAMS:  You know...

BLOOM:  I disagree. 

MERRITT:  And if it goes against Kobe...

BLOOM:  She told police at the time she had consensual sex...

MERRITT:  ... I think for sure we‘re going to trial.

BLOOM:  ... a couple of days before. 


BLOOM:  There‘s nothing wrong with her having consensual sex...

ABRAMS:  All right.  No, I know...

BLOOM:  She was an adult. 

ABRAMS:  I don‘t think there‘s any way—if she was going to back out, she would have backed out before the hearing...

BLOOM:  And she revealed this right away.

ABRAMS:  ... when they called all her friends in, et cetera.  We shall see.  You never know.

MERRITT:  You never wrong.

ABRAMS:  If I‘m wrong, I will apologize to Jeralyn. 

ABRAMS:  Lisa Bloom and Jeralyn Merritt, thanks a lot. 

BLOOM:  Thanks Dan. 

MERRITT:  Thanks Dan.  Thanks Lisa. 

ABRAMS:  Coming up, Martha Stewart is sentenced tomorrow.  Today a judge throws out a motion from her defense team that could have helped her get less prison time.  We are going to the answer question, how much will she really get? 

And she was Mary Kay Letourneau‘s cellmate.  Now she‘s speaking out about the former teacher‘s life in prison and the crime that got her there, having sex with her 12-year-old student.

Your e-mails...


ABRAMS:  Coming up, Martha Stewart sentenced tomorrow.  How much prison time will she really get?  Really, is she really, really going to serve time?  First the headlines.


ABRAMS:  Welcome back.  She‘s been fighting for her freedom and the fight is not over.  Friday 10:30 Eastern Time, Martha Stewart will be back in a New York federal court to be sentenced on four criminal charges, including conspiracy, giving false statements, and obstruction of justice.  If you are wondering how the millionaire domestic diva has been preparing for a sentence, well, that could put her in prison for 10-16 months, “The New York Times” reports she‘s been out and about in the Bronx for opening day at Yankee Stadium, in Manhattan for the Council of Fashion Designers Awards Ceremony, the daytime Emmy awards where her show was nominated but didn‘t win any prizes. 

There have been other big events, but the big prize for Stewart, of course, tomorrow would be a ruling from Judge Miriam Goldman Cedarbaum that would substitute some combination of house arrest, community service, or probation for actual prison time.  Now it‘s more likely that Stewart will see the inside of a federal prison, possibly one closest to her Connecticut home.  That‘s the Danbury Federal Corrections Institute and prison camp, an all female minimum-security institution whose best-known inmate was the New York tabloids—quote—“Queen of mean real estate and hotel owner Leona Helmsley. 

OK, the question we‘re going to get to here is how much time is she really going to serve?  Are there—quote—“Mitigating factors her lawyers can really persuade the judge with that could lead her not to get any prison time at all?  And will her public appearances hurt her in the end?

Let‘s ask our panel.  John Coffee is a professor at Columbia University Law School.  Aitan Goelman, former federal prosecutor in that very office and Ira Sorkin is a former director of the Securities and Exchange Commission New York office, now a white-collar defense attorney. 

All right.  Aitan let me start with you.  There‘s a big ruling from the judge today that‘s basically saying based on a Supreme Court decision, the judge is not going to invalidate the federal sentencing guidelines.  You think that that‘s telling as to what the sentence will be?  

AITAN GOELMAN, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR:  Yes, Dan.  I mean I think if it went the other way that it would have given her unfettered discretion to give Martha Stewart any sentence in the absence of federal guidelines.  So I think this is an indication that Judge Cedarbaum is going to come down within the guideline range and give her somewhere between 10 and 16 months. 

ABRAMS:  Professor Coffee, if she gets 10 months, though, half of it could be home detention, for example, correct?  

JOHN COFFEE, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY:  It could be either home detention or more likely in some halfway house. 

ABRAMS:  And explain to us a little bit more about what a halfway house is. 

COFFEE:  Well it would be some kind of prison hotel, let‘s say, in New York City where you are incarcerated at night, but you are allowed to go out on the street wearing electronic bracelet with your movements always monitored by the halfway house. 

