updated 3/14/2005 4:45:46 PM ET 2005-03-14T21:45:46

Guest: Catherine Crier, Gayle Ann Nachtigal, Jane Velez-Mitchell

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST (voice-over):  Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?

Another judge falls.  A rape defendant steals a guard‘s gun, kills the judge, kills the stenographer, kills another guard, and flees Atlanta.  And why is a woman guard guarding a rape defendant?

3/11.  Madrid, Spain, comes to a halt on the first anniversary of the train bombings there as the international investigation turns and an al Qaeda connection seems less likely. 

The day after the pajama game.  Is Michael Jackson nuts?  Or a master media manipulator?  Anybody remember the last guy in his jammies playing loony tunes, Vinnie the Chin?

And The Gates.  They‘re not just down.  They are confetti. 

All that and more now on COUNTDOWN.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  Good evening. 

It is not open season on judges.  But this morning, just 11 days after a disgruntled litigant tried to murder a federal judge in Chicago and wound up instead killing her husband and her mother, a rape defendant being brought to an Atlanta courtroom to testify in his own defense.  A rape defendant who had previously tried to take a home made knife with him into the courtroom. 

A rape defendant somehow being escorted by one lone female guard, overpowered her, took her gun, and instead of simply escaping, walked some distance to the courtroom in which his trial was being conducted, shot the judge, shot the court stenographer, and as he fled the building, shot another deputy and then carjacked several vehicles, one belonging to a newspaper reporter. 

Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN, it is not a spree.  It is a coincidence of timing.  But it is one that underscores the vulnerability of judges in their homes or in their courtrooms. 

And 64-year-old Fulton County Judge Rowland Barnes is dead, as is 42-year-old court reporter Julie Brandau, as is the second of the shot county deputies, as yet not publicly identified. 

The deputy who lost her gun to the suspect, in critical condition tonight with a gunshot wound to the head.  Remarkably, she is expected to survive. 

The prisoner in question, Brian Nichols, still at large tonight.  His appearance slightly different than in the photograph.  Authorities saying that Nichols‘ head is now shaved.  Police describing the suspect as armed, dangerous, and with nothing to lose. 

Prosecutors say he had tried to sneak weapons into the courthouse as recently as yesterday. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GAYLE ABRAMSON, ASSISTANT D.A., FULTON COUNTY, GEORGIA:  A deputy, when the suspect was being transported back to the jail, they do a full search of him and they located in his shoes two of the metal shanks that Mr. Howard (ph) was talking about.  More security was requested and provided by the Fulton County Sheriff‘s Department.

(END VIDEO CLIP) 

OLBERMANN:  That assistant D.A., Miss Abramson, and her boss both in protective custody now just in case a threat against them phoned in by someone purporting to be Brian Nichols was legitimate. 

Witnesses saying that after running away from the courthouse, the gunman carjacked one vehicle, the green Honda of Dan O‘Briant, a reporter for “The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.”  O‘Briant, ever the reporter, filing a story from the emergency room as he was getting stitches above his left eye. 

The carjacker hitting him over the head with a gun after O‘Briant refused to get into the trunk of his own car.  O‘Briant then running away.  The gunman did not shoot him.  And O‘Briant figures that‘s the case only because the man ran out of bullets. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAN O‘BRIANT, CARJACKING VICTIM:  I think I‘m extremely lucky to escape without being shot or thrown in the trunk.  I was just thinking, as the gun is in your face, you start thinking, how can I get out of this alive?  And finally, I decided I would be better off being shot at in the run than standing there and executed.  So that‘s what I did. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Though authorities placed alerts for the last car Nichols was seen driving, that green Honda belonging to Mr. O‘Briant on every highway sign around Atlanta, though the search has extended into three states, though a total reward of $60,000 has now been posted, at this hour, they do not know where that man is. 

At the scene for us tonight in Atlanta is correspondent Don Teague. 

Good evening, Don.

DON TEAGUE, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  Good evening, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  This was not one of those classic shoot your way out of a building crimes.  They are assuming, because he overpowered the guard outside the courtroom and did not just flee, that it had to have been obviously deliberate. 

Are there conclusions about if it was a crime of opportunity, if it had been planned or are there any details about the intent yet?

TEAGUE:  Well, clearly, we know from the incident the day before, when they discovered the shanks that he had hidden in his shoe, that he was potentially dangerous and had plans to do something. 

When you compound that with the fact that he took this gun and overpowered the guard, outside of the courtroom, and was apparently in an area he could have easily made escape without harming anyone else, or without purposefully confronting anyone else, you have to assume that this was part of his plan. 

Because as you mentioned just a moment ago, he went from that area where he got a hold of the gun into the courtroom and then started shooting and then came out. 

So of course, authorities aren‘t really talking about motives tonight.  They‘re holding as much information back as possible.  They say they don‘t want to jeopardize the investigation, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  Don, has anyone offered a rationale of why a defendant charged with rape and with having taken a hostage would be, in fact, transported, even just a little space of a part of a building, by just one guard, and not to be sexist about it, but by one woman guard?

