updated 9/22/2005 9:26:35 AM ET 2005-09-22T13:26:35

Guests: Robin Riley, Chris Johnson, Marketa Gautreau, Curtis Sliwa, Jeffrey Lichtman, Ronald Kessler, John Strong

DAN ABRAMS, HOST:  Coming up, Rita now a category five hurricane.  The most dangerous type, packing winds of over 160 miles an hour and heading towards the Texas coast. 


ABRAMS (voice-over):  Some say this could be the most destructive hurricane in recent history.  Are they really ready in Texas? 

And a New York radio host says he‘s a dead man walking now that a reputed mob boss is set to be released from prison. 

And John Lennon, Marilyn Monroe, Lucy and Desi, they were all being tracked by the FBI.  Now, for the first time, the files are released.  We‘ve got them.  Some of them hard to believe. 

The program about justice starts now. 


ABRAMS:  Hi everyone.  Breaking news, Hurricane Rita now a category five storm packing 165-mile per hour winds.  Massive evacuations already underway.  Rita expected to make landfall early Saturday morning.  We‘ll be updating the storm‘s progress throughout this hour. 

First, we go to Bill Karins with NBC‘s Weather Plus for the latest on where Rita is, where Rita‘s going and the strength of Rita—Bill.

BILL KARINS, NBC WEATHER PLUS:  This storm now, Dan, is just as amazing as Katrina, size and intensity wise.  Just got the new update in from the hurricane hunters who are still flying in and out of the center of this storm.  Pressure is down to 904 millibars.  That makes it the fifth lowest pressure ever measured by the Hurricane Center and by the hurricane hunters into any hurricane, not just in the Gulf, but also in the Atlantic and the Caribbean over the last about 50 years or so they‘ve been flying in to these things, so we are once again just like with Katrina heading into unchartered territory. 

ABRAMS:  All right, Bill, before you go on...

KARINS:  Yes.  Sure.

ABRAMS:  ... what does that mean?  I mean I don‘t think...


ABRAMS:  ... people know what does low pressure means when you‘re talking about this kind of hurricane. 

KARINS:  Well the way it works with these storms, Dan, those numbers, we give them in millibars, the 902.  The lower that number, the stronger the winds are going to be.  It‘s just easy putting those two things together.  You get a storm somewhere about 970, it‘s about a category one.  As that number continues to drop, like we‘ve seen...


KARINS:  ... the stronger the winds will pick up.  So in other words, with this storm now down to 902, the winds are now at 165.  Those winds may be up to 175 or 180...


KARINS:  ... possibly by tonight.  Luckily, it‘s out over the middle of the Gulf not hitting any land right now and it‘s got a long ways to go before it gets to Texas.  Now the question is when is it going to peak and also when is it going to slowly begin to weaken?  It‘s moving west at about 13, 600 miles now east-southeast of Galveston, Texas. 

Let me show you the up-close pack.  Now you notice, these are not number five‘s here off the coast.  The Hurricane Center‘s thinking is that it‘s over very favorable conditions now.  It‘s going to peak later on tonight, early tomorrow morning, maintain itself for most of tomorrow, and then slowly weaken down to a category four.  That‘s what we hope. 

It still could fluctuate and go back and forth between a four and a five until landfall.  We still think landfall is going to be right now a category four.  The low end—I don‘t see it going lower than a three and I could see maybe a five at the lower end of the five scale heading on shore.  But right now, we‘re going to hedge in the middle, go with a four.  Timing looks to be Friday night, Saturday morning. 

So in other words, Dan, that gives people 48 hours.  You got daylight tomorrow.  You got daylight Friday.  Friday evening once the sun sets, the weather will quickly be deteriorating by then.  Everything will be too late in that area and the centerline hasn‘t changed much, still in between Corpus Christi and Houston, and Dan, as we all know, that storm surge will be on the right side of the storm. 

Storm surge with a category four, maybe borderline five would be somewhere between possibly 18 to maybe up to 25 feet and I want to let you know that that sea wall that protects Galveston is sitting between 15 and 18 feet.  You can do the math.

ABRAMS:  All right, Bill, thanks a lot.  Appreciate it. 

As we just heard, Galveston, Texas, Barrier Island, 50-miles from Houston in the Gulf of Mexico, directly in Rita‘s path.  The last major storm to hit Galveston, Hurricane Carla in 1961.  Now the University of Texas Space Research Division and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers built maps, showing the damage a storm like Carla, a category four, would cause to Galveston. 

Now while the sea wall around Galveston actually held firm, protecting the city from storm surges, unforeseen tornados spun out of the storm, jumping the sea wall, tearing apart neighborhoods.  With Hurricane Rita now upgraded to category five, a lot of questions about the sea wall and even the city surviving. 

Joining me now on the phone is the mayor of Seabrook, Texas, Robin Riley.  Seabrook is calling for mandatory evacuations of all low-lying areas tonight and mandatory evacuations for the entire city tomorrow.  It is about in between Houston and Galveston.  Mayor, thanks very much for taking the time to join us.  We appreciate it.

