updated 7/26/2004 11:22:47 AM ET 2004-07-26T15:22:47

Guest: Jennifer Dobner, Clint Van Zandt, Norm Early, Larry Posner; Dean Johnson, John Timoney, Gil Kerlikowske, Monica Goracke,  Stuart Seides

DAN ABRAMS, MSNBC ANCHOR, THE ABRAMS REPORT:  Coming up, we‘re expecting a live news conference.  Why was the husband of that missing Utah woman shopping minutes before he reported she disappeared?  Police confirmed Mark Hacking was buying a new mattress less than 30 minutes before he reported his wife missing but they were supposed to be moving later in the week. 

Plus, two months and 88 witnesses into the Scott Peterson trial, are prosecutors building that compelling case so many expected or are they just putting the jurors to  sleep?

And the 9/11 commission calls for action at the highest levels of government.  But those are long-term changes.  Has anything changed today?  Are the local police doing anything differently?  We‘ll talk to two big city police chiefs.  The program about justice starts now. 

Hi, everyone.  First up on the docket, the Lori Hacking case.  This is the woman who has been missing in Utah.  Her family is holding a press conference.  Let‘s listen. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Carol, one of Lori‘s best friends, we‘ve been friends since junior high over the years.  I just wanted to say a little about her and what a wonderful friend she is.  We were just your regular teenage girls.  We would sit in her room and laugh, talk about boys, do our hair.  We‘d have parties. 

One thing I remember about her, she always had Diet Coke in hand no matter—we always had to stop and get Diet Coke.  She just—she‘s—she‘s just—I feel so lucky to count her as one of my friends and I—we need to find her and I just  hope that people will come out  and look at us and think that she‘s somebody‘s best friend.  She‘s somebody‘s daughter.  She‘s somebody‘s sister.  She‘s someone‘s best friend and how important she is and what an asset she is to this world.  She was—she‘ll be great things and we just, we‘ve got to come and support her and look for her. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I‘m Holly Thomas (ph).  I‘ve known Lori since we were in seventh grade.  Lori to me has always been the kind of person who is the kind of person that you would want to be like. Starting in seventh grade, she was so focused.  She always had goals. She was always achieving those goals and she‘s so excited about her future and we are so glad for all the people who have come out and helped us try to find her.  We just want the volunteers to keep coming out, trying to help us find her.  We want to keep the focus on her.  We love her so much and she‘s our dear friend.  She like Rebecca said, she‘s someone‘s baby.  Someone rocked her to sleep and we hope that people will keep that in mind and keep coming out in numbers and droves. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  We also wanted to say that we are going to have a candle light vigil for her in Memory Grove Park on Sunday night at 7:00.  And we‘ll have more information on that tomorrow on the Web site at findlori.com.  So anyone who will come to support her and just show your love and support.  I have been so impressed at how many people who don‘t know her have come and it‘s really made me  think that there are good people in this world and not just evil and I just—I‘m so thankful for everyone who has cared to come and help. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Thank you. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I‘m Kathy Black.  I am Lori‘s cousin and first of all, I just wanted to let you know what a fun-loving person Lori is and adventurous and full of life.  On her 21st birthday, she decided she was going to celebrate it in style and her friends and her hopped on a plane.  They flew...

ABRAMS:  All right.  We‘ve been hearing from the friends and family of Lori Hacking.  But really, what a lot of people are asking questions about is her husband.  We‘re already learning more about Mark Hacking and here‘s what we‘ve been learning today.  His credit card records show he bought a new mattress 26 minutes before he reported Lori missing at this Salt Lake City furniture store.  Why is that important?  He told family and friends he and his wife were moving to North Carolina in the next few days so he could attend medical school. 

So if the couple needed a new mattress, why wouldn‘t they wait until they moved across country?  Also keep in mind, Hacking had never even applied to medical school it turned out.  And Hacking‘s father confirming that police were called to a  disturbance at a local motel in the early morning hours on  Tuesday where Salt Lake City police found Mark Hacking running around naked.  And now, Hacking has checked into a psychiatric unit at the University of Utah Medical Center.  Earlier today, his father and Lori‘s mother talked about trying to get some answers.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)  

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yesterday morning, I looked him in the eye and I said I need you to tell me that you had anything to do with Lori‘s disappearance and I know you‘re getting anxious, but I have to tell you that he looked me in the eye and he said no. 

THELMA SOARES, LORI HACKING‘S MOTHER:  We‘re deeply concerned about Mark.  We don‘t understand what has happened.  We are after the truth and he is after the truth.  But this has to take a back burner to the fact.  We know where Mark is.  We don‘t know where Lori is. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ABRAMS:  My take, this is beginning to sound a little fishy.  I‘m always suspicious when a close relative is telling lies right around the time someone goes missing, but we will have to get more info on that.