TEAGUE:  Well, I can tell you the question was asked of the sheriff of Fulton County today.  And his answer was quite simple, that males and females in his opinion have the same abilities, the same training, and he wouldn‘t assign a job like that to one person over another.  He would expect that a female guard would be just as competent and able to do that job as a male guard. 

OLBERMANN:  The suspect Nichols, his former attorney, Peter Zeliff, told the “Atlanta Journal-Constitution” today—let me quote this exactly.  “This was an accident waiting to happen.  I can think of a half dozen other examples of when something like this could have happened.  Security is abysmal.”

Where—where do they say the security issue is going to go from here?

TEAGUE:  Well, it‘s one of those things that‘s early on in the investigation.  So they won‘t say there was a flaw in the security.  And they won‘t say exactly what may change. 

You can obviously guess that the fallout from this will probably bring about some changes in security.  But we heard the same thing from other attorneys who have worked in that courthouse today, that when you compare it to some of the courthouses in other counties in the area, that they felt they had tighter security there.  And they‘d had some problems or perceived problems with the security here.  But where exactly it goes, we can‘t tell you tonight. 

OLBERMANN:  Our correspondent, Don Teague, in Atlanta.  Great thanks, Don. 

Catherine Crier has seen courtrooms from just with every perspective imaginable.  She was a judge, herself threatened, a civil attorney, a prosecutor, and a journalist, hosting “Catherine Crier Live” on COURT TV.  And now the author of the newly released, “A Deadly Game: The Untold Story of the Scott Peterson Investigation.” 

Catherine, good evening.  Thanks for your time. 

CATHERINE CRIER, AUTHOR, “A DEADLY GAME”:  Hey, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  In a time of supposedly air tight security at government facilities, a man described by his own attorney as very athletic, on trial for rape, hostage taking, being taken to the courtroom by one guard, one lone female guard. 

Is this standard operating procedure around the country these days?  Or are three people, including a judge, dead tonight because somebody in a position of authority in Fulton County, Georgia, is an idiot?

CRIER:  Well, I‘m not happy to hear about the shanks being discovered, about the judge asking for more security.  Even other people asking.  Because that does cast aspersions on the deputies who did not up the ante. 

But for the norm, this is not unusual.  Unfortunately, the courts are the last to get funding.  They are—they are understaffed.  The deputy departments are understaffed.  And they have to make due with what they have.  The courts never get the dollars because they‘re not seen as a high profile place to pour money. 

So yes, it was inappropriate for them to not double or triple team this guy.  But I understand, we don‘t recognize the threat that is there on a constant basis that they live with, prosecutors, defense attorneys and judges live with and we simply don‘t recognize. 

OLBERMANN:  What is the judge‘s latitude?  If you are, literally, the judge and a defendant has tried to bring a home made knife or another weapon into your courtroom...

CRIER:  Yes.

OLBERMANN:  ... and you see it, what influence do you have in terms of how he is—how he is handled?  I mean, can you not stop this trial until he‘s been trussed up like Hannibal Lecter? 

CRIER:  Absolutely you can.  And this judge, if in fact, he gave the admonition that I understand he gave, should have been respected.  There should have been a number of deputies with this individual.  If not being shackled into court, handcuffed to the chair before the jury was ever brought in. 

This kind of warning was ignored.  And unfortunately, the tragedy resulted.  But I also can understand, the deputies are in a pretty tight place, because we put them there. 

OLBERMANN:  And one of them is dead tonight, and another one is in serious or even worse condition as we speak. 

But in news, on a big picture here, as you well know from your own experience, we operate so much on the proverbial logical fallacy, event A happens, then event B happens, therefore event A caused event B.

CRIER:  Right.

OLBERMANN:  Or at least are connected.  This is not connected to Judge Lefkow in Chicago.  There is no trend here.  Is there?  Or is there a—is this just a snapshot that has been printed up really big for everybody to look at?

CRIER:  There‘s no trend.  It‘s a snapshot.  And if you look around the country, all too often this happens, but it‘s not somebody reading about something else or following an example.  It‘s the fact that the courts are a dangerous place. 

It may only happen one out of, you know, every 50,000 cases.  But think of the number of cases that are being tried around this country on a daily basis, and that number can grow exponentially. 

We need to improve the security at the courthouses, but taxpayers have to be willing to foot the bill. 

OLBERMANN:  Court TV‘s Catherine Crier, author of the upcoming book, “The Deadly Game.”  Great thanks for your time tonight, Catherine.             

CRIER:  Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Be well.

Continuing coverage of this story all night here on MSNBC.  A special live edition of the “ABRAMS REPORT” ahead at 9 Eastern Time. 

From Atlanta to Chicago, and the judicial attack there still making headlines now.  Police making a DNA match. 

