updated 5/6/2005 11:47:17 AM ET 2005-05-06T15:47:17

Guest: Dr. Charles Raison, Geoffrey Fieger, B.J. Bernstein, Pam Bondi, Jonna Spilbor, Richard Jefferson

DAN ABRAMS, HOST:  Coming up, the runaway bride says she never had cold feet.  This as the authorities confirm she told another lie, that she had been raped. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ABRAMS (voice-over):  Jennifer Wilbanks even offered to take a rape test before telling police the truth.  And for the first time, she explains why she ran away.  We have got her statement. 

And Michael Jackson‘s lawyers call their first witnesses, two frequent sleepover guests.  Prosecutors suggested Jackson molested them.  But that‘s not what these young men say happened.

Plus, former “American Idol” contestant Corey Clark‘s scandalous allegations against Paula Abdul are out, but FOX says he won‘t tell them what she did wrong?  Why not?  We ask his lawyer.

The program about justice starts now. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ABRAMS:  Hi everyone.  First up on the docket tonight, the runaway bride is finally talking, well sort of.  This as the Albuquerque Police Department tells us not only did Jennifer Wilbanks claim she was abducted by a Hispanic man in a blue van, but she originally claims she had been raped, even agreed to take a rape test.  They never ordered an exam.  And Wilbanks eventually retracted the statement when she admitted she wasn‘t abducted, but rather she just ran away on her own, only days before her wedding.  But first, her statement, read by her pastor just hours ago, he insists these are her words. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TOM SMILEY, JENNIFER WILBANKS‘ PASTOR:  At this time, I cannot fully explain what happened to me last week.  I had a host of compelling issues, which seemed out of control, issues for which I was unable to address or confine.  Please, may I assure you, that my running away had nothing to do with cold feet nor was it ever about leaving John.  Those who know me know how excited I have been and how excited I was about the spectacular wedding we planned and how I could not wait to be called Mrs. John Mason. 

In my mind, it was never about timing however unfortunate.  I was simply running away from myself and from certain fears controlling my life.  Each day I am understanding more about who I am and the issues that have influenced me to respond inappropriately.  Therefore, I have started professional treatment voluntarily.  I am sorry for the troubles I caused, and I offer my deep and sincere apology. 

I ask for John‘s forgiveness and that of his family.  I also ask for forgiveness of my family, our friends, our respective churches, our communities, and others I may have offended unintentionally.  I am deeply grateful and appreciative to everyone who responded on my behalf.  I thank you for every expression of support and effort. 

Your sacrifices of time and personal inconvenience touched me deeply.  I truly hope your spirit of care is not lessened.  I understand that many people wanted to hear from me personally today, and I wanted to be here.  However, I look forward to the days ahead when I am strong enough to speak for myself.  As John said on countless occasions recently, may we follow the teachings of scripture, in being kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving, just as God in Christ forgives us. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  “My Take” -- (INAUDIBLE) 600 guests, 14 bridesmaids, 14 groomsmen, she leaves four days before her wedding, calls her fianc’ the night before she is supposed to get married and tells him she has been abducted.  That‘s not cold feet?  Maybe there‘s no psychological term called cold feet syndrome.  What she did sure sounds to me like cold feet.  The fact that she initially told police she was raped I believe guarantees she will be charged for lying to the Georgia authorities. 

Joining me now, former Gwinnett County Georgia prosecutor B.J.  Bernstein, defense attorney Geoffrey Fieger, and psychiatrist Charles Raison from Emory University in Atlanta.

All right, let me start with a statement.  Before we get to how this rape charge could affect whether she gets charged.  Dr. Raison, is my analysis—I mean she is saying it wasn‘t cold feet.  It was something else.  But that sounds to me like a lot of psychobabble.  The bottom line is she got scared about getting married and she went to Vegas. 

DR. CHARLES RAISON, PSYCHIATRIST, EMORY UNIV.:  Well you know maybe, but on the other hand, you know, something like 15 percent of people will actually back out of weddings, and people hardly ever do anything this wild, so I actually kind of believe her.  When I first heard the story I thought—I wondered if this is somebody that‘s had some sort of mental break, because usually, you know, when people do something this odd, as psychiatrists, you know we find out there‘s always a lot more story, and I suspect she is right, there probably is more story here that we don‘t know about. 

ABRAMS:  Yes, maybe, but you know—all right, look, it becomes I think quibbling over psychological terms as to, you know, how do you define cold feet or not cold feet.  Let me get into the legal here, because I‘ve got to tell you, this has sealed the deal for me.  Geoffrey, I was stunned to hear that Atwo (ph) does not believe that she should be charged.  Does this not change your mind now that she says she was raped also? 

GEOFFREY FIEGER, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY:  No, I think she‘s a victim.  And you want to—I will tell you what I think she is a victim of, the press coverage.  I am positive that thousands of people—they may not do the extreme that she was involved with, Dan, but thousands of people do similar things, back out, disappear, but they don‘t get the press coverage that this got, and unfortunately, because of the press coverage now, the question is, whether she should be charged.  That‘s absurd.  She is a victim of the press coverage.

ABRAMS:  But Geoffrey, let‘s even assume that the pres coverage made this worse, because I don‘t disagree with you about that, because generally press coverage in these types of cases is helpful.  When people are missing, their pictures are out there...

FIEGER:  Sure.

ABRAMS:  ... and very often it helps...

