PoliticsNation, Monday, March 31, 2014
Read the transcript from the Monday show
March 31, 2014
Guests: Emanuel Cleaver; Anne Filipic, Dana Milbank, Joan Walsh, Faith
Jenkins, Michelle Suskauer
REVEREND AL SHARPTON, MSNBC ANCHOR: Good evening, Ed, and thanks to you
for tuning in.
Tonight`s lead, a historic day for health care. We`re just hours away from
the deadline to sign up for President Obama`s health care law. Despite the
naysayers and the petty efforts to dismantle this law, it is working and it
is here to stay.
Today we learned that nearly 10 million previously uninsured Americans have
gotten coverage through the Affordable Care Act, 0 million. Yes, there
have been hiccups along the way. Even today the health care Web site
experienced glitches. But the president ran and won on the belief that
health care was a right, that all Americans deserved that right. And he is
delivering on that promise. If Republicans need proof of how life-saving
this law is, just ask one of the hundreds of people waiting in line for
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It`s definitely a benefit to know that if I do need
to go to a doctor, that I can afford to go.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I wouldn`t want to be caught without it if an
emergency would happen. It`s better to have insurance that can take care
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My biggest fear was if I broke a leg, I would have to
limp for the rest of my life, I guess. To me, my first thought, it was a
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: Stories like that are what this law is all about. But the right
refuses to accept that success. This weekend FOX News showed this
dramatically skewed chart to suggest that the law would come up far short
of its initial estimate of seven million enrollees. Since when is six
million less than half of seven million? Anyone? They distort, you
Here is what the chart should look like according to reality. How about
that? And despite the right`s misinformation, GOP senators are actually
accusing the president of cooking the books when it comes to the health
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: Senator Barrasso, given that, how much
does this six million number actually mean?
SEN. JOHN BARRASSO (R), WYOMING: I don`t think it means anything, Chris.
I think they`re cooking the books on this.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE REPORTER: You say they don`t trust this
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They lie to you.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE REPORTER: Your colleague, Senator Barrasso says the
White House is actually fixing the books.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Totally they are.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE REPORTER: You agree with that?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: Cooking the books? These interest same folks who questioned the
polls before 2012, the same people who refused to believe good job numbers.
And yet, when asked what their alternative, here is their response.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it`s good for the Republican party to have a
plan of its own that could insure Americans without having to lose your
doctor. Let`s start with the idea that preexisting illnesses should not
deny you coverage. That means you`re going to have to have pools for the
really sick. But why would you deny somebody insurance because they got
sick? Allowing children to stay on the policies up until they`re 26 makes
sense given this economy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: Preexisting conditions. Young adults on their parents` plans.
Where have I heard that before? Oh, right. The senator just described the
Affordable Care Act.
Joining me now are Congressman Emanuel Cleaver, Democrat from Missouri and
Anne Filipic, president of Enroll America, a nonprofit group helping the
uninsured sign up for health care.
Thank you both for coming on the show tonight.
REP. EMANUEL CLEAVER (D), MISSOURI: Good to be here.
ANNE FILIPIC, PRESIDENT, ENROLL AMERICA: Hi, Reverend. Thanks for having
SHARPTON: Congressman, let me start with you this. This is an important
date, no question about it. Why is the right so focused on this phony
argument that the president is cooking the books on the health care
CLEAVER: Well, these are the same people who were upset with Galileo for
saying that the world was round. And I think we`ve got to come to expect
that it`s unfortunate that we have people out here who have simply jumped
to their own confusion. And we have a responsibility to just continue to
The president was right. And in spite of the glitches, we made tremendous
progress, 3.1 million young people, 26 years and younger who are out of
high school are still able to get insurance with their parents.
CLEAVER: Insurance policy. So this is a good day. Some we just have to
understand who will not come along, they`re going to be left behind. And
that`s there`s not much we can do about them.
SHARPTON: You know, Anne, "the Washington Post" released a new poll that
actually shows 49 percent of Americans support the health care law. That`s
the first time in the poll`s history that more support the law than oppose
it. Haven`t we turned the corner on public perception of this law, despite
four years of GOP lies and distortions?