And exactly one year after terror struck Madrid, has al Qaeda just been ruled out as the perpetrators?

You‘re watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Continuing our coverage of the Atlanta courtroom shootings, and the safety of our judges and the security at our trials.  Our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN, the fears of the judiciary easing slightly after a suspect in the Chicago murders has today been positively identified as the killer. 

Police have now matched the DNA of this man, Bart Ross, to a cigarette butt found at the scene.  He is the same man who sent a letter and what amounted to a press release to our NBC affiliated station, WMAQ, in Chicago, confessing to the crime, committing suicide after he was stopped by police in Wisconsin earlier this week. 

Judge Joan Lefkow, his intended target, is calling Ross a, quote, “very pathetic, tragic person,” saying it is heart breaking that her husband and mother had to die over something like this. 

Last year, Lefkow had dismissed a rambling lawsuit that Ross had filed over his cancer treatment. 

Keeping judges safe away from the courthouse, that will be job one at next week‘s semiannual gathering of the top federal judges in Washington. 

The group, called the Judicial Conference and led by Supreme Court Chief justice William Rehnquist, taking up the matter of security, just over a year after the Justice Department release a report criticizing the way the U.S. marshal service had been handling the job of safeguarding federal justices, calling its intelligence gathering, manuals and equipment outdated. 

The chairwoman of the conference‘s security committee planning to meet separately next week with the director of the marshal service, as well as with the attorney general, Alberto Gonzales.  The biggest obstacle to adding security, once again, money.  With more than 800 judges in the federal judiciary. 

Judge Gayle Ann Nachtigal knows all too well what it‘s like to be targeted.  As a circuit court judge in Washington County, Oregon, she‘s been the recipient of numerous threats.  She‘s the president of the American Judges Association, and she joins me now. 

Thank you for your time tonight. 

JUDGE GAYLE ANN NACHTIGAL, OREGON CIRCUIT COURT JUDGE:  My pleasure. 

OLBERMANN:  Give me your reaction first to the developments in Atlanta.  I mean, do they speak to generalized security problems?  Or is this very specific in one county, in one state?

NACHTIGAL:  I think it‘s more generalized.  The security issues are there.  Each court needs to evaluate their security, and each judge needs to evaluate the security in light of what happened in Atlanta and in Chicago. 

OLBERMANN:  I‘m guessing here.  I‘m hoping it is a good guess, that there‘s no way that Judge Lefkow could have known that she was at the top of the list of this man, Bart Ross. 

But clearly, after a homemade knife was brought into courtroom, the late Judge Barnes must have sensed that this man, Nichols, was a significant threat. 

Is there no way to identify the principals in a courtroom who are the likeliest to pose a threat to a judge, this defendant, this litigant, whoever, whether the threat is inside or outside the courtroom, at least to reduce the overall chance that a particular judge will face violence at some point in their career?

NACHTIGAL:  We can make an educated guess.  But trying to guess human behavior is an art, not a science.  I would have judged that the man was a danger for escaping, not necessarily a danger to me personally.  And so you may get mixed messages.  But certainly, he would be somebody, with his behavior, that you ought to be concerned about. 

OLBERMANN:  Before the break, I asked Catherine Crier the logical fallacy question.  What do you think about this?  Are the murders in the family of Judge Lefkow and this horrible scene in Atlanta today, are they reflective of some increased threat overall to judges, or are they coincidence, an extraordinary coincidence of timing?

NACHTIGAL:  Extraordinary coincidence of timing.  Unfortunate coincidences. 

OLBERMANN:  So this level—has this level of threat been par for the course for judges on all levels in this country for years?

NACHTIGAL:  I think.

OLBERMANN:  We just haven‘t paid attention to it?

NACHTIGAL:  Absolutely.  I think it‘s a coincidence that it happened but that it happened is not necessarily surprising. 

OLBERMANN:  Is there one thing that we can do?  Is there something that can be done that—we‘ve hit this point now three times, that the money doesn‘t seem to be there or isn‘t being prioritized.  Is there something to be done besides the money to increase the safety for judges inside and outside the courtroom?

NACHTIGAL:  Well, I think each judge in each courthouse needs to take a critical look at what they‘re doing and do the very best that they can with what they have.  And I think we can always make improvements even without funding.  But without additional funding, making major improvements will be very, very difficult. 

OLBERMANN:  Judge Gayle Ann Nachtigal, president of the American Judges Association.  We thank you greatly for your time tonight. 

NACHTIGAL:  Thank you very much. 

OLBERMANN:  Another judge called the Lefkow murders the equivalent of 9/11 for the judiciary. 

Today, Madrid and Spain remembered its equivalent of 9/11.  It is 3/11.  One year since a series of bombs on a commuter train line killed 191 civilians and a police officer. 

In the year of the investigation, the assumption has been pretty much that while, clearly, the bombings were not carried out by al Qaeda, they were somehow engineered by al Qaeda.  That assumption has just changed. 

