updated 5/4/2005 2:39:33 PM ET 2005-05-04T18:39:33

Guest: Paul Pfingst, Bill Fallon, Jonna Spilbor, Robi Ludwig

DAN ABRAMS, HOST:  Coming up, Michael Jackson‘s defense expected to start its case by calling Macaulay Culkin to the stand.  The child actor, a choreographer-turned-TV-host and a young fan all spent time at Neverland, but say Jackson never touched them inappropriately.  But witnesses told the jury he did.  They‘re expected to jump-start the defense case.

And the prosecution wraps up.  They said they‘d prove Jackson not only molested the accuser, but plied him with alcohol and conspired to imprison his family.  Did they make the case?

Plus, the runaway bride‘s fiance speaks out, saying he still wants to marry her.  Is he just forgiving and in love or something else?

The program about justice starts now.

Hi, everyone.

First up on the docket tonight, as prosecutors wrap their case, they try to prove Michael Jackson is broke, a motive for why he would have been so obsessed with trying to rehabilitate his image, so obsessed they say he might have held a family hostage at Neverland to make sure they said nice things about him on tape.

NBC‘s Mike Taibbi was in court today.  He‘s going to talk about something else, though.  He‘s got some exclusive information about the first witnesses the defense are going to present in the next few days, including not-so-little Macaulay Culkin anymore.  He‘s a big boy now.  He joins us from outside the courthouse in Santa Maria.

So, Mike, who are they planning to call or why?

MIKE TAIBBI, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  Who‘s a big boy—me or Macaulay Culkin?  I guess we both are.

ABRAMS:  Yes.  Macaulay Culkin‘s gotten older.

TAIBBI:  Yes.

People have been talking for a long time about whether or not Macaulay Culkin and some of the other prominent younger people who were boys at the time were going to be called to the stand now as young adults to rebut the testimony that was offered on the prosecution from a number of witnesses that they, too, back in the early ‘90s, were victims of inappropriate behavior by Michael Jackson.

We found out the story this morning.  The defense is going to start out with a one-two-three punch.  Brett Barnes, the Australian, will testify first, his mother and sister to follow him; then Wade Robson, a choreographer known for his connections to Britney Spears and to the group ‘N SYNC, and his mother and sister; and then probably next week, the way things are going now, Macaulay Culkin has agreed to come to the stand.

And, you know, all—there‘s been speculation about all of these three testifying at some point because they, too, have been named in court by many witnesses as having been, as I say, inappropriately touched by Jackson when they come forward and say it never happened.  Well, now they‘ve agreed that they will.

We‘re told that it was such a stunning one-two-three punch that when Tom Sneddon, the district attorney, was told about it, only yesterday, he was actually moved to temporary silence, according to one of our sources who is familiar with that exchange.

So that‘s going to be the one-two-three punch for the defense.

ABRAMS:  All right.

TAIBBI:  We know a lot more about other witnesses to come.

ABRAMS:  Let‘s go over that.  Let‘s go over that for a minute, all right?

Here‘s the testimony that we heard in the prosecution‘s case.  Adrian McManus, a former maid, testified about Macaulay Culkin.  “I saw Mr.  Jackson and Macaulay in the library.  Mr. Jackson was kissing him on his cheek, and he had his hand kind of by his leg, kind of on his rear end.”

Very—before I go to the Macaulay Culkin sound bite, Mike, was that the only testimony about Macaulay Culkin?

TAIBBI:  Well, I think there was another mention of him being with Jackson and other suggestions that Jackson and he seemed to be walking in a certain way, touching each other in a certain way, but that was the most specific about an alleged act that Jackson imposed on Macaulay Culkin.

ABRAMS:  All right.  Here‘s what Macaulay Culkin said to Katie Couric in an interview in May of 2001.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KATIE COURIC, NBC ANCHOR:  And I know you‘ve said that the Neverland ranch is the only place you feel 100 percent comfortable.

MACAULAY CULKIN, ACTOR:  Yes.  You know, it was just—it was always a place that I knew when I was younger that there weren‘t going to be, you know, paparazzi hiding in the bushes and you know.

COURIC:  And you could really be a kid.

CULKIN:  Exactly.  I could really relax and know that—you know, that I felt safe and protected there.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  You know, Mike, that‘s the same sort of stuff we‘re expecting to hear from him on the stand, right?

TAIBBI:  Yes.  You know, how do you cross-examine someone like that if

you‘re the prosecutor?  Don‘t forget, you know, people who came on and

testified about that alleged activity by Jackson against Culkin and others

·         all of them had sold their stories to tabloids.  Appeared on tabloid television shows, some of them.  They sued Jackson and lost, been sued by him and lost.  And now you have the individual to whom these things allegedly happened come out and say it didn‘t happen.  How do you cross-examine him, say we know it did happen, it did happen?  How do you do it?

ABRAMS:  Yes.  All right.  Let me—Mike, let me bring in the rest of the panel here.  We‘ll get to some of the other testimony you talked about in a minute.

TAIBBI:  Sure.

ABRAMS:  My legal team today: former Massachusetts state prosecutor Bill Fallon, criminal-defense attorney Jonna Spilbor, former San Diego D.A./MSNBC Analyst Paul Pfingst.

All right.  Let me read—this is this other witness, Wade Robson, and then I want to ask you guys about both of them.  Here is what, again, the former Neverland maid, Adrian McManus said about Wade Robson.