ROBIN RILEY, SEABROOK, TEXAS MAYOR (via phone):  Thank you. 

ABRAMS:  All right, so how are...


ABRAMS:  ... how are the evacuations going?  Are you getting the sense that people are getting the message and they‘re leaving? 

RILEY:  Definitely.  We called a voluntary evacuation yesterday evening and while driving through the city just a little while ago, it looks as though there‘s a significant amount of people that have already left.  But the roads are tied up, so we‘re trying to get people to get out as soon as possible.  We‘re doing a mandatory evacuation for the low parts of Seabrook at 6:00 p.m. Central Time, 7:00 for you guys, today, and then tomorrow morning at 6:00 a.m., it‘ll be for the rest of the city. 

ABRAMS:  Can you...


ABRAMS:  Can you explain to us what it means, how you distinguish between a voluntary and a mandatory evacuation? 

RILEY:  Well a mandatory evacuation, once we do that, they‘ll be directed towards a single evacuation route which is what we call Highway 146, which will take them north to a town called Lufkin, which is about three hours under normal driving terms.  It‘s closer to Dallas.  And there, there will be shelters for everyone that goes there (UNINTELLIGIBLE) even shelters for their pets.  They can bring pets all the way up to horses and they‘ll be taken care of up there.  So—and the roads will be cut off for other people and once you‘re on that road it‘s—you can‘t get off, so it‘s—you‘re off to Lufkin once you get on it. 

ABRAMS:  Now when you say mandatory evacuation, does that mean that people are going to actually be going in and pulling people out of houses?

RILEY:  No, not probably.  What we would do is we will go and be—it is mandatory in the essence that we are telling them that they should.  It is also true that we will send police around to go and check to make sure that people have left.  We will then, of course, talk to them and strongly suggest that they leave. 

It‘s just—it‘s an incredibly bad idea for anybody to stay here.  As your weather individual said earlier, about 18 to 25 feet, well the highest part of our city is 18 feet above sea level and that‘s the highest point in the whole city.  There are a lot of areas that are only about two or three feet above sea level.  So they would be inundated by water.  Though the water would go and recede right after the storm, but that‘s not going to do them much good at that point. 

ABRAMS:  Are you worried about the survival of your city in the wake of a category four or five hurricane? 

RILEY:  Well we survived Carla and I‘m sure we‘ll survive Rita.  We‘ve been working very hard to go and take all the precautions necessary.  We‘ve already—we‘ve been evacuating for over 24 hours now, the ones who have special needs, we got them buses and they‘re getting them out. 

We‘re putting on every—we use what we call a 911 call-down where we called every single house in the city to tell them these—about these evacuations and at that time, we also ask if you do have any special needs, be sure to call the police.  So I think we‘re going to be very successful in getting everybody out.  The buildings, I think, will survive, most of them and when the people come back, they‘ll put their lives back together again and we‘ll continue on. 

ABRAMS:  All right, Mayor Riley, you‘ve got some difficult days ahead. 

Thanks for taking the time to come on the program and good luck to you.

RILEY:  Thank you very much.  We appreciate it.  Bye.

ABRAMS:  Houston, Texas‘ biggest city, 50 miles northwest of Galveston, about 25, 30 of—what we were just talking about in Seabrook.  People in low-lying areas of the city or living in mobile homes have been asked to evacuate voluntarily.  Many as you can see, already packing freeways.  More sure to follow.  In less than an hour, mandatory evacuations ordered for Zone A, the area closest to the Gulf on this map and other mandatory evacuations have been scheduled to start on Thursday at 2:00 a.m. Local Time for Zone B and 6:00 a.m. for Zone C.  For those in areas who can‘t get out of town on their way, Houston‘s Mayor Bill White has some alternatives. 


BILL WHITE, HOUSTON, TEXAS MAYOR:  We are asking that you reach out to us so that we can work with metro and the state organizations and other organizations that are capable of providing transportation. 


ABRAMS:  FEMA also insisted it‘s prepared for the worst if Rita hits Texas with 744 urban search and rescue personnel, 400 medical staff, 45 truckloads of water, 45 truckloads of ice, 25 truckloads of food, already in position on the ground.  Beyond evacuations and emergency supplies, the question, is Houston ready if Rita storms ashore right there? 

Chris Johnson, president of Dodson and Associates, the firm that was asked to model worst-case scenarios for a major hurricane hitting the area.  Thanks a lot for coming on the program.  All right, bottom line, you‘ve done this model and you‘ve evaluated whether Houston can take it.  Can Houston take it? 

CHRIS JOHNSON, PRES., DODSON & ASSOCIATES:  Well, most of the designs that we use for drainage and storm surge protection do not go to the level of a category five hurricane.  That being said, the information that we have available in terms of data, has been put in the hands of the Harris County flood control district and the Offices of Emergency Management and that information is used to warn and protect people.  So from a protection standpoint, we‘re making the provisions to do that. 

ABRAMS:  But what did your results show?  I mean you did a sort of worst-case scenario with a category four hurricane.  What were the results in Houston? 