Our justice correspondent, Pete Williams, now with the evidence that al Qaeda was less the instigation and more the inspiration. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PETE WILLIAMS, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  The church bells began tolling at precisely 7:37 a.m., the moment one year ago today when the first of 10 bombs ripped through Madrid commuter trains.  One hundred ninety-one killed.  More than 2,000 injured. 

A single red carnation lay today on one of the tracks.  Then at noon, five minutes of silence.  Trains and buses stopped.  People stood in tribute, though some were overcome with emotion. 

While this has been a week of reflection for Spain, it also saw yet another arrest, bringing to 75 the number of suspects.  Most have been released, with two dozen facing trial late this year. 

But both Spanish and U.S. officials tell NBC News they now believe the bombing was not directed by al Qaeda‘s leadership.  Terrorism analyst M.J.  Gohel agrees. 

M.J. GOHEL, TERRORISM ANALYST:  There is nothing to suggest at the moment that Osama bin Laden had any direct knowledge of this attack or planned it in advance. 

WILLIAMS:  Instead, investigators believe a small group of Islamic radicals, mostly Moroccan, planned the attack.  When police tracked down seven of them last April, they blew themselves up after making this video, railing against Spain‘s decision to send troops to Iraq. 

One of the seven, Sarhan Fakap (ph), may have been the group‘s leader but his contacts with other terror groups are now thought to be only a minor factor. 

The bombers hit exactly 911 days after the U.S. attack on 9/11.  Officials say that may be just a coincidence, but it was just three days before Spain‘s elections.  A new government then brought the troops home. 

BRUCE HOFFMAN, TERRORISM EXPERT:  I think what Madrid tells us about the future terrorist threat is that it‘s much more diverse.  It‘s much more diffuse and much more amorphous than any we‘ve encountered. 

WILLIAMS:  But this was a day for honoring the dead.  At the city‘s newest park, the Forest of the Absent, one cypress or olive tree for each of the lives lost one year ago.

Pete Williams, NBC News, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE) 

OLBERMANN:  A much needed break from the serious news of this day.  It is a lost dog story.  It is a “television news is ridiculous” story.  It‘s two, two, two stories in one. 

And Michael Jackson‘s jammies the day after.  The judge who almost threw him behind bars yesterday for being late decides whether Jay Leno can speak jokes about the case in late night TV.  Not just mime them as you see here.

ANNOUNCER:  You‘re getting your news Olbermann style, COUNTDOWN WITH KEITH OLBERMANN, part of the best primetime in cable news, MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  On another grim night in the news, we refuse to surrender.  It is our nightly survey of those things somebody somewhere thought were important enough to stage or report on, or both, even though they were desperately wrong. 

Let‘s play “Oddball.”

And we‘ve got a dog on the Major Deegan, drivers.  That‘s the Major Deegan Expressway right by Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, New York.  And that is not a runaway sheep.  It is Snoopy the poodle making a rush hour dash for freedom. 

And it was live on all the New York newscasts for minutes at a stretch. 

Checking our new “Oddball” scoreboard of canine chases, we say that it‘s cops one, dogs who think they can outrun the cops, woof. 

But the dog almost won this time.  It took at least half a dozen officers to get the fugitive in custody.  First they tried to block him off with a car.  Snoopy dodged that and kept on going.  So cops tailed him, slowly, trying to force him off the road. 

No pit maneuver necessary.  It all came down to the brave office orders on foot who tackled the fleeing beast and managed to get him into the patrol car.  You know where this fellow is ending up: the dog house. 

He kept to his lane nicely, though.

To Florida, meanwhile, and a tax proposal to make people pay as they go.  Literally.  State Senator Al Lawson, Democrat of Tallahassee, wants to tax toilet paper in order to pay for waste water treatment and sewer repair.  Two cents per roll.  Bringing a new meaning to the phrase, I‘d like to put in my two cents, please. 

Governor Jeb Bush expressed concern that if T.P. is taxed, then people might use less of it, saying, quote, “that‘s not necessarily a good thing.”  You think?

Senior lawmakers said it was unlikely to pass in Florida‘s State Senate.  In short, they all pooh-poohed the idea. 

Speaking of ideas, was there one behind Michael Jackson‘s pajama parade yesterday?  Could this have been a plan?

And as if this week had not been crazy enough, we will end it with a quiz about how much I actually remember of it.  Your questions, my public grilling, all ahead. 

Now here are COUNTDOWN‘s top three newsmakers of this day. 

No. 3, Foreign Minister Mustafa Osman Ismail and the rest of the government of Sudan, who are just catching their breaths right now after a typo.  A U.S. congressional Web site reported that between 1962 and 1970, this country had conducted nuclear tests in Sudan.  Needless to say, this was news to the Sudanese. 

Turned out it was supposed to be reading Sedan as in the Sedan Crater Testing Site in Nevada.  Sorry. 