“I hear this playing around.  That‘s where Michael Jackson was taking a shower, I guess, with little Wade.”  “What did you see?  Tell me what you saw.”  “I saw some clothes on the floor by the shower.”  “What clothing did you see on the floor?”  “Underwear.”  “More than one pair?”  “Yeah.”  “Did you see more than one figure in the shower?”  “Yeah.”  “All right.  Did you recognize either of the figures that you saw?”  “Mr. Jackson and the little kid.”  “Was one figure larger than the other?”  “Yeah.”  “Was the second figure the size of Wade Robson?”  “Yeah.  Yes.”

OK, the bottom line being the implication is that there are underwear on the floor and they‘re taking a shower together.  Bad news for Michael Jackson.

Here‘s what Wade Robson said—this is number three—in an interview on KNBC in 1993 when he was asked about sleeping over at Michael Jackson‘s house.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WADE ROBSON, CHOREOGRAPHER:  It was normal.  It was like—it was just like a slumber party where you go over to your friend‘s place.  I‘m just telling you the truth, and that‘s it.  I love Michael very dearly.  He‘s the best role model, best friend I‘ve ever had.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  All right.  So, Paul Pfingst, you‘re going to get in this one-two-three punch of these three witnesses who Mike Taibbi is going to say is going to be starting their case, and all of them are going to come in.  They‘re going to say basically those were nice stories you heard about me getting felt up, me getting kissed, me showering with the guy naked, whatever, it didn‘t happen.

PAUL PFINGST, FORMER SAN DIEGO DISTRICT ATTORNEY:  Ouch.  I mean, this is not something that‘s going to be easy for the D.A. to deal with.  The fact of the matter is I have to expect that the D.A. anticipated that these witnesses would come forward and say that.  So much investigation‘s gone into this case, and I assume there‘s some strategy to cross-examine these people.  We‘re just going to have to wait to see what that strategy is.

ABRAMS:  You see, here‘s what I think, Bill Fallon.  I think what the prosecutor should have done is stuck to the ‘93 accuser, the one who settled for the big bucks, and the 1990 -- you know, the mother of the 1990 accuser.  Stick to the big ones where you‘ve got the really strong evidence.

Once you start going down the Macaulay Culkin road, oh, he felt my this and this and that, and you know that they‘re not saying it happened, I think that the prosecutors are now going to allow the defense to effectively muddy the water and say, look, they brought in these people, it didn‘t happen, and yet I‘m not expecting that they‘re going to be able to address some of the allegations that came up about what was happening in 1993.

BILL FALLON, FORMER MASSACHUSETTS STATE PROSECUTOR:  You know, Dan, you know how I think of, what I think of Tom Sneddon and the way he‘s trying this case, but I‘ll say to you this.  I never thought there was great information that came in about these kids, so the lack of their corroboration is not going to be a killer for the prosecution.

I‘m not sure I think this is an ouch moment, Paul.  It‘s kind of an oooh moment because I think for me what happened in this case is they never gave us that they saw the molestation.  The good part for the prosecution, if there is a saving point, is these kids are probably going to have to talk about being in his bed, which Michael confirms—I love being in bed with little kids, I love cuddling with them—so that‘s maybe all it does.

What would have been worse is if these witnesses gave you really important information.

ABRAMS:  Right.

FALLON:  The last kid right there just says I love him dearly, he‘s my best friend, acting, again, 10 or 11 years old.  That‘s what you hone in on.

ABRAMS:  Before I go to John, Mike, I don‘t think the defense is going to be able to rebut some of what we heard about the ‘93 accuser, right, about, you know, his mother—some of the people saying they witnessed oral sex going on, et cetera.  I would expect that they‘re sort of finished with that.  The cross-examination happened, they tried to discredit the witnesses, but we‘re not going to hear a lot about it in the defense case.

TAIBBI:  I‘m not sure about that, Dan.  They may do a whole lot more. 

The defense may on the whole question of stories being sold to tabloids.  That may be the key there, that the stories got more and more egregious, the more money that was being paid.  They may bring that out in a direct case.  That‘s damaging evidence.

I thought the most damaging evidence about the ‘93 or the older uncharged offenses, which, really, were from the mother of the main ‘93 accuser, who said and was unchallenged that her son and Michael Jackson spent as many as 50 nights in the same bedroom, and that...

ABRAMS:  Yes.  Good point.

TAIBBI:  ... was unchallenged by Tom Mesereau, and then the other alleged victim from that era who told his story about being tickled and fondled, and there wasn‘t much in the way of effective challenge to that fundamental story.

So maybe Bill is right.  They should have stuck to those because these are ineffective.

ABRAMS:  That‘s a good point.

All right.  Jonna Spilbor, here‘s what I want.  I want you to listen to this, all right?  Adrian McManus, again, the former maid, testifies about this third person, Brett Barnes.

“They were walking down the stairs, and they went down through the hall by his bedroom, and I kind of looked over the landing, and he was walking away with Brett to his room, and I saw him put his hand on Brett‘s rear end, and he gave Brett a kiss on the check.”

Question: “In like fashion to what you described you had seen with Macaulay Culkin?”  “Yes.”

The problem: Brett Barnes in 1993, KNBC.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BRETT BARNES, WITNESS TO BE CALLED IN JACKSON CASE:  He wouldn‘t do anything like that.  He wouldn‘t touch people in a different way that you shouldn‘t.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Have you slept in the same bed with him?

BARNES:  Yes, but I was on one side, he was on the other, and it‘s a -

·         this big bed.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  See, John, and now these kids are going to be—they‘re not kids anymore.  This is now 12 years later, and they‘re going to come back, and they‘re going to say what I said back then is the same thing I think now.

