updated 4/26/2005 8:44:53 AM ET 2005-04-26T12:44:53

Guest: Charlie Crist, William Fallon, Lisa Wayne, Susan Edelman, John Webster

DAN ABRAMS, HOST:  Coming up, why it now seems 9-year-old Jessica Lunsford could be, might be alive if Florida authorities had handled the case properly.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ABRAMS (voice-over):  The sex offender who confessed to killing Jessica failed to properly register with authorities last year.  Florida officials even sent out a letter saying that he was—quote—“missing.”  He could have been arrested, but somehow the local authorities say they never got the message.  We get answers from the Florida attorney general. 

And Michael Jackson‘s ex-wife expected to take the stand this week testifying against Jackson.  How devastating will she be to his case? 

Plus, could Martha Stewart be in trouble again—this time for attending a celebrity-filled gala.  Does this qualify as work as defined by her rules for house arrest? 

The program about justice starts now. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ABRAMS:  Hi everyone.  First up on the docket, it‘s a rare public officials these days won‘t say stopping child molesters is my top priority, especially after a case like Jessica Lunsford‘s.  The 9-year-old Florida girl kidnapped in February, later murdered, possibly buried alive with a stuffed animal in her grips, and likely sexually abused. 

Convicted sex offender John Couey allegedly confessed this guilt to police, though he‘s pled not guilty in court.  But as legislators are talking tough about new legislation to stop sex offenders, it seems enforcing laws already in the books was really the issue here. 

In July 2004, Couey filled out a form notifying Florida officials of his address.  We‘re now learning, however, he doesn‘t admit he often stays elsewhere at his half sister‘s house near Jessica Lunsford‘s home.  And when Couey failed to fill out a second official form, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement said they informed the Citrus County sheriff in November that he was missing.  The sheriff says he didn‘t receive a letter.  It was mailed apparently to an old address—an old address? 

And because Couey had actually served time for a probation violation last fall and did have an address on record he was considered a low priority to the detectives assigned to track sex offenders.  Remember, the police interviewed Couey‘s relatives possibly while Jessica was still alive with Couey in the house.  They said they just wanted to question him, not arrest him.  It turns out legally they could have and obviously in retrospect should have done. 

With me to discuss the Lunsford case Charlie Crist, Florida‘s attorney general.  Mr. Attorney General, there are a lot of new laws that are being proposed in Florida with regard to sex offenders.  My concern is that the biggest problem is enforcement of the laws that are already on the books, rather than proposing a whole bunch of new laws. 

CHARLIE CRIST ®, FLORIDA ATTORNEY GENERAL:  Well you make a very good point Dan.  There is no question about that.  I mean what good is any law if it is not being enforced, but frankly we do have a problem.  I call it a hole that we need to plug in Florida‘s criminal justice system.  We have had some good initiatives that have already come up in this legislative section, the tracking devices that people have heard about, I think that‘s a good first step, but frankly I think we need to do the rest of the job in order to make sure that Floridians are safe what I mean by that is we‘ve got to lock these creeps up.

I mean we‘ve got 34,000 registered sex offenders roaming the streets of Florida right now.  And it seems to me that those who have a—not a propensity, but an actual conviction for violence in the past and then they violate their probation, which all have done in these cases involving Carlie Brucia, Sarah Lunde whose funeral I just went to Saturday morning, Jessica Lunsford in the Citrus County area of our state, and there were six innocent Floridians beaten to death with baseball bats last August in the Daytona Beach area, so in all of those cases the common thread is that these people who had perpetrated the crimes had already a conviction for violence in the past and then violated probation. 

ABRAMS:  And look...

CRIST:  ... stay out instead of go back...

ABRAMS:  ... and I support entirely some of the tougher sentences that are being proposed in Florida, but here‘s my concern.  You mentioned Jessica Lunsford.  All right, this guy, John Couey, all right, in July of 2004 we now learn the Florida Department of Law Enforcement says that they sent a letter to the local authorities there in Citrus County basically telling them hey, this guy Couey, he‘s a sex offender.  His registration papers aren‘t in order. 

They could have arrested him.  They go and interview him in connection with the Jessica Lunsford case, they don‘t arrest him, nothing happens.  And you want to know to what Gail Tierney said, the Citrus County Sheriff spokeswoman, quote—“So we were supposed to get these signed by our sexual offenders?  We were unaware of this.  This is really, really strange.”

It seems to me that the...

CRIST:  Well...

ABRAMS:  ... much bigger problem here is the enforcement of the current laws that are on the books. 

CRIST:  Well you—as I say, you may a very good point, Dan.  I mean you know having those laws on the books is all well and good, but if you don‘t enforce them it doesn‘t do anybody any good.  And so I think what we need to do is make sure we‘re enforcing the laws that are on the books in Florida today.  But in addition, we do have to take a few more steps in order to make sure that Floridians are even more safe than they are today. 

You know it wasn‘t that long ago in our state when we were number one in violent crime in America in the mid ‘90‘s.  I remember at that time we wanted to make sure that criminals were serving more of their sentences because they were only serving about 20 percent, so we passed a law called STOP.  It‘s an acronym that stands for stop turning out prisoners, says that they must serve at least 85 percent. 

(CROSSTALK)

CRIST:  That‘s the kind of thing I think that we need to do to make Floridians more safe. 

