updated 4/22/2005 2:43:12 PM ET 2005-04-22T18:43:12

Guest:  Jeanine Pirro, Robert Dunn, Vernell Crittendon, Emily Lyons, Jeff Lyons, Deborah Rudolph, Steve Malzberg, Bernie Ward

DAN ABRAMS, HOST:  Coming up, the mother of Michael Jackson‘s accuser takes the stand and takes the Fifth. 


ABRAMS (voice-over):  She won‘t say if she was involved in welfare fraud as Jackson‘s lawyers allege, but she did break down as she described walking in to find Jackson licking her son‘s head. 

Plus, Laci Peterson‘s mother speaks out for the first time since Scott Peterson was sentenced to death.  And what‘s life like for him on death row?  We ask a man who‘s been seeing Peterson at San Quentin. 

And a seemingly proud Eric Rudolph pleads guilty to the 1996 Atlanta Olympic bombing and to blowing up an abortion clinic.  We talk with a survivor outraged over his plea deal. 

The program about justice starts now. 


ABRAMS:  Hi everyone.  First up on the docket tonight, the mother of Michael Jackson‘s accuser pleads the Fifth, then breaks down in front of jurors saying please don‘t judge me.  Before beginning her testimony the woman told the judge she was invoking her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and refused to answer questions about alleged welfare fraud and perjury. 

Prosecution said it was not—quote—“terribly interested in granting her immunity” and the defense called her “the kingpin of the conspiracy charges.”  I‘m assuming they meant lynchpin, but they called it kingpin apparently.  They asked to have her testimony kept out of the case. 

Attorney Robert Sanger argued, “You can‘t allow a witness to pick and choose what he or she is going to be subject to on cross-examination.”  The judge allowed her testimony on the stand.  She explained growing uneasy and limited her son‘s contact with Jackson after only two visits to Neverland in 2000 and only allowing him to return two years later because comedian Chris Tucker invited him.  She recounted growing concerned when she saw Jackson licking her son‘s head while he slept. 

NBC‘s Mike Taibbi was in court for this all-important testimony.  So Mike, what else did she say? 

MIKE TAIBBI, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  Well, it was not as simple as that.  She said a whole lot of things, Dan.  I got to tell you, in 35 years I think since I watched my first trial as a reporter this is the most unusual witness I have heard.  One of the many legal analysts, there‘s probably a whole NFL preseason squad full of them around it, called it a surreal day by a surreal witness. 

She did say and she took the prosecution very securitively (ph) through the story about going down to Florida with Michael Jackson, to meet Michael Jackson after the showing of the Bashir documentary and about the event that you just referenced.  She said she was on the plane when everyone else was asleep and she turned around and this is her quote.  “I looked around to see if anyone was awake and everyone was in fact asleep.  I wanted to see if anybody else was seeing what she was seeing.”

And she then demonstrated what she was seeing in court that Michael Jackson was, in fact, licking her son‘s head, the boy who would later accuse Michael Jackson of molesting him.  And she said she never told anybody.  “I was never going to tell anybody”, she said and didn‘t in fact for almost a year after that alleged incident until the case finally broke and the investigation began. 

Later on she said that from the very beginning after the damage control efforts by the Jackson camp began, it was Michael Jackson who was the first to use the word “killers” to talk about the people threatening the lives of both this woman and her three children...

ABRAMS:  Well let‘s be clear Mike...


ABRAMS:  Just so we understand that...


ABRAMS:  I mean basically the allegation there is that she‘s saying that they were claiming that her family‘s life was in danger and that‘s why they needed to be, what, at Neverland all the time? 

TAIBBI:  Either that or with a 24/7 armed guard at wherever location they were, whether it was her mother‘s house, her house, her then boyfriend‘s house.  In fact, there was a lot of testimony later on where she claimed in phone calls from Frank Tyson, an assistant, an aide to Michael Jackson, that Tyson was saying we‘ll put somebody at your house.  They played a compilation of tapes in which Tyson did say that, but what you never heard were the threats from Tyson, what you never heard was the word “killers” from Tyson, that there were killers who are after you.  This is very strange...

ABRAMS:  What did you hear Mike?  What was on those tapes?  I mean these tapes were supposed to be so important because this is a conspiracy case.  I mean if they—if this woman—if these jurors listen to this woman‘s testimony and don‘t believe that there was a conspiracy to kidnap and false imprison, he‘s not going to be convicted of the most serious charge here. 

TAIBBI:  That‘s right.  But I got to tell you that listening to this woman both in court and on the tapes, you can hear a woman who is so emotionally overwrought that it‘s not hard to believe that she did feel panic, that she did feel that she was not free to move, that she did feel that her family was in some danger, even though the threat wasn‘t coming from Tyson, it was always coming from the Germans, Dieter Wiesner and Ron Konitzer or some other figure or Michael Jackson saying that the killers were after her. 

ABRAMS:  So no...

TAIBBI:  But she...

ABRAMS:  ... no smoking gun on the tape, right, Mike? 

