updated 8/16/2005 11:23:05 AM ET 2005-08-16T15:23:05

Guest: Cathy Cadmus, Shelby Cadmus, Jossy Mansur, Clint Van Zandt, Charles Higgins, Patrick Mesisca

DAN ABRAMS, HOST:  Coming up, an Aruban court makes a key ruling in the Natalee Holloway case. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ABRAMS (voice-over):  The court decides whether the FBI can help at all and whether authorities must stop interrogating the only suspect behind bars, Joran Van Der Sloot. 

And another ABRAMS REPORT exclusive, an American teen who spent a lot of time with Van Der Sloot speaks out. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I was very infatuated by him and he‘s a very romantic guy. 

ABRAMS:  He spent a month with her family in the U.S. (INAUDIBLE) close friends and at times even more than friends.  She and her mother tell us what they think about the case. 

Plus, a popular home makeover show builds a house for a family and the five orphan brothers and sisters they took in.  But now those kids say they were effectively kicked out and they‘re suing the family and even the show. 

The program about justice starts now. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ABRAMS:  Hi everyone.  First up on the docket tonight, another ABRAMS REPORT exclusive.  American friends of the chief suspect in the Natalee Holloway case speaking to us.  An American family met Joran Van Der Sloot and his parents in Aruba, stayed close with them.  Sixteen-year-old Shelby Cadmus even had a brief romantic relationship with him as well.  She and her mother, Cathy, sat down with me a few hours ago. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) 

ABRAMS:  Did you ever have any—you or anyone you know who saw Joran, if he had been rejected, for example, was there temper on him, et cetera. 

(CROSSTALK)

CATHY CADMUS, FRIEND OF THE VAN DER SLOOT FAMILY:  You rejected him at some point and he was fine. 

ABRAMS:  Did you?

SHELBY CADMUS, FRIEND OF THE VAN DER SLOOT FAMILY:  Yes...

ABRAMS:  Tell me about that. 

S. CADMUS:  Times where he would—I wouldn‘t be as attracted to him and the more I—he lived with me for three weeks, so obviously, you know you start fighting and just minor fights.  Oh, you left your cereal bowl on the table.  You have to clean up after yourself, just minor fights.  Obviously, we‘d become frustrated with each other, living with each other for three weeks and no violence, no anger at all.  Just very calm and subdued and...

ABRAMS:  And when you would reject advances, it sounds like mom is suggesting that there were some point when you were no longer interested in him...

S. CADMUS:  Yes...

(CROSSTALK)

S. CADMUS:  ... not—I was—towards the end of the week I wasn‘t - end of the three weeks, I wasn‘t interested in him in a romantic way. 

More just friends and we got to know each other more...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  How do did he react to that? 

S. CADMUS:  ... as a friend.

ABRAMS:  How did he react to that?

S. CADMUS:  I think he felt the same way about me, so...

ABRAMS:  No—again, but no sense that there was the possibility for outbursts, et cetera...

S. CADMUS:  None at all.

ABRAMS:  ... from him? 

S. CADMUS:  If anything, he just wanted to hug me and say I‘m sorry things didn‘t work out.  Just very cuddling person, a very loving person. 

ABRAMS:  And how did you leave it at the end of the three weeks? 

S. CADMUS:  Friends.  Kept in touch. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)  

ABRAMS:  We‘ll have more of that interview with Joran Van Der Sloot‘s American friends coming up.  But first, the latest on the investigation. 

Van Der Sloot and two other suspects who had been released, Deepak and Satish Kalpoe, were in court today.  Prosecutors finally found the witness who says he saw the three out late the morning Natalee disappeared, well after they say they were asleep.  If it turns out to be credible, that could be crucial. 

And today, the court of appeals ruled that an earlier decision stands that grants the FBI full access to the investigation including all of the Aruban authorities‘ findings.  Joining me now with the latest is the managing editor of Aruba‘s “Diario” newspaper, Jossy Mansur, who says that his newspaper has received a picture of what could be another piece of evidence.  It could be relevant in the investigation. 

Jossy, good to see you again.  So what have you got? 

JOSSY MANSUR, “DIARIO” MANAGING EDITOR:  We did get from Venezuela the news that on the coast of Las Piedras, that‘s on the peninsula of Paraguana, the state of Falcon, a forearm was found by a dog.  The dog took it to its owner.  The owner called the police, of course, handed it over.  The police did some preliminary tests on it and then sent it on to the laboratories of the pepa jota (ph), the technical police of Venezuela for technical analysis. 

ABRAMS:  A forearm.  Jossy, describe for us, if you will, the geography there.  I mean how—where does Venezuela fit into Aruba?  Is it possible that something could have washed up on shore of Venezuela coming from Aruba, et cetera. 

