Guest: Ron Richards, David Tunno, David Kock, Darrel Zaccagni, Patty Fornicola, Randy Hamud
DAN ABRAMS, HOST: Coming up, a reported citing of missing high school senior Natalee Holloway in Aruba. Her parents have now examined a surveillance tape. We have got the latest on that and today‘s big arrest of three more suspects.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS (voice-over): Three men say they brought her to her hotel the night she went missing. But the security camera may tell a different story. We‘ll talk to the attorney for one of them.
And a Pennsylvania district attorney missing for weeks may have been spotted in Michigan. His girlfriend joins us for another ABRAMS REPORT exclusive.
Plus, here in Santa Maria, California, day five and still no verdict in the Michael Jackson case. We take a look at which side should feel better about the jurors deciding Jackson‘s fate.
The program about justice starts now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: Hi, everyone. And welcome to a special edition of the program.
In a moment, we are going to have a live report and update on what is going on in Aruba. Apparently, the family of Natalee Holloway has examined a surveillance tape that some thought might be Natalee at a gas station. You heard us talking about it on an earlier program. We are going to have the latest on the search for Natalee.
Also, three people have been arrested in connection with her disappearance. That brings the total to five. This picture, we believe to be the three men, as confirmed by a local TV station and a local lawyer, as well. We‘re going to have a full update, coming up.
But first, day five of deliberations in the Michael Jackson case now over. About 22 hours of deliberation total, no verdict, no nothing, no questions about testimony, no requests for read-backs. Give us something!
But many believe tomorrow could be the day. Why? Well, no reason really, apart from the fact that it‘s Friday, and jurors often want to finish before the weekend. So we‘re going to ask which side has the edge just based on who these jurors are.
There are four men and eight women ranging in age from 20 to 79. Eight of them are parents. More than half work at least part-time, while three others are retired. The question, are there any ringers on the jury for either the prosecution or the defense? Our panelist studied the jury information and are here to tell what you they think.
Remember, the “New York Times” headline said “Makeup of Jackson Jury Seems to Favor Prosecution.” I don‘t buy it. MSNBC legal analyst and former prosecutor Susan Filan is with us again, criminal defense attorney Ron Richards and trial consultant David Tunno.
All right. Thank you all for coming on the program. First, let me just lay out the tally that we came up with, with regard to each of you as to whether you think more the jurors tend to be pro-prosecution, pro-defense?
Ron Richards, six defense jurors, five prosecution jurors, one could be good for either side. Susan Filan, six defense jurors, four prosecutor, two could be good for either side. David Tunno, apparently, at least initially said eight prosecution, four defense, now, I think, believes seven and five.
And I believe six tend to be more pro-defense, five more pro-prosecution, and one could be good for either side. Although even those of us who agreed on six and five didn‘t come up with the same ones.
All right. So Ron Richards, what were the most important factors? When you were looking at all of these jurors, what were the issues that sort of struck you when it came to be tend to be more pro-prosecution versus tend to be more pro-defense?
RON RICHARDS, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, the ones that I thought were more pro-defense were the ones that thought Michael Jackson was unfairly portrayed in the media. They were young in age. And that they also thought he should get a fair trial and that they really didn‘t have a lengthy employment history. And one even had a relative go to Neverland. And I thought they had a good connection to Michael Jackson.
ABRAMS: All right, now, Susan Filan, I was apparently alone when it came to juror number one, in saying that I thought this person could be good for the defense. Both you, and Ron, and David all said that this juror was better for the prosecution.
Here‘s what I was thinking, as I looked at this 62-year-old white, married man with a graduate degree, father of four, knew little about the case coming into it. Here are the things that made me think he‘d be good for the defense.
He says he‘s, quote, “caution in accepting child testimony on face value alone. Parents can be very influential.” That‘s the theory of the defense in this case.
He and his wife have season tickets to college theater. I mean, come on, anyone who goes college theater, I‘m thinking, is going to be a little, you know, more soft, and not so conservative, and prosecution-oriented. He subscribes to “Time” magazine and “The Santa Maria Times.”
I don‘t know. What made you think that this juror would be so good for the prosecution?
SUSAN FILAN, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: Actually, Dan, I don‘t disagree with you. I wrote good for the prosecution/both, good for both. What I like about him is—what I look for in a juror is I‘m looking for somebody with no baggage, no relatives in jail. They‘re not a victim of a crime. They haven‘t been a party to a criminal case.
He doesn‘t have baggage. The only small little baggage that he does have is he was a defendant in a civil lawsuit, but that may have settled, so that really didn‘t bother me.