ABRAMS:  You talk about these electronic tethers and they sound like a great idea.  Are there going to be people who are going to be watching at all times, meaning is the state of Florida going to provide funds so that there are going to be people sitting in front of screens saying all right, we‘ve got all the sex offenders now.  We know where each and every one of them is at this particular time.  Are they going to be able to monitor them in a way that can actually prevent crime or is it just going to help in catching them after the fact? 

CRIST:  Well my concern is what you‘ve just articulated.  I do think that there will be a deterrent effect to it and that‘s why I think it‘s a good first step.  However, my concern is the same as yours, are we with these GPS devices only going to have a better means to arrest people after they‘ve...

ABRAMS:  Right.

CRIST:  ... already committed one of these heinous acts and that‘s why I think that at the earlier juncture when they violate their probation, if we lock them up we stop it before it happens.  And I mean here is the crime of it, you know this is the kind of measure that is common sense, it makes sense and it will stop crime, but only if we lock them up. 

ABRAMS:  Right.

CRIST:  Now we have to allocate a little money to do that.  It‘s $56 million according to our estimators, but that‘s out of a $64-billion budget we have in Florida this year.  We‘ve got two weeks left in the current legislative session in Tallahassee.  There is time to get it done.  I hope and I pray that it will be done. 

ABRAMS:  I‘m just concerned that some of these measures, and again, I think you can tell from the way I view this that I really am supportive of the notion of them away for longer.  I am concerned that some of these measures are feel good measures.  I mean you‘ve got Miami Beach mayor, for example, who is saying all right he‘s going to now expand the area where sex offenders can‘t live from 1,000 feet away from schools and places kids congregate to 2,500 feet. 

So someone like you who‘s got to look at the entire state of Florida and not just Miami Beach has got to be saying wait a sec, so if Miami Beach is going to expand it to 2,500 and then Miami says wait a sec, we don‘t want people coming to Miami from Miami Beach who are sex offenders and then they do the same thing, how are you going to deal with this? 

CRIST:  Well you know you make—that is a good question.  I mean how do you deal with it if you start changing the parameters in every jurisdiction in every city in the state.  We have over 400 in Florida.  But I‘ll tell you what, if the jail is more than 2,500 feet from the school, we don‘t have an issue, we take care of it already.  We lock them up and they‘re more than 2,500 feet away because they are in jail behind bars.  It‘s hard to commit a crime if you are behind bars in the state of Florida...

ABRAMS:  So would you agree with me that some of those measures are just feel good measures meaning, apart from putting them away for longer, this business about you know where they live, et cetera, it sounds to me like some of these measures are just measures by certain politicians to say we got tough, we did something.  When I‘d rather see money being allocated to enforcement rather than money being allocated to these new laws. 

CRIST:  We‘ve got to allocate money for enforcement.  You‘re absolutely right.  We‘ve got to be sure that we have enough prison capacity to lock these creeps up and keep them away from our citizens and in particular our children.  They are the ones that are being victimized by this; you know it‘s the most vulnerable in our society that are being hurt by it.  And right now today in Florida, as I mentioned earlier, there are 34,000 sex offenders roaming our streets.  We can‘t—that is intolerable.  If you believe as I do, and I know you do, Dan that the most important thing government can do is keep our people safe.  The founding fathers said it in the first line of the Constitution we need to ensure domestic tranquility.  We need to get about the business of doing that...

ABRAMS:  Yes.

CRIST:  ... and we need to do it quick.

ABRAMS:  Let me ask you a slightly separate question.  Did you see this videotape of this girl in St. Petersburg being arrested by the St.  Petersburg—being put in cuffs by the St. Petersburg police? 

CRIST:  I did. 

ABRAMS:  What did you make...

CRIST:  Yes, St. Pete‘s my hometown.

ABRAMS:  What did you make...

CRIST:  Well it‘s hard to watch and you know you try to apply some empathy for the situation and the scenario they must have been dealing with, but my goodness, a 5-year-old girl and they put her in handcuffs?  I mean there has got to be a better way is how I feel about it.  You know I wasn‘t there...

ABRAMS:  Any defense for the police there? 

CRIST:  ... and I don‘t know...

ABRAMS:  Any defense for the police...

CRIST:  Look, I love cops, you know, and I think we need to do everything we can to support them.  I mean I know that they wear a badge, but it‘s not bullet proof.  They‘ve got a very difficult job under very difficult circumstances.  Frankly, if I knew a little bit more about the facts of the case I might be able to opine on what was going on there.  Since I don‘t, I hesitate to because police get the benefit of the doubt with me.

ABRAMS:  All right.  Attorney General Charlie Crist, thanks a lot for coming on the program.  Again, enforcement, enforcement, enforcement, we‘ve got to be enforcing these laws on the books.  It‘s driving me nuts watching every time seeing that there was a law out there that could have protected people and it‘s not working.

CRIST:  Well and the crime of it is we asked to have this law that would have incarcerated more of them last year.

ABRAMS:  Yes.

CRIST:  Understand what I‘m saying. 

(CROSSTALK)

CRIST:  There might have been nine Floridians still with us today.

ABRAMS:  We appreciate you coming on the program.  Thanks a lot.

CRIST:  Thank you Dan.