FIEGER:  That‘s right.

ABRAMS:  ... to find these people and I think it‘s a service, actually.  All right, with that said, in this particular case, she didn‘t just leave.  She then calls 911, cries and screams I was abducted, there‘s a Hispanic man in a blue van, and now we find out that she is also saying that she was raped.  So the authorities there send out their people.  They begin to look for the blue vans.  She lies to the Georgia authorities.  That‘s just—that‘s not nothing. 

FIEGER:  Well, that isn‘t exactly what happened.  She upsented (ph) herself, then the whole world pays attention to the missing bride, and then she does that, because she‘s frightened.  She is terribly frightened about now what has happened.  The entire world is looking at her...

ABRAMS:  Just so I understand, she is allowed to do that because she has been victimized by the media...

FIEGER:  No, no, no...

ABRAMS:  ... and as a result...

FIEGER:  No, no, no...

ABRAMS:  ... she‘s allowed to make fake phone calls to...

FIEGER:  No, Dan, she has not been victimized, but she didn‘t expect that kind of coverage, and all of a sudden, in her state, that is the way she justified getting out of it.  And that was a big mistake on her part. 

ABRAMS:  Yes.

FIEGER:  But believe me, it wasn‘t preplanned.  She didn‘t expect that kind of coverage.  And all of a sudden, she takes a bus trip, and the entire country is looking for her.  How does she get out of it?  That was a big mistake on her part...

ABRAMS:  Well...

FIEGER:  ... but it‘s not criminal, come on...

ABRAMS:  Here‘s what the D.A. had to say. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DANNY PORTER, GWINNETT CTY. GA DISTRICT ATTORNEY:  What you are really talking about is police theoretically could have been—begun pulling over Hispanic males...

ABRAMS:  Right. 

PORTER:  ... in blue vans, all over the Southwest.  We—I know here in Duluth that they—the police were following up leads on kidnapping.  We talked to a lot of people who were potential suspects.  John Mason was put through the ringer...

ABRAMS:  Yes.

PORTER:  ... as a potential suspect and those are the things that you got to look at. 

(END VIDEO CLIP) 

ABRAMS:  B.J., does the new information about the fact that she claimed that she was raped as well change your mind that she should be charged? 

B.J. BERNSTEIN, FORMER GWINNETT CTY. GA PROSECUTOR:  It still doesn‘t change my mind.  And when you hear that fact in conjunction with the statement today, and I realize the statement was a little strange, but it alludes to there could be something, a serious psychological issue going on that has to be addressed...

ABRAMS:  But that‘s for a court...

BERNSTEIN:  ... and...

ABRAMS:  ... that‘s later on.  I mean sure, the prosecutor can take that into account, but you are telling me that the prosecutor should say, you know what—because my concern is she‘s getting—she would be getting special treatment because she comes from a nice family, and she‘s a nice-looking white girl, and as a result, as we learn more and more about the lies that we are told, we say, oh, we feel for her.  What about the guy who can‘t afford to buy any food and he goes and steals from a store, you know, we are going to look at him and say, poor guy, but we don‘t.  We charge him. 

BERNSTEIN:  Well, first of all, you know you just played Danny Porter‘s statement and he said, theoretically, we could have made certain actions based on her statement, but they didn‘t do that, and people every day, when they are questioned or they report something to the police after they are questioned for a good deal of time change it, and we don‘t turn around and then charge them with a felony.  And in particular here...

ABRAMS:  Whether it‘s a felony or misdemeanor, you know I am not going to quibble with you about that, but the bottom line is...

BERNSTEIN:  Yes.

ABRAMS:  ... there‘s no question this is a technical violation of the Georgia law, and with this additional claim that she made, that she was raped, it just—I mean look, as a legal matter, it doesn‘t change the scenario.  But as a practical matter, when deciding, when the prosecutors decide, look, I know there‘s a violation of the law here, and now I have to decide, do I want to move forward, it seems to me it seals the deal. 

FIEGER:  No, Danny, what‘s the violation of the law? 

ABRAMS:  All right.

FIEGER:  She can‘t commit a crime in Georgia... 

ABRAMS:  Let me tell you the violation...

FIEGER:  ... because Georgia law...

ABRAMS:  ... falsely reporting a crime—this is number four.  A person who willfully and knowingly gives or causes a false report of a crime to be given to any law enforcement officer or agency of this state is guilty of a misdemeanor.  That‘s just the misdemeanor count.  She spoke to the Georgia authorities on the phone.  She told the police chief she was abducted.  That‘s a lie.

FIEGER:  That‘s true. 

ABRAMS:  OK.  Pam Bondi joins us now, the former prosecutor—Florida prosecutor.  Pam, what do you think?  We now hear that she‘s saying she was -- she claims she was raped as well.  Does that just seal the deal?

PAM BONDI, FLORIDA PROSECUTOR:  Dan, absolutely.  The deal was sealed for me even before she admitted that.  Let me tell you, if she is not prosecuted under this statute, we might as well not have this statute.  People are prosecuted every day who do a lot less than she does.  I mean this statute, I think, was made for a situation like that, and I think Geoffrey said one thing.  She‘s a victim.  I think she wanted to be a victim. 

That‘s exactly what she wanted and I don‘t know how she could expect otherwise, when a young woman goes missing like that, that it would get a lot of attention.  You know, she planned this.  She cut her hair.  She bought the bus ticket. 

