updated 9/8/2004 10:56:21 AM ET 2004-09-08T14:56:21

Guests: John Clune, Lin Wood, William Portanova, Jim Thomas, Leslie Crocker Snyder, Louise Shelley, Sajjan Gohel

DAN ABRAMS, MSNBC ANCHOR, THE ABRAMS REPORT:  Coming up, the lawyers for the woman accusing Kobe Bryant of rape join us live.  The criminal case against Kobe Bryant crumbled after the allege victim refused to testify.  But her civil lawsuit is still on.  Is it really going to trial? Have they already reached a deal? We‘ll ask her attorneys. 

Plus, Michael Jackson admits to paying over $2 million to another young boy he once befriended.  That makes at least two payouts.  Does that make this criminal case tougher to defend?

And new video from inside the Russian school where over 1,000 children, parents, and teachers were held for days, hundreds killed by savage terrorists.  Now the lawyer for one of them says his client didn‘t know that children would be involved.  Does that matter? The program about justice starts now. 

Hi, everyone.  First up on the docket tonight, I may be a vegetarian, someone owes me a steak dinner.  I hate to say I told you so, but did I not for weeks and weeks predict the criminal case against Kobe Bryant would go away? I predicted the alleged victim wouldn‘t want to be involved in a case that I said almost certainly would have ended up in an acquittal. We broke the story.  Now we‘ll follow it up as well. 

Before we talk to attorneys for the woman who is accused Bryant of rape and is still suing him in civil court, here is the D.A.‘s announcement last week that criminal charges against Bryant were being dropped. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARK HURLBERT, EAGLE COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY:  The victim has informed us that after much of her own labored deliberation that she does not want to proceed with this trial.  The victim on board we truly felt that we had a great case and that justice would prevail. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Prosecution team may still believe in the case, but I don‘t see how the young woman could have believed in the prosecutors in this case.  The woman had been getting a lot of advice from my next guests, her attorneys, John Clune and Lin Wood join me now.  Gentlemen, thanks very much for coming in. Appreciate it. All right.  So John, bottom line, did you advice her to pull out of this case?

JOHN CLUNE, BRYANT ACCUSER‘S ATTORNEY:  You know, that is difficult to do, Dan because the thing that you really need to do with a crime victim like this is give them just as much information as you can to make sure that they understand the ramifications of both decisions either going forward or not. 

ABRAMS:  But the information could be, in my opinion, these prosecutors are never going to get a conviction and I don‘t want you to have to go through this and waste all your time and all your energy and have them look into your sexual past in a case that there‘s never going to be a conviction. 

CLUNE:  Right.  But I think in doing that, you have to understand that these decisions, especially on a case like a rape case, it has such an emotional impact on the victim whether she goes forward or doesn‘t go forward, you don‘t ever want to be in a situation where you push them in one direction or the other.  So that‘s what we really did is gave her the most information that she could have so that she could make the best decision and I think she did that. 

ABRAMS:  Lin, some people say, you know, now she‘s going into civil court and there it‘s about money and in a criminal case it‘s about whether someone goes to prison.  How do you deal with the fact that so many people are now saying, yeah, yeah.  It‘s about the money.  Knew it was about the money and now this just proves it?

LIN WOOD, BRYANT ACCUSER‘S ATTORNEY:  Dan, people say it‘s about money.  That‘s the way that they demean or insult the civil justice system.  The criminal justice system is designed to vindicate the interest of the people of Colorado.  That‘s why it‘s the people of Colorado versus Kobe Bryant.  The civil action is designed for this young lady or for any individual to vindicate their—her rights where someone has done something that injured her. 

ABRAMS:  She is saying in the criminal case I won‘t go forward and in the civil case I will. 

WOOD:  Let‘s go back and look at why she‘s not going forward in the criminal case.  She stood firm for 14 months despite a justice system out in Eagle, Colorado, a criminal justice system that had failed her.  Even up until the day of the announcement of dismissal, she was prepared to go forward with the participation of criminal trial.  She only decided not to go forward after she had, for the first time, an option. 

And that option was to withdraw from the failed system in exchange for receiving a signed public statement from Kobe Bryant which is a remarkable statement where he publicly, directly apologizes to her, apologizes to her parents for his conduct that night.  And then goes on and says that while he maintains that it was, in his view, consensual, he says if you look at the evidence, as I have, if you listen to her, as I have, if you listen to her lawyers, as I have, I can genuinely see why she believed this was nonconsensual.  That is a statement that is basically close to an admission. 

ABRAMS:  Let me read from Kobe Bryant‘s statement. Although I truly believe this encounter between us was consensual, I recognize now that she did not and does not view this incident the same way that I did. After months of reviewing discovery, listening to her attorney—you guys—and even hearing her testify in person, I now understand how she sincerely feels that she did not consent to this encounter. 

You know, John, I was debating someone on the “Today” the other day who was simply saying it is just Kobe Bryant lying to be able to get out of this criminal case.  He doesn‘t even believe this, he said. 

