Guest: Carolyn Miles, Richard Walden, Perry Zirkel, Philip Howard, Kevin O‘Reilly, Clint Van Zandt
LISA DANIELS, GUEST HOST: Coming up, as the world responds to the tsunami tragedy with unprecedented levels of aid pouring in, a darker side of the recovery is emerging.
DANIELS (voice-over): Con artists and looters reportedly taking advantage of victims. In Sri Lanka homeless survivors say they have been raped, and in Thailand police are searching for a 12-year-old they fear may have been kidnapped from a hospital.
And our series on how lawyers and lawsuits are changing America—tonight education. Around the country teachers afraid to discipline students and administrators afraid to fire poor-performing teachers. Countless school activity is being cut all because of the fear of lawsuits.
Plus the star witness from the Scott Peterson trial, Amber Frey breaking her silence. How she felt when she found out who Peterson really was and why she cooperated with police. Part two of her exclusive interview with NBC.
The program about justice starts right now.
DANIELS: Hi everyone. I‘m Lisa Daniels. Dan is off tonight.
First up on the docket: Help is on the way to tsunami-ravaged areas of southern Asia. For several hours earlier today in Indonesia the main airport on the battered island of Sumatra was closed after a relief plane hit a herd of cows, hampering efforts to get aid to victims of the disaster. And in Sri Lanka a contingent of U.S. Marines arrived along with helicopters, bulldozers, generators and tons of food, water and medical supplies.
They are hoping to prevent the staggering death toll from going even higher. Right now 139,580 people are dead in 11 countries. Indonesia the hardest hit with over 94,000, Sri Lanka over 30,000, India more than 9,500 and Thailand more than 5,200 dead.
As if the disaster itself isn‘t bad enough, now reports are swirling in the hardest hit countries of burglaries, rapes and even kidnappings. In fact, in Thailand today Swedish police arrived to investigate the disappearance of a missing 12-year-old boy. Some fear he was actually taken from a hospital by child sex traffickers.
ITN‘s Shiulie Ghosh has the story.
SHIULIE GHOSH, ITN REPORTER (voice-over): When the waves struck coast of Thailand nine days ago, they not only ripped away lives, but tore thousands of families apart. Parents from children, brother from sister. Among the survivors were youngsters left injured, often traumatized and alone. Now Thai authorities are investigating the dreadful possibility that when some of these victims needed help the most they may have fallen prey to child traffickers.
The father of this boy, 12-year-old Kristian Walker, is desperately trying to discover if his son was one of those victims. Kristian was on holiday in Khao Lak with his mother now presumed dead and his brother and sister who were found safe in Phuket, but Kristian is missing. His father now believes he was abducted. At home in Sweden today he spoke of his fears for Kristian‘s safety.
DAN WALKER, MISSING BOY‘S FATHER: When you receive this kind of information you are pulled into a very strange world in some way and there is hope, an unpleasant hope, but at the same time there‘s fear and that doesn‘t feel good.
GHOSH: Doctors at this hospital have confirmed they treated Kristian for minor injuries the day after the tsunami, but they say he left the hospital with a dark-haired European man and he hasn‘t been heard of since. Swedish police are now treating Kristian‘s disappearance as a possible kidnapping. Aid agencies say children are particularly vulnerable to child snatchers in the chaotic aftermath of disasters. They‘ve reported cases of local children being abducted by ruthless child sex traitors, but this is the first time a Western child has been taken. It‘s a nightmare for any parent. Kristian‘s family are now doing all they can to trace him with the help of the Thai authorities.
DANIELS: And that was ITN‘s Shiulie Ghosh reporting. Also from the United Nations today they now say that they are receiving reports of adults posing as foster parents and children being shipped from Indonesia to Malaysia for sale.
“My Take”—it may strike somebody as strange that we‘re even discussing lawlessness when there‘s such a crisis of such enormous proportion going on here in Southeast Asia, but where there is good like the relief efforts, the donations, the stories of strangers helping out strangers, inevitably history shows there is also unfortunately evil.
So joining us now to talk about the case of the missing 12-year-old Swedish boy and other potential crimes against children, Carolyn Miles of “Save The Children.” Carolyn thanks for joining me today.
CAROLYN MILES, SAVE THE CHILDREN: Thank you for having us.
DANIELS: So, it‘s so disturbing to even hear of these cases like the 12-year-old Swedish boy who some say was kidnapped out of a hospital. But I know that you deal with crises like this. Are you familiar with this happening in other places?