JONNA SPILBOR, CRIMINAL-DEFENSE ATTORNEY:  And that‘s very credible, and I think what it will end up doing is completely countering all the prior bad acts evidence, even the stuff that they‘re not bringing in specific witnesses to.  The jury will negate all that and throw it out and not consider it when they go back to deliberate.  I mean, that‘s the effect that I think Tom Mesereau is going for, and that likely is what‘s going to happen.

FALLON:  Jonna, do you think that it‘s going to matter at all to this jury that everybody‘s going to say I sleep in the bed with him?  It‘s—I mean, I think that that‘s the only good tact for the prosecution here.  I agree that, you know, it‘s not ever good to not have somebody come forward and say we have that other ‘93 victim that seemed to be really good and now we have a bunch of other kids sleeping with him.

SPILBOR:  You see the glass half full.  I think—I agree with...

FALLON:  Of course I do.

SPILBOR:  ... Paul Pfingst that this is such an ouch moment for the prosecution.  I mean...

ABRAMS:  And they didn‘t need it.

SPILBOR:  ... stick a fork in Tom Sneddon because this is really over.

ABRAMS:  And they didn‘t—they didn‘t need it.

SPILBOR:  They didn‘t need this prior bad act.

ABRAMS:  They didn‘t need—they didn‘t need to talk about Macaulay Culkin.

SPILBOR:  Right.

ABRAMS:  They didn‘t need to talk about these other kids.

SPILBOR:  Right.

PFINGST:  But the biggest—probably the biggest impact may be that the jury may start to question the judgment of the prosecution...

SPILBOR:  Yes!

PFINGST:  ... and, if that happens, where the jury starts questioning the judgment of the prosecution, that could have a spillover effect to a lot of other witnesses and a lot of other testimony.

ABRAMS:  Because as Mike just...

PFINGST:  That‘s what I would be worried about.

ABRAMS:  As Mike just pointed out—and I‘ve said this, and Michael‘s able to cite exactly what I was thinking about—but, you know, the bottom line is the ‘93 evidence is pretty strong here.

TAIBBI:  Yes.

ABRAMS:  Michael Jackson paid off $20-something million.  All right.  That amount isn‘t coming in.  But the bottom line is there was a lot of evidence that Michael Jackson behaved at the very least inappropriately with that boy.  They should have stuck to that because now they are going to get zinged at the...

FALLON:  Dan, you know, the only reason they might not get zinged—

Mike—and I think this is important—is if they try this correctly in closing.  They‘re going to say Michael Jackson is a person who loves kids platonically, he loves kids just as his friends, and he loves kids occasionally as his little masturbatory tools, and that‘s why they should have an expert witness that they don‘t have here.

ABRAMS:  Mike, very quickly.  I‘ve got to take a break.

TAIBBI:  Well, they‘re not going to get that.  You know, one point—

I‘m not sure whether this is true or not—Jim Thomas has suggested is that if the defense isn‘t careful when they question these witnesses denying that anything happened, they may open some doors for the prosecution to bring in additional evidence that wasn‘t allowed in in their case in chief.  I mean, I want to check on that point.  Maybe somebody in the panel knows about that.

ABRAMS:  Yes.

PFINGST:  Yes, this is...

TAIBBI:  I think the defense does have to be careful here.

ABRAMS:  Paul Pfingst, very quickly.  Very quickly.

PFINGST:  This is very dangerous.  When you put these witnesses up, you open up a lot of doors, and they are dynamite.  If they go sideways on Michael Jackson on the stand, that could be devastating.  So this is not over.  There‘s—this is playing with nitroglycerine here, and it‘s going to be very tense for both sides.

ABRAMS:  All right.  Everyone‘s going to stick around.

Coming up, testimony today saying that Michael Jackson‘s broke.  Some accountant told the jury he‘s spending $30 million a year more than he earns and even if he sold everything he owns—everything—that he‘d still owe millions of dollars.  That goes to motive.  We‘ll explain it in a minute.

And after 10 weeks of testimony, prosecutors finally wrapping up. 

Bottom line: How did it go?  I‘d say eh.

Plus, the world‘s most famous jilted fiance says he still wants to get married after his fiance cruised?  Is he really that in love, or is there something else going on?

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  All right.  Prosecutors in the Michael Jackson case are almost done with the case.  They‘re almost ready to say the words “The people rest.”

Putting on final witnesses to tie up the loose ends of their conspiracy case, today, they painted a picture of financial desperation for Jackson at the time of the alleged crimes, that he was effectively close to being broke and that he spends a lot more money that he makes, trying to rehabilitate also that damaging testimony from Jackson‘s ex-wife where she got on the stand and said the exact opposite of what prosecutors promised in their opening statement.

All right.  Mike Taibbi is back with us.  He was in the courtroom today.

So, Mike, bottom line: Is Jackson broke?

TAIBBI:  Well, I guess he‘s not broke.  I guess he does have the money problems or the cash-flow problems to which you referred.  There have been a lot of stories about that.

ABRAMS:  What do you mean cash-flow problems?  If he‘s spending $30 million a year more than he makes, that to me is more than cash-flow problems.

TAIBBI:  Right.  But, if he does have the catalog or half a catalog that‘s worth half of $1 billion in 2003 dollars and maybe $3 billion, $4 billion or $5 billion now, it‘s a question, as some financial sources have told us, of reorganizing his portfolio right now or selling off a portion of it so that he‘s totally in the clear.

This story—the testimony today was all about numbers, and you know what Samuel Clemens, aka Mark Twain, said, there are liars, damn liars and statisticians.

