updated 5/20/2005 9:01:09 AM ET 2005-05-20T13:01:09

Guest: Ben Wolfinger, Clint Van Zandt, Gil Alba, Diane Dimond, Susan Filan, Daniel Horowitz, Robert Dunn, B.J. Bernstein

DAN ABRAMS, HOST:  Coming up, the person of interest in an Idaho triple murder passes a polygraph test.  The authorities rule him out as a suspect, but he provides some information that could help. 


ABRAMS (voice-over):  Now authorities want to talk to guests at a Sunday barbecue at the home where the mother, son, and neighbor were murdered.  Two young children disappear.  We talk to the lead investigator and hear from the family. 

And Larry King testifies in the Michael Jackson case, sort of.  And a friend of the accuser‘s family says they certainly didn‘t sound like they were prisoners at Jackson‘s Neverland Ranch. 

Plus, if you‘re a convicted sex offending roller coaster lover, stay away from Six Flags.  The park‘s new policy, no sex offenders allowed. 

The program about justice starts now. 


ABRAMS:  Hi everyone.  First up on the docket tonight, an emotional plea from the father of two children still missing in Idaho, the manhunt continues.  Search dogs are out.  Volunteers scouring the ground, dive teams draining creeks, ponds, and streams.  Eight-year-old Shasta Groene and her 9-year-old brother Dylan were seen last on Sunday night, the same night that their mother, brother, and a neighbor were brutally murdered in the Groene‘s Coeur d‘Alene home.  Robert Roy Lutner, who was a person of interest in this investigation, voluntarily took a lie detector test and passed.  Police have eliminated him, but Lutner told them there was a gathering at the house that Sunday night, but no one who‘s attended has come forward. 

We‘re going to talk to one of the investigators in the case in a minute, but for the first time Steve Groene, Shasta and Dylan‘s father spoke out, pleading for the return of his two children. 


STEVE GROENE, SHASTA & DYLAN‘S FATHER:  Please, please release my children safely.  They had nothing to do with any of this.  Release them in a safe area, where law enforcement can find them.  Call the help line.  Let them know where they can be found.  Please, we need the safe return of those children.


ABRAMS:  Joining me now once again with the latest on the investigation, Captain Ben Wolfinger from the Kootenai County Sheriff‘s Department out there.  Captain, thanks for coming back on the program.  We appreciate it.


ABRAMS:  All right, so the bottom line is you believe this guy, Lutner, right?  I mean you give him a polygraph, and you‘re basically—you‘re going out and publicly and you‘re saying, look, this guy has been ruled out.

WOLFINGER:  Well, our investigators spent over seven hours with Mr.  Lutner last night during the interviews, and he volunteered to take a polygraph to prove that he was telling the truth.  They believed him before the polygraph, and they certainly believe him after the polygraph.

ABRAMS:  All right.  So he tells you that there was this barbecue at the house on Sunday night.  Was he at the barbecue?

WOLFINGER:  My understanding is he was there towards the tail end of the barbecue, yes. 

ABRAMS:  All right, so he must be able to tell you who was at the barbecue, right?  And yet none of these people are coming forward.

WOLFINGER:  Well he‘s—like I said, he‘s spoken with the investigators at length, and that is why earlier today we made that plea to those people who attended that barbecue please contact our office.  At the very least, you‘re innocent, we need to eliminate you from being a suspect at this residence, and we need to make sure we have your fingerprints so we can eliminate those as being in that suspect pool. 

ABRAMS:  And I‘ve got to believe that Lutner has given you some names, right? 

WOLFINGER:  Dan, I don‘t know.  That‘s between he and the investigators at this point.  And those are some of the things the investigators have to keep close to the vest in order to make this investigation happen timely and efficiently. 

ABRAMS:  Any sense of what was happening at the house at the time, drinking, et cetera? 

WOLFINGER:  I don‘t know.  All we know is that they had a barbecue with several friends over, much probably like a barbecue your friends would have. 

ABRAMS:  It‘s sort of amazing that none of these people have come forward.  I mean they‘ve got to know, and I guess the reason I keep harping on this business of the names is I guess I‘m trying to say, hey, people come forward.  They are going to know who you are, and you might as well just come forward to the authorities now and tell them you what know.

WOLFINGER:  And that‘s exactly it, Dan.  We‘re just encouraging those people to come forward now.  Let‘s talk to our investigators, let‘s get those elimination prints, and let‘s make it easy for everybody. 

ABRAMS:  Now, Lutner owed the mother some money, right?  And that was one of the reasons that he was a person of interest initially? 

WOLFINGER:  Well that wasn‘t information that we had.  That was information that came from one of the sons when they talked to a media representative.  I know that the investigators have that information now and they‘re following up on it, but that was information that brought us to Lutner initially. 

ABRAMS:  Any sightings of the kids?  Any call—you must be getting a lot of calls, at least I certainly hope you are getting good tips, but any sightings of the kids? 

