updated 5/5/2005 1:51:57 PM ET 2005-05-05T17:51:57

Guest:  Savannah Guthrie, Jim Moret, Steve Emerson, B.J. Bernstein, Susan Filan, Kathleen Peratis

DAN ABRAMS, HOST:  Coming up, after more than two months, prosecutors rest their case against Michael Jackson.  The last witness a Jackson camp insider. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ABRAMS (voice-over):  He says he heard Jackson associates talking about holding the accuser‘s family captive, but did Michael Jackson have anything to do it with?  And could the crime even have happened as prosecutors claim?  We lay out the timeline. 

And the runaway bride‘s attorney speaks out, how worried is she that Jennifer Wilbanks will be charged for lying to the authorities? 

Plus, tonight‘s big expos’ on “American Idol”, a contestant claiming Paula Abdul coached him about how to do better in the contest and then offered some personal coaching as well?  She is threatening to sue ABC.  What would she need to make a case? 

The program about justice starts now.  

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ABRAMS:  Hi everyone.  First up on the docket tonight, the people

rest.  This afternoon prosecutors in the Michael Jackson trial said we are

done.  After more than two months of testimony from over 80 witnesses,

there‘s no question it was a mixed bag for prosecutors, but one pundit

today described their last witness as the Kato Kaelin of the O.J. Simpson

case.  Ouch, it‘s supposed to be a bombshell, but I‘m guessing the Kato

reference means that he may have just been a bomb. 

As always, NBC‘s Mike Taibbi in Santa Maria where he has been following the trial since the beginning and Mike, we are going to have a full journalist roundtable in a minute of people who have been inside that courtroom every day, but first let me talk to you about this last witness who testified.  This is the great Jackson insider, the one who was supposedly taking notes, who is going to bring Michael Jackson down and he did not do it? 

MIKE TAIBBI, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  He did not do that.  You know it‘s funny this guy was on the stand yesterday.  His name is Rudy Provencio who the prosecution never classified him as a Jackson insider, but others on their behalf did.  A man who was in the record business for many years as a promoter or by his description was sort of a clerk, did a lot of filing and that sort of thing.  But he worked with Fred Marc Schaffel, the sort of leader of the pack among the alleged unindicted co-conspirators, worked with him for a while.  And he was going to put Jackson right in the middle of the planning...

ABRAMS:  Yes.

TAIBBI:  ... for the alleged conspiracy, but he didn‘t quite do that. 

ABRAMS:  Why not? 

TAIBBI:  In fact, what he—well because what he did—and this is a guy who had the jury eating out of his hand yesterday, Dan.  I mean there were four or five who had fixed smiles, the guy was funny and urbane, and some of them who laughed out loud at his jokes, for example, when the very correct and proper prosecutor, Ron Zonen, asked a question about his one percent interest in a Jackson single that was going to be released.  He said, well what would be the consequence of a point or a percentage in a production such as you‘ve just described—a typical Zonen question.  Rudy Provencio answered “you‘d be rich” and he roared his head back...

ABRAMS:  Yes.

TAIBBI:  ... and everybody laughed right along with him, including the judge.  Well today he talked about the two buzzwords that the prosecution wanted to get in—chiller killers and the word escape.  Don‘t forget these were the words that were used by the accuser‘s mother and Rudy Provencio testified...

ABRAMS:  Right, so Mike...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  I‘m sorry to interrupt you...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  ... but let me—just so I understand this, the bottom line is that Provencio said today that, yes, I heard some people talking about keeping that family captive, but it wasn‘t Michael Jackson who was talking about it, right? 

TAIBBI:  That is absolutely correct.  And also, he had never said this in months and months, more than a year of working for the prosecution, wearing wires, taping more than 50 phone call.  None of those tapes got in.  None of them had anything that was useful to the prosecution.  Only his memory, which by the way, was jogged by notes he found in a storage locker two weeks ago. 

(CROSSTALK)

TAIBBI:  He went back to the notes.  The dates were wrong, so it was a difficult final day for the prosecution. 

ABRAMS:  All right, Mike, stick around for a minute because...

TAIBBI:  Sure.

ABRAMS:  ... I want to talk to three people who have been inside the courtroom, three of the best out there, two others who have been in court since the beginning, attorney and “Inside Edition” senior correspondent Jim Moret, who earlier today said if this witness is the heart of the conspiracy case, then this case is in cardiac arrest, and Court TV correspondent Savannah Guthrie. 

All right, Savannah, do you agree with Jim and Mike that this final witness did not quite deliver what the prosecutors might have hoped? 

SAVANNAH GUTHRIE, COURT TV CORRESPONDENT:  Well, I‘m never as eloquent or pithy as Jim Moret is, but I do think that the conspiracy case ends up being a little bit disappointing with this witness, Rudy Provencio.  You know he talked about some things that are inflammatory and if this were a prosecution against Marc Schaffel, Vinnie Amen or Frank Capio Tyson (ph), then maybe he would be a great bombshell witness, but the problem for the prosecutors has always been and continues to be putting Michael Jackson at the heart of this conspiracy. 

