updated 8/25/2004 11:38:08 AM ET 2004-08-25T15:38:08

Guests: Gloria Allred, Dean Johnson, Mickey Sherman, William Fallon

DAN ABRAMS, HOST:  Coming up live from Redwood City, California, a combated Amber Frey takes on Scott Peterson‘s lawyer as he tries to use tapes of her phone calls to support the defense case.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SCOTT PETERSON, ON TRIAL FOR MURDER:  I am not an evil person.

AMBER FREY, SCOTT PETERSON‘S FORMER GIRLFRIEND:  You‘re not an evil person.

PETERSON:  I am not.  I would never hurt anyone.

ABRAMS (voice-over):  Amber Frey off the stand after a daylong cross-examination.  I was inside the courtroom.

Plus, Michael Jackson says sheriff‘s deputies roughed him up when they arrested him, but California‘s Attorney General now says he doesn‘t buy it.  And in a rare press conference, the sheriff is speaking out.

And “The Dog”” is in the house.  He‘s tracked down fugitives around the world.  Now America‘s most notorious bounty hunter has his own reality TV show.  We talk with Duane “Dog” Chapman.

The program about justice starts now.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ABRAMS:  Hi everyone and welcome to the courthouse.  First on the docket tonight:  Scott Peterson‘s girlfriend, Amber Frey, on and then off the witness stand, suddenly slugging it out with Peterson‘s attorney, Mark Geragos, counterpunching as Geragos fired a barrage of questions.

Amber‘s answer is uniformly cool and calculated.  She was almost lawyerly at times quivering with Geragos over wording as Geragos tried to put in context the tapes she secretly recorded of her conversations with Scott Peterson, tapes that formed the bulk of her direct testimony.  Geragos saying that Amber was coached, she didn‘t deny that, told what to say by Modesto police detectives at times.

He even offered an explanation for why Scott Peterson constantly told her he couldn‘t answer her questions.  Remember this tape from January 8, two weeks after Laci was reported missing.

(BEGIN AUDIOTAPE)

PETERSON:  Because those are details that we can‘t talk about now.

FREY:  Because it would be too painful for me to hear that you went to bed—to sleep...

PETERSON:  No...

FREY:  ... with your wife?

PETERSON:  No because you‘d probably—you‘d think of the opposite. 

OK, but we can‘t talk about these details.

FREY:  Give me a break, Scott.

(END AUDIOTAPE)

ABRAMS:  Geragos played another tape, this one where Peterson says the reason he can‘t talk is because he‘s getting advice from a lawyer.

Quote - “He said you should not be talking to her and he said they‘re going to try to make a case against you.”

Now that was really an effort by Mark Geragos to say to the jurors, hey, this is not that big a deal.

“My Take” on this, Mark Geragos adopted the right tone with Amber, not too aggressive.  He didn‘t go too long.  He helped deflate the tapes as much as he could, which was not that much.

Let‘s bring in our legal team tonight—criminal defense attorney Mickey Sherman, former prosecutor Bill Fallon and in the courtroom with me today, Amber Frey‘s attorney Gloria Allred and former San Mateo County prosecutor Dean Johnson.

All right, Gloria, let me start with you.  You‘ve got to concede that Mark Geragos made a few points.  I mean this business about a lawyer giving Scott Peterson advice not to talk to Amber because throughout hearing these tapes we kept thinking to ourselves you know why won‘t he answer any of her questions?  Why won‘t he answer any of her questions?  And now Mark Geragos is saying well part of the reason is he was advised not to.

GLORIA ALLRED, AMBER FREY‘S ATTORNEY:  Of course, one has to inquire to why he needed a lawyer so early on when his wife was missing.  But getting beyond that, of course, having a lawyer didn‘t stop him from admitting on the tapes that he had said to Amber that he had lost his wife and these would be the first holidays without her two weeks before Laci went missing.  It didn‘t stop him from acknowledging on the tapes that he was saying to Amber that he didn‘t need to have or didn‘t want to have a biological child if in fact he and Amber were together that he would raise Ayianna, Amber‘s child, on - as his own.

So, he - it didn‘t stop him from saying that you guessed at all the answers, Amber.  You know them.  So I didn‘t think that I had a lawyer, that‘s why I couldn‘t say anything could stop the jury from drawing inference, if they wished that the reason he didn‘t say anything was because his answers might tend to incriminate him.

ABRAMS:  Is she glad it‘s over?

ALLRED:  She‘s very glad it‘s over.  I think she‘s really exhausted. 

Of course, besides doing this, she‘s up a couple of times every night nursing her baby throughout all of this.  And it‘s been a very tiring experience, but I think she‘s learned a lot from it and I think she acquitted herself extremely well.  I was very, very proud of her.

ABRAMS:  There were a couple of pieces of sound from those audio tapes that Mark Geragos played in court to say, you guys want to use the tapes, well we‘re going to use the tapes here.  Let‘s go to number one.  This is from January 6.  This is what Mark Geragos says is Amber Frey laying out the prosecution‘s theory of the case and Scott Peterson not biting.

(BEGIN AUDIOTAPE)

FREY:  I could assume (UNINTELLIGIBLE) possibly that she‘s missing because you love me, right?

PETERSON:  Amber, she‘s missing because someone abducted her.

FREY:  Somebody abducted her?

PETERSON:  That‘s what we think happened.

FREY:  Really?