FILIPIC: Well, I think what is happening now is people are starting to get
coverage. And we knew that when this was really implemented and these 9.95
million people who didn`t have insurance before, now have it. Now have the
peace of mind that comes with it. And as they start to talk to their
friends and neighbors about it, that is what is not only changing opinion,
but it`s also what is causing the long lines we`re seeing at enrollment
events across the country this weekend and today.
SHARPTON: You know, Congressman, Senator Ted Cruz posted a poll on his
facebook page asking if people are better under Obamacare. And -- well,
let`s just say he didn`t get the response he was looking for.
Example. Le Sean wrote, yes, I have MS and I lost my job. I wouldn`t be
able to get any other insurance because of my preexisting condition. Thank
you, President Obama.
Russ said, thank God for Obamacare. I now have health care, and they
discovered I have cancer. Without Obamacare, I would die.
Shelley wrote yes, yes, and yes. Hands off my Obamacare.
Not exactly what Senator Cruz wanted on his facebook I`m sure, Congressman.
CLEAVER: No, this is not been a good Monday for the senator from Texas.
Because I think, he, like some others have over the past couple of years
gone out and given their opinions along with several unrelated facts. They
have done everything they could to kill this legislation that`s going to
help millions of Americans. Reverend, I was thinking about this earlier
today. I hope I never get to the point where I get up in the morning with
my goal being that I want to take something away from people that can make
their lives better. And these guys get up in the morning trying to keep
people from getting insurance and that is sick.
SHARPTON: And just because of politics. They want to take it away just
for partisan reasons. And it`s not like they come up with a different or
better plan to service these people that are in need, millions, I might
add, millions that are in need of coverage. And the serious stuff. Like
for example, to date, Vice President Biden appeared on Rachael Ray`s show.
And Ray actually teared up talking about how this law impacted her family.
Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RACHEL RAY, TV HOST: And my brother was diagnosed with an autoimmune
disease. He was dropped from his health insurance when he hit a health
care cap. He has a small child. My mom and my sister went online to the
site and used it as a resource to find the people in our community and they
found the right health care for my brother and his child. It is such an
JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The peace of mind that it
brings to the millions of people who could not get coverage before is
amazing. It`s amazing.
RAY: And I just hope the young people -- I`m getting teary, because it`s
very emotional for our whole family.
BIDEN: No, it`s personal.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: And these are the kind of stories you hear. And when you see
somebody like Rachael tearing up, you see this often. And that`s the human
factor that I think is way above the politics which is why I`m so
disheartened by seeing all this bickering when real people need real help.
FILIPIC: Well, that`s exactly.
CLEAVER: Go ahead.
FILIPIC: We hear these stories every single day across the country.
That`s why people are waiting for hours, literally for hours to get this
coverage. And I just want to say for anyone who is out there who is
uninsured. It`s not too late. And make sure you`re telling your friends
and family too. As you said, this is personal. This isn`t about politics.
This is about the opportunity to find that peace of mind that comes with
SHARPTON: You know, Congressman, you`ve got to explain one thing to me.
Rick Santorum, he argued this weekend that the 2012 election had nothing to
do with health care. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICK SANTORUM (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Was the issue in 2010
that caused us to have the tea party revolution. It was all around the
issue of health care. And this election is going to be all around the
issue of health care. And they`re two great elect elections for
Republicans. 2012 was not about health care.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: 2012 was not about health care? I mean, maybe I was delusional.
But I thought we talked about it often. I think it was in the debates. I
mean, what is he talking about?
CLEAVER: Well. if you belief what Senator Santorum, you believe that
football has nothing to do with passing. And I think that anybody who has
even a moderately good memory will recall that there was not a single
debate and very few speeches that were made either by president Obama or by
Mr. Romney that did not raise the issue of the affordable care act.
CLEAVER: It was front and center. And so the people of this country
consider what was going on, and the proposals that have been brought forth
on the ACA and they voted to reelect the president anyway. And I think
that eventually that the others are going to get on board when all other
alternatives have been exhausted.
SHARPTON: Well, it`s a great day. It`s a historic day. And clearly, as
you said, Anne, it is still a few more hours before the midnight deadline.
But millions of people have a different day than they had in the past.
Congressman Emanuel Cleaver and Anne Filipic, thank you both for coming on
the show tonight.