TAIBBI:  Absolutely no smoking gun.  In fact at one point, she was asked about the alleged trip to Brazil that was being planned for her and her family, and she was asked how long they were going to stay there, and she pointed to Jackson and said until they finish the damage control for you.  And she was admonished, of course, not to be talking to the defendant in that case.  Very strange day in court, Dan...

ABRAMS:  Mike, stick around because I want to—I‘ve got to ask you some more questions.


ABRAMS:  “My Take”—this woman is the single most dangerous witness for prosecutors in the case.  If the jurors find Jackson not guilty, I think it will be because the mother‘s testimony is riddled with more holes than Scott Peterson‘s alibi.  There is no way this jury is going to convict Jackson of the conspiracy charge, the most serious charge he is facing unless they believe almost everything that she‘s saying, and seems to me that‘s going to be hard to do. 

Joining me now D.A. for Westchester County New York, Jeanine Pirro and criminal defense attorney Robert Dunn.  Jeanine, she starts the testimony by pleading the Fifth.  She has to say (UNINTELLIGIBLE) you know what, I‘m going to invoke my right against self-incrimination when it comes to welfare fraud and perjury.  Great witness. 

JEANINE PIRRO, WESTCHESTER COUNTY NY D.A.:  Well obviously it‘s every prosecutor‘s nightmare, Dan, to have a witness who was pleading Fifth because essentially as everyone I‘m sure understands, it means that she may say something that may incriminate her and lead to criminal charges.  But again, Tom Sneddon has already told the jury in his opening that she has had welfare fraud problems, so none of this is really a secret.  It is kind of like the elephant in the room that everybody knows about.  And of course what surprises me is that she hasn‘t gotten immunity in the statement by the assistant D.A. that you know we‘re not terribly interested in giving immunity. 

ABRAMS:  I know why they don‘t want to give her immunity, Jeanine. 

They don‘t want the defense to be able to say, look...

PIRRO:  Right...

ABRAMS:  ... they‘re cutting deals...

PIRRO:  Absolutely...

ABRAMS:  ... with the prosecutors.

PIRRO:  Absolutely.  And so you know they had to weigh which of the negatives is worse for them.  And if the woman gets on the stand and clearly, from what everyone is saying, she is overly emotional, but you know what, we‘ve got these tapes that in some sense corroborates some of the things that she is saying. 

ABRAMS:  Yes.  All right.  And this is what—you mentioned the opening statement.  Tom Sneddon said she signed an income and expense statement under penalty of perjury in her divorce action.  She omitted in the assistance her boyfriend, fianc’, was giving her.  January 10, 2003, she signed a welfare eligibility report under penalty of perjury.  She falsely claimed she had not received cash or other benefits. 

PIRRO:  And of course, the issue, Dan, on that welfare fraud is how serious was it?  I mean are we talking about a lot of money or her claiming she is living in one residence while she‘s in another or claiming that she had four kids instead of three. 


PIRRO:  You know it‘s a matter of degree, and it is almost better in some cases to bring out the facts, but apparently they didn‘t want to do that. 

ABRAMS:  Robert, you heard Mike Taibbi describing it as sort of a bizarre experience sitting inside that courtroom.  She is crying at times.  At other times she is angry.  Does the fact you know which—I don‘t even know why I‘m asking this, which way does it cut?  It doesn‘t help the prosecutors. 

ROBERT DUNN, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY:  Well you know another thing is Mike Taibbi was saying that the fact that she was so emotional might lend credence to the fact that she did, indeed, feel threatened.  But if we look at this witness—we‘re going to see a very unstable witness even when there aren‘t circumstances that would give rise to anyone being anxious or upset.  So I mean she is actually imploding on the witness stand prior to the defense even beginning its cross-examination. 

PIRRO:  But remember one thing, Robert.  I think what we all know is that a pedophile is going to target a child from a dysfunctional family.  And the greater the degree of dysfunction, the higher the chance that the child is going to be targeted...


PIRRO:  ... so this is not...


ABRAMS:  But that‘s a nice psychological analysis...

DUNN:  ... going to the conspiracy...

ABRAMS:  ... Jeanine, but the bottom line is a jury can‘t convict just based on the fact that generally this is what happens in cases...

PIRRO:  Of the conspiracy.  But the bottom line...

DUNN:  But basically though, Dan...

PIRRO:  ... is that this is about the sexual assault case.  And whether or not she‘s crazy or sounds crazy or is emotional and is credible, we don‘t know yet.  It is about the boy and what‘s relevant to that is what he said, what his brother saw...

ABRAMS:  What Jeanine is doing, ladies and gentlemen, it‘s called distancing yourself from the conspiracy charge. 

PIRRO:  ... that‘s right.  That‘s right...


ABRAMS:  Distancing yourself from the conspiracy charge. 



DUNN:  It is the most serious charge.  You need the mother to make out the conspiracy case.  And her actions are totally inconsistent...

ABRAMS:  Mike...

DUNN:  ... with her having been held against her will. 

ABRAMS:  Mike Taibbi.