I‘m joined now by Jennifer Dobner, who‘s covering this case for Salt Lake‘s “Deseret Morning News” and former FBI profiler and MSNBC analyst Clint Van Zandt.  All right.  Jennifer, let‘s start with what the police are saying.  They‘re still calling Mark a person of interest.  Are they continuing to question him?  Are they continuing to treat this simply like a missing persons case?

JENNIFER DOBNER, “DESERET MORNING NEWS”:  Well, I think they are treating it like a missing persons case, but they do consider the circumstances suspicious.  At this time, Mark is the only person they‘ve named as a person of interest but they haven‘t named anybody including Mark as a suspect. 

ABRAMS:  Is there significance apart from what I mentioned about the mattress, meaning why would he be buying a new mattress if they‘re moving across country?  Was there anything with regard to the timing of it that seemed suspicious about where he made the call, et cetera?

DOBNER:  Well, some of that is still unclear.  The timeline is a little bit unclear.  We‘re not really sure exactly what time he called Lori‘s work that morning to ask to speak to her and find out she didn‘t show up.  We‘re not exactly sure—well, the police have said 10:49 is the time they took the first dispatch call.  Neighbors in the area have said somewhere between about 10:45 and 11:30, people were showing up  knocking on their doors. 

But the mattress does throw an interesting wrinkle into it. The credit card records show that the credit card cleared at 10:23.  So it seems a little improbable that you could get from where he purchased the mattress to the grove and leave with the mattress on top of your car as the mattress salesman had said and yet and be there and calling and  looking for your wife.  Something about it isn‘t quite clear. 

ABRAMS:  And yet the family is still united so far, both sides of the family?

DOBNER:  Yeah, they really seem to be both of them very committed to finding Lori.  Both of them very concerned about Mark‘s condition and  Mark‘s dad this morning expressing a great deal of dismay at the focusing the attention that Mark‘s condition and Mark‘s actions are getting, is really drawing away from the efforts to find Lori. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  Clint Van Zandt, I can understand why Mark‘s family is going to say that.  I can understand why the police are just going to say we‘re still searching, a person of interest.  But the bottom line is that there‘s something more here, meaning, doesn‘t mean guilt or innocence, but something more in terms of the investigation here. 

CLINT VAN ZANDT, MSNBC ANALYST:  Yeah, there is. Dan, there‘s another factor to this timeline, too.  Supposedly, he—when he found his wife missing in the morning, he says he goes out and runs the jogging trail.  That‘s three miles each way.  He says he runs that.  Then around 10:00, he calls some friends and says I can‘t find Lori.  And then it‘s after that that he goes and buys the mattress.  If that timeline is correct and Dan, even more important, I‘ve been kind of in this guy‘s corner because we have this alleged witness who said supposedly, she saw Lori at about 6:00 a.m.  jogging or stretching out. 

I just heard a re-interview of the lone witness and she says she wasn‘t stretching.  I saw a woman running.  50-50, it might have been this woman, because I don‘t really know what she looks like.  Dan, that‘s the only person who puts Lori there in the morning.  Otherwise, the last contact was at 8:30 the night before and we don‘t know what happened to her then since that time. 

ABRAMS:  And yet Clint, this is where you have to be so careful, meaning we look at the Scott Peterson case right. 

VAN ZANDT:  We may as well lay them over the top of each other right now.

ABRAMS:  Sorry?

VAN ZANDT:  It‘s almost the parallel...

ABRAMS:  Right and what I was going to say is, what I was going to say is what happens is, the police always gets criticized for supposedly rushing to judgment and for supposedly focusing on—like in the Scott Peterson case, they‘re saying they focused on Scott from the beginning yet he wasn‘t arrested for months.  They kept going and going, yet they‘re still getting the accusation that they sort of rushed to judgment.  The police have to be very careful. 

VAN ZANDT:  Of course and Dan, as you well know because you‘ve covered

so many of these tragic things.  This case like any other just shows us how

valuable one human being is.  But there‘s a parallel investigation.  Just

like a set of railroad tracks, one track said she was carried away by a

mountain lion or some unknown predator, some transient camping in the

woods, like Elizabeth Smart or a serial killer, but Dan, that other track -

·         and they‘re running side by side—said we have to either rule the husband in or rule him out.  And so far, the police by the husband‘s own words, statements and aberrant behavior can‘t rule him out. 

ABRAMS:  Clint Van Zandt, Jennifer Dobner, thank you very much.  Sorry to cut you both short, but if you have any information about Lori Hacking, police ask you to call the tip line, 801-799-3000, 801 799-4636.  You can also get more information at www.findlori.com

The reason I‘m cutting them short, in my hand, a huge ruling in the Kobe Bryant case that has just come down.  In this next break, I am going to try to read as much of it as I can and tell you exactly what it says.  I can tell you I know this.  It is going to have a big impact on the case.  It‘s coming up after this break. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  All right.  We have just gotten our hands on a big ruling in the Kobe Bryant case and it relates to what information about the alleged victim‘s sexual past will be admitted at the trial.  This has been one of the most ferociously fought battles in this case.  I‘ve almost completed reading it.  But George Lewis has had a chance to look at it and he‘ll tell us exactly what it says.  Hey, George. 

