updated 6/9/2005 2:22:27 PM ET 2005-06-09T18:22:27

Guest: Roy Black, Susan Filan, Jim Thomas, Raymone Bain, B.J. Bernstein

DAN ABRAMS, HOST:  Coming up live from Santa Maria, California, both sides in the Michael Jackson case make a final appeal to the jurors. 


ABRAMS (voice-over):  Prosecutors say Michael Jackson is a porn-loving predator who prepped numerous children for molestation by plying with them alcohol and showing them porn.  Now a lot of people here are asking could Michael Jackson actually get convicted? 

But Jackson‘s lawyer calls the accuser and his family con artists and liars and argues the prosecution case just doesn‘t make sense. 

Plus, runaway bride Jennifer Wilbanks in court pleading no contest, she apologizes, and the judge sentences her.  Was it tough enough? 

The program about justice starts now. 


ABRAMS:  Hi everyone.  First up on the docket, prosecutors come out swinging against the increasingly frail-looking Michael Jackson.  In the closing argument to the jury—quote—“This case is about the exploitation and sexual abuse of a 13-year-old cancer survivor at the hands of an international celebrity”, prosecutor Ron Zonen said in the first few moments of his final argument.

Then, rather than conceding that the young accuser‘s mother had some credibility problems, Zonen went on the offensive, repeatedly telling jurors the mother—quote—“Never asked for one penny from Michael Jackson and to this day has never asked for any money from him.  She has never asked for anything from him.”  He said much of her testimony about effectively being imprisoned at Jackson‘s Neverland Ranch was corroborated by other witnesses and even by a conversation where she didn‘t know she was being taped. 

Zonen quoted extensively from defense attorney Tom Mesereau‘s opening

statement.  Remember, Mesereau said it was a contract, and then Zonen said

·         quote—“Let‘s begin that judgment.”  Zonen said he went through many of the witnesses who did not testify, as promised by the defense and said repeatedly Mr. Mesereau either knew or should have known it wasn‘t true. 

But the most powerful argument from the prosecution was about other boys allegedly molested by Jackson.  They displayed a screen with Jackson in the middle surrounded by four boys, a composite picture.  When it came to the most powerful and credible boy, a youth pastor now in his 20‘s, who testified for the prosecution that he was molested.  Zonen said—quote—

“If you believe that boy testified truthfully, then Michael Jackson is a child molester.”

In addition to books with pictures of naked boys, they displayed pornographic magazines with titles like “Barely Legal” and “Finally Legal” found in and near Jackson‘s bedroom.—Quote—“Why is he in possession of those magazines”, Zonen asked, “Because he has 13-year-old boys in his room.  He asked are you comfortable with a middle-aged man who possesses this book getting into bed with a 13-year-old boy?  (UNINTELLIGIBLE)  

Joining me now, NBC‘s Mike Taibbi, who was in the courtroom; MSNBC legal analyst, former prosecutor Susan Filan, who was in with me as well; and NBC News analyst and former Santa Barbara County sheriff, Jim Thomas, who has been listening to all of the opening statements today as well.  All right so all of us—oh I‘m sorry.  How could I leave out—the renowned criminal defense attorney Roy Black, who is also an NBC News analyst, who was going to be my first guest to ask a question to.

Roy Black, you have seen what the prosecution said.  I was inside that courtroom.  You know I thought the prosecution started out OK.  I thought they spent a lot of time trying to rehabilitate the mother in a way that they really didn‘t need to.  But I think once they got to talking about these other boys and the pornography and basically saying this isn‘t milk and cookies that‘s going on in Jackson‘s bedroom, that they began to gain some ground. 

ROY BLACK, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY:  Oh yes, I agree with that. 

They are not going to get anywhere arguing that the mother has credibility.  I think the jury has already determined this mother is not worthy of belief.  The place that they could win this case is in the corroboration.  Because when jurors are unsure about the credibility of witnesses, they discount what they say, and then they look at the corroborating evidence. 

If I was the prosecution that‘s all I‘d be arguing.  Every piece of corroboration from every one of those other children involved, to every piece of corroboration they have that bears on the case, because that‘s where they could win. 

ABRAMS:  And this is another point that Ron Zonen made.  And I think, Mike Taibbi, this is an important one.  Again, linking all of the other boys to this boy.  He said virtually all of the witnesses from the 1993 case said the same thing.  I am family.  I am your father.  You have to trust me.  That is the exact same thing that this boy claims that Michael Jackson said to him and also that Michael Jackson had written to him in a letter. 

MIKE TAIBBI, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  Yes, I think you hit on the important point here.  I‘m looking at my own notes, Dan, and he went on after that quote to say listen that‘s how Michael Jackson functions.  That‘s what Michael Jackson does to all the young boys.  And that pull-up you had at the start of this, where you say if you believe this accuser from the ‘90‘s, the early ‘90‘s, this youth pastor right now, then you must believe that Michael Jackson is a child molester. 