MILES: Certainly it does happen. And certainly we are very concerned about these issues and are really focused on making sure now that children are protected. We have heard of lots of reports. Some have been substantiated. Many have not. We think it‘s not a huge widespread issue, but it‘s something we‘re very concerned about and are really working to make sure that all unaccompanied children are being identified and that there are caregivers for those children.
DANIELS: But when it gets down to it, how are organizations like yours, Save The Children, how are you accounting for all the children who may not have parents?
MILES: Well there actually is the ability to set up a tracing program and so we have people on the ground. We have actually been working in Sri Lanka and Indonesia for many, many years so we‘re very familiar with the community as we have people working on the ground to help us identify these children, to make sure that we find the children that do not have—that are not accompanied by adults and make sure that there are caregivers. It is not an easy thing to do, but there are programs set up to do that.
DANIELS: I bet it is a very hard thing. In fact, every time that we have an expert on they always say that water and food, water and food, those are the two basic necessities. But I imagine that there are a host of other issues that deal with children specifically. What are the issues that worry you the most?
MILES: Well I think you do certainly have to take care of the basic survival needs for children and so, the initial stages of the relief operation have been focused on food and water and shelter and you do have to take care of those needs or children will die. But we are now looking at some of the other issues, particularly psychosocial issues for children. These kids have obviously lost everything in a very short amount of time and they have been significantly traumatized and we are getting child psychologists and experts in to help these children deal with this horrible tragedy.
DANIELS: And I imagine that will be the major issue coming up in a couple of months. But we are also hearing stories of Americans and other foreigners who say, you know, we always wanted children, maybe we could take in these unfortunate children who lost their parents. Is that a good idea for these children to be supplanted? Is that the right solution?
MILES: We really don‘t feel that right now at this stage it is the right solution. I mean I think that the generosity from Americans and actually from people all around the world to take these children in is wonderful. But really the best thing for these children at this point is to be reunited with some family members and most of them have extended family and so the tracing process is very important to find that extended family. That really is the best thing for these kids who have been so traumatized by this tragedy.
DANIELS: OK, Carolyn, I‘m going to ask you to stay with us because...
DANIELS: ... it‘s not just children who are victims. In Sri Lanka women‘s groups say they‘ve receive reports of homeless survivors being raped and in many hard hit countries there are reports of looting. So joining us now, Richard Walden, the CEO of Operation USA, a non-government organization helping out with this relief effort.
Richard thanks for joining us again.
RICHARD WALDEN, CEO, OPERATION USA: Thank you.
DANIELS: So we hear a lot, as I was talking to Carolyn, about food and water and the necessities of life. But then there are these stories on the ground of lawlessness and looting and children being taken. From what you are hearing, how much of a problem is it?
WALDEN: Well, think of the scale of the disaster. It is in 12 countries and several of the countries were severely impacted. The figure isn‘t just the number of dead or the number of homeless. It is what we call the number of people affected by the tragedy and that‘s in the tens of millions. So you have wholesale disruption of families, individuals, the economies of these countries. Also some of the host governments are not being helpful either.
People are trying to tax inbound relief planes unless you give the supplies to a government agency. There‘s favoritism between one part of the country and the other. Two of the major impact countries, Indonesia and Sri Lanka, are in the midst of civil conflict, bloody conflict that have gone on for years. So you have to overlay ethnic and political tensions with all of that, plus down to the individual level...
WALDEN: ... so you‘ve got total chaos...
DANIELS: And that‘s exactly the point. Who is looking out for the lawlessness? Who is making sure that the food actually goes to the people who need it? Because right now as we all know the priorities are food and water.
WALDEN: It‘s impossible to answer that with one—in terms of all the countries. The United Nations has been put in charge of international agencies in Indonesia and the Indonesian government, to its credit, is allowing the U.N. to help coordinate. The Sri Lankan government, on the other hand, wants control of as much of the inbound aid as possible. So, it means that you have to spend an awful lot of energy trying to surmount all sorts of regulations, taxes, duties, and things like that. When you have an individual organization like Save The Children or Operation USA, within our own program things are fine. There‘s some coherence. But it is so large a tragedy that the coordination is very difficult.
DANIELS: I can only imagine. Richard Walden and Carolyn Miles, thanks so much. And if you‘re looking for ways to find out how you can help the relief effort by donating to Save The Children, Operation USA and other organizations, just log on to our Web site, abramsreport.msnbc.com and click on “ways to help disaster victims”. Carolyn and Richard, thanks again.
And coming up, day two in our legal series, “Lawyers v. America”. Today we spotlight education. In schools all around the country, teachers afraid of teaching, principals afraid of disciplining students. We are going to talk to somebody who says lawyers have no place in our educational system.