GEORGE LEWIS, NBC NEWS, BURBANK:  Hey Dan, well, in what has to be a plus for Kobe Bryant‘s attorneys and the judge in this eight page ruling has concluded that all evidence, whether direct or circumstantial of the alleged victim‘s sexual conduct within 72 hours preceding her physical examination conducted at Valley View Hospital, Glenwood Springs, Colorado, comes in.  Also physical evidence taken by law enforcement officers and the nurse examiners from the alleged victim, including items of clothing and swabs from the physical examination.  This was evidence that the prosecution had fought hard to keep out under the 30-year-old rape shield law in Colorado. 

The judge had an extensive closed door hearing on this, called 27 witnesses, testimony concluded just yesterday and now late this afternoon has ruled that some of the evidence that the defense wanted to come in will come in even though Colorado has this very strong rape shield law that‘s supposed to keep out evidence of other sexual activity by the accusers in rape cases.  But the court here ruling that the evidence is relevant to the determination of the cause of injuries observed by the nurse examiners, the source of the DNA and the other bodily fluids found.  So a major plus for Kobe Bryant‘s lawyers—Dan.

ABRAMS:  George Lewis, thanks very much.  Appreciate it.

All right.  I have had a chance now to read most of the motion, certainly the most relative portions of it.  George, very adeptly there laying out what the key portions of it are.  The keys to this ruling is that this court is saying that some of the alleged victim‘s sexual history will be admitted in this trial and as George Lewis just pointing out that her alleged conduct, sexual conduct within 72 hours preceding her physical examination will be admitted.  That does not mean—remember they were talking about—they wanted to know about any sexual activity after, nothing in here which indicates that. 

Physical evidence.  The court will permit information, evidence, regarding the nature of the alleged victim‘s relationship with some of the witnesses.  Such evidence may include whether sexual intimacy was and is a part of each relationship but only as detailed in the court‘s sealed part of the order.  The court further concludes that any and all evidence of specific instances of sexual intercourse and conduct may not be offered at the trial. 

All right.  I am now joined by two men in Colorado who know this very well, former district attorney of Denver Norm Early, Colorado defense attorney Larry Posner and Dean Johnson who has been following this case as well.  Norm Early, let me start with you.  This ruling to me comes sort of as expected.  How about you?

NORM EARLY, FMR. DENVER DISTRICT ATTORNEY:  That was my prediction several weeks ago, Dan and I think it has more to do with her injury than the semen.  I do believe that it would encompass anything that had happened after Kobe Bryant, because it says up to and until the time of the examination itself, but as you know, I‘ve said many, many times that that‘s just an erroneous interpretation on the part of the defense that there was no sexual activity after Kobe Bryant.  I don‘t think they‘ll be able to prove it. 

But what I do think they‘ll be able to do is bring in an expert of their own who will say that the injury that she suffered to her vagina could will have been caused by consensual sex and that‘s what really distinguishes this case—will distinguish this case from other cases is they have someone who will say that because then, how she sustained the injury would be important and of course the 72 hours before Kobe Bryant or before the examination would be a critical period.  It‘s (UNINTELLIGIBLE) we take our victims as we find them and we deal with them as we have to in trial and certainly the judge is within, I believe legal parameters with this ruling. 

ABRAMS:  I think this is a—it‘s a good clarification Norm makes there that I should have made better and that is 72 hours preceding her physical examination really involves the most important issues in this case, meaning it could be if they say there was sexual activity after Kobe Bryant, that would be covered by this time period.  Of course the prosecutor say that didn‘t exist—Larry Posner. 

LARRY POSNER, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY:  Gigantic, gigantic, three torpedoes into the side of the prosecution case. The first one says that the defense is going to be able to prove multiple instances of sexual conduct.  If they couldn‘t prove it, then the judge wouldn‘t have had to enter any order allowing them to prove it.  That clearly is going to include the possibility of sex after the Kobe incident which we are led to believe by inside sources close to the prosecution would be a devastating blow to the prosecution case. 

ABRAMS:  But let‘s be clear.  Let‘s be—hang on, hang on, let‘s be clear.  Sources close to the prosecution I think Larry accurately says would agree that if there was sex after Kobe Bryant...

EARLY?:  I would agree with that.  

ABRAMS:  That‘s going to be devastating to the prosecution.  But prosecutors would not concede that that‘s the case.  Go ahead. 