CLUNE:  Well, one thing that‘s very interesting is we haven‘t heard anything like that from Mr. Bryant.  And I‘d be very interested to see if Mr. Bryant is actually willing to come forward and say that he lied to..

ABRAMS:  He won‘t. He‘ll do it through his friends. He‘ll do it through people who are not going to be him and they‘ll come forward and say Kobe never meant it. 

WOOD:  Kobe Bryant, by virtue of this dismissal with the stipulation that criminal case cannot be re-filed now faces, Dan, for the first time what I don‘t believe he was going to face before.  He‘s going to have to testify, under oath, subject to cross-examination and I don‘t believe he was going to testify in the criminal case.  So we‘re...

ABRAMS:  This is not going to trial.  I mean you guys...

WOOD:  Maybe you know something we don‘t know. 

ABRAMS:  I won a steak dinner before, I‘m willing to bet anyone else a steak dinner, this civil case will not go to trial that you guys will settle this.  I mean there‘s going to be a way.  Civil cases are about damages.  And they‘re a lot easier to settle than criminal cases.  Are you telling me you don‘t think this is going to be settled?

WOOD:  Look, if I was the lawyer for Kobe Bryant, I would settle this case tomorrow.  I would not let Kobe Bryant be subjected to a day of cross-examination under oath about what he did that night in that hotel room to this young girl.  But we didn‘t file this lawsuit thinking it was going to be settled.  Remember, we filed this lawsuit almost three plus weeks ago at a time when we did not know whether this criminal case would go forward or not.  We filed it then, not because I was about money but because it was consistent with the truth about what happened that night to this girl.  The criminal case had to stand or fall on the people‘s case beyond a reasonable doubt against Bryant.  This young lady consistent with her charge in that case filed a lawsuit for her own damages. 

ABRAMS:  John, let me ask you straight out, does she think Kobe Bryant ought to go to prison?

CLUNE:  Well, at this point, that‘s not an option. 

ABRAMS:  Right.  But does she think it‘s a matter of right and wrong, Kobe Bryant ought to be in prison? 

CLUNE:  I think she and her family believe that firmly. 

ABRAMS:  No question about it?  They didn‘t get out of this case because they don‘t think Kobe Bryant ought to be behind bars?

CLUNE:  Absolutely not.  And I can tell you I think this might have been more of a difficult thing for her family to deal with than for our client to deal with.  This was a decision that had been very difficult for everyone involved.  But one of the fundamental difficulties that I think this whole family had is that both mom and dad felt very strongly about what should happen to Mr. Bryant and that didn‘t happen. 

ABRAMS:  We‘re going to take a quick break.  More with Lin Wood and John Clune coming up and we get to some of the stories we missed during last week‘s special coverage of the Republican convention. 

Prosecutors in the Peterson case again looking like they‘re playing defense here, trying to prove that police exhausted all leads before going after Peterson for murder.  And this is before the defense is even presenting a case.  I ask what are they doing?

And Michael Jackson admits he paid another boy and his family back in the 1990‘s making at least two payouts so far.  What could that mean for the criminal case?

Plus, a lawyer for one of the terrorists who seized a Russian school last week says his client didn‘t know they were going to hold children hostage.  Does that really matter? Your e-mails, abramsreport@msnb.com.  Please include your name and where you‘re writing from. I‘ll respond (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Coming up, more with the attorneys for the woman who has accused Kobe Bryant of rape. The question, did she simply not trust the prosecutors in this case?  It‘s coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HURLBERT:  I have absolutely no doubt that those ethical standards were met and exceeded as long as the jury had the opportunity to see and hear the facts of what happened in that room from the victim herself. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  The D.A. from Eagle County basically saying he thinks he probably could have gotten a conviction in the case. I‘m joined by the attorneys for the young woman in this case. Lin Wood, you all but said again and again, that the court system failed and there‘s no question. The court released her name again and again. They kept making mistake after mistake, but the bottom line is, her name was out there. I think that it‘s an excuse to say that it‘s the courts, the release of her name that led to pulling out of this case. It seems to me more likely that she and maybe you, maybe the family was saying, we just don‘t trust these prosecutors.  These are not prosecutors who are up to the job and forget about the fact that the court released her name a few times.

WOOD:  Well, number one, let me say to you unequivocally that this young girl never lost faith in the prosecution.

ABRAMS:  Should she have?

WOOD:  No. No. I think that this prosecution team was dealt a tough hand to play. I said this to you when we spoke on this case before, Dan.  You start off on a case of a plaintiff‘s rape, you‘ve got a difficult case to begin with. You throw in a defendant with the type of financial resources and legal team that Kobe Bryant came up with. It‘s even more difficult.

ABRAMS:  And you throw in a complaining witness with a lot of issues in her background that are going to be admissible in the criminal trial.

WOOD:  Listen, I‘ll be more than happy to deal with any issues that are raised about this young girl. We know what the defense will be and we‘re prepared to deal with it. But the problem here was that she lost faith in the system out there in Eagle, not just the release of her name repeatedly.