No. 2, T.S.R. Anjaneyulu, the municipal commissioner of Rajahmundry City in India.  He‘s got a lot of taxpayers who won‘t pay their taxes.  He‘s got a solution. 

He hires drummers to go to the defaulters‘ homes and play nonstop all day, all night.  In a week, the city has received 18 percent of the $1.15 million owed. 

Of course, the salaries of the 20, 24-hour-a-day drummers is, like, $50 million. 

And No. 1, the unnamed clerk at Gordon‘s Mini Market in Cranberry, Pennsylvania.  When a masked gunman entered his store a little before 10 p.m., the clerk burst into a fit of uncontrollable laughter.  The robber simply left after it became clear that the clerk was laughing so hard he never even heard the guy‘s demand that the clerk empty the cash register. 

Of course he didn‘t hear it.  The mask the thief was wearing was of the Disney character Pluto.  Woof!  Woof!

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Amid reports that he is behind on his payroll obligations out at the ranch, amid rumors actually posted on the Web site of an alleged news organization that he is on a suicide watch, yeah, you guessed right, FOX.  Yesterday‘s spectacle of Michael Jackson, the defendant in the blue pajamas began to sink in today and itself provoked questions.  Is he crazy or crazy like a publicist‘s dream? Redirecting talk about the trial from the lurid testimony to his vivid PJs.

Our third story in the COUNTDOWN, your tax and entertainment dollars in action, day 480 of the Michael Jackson investigations.  That question of nut versus genius in a moment.  First, a recap what happened today at the Santa Maria courthouse.  We turn as usual to our nightly recreation Michael Jackson puppet theater. 

Jackson and the jury may have had the day off but in point of fact, there was more than the chirp of crickets in that courtroom today.  Judge Rodney Melville hearing arguments on the admissibility of Jackson‘s financial records.  The prosecution contending the pop star is quote, on the precipice of bankruptcy, allegations that perhaps he is in debt in the hundreds of millions of dollars.  That they allege is what ultimately motivated Jackson to hold the accuser and his family at Neverland ranch, reportedly.  Keeping them there, forcing them, allegedly, their participation in a video produced in response to the controversial Martin Bashir documentary. 

The defense conceding, quote, liquidity from time to time may be a problem.  If it is $300 million, it‘s a problem.  But the defense arguing Jackson‘s financial fitness is irrelevant to the case.  That may be.  But back at the ranch, Michael Jackson‘s money or lack thereof is paramount.  Workers at Neverland reportedly staging a sick out, having not been paid in at least a week, CBS News reporting that some of those employees include attorneys.  All accounts suggesting the blame is being directed toward Jackson‘s younger brother Randy who took over administration of the ranch from his other brother Germaine and the Nation of Islam last year. 

Jackson‘s spokeswoman said the reports are quote, false and that all Jackson employees are quote, compensated for their work.  The judge did not rule on the Jackson finance admissibility issue today, but he did he come to the relief of Jay Leno.  Melville clarifying the gag order that included the TONIGHT SHOW host and all other potential witnesses.  It had literally forced Leno to have guest comedians deliver the Jackson jokes in his monologues.  Leno still may not speak about specific aspects of the case, the ones he might testify about. 

But Judge Melville said that neither Mr. Leno nor any other subpoenaed witness would be prevented from offering general commentary or comedy about Jackson himself.  The judge adding quote, I would like to tell him—I‘d like him to tell good jokes.  But I guess I can‘t control that.  Thus, the latest of our brother incorporation, Leno‘s Jackson silent or proxy gags figures to have been the last.  His monologue tonight is virtually all Jacko all the time.  Regardless, last night‘s definitely was the best.  No stand-in‘s required for this bit with which he opened last night‘s edition of the TONIGHT SHOW. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I am outside the TONIGHT SHOW.  Jay Leno is nowhere in sight.  We have just learned there‘s been an arrest warrant issued—wait.  Here.  This might be him now.  Mr. Leno, why are you so late?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Before we ponder the prospect that Jackson‘s arrivals in pajamas yesterday may have been just as calculated and designed for effect as Leno‘s was, it would probably serve us well to review briefly the number of other times Jackson has left us wondering whether he was being bizarre or masterfully manipulative.  Our correspondent Michael Okwu is happy to oblige.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MICHAEL OKWU, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  Sometimes a picture conveys a drama better than anything a reporter can say.  Michael Jackson arriving at the courthouse, fashionably late, wearing pajamas and slippers.  The thought on just about everybody‘s mind, here we go again. 

KEN BAKER, US WEEKLY:  Michael doesn‘t live in the world that the rest of us live in and he has been living by his own set of rules for a long time. 

OKWU:  Call it the ridiculous or the sublime or just the latest in a series of bizarre acts.  After a court appearance last year, Jackson danced for fans on the roof of his car.  During a contract dispute case, he mugged for cameras while testifying on the witness stand.  And just a month before, he hobbled to court on crutches.  His explanation, a spider bit his foot. 