JOHNSON:  Our study of hurricane preparedness involved a worst-case scenario, category five hurricane, moving right up through Houston that maximized the storm surge up through Galveston Bay and Houston Ship Channel.  In that case, we have a situation where the entire southeast portion of Harris County is inundated with storm surge.  We‘re looking at approximately 369 square miles of inundation and coverages of 10 to 30 feet in depth. 

ABRAMS:  And what about the skyscrapers?  We‘re looking at some of the shots from the animation from the model.  What about the skyscrapers?  I mean many of Houston‘s skyscrapers were built in the ‘80‘s and were specifically built to be able to withstand major gusts of wind. 

JOHNSON:  We included some wind damage estimates in our study and found that in a category five hurricane, in a direct hit of Houston, we‘d be expecting about $18 billion in wind damage alone. 

ABRAMS:  And that would be to the metro area? 

JOHNSON:  To the—Harris County. 

ABRAMS:  Just in Harris County.  So what do you think?  I mean look, you‘ve seen what they‘ve been doing there already and how fearful are you? 

JOHNSON:  Well, if the hurricane takes a turn toward the north, I‘m very fearful.  If it goes along projected current paths more along the central Texas coast, I‘m fearful for those residents. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  Chris Johnson, thanks a lot. 

JOHNSON:  You‘re welcome. 

ABRAMS:  Appreciate it.

Coming up, looks like Rita will spare New Orleans from a direct hit but the city already reeling from Katrina is still preparing for the worst.  The question, of course, will the flooding begin again?  Will the levees hold?  We‘ll check in there.

And the missing children from Hurricane Katrina, is it possible the numbers are not as large as one thought.  Could that be good news?

And later, a New York City radio talk show host fears for his life now that a refuted mob boss is about to be released from prison. 

And we are following Hurricane Rita‘s path, now a category five hurricane, the most severe.  Winds up to 165 miles an hour.  We‘ll talk to a pilot who actually flew through the eye of Rita and has pictures.  Coming up. 


ABRAMS:  This is Hurricane Rita, 600 miles southeast of Galveston, Texas now.  It is now being classified as a category five hurricane, the most severe, the most dangerous type of hurricane.  The question, will it retain that strength as it races towards the coast of Texas?  And will it continue on that route directly to Galveston, Houston?

Remember with hurricanes they can always veer off.  They can change direction.  They can change intensity.  Throughout this hour, we will continue to follow Rita‘s path. 

Waterlogged New Orleans, still in the early stages of recovery from Hurricane Katrina could be swamped again if Rita hits nearby.  Before a mandatory evacuation was ordered for the city, workers in Hazmat suits trying to clean up the convention center.  And while they may have gotten out of town, many of the four to 500 residents surviving in the city could be determined to stay.  Only a handful of people showed up at the convention center today to board buses out of town. 

MSNBC‘s Michelle Hofland is in New Orleans.  Michelle, good to see you. Michelle, are some people planning on staying? 

MICHELLE HOFLAND, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  Well, you know, the question s Dan, do these people even know that a hurricane is coming.  I mean take a look.  There‘s blue skies.  It‘s a beautiful day, albeit very hot, but you know these folks they don‘t have electricity, so they can‘t watch TV.  They can‘t listen to the radio, so they may have absolutely no idea that a hurricane is on the way. 

But today, some crews did head through the neighborhoods with bullhorns and tried to notify them that a hurricane is on the way, that buses are at the convention center, if that want to go that they can get out of here.  But the mayor is saying that it is a mandatory evacuation.  What he is not saying is exactly how he‘s going to force the people out of here.  He did say today that you know we‘re all adults.

He‘s not going to force anyone out by gunpoint.  As you said, there‘s still four to 500 families around this area, but you know that doesn‘t even include all the city workers, the repair crews, the construction crews, the cleanup crews are still in the city of New Orleans, and those people need to leave according to the mayor, before the hurricane does hit. 

But this time, there are 500 buses here, ready to take those people out of town and this time, for this hurricane, there is enough water and military food here for a half a million people.  But you have to understand that even if Hurricane Rita just grazes this area, it‘s really bad news.  First of all, according to the Army Corps of Engineers, just three inches of rain swamps the sewers and get this. 

Just six inches of rain could overwhelm the patched up-levee systems here.  Not to mention that any rain at all will get into all the homes and businesses here.  They had their roofs ripped off and patches ripped off in the last hurricane and also, the rain, Dan, that will turn all the toxic muck that was dried up, that will turn all that back into soup.  So it‘s a big mess around here right now. 

ABRAMS:  Michelle, let me ask you, with that in mind, are they now working furiously on the levees to do whatever they can to bolster them? 

HOFLAND:  Yes, there are about 3,000 people, both contractors and Army Corps of Engineer people out there right now working around the clock to try to make them as strong as they can, but they admit you know what, all they‘re trying to do is patch up the levees that were having problems in the first place and they said they‘re still very weak and they‘re really worried about what kind of storm surge, what kind of effect that that will have on this area. 