WOLFINGER:  Well we haven‘t been any that we‘ve been able to find the kids after the calls.  We‘re getting hundreds of calls at our tip line and just encourage people if you think—remote possibility these are the Groene children, please contact your local law enforcement agency or the tip line here at Kootenai County. 

ABRAMS:  Yes, we‘ve got the number up there, Captain.  Every time we talk about it, we put up their pictures...


ABRAMS:  ... and put up those phone numbers.  There it is, 208-446-2292.  How is the family holding up?  How is dad doing?  He seemed, you know, markedly I think, composed, considering everything that‘s happened. 

WOLFINGER:  Well, I spent about an hour with the family before we brought him out to stand in front of the cameras, and I kind of prepped him for what he was going to see.  It‘s—he‘s obviously devastated by the tragedy that his family is going through.  And we didn‘t want to traumatize him more with a wall of cameras and the 50 people behind them.  So I spent that time with them and they‘re so distraught, the entire family is so distraught over this.  After all, he‘s just lost one son and his two other children are missing.  And I can‘t imagine the emotions he‘s going through.

ABRAMS:  And let‘s be clear.  He did not live with his wife at the time, right? 

WOLFINGER:  That‘s correct.  They are divorced.  They have been divorced several years.

ABRAMS:  OK.  All right.  Look, Captain, we‘ll, you know, keep doing what we can here.  This is, as you know, time is of the essence, and you know anyone who has seen these kids, please give the captain a call over there at the department.  We (INAUDIBLE) putting up the number.  Captain Wolfinger, thanks for coming back on the program.  We appreciate it. 

WOLFINGER:  Thanks Dan.

ABRAMS:  Joining me now MSNBC analyst and former FBI profiler Clint Van Zandt and private investigator and former NYPD detective, Gil Alba.  All right, Clint, so here is what we know.  We know that there are three people who were in the house who were killed.  Some of them were bound. 


ABRAMS:  We know that there are two children who are missing, meaning they‘ve been searching the area around that house.  So far they have found nothing.  We know that they had a barbecue that night.  This is a puzzling case. 

VAN ZANDT:  Well, you know, it is and it isn‘t, Dan.  I think eventually, you know, there‘s going to be drugs and money that‘s going to be at the root of some aspect of this.  We know one, if not two of the decreased, had prior arrest records that may or may not have included drugs.  You know, I like you, say where are these people at the barbecue? 

Well let‘s say hypothetically that they are perhaps convicted felons. 

Let‘s say there may have been some drug activity...


VAN ZANDT:  ... hypothetically there.  Would they be quick to raise their hand and say, by the way, I was at a barbecue where there were convicted felons doing drugs, which now puts me in violation of my parole.  I mean just for that alone they wouldn‘t be quick to raise their hands, but they should be...


VAN ZANDT:  ... because you know any infri (ph), those things can be off the table...


VAN ZANDT:  ... if they‘ll give information. 

ABRAMS:  And they got to know look, this guy Lutner who was questioned

by the police, who took a polygraph test was there.


ABRAMS:  He knows who was at the barbecue. 

VAN ZANDT:  And you know, part of this, Dan, is that Lutner may have already named names, and the police are out rounding...

ABRAMS:  Right.  Right.

VAN ZANDT:  ... these guys up, and Lutner may be holding his cards close to his chest, and law enforcement doesn‘t want to say who he named and who he didn‘t because they really need everybody to call in who was at that party. 

ABRAMS:  And they are dangling—you know, of course they are saying Lutner has been cleared effectively, but they‘re certainly dangling his probation over him because...

VAN ZANDT:  I sure would. 


VAN ZANDT:  You know they‘ve got that hammer over him and it‘s my friend, if you don‘t—you know this is where have you your come to Jesus time...


VAN ZANDT:  ... if he doesn‘t sit and give you a list of names, he‘s back on the inside again.

ABRAMS:  All right, Gil, the—our local affiliated out in Spokane, KHQ, confirmed with the local coroner‘s office that the cause of the three deaths was blunt trauma.  Does that add another detail that tells you anything? 

GIL ALBA, PRIVATE INVESTIGATOR:  Well they were tied up, so imagine getting hit with an object because I think the police chief said he was looking for a weapon of some sort or an object, and he really didn‘t say a gun or anything else like that.  So that kind of puts it a little more personal to me.  You know, this investigation shows the danger of going after one individual or focusing in on one individual.  So here we are, you know, finally putting him aside and going on to somebody else.  However, I‘m a little shocked that there were people at the barbecue, and this is the first time this came out.  So definitely we‘d be searching for those people who were at the barbecue. 

ABRAMS:  Yes, I think Clint has got an interesting theory there, as to

·         I just can‘t imagine how—why else these people wouldn‘t come forward now.  You know, this is a relatively small community.  They have got to know that there is a major search going on there, Gil and as a result...


ABRAMS:  Go ahead Gil.

ALBA:  Lutner lived in that neighborhood before that, so obviously he would know these people that were there.  So I mean, did all of them had something to do with this?  Or you know somebody should have came forward before this for some reason.  I know about you know whether they are wanted for any kind of reason, but I‘m surprised that somebody didn‘t come forward or somebody didn‘t put them there or how did they get there?  There must have been cars or something to get there.  Where did they park?  Not everybody came in one car, so for the police...