ABRAMS:  Don‘t worry, Savannah.  There are almost no one out there who is as pithy and eloquent as Jim Moret, so don‘t worry OK.  All right...

GUTHRIE:  Thank you. 

ABRAMS:  Jim Moret, let me ask you to look at the prosecution‘s case as a whole, all right.  We‘ve now heard from 83 witnesses, some of them pretty persuasive on some points, others not.  I was asked this question on the “Today” Show the other day.  I was—Matt Lauer said to me, between rating it from a 1-10, how would you rate the prosecution‘s case?

JIM MORET, “INSIDE EDITION” SENIOR CORRESPONDENT:  And what did you say? 

ABRAMS:  I said a five. 

MORET:  I think that‘s probably a fair assessment.  You know, it‘s true you‘ve got to look at this case not just from one witness viewpoint, but you‘ve got a whole menagerie of witnesses that really paint this picture of who the prosecution says Michael Jackson is.  The big problem is that what‘s left with these jurors, this last impression is simply horrible.  The last impression is this past few witnesses all dealing with a conspiracy that, frankly, if anything, seems to support Debbie Rowe‘s contention that, sure, there may have been a conspiracy, but Michael Jackson may have been the target of that conspiracy, not somebody intimately involved with trying to commit a crime. 

And that‘s the problem.  That might infect or taint the other charges in this case.  So I think that the prosecution ended on a simply horrible note.  They didn‘t deliver their promises over the last week and a half and then they rest.  And you think to yourself is that all there is?  You‘re right.  There were some witnesses who were good and specifically the prosecution has to look to the young boy himself because don‘t forget, this is a molestation case.  If you believe the boy, the jury may well find molestation, but as far as conspiracy, I think they are in big trouble with that claim. 

ABRAMS:  You know, Mike Taibbi, here is my sense from reading the transcripts and I have only been there for a couple of days of the case.  But my sense is that they have proved that Michael Jackson is a somewhat disturbed individual.  And that there‘s something wrong with Michael Jackson in terms of the way he interacts with children.  And that he might have—might have—done something inappropriate with this child, might have molested this child, but might isn‘t enough when it comes to proof beyond a reasonable doubt. 

TAIBBI:  It has to be beyond a reasonable doubt.  You know they couldn‘t even rest their case in a definitive way today, Dan.  Tom Sneddon got up, the district attorney, and said we would be prepared to rest our case, using the conditional tense, pending he said the admission of final bits of evidence and the identification of certain exhibits.  So even that wasn‘t done in a clean way, and there‘s going to be a motion tomorrow—two motions, in fact, one, the one that we predicted, the motion for a direct and verget (ph) of acquittal on the conspiracy charge. 

And the other, a Griffin Doyle (ph) motion for a mistrial in the case having to do with, from what I understand, and maybe one of your panelists or you yourself know more about this, some violation of the rules regarding a witness‘ claims about when he either seeks counsel or makes any statements about his own status in the case.  We‘ll know more about that...

ABRAMS:  Yes.

TAIBBI:  ... in the next couple of hours, maybe not in time for your show, but those two motions...

ABRAMS:  Yes.

TAIBBI:  ... are going to be argued this morning.  The judge has set aside an hour and a half to do it.

ABRAMS:  And I—look, I would expect that those are not going to end up being a major issue in this case.  Savannah let me ask you this, all right.  I know the—my friends over at Court TV—I‘m a Court TV alumni.  I watch Court TV, but I have seen...

GUTHRIE:  Don‘t do it, Dan. 

ABRAMS:  ... I‘ve seen more people on Court TV—no, I want to get a sense of what a lot of the anchors there are saying about how the case has been going.  I mean I‘ve heard you know Nancy and Lisa and Kimberly express you know some encouragement or some belief that the prosecution‘s case hasn‘t been going that badly.  What is the sense over there as to how things have gone for prosecutors? 

GUTHRIE:  Well, Dan, I mean I think my colleagues are somewhat predictable in their beliefs about how the case is going.  And you know you have people who are completely up front that they have a prosecution or a defense bent, and that you know it‘s true not just of my colleagues at Court TV, but I think all of the reporters here covering the trial, that they have a certain way of looking at the case.  They hear what they want to hear.  And so I mean to answer you...

ABRAMS:  Come on...

GUTHRIE:  ... quickly, I mean...

ABRAMS:  Come on, Savannah...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  ... that suggests that no one can be objective here.  Come on.  I mean look, I don‘t really—I don‘t have a stake in this.  I am basically saying that I don‘t think that the prosecutors have quite—and again, I called it a five—but I don‘t think that they quite delivered what they need to get a conviction.  That maybe they will get a compromised verdict with a conviction on some of the alcohol charges, but I think this defense case is going to be pretty powerful.