But what I like about him is he‘s a straight arrow. He‘s going to be a thoughtful guy. He‘s going to look at this with an open mind, but he‘s going to be very organized in his thought process and very articulate.
So I don‘t disagree with you. I think he‘s probably a little better for the prosecution because he‘s going to be conservative. And you need a conservative person to take a look at this case and say, “Wait a minute, we‘re talking about a 46-year-old guy that sleeps in bed with boys, and you want me to believe nothing happened?” So in that regard, I think he‘s real good for the prosecution.
ABRAMS: All right. Now, here we have juror number two, who is the foreperson of this jury. Again, I believe that Ron, David and Susan all thought this was a generally good prosecution juror. I thought that this one could go either way. This was my one as to going either way, the foreperson.
You know, what made me think that he‘s not necessarily so good for the prosecution, David, is, first of all, he watches CNN as opposed to FOX News. He questions the war in Iraq and in Vietnam. You know, this is not a guy who was sort of an across-the-board conservative. And it did make me wonder. There were some things that made me think this guy might be willing to entertain the defense theories in this case.
DAVID TUNNO, TRIAL CONSULTANT: Well, I agree, that he‘d be willing to entertain them. But I don‘t think that because you are—because you question the war in Vietnam or Iraq—lots of people do that. And you don‘t have to be an across-the-board conservative to be a pro-prosecution juror at the end of the day.
I like his age...
ABRAMS: What was it about him—yes, go ahead?
TUNNO: Along with juror number one, I like the age and the gender as pro-prosecution leaning, because here you have a couple of guys in their 60s with advanced degrees, and they‘re going to look at that information about the sleeping with boys that Susan just mentioned. And for them, that‘s going to be awfully difficult testimony evidence for the defense to overcome.
ABRAMS: See, what struck me, David, that I think that helps the prosecution with this guy is he‘s one of the few jurors who says he knew nothing, nothing about this case, nothing about the ‘93 allegations, nothing about these allegations.
And that makes me think this is not a guy who follows pop culture very closely, and as a result, may be more likely to say, “I can‘t understand the way the defense wants me to that Michael Jackson is just different.” He may just say, “Look, I‘m going to look at this as an objective, ordinary citizen, and I just don‘t—I‘m not going to give this guy the benefit of the doubt as to why he sleeps in bed with kids.”
TUNNO: Well, I‘m not sure what you‘re saying, in terms of how he might be a prosecution or defense juror. I thought you said you had him as a defense juror.
ABRAMS: No, no, no. No, David, I was saying he was the one juror I said could go either way. And at first, I was saying what it was about him that made me think that he could be helpful to the defense. And now I‘m saying what I think that I like about him for the prosecution.
What do you think about the fact that he knew nothing about the case at all? Which way do you think that cuts?
TUNNO: To know nothing about the case at all would be more of a defense juror profile characteristic. That‘s absolutely true.
TUNNO: Yes. But the fact that he‘s an older gentleman is going to make Michael Jackson‘s behavior and lifestyle less acceptable to him. The line for...
ABRAMS: I don‘t know, Ron Richards—I‘m sorry, David. Continue.
TUNNO: Go ahead. Go ahead. No, I was just going to say that older people, the older generation, the line between acceptable and unacceptable is a lower threshold than for the younger generations moving up.
ABRAMS: Ron Richards, do you agree that him having known nothing—meaning, I think 10 of the jurors admitted they knew at least a little bit about the allegations. The fact that he knows nothing about this, I don‘t know if that‘s helpful to the defense.
RICHARDS: No, I don‘t think that‘s helpful. Because if it‘s true, it‘s a little scary. I mean, he‘s retired. He has a lot of time on his hands. Isn‘t he the foreperson, too, in this case?
RICHARDS: I mean, I mean, I think that juror number two is not a good juror for the defense. He has nothing do but sit around and go through this case all day long. And if he‘s that out of it, as far as the Michael Jackson case, so far removed from mainstream pop culture, some of the things he‘s heard in the last three months have to be shocking to him.
TUNNO: And I agree with that. And I have him as a prosecution juror.
RICHARDS: So do I.
ABRAMS: All right.
And bottom line, Susan, as you look through these jurors, and as you‘re doing this as a prosecutor, jury consultant, defense attorney, whatever it is, gosh, you have to really look at minutiae in someone‘s life, don‘t you, to try to predict? Because there is no fail-safe way of figuring out which way these jurors are going to go.
FILAN: That‘s exactly right. I mean, you know, some people think closing arguments, some people think parts of the evidence, I think voir dire. I think picking a jury is one of the most important parts of trying a case. There are some states where you don‘t get to ask very many questions. And there are some people who think you could just grab people off the street and still get a fair trial.