(on camera):  Perhaps it‘s no surprise why Jackson, who returned here to his Neverland ranch after Thursday‘s incident, started being referred to in the press less often as the king of pop than Whacko Jacko. 

(voice-over):  Who can forget this? For many, that was the day he went from icon to question mark, behavior as bizarre as his ever changing appearance.  He once removed his mask, revealing a brittle thinning nose and then his brief marriages, most famously to Lisa Marie Presley.  Some observers guessed it was a publicity stunt especially after that awkward kiss on MTV.  But perhaps the most bizarre act, appearing on the now famous 2003 British documentary that is central to the current charges where Jackson admitted to sharing his bed with children.  The thought on many people‘s minds then, Michael, what were you thinking? Michael Okwu, NBC News, Santa Barbara County. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  And now the back pain story, the pajamas and the sandals in court and the fact that even the utterly non-salacious news service the Associated Press summarized that day in court yesterday by mentioning the delay in the pajamas first and the right to the point testimony of Jackson‘s accuser second.  Joining me to try to figure this out is correspondent Jane Velez-Mitchell of the syndicated TV series, CELEBRITY JUSTICE.  Jane, good evening. 

JANE VELEZ-MITCHELL, CELEBRITY JUSTICE:  Keith, you couldn‘t make this up.  It‘s amazing. 

OLBERMANN:  That‘s the whole question.  Isn‘t it? Could you? You were a witness to all that yesterday.  If you had to pick one, which do you pick? A, he was acting irrationally, B maybe his back really did go out, or C, he planned it so he could direct where the media covered and what it covered. 

VELEZ-MITCHELL:  Keith, it could be all three.  I don‘t know if he had a back pain or not but I do question the timing.  This was the most crucial day of the case for the prosecution.  This was the day the accuser took the stand and told the details of the alleged molestation.  And what did people cover? People cover the pants that Michael Jackson was wearing when he went into court. 

Michael Jackson stole the spotlight from the accuser.  He pulled focus.  He really dominated the day. He proved in a way that it is Michael Jackson‘s world and we all just live in it.  I mean the judge said, I‘m going to put him in jail if he is not here in an hour.  He showed up an hour and a couple minutes after that and the judge still didn‘t put him in jail.  We had law enforcement motorcades racing to meet his caravan on the freeway.  I saw this and it escorted him back at high speed.  He didn‘t get a ticket.  I‘ve gotten two tickets to and from Santa Maria.  This is not normal justice.  This is indeed celebrity justice and Michael Jackson is the puppeteer. 

OLBERMANN:  And would that Michael Jackson only pulled focus.  The pajamas, it‘s not like that‘s even a new idea.  That New York mob boss, Vinny the Chin, Vinny Gigante tried to convince people that he was not even in charge of his own mind, let alone the mob, by shuffling through the streets of Greenwich Village around the time of his trial a couple years ago, wearing a bathrobe and slippers and pajamas.  If you are sitting there in the jury box and you don‘t know what the rest of us know about this trip to the ER yesterday and the threat to have him arrested and all the other things that happened yesterday, if you‘re on that jury, you don‘t know this story, what would you be thinking if you came into the courtroom and the defendant was wearing pajamas?

VELEZ-MITCHELL:  The judge did say to the jury, Michael Jackson had a medical problem and I had to order him here.  Do not make any conclusions about his guilt or innocence based on that and then proceeded.  But obviously, the jury knows something is up.  They know he was sick once before, less than a month ago during jury selection.  Perhaps they are not sequestered.  We know that.  So going down the super market aisle this weekend, they will probably hear something in the osmosis even though the judge has warned them not to read the paper, not to watch television. 

And I think anything that affects the witnesses could affect the jury because I think it had to impact this boy.  He was on the stand.  This is one of the toughest days of his life.  He is facing this super powerful man.  The man is sick and he‘s got pajamas on and it could create sympathy in this boy.  It could create guilt in this boy.  And it could create doubt in this boy.  I saw him testify.  He was mumbling through much of it.  I don‘t know how he might have testified had none of this happened.  Nobody will ever know.  We really don‘t know what impact all this had. 

OLBERMANN:  It could even be intimidation.  It is bed clothing and we are talking about a molestation case, so there‘s even that possibility.  But let‘s go a little further extending this pop psychology.  Last night, we already mentioned this, at least two news organizations broke stories with leaks about his supposed financial distress.  Today we have this remarkable piece of bad journalism on the FOX Web site about him being on suicide watch.  Whether or not it makes sense, to make the public feel sorry for him somehow will help him in the trial.  That‘s one issue.  But if you accept the idea that that could help him, could these lack of health, lack of wealth stories also be media manipulation? Could these be designed to make the public feel sorry for him?

VELEZ-MITCHELL:  I think Michael Jackson wants to control how the public feels sorry for him.  I think he wants them to feel sorry for him about his health, not about his finances.  I think the one thing Michael Jackson does not want to be perceived as is a poor person, a person who is $300 million in debt and about to go bankrupt.  That‘s what the prosecution was saying today. 