ABRAMS:  Coming up, chaos in Michael Jackson‘s defense team, seems that Jackson‘s attorney, Brian Oxman, is out.  And the judge rules the mother of Jackson‘s two children—two of his children, his ex-wife Debbie Rowe can take the stand this week to testify against Jackson.  What was Michael like as a husband?  What can she add to the case?

Plus, it certainly looked like Martha Stewart was having fun, but she told her probation officer this party was work.  Now she may have some explaining to do about whether she violated the terms of her house arrest.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DEBBIE ROWE, FORMER WIFE OF MICHAEL JACKSON:  If he called me tonight and said let‘s have five more, in a heartbeat. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  More than two years ago, Michael Jackson‘s ex-wife told FOX she‘d have more children with Jackson in a heartbeat.  Now she‘s expected to tell the jury that much of what she said in that tape was scripted, choreographed by Jackson and his associates to fix Jackson‘s imagine after the airing of a damaging documentary where Jackson admitted sharing his bed with boys. 

Rowe could take the stand against her former husband and the mother of Jackson‘s two children sometime this week, and could certainly add credibility to the prosecution‘s conspiracy case.  In his opening statement, D.A Tom Sneddon said the defendant himself was the one who called his ex-wife and surrogate mother to his children, Debbie Rowe, and it was Michael Jackson that asked Debbie Rowe to participate in the FOX network interview.

Went on to say they took her upstairs and did a complete rehearsal before they ever brought her down to be interviewed and when she was doing the interview, when they didn‘t like her answers they would stop the tape, they‘d tell her how to answer it, and they say that corroborates exactly what the accuser‘s mother here has been saying about that tape as well. 

Before we get to that, a heated exchange between two of Jackson‘s lead attorneys after one denies being fired from the defense team, but is being quoted as saying the team is in disarray.  NBC‘s Mike Taibbi was in the courtroom, has the latest details.  Mike, so what is the story?  Is Brian Oxman still one of Jackson‘s attorneys? 

MIKE TAIBBI, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  Well he may be one of Jackson‘s attorneys, but not in the matter of the state of California v. Michael Joe Jackson, Dan.  He has been severed from the defense team.  In fact lead attorney, Tom Mesereau, filed a notice of disassociation this morning before this morning‘s court session basically saying that Brian Oxman is no longer counsel of record, one of the counsels of record in this case. 

Now he may continue to represent Jackson in other matters.  As I said before,, he‘s represented him before.  He has a long association with Jackson‘s brother, Randy, and he‘s very close to Jackson‘s parents, Joseph and Katherine who were in court today.  In fact he ended up sitting with them after he was escorted from the attorney‘s well in front of the bar by the court bailiff...

ABRAMS:  They literally had to...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  They literally had to escort him, Mike?  They literally had to have...

TAIBBI:  They did. 

ABRAMS:  ... a court officer take him from the defense bench and move him back? 

TAIBBI:  Well, Michelle Caruso from the “Daily News” said she was watching this exchange while I was watching some of the testimony and that Mesereau gave the eye to Leslie Oval (ph), the court bailiff who then went over to Oxman, bent down, and escorted him back behind the bar sitting in the front row of the courtroom just ahead of the press, so that‘s how low he sunk at this point...

ABRAMS:  Wow...

TAIBBI:  ... near to where Joseph and Katherine were sitting and then at one point, Oxman left the courtroom and afterward was this exchange you‘re now seeing on the air where Mesereau is gesturing what appears to be some level of emotion at Brian Oxman.  As I said, we‘ve spoken with a couple of sources who‘ve confirmed that this had happened. 

If you want the back-story, I‘ll give it to you.  I think people saw him as kind of a loose cannon, very hard working loose cannon, but one who would go on his own and do interviews of people who he felt might be helpful to the Jackson cause.  And the straw that broke the camel‘s back, according to another source on this, is that it was an interview that Oxman did with Paul Beresi (ph), a tabloid broker and former porn star a few weeks ago, which Beresi (ph) taped audio and video, trying to get Beresi (ph) to talk about the payments that were being offered and demanded by people back in ‘93. 

Beresi (ph) apparently tapes this interview.  In fact Beresi (ph) told us that himself and then offered that tape around to journalists and I think that was seen as something that‘s just not tolerable by this defense team...

(CROSSTALK)

TAIBBI:  ... so there you go, Brian Oxman is out.

ABRAMS:  Yes.  They sure look like they are going at it in that picture we‘re showing there.  I mean it looks like there is no love lost.  Look, there have been rumors about Brian Oxman being out for a long time. 

All right.  Let‘s shift gears for a minute, Mike, talk about a big ruling today in court, that is that Debbie Rowe, the mother of Michael Jackson‘s children, expected to testify now, could become a really important witness. 

TAIBBI:  Well you know I think so.  The prosecution had a couple of wins and a couple of losses today.  Getting Debbie Rowe to the stand I think is clearly a win for the prosecution.  She will testify.  As Tom Sneddon said in his opening statement, the prosecutor said that when she finally gave her interview at Michael Jackson‘s direct and personal request for that so-called rebuttal video that aired on FOX, she‘ll say that it was scripted. 

Now the use of the word scripted is a semantic distinction that Bob Sanger, one of the defense attorneys, jumped on today.  He said listen, that‘s preposterous.  I mean there are always list of questions.  When a television person does an interview, you may often have an list of questions.  When an attorney does an examination, direct or cross, he often has a list of questions. 

There were no scripted answer either for Debbie Rowe or for the mother of the accuser and the accuser and his two siblings...