And dozens of letters of hate mail sent to prominent interracial couples. Supreme Court Clarence Thomas and his wife have been targeted along with a lot of other people like sports and movie stars. How is the FBI tracking down the letter writer or letter writers?
And more from Amber Frey‘s exclusive interview with Matt Lauer. It‘s the very first time she is talking publicly since the case ended.
And of course don‘t forget your e-mails. Send them to email@example.com. Remember to include your name and where you‘re writing from. And of course we‘ll be responding at the end of the show.
DANIELS: Coming up, the lawsuit culture has spun its way into health care, leisure activities and now even our nation‘s school system. Our weeklong series on “Lawyers v. America”, that‘s next.
DANIELS: Back now with the second part of “Lawyers v. America”. This week‘s ABRAMS REPORT series on how lawsuits are changing our country, sometimes for the better, often for worst. Today our focus, education and America‘s public schools a top priority for most parents with kids and of course for President Bush who signed a No Child Left Behind Act almost two years ago.
Along with raising standards for student, No Child Left Behind included the Teacher Protection Act, which helps protect teachers, principals and other education professionals from lawsuits. But despite that, more than half the teachers and principals who took part in a 2003 Harris poll said they feared lawsuits or legal challenges and larger majorities, over 60 percent in both cases, said that fear was affecting the way they taught their students and actually ran their schools.
So, are teachers and principals right to be afraid? Right now courts around the country are hearing suits on everything from parents‘ demands for special education classes for their kids to demands that dodge ball be dropped from school sports. Well here‘s “My Take”. Lawsuits are definitely a problem especially in the schools, no doubt about that. But the problem in my opinion aren‘t the lawyers or the parents who are suing. It‘s the lawmakers who wrote the laws. They‘re the ones who invited these problems and so, they‘re the ones who should fix them.
Let‘s see what my guests think. Perry Zirkel is an attorney and an education law specialist at Lehigh University and Philip Howard is an attorney and the chairman of Common Good, a non-profit organization that says its goal is to—quote—“restore common sense to American law - (UNINTELLIGIBLE) to that.
Well Perry, let me begin with you. How big of a problem is this?
PERRY ZIRKEL, LEHIGH UNIVERSITY: In short, not anywhere near as big a problem as the common good would appear to characterize it.
DANIELS: Do you have some hard facts to back that up or is that just your opinion, which is fine?
ZIRKEL: No, that‘s—as a matter of fact, that‘s our main difference, is that here at Lehigh University we have no particular ax to grind except to try to find out reliable, valid data for the public to use. And I have done several studies, doctoral students have done several studies here without any outside funding or any outside slant and we have two primary findings that count for what the Common Good seems to be suggesting.
One, the frequency of education litigation is declining rather than increasing and this has been relatively consistent since the late ‘70‘s. Two, the outcomes of this litigation, who is winning has been in favor of schools consistently both in the early period as well as in the more recent period. And in some areas, specifically student-initiated cases, there‘s been a significant shift from a favoritism toward schools to even a greater prevalence in favor of schools.
DANIELS: OK, we‘re going to get back to that in just a moment, but Philip, you‘ve been very patient. What is your take on all of this?
PHILIP HOWARD, CHAIRMAN, COMMON GOOD: Well I think that misses the point. I don‘t disagree with anything he said. I think that the actual number of lawsuits is relatively small. But the reality is, as shown by public agenda surveys and polls and Harris polls, is that the fear of the process, that any angry parent can drag a teacher or a principal through months or longer of process just because they are angry because they have the right to do that, that‘s what they fear.
And the focus groups show how demeaning it is for teachers who are just trying to run a classroom to be sort of basically jerked out into these legal hearings and asked to justify often very common sense decisions. And it is the fear of the process that really drives them towards this defensiveness and inability to maintain order in the classroom...
DANIELS: But Philip, when you say this fear is irrational, it doesn‘t sound like there are too many numbers to back up the fact that the lawsuits are actually being enacted. What can you do about fear?
HOWARD: Well first of all, the fear is not irrational in the sense that—depends on how you define fear. If the fear is the fear of being dragged into these hearings it‘s not irrational at all. You know, teachers and principals get dragged into hearings all the time. They are not lawsuits in court, but they‘re hearings with lawyers and cross-examination and you know, staying up all night trying to justify what you did. That‘s not irrational.
DANIELS: Perry, do you agree that the fear is out there and that is what‘s making parents and teachers and principals all afraid to act?
