updated 9/27/2005 11:15:49 AM ET 2005-09-27T15:15:49

Guests: Adam Kushner, Cedric Richmond, David Soares, B.J. Bernstein, Scott

Fear, Dave Holloway

DAN ABRAMS, HOST:  Coming up, the death toll rises from Hurricane Rita as rescuers finally make their way into hard-hit coastal areas for the first time. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ABRAMS (voice-over):  And in New Orleans, many residents head home.  But many areas still underwater leaving some to ask quietly is it really worth rebuilding the whole city?  We take that debate public. 

And in his first interview, Dutch teen Joran van der Sloot admits on camera he lied to the Aruban police about his encounter with Natalee Holloway.  Natalee‘s family is furious.  We talk to her father. 

Plus, antiwar protester Cindy Sheehan whose son was killed in Iraq arrested at the White House. 

The program about justice starts now. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ABRAMS:  Hi everyone.  First up on the docket tonight, the wrath of Hurricane Rita.  Five bodies found today in a building in hard-hit Beaumont, Texas.  The victims, three children, a man and a woman apparently killed by carbon monoxide poisoning from a generator, bringing the death toll from the storm up to seven.  To get a feel for the kind of damage Rita caused, these are aerials of Cameron Parish, Louisiana before the storm and this is what it looked like after, total destruction. 

Before we debate whether it‘s even worth it to rebuild much of New Orleans, NBC‘s Ron Blome is in Erath, Louisiana, a town in hard-hit Vermilion Parish where you still need waders on to walk out into the street.

Hey Ron.

RON BLOME, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  If are you lucky enough to have them.  Most of the residents coming in here today haven‘t had them. 

They‘ve either been coming in on tractors or coming in just with shoes on

and shorts and wading through it trying to get to their houses.  The water

here, Dan, was four feet deep at the height of the storm.  And there were

two storm surges here, one that came in with the surge, another pushed in

by the high winds. 

And what happened is the people who had survived the winds here ended up with water three to four feet deep in their house.  Here‘s where we kind of step up on to the street and you can see it‘s a little shallower, but there‘s high water marks on the houses around here.  We had some aerials taken today.  Kerry Sanders is over here with a helicopter, and he flew over it for us.

We got a chance to see just how extensive the flooding was here.  It wasn‘t just a pocket of a neighborhood here or there.  It was almost the entire town.  Maybe 15 percent of the homes did not have flooding and that‘s caused quite a problem.  The residents have been coming in trying to get things out.  It is such a mess and also trying to contact insurance companies. 

One lady who lives just over here on the next street said she called her insurance company, they said we‘re sorry to tell you it will be six to eight weeks before we can get an agent here to deal with it, they are so busy tied up in New Orleans and on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.  Something else I want to tell you about.  This is oil country, the big oil patch of Louisiana.  Just south of here is a place called Henry‘s Hub. 

It‘s where the natural gas pipelines for Chevron come flowing in from the production platforms offshore.  An oil industry consultant down here who works out of this area told me yesterday that about 45 percent of the natural gas supply for the northeast comes through Henry‘s Hub.  They don‘t know yet what the damage is there.  But they do know that they had one gas pipeline that ruptured and gas was bubbling out from under the surface there. 

They had to shut it off about 20 miles further inland and all that gas in the line is back flowing out as well as the gas from the system, from the choke valves under the Gulf coming out. It‘s going to take a couple of weeks to get that sorted out and so there could be a long-term economic impact on heating costs for those who use natural gas in the northeast because of all this, Dan. 

ABRAMS:  All right, Ron Blome, thanks a lot. 

Next we go to New Orleans where some neighborhoods are still being pumped dry while Mayor Ray Nagin opens other parts of the city.  MSNBC‘s Donna Gregory is standing by there.  So Donna, how is it where you are now? 

DONNA GREGORY, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  It‘s very hot, very sticky, very humid here.  So it‘s really tough conditions, Dan, for people who are coming back and many for the first time seeing the devastation in this area.  There‘s a couple of areas that have been opened.  We‘ll start with St. Bernard Parish.  This is the one that was so severely flooded, still a lot of flooding, but people were allowed to come back. 