ABRAMS:  Right.

TAIBBI:  ... when they did their now infamous rebuttal video.  But I‘ve got to tell you one thing that could come out of this and it‘s not the headline that we were talking about before and that is if for some reason the direct testimony is elicited from Debbie Rowe about Michael Jackson‘s sexuality can you imagine the headline that Debbie Rowe and Lisa Marie Presley having said in the past in public statements that Michael Jackson and they each had normal sexual relations.  If Debbie Rowe says no, we never did that will raise the question that‘s at the back of this whole case...

ABRAMS:  Is that admissible...

TAIBBI:  What is Michael Jackson...

ABRAMS:  ... Mike...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  ... any ruling on the admissibility of that?  Because I don‘t know that that would be...

TAIBBI:  Yes.

ABRAMS:  ...go ahead. 

TAIBBI:  There has not been a ruling about it to this point.  But as you know, Dan, oftentimes some of those things can get in...

ABRAMS:  Yes.

TAIBBI:  ... through a back door so to speak in the direct questioning and I know that Dawn Hobbs, who‘s an MSNBC contributor and “Santa Barbara News” special reporter, has also heard that that question may somehow be raised and if it is, you know that that‘s going to be the headline...

ABRAMS:  Oh, yes. 

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  Oh, yes.  I mean because they‘ve never actually discussed how this baby ended up coming to be, the children of Michael...

TAIBBI:  No.

ABRAMS:  ... and Debbie, they have never talked about that.  So, all right...

TAIBBI:  That‘s correct...

ABRAMS:  ... Mike, stick around for a second...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  Before I introduce my guests, let me just show—this is a piece of the video that Mike is talking about that they‘re going to say was scripted.  And again, that‘s so important remember because that‘s what the accuser‘s mother says.  They say we were effectively kidnapped at the house.  We couldn‘t leave because they were making us make this video.  They gave us a script.  They told us what to say.  Here is what his ex-wife said about that incident where Michael was dangling the baby over the fence. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROWE:  To listen to his fans all night long they are so adoring.  It‘s so loving and loyal.  And they will be there all night and they wanted to see the little one and he showed them the little one.  Nothing inappropriate.  It may not have been the best thing he has ever done in his life, but certainly I think it was made too big a deal of. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Well she‘s now fighting for custody of the kids.  Joined now by former Essex County prosecutor Bill Fallon, criminal defense attorney Lisa Wayne.  So much to talk about here, I don‘t even know where to start.

All right, let‘s start with the business of Debbie Rowe, Bill.  How important to the prosecution?  I mean she is not only—I mean we have to throw that in, she‘s also now fighting for custody of these kids that she supposedly gave to Michael Jackson as some sort of weird gift. 

WILLIAM FALLON, FORMER ESSEX COUNTY MA PROSECUTOR:  Well what else would you give Jackson except a weird gift?  But I think the thing is, she becomes crucial, Dan, because one of the things, as you know, we have the mother of this victim is a pathetic witness, she‘s a pathetic human being it seems.  But one of the things that adds to her credibility of which she has virtually none, is the fact of this scripting. 

If Debbie Rowe can say I was scripted, I was conscripted to be a scripted person that really gives the mother creditability in a way and I know they‘re going to say oh and Debbie is now against Michael.  Every single person that he comes in contact with is always against him.  That‘s only going to work so much.  I think she‘s going to be a good witness.  Is she going to be a great witness?  We don‘t know.  But she can only help the prosecution. 

(CROSSTALK)

FALLON:  And I‘ll tell you she‘s going to get in the sex life...

ABRAMS:  Hang on...

FALLON:  She‘s going to get in her sex life...

ABRAMS:  You think so...

FALLON:  ... and I think that—because what she‘s going to do—as a prosecutor you are entitled to say describe your relationship.  And guess what?  If it‘s a weird relationship with your husband, good, bad or indifferent you get it in. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  Lisa, you think that that‘s coming in? 

LISA WAYNE, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY:  I don‘t think it‘s coming in and I think that‘s a mistrial.  I can‘t imagine that those defense lawyers haven‘t requested this judge to make a very limited ruling about what she can talk about.  Simply talking about the taping and that‘s it...

(CROSSTALK)

WAYNE:  Because if you go into his character evidence and all that other stuff in terms of his sexuality, I agree that‘s the ultimate question.  Everyone wants to know is he a sexual deviant, but whether she can testify about that, that‘s going to be a mistrial.

ABRAMS:  Lisa, does it affect her credibility, do you think, that she was married to Michael Jackson...

WAYNE:  I do...

ABRAMS:  Are people going to say she gave—she treated children as sort of a gift?  I mean...

WAYNE:  Yes.

ABRAMS:  ... what kind of gift is that to give?

WAYNE:  I totally agree with you.  I mean I have to tell you, I‘m surprised that they are going to put this woman up on the stand.  The prosecution wants them to vouch for her case because this is a woman that those jurors, particularly those women jurors are going to say what kind of mother is this?  What kind of woman is this that allows this to happen to her children and now wants to come in here and wants us to believe something different?  I mean nobody is going to buy that. 

FALLON:  But Lisa, aren‘t we always saying what kind of person always hangs with Michael Jackson?  What‘s the problem?  But we never ask the big question, what is wrong with Michael Jackson? 