MANSUR:  But of course it can.  The closest point between Aruba‘s coast and the Venezuela coast is (INAUDIBLE).  That is 15 nautical miles away.  That coast of Las Piedras where the forearm was found is between 18 and 20 miles away from Aruba.  So it‘s very possible that if it came from Aruba, that—only the tests will determine that.  It could very easily been washed over there by the currents. 

ABRAMS:  Now, tell me exactly what you know about this.  I mean, is it certain that a forearm was found on this coast? 

MANSUR:  Of course it‘s certain.  It was even published in the newspaper in the state of—in the city of Coro, in the state of Falcon.  We have a copy of the paper.  We called the people—we called the pepa jota (ph) directly from the “Diario” and it was confirmed to us that it was found and was sent on to Caracas, to the specialized labs of the Venezuela technical police. 

ABRAMS:  Jossy, are you surprised by either of today‘s rulings that the FBI can remain involved in the case and that Joran Van Der Sloot can continue to be questioned? 

MANSUR:  No, I‘m not surprised.  I believe it‘s even—that of the FBI is just a decision that had to be made because help was needed by our police and this is the best help that they can get.  But the other thing that Joran can be further questioned, of course, (INAUDIBLE) for him to be further questioned.

ABRAMS:  Now let me—your paper has been very involved with finding this witness.  In fact, I think that you were the one who found this witness who says...

MANSUR:  Yes.

ABRAMS:  ... that he saw Joran Van Der Sloot and the Kalpoe brothers out much later than they say they were out.  Found the guy finally.  Where was he? 

MANSUR:  The gardener? 

ABRAMS:  Yes.

MANSUR:  He said that he saw them between 2:30 and 3:00 in the morning. 

ABRAMS:  No, I know but—he was missing.  He didn‘t show up in court the other day. 

MANSUR:  He was—according to police sources that we consulted, he was in Bonaire.  Bonaire is another of the three islands, Aruba, (INAUDIBLE) and Bonaire.  He was there and he was brought in.  I don‘t know whether it was last night or today to present himself in court where the Dutch judge of instruction came over to question him. 

ABRAMS:  What, he forgot about his court appearance? 

MANSUR:  I don‘t think so.  I think he got cold feet, but then he was reassured by the police to whom he already gave a sworn statement as to what he saw that early morning...

ABRAMS:  Yes.

MANSUR:  ... and now he was infused with the courage to come and face the defense lawyers.  The—all three suspects were there, the Kalpoe brothers and Joran.  So he was questioned in front of all of them and the defense lawyers could poke any kind of questions at him that he wanted.

ABRAMS:  It seems these days, if you don‘t want to be involved in this case, it‘s more important to stay away from Jossy‘s boys than it is from the actual investigators in the case.  Jossy, thanks a lot for coming back.  We appreciate it. 

MANSUR:  You‘re quite welcome.

ABRAMS:  All right.  Now joining me with a closer look at everything there, MSNBC analyst and former FBI investigator Clint Van Zandt who has arrived on the island over the weekend. 

All right, Clint, first let me ask you about this forearm that Jossy is talking about.  I mean this sounds like a really, really long shot that this is somehow involved in this case.  Don‘t you think? 

OK, Clint apparently couldn‘t hear my question, so let me repeat it.  I was asking about this forearm that Jossy Mansur was just talking about where he says that they have evidence that some—a forearm washed up in Venezuela.  The chances that this is involved...

CLINT VAN ZANDT, FORMER FBI PROFILER:  Yes.

ABRAMS:  ... or related to this case, pretty slim, right? 

VAN ZANDT:  Dan, you know, look at the things we‘ve been caught up in so far.  We‘ve had this—you know we‘ve had an alleged bloody mattress that didn‘t work out.  We‘ve had a indentation in the sand that didn‘t work out.  We‘ve had a barrel that was found under water that didn‘t work out.  We‘ve now got a belt that, you know, is still trying to be rundown in this.

You know from an investigative reporter side, from the attorney side, when you got nothing, you go for anything.  And I think right now, you‘ve got to run it down.  If somebody says look what just washed up.  Look at that piece of duct tape, Dan. 

ABRAMS:  Yes.

VAN ZANDT:  I mean that thing hung around for two weeks like an albatross around our investigative necks and it was some surfer.  So do you have to run it down?  Yes.  Doesn‘t look like it‘s the real thing.  You know I wouldn‘t bet your forearm or mine until we get DNA that says this is a dead...

ABRAMS:  So Clint, you now have the opportunity to do what I think many commentators would love to do, people with the kind of law enforcement experience that you have, which is actually go there...

VAN ZANDT:  Yes.

ABRAMS:  ... and speak to people.  What‘s the sense you get? 

VAN ZANDT:  Well you know it was interesting, I was going from point (A) to point (B) today and talking to a cabdriver.  And I said you know what do the Aruban people feel?  And he says we think she ran away.  He said we think she ran away from her family and that Van Der Sloot helped her simply escape the island to another place.  And I said well, why wouldn‘t he just stand up and say hey...