ABRAMS:  What does that mean?

WOOD:  Well, you‘re talking about from what her father said, I think you saw in the letter he wrote.

ABRAMS:  But see, her father is blaming is court and I don‘t buy the blaming of the court part because...

WOOD:  You were out there. You saw this judge and how he treated the prosecutors and John versus how he treated the defense team. She felt like that every mistake that was made, it always seemed to be prejudicial to her. Think about how damning it was to have two weeks before is selected, to have the defense expert witness unrebutted testimony be released to the public.

ABRAMS:  There‘s no question.  There‘s no question.

WOOD:  You think she thought was going to be treated fairly? Of course not. 

ABRAMS:  There is no question that that was a blow.  But the bottom line, they always were able to find jurors in these cases who haven‘t been watching the cases so closely.  John, you are willing to tell me it‘s the prosecutors, not the court that was a problem?

CLUNE:  The court and not the prosecutors that were the problem. 

ABRAMS:  I think it‘s the other way around. 

CLUNE:  You have to understand, Dan, there are certain things that‘s were expected in this case from the outset.  We expected the defense to do everything they possibly could to disparage this young woman.  We expected the prosecutors to be outmatched by their resources.  But the one thing that we truly countered on was that the judge would stand up in both of those situations and defend at least the fundamental victim‘s rights that we have in the state of Colorado and that didn‘t happen. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  Let me read you one of the things that came out in the preliminary hearing.  And I think this is one of the big problems you‘re going to have with regard to the testimony in this case. 

Detective Winters is being questioned by one of the prosecutors and

basically they‘re talking about what happened October 9? They‘ve apparently

been having sex for five minutes as she claims that she had said no before

this point but something happens then they say. The prosecution, that

comment, he made a comment about what he was going to do to her sexually,

if that comment what did she do?  He had asked her a question. The response

was no and his response back was well, he was going to do it anyway so

continued on with doing what he was doing, talking about sexually. Did she

·         what did she do? 

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 that were around her, 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.  So the problem is—

WOOD:  No, no no, with all due respect, that‘s not going to be a problem in the prosecution of a civil case.  And I don‘t believe it would have been a problem in the prosecution of a criminal case.  This isn‘t about Detective Winters trying to give his best recollection. 

ABRAMS:  He was wrong?

WOOD:  No. It‘s not about him giving his best recollection of what she said.  It would be about her coming into court and being very precise about what happened that night. 

ABRAMS:  Did she have a different account?

WOOD:  She has a detailed account. 

ABRAMS:  Different?

WOOD:  Powerful account.  It is complete and I don‘t believe Detective Winters necessarily had at that time from his first interview a complete account.  It‘s not going to be inconsistent.  But it‘s going to be more thorough, in detail.  And I‘ve heard it.  And it‘s powerful and it‘s compelling and it‘s persuasive.  Detective Winters, by the way, will make a fine witness in the civil case.  He‘s ready to go. 

ABRAMS:  He wasn‘t such a fine witness in the preliminary hearing. 

WOOD:  He‘ll be a fine witness in the civil case. 

ABRAMS:  Jonathan, very quickly, the civil suit says on information believed defendant Bryant number six has a history of attempting to commit similar acts of violent sexual assaults on females he has just met and has thereby established a pattern and practice of such unlawful acts.  Do you have evidence of that?

CLUNE:  That is evidence that we will work with in a civil case. 

ABRAMS:  What does that mean work with? Do you have evidence of it or not?

CLUNE:  Again, we‘re still under the rules against pretrial publicity under the civil case.  So I can‘t comment on the evidence that we‘re going to show.  But obviously, the fact that we allege this in the complaint like everything else that we allege in the complaint, we plan to show at trial. 

ABRAMS:  Lin, how is she doing?

WOOD:  She is doing, under the circumstances, remarkably well.  She is a strong young lady.  She is an articulate young lady.  And the strength and courage that she has shown over the last 14 months to withstand the attacks on her reputation, the threats against her life, invasions of her privacy, she‘s remarkable.  To get to know her is to not only respect her and to believe her, but to understand why she  made the right decision about the criminal case in return for the statement and is making the right decision to good forward in the civil case against Bryant. 

ABRAMS:  Lin Wood and John Clune, thank you very much. Are any of you going to share that we‘re only showing one side. I invite Pamela Mackey and Hal Haddon, the attorneys for Kobe Bryant to come on the program.  We‘re happy to give you exactly the same amount of time that the attorneys for this young woman have gotten.  You‘re invited. 

Michael Jackson coming up, admits he paid money to another boy who is then not allowed to talk about their relationship.  What is word of another payoff do to the current case against Jackson?

Plus Scott Peterson‘s lawyers haven‘t presented their case and the prosecutors are already on guard trying to prove that police looked into all possible leads before accusing him of murder.  Why are they trying to justify their prosecution so early in the case?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

Michael Jackson‘s back in the headlines responding to a “Dateline” NBC investigation revealing another possible victim.  In 1990, Jackson reportedly paid more than $2 million to a 12-year-old boy to keep details of whatever happened between them secret.  Jackson is not denying the payout this time. Here‘s what he had to say after Dateline‘s discovery. 