Still ahead, the Democrats fight back. We`ll tell you why Republicans may
be in for a rude awakening if they think health care will be a winner for
them in November.
Also, the GOP`s one percent problem. Why are the biggest names in the
party reaching out to billionaires instead of voters?
Also, is it a new case of too rich to jail? The shocking note from a judge
who gave a wealthy man probation for child rape. It`s in tonight`s justice
files. Stay with us.
SHARPTON: With less than six hours left until open enrollment ends, just
about everyone in the White House is joining the campaign to encourage
Americans to get covered.
But tonight they got the real star power. Here comes Bo and Sunny, the
first dogs get covered signs and posed along the first lady in the final
signup push before midnight. The first lady tweeted out the picture today
saying no bones about it, today`s the last day for signup for health
The dogs are embracing the law, and so is the power voices in the party.
What is former president Bill Clinton saying about it? Get ready for a
political dogfight, Republicans. That`s next.
SHARPTON: Growing up in Brooklyn, I learned a couple of valuable lessons.
You should always stand up for what you believe is right, and you should
never back down from a bully.
Republicans are convinced the health care law will be a big winner for them
in 2014. But will it? Some of the biggest voices on the left are saying
Former president Clinton says Democrats should embrace the law, not run
And minority leader Nancy Pelosi says the law will be the winner in 2014.
Why? Because 59 percent of Americans want to keep or improve the law.
Only 29 percent support the GOP plan, which is to repeal it or get rid of
it. Republicans think they can win elections by taking health care away
from millions of people. It`s up to Democrats to prove they`re wrong.
Democrats have a good policy with this health care law. Now they need to
make it good politics as well.
Joining me now are former Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell and Krystal
Thank you both for joining me.
KRYSTAL BALL, MSNBC HOST, THE CYCLE: Thanks for having me, Reverend.
ED RENDELL (D), FORMER GOVERNOR, PENNSYLVANIA: Our pleasure.
SHARPTON: Governor, they say the best defense is a good offense.
Shouldn`t Democrats go after Republicans when it comes to health care?
RENDELL: Absolutely. You know, the first thing I would do, Rev., if I was
running for governor in Florida or Pennsylvania or Mary Landrieu or Kay
Hagan is running in North Carolina and Louisiana, go after the Republicans
for not expanding Medicaid. Find every one of those people in Pennsylvania
almost 500,000, every one of those people who would have health care
coverage had they chosen to expand Medicaid, and say look, we can do this.
It`s wrong for the Republicans to keep you from getting health care. Get
all those people out to the poll, number one.
Number two, get all of the 26 and under who are living with their parents
who if we appeal Obamacare, they have no health care. Get them out to the
polls. Get the people with preexisting illnesses. Get them out to the
polls. Emphasize the positive. Let`s go and get the people who have been
helped, because more people have been helped so far than have been hurt.
SHARPTON: Now, Krystal, along those lines, a new democratic strategy has
been running ads in Michigan and West Virginia, targeting Republican
candidates who want to repeal the health care law. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: For 35 years, he worked in the mines. Now I worry we
both could get hurt if Evan Jenkins goes to Congress. He vowed to repeal
black lung benefits and supports letting insurance companies charge women
more for health care.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: With Land, insurance companies will be able to deny
you coverage when you get sick. Women`s access to preventative health care
would be cut while their costs would increase.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: Now, that`s taking the offense. How successful and effective do
you think that will be for Democrats?
BALL: I think those are terrific ads. And I absolutely think that`s the
tactic that they should be taking. Because if you look at it even now, if
you ask people individually about the different provisions in Obamacare,
they support it. People support individuals having access to health care,
not being denied for preexisting conditions, for young people to stay on
their parents` health insurance. They support the law.
Sometimes when you attach the president`s name to it, it becomes so
politicized. And it`s been so demonized by Republicans and a lot of
misleading attacks people have a reaction. But when you break it down and
say here is a real person that is benefitting from this law, somebody in
your community who is benefitting from this law, and this Republican wants
to take it away. It is absolutely the approach that Democrats should be
SHARPTON: Governor, you know, Democratic voters support the law. In
January when enrollment stood at three million, 65 percent of Democrats
supported the law. In March after enrollment hit six million, that spiked
the points up to 76 percent. That ties a record high, which came just
after the law passed in March of 2010.