PETERSON:  Yes.  She would not run off.

FREY:  OK.

PETERSON:  Someone took her.

(END AUDIOTAPE)

ABRAMS:  All right.  Dean Johnson, so the defense trying to use these tapes to their advantage.  Did they make any points?

DEAN JOHNSON, FMR. SAN MATEO COUNTY PROSECUTOR:  No, I don‘t think so.  Hearing Scott Peterson say well I can‘t answer your questions because a lawyer told me not to is about as close as you‘re ever going to get for a prosecutor to having the defendant get up and say, I refuse to answer on the grounds that it may intend to incriminate me.  I don‘t think that helps at all.

And the one thing that I think remains in the jury‘s mind is that Scott Peterson keeps saying, hey, look, when Laci is found, when this is all resolved, I can answer those questions and the jury is looking at him, saying, well we found Laci.  Let‘s hear the answers.

ABRAMS:  let me play another piece of sound that Mark Geragos played today trying to make the point that Scott Peterson never discouraged Amber from going to the authorities.

(BEGIN AUDIOTAPE)

FREY:  So tell me, Scott...

PETERSON:  Yes.

FREY:  ... why should I not go to the police with this?

PETERSON:  It‘s your decision.

FREY:  Really?

PETERSON:  Of course.

(END AUDIOTAPE)

ABRAMS:  Mickey Sherman, what do you think?

MICKEY SHERMAN, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY:  I think that‘s very helpful to the defense.  And you know in the post-Richard Jewell era, it is not uncommon for reasonable people to lawyer up real quick.  Look what happened to the Ramseys.  They did their best.  They got a lawyer.  Even still they were vilified and continue to be.

And the fact is Mark Geragos didn‘t do what everybody predicted.  Everyone thought that he would bully, the he would rant on, that he would try and humiliate her, make her the other woman, make her an unwed mother.  But he didn‘t.  He kept his focus and kept his eyes on the prize basically having her reiterate that he only kept denying responsibility, that he never said that he loved her and even when she had the leading question, did you do this because you loved me?  He kept focused.

ABRAMS:  All right, Bill Fallon, let me read you a little interchange that occurred today in cross-examination between Mark Geragos and Amber Frey.  Geragos says in the times you were with him in all those times did he ever physically hurt you?

Frey:  No.

Ever physically assault you?

No.

Did he ever—he never told you - this is later - he never told you that he loved you?

She said not in those words.

In all those tapes he never says I love you.

Not in those words.

Before Laci disappeared, he never says I love you?

Not in those words.

On the 6th when you say possibly she went missing because you love me, that is what the police suggest to you is to their motives.

Amber Frey:  I don‘t know.

What do you make of this?

WILLIAM FALLON, FORMER PROSECUTOR:  Dan, I think if we—if the motive here is because he loves Amber, he did all of this; you know they could lose on this.  I‘ve said always Amber is not 100 percent of the motive.  She could be anywhere from one percent to 99 percent.  I‘m voting for the zero to 10 percent part of the motive because I think that all we know is whatever Scott had on his mind, he‘s getting rid of Laci.

Maybe he comes off so (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and appealing to her.  That love crap, and I call it love crap because those tapes really show someone that is manipulating somebody about love, so whether he really loves her, whether he‘s using her, whether she‘s a cover, whether she‘s an excuse for the dead wife and dead baby, I‘ll tell you, I agree with Mickey about one thing that I think the denials are good.

And—but the lawyering up thing, if I‘m on the jury, I‘m thinking a husband who is already—the night they had this like memorial service to try to find—I mean to try to find her service, he‘s talking to her.  The death of the baby doesn‘t concern him or the missing baby, the missing wife.  People are saying what have you got to hide if we‘re looking for these people?

I think even the mentioning of lawyering up, unlike the Jewell case, doesn‘t work well when your girlfriend is asking you, what do you know about the baby and the wife.  And I‘m just telling you, to me, once you mention lawyers you sound like you did it.

ABRAMS:  Go ahead, Dean.

JOHNSON:  Remember, Dan, these denials are about the best point that Geragos made on cross-examination.  But you‘ve got to put that in context.  All of these conversations start with Scott and Amber discussing the fact that Amber eventually will be talking to the police, eventually will be going to the media or have the media coming to her.  He knows she‘s going to relate to them what‘s being said.  Of course he‘s not going to say anything incriminating.  He‘s going to deny everything in these conversations...

ABRAMS:  We‘re going to take a quick break.  We‘ll be right back, play more of the tapes that Mark Geragos played in court today for the defense.  And why was one of my guests, Gloria Allred, standing on the courthouse steps with a garbage bag?  I‘ll tell you why.

And Michael Jackson has said he was roughed up after he turned himself in.  That‘s not what the state of California says.  And now the Santa Barbara sheriff is speaking out—his side of the story.

And later, you know him because he tracks down criminals around the world, but now bounty hunter Duane “Dog” Chapman has his own reality TV show and he wants to get one thing clear, make something clear.  His job is not the only thing in his life.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  (UNINTELLIGIBLE) kick the door in...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  “The “Dog” will be with us.  How many times can I say “The Dog” is in the house, so I‘m going to stop it.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  More of the tapes that Mark Geragos used on cross-examination of Amber Frey coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ALLRED:  Let me take the—this relationship was simply about sex arguments.  It‘s garbage so it belongs in the garbage bag.  He tried to display a number of self-serving statements by Mr. Peterson, but guess what?  These are garbage, so they are properly placed in the garbage bag.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Oh, Gloria, Gloria, Gloria.