ABRAMS:  All right, Michelle Hofland, thanks a lot.  Stay safe there and we will be bringing you updates on Rita again in the next few minutes. 

We‘ve been bringing you the faces and stories of Hurricane Katrina‘s littlest victims, the missing children.  The National Center for Missing and Exploited children says over 960 misses cases of missing kids have been resolved but according to Center‘s numbers there are more than 2,600 kids still separated from their families.  State officials in Louisiana say be careful, the numbers may be a little bit misleading. 

Joining me now is Marketa Gautreau, who is the assistant secretary of the Louisiana Department of Social Services.  Thank you very much for coming on the program.  Appreciate it.  So...



ABRAMS:   I don‘t know if we should say that it‘s good news but explain why the numbers may not be quite what they seem. 

GAUTREAU:  Well, the numbers on that Web site are numbers of reports and anyone can call and make a report and say a child is missing.  For example, a non-custodial dad could call and say, I haven‘t seen my child since the storm.  Well, the child may be with the custodial mom and be perfectly fine.  So it‘s an accurate number of the reports that have been made but it doesn‘t always translate to a child who is missing. 

ABRAMS:  Do you have any sense of how many of the children are truly missing, meaning completely separated from their families? 

GAUTREAU:  Well, we‘re working on three right now.  We had 11 last Friday and we placed eight of them over the weekend, back with their families.  So we have three we‘re still working with and so far, we‘ve had about 40 cases that we physically have had our hands on here in Louisiana, either in a shelter or a hospital that we have reunited with their family. 


GAUTREAU:  Total reunifications have been in the hundreds. 

ABRAMS:  But do you have any sense of how many are still missing?  I mean we‘re hearing—I guess the word missing is the issue, but 2,600 reports of children...


ABRAMS:  ... who are—quote—“missing”.  Do you have any sense of how many of them you know are missing in the traditional sense, meaning they literally don‘t know where their families are and they‘re effectively in shelters or foster homes? 

GAUTREAU:  Well, of course if one child was missing, we would be very upset and worried to reunite that child.  We don‘t have a number, Dan, of how many there are, but we are sweeping through the shelters constantly.  The Child Welfare Department in every state on a daily basis is going through the shelter system looking for children that are unattached and as soon as we hear of one, then we start working it.  That‘s where the 11 came from that‘s now dwindled down to three.  So as of today, there are only three children that are totally separated from a family that we cannot put them back together with. 

ABRAMS:  When you say there are only three, there are only three in where?

GAUTREAU:  In Louisiana or that we have had reported from another state.  We have worked extremely closely with Texas and that‘s where the bulk of the children went that got separated from their parents.  And so we have worked with Texas multiple times a day to check in, to know where the kids are, and Texas has taken 35 children into care, into foster care because we couldn‘t make matches. 

ABRAMS:  Well you know that—I have to say, that‘s really refreshing to hear.  When you hear the number 2,600, you think to yourself...


ABRAMS:  ... oh, my.  You know it‘s the most heartbreaking part of the story or at least one of them and yet...


ABRAMS:  ... you‘re saying that...


ABRAMS:  ... look, it‘s serious.  We‘ve got to deal with this.  It‘s an issue but it‘s not quite as bad as it sounds. 

GAUTREAU:  No, it hasn‘t been.  The good news about this storm is that our families got out largely intact. 


GAUTREAU:  Yes, we had some horrible situations where the helicopters took the kids and the moms were left and went on the next helicopter and went to a different city and those have been heart wrenching.  As a parent, I can only imagine how awful that is to be missing from your child, just even in a grocery store, much less in the middle of chaos. 


GAUTREAU:  But luckily we‘ve been able to just put these families back together very quickly. 

ABRAMS:  Keep up the good work.  Secretary, thanks for taking the time.

GAUTREAU:  Thank you so very much Dan.  Appreciate it. 

ABRAMS:  Coming up, the FBI files of John Lennon, Marilyn Monroe and other stars have just been released.  It‘s hard to believe what‘s inside.  We‘ve got them. 

You‘re looking at the latest picture from inside—inside Hurricane Rita.  It was taken earlier today.  We talk to the pilot whose job it is to fly into the hurricane. 

And our effort to reunite families split up in the wake of Katrina, we‘re highlighting the children posted on the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in the hopes that they can be reconnected with their loved ones.  

Emil Stevenson, age 12, New Orleans—quote—“Missing” and again you heard the clarification there—since August 28, 2005. 

Treneka Worthy, age 3 from New Orleans, reported last seen August 28, 2005.  If you‘ve got any information on either of them, please call the Katrina‘s Missing Kids‘ hot line, 1-888-544-5475.  Be right back.


ABRAMS:  Coming up, the hurricane hunter‘s job—it is to fly into Hurricane Rita.  We‘ve got the latest pictures from inside Rita.  First the headlines. 


ABRAMS:  An alleged mobster with a notorious name may soon be walking out of a federal prison, leaving a sometimes notorious radio talk show host calling himself a—quote—“dead man walking.”  After more than a week of deliberations, the jury in John Gotti, Jr.‘s trial deadlocked.  Split verdict, not guilty of security‘s fraud, but hung on other charges like the one that Gotti ordered his underlings to rough up New York radio talk show host Curtis Sliwa, alleged retaliation for Sliwa‘s on air attacks on Gotti‘s mob boss father.