His punch line there wasn‘t you must believe that Michael Jackson molested this boy in this case.  It‘s you must believe Michael Jackson is a child molester.  It‘s this macro global view of Jackson whose activities for the past dozen years or so are all apiece, and this is just the latest one.  And Zonen, who did a very precise job, I think, he‘s one of those lawyers whose examinations are always pinpoint precise, basically invited the jury on several occasions to use common sense, that‘s the word he used.  Use your common sense. 

What rings true?  An explanation that this is all innocent, that he could have spent all those nights with all those individual boys night after night and he said week after week, month after month in some instances.  What rings true, that or the explanation that is he a child molester...

ABRAMS:  Right.

TAIBBI:  ... inviting them to take this global view, as I say, and apply it to this case.  I thought it was an effective performance by Ron Zonen. 

ABRAMS:  And he said—I am going to keep reading quotes ladies and gentlemen, because you know I want you to hear from them as much as from us.  This is one—another point by the prosecutor in the closing argument today. 

“We are supposed to believe that what he said, meaning what the boy said, was all made up because in the future he would make money?  He is a 15-year-old child.  The suggestion this child would subject himself to this sort of ordeal that it‘s all planned or plotted is nonsense.  Unmitigated rubbish.”

Susan Filan, on the whole, how do you think the prosecution did?

SUSAN FILAN, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST:  I thought they were terrific.  I thought they started strong right away with that statement that you read about being molested—molesting a cancer survivor at the hands of an international celebrity.  And they just picked up steam and I‘ve got to say Roy Black, you hit it right on the head, what Zonen is doing is he‘s building this case around corroboration, and he is skirting a little bit the issue of credibility, but where he does address credibility, he says look at the behavior of this accuser. 

Does it make sense that he would come in and subject himself?  He even

·         Ron Zonen even said I look around this courtroom.  I see members of the press, the international press, people whose faces I...


FILAN:  ... recognized.  I‘m intimidated.  How do you think this boy must have felt?  And he came in and his testimony was consistent with that of the videotape, which was of course the last exhibit that was played for this jury. 

ABRAMS:  But see, I‘m hoping—what I think Tom Mesereau really needs to focus on in that regard is to say, look, this kid may not have been looking for money as much to just please his mother, just to do what mama told him to do, and, therefore, all of those arguments about why would this kid do it for the money, et cetera, et cetera become less important. 

Jim Thomas, all right, you were telling me Ron Zonen was going to knock one out of the park here.  Ron Zonen, definitely I like his style, I think he‘s precise.  He‘s folksy.  But I‘ve got to tell you for first hour of his closing argument I thought he was a little bit stale.  I thought it was OK.  I thought he got bogged down in minutia and I think it took him a while to get going. 

JIM THOMAS, FORMER SANTA BARBARA COUNTY SHERIFF:  I think it did and he‘s got a cold that he‘s fighting as well, so I know he doesn‘t feel as well as he normally does...

ABRAMS:  Come on. 

THOMAS:  ... and he‘s having to get beyond that...

ABRAMS:  Come on.

THOMAS:  No, no, it has an impact on you.  If you‘ve got a cold, it makes you feel miserable, but he‘s doing a good job.  Everybody will tell you, at least all the journalists here will tell you he did fantastic in this closing statement.  One journalist here said it‘s the best closing statement she had ever heard.  But...

ABRAMS:  Well then she hasn‘t heard too many...


ABRAMS:  No offense...


ABRAMS:  No offense to Ron Zonen.  I mean this was a fine closing argument, but any journalist who said it was the best closing argument they‘ve ever seen has seen too many of them.  I‘ll tell you—look, it was fine.  It was perfectly fine, but I mean...


THOMAS:  It‘s the first half, Dan.  It‘s the first half.  And I think the key to this case...


THOMAS:  ... frankly and I think maybe the key to the jury will be what he does in the second half when he comes back, because a little bit of a role reversal here.  I think Tom Mesereau is doing a very god job in his closing statement...


THOMAS:  ... and bringing a lot of issues against this mom, reminding them about the inconsistencies, and I think he‘s having an impact...


ABRAMS:  We‘ll get into that in a minute.  Roy, you wanted to get in there? 

BLACK:  Yes, I was going to say that what the prosecution is doing is having this chart with Michael Jackson in the middle and the various things going on that he‘s manipulating, what Mesereau has to do is put the mother in the middle of that same chart and show everything that she‘s manipulated, and it‘s going to be up to the jury to see who‘s the best manipulator.

TAIBBI:  Yes, but you know what Dan...

ABRAMS:  They—let me read another quote from the closing argument.

TAIBBI:  Right.

ABRAMS:  Mike, hang on one sec.  This is again trying to describe the sentiment, the mood at Neverland.  They rode rides, went to the zoo, ate whatever they wanted, candy, ice cream, soda pop, it was only fun and at night they entered into the world of the forbidden.  Michael Jackson‘s room was a veritable fortress with locks and codes, which the boys were given.  They learned about sexuality from someone only too willing to be their teacher.  I like—that was I thought well said.