ABRAMS:  Yes.

BONDI:  She could have very well said, when she got on that phone with the law enforcement officer, and her fianc’, I don‘t know why I did it.  I‘m safe.  Don‘t worry about me.  But she concocted this scheme, and I think what happened today, the press conference, was damage control to try to minimize it from the felony charge to a misdemeanor.  Because the felony charge in Georgia is more manipulation than a scheme.

ABRAMS:  Right.  All right.  Let me take a quick break here.  Everyone is going to stick around.  We got more on this story, more of that statement.  Again, first time she‘s speaking out. 

And Michael Jackson‘s legal team calls its first witnesses.  Two boys with whom prosecutors suggest Jackson acted inappropriately.  They say he didn‘t do anything wrong. 

Plus, former “American Idol” contestant Corey Clark comes forward with allegations about Paula Abdul.  His lawyer joins us to explain why he won‘t help FOX in its investigation. 

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)

SMILEY:  If she was in the frame of mind to have left a note or to have told her mother or to have told a friend, she probably wouldn‘t have done it in the first place, so I don‘t think we can apply rational behavior to an irrational act, and I think that needs to be stated. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  That was after the reading of a statement by Jennifer Wilbanks, the runaway bride, first time we had heard from her in her own words. 

Dr. Charles Raison, I mean here‘s my concern, is that I think just about every criminal, if we look into why they did something and discuss, well, this personal wasn‘t thinking rationally.  Look, criminals do incredibly irrational things on a regular basis.  I mean can we really run a criminal justice system, where every time a crime is committed, before they are charged, they ask the question, well, let‘s see.  Were they acting rationally or irrationally? 

RAISON:  Oh, I disagree.  I mean most criminals are actually fairly rational.  I mean we sometimes call them anti-social personality, but that‘s very different than if somebody say has a break with reality and becomes psychotic or starts, you know, losing touch with things.  Most of those people don‘t commit criminal acts. 

I mean sometimes they end up in jail because you know they trespass or something, but I mean I think that‘s the issue here.  You know we teach the residents in psychiatry you know, if the story doesn‘t make sense, you don‘t know the story.  And when you get the story, human stories tend to make sense, and so clearly the story doesn‘t make sense.  This is a woman who doesn‘t have a past of doing things like this.  She had so much to lose.  Her story is so absurd and troubling that, you know, from a psychiatric point of view, not knowing her, not knowing anything about it, if I was looking at it clinically, you know I‘d worry that she had had some sort of slip in her sanity...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  Yes.  Well, look I mean...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  ... not a criminal Dan...

ABRAMS:  All right, well look, she‘s not—look, Geoffrey again, we can‘t run a criminal justice system where every time before someone is charged we ask the question, well, you know, is this person going on all cylinders or not...

FIEGER:  Yes...

ABRAMS:  That‘s not the legal standard...

FIEGER:  Yes, but we...

(CROSSTALK)

FIEGER:  ... you know, justice—me—it‘s supposed to be blind, but it‘s not supposed to be absolutely insensitive, and to make her a criminal is beyond reason, when we have got all the problems we have got...

ABRAMS:  I am not talking about putting her away for some long sentence. 

FIEGER:  Or anytime. 

ABRAMS:  Well fine, but at least a criminal fine...

FIEGER:  Slap on the wrist? 

ABRAMS:  ... a criminal fine, maybe 30 days or something... 

FIEGER:  You know, I have thought about it too.  I am not sure that talking to the police from out West on the telephone and claiming that something happened to you, a criminal act, is reporting a crime for which she can be charged.  That may be a close call, Dan.  I am not sure entirely that even technically she committed it, but even if she did, why waste another dime on that case?  I might say to her, you might have to pay back the costs of the investigation.  But beyond that, why?  Why would we spend another dime to prosecute her? 

ABRAMS:  Because we do it every time.  We did it with Martha Stewart.  We do it in other cases.  We send a message based on high-profile cases, so people know that there are certain things that are against the law.

FIEGER:  Yes and there might be the message here for the press to back off. 

(CROSSTALK)

FIEGER:  Let time take its place. 

ABRAMS:  I assure you the police departments around this country will not support the idea that the press should not put on television anymore the pictures of missing people. 

FIEGER:  Yes...

ABRAMS:  Yes.

FIEGER:  ... the press will be wrong more often than it‘s right...

ABRAMS:  What do you mean it will be wrong...

FIEGER:  ... when people...

(CROSSTALK)

FIEGER:  Because there are thousands...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  ... putting up...

FIEGER:  No, no, because there‘s thousands—it depends who—the pictures are up.  If she is a poor black woman who disappears, there‘s tens of thousands...

ABRAMS:  What does that have to do...

FIEGER:  ... you won‘t put up one...

ABRAMS:  Wait.  What does that have to do...

FIEGER:  Because...

ABRAMS:  ... with whether it helps or not...

FIEGER:  ... the...

ABRAMS:  Wait.  Wait.  What does that have to do with whether it helps or not...

FIEGER:  Because...

ABRAMS:  ... the pictures? 

FIEGER:  Because it‘s selective. 

ABRAMS:  So what...

FIEGER:  The press...

ABRAMS:  It is...

FIEGER:  The press likes...

ABRAMS:  That‘s right...

FIEGER:  The press likes the story...

ABRAMS:  But how does that change the fact...

FIEGER:  ... the sexy story. 