They waited in very long lines on the highway.  Many of the people were there from 6:00 this morning and they were able to get in around 10:00, so it was a parking lot on the highway.  They were very frustrated, very concerned.  This is four weeks now they haven‘t been able to get into their homes.  Many of them are going to see amazing, horrifying devastation and so they are bracing for that and many of them are seeing it now for the first time. 

Another area that is open is the community of Algiers, it‘s about 55, 57,000 people across the Mississippi River from the main part of New Orleans.  This neighborhood, as you‘ll recall, was open last week or open before Hurricane Rita started to threaten this area and then people were told to evacuate.  Now they‘re coming back.  There is electricity and there is drinkable water in Algiers, so the people that are there have been told to help rebuild the city but very slowly. 

There‘s very limited police, very limited fire service and no critical care service in the hospitals there.  So to that end, the people are told not to bring children, not to bring frail or elderly people into this area.  And from what we could see for the most part people are heeding that.  Of course, there are always people who slip through the checkpoints and come in when they‘re not supposed to and stay when they‘re asked not to...

ABRAMS:  Donna...

GREGORY:  There is a curfew in the area...

ABRAMS:  Donna...

GREGORY:  ... 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 a.m.—Dan.

ABRAMS:  Donna, how long is it expected to take to pump the water out of some of the areas that have suffered the most water damage? 

GREGORY:  Well, one of the areas that I know you are talking about is the beleaguered Ninth Ward, the lower Ninth Ward, which was flooded twice, once with Katrina, once with Rita.  About a week is what they‘re saying and that‘s actually good news.  They thought it was going to take a lot longer, but now that the Industrial Canal levee has been shored up once again, the Army Corps of Engineers says about a week. 

ABRAMS:  All right, Donna Gregory, thanks a lot.  Appreciate it. 

GREGORY:  You bet.

ABRAMS:  OK, as we just heard Mayor Nagin letting people back into New Orleans a few neighborhoods at a time, even with two months left in the hurricane season, the levees at risk.  The question, is it really worth rebuilding all of New Orleans?  Take a look at this map.

Sections of New Orleans in brown are above sea level.  Sections in red and pink are below.  I don‘t know if you really—can you see all the brown, OK.  They include the areas flooded by Katrina and some Rita flooded again.  At its worst as much as 20 feet of water in parts of the city of nearly half a million, so the question, does it make sense to rebuild those areas below sea level?  Does it matter that they were primarily poorer areas, for example? 

Adam Kushner is assistant managing editor for “The New Republic”.  He‘s written that New Orleans should not be—quote—“remade the way it was.”  And Cedric Richmond is a Louisiana state representative from New Orleans and president of the Legislature‘s Black Caucus.  Thank you gentlemen both for coming on the program.  We appreciate it.

All right, Mr. Kushner, what is the argument?  I mean you‘ve heard any politician who has come out and said you know what, maybe we don‘t rebuild New Orleans.  Everyone says what are you talking about not rebuild New Orleans? 

ADAM KUSHNER, “THE NEW REPUBLIC”:  Well it‘s really tough.  I mean a lot of people are making the technocratic case against rebuilding New Orleans, saying it‘s going to cost too much money.  It‘s going to be too difficult with the insurance.  I don‘t think that is really fair.  If New Orleans could be rebuilt, I don‘t think cost should be an objective. 

I think the real problem is a moral problem.  We know New Orleans now is a place where there are 100,000 people largely unable to escape New Orleans in the short time they have between when we know a storm is going to hit and when it actually does hit.  And most of those people, those 100,000 people without cars who are unable to escape live in the most vulnerable neighborhoods in the lower Ninth Ward, which you have been showing footage of. 

If we know those people are in danger and if we know they‘re going to have even less time to escape when the next big one comes...

ABRAMS:  Right.

KUSHNER:  ... if the flooding is going to start during the storm next time instead of after the storm as we were so lucky this time, that is it really fair to let these people return to harm‘s way? 

ABRAMS:  But you know what the other side is going to say.  They‘re going to say well then make it—make the levees such that it won‘t happen again, create a situation where you don‘t have a repeat performance. 

KUSHNER:  But human engineering is fallible.  I mean I wish that could be done and that certainly should have been done in New Orleans in the first place.  But even Katrina, which was a terribly—was a awful hurricane turned out not to be the category five killer that meteorologists have been warning New Orleanians about for 40 years, which they say eventually will come and it will climb its way up the mouth of the Mississippi River, which Katrina did not, remember...