Go ahead.  Who wanted in?  Mike Taibbi, go ahead.

TAIBBI:  Yes, I did.  I think what happened today and Jim was eluding to it, I think, is that this was kind of a microcosm, so many days in the trial and a witness would come on for one side or the other, and be what appeared to be a knockout witness on direct examination, and everybody would come out, and the analysts would say wow, what a witness and everything else, and then on cross or in this case in the now the defense final argument, there would be an equally strong approach and an equally long - strong...


TAIBBI:  ... presentation and we‘d all be saying well it‘s pretty even.  I think when you get down to it the jurors know the basic arguments.  How effectively each of these lawyers can address the jury, hold their attention, get them to think about a few specific things, guideposts, will determine...


TAIBBI:  ... what the effect is...


ABRAMS:  We‘re going to talk a little bit more about the prosecutor‘s closing coming up, because they went after Tom Mesereau to exactly what he said in his opening statement and started quoting him, but we‘re also, coming up, the defense.  There‘s a lot that this defense team is doing in terms of attacking this family. 

And Jackson has not looked healthy in court this week at all.  I can tell you, I was in there, and I think he looks sickly.  I‘m going to talk to his spokesperson about how Michael Jackson is holding up. 

Plus, today, runaway bride Jennifer Wilbanks walked into court, pled no contest.  She was sentenced today.  We‘ll tell you what it was. 

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:  We are continuing with our coverage with the closing arguments in the Michael Jackson case.  Now to the defense, attorney Tom Mesereau went for about two and a half hours or so and focused on the credibility of the accuser‘s family, making it simple. 

Quote—“Do we believe the accuser‘s family beyond a reasonable doubt?  There‘s no way in the world you can find them trustworthy beyond a reasonable doubt”, and said if they can‘t do that, they basically have to set Jackson free.  He also called the family—quote—“con artists, actors and liars.”

So what about the prosecution‘s contention that the mother never asked Jackson for money?  Mesereau responded with an argument similar to one made by the prosecutors about Jackson and boys, that she develops relationships first and that Jackson was just a wealthy target.

As for the claims of lewd acts on a child, Mesereau called it—quote

·         “The slow evolution of a claim of molestation.”  He even made a somewhat bizarre argument saying—quote—“Jackson is not the kind of guy capable of masterminding a conspiracy.”  Instead, he said he‘s the type who wanted to have celebrity animal parties. 

NBC‘s Mike Taibbi was in the courtroom.  He joins us now with more.  Mike, what was the context surrounding the celebrity animal parties comment? 

TAIBBI:  Well I think he‘s trying to humanize Jackson and also to make some concessions, just as the prosecution has to make some concessions about say the lack of credibility of the accuser‘s mother in this case.  Mesereau has begun the process, and I say begun because he‘s got more work to do, to make some concessions about Jackson‘s behavior over the years. 

He called him several times today na‹ve.  He called him confused.  He talked about the animal parties.  He talked about people, again, he‘s using the same phraseology the prosecution is, that there‘s this pattern in this case...

ABRAMS:  Right.

TAIBBI:  ... pattern of people taking advantage of this confused, na‹ve person.  That it‘s the same story all over again.  He has some interesting use of language, though, as he warmed up a little bit.  He had a rough start technologically.  The computer system wasn‘t working.

But at one point he said can you believe how many witnesses came in to testify about the M.O. of this family scamming, lying, that they had a rhythm, a pattern of going after celebrities, in this case Michael Jackson.  Said this was a family program, the accuser‘s family, not just the mother.  And he went on and on like that, and then started picking on individual members of the family, including, and especially the accuser himself...


TAIBBI:  ... but I think he‘s got to go further to make concessions. 

ABRAMS:  Right.

TAIBBI:  He‘s got to deal directly, and I don‘t know that he will, with all of those nights, those hundreds of nights that Jackson chose to spend with individual boys in a bed, sharing a bed...

ABRAMS:  You know...

TAIBBI:  ... hundreds of nights...

ABRAMS:  Roy, Black, a lot of people have said this boy is a cancer survivor, how can you really go after him?  But the bottom line is that Mesereau has to go after him to a certain degree, doesn‘t he?

BLACK:  Oh absolutely.  But I don‘t know that he has to do that much.  I mean he pretty well discredited this family during the course of the trial, and I don‘t think that‘s going to win or lose the case for him.  I think he‘s got to answer these tougher questions, as Mike just said, about how many hundreds of days boys are sleeping in his bed, the admissions about sleeping with kids, about being in the shower, about all these people saying these things, the consistency between the other kids and this one.  He‘s got some real explaining to do, and he‘s going to have to do it.  You just cannot ignore this, because if you ignore it, it‘s like the pink elephant in the room.  So he‘s got to get some good answers.