Now, isn`t the law starting to reenergize the Democratic base? Isn`t it
going to be helpful in bringing them numbers out?
RENDELL: Sure. And, Rev., remember, that six million is only who signed
up for the exchanges. Another four million have coverage because of the
expansion of Medicaid. And those people plus the people who have been
denied coverage because Republicans refuse to expand Medicaid in many
states, that`s the base. And that base ought to be really fired up over
the health care law, fired up to keep it, fired up to get the benefits from
I think we can turn a negative into a positive, but we`ve got to stand and
defend. We can`t be cowardly like we were in 2010.
SHARPTON: And that`s basically, Krystal, what president Clinton is saying.
In fact, on his HBO show Friday night, Bill Maher called out Democrats for
failing to promote the health care law. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL MAHER, TV HOST: The Republicans run ad after ad of Obamacare horror
stories. But where are the success stories from the Democrats? You just
need someone who has seen a gynecologist, not big foot. It sounds like you
are trying to sell a Vince Vaughn movie, this is a good thing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: In his own special way.
SHARPTON: But get the point.
BALL: Yes, you get the point. And we`ve seen Americans for prosperity
have had all of these misleading ads that have just been destroyed by the
fact checkers claiming to put up people who are being hurt by Obamacare.
As the governor pointed out, there are millions more people who are
benefitting from this law in ways that are absolutely life-changing. And
this has been a problem for Democrats since they passed the law. They
haven`t known how to defend it. They haven`t known how to go on the
offense. Now is the time. The minutes are wasting. And I think that
Democrats are finally realizing they can`t try to hide from it. They can`t
try to run away from it. This is an unequivocally good thing that we have
done for the country. Stand on it.
SHARPTON: And I think also the thing that needs to really be pointed out,
Governor, is that the Republicans have not come up with an alternative
plan. I wrote a piece today about hating Obama is not a health care plan.
Where is the alternative? Are you really just saying to people don`t go
with the president`s plan, don`t go with the Affordable Care Act, but just
leave the people in the condition they`re in with no health coverage. That
would in and of itself would be a political liability.
RENDELL: There is no question about it. Not only have they really not
come up with a plan, they claim that there is this Senate bill, but it`s a
pathetic bill. But we could also pivot and say you know what? We think
Obamacare and health care is good for this country and they`re good
examples. But guys you talk about the health care act hurting the economy,
it`s been two years and you haven`t done one thing to help the economy.
The president has asked for infrastructure money. The president has asked
for this and that and that. Because I still think the economy is what
worries most Americans even more than all of the doubts that have been
raised under the health care act. So pivot and say you guys are so
obsessed with repealing Obamacare, you haven`t been able to think about
anything or do anything else. It`s time for you to go.
SHARPTON: Well, I think that this is going to be a central issue this
year. It`s going to be a determining factor to where we see the politics
of 2014 go. And we`re going to be there every step of the way.
Ed Rendell, Krystal Ball, thanks for your time tonight.
BALL: Thanks, Reverend.
SHARPTON: Be sure to catch Krystal on "the Cycle" weekdays at 3:00 p.m.
eastern right here on MSNBC.
Coming up, how big is the big money in Republican politics? One
billionaire has the stars running to Vegas over the weekend. We`ll take
And it`s the new affluenza case drawing national attention and outrage. Is
this wealthy child rapist too rich to jail? A judge thinks he would not do
well behind bars. The justice files is ahead.
SHARPTON: Democrats are betting on the American people. Republicans are
betting on billionaires. The biggest names in the party are falling all
over themselves to kiss the ring of this guy, casino mogul Sheldon Adelson.
Since when is one man more important than millions of Americans? We`ll
talk about it next.
SHARPTON: It was "American Idol" in Las Vegas over the weekend. Four GOP
2016 hopefuls flock to sin city for the Republican Jewish conference
retreat at the Venetian Hotel. And they were all vying for one man`s
attention, 80-year-old casino Titan Sheldon Adelson. He is the eighth
richest man in the world, worth $38 billion, and he is looking to bankroll
a 2016 candidate. Last election he put $98 million worth of chips in for
the GOP and the high roller lost.
But he is a gambling man, and he is getting ready to dole out more cash.
