updated 8/23/2004 10:23:44 AM ET 2004-08-23T14:23:44

Guests: Brad Saltzman, Catherine Crier, Jayne Weintraub, Stacy Brown, Norm Early, Kathleen Van Kampen, Timothy Carter

DAN ABRAMS, HOST:  Coming up, the man who was speaking with both Scott Peterson and Amber Frey as those now infamous taped conversations were being recorded.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SCOTT PETERSON, ON TRIAL FOR MURDER:  And we have staff at the volunteer center.  It‘s opened in the morning and getting the volunteers going and has a tremendous staff of her friends to come in and help out during the day.

ABRAMS (voice-over):  Behind the scenes at the volunteer center.  What was Scott saying then?  His habits, his demeanor as the city searched for his missing wife.  And what was Amber doing in Modesto?

Money in the Michael Jackson case, the accuser‘s stepfather testifies Jackson associates offered to buy his family a new home and Jackson lashes out at headlines like these.

Plus, she voted to convict the man of murder.  We talk to the prosecutors who put Oprah Winfrey on the jury.

The program about justice starts now. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ABRAMS:  Hi everyone.  First on the docket tonight, with the Scott Peterson case on hold until Monday, and Amber Frey said to be cross-examined, we talk to the man who somehow became the one liaison between Laci‘s family, Scott‘s family, and Amber herself.  He was the one who set up the volunteer center, the makeshift headquarters in a local hotel where over 2,000 volunteers came together in their search to find Laci.  And Scott talked about it on the tapes with Amber.

(BEGIN AUDIOTAPE)

PETERSON:  We have a volunteer center set up here.

FREY:  Really?

PETERSON:  And I go in and I open it up in the morning...

FREY:  (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

PETERSON:  ... volunteers come in and we direct them out into every city in Stanislaus County we‘ve done.

FREY:  Really?  And so what were you doing—I mean were you doing all this, you know, in your conversations with me during the day and at night?  I mean what was that?  You‘ve been calling—having conversations with me all this is happening?

PETERSON:  Yes.

FREY:  Really?  Isn‘t that a little...

(CROSSTALK)

FREY:  Isn‘t that a little twisted, Scott?

PETERSON:  It is.

(END AUDIOTAPE)

ABRAMS:  My first guest, Brad Saltzman, was the chief volunteer in the search effort headquartered at the hotel where he was the general manager.  He got to know both families very well, a confidant of Laci‘s family, a friend of the Petersons, even offered them discounted rooms.  That is until Scott‘s father criticized the Rochas during an interview.

More importantly for now, Saltzman was with both Scott Peterson and Amber Frey during the time these phone calls were taking place.  Frey even stayed at Modesto‘s Red Lion on at least four occasions in mid February.  The conversations were taped through February the 19th.

Brad joins me now.  Brad, good to see you again.

BRAD SALTZMAN, FORMER MANAGER, RED LION INN:  Dan, nice to see you.

ABRAMS:  So Brad, what was your initial impression when you heard these tapes and you thought about fact that you were there, you were there at the volunteer center, you were there with Amber in mid February.  What struck you the most?

SALTZMAN:  Well you know, it‘s amazing to hear, Dan, that we all thought that Scott was going out during the day and distributing fliers and searching for Laci and then to hear in these tapes that he was actually pulling over on the side of the road and he was talking to Amber and Scott was always on his cell phone, Dan.  And you never knew who he was talking to.  We, of course, never imagined that he was talking to a girlfriend.

But it‘s just appalling to hear and then to hear Scott talking to Amber saying that we‘re setting up a command center and we‘re sending out volunteers.  I don‘t recall a time that I know for sure that Scott ever searched for Laci.  What I remember is that Scott would come in early in the morning, around 6:30 in the morning, return e-mails that were sent to LaciPeterson.com.  He would leave by 8:30 throughout the back door of the command center because he didn‘t want to talk to any of the media and then we wouldn‘t see him again until 6:00 or 7:00 at night where he returned back to the hotel where his parents were staying and he would have dinner with his father in the bar and watch sporting events on a big-screen TV.

So, you know, we at least know on one occasion he was out playing golf.  I don‘t remember a time that Scott was ever searching, Dan.

ABRAMS:  All right.  Let me go here.  This is Scott Peterson talking on the tapes about losing some of the volunteers.

(BEGIN AUDIOTAPE)

PETERSON:  (UNINTELLIGIBLE) volunteer center...

FREY:  (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

PETERSON:  ... and I open in the morning and get the volunteers going and got a tremendous staff of her friends who come in and help out during the day and I am working out, you know (UNINTELLIGIBLE) hanging up fliers and we‘re all trying to (UNINTELLIGIBLE) find her.

FREY:  Well, I understand...

PETERSON:  We‘re losing volunteers every day, and I don‘t think many people came in to help today.  And now it‘s going to be a media management kind of thing.  I believe that we‘ll find her.

(END AUDIOTAPE)

ABRAMS:  Did Brad—Brad, did he talk to you in a similar way, as—

I mean you know, I don‘t mean in terms of the lovey-dovey stuff.  I mean in terms of the volunteer center, did he talk to you in a similar way that you hear him talking there to Amber?

SALTZMAN:  Well somewhat.  But you know it was always when I would talk to him, Dan, about being on television, and I said on many occasions, Scott you‘ve got to be on TV.  You‘ve got to plead for someone to help you find Laci and plea for the community to get involved.  He would always deflect it and his answer—stock answer was, well, we want to search for Laci.  We want to keep the focus on her, so I‘m not doing any interviews.