ABRAMS:  ... that it‘s still helpful? 

FIEGER:  I‘m not sure...

(CROSSTALK)

FIEGER:  I‘m not—in this case it isn‘t helpful. 

ABRAMS:  That‘s right. 

FIEGER:  In this case it‘s terribly hurtful to her, terribly hurtful...

ABRAMS:  Because she turned out to have snookered everybody.

FIEGER:  And—no, no, not snookered.  Most cases will turn out to be innocuous.  Most cases will...

ABRAMS:  Oh come on...

FIEGER:  ... not turn out to be murders...

ABRAMS:  ... come on...

FIEGER:  ... terrible things...

ABRAMS:  Pam Bondi, that is an absurd comment, is it not...

FIEGER:  That is not.

BONDI:  Thank you, Dan. 

FIEGER:  ... Florida prosecutor to suggest that most cases, where we put up a picture of someone who is missing, they are going to turn out to be innocuous cases?

BONDI:  Oh, my gosh, Dan.  Watch the news, exactly.  I mean look at all of the trouble in this world today.  I mean look at all the horrible, true, legitimate crimes that are going on.  I mean these law enforcement officers...

FIEGER:  Wrong. 

BONDI:  ... had a command center...

FIEGER:  Wrong.

BONDI:  ... set up looking for her.  I mean I think it‘s outrageous...

FIEGER:  Wrong.

BONDI:  ... even Geoffrey agreed that she should at least pay the, what, at least $60,000 in restitution.  And how do you do that?  You have to convict her first to make sure she pays it.

FIEGER:  Wrong.  Wrong.  The press makes people believe that crime is far more prevalent than it is, and it makes people frightened.  That is true, Dan.  It is absolutely.  We have far less crime than people believe we have, although we have an incredible amount...

ABRAMS:  Depends on where you are, of course...

FIEGER:  And...

(CROSSTALK)

FIEGER:  And the press makes people believe that it‘s far more prevalent and persuasive than it really is, and it scares people.

ABRAMS:  Well, all right, look, the bottom line is that anytime something is on the media, you can say, oh, well, I saw this story, I wonder if it‘s happening everywhere or not.  But look, final word.  B.J.  Bernstein go ahead. 

BERNSTEIN:  Right.  The focus really in the end is going to be, and you got to remember this part, there is something called prosecutorial discretion.  There is something in terms of looking at the circumstances, getting past now the media and what‘s happened, to look at this individual case.  That is what the system should be about.  That‘s part of the criminal justice system.  And so...

(CROSSTALK)

BERNSTEIN:  ... we‘ve got to let, you know, the District Attorney‘s Office do that, and take into account...

ABRAMS:  I...

BERNSTEIN:  ... these things that we have been talking about. 

ABRAMS:  I predict—I‘ve said it before, after speaking to the D.A.  a couple of times, I predict he is going to file some sort of charges...

BERNSTEIN:  Let‘s just hope...

ABRAMS:  ... I bet they will be just misdemeanors, though.  I bet there‘ll be misdemeanors.  All right, B.J. Bernstein, Pam Bondi and Charles Raison, thank you very much.  Appreciate it. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Thank you.

ABRAMS:  Geoffrey is going to stick around. 

RAISON:  Thank you.

ABRAMS:  Now to the first day of the defense in the Michael Jackson case, day one, here he is, apparently celebrating Cinco de Mayo with his brightly colored vest and matching arm band, a national holiday in Mexico, revelers honor freedom and liberty, and no doubt Jackson hoping his attorneys can help him achieve those goals as well.  It was off to the races on day one of the defense case. 

First witnesses, two men who prosecutors suggested may have been molested by Jackson when they were boys.  NBC‘s Mike Taibbi was in the courtroom today.  So Mike, the prosecutors basically had called at least one witness to say, oh, there was something funky going on with these two, and they came on the witness stand and said what? 

MIKE TAIBBI, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  Well, as you know, the prosecutors didn‘t just alleged themselves.  They did call these witnesses, one in particular, who specified to what she witnessed—claimed that she witnessed about Michael Jackson‘s alleged misbehavior with young boys, including the two witnesses today. 

So Tom Mesereau, who‘s the chief defense attorney for Michael Jackson, brought on two witnesses to start right out, Wade Robson, a choreographer, he‘s Australian, and other Australian named Brett Barnes.  And very quickly, you set off to the races and that‘s what it was, 12 minutes for Robson, eight minutes for Brett Barnes on direct, basically to get them to say it didn‘t happen. 

The exact exchange—the money exchange, if you will, with Wade Robson—did he ever molest you at any time, Mesereau asked.  Absolutely not.

Did he ever touch you in a sexual way?  The answer never.  No question, no equivocation, whatsoever.  With Brett Barnes, the second witness, did Michael Jackson ever molest you or touch you inappropriately?  Absolutely not was the answer.  Adding that I can tell you that if he did, I wouldn‘t be here right now. 

Why not, was the question?  I just wouldn‘t stand for it, was Barnes‘ answer.  Now Ron Zonen—we had the question yesterday about how the prosecution would answer and challenge these witnesses who would get up and say it‘s all lies, it didn‘t happen.  Well the short answer is they are going to come back with both barrels at everything they‘ve got. 

