Guest: Maria Semander, Michael Clyne, Andy Kahan, Ron Kaplovitz, Sheriff Kirk Smith, Sam Brower, Flora Jessop, Rick Howell, Stuart Slotnick, Tina Howell
ANNOUNCER: DEBORAH NORVILLE TONIGHT.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JULIE SANCHEZ, SURVIVING VICTIM: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) like this. When he got (UNINTELLIGIBLE) he push it all the way inside.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DEBORAH NORVILLE, HOST: This woman was tortured by a serial killer, but she lived to tell about it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SANCHEZ: Then he got my head, and he just went like this (UNINTELLIGIBLE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NORVILLE: Tonight, the confessed slasher, believed to have murdered more than 80 people, and why he may be walking the streets again in just two years.
A cry for help, a 17-year-old trapped in a notorious polygamy camp in Utah more than a year.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FLORA JESSOP, ESCAPED POLYGAMOUS COMMUNITY: This type of lifestyle is geared toward the ownership of women and children.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NORVILLE: Was she forced to marry the sect‘s leader, who has countless wives? And why did it take police so long to take action?
When duty calls: thousands of retired soldiers now being ordered to put their uniforms back on and head to Iraq, even though they haven‘t seen active duty for years. Tonight, the former soldiers who would rather fight back than pack up.
ANNOUNCER: From studio 3K in Rockefeller Center, Deborah Norville.
NORVILLE: And good evening. Could a confessed serial killer who has been in prison for 22 years really get out of jail for good behavior? As bizarre as that sounds, that could very well happen unless there‘s a conviction in a murder case going on in Michigan. Coral Eugene Watts freely admits brutally murdering 13 young women, and he has claimed to have actually killed more than 80. But he ended up going to jail not for murder but for burglary with intent to murder, all because of a plea deal in Texas.
Well, now, thanks to prison overcrowding and his own good behavior behind bars, Mr. Watts could be a free man in 2006, prompting some to wonder if justice is stupid, as well as blind. Watts is now being tried in Michigan for the murder of another woman, Helen Dutcher (ph). She was stabbed 12 times in a Detroit suburb back in 1979. One of Watts‘s surviving victims testified how he attacked her on a Houston freeway in 1982. Here‘s some of what she said in court yesterday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JULIE SANCHEZ, SURVIVING VICTIM: He grabbed me like this. He (UNINTELLIGIBLE) first (UNINTELLIGIBLE) like this. When he got here, he push it all the way inside, and then came like this (UNINTELLIGIBLE) when he cut the rest of my neck and my ear. Then he got my head, and he just went like this against the car. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) cutting my throat from my left side to the middle of my neck. At that point, I tried to get loose, and I turn around and try to scratch his eyes so he would let me go. But instead of that, he pushed the knife all the way down in.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NORVILLE: If convicted in Michigan, Watts will serve out his life in jail, but if he‘s acquitted, he‘ll go back to jail in Texas, where he‘ll soon be freed.
Joining me tonight to talk about this are Maria Semander. Watts confessed to killing her sister, Elena (ph). Also with me tonight, Michael Clyne. His wife, Jean (ph), was also killed by Watts. Andy Kahan is the director of the Victims Crime Office for the mayor of Houston. He‘s been following this story 12 years now and has worked actively with the victims and their family members. And also joining me tonight is Ron Kaplovitz. He‘s the attorney for Coral Eugene Watts.
Mr. Kaplovitz, I‘ll get to you in just a moment. But first, Maria, I want to start with you. What did Mr. Watts do to your sister?
MARIA SEMANDER, SISTER KILLED BY CORAL EUGENE WATTS: From his own confession, he saw her driving down the street. She was coming home after a night out with her friends. And he followed her to an apartment complex, where she got out of her car. And I guess he lost her in the complex, and then he actually came back to her car. He on the side of the road grabbed her and strangled her. And he took her shirt and tied her arm to her leg and then tossed her in the trash dumpster at the apartment complex, as though she was a piece of trash, basically.
NORVILLE: How did you find out about her murder?
SEMANDER: The next morning, when we woke up, we realized that she wasn‘t home. We thought she had spent the night with her cousin. And just through a series of phone calls, we called some friends who had actually ID‘d her car at the apartment complex. And so, ironically when we called her friend, the police were already there investigating, and they handed the phone to my father who told my father that she had been killed.
NORVILLE: Can you ever make sense of something like this happening, your sister dying so unexpectedly and so horribly brutally?