It was always we want to keep the focus on Laci.  But when he talked to me, you know that tape that I think you just played was on January, I think the 7th or 8th, and back then when he was even saying that volunteers were, you know, we‘re losing speed on volunteers.  It was quite the opposite, actually.  During that time, more volunteers were actually coming in and you know, this was New Year‘s Eve we did the volunteer search obviously...

ABRAMS:  Yes.

SALTZMAN:  ... until 2:00 and then everyone went to the—I‘m sorry...

ABRAMS:  I interrupted you, Brad.  Let me...

SALTZMAN:  ... vigil—go ahead.

ABRAMS:  Let me apologize for interrupting you there.  How did you meet Amber Frey?  Tell me about meeting Amber.  How well do you know her?  What did she talk about?

SALTZMAN:  Amber came to Modesto on several occasions and on a couple of occasions literally was just to get from Fresno.  The media was hounding her and she knew that she would have a safe haven in the hotel.  We didn‘t say that she was there.  So it was my impression in my conversations with her that she was definitely in love with Scott.

She wanted to get away.  She wouldn‘t—you know, in conversations, she—it was my impression that she wouldn‘t have introduced her daughter, Ayianna, to any man that she wasn‘t in love with, and she felt in my opinion that she was in a serious relationship with Scott...

ABRAMS:  And you said...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  ... and you said that she said something about him asking her about being a monster.

SALTZMAN:  Yes, there was one point where she indicated in a conversation that he said to her, which was now revealed in the tapes, Amber, what do you think I am?  I‘m not a monster.  And that was early on, sometime in mid February that he said that to her and that‘s been revealed in tapes as well...

ABRAMS:  And here‘s the tape, real quick, on that.

(BEGIN AUDIOTAPE)

PETERSON:  I thought I could come to wherever you are.  Like tonight just for—or something to see you or talk to you.

FREY:  I can‘t have you come to my house Scott.

PETERSON:  OK.

FREY:  And I have Ayianna.

PETERSON:  (UNINTELLIGIBLE) I can‘t say I understand, but OK.  

FREY:  Scott...

PETERSON:  You know I‘m not a monster Amber.

(END AUDIOTAPE)

ABRAMS:  That must be pretty weird, Brad, hearing these phone calls after she talked to you that way.  I‘ve got to wrap it up.  But Brad Saltzman, thanks a lot for coming on the program...

SALTZMAN:  Dan, nice to see you.  Thanks very much.

ABRAMS:  And a programming note, coming this Sunday, 7:00 p.m.  Eastern, a special edition of the program on the Peterson case.  A chance for you to ask questions of our legal panel and me, including Amber Frey‘s attorney, Gloria Allred.  It seems always everyone has got a comment about Gloria Allred.

E-mail us with your questions.  The address, abramsreport@msnbc.com, a special edition of the program.

Coming up, in the Michael Jackson case, the accuser‘s stepfather is testifying about possible payoffs.  And Jackson lashing out at headlines that call him “Wacko Jacko”.  He‘s asking the press to stop calling him wacko.

And later, jury selection starts in the Kobe Bryant case a week from today.  That is if it happens.  I‘ll tell you why I still wonder whether the case is going to go to trial.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Coming up, the accuser‘s stepfather in the Michael Jackson case testifies that Jackson associates offered cash; the accuser would go on camera to say nice things about Jackson.  Which way does it cut?  

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  We‘re back.  This week, Michael Jackson‘s attorneys have been trying to limit the evidence prosecutors will be able to use once his trial begins in January.  On Monday, we saw Jackson‘s attorney square off against the D.A., Tom Sneddon, about whether the D.A. went too far in his pursuit of Jackson during the investigation.  And yesterday the stepfather of the boy who claims Jackson molested him took the stand and addressed a big issue—money.

NBC‘s Mike Taibbi reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MIKE TAIBBI, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  From the time he was charged last January, Michael Jackson and his representatives have insisted that the sexual molestation allegations against him are a shakedown by his teenage accuser‘s family.

(on camera):  Thursday for the first time in open court and in surprising under-oath testimony the subject of money came up.

(voice-over):  The stepfather of the accuser testified in a pretrial hearing that after the broadcast of a British documentary showing Jackson with his accuser, he said to a Jackson associate seeking the family‘s cooperation in a positive rebuttal video, this family has nothing and you‘re making millions off this.  What are you going to do for this little family?

He says that Jackson associate had offered college tuition for the children and a new home.  He also testified that before the documentary aired in America, two British journalists offered to pay for the family‘s story.  Alec Byrne told NBC News exclusively he was one of those journalists and that it was the stepfather who broached the subject of money.

ALEC BYRNE, JOURNALIST:  The starting figure was $500 for myself, and that‘s supposedly when he consulted with the mother.

TAIBBI:  And it ended up at what?

BYRNE:  And it ended up at $15,000.

TAIBBI:  For an interview that never took place.

Mike Taibbi, NBC News, Los Angeles.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ABRAMS:  Today on the stand the property manager of the Neverland Ranch.  He told attorneys he initially worked with police when they raided the ranch last November, but claims they insisted on searching certain areas of the home not listed on the warrant.

The question—which side does this help?  “My Take”—while this is a prosecution witness and it is significant that Jackson associates are offering to pay tuition and a new home, it also helps that this was a family looking for a payout.  And that‘s what the defense has said since day one.  So what if they wanted money and Jackson was ready to pay it?  Which way does that cut?

Joining me now Court TV‘s Catherine Crier, host of “CRIER LIVE” and criminal defense attorney Jayne Weintraub.

Catherine, which way does it cut?