ABRAMS:  Roy, am I reading you wrong?  You sure sound like you‘re a little more sympathetic to the prosecution‘s case than you were at the beginning of this case.

BLACK:  Not necessarily.  I think that you know we‘ve got to take a hard look at what the defense has to do here.  I really think that they thoroughly discredited this mother and perhaps the kids and everyone else because of her influence.  The real problem here is the corroboration, and I will tell you that the—in this type of case, if at the end of the day the jurors think he‘s a child molester, they are going to convict him even on thin evidence.  That‘s why he‘s got to explain away...

ABRAMS:  See and that...

BLACK:  ... this global kind of thing. 

ABRAMS:  Yes and that‘s a real problem, Susan Filan.  I think and I agree with Roy.  I think that is the biggest problem for the defense here, is you‘ve got in particular this one witness, this son of the maid who worked at Neverland, who comes in and testifies he‘s now a youth pastor.  Very credible witness when he testified, seemed the defense hardly laid a glove on him, and the prosecutor is basically saying look if you believe him, Michael Jackson is a child molester.  That‘s not a legal answer, but as Roy points out, it really could be the issue that sways the day.

FILAN:  That‘s exactly right, Dan.  You‘re right.  Roy, you‘re right.  I was disappointed in Mesereau‘s closing argument.  I think I‘m in the minority here, but what I heard him say was basically one thing over and over and over.  It was so repetitive.  I actually found it almost boring.  All he‘s saying is you can‘t believe these people, therefore, send Michael Jackson home. 

He‘s not addressing Michael Jackson‘s behavior.  He‘s not addressing the facts of the case.  He‘s not addressing the corroborative evidence in the case.  He‘s not putting...


FILAN:  ... really much of a defense up.  All he‘s saying is you can‘t believe these people therefore he goes home.  He‘s doing it almost on a technicality; just saying there‘s reasonable doubt because their credibility is in question.  And I thought he wasn‘t passionate.  I thought he seemed almost tired and as if he‘d lost belief in his case himself.  Whereas, I thought Ron Zonen was the one with the righteous indignation, came out of the box, you know, ready to do battle. 

ABRAMS:  Let me ask...


ABRAMS:  ... Mike, do you agree with that assessment? 

TAIBBI:  No, I don‘t agree...

ABRAMS:  Mike...

TAIBBI:  ... with it completely.  I understand what Susan is saying.  I think that Tom Mesereau has had sharper one-hour performances when he‘s cross-examining a witness and really on his game.  But I think he did exhibit some passion, and he used language that I think would stick.  At one point, he called the prosecution of Michael Jackson mean spirited, nasty, barbaric and attempted to humanize Mr. Jackson, talking about, for example, the pornography and shoving the pornography, using the word shoving the pornography, in the face of some witnesses, like the three alleged victims who walk in to testify for the defense, including Macaulay Culkin, to say it never happened, it absolutely never happened, it‘s ridiculous, et cetera. 

I think he is building his case.  He still has to get through specific things, the explosive testimony of the paralegal, who said that the mother told her, the paralegal...

ABRAMS:  Right.

TAIBBI:  ... that the whole J.C. Penney‘s case was a fraud, a lie, and she taught the kids to act with acting classes so they could lie along with her.  That‘s really strong stuff...


TAIBBI:  ... and when he gets to that...

ABRAMS:  And...

TAIBBI:  ... when he gets to that stuff he‘ll make some progress there. 

ABRAMS:  We should say Mesereau still I think has about an hour and 15 minutes or so left...

TAIBBI:  Hour, 15...

ABRAMS:  ... in his closing argument—yes, so there is still some to go.  But let me read this quote from Mesereau.  This is about the conspiracy and about Jackson being sort of a conspiracy mastermind in this case.  Let‘s put up number 40, if we can. 

The quote is “Does he look like the kind of person who is capable of masterminding a conspiracy?  It‘s absurd on its face.  If you really think there was a conspiracy, then—of this magnitude, why do you think the only one charged is Michael Jackson?”

I mean, Jim Thomas, is the allegation that Michael Jackson was the mastermind?  I mean, as a legal matter, he doesn‘t have to have been the mastermind behind this.

THOMAS:  No.  In fact, I think the judge instructed it that way and I think that Ron Zonen talked about that.  You don‘t have to be the mastermind.  You just need to be one of two or more conspirators.  In fact, you don‘t even have to be present when the allegation goes against one of the crimes that‘s being charged.  So he only needs to be a part of it.  He does not need to be, as they call, the puppeteer, the one that‘s...

ABRAMS:  Right.

THOMAS:  ... holding the strings and making everything else work.

ABRAMS:  All right.  This became a big issue early in the prosecution‘s closing argument, and then the defense responded to it at the top, and that was the prosecutor‘s citing Tom Mesereau‘s opening statement and they read from it again and again.  Let me read you what they read from Tom Mesereau—at least part of what they read from Tom Mesereau‘s opening statement.