TAIBBI:  Yes, Dan, let me say something about what was happening in the courtroom because it‘s really—it‘s the difference between going to a ballgame and watching it on TV because in the courtroom you could look at the jurors as she was imploding, embellishing, she would add in little facts.  Bradley Miller, whom you interviewed exclusively, talked about that interview that was conducted, she said no he turned the tape recorder off at one point and he said, don‘t forget, you have to appease the killers. 

I mean she would add things like that and the jurors were shaking their heads, some of them were.  One of them went like this.  Another one dozed off at one point.  I mean there were a lot of things happening in the jury to suggest that she was not building a rapport with this particular jury.  And it is key that they believe her because the whole defense case is about credibility.  And if the issues are going to be fraud and perjury, which is what the defense says is the whole center of this case, and they don‘t believe her, then the prosecution...

ABRAMS:  And Mike, let‘s be clear, the perjury that she won‘t talk about is a case where she accused J.C. Penney security guards, right, of false imprisonment...

TAIBBI:  Also, also...

ABRAMS:  Go ahead.

TAIBBI:  Yes, yes, that‘s part of it.  But also many applications that she signed under the penalty of perjury about some of these entitlement programs, whether it was for disability, unemployment, food stamps, those sorts of things where she had to, as you know, in each case still sign a statement...

ABRAMS:  Robert Dunn, here‘s the problem I think the defense has, though.  How do you stain, as Jeanine was pointing out, how do you stain the charges about serving alcohol, the charges about molesting the child?  How do you stain those charges with this mother‘s testimony?  How do you make the link?

DUNN:  Well I mean the link is, which has been somewhat hurt by the fact that they‘re not really able to go into the J.C. Penney incident as strongly as is necessary.  The stain is the fact that she is a person who is about perpetrating fraud all over the place.  She has used her kids like in the J.C. Penney case to proffer her fraud and that this is but the grand finale of what she‘s been moving through with all of the fraud that she‘s been engaged in throughout her life.  The grand finale being cashing in on Michael Jackson by getting a criminal conviction that will lead to a civil lawsuit that she‘ll be getting money...

ABRAMS:  Jeanine...

PIRRO:  Do you know what...

ABRAMS:  ... do you think they should have just dropped the conspiracy charge and said you know what, let‘s keep mom out of this.  Let‘s drop the conspiracy.  Let‘s go with the other charges.

PIRRO:  You know what, I‘ll tell you, Dan, Tom Sneddon is a very, very bright district attorney and he‘s got to have his reasons for bringing it.  I mean it certainly sounds the weaker of everything that we‘ve heard. 

ABRAMS:  The grand jury indicted on it...

PIRRO:  The grand jury indicted, right, but you could still at the trial level...


PIRRO:  ... move to dismiss.  That‘s not a problem, but you know for whatever reason, there must be other evidence supporting this.  He made the decision to go forward with it.  I think it muddies the waters as it relates to what this case is about.  We‘ve got all of the prior complaints, all of the 1108s.  We‘ve also got in terms of history the young boys who allege that they‘ve been molested by Michael Jackson have gotten monetary amounts.  They didn‘t need to go through the criminal justice system, and all of this process, it‘s been done quietly in a civil setting.  So you know I‘m not so sure that we can say they‘re using this as a way to get a civil settlement. 


PIRRO:  They could go right to a civil settlement the way everyone else...

ABRAMS:  Mike, where do we stand in terms of the examination of the mother?

TAIBBI:  Well Tom Mesereau did an interesting thing today, which was virtually nothing.  We‘ve all watched Tom Mesereau at work both in this case and in some others.  Robert Blake, he had him for a while.  He is an extremely aggressive defense attorney who‘s out of his seat to object whenever there‘s a ground for objection.  He virtually failed to object a single time during her testimony.  He let her run off, you know, as though giving her enough rope to hang herself, let her dig her own hole, maybe hoping that she‘ll say something about those issues, which are proscribed by the judge‘s ruling today...


TAIBBI:  ... so that opens a door to it. 

ABRAMS:  The cross-examination...


ABRAMS:  ... hasn‘t started, though, has it Mike?

TAIBBI:  No, it has not.  You‘d be hearing it from where you‘re sitting right now if it had started.


TAIBBI:  It‘ll be very emotional from this courtroom.

ABRAMS:  All right, big day in the courtroom.  Jeanine Pirro, Robert Dunn, Mike Taibbi, thanks a lot.

Coming up, it‘s two years to the day since Laci Peterson‘s unborn child washed up on the shore of the San Francisco Bay.  Today Scott Peterson‘s on death row on the other side of the bay, so what is his life like there?  We‘re going to talk to a man who sees him regularly.

And after spending years on the run, Eric Rudolph pleads guilty to the Atlanta Olympic bombing, but tries to explain why he killed indiscriminately.  We talk to one of his victims and to someone who helped the FBI track him down.

Plus a lot of you upset with me for saying we should spend more money to protect our federal judges.  Tonight we‘ll debate it.

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:  Lots of news in the Scott Peterson case to tell you about today.  First we‘re learning that Sharon Rocha, Laci Peterson‘s mother, is shopping around a book proposal.  Michael Cater (ph) with PublishersMarketplace.com is reporting several publishers are going to get a look at a 56-page book proposal from Sharon Rocha, which includes—quote—“personal information between a mother and daughter that hasn‘t been revealed before.”  This comes a day after Sharon Rocha spoke out at a conference for victims of crime.  It‘s the first time we have heard from her since her daughter‘s killer was sentenced to death row. 