Two totally different sets of facts here.  You had the prosecution witness saying basically that, in February of 2003, Michael Jackson owed vendors about 10-1/2 million bucks and had 38K in his checking account.  On the other hand, you have Mesereau saying that Jackson had been offered a $400 million buyout from his end of the catalog, having been offered a $100 million tour, and it was just a question, as I said before, of reorganizing the portfolio.  Who knows?

The judge had the bottom line, though.  The judge said, listen, just because the guy had money trouble, that is not the issue here.  The issue is whatever those troubles were, and they dated at least back to 1999.  Did they cause him to do what he allegedly did in February of 2003, which is to force people to participate in a glowing documentary that made 7-1/2 million bucks, which wouldn‘t have solved the problem?

ABRAMS:  I want to talk about that.  You know, Mike, by the end of the session, I want you to think about this, because I want you to answer at the end of the C block this question.  I‘m going to want you to predict whether Michael Jackson is going to take the witness stand—don‘t tell us yet—because I am convinced that he won‘t, and I want to—but we‘ll talk about it.

TAIBBI:  Great.

ABRAMS:  All right.  We—we‘ve got one more block.

All right.  Let‘s talk about the conspiracy.  All right.  Let‘s lay out exactly what we‘re talking about in this case, all right?  There are 10 counts.  This case is almost over.  I want to just quickly figure out how they‘re doing here, all right?

You‘ve got one count of conspiracy, one count of attempted lewd act upon a child, four counts of lewd act upon a child and 4 counts of administering an intoxicating agent to commit child molestation.

Now the conspiracy, which is the most serious charge against Jackson, that he conspired to commit child abduction, false imprisonment, extortion, you know, basically that they wanted to force this family to stay there and say nice things about Michael Jackson, but that happened before they say he was molested.  That‘s the weird part of this.  All right.  Possible prison time: It‘s about 10 years on the conspiracy charge, up to.  You know, that‘s sort of a breakdown.

All right.  So bottom line—I mean, even—Paul, would you say the conspiracy count—the conspiracy charge in this case—there‘s almost no way this jury‘s going to convict?

PFINGST:  I think the evidence is really vague on the conspiracy because of the timing issue that you just discussed, also because there is so much strangeness in the behavior of the mother, and her behavior is the linchpin of the conspiracy case, and I‘m not sure she‘s going to convince anybody, and nobody‘s going to say that she was held a prisoner like we normally think of false imprisonment, tape over your mouth, hands tied behind your back.  None of that stuff happened.

ABRAMS:  Lay me lay out the high points and the low points that we went through of the conspiracy case against Michael, again, the most serious charge in this case we‘re talking about, all right.

The accuser‘s mother said that Jackson personally called to say that her children‘s lives were in danger because of the documentary that was made about Michael Jackson.  One witness said she got a disturbing phone call from the accuser‘s mother who was frightened and could have been crying.  That seems to bolster her testimony that she was scared when she was there at Neverland.

There was a travel agent who testified that one of Jackson‘s associates asked her to buy one-way tickets to Brazil for the family, basically saying they were trying to get rid of the family.  And the school administrator said another one of the co-conspirators took the accuser and his brother from school saying they were moving to Phoenix.

Another point for the conspiracy: There were taped calls between Jackson‘s associate and the accuser‘s mother where you can hear the associate saying we would not mislead you and now is not the time to be out there alone.  There was surveillance video of the accuser‘s family, and a security guard talked about the fact that a sign-in booth said—at the guard station said the accuser couldn‘t leave Neverland.

All right.  Before I get to the low points of the conspiracy, you know, Bill Fallon, when you lay it out like that, you think, oh, you know, it‘s not an awful case.

FALLON:  You know, Dan, it‘s an awful case because the main person here is the victim‘s—alleged victim‘s mother.  But I have always said, even though people think Tom Sneddon is great, the reason we have the conspiracy charge is, number one, he believes it, but, number two, it shuts all the co-conspirators up and they have to take the Fifth, and I think that‘s an important issue here.  I mean, I don‘t think Sneddon, from what I know, would do something he thought was inappropriate.

ABRAMS:  And the grand jury indicted him.  I mean, let‘s be clear.  A grand jury indicted him.

FALLON:  Yes, but they were presented with this, Dan.  You know, if you present it to the grand jury—I wouldn‘t even know how to present this unless I did my homework first.  So they presented this.  The real case here was: did he touch someone?  They then thought all of this other stuff comes in, correctly so.  When you put it in that light, it‘s not impossible to believe it happened.

I‘ve always thought the spookiest thing was the surveillance video, and what somebody said is, you know, this is really wacky.  How do we get everybody there?  Remember, if none of those people take the stand, that‘s a good thing for the prosecution.

ABRAMS:  Well, keep in mind Bradley Miller is the one that took the surveillance video.  I interviewed him, and what he would say is, yes, I definitely took surveillance of the family because we were concerned that they were going to go to the tabloids and make up stories about Michael Jackson.

FALLON:  But they say never leave.  Remember that what that other guy said—they can‘t leave Neverland, and that‘s a bad thing.  It‘s the only bad fact for the conspiracy.

ABRAMS:  All right.  Here‘s the low—well, Mike, very quickly—well, let me go to the low point.  Sorry.  The accuser‘s mother—she was, you know, a problem.  One of the things that made her sound a little wacky was that she said the Jackson associates told her the family might disappear from Neverland in a hot air balloon.

Jackson‘s ex-wife, Debbie Rowe, said she was not scripted, as prosecutors claimed that she and the accuser‘s mother were when it came to this rebuttal video.