Remember, Mesereau said an opening statement is a contract.  You make promises, you better fulfill them because at the end of the trial the jury is going to know whether you did or you didn‘t.  I‘m going to make some promises in this case.  I‘m going to fulfill them.  I want you to judge me accordingly at the end.

For example, he said, in the fall of 2002, just as they were visiting Neverland, this is the family, they hustled Jay Leno, George Lopez and weatherman Fritz Coleman in Los Angeles, and then the prosecutor pointed out that those people came in and said, no, we weren‘t specifically hustled or asked for money.  And in response to that, the defense attorney, Tom Mesereau, stands up and says I just heard the prosecution start their closing argument with an attack on me. 

When a prosecutor does that, you know they‘re in trouble.  Well Roy Black, yes, OK, that‘s true.  But on the other hand, Tom Mesereau kind of asked for it, didn‘t he? 

BLACK:  Dan, I don‘t know what it is about California lawyers.  They feel that they have to give these highly detailed opening statements and it can come back to bite them at times.  The same thing happened in Peterson, where Mark Geragos, you know, over argued the case in the opening statement.  Now we have Tom Mesereau doing it, and there was really no need to go into those things, and I think it hurts.  You know when you say I‘m making a contract with you, and I promise I‘m going to fulfill it, and then you don‘t, you know you lose a little credibility with the jury. 


ABRAMS:  Yes.  All right.  Let me take a quick break here.  Everyone is going to stick around.  The jury is going to get this case tomorrow. 

And with a lot of people here asking the question, could Michael Jackson actually get convicted, we‘ve got Michael Jackson‘s spokesperson here.  I‘ve got to tell you, he does not look so good.  I was in court today.  He just—he doesn‘t look healthy.  I‘m going to ask his spokesperson about that.  We‘ll ask Raymone Bain.

And runaway bride Jennifer Wilbanks shows up in court with her fianc’, she pleads no contest.  The question, of course, what was her sentence?  We‘re going to tell you.  She apologized as well.  There she is—she looks a little different (INAUDIBLE) -- runaway bride, coming up. 


ABRAMS:  Coming up, continuing with our live coverage of closing arguments in the Michael Jackson case out here in Santa Maria.  I was in court today.  I‘ve got to tell you, I don‘t think Jackson looks very good.  His spokesperson is going to join us in a little bit to talk about how he‘s holding up in these final days of the case, first the headlines.   



MICHAEL JACKSON, CHARGED WITH MOLESTATION:  I come home from a hard day at the studio and I come home to my deer or my chimps, and I can hug them and they don‘t ask you anything, they don‘t complain.  You know, they don‘t gossip.  They just want a hug and some love and you get on with it. 


ABRAMS:  And defense attorney Tom Mesereau in his closing argument today said that Michael Jackson is not the type of guy that would be a conspiracy mastermind.  He‘s the kind of guy who wants to have celebrity animal parties. 

Mike Taibbi, how much did he do of that?  How much did Tom Mesereau come out and say look, Michael Jackson is weird, he‘s odd, but that doesn‘t make him a child molester.

TAIBBI:  He didn‘t use the word weird or odd.  He just used careful words I think like confused, na‹ve.  He said that a couple of times, but he painted a picture of Michael Jackson as a good guy, as a musical genius who isn‘t—and that‘s the word he used as well—who didn‘t have these other attributes to sort of run a conspiracy, so to speak. 

But he also talked a lot about some of the specifics of the prosecution charges, about the pornography, for example.  They‘re now using the word pornography and not adult material in the court.  He said look this is Michael Jackson, implying that a guy who once had all the money, were he a pedophile somewhere in his vast property in his house, there would have been some pedophilic material.  He can get that.

Michael Jackson could get anything.  And there wasn‘t anything found like that.  There were a lot of heterosexual books, which the prosecution said were there just for the young boys...

ABRAMS:  Yes, but Mike, don‘t you agree with me...


ABRAMS:  ... that that book that they introduced of those, you know, those boys, those naked boys standing around with their arms around each other, yes you can argue that‘s not pedophilia, but a man having books of naked boys in his house, I‘ve got to tell you, I mean I thought that was one of the stronger arguments made by the prosecution. 

TAIBBI:  I think that‘s a strong piece of evidence.  I don‘t happen to have that book in my library at home, but—and we saw some of the pictures in court, and they‘re certainly suggestive if they‘re not totally graphic.  There is apparently a very graphic book called “Man”, which is an exploration for sexual relationship between men there, but I don‘t know how much weight the jury is going to put in that.  And he‘s not charged don‘t forget with possessing pornography or...

ABRAMS:  Yes, I know.

TAIBBI:  ... possessing illegal pornography, even providing it to kids, but it‘s certainly a factor in this.  They‘re going to...


TAIBBI:  ... paint him as a guy...

ABRAMS:  Roy Black...

TAIBBI:  Sure.