POSNER:  Absolutely.  You‘re absolutely right.  The prosecution says that did not occur and the complaining witnesses that did not occur.  But let‘s then go into the second key part. The second torpedo is there is scientific evidence that the defense wants that was part of the examination of the alleged victim by the hospital will all come in.  All of the science and the beauty of that is that is not a prosecution or defense expert.  That‘s supposed to be a neutral expert, the lab and the people at the hospital who took the testing.  The third thing, Dan...

EARLY:  If I could respond there very quickly,  Larry, normally, what

happened during the course of a rape exam as far as the tear may not be as

relevant as it would be in this case because the defense is alleging here

that the tear came from someone else.  Normally, all you have is the nurse

·         the practitioner testifying...

POSNER:  This isn‘t about the tear. 

EARLY: ... saying that it could only have occurred with non-consensual sex.  But here they...

ABRAMS:  Hang on.

EARLY:  So it‘s within his rights to say that that physical evidence should come in.

POSNER:  But this isn‘t about the tear.  What this is going to be about, I believe is semen...

EARLY:  That‘s your speculation versus mine. 

POSNER:  We‘re dealing with motions we‘ve all read Norm.  The defense has said semen was found on her body in multiple locations that wasn‘t Kobe‘s.  That‘s the physical evidence. 

ABRAMS:  Let me let in Dean Johnson.  Dean, what do you make of the ruling?

DEAN JOHNSON, FORMER PROSECUTOR:  I think this is an excellent ruling.  Remember rape shield law was originally designed to prevent for one very narrow purpose which was to prevent defense attorneys from bringing in what‘s called unchaste character defense and attacking a woman‘s character.  That‘s not what ever has been proposed here.  What has been proposed is something very narrow to explain within a narrow time frame injuries that could have occurred in that time frame.  The prosecution kicked open the door for that by saying this is non-consensual sex and then we found there were a lot of other consensual ways that this could have come in.  So by narrowing that time frame, which can be done very well forensically by looking at the nature of the injuries and how they developed  up to the time of the exam, the court has issued a ruling that  carves out if you will an exception to the rape shield law and I think it‘s a very very good ruling. 

ABRAMS:  Well said, Dean. Let me take a quick break here.  I‘m going to ask you all to stick around, more on this major ruling.  Again this is going to tell us exactly what of the alleged victim‘s sexual past is coming into the Kobe Bryant trial and coming up later, it looks like Martha Stewart wants to go to prison now and not wait for her appeal.  Hoping she can just put this behind her.  We have a live report.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  We‘re back. In my hand, a big ruling in the Kobe Bryant case that has just come down with regard to what about the alleged victim‘s sexual past will be admitted at trial and one thing is clear.  The alleged victim‘s sexual conduct within approximately 72 hours preceding her first physical examination will be admissible.  And remember, she had told the police initially that she had not had sex for three days before the incident with Kobe Bryant. 

Also, physical evidence taken by law enforcement, nurse examiners, swabs from the alleged victim will also be admissible.  The court is also going to allow the defense team to get into her relationship with some of the witnesses.  Such evidence may include whether sexual intimacy was and is a part of each relationship but the court saying nothing else can come in.  What it sounds to me and I‘m sort of surprised by this, Larry Posner, it sounds like you and Norm Early, who disagree so much about the Colorado law and about so many of the issues in this case seem to both agree this was the right ruling. 

POSNER:  No question.  I think Norm would agree that what the judge has done is he‘s allowed in the stuff that Colorado law always envisioned would be admissible.  Let‘s just take that third item that you just mentioned because we haven‘t covered it.  The judge says the general nature of the relationship between the alleged victim and each outcry witness.  That means there‘s more than one. 

ABRAMS:  Earlier in the motion, it says there were two outcries. 

POSNER:  That‘s going to be what we call the bellman, Bobby and the former boyfriend, Matt.  And what the judge is saying there is that clearly, the defense is going to say you had a sexual relationship with this woman.  The judge is not going to allow a great deal of detail according to the order, but that‘s important because we are led to believe that perhaps one or more of these people have denied this to the police. 

ABRAMS:  I‘ve only got a minute left.  Norm, how devastating is a little strong word—how is it going to impact the prosecution that the alleged victim here said she hadn‘t had sex for three days before Kobe Bryant.  Now the judge is saying he‘s going to let in some evidence about what sex she had in that 72-hour period?

EARLY:  I thought she said two or three days, but at any rate, she did admit some sex prior to sex with Kobe Bryant and it‘s quite probably the explanation for the semen and that‘s part of the record in the case.  I think Larry‘s first two torpedoes misfired.      The third one had some validity to it.

ABRAMS:  Got to wrap it up. Norm, stick around Norm.  Norm, Norm,  I‘ve got to take a quick break here.  Just stick around for a little bit.  Dean Johnson, Norm Early, Larry Posner, also Martha Stewart may go to prison now. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Coming up, more on that big ruling in the Kobe Bryant case that has just come down.  The judge saying that some of the alleged victim‘s prior sexual history is going to be allowed into the trial. 