ABRAMS:  You‘d agree, Gil, wouldn‘t you, that if you‘re the lead detective on this case, and someone calls you up, they say look, you know, we were doing some drugs at the house.  I‘m only going to come forward if you can promise me you‘re not going to charge me with any drug crimes, you say oh yes, come on forward, right? 

ALBA:  There‘s no doubt about that.  This is triple homicide.  I mean it‘s tied up.  I mean how gross can this be in a community like that?  You would tell somebody this is all confidential.  You come on in and talk to us.  You know let‘s get the answers.  Lutner they brought in and what did they learn from that?  That Sunday night there was a barbecue.  Before that, they didn‘t even know this was happening.  And this is the first time the police actually came out and said that he wasn‘t a support. 

ABRAMS:  All right...

ALBA:  ... longer at this point...

ABRAMS:  ... can stand by for a minute.  Vance Groene, whose mother and brother were found dead in the home Monday night and whose brother and sister, Dylan and Shasta, remain missing was on the “Today” show with Matt Lauer this morning.  Matt began by asking him who he thought might want to murder his mother and brother.


VANCE GROENE, SHASTA & DYLAN‘S BROTHER:  The police had, you know, made suggestions towards maybe it‘s a drug-related or money, you know, type of situation.  And I—you know, no matter how hard I think about it or try to concentrate on it, I can‘t picture my parents being drug dealers or, you know that would put themselves in the type of situation that would constitute something that would happen like this.  I just, I can‘t. 

MATT LAUER, CO-ANCHOR, “TODAY”:  What‘s your knowledge of Mr. Lutner? 

How well do you know him? 

V. GROENE:  I know him really good actually.  I consider him to be a close, personal friend of mine.  And I don‘t believe it‘s in his nature at all you know to be capable of anything like this.  That was never even my concern.  I just needed information from anybody who could have it. 

LAUER:  It‘s been reported that Mr. Lutner owed your mother something like $2,000.  Was there tension over the repayment of that money? 

V. GROENE:  No, there had been an understanding come to at some point in time, I‘m not sure when, but I mean every problem that I knew my family to have, whether it be personal or financial, I had been under the understanding to have been, you know, taken care of.

LAUER:  And even as you prepare to bury your mother and your brother, the search continues for Dylan and Shasta.  What in your mind do you think happened to them? 

V. GROENE:  I don‘t know.  It‘s hard to say.  I can‘t really bring myself to believe that this is all even really happening. 


ABRAMS:  Wow.  And, remember, Lutner has now been cleared by the authorities there.  You know, seems the brother had the right sense of him.  Again, if you have any information, whereabouts of Shasta and Dylan, that‘s the number. 

Real quick, Clint Van Zandt, look, this seems like a reluctant brother, we saw a reluctant father coming forward...


ABRAMS:  The bottom line is I‘ve got to believe the authorities are saying get out there, please.  You may be able to help us. 

VAN ZANDT:  Yes, there‘s going to be help there, Dan.  I mean this crime, blunt force trauma, that means the killer didn‘t bring a gun, didn‘t bring a knife, may have came for some other reason.  Took enough time to bind the victims together, but then picked up some object, maybe a weapon of opportunity in the house, and literally perhaps beat these three people to death. 


VAN ZANDT:  You know, that smells of drug activity to me. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  We shall see.  Clint Van Zandt and Gil Alba...


ABRAMS:  ... thanks a lot.  Appreciate it.  Sorry, Gil, got to wrap it up. 

ALBA:  OK.  Thank you.

ABRAMS:  We‘ll continue. 

ALBA:  OK...

ABRAMS:  Coming up, Larry King‘s big day at the Michael Jackson trial.  He was talking on the stand, but the judge doesn‘t want him to talk to the jury about it.  The jury does get to take a tour of Neverland and hears from a friend of the accuser‘s family who says it didn‘t sound like they were being held captive at the ranch.



ABRAMS:  It was a big day in the Michael Jackson case.  A celebrity talk show host takes the stand.  Another witness breaks down crying, and jurors take a virtual tour of the Neverland Ranch.  First up today, talk show host Larry King told a packed courtroom that a prosecution witness, a lawyer who had represented the accuser‘s family called the accuser‘s mother a wacko and said she was out for money.  Think that could be helpful to the defense, but jurors aren‘t going to hear it, never will. 

We‘ll talk about details in a minute and some described her as humble and credible.  One of our guests went as far as to say she is as close to the perfect witness that one can get.  The ex-girlfriend of actor Chris Tucker took the stand and seems to have cast some doubt on the credibility of the accuser‘s mother in this case.

NBC News analyst and Court TV‘s chief investigative editor, Diane Dimond, who was in court today.  Diane, thanks for coming on the program, busy day out there.  Let‘s start with this Larry King business.  What was the judge‘s reasoning for not allowing Larry King to testify? 