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

WAYNE:  That‘s not proof beyond a reasonable doubt...

FALLON:  No, no...

(CROSSTALK)

FALLON:  Lisa, I‘m not saying it‘s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, but it‘s those little building blocks because that‘s all the prosecution have and I‘d rather have the wife on who is probably a nut case, too.  Lisa Marie Presley, sad to say, must be a nut case, but that makes Michael Jackson the nut case and capable of...

ABRAMS:  All right, let me just read very quickly because the D.A., Tom Sneddon, says it‘s not just about what the mom says. 

Quote—“If you don‘t believe Debbie Rowe, you don‘t have to because her attorney was present during the entire time and is going to testify that that‘s exactly what they did.  They scripted that interview just like they scripted the accuser‘s interview.”

Bill Fallon, Lisa Wayne, and Mike Taibbi, stick around, we‘ve got more

·         a lot of testimony today in the Jackson case as well. 

And Martha Stewart not supposed to be allowed out of her house to party, so what was she doing here?  Does this qualify for work as defined by the rules of her house arrest?  Coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

ABRAMS:  We are back.  A former security guard at Michael Jackson‘s Neverland Ranch was expected to take the stand for the prosecutors and be a pretty important witness in this case.  Chris Carter was expected to say that he saw the young boy here, the accuser, drunk and that he said to him, Michael Jackson said it was OK.  And then this—he was also going to say this—what he said in the grand jury and I‘m going to tell you why this is so important because he‘s not testifying now and I quote.

“Who made the decisions around Neverland?  Who was the decision maker? 

Ultimately Mr. Jackson would call the shots. 

Was he what you‘d call a hands-on person or just sort of a delegator?

He was a delegator.

So he‘d just say I want this done and you‘d get it done.

Right.”

So Mike Taibbi, the judge rules that Chris Carter‘s testimony will not come in, so I got two questions for you.  Number one, why?  And number two, is there anyone else who is testifying for the prosecution who is basically saying it was Michael Jackson who told me to do X, Y, and Z? 

TAIBBI:  Well there may or may not be.  I mean Hamid Moslehi, the videographer who shot the infamous rebuttal interview and many other things for Jackson, Jackson‘s person videographer has told—has been told that he‘s going to be on the stand later this week, perhaps as early as tomorrow.  And then you have this other woman, Cynthia Montgomery, who claims that Jackson‘s people told her to book one-way tickets for the accuser and his family to Brazil. 

But there‘s no one else who offered what Chris Carter offered.  He was

the guy, don‘t forget in Sneddon‘s opening statement, who was with Jackson

·         quote—“24/7”, 24 hours a day every day of the week and knew everything that happened.  And yes, he was going to testify to the things you talked about and to that hearsay statement...

ABRAMS:  So what happened? 

TAIBBI:  ... in which the accuser—well it‘s hard to say what happened.  He‘s a federal prisoner, as we know, in the state of Nevada, a federal prisoner for bank robbery charges, in addition to local charges in Clark County Nevada for sticking up a fast food joint and kidnapping some people at the point of a gun and all that.  But because he is a federal prisoner we don‘t know what happened.  Sneddon only said in court today Mr.  Carter is not going to be testifying, but imagine the scenario. 

He would have had to take the Fifth.  There would have had to be a jury instruction as to why this guy is sitting in shackles over here because as a federal prisoner, my guess is he would have testified in shackles and his credibility would have already been damaged before he uttered a single answer to a single question on direct testimony.  So maybe he was told, Carter and his attorney were told there‘s not going to be any consideration given to you by the feds, by the U.S. Attorney because you helped Santa Barbara County in its Michael Jackson case.  And his lawyer might have said you know what, it‘s just not worth it, don‘t do it.  Sneddon gets the message instead and says in court today don‘t worry, Your Honor, Mr. Carter won‘t be testifying, a big loss for the prosecution.

ABRAMS:  Bill, how big a loss and why do you think that he didn‘t testify?

FALLON:  Not a good thing for the prosecution.  On the other hand, Dan, if you‘re bringing a federal prisoner in and you‘re bring in all that stuff, that really transcends the me versus Michael Jackson problem that many of these witnesses have.  I think in the end it‘s probably better.  Now quite frankly, I‘ve tried to get federal prisoners in, two witnesses on my cases, it is not always the easiest things, so I‘m not even 100 percent sure in the end...

(CROSSTALK)

FALLON:  ... when Sneddon was promising him if in fact he was going to be able to get him, because the feds and the state don‘t always work that well together.  But it seems to me they probably said no consideration whatsoever.  Why do we care about this stuff and you‘re a con man.  And you‘re—if you are a robber, you‘re not going to get that much consideration in this type of case.  It‘s not that he viewed the molestation and the like.  Sneddon might be better off without him, as ridiculous as that sounds.

ABRAMS:  Mike, how close are we to the end of the prosecution case? 

TAIBBI:  I think we are close.  I think it could wrap this week.  Dawn Hobbs has been suggested it might spill over to next Monday or Tuesday, but they are losing witnesses one by one.  They‘re not going to get, by the way, the XIII Duke of Manchester, our guy Lord Alex Montagu Manchester.  The prosecution wanted him in because he had a story to tell about Michael Jackson‘s incessant phone calls allegedly to his son at a time when he was allegedly grooming his then young son, but the judge ruled that that was too remote in distance and time...

ABRAMS:  Yes.