And Martha Stewart—is it possible that she‘s decided to go to prison now, before her appeal is heard? 

First, the headlines. 

CONTESSA BREWER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT:  Hello.

I‘m Contessa Brewer with the headlines. 

A White House official tells NBC News President Bush has directed Chief of Staff Andrew Card to head a task force that will review the 9/11 report and make recommendations to him as soon as possible about the next steps.  The task force is to include the national security and homeland security teams. 

Senator Susan Collins of Maine, who chairs the Governmental Affairs Committee, announced quick action on the 9/11 Commission‘s recommendations.  She says her committee will hold the first hearing on proposals to appoint a national intelligence director and create a national anti-terrorism center.  The hearings will be held the first week of August, interrupting Congress‘ summer recess, which begins today. 

And an Egyptian diplomat is the latest foreigner to be taken hostage in Iraq.  A video on Al Jazeera Television shows him sitting in front of six masked kidnappers.  They‘re damaged Egypt abandon plans to send security experts to help Iraq‘s new government. 

Now, back to THE ABRAMS REPORT. 

ABRAMS:  We are back. 

If there was one ruling in the Kobe Bryant case, one legal issue that everyone was waiting for, it was the question of how much of the alleged victim‘s sexual past will be admitted into the trial.  Well, within the past hour, the judge has ruled. 

And I‘m joined again by Dean Johnson, Larry Pozner and Norm Early, three people, lawyers, who have followed this case closely. 

All right, Dean, so the judge is saying that all the evidence, whether direct or circumstantial, of the alleged victim‘s sexual conduct within approximately 72 hours preceding her physical examination will be admitted.  The judge is saying this evidence is relevant to the cause of the injuries observed by the nurse, the source of DNA and other bodily fluids found and expert opinions concerning the physical findings. 

Let me ask you this, if you were the prosecutor, would you say at this point, you know what, we won‘t even talk about the injuries on her body, we just want to talk about the blood that was found on Kobe Bryant‘s shirt.  And could that, then, protect the prosecution and the alleged victim from this information being admissible? 

DEAN JOHNSON, FORMER PROSECUTOR:  Well, no, I don‘t think so.  The evidence is admissible no matter what because if the prosecution doesn‘t get into it, you can bet the defense is going to.  This goes to the credibility of every key prosecution witness.  Obviously the victim is the key witness.  This is inconsistent with statements that she‘s previously made about the crime. 

The first outcry witness, Bobby, who the prosecution has referred to as a living saint or some such phrase, it goes to his credibility and his bias.  The boyfriend, as well, it attacks his bias. 

You just, you‘re not going to be able to keep this out.

ABRAMS:  And it‘s—and Larry Pozner, it‘s her—I mean, you know, most importantly—and, again, I hate to keep bringing this up—but she did tell the authorities that she hadn‘t had sex with anyone in the three days preceding Kobe Bryant.  That goes to her credibility. 

POZNER:  Right.  In a case where the prosecution must eventually say to the jury believe her beyond a reasonable doubt, any evidence that suggests that she has lied to law enforcement or to the jury would be devastating evidence. 

This is all news we expected, but that doesn‘t change the fact that this it‘s bad news for the prosecution. 

ABRAMS:  I think that‘s a very fair characterization.

I‘ve got to wrap it up...

EARLY:  And...

ABRAMS:  Larry Pozner—Norm, sorry, Norm. 

EARLY:  Dan...

ABRAMS:  You get 10 seconds, Norm. 

Go ahead, quickly.

EARLY:  I think the determination as to how much of a direct hit this is, we‘ll see that if the prosecution takes an interlocutory appeal.  If they feel that it‘s devastating, if they feel it‘s a direct hit, if they feel that it could be fatal to their case.  If, however, they feel that...

ABRAMS:  I‘ve got to wrap it up, Norm. 

EARLY:  ... it‘s no big deal, they won‘t take it interlocutory. 

They‘ll go into trial (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

ABRAMS:  And let me just explain, just so my viewers know an interlocutory appeal would mean an appeal right now. 

Dean Johnson, Norm Early, Larry Pozner, thanks a lot. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Thank you, Dan. 

ABRAMS:  All right, is Martha Stewart—this is unbelievable—changing her mind, deciding it might be better going to prison sooner rather than later?  Sources to the case telling NBC‘s Anne Thompson that she is seriously considering it.  And my take, I‘ve been saying this is the right move for Martha Stewart.  As difficult as it may be for her to say I‘m going to give up my appeal to serve time, she‘s got as lenient a sentence as she could have expected, five months in prison then getting to serve five months of home detention in the home of her choice, where she can be out for 48 hours a week. 