(CROSSTALK)

VAN ZANDT:  ... all I did was help the girl...

ABRAMS:  Yes.

VAN ZANDT:  ... get away from a bad family relationship and he says we don‘t know, but that‘s what we believe...

ABRAMS:  I don‘t know...

VAN ZANDT:  That‘s kind of denial, Dan.

ABRAMS:  Yes, that sounds like a dummy cabdriver to me.  I mean I‘m not saying we don‘t know what happened, but the chances that that scenario is what happened seems like a pretty long shot to be.  You got—have you gotten a chance to speak to any of the authorities or the FBI investigating the case? 

VAN ZANDT:  No.  No.  Evidently, there‘s only one FBI agent left on the island.  You know I‘ve got to be honest with you.  It‘s nice that they‘re going to give the investigation—let the FBI read this, but you know I‘ve had the opportunity to read one of the statements that Joran gave and Dan, it would drive you crazy.  It‘s like he said this, he said that, they dutifully wrote it down. 

They didn‘t ask any more questions.  They didn‘t try to poke holes in what he said.  They took it.  They signed their names to it and walked away.  I mean I‘m reading the statement and just yelling at it, saying why didn‘t you ask the follow-up questions a reporter or an investigator would ask...

ABRAMS:  When was that from, Clint, because we know that he has given numerous statements to the authorities. 

VAN ZANDT:  Yes and this was one of the very, very early on statements...

ABRAMS:  What does he say...

VAN ZANDT:  ... one of the multiple statements...

ABRAMS:  What do they say he said? 

VAN ZANDT:  And in this particular one—this is the one I think you talked about last night, Dan, where he suggested that one of the Kalpoe brothers had sexually assaulted, murdered and buried her.  All right.  But again, you know, number one, he didn‘t sign it, which is neither here nor there.  Four police officers signed it, but you know the reality is say, OK, where did this happen. 

ABRAMS:  Right.

VAN ZANDT:  Why do you think that?  Where was she buried?  Give us the timeframe.  None of those follow-up questions.  They just dutifully took the information, signed it, and went on their way.  You know how many of these have stacked up, we don‘t even know. 

ABRAMS:  Look out because Clint Van Zandt is on the island and he‘s not going to just take those sorts of answers when he gets to start asking questions around.   Clint, we look forward to checking in with you as you get to talk to more people on the island there.  Appreciate it. 

VAN ZANDT:  Thanks, Dan.  Appreciate it. 

ABRAMS:  Coming up, our exclusive interview with an American teen who spent a lot of time with Joran Van Der Sloot.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  He‘s a normal teenage guy who just is living a normal teenage life. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  He lived with her family in the U.S. for a month and now she and her mother are speaking to us. 

Plus, it‘s one of the most popular shows around but now five brothers and sisters, orphans, at least they were, are suing “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition”, because they say they were effectively kicked out of the new beautiful house. 

And a lot of you unhappy with what O.J. Simpson had to say about a whole range of topics.  Others of you unhappy for the way I spoke about him.  Others of you unhappy in general about O.J.  Your e-mails and more of O.J. coming up. 

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  The only suspect still in custody in the search for Natalee Holloway is Dutch student Joran Van Der Sloot.  He has reportedly told investigators conflicting stories about what happened the night Natalee disappeared.  But it‘s clear.  He was with her at some point the night that she went missing. 

We‘ve got another ABRAMS REPORT exclusive—a mother and daughter from New Jersey who know Joran well, met him a few years ago while on vacation in Aruba, even spent a month living at their house a couple of years ago, celebrating his 16th birthday with them.  I sat down with Cathy Cadmus and her daughter, Shelby a few hours ago.  I asked them how they got to know Joran and his family.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) 

S. CADMUS:  Well I was just hanging out by the pool with one of my friends who I came to Aruba with and I saw Joran hanging around the Marriott with a bunch—a group of his friends as well and we were both looking at each other, you know, girl, guy, flirtation, eye contact.  We both sort of approached each other at the same time.  We started talking.  We all—we both had the same interest, soccer, music and everything.  So we just hung out pretty much every day by the pool and played monkey in the middle in the pool, normal kid stuff. 

ABRAMS:  And you got to know him pretty well over time, meaning even when you‘re not in Aruba, you‘re regularly e-mailing him, et cetera.

S. CADMUS:  Oh yes.  Once I got home, we e-mailed and everything.  I was already infatuated by him and he‘s a very romantic guy.  I mean he had a list of top 10 things he wanted to do in his life.  And number one was sit under the stars with the one I love.  It‘s just the kind of guy he was. 

ABRAMS:  You say infatuated with him, et cetera.  Did you all date? 

S. CADMUS:  Yes, well, the first night I met him, one of his friends and my friend and I went to the movies together and they paid, a double date, just a fun night and then just walked around the town, center town in Aruba. 