ABRAMS:  Yes.

KUSHNER:  ...and that course will lift the whole river delta into the city. 

ABRAMS:  Representative Richmond, what do you make of that comment which is—and I‘ve read the comments that you have made about this, the people that you feel need to be represented here and need to have their voice heard.  What Adam Kushner is saying is they‘re the ones he doesn‘t want to stick back in this area that‘s going to get flooded again. 

L.A. REP. CEDRIC RICHMOND (D), NEW ORLEANS:  Well there are a couple of arguments to be made here.  One, that area is most vulnerable because of neglect from the federal government and historical neglect.  If we still had our barrier islands and our—and we weren‘t plagued with coastal erosion to the extent that we are, then you would see category five hurricanes pretty much go down to category threes by the time they hit land...

ABRAMS:  But now as a practical matter from here though...

RICHMOND:  But if you built the levee system and you built the proper drainage in that area, then you would not have those same problems.  All of the areas in New Orleans that were below sea level did not sustain flooding and did not hold the water as long as the lower Ninth Ward.  And as far as the concern for poor people who can‘t necessarily get out, I think you just have to make provisions for them beforehand.

If you know that there‘s 50,000 to 100,000 people who cannot leave the city, if in fact that‘s a true number, then you have to make provisions for those people.  Not put them in a Superdome where you know and anticipate to lose electricity, without food, without water.  You just can‘t do that and I think that you have to provide for those people and if you do it the right way, then you won‘t have the problems that we had in this... 

ABRAMS:  What about...

RICHMOND:  But those are tax-paying citizens and I believe...

ABRAMS:  What about that Mr. Kushner...

RICHMOND:  ... if they want to return home, they should. 

ABRAMS:  ... the idea that you know look, you just—you‘ve got to—it‘s a generalized argument, which is you‘ve just got to figure out a way. 

KUSHNER:  Well I wish—I mean I would love to see one.  New Orleans is my hometown and I love it dearly.  And New Orleans is not New Orleans with the people who make it New Orleans.  I mean it is a city of—I mean it is a poor city and that‘s—the lower Ninth Ward is so central to the culture there.  But you know Mayor Nagin only was able to order the evacuation of New Orleans 21 hours before the storm hit because that‘s just how soon he knew the thing was going to come in that direction. 

And 21 hours is just not enough time to get 2,500 buses filled with 40 people each and 2,500 drivers to drive 2,500 buses outs of New Orleans.  It‘s a logistical impossibility.  And so sending these—allowing people to go back where they are sure to be in much graver danger...

ABRAMS:  So what do you think should happen to the area...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  What do you think happens?  Do you just bulldoze all the houses?

KUSHNER:  Well it was a swampland until 1955.  I mean maybe it should be ceded back to nature.  That‘s how it should be naturally as we can see in the first place.

ABRAMS:  Representative Richmond, what about that? 

RICHMOND:  Well I think first of all when we talk about the lower Ninth Ward we generalize the lower Ninth Ward.  There‘s approximately 40,000 people that live in the lower Ninth Ward.  So when we talk about 100,000 people not able to evacuate, you are talking about other parts of the city also.  So just remember we‘re only talking about 40,000 people here, but we‘re talking about a historic neighborhood that survived Betsy and that will survive Katrina.  We have to make sure that we put the resources in place to do that and I‘m not saying throw money away...

ABRAMS:  But Mr. Kushner is saying...

RICHMOND:  I‘m saying...

ABRAMS:  ... it‘s just not going to work.  He‘s just saying you‘re going to spend a lot of money on trying to rebuild and that we‘re going to have this problem again in the relatively near future no matter what you do. 

RICHMOND:  Well, I don‘t think so, but part of his assumption was that there‘s 100,000 people down there that would need to be evacuated.  And I would differ with him and I think that the fact that there‘s probably only 15 to 20,000 people who would have to be evacuated down there changes his argument tremendously. 

(CROSSTALK)

RICHMOND:  In fact I would say it‘s anywhere between five to 10,000 people in the lower Ninth Ward that don‘t have transportation...

ABRAMS:  All right, Adam Kushner...

RICHMOND:  ... if that many.