TAIBBI:  ... and from the facts of the current case to allow that in. 

But that‘s not going to happen.  You‘re not going to get Chris Carter in.  There is going to be limited testimony from this travel agent, Cynthia Montgomery...

ABRAMS:  Yes.

TAIBBI:  ... because she too is claiming the Fifth, so there will only be limited testimony from her.  Now there is chain of custody evidence by cops about some of the evidence...

ABRAMS:  All right...

TAIBBI:  ... seized from Mark Shafflestone (ph).  That‘s about it.

ABRAMS:  Lisa Wayne, so you‘re the defense attorney here, how do you think things are going? 

WAYNE:  Well you know I think that if the prosecution doesn‘t end here on a high note they have some problems.  I mean what that jury hears last from the prosecution is what is going to really stick with them regardless of all the stuff in between.  I mean there have been so many weeks and so much stuff.  So you know what, maybe Debbie Rowe is going to be their big bang witness and that‘s what they‘re going to end with...

ABRAMS:  Yes.

WAYNE:  ... a big bang...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  ... she may be...

(CROSSTALK)

WAYNE:  ... or it may be the...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  Yes.

WAYNE:  Right, it might be the...

TAIBBI:  Lisa may be right about that. 

ABRAMS:  All right. 

TAIBBI:  Dan, Lisa may be right that because Debbie Rowe is going to testify that the only reason she gave that interview was because Michael said to her if you do this, we might reinstall visiting rights for you, which she had given up when she made this alleged gift to Jackson of these two children, so she could be a very strong witness, especially if she says something provocative...

ABRAMS:  Yes.

TAIBBI:  ... about Michael‘s performance as a husband. 

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

FALLON:  She‘s going to...

(CROSSTALK)

FALLON:  I‘m telling everybody she‘s going to be able to get that in. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  All right.  How else do you say it except his performance as a husband...

(LAUGHTER)

TAIBBI:  I don‘t know...

(CROSSTALK)

TAIBBI:  That‘s the best I could do...

FALLON:  Just how good a performer is he...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  I know and as Lisa said...

WAYNE:  All right guys...

ABRAMS:  ... we‘ll see if it ends with a bang.  OK.  Mike, Bill and Lisa thanks a lot. 

Coming up...

(CROSSTALK)

WAYNE:  Thank you.

ABRAMS:  ... Martha Stewart reportedly being investigated for violating the terms of house arrest.  Is she going to be allowed to go to celebrity parties?  Is that work? 

Plus earlier we told you about how Jessica Lunsford‘s death might have been prevented.  My “Closing Argument” tonight, why tough new laws are often just political feel good measures.  Something far more fundamental that needs to be done. 

Your e-mails abramsreport@msnbc.com.  Please include your name and where you‘re writing from. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Coming up, Martha Stewart hits the town, but now reportedly being investigated as to whether she is mixing enough business with her pleasure.  Coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

ABRAMS:  We‘ve been seeing a lot of Martha Stewart out in public lately, so much so that it‘s easy to forget she‘s still a federal prisoner serving out a five-month term of house arrest.  She‘s allowed to work at her company‘s offices in Manhattan for several hours a week.  She‘s even allowed to attend a national magazine awards where two of her magazines took awards earlier this month, but her appearance at an event last week raising some questions about whether she is going too far. 

NBC‘s Ron Allen has the story. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RON ALLEN, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  Among the celebrated guests last week at “TIME” magazine‘s event honoring the 100 most influential people, Martha Stewart wearing slacks, concealing her ankle bracelet that monitors her every move.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  How do you feel to be included on the list? 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Very thrilled and pleased. 

ALLEN:  Under the terms of her probation, Stewart is allowed to leave her home for 48 hours a week to work, shop and attend religious services.  But the “New York Post” reports Stewart‘s probation officers who gave her permission to go now are investigating whether they were misled. 

SHERYL ROBINSON WOOD, FORMER PROSECUTOR:  Her explanation for this event had to be very specific and it had to be specifically related to work and that‘s really the standard. 

ALLEN (on camera):  Just a couple of weeks ago Stewart asked the judge overseeing her case to grant more work hours, up to 80 per week, saying she needed more time to work on her upcoming TV programs.  But the judge said no and made clear home detention is supposed to be confining. 

(APPLAUSE)

ALLEN (voice-over):  Stewart is working to expand her empire with two new TV shows in production and a deal for her own satellite radio show, as well as ongoing efforts to revive her magazine.  A spokeswoman told “The Post” having Martha present at industry events where she is honored is valuable to us. 

WOOD:  Of course, it‘s important for her company for her to be seen, but maybe that should be happening after the beginning of August when she is no longer under home confinement. 

ALLEN:  A big question, what did Stewart tell her probation officers to convince them the event was work?  The rules allow a felon still paying their debt to society to make a living.  But does a night out like this cross the line? 

Ron Allen, NBC News, New York. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ABRAMS:  “My Take”—it is not smart for Martha Stewart who is still serving time to be testing the system by attending gala events under the broad definition of work.  With that said, she got permission to go and does there‘s the public face of her company.  There‘s an argument to make that schmoozing is part of her job.  I don‘t expect the Probation Department to take action, but if this keeps happening, I think public pressure on the Probation Department might keep her from doing just about anything apart from going to the office. 