DIANE DIMOND, NBC NEWS ANALYST:  Simply put, what the defense wanted was for Larry King to talk about a conversation he had with Larry Feldman.  Now that‘s the attorney from the ‘93 case, and he has talked to the mother in this case.  They wanted him to talk about a conversation at breakfast that he had where Larry Feldman said this mother is wacko and she‘s just in it for the money. 

The judge, however, wanted the very thin line drawn between was this Larry Feldman‘s opinion, or did the mother say to him, and he was repeating, I‘m just in it for the money.  When it came down to the fact that it was just Larry Feldman‘s opinion, which, by the way, he denies all this, then the judge said no, you cannot be heard, and another man at the breakfast, Michael Viner, nope, the jury couldn‘t hear him either. 

ABRAMS:  And he was going to say the same sort of thing.  Here‘s the quote from Larry King.

DIMOND:  Exactly.

ABRAMS:  The mother was a wacko, was the term Feldman used.  He said he think she wants money.  He said wacko a couple of times and he said she‘s in this for the money. 

All right, Diane, before we go to the next issue, which was the testimony of Chris Tucker‘s ex-girlfriend, let me go to the legal panel on this one, want to figure out what people think about this Larry King‘s business.

MSNBC legal analyst and former prosecutor Susan Filan is in Santa Maria --  she was in court—and criminal defense attorney Daniel Horowitz.

All right, so Susan, what do you think?  Right ruling from the judge here saying no to Larry King?  Because you know as—apart from a legal matter, as a sort of common sense matter, wow, this is the attorney for the family saying the mother is a wacko and she‘s after money? 

SUSAN FILAN, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST:    Well the interesting thing about that, it came out that at the breakfast that he was discussing Larry King, he wanted to be a regular guest on Larry King on this case, and he said he was very interested and they were pursuing those negotiations.  Larry saw him a couple of weeks later after they had not gotten their phone calls returned, he said, hey, what‘s going on?  The guy didn‘t answer and it turns out later he is now the attorney for this woman that he says these disparaging things about. 

So that was a very interesting twist.  But to answer question, absolutely correct legal ruling, this judge is good.  He was dead right on the law.  It was disappointing.  It would have been fun to have him testify, would have been very damaging to the prosecution, and the defense was disappointed...


FILAN:  ... but it was the right legal ruling. 

ABRAMS:  Let‘s be clear, Susan.  He was not their lawyer at this particular moment he made these comments.

FILAN:  Correct. 

ABRAMS:  Right.

FILAN:  Correct.  Correct.  He was at a breakfast with Larry King to pursue being a regular on the “Larry King” show.  He wanted to be a regular panelist...

ABRAMS:  Right.

FILAN:  ... about this case, and they were about to set that up, but he then turns out to represent this woman. 

ABRAMS:  All right, so Daniel, with that in mind, you know it seems like the right ruling, right?  I mean the bottom line is he wasn‘t even the lawyer at the time, you know, maybe it goes to his credibility, but I don‘t know.  What do you think?

DANIEL HOROWITZ, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY:  Dan, it was the wrong ruling.  You know in this case, everything has come in.  We know that Michael Jackson threw pebbles at his lion, that the chimpanzees clean the room.  Now you have a witness who‘s put on by the prosecution to make the point that this complaining witness, the mother, came forward in the normal course of talking to lawyers, talking to a psychologist, nothing unusual.  Larry King comes forward and says wait a minute, it wasn‘t so clean.  The prosecution‘s story is not right.  Mr. Feldman told me the truth.  This woman was wacko.

FILAN:  No, no...

HOROWITZ:  And only after she goes to—the kid goes to the psychologist do they then go and report to the police.  This is not a normal sequence of events.  If you put Feldman on, he‘s fair games—game.  He denied that he made the statement.  You know that Larry King is telling the truth.  He essentially, I hate to say this about another lawyer, he was not completely truthful I don‘t think on the stand.  He let attorney-client privilege slip.

ABRAMS:  Susan, you wanted to respond.

FILAN:  But there‘s a legal point here.  There‘s a legal point here that you‘re missing.  The analysis is had Larry King said that Feldman said that the accuser‘s mother said I‘m in it for the money, it would have absolutely come in.  But Larry King was not able to say that.  All he could say was I think Feldman said she‘s in it for the money, but I can‘t remember...

HOROWITZ:  Susan, that‘s not the point. 

FILAN:  ... if he said that she said that or he said that.

HOROWITZ:  We‘re attacking Feldman...

FILAN:  That‘s --  no that‘s a legal ruling...

HOROWITZ:  ... not the mother here directly.  We‘re saying Feldman, you weren‘t being accurate when you said, hey the mom came to me, I sent her to Dr. Katz, and everything...

FILAN:  Not at all...

HOROWITZ:  ... was copasetic.  It turns out Feldman didn‘t trust her.  When the kid goes to Dr. Katz, the kid emerges as a—quote—“credible witness.”  Before that, the whole family was looked at by Feldman, the lawyer...

ABRAMS:  Yes...

HOROWITZ:  ... as untruthful.

ABRAMS:  All right, let me...