Sliwa was shot by a masked gunman in a New York City taxicab in 1992.  So, conspiracy to kidnap Sliwa, the jury breakdown, 10 guilty,  two not guilty.  Actually, kidnapping Sliwa, seven guilty, five not guilty.  Now, the judge indicating Gotti will likely be released even though he very well may be tried again on the charges where the jury could not reach a verdict. 

Joining me now is Curtis Sliwa saying he‘s fearful for his life, but looking forward to what he calls round two and John Gotti Jr.‘s attorney, Jeffrey Lichtman.  Gentlemen, thanks for joining us.

All right, Curtis, you really think he‘s going to come after you?

CURTIS SLIWA, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  Oh there‘s no question.  And it doesn‘t necessarily mean the fingerprints of John Gotti Jr., free to be at home with his wife and kids will beyond this.  But there are sickle fence toties (ph) and lackeys (ph) who honor the memory of his father and John Gotti, Jr.  They want to walk in his shadow and they‘d be more than happy to bring me and bring me to room temperature.  And I guarantee you, if anyone ever whispered into the ear of John Gotti Jr. that Curtis Sliwa was DOA, dead on arrival, it would make his day.

ABRAMS:  Curtis, you thought about as a result of that, maybe going a little less conspicuous?  Or are you just going to keep it up and say I‘m going—I‘m not going to stop doing things the way I do them. 

SLIWA:  Every day on my WABC radio program, I‘m going to continue to hammer away at this revisionism of the Gotti legacy, the reign of terror they brought to this city and other cities.  You know we‘re trying to somehow whitewash it and sanitize it, particularly with the defense attorney, Jeffrey Lichtman‘s, argument that he withdrew from organized crime in 1999 and that you shouldn‘t hold him responsible for crimes committed in the past.  There‘s only one way to withdraw (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and that‘s feet first in a pine box six feet under. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  Jeffrey Lichtman, you‘ve described this case as limping, as weak, but the bottom line is it was this close to a conviction on some of the most serious charges. 

JEFFREY LICHTMAN, ATTORNEY FOR JOHN GOTTI, JR.:  Well actually, Dan, he was acquitted of one of the most serious charges and there was a deadlock on the weakest charges. 

ABRAMS:  But wait, wait, it was 11-1 for conviction on extortion and loan sharking...

LICHTMAN:  Which was the weakest charge in the case.

ABRAMS:  Right, but 10 to 2 for conspiracy.  I mean this is not a sort of even divide.  This is basically one or two people holding out and then seven to five on the kidnapping charge...

LICHTMAN:  Right...

ABRAMS:  ... so...

LICHTMAN:  ... had he been convicted of the charges where it was 11 to one for conviction, he probably would have gotten a sentence of about six years.  With regard to Curtis‘, this fantasy belief that he thinks that Gotti wants him dead, I hate to say it to Curtis, but anybody who saw Curtis on the stand, the jury, the government prosecutors, the judge, the defense lawyers, he‘s worth a lot more to us alive than dead. 

ABRAMS:  And you mean by that, you‘re suggesting...

LICHTMAN:  He was a horrible witness.  He‘s a nice man, I‘m sure, when he‘s not on TV or under oath, but otherwise he was a horrible witness.  He hurt their case tremendously.  He‘s not even an important witness on the case because all he was, was a victim and he couldn‘t identify who shot him.  Nevertheless, he was caught in one whopper lie after another and you wonder why it was seven to five, nobody believed him. 

ABRAMS:  Curtis, you want to respond to that?

SLIWA:  Ten to two, nobody believed me.  I still had the majority. 

And let‘s talk about the 11 to one...

LICHTMAN:  Majority doesn‘t help here. 

SLIWA:  ... the 11 to one, the holdout jury.  The history of the Gottis and Gambinos are in the past and you know this Jeffrey...

LICHTMAN:  What about the 12 people...


LICHTMAN:  ... $25 million fraud...

ABRAMS:  One at a time...


ABRAMS:  One at a time. 


SLIWA:  They had fixed juries through bribery.  John Gotti Sr., 1987, beat the rap on murder and extortion through bribery of a juror.  Gene Gotti, the brother, beat the rap on a drug charge bribing a juror.  The jurors went to jail as did the bribers and can‘t deny that Lichtman...

ABRAMS:  And Jeffrey, I have heard people who knew nothing about the case say oh, look at that, 11-1, 10-2...

LICHTMAN:  What about 12-0 for acquittal...

ABRAMS:  ... happen to the juries.  Go ahead.

LICHTMAN:  What about 12-0 for acquittal on the securities fraud?  What about 7-5?  Look, the government is not alleging that there was anything wrong with this jury.  They wouldn‘t dare.  They know there‘s nothing wrong.  Curtis, you were a good loser after my cross-examination of you.  I would suggest be a good loser again. 