The accuser‘s mother had a number of opportunities to report she was being held against her will, didn‘t do it, left Neverland on a number of occasions only to return again, and she was shopping, having dinner at restaurants, getting beauty treatments shopping during the time she alleges she was held against her will.

Mike, is it not disputed that one of the Jackson associates told the family they couldn‘t leave?  That‘s in dispute, isn‘t it?

TAIBBI:  Well, it‘s in dispute that it meant that.  It meant—I mean, the interpretation that was given in court was that the directive was given to the security officer because these kids were running around and running wild and uncontrolled, that they should not be allowed to leave the property on their own, especially because, at that point, when the sign was being displayed, the mother was not on the property.  So that‘s the defense explanation, though.

But I think you hit on it before.  That‘s the one-two punch, Debbie Rowe and the testimony that was promised and never delivered, and the accuser‘s mother whose testimony was meandering, to say the least.

By the way, they tried to cure...

Go ahead?

ABRAMS:  No, that‘s someone else—someone yip-yapping in the background of you, Mike.

All right.  So it—let me ask you, Jonna, on the conspiracy claim, they‘ve got the extortion claim in there.  What is that about?

SPILBOR:  You know, I have no idea, Dan, because I don‘t—I don‘t see any legitimacy to the entire conspiracy thing, and here‘s what we‘re forgetting.  There are a couple of things in life that a person just cannot do alone.  Conspiring is one of them, and, even though we have all this twitter over here that Jackson associates were calling this one and calling that one, they have not connected Michael Jackson to any of that noise, and, without connecting him to the noise, there is no conspiracy.

ABRAMS:  And I‘ve said this to other people.  I mean, some people are saying, well, you know, he called up the ex-wife and said you‘ve got to...

SPILBOR:  So what?

ABRAMS:  You‘ve got to come, and you‘ve got—and he signed a waiver. 

I mean, if there‘s no conspiracy to make a rebuttal video here...

SPILBOR:  Right.

ABRAMS:  I‘ve said that before.  You‘ve got to do more than have conspired to make a—the rebuttal video.  I think we all agree it seems that that conspiracy charge is in a lot of trouble.  That is the most serious charge against Michael Jackson, and—there are other charges, though.

So everyone‘s going to stick around.

Coming up...

PFINGST:  Dan, one...

ABRAMS:  Hang on one second.  We‘re going to come right back.  We‘re going to talk about—what about the lewd acts on a child?  The bottom line is this kid says he did these things to me.

And why would this fiance stick with this runaway bride?  He says he believes in forgiveness.  Do you buy it?  Coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL JACKSON, DEFENDANT:  Please keep an open mind and let me have my day in court.  I deserve a fair trial like every other American citizen.  I will be acquitted and vindicated when the truth is told.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  All right.  I just can‘t stop watching.  I mean, when I see that video, it‘s just like I‘m mesmerized, just looking at Michael Jackson.

All right.  The lewd act.  This is it.  You know, this is the heart of the case: Did Michael Jackson molest the boy?  The prosecution case is almost over.

Remember what the accuser testified to.  “At any time when you were at Neverland ranch, did Mr. Jackson touch you inappropriately?”  “Yes.”  “How many times?”  “What I saw in my memory is only twice, but I kind of feel it was more than twice, but, I mean, the only times that I saw in my mind was that he did it only twice.”

And then the accuser‘s brother testified, “My brother was outside of the covers, and I saw Michael‘s left hand in my brother‘s underwears.  I saw his other hand in his underwears.  He was masturbating.  He was rubbing himself.  My brother was asleep.  He was kind of snoring.”

There were a couple of other allegations similar to that.

Paul, it presents—I mean, that‘s it, right?  I mean, you either believe the boy or you don‘t.  The boys.

PFINGST:  Well, not necessarily because you do have his bad act of that prior 1993 case that sort of plays in the mix there because, apparently, the boy in that case was even a more convincing witness than the boy in this case.  So...

ABRAMS:  Except he didn‘t testify.  The ‘93 boy didn‘t testify.

PFINGST:  Well, the—that case seemed to be a stronger case than this case.

ABRAMS:  Yes, right.  I agree.

PFINGST:  And so what happens there is you have all of that together, and, ultimately, there—the question is: Should this have been what this trial is about?  Forget the other charges and focus on this.  And the jury is going to evaluate that boy and his brother.  This is where Michael Jackson is at his greatest risk in this case because, if this charge is found true, then other charges by implication will have to be found true, and then the sentencing on those charges stacks up under California law.

ABRAMS:  See, Bill, what I think the jurors may do is I think they may compromise, and I think if he‘s found guilty—and I find it hard to believe that they‘re going to unanimously come to a verdict of guilty, but it could happen.  I think they might compromise then and convict him on the alcohol.  Alcohol...

FALLON:  Alcohol definitely, Dan.

ABRAMS:  Now here‘s the thing, though.  The alcohol charge—and let me read number 20, if we can get it, that “Michael Jackson unlawfully gave alcohol to the accuser with the intent to enable and assist him to molest the child,” and so it kind of wouldn‘t make sense that they would just convict of the alcohol and not the molestation, but I think that that could be a compromise.

FALLON:  Dan, you know, the—I think you said it the best because one of the things that‘s amazing is, of course, there are statutes around that just—to give alcohol—you can‘t give alcohol to a kid.  This is what that—it‘s one of those intent crimes, which is really odd.  I could picture jurors sayings I think he might have been molested, the child, but I‘m not sure, but I‘ll give you this one.