GUTHRIE:  I think so too and I think even the prosecution bent anchors at Court TV probably see some pitfalls in the prosecution‘s case so far.  No case is perfect, that‘s for sure.  But you know what I keep thinking about?  This is the case that‘s going to rise and fall on closing argument.  Before I covered this case, I did the Paul Shanley case, the priest abuse case in Massachusetts, and I have to tell you, I looked at that as having a lot of reasonable doubt in that case until it came time for closing argument and that prosecutor in Massachusetts delivered such a powerful closing argument on basically the testimony of one alleged victim and it was a repressed memory case and that jury convicted. 

And I keep thinking about that as I consider this case.  You know we‘re reporters.  We seize on the inconsistencies.  We love to catch people in an inconsistency, in a lie, in a misstep...

ABRAMS:  Yes.

GUTHRIE:  Jurors aren‘t like that and we just have to remember it all comes down to the very end with closing arguments...

ABRAMS:  Yes and...

GUTHRIE:  ... how the two sides pull it together...

ABRAMS:  I have to say in the Michael Skakel case, the Kennedy nephew, I think the same thing happened.  Prosecutors sort of pulled it together in the closing argument.

But Jim, what do you think?  You think is this case dead?

MORET:  No, it‘s not dead, but I think the closing argument would have to be brilliant.  Dan, you and I have talked about this.  I think on its face, the case had some problems just with this timeline...

ABRAMS:  Well, we‘re going to talk about that...

MORET:  ... molestation occurred.

ABRAMS:  Yes.

MORET:  But I think that based on Tom Sneddon‘s opening statement, I think he would have to do a complete reversal and be brilliant on his closing statement.  I‘m expecting that of Mesereau...

ABRAMS:  Let‘s not...

MORET:  ... upon his performance...

ABRAMS:  I will leave one thing out there.  If Michael Jackson takes the stand, throw out every prediction I ever made because it will entirely depend on how he does on the witness stand.  If he takes the stand...

MORET:  I agree...

ABRAMS:  ... all bets are off.  All right, Jim, Savannah and Mike are going to stick around.

Coming up, we‘re going to talk about what Jim was just talking about, the timeline here.  I‘ve got to tell you, I think that is one of the prosecution‘s biggest problems here, is trying to establish when this happened.

And authorities track down al Qaeda‘s number three man, the only operative believed to be in direct contact with Osama bin Laden.  Could this be the key to finding him? 

And runaway bride Jennifer Wilbanks, her attorney—no that‘s not her

·         it‘s Paula Abdul—speaking out.  Turns out she bought a bus ticket as a—quote—“safety net” in case things got out of hand.  Well, they certainly did.

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)

THOMAS MESEREAU, MICHAEL JACKSON‘S ATTORNEY:  Believing that children are the true example of God‘s beauty, innocence and purity, Michael has devoted as much of his life to helping the world‘s children.  He has donated millions of dollars to healing children with disease, helping children with Aids, and traveling the world to emphasize the importance and welfare of our children.  Michael Jackson would never harm a child. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Yes, I guess the question in this case is what does it mean to help?  All right, that‘s Tom Mesereau, his attorney, months ago.  But now I want to talk about what it—the prosecution rests today, all right, done.  The case is finished.  The defense case is going to start, but this could be the crucial issue in the case, and that is the timeline, and I think it is big problem for prosecutors.  It starts when that damning documentary aired in England, February 3, 2003.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  And then he finally said, OK, if you love me, you‘ll sleep on the bed.  I was like, oh man and so I finally slept on the bed. 

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  It was fun that night. 

MICHAEL JACKSON, ACCUSED OF MOLESTATION:  I slept on the floor. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  That is the actual accuser in this case on that video.  Now remember, there are no allegations that Jackson had abused the boy yet, but prosecutors say the fallout and negative publicity from that video prompted Jackson to abduct, imprison, and extort the family and the accuser in order to have them say nice things about Jackson on tape.  Prosecutors say in the days following the airing of the documentary in the U.S. on the February the 6th, Jackson‘s associates coerced the accuser‘s mother into doing a rebuttal video praising Jackson. 

They claim that they told her it‘s the only way to insure her family‘s safety.  Defense investigator Bradley Miller then interviewed the family on the 16th of February.  The mother says Michael is wonderful, kind, unselfish, and what about the abuse?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BRADLEY MILLER, FORMER JACKSON DEFENSE INVESTIGATOR:  I asked each of them if anything had ever—anything improper ever happened.  I asked about sleeping arrangements there and was told by the two sons that neither one of them ever slept alone in Michael‘s room without the other one being present.  That nothing ever happened, nothing out of the ordinary, nothing sexual. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  The family again praised Jackson in the rebuttal video filmed by Jackson‘s associate on February 19.  The mother saying—quote—“we were destitute, had nowhere to turn.  Michael Jackson rescued us”, is what she said there.  Now prosecutors say it was all scripted, an allegation the defense denies. 

Then on the 20th, the family tells the Department of Children and Family Services that Jackson had done nothing inappropriate.  Again, the mother saying coerced into saying nice things.  But remember, even prosecutors aren‘t alleging any molestation had occurred yet.  They say it starts after that video has already been made.  The indictment alleges the lewd acts all happened after the rebuttal video between February 20 and March the 12th

The defense expected to try and narrow that timeline significantly to question how it could have happened in that period.  And Mike Taibbi, I mean that, I think, just as a matter of common sense I think is the hardest thing for prosecutors.  That these jurors may go back there and they may say wait a sec.  So he is forcing the family to make a rebuttal video and say nice things even though there hadn‘t been any abuse at that time, so maybe they would have said nice things anyway. 