ABRAMS:  Let me read from the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, Michael J. Garcia, who says the Office respects the jury‘s findings.  As to the charges on which the jury did not reach a verdict, we are evaluating further proceedings.  We commend our prosecution team as well as our law enforcement partners for their devotion to the prosecution of this case.

Jeffrey, I‘d expect that they‘re going to retry him. 

LICHTMAN:  Well we‘re going to—move for an acquittal on count one...


LICHTMAN:  ... which will include the Sliwa charge and if we‘re successful, and I expect that we will be because they couldn‘t find a proven racketeering act—not a single act stuck against John Gotti Jr.  All that will be left will be the loan sharking and the construction extortion.  It ain‘t much.  It‘s not going to be much of a trial.  I don‘t expect John will ever go back for a trial.  But if there is another trial, they know where I live.  They know where my office is.  I‘ll be ready.  I was ready before.  I‘ll be ready...

ABRAMS:  Will you tell your client to make sure that no one go goes after Curtis Sliwa?

LICHTMAN:  He‘s out of the mafia.  The government knows it.  They didn‘t allege a single criminal conversation from 2003 on.  They were bugging him in prison. 

SLIWA:  Jeffrey...

LICHTMAN:  Every one of his conversations with his friends were bugged. 

They didn‘t offer a single tape to the jury.  Why?  Because he‘s done...


ABRAMS:  I was saying that even—yes, let‘s even assume that for a moment.  I would say Curtis is saying, look, people he knows, people he likes may say, hey, John, you know I‘ll hook you up here. 

LICHTMAN:  They don‘t say that, Dan.

ABRAMS:  It wouldn‘t it be good for John—I mean what were you saying Jeffrey?

LICHTMAN:  It wouldn‘t be good because we need Curtis alive.  I hope Curtis lives—I hope—I would trial a federal trial in January, a narcotics case.  I hope Curtis testifies in that case.


ABRAMS:  Curtis gets the last word on this.

SLIWA:  Jeffrey, can you tell us where you go to resign from... 


SLIWA:  Where do you sign on the dotted line?

LICHTMAN:  He told his father in 1999 he was out. 

SLIWA:  He told his father...

LICHTMAN:  It‘s on tape. 

SLIWA:  He walked in the shadow of his father, a murdering enemy of society that he honored and worshiped and he followed in his footsteps...


LICHTMAN:  ... allowed to change.  They‘re allowed to change, Curtis.  God knows you‘ve changed any number of times. 

SLIWA:  Jeffrey Lichtman, we are going to bring the reign of terror...

ABRAMS:  All right.

SLIWA:  ... of the Gottis and Gambinos to an end once and for all and you know...

ABRAMS:  All right.

SLIWA:  ... the U.S. government will not spare any resource to do it.


ABRAMS:  Got to wrap it up. 

LICHTMAN:  They‘ve been spared so far.  I‘m ready for them.

ABRAMS:  Curtis Sliwa and Jeffrey Lichtman, thanks a lot. 

LICHTMAN:  Thank you.

ABRAMS:  Coming up, why was the FBI following Mickey Mantle around to brothels and the nation‘s capital?  New FBI files have just been released.  He wasn‘t the only star being followed.  How about Lucy and Desi?

And we‘re tracking Hurricane Rita, a category 5, the most dangerous type, now in the Gulf of Mexico with maximum sustained winds of 165 miles an hour.  We‘ve got the latest pictures from inside the storm. 

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


ABRAMS:  Coming up, Hurricane Rita now a category five hurricane, the most severe type of hurricane.  We have got pictures from inside the eye of the hurricane.  Coming up.


ABRAMS:  Continuing with our breaking news, Hurricane Rita has been upgraded now to a category five, the most severe and dangerous of them all.  Maximum sustained winds, 165 miles an hour.  Rita‘s heading to the Texas coast, expected to make landfall this weekend.  Coming up, we‘re going to talk to a pilot who has flown through the storm today. 

But first.  Marilyn Monroe, associating with communists, Mickey Mantle visiting prostitutes.  The band, the Grateful Dead involved in drug trafficking.  Well that‘s according to information just released from FBI files gathered from—quote—“undisclosed sources”. 

The FBI kept track of a number of celebrities in its high visibility memorandum files over the years, many of them full of scandal and innuendo.  In some cases, many of the allegations are untrue or were never investigated.  Among the ones just released, John Lennon‘s FBI file warns the singer—quote—“could engage in disruptive activity surrounding the Republican National Convention in Miami in 1972.  That he appears to be radically oriented, but that he does not give the impression he‘s a true revolutionist, since he‘s constantly under the influence of narcotics.” 

Joining me now to talk about the release of these formerly secret documents is Ronald Kessler, author of “The Bureau: The Secret History of the FBI”.  All right, so Ronald, for you, is this—are these files that you‘ve been wanting to see for a long time? 

RONALD KESSLER, AUTHOR, “THE BUREAU: THE SECRET HISTORY OF THE FBI”:  No, frankly these are files that the FBI‘s been collecting forever under J.  Edgar Hoover and it was all for one purpose.  Information is power and this was the way that Hoover maintained his position as director for almost 50 years because first of all, he would collect these salacious tidbits and share them with presidents, with members of Congress. 