FILAN:  That‘d be great in closing argument but legally it‘s not admissible...

HOROWITZ:  Oh yes it is Susan...

ABRAMS:  All right...


FILAN:  ... it doesn‘t come in...

HOROWITZ:  ... negotiating his bias, his motive, his honesty or not, that‘s admissible always...

ABRAMS:  All right, Diane, let‘s talk about this other witness, this Michael Viner, also not allowed to testify.  Same reasoning from the judge on this one? 

DIMOND:  Same reasoning, although he was not so—he went closer to almost saying that Larry Feldman was quoting the mother.  He didn‘t quite get there, though, and that‘s why the judge came back with this was Larry Feldman‘s opinion.  It wasn‘t what the mother—he wasn‘t quoting the mother. 

ABRAMS:  Right, right, right...

DIMOND:  It‘s a very fine legal point...

ABRAMS:  Right.

DIMOND:  ... and I tell you, most of the people here anyway, the lawyers here, are saying that Susan is correct and that the judge was correct in not allowing it in.  I don‘t think Larry King really thought he was going to testify. 

ABRAMS:  Yes, you know Daniel is wrong most of the time anyway. 

That‘s why we like having...


ABRAMS:  I‘m just kidding...

DIMOND:  Oh Daniel...

ABRAMS:  I‘m just kidding. 

DIMOND:  ... on this point.

ABRAMS:  Daniel writes some of the great—gives us some of the greatest little insights into some of the legal issues in these cases.  It‘s fantastic.

All right, Susan, Daniel and Diane, everybody is going to stick around, because coming up, comedian Chris Tucker‘s ex-girlfriend testified.  A lot of people are saying she is a really important witness in terms of undermining the credibility of the accuser‘s mother.  She cried on the witness stand, talking about the accuser, because she seems to really like the family, but says they didn‘t seem like they were being held at Neverland against their will.

And Six Flags Amusement Park becomes the first major park to ban convicted sex offenders.  Some are saying too much?  We debate. 


ABRAMS:  Coming up, a friend of Michael Jackson‘s accuser testifies the family didn‘t sound like they were prisoners at the Neverland Ranch.  More details from the courthouse up next, first the headlines. 



RAYMONE BAIN, MICHAEL JACKSON‘S SPOKESPERSON:  Over all, Michael is very pleased with where his case is going.  He‘s very pleased with what his defense team has done thus far.  He has a tremendous amount of confidence in Mr. Mesereau, and as I‘ve said time and time again, he believes that is he going to be vindicated of the false charges. 


ABRAMS:  That just happened from today, although it really could be from any day during this trial.  Jackson‘s spokesperson talking about the status of this case. 

All right.  An important witness testified, Azja Pryor.  She is the ex-girlfriend of comedian Chris Tucker, and Diane Dimond, she was really called to undermine the credibility of the accuser‘s mother.  She has a lot of affection for this family, but she is offering some details up that do contradict with what that mother said. 

DIMOND:  Yes, she did.  She was called here to paint the mother as a conniver.  She—I‘m not sure she did that, but she did underscore the fact that this mother has some emotional problems, maybe mental problems.  She described her as being always very high or very low.  She said that she had a lot of telephone conversations with her during that crucial February, March, 2003 period, and never once did she say I‘m being held against my will.  I need to escape.  I‘m in trouble.  Help me, call the police. 

Never did she do that, but this woman, she made a really good witness.  She‘s very poised, very beautiful woman, and she at the very top of this testimony, she was asked, explain your relationship with the mother.  And she said, well, it was based on the love I shared for her children, and she began to weep.  She really, really cares for this family. 

In fact, I got the impression from her that she would like to know where they are now so she could get in touch with them.  Did the mother have some problems?  Yes.  But did the mother ever ask her for money?  No.  Did she ever ask you for any assistance?  No.  Well didn‘t she want your car?  Well Chris Tucker offered her my old car, because I was going to get a new car, so I‘m not sure it was the painting it all negative that Tom Mesereau was after. 

ABRAMS:  What about the issue, though—and I‘ll go to Susan Filan on this, you were in court as well—about this business about going to Brazil?  All right, because the prosecution‘s theory is...

DIMOND:  Oh yes...

ABRAMS:  ... that the family is effectively being sent to Brazil to get them out of town, then the mother suggesting she didn‘t want to go, that she was effectively, you know, being sort of forced to take this trip or almost take it.  Here is what the mother said on the stand. 

Do you recall telling Azja Pryor that you were excited to go to Brazil? 


Do you recall inviting Azja Pryor to go to Carnaval, Brazil with you? 


And Susan Filan, as you know, Azja Pryor testified that the mother did say she was excited about going to Brazil and she said she did invite her to go to Carnaval with her. 

FILAN:  Dan, this very stunning woman put into focus the central question in this case and boiled it down to one sentence.  Who is the victim here?  The accuser or the accused.  She brought that into focus, because when she said that the accuser‘s mother did invite her to go to Carnaval and was excited to have her go, and Azja Pryor was excited to go.  Boy, doesn‘t that call into question all of the mother‘s testimony and this is a credibility case.