Quote, I settled with certain individuals because I was concerned about my family and the media scrutiny that would have ensued if I‘d fought the matter in court. It is unfortunate that some individuals have seen fit to come forward and make a complaint that is completely false. Quite frankly I question the timing and motive of this report.

The boy in this recently discovered settlement, the son of a Neverland ranch employee.  Police found out about him while they were investigating the publicized 1993 molestation allegations of another boy.  Jackson settled with that accuser for nearly $25 million.  Both boys have not cooperated with prosecutors leaving them without a criminal case.  My take. 

It is hard to accept Jackson‘s repeated statements that there was no wrongdoing and yet still be willing to pay millions to these accusers.  This is the way I feel in every case.  Joining me now, Jim Thomas, the former Santa Barbara sheriff that lead the investigation into the 1993 molestation allegations against Jackson.  He is now a MSNBC news analyst and criminal defense attorney William Portanova.  Bill, I mean am I just being too cynical in the fact that I just think when anyone pays millions and millions of dollars to settle cases, that you just don‘t settle cases where you did absolutely nothing wrong. 

WILLIAM PORTANOVA, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY:  The truth is at this point, yeah.  This is salacious gossip.  There is no question that a guy that pays that‘s kind of money is worried about something.  But here‘s the problem from a prosecution standpoint. Since that was a negotiated settlement, there‘s a good chance that everything about it may be inadmissible in the next proceeding. 

ABRAMS:  I think that‘s probably the case.  But, still, Jim Thomas, I mean as someone who was investigating the ‘93, did you find this case in the context of investigating the ‘93 case?

JIM THOMAS, NBC NEWS ANALYST:  Yes, we did Dan.  In fact, when we were looking at the first boy, the boy that settled for the $25 million, some of the employees said that we should go talk to a second boy, which we did. We talked to him in 1993 and found that he claimed he had been molested in 1990 and some time after that date was paid in excess of $2 million not to go to court. 

ABRAMS:  Jim, you know what the Jackson supporters say, right.  They‘re saying that Michael Jackson is constantly a target and that he has just tried to settle with these people to avoid these kinds—to get these cases to trial, to make them go away, actually, let me play a quick piece of sound from 1993, Michael Jackson.  Let‘s listen. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL JACKSON:  There have been many disgusting statements made recently concerning allegations of improper conduct on my part. These statements about me are totally false. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Jim, what to make of that?

THOMAS:  Well, you know, I‘ve had my opinion for some time because I‘ve been involved in the case for so long.  And with all due respect to Bill, it‘s my understanding that both boys could be called if the judge thought that it could establish a pattern. Now we do know that both of them were put on notice to possibly testify in the grand jury earlier this year.  But the D.A chose not to use them for the grand jury process and we‘ll have to wait and see whether he wants to use them at trial or not. 

ABRAMS:  And Bill, you‘re not suggesting that the D.A. couldn‘t call them.  You‘re just saying that they may not be able to discuss certain aspects of the settlement, right?

PORTANOVA:  That‘s exactly right but there‘s a bigger problem for the prosecutor here, too.  There‘s no doubt that if some attorney engineered those settlements for these boys 10 years ago, one of the conditions of the settlement to get that kind of money was to no doubt include a sworn statement saying that there has never been any physical contact.  And I‘m quite certain—

ABRAMS:  Really?

PORTANOVA:  As part of a negotiated settlement, I‘m quite certain that an attorney would insist on that to protect the client in the future and that may be the biggest problem that the prosecutor has even if he gets that evidence in now. 

ABRAMS:  Jim, do you know anything about that? Any sworn statements?

THOMAS:  I don‘t think so.  But nonetheless, I think Bill brings out a pretty good point.  When you bring in ‘93, you‘re bringing in old material.  I‘m not so certain that the D.A. may not choose just to work on this case.  It‘s cleaner.  He has tremendous faith in this victim and this family.  And it is something that is recent. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  We shall see.  Jim Thomas, thanks a lot.  Bill Portanova, stick around. 

Coming up, Scott Peterson asked yet another person to help sell his house just weeks after his wife disappeared. 

Plus, new chilling video of the hostages inside that Russian school.  It was taped by the terrorist themselves.  Get this, a lawyer for one of the terrorists, the only one that survived, says his client didn‘t know what he was getting himself into.  Do we really care? He‘s the only one to survive that has been captured.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Coming up, prosecutors in the Scott Peterson case go on the defensive.  Trying to prove police followed up on all the leads they could have and preempt defense tactics. 