That would sort of ingratiate himself with them.  And then secondly, everybody was aware that these files existed. 

ABRAMS:  Let‘s go through...

KESSLER:  And even if they weren‘t, you know they perceived them to exist and so that made everybody afraid of Hoover and the result was, nobody wanted to remove him. 

ABRAMS:  All right, let‘s go through some of these.  Mickey Mantle admitting that he‘d shacked up with many girls in New York City, according to the file, but stated that he had never been caught.  A reliable FBI informant said Mantle had been entertained at a Washington, D.C. brothel in June ‘57, arranged by a gambler and bookie.  I mean how would someone like Hoover justify investigating Mickey Mantle? 

KESSLER:  Well it was a different era and in many ways, Hoover was even more powerful than presidents and of course, the FBI had absolutely no business doing this.  The FBI is and was supposed to simply enforce criminal laws.  This was totally outside of what they were supposed to do.  It was total abuse, but yet everyone was aware of it and it worked. 


KESSLER:  And sometimes Hoover would actually send a member, an agent to a member of Congress and say, by the way, we understand you were with this prostitute last night and there‘s this little incident and of course we won‘t say anything about it and that would put this congressman under...

ABRAMS:  Right.  Right.

KESSLER:  ... Hoover‘s obligation...

ABRAMS:  A lot of this related to the investigation of communism or communist ties.  What, they‘d get some call from someone who says oh Desi Arnaz, you know he‘s Cuban, you should investigate him.

KESSLER:  Yes, a lot of it was just foolishness, hearsay, third-hand.  Hoover knew who the members of the communist party were because he did infiltrate the communist party and he did have the membership list, so he didn‘t need all this hearsay.  But it was anything that was different, you know whether they were against the war, whether they had long hair, whether they had a gay lifestyle or whether they actually were real communists...

ABRAMS:  What about...

KESSLER:  And meanwhile, Hoover confused this political descent with real spying, so he didn‘t...


KESSLER:  ... do a very good job of actually catching spies. 

ABRAMS:  What about Albert Einstein?  I mean...

KESSLER:  Well exactly the same thing.  Anybody who was at all prominent, who was at all a celebrity, he would have something on and he would trade this information...

ABRAMS:  A professional associate claimed Einstein had been swayed into agreeing bomb secrets should be shared with the Soviet Union.  Associate advised that he didn‘t believe Einstein was actually a communist, but that he was becoming old and was easily led by those younger men in whom he placed great faith.

These are just random calls...

KESSLER:  This is pathetic. 

ABRAMS:  ... right?

KESSLER:  It‘s pathetic.  You know, if Hoover wanted to really catch spies, and as I said, he wasn‘t very good at it, he would start looking for the KGB officers at the Soviet embassy and he would start introducing double agents, which is what the FBI does today and does a very good job.  But this business of just taking dirt off the street was just ludicrous. 

ABRAMS:  Any justification for investigating Marilyn Monroe?

KESSLER:  Well the justification, again, was you know he could pass the information along to some president, he could let JFK know that he knew about his affair with Marilyn Monroe and thereby guarantee Hoover‘s position as FBI director for as long as he lived and that‘s exactly what happened. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  Ronald Kessler, thanks a lot for coming on the program. 

KESSLER:  Thank you Dan.

ABRAMS:  Coming up, the latest pictures from inside—that‘s right—inside Hurricane Rita from a pilot whose job it is to fly through the hurricane.  That‘s next.

And in our effort to reunite families split up in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, we are highlighting missing children posted on the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children Web site, hope to reconnect them with their loved ones.  

Gabrielle Lester, age 11, from Metairie, Louisiana, missing since August 29.

Paul Riley, age 1, from New Orleans, has been missing since August 28.  Again, if you‘ve got any information, please call the Katrina Missing Kids‘ hotline, 1-888-544-5475.  Be right back.


ABRAMS:  We‘re back with more on Hurricane Rita, now a category five storm, the most severe type moving through the Gulf of Mexico, still about 600 miles off the coast of Texas, but moving to the coast with winds exceeding 165 miles per hour.  The hurricane is expected to make landfall in Texas on Saturday morning. 

Joining me now is Commander Tom Strong of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association or NOAA.  Commander Strong flew through Rita this morning to take pictures of the eye and measure it.  Commander, thanks for coming on the program.  All right, first of all, give us a sense of what it is like in the eye of this hurricane. 

COMMANDER JOHN STRONG, NOAA:  This hurricane today was actually nothing like it was yesterday.  Yesterday it was ragged and not very inspiring.  Today it‘s very clear.  You can see from the surface all the way to the sky and actually, I went past a few birds around 12,000 feet today. 

ABRAMS:  How do you fly into a hurricane like this? 

STRONG:  It is not all that scientific.  It is just basically keeping that wind off the left wing exactly perpendicular to the plane and take the turbulence as it comes.  We try to avoid some of the worst but eventually you have to go through the eye, the side of the eye wall just perpendicular. 