ZIRKEL: Here is where we agree and disagree. We agree that there‘s a fear out there. There‘s no doubt about that. But the Common Good has reliably measured that the perception by the public and by educators is that there‘s this crisis of education litigation. My problem is that when the Common Good reports that fear through the media then all it does is reinforces the fear.
What we are trying to do as educators is number one, examine the basis for the fear and we find it is largely irrational. It is not supported by the data. Number two, the problem is that the Common Good, although be it moving in the correct direction, paints with much too broad a brush stroke. Rather, we should look at segments of education litigation.
For example, Attorney Howard mentioned special education. We have studies to show that the frequency and outcomes there are significantly different from most education litigation and there it would pay for school officials and the public to reexamine current practices and policies but not throw the baby out with the bath water and reinforce this unjustified fear.
DANIELS: Philip, just stick with me for one moment because I just want to follow up with Perry. Perry, it‘s true empirically the schools are winning the lawsuits but ask any school administrator what their answer is and they‘ll say hey, we‘re being hijacked by parents who are engaging us in these lawsuits, so we have to settle. We are being hijacked so to speak.
ZIRKEL: Well, there have been studies to indicate that there is no difference in the settlement rate in the early ‘70‘s from the current rate. There is no difference whatsoever. I find that this perception has multiple reasons.
One, it is sometimes easier for an administrator to justify dropping whatever the particular activity may be because if they play preventive law they may save money and prevent litigation. But at the same time they are preventing education. Secondly, the media and Common Good reinforce the perception by measuring the perception rather than the basis for the perception...
DANIELS: OK, OK...
ZIRKEL: Third is misinformation...
DANIELS: OK, I‘m sorry to interrupt you but I just want to get to Philip. He‘s blaming the media, you could hear...
HOWARD: Right, right...
DANIELS: ... and you. Are we just diagnosing a problem or are is it true? Are we making it worse?
HOWARD: You know, there‘s no data on how many claims there are and what the principals and teachers‘ reactions are to the threats of a claim. You know, they can only measure what is actually filed in a court. And so our polls show, for example, 78 percent of teachers say they have been threatened with legal claims or assertions of rights. Well that‘s—think of that.
Four out of five teachers in America have had the experience of students threatening them with legal claims. What does that do to their capacity to run the classroom? Professor Richard Arum at NYU has this very significant study and book out called “Judging School Discipline” where he goes through the history of the liberalization of legal rights and goes through what effect it has had on school discipline. It has had—the existence of these legal rights and the fear of them has had a significant, tangible effect on the ability of educators to maintain order in the classroom.
DANIELS: Tough issue. Perry Zirkel and Philip Howard, a big thanks to both of you.
DANIELS: And coming in word just in that a judge has thrown out the harassment suit against William Kennedy Smith. Well we‘re going to be talking with the lawyer for the woman who accused him of harassing her.
Plus, who would send hate mail to Clarence Thomas, actor Taye Diggs and Miami Dolphins player Jason Taylor? Apparently, somebody who objects to their interracial marriages. We‘re going to be talking to a former FBI profiler about how authorities are trying to track down the letter writer.
And Scott Peterson‘s ex-girlfriend Amber Frey says she was shocked when she found out Peterson wasn‘t the man she thought he was.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AMBER FREY, SCOTT PETERSON‘S FORMER GIRLFRIEND: I was just so scared. It was unbelievable. I just—I remember saying that over and over unbelievable.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DANIELS: Part two of Amber Frey‘s first interview coming up.
DANIELS: And we‘re back with some flash news now. A judge in Chicago just threw out the sexual harassment lawsuit filed against William Kennedy Smith by his former personal assistant Audra Soulias. She alleged that Smith assaulted her at his Chicago home back in ‘99. That was eight years after a Florida jury acquitted Smith of sexual assault in another case.
Joining us now on the phone is attorney Kevin O‘Reilly. He represents Audrey Soulias and a big thanks Kevin for joining us today. I know this just happened...
KEVIN O‘REILLY, ATTORNEY FOR KENNEDY SMITH‘S ACCUSER (via phone):
You‘re very welcome.
DANIELS: So obviously you are not too happy about the outcome here, but first tell us what was the judge‘s basis for throwing out the case at such an early stage?
O‘REILLY: Well the judge threw out the case based on our actual complaint stating that we did not fully plead a cause of action. What that means is that the facts of our complaint didn‘t amount to something actionable under Illinois law. We filed an intentional infliction of emotional distress claim and there are certain requirements under Illinois law. Basically, the distinction came down to whether someone suffering—rape trauma syndrome is in a similar position as someone suffering a physical ailment. And that seems strange to talk about it that way but that‘s what it came down to and I was arguing that hey rape trauma syndrome and posttraumatic stress disorder from rapes are similar to physical ailments and should be put in the same category.