We‘ll hear more about how Scott Peterson is faring in San Quentin in a moment, but first, here‘s NBC‘s Mark Mullen.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  It‘s been over two years since Laci disappeared and I‘m still remembering things that happened at that time...

MARK MULLEN, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  Sharon Rocha says the memories of the days and weeks leading up to her daughter‘s murder still torment her. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I keep going back and I‘m looking and I‘m thinking, were there signs?  Was there something I should have known?  Was there something I should have seen? 

MULLEN:  Troubling questions that continue to haunt Rocha and her family especially during the Christmas holidays, Laci‘s birthday, and certain painful anniversaries.  It was two years ago today that the tiny body of Conner Peterson washed up on the shore of San Francisco Bay.  The next day a dog walker found Laci‘s body in the same area.  Rocha says it was the support of her family and friends that kept her going after Laci‘s disappearance, and through the trial that led to Scott Peterson‘s death sentence. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  A lot of people would say I didn‘t know what to say.  I didn‘t know what to do.  I didn‘t need them to do or say anything.  I just needed them to be there. 

MULLEN:  Rocha says she is speaking out now to help others deal with the loss of their loved ones, but admits she is still learning how to cope with the death of her own daughter. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  We will never stop crying over the loss of our child.  WE might only not cry as often.  We‘ll never be able to completely move on because a part of us has died.

MULLEN:  Mark Mullen, NBC News, Los Angeles. 


ABRAMS:  Scott Peterson entered San Quentin prison almost a month ago.  He‘s been serving time in a so-called adjustment center since then and will soon be introduced into the prison population.  Joining me now is the spokesman for the San Quentin prison, Vernell Crittendon, who has worked there for more than three decades.  Mr. Crittendon, thanks a lot for coming back on the program.  Appreciate it. 


ABRAMS:  So, has he been a good prisoner? 

CRITTENDON:  At this point he is cooperating with the process and he seems to be assimilating into his new life style on death row very well. 

ABRAMS:  What is an adjustment center?  I mean what does that mean? 

CRITTENDON:  Well, it is a building that we built back in April of 1960, and it was our answer to county jail inside of our prison setting.  And we place inmates in there and that‘s our top security at San Quentin. 

ABRAMS:  But you are trying to figure out, what, in there?  How he is going to fair or who should be his prison buddies, et cetera? 

CRITTENDON:  Well we are taking a look at him and looking at the totality of that human being and how—one of the issues, yes, is how will he adjust inside of death row and who will be the most compatible group of inmates as we divide our death row inmates into six separate exercise yard groups, which one of those exercise yard groups we‘re going to assign him to for the rest of his life. 

ABRAMS:  And apparently you‘ve already picked out one person you think might be a good partner for Scott, someone who‘s referred to as the “sausage king”. 

CRITTENDON:  Well the “sausage king” is also going through the processing for death row as he is one of the four that we are right now have in death row on the adjustment center and we are evaluating.  And it appears that we will, I believe, in the next three weeks, we‘re going to be moving Scott Peterson out of the walk alone yards which he just qualified for last Friday, and then we will start putting him into an integrated yard in the adjustment center death row inmates, and I believe that you will see that the “sausage king” will be—Stuart Alexander will be one of the inmates that will be most likely exercising with him. 

ABRAMS:  We have to be clear that he is called the “sausage king” for true purposes of making sausage, right?

CRITTENDON:  That is correct.  That was the nickname that the media had given him because he was actually a person that made sausages for a living. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  Give me a sense of a typical day in the life of Scott Peterson as a death row inmate. 

CRITTENDON:  Well, today and since March 16, he has been spending just about all of his time inside of his cell as he was not approved for any recreation until the Friday that just passed.  Also, he‘s eaten all of his meals inside of his cell.  Earlier I had shared that he was receiving about 25 letters a day.  Well, I went over and actually counted them this afternoon and I stand corrected.  There were 85, approximately 85 letters he is receiving. 

ABRAMS:  He is receiving 85 letters a day, and let‘s be clear, these are all or almost all from people he does not know. 

CRITTENDON:  A large percentage of them appear to be people that he does not personally know or knew Scott Peterson prior to this death sentence. 

ABRAMS:  Primarily women? 

CRITTENDON:  Almost the entire group is—appears to be from women. 

ABRAMS:  And what, they‘re saying oh, Scott, you are so cute, and boy, you know, I‘d love to marry you? 

CRITTENDON:  Well I think that some of them are looking at him as they believe that he is innocent.  There are some that are approaching him from the perspective of a spiritual awareness that they wish to bring to him.  And some of them, yes, they believe that he‘s very handsome and that they don‘t believe he did it and they—at least three that I am aware of have actually also talked about marriage proposals to him. 

ABRAMS:  My guess...

CRITTENDON:  But I find that most of those people...

ABRAMS:  Sorry.

