updated 4/13/2005 12:25:56 PM ET 2005-04-13T16:25:56

Guest: Diane Dimond, Jim Thomas, Bob McNeil, Jonna Spilbor, Father Anthony Figueiredo, Joseph Petro

DAN ABRAMS, HOST:  Coming up, just when you thought the Michael Jackson case could not get any weirder or more graphic. 


ABRAMS (voice-over):  A former Neverland security guard tells jurors he saw Jackson perform oral sex on a 13-year-old boy who accused Jackson of molesting him in 1993.  Could this be the crucial witness the prosecution so badly need? 

And the Vatican prepares for the largest funeral the world has ever seen, set to begin just hours from now, four kings, five queens, 70 presidents, other world leaders, and four million Catholics all in Rome to say farewell to the pope. 

Plus, is Terri Schiavo‘s husband rethinking his plans to bury her with his family?  His brother says her ashes could be buried in Florida, as her parents had wanted. 

The program about justice starts now. 


ABRAMS:  Hi everyone.  First up on our docket tonight, bombshell testimony in the Michael Jackson case.  A former security guard tells jurors he saw Michael Jackson perform oral sex on a 13-year-old boy in 1993.  And another former employee says she saw the singer kiss and fondle a number of other boys including actor Macaulay Culkin.  If true, this could mean big trouble for Jackson.

The problem for prosecutors, the witnesses, Ralph Chacon and Adrian McManus were two of five former Neverland employees who sued Jackson for wrongful termination, claiming they were fired after testifying in the grand jury during the 1993 case.  Jackson filed a counter suit.  Not only did the jury side with Jackson, but Chacon was ordered to pay $25,000, McManus to pay 35,000, and Jackson was allowed to recover his attorney fees, almost 1.5 million. 

“My Take”—these other witnesses are, I believe, even more important to the prosecution than the accuser himself.  The jurors have to assess the accuser‘s story.  Does it make sense?  Is it believable?  If they believe these other instances occurred, I believe they are far more likely to think Jackson did what the boy says happened. 

Joining me now NBC News analyst and Court TV chief investigative editor Diane Dimond who knows today‘s crucial witness—she‘s actually spoken to them—former Santa Barbara County sheriff Jim Thomas, who investigated the ‘93 allegations against Jackson—Diane and Jim were in court today—and criminal defense attorneys Jonna Spilbor and Los Angeles‘ Bob McNeil. 

All right, let me just warn my viewers some of this is very, very graphic, all right, and I‘m going to read from one of the pieces of testimony today that came from Ralph Chacon today, the former Neverland security guard—again, a heads up.  It‘s gross, OK.  I mean I don‘t know how else to say it.  All right here it is.

“I saw that Mr. Jackson was caressing the boy‘s hair.  He was kissing him on his head and his face, his lips.  He started kissing him on the shoulders and started going down to his nipples, started sucking his nipples, started going down to his penis, putting it in his mouth and at about that time I left.”

(UNINTELLIGIBLE) Diane, courtroom, what was it like? 

DIANE DIMOND, COURT TV CHIEF INVESTIGATIVE EDITOR:  It was unbelievably tense.  For the first time I really saw the jurors reacting to what they‘ve heard.  They pretty much have poker faces, Dan.  You know, you‘ve been here.  But when that statement was made, I looked at the jury, they were looking—many members of them were looking right at Michael Jackson as if to say, give us something.  Give us an emotion.  Give us a shake of your head.  Give us something. 

And he, for his part, just sat pretty stock-still.  No emotion at all.  Ralph Chacon then went on to talk about another instance he saw with the same young boy, the ‘93 accuser.  And I noticed that the jury just continued to look at him, look back at the witness, look at Michael Jackson.  This is a jury that a lot of times, Dan, when they come in the morning, for example, they don‘t even look over at Michael Jackson.  But boy, today they were taking good, long looks. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  Jim, look, you investigated this as the Santa Barbara sheriff.  When you were investigating it, look, you were talking not just to the witnesses but you were also take talking to the boy himself who is not going to testify in this case.  Did he tell the same story to you that we‘re hearing from these—from this witness? 

JIM THOMAS, FORMER SANTA BARBARA COUNTY SHERIFF:  Dan, I can‘t confirm that because I have to explain in the first case, LAPD was the primary investigating agency with that particular witness or that victim.  And they are the ones that did the interview.  We in Santa Barbara actually never interviewed the boy who settled for the $20 million.  We interviewed and worked with the boy who testified here on Monday, the second accuser, so I really can‘t confirm that. 

ABRAMS:  Fair enough.  Fair enough.  All right, let me read—this is some more of what was testified to today.  Again, the warning remains. 

How would you describe the kissing?

Well, it was very passionate.  Very passionately he was kissing him.

And did you see his hands during the time he was kissing him?

Yes, sir.  They were all over his body.

(UNINTELLIGIBLE) Bob McNeil, if you are the attorney for Michael Jackson, are you concerned or are you thinking that the cross-examination did the trick?