ABRAMS:  Ira Sorkin, do you agree basically that this judge is looking at 10-16 months period?  

IRA SORKIN, FORMER NEW YORK SEC DIRECTOR:  Well, she says she‘s not going to deal with the guidelines or she will deal with the guidelines, so if the guidelines say it‘s 10-16 months, she has a rather narrow window to work with.  I think the real issue is that she‘s signaling that she‘s not going to violate Blakely or get involved in a Blakely situation, the most recent Supreme Court case, and worry about enhancements.  So I think Ms.  Stewart is probably facing 10-16 months and the fact that there are no enhancement points veil available to the court, I think that‘s a fair way to look at her sentence. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  There are basically these zones of sentencing ranges.  Zone A would be 0-6 months probation.  Zone B, 4-10 months or 6-12, could be probation or a halfway house for the entirety.  Zone C, 10-16 months, that‘s where most—that‘s where she is right now, allows a split sentence with half of it in prison.  Zone D, 15-21 months.  That would have to be all prison time.  No one is really expecting her to enhance it. 

Professor Coffee, what are the sort of arguments that might actually sway the judge to say let‘s go below this 10-16 range?  

COFFEE:  Well, I think the arguments are rather weak in this case because this judge has just found that there was overwhelming evidence of her guilt.  And yet Martha Stewart is refusing to acknowledge responsibility and is continuing with an appeal.  Most defendants at sentencing at least accept responsibility and the guidelines do give you a formal discount.  Because she‘s not doing that, I think she‘s not an appealing candidate for a below guideline sentence or for the halfway house factor.

ABRAMS:  And very—and I should point out that for about an hour on her Web site immediately after the verdict, here‘s what she said.  I‘m obviously distressed by the jury‘s verdict, but I continue to take comfort in knowing that I did nothing wrong.  She then pulled that line off of the Web site. 

Aitan, I mean is she handling this all wrong or are we just sort of over blowing this in a typical media-like fashion by focusing on this line and talking about her going to all these parties in public?   I mean is that stuff really going to matter?  

GOELMAN:  Well I mean I don‘t think that having that line on her Web site was particularly helpful.  And I think that‘s why Bob Morvillo, who is a real smart lawyer, had her pull it off so quickly.  In terms of her you know going out on the town and being public, I guess she has the argument look, I have to lead my life and I don‘t know that Judge Cedarbaum necessarily is going to hold that against her. 

But she certainly isn‘t painting a very compelling picture of contrition.  And you know she‘s in a little bit of a box here because she is clearly not going to stand up tomorrow at sentencing and say, look, I‘m sorry, I did something wrong.  She is not going to admit that she committed this crime.  But she still wants to give the judge the impression that she‘s sorry, so she may come out with some kind of milk toast statement that she‘s sorry for putting her family through all this so that she can still get some kind of points with the judge for, you know, for contrition without admitting any responsibility. 

ABRAMS:  Mr. Sorkin, if you had been Martha Stewart‘s lawyer, would you have told her in the period between the conviction and the sentence, please don‘t go out to public events.  Please don‘t sort of be seen at celebrations, et cetera or would you say you know what, go on with your life.  You‘ve got to live it. 

SORKIN:  I must say I think I‘d probably choose the latter, but I think that‘s the wrong question.  If I had been her lawyer and had been able to convince her to keep her mouth shut from the very beginning that‘s what I would have advised her to do.  And I think some of the lawyers here have taken unfair criticism because we will never know what she was ultimately told.  That‘s a privileged communication...

ABRAMS:  These are the lawyers before the current lawyers, though. 


ABRAMS:  You‘re talking about a different set of lawyers. 

SORKIN:  That‘s correct. 

ABRAMS:  Right.

SORKIN:  That‘s correct.  And I think it‘s unfair to criticize as they have been criticized because we don‘t know what advice was given, nor should we know because it‘s privileged.  But certainly the lesson to be learned here is if you‘re going to go in and talk to federal agents, you better tell the truth or just don‘t talk to them. 