I‘ve never ascribed to that theory. You‘ve got to know what‘s in these people‘s heads. You‘ve got to know the audience to whom you‘re speaking when you try your case.
ABRAMS: All right, and finally, let me go to juror number eight real quickly, because we were all split on this. Susan and I thought this was a good juror for the prosecution, David and Ron for the defense.
Ron, are you kidding me? This is a juror who had a sister who was a victim of sexual assault at 12-years-old, didn‘t report it until she was in her 30s. That‘s a juror who‘s going to understand the prosecution‘s theory of the case.
RICHARDS: Well, I think, though, she was still a good defense juror because she didn‘t have a lot of other biases. The fact that she reported an assault doesn‘t mean that she‘s going to believe this kid.
Maybe her sister was really assaulted, and it was a legitimate claim, where I‘m sure her sister wasn‘t suing the person making that—that she was accusing and didn‘t have any of the same facts that this accuser‘s family had here. And that‘s why I thought she‘d be good.
RICHARDS: She‘s experienced the system.
ABRAMS: All right, well, look, who knows? Bottom line is—yes.
OK, as we wait for this jury to come back, all we can do is sit here and pontificate. But bottom line is, anyone who tells you that they know is full of it.
Susan Filan, Ron Richards, David Tunno, thanks a lot.
Coming up, we go live to Aruba for the latest on the search for Natalee Holloway, that missing 18-year-old high school senior. Three suspects arrested today. Natalee‘s parents have now examined a surveillance tape. The latest is coming up next.
And that Pennsylvania district attorney missing for nearly two months may have been spotted in Michigan. Another ABRAMS REPORT exclusive. We talk with his girlfriend.
Plus, a courtroom battle in Florida. The government says he‘s a terror leader. His lawyers say he‘s just a mild-mannered professor.
Your e-mails, abramsreport@MSNBC.com. Please include your name, where you‘re writing from. I‘ll respond at the end of the show.
ABRAMS: There was a possible sighting of the missing American high school student in Aruba. The police and her family examining a surveillance tape. We‘re going to have the latest on that.
First tonight though, three more arrests in this case. Alabama teen Natalee Holloway on a school trip in Aruba missing now for 12 days.
Early this morning, Aruba police arrested a 17-year-old Dutchman and two brothers, 18 and 21, from Surinam. A local lawyer and TV reporter confirmed the photo from a Web site is of the three suspects.
The Dutchman is the son of a Dutch judge, apparently met Natalee at a hotel casino two days before she was last seen. All three men acknowledge giving her a ride back to the hotel the night of her disappearance.
But there‘s problems with that. And the brothers told police that a man dressed in a security uniform approached Natalee as she stumbled in front of her hotel last Monday, the day she disappeared. Natalee‘s family, back in Birmingham, reacted to the arrests earlier today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARCIA TWITTY, NATALEE HOLLOWAY‘S AUNT: These were the last three people to have seen her, to have been with her. So that‘s where we feel like we‘re now kind of moving in the direction we possibly need to be going.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: Last week, the three men were described as, quote, “persons of interest,” but were released after questioning. Authorities refused to say if these three were connected in any way with two other men who have been detained, Mickey John and Abraham Jones.
All right. Joining us now is NBC‘s Martin Savidge who is in Aruba.
All right, Martin, in our earlier show, we had an Aruba TV reporter on who reported that the authorities had a surveillance tape with someone they believed looked like Natalee. I understand Natalee‘s family has now had an opportunity to see that tape. What do we know?
MARTIN SAVIDGE, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: The family looked at it, and the family said, “No, it is definitely not Natalee.” This is another example of what our numerous sightings that take place—and not on a daily basis, but recently there have been sightings long after she had been reported missing of people on the island saying, “Hey, I‘ve seen Natalee Holloway. I saw her at such-and-such a point. I saw her driving in a Jeep. I saw her here.”
So many sightings, in fact, that there specifically a section of police officers that are assigned to follow-up every one of these leads. And the authorities say, “Hey, look, it‘s not just a matter that somebody is misidentifying an American tourist, because there are plenty of them on this island.”
They think there is something more to it. They think, actually, as they investigate these calls, the times they come in, the way they corroborate them, that somebody may be seeing something like Natalee. But this turns out to be another false alarm. And in fact, it‘s only a small percentage of the police force that think these phone calls are accurate—
ABRAMS: And Martin, I get the sense, also, that there is a feeling on the island that they don‘t want a crime to have been committed. I mean, we‘ve been interviewing people each and every day.