ALLRED:  You‘re supposed to say Gloria, Gloria, Gloria.  I‘m supposed to say Dan, Dan, Dan...

ABRAMS:  Theatrics with the garbage...

ALLRED:  Well...

ABRAMS:  ... with the garbage, you know...

ALLRED:  Well Dan, I mean I think Mr. Geragos‘ arguments were garbage and that‘s what they should be called and they should be placed in a garbage bag.  And Mr. Geragos, of course, inside court used his own theatrics that was the so-called PowerPoint presentation, which as I said, had no power and had no point and fell flat.  I think I‘m entitled to...

ABRAMS:  You know what...

ALLRED:  ... audio-visual aids as well.

ABRAMS:  I‘m going to play number five here.  This is Scott Peterson on tape.  And I have to tell you I think that these tapes that Geragos played do help the defense case.  Let‘s listen.

(BEGIN AUDIOTAPE)

FREY:  I‘m looking past this right now that even if we continued in a relationship we could be out for dinner one night and the cops could come over or at our home or whatever and arrest you for Laci‘s murder.

PETERSON:  No.

FREY:  How can I be sure this will not occur?

PETERSON:  Because I had nothing to do with it and the only indication in that realm that‘ll have is when they find her.

FREY:  So, how are you going to plea your innocence?

PETERSON:  I don‘t have to.  I know I‘m innocent.  They know I‘m innocent.  Everyone close to this knows I‘m innocent.  I don‘t care about the media or the, you know, 70 percent of the population out there who‘s ignorant and foolish...

(END AUDIOTAPE)

ABRAMS:  You know, Bill, Fallon, I know Scott Peterson has a motive to not even tell his girlfriend that he killed his wife.  I mean he‘s certainly not going to admit it.  But he‘s so emphatic about it in a way that I think that can be helpful to the defense‘s case.

FALLON:  Dan, I think that is the most helpful thing.  That repeated I‘m innocent.  I‘m innocent.  But, remember, the jury also heard in this part, you know I‘ve spoken to the attorney.  It‘s all that attorney talk.  I don‘t think that has quite the ring as if he had said soon thereafter, oh, my God, I can‘t believe this happened.  I have no idea.

Had he been showing proper remorse and lack of a cold heart, he‘s the coldest hard-hearted person that I‘ve heard from somebody who‘s lost his wife, whether he loves her or not and lost a child or a soon to be child.  These statements that he...

(CROSSTALK)

FALLON:  ... afterwards, to me—I mean that‘s connected with the attorney.  Go back to those statements...

(CROSSTALK)

SHERMAN:  Where are the rules for proper remorse?

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  Hang on.  Hang on.  Let Gloria—go ahead...

ALLRED:  Dan, I think this could be very damning evidence in support of the prosecution‘s theory, because on that January 7 telephone call that you just showed, Amber is saying, well, what if we were in a restaurant and they—cops come up and arrest you for murder and then Scott Peterson said, I had nothing to do with it.  That‘s before it was ever discovered that Laci, in fact, had been murdered...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Great point...

ALLRED:  ... so why is he saying...

(CROSSTALK)

ALLRED:  ... I had nothing to do with it in response...

ABRAMS:  Oh come on...

ALLRED:  ... to the murder...

ABRAMS:  No...

ALLRED:  ... if in fact no one knew at that point...

ABRAMS:  No...

(CROSSTALK)

ALLRED:  ... she was murdered?

ABRAMS:  I think - Mickey, I think it‘s a purely human response, I mean, apart from—I‘m not defending...

SHERMAN:  Yes.

ABRAMS:  ... whether he did it or not but I‘m saying that to respond by saying, you know, are you going to be arrested for murder and he says, no, because I didn‘t do it...

SHERMAN:  Yes.

ABRAMS:  ... you know, to sit there and parse through well he should have said...

SHERMAN:  Yes and...

(CROSSTALK)

SHERMAN:  ... unless you‘re in those shoes who knows what you‘re going to say or do.  I don‘t think there‘s any specific formula for proper remorse.  And they put her on as I see it for three reasons.  One is to show that he‘s a lying cheating husband and that was given away by Geragos in the opening statement.  And the other two were to show motive.  That he loved this woman and therefore killed his wife and unborn child, and that sure didn‘t happen.  And the third one was to show that he incriminated himself by confessing and that never happened.  Two out of three is not good...

(CROSSTALK)

FALLON:  Mickey, Mickey...

(CROSSTALK)

ALLRED:  ... you don‘t show remorse by being at your wife‘s prayer vigil...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Right.

ALLRED:  ... and the search for your wife and at the same time then being on the telephone with your girlfriend...

SHERMAN:  But he‘s not charged...

(CROSSTALK)

SHERMAN:  ... he‘s not charged with showing no remorse.

FALLON:  Gloria, I think the important thing is here, Mickey, and you have to know, people understand why you don‘t have remorse if you don‘t love your wife if you‘re cheating on her.  Nobody on this jury, at least not a majority I don‘t think is going to say it‘s proper to have no remorse for this baby that‘s going to be born any day.  And that‘s what I think—that cold heart, in fact...

ABRAMS:  Hang on...

FALLON:  ... to maliciousness.  And I think that that‘s what‘s going to...