SEMANDER: No. Obviously not. We were just, you know, your average middle-class family, going along with our lives, having, you know, a great Sunday morning and going to church and eating breakfast, and then in an instant, with one phone call, your life changes forever. And here we are 25 years later, still, you know, trying to get the door shut on this forever.
NORVILLE: Didn‘t you think that door had already been shut when this guy was sent to jail more than 20 years ago?
SEMANDER: I think—yes, I think when we thought he was sentenced to 60 years, he was—I don‘t know exactly his age, but we figured he‘d be close to 90 by the time he got out, and we figured he wouldn‘t be any threat at 90 or 95 years old.
NORVILLE: Yes. Michael Clyne, tell me what happened to your wife, Jean, who also died at the hands of this man.
MICHAEL CLYNE, WIFE KILLED BY CORAL EUGENE WATTS: Through Watts‘s confession, he stalked my wife a mere 31 days before the Helen Dutcher murder, and he followed her—this was on Halloween night, in Grosse Point Farms, Michigan. And he confessed to using a sharpened screwdriver and stabbed her, I think, 11 times.
NORVILLE: What does it do to you to think that this man could be getting out of jail, if this conviction doesn‘t happen at this trial in Michigan, for good behavior, a man who says he‘s killed as many as 80 people, one of them your wife?
CLYNE: I mean, people cannot believe it. I think people just say, You‘re kidding. They just cannot comprehend the idea that a serial killer will be let loose on society. And so my greatest fear is just that, that people I know and love will be once again vulnerable to a serial killer walking the streets.
NORVILLE: When he was put away, did you have at least some sense of safety and security, knowing the man who had killed your wife so awfully was locked up, and maybe you could breathe a little bit?
CLYNE: Like Maria, I thought the same thing. If he was kept in jail until he was 80 or 90, I felt, well, he would not be a danger. So yes, I took some consolation in thinking he was locked up for 60 years.
NORVILLE: Andy Kahan, I think a lot of people, when we first heard about this story, scratched our heads and thought, How can this be? Your job there with the mayor‘s office in Houston is to help this make sense to family members, like the two people standing there with you. Make it make sense to me because I‘m betting you‘re not having a lot of luck making it make sense to them.
ANDY KAHAN, DIR., HOUSTON CRIME VICTIMS OFFICE: Well, actually, I think pretty much everybody understands that we had a lock on the mandatory release law. And if you are convicted anywhere between 1977 and 1987, you were eligible for release stipulated on good time credits. What has happened is...
NORVILLE: No matter what your crime was? Hold on a second. No matter what your crime was?
KAHAN: Absolutely correct. It changed in 1987. It eliminated most violent offenders. And we did eventually abolish the mandatory release law in 1995, and Watts was a catalyst. We actually tried to do it retroactively. Unfortunately, the U.S. Supreme Court kind of waylaid our plans and stated you couldn‘t go back and take what was already on the books.
Watts will now, if he is to be released, have served 24 calendar years. He‘ll rack up 36 years worth of good time credits. And that‘s how the formula works. If your calendar time plus your good time credit equal your sentence, then hasta la vista, you must be released, under Texas law. And that‘s why on August 2 of 2002, we decided we were going to Lazarus (ph) Watts back on the map and let the whole world know that a serial killer—the first serial killer in the country was going to be legally released.
NORVILLE: And the only way you can...
KAHAN: And we‘re going to have him...
NORVILLE: Yes. The only way you could stop this was to search around and see if there were any unsolved cases, untried cases, that you could link to this guy, and hope that there would be a conviction that would keep him in jail. Is that shorthand for what‘s going on?
KAHAN: Absolutely. Michigan, God bless them. They galvanized an entire state task force once they found out he was going to be released. And they‘ve searched—they‘ve searched through the ends (ph). And finally, luckily—actually, you guys deserve the credit because MSNBC, Dan Abrams‘s show, airs a news story that an eyewitness to the 1979 murder of Helen Dutcher just happens to watch and contacts the Michigan attorney generals. So our hat‘s off to the media for their assistance in this case.
NORVILLE: Yes, and then Ron Kaplovitz, this whole ball bounces into your lap because you have been given the task of defending this man in the murder trial of Helen Dutcher. It‘s got to be a difficult task to defend anybody in a murder case, but when there‘s this kind of publicity and this kind of pressure for a conviction, it‘s got to make it even tougher.
RON KAPLOVITZ, CORAL EUGENE WATTS‘S ATTORNEY: Well, certainly, it makes it very tough, a very difficult case to have to defend. Obviously, I‘m aware of everything that‘s happened in the past in Texas and Grosse Point. And you‘re right. I mean, it‘s really the—sort of the world against Coral Watts, and everybody wants to see him convicted.