CRITTENDON:  ... I find most of them are actually winding up being mainstream America, executive assistants, stewardesses; one was a manager in a Safeway, so there‘s people that are from all walks of life. 

ABRAMS:  I‘m guessing the “sausage king” isn‘t getting these kinds of letters. 

CRITTENDON:  No, Abrams, I have not had that volume received for him. 

ABRAMS:  Yes, I can imagine, you know, I mean, this is unbelievable. 

I mean honestly.  You‘ve never seen anything like this, have you? 

CRITTENDON:  Well, I have to say actually I have seen where there have been inmates that have received more.  Charles Manson when he was at San Quentin received a larger amount of mail than this.  And the “night stalker”, Richard Ramirez, and we processed him in, he also was receiving greater quantities of mail. 

ABRAMS:  I don‘t know.  All right.  Let me go through a typical day.  You gave us a description -- 6:00 a.m., breakfast, right?  What is he eating for breakfast? 

CRITTENDON:  Well they have a balanced breakfast.  We have a dietitian that sets the meal, so they will get hot cereal, eggs, ham, toast, milk, and coffee to drink.  They‘ll have a pretty balanced meal and it varies.  Some days it‘ll be pancakes with bacon and eggs and...

ABRAMS:  It sounds really—I mean the food is not as—quite as good as it sounds, right?  I mean you make it sound like it‘s—you know, you‘re going to IHOP.

CRITTENDON:  Well no, it‘s a military-style type taste to the food, if you can understand that.  It‘s good quality food, but the food doesn‘t lack the flavor and the taste that you would get the type that mom makes. 

ABRAMS:  Right, all right, 7:30 a.m., he is getting to exercise?

CRITTENDON:  He now has qualified to go out and exercise in a walk alone, in a small enclosure about eight feet by 10 feet metal cage that he will be put out in which has him exposed to the elements. 

ABRAMS:  For how long? 

CRITTENDON:  He‘ll be able to go out about 7:30 in the morning and by 12:30 he will be back in his assigned cell. 

ABRAMS:  Four thirty he gets all the marriage proposals, et cetera, the 85 letters in one day - unbelievable -- 5:00 p.m., dinner, 5:30 law library access.  Has he been heading to the law library? 

CRITTENDON:  No, he has not, but that is the timeframe where we would make that available so those men that qualify, they can go over to the law library.  But he is a ways away from that, as he is not quite entered into his appeal process, probably about five years from now. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  Vernell Crittendon, thanks a lot for coming back on the program.  We appreciate it. 

CRITTENDON:  Abrams, it was good talking with you. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  Coming up—he always calls me Abrams.  I like it.  Nice guy. 

Eric Rudolph pleads guilty to the Atlanta Olympic bombing and to blowing up an abortion clinic, but not before he releases a statement trying to justify his actions.  We‘ll talk to one of his outraged victims furious that he got off without a trial.


ABRAMS:  A defiant Eric Rudolph pleads guilty to the Olympic Park bombing, but not before spouting off in a statement.  Coming up we‘ll talk to a victim of one of those bombings.  She was in court today.  First the headlines. 


ABRAMS:  Eric Rudolph, the man accused of a string of deadly bombings in Georgia and Alabama pleaded guilty today to all four blasts.  He had the nerve to wink and seemingly speak with pride about his crimes.  The first bombing came in 1996 at the Olympic games in Atlanta.  The pipe bomb killed one person and injured 111 others.  Rudolph released a statement today in some ridiculous effort to try to explain why he killed and maimed. 

The purpose of the attack on July 27, 1996 was to confound anger and embarrass the Washington government in the eyes of the world for its abominable sanctioning of abortion on demand.  Yes, that worked.

In 1998, Rudolph planted a bomb at a Birmingham abortion clinic that killed one person and injured another.  The other bombings were at a gay nightclub and another abortion clinic, both in Atlanta.  After the bombings Rudolph evaded a five-year manhunt, hiding in the mountains in North Carolina.  He was arrested in 2003.  As part of his plea deal, Rudolph revealed the whereabouts of more than 250 pounds of dynamite and a buried bomb more than twice as powerful as the one used in the Olympic Park bombing. 

In place of the death penalty, Rudolph expected to get four life sentences, no parole.  “My Take”—I guess he doesn‘t realize that the antiabortion movement couldn‘t a worse spokesman.  They don‘t want him.  I‘m pretty sure he did this more for himself than for the cause. 

Joining me now is Emily Lyons.  Emily lost an eye when in 1998 Rudolph bombed the Birmingham abortion clinic where she worked as a nurse with her husband Jeff who joins us as well.  And Deborah Rudolph, ex-wife of Eric Rudolph‘s brother, joins us on the phone from Nashville, Tennessee.  Thank you to all of you.  Ms. Lyons, let me ask you, what is your reaction to today‘s plea? 

EMILY LYONS, VICTIM OF RUDOLPH‘S 1998 BOMBING:  We‘ve known it was coming for several days and it‘s been a major disappointment today.  Very emotional hearing those words come out of his mouth, seeming so proud of his statement this morning. 

ABRAMS:  Are you upset that they cut a deal at all? 