DANIELS: OK, so for most people this sounds a lot like a bunch of legal (UNINTELLIGIBLE) thrown around. Tell us what did your client say happened? What was her case?
O‘REILLY: Well her case was about a situation where she reported the
rape to a supposed independent investigator at Dr. Smith‘s organization and
she said that she‘d bring in sworn statements and a polygraph test stating
· or showing that she indeed was telling the truth. She offered to bring those in to the investigator and instead of the investigator taking those reports, she immediately reported this information to Dr. Smith and he immediately got on the phone and left two very threatening telephone messages to her, which caused her, you know, to be completely alarmed and emotionally distressed and nauseous and sick and scared to death really. He was intimidating her out of making this report.
DANIELS: Well we don‘t have a lot of time here, but after the alleged assault, it just seems funny to most people that your client continued to work for Kennedy Smith and actually allegedly had consensual sex. That doesn‘t fit.
O‘REILLY: Well no actually it does fit. And if you look at what psychologists tell us and you can open any psych book and find out. Victims of acquaintance rape where they know their assailant typically go back. And I say typically because it happens in a large percentage of cases, go back and submit themselves to further sexual contact, not because they want to have sex with that person, but because they want to undo the violent act that happened to them in their minds so they can live with it and deal with it. It‘s a strange phenomenon I had heard of up until the point of this case, but it‘s clearly documented and it clearly happens in a large number of acquaintance rape cases.
DANIELS: Well it does sound funny, but I guess you‘re saying there‘s a syndrome attached. So what‘s next?
O‘REILLY: Well we‘re filing an amended complaint and we‘re going to see if the judge will reconsider based on the new allegations in our complaint. If not, we‘ll take it to the appellate court. Because I think that the Supreme Court in our state has made it clear that these are indeed actionable. But you know, judges and lawyers and what not see things differently and that‘s why we have the appellate courts and we‘re going to go there.
DANIELS: Kevin O‘Reilly, a big thanks for coming on the show. We know that you‘re probably pretty busy given that this just happened, but we really do appreciate it.
O‘REILLY: You‘re very welcome.
DANIELS: All right...
O‘REILLY: Good night.
DANIELS: We‘ll be right back.
DANIELS: Coming up, the FBI investigating dozens of threatening letters sent to Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, Broadway actor Taye Diggs and a lot of other prominent black men married to white women. So who‘s sending the hate mail? First the headlines.
DANIELS: Welcome back. What do Miami Dolphins player Jayson Taylor, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and actor Taye Diggs have in common? Well they‘re all black men married to white women who have each reportedly received hate mail because of their interracial relationships and they are not alone. The FBI investigating about 80 similar letters sent to not only the well known, but also to just members of the general public.
The most recent recipients 10 students at two Cleveland, Ohio high schools who received letters just last month. Here‘s what the FBI told us about the investigation. The common thread between all those recipients, they‘re all black males involved with white females. The letters are racially hateful, discourage relationships between black men and white women, and threaten physical harm or even death if relationships continue.
The content, the style, even some words all similar on the letters. The writer identifies himself or herself as an angry white female. The envelopes all typed on a computer then photocopied, presumably to make them a little bit harder to trace. Most of the letters are postmarked from Cleveland, Ohio. The investigation has been open for about two years. And there have been so-called dry periods during which no letters have been reported.
And the FBI has not identified so far a subject or a suspect. So, how is the FBI trying to find the letter writer? Former FBI profiler and MSNBC analyst Clint Van Zandt joins us now. Always good to see you Clint.
CLINT VAN ZANDT, FORMER FBI PROFILER: Hi Lisa. Thank you.
DANIELS: So, what is your take on all this? Who do you think the letter writer is? And what are the clues that are most important here?
VAN ZANDT: Well you know this is a challenge right now. This is what the FBI‘s behavioral science unit, my old unit, will be doing. They will be pouring over, as you suggest, these upwards of 80 letters, number one, trying to verify is it the same writer or perhaps is it two writers. In a case like this you normally find one person doing it, at the most possibly two.
So they will be trying to verify that. They‘ll be trying to come up with a demographic and a psychological profile based upon a review of the letters. Then at the same time, the FBI laboratory will be looking at the letters and the envelopes, looking for latent fingerprints, DNA, hairs, fibers, indented writing. You know, this is kind of an investigation like took place when the anthrax letters were sent too and the challenge is, just like in that case, if you are only perhaps one person and you keep it to yourself, then you have to rely on the public perhaps having some suspicion to give the FBI a place to...