TAIBBI:  Yes I know.  I mean to quote my son and “Rolling Stone” who said it much more succinctly.  He said here‘s the theory of the case.  That in a panic over negative publicity, they forced this family to say that no molestation had occurred when it hadn‘t occurred and then Michael Jackson gets over his panic just long enough to molest the child when the entire world is watching. 

That‘s one way to say in it 12 seconds, but that‘s really the theory of the case.  And today in court, Dan, the timeline was stretched even further back earlier to January 24, a date we haven‘t heard yet, when Rudy Provencio says he and the alleged co-conspirators got a hold of the transcript of the Bashir interview and that in that time the family then started panicking.  In fact, he goes back to his notes and he says that on February 1, the mother—the mom was flipping out, he said.  And he says he writes down for the killers, so already on February 1, before he even runs the Bashir documentary in England, Provencio...

(CROSSTALK)

TAIBBI:  ... is saying that the family is already flipping out, says doesn‘t make any sense...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  But let‘s be clear, Jim.  I mean if Michael Jackson did what this boy said, he‘s beyond—I mean he is a molester and he‘s also evil.  Because remember, this boy also—this is a boy who was suffering from cancer and he‘s claiming that Michael Jackson is telling him, don‘t worry about it.  You can drink.  You can drink liquor. 

Not only can you drink liquor, but we‘ll help you falsify in essence these urine tests.  I mean that goes—you know molestation is probably the most horrible crime you can imagine to a child, but then you add that to this that Michael Jackson, if this is true, is downright evil. 

MORET:  The question is have they proven it?  You talk about the alcohol charge.  You were suggesting earlier that perhaps the jury might go with one charge over another.  The alcohol I think is the weakest of all of them because you don‘t have any witnesses.  The state lost its witness in Chris Carter, this bodyguard who was supposed to say he saw Michael Jackson give the boy alcohol...

ABRAMS:  But there were witnesses...

MORET:  You don‘t have that witness...

ABRAMS:  Wait.  There were witnesses who testified they believed that the boy was drunk. 

MORET:  That‘s true, but the bottom line is just as you stated, things don‘t add up.  And you know at some point you‘ve really got to rely on common sense and say does this even make sense...

ABRAMS:  Yes.

MORET:  ... from a practical standpoint?  And that‘s really—that‘s the wall I keep running into. 

ABRAMS:  Savannah, final thought on that.

GUTHRIE:  Well you know what, this is where I think closing arguments becomes important.  Look, it‘s preposterous in many ways, the prosecution timeline, but I would use that to my advantage if I were the prosecutors.  I‘d say you saw that mother on the stand.  This is the evil mastermind who came up with this lie?  If you were going to do that and why would you make up a lie like this?  You would say that the molestation happened when everyone thought it had happened—before the Bashir documentary.  Why would you make up such an absurd story?  This isn‘t someone smart enough to think of that, so that‘s...

ABRAMS:  Yes.

GUTHRIE:  ... how I would argue it.  But I agree it‘s the fundamental absurdity of the prosecution‘s case. 

ABRAMS:  Yes.  All right, we shall see.  Again, if M.J. takes the stand, everything changes.  Mike Taibbi, Jim Moret, Savannah Guthrie, thanks a lot.

Now to a major break in the hunt for Osama bin Laden, or at least what could be.  What the U.S. is calling one of the most significant developments in the war on terror in more than two years.  Pakistani police tracked down and arrested al Qaeda‘s number three man, Abu Faraj al Libi, in northwest Pakistan today.  He is the only member of al Qaeda who has apparently been communicating directly with bin Laden, meaning he likely knows where bin Laden is hiding. 

He succeeded Khalid Sheikh Mohammed as the terrorist network‘s operations director, helped plan the September 11 attacks and is believed to be behind the 2003 assassination attempts against Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf.

Joining me now to discuss exactly what this is going to mean in terms of finding bin Laden, our favorite MSNBC terrorism expert Steve Emerson.  All right, Steve, is this the key to bin Laden? 

STEVE EMERSON, TERRORISM EXPERT:  Well we don‘t know, Dan.  The question is whether in fact he was in contact with him.  I sort of doubt that he was in touch with bin Laden.  More likely he was in touch with Ayman al-Zawahiri, the number two guy.  Remember that Abu Anas—not Abu Anas, but Mr. Libi...

ABRAMS:  Yes.

EMERSON:  ... elevated himself to the position of number three because of the vacancies, because of the early retirement, so to speak, of the other ones.  And I believe he was not as capable in terms of operational command, but certainly he probably would have been in contact with number two.  In terms of number one, that‘s a question that we won‘t know for the next few days. 

ABRAMS:  Steve, do you know, is that what he always looked like?  He‘s got those big marks on his cheeks.  I wonder was that from the capture or is that—are those just birthmarks that he has always had? 