ABRAMS:  Let me play...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  This is - let me play Janey Peterson, Scott‘s sister-in-law, talking about the testimony after court today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JANEY PETERSON, SCOTT‘S SISTER-IN-LAW:  You tell me what she witnessed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Well she‘s, you know...

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  ... she is a prosecution witness.

J. PETERSON:  What did she testify to?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  What did she testify to, Janey?

J. PETERSON:  An affair.  She testified to an affair.  She testified to a man who was having an affair whose wife went missing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Dean Johnson, what do you make of it?

JOHNSON:  Well he certainly testified to an affair, but it‘s a lot more than an affair.  It‘s a lot more than what Geragos characterized it as, some extended one-nightstand.  This is a guy who earned his way deeply into the heart of Amber Frey and into the heart of her daughter.  He‘s somebody who built this whole relationship on an elaborate set of lies that was bound to crash even if Laci didn‘t go missing.

The jury hates that.  But I think that‘s not the main thing that the jury gets out of this.  What the jury gets out of this is all those questions that Scott Peterson could not answer.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Why is it more than an affair?

FALLON:  ... I think there‘s a pathology here that you don‘t need a shrink to go.  People are looking not just at the lying.  They cannot understand how somebody could be so kind of dismissed from what is happening to his wife and child.

ABRAMS:  Right.  Let me take...

FALLON:  And I keep repeating it because I think that‘s going to get him.

ABRAMS:  I‘m going to take a quick break.  Just want to give you a sense—it‘s number 10 here—of the sort of back and forth you saw between Mark Geragos and Amber Frey.  She was—she wouldn‘t give in to him.

Geragos:  You repeatedly asked him in all kinds of situations in all sorts of phone calls whether or not he had anything to do with Laci‘s disappearance.

Frey:  Yes.

And on January 6 he denied having anything to do with it.

Frey:  In some instances he said that.  In others he was very indirect about his answering.

And we are going to take a break.  When we come back, what Mark Geragos did not do in his cross-examination.  Didn‘t really go into Amber‘s past relationships.  Never suggested she had anything to do with Laci‘s murder.

And Michael Jackson says sheriff‘s deputies manhandled him when they arrested him.  But a report from California‘s Attorney General says they don‘t buy it.  And just hours ago the Santa Barbara sheriff spoke out about it.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN AUDIOTAPE)

FREY:  I think I told him the story about a boyfriend I had been with that (UNINTELLIGIBLE) had—went through the drive-through at Vegas and married this girl and that night they got pregnant.  And I told him, I said, you know, are you sure you want to be with me?  I mean you have a pregnant woman here with your child and I said well what is your decision.  And he says I want nothing more than to be with you and on her side, she was a complete crazy woman.

(END AUDIOTAPE)

ABRAMS:  Amber Frey talking about some experiences that she had before she met Scott Peterson.  This on the day after she confronted Scott about the fact that he was married and his wife was missing.  All right.  Let me go through some of the issues Mark Geragos did not bring up on his cross-examination.  Issues that we thought might come up.

For example, didn‘t really talk about her past relationships with married men.  Made one reference to one experience but it went through, came in and out very quickly.

Whether Amber may have actually been involved in somehow in the murder.  Mark Geragos has suggested that maybe Amber might have had a motive to this point, never brought it up with her.

Didn‘t really attack her for being a bad mother.  Asked a couple of questions about whether after only knowing him for two or three days, how did she give him the key and let him pick up her daughter, but again, didn‘t really go after her for that.

And also didn‘t really suggest that she was vindictive and that‘s why she was doing this.  Dean, do you agree with me about all that?

JOHNSON:  Yes, I agree.  He didn‘t go into that and I think that‘s one of the smartest things he‘s done in this trial.  This was a very smart cross-examination to keep it short, to stay away from Amber‘s credibility, her character.  That would have been offensive to the jury.  The only thing he could have done better would be to finish yesterday afternoon.  He probably would have gotten a standing ovation from the jury.

ABRAMS:  Mickey, what do you think?

SHERMAN:  I totally agree.  In fact all along I‘ve been saying that‘s that what he would do because I think he‘s a fairly decent lawyer and you‘d have to be pretty stupid not to go that way.  And you know, what he did is basically stayed focused.  He kept his eyes on what he needed that jury to hear, not what they didn‘t need to hear.  They knew all that stuff anyway.

They may have drawn their—or may draw their own conclusions about her background or morality.  It‘s not his business.  And most importantly, you don‘t want to beat up on a witness in front of a jury unless that witness has invited that and Amber Frey didn‘t do that.  No matter what she may have said or done, she didn‘t invite—allow herself or invite getting beaten up on the witness stand.  Jurors just get totally turned off by that.  He knew what he needed and he stayed with it.

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  I‘m going to invite Gloria to say something good about Mark Geragos.  Do you think that it was smart of Mark Geragos not to go into all those things in depth?

ALLRED:  Yes, because it wouldn‘t have made any point at all for his client and I think it could have alienated the jury.  But again, when he stood up yesterday and tried to make a joke and said I have no questions, it probably would have been better if he meant it and didn‘t bother engaging in cross-examination, because what did he get out of it?