I‘m going to tell you A plus B would equal not guilty if it was just the boy and his brother.  As Paul said and I‘ve said since the beginning, that ‘93 kid probably was better than the kid who got $20 million.  People thought he was convincing, and there has to be someone in this jury who says, you know what, we‘re not sure about the kid, we‘re not sure about the brother, we hate the mother, but we know that ‘93 kid is telling us something truthful, and that‘s going to be where the hung jury lies.

ABRAMS:  All right.  I‘ve got to move on.  I‘m almost out of time.

Mike Taibbi, your reporting has indicated, according to sources, I

believe, close to the defense, that Michael Jackson wants to testify, that

he‘s prepared to testify

Look, I hear that in every single case, all right, that the defendant wants to testify, that he‘s on the edge of his seat, O.J. was on the edge of his seat, Scott Peterson, they‘re all on the edge of their seat.  In this case, though, Tom Mesereau promised in a way, said you‘ll hear from Michael Jackson or “Michael Jackson will tell” was the exact words he used, X, Y and Z.

Your prediction, Mike.  Will Michael Jackson take the stand?

TAIBBI:  Boy, I hate to make a prediction, but, you know, you heard in Jackson‘s statement at the head of this segment that, you know, he wants to get his fair day in court.  He‘s getting it in this trial.  The question he and his team are trying to address is whether he‘s had a fair hearing for the last 12 years in the court of public opinion because of the way the story has been reported, and, to cure that, I think that, even though there‘s not even an established victim here, as there was in Peterson, for example, where the jury would want to make somebody pay, I think this jury is going to want to hear Michael Jackson...

ABRAMS:  They want to hear him.

TAIBBI:  ... persuasively say I‘m not a child molester, not just I didn‘t do this, I‘m not a child molester.

ABRAMS:  All right.  Yes or no.  I‘m out of time.  Bill Fallon, yes or no.  Michael Jackson take the stand?

FALLON:  No, shut the case down now.

ABRAMS:  Jonna Spilbor, yes or no?

SPILBOR:  If the conspiracy charges go away before they get to the jury, he will take the stand.

ABRAMS:  Don‘t give me the if.  Yes or no.

SPILBOR:  It is—maybe.

ABRAMS:  It‘s not going to be—the conspiracy charge won‘t be gone by the time it gets to the jury.

SPILBOR:  Dan, you know he‘s going to make a motion right now to close the case.

ABRAMS:  He‘s going to lose.  He‘s going to lose.  He‘s going to lose.

SPILBOR:  No, not on the conspiracy charge, though.  I‘ll bet you. 

I‘ll bet you a nickel.

ABRAMS:  He‘s going to lose.

SPILBOR:  I‘ll bet you a nickel.

ABRAMS:  Paul?

PFINGST:  I‘ll bet you a nickel.

ABRAMS:  I guarantee you none of the charges are going to be dismissed before it goes to the—you agree with that, right, Paul?  None of the charges will be dismissed before they...

PFINGST:  No, they won‘t be dismissed.  The answer...

ABRAMS:  All right.  Will he take the stand?

PFINGST:  No.

ABRAMS:  I predict Michael Jackson will not take the stand despite what we heard in the opening statement, but who knows?  I could be wrong.  Scott Peterson—I knew Michael Jackson—I mean, Scott Peterson, I knew wasn‘t going to take the stand.

All right.  Everybody, thank you.

TAIBBI:  It‘s dinner if he does, right?  Let‘s bet dinner if he does.

ABRAMS:  No.  Yes.  I could be wrong on this one.  Scott Peterson, I was willing to bet anything.

All right.

FALLON:  Mesereau should shut the case down this week.

ABRAMS:  All right.  I‘ve got to go.

John Mason, the fiance of the runaway bride, says he still wants to marry her.  Look, we‘ve still got everyone out.  They even—they want to talk about that, too.

FALLON:  Go to Neverland.

ABRAMS:  Yes.  You‘ll hear from him next.

Your e-mails, abramsreport@msnbc.com.  Please include your name, where you‘re writing from.  I‘ll respond to you on the show.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Coming up, the fiance of the runaway bride says he still wants to marry her.  Up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  It seems the wedding bells will be ringing for runaway bride Jennifer Wilbanks and her jilted fiance, John Mason.  She was missing for three days, running from her wedding day, which would have been this past Saturday, a wedding with 14 bridesmaids, 14 groomsmen, 600 invited guests.  You know what happened.  Instead of wearing her wedding veil, she arrived home from her little cross-country trip with a towel on her head.

It turns out Wilbanks‘ cold feet did nothing to change Mason‘s feelings towards her.  He says she‘s still the one.  Yesterday, John Mason told FOX News Channel‘s “Hannity & Colmes” about his love for Jennifer.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEAN HANNITY, FOX ANCHOR:  A lot of people want to know the answer to this question, John.  Do you still love her?

JOHN MASON, JILTED GROOM:  Absolutely.  Yes.  Just because we haven‘t walked down the aisle, just because we haven‘t stood, you know, in front of the 500 people and said our I do‘s, you know, my commitment before God to her was the day I bought that ring and put it on her finger, and I‘m not backing down from that now.

HANNITY:  Are you angry, hurt, embarrassed, annoyed, all of the above? 

What do you feel?

MASON:  I‘ve got to tell you, man, I‘m happy.  She‘s come to the conclusion that she needs some help on some things, and, if it took this to get her to it, man, praise God she says she‘s there, and we‘re going to get her some help and we‘re going to get her, you know, right again.

HANNITY:  She says the wedding is not called off, it‘s just postponed. 