ABRAMS:  Yes, but I was going to say and that‘s exactly the point I was going to make, I think the same point Mike was going to make, Roy, is that I think the prosecution is doing a very good job of painting Michael Jackson as a bad person, as someone who is regularly drunk, as someone who has got the barely legal and finally legal magazines in his house.  He‘s got these books of naked boys, and a lot of this stuff is in his bedroom in the place where he‘s claiming it‘s all nice, it‘s all milk and cookies, et cetera.  I‘ve got to tell you I think if Michael Jackson gets convicted it‘s going to be less about the accuser and the mother and more about everything else in Michael Jackson‘s life. 

BLACK:  Yes.  I think you‘re right about that, Dan.  It‘s not that they are painting him as a bad person.  They are painting him as a child molester.  What would a child molester have, but have pornography about children.  Now on the other hand, I think Mesereau makes a very good point.  I will tell you I see many cases of people who have been prosecuted for pedophilia, child molestation, Internet swapping and what have you, you see many photographs of kids being molested.  You have videos, there‘s a lot of paraphernalia that pedophilics have in their house, and they didn‘t really have that with Jackson, so I don‘t think that‘s such a convincing point. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  We‘ve got to take a break here...


ABRAMS:  Roy is going to stick around for a segment later in the program.  Mike, Susan, Jim, we‘re staying here.  The closing arguments continue tomorrow.  Remember, the defense still has more to go, and the prosecution is going to get a chance to respond. 

Coming up, we‘re going to talk to Jackson‘s spokesperson about Jackson‘s health.  I‘ve got to tell you, I saw him in court today.  He looks terrible.  He looks like he‘s lost an enormous amount of weight.  He could hardly lift his arm up to wave to the fans.  I want to talk to Raymone about what‘s up with Jackson‘s health. 

And later, she ran away from her fianc’, but not from the law.  Runaway bride Jennifer Wilbanks shows up at court in an appearance this morning.  She apologizes and the judge sentences her. 

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:  As the Michael Jackson case wraps up, Michael Jackson is looking very weak, very feeble.  We‘re going to talk to his spokesperson about his health, coming up. 



ABRAMS:  We‘re back.  Closing arguments today in the Michael Jackson case.  The jury could get the case—should get the case tomorrow, but I‘ve got to tell you I was inside that courtroom today, and a couple times I waited just to get a good look at Michael Jackson, and it is to the point where he looks so weak, so feeble, so rundown that at times when his fans are sitting in the audience, it seems he has trouble even waving to them.  It seemed almost painful for him to lift up his arm, to say hello to them.  And so I wanted—we wanted to check in with Raymone Bain, Jackson‘s spokesperson, who‘s kind enough to join us once again on the program. 

Raymone, thanks again for coming back.  We appreciate it.


ABRAMS:  So am I right in reading this?  I mean you know again I haven‘t been out—I‘ve been out here on and off throughout this trial, but Michael Jackson looks like he‘s lost an enormous amount of weight, he looks very weak.  He‘s not engaging with his lawyers the way that I had seen him doing earlier in the case.  Am I—you think—am I reading this fairly? 

BAIN:  Well not really.  Yes, he‘s tired without doubt.  He is very tired.  All of us are.  But I don‘t think that that should reflect anything other than the fact of what it is, just needing some—a little bit more sleep.  He is very healthy.  He‘s not ill.  The only ailment that he suffers from is his back, and maybe he just doesn‘t feel like waving, because he‘s going through a lot.  This is no joke here.  He‘s in a major trial. 

We‘re down to the last wire.  A jury of his peers are going to be deliberating his case, so he doesn‘t have a lot to jump around and be so cheerful about.  He feels confident in his attorneys, Dan.  We feel that Tom Mesereau started today with his closing arguments and has done an excellent job.  He felt that way throughout.  But Michael is not sick.  As I‘ve said...

ABRAMS:  All right.

BAIN:  ... if anything, he probably needs a little bit more rest, because, let me tell you, Dan, and I‘ve said it several times before, but let me just tell you, his day starts at 4:30, he prepares for court.  He says goodbye to his kids, some of whom are up when he leaves.  He gets in court, and he‘s here all day. 

He goes home.  He has dinner with his children or if they need to go somewhere, watch a movie, popcorn, one day we were talking, his kids said dad, we want to watch a moving movie, so he said well look, Raymone, I‘ll call you back.  My kids want to watch a movie.  I‘m going to go and get some videos and come back and you know just have a good time with them.

And then there is dinner and then there are hours of conferring with his lawyer.  My goodness that is a very rigorous schedule, and he has tried to have the quality of life for his kids away from this case.  I am not sure...


BAIN:  ... as to whether the children even know that this case is going on.  That is very hard...

ABRAMS:  All right.

BAIN:  ... because it‘s very hard for me sometimes, and I‘m sure for you, to not take...


BAIN:  ... what happens in the office home. 

ABRAMS:  Right.  Yes—no...

BAIN:  Now if you‘re talking about how he...

ABRAMS:  I‘m talking about...