When you have—and Azja Pryor, who was as close to a near-perfect witness as you‘re going to get in a criminal case, testifies so credibly and so sincerely and convincingly that she was invited to go to Carnaval, she has no axe to grind.  The prosecutor wasn‘t able to lay a glove on her on cross-exam.  He had nowhere to go nor should he have.  She was not the kind of witness you need to impeach or beat up.  Her testimony just has to stand as it does, and when you weigh her against the accuser‘s mother, good night, Irene. 

ABRAMS:  Well real quick, Diane, do you disagree with that? 

DIMOND:  Yes, I don‘t think that she was a slam duck.  Because if you accept the premise that this mother is a little off center, I‘m being generous here, then everything can be explained.  At first she was excited to go to Brazil.  What woman in her economic status wouldn‘t be excited to go to Brazil?  But you forgot to say, Susan, that later this witness testified the mother said oh you know what, I don‘t want to go. 

I mean there‘s no plans.  I don‘t know where I‘m going to stay.  My children have been out of school too long.  It‘s the up and the low of this mother, very high, very low.  So if you take that the mother...


DIMOND:  ... is somebody who could be manipulated and put her out of the picture, this woman really loved these kids.

ABRAMS:  You know, Daniel, real quick, it seems depending on which way you are looking at this case, either people are saying you have to understand that Michael Jackson is a little bit off, or you have to understand that the accuser‘s mother is a little bit off, you know and sort of—and it puts everything in context, depending on which prism you‘re looking at it through. 

HOROWITZ:  I think so.  Dan, when I‘m with the jury, I‘m saying to myself, which witness of mine will the jury identify with to the degree that they‘ll say anything this witness tells me, it‘s the same as if I saw it with my own eyes.  Clearly if they think that Azja Pryor says one thing and the mother said something different, then they‘re going to judge that mother as untruthful or at least unreliable in everything she ever said and...

ABRAMS:  Maybe. 

HOROWITZ:  ... it‘s almost like the...

ABRAMS:  Maybe.  Maybe. 


ABRAMS:  You hope if you‘re the defense attorney.

HOROWITZ:  Exactly.

ABRAMS:  All right.  We shall see.  Look, this case is wrapping up ladies and gentlemen.  The defense expected to wrap in a week, maybe a week and a half.  There‘ll be a rebuttal case that will be relatively quick and then I‘m going to be joining Diane and Susan out there.

Diane Dimond, Susan Filan, and Daniel Horowitz...

DIMOND:  Come on down. 

ABRAMS:  ... good to see you guys.  Thanks a lot.

Coming up...

FILAN:  Can‘t wait to have you here, Dan. 

ABRAMS:  ... Six Flags Amusement Park tells sex offenders to stay out.  Sounds reasonable to keep them away from young children, but some saying it is too much.  We debate, up next. 

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


ABRAMS:  Coming up, convicted sex offenders beware.  You‘re no longer welcome at Six Flags Amusement Park.  Believe it or not, they are the first to enact that policy.  We‘ll debate it, coming up. 



ABRAMS:  Six Flags Amusement Park, a favorite summer destination for American families.  They‘ve got a message for any sex offenders who want to visit.  Don‘t come.  Believe it or not, this is the first amusement park to ban sex offenders from the premises. 

I‘m certain that most are going to think this just makes a lot of sense.  But then there‘s Bob Lavand (ph), who molested an 8-year-old relative when he was 16.  He was convicted, served time, underwent treatment in a mental health facility.  He‘s now a father who is worried he won‘t be able to join his daughters at a Six Flags in Illinois because of this sentence on the ticket‘s term of use.

Quote—“Six Flags reserves the right to deny admission and cancel the pass if the bearer violates park safety and security rules or if the bearer has been convicted of any crime of a type that could pose a threat to the safety of our guests, including without limitation any sex crime or if the bearer is required to be registered as a sex offender or words of similar import in any jurisdiction.”

“My Take”—I just don‘t think in this environment there are going to be many people who are going to object to establishing a right for a park that threw out sex offenders, but joining me, former Georgia prosecutor, B.J. Bernstein and criminal defense attorney Robert Dunn.  So Robert, what‘s the problem? 

ROBERT DUNN, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY:  Well the problem, Dan, is that it‘s excessive, and this case is a case in point.  Here you have a guy who hasn‘t done anything in 19 years.  He‘s a good citizen, hard-working man, raising his child, wants to take his child to an amusement park, and because of an offense that happened almost 20 years ago, and it doesn‘t even seem to be dependent upon the actual nature and degree of conduct that he engaged in, simply because he has a sex offender conviction, he‘s now going to be denied the right and the opportunity to take his daughter...

ABRAMS:  What if they change the rules and what if they said you have to have molested a child and it has to have been in the last 10 years.  Would you support it? 

DUNN:  Well that‘s at least—because we‘re used to having a 10-year period for the application of certain laws and rules, at least that would seem to be a bit more reasonable.  You have to have some kind of contour, some kind of regimen to it.  It shouldn‘t just be an open-ended anybody that‘s ever been convicted of a sex offense.