ABRAMS:  Was that the extent of it?  I mean did you all sort of—because the question, of course is what is Joran like.  I mean and people have been asking questions about what is he like in that context.  Did you have—were you dating him at any point?  Were you—would you know another side of him that someone who is just friends with him might not. 

S. CADMUS:  I mean no—I mean I know the same as his friends know.  He‘s a normal teenage guy who just is living a normal teenage life. 

ABRAMS:  And you got to know the parents? 

C. CADMUS:  I got to know the parents and Joran very well.  During that week, he was a very impressionable young man.  He was lovely.  He was open.  What I like about meeting my kids‘ friends is that they look you in the eye when they talk to you that come up.  And he did.  He would come over to the pool and talk with my husband and myself, sit and eat lunch with us.

He was lovely and very bright and intelligent and would hold good conversations.  Then we got to meet the parents very well over the summer, e-mailing and phone calls back and forth and—because they were both so interested in soccer, we looked for a soccer camp for them to attend during the summer.

ABRAMS:  And it‘s gotten to the point now where you know they came to see you at your house, you went back and saw them in Aruba after that...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  ... and you‘ve been actually staying in contact with Joran‘s mother throughout this whole process.

C. CADMUS:  Yes, I have.  Even before this.  Actually we were quite close contact right before all of this happened because I was asking her to send me a map for a friend who‘s going to Aruba in October for her honeymoon and then all of this started transpiring and that‘s when we were e-mailing back and forth a lot more than we have in the past...

ABRAMS:  What has she been saying about...

C. CADMUS:  Very little.  She doesn‘t talk about the case a lot for obvious reasons, she can‘t, and I respect her for that.  She‘s being very careful what she says.  She believes in her son.  We believe in him.  I just think it‘s impossible to think that this child could do anything that the news media is saying he has done or possibly could have done.  I just - we don‘t believe it. 

ABRAMS:  We don‘t know.  I mean look...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  I have no idea what happened, what didn‘t happen.  He might get released next month for all we know.  All the authorities are saying is that he has told inconsistent stories about what happened that night.  Initially saying that he wasn‘t even with her when—then saying yes, he did drop her off, and now we‘re hearing new stories that he‘s saying that maybe it was one of his friends who did it, et cetera.  At the very least they‘re saying he‘s told a lot of different stories.

C. CADMUS:  Well first of all, in Aruba all of these transcripts are under lock and key, so nobody really knows what Joran said.  Secondly, I put—and my children said the same thing to me—if at 2:30, 3:00 in the morning you have the police and a bunch of police at your door, where is my daughter, where is my daughter, you‘re not home.  Your father finds out you‘re not home because you‘re supposed to be home...

ABRAMS:  He wasn‘t arrested for many days...

C. CADMUS:  No he wasn‘t, but because they are questioning where she was, he‘s starting to panic.  Oh, my God.  What happened to her?  So he made up this story.  He figured it was easier just to say I left her at the Holiday Inn.  I‘m speculating.  We don‘t really know what was said in the transcripts.  Nobody does accept for the prosecutor. 

ABRAMS:  You ever seen any violence on the part of Joran?

S. CADMUS:  None.  None at all. 

ABRAMS:  You ever seen him drunk? 

S. CADMUS:  Yes, actually I have. 

ABRAMS:  And...

S. CADMUS:  Not violent at all. 

ABRAMS:  What did he—I mean was he...

S. CADMUS:  ... a goofy, fun, funny drunk. 

ABRAMS:  He wasn‘t one of these people—and there are some people when they drink a lot, they really come to be different people than they were sober. 

S. CADMUS:  Not at all because I know people who do become different people when they‘re drunk and Joran‘s not one of them. 

ABRAMS:  So when you heard that Joran was being held and that Joran was the chief suspect, what was the first thing you thought?

S. CADMUS:  Shock because I mean I know him.  It‘s so weird for me because why would he do anything when—I mean, he‘s the kind of guy, he could—he‘s a good-looking kid.  He could have girls approach him easily.  There‘s no use for him—he doesn‘t have to do anything to get a girl.  He just has to be himself and... 

C. CADMUS:  As a parent, I found him very protective of her, too.  I found a very gentle-type soul.  I didn‘t find someone who was aggressive and I don‘t think he ever got aggressive with her in a romantic sense. 

ABRAMS:  There have been suggestions from Natalee‘s mother that Joran and his friends would basically sit at this bar and prey on women. 

C. CADMUS:  You know, I feel sorry for Natalee‘s mother.  God knows I have two girls and a boy.  My heart breaks for her.  I can‘t imagine.  But I can take myself out of that picture and look outside the whole picture in the box and say she‘s groping at straws.  I THINK—don‘t think she has any other answers and I‘d probably be doing the same thing. 