CATHERINE CRIER, COURT TV:  Well I think both ways, hush money versus extortion and it‘s going to be portrayed both ways.  But you can always argue as a prosecution that this guy was already offering a house, all the goods for the family, and in fact that wasn‘t enough because they didn‘t really want to settle for money.  They wanted justice.

ABRAMS:  And Jayne, as a legal matter in this particular case, let‘s assume for a moment this is a family that wanted money and they were trying to get money from Michael Jackson.  Can‘t someone say well if they really wanted money, why wouldn‘t they have just filed a civil suit against him?

JAYNE WEINTRAUB, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY:  Yes they could have.  But I think the real issue here, Dan—there are two issues.  One is, you know was the search warrant—was the search exceeded?  In other words, did they go much further than they were supposed to?  What was Sneddon doing there, being on surveillance to begin with?  Why has Sneddon injected himself, the district attorney...

(CROSSTALK)

WEINTRAUB:  ... himself, injected himself...

ABRAMS:  Those are separate issues.

WEINTRAUB:  ... as a witness?

ABRAMS:  I want to focus on the money issue.

WEINTRAUB:  The money issue is obvious.  It‘s no longer an argument.  Now we have testimony, we have an admission, and it is the motive, generating and propelling this prosecution.

ABRAMS:  What about the fact that Jackson‘s team was ready to pay out?

WEINTRAUB:  I don‘t know that Jackson‘s team made that admission, and I don‘t know that Jackson‘s team was ready to pay out, because they would have paid out and they didn‘t.

ABRAMS:  But Catherine, haven‘t—Michael Jackson has paid out in the past.  I mean...

CRIER:  Well, absolutely.  We know about the $25-million deal in 1993 and we also know, having read the transcripts, that they settled for money so that the child wouldn‘t be embarrassed among other things, but no one now, at least in the prosecution camp, in the civil attorney‘s camp for the plaintiff, will argue that a molestation took place.  So just because you get a payout doesn‘t mean criminal actions didn‘t occur.

ABRAMS:  Catherine, let me come back to the issue that Jayne just brought up a minute ago.  Is Tom Sneddon, the D.A., you think going to be the D.A. who ends up moving forward in this case?  There are all these questions about what was he doing on surveillance and has he had this vendetta against Jackson, et cetera.  Is your prediction that he will end up prosecuting this case?

CRIER:  I don‘t think it‘s a wise decision on his part.  He can certainly manage from the background.  But I think he is so integrally involved, and they can make the argument about the vendetta, even though I don‘t believe he would make this sort of pursuit as a career move.  It‘s better if he were to manage this.  He showed up at certain places.  He was supervising the Bradley Miller bust.  I don‘t think that‘s a good idea.

ABRAMS:  Jayne.

WEINTRAUB:  I think that he is bound by the code of ethical responsibility and professional responsibility and as we all know as lawyers, first of all I agree with Catherine so I need to say that right away.  It‘s rare.  And number two is I think it‘s not just the impropriety, although I do submit that he has exercised all impropriety here.  It‘s the appearance of impropriety that he has made himself a witness and it‘s hurting the state‘s case from their perspective.  I think he should walk away and get away from the case to give the appearance of fairness.

ABRAMS:  All right.  We shall see what happens.  Catherine Crier and Jayne Weintraub, thanks a lot.

CRIER:  Sure.

(MUSIC)

ABRAMS:  That‘s right.  Michael Jackson wants to be left alone or at least left alone by those who call him “Wacko Jacko”.  He is speaking out, letting us know about the—quote—“way we make him feel”.  In a statement released on his Web site yesterday it seems he wants the media with salacious headlines like this one to, well, beat it.

Jackson explains—quote—“My family and I have dedicated our lives to spreading unity and peace to the world through our music—I‘m not going to do the imitation, all right.  It‘s unfortunate that for years we‘ve been targets of completely inaccurate and false portrayals, we‘ve watched as we have been vilified and humiliated.  I personally have suffered through many hurtful lies and references to me as “Wacko Jacko”, as well as the latest untruth about me fathering quadruplets.  This is intolerable and must stop.  All I can hope for is that one day my family will be shown the same kindness and respect that we have throughout our lives shown to others.”

“My Take”—Michael Jackson is one of the best-known performers in the world and he is odd.  So it‘s not surprising that there are stories about him.  Some of them not particularly flattering.  But if they‘re false, he should be fighting back.  But you know, get specific.  Tell us why they‘re false.

Jackson family friend and NBC News analyst Stacy Brown joins me now.  So Stacy, what‘s upsetting him more, the quadruplets business or the “Wacko Jacko”?

STACY BROWN, JACKSON FAMILY FRIEND:  Well for years he‘s talked about the “Wacko Jacko” headlines...

ABRAMS:  Doesn‘t he realize he‘s odd?

BROWN:  Well you know, he—well I don‘t know if he realizes it. 

However, I will say this about that statement.  The thing that impressed me the most and impressed his family the most I can guarantee you that is the fact that he even acknowledged that his family is going through this.  You know, his actions have put his family in this position, to be attacked by the media.

Michael has been attacked by the media because of his actions.  He‘s put himself in the position where he‘s been charged—accused of child molestation for a second time and this time charged.  He has to realize, at some point, this affects not just him.  His family—he has nephews and nieces who don‘t go to school because of the harassment.  So I‘m very happy that he finally sees the light and says, hey, you—this is affecting my family, too.

ABRAMS:  His family has got to realize he‘s a little weird though, right?

BROWN:  Well he‘s different from them certainly in appearance...

ABRAMS:  Yes.

BROWN:  And certainly he‘s been sort of a mystery to an extent, to his own family.  So that makes him even more of a mystery to us.