BOB MCNEIL, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY:  Dan, you have to be concerned if you are the defense attorney in this case.  I think that Tom Mesereau was on a high yesterday because he thought he had been successful in cross-examining the witness.  But let me just say this to you.  If the jury believes the testimony of Chacon, it says volumes about what kind of person Michael Jackson is.  And that could be damning to him and his effort to defend against the charges that are pending against him. 

ABRAMS:  Jonna, here are some of the cross-examination of Ralph Chacon.

You sued Mr. Jackson, claiming you were wrongfully terminated, right? 

That‘s correct sir.

He sued you claiming you had stolen property from him, true?

That‘s correct sir.

Did the Santa Maria jury find you were not wrongfully terminated by Mr. Jackson?

Yes sir.

Did the Santa Maria jury find you had stolen property from Mr.


Yes sir.

We go on to number seven here.  A judgment was entered against you for $25,000, the value of what the court found you had stolen, correct?

Well if a candy bar is worth that much, sir.

That‘s not all you owe Mr. Jackson currently, is it?

No sir, I don‘t owe him. 

In fact, the court entered a judgment against you and your co-defendants for $1.47 million, correct?

Yes sir.

Have you ever paid any of that judgment, Mr. Chacon?

No, I filed bankruptcy.

Jonna, is that enough on cross-examination to discredit him? 

JONNA SPILBOR, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY:  I think it is very effective because the bottom line for these jurors is this gruesome testimony is only going to be as credible as the lips from which it spewed and Mesereau pointed out that this guy, this particular witness, Mr.  Chacon, has a $1.5 million ax to grind with Michael Jackson.  So you have to look at the source of the testimony, not just the damaging testimony itself. 

And it was disgusting and that is why it‘s incredible, Dan, if somebody saw something that disgusting, would they not jump in?  Would they not call the police?  That‘s like stepping over a child who‘s been hit by a bus and saying oh, hey, kid, you OK and keep on walking.  It doesn‘t—it‘s unbelievable. 

ABRAMS:  Jim, what about that? 

THOMAS:  Well I think he was fearful for his job, as are most of the people that were out there at Neverland at the time and we heard that time and time again during the investigation from the standpoint of being afraid to come forward.  However, you have to remember that he did tell that story to law enforcement and to a Santa Barbara grand jury before that lawsuit ever started.  So I think when he told the people that what he saw, the motive for the lawsuit wasn‘t yet there in my opinion, so I think it‘s still damaging testimony.

ABRAMS:  Let me read one more...

DIMOND:  You know Dan...

ABRAMS:  Diane, I‘ll go to you, right now let me just read one more...


ABRAMS:  ... piece of the testimony.

“1993 -- this is again Ralph Chacon—was in front.  Mr. Jackson was in back and he had his hands over his back towards the front, and then he turned around and kissed him.  It was passionate, but it didn‘t last that long.  And then his hands went down to his private area and then they ran inside the house.”

Go ahead, Diane. 

DIMOND:  Yes, I was just going to say there are several people who have tried to sue Michael Jackson and have failed.  We call them the Neverland five.  We heard from two of them today.  You know, it all depends on what this jury thinks about the little guy trying to sue the real rich guy and whether or not that is more important in their mind than this very graphic eyewitness testimony—that, that you just read from Ralph Chacon, that happened while they were standing outside the Peter Pan display watching Tinkerbell float by. 

Adrian McManus, the maid then took the stand and talked about seeing four boys go in to spend the night with Michael Jackson on different occasions for prolonged periods of time.  She knew they slept in the same bed. She knew they shared the same Jacuzzi tub because it was part of her duty to let the water out of that Jacuzzi tub.  And she said she found not only Michael Jackson‘s underwear in there, but the underwear of little boys. 

Now, what kind of testimony do you think this jury is going to remember longer given the fact that they have heard from John Doe, the recovered cancer patient, the 24-year-old youth pastor who says Michael Jackson did the same thing to him when he was 7 and 8 and 10.  This—these are puzzle pieces being put together every day.  And I really—I want to urge everybody not to make a scorecard every day.  Oh, boy the defense won or oh the state won.  This is a big puzzle that‘s being put together and today a big, fat piece went in the middle.  An eyewitness...


DIMOND:  ... to an alleged sex act. 

ABRAMS:  Bob, go ahead. 

MCNEIL:  Dan—yes thank you very much Dan.  You know I can understand what Diane is saying, but you know it‘s far too early to make a final argument in this.  What we have to remember...


MCNEIL:  ... here is that you‘ve got a witness, Chacon, who sold his story to a tabloid.  At least even...

DIMOND:  And all the money went to...

MCNEIL:  ... to a second tabloid perhaps...

DIMOND:  They had...

MCNEIL:  Wait a minute...

DIMOND: ... money to pay their attorney and...

MCNEIL:  I know, but...

DIMOND:  ... negotiated that for them.

MCNEIL:  But—I know, but Diane, this was to his benefit.  It was for him even though he paid it to his attorney...