That‘s all she has to go on.  So she needs—and in order to keep this alive in the media, she needs to keep coming up with ideas and things.  Joran was a very bright, young student.  How could he have possibly gotten a scholarship to a college if he was busy sitting at bars all the time the way they‘re making him out to be.  He was no different than my three children or any other teenagers I know today.  Well yes they partied.  They had a good time, but he knew when to stop and when to settle down and what else to do.

ABRAMS:  What about his father, Paul?

C. CADMUS:  A lovely man.  A lovely...

ABRAMS:  He was arrested.  The allegation or the suggestion being that he may have provided the boys with information to do something...

C. CADMUS:  The sad thing with Paul is that when he was first interviewed, I think and everybody saw him profusely sweating, they all assumed right away he‘s guilty and that was it.  When we first sat down to dinner with Paul and Anita in Aruba, Paul was sweating profusely.  When my husband and I left, we both said wow, he lives here and he‘s not used to the heat and we‘re fine.  That‘s the way he was. 

ABRAMS:  How do you picture what it‘s like for him behind bars right now? 

S. CADMUS:  I picture him being brave and strong and trying to live through it, doing the best he can. 

ABRAMS:  Kathy and Shelby Cadmus, thank you very much for coming on the program.  We appreciate it. 

C. CADMUS:  Thank you. 

S. CADMUS:  You‘re welcome. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ABRAMS:  Coming up, it‘s a show that makes dreams come true or so they say.  But now, five brothers and sisters say ABC‘s “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” ruined their lives.  They‘re suing ABC and the family they say took them in just to get their house fixed up. 

And on Friday we heard what O.J. Simpson has to say about topics ranging from Scott Peterson to Natalee Holloway.  Everyone is upset at me from all sides, mad because we aired what O.J. had to say, mad because I was too mean to him, or just mad.  Coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Coming up, one of the families that received a new home and is extreme—from the show “Extreme Makeover” from ABC is now suing that show.  What happened?  The details coming up.

(NEWS BREAK)

ABRAMS:  What do you get when you put together a rundown house with a deserving family, some opinionated designers in seven days, “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” according to ABC‘s Web site.  One family says the ratings-grabbing reality show has turned their personal tragedy into a practical nightmare, leaving them with virtually nothing but a lawsuit. 

The Higgins family, five kids, 14 to 21 years old, living in a two-bedroom apartment in California, orphaned by the deaths of their parents.  Their story grabs headlines.  Their church raises money and “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” calls the church to arrange an interview with the kids.  Maybe they could be the next—quote—“deserving family”.

While this is going on, the Leomiti family, members of the church, offer to take the kids into their home.  But according to a lawsuit, the family‘s motivation wasn‘t to save the kids from a life of despair.  It was to get a newly built nine-bedroom house, mortgage paid, a weeklong vacation and other gifts like computers and stereos and cars. 

According to the suit against the Leomiti family, ABC and the producers of “Extreme Makeover”, around the time the episode aired, the Higgins‘s moved out one-by-one as a result of a—quote—“orchestrated campaign” by the Leomiti family to get rid of them. 

Reached by phone earlier today, Mrs. Leomiti called the lawsuit—quote—“bogus.”

Joining me now, Charles Higgins, the oldest of the five Higgins children, and the Higgins‘ family attorney is Patrick Mesisca.  Thanks very much for coming on the program.  Appreciate it. 

All right.  Charles, first let me start with you.  Tell me first of all what happened here. 

CHARLES HIGGINS, SUING “EXTREME MAKEOVER”:  Well, what happened was we were supposed to be promised a house you know that was supposed to be built for everybody.  You know my brothers and sisters were supposed to have a place to stay and now you know we‘re practically homeless.  We‘re not you know together—we‘re not living together in one home.  We‘re living in separate homes with, you know, each of our friends, you know, and it really hurts, you know, because I‘m 22. 

I‘m trying to pull an extra load.  You know I‘ve got a lot on my shoulders here.  You know I‘m trying to be a good role model but it‘s hard when you don‘t really have a place to stay—a place actually for your younger brothers and siblings to call home, so you know they can wake up in the morning and they don‘t have to worry about oh where are they going to live or what they‘re going to do, you know.  And it really hurts, you know, it hurts me to see like the look on their face every day...

ABRAMS:  Patrick...

HIGGINS:  ... you know because I know they worry. 

ABRAMS:  ... were you literally thrown out of the house or it‘s basically that you felt that you weren‘t wanted there anymore? 

HIGGINS:  I‘m not really going to comment on that, you know, right now because all of that is in the lawsuit, but practically what I‘m going to say is you know we were, you know my brothers were done wrong by the show, by ABC.  ABC promised that we were going to have a home and that we were going to be together.  And basically what happened was you know we‘re not in a home and the thing is they keep airing our show almost like every other weekend and so that show, every time it gets aired, it makes money and they‘re practically making money off of us, and it‘s telling a story that‘s not really true.  It‘s telling a story that we‘re all in a house together, we‘re happy, we‘re a loving family, you know, we‘re happier than we ever could be in our lives, but it‘s really not true. 