And I get the sense that people there want another explanation. They want to suggest that the family hasn‘t said everything that they know, or that somehow she ran away, of course, leaving her packed bag and her passport in her room. And so I‘ll bet that that desire to find some other explanation is also fueling these false sightings of Natalee.
SAVIDGE: Exactly. Now, of course, no one wants to find out that Natalee is dead or has suffered some horrendous crime. Nobody does.
But you‘re right. There is this sense that here at Aruba, clearly with so much at stake, with 80 percent of the tourism coming from the United States and seven out of ten jobs relying on the tourism industry, they want this to be as benign as possible.
So the hope is for that miracle, that somewhere, somehow, maybe, she‘s just lost her mind somehow, or she‘s in a stupor somewhere, or regained consciousness. And the miracle is she will be found and reunited with her family.
Most authorities here think that is not going to happen. But there‘s no proof yet specifically of a crime.
ABRAMS: Right. And look, and again, don‘t get me wrong, I mean, I think it would be thrilling, and I think everyone would be thrilled if they could find Natalee, but so far these have been false sightings. And so the question is, of course, why have there been so many?
Here is what her stepfather had to say about this very issue.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JUG TWITTY, NATALEE HOLLOWAY‘S STEPFATHER: There‘s a sighting almost everyday of Natalee. I mean, you know, she‘s a beautiful, young blond girl. And I think whenever sees somebody like that they immediately think it‘s Natalee. But all I know is that she left Carlos and Charlie‘s at 1:30 in the morning and hasn‘t been seen since.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: Yet, Martin, the three men who were the last to have seen her now arrested, or at least detained. Do you get a sense that the police view them as suspects or the police want more answers out of them?
SAVIDGE: The police definitely want more answers out of them. They were hoping to get more answers when they considered them only witnesses and persons of interest. That obviously didn‘t work. They brought them in almost every singe day and said, “Now, what was that story again? How did it go?” And they divided them up and listened to each of them individually.
But now, that didn‘t work. And you can bet that they followed them closely, probably tailed them everywhere they went. They still didn‘t seem to crack the case, so they felt, bring them in.
And they‘ve not only brought them in, but they have charged them with the same serious charges that the previous two suspects have been charged with, and that is suspicion of murder and kidnapping. And you would think, all right, that‘s going to get their attention.
ABRAMS: Yes, and very quickly, the surveillance tape at the hotel apparently does not back up their story that they dropped her off at the hotel that day, right?
SAVIDGE: Correct. But keep in mind, there are only about two surveillance cameras that would have been involved here. One is at the front door and the other is at the elevator. Is it possible there is another way she could have gotten to her room? I don‘t know.
But that‘s what they‘re relying on. The young men say, “Hey, we dropped her off. She walked in the front door. We said good-bye.” However, the video apparently doesn‘t show that. It also doesn‘t show something else, a chaperone that was supposed to be waiting in the lobby for her.
ABRAMS: Hmm, that‘s interesting. Wow.
All right. Martin Savidge, thanks for all the good work out there.
We‘re going to keep checking in with you. We appreciate it.
SAVIDGE: You bet.
ABRAMS: David Kock is the attorney for one of the Surinamese suspects arrested earlier today. I spoke to him on our earlier show and asked about this report that he and the two other men dropped Natalee off at her hotel on May 30th but that the surveillance tapes in the hotel doesn‘t verify it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVID KOCK, ATTORNEY FOR ONE OF SUSPECTS: They are confirming that they have dropped her at the hotel, and on that day, at that time. We haven‘t had the chance yet to look into the surveillance camera. I understood that there might be some problems with that, so that‘s why I cannot comment on the surveillance camera, as of yet.
But they are confirming—and their story, the three of them are saying this separately, and again confirming them now that they‘re being held as a suspect instead of as a witness. They dropped her actually at the hotel at that time.
ABRAMS: What were they doing with Natalee? Why were they with her?
KOCK: They brought her back to the hotel. They were also in Carlos and Charlie‘s. I mean, that‘s—the report—one can, again, almost read it already on the Internet, their story that they‘re saying, that they were there, and they drove her back, and dropped her at the hotel.
ABRAMS: But that‘s it? They literally met her at Carlos and Charlie‘s, and they‘re saying the three of them just gave her a ride to the hotel directly from Carlos and Charlie‘s to the hotel and that‘s it?
KOCK: Well, it seems that they drove around a little bit. But what I‘m saying is that, once again, I can only speak for one of the suspects that‘s been detained. And that is his story, that one of the other suspects, the one that I‘m not representing, knew Natalee.