VAN ZANDT: ... generate this investigation.
DANIELS: And the public has come through in so many different cases. In this case do you think the evidence points to the fact that this person who wrote the letter, whether it is a him or a her, actually means to take it a step further and will go ahead with the violence that he or she threatened?
VAN ZANDT: Yes and that‘s a good question. And that‘s—when you‘re looking at a threatening communication, number one, you want to see the level of threat. Has that threat been consistent? Has it escalated over the last two years? Is there any indication that the writer has required weapons? That he stalked or surveilled his victims?
Has he traveled in furtherance of the threats that he has made? These are all things that threat assessors look at. You know, you or I or anybody else can just vent. We can be frustrated and we can write a letter to someone. We could say, you know, Dear Lisa, I didn‘t like your jewelry today. You know, please buy new jewelry and then I feel good about myself. I vented.
But if I carry it a step further, if I say, you know, Dear Lisa when I saw you the last three nights in a row, I saw you wearing the following. When I saw you go into your apartment. All of those things that instructed take on a personal aspect and that‘s what the authorities are looking at.
DANIELS: So you‘ve dealt with sickos before. What does the writer—what‘s the pleasure that he or she takes from writing this?
DANIELS: Obviously, as you said, it‘s more than just venting.
VAN ZANDT: Yes, and you‘ve got a number of different things. Number one, it could just be—part of it could be venting. Number two, Lisa, we‘ve got that all old 15 minutes of fame. You know, I‘m sure this person, him or her, sitting there watching MSNBC tonight is kind of giving himself a high five. Look at the national attention I‘m getting for doing something like this.
So, you know, the plus and the minus is we need to report this because we need the public‘s help. You know, if this guy is in fact black, white, or if it‘s male or female, a racist or some other reason, sitting in a bar talking to his friends or her friends and makes a comment, some disparaging remark about any of the current victims or anything else, that might be enough to help, you know, a member of the public pick up the phone, make a call and that will help bring this case to a closure.
As you say, it has gone on two years. This is, you know, whether we call it terrorism or not, if I was one of—a member of one of these families, I would feel terrorized that I was getting these types of threats and I would want the authorities to resolve it quickly.
DANIELS: Yes, there‘s always a fine line between advertising it and getting also getting help from the public.
VAN ZANDT: Yes.
DANIELS: Clint Van Zandt, a big thank you. It‘s always good to have you on the show.
VAN ZANDT: Thanks Lisa.
DANIELS: And if you have any more information on this case, the FBI is asking you that you contact your local FBI field office.
Coming up, the key witness for the prosecution in the Peterson trial, Amber Frey showed us all a new side of Scott Peterson. Well now she‘s talking for the first time about why she went to the police when she found out who Scott really was. Matt Lauer‘s exclusive interview with Amber Frey, that‘s coming up next.
And from last night‘s segment on medical malpractice to home remedies for Dan‘s poor cold, you‘re all writing in with your opinions and I will read some of your e-mails. That is coming up.
DANIELS: It was Amber Frey‘s courageous decision, that pivotal call she made to police that changed the course of the investigation into Laci Peterson‘s disappearance. Well in the second part of an exclusive interview with Matt Lauer, Frey recalls that emotional moment when she realized Scott Peterson had lied to her, and, worst that he may have had something to do with his pregnant wife‘s disappearance.
FREY: I think I lost a moment of my life because all I remember is shaking. I was just shaking and I couldn‘t speak.
MATT LAUER, CO-ANCHOR, “TODAY” (voice-over): Amber Frey had just found out that Scott Peterson, the man she had been dating for the last month, was not only married, but that his wife was pregnant and missing and that Scott was a suspect. Amber was at a party with friends.
(on camera): Did you tell them what happened, the people you knew?
FREY: I was able to get a few words out that Scott Peterson was the Scott Peterson that had a missing pregnant wife and I just, I just shook. They said I was there probably like an hour and it just seemed like a moment and I couldn‘t stop shaking. So I was, I guess in shock.
LAUER (voice-over): It was December 29, 2002, five days earlier on Christmas Eve Scott had reported that his wife Laci was missing. A massive search was underway and Laci‘s disappearance was becoming a major news story. Amber now realized Scott had told her a string of outrageous lies but that some of them bore an eerie resemblance to the facts of Laci Peterson‘s disappearance.