MCNEIL:  There‘s just no—no, there is no excuse for a person who seeks to profit from things that they tell.  It raises a very, very strong issue of credibility.  And I think that issue is definitely here in this particular instance. 

ABRAMS:  The problem, Jonna, it seems to me, is that all of these people are not just sort of telling fibs, all right.  I mean they have to be making up whopper lies here, right?  I mean we‘re talking about—these are whoppers.  I mean you think about what they are saying here, the—each and every one of these people who are making these allegations have to be making up crazy stories out of whole cloth.

SPILBOR:   Well what‘s the point in taking the stand against Michael Jackson unless you‘re going to have a compelling story to tell?  So the bigger the better and that could be their motive.  And we can‘t deny the fact that these witnesses have a motive to lie and let‘s not forget one other thing.  I have forgotten now who this trial is about.  We have put Michael Jackson on trial for these prior bad acts that he‘s never been charged with we forgot about the instant case.  That‘s the intent of the D.A. and that‘s what...

ABRAMS:  Well...

SPILBOR:   ... makes this unfair. 

ABRAMS:  ... look, well it‘s unfair because you don‘t like the California law, but...


ABRAMS:  ... it‘s the law in California.  I mean you know this was a no-brainer legally...

SPILBOR:   The judge got it wrong, though, this time. 

ABRAMS:  The judge got this wrong...


ABRAMS:  ... letting this in?

SPILBOR:   Yes...

ABRAMS:  How do you figure that under California law? 

SPILBOR:   How is it probative that Michael—that some third party witness, not the alleged victims who are now adults, some third party disgruntled employee says he saw these despicable acts with Michael Jackson, how does that prove that Michael Jackson molested the kid who‘s involved in this case...

ABRAMS:  The reason the California law was enacted...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Eyewitness account...

ABRAMS:  ... was so that exactly this type of testimony would be admissible in trial. 


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Unless it is unduly...

MCNEIL:  Dan, please let me make one point.  The jury is not going to understand why the prosecution was not able to bring Jordi (ph) into that courtroom...


MCNEIL:  ... to confirm that that‘s what happened to him, and they will never know why, but they will always ask.  And they‘re not going to accept that testimony without that witness coming in and confirming it...

ABRAMS:  All right.  Let me take a quick break.  I know Diane wants to respond, so let me take a quick break.  Everyone is going to stick around. 

Coming up, more of this—this is unbelievable—we‘ve got more quotes here from today (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Michael Jackson testimony.

And a shooting at a Texas high school, a son kicked off his football team, his father allegedly takes matters into his hands, shooting the coach, taken off in a truck full of weapons.

Plus, the Vatican‘s doors are shut.  The police in Rome locking down the city as they prepare for an event unlike anything the world has seen.  World leaders, four million faithful expected at the pope‘s funeral tomorrow.

Your e-mails abramsreport@msnbc.com.  Please include your name and where you‘re writing from.  I respond at the end of the show.


ABRAMS:  A witness who says he saw Michael Jackson perform oral sex on a 13-year-old boy took the stand today.  More on that testimony coming up. 




UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Were you embarrassed that your mother was here to hear that testimony? 



ABRAMS:  He loves his mother.  Michael Jackson leaving court a short time ago, another explosive day of testimony in his trial.  And again, we were talking a moment ago about this witness who testified that he saw Michael Jackson performing oral sex on a 13-year-old boy, but there was another witness who testified today, Adrian McManus, another former Neverland employee and here‘s what she said.

She said she saw Jackson kiss Macaulay Culkin and another boy on the cheek, then touched their buttocks, saw Jackson kiss the ‘93 accuser on the cheek and mouth and put his hand on his crotch and when cleaning the Jacuzzi, she said she found underwear of little boys and adults.

Diane, you were mentioning this before, but you know on this one, so what?  I mean you know so you know maybe the kids were in the Jacuzzi without any clothes on and Michael Jackson is kissing boys on the cheek. 

DIMOND:  Well, you know remember, this jury has already heard testimony that Michael Jackson was seen in the shower with one of these young boys, one of the same ones, and other testimony that—from a 24-year-old youth pastor who says Michael Jackson did the same thing to him.  I am a mother, I don‘t think you have any children, Dan, but if you had a son, I don‘t think you would want him in...

ABRAMS:  Yes, but right...

DIMOND:  ... a Jacuzzi naked out of his underwear...

ABRAMS:  But that‘s a parental response, right...

DIMOND:  ... with a strange man.

ABRAMS:  Right, that‘s a parental question...

DIMOND:  Oh absolutely...

ABRAMS:  ... you‘re absolutely right.

DIMOND:  Absolutely. 

ABRAMS:  But here‘s—let me flip this for a moment because I can see

·         I mean I know people are going to say, Dan, what, are you kidding me? 

It‘s no big deal that kids are naked?  And I get it.  I get it. 

So Jonna, here‘s the problem I think that the defense has, is that all these people are coming in and they‘re all telling very, very sort of similar type of stories, right?  And it‘s not as if all these stories just came up today or yesterday or last year.  These are stories that were told to the authorities many, many years ago and they‘re all very consistent about Michael Jackson you know licking heads, giving money—when I say licking the head of a child...