My only concern, and it is a concern, is that he gets convicted based upon the facts in the Helen Dutcher case. I had a chance, obviously, to hear from Miss Semander and Mr. Clyne, and I certainly can sympathize with them, but we have to look at whether or not he killed Helen Dutcher. That‘s what the issue is in the case in Michigan, and that‘s what has to be the focus in determining whether or not he is guilty or innocent of that murder.
NORVILLE: And yet, having these witnesses testify, as we saw Miss Sanchez‘s taped testimony just a moment ago, clearly sends a message to the court, who is sitting in judgment of this, that this is a man who has killed before. It is reasonable to assume that the method by which Helen Dutcher died is very similar to what this lady was telling us.
KAPLOVITZ: Certainly. I mean, I was in court and watched Mrs. Sanchez. Her testimony was very compelling, very sincere. I mean, it‘s tragic, what happened to her. And the jury obviously heard it, and there‘s no doubt that they were—they were—you could see they were moved by that testimony.
But again, it still goes back to the fundamental fact that whatever happens to Mrs. Sanchez—and we know what happened to her—was dealt with by the authorities in Texas. My understanding—and again, I wasn‘t present, but my understanding is that the deals that were cut in Texas involved the families. There was a certain amount of—there was consent apparently given by the families. I don‘t know for sure. I wasn‘t involved. And it obviously is evidence that shows some pattern or scheme, as the prosecutor has ordered...
NORVILLE: Well, let me ask you—just cut to the chase.
NORVILLE: Do you think Coral Watts killed this woman in Michigan?
KAPLOVITZ: I have no idea. He has told me—has plead not guilty to the crime. And the problem in this particular case is simply this. The ID witness in this case is making an identification in a dark alley, having a chance to look at Mr. Watts for only a second or two from 80 feet away and...
NORVILLE: I don‘t know. You know, I got to say, I‘m not sitting on the jury, no juror would probably ever—attorney would want me on there, but I think if I‘d seen somebody murdered in cold blood, that moment, however brief it would be, would be tattooed on my brain. And if it took 22 years for me to sit in a court and tell somebody, I think I‘d probably remember it pretty well.
Andy Kahan, you were shaking your head negatively about the possibility of the family members agreeing to the kind of plea arrangement that sent what they thought was a 60-year sentence Mr. Watts‘s way.
KAHAN: Yes, the families did not participate. Remember, back in 1982, you didn‘t have victim assistance coordinators. You didn‘t crime victim advocates, like me, to assist the family. So essentially, a deal was cut without their consent. And quite frankly, the 60 years that he received for burglary with intent to commit murder would have been the maximum he would have received for murder conviction anyway. And believe it or not, in Texas—I know this will sound strange—he would not have even been eligible for the death penalty because at that time, we did not have multiple murder as a criteria, which he was ultimately responsible for changing that, as well.
NORVILLE: I am going to let the last question go to you, Michael Clyne. What‘s your thoughts about the justice system right now, knowing the possibility your wife‘s killer could walk?
CLYNE: Justice hasn‘t spoken yet. It‘s going to speak tomorrow, we hope.
NORVILLE: All right, we‘ll leave it at that. Ron Kaplovitz, thank you very much for being with us from Michigan.
KAPLOVITZ: You‘re welcome.
NORVILLE: Andy Kahan, Maria Semander, Michael Clyne, our thanks to you for being with us, as well.
We‘ll be right back.
ANNOUNCER: Still to come: Trapped in a polygamy camp more than a year, this 17-year-old may have been the unwilling bride of the sect‘s notorious leader. But why did it take police so long to rescue her?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FLORA JESSOP, ESCAPED POLYGAMOUS COMMUNITY: This type of lifestyle is geared toward the ownership of women and children.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: A teenager‘s cry for help when DEBORAH NORVILLE TONIGHT returns.
NORVILLE: Is a law a law if it‘s never enforced? In Arizona, it is against the law for a married adult to marry a child. But if the marriage takes place outside the eyes of the law, say within a church sect, has the law been broken? Once again, the actions of a discredited offshoot of the Mormon church have state officials in Arizona scratching their heads, trying to figure out if a little girl ran away from home or was forced into marriage.
This is Jeanetta Jessop. She vanished from her home in Colorado City, Arizona, in August of 2003, when she was 16. She‘s only 12 in this photo. Her sister says she got a frantic call from Jeanetta earlier this month, begging for help from inside this polygamist enclave. She believes that Jeanetta was forced to marry the leader of the sect, the self-proclaimed prophet, 48-year-old Warren Jeffs, who may have more than 50 wives.
The Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is a fiercely closed society along the Arizona-Utah border, where outsiders are shunned. And this year, allegations of child abuse and sexual assault have surfaced as some members of the community have fled. Jeanetta‘s parents are members of the church, and today the teenager was found with her mother inside the polygamist community, but she is now in the custody of Child Protective Services in Utah.
Why did it take more than a year to find and get Jeanetta out? And why is so little being done to look into what‘s going on inside this polygamist community? We should note the Fundamentalist Church of Latter Day Saints is an offshoot which is disavowed by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
Joining me now to discuss this bizarre story is Washington County, Utah, sheriff Kirk Smith. Also with me tonight, private investigator Sam Brower. He was there when Jeanetta was found today. Mr. Brower‘s been looking into cases involving the Fundamentalist Church of Latter Day Saints. And child abuse advocate Flora Jessop, who escaped from the polygamist sect when she was 16 years old. And I thank you all for being with us.
Mr. Brower, I want to start with you first. You received a call from Jeanetta‘s sister, asking for your help in trying to find her. What was she concerned about?
SAM BROWER, PRIVATE INVESTIGATOR: Well, she was concerned about her sister. She‘d gotten a call for help. She was worried. She told me her sister‘s voice was trembling and she was speaking softly. And she was concerned for her sister‘s safety. She asked her repeatedly if she was OK, if she was hurt, and her sister just kept replying that, I just can‘t take it anymore. Can you help me leave? Can you help me get out?
NORVILLE: Mr. Brower, did she say specifically what she couldn‘t take, what was going on when she made that call? And this was about 10, 12 days ago.
BROWER: She didn‘t say. She just kept repeating the same words over again that she couldn‘t take it, she needed help getting out.
NORVILLE: And Sheriff Smith, originally, the sister asked for your assistance in trying to locate this girl. And that was back in August, when she first disappeared. Why the time lag between disappearance and location?
SHERIFF KIRK SMITH, WASHINGTON COUNTY, UTAH: Well, it wasn‘t—we weren‘t made aware of this until last Thursday. November the 5th, I believe it was, when we were contacted by Suzanne (ph). She and the private investigator came to our department, filed this missing persons report. That was the first that we‘d been made aware of it.
You need to understand that there‘s a state line here, and we respect the state line. But we‘ve been working for some time on dealing with the situation that we‘ve got up there, not specifically with Jeanetta, but we‘ve been working on some things. And we are working—it takes time to do this. So when she came to us, we‘d been working to arrange a way to get her out, to get her interviewed, so that we can determine if, in fact, a crime has been committed.
All we have to this point is her sister, Suzanne, feels like these things have taken place. As you know, in our society, we‘re—to take something to a court of law, you have to have evidence, and evidence is more than emotion. It‘s got to be something quantifiable.
NORVILLE: Yes, and you got to have evidence, and you get the evidence through an investigation. And I guess that leads me to my next question. As you know, last May, the state of Arizona actually ratcheted up its child bigamy law. And it‘s now a stricter felony. And just I want to throw up the definition because it‘s pretty similar to what your definition is there in Utah. “A person who is at least 18 years of age commits child bigamy if the person, knowing that the person is legally married or that the minor is legally married, does any of the following: purports to marry a minor, cohabits with a minor.” And that would be a class 3 felony, to violate that section.
Your law is similar. How many prosecutions in your jurisdiction have there been with respect to this law?
SMITH: The only one that we‘ve had here has been with the Rodney Holm (ph) case, which was prosecuted about a year-and-a-half ago. But you need to understand that in order to get a conviction, you have to have testimony, along with the witnesses, or along with the evidence. So you have to have witnesses that will come in and testify in court to these crimes.
This is a very closed society. You know, it‘s not like dealing with an outlaw biker gang or a drug cartel, where you can simply grow your hair long and infiltrate the organization, get evidence and then place it before a grand jury. This is a very closed society, and outsiders just don‘t get in there. So we have to...
NORVILLE: Do you get in there?
SMITH: ... depend on...
NORVILLE: Do you get in there, sir?
SMITH: Can I? I can drive in, but I can‘t get—I can‘t get to a point where I can get evidence on them. It‘s going to require people like Jeanetta being willing to come forth and testify and giving us the information that we need. Without that, we can‘t take it to court. There‘s nothing that we could really do.
NORVILLE: Which is where, Flora Jessop, you come in. You have made it your life‘s work since leaving this community as a teenager yourself to try to assist young women and young men who are efforting to leave this organization. What do you think has gone on with Jeanetta? And why is it so difficult for young people like her to speak with the sheriff and others in law enforcement?