ABRAMS:  What about the quadruplets?  I mean is he still contending that that‘s not true, and as you‘re reporting, talking to people, anything turned up—anything on that?

BROWN:  Well what I found is that there have been talks of more children.  As far as this quadruplet report, it‘s unfounded.

ABRAMS:  (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

BROWN:  But there has been talk.  He does—he has expressed it himself.  I‘m certainly not talking for him, but he‘s expressed it himself.  The family knows.  He wants more children.

ABRAMS:  (UNINTELLIGIBLE) I‘m not going to call him “Wacko Jacko”.  I mean you know I‘m not saying just because...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  ... he‘s asking.  I don‘t call him...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  ... I don‘t call him “Wacko Jacko” anyway.  So I mean you know, maybe like sometimes on the bottom of the screen, but anyway I‘m not going to call him “Wacko Jacko”.  Megan (ph), my producer, is going to remind me if I‘m ever thinking about it.  So Michael, you heard me.  I will not call you that, so again you‘re invited to come on the program.

We hear you.  We listen to you.  We respond.  Stacy Brown, good to see you.

BROWN:  Good to see you...

ABRAMS:  Coming up, breaking news in the war on terror, serious stuff.  The man was number three in al Qaeda, was—initially was captured, Khalid Sheik Mohammed, now the new number three, a man charged with planning attacks on the U.S. and who may know where bin Laden is hiding, could be close to being captured.

And later why I believe the Kobe Bryant case probably won‘t happen. 

I‘ll detail my reasons and I think some of them may surprise you. 

(UNINTELLIGIBLE)

E-mails abramsreport@msnbc.com.  I respond at the end of the show.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Got some breaking news to report to you in the war on terror.  Al Qaeda‘s operation‘s director, number three in the terror group‘s leadership, is being hunted in Pakistan, and Pakistan‘s president has told his confidants, we will get him.

For the latest we go to NBC News investigative producer Bob Windrem. 

Bob, what do we know?

BOB WINDREM, NBC NEWS INVESTIGATIVE PRODUCER:  Well we know that while Osama bin Laden and his number-two Ayman al-Zawahiri remain elusive, Pakistan and U.S. officials are hopeful that the number three, the man who is in charge of attacks against the United States, Abu Faraj al-Libbi, can be grabbed quickly.  He has been in the U.S. sights for a number of months and now with the help of the Pakistanis, they believe it could be that he is close to being captured.

ABRAMS:  And he theoretically could lead them to bin Laden and al-Zawahiri, right?

WINDREM:  The believe is that he is someone who knows if not specifically where they are, how they move, the manner in which they move, the security with which they move.  So he is a very critical player, not just in thwarting attacks but also leading Pakistani and U.S. officials to bin Laden and Zawahiri.

ABRAMS:  Bob Windrem, thanks for that report.  Appreciate it.

WINDREM:  Thank you.

ABRAMS:  Coming up, the Kobe Bryant case, jury selection starts a week from today.  I‘ve been very vocal saying that I don‘t think this case is going to go to trial.  I even bet (UNINTELLIGIBLE) steak dinners on the air with some of my guests.  But up next my reason, the evidence, and our panel, as always, will take me on, on this.

Then later, you knew it was going to happen.  Oprah Winfrey serves on a jury.  They convict a man of murder, and now, of course, some of the convict‘s family members saying it was Oprah‘s fault, complaining that the judge despite objections from the defense, didn‘t take her off the trial.  We talk to some of the key players in this case.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Coming up, a week until jury selection begins in the Kobe Bryant case.  The question—is the case really going to trial?  I still think it‘s not.  I‘ll tell you why.  But first the headlines.

(NEWS BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Welcome back.  We‘re just a week away—a week away from jury selection in the Kobe Bryant case.  That is if the case makes it that far.  And as I‘ve said before, I still think it won‘t.  There‘s going to be a long “My Take”.  I want to lay out why I think this case is going to fold before August 27 and then we‘ll debate.

Earlier this month I spoke with lawyers for the woman accusing Kobe Bryant in an exclusive interview.  They suggested that a civil case may be the only way to get justice.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LIN WOOD, BRYANT ACCUSER‘S ATTORNEY:  I think there legitimately should be questions about whether the criminal case should move forward.  I don‘t think that the criminal justice system in Eagle, Colorado, has treated this young girl fairly at all.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Now, remember this was just after some explosive evidence was released to the public, a transcript of a closed-door hearing.  A defense expert claimed the accuser likely slept with someone else after the encounter with Bryant—something she denies—and before a rape exam.  A week later the woman‘s attorneys filed a civil suit.

Now there is more.  Regardless of whether you think that this woman was raped, there are some serious problems with the prosecution‘s case and it goes to the question of whether and when she said no during the encounter with Bryant.  The only witness that testified at the preliminary hearing was an Eagle County detective who testified last October about his interviews with the woman.

Detective Winters said—quote—“She did indicate that she had told me in the interviews that she had told him no on a couple of different occasions.

Defense attorney Pam Mackey said well, but you and your report and I‘ll direct you to page 21 of the discovery, you clearly say I asked the accuser why she never told Bryant no.  You asked her that, didn‘t you Detective?

Winters:  Yes, I did.

And her response was not oh but I did.  That‘s not how she responded to you, was it?

I don‘t recall specifically if she said that.

And there‘s more.  The woman claims the incident lasted about five minutes and told the detective that Bryant asked her whether she had ever done something specific sexually, not mentioned in the hearing.

The prosecutor then asked the detective—at that comment, what did she do?

Winters:  (UNINTELLIGIBLE) he had asked her a question, her response was no, and his response back was, well, he was going to anyways.  So continued on with doing what he was doing.