(NEWSBREAK)

ABRAMS:  We‘re back.  Now to the Scott Peterson case.  Prosecutors beating the defense to the punch trying to knock down the defense theory that the police did not go after all the credible leads, instead zeroed in on Scott Peterson as the prime suspect from the start.  Today two police officers took the stand saying they spent four days tracking down a lead after getting an anonymous tip that a pregnant woman was being held and possibly abused.  The officers investigated and found no sign of Laci.  We get our legal team‘s take on the prosecution strategy in a minute. 

But first, some of the key testimony we missed last week and we preempted for special coverage of the Republican Convention. 

Lets go to the courthouse and MSNBC, Jennifer London. 

Jennifer, let‘s start with today.  What‘s been happening? 

JENNIFER LONDON, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT:  Well, Dan, we‘ve seen a parade of witnesses testify so far today, some on the stand for only a matter of minutes.  Now in addition to the two officers you mentioned who were involved in that search for Laci up in Tracy, California.  We also heard from a used car salesman who says that very soon after Laci disappeared, Scott Peterson came to his lot and wanted to trade in Laci‘s car to get a car for himself.  We also heard some teary testimony from a friend of Laci Peterson‘s who says that just 10 days after Laci vanished, Scott wanted to talk to her about selling their home in Modesto.  Why? 

Well, the prosecution claims Scott knew Laci wasn‘t coming home, so he didn‘t need her car and he didn‘t need the house on Convena (ph).  Now all of this testimony today coming on the heels of last week‘s testimony where the prosecution entered into some dog tracking evidence.  Now the defense worked hard to attack the scientific reliability of scent dogs. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LONDON, (voice-over):  This video from a dog tracking seminar is something the prosecution didn‘t want the jury to see.  The defense played the video while cross examining this dog handler, Eloise Anderson.  It shows her dog Trimble failing a tracking test.  Mark Geragos pressuring Anderson to admit, that during a pretrial hearing, she failed to mention this particular test. 

CHUCK SMITH, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY:  We saw a graphic example of the dogs failure.  And the prosecution could not counter that with any significant example of the dog‘s success. 

LONDON:  Trimble, is the same tracking dog who, according to Anderson, picked up Laci‘s scent at the Berkeley Marina, just four days after Peterson told police he went there to go fishing.  The defense worked hard to show the dog tracking is an art, not a science. 

SMITH:  The prosecution‘s dog scent evidence was significantly damaged by the cross-examination this morning. 

LONDON:  And speaking of tracking, beginning in early January 2003, Peterson was constantly being tracked himself.  A team of undercover officers followed Peterson everywhere, including three trips to the Berkeley Marina when search teams were combing the bay.  The prosecution claims Peterson went there, because he was worried her body might surface.  The defense says, consider this...

SMITH:  Modesto Police alert him they were going to search the marine, so he knew that.  That‘s yes went there. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LONDON:  Dan, we are told the prosecution is getting ready to move into mitochondrial DNA.  Now that‘s a very big word, but what it simply means is, DNA testing on that strand of hair.  Remember that strand of hair found on the pair of pliers on Scott Peterson‘s boat.  We are told to expect some testimony about what the results of the DNA testing on that strand of hair have to prove later this week. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  Jennifer London, the ho-hum testimony is going to be—I have to tell you, I remember doing the O.J. case, having to sit through all mitochondrial DNA, boring. 

All right.  So why all the preemptive strikes by the defense?  A good idea, sort of preempting what they might say about the prosecutors, I‘m sorry.  My take—no.  This strategy reflects the problems of the prosecution case.  They seem too concerned about what the defense is going to be doing, rather than staying on course and presenting a cogent case.  I say let the defense present the theories and then and only then should the prosecution rebut them with this type of testimony.  It says, yes, I swear we did look up all the leads, et cetera.

Let‘s bring in the legal team.  Former New York state judge, NBC News analyst, Leslie Crocker Snyder.  In California criminal defense attorney, Bill Portnova. 

Leslie, you agree with me on this one? 

LESLIE CROCKER SNYDER, FMR. NEW YORK STATE JUDGE:  Well, I agree with you to a certain extent.  I mean, the problem is, that we have the history of the whole case that they present case that presented which has been bubbling, as you heard me say often enough, unfortunately.  And I think Geragos has them so much on the defensive.  Because what‘s happened, as we all know, as with every witness, he‘s managed to flip around most witness‘ testimony and bring out a cogent defense or a tentable, plausible, even if ridiculous in some instances, defense theory. 

So, now they‘re saying to themselves, I guess, we have got to take some wind out his sails.  And what we‘re going to do is we‘re going to anticipate that he‘s going to once again, because he‘s made this clear, say they did not do things they should have like search—follow up other leads. 

ABRAMS: Would you have even brought up the dog stuff?  It just seems to me this is one of the argument, that if you want to believe the defense, you can say, see, the prosecutors brought in more evidence that really doesn‘t help their case.  I mean, this just seems to be another disaster for prosecutors. 