FLORA JESSOP, ESCAPED POLYGAMOUS COMMUNITY: It‘s very difficult for these children to speak with law enforcement because of the many betrayals that have occurred over the many years, for the last 20 years.
NORVILLE: Like what?
JESSOP: Well, there have been about 15 missing persons—well, reports made to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children on the traffic (ph) children to Canada. Some of those reports have gone through the Washington County sheriff‘s office. And if they want children to come forward and testify, then they‘ve got to be offered protection, which these children have not been offered.
NORVILLE: And Sheriff, I know in Arizona, they created a new phone number, 211, so that you wouldn‘t go through the 911 system, where apparently, there were police officers and emergency people who were connected to the community, but it bypassed it, and it went outside that. Has that resulted in any more people reaching out for help?
SMITH: No, we haven‘t gotten them. And Flora is right. You know, the difficulty—there have been, I think, probably in the past—there have been miscommunications, things that have happened. But the difficulty with this whole thing is that we need to have those people being willing to stand up and to take the pressure within the community. If she‘s a child bride, and say she has a child, the child quite frequently is used as leverage to keep these people from testifying.
This is a very complex thing, and we need people willing to come forth, stand up, take the stand and testify. If this happens, then we‘ll do it. We‘ll prosecute. There‘s nothing that would make me happier than to be able to be part of something like that, but we can‘t go to court unless we have something that we can hang our hat on...
NORVILLE: You know, it‘s kind of amazing...
SMITH: ... more than feeling.
NORVILLE: ... to hear a sheriff say, We just can‘t get in there, when we hear someone like Flora Jessop say there‘s so many situations.
We‘re going to take a break. When we come back, we‘re going to try to see if we can‘t get a little resolution on the two.
And then later on, a look at a man who is leading this very closed community. And after that, we‘ll look ahead. American servicemen and servicewomen, been out of the ranks for years, and then all of a sudden, they get the call. Time for active duty. These people are not in the reserves. They are not National Guard. But they‘re being asked to serve again. That‘s later.
NORVILLE: Back talking about this polygamist sect that is along the Arizona-Utah border, where young girls apparently are being forced into marriage to much older men.
Sam Brower was present today—Brower was present when a young lady was found after being away from her family more than a year.
Sir, what did she say about her situation?
BROWER: Well, she was obviously afraid. And she embraced her sister.
They hugged. They were glad to see each other.
And from that point, I didn‘t have much contact with her. On some of the other issues that were just talked about, I think Kirk Smith was right about this group being sort of like a mob and a closed society and that they do need a case. But if they sit around and wait in the office for someone to come forward, it‘s not going to happen. They need to mount an investigation and start looking for things.
I have contacts here. I have contacts in Canada, Colorado, all over the place. I come to town two or three times a week. And I see no reason not to start an investigation.
NORVILLE: One of the things that we are hearing is that, for instance, with a young girl like Jeanetta (ph), that it‘s actually with her parents‘ blessing that she would leave the home in which she has been raised as a child and sent to a home of another adult, in this case, allegedly, Warren Jeffs, where she would be living as husband and wife would live together.
What was the reaction of her mother when she was met by the police and taken into protective custody?
BROWER: Well, her mother stayed in the car. Her mother‘s reaction has been all along that just simply Jeanetta is not here, but that she is fine.
There is a shroud of secrecy around the whole situation. And you are right. They are put in a situation where they are caught between a rock and a hard place. If they were to reveal where Jeanetta was or where she has been for the past 15 months, they could lose their home, their property, be separated from their family, their wives and children reassigned to other men.
And, by the same token, if they refuse to give up a child to the prophet, they are refusing to obey the prophet, and they are just caught between breaking the law or breaking spiritual commandments.
NORVILLE: And, Sheriff Kirk, it seems to me there‘s a situation where you could almost apply the RICO laws.
In the same way that the federal government has gone after the mob, if you have got a situation where people‘s livelihoods are being threatened, where their houses are essentially being attached, we have heard on television folks testify to the fact that they have lost their homes, that their family members have been forced to live with others, assigned, as they say in the church jargon, why can‘t you, based on what we have heard on television, have those same people speak to you in an investigative situation and go forward? It‘s just—it‘s hard to believe your hands are completely tied.
SMITH: Well, they are not completely tied. We do. We do interview them. We do talk to them.
But the types of evidence that we need to convict an individual—say, for example, there is a 13- or 12- or a 14-year-old girl that‘s married off to an older man. We need—again, we need testimony from someone. We need a paper trail. These...
NORVILLE: Well, hold on a second. Let‘s just take it point by point.