But here is what is important. All these politicians were there for one
billionaire, one person can produce a cattle call like this. And it`s
similar to the secret retreats the billionaire Koch Brothers hold twice a
year. Where just like Las Vegas, what happens there, stays there.
This is something new in our politics, a handful of billionaires calling
all the shots for an entire party. But while Republicans keep fighting
over billionaires, President Obama and the Democrats are going to keep
fighting for the American people, for fairness, for a minimum wage
increase, for unemployment insurance. They`re putting all their chips in
on the American people. And if I were a gambling man, I would too.
Joining me now are Dana Milbank and Joan Walsh. Thank you both for coming
on the show tonight.
DANA MILBANK, THE WASHINGTON POST: Hi, Reverend.
SHARPTON: Joan, a new Vegas show over the weekend, kissing up to a
billionaire. That`s the name of the new show.
JOAN WALSH, SALON.COM: I like it.
SHARPTON: What is troubling about this process to you?
WALSH: Well, it`s just such shameless pandering, Reverend Al. I mean, you
know, politicians pander, that`s what they do. They raise money. But to
go before this one man who stands for Israel and Islamophobia and union
busting, whose agenda is frankly extreme. And to pander in such shocking
ways. I mean, Chris Christie accurately describes the occupied territories
as occupied. And he has to go and apologize immediately. Scott Walker
talks about lighting the menorah at Hanukkah.
That`s lovely, but I mean, come on. John Kasich was acting like Adelson
was the only man in the room. There were other people there, there are
other props, but he is only talking to him. And Jeb Bush gets a private
audience with the man. He doesn`t stand for except money, and that`s what
these people are after. He is their constituency, the top of top one
SHARPTON: Dana, what do you think?
MILBANK: Well, I think it`s appropriate that they have this at the
Venetian Hotel because you`ve got to go back 600 years or so to have a
patronage system like this where people are basically purchasing the
politicians and the country. You know, when this happens in Russia, we
complain about the oligarchs running the government there. That`s exactly
what is happening in this country in the wake of Citizens United, where
it`s just a handful of billionaires. It`s this guy, it`s the Koch
Brothers, a few others can basically run the elections, particularly in an
off year. They can basically purchase all of the Senate seats that are
needed to give the Republicans a majority. That`s just how the system
SHARPTON: You know, on that point, Joan, a political article about the
Adelson event over the weekend had this very interesting observation. It
says there is a growing overlap between Koch world and the Adelson
Republican Jewish coalition crew. With Adelson attending a 2012 Koch donor
seminar and Tim Phillips, president of the Koch`s Americans for Prosperity
group attending his first RJC meeting last weekend. Now, what would it
look like if the Koch-backed spending and the Adelson spending were
combined? That would be close to half a billion dollars, Joan.
WALSH: It will look terrible. And it`s happening. I mean, they are
increasing their coordinating. What they`re doing Reverend Al, here`s the
only bright light. I`m really an optimistic. We also learned this weekend
that a lot of these rich money guys, the big donors behind Mitt Romney are
begging Jeb Bush to run. Now this is really, frankly ridiculous, the
notion that the only thing Republicans have going for them are men named
Bush. They can`t find a president from the 20th century to the 21st
century who is not named Bush. They`ve got to foist these wealthy men on
us. They`re bankrupting their party of ideas, and they`re bankrupting them
of leaders. They`re trying desperately to shut out the Tea Party and make
sure no crazies run.
WALSH: But this the process, you`ve got this selection process that is
controlled by a handful of wealthy men. That`s not good for the Republican
Party, in my opinion.
SHARPTON: You know, in line with that, Dana, you have the new report out
today that shows the wealth and inequality in America. The top 0.1 percent
has the highest yield of wealth since the 1920s. And the GOP is fighting
for the attention of a billionaire instead of looking for solutions to this
MILBANK: Yes, it is extraordinary, you know. And as Joan mentioned, Chris
Christie gets in trouble for talking about the occupied territory. The
real occupied territory right now is the Republican Party occupied by this
handful of oligarchs. It`s our system in general. Something is happening
similar on the democratic side, there just isn`t that much money
concentrated in such a tiny place. There`s got to be a point at which
people say we`ve gone too far with this income inequality. We`ve gone too
far with a few billionaires running our entire political system and we`ve
got to push back.