ABRAMS:  Right.  No, you‘ve already made it clear.  You say he‘s not sick, OK.  You know look, I‘m not a doctor...

BAIN:  He‘s not sick. 

ABRAMS:  I‘m just looking at him in court...

BAIN:  He doesn‘t have...

ABRAMS:  All right.

BAIN:  He does not have any fat in his diet, and a couple of us...

ABRAMS:  Let me ask you this Raymone...

BAIN:  ... have suggested that he do that. 

ABRAMS:  Let me ask you this.  You know people and again, I think that from the time I was here at the beginning of the case when people were saying it was a super long shot Michael Jackson was going to be convicted of anything, I‘m talking to journalists, reporters, people watching the case, and I‘ve got to tell you, Raymone, there are more people now saying they think that there is a possibility that Michael Jackson will actually be convicted.  Are you getting that sense in the defense camp? 

BAIN:  No.  We are feeling the same as we felt, Dan, prior to coming here, and that is Michael would be acquitted of these false charges.  He has had an excellent defense team, and I said here on your show a couple of days ago, he has a strong faith in God and a strong faith in the justice system.  And right now, no matter what anyone says, I mean it could work me up into a cold sweat.  I get so many calls a day, unsolicited telling me what they think and how they think it‘s going to turn out, and I try to...


BAIN:  ... listen, but balance that with the fact that it‘s in the hands of 12 people...

ABRAMS:  You know it‘s all a guessing game...

BAIN:  ... who we are hoping...

ABRAMS:  ... yes...

BAIN:  ... will look at all of the information and they will acquit Michael Jackson. 

ABRAMS:  Yes.  I mean look...

BAIN:  That‘s what we are hoping...

ABRAMS:  ... I‘m not suggesting—yes I‘m not suggesting anyone knows.  The bottom line is anyone, including myself, who‘s making predictions are doing it, you know, based in part on what‘s being said and in part on guesswork.  So, all right, Raymone Bain, we‘ll see you again at 9:00 Eastern Time.  Thanks a lot for coming back.  We appreciate it. 

BAIN:  Bye Dan.

ABRAMS:  Coming up, the runaway bride finally keeps a date, her court date, showing up today with her fianc’ to plead in the case.  She was sentenced today.  She‘s looking a little different.  She apologized in court.  We‘ll hear from her, coming up.


ABRAMS:  If you‘ve ever been to a wedding, you know brides are often teary on the way to the altar.  Well today runaway bride Jennifer Wilbanks looked teary on the way to her sentencing.  Thirty-two-year-old medical assistant pleaded no contest—look how different she looks—under Georgia‘s first offender law to a felony charge of making false statements after lying to authorities in April.  That‘s when Wilbanks claims she had been kidnapped, taken across state lines, when in reality she had simply fled from her wedding with its 600 guests, 14 bridesmaids, and husband-to-be John Mason.  Today Mason was with Wilbanks in court when she entered her plea and apologized. 


JENNIFER WILBANKS, RUNAWAY BRIDE:  I am sorry for my actions, and I just want to thank the Gwinnett County and the city of Duluth for all of their efforts. 


ABRAMS:  Wilbanks will be paying them back for their efforts, $2,550 to the county and around $13,000 to the city.  It‘s part of the overtime they paid out searching for her.  Wilbanks will also serve two years probation, perform 120 hours of community service, and stay in treatment for her mental health problems.  Had the case gone to trial, she could have gotten as much as five years on the felony count.  Misdemeanor charge was dropped.  Lydia Sartain is Wilbanks‘ attorney. 


LYDIA SARTAIN, JENNIFER WILBANKS‘ ATTORNEY:  This is a young woman who wanted to move on with her life, accept responsibility, close this chapter and move forward. 


ABRAMS:  Back with us now is the great criminal defense attorney Roy Black and former Gwinnett County Georgia prosecutor B.J. Bernstein.  All right, so B.J. seems like a pretty fair outcome.  I mean I thought she should be charged with a felony.  I expected her to plead guilty and get something like this, which is no jail time.  What do you make of it? 

B.J. BERNSTEIN, FORMER GWINNETT CTY GA PROSECUTOR:  Well as you well know, I‘ve been saying it should have been a misdemeanor, but if it had to be a felony, certainly probation and first offender treatment for her is particularly appropriate because she doesn‘t need to be labeled as a convicted felon, not able to vote, not lose those kind of rights for the rest of her life.  So certainly...


BERNSTEIN:  ... and no jail time was exactly right. 

ABRAMS:  Roy, I was a little bit troubled by some of the comments made by her attorney.  Let me play one of them for you.  And this is talking about the fact that she paid back the city. 


SARTAIN:  Well I thought she exemplified courage and dignity in doing what she did.  She didn‘t have to.  She didn‘t have to pay the city of Duluth, but she did.  Those were her decisions, and I respect her for that.


ABRAMS:  I mean come on, Roy.  If she refused to pay back the city, et cetera, she might have had more legal trouble, right? 