Would you believe that 13-year-old if she said to you, I was forced to go through a ceremony and accept to obey, live, whatever they say during their marriage ceremonies, and live and be sexually intimate with this older man? Is that good enough for you?
NORVILLE: OK. Do you need a paper trail, because one of the things they‘re doing is...
NORVILLE: ... they are bypassing state law. They are not going to the justice of the peace and registering.
SMITH: I know that very well, but we are not getting anybody that‘s willing to come on. The only one we have had was the police officer‘s young wife that testified, and then she started to backslide.
We don‘t get people that want to come out, that are willing to risk whatever, to do whatever to testify. And if they won‘t testify, we can‘t take somebody to jail, and we can‘t charge them with a crime without the testimony and the evidence. And it‘s just—I don‘t think any of us in this country want to give up those rights that they have and we have. And I know it‘s infuriating.
NORVILLE: It sounds, sir, like you are pretty sure some crimes have been committed.
Flora Jessop, I know one of the things that your organization tries to do is create that safe environment where folks can feel secure as they do share their stories. Why has it been so difficult for people like you to provide that support, so law enforcement can do what it needs?
JESSOP: Because we fight law enforcement.
The state of Arizona has come in and threatened to arrest me for trying to help these people.
NORVILLE: How about the state of Utah? This guy is with Utah.
JESSOP: Utah has had a lot—they have done a lot more than Arizona has. However, it‘s not enough.
How many underage children have been protected in either state? There‘s been very few. Reports have been sent to the sheriff‘s office, several reports. None of them have been looked into, other than a phone call.
NORVILLE: Sheriff, is that true?
SMITH: Well, there again, what you are dealing with, when Flora speaks, she speaks in generalities, she speaks in emotion, and she speaks in with innuendo.
We need facts to deal with here. I don‘t have the luxury that she has to be able to make all these accusations. If I am going to make an accusation, I have to have it backed up by facts, and that‘s evidence and that‘s testimony. And we don‘t have it.
NORVILLE: Let me stop right now.
SMITH: I have no reason not to want to prosecute these people.
NORVILLE: Sam Brower—do you think you have got enough information, Mr. Brower, to go to Sheriff Smith and give him some good leads that might lead to a successful investigation?
BROWER: I do. I am working right now on a lawsuit that has been filed under the RICO act, under the racketeering act.
And we believe that we will win that lawsuit. Also, the facts are, we have a 16-year-old girl that has been gone for 15 months. That‘s a fact. Her parents aren‘t telling where she is at. Not even her own family members know where she is at.
NORVILLE: Well, there‘s a young lady right now in custody—I am going to have to bring this to a close—but it sounds like, if we have the man in the middle talk to the man on the side of the screen, we might just, as the media, be able to do something that helps a little bit, as we just heard in the story a moment ago with that case down in Michigan.
I want to thank you all for being with us.
Sheriff Kirk Smith, I appreciate your time. I know what a tough job it is you all have down there.
Sam Brower, I thank you.
Flora Jessop, it‘s good of you to come back on as well.
JESSOP: Thank you.
NORVILLE: We will take a break and be right back.
ANNOUNCER: Up next, another call to arms. Thousands of retired soldiers ordered to don their uniforms again, but some of them are refusing to ship out. What‘s behind the backdoor draft when DEBORAH NORVILLE TONIGHT returns?
NORVILLE: They served their time with the U.S. military. Now Uncle Sam wants them to do another tour of duty. Is it fair? We will meet a man who says it isn‘t.
NORVILLE: Whatever happened to the notion of a deal is a deal? And is the United States military breaking its word? Thousands of retired soldiers who have done their time, many of whom have not held a weapon or trained in years, are being ordered back to active duty to serve in Iraq and in Afghanistan.
And more than 2,000 of those former soldiers are fighting the orders. Troops who are being recalled are members of what‘s being called the Individual Ready Reserve. They are not on active duty. They are not being paid. But they are eligible for call-up. They are not among part-time soldiers who make up the Reserves or are part of the National Guard.
And one of those who has been called back to duty is retired Major Rick Howell, who thought he left the Army behind him seven years ago. Howell served for 16 years flying helicopters. And now, at the age of 47, a brand-new father, he‘s got a bad back and lousy knees, and he and his wife were shocked when they received a letter which called him back to duty. Rick has asked for an exemption. He was turned down. He is now appealing.
And joining me now is Rick Howell, who is with his wife, Tina.
And we thank you very much for being with us.
Mr. Howell, on a scale of one to 10, with 10 being you are an amazing fighting machine, and one being you are a danger if a gun is put in your hand, what would you rate yourself as right now?