(on camera): So many of the things he had said must now start swirling in your mind. I lost my wife.
FREY: I didn‘t sleep. I cried, I think, until that morning, maybe if I was lucky, had an hour of sleep. Just so many things that were crossing my mind, things he said. I was just so scared. It was unbelievable. I just—I remember saying that over and over, unbelievable.
LAUER: Why me?
FREY: That came to mind probably within that week. And I know it sounds crazy but I was thankful that there was me for Laci because if there wasn‘t me, then there wouldn‘t be a way to find her.
LAUER (voice-over): Modesto police had begun to suspect Scott was hiding something. When Amber called them, their whole investigation changed.
(ON CAMERA): Police said to you at one point we‘ve been praying for someone like you to come forward.
LAUER: Did you stop and think my life will never be the same?
FREY: I think my main focus really was that there was a missing pregnant woman that nobody knew where she was at. And as far as my life or, you know, what was going to happen with everything else, I don‘t think my mindset was there at that point.
LAUER (voice-over): The police wanted to document at Scott‘s lies and asked Amber to help them.
FREY: It was very casual, how they brought it up. You know, basically, you know, how do you feel about taping your conversations. And I thought, well, you know, if it‘ll help, you know, OK.
LAUER: At the time Scott Peterson had no idea that Amber knew about Laci, no idea that Amber was talking to the police. He was still calling Amber, pretending to be her unmarried globetrotting boyfriend.
FREY: Anticipating that next call. You know, my stomach was churning. I could, you know, I was shaking. My hands were just sweaty. And when that phone rang and it was him, I just had to get rid of the shakes and the stomach churning and...
LAUER (on camera): You had to become an actress.
FREY: If that‘s what one would say, yes.
LAUER (voice-over): One of the most damning calls was also one of the first. New Year‘s Eve, Scott pretending he was in Paris.
SCOTT PETERSON, ON TRIAL FOR MURDER: Amber, it‘s New Year‘s Eve. Are you there?
FREY: Yes. Are you having a good time?
PETERSON: I‘m near the Eiffel Tower. The New Year‘s celebration is unreal. The crowd, it‘s huge.
FREY: The crows is huge?
LAUER: There was a huge crowd, but in Modesto. That very night Scott attended a candlelight vigil for his missing pregnant wife.
(on camera): Listening to him say things like I‘m at the Eiffel Tower. The celebration is unreal. By this time you knew there was a vigil...
LAUER: ...that night for Laci Peterson. Are you thinking I‘m dealing with a sociopath here?
FREY: I was very much afraid.
LAUER: For your own safety?
FREY: I had—I still at that point had not been home. I was afraid to go home.
LAUER (voice-over): In the weeks and months ahead Amber would have to face down her fears and eventually, in court, she would have to face Scott Peterson himself.
DANIELS: And you can see the rest of Matt‘s exclusive interview with Amber Frey tonight on a special edition of “Dateline” at 10:00 Eastern, 9:00 Central.
And you won‘t want to miss Dan‘s live interview with Amber Frey for the full hour next Monday. Dan will also ask her some of your questions. And you can e-mail them to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Coming up, taxpayers in Oklahoma spent more than $4 million on Terry Nichols‘ defense. But it‘s not just attorney fees they were paying for. Apparently Terry Nichols‘ lawyer thinks taxpayers ought to pay for his cable bill as well. It‘s my “Closing Argument”.
DANIELS: Coming up, you‘ve heard of a murderer using the Twinkie defense, well wait until you hear what police say one fast food customer did when he found out his local Burger King ran out of French fries.
DANIELS: And now my “Closing Argument”. Just when you thought you heard it all, here‘s a story that will hopefully disgust even the most liberal among us. I‘ve always had the highest respect for criminal defense attorneys. Their clients are sometimes despicable murderers who have no respect for life and death. Criminals whom frankly I‘ve had no desire to ever represent, but there are people out there who are willing to represent these clients, not because they agree with what their clients did but because they believe in the criminal justice system. And I applaud their efforts and respect them very much.
Now, of that group I‘ve had particular respect for court-appointed attorneys, the group of men and woman, usually paid close to (UNINTELLIGIBLE) who make sure our Sixth Amendment right to counsel is alive and working. But now you can cross one name off that list. His name, Brian Hermanson. He‘s one of Terry Nichols‘ defense attorneys. You remember him.