ABRAMS:  ... calling them nicknames, giving them money after doing things and acting in this both childish and sexual way that all of them have to be making it up, right? 

SPILBOR:   They all have to be making it up, but the bulk of the story can come from a single source, Dan, and I think that with Tom Sneddon‘s history with Michael Jackson and the ax that he has to grind, it‘s not farfetched to believe that all these people could get their information from the same source.  I don‘t even think the victim that testified about his $2.1 million settlement didn‘t come forward until after he heard that the ‘93 accuser was about to get a settlement, so that speaks volumes as to the credibility of that witness right there.  And if he met with...

THOMAS:  That‘s not true.

SPILBOR:   ... Tom Sneddon and investigators, then he could easily have the information at his fingertips... 

ABRAMS:  Jim Thomas...

SPILBOR:   ... the same information.

ABRAMS:  ... I think what you‘re going to say is that...


ABRAMS:  ... one of the acts, alleged acts of molestation occurred in 1993.  Well go ahead, Jim. 

THOMAS:  Well that act, the one that we investigated actually occurred in 1990 and then again later it happened when he was 7, 8, and 10 years old.  And we actually contacted him prior to the settlement, so the fact that he would have known is just not true and I think that‘s probably the strongest part about this case, is that the second accuser could not have read what happened with the first accuser when he came to law enforcement or when law enforcement went to him. 

Look, Tom Sneddon is building a wall here and he‘s putting it on brick by brick.  And these two people today are not going to make this case, but they‘re two more bricks that he‘s going to put on there so that at the end of this entire testimony I think he‘s going to have a fairly compelling case that the jury is going to be able to make a decision. 

ABRAMS:  And Bob, this is what I‘ve always said about this case and look, you know, again, I predicted at the beginning of this case that I thought he‘d be found not guilty or at least there‘d be a hung jury, but I also said that this was going to be the reason if he was convicted that he was convicted, was all of these other accounts and the problem again, and I‘ll throw you the same question I threw to Jonna, how do you explain the fact that they are all sort of talking the same language about what he did in light of what Jim Thomas just told us? 

MCNEIL:  You know I think you have a very good point, Dan, but don‘t lose sight of the fact that you‘re going to have some witnesses for the defense coming in and say, no, Michael Jackson did not kiss me, Michael Jackson did not touch my crotch.  OK.  That is part of the problem, so part of this wall that Sneddon is building is going to come tumbling down brick by brick when the defense put those witnesses on that deny that those things happened to him.


MCNEIL:  Now, to the extent that it‘s corroborated...


MCNEIL:  ... by a witness, then of course, that‘s a strong wall, but you know this case is far from over and I think we have to be very cautious in coming to a conclusion...

ABRAMS:  I got to wrap it up.  Diane, Jim, Jonna, Bob thanks a lot. 

Appreciate it.

MCNEIL:  Thank you Dan.

ABRAMS:  Coming up...


ABRAMS:  ... Texas police launch a manhunt for a father who they say shot his son‘s football coach because he kicked his son off the team. 

And just hours before the pope is laid to rest, his will is read.  It turns out he considered resigning four years ago because of his Parkinson‘s disease.  That‘s coming up.


ABRAMS:  A high school football coach in east Texas is fighting for his life tonight after the father of one of his players, football players allegedly shot him in the chest with an AK-47 this morning.  Gary Joe Kinne, the football coach and athletic director at Canton High School has been airlifted to a nearby hospital and we are awaiting news on his condition. 

The suspect, 45-year-old Jeffrey Doyal Robertson arrested after a massive manhunt.  State spokesperson says Robertson is suffering from self-inflicted wounds and has lost a lot of blood.  NBC News Jim Cummins is live at Canton High School in Texas where the shooting took place. 

Hi Jim. 

JIM CUMMINS, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  Hi Dan.  That‘s right.  Police say Robertson came here—they described him as an angry man—came here this morning and police say he shot Kinne, the football coach and athletic director in the chest at point blank range with an AK-47.  They say he then fled from this campus here, this high school campus.  They had a lockdown at all the schools in Canton and then all the police agencies in this area launched a massive manhunt looking for Robertson. 

Robertson had allegedly told some of his friends that he was going to commit suicide.  There were reports that he had a hit list.  Police sent protection over to people who supposedly were on this hit list and kept them under protection while they continued the manhunt.  And then they found him about two hours after the initial shooting in the woods with self-inflicted wounds. 

Police would not say whether they were gunshot wounds or what they evacuated him.  There was a medevac out of here and as you can imagine the people in this town were badly shaken by this experience.  There all kinds of reports that perhaps he had a fatal disease and that he wanted to settle some scores, but the primary reason the people say this happened is because his son was playing on the football team, was a quarterback, that there were incidents where he was harassed by other players and that his son, in fact, had been cut from the team, maybe banned from all sports just yesterday, and that that perhaps is the motive for this unbelievably scary crime of an adult coming on a campus, a high school campus and allegedly shooting the football coach at point blank range in the chest. 