ABRAMS:  Let me read a little bit about the prison conditions in the Danbury prison where most people believe, at least there‘s a good likelihood she‘d end up.  Two women cell, one locker and bed each, wardrobe, khaki pants and shirt, black steel-tipped shoes, accessories, earrings and watches worth less than $100.  Up at 6:00 a.m.  Bed at 7:00 p.m.  Seven and a half hour work shift.  The prison pays 12 cents an hour. 

Professor Coffee, if you‘re representing Martha Stewart, do you just -

·         is there any advice you can give her if she actually is going to serve time before she goes?  

COFFEE:  Oh I think you can give her all kinds of advice about how to behave in prison.  There are now professional consultants that will tell you how to go along with prison life.  But I don‘t think this is all going to matter to the judge.  The overwhelming fact here is this is the highest profile sentencing in really modern white-collar history.  No case has been watched this much, even Michael Milken or Ivan...


COFFEE:  ... 20 years ago.  And against that backdrop, this judge knows that giving a completely non-incarcerated sentence with no jail time...


COFFEE:  ... will be wildly criticized and will tell much of the country what they already suspect...

ABRAMS:  That‘s not going to...

COFFEE:  ... namely, that the rich don‘t go to prison. 

ABRAMS:  Yes, it‘s not—that‘s not going to happen, I don‘t think. 

Professor Coffee, Aitan Goelman, and Ira Sorkin, thank you very much. 

Appreciate it. 

SORKIN:  Thank you.

GOELMAN:  Thanks Dan. 

ABRAMS:  Remember, tomorrow, I will be in court for the sentencing and we will have full coverage right here on the program about justice.  Dominic Dunn will be one of my guests. 

Coming up, my “Closing Argument”—why it‘s OK to feel sorry for Martha Stewart. 

But up next, Mary Kay Letourneau sentenced to prison for six years.  Actually, sentenced to more, but served six years after being convicted of having sex with a 12-year-old student.  She is set to be released next month.  Coming up, a former inmate and friend of Letourneau‘s joins us.


ABRAMS:  We‘re back.  It might be the most notorious criminal case ever resulting from an older teacher sleeping with a younger student—

Mary Kay Letourneau and Vili Fualaau.  He was a 12-year-old sixth grader and she was a married mother of four when their affair began eight years ago.  They said it was love, but she later pled guilty to child rape and after violating her probation by sleeping with him again, Letourneau was sentenced to 89 months in prison.  But her time behind bars is almost up. 

Letourneau is expected to be released August 4 and Vili Fualaau, now 21, is apparently planning their future together.  He told the “New York Post”—quote—“I have been imagining and thinking about what our life would be like together for a long time, but I can‘t say what would happen.  No one can.  I want to know what her true feelings are first.  Well for some insight into her true feelings, we are joined now by Mary Kay‘s former cellmate, Christina Dress, and she became friends with Letourneau, even wrote a book with her called “Mass With Mary”.  Thanks very much for coming on the program.  We appreciate it.


ABRAMS:  So first give us an overview of how Mary Kay Letourneau viewed this relationship.  Did she recognize that it was wrong, that it was criminal or did she view it as simply something that was all right and that she never should have been prosecuted for?  

DRESS:  Oh no.  She doesn‘t think she shouldn‘t have been prosecuted.  I know Mary has a lot of regrets about her judgment—the judgment calls that she made six, seven years ago and then some.  But her love for Vili even when I questioned it in the beginning and thought to myself, wow, lady, you are some kind of a fruit cake.  You know she loves him.  And Mr.  Abrams, she‘s never stopped talking about him.  Even if I am tired of hearing it, I have heard about Vili...


DRESS:  ... for six and a half years.  And no doubt about it, I guess it‘s on them now what they do. 

ABRAMS:  Did you ever say to her, how can you love in that way a boy so young?  

DRESS:  Yes.  Yes.  We had a lot of—we had some monster arguments in the beginning of our relationship.  She knew I was writing the book and then she joined me to give me her version, her story.  But I would look at her sometimes and just say you need meds.  You‘re crazy.  You can‘t be thinking it‘s OK.  But like I said before, and it—I just started to not be so judgmental because I was no part of it.  I can‘t speak for what she was thinking at the time.  I‘ll never agree with her judgment and we just agreed to disagree on the whole Vili thing.  But... 