Prosecutor:  Did she—what did she do?

Winters:  At that point she stated she became a little more forceful with him, wanting to get out of the situation.

And so what did she do?

She stated that she grabbed his hands and that were around her neck, and started prying them away from her neck.

And then what happened?

After a short period of time of her doing this, she stated that he stopped.  He stopped.  That doesn‘t mean it wasn‘t rape, but it could mean that it would have been difficult to prove that she was forced.

Now, there is the ruling, also, allowing information about her sexual history in the 72 hours surrounding the encounter with Bryant.  That‘s coming into trial.  The burden of proof in the civil case is lower, putting the woman and Bryant on equal footing instead of giving the defense the advantages that come in criminal cases.  The prosecutors have to know they will almost certainly lose the criminal case.

But I think she would have a far better shot in a civil case, or at least might end up getting a big settlement.  Joining me now to debate, former Denver District Attorney and MSNBC analyst Norm Early and criminal defense attorney Jayne Weintraub.

All right, so now Norm, now that I‘ve laid it out for you and made it simple, have you come over and agreed with me now?

NORM EARLY, FORMER DENVER DISTRICT ATTORNEY:  I agree with you that this is not the easiest case that a prosecutor has walked into a courtroom.  This case, like any case, has its difficulties, and there are problems there.  But we don‘t know the entire prosecution case.  I know you believe that Detective Winters put on the entire case in the preliminary hearing.

But obviously he didn‘t because we didn‘t even hear anything about this woman from Florida during the course of that hearing or some of the other evidence that I know that they have in this case.  So I think it‘s a little bit early to be writing it off.

And I also believe, Dan, that Detective Winters did not do this woman justice at the preliminary hearing.  There is not a detective in this country who can tell a woman‘s rape story the way that she can.  And we can‘t write this woman off until she‘s had her day in court.  She has never testified in this case, and once she does that, we‘ll be able to assess the strength of the case, as well as her credibility.

ABRAMS:  But Jayne, I think if you‘re advising this woman, right, even Norm recognizes this is a very tough case.  You have to ask yourself, do you want to put her through this if there are—if there‘s a significant chance that there is going...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  ... to be an acquittal in this case?  You have to ask yourself, is it worth it?

WEINTRAUB:  Dan, as a prosecutor, are you serious?  I don‘t know why they ever brought charges.  I don‘t know why...

ABRAMS:  That‘s a different issue...

WEINTRAUB:  ... the sheriff‘s office made a hotdog decision to go forward and arrest Kobe Bryant.  Once the prosecutors as lawyers had the opportunity to evaluate their case legally how could they possibly have gone forward and why don‘t they do the right thing now and dismiss the case?  As the prosecutor advising her whether or not to go forward, the prosecutors have made a decision to file the case, they are going forward.  As a civil lawyer, no, I don‘t advise her to go for the civil settlement first.  As a matter of fact, I‘ve never heard of that.  Because in the same court system that the lawyer said he can‘t find any justice in Eagle County, he‘s going there to get money...

ABRAMS:  Wait...

WEINTRAUB:  ... what kind of justice is that?

ABRAMS:  Well the justice—you know the difference.  In a criminal case the defendant has all these extra protections, the government‘s power to take away someone‘s freedom.

WEINTRAUB:  Dan...

ABRAMS:  So we add all these protections to the defendant...

WEINTRAUB:  She‘s going to have it much worse.

ABRAMS:  No, no...

WEINTRAUB:  In a civil case she‘s going to be deposed...

ABRAMS:  Right.

WEINTRAUB:  ... and have derogatory...

ABRAMS:  That‘s right.  But in terms of the legal burden, as you know, they intentionally make the burden so high in a criminal case because we‘re taking away someone‘s freedom.  In a civil case, it‘s mano-a-mano so to speak and as a result they‘re more on an even playing field and the defense, at the very least—I‘m sorry, the woman...

EARLY:  Dan...

ABRAMS:  ... at the very least in that case will be able to investigate everything about Kobe‘s past.

WEINTRAUB:  But if you‘re looking...

EARLY:  Dan, one of the things I think you should forget...

WEINTRAUB:  ... at protecting her you don‘t put her in a civil arena. 

If they had gone forward...

EARLY:  Dan...

WEINTRAUB:  ... and were able to sustain a guilty verdict, which they can‘t because they can‘t prove it, then that would have made the civil case just a slam dunk.

ABRAMS:  Yes.  But see that...

WEINTRAUB:  But they can‘t get there...

ABRAMS:  ... that I don‘t think...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  Look, I agree they can‘t...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  I think they‘re going to...

(CROSSTALK)

EARLY:  Dan...

ABRAMS:  Go ahead Norm.

EARLY:  ... one of the things that‘s going to happen here, because this is a consent offense, Kobe Bryant has to take the stand in the criminal case.

WEINTRAUB:  No way.

EARLY:  He will get locked down to a story, both on direct and cross-examination.  And one of the worst things about getting locked down to a story is if you‘re not telling the truth, then something can come up to bite you, ala Bruno Magli shoes that you would never have on your feet, a photograph coming up at a later date.

So that is one of the real positive advantages, other than the fact that this woman has been through you know what since this case has started.  And now, Kobe Bryant‘s going to get some of that.  The people are going to be examining this man like they have not done...

ABRAMS:  But Norm...

EARLY:  ... since this case has started...

ABRAMS:  But that‘s the point...

EARLY:  ... everything has been focused on her.

ABRAMS:  Norm, why not—Norm, if you‘re advising her, why not say, the way I can really get information about Kobe Bryant is in a civil case, I have access or at least can search for discovery on other women he‘s been involved in or anything else that they want to try and find, they get access...