EMERSON:  Well you know it raises questions, Dan.  The reports that I have seen said that he suffered from some type of skin discoloration...

ABRAMS:  Right.

EMERSON:  ... but we really don‘t know.  I would suggest that it was probably not some type of capture bruise or anything. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  Computers, they have been the key in this case in this war on terror.  It‘s been the discovery of computers in the hands of some of these leaders.  Any sense of whether he had a computer that‘s been found? 

EMERSON:  Well most of these guys who operated with computers, with cell phones, with satellite phones, and I doubt very much that he would be any different.  The real question is whether in fact the information can be utilized quickly enough to track down connections.  Remember many Ramzi Binalshibh, as well as Khalid Sheikh Mohammed were arrested.  They found hard drives, computers, satellite phones.  None of those were able to connect them up to the higher tiers of the organization. 

So the question is whether this will be—whether he was cellular compartmented, that is, he maintained sort of a different, compartmented type of connection or whether, in fact, he will have had direct connection, which they can use to track down bin Laden or al-Zawahiri.  As I say, we will know in the next couple of days whether there is a domino chain reaction. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  But let me just emphasize to my viewers, this is a big deal.  All right, this is a big fish in the al Qaeda chain of command and a big success. 

Steve Emerson, thanks a lot.  Appreciate it. 

Coming up, the runaway bride‘s attorney speaks out for the first time and says - shocker—she doesn‘t think her client committed any crime.  But does she think Jennifer still wants to go through with the wedding? 

And Paula Abdul threatening to sue ABC over its big “American Idol” expos’ that suggests she had an inappropriate relationship with a contestant and helped him in the competition.  What is she going to need to make a case? 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Coming up, the lawyer for the runaway bride sheds some new light on the happy couple‘s relationship.  He wants to marry her, but what about her?  After all, she ran out on him—first the headlines. 

(NEWS BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Runaway bride Jennifer Wilbanks will soon find out if she can run from the law.  Prosecutors in Gwinnett County, Georgia haven‘t decided yet if they are going to charge her after she disappeared from her home three days, lied to authorities about being abducted.  She‘s hired an attorney just in case.  Her lawyer talked today explaining what Jennifer was going through before she ran away and what she‘s dealing with now. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LYDIA SARTANE, JENNIFER WILBANKS‘ ATTORNEY:  This is not something that she planned or that she gave, you know, this level or degree of thought to.  I mean she simply was suffering from what was going on with her and just couldn‘t take anymore. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  She bought a bus ticket? 

SARTANE:  Well you know as I said earlier, she was experiencing some difficulty, and she thought to herself that if she couldn‘t get through the next few days, that she would have that sort of as a safety net.  And in her view, she didn‘t use it until the last moment.  She didn‘t use it immediately.  She waited and then just reached a point that she just couldn‘t continue. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Did she know about all the news coverage going on and the huge search here?  She had to know something.

SARTANE:  She really didn‘t.  I mean it saturated here, but she was moving—she was away from here.  It was not you know on the bus.  It was not something that was really topic of conversation. 

(CROSSTALK)

SARTANE:  I have asked Jennifer because she very much wants people to know you know how she feels and to know that she genuinely is remorseful about this and still is suffering from these incidents.  I have asked her simply to work on collecting her thoughts and writing those down, what would she have people know, and she‘s going through that exercise now.  She, you have to understand, has suffered a trauma.  So she‘s not, you know, in it to come please the public.  She wants the public to know that she is sorry, but she really is not well. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  All right, I accept that coming from the lawyer.  The part I don‘t get is suggesting that she‘s not criminally or civilly responsible according to her.  I don‘t know if that‘s a smart idea when you‘ve got a D.A. who‘s deciding whether to file charges. 

Joining me now former Gwinnett County, Georgia prosecutor B.J.  Bernstein and Connecticut state prosecutor Susan Filan.  B.J., bad move for the defense attorney? 

B.J. BERNSTEIN, FORMER GWINNETT CTY GA PROSECUTOR:  Well, I‘ve got to say this.  It may not be what I would have said initially having been a prosecutor for a long time, but now I do criminal defense work.

ABRAMS:  You don‘t want to hear it. 

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  The prosecutor does not want to hear an attorney going out and saying no crime was committed.  I mean it‘s almost like taunting them to charge. 

BERNSTEIN:  Precisely, precisely.  And I think part of it is this.  Lydia Sartane, who is her lawyer, is an excellent lawyer, was a district attorney in Hall County where this young woman‘s family is from.  So she‘s been the prosecutor before.  And she is in private practice, but you know and I know handling cases that are this much in the spotlight, this much in the media, changes how you may need to handle it from your every day case.  And so the things that you are pointing out...

ABRAMS:  Right.

BERNSTEIN:  ... are the difficulties in handling it now in the spotlight.  Normally you‘d wait a week or so before...

ABRAMS:  Right.

BERNSTEIN:  ... you talk to the D.A. 