ABRAMS:  What would she—I‘m sorry. 

DRESS:  That‘s OK.

ABRAMS:  What would she say about her family?  I mean that to me has always been one of the most heartbreaking parts of this story has—I mean is seeing she had four children, her husband.  Is she sorry?   Does she feel like she ruined her life to a certain degree because of what happened to them from all this?  

DRESS:  Of course she does.  And she spent—we spent a lot of holidays together, all six of their birthdays, Christmases, et cetera.  It‘s depressing in prison.  Washington Correction Center is not a prison hotel and it‘s been a rough time for her.  She misses her children.  She‘s sorry for any trouble she‘s put them through, but they have never stopped loving her and Steve lets them talk to her on the telephone.  And of course, the two little girls, they‘re crazy about Mary and she gets to see them all the time.  And I hope that that continues for them because they have really all served six and a half years.  You know what I mean?  

ABRAMS:  Would—you say that she was mistreated in prison at certain points?  

DRESS:  Yes, she was given kind of a run for her money.  Of course, like you were talking earlier about Martha Stewart having a prison consultant.  Mary didn‘t have one and she probably could have used one.  She didn‘t do everything right.  She didn‘t bow down to them in any way.  And they just didn‘t care for her attitude, which was I‘m not ever going to be any different than I am.  I always just say she‘s just very Mary and she carried herself well.  She earned the respect of a lot of the inmates and the officers there, too.  But in the beginning she was treated harshly.  I mean I can go on and on.  In the book we talk about all kinds of things.  You won‘t believe what‘s happened in the... 

ABRAMS:  You say that people put chemicals or spit in her food and that you were able to stop that.  Let me...

DRESS:  Yes. 

ABRAMS:  She was not supposed to be contacting Vili and yet she was still contacting him even after—and it‘s important to remind my viewers she was given probation, told to stay away from him...


ABRAMS:  ... she then went back and was with him again and that‘s why she ended up in prison.  She continued to communicate with him while she was in prison?  

DRESS:  Well, you know, I have to say Mary is a more prison savvy woman today and she would not violate—I don‘t believe that she would violate any order that would cause her any more prison time or probation violation or whatever.  But I know that in the beginning, I mean I‘d be lying to say that she didn‘t talk to Vili because we all know she did.  I mean she did anything she could to get messages through to him...


DRESS:  ... to the caretakers of her children, and she paid dearly for it.  I think she did seven months in administrative segregation, the hole, which is a nasty place to be.  In fact, it‘s a place where you are sent for maybe 20 days if you‘re caught with drugs...


DRESS:  ... or you‘re beating somebody bloody and Mary got seven months for sending a message to Vili through the bottles of milk she was sending out to Georgia to Alex (ph).

ABRAMS:  Let me ask you a final quick question. 

DRESS:  Sure. 

ABRAMS:  It‘s going to put you on the spot a little bit. 

DRESS:  That‘s OK.

ABRAMS:  But if you had a 12-year-old boy, would you trust that boy with Mary?  

DRESS:  You know I was so—I‘m not a mother, so I have always thought I had that going for me that I didn‘t have to have that reality, so many of the women in prison that do have children judged her really harshly. 


DRESS:  The Mary I know now and the Mary that I got to know over the years, there‘s no question if I had a—if I have a child, I‘d ask Mary to be the godmother and I am not a stupid woman.  She‘s wonderful with children. 


DRESS:  ... it‘s...

ABRAMS:  ... maybe too wonderful...

DRESS:  Well you know I know, Mr. Abrams.  Everybody has a different opinion and believe me...


DRESS:  ... I did, too, in the beginning.  I‘m telling you and like I have been trying to tell everyone, you know my book wasn‘t supposed to come out until Mary‘s release because I don‘t want her to suffer any more problems.  You know I mean I‘d like to tell you things...


DRESS:  ... but I don‘t want to cause her any grief.  They are not very nice to her even still. 

ABRAMS:  All right.