EARLY:  Yes.

ABRAMS:  ... to all of that in a civil case, stuff that they wouldn‘t...

EARLY:  Sure.

ABRAMS:  ... necessarily get in a criminal case.

EARLY:  Why not do both, Dan?  Why not...

ABRAMS:  Because they‘re going to lose the criminal case.

EARLY:  ... have the opportunity to cross-examine him—hey, you know what?  She believes—if she believes he should be held accountable in criminal court...

ABRAMS:  Norm, as a lawyer...

EARLY:  ... as well as civil court...

ABRAMS:  ... but as a lawyer.

EARLY:  ... both of those are available to her and she should pursue them.  Now one more thing.  The prosecution has an obligation, an ethical responsibility, “A”, not to file a case that they don‘t believe they can prove...

ABRAMS:  Right.

EARLY:  ... beyond a reasonable doubt...

ABRAMS:  Let‘s assume they believe...

EARLY:  ... or “B”, not to proceed with a case if at any time they feel their evidence dips below proof beyond a reasonable doubt.  Obviously, they have not made that decision that this evidence dips below...

(CROSSTALK)

EARLY:  ... the standard of proof...

WEINTRAUB:  Norm...

EARLY:  ... beyond a reasonable doubt, because ethically they would have to dismiss it.

(CROSSTALK)

EARLY:  And I‘m not believing all the propaganda about a defense that has been put out over the last year.

WEINTRAUB:  How about the...

EARLY:  The fact of the matter is, you‘ve heard the defense case...

WEINTRAUB:  ... Norm...

EARLY:  ... but we‘ve never heard the prosecution‘s case.

WEINTRAUB:  But transcripts...

EARLY:  I‘m sorry.

WEINTRAUB:  ... that were just released.  We know that they‘re never going to be able to prove that Kobe Bryant caused the injury that she claims...

EARLY:  That‘s a defense hired gun...

ABRAMS:  Wait a sec.  Wait, wait, wait...

EARLY:  ... defense expert.

ABRAMS:  See, that‘s the sort of stuff...

EARLY:  ... that‘s all that is...

ABRAMS:  ... see look, I‘m not going to...

EARLY:  It‘s a hired-gun defense expert.

ABRAMS:  Let me be clear.  I‘m not agreeing that somehow that this is you know a ridiculous case, that they have nothing here.  I mean you know look, there is her blood on his clothing.  And you can argue, yes, you know, consensual sex, sure you can make that argument.  There were inconsistent statements he made in his audiotape when he was initially interviewed by the police.  These are not irrelevant points.

But as a lawyer, Norm, don‘t you have to evaluate, not just whether you think you‘re right and not whether you think you have it, but whether you think you‘re actually going to be able to convince a jury.  Because I think you agree with me, Norm, that they are not going to get a conviction in this case.

EARLY:  You know one of the things Dan...

ABRAMS:  Do you?

EARLY:  ... that we‘re dealing with here is—well I think it will be very difficult to get a conviction.

ABRAMS:  Yes.

EARLY:  But one of the things that you deal with in a case where you have a celebrity, is juries are a lot more reluctant to convict a celebrity than they are a normal person.  So what if it was you, what if it was me, what if it was your brother or somebody else, and the prosecution pursues the case against them because they don‘t have the celebrity status...

WEINTRAUB:  They wouldn‘t have pursued this case.

EARLY:  ... people who do have the celebrity status—well I think that‘s your opinion...

WEINTRAUB:  It is.

EARLY:  ... does that mean that people who do have the celebrity status should not be filed on, under a circumstance where people who don‘t have the celebrity status would be filed on in half a second.

ABRAMS:  Jayne...

(CROSSTALK)

WEINTRAUB:  I think that this is a case of celebrity injustice, and he was arrested for who he is not what he did.

ABRAMS:  I‘m continuing to predict...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  ... that this case will not go to trial...

WEINTRAUB:  I agree.

ABRAMS:  ... in the criminal arena.  And I think...

EARLY:  Steak dinner...

ABRAMS:  ... although, you know I don‘t know.  I keep hearing otherwise.

(LAUGHTER)

ABRAMS:  Norm Early, he‘s got all the connections.

EARLY:  Steak dinner...

WEINTRAUB:  They out to do the right thing...

ABRAMS:  He‘s got...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  Look, Norm has got all the connections there.  I don‘t have any—I know.  I know, steak dinner.  I know.  Norm and I have a bet.  We‘ll see.

WEINTRAUB:  I want to get in on that action.

ABRAMS:  Well...

WEINTRAUB:  I‘ll double it, Norm.

ABRAMS:  Norm and Jayne, thanks very much.  Appreciate it.

EARLY:  Thank you both very much...

WEINTRAUB:  Thank you Dan.

EARLY:  Take care.

ABRAMS:  Coming up, Oprah Winfrey served on a jury.  Jury convicted a guy of murder, family of the defendant blaming Oprah, the defense objected to her as a juror initially.  The prosecution team joins us next to answer the question, why did you put Oprah on the jury.

And tune in next Sunday night, 7:00 p.m. a special edition of the program live from Redwood City, California.  My all-star panel and (UNINTELLIGIBLE) will be answering your e-mail questions on the Scott Peterson case.  So make sure you send them in to abramsreport@msnbc.com.  You get your chance to question perennial favorite Gloria Allred, as well.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OPRAH WINFREY, MURDER TRIAL JUROR:  It is not something I would wish on anybody to have to serve on a murder trial and then have to stand in judgment...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Well Oprah Winfrey did sit on a murder trial this week.  And with her fellow jurors the talk show host passed judgment on 27-year-old Dion Coleman, convicting him of first-degree murder in the shooting death of a man named Walter Holley.