ABRAMS:  No and look, again, I am not criticizing her for speaking out.  I think it‘s smart for her to get out there and explain that she is sorry and that she is not well, et cetera.  But here is Danny Porter, the D.A. on our show on Monday. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The only thing I know right now is it that‘s pretty clear—well, not even just pretty clear, really clear, that in Georgia, the jurisdiction or the venue for the crime of false statements or for false report of a crime is where the report is received, not necessarily where it originates.  So I have the ability—there‘s no legal impediment to prosecution. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Yes.  Susan, what do you think?  I mean the attorney getting out there and saying no—that she doesn‘t think any crime was committed. 

SUSAN FILAN, CONNECTICUT STATE PROSECUTOR:  I think she just raised—waved a red flag in front of a bull.  And that was a very poorly executed press conference, in my opinion.  It was baloney.  It was doublespeak.  It was mealy mouth, and it didn‘t send the message...

ABRAMS:  Because...

FILAN:  ... that I as a prosecutor would need to hear. 

ABRAMS:  Because Susan, I think the issue here is—I don‘t think anyone can dispute that there is a technical violation of the law here and the question is, is the prosecutor going to go forward.  So it‘s all about prosecutorial discretion. 

FILAN:  Exactly and what I heard is it‘s all about Jennifer.  I mean that press conference was, again...

ABRAMS:  But that‘s OK...

FILAN:  ... was all about me. 

ABRAMS:  But that‘s OK...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  Why? 

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  Why shouldn‘t she get out there and say...

FILAN:  What about the Hispanic man in the car?

ABRAMS:  I understand.  But look, if they want to charge her, they can charge her.  But her lawyer is not responsible for talking about the Hispanic man in the car.  Her lawyer is responsible for saying look, here is what she is going through.  I understand the lawyer getting out there to speak, I‘m just saying I don‘t think she wants to start suggesting that there was no violation. 

All right, let me play—I want to move on from the law because the question that I want to know is, all right, he‘s going out and saying I still want to marry her.  I gave her the ring as soon as she came back, but she‘s the one who fled town.  Does she still want to marry him? 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Is John with her?  Has he had a lot of contact with her and they are, you know, obviously in touch with each other.  (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

SARTANE:  He has been with her.  He‘s very supportive.  He‘s very protective.  He‘s very concerned and so he‘s been very important to her. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  We know that John wants to marry her.  Is she ready now to marry John?

SARTANE:  Jennifer, I think, is really just taking this really virtually one hour at a time, certainly a day at a time.  She has suffered.  I mean she‘s had some problems, and she‘s trying to deal with those and then deal with this at the same time.  So she‘s got a lot going on in her life.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Ouch.  B.J., oh, if you‘re—if I‘m him listening to that and I‘ve expressed my love for her on national television and said, I still want her, and all the lawyer can say is, well, she‘s taking it day by day (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

BERNSTEIN:  Yes, (UNINTELLIGIBLE), but at the same time, you‘ve got to remember that the one thing she did say that‘s probably the most accurate of all is that this young woman does have problems and that she‘s got to get to the bottom of them.  And although, you know John‘s signaling to her that he is ready to come forward...

ABRAMS:  Yes.

BERNSTEIN:  ... and that gives her the appropriate support, she does have to deal with things. 

ABRAMS:  Yes.

BERNSTEIN:  She does. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  B.J. Bernstein and Susan Filan, thanks a lot.  We‘ll stay on top of that.  The lawyer is probably going to make a statement tomorrow. 

Coming up, will Paula Abdul be the next person voted off “American Idol”?  (UNINTELLIGIBLE) An investigation about what goes on behind the scenes and there are some serious allegations about Paula.  She might sue, coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Coming up, the naughty details about just what Paula Abdul is accused of doing with an “American Idol” contestant.  She‘s saying she might even sue over it.  The question is does she have a case, coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

ABRAMS:  The tables will be turned for “American Idol” judge Paula Abdul tonight when ABC airs an exclusive interview with a former “Idol” contestant who says he and Abdul had a relationship during the show‘s second season. 

NBC‘s Mark Mullen has the story. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(MUSIC)

MARK MULLEN, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  TV‘s top-rated talent competition drawing nearly 28 million viewers per show and lately a lot of speculation about what went on backstage at “American Idol.”

DINA SANSING, “US WEEKLY”:  There is always something going on at “American Idol.”  There‘s a scandal to keep us going.  Paula has a huge scandal going on right now. 

MULLEN:  A network news magazine is promising to reveal allegations, claims by former “American Idol” hopeful Corey Clark.  Clark says he had an affair with Judge Paula Abdul while he was a contestant.  Clark is seen here hugging Abdul during an audition for the show‘s second season.  He made it to the finals, then appeared on “Today.”

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Did you schmooze Paula? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I did not schmooze Paula.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I did not schmooze Paula.

MULLEN:  Clark was later dropped from the “American Idol” show and is now said to be promoting a tell-all book detailing the allegations against Abdul.  FOX television released this statement. 

Disqualified “American Idol” contestant Corey Clark was removed from the show for failing to disclose his criminal arrest history.  Adding, we will of course look into any evidence of improper conduct that we receive.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Simon is looking at the glass half empty.