And that‘s why, too, they hooked up with her. That‘s, too, the reason why she probably went with them. And that‘s why, afterwards, from Carlos and Charlie‘s, they dropped her here at the resort. I‘m not saying that they went directly from Carlos and Charlie‘s exactly to here, but you know...
ABRAMS: Well, how much time from Carlos and Charlie‘s until the time they dropped her off?
KOCK: If I read in the transcripts, if I‘m not mistaken, about 20 to 30 minutes, if I‘m not mistaken. It was about that. It wasn‘t also too much time, either.
ABRAMS: All right, Dave Kock, thank you very much for coming on the program.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: Coming up, he disappeared almost two months ago, but now a man and his daughter say they spotted a missing Pennsylvania district attorney. We‘ll talk exclusively with his girlfriend, up next.
And one of the first terror cases to go to trial since 9/11 gets underway. Prosecutors say a Florida professor is also a terror leader. His lawyers say the government‘s just going after him because he‘s Muslim and because of his views.
Your e-mails, send them to Abramsreport@MSNBC.com. Please include your name, where you‘re writing from. I respond at the end of the show.
ABRAMS: Coming up, a potential break in the case of a missing Pennsylvania prosecutor. A sighting in Michigan? We‘ll talk with police and his girlfriend. First the headlines.
ABRAMS: We‘re back. What could be a huge development in the case of a district attorney who disappeared almost two months ago, police believe a new lead could mean that Ray Gricar, who vanished in April, is still alive. Remember we brought you the story of the Pennsylvania prosecutor first went missing seven weeks ago, apparently told his girlfriend he was going for a drive, but never returned home.
Investigators later found his car, searched the surrounding area, looked into his medical, financial records, didn‘t really come up with anything. Many speculated he could have committed suicide, just as his brother had almost a decade earlier, but there was no proof of that either. Police say they have their best lead in the case.
A man and his daughter say they are sure they saw Ray Gricar at a restaurant in Michigan not far from the Canadian border about two weeks ago. The witnesses told police Gricar was with an older woman, were able to positively identify his picture from a group of photos police showed them.
Joining me now is Officer Darrel Zaccagni with the Bellefonte Police Department and Ray Gricar‘s girlfriend, who is the last person we know of to hear from him, Patty Fornicola. Thank you both very much for coming on the program. We appreciate it.
All right, Officer Zaccagni, you‘ve gotten a number of phone calls from people saying oh, I think I saw him, I think I saw him. It seems that you‘ve discounted almost all of them, and yet from what I‘ve read, it sounds like you‘re taking this one pretty seriously.
OFFICER DARREL ZACCAGNI, BELLEFONTE POLICE DEPT. : Well that‘s not quite accurate. We haven‘t discounted any of the sightings. Almost every sighting that we‘ve received we‘ve tried to check out as thoroughly as possible and we‘ve been able to rule them out as being accurate sightings.
ABRAMS: Right, so you discounted them, right?
ZACCAGNI: Well yes, but not discounted them in the sense that we just ignored them. We checked into them...
ABRAMS: I don‘t mean - I—yes I apologize if you thought that I meant that. I merely meant that you were able to investigate them and to the best of your knowledge, found that they weren‘t accurate.
ZACCAGNI: Yes, that‘s correct.
ABRAMS: And so...
ABRAMS: ... what is it about this one that makes it different?
ZACCAGNI: Well when we did the Wilkes-Barre sighting—and we haven‘t totally ruled Wilkes-Barre out as a valid sighting also—we used a procedure where they identified the individual from what they‘d seen on TV and then we showed them a single photograph of Ray for further identification and they readily identified that individual or that picture as being Ray. When we started talking with the state police about this matter, Sergeant Byron (ph) thought about doing—possibly doing a lineup, using Ray‘s picture rather than just one picture because people would have a tendency to already want to be helpful because they contacted us about the matter to say that they believed they saw him, and when we‘d show that single photograph, you know, they‘re even more sure it was him.
I then went with—to Ralph Ralston, State College police and he put together a lineup for me using Ray‘s picture. We sent this lineup to the Southfield Police Department where they contacted the individual who initially contacted us about possibly seeing Ray within the restaurant. He then reviewed that lineup and immediately picked out Ray‘s picture out of the eight photos that were in the lineup, rather than just a single identification photo.
ABRAMS: So let me ask you this, had they seen his picture before they went to the restaurant and sat there at dinner saying to themselves, oh, my, that‘s the missing prosecutor, or did they have dinner, go home, see a picture on television and say, hey didn‘t we see that guy at dinner.