Now Oprah claims she was stunned that she was picked for that jury. 

She probably should be.  According to the “Chicago Sun-Times”, Dion

Coleman‘s attorney wanted Oprah dismissed after she said she might have a

problem with Coleman‘s refusal to take the stand in his own defense.  But

after Judge James Linn refused the defense request, the defense didn‘t use

any of its automatic challenges to force her dismissal.  And Judge Linn

dismissed prosecution‘s concerns Oprah‘s celebrity might overwhelming the

jury, telling prosecutors and the defense in a closed-door hearing—quote

·         “I‘m not going to say that somebody is too important in our society to be a member of a jury.”

“My Take”—I said I thought it was a risky move for prosecutors.  That Oprah could have taken over, created problems in a seemingly slam-dunk case.  And now she could create an issue on appeal, a losing issue, but an issue if the defense says she unduly influenced the jury.

With me now the prosecutors in the case, Kathleen Van Kampen and Tim Carter.  Thank you both very much for coming on the program.  Appreciate it.

KATHLEEN VAN KAMPEN, ASSISTANT STATE‘S ATTORNEY:  Hello.

ABRAMS:  Ms. Van Kampen, let me start with you.  Were you concerned about the two issues that I just laid out, when you thought about the possibility, look, we got a strong case, we expect it to be a quick case, quick deliberations, we throw Oprah into the mix and you know it could throw us for a loop.

VAN KAMPEN:  Yes, initially we were concerned.  However, Judge Linn went through the jury selection process, like he does every time, asking questions.  It‘s not unusual for people to speak up to the judge and question their presence there.

He followed up answers with Oprah, as he does in every case to make sure that she could be fair just like any other juror.  It is not the first time in that courthouse, of course, that there‘s been a case that had some interest for the press, and Judge Linn has handled many of those cases and he can control the courtroom.

ABRAMS:  Yes, but that—but Mr. Carter, I‘m not talking about controlling the courtroom or about the issues that Oprah said about being concerned about someone taking the witness stand.  I‘m talk about prosecutorial strategy.  That you‘re concerned—were you concerned that when you get someone like Oprah on the jury, that she could take what should be an easy, quick case, and throw you for a loop?

TIMOTHY CARTER, ASSISTANT STATE‘S ATTORNEY:  No, we weren‘t that concerned about that, at all.  She—as Kathy said, she answered questions in a way we believed she would be a fair juror and give us a good case.  And I didn‘t feel whatsoever that she would influence, necessarily, the other jurors in a negative way.

ABRAMS:  Did you do any research about her positions on her programs, et cetera, you know, to just make sure that she hasn‘t taken positions that might be considered very pro-defense?

CARTER:  The only research I really did was speaking to people that watch her shows frequently, and find out about some of those positions.  But after speaking to them, I didn‘t hear anything that overly concerned me.

ABRAMS:  Ms. Van Kampen, any—I mean this is one of those questions that‘s a little bit hard to be completely straight, you know the jurors have said that they were a little bit—initially, star-struck by Oprah sitting—you know and Oprah‘s not just a celebrity.  I mean she‘s really I would argue one of the 10 most famous people in America.  Any extra jitters on your part or just ignored it?

VAN KAMPEN:  It was like any other trial.  We are so busy making sure our witnesses are there, that we have all our equipment there, we have our exhibits there, we had very little time to think about it.  Once we were in that courtroom, we tried this case like any other case.

ABRAMS:  Here‘s juror Art White (ph) talking about working with Oprah on that jury.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  She wasn‘t overbearing.  She didn‘t take over anything.  We just did everything as a group.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  And also let me just play one more piece of sound.  This is Oprah talking about the case itself.  And some—a lot of drug dealers, et cetera testifying in the case.  Here she is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WINFREY:  I think for all of us, I think it was—it is a reality check.  I think all of us live our lives and you know, come from nice neighborhoods and go about our world and this was like a world I‘ve read about and certainly am aware of, but this was a reality check.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Mr. Carter I understand she‘s inviting her fellow jurors onto her program.  I have to say that after I covered her beef defamation trial I was invited on her program, too.  Is she inviting the prosecutors, as well?

CARTER:  I have not received an invitation.

ABRAMS:  Would you accept it?

CARTER:  I don‘t know.

ABRAMS:  How about you, Ms. Van Kampen?

VAN KAMPEN:  I‘m not sure and we haven‘t heard anything.  We‘re not necessarily looking to...

ABRAMS:  I know...

VAN KAMPEN:  ... continue to...

(LAUGHTER)

ABRAMS:  All right.  Well, anyway, congratulations on winning your case.  Kathleen Van Kampen and Tim Carter...

VAN KAMPEN:  Thank you.

ABRAMS:  ... thank you very much for taking the time.

CARTER:  Thank you.

ABRAMS:  Coming up, a new poll shows that 35 percent of the people polled say they still believe Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, just before the war.  Call me a lawyer, but where‘s the evidence?  It‘s my “Closing Argument”.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Coming up, lots of e-mails in the Scott Peterson case.  Does the fact that Peterson didn‘t answer call waiting when he was talking to Amber Frey mean something?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  My “Closing Argument”—maybe it‘s the lawyer in me, but objective truth is important to me.  It‘s how I try to make decisions about the important aspects of my life.  I think that‘s the case for most of us and yet, for some reason, when it comes to public perceptions of Iraq, the facts just seem to take a backseat.

A new poll, by the Program on International Policy Attitudes at the University of Maryland shows that 35 percent of the people polled say they believe Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, just before the war.  (UNINTELLIGIBLE) There is not a scintilla of evidence to support that right now.