DRESS:  But you can get my book.  It‘s through Trafford Publishing and you can get it now because of some of the work I have done with NBC today.  You can get the book as of last night and find out...

ABRAMS:  There it is.  We just put it up on the screen there...

DRESS:  Yes.

ABRAMS:  ... so people can see it “Mass With Mary”...

DRESS:  Yes, I‘d like you to read it, Mr. Abrams because I‘m just thinking you might think differently. 

ABRAMS:  All right...


ABRAMS:  You know, I‘m...

DRESS:  I know you are. 

ABRAMS:  ... I‘m looking forward to reading it. 


ABRAMS:  Christina Dress, thanks so much taking the time...

DRESS:  Thanks for having me. 

ABRAMS:  ... to come on the program.  Really appreciate it.

DRESS:  Thank you.

ABRAMS:  Coming up, why it‘s OK to feel sorry for Martha Stewart.  It is my “Closing Argument” coming up.


ABRAMS:  Coming up, last night we talked about what was in Scott Peterson‘s bag when he was arrested.  Everything from a water purifier to a dagger.  Is it possible he wasn‘t fleeing the country, but listening to the government and preparing for a terror attack?  “Your Rebuttal” coming up.


ABRAMS:  My “Closing Argument”—why it‘s OK to feel sorry for Martha Stewart as she prepares to be sentenced tomorrow.  As I‘ve said before, there was overwhelming evidence that she was guilty of lying to federal investigators about what she knew and when she knew it.  She deserved to be convicted.  Justice was served. 

But now justice will also be served if she gets a light sentence.  She‘s facing a range of 10-16 months, although arguably it could be as low as probation.  She should get no more than 10 months and be allowed to serve half in home detention, as is the case with many people, convicted of similar crimes.  I know from the e-mails, some of you will say why do I feel any remorse for someone who lied, who thought she was above the law?  

First of all it‘s worth repeating.  She probably would not have been charged at all if she were Margaret Stewart instead of the Martha Stewart.  She was not acting in a role as a CEO but as a private investor.  They never charged her with the alleged crime she lied about and I think she got bad legal advice when her lawyers allowed her to talk at all.

If she had refused to talk, she never would have been charged.  That does not mean she should just get probation as the defense has requested.  Their arguments that she could be a better use on the outside than on the inside ring hollow with me.  Almost all white-collar criminals can make the same argument.  A message must be sent that lying to federal investigators won‘t be tolerated.  She should serve some time. 

A sentence that for Martha Stewart will arguably be more difficult because of who she is.  But Martha has already gotten the sort of special treatment none of us would want.  Don‘t lump her in with the real corporate criminals whose nefarious deeds led to the demise of major companies.  She lied about her own stock trade.  To those of you who say if it were me, I would be serving the max, I say if it were you, you wouldn‘t have been charged.  I just hope she does not get more time because of who she is. 

I‘ve had my say.  Now it‘s time or the “Your Rebuttal”.  Last night we talked about the various items found in Scott Peterson‘s bag when he was arrested including a camping kit, water purifier, double-edge dagger. 

Dennis Toth does not find this incriminating.  “If you check with FEMA Red Cross, this gear is what they‘re recommending all Americans gather in the event of a terrorist attack and the need to leave your home.  I personally have three duffel bags prepared for my family.”

I haven‘t heard the—that defense as of yet.  One of my guests, Lisa Bloom, pointed out that you don‘t need purify water in the United States.  Michael Faust disagrees.

“A water purifier is by no means incriminating.  Your guest stated that water in the U.S. is safe to drink.  Has she ever heard of Giardia or Cryptosporia?  I doubt she has ever been camping in her life.  I take a water filter/purifier with me every time I go camping because water out of a river, lake, et cetera can be very unpleasant when you get sick from the bacteria.  I have a knife with several bladders, pliers, scissors, screw drivers, and fish scaler, you get the point.”

You know what?   We‘re out of time.  Thanks for watching.  That‘s the address, abramsreport@msnbc.com.  Please include your name and where you‘re writing from. 

“HARDBALL” with Chris Matthews is up next.  Joe Biden is on the show. 

Thanks for watching.  See you tomorrow.


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