CROCKER SNYDER:  They‘ve done this constantly.  I mean, they presented witnesses who go on for too long, that didn‘t add anything, that ere extremely boring.  We‘ve all seen this.  Instead of focusing on the good stuff like where the bodies were found, some of the statements, inconsistent statements, the defendant wanting to sell his house desperately, his car, the possessions, the baby‘s furniture.  So, I think they‘ve really gotten off track.  I don‘t think it‘s necessarily a mistake to anticipate some of the major theories that Geragos has raised.  But, you know, he has them on the defensive.  And that‘s never a good position for the prosecution. 

ABRAMS:  Let me play a piece of sound, Bill.  This is Scott Peterson talking to the brother of Laci Peterson after pictures of Scott and Amber showed up in the “National Enquirer.” 

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

BRENT ROCHA, LACI PETERSON‘S BROTHER:  You think that girl might have had something to do with it?

SCOTT PETERSON, ON TRIAL FOR MURDERING HIS WIFE:  No, she—she didn‘t.

ROCHA:  She didn‘t?

PETERSON:  No, she couldn‘t have.  She didn‘t know about Laci.

ROCHA:  So you can tell me, honestly, OK, I asked you earlier this morning...

PETERSON:  Yes.

ROCHA:  You had nothing to do with this?

PETERSON:  I had nothing to do with her disappearance, Brent.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  All right.  So, Bill, does this mean that now the defense should stop suggesting that maybe Amber Fry somehow could have had something to do with this? 

PORTNOVA:  Well, you know, the idea that Geragos and his team suggest that, I think it‘s always been a bit of a lark.  It‘s never going to get any traction with anybody.  And, yes, I think they should drop it.  But I will tell you this, it‘s clear that the prosecution is starting to feel the pressure of living 200 miles from home, out of the hotel with limited support resources.  Because what they‘re doing with the defense—with their case now is anticipating the defense and that‘s probably the first real tangible sign that the defense team has gotten to them.  They‘re now chasing their own tails.  And the jury is sitting there thinking when will this end? 

ABRAMS;  Leslie, quickly, before—apart from talking about strategy, I want to talk about substance.  I think something came up last week, that no one‘s really talking about, which I think was a very devastating point to the prosecutors.  And that is that a laptop was used on the 24th of December, the morning Laci supposedly, you know, according to the prosecutors, we thought somehow the killing happened the night before maybe or whatever.  But somebody used the computer between 8:40 and 8:45, it‘s number six here, in the morning. 

Remember Scott leaves the house at 9:30.  The user checked the weather in San Jose and then visited a shopping site for a Gap pro fleece scarf and sunflower motif umbrella.  Remember, Laci had a sunflower tattoo.  I mean this sure seems like someone‘s using it in the Peterson home that maybe it was Laci alive at 8:45?

CROCKER SNYDER:  Well, if she‘s alive at 8:45, the prosecution has a major problem.  We all know that.  I don‘t know what the rebuttal is to that. 

ABRAMS:  The rebuttal is that they would say Laci didn‘t use that account very often.  Although she used it occasionally she hadn‘t used it all through December, why wouldn‘t she have used her own account is what they say.

CROCKER SNYDER:  Right.  But the problem is I don‘t think they can refute the possibility.  Again, it‘s another point which Geragos has, you know, undermine their position on something that was supposed to be very important to them and it does undermine the time line. 

ABRAMS:  When I read that—I didn‘t know about that particular incident when I heard that had happened last week, I thought that was a big blow for the prosecutors, substantively.  Leslie Crock Snyder and Bill Portonova, thanks a lot. 

Coming up, a dramatic view of that terror siege inside a Russian school.  Video shot by the terrorists themselves.  Now a lawyer for one of them says his client didn‘t know that children would be involved. 

They were going to a school and he didn‘t know that children would be involved?  Should this defense even matter? 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  We‘re back.  It was one of the most horrific acts of terrorism since 9/11, the hostage taking at that Russian school, heavily armed terrorists leave more than 300 dead, maybe more, many of them children.  Now a suggestion from a lawyer for one of the accused terrorists that his client may not have known that the key victims would be children.  We‘ll get to that in a moment.  First the terrorist‘s own video of the hostage taking.  NBC‘s Tim Maceda has more.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TIM MACEDA, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  The chilling footage aired on Russian TV showed what it was like inside the school gym, hours after it became a flash point of a 53-hour hostage siege.  Islamic militants, some in camouflage had herded over 1,100 students, teachers and parents on to the floor.  Captives fanning themselves in the stifling heat, militants seen wiring makeshift explosives around the hostages.

A female hostage taker dressed in black points a pistol, the gym floor appears stained with blood.  In another scene, a masked militant seems to be testing a detonator with his foot under a basketball hoop while a small child frightened holds his hands behind his head.  This perhaps one of the bombs that exploded two days later collapsing the roof and sending hostages fleeing, many to their deaths, as Russian forces stormed the building. 

The images were released on a day when hundreds of thousands protested across Russia against an unprecedented act of terror that killed more than 150 children.  In Moscow, the largest protest, tens of thousands called on President Vladimir Putin to get tougher on terrorists, some drawing the battle lines. 