ABRAMS:  And I mean how turbulent—do you learn anything about the winds, et cetera, by flying through the edge of the eye? 

STRONG:  Exactly.  From the outside, from 100 miles outside the eye all the way through we‘re picking up measurements.  Every little piece counts in the equations and the models that they use to forecast these, but the most important part usually is that part right before you get into the eye itself where it is the strongest. 

ABRAMS:  And the picture of course of the eye is seemingly sunny, right?

STRONG:  It is absolutely.  On a strong storm like this it‘s a perfect circle inside, and it looks like you‘re inside a giant stadium. 

ABRAMS:  How often do you fly in? 

STRONG:  On a typical mission, probably four to five times in a 10-hour period.  Some missions require more than that, maybe up to 12 or so. 

ABRAMS:  Is it—I mean is it dangerous?  It would seem that when you‘re flying through winds that could be up to 165 miles per hour, there‘s a level of danger involved. 

STRONG:  There‘s probably—of course, there‘s some danger involved.  We try to mitigate most of that with our techniques.  The plane itself doesn‘t care what the wind speed is.  It is just wind.  But what we encounter, the most problem with is vertical wind and that‘s what we try to avoid the most of.

ABRAMS:  Have you flown through a category 5 before? 

STRONG:  Yes, I have.  I‘ve flown through Andrew and several over the last couple of years, and to tell you the truth, some of the smaller and weaker storms are a lot more turbulent, at least for an aircraft. 

ABRAMS:  And what do you make of Hurricane Rita based on your observations evaluating as a whole?


STRONG:  It is just amazing.  Yesterday morning I flew, it was—we took off, it was just barely a cat one.  I‘ve just never seen anything like that, when it went from a tropical storm to a cat five in about 36 hours.  It‘s just—it‘s amazing. 

ABRAMS:  Could that mean that it will go down just as quickly? 

STRONG:  I suppose that‘s happened several times, but I‘ll let the scientists make that call. 

ABRAMS:  Your job is to fly through...


ABRAMS:  ... right? 

STRONG:  Take the scientists where they want to go to collect information to feed their models and just try to—we‘re trying to hit it with everything we‘ve got this week.  We‘ve got three planes flying...


STRONG:  ... around the clock just about. 

ABRAMS:  Are you going back in? 

STRONG:  Yes, we‘ve got two planes tomorrow—actually three planes tomorrow.  And we‘ll spend about 30 hours of flight time in the storm tomorrow between three aircraft. 

ABRAMS:  All right, Commander, we would invite you or your colleagues to come back on the program with more of your pictures, more of your experiences.  It is absolutely fascinating...

STRONG:  Thank you.

ABRAMS:  ... and important to hear about what you‘re doing up there.

STRONG:  I appreciate it.  We‘ll be back.

ABRAMS:  Coming up, your e-mails about the grandma who police say allegedly looted sausages after Hurricane Katrina.  I‘m getting slammed from both sides.


ABRAMS:  We‘re back.  Time for “Your Rebuttal”.  On Monday I spoke to a 73-year-old grandma arrested for allegedly looting $63 worth of sausages and beer from a deli near New Orleans days after Katrina hit. 

Brendan Brennan in Osaka, Japan, “You have a cop, a person responsible for protecting you and me who says he watched her come out of the store with sausage in her hand and then you have her saying she was getting sausage out of the trunk of her car and you take her side.  Why?

Well first of all, because she was held on $50,000 bond for 16 days in various prisons.  That‘s ridiculous when accused of stealing $63 worth of food items after a hurricane.  Second, because it sounds like the real criminals who were looting in that area escaped and because it is primarily food. 

And just about everyone I‘ve spoken to down there, law enforcement folks, agree that people accused of stealing food should not be treated like the looters stealing valuables and finally, it sure sounds to me like there‘s a strong possibility that she‘s innocent and that they may have just made an honest mistake.  Don‘t give me that protecting you and me business.  You went on to question my commitment to law enforcement. 

Then you don‘t watch this show very often.  I was down there in New Orleans showing people the hard work law enforcement officials are doing for you and me. 

Lizz Brown, “Why does your MSNBC video section refer to this grandmother as looting granny—question mark.  That‘s not funny.  It‘s not cute.  This woman is a church elder for Christ sake.  Clear her name or remain neutral.”

OK, so I guess now we have someone saying I wanted her convicted.  There was a question mark.  That‘s what she is accused of.  And Lizz, I would think if you care about her being a church elder, I wonder how she would feel about you using Christ‘s name in that manner.

Finally, Pat in Reading, Pennsylvania, “I feel it‘s both possible and probable that Ms. Maten may have swiped a piece of sausage from an already broken in store.  If she did, I think it would serve her well to admit she needed food, reasoning that the food in the store would only go to waste anyway.” 

Your e-mails abramsreport@msnbc.com.  That does it for us tonight.  Thanks for watching.  Coming up next, “HARDBALL” with Chris Matthews.  I‘ll see you tomorrow. 


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