RICK HOWELL, INDIVIDUAL READY RESERVE MEMBER: Somewhere in the middle, maybe three, maybe four, because of my physical conditions.
NORVILLE: And your physical condition is, you say have already got a 20 percent disability. And that‘s per the government‘s determination.
R. HOWELL: Yes, ma‘am. I had an accident in the military, and I have got—actually, I have got a rod and pins in my right arm. My left knee is—arthritis, and I have got vertebrae in the back that are separated, so, yes, ma‘am.
NORVILLE: Why would the government want you fighting in Iraq or anywhere else?
R. HOWELL: I think the situation is—you know, I served 16 years active duty. I left the military. I thought it was essentially over. I am not really retired. Basically, I just—I left the military under a program that they had called the VSI, and they said you are going to be in the IRR. And I said, well, what is that? And, basically, it was just a list of names.
And I think the reason that I have been called back right now is the situation we find ourselves in, basically overextended.
NORVILLE: Do you think this is a situation where America simply doesn‘t have the bodies in uniform it needs to do the job that it‘s ended up being presented with in Iraq and elsewhere?
R. HOWELL: Yes, ma‘am. Unfortunately, that‘s the case, I think.
We knew that was going to happen in 1997 when I left the military. I mean, literally, we downsized so quickly. But we weren‘t in a situation. We weren‘t in a conflict. And I think what‘s happened is, you know, after 9/11, tears ran down my eyes, just like everyone else‘s.
R. HOWELL: And, of course, everybody said, let‘s go find Osama bin Laden, once we found out that‘s who it was. Let‘s find him. Let‘s find him. Let‘s find the terrorists.
And, somehow, we got diverted, and we find ourselves in a situation in
Iraq where, of course, there is no Osama bin Laden, there are no terrorists
· quote—“Osama bin Laden terrorists.” There are no weapons of mass destruction. I mean, and, of course, they said, you know, we are going to go in, and we will get rid of this evil dictator, Saddam Hussein, and this, guys, it will be like the first Gulf War. This will be over in, say, six weeks.
NORVILLE: But that really meant nothing to you, because you were out of it. When you left in 1997, did you sign a contract? Was there some fine print that said, you know, if push comes to shove, we could give you a call, and you are obligated to say, OK, I am packing up?
R. HOWELL: Well, what it says is, at the very bottom—when you leave the military, they give you a document. It‘s called a DD Form 214.
And all the way, of course, it says your awards and how well you did and how long you served. And then, at the bottom, it says in small print, service member incurs an additional service obligation in accordance with A.R., section, paragraph, you know, little small print.
R. HOWELL: And I asked them, I said, how long are we talking about here? And they said, oh, it‘s just a couple years. And don‘t worry about it. It‘s nothing more than basically a list, so that we can keep up with you. And I‘m, well, that‘s fine with me, if that‘s what you want to do. And I was out of the Army.
NORVILLE: Well, there are a lot of people on your boat. And I just want to show some numbers, Rick.
These are statistics that come from the Army. Of 4,000 people who have been told to return to active duty, 1,800 are like you. They requested exemptions. That‘s more than a quarter. Of the 2,500 who were due for a military refresher, 733 did not show up.
And attorney Stuart Slotnick, who is here in the studio with me in New York, may give us some light on why that is. He represented Jay Ferriola, who was a former captain in the Army, who also was called back to active duty. But Ferriola filed a lawsuit saying that he had resigned his commission in June and was no longer qualified for call-up in the Individual Ready Reserve. It was just 10 days ago that the Army rescinded his orders and honorably discharged him.
You had to get in there and fight for someone to get his order rescinded. There are a lot of people like Rick Howell who don‘t necessarily have a New York lawyer at bat for him, and he is being told he may have to go to Iraq.
STUART SLOTNICK, ATTORNEY FOR RECALLED U.S. SOLDIER: Well, that‘s the problem is, many people get orders, and they say, you must report in six days. And that‘s what happened in the case of Jay Ferriola. And he called us, and we were ultimately able to prevail.
But this is something that we are seeing that‘s widespread. If you look at the cover of today‘s “New York Times,” it gives the quotes, the sites, the number of people that are being called up who have finished their terms, and it‘s just wrong.
NORVILLE: Is it breach of contract? What is the legal fight that someone could make? Look, these are all men and women who have served their country well and honorably and with pride. And yet, when it‘s over, they move on to their new part of their life. And they are being dragged back.
It‘s just, wherever I worked seven years ago, they said, hey, Norville, you got to come back. We are not finished with you yet.