SHARPTON: And in fairness, the Democrats have money behind them to some
degree. But the unions, what tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of
members and many of them setting up the process to vote on who they`re
going to support. It`s not one man making the decision.
MILBANK: Right. There is no equivalent right now.
WALSH: No. There is no equivalent. And unions are semi powerful, we do
have some wealthy individuals, there are divisions within the Democratic
Party, but there are lots of Democrats, even wealthy Democrats. The
interesting thing about them is many of them often advocate for policies
that actually would cost them some money and help the working class, help
the middle class. These people are advocating for policies that only help
SHARPTON: Now Dana, President Obama has made raising the minimum wage a
priority this year. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRES. BARACK OBAMA (D), UNITED STATES: A majority of Americans not just
Democrats, not just independents, but Republicans too support raising the
minimum wage. It`s the right thing to do. If you work hard, you should be
able to pay your rent, buy your groceries, look after your kids.
Say yes to that, give America a raise.
I firmly believe it`s time to give America a raise. So join the rest of
the country. Say yes. Give America a raise.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: And democratic senators announced today they won`t be backing
down either. They`re threatening repeated votes on minimum wage. Senator
Tom Harkin was quoted as saying we`re not just going to walk away after one
vote. It`s too important for that. Dana, that could be very critical in
this election year to put Republicans on the record over and over again
about minimum wage while you are running around, trying to get the support
of billionaires to bankroll your campaigns.
MILBANK: Right. I was over at the conservative Heritage Foundation today,
and they were labor and other groups picketing there for the minimum wage
vote in the Senate. I think the democrats and their allies have to keep on
doing this. They may be outgunned in terms of the big money that is going
into the political system. But they have to keep setting up the contrast
even if they lose the fight on unemployment insurance, on immigration, on
the minimum wage. They have to keep saying here is our agenda. Here is
who we`re for, even if they`re not prevailing on it.
SHARPTON: Joan Walsh and Dana Milbank, thank you both for your time
MILBANK: Thanks, Reverend.
SHARPTON: Still ahead, a wealthy man gets probation for raping his own
daughter. And critics say it could be another example of too rich to jail.
That`s in tonight`s justice files.
And later, Dr. Martin Luther King`s powerful words about health care and
why Republicans need to listen to them today. Stay with us.
SHARPTON: Can someone be too rich to jail? It`s a case getting national
attention and national outrage. A rich father from Delaware served no jail
time after raping his three-year-old daughter. Robert H. Richards IV, an
heir to the DuPont family fortune was indicted six years ago on two counts
of second degree child rape of his three-year-old daughter. He was allowed
to plead to fourth degree rape. The judge put him on probation, saying he
needed treatment, and noted in her sentencing order that Richards would,
quote, "not farewell in a level five setting in prison." So why are the
details just coming out now? Because his ex-wife just filed a new lawsuit
on behalf of her two children. Her attorney alleging there was even more
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: The father initially denied the charges, but after
failing a lie detector test, he admitted the abuse of the daughter. Later,
when taking another lie detector test, he all but admitted the abuse of his
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: So how could a man convicted of raping his daughter and accused
of raping his son be allowed to walk free?
Joining me now, MSNBC legal analyst Faith Jenkins and Defense Attorney
Michelle Suskauer. Thank you both for being here tonight.
MICHELLE SUSKAUER, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Thank you.
FAITH JENKINS, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: Thank you.
SHARPTON: We`ll get into the new charges in a minute. But first, Faith,
what happened six years ago? How is man who admitted to raping his
daughter allowed to walk free?
JENKINS: Well, what happened is the D.A. offered a plea deal. He was able
to negotiate to a lower felony, a C felony. And the sentencing range
included no jail to up to 15 years. So it was really in this judge`s hand,
and in her discretion. And in my opinion, her abuse of discretion, she
decided that he didn`t deserve any jail time. He was even released on
$60,000 bond originally in the case. So he was able to walk out of jail
without really serving any time. And then in the end, she sentenced him to
eight years, but then she suspended that sentence and decided that
probation was more appropriate. I think it`s absolutely appalling.