MULLEN:  But Abdul is fighting back.  Her attorney is threatening legal action if the report airs.  And in a statement to “Access Hollywood,” a spokesperson for Abdul called Clark an admitted liar and opportunist who was communicating lies about Paula Abdul in order to generate interest in a book deal. 

(MUSIC)

MULLEN:  All this one more bit of what could be considered bad news that has so far been good news for “Idol‘s” ratings.  The show has survived voting mishaps every season, including a phone number mix-up that led to a revote earlier this year. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  The fourth season seems to be bigger than all the rest of the seasons.  There are more scandals to talk about.  There‘s more things going on.  And the ratings are higher than ever. 

(APPLAUSE)

MULLEN:  We‘ll soon know if Americans will look past these latest charges against a favorite show and its most forgiving judge. 

Mark Mullen, NBC News, Los Angeles. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ABRAMS:  Joining me now is plaintiff‘s attorney Kathleen Peratis.  All right, so Kathleen, what do you think?  Paula Abdul going to sue?  I mean I guess it depends on what the real truth is, right?

KATHLEEN PERATIS, PLAINTIFF‘S ATTORNEY:  Well, first of all, I think that this scandal is probably good for everybody, so I‘m not sure...

ABRAMS:  Is it really good for Paula Abdul?  I mean come on, the idea that she you know is having an affair—I mean who—the coaching, OK, whatever, but...

PERATIS:  It probably has its pluses and minuses for her, for the show, and for him.  But it really is sort of in the time honored and sleazy tradition of kiss and tell.  If it is not true or even if it is, she could sue him for defamation, but my guess is that‘s not going to happen.  There are other potential claims here also.  He probably has a contract with the program, which requires that he not cheat and that he not engage or cooperate with any rigging.  So if he did that, there may be breach of contract claims against him. 

ABRAMS:  But it‘s not really—all he is saying is that—you know I guess she was telling him like you know what kind of clothes to wear...

PERATIS:  Yes, that could be cheating. 

ABRAMS:  Yes, I guess.  Yes...

PERATIS:  And...

ABRAMS:  Remember, it‘s still—but it‘s the public voting in the end, right?  I mean it‘s not Paula Abdul.  I mean I guess they do make in the initial rounds, but it‘s you know...

PERATIS:  Well I‘m not sure there‘s going to be any lawsuits flowing out of this in any event, but there are certainly potentials for breach of contract claims.  There‘s also a potential for a claim, a criminal claim.  There‘s federal law against rigging quiz shows and game shows. 

ABRAMS:  Yes.

PERATIS:  They generally apply, though, to intellectual...

ABRAMS:  Hey, hey, easy.  This is not...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  ... this is intellectual.  Come on. 

PERATIS:  Well...

ABRAMS:  Are you saying “American Idol” is not intellectual? 

PERATIS:  I must be full disclosure here.  I have never seen the program.

ABRAMS:  All right.  Here‘s “American Idol‘s” statement.  All right.

PERATIS:  OK.

ABRAMS:  “We will, of course, look into any evidence of improper conduct that we receive.  In the meantime, we recommend that the public carefully examine Mr. Clark‘s motives given his apparent desire to exploit his prior involvement with “American Idol” for profit and publicity.”

Let me read you one more statement.  This is a statement from the contestant‘s attorneys.  “In order to save Ms. Abdul further humiliation, we‘ve advised her counsel to have a candid discussion with Ms. Abdul before making any further statements regarding Mr. Clark‘s veracity.”

Bottom line, Kathleen, is if this is all made up and none of it is true, she should sue.

PERATIS:  She probably will not sue whether it‘s made up or not because that is a lot of grief to go through a defamation claim and proving a defamation claim against a public figure is even harder, as you know, than proving a claim against somebody who‘s not a public figure.  This isn‘t going to become a lawsuit. 

This is going to probably fold quickly.  I think he has his 15 seconds of fame—maybe 16 seconds of fame. 

ABRAMS:  Yes.

PERATIS:  But I wonder whether contestants are going to have a claim that there was some rigging on his part or on her part or on the part of the program.

ABRAMS:  Yes...

PERATIS:  But my guess is by tomorrow we‘re not going to hear anymore about it.

ABRAMS:  Oh no, tomorrow we‘ll be hearing a lot about it.  Just maybe the day after...

PERATIS:  The day after...

ABRAMS:  Yes.  All right.  Kathleen Peratis, thanks a lot. 

PERATIS:  You‘re welcome.

ABRAMS:  Coming up, the cover-up surrounding the death of Pat Tillman.  You‘d think the United States Army would know that the cover-up can be worse than the crime itself.  It‘s my “Closing Argument.”

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  My “Closing Argument”—it‘s hardly news that the cover-up is always worse than the crime itself, but it seems it is a lesson that‘s hard to learn.  From Richard Nixon to Bill Clinton to the Catholic Church to Martha Stewart, they all learned the lesson very publicly, so you‘d think the U.S. Army might not make the same mistake.  Well no such luck when it comes to the death of American hero Pat Tillman who gave up a lucrative career in the National Football League to fight for his country in Afghanistan.  A new 1,600-page report obtained by “The Washington Post” found that the U.S. Army knew within days of his death that Tillman had been killed by friendly fire in April of 2004.