E. LYONS:  We understand why they did it.  You can‘t risk the lives of so many just because one person wants the death penalty.  We knew that if the explosives were indeed out there, how many people could be hurt, knowing that the strength would be 50 times what it was at the clinic. 

ABRAMS:  What was it like sitting in the courtroom with him? 

E. LYONS:  This morning I was extremely close.  He was probably about as far away as the bomb was to me that day.  I had hoped to make eye contact with him, but he never looked at me today.  It was hard to hear the words come out of his mouth that I certainly did it.

ABRAMS:  You mean that sort of pride that he seems to be trying to show off a kind of cockish attitude. 

E. LYONS:  Yes.  You know, every since he‘s been caught, that‘s the way he‘s looked in the media.  The pictures of him in the newspaper he‘s got his head tilted up, he has a smirk on his face, and it hasn‘t been any different. 

ABRAMS:  Jeff, let me just ask you to describe for me—I mean you can see your wife‘s reaction to this.  How difficult a day has this been for both of you? 

JEFF LYONS, EMILY LYONS‘ HUSBAND:  Well we‘re pretty well joined at the hip.  We feel exactly the same way that the sentence was extremely disappointing simply because the punishment did not fit the crime. 

ABRAMS:  Deborah Rudolph, you actually helped create a profile to help catch Eric Rudolph.  What do you think about what‘s going to happen?  I read somewhere that you said that this is the ultimate punishment for him, having the government be able to control each and every one of his movements. 

DEBORAH RUDOLPH, ERIC RUDOLPH‘S BROTHER‘S EX-WIFE (via phone):  Yes.  I think that, you know I feel bad for the victims, but I think all in all this is going to prove to be the ultimate slap in Eric‘s face.  He thinks he‘s going to get off easy, and I don‘t—you know I think he‘s going to get in there and he‘s going to realize just exactly how controlled he‘s going to be.

He will have to have permission to eat, when to eat, solitary confinement, no mixing with other prisoners.  He won‘t be able to see, you know, the trees, the grass, the woods, the mountains, which he is used to seeing.  It‘s my understanding that he‘s going to—he may be going to Colorado and that‘s built right into the mountains and it‘s a highly secure prison.  I think he‘s going to rue the day that he pleaded for life. 

ABRAMS:  Do you think - look, I‘ve got a list here of various statements that he made as to why—I‘m not going to read any of them because I‘m not really interesting in giving him a platform for his various views.  Do you think that he pled to try to make a statement so that people would listen to him and he would be heard? 

RUDOLPH:  Either way.  First I thought that he pled out to save his family from further scrutiny, you know from keeping his family from going through something like that, you know the trials, et cetera, but I think it‘s just his arrogance showing through, trying to be a martyr for what he‘s done.  And it‘s a real shame that he couldn‘t show any type of remorse and I tell you, I always worried about speaking out and working with the FBI, but after today, I‘m proud of what I have done. 

ABRAMS:  You should be, absolutely.  Let me tell you something, this is a dangerous man and I think that you deserve a lot of credit for helping to catch him.  Emily, let me just ask you, how are you doing physically?  How are you holding up? 

E. LYONS:  I‘m doing fairly well.  Today has been an emotional roller coaster.  And I know that as time goes by the roller coaster will go back up the hill, but right now I‘m at the bottom of it. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  Well, thoughts are with you, Emily and Jeff Lyons. 

E. LYONS:  Thank you.

ABRAMS:  I know this has been a tough day and I appreciate you taking the time really to come on the program.  Deborah Rudolph, thank you as well.  Appreciate it. 

RUDOLPH:  Thank you. 

ABRAMS:  Coming up, last night I called for Congress to provide more funding to protect our nation‘s federal judges.  Judging your e-mails, many of you disagree.  Tonight we debate.

And 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:  Do we need to provide more money for security for federal judges after the wave of violence against them?  We‘ll debate it up next.



ABRAMS:  Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas was in front of the House Appropriations Committee talking about the need to improve security for federal judges.  Here is what he said. 


JUSTICE CLARENCE THOMAS, U.S. SUPREME COURT:  I have always thought that we have been unrealistic about our security needs.  Not just as members of the court, but as members of the judiciary.  One of the constants about being in this business is that you will receive at some point very serious threats. 


ABRAMS:  Like the murder of Judge Joan Lefkow‘s family in Chicago six weeks ago.  Chief justice William Rehnquist had already requested $12 million for home security systems for federal judges, though that may not cover the high court and Justices Kennedy and Thomas were hoping for another 639,000 to pay for 11 new police positions at the Supreme Court in Washington. 

“My Take”—I said it last night, I‘ll say it again, I‘m going to fight for this nation‘s judges no matter what their judicial philosophy and I believe the 12 million should be just the start. 

Joining me here in our studios is WWRL radio talk show host Steve Malzberg—that‘s not Steve.  That‘s Bernie Ward.  That‘s Bernie Ward...


ABRAMS:  There‘s Steve...


ABRAMS:  All right and Bernie Ward from KGO-AM talk show.  All right, Steve, bottom line, 12 million in the context of all the pork that‘s out there, we‘re talking about—I read some list of all the things that they are asking for, for testing in Hawaii for flooding and desalination plants in Nevada, et cetera, not a lot to ask. 