So with almost no chance of actually winning the appeal—it‘s not an illegitimate appeal but she probably won‘t win—she might as well put this behind her and start moving forward with her life. 

Anne Thompson joins me now—so, Anne, what are your sources saying about why Martha Stewart may be coming around on this issue? 

ANNE THOMPSON, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT:  It boils down to it‘s all about her business, Dan.  This is an issue that was first raised in an interview that Martha Stewart did earlier this week that perhaps she would serve her sentence early.  And it‘s something that sources close to the case say has gotten a lot of discussion this week.  And, again, it all boils down to her business. 

Wall Street and advertisers like certainty, as one source put it to me.  And as long as she‘s out and pursuing her appeal, there is that uncertainty.  And her attitude is if it helps the business, then I can take it.  Advertisers have deserted Martha Stewart since her trial and subsequent criminal conviction.  Her stock did rally on news of her lenient sentence last week.  But it has fallen off some 8 percent in this past week. 

So that is what‘s driving the thought process there.  Another source tells me that Stewart is considering all her options.  But everyone I talked to today emphasized two things.  One, that no decision has been made.  And, two, even if she does decide to opt to serve her prison sentence early, she is still going to go forward with her appeal, because this is a decision that will be made on what‘s best for the business, not about the legal merits of her appeal. 

ABRAMS:  And I think you got this quote from Walter Dellinger, her appellate lawyer:  “Any thought she might give to voluntarily beginning to serve her sentence is based on her desire to devote her full time to her company as soon as possible.  In any case, she plans to pursue her appeal vigorously.”  Boy, that sure sounds like a—if he‘s willing to quote that, that sounds like she is very seriously considering it. 

All right, let me very quickly, Douglas Faneuil, the key witness in this case against Martha Stewart, he still pled guilty before he testified in this case and he was sentenced today.  Tell us what happened. 

THOMPSON:  He was sentenced today.  And you‘ll remember that the Doug Faneuil that we saw during the Martha Stewart trial was so cool and unflappable and showed a poise way beyond his 28 years.  Well, today it was a very emotional Doug Faneuil who stood before Judge Miriam Cedarbaum and pleaded for leniency.  He said he apologized for his role in the conspiracy, to helping to lie to investigators about why Stewart sold her ImClone stock.  He said it would have taken an exceptionally brave 26-year-old to avoid getting involved in that conspiracy two years ago and he regrets not being that brave.

Judge Cedarbaum praised Faneuil, saying that she was witness to the exceptional help he provided prosecutors in convicting Martha Stewart.  And she gave him a very lenient sentence, only a $2,000 fine. 

ABRAMS:  All right, Anne Thompson, thanks very much for that report.

Appreciate it. 

Up next, the 9/11 Commission wants changes at the federal level to help protect the U.S. from terror.  What about the local police? 

And should people with disabilities get more time for tests that allow them to enter medical school? 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  We‘re back.

The 9/11 Commission report has been out for a day.  So has this warning...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAMES THOMPSON ®, 9/11 COMMISSION MEMBER:  We‘ve been told by everyone from the president of the United States on down it‘s going to happen again. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  It meaning another al Qaeda attack.  As for when it might happen, the “New York Times” reported Friday that senior intelligence officials have described the current threat environment as the most worrying since the months before September 11.  The current information has been specific, consistent and solid and comes from multiple sources.  And while the national threat level hasn‘t been raised, Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge told sports executives today that al Qaeda might target sporting events and could strike soon. 

So, where does that leave the people who have to deal with a possible al Qaeda attack today and tomorrow—the local police? 

The Commission‘s report had plenty of recommendations for how the federal government should reorganize and prepare.  But how about the people who have to deal with this every day? 

My take.  I am really nervous that Congress might not have the will to act immediately, leaving the police on the front line in an impossible position—constantly hearing an attack is coming but not knowing what to do about it and not having more funds to address the threat. 

I‘m joined now by two big city police chiefs. 

From Miami, Chief John Timoney, and from Seattle, Chief Gil Kerlikowske. 

Thanks very much for coming on. 

Appreciate it. 

CHIEF JOHN TIMONEY, MIAMI POLICE DEPARTMENT:  Thanks, Dan. 

ABRAMS:  All right, sorry, gentlemen, with all this breaking news, my tongue is a little tied. 

All right, Chief Timoney, let me start with you. 

The 9/11 Commission, all right, so they‘re making these broad recommendations. 

TIMONEY:  Right. 

ABRAMS:  As a police chief, though, in a big city, are you reading this and saying OK, what are we supposed to do today and tomorrow? 

TIMONEY:  Not really.  I think while there‘s a sense of urgency about Congress coming back during the recess and dealing with it, I think that‘s the appropriate way to go.  Have some public hearings, particularly regarding this new centralized intelligence unit they‘re looking to set up.