Her credibility is still intact.  He didn‘t lay a glove on that.  He wasn‘t able to do anything with it.  She said that she had turned over all of the tapes and she has.  In fact, many of them have already been played in the courtroom.  So I really don‘t know what you accomplish by even engaging in cross-examination.  Of course, he was entitled to do so and he did so.  But I think he was right not to go into those other areas.

ABRAMS:  Go ahead Bill Fallon.

FALLON:  Dan, remember here the witness with never Amber Frey.  It was Scott on the tapes and I think actually I agree with Gloria.  I think it would have been even a supreme defense moment to say I really have no questions because it gets to dismiss her and maybe even the tapes a little more.

One important thing as a prosecutor I‘ll say the prosecution got in is that they said Amber Frey doing her Meryl Streep mode versus her Jessica Simpson mode said they want to find out if he should be charged or he should be cleared—the innocent or guilt thing.  And I think to have that on the tapes basically is the quintessential point because nobody could say they were just after him.  And I know it‘s...

ABRAMS:  One...

FALLON:  ... a small point, but it‘s important.

ABRAMS:  One final point that Mark Geragos made today, he said that the final conversation where Amber Frey calls up Scott Peterson, tells him she doesn‘t want to talk anymore.  The fact that Peterson didn‘t seem particularly disappointed about it seemed to disappoint Amber Frey.  Here is the tape.

(BEGIN AUDIOTAPE)

FREY:  I think right now for me, Scott, and really everything that has happened in the last 50-plus days for myself and the family and you and everything that‘s going in right now, I think it would be best if you and I didn‘t talk anymore until there‘s a resolution in this...

(CROSSTALK)

FREY:  ... whole...

PETERSON:  Yes, I agree with that.

FREY:  Good.

PETERSON:  You‘re right.

FREY:  Good.  OK, well that wasn‘t so hard.

PETERSON:  No, it‘s the right thing.

(END AUDIOTAPE)

ABRAMS:  Amber Frey admitted on the witness stand that she was a little surprised that he took it so well.

All right, Gloria and Dean, I‘ve got to wrap it up.  Thank you very much.  Appreciate it.

ALLRED:  Thank you.

JOHNSON:  Thank you Dan.

ABRAMS:  Coming up, the Santa Barbara sheriff speaks out in a rare press conference after Michael Jackson accused the deputies of roughing him up.

“The Dog” is in the house.  He tracked down Max Factor heir Andrew Luster in Mexico.  Now the world‘s most famous bounty hunter, “Dog” Chapman has a new reality TV show.

And my “Closing Argument” will be coming up later in the show.  It‘s on Amber Frey—my final thoughts on her testimony.

Your e-mails...

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Got some breaking news to report to you from Russia.  Two Russian airliners carrying a total of more than 100 people have crashed almost simultaneously south of Moscow.  This according to the Tass News Agency.  No word at this point of survivors.  And of course, the fact that two Russian airliners have crashed simultaneously is leading to a lot of questions there.

Tom Bonifield is our bureau chief in Moscow and he joins us now with the latest.  Tom, what do you know?

TOM BONIFIELD, NBC NEWS MOSCOW BUREAU CHIEF:  Hi Dan.  It‘s—you‘re right, it‘s absolutely bizarre.  I just got off the phone with a spokeswoman from the Emergency Situations Ministry, which handles these sorts of disasters here in Russia.  And they said the first plane went down a little bit before 11:00 Moscow time, at 10:56 to be exact, about 100 miles south of the city, had 34 passengers and eight crewmembers on board, Russian-made plane.

They have rescuers at the scene of the crash.  They don‘t know what caused it yet.  Three minutes later another plane, a Tupolev-134, the same kind of plane, which left from the same airport going to a different destination disappeared from radar.  They lost contact with the plane.  They still don‘t know where it is.  They don‘t know if it‘s crashed.  They can‘t contact anyone onboard.

They haven‘t been able to find the thing.  They‘re still looking.  So, no confirmation yet, according to them, that that second plane has crashed.  It had 44 passengers and eight crewmembers onboard, Dan.

ABRAMS:  All right.  And Tom, again, The Associated Press citing an Interstate Aviation Committee official saying that the second plane did crash.  So are you saying that we‘re not certain at this point whether that second plane has gone down?

BONIFIELD:  Well, this is according to the Russian Emergency Situations Ministry.  I just got off the phone with them and they told me that they have not confirmed that it crashed.  They lost contact with it several hours ago and don‘t know where it is now.  So it‘s possible that that other agency has come up with the information in the meantime.  But according to them just a few minutes ago they don‘t know where the plane is.

ABRAMS:  And I assume the question that everyone is asking there is could it be a terror related and at this point I assume there are just no answers?

BONIFIELD:  Absolutely.  They said they have absolutely no idea what made this first plane go down and what made the second one disappear.  It‘s too early.  They‘ve got rescuers still at the scene of the first crash and they really don‘t have any answers, Dan.

ABRAMS:  Tom, give us a sense of the security measures in place in airports, particularly if you know this particular airport where they took off from.  If you don‘t, give us just a sense of security measures that are taking place in Russian airports on the whole.

BONIFIELD:  This airport, there are several in the Moscow area and both of these planes left from the same one.  It‘s called Domodedovo.  It‘s south of the city.  It‘s actually been refurbished recently.  It is the most modern airport in Russia and the security measures, frankly, there would look to most passengers from America just like the security measures do in the states.