ABRAMS:  Jim...


ABRAMS:  ... we‘ve heard about that as a possible motive.  Is that just guessing based on what had happened with his son or did he confess?  Is there some reason they believe that‘s the motive?   

CUMMINS:  The reason they believe it‘s the motive is that this is a

small town, Dan, a few thousand people.  Everybody in this town knows

everybody‘s business.  And Robertson had a reputation as being somebody—

he had been banned from the high school campus because of his hot head and

his temperament.  And people in town and the restaurants and the shops were

talking about him all the time and so that is really the source of this

information.  The police is going to have a news conference here in less

than an hour.  And we presume they will clear up a lot of the mystery

surrounding this, but that‘s how the word about a motive got around today -

·         Dan. 

ABRAMS:  Jim Cummins, thanks a lot.  Appreciate it.

Coming up, officials estimate four million mourners, including four kings, five queens, 70 presidents—think about that—will be on hand just hours from now at the Vatican for the pope‘s funeral.  And as a result it will be one of the biggest security challenges the world has ever seen. 

And the battle over what happens to Terri Schiavo‘s remains could be over.  Michael Schiavo‘s brother says she may be buried in Florida, as her parents had wanted.  We‘ll hear from him.

Your e-mails abramsreport@msnbc.com.  Please include your name and where you‘re writing from.  I respond at the end of the show.


ABRAMS:  Coming up, four kings, five queens, 70 presidents, four million people at the Vatican to attend the funeral of Pope John Paul II.  Can officials keep them safe?  And the pope‘s will made public.  First, the headlines. 


ABRAMS:  We‘re back.  After millions descend on Rome to view the body of Pope John Paul II in a pilgrimage of what seems almost like biblical proportions, preparations are underway for what could be the largest funeral in history tomorrow morning.  Sure, we‘ve seen enormous crowds at the funerals of world leaders in the past, you know, tens of thousands came to see President Reagan‘s casket as he lay in state in the Capitol in June, 100,000 visited in Simi Valley, hundreds of thousands of mourners flocked to Yasser Arafat‘s funeral in Ramallah last year, but never before has one death led such an influx of people. 

About four million people are planning to attend the funeral or watch it on large television screens around the city.  The Vatican had just a few days to secure the monumental event including a comprehensive plan to secure the city and the more than 200 world leaders expected to attend.

NBC‘s Steve Handelsman is in Vatican City with more on those preparations.  Hi Steve.

STEVE HANDELSMAN, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  Hi Dan.  Good evening to you.  Here in Rome tonight, the chief of police admits he‘s got what he calls a problem.  The millions and millions of people who flocked to this Italian capital and have doubled, more than doubled, the size of Rome.  The good news is that most in the multitude are mellow and they‘re united in their mourning for the late pope. 


HANDELSMAN (voice-over):  The only report of conflict came when police closed the line leading to St. Peter‘s.  Some pilgrims went around the barriers to get to see Pope John Paul II‘s body.


HANDELSMAN:  Others were shut out. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  They let me go use the toilet, now they won‘t let me back in to my group. 

HANDELSMAN:  Too late for many, the line was reopened.  This family got into St. Peter‘s. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I think it‘s just fantastic that we have an opportunity to be here for this event. 

HANDELSMAN:  A delegation of U.S. senators paid their respects to John Paul.  In the late pope‘s will made public today, he thanked his secretary and praised only one other person, the rabbi of Rome, Elio Toaff, whose synagogue John Paul visited in 1986.  And the pope revealed that because of his Parkinson‘s disease and his age, he considered resigning five years ago. 

For John Paul‘s funeral tomorrow, more people are arriving in Rome.  Many sleeping outside or in huge tent cities.  This capital of three million has doubled.  And with world leaders in town, the Italian military is here.  Choppers in the air, fighter jets up, anti-aircraft missiles ready.  Inside the security bubble are the cardinals who will choose the next pope. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  A little bit of nervousness.  You want to make sure that you‘re having seen how high John Paul II raised the bar. 


HANDELSMAN:  First, tomorrow the cardinals will bury the pope who led them for 27 years. 



HANDELSMAN:  The funeral mass for John Paul II will be held outdoors here at St. Peter‘s Square with the congregation of four million people.  Dan, we‘re going to push in here because we‘ve shown live pictures for three days, three-plus days now of all the people who were lined up to get in the basilica here to see the pope.  That whole procession of mourners which police here, again, estimated totaled about four million people, nearly all of whom have stayed in Rome for the funeral tomorrow, that whole group is gone, and you can see now that replacing them are the chairs for the dignitaries, the clergy who will attend. 

Most of the four million, of course, won‘t get anywhere near this square itself.  Most won‘t be able to fit into Vatican City.  They will have to be content to watch this proceeding tomorrow, this funeral mass on jumbo TV screens that are all over Rome. 

I‘m Steve Handelsman, NBC News, reporting live from Vatican City. 