ZACCAGNI: Well actually what happened, the gentleman was eating dinner with his daughter. He observed the individual we believe to be Ray or hope to be Ray at this point also having dinner with another lady, he had eye contact with him and as he sat there throughout the course of the meal, his vision naturally went back towards him, and he had discussions with his daughter about this guy looks really familiar, I know him from someplace, I‘ve seen him before.
At the end of the dinner, the gentleman walked past the witness, they had eye contact again, and the individual said hello and Ray said hello, the two of them exchanged pleasantries and continued on their way. It happened that night then that he went home, still baffled on who this individual was, where he knew him from, and he was watching a news program who happened to be airing a segment where Patty was interviewed and as soon as he saw the picture flash up, he said, well that‘s, you know that‘s the gentleman from the restaurant.
ZACCAGNI: He called his daughter and she looked at it and apparently said, yes, that‘s him. So then he contacted us through our police department number...
ABRAMS: All right.
ZACCAGNI: ... and we just backtracked it that way.
ABRAMS: Wow. All right. So Patty, let me ask you, you‘re hearing that it‘s possible that he‘s alive, having dinner with some woman in a restaurant, you know that would mean that he hasn‘t contacted you, is that possible? I mean based on your relationship with him, based on what you knew of him?
PATTY FORNICOLA, RAY GRICAR‘S GIRLFRIEND: Not based on Ray that I knew prior to April 15. If my feeling is if Ray is in Michigan, if this individual is Ray, then something could be going on that he doesn‘t feel comfortable contacting me. The Ray prior to April 14 I believe would contact me.
ABRAMS: And that is based on the fact that—how long had you known him? Let me ask you that.
FORNICOLA: We had been dating at that point about three and a half years.
ABRAMS: So you knew him quite well. I mean this is not someone you had just started dating. I mean three and a half years...
ABRAMS: ... you know this is a man you knew very well.
FORNICOLA: That‘s correct. That‘s correct. And he was always, he wouldn‘t be home, he would call. If he would be late, he would call. So his not calling is unusual. But like I said, this whole case, for lack of a better word, is unusual, so it wouldn‘t surprise me.
ABRAMS: And I think what‘s important about what you‘re saying is, because sometimes in some of these cases we see people insist, there‘s no way X person or Y person could do this or that. You‘re basically saying look, you know, based on what I knew at the time, I can‘t imagine him having done something like this, but you‘re not ruling it out, because you just don‘t know what‘s happening, why he‘s there, if it‘s him, or more about the situation.
FORNICOLA: Exactly. Exactly. And you know, none of us, the Bellefonte police, myself or any of the other agencies thought that anything like this would be possible, so anymore, to me, anything is possible.
ABRAMS: All right. Well, boy this is really—I was stunned, I have
to tell you both when I heard this news that the—that you—that
Officer Zaccagni and the others there were taking it so seriously. This is
· look it‘s good news, if it is him. We‘ll continue to follow it. Keep up the good work Officer. Thanks very much for coming on the program. And Patty, good luck, you know, we‘re wishing you all the best and let‘s just hope it is him and that somehow there‘s an explanation for all this. And we‘ll stay on top of it. Appreciate it.
FORNICOLA: Thank you very much.
ZACCAGNI: Thank you.
ABRAMS: Coming up, the government says this professor is a terrorist. They‘ve been tracking him for decades. His lawyer says he‘s just an academic with strong political views. He is on trial here in the United States facing life in prison.
And the Reverend Jesse Jackson upset with my tour of the Santa Barbara County jail, where Michael Jackson could go if he‘s convicted. A lot of you weighed in on it.
Your e-mails firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your name and where you‘re writing from. I respond at the end of the show.
ABRAMS: Coming up, a courtroom battle in Florida. The government says the defendant is a terror leader. His lawyers say he‘s a mild-mannered professor. We‘ve got the story, coming up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would you say that you support the Islamic jihad factions?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, we don‘t support any political groups at all.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: Former University of South Florida Professor Sami Al-Arian telling terrorism expert Steve Emerson in 1994 that he was a peaceful activist, denying that his so-called charities were supporting a savage Mideast terror group, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Suicide attacks in Israel and the occupied territories have claimed more than 150 lives, including at least two Americans.