Is that the situation?

MASON:  Absolutely.

HANNITY:  You‘re still engaged?

MASON:  Absolutely.  Yes.  The first thing I gave to her when I saw her was her diamond back.

HANNITY:  Oh, you did?

MASON:  Yes.  I made sure she put it on.

HANNITY:  How did she react to that?

MASON:  She put it right on her finger.

HANNITY:  You don‘t want people to judge her on this event?

MASON:  Absolutely not.  I mean, this—ain‘t we all messed up, you know?  I mean, haven‘t we all made mistakes?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Joining me now, clinical psychologist Robi Ludwig.

All right.  Robi, is it fair to just say, “Ain‘t we all messed up?”

ROBI LUDWIG, CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGIST:  Well, certainly, everybody has issues, but not everybody handles their issues in a way that‘s so public and so extreme.  Certainly, this fiance is very loving and understanding, and I think, actually, he‘s showing good character.

ABRAMS:  That‘s what I was going to ask you about.  I mean, does it

show any psychological infirmity that he is so willing to take her back and

say, you know, look, she needs—you know, I remember—and it‘s—look

·         I‘m going to get criticized for making this comparison, but Rusty Yates

·         remember the husband of the woman who drowned her five children?

LUDWIG:  Yes, right.

ABRAMS:  You know, totally different situation, except that he was striking in how he was still willing to like say, look, she‘s ill, she needs help...

LUDWIG:  You know, and I think that...

ABRAMS:  .... and that‘s all he focused on.

LUDWIG:  Right.  And that was a very different situation because I think Rusty did a lot to contribute to his wife‘s illness, and that‘s why it didn‘t...

ABRAMS:  Oh, I don‘t think so.  I think everyone blamed Rusty.

LUDWIG:  Well, OK.

ABRAMS:  Let‘s get to this.

LUDWIG:  So—but this guy really is showing his understanding, and he may know things about his fiance that we don‘t know about and also publicly...

ABRAMS:  Wait.  If he knows things that we don‘t know about, shouldn‘t he have suspected then that that‘s what happened?  I mean...

LUDWIG:  I don‘t know.  No, I don‘t know.

ABRAMS:  Well, everyone in the family is saying no way, no how could she have run away.  No way.

LUDWIG:  I don‘t know that anyone could ever know that somebody would behave in this kind of extreme way and would kind of fake their abduction.  She went through a psychological snapping to do what she did, and, clearly, she didn‘t have anyone to talk to, and, in part, it‘s very normal to have marital jitters, and we don‘t allow people to talk about it.

ABRAMS:  Wait, wait, wait.  Of course we do.  People are...

LUDWIG:  No, we don‘t.  No, we don‘t.

ABRAMS:  What are you talking about?  People have...

LUDWIG:  We basically tell people...

ABRAMS:  Oh, come on.  People have friends.  They have their close friends who they talk to, and they say, look, I‘m having questions.  I mean...

LUDWIG:  There is a phase...

ABRAMS:  My producer, Caroline, was just telling me the other day about friends of hers who talked to her in the past and said, oh, you know, I wonder this and that.  Right?  I think that‘s what you said.

LUDWIG:  Well, because they were healthier people, they knew that it was normal to have doubts and to talk to people, and, when you don‘t have people to rely on and talk to, then you can act out in a kind of extreme way.

I mean, basically, we tell people in society there‘s this mythic notion, once you meet the right person, you will have no doubts, you will automatically float on cloud nine, and that‘s the way it should be if you‘re with the right person.

So imagine if you don‘t have anyone to share these very—am I choosing the right person?  Am I doing the right thing?

ABRAMS:  But everyone else doesn‘t do this.  I mean, look...

LUDWIG:  Most people do not do this.

ABRAMS:  The bottom line is...

LUDWIG:  I agree with you.

ABRAMS:  All right.  Here‘s what John Mason says about the rehabilitation process.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MASON:  She‘s safe.  She‘s alive.  She‘s back home with us.  You know, she‘s not OK by any stretch of the imagination, but, you know, we‘re starting the process of—“rehabilitation” is the wrong word, but, you know, we‘re looking for what to do next, I should say.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  I guess I kind of agree.  Look, I think it‘s admirable that, you know, this guy now knows that he‘s married to someone who‘s got some real issues, and yet he‘s still—or going to get married to, and he‘s still willing to say I‘ll stick around.

LUDWIG:  Right.  And they really should wait before moving to the next step because, if this is is the way she handles problems, he definitely should say, hey, do I want to choose somebody who‘s going to react to problems by running away?  The other thing, too, is that maybe this wedding was not her idea.

ABRAMS:  Maybe, maybe, maybe.  I mean...

LUDWIG:  Listen, I think it‘s important...

ABRAMS:  ... you know, I...

LUDWIG:  I‘m not making excuses.

ABRAMS:  ... hear people blaming their parents, and they‘re blaming the fiance, they‘re blaming everybody.  The bottom line is she‘s the one that ran off, she‘s the one who said an Hispanic man in a blue van abducted me.

LUDWIG:  That‘s right, but it...

ABRAMS:  I‘m not willing to blame anyone else yet until I hear...

LUDWIG:  I think there‘s a difference between blaming and understanding something from a psychological perspective, that she emotionally felt abducted, we need to know by who.  That‘s something she needs to figure out.

ABRAMS:  Well, that‘s a very sympathetic way to view what she did. 

That‘s why you do what you do, Robi!

LUDWIG:  That‘s right.

ABRAMS:  Because you‘re sympathetic...

LUDWIG:  That‘s why I‘m not a lawyer.