KUSHNER:  That may be.  But then there are also tens of thousands of people in New Orleans “C” (ph), which I think is another endangered neighborhood that can‘t be properly walled of.  I‘m not just speaking about the lower Ninth Ward alone.  You‘re right.  That‘s not the entire population of immobile residents.  There‘s also New Orleans East, which is a major component...

(CROSSTALK)

KUSHNER:  ... even parts of mid city too.

ABRAMS:  But is there an argument, Representative Richmond that it‘s just not worth the money for everyone?  Meaning, why not spend all the money that would be spent on the lower Ninth Ward and give it to the people who owned the property there or even renting property there, et cetera, and say you know what, go build your life somewhere safer somewhere else? 

RICHMOND:  Well, but you are assuming that those people want to leave and that‘s their home.  And I think that we‘re forgetting the emotional nature of it.  And we forget that one of the fundamental rights in this country is right to property.  Now you can‘t just tell someone well, take this lot...

ABRAMS:  Sure you can. 

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  We do it all the time. 

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  We do it all the time.  We build highways, et cetera.  We say you know what, as a matter of public interest, this has to be built and we‘re going to pay you and as a result here‘s the amount of money you‘re going to get and we‘re...

RICHMOND:  And we displace as few people as possible, but here you‘re talking about displacing an entire community.

(CROSSTALK)

RICHMOND:  And I think that‘s very different when there are alternatives.

ABRAMS:  Yes.

RICHMOND:  If we didn‘t have alternatives, then I might tend to agree with you, but...

(CROSSTALK)

RICHMOND:  ... I think there are some very real alternatives...

ABRAMS:  As we see it, it‘s not just a tough debate.  It‘s also a very emotional one as you know the representative points out.  Adam Kushner, Representative Cedric Richmond, thanks a lot.  Appreciate it.

KUSHNER:  Thank you. 

RICHMOND:  Thank you for having us.

ABRAMS:  Coming up, high school English teacher pleads guilty today after having sex with her 16-year-old student, but she‘ll be out of jail in time for Christmas.  But is it possible she was the victim because of her alcoholism as her lawyer claims?  Should that matter if the boys were 16 and 17? 

And Cindy Sheehan has been a thorn in the administration‘s side since her son died fighting in Iraq, spending weeks protesting in front of the president‘s ranch this summer.  Today police arrested her at his other house, the White House. 

Plus, he was once the prime suspect in the search for Natalee Holloway.  Joran van der Sloot is out of jail.  Now for the first time he admits on camera I lied to the Aruban police about my encounter with Natalee.  Natalee‘s father is with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  A high school English teacher will spend six months in a county jail for having sex with one of her 16-year-old students.  Forty-two-year-old Sandra Beth Geisel pleaded guilty today to one count of statutory rape.  The mother of four arrested back in August after a 16-year-old student at the prestigious Christian Brothers Academy in Albany claimed he and Geisel had sex three times. 

This after she had already been fired from the school for having sex with a 17-year-old student in the school parking lot.  She faced no charges in that case because 17 is the age of consent in New York State.  Geisel has been in the Albany County Jail for the past five weeks since her bail was revoked after she was arrested for drunk driving.  She will have to register as a sex offender, she‘ll be on probation for 10 years, will have to enter an alcoholism treatment program, et cetera. 

But her lawyers say she was the victim.  She was an alcoholic and that the boys took advantage of her.  The law does not accept that possibility.  Joining me now is Albany County District Attorney David Soares who prosecuted Beth Geisel and accepted today‘s plea agreement.  Thank you very much for coming on the program.  Appreciates it. 

DAVID SOARES, ALBANY, NY DISTRICT ATTORNEY:  You‘re very welcome. 

ABRAMS:  As a legal matter, are you allowed to look at the possibility that these boys enticed a drunk older woman into sex? 

SOARES:  Surely it was one of the issues that we took into consideration and we did not rule out that possibility.  And one has to always consider that as a possibility.  And I thought that the Colony Police Department in this case as well as investigators from my office did a fantastic job of interviewing a number of witnesses and thoroughly investigating this case, come to the ultimate determination that that, in fact was not the case here. 

ABRAMS:  So you did rule it out you are saying? 

SOARES:  We did rule it out. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  Let me read you a statement from the attorney for Geisel. 