Ron Zonen came on and basically tried everything.  He tried to suggest, for example, that things did happen, they might have happened while you were asleep, he said to Wade Robson.  The exchange on that was interesting.  What you are really talking—saying -- (UNINTELLIGIBLE) what you‘re really saying is that nothing happened while you were awake. 

And Wade Robson‘s answer was well I would think that something like that would wake me up.  He then brought out some of the 1108 evidence, these two books, one, “The Boy” and the other “Boys Will Be Boys”, and basically suggested that that material, coupled with some other adult material or pornographic material suggested that Jackson sleeping with boys, sharing his bed with boys was by definition inappropriate, don‘t you think so?  Wade Robson when asked, he said well, I would think so, but not if you know Mr. Jackson, and I know Mr. Jackson.  And we just finished...

ABRAMS:  All right.

TAIBBI:  ... with the cross examination and redirect of Brett Barnes.  That‘s over.  Tomorrow it‘ll be the parents and the sister—the mother and the sister...

ABRAMS:  Yes...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  ... and I‘ve said this before and I am going to say it again.  Prosecutors didn‘t need to get into all this nonsense about these guys, oh he did this, he—I saw him in the shower here.  They should have known these guys were going to come on the witness stand and say it didn‘t happen.  But all right, we‘re going to talk about it in a minute.

Take a quick break here.  Up next, Michael Jackson‘s attorneys lose their bid to throw out the charges.  Defense is underway.  First witnesses continue their testimony today.  The question, of course, is, you know what‘s going to happen?  Is Jackson going to actually take the stand? 

And the salacious allegations made about “American Idol” judge Paula Abdul, so why won‘t the contestant, Corey Clark, tell the show what she supposedly did wrong?  Talk to his lawyer.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Coming up, the defense begins in the Michael Jackson case, calling two frequent houseguests at Neverland who say, Jackson didn‘t molest us, even though a prosecution witness suggested otherwise.  Coming up.

(NEWS BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WADE ROBSON, JACKSON‘S FRIEND:  It was like—it‘s just like a slumber party, where you go over to your friend‘s place.  I‘m just telling 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:  He was a boy back then.  Now he is a young man, and he testified, nothing happened between me and Michael Jackson.  Michael Jackson never touched me inappropriately.  Back with us is trial attorney Geoffrey Fieger and Jonna Spilbor, criminal defense attorney, and Mike Taibbi of course.

All right.  So Geoffrey, bad day for the prosecutors?  I mean it‘s not that significant in the big context of the case, but the bottom line is they never should have even mentioned these kids in allowing the defense to get up there and say it didn‘t happen. 

FIEGER:  No, I don‘t agree.  Remember in 1948, Lyndon Johnson told his press—his campaign manager to accuse his opponent of sexual improprieties, said Lyndon, nobody will believe him, believe that it happened.  He said yes, I just want to hear him deny it.  It‘s a crazy defense to put people on here and say, he didn‘t do it to me.  That‘d be like Scott Peterson saying...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  Whoa, no, no, no...

FIEGER:  ... he didn‘t kill me. 

ABRAMS:  No, no, no, no, no...

FIEGER:  Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes.

ABRAMS:  I‘ll tell you the difference.  The difference is that prosecutors introduced evidence that it did happen.

FIEGER:  Good. 

ABRAMS:  These are not just character witnesses. 

FIEGER:  I don‘t care.  I don‘t... 

ABRAMS:  Prosecutor—I am saying that they never would have come in if the prosecutors hadn‘t gotten into this in the first place.

FIEGER:  Well I‘ll tell you, the guys they won‘t call are the ones who he paid millions of dollars to.

ABRAMS:  That‘s right.  No, I don‘t expect...

FIEGER:  You know in the...

ABRAMS:  But why muddy the water? 

FIEGER:  Because that opens the door.  Now the prosecution says, well, how about the ones he didn‘t call?  How about the ones that he paid money to?  Did they come in here and deny that he molested them?  That is not a good defense, Dan.  I don‘t care what you say.  That‘s a terrible defense.  Think about how normal people feel.  They don‘t think like that.  They think, OK, he didn‘t do it to you, what does that mean?

ABRAMS:  Well Jonna, what it says to me is the prosecutors got it wrong...

(CROSSTALK)

JONNA SPILBOR, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY:  Yes, oh, I‘m completely with you on this one, Dan, and I am a big fan of Geoffrey Fieger, but I‘ve got to say this is like taking a bat to the shins of the prosecution case.  I mean he called—Tom Sneddon called witnesses to say that these exact kids were molested and—so they are victims.  Now they are going to take the stand out of their own mouths and say it never happened.  That‘s powerful.  Am I the only one who thinks there‘s an elephant in the room?  Ethically, was it OK for Tom Sneddon to put these—the third-party witnesses on the stand...

ABRAMS:  Well...

SPILBOR:   ... knowing that the alleged victims are going to deny this?

ABRAMS:  ... yes it was because look, all they‘re talking about—remember, they didn‘t actually...

SPILBOR:   Why?

ABRAMS:  ... they didn‘t claim that they saw molestation.  One witness...

SPILBOR:   Close enough. 

ABRAMS:  ... the former maid said that she saw them in the shower and their trunks—their swimming trunks were outside.  There wasn‘t actual witnessing of molestation, but there was a suggestion about molestation.  Mike Taibbi wanted to get in—Mike. 