STEVE MALZBERG, WWRL TALK SHOW HOST:  No, 12 million is not a lot to ask for.  But let me just say this, if federal judges, and I think that is what you are talking about, not the Supreme Court...

ABRAMS:  Right.


ABRAMS:  Well both...


MALZBERG:  I mean I‘m a talk show host and I have my own security system.  All my neighbors, they have very low-profile jobs.  They have their own security system.  Don‘t tell me federal judges can‘t afford an alarm in their house.  Having said that, give them all the protection they need in the courtroom, but let‘s do things right.  Look what happened in Atlanta.  The judge didn‘t lock the door. 


MALZBERG:  The intercom was disarmed. 

ABRAMS:  But that‘s a separate question...

MALZBERG:  They had a 51-year-old woman—no it‘s not...

ABRAMS:  It is.  It is because the question here is do they get the money?  And Bernie, my concern is when people start saying, oh, you know, I have a security system in my house.  Bottom line is federal judges are representing the United States of America.  They are a branch of the government, and they are making decisions that are going to often be very unpopular on behalf of this country.  And a lot of the time there is some very dangerous people in those courtrooms and that‘s why they deserve it more than Steve Malzberg. 

BERNIE WARD, KGO TALK SHOW HOST:  Well and I don‘t have a security system in my house, so I guess it‘s more fun living on the West Coast than the East Coast.  The fact of the matter is that we need an independent judiciary.  It is in fact the key to this country‘s success and an independent judiciary can be compromised if, in fact, you‘ve got federal judges that are getting death threats and their families are not protected. 

They can be blackmailed.  They can be extorted.  And if you look at the rhetoric of the last couple of weeks where we have members of Congress who are condoning violence, who are suggesting that judges...


ABRAMS:  Well, this is the issue I think you both want to talk about.  Let‘s play this piece of sound, an interchange between Representative Todd Tiahrt and Justice Kennedy. 


REP. TODD TIAHRT ®, KANSAS:  I want to express a specific concern about the death penalty for juveniles.  And it seems like in the ruling there was references to international law.  And it seemed like there was pressure put on by the U.N. and other agencies. 

JUSTICE ANTHONY KENNEDY, U.S. SUPREME COURT:  There‘s nothing wrong with members of another branch of congressmen or the executive or the American public from saying that they don‘t understand the decision, they don‘t agree with it.  That‘s the democratic dialogue that makes democracy work. 


ABRAMS:  Steve, two conservative justices basically saying to the Congress hey, thanks, guys, hey, great.  You guys want to criticize us?  Hey, terrific...


ABRAMS:  ... we don‘t really care. 

MALZBERG:  Absolutely and that‘s what they should say. 


MALZBERG:  And for Bernie to come on and say that—to imply that Tom DeLay and others have been threatening judges with violence is absurd and outrageous. 

ABRAMS:  All right, but the bottom line is Tom DeLay and others...


ABRAMS:  ... are complaining all the time...


ABRAMS:  ... about the federal judges, but they are doing more than just saying, we want to express—they‘re saying we‘re going to do something about it. 

MALZBERG:  Well they say...

WARD:  Tom DeLay said they‘re going to pay. 

MALZBERG:  Well, yes, to an ultimate authority.  They‘re going to pay ultimately...


WARD:  What ultimate authority...

MALZBERG:  Talking about Terri Schiavo I believe Tom DeLay meant yes, they‘re going to have to answer to God for what they did. 

WARD:  And what did John Cornyn...

MALZBERG:  Absolutely.

WARD:  ... mean, Steve, when he said he now understands the violence that going against judges? 


WARD:  What did a senator of the United States mean by that? 

MALZBERG:  ... you had two judges sitting there with the chance to say, tone it down, guys, but they...

WARD:  Steve...

MALZBERG:  ... said hey, this is natural. 

WARD:  Steve...


WARD:  Steve, Steve...


ABRAMS:  Hang on a second. 

WARD:  ... what did John Cornyn mean...

ABRAMS:  Bernie, hang on.  Here‘s what... 

WARD:  ... what did he mean...

ABRAMS:  Hang on.  Hang on.  Bernie, hang on.  Here is what Justice Thomas had to say and I think this is even more interesting and telling.  Let‘s listen. 


THOMAS:  The reason we have lifetime appointments is because we are supposed to be criticized.  And we are supposed to take the heat sometimes for cases that are controversial and cases that involve countering the majoritarian considerations.  So I don‘t think it‘s odd.  I don‘t think it‘s unfair for us to be criticized. 


ABRAMS:  See what Tom DeLay doesn‘t get is the counter majoritarian considerations.

MALZBERG:  But Dan, here was a chance for Clarence Thomas or Justice Kennedy to say, guys, tone it down.  This criticism is over the line. 

ABRAMS:  They don‘t care...

MALZBERG:  They don‘t care...


ABRAMS:  No, no...


ABRAMS:  Look, it is not about the threat of violence. 

MALZBERG:  Well that‘s what Bernie is saying...