I think it‘s fair to say that Steve didn‘t really believe him, neither did the U.S. government, which have been keeping tabs on Al-Arian at least since 1988. And now he‘s on trial, facing a possible life sentence on a 53-count indictment. Charges including conspiracy to commit racketeering, conspiracy to murder, maim or injure persons at places outside of the United States, conspiracy to provide support to a terrorist organization like the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Conspiracy to make and receive contributions for benefit of specially designated terrorists, obstruction of justice, perjury.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Walter Furr said—quote—“this is an elitist little group of people, all highly educated, trying to convince people to go kill themselves on their behalf. But William Moffitt, one of Al-Arian‘s attorneys, compares his client to one of the world‘s great heroes who has seemingly cited these days by just about every criminal defendant, -- quote—“now Nelson Mandela is a hero for having supported his people. Sami Al-Arian is a villain for being the voice of the Palestinian people.
Joining us now, terrorism expert Steve Emerson, who produced the documentary “Jihad in America” which included that interview excerpt with Sami Al-Arian; and criminal defense attorney Randy Hamud, who has met Al-Arian and has followed this case closely. Gentlemen, thanks very much for coming on the program. Appreciate it.
All right, Steve, bottom line, make the case here. I mean what they say is this is just a guy who the government isn‘t even accusing of physically harming anyone, that he didn‘t plan any terror attacks, and that they‘re just going after him, they say, because of his political views.
STEVE EMERSON, TERRORISM EXPERT: Dan, if this was a white militia case or an organized crime case, a Mafia case, it‘d be open and shut. The equivalent would be them yelling that this is persecution of the mob or white militia because of their political views. The reality is he operated the Islamic Jihad. They operated conferences.
They put out posters, communiques. He solicited funds directly for the Islamic Jihad—I‘m looking at one here that says he‘s looking for money from overseas to carry out operations like double suicide bombings. He actually was introduced at an Islamic Jihad conference in Cleveland, when the person introducing him said this person in front of me, Mr. Al-Arian, paraphrasing, is the head of the Islamic Jihad. Now turn off all your cameras.
So if it walks like a duck, talks like a duck, it‘s a duck. This guy has been involved in conspiracy to commit murder from the late 1980‘s up until the early 2000 period and frankly, the fact that some people would say that he is a victim of political persecution is outrageous and an offense against all victims of terrorism.
ABRAMS: Yes. And Randy, my concern is that those who are defending Al-Arian are really just trying to defend Palestinian suicide bombings.
RANDY HAMUD, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: No, you can‘t go that far, Dan. He‘s being charged with crimes. They‘re defending a criminal defendant facing a 53-count indictment that‘s 157 pages long, that goes back to 1994 and in an overreach of conspiracy allegations, no one thing, the conspirators, did they accuse him of conspiring with. They‘re not sitting at defendant‘s table. The fact is and the alleged intercepted communications involve five other people who are not even in the courtroom...
ABRAMS: ... so what...
HAMUD: We need a little justice to be done here.
ABRAMS: ... that happens all the time.
HAMUD: We need to have—oh, no, we need to have a trial here, allegations...
ABRAMS: Well that‘s what we‘re having.
HAMUD: ... are not facts. Allegations are not convictions. This man has not been convicted and we‘re supposed to presume him to be innocent until proved otherwise.
ABRAMS: Yes, well...
ABRAMS: ... if that‘s the best defense—Randy, if that‘s the best defense you can do, this guy‘s in a lot of trouble. I‘ll tell you that right now. I mean you know...
HAMUD: ... the government has to prove the case. We don‘t have to prove his innocence. The government has to prove he‘s guilty of something...
HAMUD: ... beyond a reasonable doubt.
ABRAMS: All right...
HAMUD: You have your mind made up. Mr. Emerson has him mind made up, but just remember Mr. Emerson said that Middle Easterners were responsible for the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, too, so he‘s been wrong before. Maybe everybody‘s wrong...
HAMUD: We don‘t know until a trial...
HAMUD: ... over and the jury decides.
ABRAMS: All right. All right...
ABRAMS: If that‘s all you can say about it, then I‘m going to stick with Steve on this one...
HAMUD: I think that‘s adequate.
ABRAMS: He was also...
ABRAMS: All right. Steve was also the one who before 9/11 was saying, it‘s coming, it‘s coming, it‘s coming, and Islamic terrorists are going to hit us, and 9/11 came, and he was one of the only ones screaming about it at the time. All right, let me play a piece of sound...
HAMUD: Mr. Emerson‘s been an Arab baiter for a long time and a Muslim hater, so come on, give me a break...
EMERSON: Oh Randy...
EMERSON: Randy, take a Valium here. Come on...
EMERSON: Randy, listen, cool down here.
EMERSON: This is not about Arab baiting...
HAMUD: Well I‘m not...