ABRAMS:  All right...

HIGGINS:  You know...

ABRAMS:  Mr. Higgins look—I‘m sorry - (INAUDIBLE) Charles‘ family‘s story is obviously a heartbreaking one.  It‘s one the led them, ABC, to act and to try and build this home to accommodate them.  But I don‘t get how the program is responsible for what sounds like a family versus family squabble. 

PATRICK MESISCA, HIGGINS‘ FAMILY ATTORNEY:  The program, or if you will, corporate entities that make up the program made a promise to the Higgins‘ family and told them that they were going to provide a home for them.  The only home that was provided was an expansion of the residence in which the Leomitis live, and when all was said and done and the broadcast aired, the only benefit that the Higgins‘ children received was the right to be visitors in that home...

ABRAMS:  But everyone knew that.  I mean that was—I mean that clearly happened.  By the end of the show there was this big house built and they were all in the house.  I mean you would think that if you were going to sue, that would be the time to sue as opposed to now, when it appears for some reason that you won‘t discuss, there was some sort of family versus family problem. 

MESISCA:  Well you have to realize that all this of has taken place since March 27 of this year.  On March 27, that‘s when the program aired and here we are in August, a period of about four or five months and in that period of time, the Higgins children, all of them have left the Leomiti‘s home. 

ABRAMS:  But why is that ABC‘s fault? 

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  That‘s what I‘m not understanding...

MESISCA:  Well...

ABRAMS:  ... is I got why—if they want to sue the family and say, look, this was the deal.  You knew what the deal was.  You effectively suckered ABC into coming in here because our family was the one that made a great story.  I get that.  What I don‘t get is how ABC or the production company is responsible for these problems. 

MESISCA:  Well I can approach this on a number of levels.  First, the Higgins have experienced a nightmare.  This has been a very difficult time for them, loosing both of their parents last year.  The home would have never been provided for the Leomitis in the absence of...

ABRAMS:  Right.

MESISCA:  ... circumstances that the Higgins were involved...

ABRAMS:  So you sue the Leomitis...

MESISCA:  It was—well no.  It was the Higgins who were told that a home would be provided for them, that a place would be constructed for them to live in and I think what happened was ABC and the production companies involved steered this into a joint enterprise, if you will, between the Leomitis and the Higgins‘s, instead of just going forward and providing the Higgins with a place for them to live.  There was never a disclosure made to the Higgins concerning the fact...

ABRAMS:  Why is ABC obligated to build houses—I mean they get to choose who they want to build a home for and the Higgins‘s have this very compelling story and they‘re very deserving of it, but again it seems to me that you‘re focusing on the wrong defendant. 

MESISCA:  Well, we could argue this all day long.  In California, and I think most jurisdictions, if a person responds to a need, a person is drowning in the middle of a river and you send a lifeboat out to get them, you can‘t turn the lifeboat around and not pick them up once you‘ve reached the destination or worse, you can‘t just travel right past them and let them drown.  ABC undertook here to provide a residence for the Higgins family. 

ABRAMS:  Yes.

MESISCA:  And I believe that the way this was done, the failure to give proper advice to the Higgins, as to what options were available to them, how their interest might most properly be protected...

ABRAMS:  Very quickly...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  I got to read ABC‘s statement.  We‘re extremely proud of “Extreme Makeover:...

MESISCA:  Sure.

ABRAMS:  ... Home Edition” and the positive impact the show has had on people‘s lives.  While we don‘t comment on litigation, it‘s important to note the episode is about the rebuilding of the Leomiti family‘s existing home to accommodate the inclusion of the five Higgins siblings, whom the Leomitis had invited into their lives following the death of their parents.

It sounds to me like you‘re going to have a real lawsuit against the Leomitis here.  I predict that the lawsuit against ABC and the production company will be thrown out, but I am wrong in the past and more importantly, Mr. Higgins, look it sounds like you‘re a guy with a good head on his shoulders and I wish you the best of luck.  You don‘t deserve any of this regardless of how the lawsuit comes out, so good luck to you.

HIGGINS:  Thank you, sir.

MESISCA:  Thank you.

ABRAMS:  Coming up, we had such a overwhelming response to our series “Manhunt: Sex Offenders on the Loose”, we‘re going to work with law enforcement to catch sex offenders before they strike, well here‘s what we‘re going to do.  We are going to start profiling two missing sex offenders every night with the hope of catching them.  One state per week. 

Starting alphabetically, we are starting tonight with Alabama.  John Arthur Brown, wanted, five counts of sexual abuse against young boys.  He‘s 33, 5-foot, 7, 199 pounds.  If you‘ve got any information on his whereabouts, please call 334-353-1172. 

Coming up, after 38 years, Israel withdraws—is going to withdraw from settlements in the Gaza Strip.  I say extremism on both sides is blurring what may be the most sensible developments in the Middle East in a long time.  It is my “Closing Argument”. 