ABRAMS:  I don‘t know.  But B.J., can‘t an amusement park sort of do what they want to a certain degree in terms of, you know, they can‘t discriminate based on race or gender, but you know they can discriminate based on certain crimes, can‘t they? 

B.J. BERNSTEIN, FORMER GWINNETT CTY GA PROSECUTOR:  Absolutely, because it is private property.  They choose who they allow in and who they won‘t allow in.  And they have got to be concerned about liability issues on their end.  That if they knowingly let in someone who is a sex offender, they may be subject to people suing someone. 


BERNSTEIN:  As a prosecutor I‘ve handled cases at public amusement areas or parks and businesses, and the businesses were sued, so they are taking a preemptive step to protect their patrons...

DUNN:  No one has ever been sued—Dan, no one has ever been sued because a patron has come to an establishment and they had a certain propensity.  It‘s when you have an employee, and that‘s universal.  If you have an employee that has the propensity for violence and you employ him and...

ABRAMS:  That‘s not true. 

DUNN:  ... job as a bouncer...

ABRAMS:  That‘s not true...


ABRAMS:  I‘ll give you an example.  In a bar, someone walks in, and the bar should know that that person‘s you know, been drinking, any if somewhere else, and as a result they might start a fight. 


ABRAMS:  ... result and that person...


ABRAMS:  ... the person starts a fight. 

DUNN:  That‘s a present condition, Dan.  The guy you‘re talking about is—they have reason to believe that he‘s intoxicated, that he‘s had too much to drink. 

ABRAMS:  You can make the argument with sex offenders...


ABRAMS:  ... it never goes away.

DUNN:  We‘re not talking about—it was 20 years ago that he had a drink.  You‘re talking about a drink...

ABRAMS:  You talk to Jay Goldenflame, that sex offender who wrote that book on how to deal with him, and he‘ll tell you that urge never goes away. 

DUNN:  Well this guy has been 19 years clean, so that just goes to show you that it is not an absolute rule.  We know that these things aren‘t absolute.  There may be a high degree of recidivism with regard to sexual offenders that might cause us to take certain steps...


DUNN:  ... but it is not a universal and absolute rule that once any human being has ever engaged in any conduct that might be characterized as a sexual offense that they‘re going to be doing that for the rest of their life. 

ABRAMS:  B.J. go ahead.

BERNSTEIN:  Listen, I have seen people sued, I have seen where there is potential liability.  I prosecuted a case, in fact, that opened a frightening portrait of the mind of a sex offender who you know went to a fast food restaurant playground area, stayed in that area, and there was liability potentially from the owners of the restaurant for not having that person outside of the area.  We seized his diaries and it was frightening, because it showed in the mind of this person how they escalate from being in an area...

DUNN:  How is that person...


DUNN:  How are they supposed to know that this guy was coming there to buy a hamburger had a history of...

ABRAMS:  Someone might tell them...

DUNN:  ... being a sexual offender.

ABRAMS:  Maybe someone sees him...


ABRAMS:  ... and says hey I know that guy. 

DUNN:  It‘s a different situation...

BERNSTEIN:  Right or he‘s there every day...

DUNN:  ... when you have an employee because you investigate the employee. 

ABRAMS:  All right, here‘s what Six Flags...

BERNSTEIN:  He could be there every day, and then as for Six Flags, this particular passage that issue requires identification to be provided to Six Flags...

ABRAMS:  Right, but...

BERNSTEIN:  ... the potential that Six Flags could look on a sex offender registry if they choose to. 

ABRAMS:  Yes, it seems that they are not doing that yet, although again, the statement from Six Flags. 

We have a zero tolerance policy for unsafe behavior.  We will do everything possible to ensure a safe and fun environment for our guests. 

I think even Robert Dunn would concede they‘re probably not going to get a lot of public uproar against them for the position that they‘re taking.  B.J. Bernstein and Robert Dunn, thanks a lot.  Appreciate it. 

BERNSTEIN:  Bye-bye. 

ABRAMS:  Coming up, women looking for a man to donate sperm may have a lot harder time finding one if the Pennsylvania Supreme Court doesn‘t step in and reverse a seemingly wacky decision that says the agreement between the parents before they put them together doesn‘t matter.  It‘s my “Closing Argument”.


ABRAMS:  My “Closing Argument”—why agreements or contracts over even children and child support shouldn‘t be ignored just because well, because the Pennsylvania Supreme Court is deciding a case that asks the question, can a man donate sperm to help a woman have a child without necessarily becoming financially responsible for the child? 

In 1993 Ivonne Ferguson of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania wanted to have children.  She asked her ex-boyfriend, Joel McKiernan, if he would donate sperm so she could undergo in vitro fertilization.  Now Ivonne was married, but she and Joel were having a little affair for over two years.  She wanted Joel to be the father.  Joel was reluctant.