This case has received far more media attention than it deserves due to the interest of the district attorney in generating publicity for himself.  Beth Geisel has always acknowledged that her actions were inappropriate and has expressed her desire to receive treatment for her alcoholism and any attendant psychological problems.  She clearly does not meet any reasonable person‘s definition of a sex offender and is as much a victim as any of the young men who took advantage of her and bragged about it.  Your response? 

SOARES:  Well, I‘m certainly disappointed that that would be the position that Mr. Kinsella, the defense attorney here would take considering the fact that several months ago I drove in to work, it was a Monday morning when I realized that, in fact, national media had been drawn to this case for reasons that I now know happen to be all of the factors here, the wife of a prominent banker, the Christian Brothers Academy, the student-teacher sexual conduct. 

I mean those were the issues that drew media attention to this case.  We have other cases in the office that I think are quite interestingly enough more worthy of the kind of media attention that this case has gotten.  The disposition in this case was a disposition that was arrived at by taking into consideration all the interests of the community as well as the parties and the victims in this case in particular. 

ABRAMS:  And quickly, do you think six months is a—some have said if it were a man it would have been a lot longer of a sentence. 

SOARES:  Every case is unique.  And I mean you could bring the same fact pattern and change some of the circumstances around and, you know, depending on what those facts are, you‘re going to arrive at perhaps a different resolution.  One of the things that became quite apparent as we investigated this case was Ms. Geisel‘s dependency on alcohol, not that that—it gave it any kind of reason or justification for her behavior but certainly we took into consideration that fact. 

We took into consideration the victims and their families in this case and their desires and our desire not to further expose them to the kind of attention that this case has already garnered.  And we felt that society‘s interest here was best served by having her under the supervision of probation for a period of 10 years and her registry as a sex offender. 

ABRAMS:  So after your investigation, are you convinced that she enticed the boys into sex? 

SOARES:  I certainly believe that this was a person who was—whose life was spiraling out of control and she decided to take some people down with her.  And that she indeed enticed these boys into sex. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  David Soares, thanks a lot.  Appreciate it. 

SOARES:  Thank you.

ABRAMS:  All right, “My Take”—I think it is certainly possible that an adult woman with a drinking problem could be enticed by 16 or 17-year-old boys.  They‘re not always going to be the victim as the law mandates.  Doesn‘t mean it was the case here.  But I believe in this case with older boys that possibly should be explored.  I‘m very glad to hear the district attorney say it was explored because remember there‘s a pretty straightforward rule. 

And the rule is if they had sex, she‘s the criminal.  The question is, is that really always a good idea?  Joining me now defense attorney B.J.  Bernstein and former Connecticut prosecutor and MSNBC analyst Susan Filan.

Susan, in a case like this, why not look a little deeper?  Why not say all right, yes, she had sex with a 16-year-old boy.  Not proper, not legal, but you know what, if, if—and the D.A. saying not the case—but if she is drunk and if the boys you know enticed her in some way, encouraged it in some way, it‘s hard to just view 16 and 17-year-old boys as victims in a case like that. 

SUSAN FILAN, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST:  Well because the law is the law and it can‘t be applied differently.  It can‘t be applied unevenly.  It sounds like the prosecutor did examine that possibility and actually ruled that possibility out.  And there‘s almost a gender bias undercurrent here.  Boys will be boys...

ABRAMS:  Of course there is.

FILAN:  ... and they got lucky and isn‘t it kind of ha-ha funny?  But it isn‘t at all because she‘s the adult...

ABRAMS:  No, but apart from the ha-ha funny, what about the possibility that you accept the fact that it‘s still criminal and it‘s wrong but yet it‘s more important to send a message to male sexual offenders out there than women because the bottom line is in the vast majority, vast majority of cases it‘s the men sex offenders that we have to be worried about. 

FILAN:  I think if you are a parent and you have a teenage boy who is in school, particularly in this kind of school that you selected, it‘s not a public school, you picked it on purpose because you wanted them to have some added protection and the teacher is taking advantage of your teenage son, it really doesn‘t matter if it‘s a man or a woman.  She‘s preying on these boys...

ABRAMS:  But see—but that‘s the point, B.J., isn‘t it?  That I think that it‘s a more likely scenario that you could have 16 or 17-year-old boys preying on an alcoholic teacher, and again the D.A. saying it‘s not the case here, than you would have 16 or 17-year-old girls preying on an adult male teacher with a drinking problem.  I mean that just seems to be...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  ... to be a statistical reality. 