And a lot of you angry at me for being mean to O.J. Simpson.  Others of you angry at me for me putting O.J. Simpson on TV.  Your e-mails and we‘ll hear more from O.J.—msnbc.com.  Please include your name and where you‘re writing from.    

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Coming up, many, many people angry over the O.J. Simpson interview.  Some of you angry at me.  Others of you angry we put his face on the air.  It‘s coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  My “Closing Argument”—the drama and controversy surrounding the pullout of a tiny number of Jewish settlers from the Gaza Strip today provides a lesson in the consequences of extremism.  And I‘m talking about both sides here. 

For Israel, withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, a sensible decision.  Even longtime hard-liner Prime Minister Ariel Sharon recognized that.  Only about 9,000 people live in the 21 Jewish settlements there.  They live among more than a million Palestinians.  Israel spent about $50 billion over the past 30 years protecting the Gaza settlers.

And polls show a majority of Israelis favor pulling out.  But that hasn‘t stopped some radical settlers, some from the U.S., from constructing human barricades, burning tires to keep Israeli soldiers out.  Five thousand other extremists have traveled the settlements to stiffen the resistance.  It will be traumatic for many Israeli soldiers and settlers who refuse to leave voluntarily will be removed by force, if they‘re not gone by Wednesday night.

On the other side, as predictable as it outrageous, Palestinian extremists refusing to treat this withdrawal as an olive branch.  Ariel Sharon pulling out without any concessions in return, except a promise that there will be greater efforts to quell the threat of terror.  Members of the Palestinian terror group Hamas announced that the withdrawal somehow means their murderous ways achieved certain goals. 

Today, their gunman marched in triumphal parades and their banners read the blood of martyrs has led deliberation.  Radical Jews have been advocating this theory as well suggesting the pullout somehow vindicates the terrorists.  Well it didn‘t.  In fact, Israel has never been as effective in stopping terror as they have been in the past year or so.  The so-called resistance has failed miserably.  Their leaders killed.  Their operations exposed. 

And while Hamas says it will allow the Gaza evacuations to go quietly, doesn‘t change its goal, the elimination of Israel through—quote—“arm struggle”, including terror attacks with suicide bombers.  Palestinians in Gaza have everything to gain from Israel‘s withdrawal and so do Israelis, something it seems most Israelis understand.  But in both Israel and in Gaza extremists are doing what they can to make this pullout painful, serving their own narrow interest rather than taking a step back and looking at the big picture that this is a good step and an important step for both sides.  I‘m just hoping those radicals get completely marginalized. 

Coming up.  O.J. Simpson.  Hundreds of you writing in about my interview with the 18-year-old ESPN talk show host who sat down with O.J.  Some of you mad at me for being mean to O.J., mad at me for putting O.J. on the show, mad at me for the way I acted towards the young journalist.  Up next, your e-mails and we‘ll run more of the interview. 

And in our continuing series, “Manhunt: Sex Offenders on the Loose”, we‘re trying to stop predators before they strike again—Alabama, Kenneth Lamar Willard wanted for sexual abuse with three girls.  He‘s 47 years old, 6 feet tall, weighs 197 pounds.  If you have any information, where he is, please call 334-353-1172.  Be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  We‘re back.  I‘ve had my say, now it‘s time for “Your Rebuttal”.  On Friday I spoke to Graham Bensinger, the 18-year-old radio talk show host who got an exclusive interview with O.J. Simpson.  Simpson offered up commentary on everything from the state of the American media to Scott Peterson.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

O.J. SIMPSON, ACQUITTED OF MURDER:  I thought if Scott Peterson, you know what I thought if he did it or not is immaterial.  I didn‘t think they had the facts—were in the testimony.  I thought he was such a disagreeable person and talked so much that I felt that his death penalty came more out of his personality than the actual facts that they had.  Do I think he was guilty?  Probably, yes.  But I didn‘t think the evidence in the case warranted him getting the death penalty...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Well I mocked much of what O.J. had to say.  Mixed reactions.  While it seemed young Graham was defending O.J. at times, at least explaining it from O.J.‘s perspective.

Terry from Virginia, “Like the murderous villain in Harry Potter referred to as he who must not be named I would prefer that you not waste your time or mine talking about the real life he who must not be named until you read his obituary on the air.” 

Jane R. from Pennsylvania, “I noticed that O.J. Simpson was wearing a Lance Armstrong, ‘LIVESTRONG‘ bracelet.  Maybe it should read ‘KILLSTRONG‘.” 

Tracy Watkins from Columbus, Ohio, “It would behoove the 18-year-old ESPN reporter to watch tapes of the trial that happened when he was 8 years old before interviewing O.J.  Perhaps then he would have a better perspective on how ridiculous it is to us crazy people when reporters treat O.J. with such respect.”