ABRAMS:  All right.  Forget about what Bernie is saying...


WARD:  Dan, I‘m asking again, what did Senator John Cornyn say, what it mean when he said he understands...


WARD:  ... the violence against...

MALZBERG:  ... give them the 12 million, but fix what‘s wrong with the system. 


MALZBERG:  The prisoners need to be escorted better. 

ABRAMS:  The bottom line is...


ABRAMS:  ... that Justice Thomas is saying effectively, Tom DeLay, we expect it.  Counter majoritarian is what we are supposed to do, and I know that drives people crazy, but that‘s what they do.  Steve Malzberg and Bernie Ward, I‘m sorry we had to cut this...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  ... the president doesn‘t comment...

ABRAMS:  Thanks a lot, Bernie. 

Coming up, a CIA agent‘s identity disclosed at confirmation hearings for the president‘s nominee to be ambassador to the U.N.  I say, why is there no outrage?  Why?  Because there‘s no possible political gain.  It‘s my “Closing Argument” coming up. 


ABRAMS:  My “Closing Argument”—it seems these days even disclosing the name of a covert CIA agent is only a big deal if somehow it‘s political.  On Monday during the confirmation hearings for John Bolton, President Bush‘s nominee to be ambassador to the U.N., both Senator John Kerry, a Democrat, and Republican Richard Lugar seemed to have accidentally disclosed the identity of a CIA officer.  Bolton had only been referring to the analyst as Mr. Smith up to that point. 

Just imagine, if only one had done it and not the other.  I‘m guessing we‘d be hearing about investigations and political recriminations, but because both blew it, it seems it gets swept under the rug.  If there‘s no political intrigue, no one is all that upset.  Think about the uproar that followed the outing of former Ambassador Joseph Wilson‘s wife, Valerie Plame.  She was a covert CIA agent.  Her name leaked to the press.  There‘s been a full-scale investigation to determine who was behind this act. 

But that case wreaked of politics.  Wilson was at odds with the administration, he believed it was payback.  The first to report was it conservative columnist Robert Novak.  Here Kerry defended himself saying, Lugar said it first and that it had already been in the press.  Now it‘s true this officer‘s name had been in the press before, but only when he held a different post and his identity was no secret.

I‘m not going to say his name as other news organizations have chosen to do.  Just because two senators blew it, that doesn‘t mean we in the press should not be particularly sensitive when it comes to issues related to national security.  In fact, the CIA had asked these organizations to withhold his name.  It‘s not often that I think less information is better.  When you‘re talking about the name of an undercover or covert operative, the rules are different.  It seems on Capitol Hill it‘s only different if there‘s some political advantage to be gained. 

Coming up, a lot of you do not think we should be paying more to protect our federal judges.  Your e-mails...


ABRAMS:  We‘re back.  I‘ve had my say, now it‘s time for “Your Rebuttal”.  Last night in my “Closing Argument” I said it‘s time for Congress to provide more funding to protect our nation‘s federal judges.  Judges should not have to worry that their public service will cost them or their loved ones their lives.  Many of you disagreed.  I was surprised. 

Greg Grosser, “Their entitlement to safety is no greater than many others who are also working to make life better on the planet without shouldn‘t have to worry guarantees.”

From Crosby, Texas, Don Shoemake, “Let them hire security.  Cab drivers and convenient store workers are much more apt to be killed than federal judges, but I don‘t hear anyone crying for them to have more protection.”

Well, Don, I guess the difference would be that they‘re not working for the United States government and making decisions every day as part of that work that leave very dangerous people to lose their freedom. 

And Jimmy Villani, “Certainly, I‘m not against protecting anyone, but if it wasn‘t for your right-wing party‘s disgusting exploitation of Terri Schiavo, judges wouldn‘t have to run the risk of retaliation for so-called unconstitutional rulings.”

First of all, Jimmy, I‘m going to ignore your ridiculous political attacks, but just so I understand, Judge Rowland Barnes in Atlanta killed by a defendant in his courtroom and Federal Judge Joan Lefkow‘s family killed by an angry litigant from her courtroom because of Terri Schiavo‘s case? 

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

“OH PLEAs!”—the much beloved high school prom, a night with overly done up girls and eager boys.  The hiring of a limo, a ritual among high school seniors, a safe way for kids to tell their parents, don‘t worry, I‘ll be fine.  And for the rowdy kids to be able to stick their heads out of the sunroof.  But one group of teens in Winter Springs, Florida couldn‘t put their heads out of the sunroof. 

No, they were too occupied trying to stay in their seats as they were given a night in a limo, not the prom to remember.  They arrive 90 minutes late after forcing the driver to pull over.  The teens visibly shaken and their stomachs stirred, not from drinking alcohol, but from their drunk limo driver‘s ride. 

Thirty-six-year-old Christina Tomacelli was charged with driving under the influence and refusing to submit to a blood alcohol test, although the half empty bottle of vodka in the front seat gave deputies a strong suspicion.  I guess for her it was a night she wouldn‘t forget or remember. 

That does it for us tonight.  Tomorrow another ABRAMS REPORT exclusive you are not going to want to miss. 



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