B.J. BERNSTEIN, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY:  I think it‘s a reality and also add one other component to that is, which is the unfortunate reality that we have young people having consensual sexual activities amongst themselves at a younger and younger age.  And so you have—it‘s not necessarily that these was these boys‘ first sexual experience with an older person, which is another component...

ABRAMS:  But does it really matter whether it‘s their first or not -- 

I don‘t know.  Look, it doesn‘t matter whether it‘s their first sexual experience or not.  I mean look, the bottom line is I don‘t—even if it‘s a 13 or 14-year-old, I don‘t want some adult having sex with 13 and 14-year-olds period, no matter if they have had sex or not. 

BERNSTEIN:  Absolutely.  Absolutely.  But when you get into the next age zone, which is 15, 16...

ABRAMS:  Yes...

BERNSTEIN:  ... 17, you do have to take into account the exposure of what they have had in their life...

ABRAMS:  That‘s the thing that gets me in this case, Susan, is the fact that you are talking about 16 and 17-year-olds.  I mean sure, she gets fired for having sex with a 17-year-old, it makes perfect sense.  But the fact she‘s getting charged here for having sex with a 16-year-old, it just seems to me look, you got to draw a line, sure.  But prosecutorial discretion comes into play.  Sometimes you got to say you know what, it is a different situation because it‘s a 16-year-old boy than a 16-year-old girl. 

FILAN:  I couldn‘t disagree with you more, Dan.  It won‘t be the first time.  It won‘t be the last time.  She wasn‘t prosecuted, as you know, obviously for the 17-year-old boy.  But a 16-year-old boy who is taken advantage of because he‘s got the opportunity to have this kind of relationship...

ABRAMS:  But the 17-year-old boy wasn‘t taken advantage of? 

FILAN:  He wasn‘t—he is above the age...

ABRAMS:  Yes, I understand that, but I‘m now asking you—I understand...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  ... the law is the law.  But the question is that there is prosecutorial discretion in every case. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  That‘s right.

ABRAMS:  And the law is the law is never the answer. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Well...

ABRAMS:  It‘s just not.  It‘s not the end of the discussion. 

BERNSTEIN:  Exactly Dan.  I mean I think you‘re dead on.  The problem is we‘ve got to look at each situation individually and here it sounds like the district attorney did and came out with the sentence which sounds very appropriate for the situation in terms of we‘re not going to let the person walk away from this but we‘re also not going to lock them up forever. 

ABRAMS:  Susan, what do you make of the sentence?

FILAN:  I think it‘s too light.  Look, if she wasn‘t an alcoholic, should she be in trouble?  Should she be punished more harshly?  Are we letting her off the hook because she has a drinking problem?  Shouldn‘t she have had to address that drinking problem before it got to the point where she‘s in bed with a 16-year-old boy?  How would you like it as a parent of that 16-year-old boy for somebody to say oh this poor woman...

ABRAMS:  So if the parent...

FILAN:  ... she‘s a woman instead of a man...

ABRAMS:  Wait...

FILAN:  ... and she‘s a drunk...

ABRAMS:  So if the parent had said don‘t prosecute, as the prosecutor you would have said forget it.  I‘m not going to prosecute.

FILAN:  No, that‘s not what I‘m saying...

ABRAMS:  (UNINTELLIGIBLE) OK.

FILAN:  No. 

ABRAMS:  Just want to make sure because you‘re saying...

FILAN:  You know that‘s not...

ABRAMS:  That‘s right, I know, but you‘re saying imagine you‘re the parent and I‘m saying some parents would want the prosecution and other parents might not. 

FILAN:  I think you have to take a reasonable person‘s approach here and if there is a law on the books that says people under age who don‘t have the legal capacity to consent...

ABRAMS:  Yes.

FILAN:  ... to sexual relations shouldn‘t be having them with someone who is 47.  And if it were a girl, this conversation wouldn‘t happen. 

ABRAMS:  That‘s right.

FILAN:  But because it‘s a boy...

(CROSSTALK)

FILAN:  ... so what are we doing here, Dan?  Why?

(CROSSTALK)

FILAN:  Why are you spinning it like that? 