BLACK:  Yes, I wouldn‘t exactly characterize that as courage.  You know Dan, what worries me and really upsets me about this case I personally think she should have been sentenced to prison.  I don‘t mean for a long period of time, but I think she should have gotten more punishment. 

Remember she claims that she was abducted, terrorized and raped.  This is -

·         these are false allegations.  The problem in the United States today, the people who make false allegations, serious allegations like this, are rarely, if ever, punished.  And I think that ought to change.

ABRAMS:  Yes.  Look, I was very—I felt very strongly she should be charged with this, but I think that to be fair, most people wouldn‘t get prison time, but let‘s remember, Roy makes a good point.  Here is the 911 call, at least the beginning of it. 


DISPATCHER:  What happened?

WILBANKS:  I was kidnapped from Atlanta, Georgia.  I don‘t know—my fianc’ has been on the news.  I just don‘t know.  I just need them to fly here and get me.

(END 911 CALL)

ABRAMS:  And that‘s why, you know, B.J., when I hear that tape, it troubles me again to hear her attorney say this. 


SARTAIN:  This could have been anybody‘s mother, sister, daughter, who had exhibited experience of emotional distress, and I think that‘s what anybody who has had any experience with somebody with emotional problems can understand what‘s going on. 


ABRAMS:  You know, that‘s the thing, B.J., is a lot of our viewers have been writing in and saying and saying look, I‘ve had emotional problems, I‘ve had difficulties in my life, I got scared about getting married, but I didn‘t go and call 911 and pretend that I was kidnapped. 

BERNSTEIN:  True, but at the same time, clearly although the lawyer has minimized it a little bit in talking to the media, clearly something is very wrong.  This young woman has been getting mental health treatment, has been at a mental health institution here during the time period that she has gotten back, and you know to say that you were going to send everybody with a mental health problem, with a drug addiction, with these kind of problems to jail isn‘t the answer.  You know, I understand needing supervision.  I understand punishment.  She‘s getting the punishment...


BERNSTEIN:  ... and then some from, you know, being—and I‘m not going to blame it on the media.  But she is paying the price of every night she‘s the centerpiece of Leno‘s...


BERNSTEIN:  ... Leno‘s monologue...


BERNSTEIN:  ... and you know...

ABRAMS:  And I...

BERNSTEIN:  ... she didn‘t ask to be in the media. 

ABRAMS:  I think just the opposite.  I think she is getting more sympathy than she might have otherwise because of all the media attention, because people are able to look into her background and see that she had emotional problems.  In most cases, people are like look, the person called 911, made false allegations, claimed she was raped, had the police out there looking for some Hispanic guy in a blue van. 

That‘s a big deal.  But here because people know so much about her, a lot of people are saying well, you‘ve got to understand, you‘ve got to understand.  Bottom line is I don‘t know how we run a criminal justice system if in every single case, every single crime, we are going to have to understand why the person did it, because that means that I think more than half the people are charged with crimes have some sort of emotional problems.  Roy Black, final word. 

BLACK:  Dan, this case disturbs me for that reason, because we have to punish people who make false accusations.  If we don‘t do that, what about the next person...


BLACK:  ... who is going to do it?  I‘m not saying we should punish this young woman.  Obviously, she‘s disturbed. 

ABRAMS:  Right.

BLACK:  But I think we‘ve got to tell other people if you make false allegations of rape, there‘s a punishment that‘s attached to that.

ABRAMS:  Yes.  And look, and there is a punishment here.  She is, you know, community service, she‘s on probation, et cetera.  I think the outcome here was fair.  I think the D.A. said it well when he said that this is a good resolution. 

Roy Black, great to see you again.  And B.J. Bernstein...

BLACK:  Thank you Dan.

ABRAMS:  ... thanks for coming on the program.  Coming up, we‘ll be back in a minute.


ABRAMS:  “OH PLEAs!”—have you ever had people over to your house and they just won‘t leave?  You pray that the phone will ring so you can pretend it is an important caller?  You claim that you just remembered another appointment.  Well I bet you never thought the situation was so dire that you needed to set fire to your own home.  One man in Aurora, Illinois, did just that to try and chase out some crack users. 

Forty-six-year-old Dean Craig poured rubbing alcohol on the floors of his mother‘s home, set fire to the house at 1:00 in the morning on Sunday.  By the time the police arrived and his mother‘s home was engulfed in flames, no one was injured.  Cane County Sheriff‘s—police officer are familiar with the home as a drug plagued spot and had warned Craig in the past about his less than savory visitors.  He‘s been charged with felony arson.  I guess he wanted to put some truth in the saying where there‘s smoke there‘s fire.  (INAUDIBLE)  

That does it for us tonight.  Tune in at 9:00 p.m. Eastern Time.  A special live edition of the program.  More on the closing arguments in the Jackson case.  I‘m here until the verdict. 

Coming up next, “HARDBALL” with Chris Matthews.  See you later.



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