I mean, yes, we do suffer from an epidemic of over incarceration in this
country. But when it comes to the most violent crimes, crimes against our
children, raping your children, in this case, he raped his own daughter, he
should serve jail time. And I think that is a significant oversight on the
part of this judge. And the only reason she did it is because he is a
wealthy man, that he had powerful attorneys from the biggest law firm in
the state, and he has a lot of money and a prominent name. Those are the
SHARPTON: We`re talking, Michelle, about a three-year-old child that was
SUSKAUER: That`s right.
SHARPTON: And he served not one day in jail. And the judge saying on the
record he wouldn`t farewell? I mean, this is contemptible.
SUSKAUER: Well, you know, you`re pointing the finger right at the judge.
And obviously this was a plea. This was not a negotiated plea. This was a
plea up to the court, which means the court had the discretion to sentence
him. But let`s go backwards a step to the state attorney, to the
prosecutor in this case, because that`s not what he was originally indicted
for. But the prosecutor permitted a plea to one count of fourth degree
rape which does not require --
SHARPTON: He was originally indicted for second degree, am I right?
SUSKAUER: That`s right. And two counts, he plead to one count of fourth
degree, which does not count -- does not have any mandatory minimum prison
sentence. So the court had that discretion. So the prosecutor here freed
the court`s hands to do what they did. We weren`t present at the
sentencing hearing. We don`t know the strengths or weaknesses of this
case. Remember, there must have been a reason for the state to do it. And
I`m not saying just because he is wealthy, that`s why he got that plea.
Maybe there were problems with this case. I`m not defending the acts.
What I`m saying is there is a reason there is a reason. I understand.
JENKINS: No he admitted the rape. This isn`t a problem with the facts.
This is a defendant who actually admitted that he raped his three-year-old
daughter. So there is not a problem with the facts here.
SUSKAUER: I understand.
JENKINS: Yes, I do think that --
SUSKAUER: But what we`re saying is --
JENKINS: I think that to answer your question, I think that this judge`s
rationale in pointing at all the other reasons that she thinks probation is
appropriate is a complete farce. I think the only reason that this man
under these facts was given probation is not because of what he did,
because she completely looked past that, it`s because of who he is.
SHARPTON: All right, Michelle.
SUSKAUER: OK. You know, listen, he`s a convicted sex offender. That is a
life sentence. That stays with you forever. And I`m not saying that he
shouldn`t have done prison time in this case. But we`re not privy to why -
- what the rationale was of the prosecutor in this case. The prosecutor,
go backwards, was the one who freed the court`s hands there also is an
eight-year suspended sentence, which means if he violates probation, he is
going to go to prison.
SHARPTON: Yes, but let me ask you this, Michelle.
SUSKAUER: He has all the conditions that go along with being a sex
offender on sex offender probation.
SHARPTON: Michelle, I understand all of that. But here is the question.
What kind of precedent are we setting? Both the prosecutor and the judge
when you say on the record he would not do well in prison?
SHARPTON: They didn`t --
SUSKAUER: Nobody does well in prison.
SHARPTON: Let me finish. They didn`t say any of the things that you say
could have led to this. I`m talking what they did say. And they said
that, quote, "he wouldn`t do well." What kind of precedent does that set
when we see ordinary working people, poor people go to jail every day for
much less than raping their own three-year-old daughter.
SUSKAUER: Listen, this is -- there is no question, this is a horrific,
horrific crime. I have defended people charged with this. I have
represented victims in court. This is terrible. However, you are picking
out one line of probably a very lengthy sentencing hearing and sentencing
memorandum. We haven`t seen anything else. So if you want to look at that
in a vacuum and say that was it, well, nobody does well in prison. He is
not going to do well, but nobody does well in prison.
JENKINS: That was one of the reasons that the judge gave, and that reason
in and of itself is unacceptable. You`re talking about -- that`s why we
have protective custody in prison. I understand that child molesters for
whatever reason are targeted in some prisons but that doesn`t justify them
not going to prison. That`s why you have protective custody. By the way,
it doesn`t even make sense in this guy`s case. He is 6`4", he is 250
pounds. He can certainly take care of himself. You`re talk about
protecting him? What about the children, not only his three-year-old
daughter, but the other children who are now susceptible to his behavior.