ABRAMS:  I‘m not spinning it.  I‘m admitting that there is a reality in that we as a society will view these things differently at times based on physical, social differences, et cetera.  It doesn‘t mean—again, don‘t get me wrong.  I‘m not saying don‘t prosecute her because she‘s a woman. 

I‘m saying that prosecutors can look at these cases differently.  All right, B.J. Bernstein and Susan Filan, I‘m out of time.  Thanks a lot. 

Coming up, anti-war protester Cindy Sheehan whose son was killed in Iraq, arrested this afternoon at the White House. 

And Dutch teen Joran van der Sloot admits on camera that he lied to police.  He says he never took Natalee Holloway back to her hotel the night she disappeared.  We talk with her father coming up.

Be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Coming up, Cindy Sheehan, her son killed in Iraq, she‘s been protesting at the president‘s ranch, arrested at the White House today.  First the headlines. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Just hours ago the mother of a soldier killed in Iraq who spent weeks camped outside of President Bush‘s Texas ranch this summer was arrested at the president‘s other house, the White House.  Cindy Sheehan taken into custody after she and other antiwar protesters sat down on the sidewalk on Pennsylvania Avenue and refused to move.  Police say they warned them three times they were breaking the law and only then started making arrests. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED GROUP:  The whole world is watching.  The whole world is watching.  The whole world is watching.  The whole world is watching.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  You heard them, the fellow protesters chanting the whole world is watching as she was being taken away.  Many of them were also arrested. 

Joining me now is Sergeant Scott Fear of the United States Park Police, the office handled the arrest.  Sergeant, thanks for taking the time.  All right, so what was she charged with? 

SGT. SCOTT FEAR, U.S. PARK POLICE (via phone):  She was charged with demonstrating without a permit. 

ABRAMS:  And why does it then matter if she was sitting or standing with regard to that charge? 

FEAR:  I‘m sorry, you have to repeat the question. 

ABRAMS:  I was saying why did it matter then that she was sitting as opposed to standing?  You were saying demonstrating without a permit.  And my understanding was that she got arrested only after she and other protesters sat down.  Correct? 

FEAR:  No.  What the situation was, was we met with these groups, the group Iraq, Pledge of Resistance—that was the group who held the permit for the Ellipse and Lafayette Park.  They started out on the Ellipse.  They marched up to Lafayette Park and then they let us know that they were going to go (UNINTELLIGIBLE) to the White House sidewalk where they did not apply for a permit.  And they could have and would have been issued a permit, but they decided they weren‘t going to apply for a permit for the White House sidewalk. 

And they said that they wanted to have some individuals arrested.  And they knew there was going to be a certain amount of people that were going to demonstrate on the White House sidewalk, nonviolent civil disobedience.  So they walked over to the White House sidewalk where they started demonstrating without a permit.  United States Park Police issued three warnings, which is standard. 

We tell them that they‘re in violation.  And if they want to leave, they can leave.  And at that time a group of people did leave the location.  But the majority of people stayed there in the location on the White House sidewalk where they were subsequently arrested and charged with demonstrating without a permit. 

ABRAMS:  She‘s been released, correct? 

FEAR:  That‘s correct.  She‘s already been processed and released and the processing is continuing with the rest of them.  There was approximately 370 people that were arrested for demonstrating without a permit. 

ABRAMS:  What are you facing when you‘re charged with that kind of crime? 

FEAR:  It‘s a—they receive a citation that they can mail in a $50 fine or they can attend court. 

ABRAMS:  Did your people get special training for this?  I mean you heard the protesters chanting there the world is watching.  And you probably all had a sense that the world would be watching to a certain degree.  Did they go through special training as to how to deal with this? 

FEAR:  Oh the United States Park Police take a lot of pride in the relationship and the plans that we come up with when dealing with group—large groups and organizations and demonstrations and protests such as this in Washington, D.C., so we do go through training.  It‘s a long training process.  We deal with literally thousands of demonstrations and protests a year.  And this was a large protest, a large demonstration on the White House sidewalk that we feel our officers get in uniform, they‘re very professional and really know how to handle a situation like this. 

ABRAMS:  And it appears with that smile on her face that she wasn‘t resisting either right? 

FEAR:  No, they knew what was going to happen.  And I like I said, their organizers had met with our department numerous times in the previous months to—it was part of the whole weekend plan as far as the demonstrations were going.