It‘s rigorous metal detectors, you know, strip-searches if need be, so on and so forth.  So, in that respect we haven‘t really seen any terrorist-related attacks on aviation here.  Though, of course, there has been a lot of terrorism mostly related to the war in Chechnya throughout Russia, but not so much against the aviation industry per se Dan.

ABRAMS:  And I was going to say that Russia has had its own problems, long-standing problems with Islamic fundamentalists in Chechnya, and so this has got to be a concern of all who are investigating this.

BONIFIELD:  Absolutely.  That war in Chechnya, which is in southern Russia with Muslim fundamentalists, as you mentioned, has raised off and on since 1994 here.  It‘s a real problem for Russia and they‘ve not been able to solve it.  And we‘ve seen repeated attacks throughout the country including here in the capital city Moscow that are the responsibility or that has been caused by Chechen rebels.  So that‘s a real serious issue here and the Russians are - they‘ve got their antenna up on terrorists and there‘s no doubt about it and they are fairly rigorous about protecting their aviation industry in that respect.

ABRAMS:  And I should say now again—now “Reuters” also reporting that the second plane did go down, now both The Associated Press and “Reuters”.  “Reuters” citing the Emergency Ministry saying that two Russian passenger planes with a total of more than 80 onboard have gone missing within minutes of each other and you pointing out to us that both of them leaving from the same airport—hold on.  We‘ve got another update here.

Tass now reporting that contact has been lost with the second plane.  An earlier story said the second plane had crashed.  So it sounds like, Tom, your information was right on.  I think they‘re doing a correction to say we have to be very careful as to what we know and what we don‘t know at this point.  “Reuters” saying that witnesses saw an explosion onboard a plane just before it crashed near the town of Tula.

The Emergency Ministry again saying that that plane had 34 passengers and eight crew onboard.  They are describing the second plane at this point as missing.  These—both these planes, Tom, are the typical plane that is flown on domestic flights in Russia.  Is that correct?

BONIFIELD:  It‘s a mid size Russian—well, Soviet-built jetliner and it is very widespread here in Russia, absolutely and as I said, they‘re both the same plane.  That plane that you mentioned near Tula, which is about 100 miles south of here is the plane that they were confirming to me at the Emergency Situation Ministry that crashed.  And (UNINTELLIGIBLE) I say they‘ve got rescuers and fire teams on the scene.  No word yet on whether there are any survivors from that crash, however, Dan.

ABRAMS:  Tom, if you can just stand by with us for a moment, Steve Emerson, our terrorism expert, joins us now as well.  Steve, what to make of this?  Steve Emerson, are you there?  Steve Emerson, can you hear me?

STEVE EMERSON, TERRORISM EXPERT:  Yes, I can hear you, Dan.

ABRAMS:  OK.  OK.  Go ahead.  I was asking you what do you make of this report that one plane—Russian plane has crashed.  Witnesses say they saw an explosion.  Another plane apparently leaving from the same airport at the very least is missing at this point.  I assume that they are going to be looking at terror as a possible cause but at this point, certainly no indications that that is the case.

EMERSON:  No indication one way or another.  But, Dan, I must tell you something is amiss here insofar as the coincidences of two planes spontaneously crashing would be very, very high.  The fact of the matter is if in fact they find that the planes exploded midair, at least as you pointed out that eyewitnesses are saying that at least one of them did before it crashed, and if it turns out that the other one as well crashed as a result of some type of explosion, I would suggest to you that at that point it would be a high indication that it was connected to terrorism, something that I would not rule on automatically, but the coincidence is very, very strange at this point.

ABRAMS:  These were both Tupolev TU-154 jets.  Apparently, they remain the standard medium-range airliner on domestic flights in Russia.  And as our bureau chief, Tom Bonifield pointed out that these both left from the same airport just south of Moscow, what he is describing as the most modern airport in the country.

Steve, we were talking a moment ago about the problem, the long-standing problem that the Russians have had with Islamic fundamentalism in that country.  I think sometimes Americans forget that the Russians have been dealing with Islamic fundamentalism for a lot longer on a sort of immediate basis than has the U.S.

EMERSON:  And not only have they been dealing with the whole issue of the Chechen rebels and Islamic terrorists who basically become ensconced in that whole area, but in fact the Chechen terrorists have basically, constantly reinvented the wheel.  They‘ve attacked rock concerts with suicide bombers.  They‘ve attacked theaters in downtown Moscow.  They‘ve and blown up apartment buildings.

So, in fact, anyone who tries to reduce a certain pattern is not going to find one because they‘re always looking for weaknesses and vulnerabilities in the Russian security system.  And it‘s probably true that domestic airlines of the type that were crashed today had probably lower levels of security than let‘s say international aircraft or craft that‘s going outside of Russia.

Again, it‘s still too soon to say exactly what caused this, but if in fact the eyewitness accounts of at least one of them turn out to be correct that it exploded in midair before it crashed, I think the Russians are going to find out pretty quickly by looking at the manifests as well as other forensic evidence from the debris whether in fact it was due to a bomb or whether in fact it was due to this crazy bizarre coincidence.  The likelihood is very, very remote—Dan.

ABRAMS:  All right.  We‘re going to take a quick break here.  Steve, if you could stand by.  Our bureau chief in Moscow Tom Bonifield, please stand by as well.  We continue with this breaking news story, the coverage of at least one airliner in Russia that has crashed, another one missing that had left the same airport.  We‘re going to continue our coverage in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  We‘re back.  We‘re bringing you a breaking news story out of Russia.  Here is what we know.  We know that one Russian jet has crashed and that another one from—that left from the very same airport is missing.  Apparently both planes together had about 80 people onboard.  The one we know for certain that has crashed had 42 people aboard, according—this according to the ITAR-Tass, reporting this from Russia.