EMERSON: This is not about Palestinian bashing. This is about calling a terrorist a terrorist who actually—who glorified jihad, who glorified the killing of civilians, who was responsible in large part for the killing of people like Elisa Frado (ph), a young 16-year-old girl from Brandeis University, 20-year-old girl from Brandeis, who was killed in 1996. Frankly, it‘s offensive to hear someone say that these people are the victims as opposed to perpetrators.
HAMUD: He is on trial...
ABRAMS: All right, Steve, let me play this...
HAMUD: He‘s entitled to a fair trial...
ABRAMS: All right...
ABRAMS: All right. He‘ll get a...
ABRAMS: All right. He‘ll get a fair trial. All right. All right.
HAMUD: Absolutely, that‘s what we want...
ABRAMS: He‘ll get a fair trial. All right...
HAMUD: ... a fair trial...
ABRAMS: OK, don‘t worry, Randy...
HAMUD: Welcome to America. Welcome to America...
ABRAMS: Here was Al-Arian on MSNBC a few years back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SAMI AL-ARIAN, ALLEGED TERROR FUNDRAISER: I‘m against the killing of civilians in pizza parlors and campuses, bus stations, and refugee camps. I‘ve made these positions very clear. At the same time, I support the right of the Palestinian people to resist occupation. And (INAUDIBLE) occupation are legitimate targets for resistance.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: All right, so Steve, basically he‘s saying, I‘m not funding terrorists and you‘re saying, and the government is saying, is that there‘s a lot of evidence, that he was helping funnel a lot of money to pure terror groups, right?
EMERSON: That‘s why terrorists call themselves freedom fighters. Because they don‘t recognize and won‘t admit the fact that the people they‘re killing are civilians. That‘s—it‘s a defense. It‘s rational from their point of view, but the reality is that people that are being blown up are the ones in pizza parlors, are the children in buses, are older men and wives and ladies and all types of civilians who are congregating on streets. So they are killing people and they want to kill civilians only. And that‘s what Islamic Jihad did as a specialty. It didn‘t have a charitable arm. It didn‘t have a hospital (INAUDIBLE). It didn‘t have a youth league. All it did was decapitate people or blow them up and that‘s what Al-Arian was in charge of in the United States.
ABRAMS: All right, we shall see. Don‘t worry Randy...
ABRAMS: ... he‘s going to get his fair trial. Don‘t worry. Don‘t worry. He‘ll get his fair trial...
HAMUD: I hope he does...
ABRAMS: We‘re not jurors, Randy.
ABRAMS: Don‘t worry. Don‘t worry. We don‘t have the power to take away his freedom, neither I do. Steve doesn‘t either. None of my viewers do. Just the jurors who were told not to watch anything about the case, so don‘t worry Randy.
HAMUD: And that‘s what‘s important...
ABRAMS: Steve Emerson and Randy Hamud—I know. We love this...
Coming up, we continue to get e-mails about my conversation with former sheriff Jim Thomas at the jail where Michael Jackson will likely go if he‘s convicted. The Reverend Jesse Jackson turned it into a national debate. Now you weigh in as well. Your e-mails are next.
ABRAMS: I‘ve had my say, now it‘s time for “Your Rebuttal”. Many of you writing in about the controversy here at the courthouse after my tour of the Santa Barbara county jail where Michael Jackson will likely go first if he is convicted. Yesterday Reverend Jesse Jackson called our story a sort of psychological warfare against Michael Jackson, seemingly blaming the former sheriff for giving us the tour.
From Arizona, Luis Gonzalez, “I found your tour of the facilities where Mr. Jackson will be incarcerated if convicted to be most uncalled for. You were a reporter and not an attorney when you did this.”
That‘s right, Luis, I am hosting a show, not practicing law when I visit the jail with a camera crew.
But Laura Shanley from Indiana with an interesting observation. “I can recall you doing an almost identical story during the Scott Peterson about his possible future accommodations and Jesse Jackson didn‘t freak out then.”
Katie Harris from here in California, “I‘m 21 today and my birthday wish is for the whole silly Michael Jackson circus to be over.” Well Katie, we wish we could have given you your birthday wish. It did not happen today. Happy birthday, but we‘ll see.
Your e-mails abramsreport—one word -- @msnbc.com. We go through them at the end of the show.
Coming up, a little tip to anyone or one person in particular dumb enough to try to steal a police car. “OH PLEAs!” is next.
ABRAMS: Actually, we are out of time. That does it for us tonight. We will be back tomorrow waiting for the verdict. Waiting, waiting, waiting. I‘m here until it happens. Thanks for watching. See you tomorrow.
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