Dan, back to you. 

ABRAMS:  Steve, thanks a lot.  Joining me now is former papal assistant and MSNBC analyst, Father Anthony Figueiredo and former Secret Service agent Joseph Petro, who protected John Paul II on a 10-day tour of the United States and President Reagan when he visited the Vatican.  He‘s the author of “Standing Next to History: An Agent‘s Life Inside the Secret Service”.

All right.  Father, let me start with you.  Before we talk about the security, how does a papal funeral differ from an ordinary Catholic funeral, for example? 

FATHER ANTHONY FIGUEIREDO, FORMER PAPAL ASSISTANT:  Well I think, Dan, what is very important is that this funeral is—takes place in Easter.  What we‘re proclaiming is the death and resurrection of Jesus and so we believe that where Jesus is risen from the dead, we, too, want to be, so we are praying for John Paul II that he may rise to be with God.  We are praying for the church that is orphaned at the moment, we are praying for those who are close to him. 

There are some significant points.  There are three main parts to this funeral.  The first is the transfer of the body from St. Peter‘s Basilica to the outside; something that‘s very interesting that takes place at that moment is John Paul II‘s face will be covered with a silk veil, Dan.  What does that signify?  We—he only saw dimly in this life and now he‘s on the other side of the veil and we pray that he is seeing God face to face. 

When his body comes outside in a cypress wood coffin, signifying his humanity, Dan, what we‘ll see is something very, very simple, extraordinary, striking.  Imagine those presidents and kings looking on this cypress coffin thinking of their own mortality.  And there we‘ll see a book of gospels over the cypress coffin signifying what he proclaimed.  Then we‘ll move to the second part, which is the mass itself, very, very normal. 

He was like any other person and one—I have already looked at the program very carefully.  I‘ve looked at those readings; the Gospel of John will be proclaimed, particularly pointing to his suffering.  And then finally we‘ll move to the third part when his body will be taken to the crypt.  Again, very, very beautiful.  He‘s been asked—he‘s asked that his body goes back into the ground in that coffin itself.  In fact, there are three coffins. 

There is the cypress coffin, then he‘ll be put into a lead coffin and finally into an Elm casing signifying the great dignity of this Holy Father.  And then the coffin will be added certain things, for example, a notarized certificate, who this man was.  There‘ll be added the coins, the metals, which were struck during his pontificate.  So it‘s going to be a fantastic moment.  We‘re asked to accompany the Holy Father in his final passage. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  With that in mind, Mr. Petro...


ABRAMS:  ... kings and presidents, et cetera, all these people suddenly coming to Vatican City.  And they even concede that under Vatican rules, only the Vatican gendarmes, not the Italian police are allowed to carry weapons.   Problem with the security?

PETRO:  Well I‘m sure that‘s the rule, but I know from my own experience that negotiations are held with the Vatican security officials and Secret Service agents are allowed to perform their functions with the equipment that they need. 

ABRAMS:  How monumental a task is this?  I mean...

PETRO:  Well...

ABRAMS:  Are we overstating it? 

PETRO:  No, I think this is an enormous task, but there are some advantages.  First of all, I think the Italian police and the Vatican officials have been working on this funeral for a very long time.  Secondly the Vatican itself is a very defined area, and therefore, it‘s very defensible, so I think they can control access into the Vatican area very effectively.  And the logistics of this are going to be the difficult part, getting people in and getting people out, where the motorcades will stage.  These are all logistical challenges, which I‘m sure they‘re working on now. 

ABRAMS:  And does the Secret Service speak with the Vatican and say, hey, look, we need this, we need that or does the Vatican say here is what we have? 

PETRO:  Well I think it is a negotiation.  I think—you know the Secret Service does not give up responsibility for protecting the president when they leave the United States, so they have a responsibility.  They don‘t have any authority or jurisdiction, but they certainly have responsibility.  And I‘m sure they‘re working very closely—we have worked with Vatican officials for many, many years and we have a very good relationship, and I‘m sure they working out all these details. 

ABRAMS:  So you would be comfortable with this trip? 

PETRO:  Well I don‘t think I was ever really comfortable, but I think they‘ve done everything that they can humanly do to make this safe.  And again, it comes down to good planning and having good, strong logistical reactions. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  Mr. Petro, thanks a lot for coming on the program.  We appreciate it. 

We‘re going to shift gears a bit and talk about some of the extraordinary things we‘ve learned from the pope‘s last will and testament that the Vatican released today.  The biggest news is that the pope actually considered resigning in 2000 after Parkinson‘s disease had already begun to batter his body and after the Soviet Union had dropped into history‘s dustbin.  You‘ll hear in a minute the Father here doesn‘t agree with that. 

We‘ve also learned the pope at one point suggested the College of Cardinals consider the wishes of church officials in Poland who may have wanted John Paul II buried in his home country.  Father, we have been hearing about this all day that he was thinking about resigning in 2000.  You have read the will. 


ABRAMS:  You say that is not what he was talking about? 