SHARPTON: Let me also raise this, Michelle. Richards was indicted on two
second-degree rape charges in 2008. They would have carried a mandatory
ten-year jail sentence each, apiece if he had been convicted.
SHARPTON: The average sentence for drug possession in state prison is 20
months. So to go from mandatory ten years on each one to allow him to go
to a plea on the fourth and no jail time, I mean, and we read the
sentencing report, there is no explanation why you would do that.
SUSKAUER: Again, again, I think you need to ask the state attorney why
they went ahead and went from two much more significantly serious felonies
to one fourth degree level that doesn`t require. That`s right. With no
mandatory jail time. And I think you need to go backwards. We`re also
hearing bits and pieces of this. Again, I`m not defending the act. We`re
hearing bits and pieces from the ex-wife`s attorney. And they`re suing him
for however much they`re suing him for.
SHARPTON: I understand the ex-wife`s attorney and there may be -- they`re
self-serving there. But the court documents of the judge`s sentencing is
the court documents of the judge sentencing had nothing to do with the
wife, nothing to do with the wife`s attorney. And you say we should ask?
That`s exactly what I intend to do is keep asking. Faith Jenkins and
Michelle Suskauer, thank you both for your time tonight.
JENKINS: Thank you.
SHARPTON: Coming up, on this historic day for health care in America, we
look back at what Dr. Martin Luther King said about it and America`s long
arc of history bending toward justice.
SHARPTON: Right now the jobs picture in America is improving. Employment
increased in 33 states last month, and jobless rates fell in 29 states.
Great news, but the fact is more than ten million Americans are still
looking for work. Yet three million jobs still remain unfulfilled. How is
that possible? Well, there are a lot of reasons. But the biggest is the
skills gap. Too few people have the right skills to fit those jobs in
America. We have to be better than this. We need to help train people for
those jobs. President Obama has talked about it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: We`ve got to help our workers get the training to compete for the
industries of tomorrow. No job in America should go unfilled because
somebody doesn`t have the right skills to get that job. Nobody.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
So if there is a job open, we should train those folks right away so that
they can do the job.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: In advancing the dream series tonight, we highlight a program in
Chicago doing extraordinary work. It`s called "Skills for Chicagoland`s
Future," a public/private partnership works with employers to build a
pathway to employment for people who don`t have jobs. The company then
makes a commitment to hire them after training. And this mom`s story is
one of 700 success stories in the last seven months.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Because of the weight her son has had to understand
that things are different.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: He`s always known mommy to work, considering I
received my master`s degree about a year and a half ago. Mommy was also
doing homework while he was doing homework. So he is used to me doing a
lot of different things at the same time. But he understands that, you
know, mommy is looking for a job.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: since she has been working with SCF, she has noticed a
pickup in her job search.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: My first interview came through them. So, after all
these months and all my searching and all the other recruiters that I have
spoken with and gone to meet with, they are the first ones that I`ve
actually have an interview with in actual company rather than just the
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Such a pickup in fact that she has been offered a job
doing fraud and risk analysis for JPMorgan Chase.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: The Skills for Chicagoland`s Future group is giving people more
than new skills. It`s giving them hope. And I hope more organizations
across the country can follow its great example. We`ll be right back.
SHARPTON: Today Congressman John Lewis, an icon of the civil rights
movement sent a tweet that capture what`s the health care debate is all
about. Quote, "in 1966, Dr. King said, of all forms of inequality,
injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane." Dr. King
made those remarks 48 years ago this week. In a speech at a Chicago
Medical Convention. He knew that life without health care could be as
crippling as life under Jim Crow. And just as difficult to reverse.
President Obama talked about how Dr. King might feel about the Affordable
Care Act last summer.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Oh, he`d like that. Well, because I think he understood that
health care, health security is not a privilege. It`s something that a
country that is as wealthy as ours, everybody should have access to.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: And everybody should have access to it. And despite the
glitches, today people can go to a website or phone number that never
existed before in their lifetime. That`s America at its best. We have
until midnight to bring in more. But thank God for those enlightened
Americans that fought the politics of today and made it a moral statement
that not only will help make people`s lives better, but makes the character
of this nation`s better when we do what is right for other Americans. It`s
a great day.
Thanks for watching. I`m Al Sharpton. "HARDBALL" starts right now.
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