He‘s the convicted co-conspirator of the Oklahoma City bombings. Well, it turns out Mr. Hermanson and his team of lawyers spent almost $4.2 million of Oklahoma taxpayers‘ money to provide a legal defense for their client. That‘s not so bad, but wait until you hear what Mr. Hermanson spent that money on. Oklahoma taxpayers ended up paying about 28 bucks so that Terry Nichols could read a book called “The American Terrorist” an account of the life of his friend Timothy McVeigh, close to four bucks so that Mr. Nichols could enjoy some coffee sweetener, a little over 50 bucks on a law dictionary so Mr. Nichols would be well versed in the law, and 20 or so dollars to ensure proper jail time entertainment for Mr. Nichols.
His reading pleasure, apparently it‘s the bestseller, “The Secret Life of Bees”. Hey, I‘m not making this stuff up. I‘m quoting from a list of expenditures that Terry Nichols‘ defense attorney submitted himself. And that‘s not all. Apparently Nichols‘ defense attorney, Mr. Hermanson, thought it was also fair for Oklahoma taxpayers to pay his almost $60 a month cable bill, over $2,700 for an alarm system for his law office and to pay for his client, Terry Nichols, dry cleaning, his shoes, his shirts, and his pants.
And that‘s on top of the almost $1.9 million that Mr. Hermanson got for his actual lawyering of Mr. Nichols. So, who‘s to blame for this? Not just Mr. Hermanson and his unquestionable spending habits, but I think it‘s Oklahoma court officials who questioned some of these expenses but ended up approving the expenses anyway. Oklahoma residents have been victimized twice, the first time obviously when Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols blew up a federal building in Oklahoma City on April 19 of ‘95. That blast killing 168 people, 19 of them little children.
But now again, paying for certain luxuries that neither Terry Nichols or his attorney quite frankly deserve. It‘s bad enough Terry Nichols took the lives of so many innocent men, women and children. He and his legal team are adding insult to injury by taking your money. That‘s my “Closing Argument”.
So I‘ve had my say, now it‘s time for “Your Rebuttal”. Last night, as part of weeklong series “Lawyers v. America” Dan looked at medical malpractice lawsuits and how they‘re affecting doctors and patients. Well many of you e-mailed us with your own stories and solutions.
In fact, Keith Jalbert in Lewiston, Maine writes, “A doctor accidentally broke my jaw when performing oral surgery. Clearly, I could have sued, but the doctor agreed to waive the bill and take care of me until the jaw was healed. Why should I have bled him when he did the right thing afterward? Bring back a little reason and sensibility.”
And Kate from New York writes, “I don‘t think the problem are awards to those who are truly injured or disabled. The problem is the huge number of frivolous lawsuits that get settled rather than thrown out. I think all malpractice suits should be reviewed by a panel. This panel could separate the suits that have merit from those that don‘t.”
From Phoenix, Arizona, Tess Ellis. “Lawyer fees should be limited to their out of pocket expenses plus a percent of the award. That way lawyers would take fewer frivolous cases and wronged patients would get more of the money.”
So finally, some of you noticed last night that Dan was not feeling too well. He was a bit under the weather and you e-mailed him with remedies.
From Delaware, Pat Banks. “I hope I didn‘t catch anything by watching you tonight. Hot water, lemon and honey should do it.”
And from Santa Clarita, California, Jodi Morgenstern. “Dan, you sound awful, but still looked cute. I make a mean Matza Ball soup.”
OK, Mary Grover in St. Petersburg, Florida. “Dan, take the day off.
Poor man, take care of yourself.”
Well Mary, it looks like he did take your advice and of course from all of us we hope that Dan is feeling a lot better.
Make sure you send us your e-mails to the abramsreport—one word—
@msnbc.com. We‘ll go through all of them and read a couple of them at the end of the show.
Now to a story that made us all say “OH PLEAs!”. It comes to us from Pennsylvania and we‘re calling it the case of the “fry guy” after being told the Burger King he was at was all out of French fries. Police say 22-year-old Gregg Luttman went on a sizzling rampage. It began with an obscene gesture at the drive-through clerk who apparently broke the bad news.
Then Luttman stormed into the Burger King and cursed at the employees, storming out of the restaurant and returning to his pick-up truck only to discover that some of the workers were taking down his license plate number. With that, Luttman hopped in his truck, threw it in reverse, nearly hitting one of the workers and took off.
Not too far down the road, Luttman was pulled over. He then wrangled with the police officers, actually kicked out the back window of their police car and after being charged with assault and reckless endangerment, among other things, our “fry guy” now free on $2,500 bail. You know what they say, have it your way.
That does it for us. I‘m Lisa Daniels. Coming up next, “HARDBALL” with Chris Matthews. Have a great night.
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