TAIBBI:  Yes, I do want to get in, because I don‘t know what Geoffrey Fieger means by that.  If you, Geoffrey Fieger, were named as a person for 12 years, who when you were a boy, were molested by somebody, wouldn‘t you want at some point to correct the record?  Now Brett Barnes was asked that question today—why are you here? 

He says look, I‘m very mad about it.  I‘m reading my notes here.  They are putting my name in the dirt, and it‘s not true.  I am really, really, really not happy about it.  His explanation for it...

ABRAMS:  Yes.

TAIBBI:  I know I‘d want to know that.  And if in a criminal trial, I was named as one of the victims and I wasn‘t a victim...

FIEGER:  Yes, well what...

(CROSSTALK)

FIEGER:  Then I would say is what—at that point, Michael Jackson is, what, a 35 or 36-year-old man with a child? 

TAIBBI:  Right.

FIEGER:  What in the world are you doing with him—after you have paid millions of dollars to other children, what in the world are you even giving the appearance of impropriety?  If...

TAIBBI:  First of all...

FIEGER:  ... if a prosecutor couldn‘t convict him on that. 

(CROSSTALK)

TAIBBI:  First of all, wait a second.  He hadn‘t paid millions of dollars at that point at the time he was...

FIEGER:  In ‘93?

TAIBBI:  ... secondly—in ‘93...

FIEGER:  He was...

TAIBBI:  ... until ‘94.

FIEGER:  Well assume he was...

(CROSSTALK)

TAIBBI:  ... 1990 and ‘91. 

FIEGER:  Mike, assume at that time...

(CROSSTALK)

FIEGER:  ... he was engaged. 

TAIBBI:  Geoffrey...

FIEGER:  ... contemporaneously he was engaged...

TAIBBI:  ... hold up...

FIEGER:  ... in molesting other children.  That‘s bad.  That‘s just bad.

TAIBBI:  You don‘t know that he‘s molested other children...

FIEGER:  Well yes, he only paid him $25 million...

(CROSSTALK)

FIEGER:  ... out of the goodness of his heart. 

ABRAMS:  Let me play this...

TAIBBI:  With no admission of guilt. 

ABRAMS:  Let me play this...

FIEGER:  Yes, right...

TAIBBI:  ... Jackson sleeping with kids...

ABRAMS:  Yes, on that one, I am with Geoffrey in the sense that you know the ‘93 case, if they had been able to try the ‘93 case, I think Michael Jackson would be in a lot more trouble than he is here.  But all right, this is Brett Barnes, again, one of the boys who was a boy at the time, now he is a man.  This is what he said back in 1993.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BRETT BARNES, TESTIFIED TODAY FOR MICHAEL JACKSON:  He is very nice, very, very nice and he cares a lot about kids, and he is very kind.  And you—just say you went to a toy shop, you showed him the toy you wanted, he would buy that.  And if he‘s wearing a piece of jewelry, and you say oh, that‘s nice.  He‘ll give it to you. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  What do you get out of your friendship with him? 

Companionship?  Is he there for you to talk to and that kind of thing? 

BARNES:  Well, yes, there for me to play with, there for me to love.  He‘s like a best friend, except he‘s big.  He‘s just like a close friend, like a family friend.  It‘s like I have known him all my life and in a past life.  He doesn‘t act overly emotional in that kind of way.  He like loves you like he is your own father, brother, a sister, a mother. 

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

BARNES:  Yes, but I was one side, he was on the other.  And it‘s—this big bed. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Jonna, what about the argument that all these kids are young men now, are going to come in and say nothing happened, have a motive to say nothing happened because it‘s not going to help their careers?  A lot them are out in the public eye, et cetera, if people think that they were molested by Michael Jackson? 

SPILBOR:   No, I don‘t think that‘s going to hold a whole lot of water, Dan.  I mean you know so what?  I think the bigger question is, if these kids were really molested, why didn‘t Tom Sneddon prosecute Michael Jackson for those three kids?  You don‘t have to have a cooperating witness to prosecute.  Lots of witnesses recant on the stand...

ABRAMS:  But these weren‘t prosecutorial offenses...

SPILBOR:   ... domestic violence cases...

ABRAMS:  This was just...

SPILBOR:   Why not?

ABRAMS:  Because on one of them, he just you know squeezed his tushy.

SPILBOR:   Well, I mean he brought it up as 1108 evidence.  He‘s trying to convince the jury that that was prosecutable. 

(CROSSTALK)

FIEGER:  Does the jury need to be convinced that it‘s improper...

ABRAMS:  That‘s inappropriate...

FIEGER:  ... to sleep with a 35-year-old adult man? 

ABRAMS:  Look, there‘s no question that that sort of behavior is inappropriate and that‘s why it‘s coming in, to say this is a pattern of things over the years...

FIEGER:  That‘s right. 

ABRAMS:  But I‘m saying that they‘re not going to charge him individually for each one of these offenses.  That‘s the whole reason the law exists. 

SPILBOR:   Wasn‘t there a witness, Mr. Chacon, who testified that Michael Jackson performed oral sex on a little boy? 

(CROSSTALK)

SPILBOR:   That‘s prosecutable. 

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  But that‘s the ‘93 case and that‘s the one were we know why they didn‘t charge...

FIEGER:  And that‘s why he paid him $25 million...

ABRAMS:  Right.  Yes, right, right, right.  All right...

TAIBBI:  Dan, let me say something...