Tom Bonifield is our bureau chief in Moscow.  Tom, again, bring us up to date on exactly what we know about both of these planes.

BONIFIELD:  The first plane, the one that you just talked about, Dan, was a Tupolev 134.  It‘s a midsize Russian jet.  It had, as you said, 34 passengers and eight crewmembers onboard.  It crashed about four minutes to 11:00 p.m. local time on Moscow, 100 miles south of the city or approximately near a town called Tula.  There are rescue workers on the scene.  They have no idea what made it crash.  No word yet on survivors.

It left from the airport called Domodedovo here in the city.  Another Tupolev 134 that left from that same airport here in Moscow on the way to Sochi, which is a resort city on the Black Sea in southern Russia, carrying 44 passengers and eight crewmembers disappeared off radar.  They lost contact with it just three minutes after this first plane crashed.

Officials at the Emergency Situation Ministry say it went down near a city called (UNINTELLIGIBLE) which is down near the Black Sea.  As I mentioned, they have no idea where the plane is.  No confirmation of whether it crashed.  They lost contact with the plane, haven‘t heard from the crew since—Dan.

ABRAMS:  And Tom, let‘s be clear, I assume that in Russian history, as far as you know, much less American history, it‘s probably never been the case that two jets have crashed within three minutes of one another leaving from the same airport accidentally, although that still could be the case.  I‘m assuming that as far as you know, that hasn‘t happened before.

BONIFIELD:  No, it‘s absolutely bizarre, I think, is the only word to choose to describe it.  It‘s really unusual.  And as we talked about earlier with Steve, there is always this threat of terrorism in Russia because they‘ve had an ongoing war with Islamic extremists in the southern Republic of Chechnya.

And one of the thing I think that‘s worth mentioning on that score, even though we don‘t know if terrorism is involved here, we are closing in on elections for the president of Chechnya who actually in fact is really like a governor would be in the states.  At any rate, the rebels have threatened to kill him directly.  They killed his predecessor a few months ago and they have talked about an activation (ph) of a terrorist campaign.  So I think this is a very real specter here when you‘re looking at the possibilities for something like this, especially in light of the coincidence of the timing here and the fact that the same kind of planes from the same airport, Dan.

ABRAMS:  All right.  Tom Bonifield, Steve Emerson, thanks very much.  Here‘s what we‘re going to do.  We‘re going to go back to our regular programming, but we are going to keep an eye.  Tom Bonifield is on the phones working it for us in Moscow.  If there is any development in the story at all, we‘re going to bring it to you immediately.  So please stand by.  We‘re going to take a quick break.

More of the program about justice coming up in a minute.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  My final thoughts on Amber Frey‘s testimony here at the Scott Peterson trial coming up in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Welcome back.  Remember Michael Jackson‘s claim that he was -

·         quote—“manhandled” very roughly when police took him into custody last November?  He talked about it in an interview on “60 Minutes” where he showed what he said that he could barely raise his arms because of his injuries.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  This arm is as far as I can reach it—same with this side over here.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Seems strange that Jackson complained about being injured after he was seen waving to fans from a car window in Las Vegas the night of his surrender and he flashed the peace sign to his fans before boarding his plane that same day.  The Sheriff‘s Department took Jackson‘s statements on “60 Minutes” as an official complaint.  They said they released tapes from Jackson‘s surrender to show how well they say they treated him.  This audiotape came from Jackson‘s ride to the police station where the deputy appears to be making Jackson more comfortable in his handcuffs.

(BEGIN AUDIOTAPE)

M.J.:  These things hurt.  They‘re tight, aren‘t they?

DEPUTY:  Just, if you want to scoot forward a little bit - there you go.  Put some air on here for us.

M.J.:  Thank you.

(END AUDIOTAPE)

ABRAMS:  California Attorney General‘s Office conducted an investigation into the abuse.  Their report released last week showed there was no indication Jackson was injured at the hands of police and today Sheriff Jim Anderson spoke about it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The findings of the Attorney General‘s investigation have provided a clear vindication of our personnel who were involved in the arrest and booking of Mr. Jackson.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Jackson‘s defense team has called the Attorney General‘s investigation—quote—“nothing but a scam and a sham from the start”—end quote propaganda.  Also in the case, the judge ruled that District Attorney Tom Sneddon did not violate the gag order when he spoke about the case at a district attorney‘s conference in Vancouver.  The defense found out about Sneddon‘s remarks from a report on this program.

Joining me now to discuss this latest development in the case is former Santa Barbara sheriff and NBC analyst Jim Thomas and attorneys Mickey Sherman and Bill Fallon.

All right, Jim Thomas, no big surprise here, right?

JIM THOMAS, FMR. SANTA BARBARA COUNTY SHERIFF:  No.  I don‘t think anybody out there really believed that Michael Jackson was mishandled especially after the tapes came out with Jim Anderson‘s news conference.  Also of Michael Jackson hoisting himself up on top of that SUV at court I think dispelled any doubts that there were.

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  Mickey Sherman...

SHERMAN:  No one said...