I reminded everybody that in addition to the criminal verdict of not guilty, O.J. was found responsible for the deaths of Ron Goldman and Nicole Brown Simpson and that he owes the families a lot of money.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Do you think there will ever come a point in time where you have to pay more of the money that was awarded? 

SIMPSON:  I think maybe, but obviously it won‘t be by any effort of mine.

(LAUGHTER)

SIMPSON:  You know I follow the law and if that means avoiding doing certain things in my life, I will avoid doing it.  Because as I said, I didn‘t do the crime.  I‘m not going to pay them a dime and that‘s how I feel about it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Yes, circumventing the law.  O.J. also compared his case to the Natalee Holloway investigation. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SIMPSON:  It‘s like, who is going to get the latest news out first?  And unfortunately, we see from everywhere back to my case to the Holloway situation down in Aruba, most of the time, the facts aren‘t right. 

(CROSSTALK)

SIMPSON:  I love the way they do it down there and that‘s driving our media crazy because they won‘t talk about the facts that they have to our media.  To me the only way you can assure that everybody is going to have a fair trial and that the true facts are going to come out, and if there‘s a jury down there based on judges, it‘s going to come out with the facts, is you got to have all those facts come out in court and not in the newspaper. 

To me the only way you can get a fair trial in this country, you have to do what my jury did.  They have to sequester the whole jury.  Otherwise they‘re going to fall victim of the media and if they fall victim of the media, we don‘t know what is going to be the true, you know, genesis to their decision. 

ABRAMS:  (INAUDIBLE)

F.J. Moffa, Cherry Hill, New Jersey, “O.J. is about as much an informed authority on the Natalee Holloway tragedy as bin Laden is to good grooming and table etiquette.”

Linda Rothman from Lubbock, Texas, “I don‘t think about O.J.  I don‘t care about O.J. and for the most part don‘t watch shows about O.J.  In the words of the great philosopher Hilary Duff, he‘s so yesterday.”

But Simpson claims he still has a lot to offer today to the American people.  His unique perspective on celebrity trials, for example.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You mentioned this Internet venture.  Would this be a reality show? 

SIMPSON:  We‘ll see.  We‘ll see.  Pan the camera over there.  Ask this person right here.  She‘s the host.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  How about ever working on trial coverage? 

SIMPSON:  I would love to do that.  Now that‘s something I really would—felt that I—from Robert Blake to Peterson to Michael, I felt that I could give an insight that I used to hear some of the experts say

well he‘s thinking this and this.  They don‘t have a clue what this guy is, they are so off base, what‘s going on in these guys‘ minds, you know during—in the middle of a trial and stuff. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Some of you saying I was too tough on Graham Bensinger, the teenager who scored the big interviewer with O.J.

Ron Wayton from Ohio, “Why did you bother having him on the show if you were going to disregard everything he attempted to say as the opinion of an uninformed fledgling reporter?”

From Celeste, “I think you‘re annoyed you didn‘t get the interview with O.J.  Let the young man speak.”

Richard Francis from Anna Maria, Florida, “Thought you‘d be more of a coach and maybe a mentor for young Graham.  You‘re still young and good for a while.  Better treat Graham nice.  He might be your boss someday.”

That is true and that‘s why I said I love Graham. 

Rose Marie from Farmington, Connecticut, “What a bright, articulate and enthusiastic informed junior reporter.  Did you see a bit of yourself in his ambitious interviewing style?”

Vanessa Strange from (INAUDIBLE) Wisconsin, “We thoroughly enjoyed your tactful handling of the ESPN fellow who‘s obviously enamored with O.J.  Was a hoot.”

Then there‘s Paul Meagher.  “You thought you were going to get attacked from one of two fronts, folks that support O.J., folks that think O.J. would be getting a dose of juice about now.  I represent a third wave, folks that never watch you, but ‘Charmed‘ was preempted by a stupid golf show.”

Mixed reactions on—what do you mean?  Oh, all right.  Well, we‘re out of time.  You know what?  Tomorrow night, I‘m going to read my e-mails in response to the Anderson Cooper—my attack—my response to Anderson Cooper at CNN.  We‘ve got a lot of e-mails about that.  Read those tomorrow. 

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

Coming up, a man whose bite was worse than his bark.  Our “OH PLEAs!” is next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  “OH PLEAs!”—a mailman in Houma, Louisiana was reassured that a leash dog was all bark and no bite.  Forget the beware of dog sign.  The sign should have said beware of man.  Apparently 20-year-old Mark Plumb ran out of his house barking after his mail carrier.  Plumb dogged the mailman and sunk his canines into the carrier‘s shoulder.  The postman suffered minimal injuries.  Mail carriers tote dog spray to fend off canines, but not trained on humans.  He said it was just a joke.  Still charged.  Got to go.

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

END   

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.

The Abrams Report each weeknight at 6 p.m. ET

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