OLBERMANN:  Jane Velez-Mitchell of CELEBRITY JUSTICE, thanks for going into the tall grass with us tonight on this topic. 

VELEZ-MITCHELL:  Thanks Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  For weeks, you the viewer may have sensed my despair about these gates.  Tonight, you will share my joy about the news about the gates.  And keeping tab, Paul Newman today with a surprising announcement about his future.   Stand by.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Even I could not have foreseen the fate nor sought their grizzly fate, stuffed into what is called a granulator, six blades and knives powered by a 150 horsepower motor, reducing them to pieces 3/8 of an inch or smaller.  Our number two story in the COUNTDOWN, to paraphrase the last of the Friday the 13th movies, the gates go to hell.  The 7500 day-glo orange shower curtains that constituted the project that until the beginning of this week either glorified or vandalized New York‘s central park are being recycled.  They‘ll wind up as the raw materials for flower pots and bright orange nylon jackets or very cheap toupees.  Like Jason Voorhees however, they will retain their basic evil and could mutate into a sequel any time now.  As you watch our report on the recycling process from correspondent Stacey Weaver of our Philadelphia station, WCAU, I‘ll be sitting here singing, happy days are here again, the skies above are clear again.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

STACEY WEAVER, WCAU-TV (voice-over):  What took two famous artists 26 years to bring to New York central park takes plant workers in Nazareth only seconds to grind to a pulp.  Nicos Polymers and Grinding is turning the gates, the largest outdoor art display in the history of New York, into shreds so it can be remanufactured into common household items. 

BOB PERRONE, NICOS POLYMERS:  Anything from PVC pipe, storm surge barriers, flower pots, handles for paint rollers, fence. 

WEAVER:  To think the company that processes plastic garden hoses and flooring material is now turning $20 million worth of artwork into plastic for plumbing for toilets or dishwashers.  What was hail as some of the most amazing art could carry human waste at some point?

PERRONE:  Well, OK.  Yeah.  It‘s possible. 

WEAVER:  Officials say they got picked to do the project because of the size of their facility and tight security would prevent the material from landing on eBay.  They called the project an opportunity of a lifetime.  But with one million pounds of orange vinyl and nylon to process, there‘s no time to let things go to their heads. 

PERRONE:  Well, we were just thrilled to do it. The funny part is, in spite of what it is, within 10 minutes of the first truck load coming in, it was business as usual. This is material for processing and that‘s how we‘re going about it. 

WEAVER:  For COUNTDOWN, I‘m Stacey Weaver. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  By the way, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has announced that artist Christo and Jeanne-Claude have won the Doris C.  Freedman award, the city‘s annual honor for public art, beating out a schnauzer from W. 29th St. with a specially precise aim. 

We segue quickly if not neatly into our nightly round up of the celebrity and gossip news, keeping tabs.  Paul Newman, at age 80, may soon retire from both of his best known vocations, acting and auto racing. The salad dressing will apparently continue. The actor told the Associated Press, quote, I think both are winding down now.  He said he wanted to race for another year and do one more movie for good luck.  That last hurrah might be with his co-star from “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” “The Sting,” Robert Redford. Newman said they‘ve been looking for the right project for 20 years.  I hope something will come out of it he said, just so long as it is not like Jack Lemmon-James Garner ex-presidents flick. 

NBC universal announcing tonight that it‘s pulling the plug on Jane Pauley‘s new syndicated talk show.  It had burst on the scene last August with big interest, even garnering two-year syndicated contract sight unseen.  It will now be unseen. The “New York Daily News” reported Martha Stewart began wearing her electronic monitoring bracelet yesterday. Stewart must daily tell probation officials when she‘s leaving, where she‘s going, when she‘s coming back.  And if she strays, that anklet could set off an alarm.  An odd financial alarm already sounding. Stock in her company now dropping 25 percent since her release, bringing her net worth down to a mere $800 million.  And the assumptions of her completed come back down to only eight out of every 10 media reports. 

Speaking of comebacks, won last week, lost the week before, can I resume my victory streak in our news quiz? Which celebrity has just endorsed our segment, what have we learned? We will learn that when the COUNTDOWN continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  I don‘t want to drop names here but yesterday in the commissary or as we like to call it, food trough, who should pop in but Tucker Carlson.  He says I love what have we learned!  His new show on this network, you watch, an hour-long version it. In my interim, my brief pain and suffering will have to suffice as again we play “what have we learned?” and I immediately turn you over to the genial emcee of what have we learned.  She‘s very good on that, Mr. Carlson says, Monica Novotny good evening. 

MONICA NOVOTNY, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT:  Keith, good evening. 

OLBERMANN:  We got a fan, what the hell. 