But after Ivonne promised Joel that she had enough money to take care of the children and he would bear no responsibility for them—quote—

“financial or moral”, he agreed.  Ivonne spent $7,500 on the in vitro process, bore twins in ‘94, had very limited contact with Joel after that and no contact with him after 1996.  Now Ivonne, who was married, even put her husband‘s name on her child‘s birth certificate. 

OK, so Joel moves away, gets married, has two children with his new wife.  Well lo and behold, in 1999 when the twins are 5 years old, more than three years after the last time she had any contact with Joel, Ivonne decides to try to wiggle some cash from Joel.  She went to court, suddenly seeking child support.  A court in Pennsylvania, one of 19 states that does not protect sperm and egg donors determined that despite their agreement, Ivonne was entitled to the cash. 

Somehow a county court had found that yes, they made this agreement and yet still ruled that Joel now has to pay $1,520 a month.  The appeals court agreed.  (INAUDIBLE) The county court even called her despicable for backing out, but held that—quote—“legal, equitable and moral principles mandated that the twins receive child support.”  I would think that legally, equitable and moral principles would mandate that a man who does a favor by providing sperm, just sperm, to a woman in exchange for a promise that the children will be her responsibility in every way should not be legally required to support the woman‘s whims when it comes to money. 

Who‘s going to want to denature sperm if five years later a court can require that person to later serve as a father in every way.  And she was married at the time to someone else.  His name was even on the birth certificate.  Look, making sure children are cared for must be a priority.  But if this court rules that Joel has to pay in this kind of case, it‘s going to make it a lot harder for women in Pennsylvania to find a man to agree to help in the process. 

Coming up, just how would you define a pat on the backside?  One judge did it.  It‘s tonight‘s “OH PLEAs!”.


ABRAMS:  We‘re back.  I‘ve had my say, now it‘s time for “Your Rebuttal”.  Yesterday U.S. District Judge Joan Lefkow spoke out for the first time since her mother and husband were shot to death in her Chicago home in February.  Testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee, she asked for more money to protect federal judges.  I agreed and I‘ve said it before that we need to spend the money to protect this nation‘s judges.  Many of you don‘t agree. 

Bret Rice in Arizona, “They are finally almost as vulnerable as we‘ve been for years.  Let them hire body guards with their fat salaries.”

Dale Dolata in Adams, Wisconsin, “If you want a high risk job with high pay, hire your own protection when off duty.”

Now, wait a second to both of you.  These are federal employees, often giving up far better paying jobs to often mete out justice on the worst of the worst.  And you say let them fend for themselves?  Come on!

Municipal Court Judge Scott Childress in Alpharetta, Georgia writes, “I applaud your comments and personally thank you for your responsible stand to help protect judges in our country.”

Last night we told you about the 16-year-old who allegedly killed his parents in their home, proceeded to go his prom, had an after party there.  Bodies remained in the home for two weeks until police found the bodies, arrested the son.  Apparently he confessed, but according to the reporter we had on the show last night, in his first court appearance Monday, the judge told him, he shouldn‘t speak to anyone.  I said I didn‘t know that it‘s a judge‘s place to tell a defendant what to say or not say. 

Robert Curto, “When the judge advised the 16-year-old to remain silent, you were surprised and shocked.  You must have missed school the day this was covered.  Have you ever heard of the Miranda warning?  Since 1966, the Supreme Court ruled before a person is questioned he must be read the Miranda warning.”

Thank you, Robert, for that little historical lesson.  That‘s right.  He must be read his Miranda warning when he‘s arrested and before he can be questioned.  I don‘t know exactly how it happened in this case, but once he gets a lawyer, the lawyer can advise him not to speak.  But in court, it‘s not the judge‘s obligation to tell him who to speak to and not to speak to.  If that starts happening in every courtroom, our system is in trouble. 

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

“OH PLEAs!”—one touchy man in New York City is thanking his lucky stars for the new Oxford English Dictionary.  Thirty-six-year-old fabric storeowner, fabric store employee, Mohammed Nuruzzuman, seems to have been a little too hands-on with a customer.  Perhaps Nuruzzuman wanted to compare the customer‘s clothing fabric to his inventory when he touched a female‘s bottom, not once but twice while the woman was shopping in his store, at least allegedly. 

Nuruzzuman apparently was copping a feel and the girl was feeling the need to call the cops.  A forcible touching charge was file.  She said the friendly feeler patted her backside.  But a pat is only a pat, at least according to Criminal Court Judge Richard Weinberg.  Judge Weinberg dismissed the forcible touching charge, ruling that a pat on the backside defined by the dictionary as a touch quickly and gently with the flat of the hand doesn‘t qualify as forcible.  If she had caught Nuruzzuman grabbing, pinching or squeezing her bottom, then she would have had a case.  You can hear those sighs of relief from every pro ball player around the country. 

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


Content and programming copyright 2005 MSNBC.  ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.  Transcription Copyright 2005 Voxant, Inc. ALL RIGHTS  RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material other than for research. User may not reproduce or redistribute the material except for user‘s personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon MSNBC and Voxant, Inc.‘s copyright or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.


Discussion comments