Troops with Tillman at the time of death reported immediately the he was killed by American bullets, but the Army didn‘t tell anyone, including his brother who was also serving in Afghanistan, or his parents, until this statement nearly four weeks after his nationally televised funeral.  The report found that—quote—“nothing has contributed more to an atmosphere of suspicion by the family than the failure to tell the family that Corporal Pat Tillman‘s death was the result of suspected enemy—friendly fire as soon as that information became known within military channels.”

The report found that Army officers not only erroneously reported that Tillman was killed by enemy fire, but also destroyed critical evidence and instructed soldiers to keep the truth from the public and initially concealed the truth from Tillman‘s brother who was near the sight of the attack.  An Army spokesman told “The Post” that the Army‘s process for notifying grieving families is imperfect and complex and needs to be improved. 

I‘m sure they meant well, but cover-ups almost always involve an effort to try to keep certain possibly embarrassing details secret.  How imperfect and complex can it be to notify a family how their son was killed, especially when the death is receiving international attention and the parents are out doing television interviews demanding to know what happened to their son?  Is it possible that an organization as sophisticated as the U.S. Army thought it wouldn‘t come out eventually? 

But Pat Tillman‘s heroic story belonged to his family first and then to the rest of us.  It was an inspiration and represented the best this country.  I don‘t care how he died.  That doesn‘t make his sacrifice any less valiant, but by trying to cover it up, the Army sure didn‘t make it feel like they saw it that way.

Take a break.  Be back in a minute.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  We‘re back.  I‘ve had my say, now it‘s time for “Your Rebuttal”.  Last night I predicted that Michael Jackson probably won‘t take the stand—I‘m not sure—despite what his attorney said in opening statements. 

Tanya in California, “Dan, you‘re wrong.  Michael Jackson will testify.  He believes he‘s innocent and is not a pedophile.  Sneddon had no case, period.”

Well Tanya, if Sneddon has no case, then Michael Jackson shouldn‘t take the stand because it could only go downhill from there, as long as Sneddon has no case.

Also runaway bride Jennifer Wilbanks may still be on her way down the aisle.  Her fianc’ revealing he still wants to get married.  Last night my guest clinical psychologist Robi Ludwig said when healthy people have doubts, they talk to people they rely on and when they don‘t have those kind of people, they act out in extreme ways. 

Mary Ann Hemmingson in Tempe, Arizona, “Who in the world could Jennifer Wilbanks confide in?  She only had 14 bridesmaids and 600 guests invited to her wedding.  Can‘t you see that she was alone in the world?”

And Teri Nadeau, “The groom just doesn‘t get it.  When your bride-to-be snaps and ditches the wedding with no note and no warning and goes to Las Vegas, she‘s just not that into you man.”

Last night in my “Closing Argument” a new study in Canada found parents treated good-looking children better than ugly ones.  So I asked what about us kids who might have had an awkward period?  I shared some pictures of myself during my awkward time. 

Blythe Meyomesse in Boston, Massachusetts, “I split up with my husband a year ago and haven‘t dated a man since.  Then I saw you the other day busting a move while singing a line from Janet Jackson.  Than I saw you show pictures of yourself and all your splendor as a kid in a skimpy bathing suit.  Thank you Dan.  You helped me realize once again I‘m better off without a man.”

From Falls Church, Virginia, Mindi Bryant, “When you showed that picture of yourself in the swim trunks, my soon-to-be teenage daughter walked by and said wow, what a hottie.”  Mindi, you might want to talk to her about that, wasn‘t quite a hottie.

Finally, Lilly Rose Knight writes, “You are an—do we have this one

·         you are an idiot.”  Oh, well anyway, well the joke was, she spelled it wrong.  She spelled it i-o-d—you get it?  All right, my crack staff fixed it.  They didn‘t want to have a typo.  Oh, that was a joke when she wrote you‘re an iodit. 

All right, anyway that‘s actually wrong there, idiot.  That‘s spelled wrong.  That is spelled wrong.  It‘s just spelled in a different way wrong.  Anyway, all right. 

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

“OH PLEAs!”—a new bill in Texas is calling for public schools to enforce more hop and less hip with their hoorays.  The Texas House narrowly passed their “Curb Your Enthusiasm” law banning dirty dancing and booty shaking from dance routines often performed by cheerleaders and drill teams.  The bill proposed by Representative Al Edwards after he witnessed a scintillating routine performed at a middle school calls for cheerleaders to gyrate their pompoms rather than their booties, claiming the sexually suggestive routines contradict the school‘s teaching of living a virtuous life and refraining from premarital sex.  So he decided it‘s time for the government to start monitoring dance maneuvers.  Under the bill, public schools that allow provocative dancing will receive punishments.  Unbelievable. 

That‘s it, out of time.  See you tomorrow.

END

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