FIGUEIREDO:  Having known the Holy Father personally, I have read the will very, very carefully and it‘s a mistake because he quotes Simeon in the gospel and he says that Simeon, in fact, who was looking forward to the day when the Lord would call him back.  And so John Paul II refers that and says I‘m thinking of that day.  He wasn‘t thinking about resigning. 

He actually goes on in the same paragraph, Dan, to say divine providence saved me from a miraculous way from death.  Remember when he was assassinated, he actually says even now I think more clearly that he prolonged my life and will he himself will decide the day when he calls me back.  So I think it‘s absolutely a mistake to say that he was thinking of resigning.  He wasn‘t. 

He was thinking of the day when he would enter eternal life.  And he continually says I pray that God will give me the strength to carry out my service to the end.  He wasn‘t thinking of resigning.  He was really wanting to go back to the Lord, living his life in that vision, in that view, the day when the Lord would call him back living his life to the full...

ABRAMS:  People have just misinterpreted it...

FIGUEIREDO:  I believe it‘s a complete misinterpretation of the scripture...

ABRAMS:  All right.

FIGUEIREDO:  ... and I believe he was really looking for that day when his death would come.  He begins his whole testament that way.

ABRAMS:  Well Father, there are a lot of things that I claim to know a lot about.  What exactly that will means is not going to be one of them.  Thank you very much for providing your expertise on that.  I appreciate it.

FIGUEIREDO:  Thanks Dan.  Thank you. 

ABRAMS:  Coming up, you have heard the public arguments between Michael Schiavo and his in-laws about where to bury Terri Schiavo.  Well, it appears Michael may be reconsidering his original plans.  Michael Schiavo‘s brother up next.



ABRAMS:  Even after Terri Schiavo‘s death last week, her husband Michael Schiavo and her parents Bob and Mary Schindler continue to fight over where Terri should be buried.  Michael planned to cremate the body and bury her remains in his family plot in Pennsylvania.  The Schindlers argued she should be buried in Florida so they can visit the grave.  A court order gave Michael Schiavo custody of Terri‘s remains, but one week after the death, Michael Schiavo‘s family says he is reconsidering and may bury Terri‘s remains in Florida after all. 

Steve Schiavo, Michael‘s brother, spoke with Doug Shimell of NBC station WCAU in Philadelphia. 


DOUG SHIMELL, WCAU NBC 10 NEWS REPORTER (voice-over):  Going back to work did not mean going back to normal for Steve Schiavo‘s family after the controversial death of his sister-in-law, Terri. 

STEVE SCHIAVO, MICHAEL SCHIAVO‘S BROTHER:  I cried a lot, yes.  Terri was my friend and...

SHIMELL:  The brother of Michael Schiavo says they are emotionally drained after years of legal battles over Terri‘s right to live or die. 


SHIMELL:  And after her family‘s memorial for her in Florida, they claim the struggle between the Schindlers and Terri‘s husband over whether to bury her there or outside Philadelphia where she grew up may be causing Mike to reconsider. 

S. SCHIAVO:  He wanted to have her buried in Pennsylvania with the rest of her family and he‘s been thinking about having her buried down there.  I‘m not—there‘s nothing set in stone yet. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  An autopsy will be performed to determine the cause of death. 

SHIMELL:  As for Terri Schiavo‘s autopsy, Steve Schiavo claims it will vindicate his brother. 

S. SCHIAVO:  It will prove there was no abuse; prove that her brain was in the condition it was in. 

SHIMELL:  It has been painful for both families to watch a young couple become the source of a bitter national, legal war between the Schindlers and the Schiavos. 

S. SCHIAVO:  I‘ll never get over it completely, none of us will.  People think that the Schindlers are the only ones that lost here.  We all lost. 


ABRAMS:  That was Doug Shimell of NBC station WCAU in Philadelphia. 

Coming up, last night we told you about pharmacists who refuse to refill prescriptions on birth control because they are against contraception, tonight, a lot of angry e-mails coming up.


ABRAMS:  Can pharmacists refuse to refill your prescription for birth control because they object to it?  Your e-mails up next. 


ABRAMS:  We‘re back.  No “Closing Argument” tonight because I liked so many of your letters, so time for “Your Rebuttal”.  Last night we debated pharmacists who refused to fill prescriptions for birth control and the morning after pills.  They say it violates their moral, religious or personal beliefs.  Many of you writing in about one of my guests.  Lloyd Duplantis is a pharmacist who refuses to sell birth control at his pharmacy in Louisiana.  He says it is because these are very dangerous drugs for women. 

Laura Walker, “First of all, birth control pills are not just prescribed for birth control.  They‘re also prescribed for other medical conditions.  What‘s next?  Pharmacists refusing to fill prescriptions because of someone‘s race or because they think the person may be gay?  What a convenient excuse to fall back on, the medication is dangerous.  The only thing dangerous is allowing this practice to continue.”

Cristina in Los Angeles, “I work for a pharmaceutical company and Mr.  Duplantis is correct when saying that these contraceptives are very dangerous.  They have a high risk in causing all sorts of diseases.  That‘s why when they give you an insert that describes all the potential side effects that are probable down the line.”