Joining me now on the phone is the “New York Post” reporter, Susan Edelman, who spoke to the U.S. Probation Department about Martha Stewart‘s attendance at the event and John Webster with the firm National Prison and Sentencing Consultants, who also served time in federal prison under house arrest.

All right, Sue, let me start with you.  In your conversations with the Probation Department, did it sound to you like they are really investigating this or did they just say (INAUDIBLE) we never thought of it like that? 

SUSAN EDELMAN, “NEW YORK POST” REPORTER (via phone):  Both.  They—when I first spoke to the chief U.S. probation officer he was surprised to hear that it was a dinner party, a cocktail party.  And secondly, they are truly investigating.  They are getting pictures of her arrival, pictures of her at the cocktail party, to see if the timing jives with what she said she was going to be because the anklet she wears, it doesn‘t monitor her every move.  It only says when she leaves her house and returns to her house.  So they have to trust her that she says she‘s going when she‘s going.

ABRAMS:  Do you know how she characterized this event to the Probation Department?

EDELMAN:  No, they‘re not saying.  That is confidential, but she does submit a written request and I do know that she submitted the program for the event.  And she let them know approximately what time she would be there and what time she would leave. 

ABRAMS:  Mr. Webster, how unusual is this? 

JOHN WEBSTER, SENTENCING CONSULTANT:  It is some unusual, Dan.  There is not many inmates or former inmates who are of Martha‘s ilk or background.  And for the most part people are just very happy, other inmates are just very happy to be able to have a 9:00 to 5:00 type job and they‘re not fortunate enough to have the type of job that Martha has.  And I think part of the problem here is that Martha in the business that she is in, pretty much views everything she does as work related, and I don‘t think the Department of Probation is going to be—have such a broad interpretation. 

ABRAMS:  So why did they let her go...

WEBSTER:  And I think...

ABRAMS:  Then why do you think they let her go to the event?  I mean as Ms. Edelman points out, they showed them the program, et cetera.

WEBSTER:  Yes, I understand that.  And if in fact these facts are developing—if in fact that occurred, then the Probation Department really can‘t sit there and blame Ms. Stewart.  I wonder exactly what Ms.  Stewart had informed the Probation Department, because my experience would be for these type of dinner parties or gala events, not that that many of my clients get invited to them, I don‘t see the Probation Department agreeing to let them go. 

ABRAMS:  Do you have any other CEOs...

WEBSTER:  ... not directly...

ABRAMS:  Do you have any other CEOs, Mr. Webster, who have had to say look...

WEBSTER:  Yes...

ABRAMS:  ... part of my business is to go and schmooze.

WEBSTER:  Yes, as a matter of fact we have and the Probation Department typically doesn‘t look very fondly on it.  I typically would advise my clients along those lines of directly and specifically related to work as opposed to your long-term future or the long-term future of your company by schmoozing, by giving seminars or attending you know various functions.  So I think this was a very broad interpretation of work and I question why the Probation Department did it and I just wonder if in fact the information they gave were accurate.  And I hope for Martha‘s sake it was because there can be very severe consequences if the Probation Department was at all misled as to the nature of the event and the business function that she claims she was—or the business benefit...

ABRAMS:  Yes.

WEBSTER:  ... that she claimed she was to get out of this. 

ABRAMS:  As a former inmate who served house arrest, does it frustrate you to see that? 

WEBSTER:  No, no, not really.  No, I have no—there is no envy or regret there, no, not at all.  If her Probation Department, her probation officer has a fairly liberal interpretation of work, more power to her...

ABRAMS:  So Sue, what are they still investigating then?  Are they investigating...

EDELMAN:  Yes.

ABRAMS:  ... whether she was—whether she misled them? 

EDELMAN:  Yes, they are doing that.  There is a very fine line, but the chief probation officer did say that—someone in the public eye can justify just about anything as work related.  He said it has to be specific, concrete, and they‘re also investigating—they‘re—as they put it to me, they are crossing the “t‘s” and dotting the “i‘s” making sure she did what she said.  And she characterized the event as it was.

ABRAMS:  Yes.

EDELMAN:  She didn‘t accept an award there.  The awards were given out elsewhere, so she simply—she did give a toast for 45 seconds.

ABRAMS:  She is not allowed to drink though...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  We know that for sure.

EDELMAN:  No, she is allowed to drink.  They said...

ABRAMS:  No.

EDELMAN:  ... in moderation. 

ABRAMS:  No, no, no.  She‘s not allowed to drink.  She‘s not allowed to have any wine, any alcohol. 

(CROSSTALK)

EDELMAN:  I was told otherwise. 

WEBSTER:  She is absolutely not allowed to drink while on home confinement. 

ABRAMS:  John, you agree with me, right, no alcohol?

WEBSTER:  She is absolutely not allowed...

ABRAMS:  Right.

WEBSTER:  ... to drink on home confinement. 

ABRAMS:  Yes.  Right.

WEBSTER:  When she is on supervised release...

ABRAMS:  Right.

WEBSTER:  ... she can drink...

ABRAMS:  Right.

WEBSTER:  ... but cannot abuse alcohol. 

ABRAMS:  I‘ve got to wrap it up. 

WEBSTER:  We typically advise our...

ABRAMS:  I apologize for interrupting you, Mr. Webster.  I‘ve just got to—I‘ve got to wrap it up. 

WEBSTER:  I understand.