There was strong evidence before the war to believe Iraq had them.  I believed it because most of the experts, including weapons inspectors with whom I spoke believed it.  We were wrong.  It‘s just astounding to me that more people believe that than the far more rational option in the poll that Iraq had—quote—“some limited activities that could be used to help develop weapons of mass destruction but not an active program.”

And then in a separate question, there is still 15 percent who believe Iraq was directly involved in carrying out the September 11 attacks?  Even though both the president and the unanimous bipartisan 9/11 Commission agree there is no evidence to support it.  Thirty-five percent more saying Iraq gave substantial support to al Qaeda, even though the 9/11 Commission found that wasn‘t the case.

Even Vice President Cheney who has bucked the majority of experts as he continues to claim there were long-established ties between the groups isn‘t saying there was—quote—“substantial support.”  I don‘t get it.  Fifty percent of those polled on the al Qaeda/Iraq connection saying they believe something that has no objective, factual support.

Ten percent saying there was no connection between the two and just 32 percent taking the position adopted by the 9/11 Commission and most in the intelligence community that—quote—“a few al Qaeda individuals visited Iraq or had contact with Iraqi officials, but Iraq did not provide substantial support to al Qaeda.”  Everyone is entitled to an opinion.  When it comes to factual questions, the facts should matter.

Call me a lawyer.  But if being a lawyer means I weigh the evidence before adopting opinions about something as important as Iraq, I guess I‘ll take that title any day.

I‘ve had my say.  Now it‘s time for “Your Rebuttal”.  Last night we discussed Amber Frey‘s secretly recorded conversation with Scott Peterson, some of the more incriminating sections, including when Scott tells Amber he—quote—“lost his wife.”

Ken Hardy in Playa del Rey, California.  “Are you so besotted with Miss Frey that you‘re willing to purposely misrepresent and misquote Peterson‘s words?  On today‘s show you continuously tried to claim that Peterson‘s as early as December 9 was saying his wife was lost.  He did not say that.  He said he lost his wife.  There is a big difference.”

You know Ken, I actually didn‘t say those exact words, but let‘s even assume it for a moment.  If I said, wife was lost, in addition to saying, lost my wife, which I know I said, I‘m not sure if I see much of a difference.  It‘s probably more incriminating to say lost my wife, which clearly means dead than wife was lost, which someone could at least argue was some mental state.

And a viewer only signed fan of law writes about the fact that you can hear call waiting on Peterson‘s phone beeping on numerous occasions.  “Call waiting beeps time and again.  If your pregnant wife is missing and you really were concerned, even remotely concerned about finding her, wouldn‘t you immediately click over to the other line ever single time you got a call waiting beep, thinking maybe, just maybe that‘s the call you‘ve been praying for that she was found safe and sound.”

From Surrey, British Columbia, Canada, Lilian Tatar.  “So many of the defense attorneys you have on your show keep saying there‘s no forensic evidence in this case.  What do they think Laci‘s body is?  This is the biggest piece of forensic evidence.” 

I agree.  It‘s the most important piece of evidence in the case because of where it was found.  Because it was found 90 miles away from their home, because it was found exactly where Scott Peterson said that he went fishing.  I think the defense is going to have to argue that he was framed, because they just can‘t say it was just a coincidence.

Also last night, reporters trying to keep their sources confidential now facing fines or even jail time more than ever.  Most recently in the Wen Ho Lee and Valerie Plame cases.  We debated.

Kevin in New York.  “The question isn‘t can we trust the press.  We know we can‘t.  It‘s too easy to catch the consistent bias in most news.  The question is can we trust the president and this administration?  Unfortunately, we know that we can‘t and that‘s why the press needs to be protected even more now than ever.”

From South Lake Tahoe, California, Linda Boehme.  “If the press was not able to cite confidentiality we would never know what it is really going on in our government.  The government officials who leak, on the other hand, should be prosecuted if they leak secret information.”

Finally Pat in San Diego specifically goes after the reporter who first announced the name of the CIA agent married to a man who some say the Bush administration wanted to embarrass.

Quote—“I can understand a reporter‘s right to protect sources in most cases.  However, for Robert Novak or any other reporter to reveal a CIA agent should be considered treason against the United States.”

Keep sending us your e-mails, abramsreport—one word -- @msnbc.com. 

We go through them and read them on the air.

Now don‘t forget—this is the key point.  Sunday, special edition of the program, 7:00 p.m. Eastern Time, one-hour special on the Peterson trial.  Here‘s how it‘s going to work.  I‘m going to be live in Redwood City, California.  I‘m going to have my panel and it‘s going to include, everyone‘s favorite, Gloria Allred.  Some of you hate her so much, and some of you love her, but everyone has got an opinion about her.

You can e-mail your questions to all of us, and we‘re going to read a lot of them.  That‘s going to be the hour.  The hour is going to be what do your e-mails say, what are the questions, what are the answers?  That one thing that‘s been sticking in your head saying to yourself, well what about this?  Why isn‘t anyone answering that question?

That‘s the kind of questions we want to get on the—and we‘re also going to have a vote.  You can vote on the Web site.  And the question is going to be, do you think the Amber tapes incriminate Scott Peterson?  And then we‘ll tell you at the end of the show what the vote was.

You know we keep talking is it incriminating?  Remember, specific questions, not just is it going to mean he‘s going to get convicted.  But are they incriminating or is he just coming across a cad and a liar?  Sunday, all right.

Coming up next, “HARDBALL” with Chris Matthews.  Thanks for watching. 

I‘ll see you from Redwood City on Sunday night.  Of course next week...

END   

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