There‘s also a recognition in the report that there‘s a need for greater funding for local authorities.  The problem with the funding to date, while it‘s been pretty good, a lot of politics has gotten involved in it. 

ABRAMS:  Yes.

TIMONEY:  So you‘ve got money that should be going to, for example, Seattle and Miami, that‘s going to, you know, suburban or exurban areas that really don‘t face the same threat. 

ABRAMS:  Chief Kerlikowske, though, what I guess I‘m focusing on is the fact that this “New York Times” report is saying that we‘ve got a concern about today and tomorrow, that the threat level is so great right now that it‘s as worrying as any time since right before September 11 and the 9/11 Commission again warning it‘s coming, it‘s coming, and you guys are then left saying OK, look, we‘re going to do what we can, but what do we do now?  Or am I just—am I just overstating it? 

CHIEF GIL KERLIKOWSKE, SEATTLE POLICE DEPARTMENT:  Well, no, I think we know what we can do and ever since September 12 I think the major urban areas, the big cities, the Chicago, Los Angeles, Seattle, Miami, have been preparing and working on this issue. 

ABRAMS:  But the 9/11 Commission is saying we‘re not prepared. 

KERLIKOWSKE:  Well, we‘re much better prepared. 

TIMONEY:  Yes.

KERLIKOWSKE:  I think there isn‘t a major city police chief that wouldn‘t say, look, there is more to do.  I mean every night when you go to bed you‘re thinking have I done everything possible to prepare my city and to protect my city. 

John is right, though, about the money.  The money has been particularly helpful.  The problem is it does not pay for people within these local big city police departments and this is one labor intensive business.  It‘s not just all technology and training. 

ABRAMS:  And Chief Timoney, do you think that, look, you worked in New York for a long time. 

TIMONEY:  Yes. 

ABRAMS:  Do you think that they should be focusing a lot more money on New York and Washington, not because they got hit before, but because all the chatter, etc., seems, again, to be focusing on New York and Washington?  Now, as the Miami police chief, how do you feel about those who say look, New York and Washington need to get a lot more than Miami and Seattle? 

TIMONEY:  Oh, I wouldn‘t disagree with that.  Clearly, those are the two prime targets.  But I would venture to guess there‘s probably about 15 or 20 cities, the top cities, that really need the money.  But especially Washington and New York, and especially New York.  New York‘s been hit three times and attempted two other times.  And so New York, more than any other city, definitely deserves more money. 

ABRAMS:  Chief Kerlikowske, do you agree? 

KERLIKOWSKE:  Yes.  Those cities that have already been identified—and remember that the federal government identified seven cities, including Seattle, in the very first round of funding.  I think that number is now up to plus 40.  Well, you can fund those areas, but you don‘t, as John said, you don‘t have to fund every suburban and rural area.  Every place that has a power line running through it, sure, that may be a threat, but there‘s no population density, the vulnerability isn‘t there and you‘re certainly not going to get the attention or the publicity if you take down a high power transmission line out in the middle of the woods. 

ABRAMS:  All right, Chief Timoney, Chief Kerlikowske, you both have very tough jobs and you serve the public and I appreciate it.  I think my viewers appreciate it, too. 

Thanks for coming on the program. 

KERLIKOWSKE:  Thank you. 

TIMONEY:  Dan, good seeing you. 

KERLIKOWSKE:  Thanks. 

ABRAMS:  Coming up at 10:00 p.m. Eastern time, an MSNBC special—

“The 9/11 Report:  A Call For Action, Isn‘t the Time Now?”  It‘s, of course, with Joe Scarborough. 

Up next, should would be doctors who happen to be disabled get extra time to polish off the tests that could put them into medical school?  It‘s a big debate and it‘s coming up. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  There are no shortcuts for students going through medical school.  The question we‘re going to ask—should people who have certain learning disabilities get extra time to take the medical school admission test?  It‘s coming up. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  We‘re back. 

When it comes to people with disabilities, everyone wants to try to help put them on equal ground to give equal opportunities.  Even some with learning disabilities, for example, are granted extended time or special accommodations when they take standardized tests. 

But what about for the medical school entrance exam?  Is it different

when we‘re talking about future doctors?  \

Four students denied extended time to accommodate their learning disabilities on the admissions exam for students applying to medical school are now suing.  They say they‘ve received extra time on numerous tests in the past and want the same treatment when they take the MCAT.  They say they can‘t demonstrate their actual knowledge and skills on the test without extra time and have filed a lawsuit against the Association of American Medical Colleges.  They claim, “The AMMC‘s policies are rooted in inaccurate, antiquated and biased conceptions of disability that result in the systematic and arbitrary denial of accommodations each year to numerous individuals with well documented disabilities.”

So are we going to give anyone who has some sort of diagnosed learning disability, from dyslexia to ADD, extra time? 