SLOTNICK: That‘s an unfair proposition. And there are many ways to attack this, many legal propositions. One of them is by bringing a writ of habeas corpus, saying to the Army, you are exercising control over this person, and it is illegal, and you should not be able to do that, and we will bring it to federal court.
NORVILLE: But that‘s a regular guy.
Rick, you don‘t have a lawyer, I take it, who is fighting this for you.
R. HOWELL: No, ma‘am.
NORVILLE: And I know, Tina, you are there with your husband.
When your husband received this note that says you have this very brief period of time before he has to report, you were expecting a baby. And that proved to be incredibly stressful for you. What happened?
TINA HOWELL, WIFE OF RICK: That‘s right. I mean, that was one of my worst nightmares, you know, getting home and opening that letter and seeing my husband needed to report within 30 days and might not even get to see his baby born.
NORVILLE: And you believe that sent you into premature labor?
T. HOWELL: Yes. They just knew that the baby was in distress and had to actually do an emergency C-section.
NORVILLE: Mr. Slotnick, how many soldiers do you guesstimate are in Iraq right now who didn‘t know they could fight it, didn‘t have a lawyer, or were maybe so shell-shocked when they got the notice, they just went, I got to go, and they left?
SLOTNICK: You know, I can‘t estimate that number, but I think you are right, that that‘s what people did.
They said, how do we fight the Army? How do we stand up against the government when I got a notice saying, report to active duty? Because people don‘t want to be AWOL, because the good men and women that serve this country do so honorably, and they don‘t want to desert.
NORVILLE: I know your fees are probably a lot more than most folks who might be in this situation can afford. But can you give them some free legal advice? If they‘ve gotten and they want to fight it, what should they do, one, two, three?
SLOTNICK: Well, obviously, they should request a delay or exemption of their mobilization orders. And they should give compelling reasons.
I think, in Rick‘s case, he obviously has compelling reasons. He has been out of the Army. He has disability. He has a brand-new baby.
NORVILLE: That ought to be enough.
SLOTNICK: That should be enough.
And he has to fight the Army within, and if necessary, he may need to go to court.
NORVILLE: All right, Rick Howell, Tina Howell, we wish you luck, both with your situation with the service and also with your new baby.
T. HOWELL: Thank you.
NORVILLE: And, Stuart Slotnick, thank you very much for being with us. We appreciate your insights into how military law can sometimes work.
SLOTNICK: Thank you.
NORVILLE: And, by the way, we should note to you that Jay Ferriola will be on “HARDBALL” telling his story tomorrow night.
We‘ll be right back.
And coming up, Arnold for president. You get your say on this issue right after this timeout.
NORVILLE: Got a lot of e-mails about the push to amend the United States Constitution that would allow foreign-born U.S. citizens to become president. It‘s all being driven by a woman in California who would like to see Arnold Schwarzenegger able to run for the top office in America.
Many of you don‘t think this is a good idea.
Laura Miller from Richmond, Virginia, writes. She says: “What about the commander in chief aspect of a president‘s job? What if he was forced to send American troops to war against soldiers from his homeland or one of their allies?”
Peggy Fannin writes and says: “I hope all Americans will stand up and defend this portion of our Constitution.”
And my guest on the issue said that she is putting a lot of her own money, thousands of dollars, into this Amend For Arnold campaign.
Well, here‘s what Harriet McDonnell had to say about that. She said:
“This gushing woman should find some other cause to put her money into, maybe visit some of our veterans hospitals or homes or orphanages where children sit waiting for a family to love them, pay some medical bills for families with kids who have diseases and they‘re turned down for lack of insurance. The list,” she says, “goes on.”
And speaking of money, Rita Anne writes in about Star Jones‘ very expensive wedding that was partly paid for by some corporate sponsorships. She says: “The thing that often amazes me is the that money they spend is just one-quarter of my household financial debt and we are scraping pennies to make ends meet. One-quarter of what they spent could probably sponsor one house for Habitat for Humanity. Don‘t get me wrong,” she says. “Everybody deserves a nice wedding, but put the money toward something that will last.”
We like to hear from you. Send us your comments to us at NORVILLE@MSNBC.com. We have posted some of them our Web page. The address for that is NORVILLE.MSNBC.com, which is also where you can sign up for our newsletter.
We‘ll be right back.
NORVILLE: That‘s our program for tonight. I‘m Deborah Norville.
Thanks for watching.
Coming up tomorrow night, a special edition of “HARDBALL” in this time slot.
And coming up next, Joe Scarborough and “SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.”
Thanks for watching. We‘ll see you again.
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