ABRAMS:  Mickey Sherman, let me read to you—hang on Mickey.  Let me read to you from the Attorney General‘s report.  It said all witnesses who observed Mr. Jackson immediately after booking did not report any complaints or mistreatment from Mr. Jackson nor did they note any outward displays of discomfort during their observation of him.  There‘s no record of medical assistance being summoned to treat Mr. Jackson following the booking process.  And then, again, you know, Mickey, he didn‘t file a formal complaint...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  ... at all.

SHERMAN:  Can you imagine what—the money they would have spent on investigating this if he filed a formal complaint?  No wonder California is broke.  A hundred and sixty-three witnesses, 2,500 man-hours investigating someone who didn‘t make a complaint, I mean that‘s kind of persuasive to me that they‘re so darn defensive about this.  He‘s not saying he was beaten up in a small room, only that somebody treated him a little bit roughly and he got a bad mark.

FALLON:  Oh Mickey, he‘s on TV.  He‘s bashing them.  I can‘t even believe it.  Remember the little motion he made...

(CROSSTALK)

FALLON:  ... I can barely move and then he fixes his wig for God‘s sake.

SHERMAN:  So that excuses them for spending this kind of money?

FALLON:  Well no, I think they had to spend it.  Because even though it was a little pretextual thing he filed a complaint...

SHERMAN:  Yes.

FALLON:  I‘m telling you when it goes to trial, when he takes the stand since he said Sneddon and the whole prosecution is in—and I don‘t like Sneddon but they‘re all against...

SHERMAN:  This ain‘t coming into trial.

FALLON:  ... this is going to bite...

SHERMAN:  This is not coming...

(CROSSTALK)

SHERMAN:  ... and to spend this kind of effort and manpower...

FALLON:  His allegations are going to come in and they‘re going to be disproven if he takes a stand.

ABRAMS:  Go ahead Mickey.

SHERMAN:  If he wanted to go after them he would have sued them.  And if the Attorney General and if the D.A. and everybody else in the Sheriff‘s Department had any brains...

(CROSSTALK)

SHERMAN:  ... they would say fine...

(CROSSTALK)

SHERMAN:  You know, you think you were manhandled sue us.  Other than that let‘s get on to the next case.

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  Jim Thomas, what about that?  Hang on.  Hang on.  Hang on.  Jim Thomas, what about the idea that this was kind of a waste of money to do this investigation since Jackson never filed a formal complaint.

THOMAS:  Well it wasn‘t Mickey‘s law firm they complained about.  I can tell you that the sheriff and his department here really don‘t like to be maligned, you know, in the world saying that they mishandle their prisoners.  I think it was important to be done.  If the sheriff had done it himself they would have claimed white wash.  So he asked the Attorney General if he was going to do it.  He did it right and that‘s what he did.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Whitewash seems...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  Hang on one sec.

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  Jim, what do you make of the claim very quickly that the A.G.  and the prosecutors are all in bed together and as a result this isn‘t exactly an independent investigation.

THOMAS:  Well I know the sheriff and I know the A.G.  I know they‘re not in bed together.  The A.G. is a very independent elected official of the state of California and he‘s going to do his job...

ABRAMS:  Yes.

THOMAS:  ... regardless of what the sheriff said.  So, I think...

(CROSSTALK)

THOMAS:  ... they did what was needed to be done.

ABRAMS:  Yes.  This was going to be a tough one.  I mean you know you see Jackson waving and this and that and climbing up on the car and you know the whole business.

All right.  Jim Thomas, Mickey Sherman and Bill Fallon, thanks very much.  Appreciate it.

My “Closing Argument”—some final thoughts on Amber Frey‘s testimony here in the Scott Peterson case.  On the whole, she was more impressive than I expected, smarter, more thoughtful and composed, seemingly un-intimidated by Peterson attorney, Mark Geragos and willing to engage in some verbal fencing.

He tried to force her to answer just his specific questions.  She forced him to refine the questions to her liking, challenging his summaries of the evidence, carefully avoiding conceding too much.  He set up traps casually and seemingly nonchalantly stating certain conclusions as fact.  She wouldn‘t bite.

At one point even saying—quote—“You asked several questions.  Let‘s break it down.  Now will the jurors like the sass?  I‘m not so sure, but I‘m not talking about Amber—but I am talking about Amber, not just Amber the witness.  I expected a sort of bimbo and instead found a well intentioned, albeit wounded and needy young woman who seemed to have learned a lot in the past year.

She was a sucker and a fool to believe Scott Peterson‘s charade so quickly and willingly, but she‘s already paid a hefty price.  Humiliated about as much as any woman who made bad choices about men.  Before her testimony I said if she comes in and tells the truth and nothing but the truth she should leave court a proud woman.

Today as Amber tries to begin the rest of her life, I say she should be holding her head up high.

No time for e-mails tonight due to the breaking news.  Thanks for watching.  See you back from our studios tomorrow.

Up next “HARDBALL” with Chris Matthews.  Thanks for watching.

END   

Copy: Content and programming copyright 2004 MSNBC.  ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.  Transcription Copyright 2004 FDCH e-Media, Inc.  (f/k/a Federal Document Clearing House Inc., eMediaMillWorks, Inc.), ALL RIGHTS  RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material other than for research. User may not reproduce or redistribute the material except for user‘s personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon MSNBC and FDCH e-Media, Inc.‘s copyright or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,