ABRAMS:  I‘ve got to wrap it up unfortunately.  Geoffrey, Jonna—

Mike is on every night, so Mike is going to say this tomorrow night, might save it for tomorrow night, all right.

(LAUGHTER)

TAIBBI:  All right.

ABRAMS:  Thanks.  Coming up, a former “American Idol” contestant goes on national TV, saying he received preferential treatment, to say the least, from judge Paula Abdul.  So why now isn‘t Corey Clark cooperating with the show as it investigates his claims?  His lawyer is up next.

And Scott Peterson‘s father speaks out for the first time since his son was sentenced to death.

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)

ABRAMS:  Coming up, former “American Idol” contestant, Corey Clark, making some explosive allegations about Paula Abdul, but won‘t cooperate now with FOX in its investigation.  We‘ll talk to his lawyer.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Every week it seems America watches as Paula Abdul judges the contests on “American Idol”—contestants, but last night, it was Paula being judged.  In interview with ABC News, former “Idol” contestant, Corey Clark, shared details of an illicit affair he alleges he had with Paula. 

NBC‘s Melissa Stark has the story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(MUSIC)

MELISSA STARK, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  The allegations are explosive and detailed. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  She needed a way to get in contact with me, so she gave me one of her old phones. 

STARK:  Former “American Idol” contestant Corey Clark tells of secret phone calls. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  She is calling, and we are having conversations for like two and three hours. 

STARK:  Clark claims he received coaching and wardrobe consulting and alleges he had a sexual affair with judge Paula Abdul during the show‘s second season. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  She came up behind me, and she just started kissing my neck.  And, you know, that‘s the first night that we had ever been together. 

STARK:  Clark was dropped from the contest when producers of the show learned that he had a criminal record.  Now, he is releasing a new album and has plans for a tell-all book.  Clark says when Abdul learned of those book plans, after not speaking to him for two years, Abdul allegedly called him and left this message. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Hi, it‘s Paula.  Call me back.  Listen, if the press is trying to talk to you, you say absolutely nothing.  That‘s all you do.

STARK:  No comment this morning from Abdul.  Last week, her spokesperson had called Clark—quote—“an admitted liar and opportunist.”  If Clark can be believed, some say it spells trouble for one of America‘s top-rated shows. 

CYNTHIA LITTLETON, “THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER”:  Did she coach him?  Did she give him advice on song selection, on wardrobe, on everything including his haircut?  If that is true on any level, that cannot stand. 

(MUSIC)

STARK:  But last night the show went on, and it was business as usual on stage during the live broadcast.  The only hint of the brewing storm came when contestants presented the judges with flowers.

(APPLAUSE)

LITTLETON:  There will be some repercussions, but I would find it hard to believe that this would bring an end to the show. 

(MUSIC)

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ABRAMS:  Repercussions and cannot stand.  I mean you‘d think we‘re talking about some great legal dilemma here.  All right, that was NBC‘s Melissa Stark reporting. 

This morning, the producers of “American Idol” answered back.  Despite documented procedures and multiple opportunities, as well as contractual requirements for contestants to raise any concerns, we were never notified or contacted by Mr. Clark or any other individual nor presented any evidence concerning these claims.  Upon recently hearing rumors of Mr.  Clark‘s claims, we contacted him and requested that he detail his accusations to us.  That has yet to happen.

Joining me now, Corey Clark‘s attorney, Richard Jefferson.  Mr.

Jefferson, thanks very much for coming on the program.

RICHARD JEFFERSON, COREY CLARK‘S ATTORNEY:  Hey Dan.  How are you doing? 

ABRAMS:  Good.  So, what‘s the deal?  Why is he not providing FOX with this information? 

JEFFERSON:  Well, does he have an obligation to provide information to someone...

ABRAMS:  No. 

JEFFERSON:  He has no obligation, so it‘s his decision. 

ABRAMS:  Why not?  Why doesn‘t he want to help them out?

JEFFERSON:  Well, you know, FOX has been putting out a lot of negative things about him since he left “American Idol”, and I guess he just doesn‘t feel like helping them out, because he doesn‘t feel like they helped him transition to his own career. 

ABRAMS:  And he‘s obviously going public now with it as opposed to then, because he has got a book and he wants to make some money, right?

JEFFERSON:  Well, you know, the timing is interesting, but his—like he said last night, his—the whole purpose of this is actually to clear his whole name, not just the Paula Abdul part of it.  He wants to start his career off in a good light, and Paula just happens to be something that went along with that. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  Let me read a statement from them, from Tuesday.  It says, we will, of course, look into 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.  Basically they are saying, you know, don‘t believe everything you hear. 

JEFFERSON:  Yes, well, that‘s their point of view.  And that‘s a whole other reason why Corey has no obligation or no desire to help out FOX in their investigation, in their contest. 

ABRAMS:  Paula Abdul has said it‘s not true.  She‘s threatened to sue. 

Have you heard from her lawyers today? 

JEFFERSON:  I have not heard from her lawyers today.  Got a letter last week, but, no, I haven‘t heard, and she really has no basis for a suit, so I don‘t expect to hear from her...

ABRAMS:  Well, if it was all false she would have—she might have a basis, right?

JEFFERSON:  If it was all false, true, but as you saw last night, which was only an hour of a five-hour long interview, there‘s a lot of evidence that I think would lean towards the truth.

ABRAMS:  So you don‘t expect to get sued? 