ABRAMS:  Robi Ludwig, thanks a lot for coming on.

LUDWIG:  Thanks for having me.

ABRAMS:  Coming up, a new study finds parents don‘t treat their ugly children as well as their good-looking ones.  What does that mean for those of us who might have been late bloomers?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  In “Closing Argument,” remember your parents telling you it‘s only who you are on the inside that matters, honey?

Well, according to a new study, they were lying.  A new study out of Canada found that parents treated good-looking youngsters better than more homely ones.  Researchers hung around 14 Canadian supermarkets to observe how parents treated their young kids when grocery shopping—for instance, whether they buckled them into the carts, how far away kids were allowed to wander, how frequently they were allowed to engage in potentially dangerous activities.

And then like frat boys in a bar, the researchers rated each child‘s attractiveness on a 1- to 10-point scale.

Well, it turns out that being a good-looking kid made a big difference in how the parents treated them.  Only 4 percent of the uglier children were strapped into the shopping cart by their moms, while over 13 percent of the cuter kids were strapped in safely.  Fathers were even worse offenders, apparently.  The dads watched in the study didn‘t even bother to strap any of the ugly kids into the carts, but the dads strapped their cute kids into the cart 12.5 percent of the time.

If you were a kid prone to wandering the supermarket on your own, then you were best off if you were an attractive boy.  Parents, apparently, were more attentive to good-looking boys, keeping them in closer proximity in the stores, than even with pretty girls.

The lead researcher in the study told The New York Times that parents taking better care of attractive children is just evolution, that good-looking offspring are parents‘ best genetic legacy, so they end up getting the most attention and care.

Yikes!  So what about us kids who might have had, well, an awkward period?  If we were more likely to be at danger in a supermarket, can you imagine what else we were in danger of?

I mean, just because I chose to wear a purple shirt with flowers and a balloon on my head does not mean my mother would have allowed me to suck on a helium dispenser, and sometimes maybe it was our parents‘ fault for not saying, hey, Casanova, you‘re not walking out looking like that!  Those girls can‘t get far enough away from me.

(LAUGHTER)

Anyway, if this study is true, it‘s downright frightening.  Let‘s just hope that maybe it‘s just some weird Canadian phenomenon so that next time some poor awkward boy hears you‘ve got a face only a mother could love, at least he can count on that being true.

Coming up, your e-mails on the runaway bride.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  I‘ve had my say.  It‘s time for your rebuttal.  Plenty of e-mails on the runaway bride from Georgia, Jennifer Wilbanks.

The question: Should she be charged criminally?  I said, yes, not serious time, but a criminal fine, maybe even a short jail stint, if, by lying to the authorities about an Hispanic man abducting her, she put a lot of people in danger.

Shelly Lewis, Metuchen, New Jersey, “I agree with you 100 percent that if she were an African-American man or woman, there would be not be much discussion on whether or not the law was broken.  It would be a given!  As you said, Hispanic men could have been needlessly stopped in the search for this woman.”

Bill Snyder in Franklin, Tennessee, “Can‘t you find something better to do than to pile on an emotionally disturbed young woman, demanding prosecutorial justice on your high and mighty horse?”

Greg Hand in Terre Haute, Indiana, “This woman isn‘t some 18- or 22-year-old still wet behind the ears.  She should go to jail, not pass go, not get to collect $200 or interviews or made-for-TV movie rights.”

Peter Mackey, Colorado Springs, Colorado, “Oh, please!  What law did this bride-to-be violate?  Is there a state law requiring you to report your presence to your fiance?  She can‘t be held responsible for what law enforcement decided was the appropriate response.”

Really, Peter?  Not even when she lies and sends them on a wild goose chase?  Look, there‘s no question this was a technical violation of the law.  Now the issue is whether the prosecutor is going to move forward.

Tony Duldulao, “Now I know why I watch FOX News more than any of the other cable networks.  What do you care if John Mason still wants to marry the girl?”

Interesting since it was your FOX News Channel that advertised its exclusive with John Mason and that he wanted to marry her all day and all night.

Finally, last night, a viewer asked me to her senior prom.  I told her I didn‘t think it would be appropriate.  Joan Lucas in California says she‘s more my age.  “Since you turned down the high school girl‘s invitation to her prom, I thought I‘d see if you‘d be available to escort me to my retirement party.  It‘s Friday, May 27.  Since that‘s Memorial Day weekend, maybe we could make a weekend out of it.”

Thanks, Joan.  I‘ve got plans that weekend.  No.

Thank you for your e-mails.  abramsreport@msnbc.com.  We go through them at the end of the show.

Oh, please!  Just when you thought the small beach town of Cape May, New Jersey, was setting a national standard by saying no to itsy-bitsy teeny-weeny men‘s bikinis, the town let us all down, repealing the just-say-no-to-Speedos ban.  Cape May last week voted to modernize its beach regulations which had outlawed skintight, form-fitting or bikini-type swimming attire for males over 12 years old.

Why repeal it?  So the boys can show off their forms in the Lycra man hammocks?  That‘s a picture of me, of course.  The supporters pointed out it‘s mostly older men with not-so-toned bodies flaunting their manhood around.

Now, apparently, the town made the slings illegal in the 1960s as a way to ban gay men who wore the suits on the beach.  But it seems now it‘s just preventing people from gagging on the beach.  Talk about a nutty law.

That does it for us tonight.

Coming up next, “Hardball With Chris Matthews.”

Thanks for watching.  I‘ll see you at 9:00 Eastern for a special on the BTK Killer case.

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