ABRAMS:  I can‘t help about thinking about Junior on “The Sopranos” who‘s trying to go to all these funerals and stuff, finding people he knows and stuff.  All right.  John Webster and Susan Edelman, thanks a lot.  Appreciate it.

EDELMAN:  Thank you.

ABRAMS:  Coming up, why proposed legislation like the Jessica Lunsford Act designed to crack down on sex offenders is often a little more than political grandstanding.  It‘s my “Closing Argument”. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  My “Closing Argument” -- (INAUDIBLE) this new legislation designed to crack down on sex offenders is often nothing more than political grandstanding.  Tough new laws mean little if the laws aren‘t enforced.  Take the case of John Evander Couey, turns out that Florida state authorities alerted county sheriffs back in November that Couey, a registered sex offender, had failed to respond to a letter verifying his address and he was therefore considered a missing sex offender. 

The sheriff‘s office in Citrus County where Couey had last reported living says it never got the letter.  They say the state got the sheriff‘s address wrong so the county never even knew Couey hadn‘t checked in—a wrong address.  If they had gotten the letter, Couey might have been arrested and been behind bars rather than on the loose in February when Jessica Lunsford was abducted.  That‘s just one example. 

He wasn‘t considered a high priority offender even though we learn that he twice asked the state for psychiatric treatment because he believed he had a “mental problem”—quote—unquote—and could not—quote—

“control his sexual attraction for young children.”  2003, after Couey had served time for numerous drug-related criminal offenses, his probation officer allowed him to take a job as a construction worker at a middle school.  His probation officer at the time claimed no one told him Couey was a registered sex offender.  One year later, he takes another construction job at a school in Citrus County where Jessica attended.  He was registered as a sex offender there but no one checked his criminal record before hiring him. 

And last summer, after spending two months in jail on a probation violation, he was supposed to report into a probation officer.  Never did.  So no one knew he changed his address, was living 150 yards from Jessica Lunsford, and no one went looking for him until days after Jessica had gone missing.  The new Jessica Lunsford Act tries to address some of the holes in the system.  Tougher sentences they make sense, but the rest of the proposals, electronic tethers, tougher reporting requirements, limited areas for offenders to live just aren‘t going to do the job without better enforcement. 

New laws make headlines, but they need to allocate more than that $21 million set aside under the new legislation for enforcement.  The attached electronic monitoring devices to all sex offenders, who‘s going to track them?  Before I offer praise to lawmakers, I want to know that those laws are going to make a difference. 

Coming up, your e-mails on the Michael Jackson trial.  Some very interesting, coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  I‘ve had my say, now it‘s time for “Your Rebuttal”.  The prosecution‘s case in the Michael Jackson case almost over. 

Donna Algewicz, “I do not think Michael Jackson should even be in court in this matter, let alone be convicted.  He has given so much to underprivileged children and children in general.  It‘s true that his public persona and somewhat private life is very confusing to the public, but so was Elvis Presley‘s and many other performers‘ lives.  The fact is that they worked very hard to become successful and I‘m sure this requires a lot of sacrifice.”

(INAUDIBLE) whatever he‘s given to children in the past is only relevant here, Donna, if it‘s something you don‘t want to talk about.  The fact that Elvis had a confused life also tells us nothing about Jackson‘s guilt or innocence. 

And on that claim that Jackson‘s accuser and his family were not allowed to leave Jackson‘s Neverland Ranch, Ellen Abramson in Miami, “With all the comments made about the accuser not being allowed to leave, it appears that there has been no evidence that Michael Jackson himself gave this or any other orders.  Could it be that those looking after the running of the estate were the ones making these rules?”  It‘s possible you‘ll hear that from the defense.

Cami writing in about the guests on our program.  “Why is it that every defense lawyer that comes on your show or any other show for that matter sides with the defense?”   

Because they‘re defense lawyers.  But no, to be fair, you know, not all take—how about Geoffrey Fieger?  He doesn‘t always.

Finally, Gloria Turk in Alabama.  “Please refrain from using co-conspirator.  There is no such word.  Conspirator is to plan something with another person—conspiracy.  And you cannot conspire alone.  Hence, conspire makes co-conspirator a non-word.  Check it out.”

Sorry Gloria, until you can get the judge, the prosecutors and just about every other court in this country to stop using it, I‘m not going to stop using it either. 

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

“OH PLEAs!”—you have to be stoned to ask a police officer for a ride if you have drugs on you, right?  Thirty-year-old Ron Stone needed a lift to his car in Bulloch County, Georgia, saw a police officer sitting in his patrol car.  Who better to ask for a ride than a police officer.  He walked up to Sergeant Kearney and asked him for a ride to his car.  Always thinking like a cop, Sergeant Kearney agreed to help out Stone, but only after a search for possible weapons.  Stone wasn‘t packing heat but he was packing something, two small bags of preheated pot.  Stone claimed he spent the night at a friend‘s house. 

The drugs weren‘t his.  Don‘t you hate that?  Well Stone ended up getting a ride from Sergeant Kearney to the Bulloch County Jail where the police found out there was an outstanding warrant in another county for Stone‘s arrest on a marijuana possession charge.  You‘d think that someone with a last name of Stone and an outstanding warrant for pot would stay clear of police.  I guess Stone‘s mind must have been a little cloudy. 

That does it for us tonight.  Thanks for watching.  See you tomorrow.

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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