We can‘t tolerate this any longer, he says, now there are heroes and there are enemies. 

Back in Beslan, there were dozens more funerals today and more grief from stricken Russian families as the death toll rose to nearly 340.  And all over Russia the fear that it could happen again.  Tim Maceda, NBC News, Moscow.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ABRAMS:  The Russian authorities claimed one terrorist survived the siege, a man named Noorposhi Koulia (ph).  Now his lawyer is suggesting that some terrorists, including his client, may not have known they were going to target children.  Quote, “right after the school was captured, there was a quarrel among the rebels because many of them were unhappy that the children were seized.  The colonel, that‘s the terrorist leader, personally killed the head of a group that was not happy with seizing children.”

My take, come on.  The leader of a terrorist cell calls a secret meeting and passes around the suicide belts and says we‘re heading to school on the first day of classes and yet he‘s claiming he didn‘t know that would happen.  Let‘s ask my guests.  Sajjan Gohel, director of international studies at the Asia-Pacific Foundation, terrorism expert.  And Louise Shelley, an American University law professor and expert on Russian crime law and law enforcement. 

Professor Shelley, is this a defense in Russia? 

LOUISE SHELLEY, AMERICAN UNIV. LAW PROFESSOR:  No, it‘s certainly not a defense.  And the fact that we have women terrorists there, we have had a whole history of Chechen women being involved as terrorists killing themselves.  So it‘s not very likely that someone did not know what they were going into at this point. 

ABRAMS:  Mr. Gohel, do you find sometimes that these terrorists start an operation—I mean this is unbelievable, is it not?  I mean should we just dismiss this and just not even go any further with this?  Or is this the sort of thing we hear about often in some of these terror operations? 

SAJJAN GOHEL, ASIA-PACIFIC FOUNDATION:  Well, I‘ve never heard anything so ridiculous in my entire life.  This was a well planned, coordinated operations.  They had planted explosives inside the building well in advance.  They knew the location of the corridors, they knew everything about the building.  These are very cheap excuses.  And I‘m afraid we should not give this any real attention whatsoever. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  So bottom line, tell me about this as sort of a terrorism expert, you know, is this a sign of things to come?  Or, you know, what do we make of this in terms of viewing international terrorism as a whole?  Is this sort of attack something that we have to fear is going to happen again?  Or is this going to be a one-time deal? 

GOHEL:  Well, let‘s look at the fact that since September 11 we‘ve had more terrorist attacks in more parts of the world than ever before.  And what the terrorists have been doing with each attack, they‘ve been raising the stakes, escalating the tension.  They want to make sure that the current terrorist attack is more horrific than the previous one.  This time they made no distinction between men, women, or children.  To them, everyone has become a target.  And, of course, targeting children is the most horrific dimension.  Yes, I fear that more terrorists will use this as an example and try to replicate those elsewhere in the world.  I fear this will happen again. 

ABRAMS:  Professor Shelley, as far as you know, what is the connection between these types of terrorists and al Qaeda? 

SHELLEY:  There are no proven links at the moment in Russia between terrorism and al Qaeda.  But there are certainly many indications that there are parts of the al Qaeda network that may be operating.  You‘ve got Afghans and Pakistanis in Russia engaged in the drug trade.  You have open borders with lots of illegal migration from that region.  And there have been indications previously that you have foreign funding for some of the terrorists in the Caucuses region where this occurred. 

So whether this is definitely al Qaeda, there is clearly many sources of foreign support within Russia for terrorism as well as individuals who are being recruited within Russia for present and future terrorist acts. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  Professor Shelley and Mr. Gohel, I apologize for the short shrift.   Thank you very much for coming on the program.   This is important and we‘re going to keep talking about this on this program.  Thanks very much. 

Coming up, our favorite former Denver D.A. will be here.  It‘s time for us to settle a little bet about the Kobe Bryant case. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  My “Closing Argument.” You know those ads that say something like, you too can cook like a gourmet chef even if you aren‘t one?  Or, you too can feel like a star?  Well, it seems the Iranians are applying that same sentiment to Gold Medals at the Olympics.  You too can feel like a Gold Medalist even if you aren‘t one. 

Iran is apparently giving a $125,000 award to judo champion Arash Miresmaeili, not because he won the Gold Medal in judo as is generally required there to receive the payout.  No.  This time it is because he refused to participate. Miresmaeili said he did it because he was up against an Israeli in the first round of the competition.  And Iran does not recognize Israel‘s existence as a nation. 

The truth is, he was also above the maximum weight for his division.  So in Iran you can be treated like a Gold Medalist for not participating and while you are at it, take seconds at the training table as well. 

It reminds me of an episode of “Da Ali G. Show” on HBO where Ali G. is doing one of his fake interview bits with the head of the U.S. Olympic Committee, asking why Ali‘s grandmother was able to buy him an authentic Olympic Gold Medal that said “best grandson.” 

Remember, the Iranians are not saying the much-disputed occupied territory is the problem.  No, they just refuse to recognize Israel at all.  It sort of crystallizes why it is tough for Israel to negotiate with its neighbors. 