NOVOTNY:  OK, we‘ll take it.  I‘ll begin by reminding viewers if you would like to play along or administer the quiz to the victim or friend of your choosing, you can find it on our web site.  That‘s countdown.msnbc.com. We‘ll begin with two minutes on the clock.  I‘ll ask as many of your viewer questions as time allows.  For every question answered incorrectly, the anchorman will dig into his big fat wallet and dole out $50 for charity.  If he answers at least half correctly he wins a prize.  If he loses, rare but on occasion we get lucky, a punishment is delivered, usually in the form of a really bad prize. So far, the COUNTDOWN charity fund for 2005 stands at $1,300.  Sir, are you ready?

OLBERMANN:  It is a big, fat wallet by the way. 

NOVOTNY:  OK. 

OLBERMANN:  Yes, I‘m ready.  Engage. 

NOVOTNY:  Two minutes on the clock please.  Number one from Becky in Ohio, how old is Sniffles, the Guinness book of world records‘ oldest living rabbit? 

OLBERMANN:  For crying out loud, I knew this was going to be on this test, worse than the SATs.

NOVOTNY:  Sniffles. 

OLBERMANN:  Sniffles was purchased in -- 13. 

NOVOTNY:  14.  I‘m sorry. Why did Nathanial Skiles of Kirkland, Washington refuse jury duty three times? 

OLBERMANN:  Because he‘s five years old. 

NOVOTNY:  That‘s right. From Jane in California, what‘s the combined home run total of the subpoena seven? 

OLBERMANN:  2887. 

NOVOTNY:  Yes. Not bad.  Where can you ride the insanity swing—and I don‘t mean this new quiz.

OLBERMANN:  Las Vegas, Nevada. 

NOVOTNY:  That‘s right. From Deborah in New Jersey, when Rafael

Palmeiro RSVPd no to the congressional committee‘s invitation to appear at

the hearings on steroid use in baseball, what excuse did he give?‘

OLBERMANN:  A lousy one.  It‘s his wife‘s birthday and he‘s got to be with her. 

NOVOTNY:  That‘s right.

OLBERMANN:   I bet he plays baseball that day though.

NOVOTNY:  From Raul in New York, what is Fidel Castro giving Cuban housewives?

OLBERMANN:  Pressure cookers, 100,000 pressure cookers. 

NOVOTNY:  That‘s right.  You‘ve been watching.  From Cheryl, what is Senator Hillary Clinton‘s approval rating among New York Republicans. 

OLBERMANN:  49 percent startling enough. 

NOVOTNY:  Bingo. From Trudie, who backed an effort to buy CBS in 1985 to get Dan Rather out of the anchor chair? 

OLBERMANN:  Senator Jessie Helms. 

NOVOTNY:  Wow. 

OLBERMANN:  And guess what? Dan Rather survived it. 

NOVOTNY:  He did.  Indeed.  Number nine, within how many hours is the FBI required to purge records of legal gun transactions, within how many hours? 

OLBERMANN:  I don‘t remember this story coming up here this week. 

Legal?  24. 

NOVOTNY:  Yep.  Oh my! We‘re not going to hear the end of this. 

OLBERMANN:  The charities are starving tonight. 

NOVOTNY:  Barbara in California, what happened to Joseph Stanton thanks to his cat? 

OLBERMANN:  Joseph Stanton got shot because the cat supposedly knocked the—although they think the cat may have done it deliberately. 

NOVOTNY:  From Vincent.  Who thinks that?

OLBERMANN:  Very smart cat.

NOVOTNY:  What was the date of the magazine that Michael Jackson allegedly showed the brother of the accuser?

OLBERMANN:  The month was August of 2003.

NOVOTNY:  There you go.

OLBERMANN:  You got any more?

NOVOTNY:  Ten of 11, you won and what a great prize...

OLBERMANN:  I think that‘s the record. 

NOVOTNY:  That is the record.  What a great prize. We hope that you never have to go court, sir, for any reason but if you do, hold on, we have for you your very own blue jammies and although I doubt these will fit, slippers. 

OLBERMANN:  Oh, what size? No.  I have size 14 feet, I don‘t think you guessed correctly on this all I can say to this is, of course, whew-hoo.  The most important factor is not how many I got right, but how many I got wrong. 

NOVOTNY:  Right. 

OLBERMANN:  So it‘s one wrong.  The count, the amount was $1,300, one wrong so it‘s $1,350. 

NOVOTNY:  Love that math. 

OLBERMANN:  I had a good week.  I have nothing else to say about this that is either relevant or true. 

NOVOTNY:  Thank goodness. 

OLBERMANN:  Thank you, Monica.  Thank you if you submitted a question.  Thank you a little more maybe if you didn‘t.  Tune in next time, if there is a next time when again we play, what have we learned?

Sponsored, it is sponsored by the new Tucker Carlson Show on MSNBC and that is COUNTDOWN. Thank you for being part of it.  I‘m Keith Olbermann.  Good night and good luck. 

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

Content and programming copyright 2005 MSNBC.  ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.  Transcription Copyright 2005 Voxant, 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 Voxant, 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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