Cristina, I hate to break it to you since you‘re in the biz, but those inserts are included with all prescription drugs.  Medical concerns about contraception are just an effort to obscure the real issue.  That‘s what I said last night and I believe it still tonight.

Sixty-seven-year-old pharmacist Don Gitersonke, “As a practicing pharmacist I feel that I have the right to refuse anyone whom I feel like refusing.  Pharmacists are drug experts and frequently find errors in physician prescriptions.  They are the last in the medical line to the patient that can prevent possible errors.”  Fine Don, but we‘re not talking about errors here. 

In Gray, Maine, Terry LaCarrubba, “My thought is if you think it‘s OK to drink beer or wine, but would never allow anyone to drink Jack Daniels, don‘t be a bartender.  If you want to pick and choose what legal prescriptions to fill, don‘t be a pharmacist.”

Stephen Finkelstein in Ocala, Florida, “Why don‘t you just let people practice something called freedom of choice?  What‘s so hard to drive down the street to another pharmacy?  There are certainly many of them.  Damn near any other pharmacist will sell birth control pills.”  Stephen, not everyone is as lucky as you are to have numerous pharmacists in the same area.  Pharmacists I believe have an elevated duty to provide people with the drugs they are prescribed. 

From Blue Bell, Pennsylvania, Allison King, “As a pharmacist I was embarrassed by the comments made on tonight‘s show by Lloyd Duplantis.  Perhaps Mr. Duplantis was never taught that all drugs, not just hormones, can cause severe or fatal reactions or perhaps he‘s forgotten Article III of the Pharmacist Code of Ethics, a pharmacist respects the autonomy and dignity of each patient.”

I also asked Mr. Duplantis if he sold Viagra.  He said absolutely.  Without Viagra, people can‘t love each other, but said birth control causes a barrier, which destroys relations. 

Angela Grace in Las Vegas, “Mr. Pharmacist says Viagra promotes loving relationships while birth control is dangerous for women.  I think he has his information confused.  Viagra has been linked to heart attacks and Scott Peterson.”

In Fairmont, West Virginia, Allison Noel Osborne, “Without Viagra people can‘t love each other.  Did I just hear that activist pharmacist correctly?  Who could love each other with the possibility of a four-hour erection?”

And Vivian Saint George in New York, “Dan Abrams, you‘re hot.  Men like you are the reason I fight for my right to access birth control.”

Also last night, we reported a new NBC News poll and “Washington Journal” poll that asked people to rate their feelings toward public figures, including Michael Jackson was rated with a 72 percent negative view, but this is the part that struck me.  Only one percent of those polled said they had a very positive feeling about him. 

From San Francisco, Jim Greene, “That new poll citing only one percent of the population views Michael Jackson favorably is scary.  Scary because this means Jacko probably didn‘t even get the majority of the pedophile vote.”

And my “Closing Argument” last night, Smucker‘s Corporation attempt to patent their version of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich by putting peanut butter on both sides of the bread and cutting off the crust to seal the sandwich to create the uncrustable.  I thought it was nuts, to use a pun.

From Orange, Connecticut, Leslie March, “Any mom who has ever made a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for a child to take to school or camp knows to put the peanut butter on both slices of bread.  It sounds like the lawyers at Smucker‘s have been eating too many baloney sandwiches.”

Erica writes, “Slap the cuffs on me Dan.  I also put peanut butter on both sides of the bread.  Do I have a saving grace?  You see I use 100 percent whole wheat bread or do they have the market on wheat bread as well?”

Your e-mails—one word msnbc.com.  We go through them at the end of the show. 

Coming up in 60 seconds, why it‘s not smart to bring a cell phone with you on a robbery. 


ABRAMS:  “OH PLEAs!”—a man in Tennessee gives good reason for buying a cell phone with a flip top cover.  Twenty-nine-year-old Jason Arnold and 38-year-old James Benton of Church Hill, Tennessee thought they had the perfect plan to steal a frig from a mobile home dealership.  Fortunately, the Hawkins County Sheriff‘s Department knew all about it. 

Here‘s how.

The two suspects emerged from the mobile home with a refrigerator. 

They froze in their footsteps to the sight of police hiding in the bushes.  Apparently Arnold‘s cell phone lodged in his pants pocket accidentally called 911 when Arnold and Benton were discussing their heist, offering the police details of their evil plan. 

The police thought it might be an April Fool‘s prank.  But when it unfolded exactly as planned, they realized the two cooler thieves were just well, fools.  Arnold‘s cell phone, a non-flip, called 911 when the number 9 key was held down, triggering an automatic call to 911.  Another reminder to turn off your cell phone during important meetings.  Stealing a frig?  I mean of all the things you‘re going to steal, a frig? 

That does it for us.  I‘ll be back at 9:00 Eastern with a special look back at the pope‘s life. 

Coming up next, “HARDBALL” with Chris Matthews.  See you in a couple of hours.


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