JEFFERSON:  Well no, I don‘t expect to.  And if we do, we‘ll probably end up counter-suing, because this is defamation claim on both ends, actually, and one person is a public figure.  One person is a private figure.  So you know, if it happens, it happens, but I don‘t expect it to happen, because I don‘t think she wants that kind of publicity and...

(CROSSTALK)

JEFFERSON:  ... there‘s a lot of other elements besides the legal ramifications that are involved...

ABRAMS:  I would be surprised if she ends up suing over this, but we shall see.  Richard Jefferson...

JEFFERSON:  Yes.

ABRAMS:  ... thanks for coming on the show.  Appreciate it. 

JEFFERSON:  Thank you. 

ABRAMS:  Coming up, Scott Peterson‘s father speaks out for the first time since his son was sentenced to death row.  His comments, my “Closing Argument” coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  My “Closing Argument”—I feel sorry for Scott Peterson‘s dad, Lee Peterson.  This week he wrote an angry letter to “The Modesto Bee” attacking the investigation, the media and the jurors who convicted Scott Peterson and sentenced him to death.  He accused the investigators in the case of incompetence and self-aggrandizement, the media of bias and said they corrupted the legal system and accused the jurors in the case of ignoring evidence and convicting his son—quote—“because of the way Scott was vilified in the media”.  So why did the media turn on Peterson?

According to his dad, -- quote—“My son was convicted by the media mostly because of the lies leaked by the Modesto Police Department.”  OK, his anger understandable.  Why should a father believe his son capable of this sort of brutality?  The problem for Mr. and Mrs. Peterson, unlike the rest of us who based an opinion on evidence, they continue to be blinded by emotion.  Their only glimpse of the case through a paternal or maternal prism. 

I really like both of them and I remember how certain Jackie Peterson was that the bodies would never be found where Scott Peterson had said he was fishing 90 miles from their phone—home.  How could they, she asked.  Exactly.  How could they?  And yet months later, they did.  I don‘t begrudge them at all for wanting to find scapegoats for what happened with their son.

Let them blame the media.  After all, everyone else does in every high profile case.  The accused tries to change the subject from the evidence to the media.  But now Lee Peterson is really just tossing Hail Mary‘s, accusing the authorities of corruption, all the jurors of violating their oaths.  What he ignores is that many of us who saw the evidence, the jurors, the pundits, the vast majority of the public who followed the case, came to the same conclusion.  That Scott Peterson was guilty of Laci‘s murder beyond a reasonable doubt.  That‘s not based on leaks, bias, hatred, just opinions based on evidence, and the authorities and jurors in this case deserve better. 

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  We‘re back.  I‘ve had my say, now it‘s time for “Your Rebuttal”.  Georgia runaway bride Jennifer Wilbanks issued an apology today.  I‘ve said all week that I think she will and should be prosecuted, not serious time but a criminal fine, maybe even a short jail stint.  But by lying to the authorities about a Hispanic man abducting her and falsely claiming she was raped, she put a lot of people in danger. 

Wendy Grooms in Richmond, Virginia agrees.  “Why is there so much sympathy for this obviously well-to-do lady having a wedding of 600 guests?  We all have trauma and most of us deal with it responsibly and professionally.  I‘ll be sorely disappointed if charges are not assessed.”

But Sherry Grove, “Please get off this woman‘s back.  You appear to be on a mission to make sure this woman ends up prosecuted and in jail for having run away from her wedding.”

Again, we learned today that, as I said, she also claimed she was raped.  That‘s not running away from the authorities.

And attorney Greg Kaighn in Arizona writes, “Exactly what harm was done during the one hour between the time Jennifer may have lied and the time that she recanted?  I don‘t understand why everyone is so prosecution and persecution crazy on this one.  My bet is this, if the D.A. is arrogant enough to charge this case, Jennifer will not only be acquitted as a matter of law, but will also win a false arrest and malicious prosecution civil lawsuit.  Want to bet?”

Greg, I don‘t want to take your money.  First, it was for more than an hour.  If she is prosecuted, which I believe that she will be, she‘ll cut a deal, she‘ll plead guilty, and she probably won‘t serve any time.  As for winning any civil lawsuits?  Are you sure you‘re a lawyer?  Come on.  She won‘t file a suit against them and she certainly wouldn‘t win one.

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

“OH PLEAs!”—prostitution may be the world‘s oldest profession.  One Rhode Island man tried to add a juicy new twist to the time old tradition.  Twenty-two-year-old Wayne Glaude, who works as a truck driver for a local meat wholesaler went out for a drive last Thursday night in Woonsocket, Rhode Island apparently looking for a companion for the evening.  While cruising down the main drag, he found an attractive woman who seemed interested. 

The problem, he didn‘t have any cash on him.  He did, however, offer her a steak.  No, really.  Two really nice T-bone steaks in his freezer at home.  It seemed to him a fair trade, a few hours of her professional time in exchange—well in exchange for both of his T-bones.  Wayne deserves credit for working up his creative juices, but unfortunately for him, the young woman was an undercover police officer. 

Now the Woonsocket Police Department has a serious beef with Wayne. 

They‘ve charged him with one count of solicitation from a motor vehicle.  Pleaded not guilty, saying he was just on his way home.  Maybe he will claim the home cooked meal defense.  Really, what‘s wrong with offering a nice young woman some high-end cuts of meat? 

That does it for us tonight.  Thanks for watching.  Have a good night.

END

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