My take.  I think the people suing are asking for too broad a definition, far broader than the national standard.  It would allow, it seems, anyone with any diagnosed attention disorder to get extra time on the MCATs, and not only does that discriminate against everyone else taking the test, but also against, for example, undiagnosed people with the same problem. 

Joining me now to debate is Monica Goracke, one of the attorneys for the plaintiffs suing the Association of American Medical Colleges, and Dr.  Stuart Seides, a clinical professor of medicine at George Washington University. 

Thank you both very much for coming on the program. 

All right, Ms. Goracke, tell me why you think that I‘m wrong on this one. 

MONICA GORACKE, PLAINTIFFS‘ ATTORNEY:  Well, I think that you‘re wrong because extended time and other accommodations are not only the law to be provided to people with disabilities, they‘re also, as you put it before, a way to equal the playing field so that people with disabilities can show that they can perform just as well as anyone else and are extremely well qualified to be doctors. 

ABRAMS:  But how are we defining disabilities?  I mean I think that‘s really the question here is, you know, some people are going to say, what, everyone who has some sort of attention deficit disorder is going to get extra time to take the MCATs?  And could they be good doctors? 

GORACKE:  I think actually you have to show quite a bit of documentation to prove that you have a disability.  The plaintiffs in our case have documented their disabilities, clinicians.  They‘ve done numerous tests, going all the way back to grade school, in some cases. 

And they can definitely be good doctors.  Some of the top doctors in the medical profession have disabilities like the ones that we‘re talking about, dyslexia.  And they‘ve been extremely successful. 

ABRAMS:  All right, Dr. Seides, what do make of it? 

DR. STUART SEIDES, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY:  Well, I think it‘s important to remember that the medical school admission exam is just one part of the portfolio that somebody brings to an admissions committee.  And the fact that someone may not perform well on the admissions exam does not exclude them from the medical profession. 

I think, though, when one starts tinkering with the exam you have a problem because it‘s a zero sum game.  If you allow somebody extra time, extra accommodation to take the exam based on a learning disability, then, as you say, the undiagnosed individual, the individual who may have put in a lot of time working and studying, is going to be excluded, remembering that there are more applicants to medical school in this country than there are available spaces. 

So there is an inherent unfairness, I think, in tinkering with the way in which this examination is given.  And remember, the role of admissions committees in medical schools, I believe, is fundamentally a responsibility toward the future patients.  I think medical school admissions committees need to focus on putting the very best doctors, whether that means the most intellectually talented, the most diverse, into the community to serve the public. 

ABRAMS:  And Ms. Goracke, isn‘t there a concern that if they need so much extra time, or it‘s sort of—one of the requests was so that they can get no distractions, a room with no distractions in it, if they need that, I would think that there would then be certain areas in the world of medicine that they shouldn‘t be involved in. 

GORACKE:  Well, I don‘t think people with learning disabilities need a quiet separate room on all occasions.  It‘s specific to the MCAT, to be able to show what they know and to perform well on the test.  But people with learning disabilities are successful in the field.  They can perform just as well and...

ABRAMS:  All kinds of medicine?  You wouldn‘t have any concerns about emergency room, whatever the case is, no matter how much stress there was, that if they can‘t take the MCAT with distractions, they can still be doctors? 

GORACKE:  There are successful emergency room doctors.  The share of thoracic and—oh...

ABRAMS:  I‘m sorry, your mike fell off.  OK.  All right, don‘t worry. 

Just let‘s put her mike down for a minute.

Dr. Seides, you want to just respond real quick? 

SEIDES:  Well, I think when you talk about being able to work under pressure, under time pressure, being able to integrate, consolidate and focus information, and then being able to respond in the same—in an environment of distraction, as you say, anybody who‘s been to a big city emergency room anywhere in this country knows that it‘s all about working under time pressure and being able to synthesize information and being able to shut out the distractions. 

ABRAMS:  Ms. Goracke, a final 15 seconds to you. 

All right, it seems we‘re having a technical problem. 

I apologize to Ms. Goracke.  It‘s, I think, probably our fault, and the lights are going out with Dr. Seides.  We‘re having quite a segment here so I apologize to both of you. 

But thank you both so much for coming on the program.  It‘s very interesting stuff to me.  And—even if technically we can‘t do it, substantively it was still good. 

Usually I do my closing argument and rebuttal here.  The problem is we had so much breaking news, I wanted to not have to ignore our guests. 

Thanks for watching. 

HARDBALL with Chris Matthews up next.

I‘m going to be out for the next four days. 

The convention coverage, special convention coverage on MSNBC coming up next week.  MSNBC is the place to be. 

I‘ll be back on Friday. 

Watch Joe Scarborough tonight.  He‘s got a good special. 

Have a good weekend. 

END   

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