Look, Iran is no athletic powerhouse.  And let‘s be clear, whether he wanted to participate or not, Miresmaeili wasn‘t going to be allowed to fight, not because of politics but because of his waistline.  His statement was merely that of a soon-to-be disqualified participant looking for some attention a maybe payout, and apparently in Iran, that‘s all you need to do. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NORM EARLY, FMR. DENVER DISTRICT ATTY.:  I‘ll bet you a steak dinner that you‘re wrong, Dan. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Former Denver D.A. and MSNBC legal analyst Norm Early on the program August 16 after I predicted the Kobe Bryant criminal case would not to go trial.  I said prosecutors had a weak case and that her attorneys believed that she has a better shot in a civil trial. 

Then last week, the Eagle County prosecutors made the announcement that charges against Kobe Bryant would be dropped because the alleged victim decided not to participate as I predicted. 

Now, I conceded to Norm after jury selection started, but alas, I was a bit hasty.  I‘ve had my say, let‘s get to “Your Rebuttals,” many of you writing in.  Including Ester Rowe (ph) in Florida:  “OK.  Dan, who owes who a steak dinner now?  Norm was so happy he was going to get a steak dinner.  But just as you predicted, the case never went to trial.  You‘ll have to settle for a tofu if you‘re a vegetarian.”  I am, Ester. 

From Gaithersburg, Maryland, Rich Riley (ph): “Dan, enjoy your steak dinner.  That just goes to show you why you‘re on the air and not Norm.  I heard the Kobe announcement on sports radio and I said to myself, darn, I was Dan was on tonight.  Glad you‘re back.” Thanks, Rich.

Daniela in Boston: “Enjoy the steak dinner that Norm has to buy you. 

Savor every bite, it was well-earned.”

Mary in Chicago: “Congrats on winning the steak bet win in the Kobe case.  Are you betting on the outcome of the Peterson case also?” Not yet, Mary. 

But I‘ll tell you, remember we had that offshore betting guy on the program?  The odds they had in that one, strongly in favor of a conviction, are way off. 

From Ocean Park (ph), Washington, Russ Carter (ph) is focusing on the details of the bet: “I think you got set up on the Kobe Bryant case.  I think the prosecutors waited until after jury selection began to drop the case so that you would lose your bet.”

Joining me now for what I hope is his concession speech is former Denver D.A. and MSNBC legal analyst, Norm Early.  

Norm, it‘s yours.  Go ahead, what do you have to say?

EARLY:  Hi, Dan. 

ABRAMS:  Hi, Norm, go ahead.

EARLY:  You know, this stool feels like a hot seat. 

(LAUGHTER)

ABRAMS:  Go ahead, Norm.  Do you want to say...

EARLY:  I didn‘t know there were so many people who watched this show.  The magic of celluloid, the magic of tape.  It is amazing what you say and it can come—sometimes come back to bite you. 

You know, in all honesty, I know you didn‘t think jury selection would even start.  But I thought that the defense attorneys and the prosecution would find themselves in the situation where they were actually trying this case because I really felt that Kobe Bryant‘s taking stand would be of benefit in the civil case. 

In addition to that, the victim had already been through the worst of it, really.  I mean, this is like 14 months of stuff she has been through.  And we‘re getting to the point where Kobe is getting ready to go through some stuff. 

But at any rate, I will take you to Al del Fresco‘s (ph) and I‘ll buy you all the salad you want.  OK? 

(LAUGHTER)

EARLY:  And with your favorite dressings. 

(LAUGHTER)

ABRAMS:  Thank you so much, Norm.  You know, Norm, there was one other floating piece—sound that I wanted to just ask you about quickly: “I saw the clips of the prosecutor‘s statement after the charges were dismissed.  Several times he used the ‘victim‘ when talking about the women involved.  Didn‘t the judge rule a long time ago that she couldn‘t be referred to as ‘victim‘ but rather only as ‘the accuser‘” - or actually, it was “alleged victim.” Steven Davis writes us that.

Norm, very quickly, are any of those rules still in effect or is everything washed?

EARLY:  Everything is out the window now.  You can refer to her as “victim,” which I‘ve always referred to her even on the show.  And all those other...

ABRAMS:  Yes.  But you‘re not the prosecutor. 

EARLY:  Yes.  And all the other rules with respect to who can talk and who can‘t talk.  Now that the case is over.  Anybody who was subject to that incredible gag order issued by Judge Ruckriegle, no longer is subject to it. 

ABRAMS:  We just had to invite Norm on to let him eat crow.  Norm Early, good to see you. 

EARLY:  It tastes good, too.

(LAUGHTER)

ABRAMS:  Your e-mails, abramsreport, one word, @msnbc.com.  Please include your name, where you‘re writing from, go through them at the end of the show.  Coming up next, “HARDBALL”, Chris Matthews. 

Thanks for watching.  I‘ll see you tomorrow. 

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.

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