ABRAMS:  Sergeant Fear, thanks for taking the time. 

FEAR:  No problem.  Thank you. 

ABRAMS:  Coming up, Joran van der Sloot admits he lied about the last time he saw Natalee Holloway.  He‘s out of jail, all but cleared as a suspect, now he‘s talking.  Natalee‘s father joins us next. 

And our continuing series “Manhunt: Sex Offenders on the Loose”, our effort to find missing sex offenders before they strike again.  Our search resumes.  This week‘s focus, Arizona. 

The Arizona Department of Public Safety is asking for your help in locating level three sex offender Barry Ramos Jr., convicted of attempted sexual assault.  Ramos is 25 years old, six feet tall, 145 pounds, has not registered with the authorities. 

If you‘ve got any information on his whereabouts, please call the Arizona Department of Public Safety Sex Offender Compliance Unit at 602-255-0611.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  The prime suspect in Natalee Holloway‘s disappearance admits to lying about the last time he saw her.  Joran van der Sloot reportedly changed his story a number of times.  Now he‘s saying they he and Natalee went to the beach and that he left her there.  Van der Sloot telling a producer for “A Current Affair” that Natalee wanted to go to the lighthouse to see if they could spot sharks swimming off the coast. 

Quote—“She wanted to stay here the whole night.  I told her no, I had to go.  I even lifted her up to carry her back to the hotel and she told me to put her down.  I had school the next day.  I told her I had to leave and she didn‘t want to listen.  So basically I thought OK, then if you want to stay here, then you stay here, and that is the truth.”

Joining me now is criminal defense attorney B.J. Bernstein and former prosecutor and MSNBC analyst Susan Filan.  All right, B.J., what do you make of these statements?  On the one hand, he‘s basically saying nothing happened.  I left her there on the beach.  On the other hand, he is admitting that he effectively changed his story. 

BERNSTEIN:  Right.  But the—he has now created the very need for finding the body or finding some tangible physical evidence that shows that he is wrong.  Because if what he says is correct, it may still be a crime to cover up if he—you know cover up and lie to the police down there...

ABRAMS:  No, apparently not. 

BERNSTEIN:  ... but he‘s left it open—yes, apparently not, but he‘s left it open to you know the speculation, which is that it—that he wasn‘t involved in it at all.  So in a way his own statements are helping him. 

ABRAMS:  We are having a little trouble with Dave Holloway technically, but he joins us now on the phone.  Dave, sorry about that and thank you for taking the time.  We appreciate it.  Let me ask you about these statements from Joran van der Sloot.  First of all, I mean look, you‘ve heard about them.  You‘re read them.  Let me get a general response from you as to his new statements.

DAVE HOLLOWAY, NATALEE HOLLOWAY‘S FATHER (via phone):  Well I did read them.  I read them this afternoon and I just feel like they‘re just part of the overall plan.  You know, he is making up a story trying to protect himself and I saw right through it right away. 

ABRAMS:  He says obviously she was drunk.  I had stuff to drink, too.  She wanted to go with me.  I wanted to go with her.  It was totally consensual.  Another point, he says it was Natalee who asked me to go out with her.  You know anything about all of this?

HOLLOWAY:  Well as you recall, his earlier statements—police statements, he indicated that she was going in and out of consciousness and as you‘re progressively getting worse, I don‘t see how she could be able to be functioning at that point in time.  I did have some new information that led me to believe that Deepak was the one who assisted her out of the Carlos N‘ Charlie‘s.  And based on this statement I just got a feeling that alcohol was not the only drug administered. 

ABRAMS:  And do you have any evidence of that or is that just your theory...

HOLLOWAY:  No, that‘s just my theory. 

ABRAMS:  OK.

HOLLOWAY:  Just based on this witness statement. 

ABRAMS:  All right, let me read—this is again with regard to Joran van der Sloot‘s statements.  This is referring to your ex-wife.  What I don‘t respect is her going on television and boycotting Aruba.  It makes me feel bad that so many people have to suffer now because of one missing person.  I don‘t feel like talking to her, Mrs. Twitty, at all because look at what she is doing to a beautiful island with 100,000 people that rely on tourism and she‘s boycotting an island.

The bottom line is it sounds like he is not happy about what you and she have been saying. 

HOLLOWAY:  Well, especially what Beth has been saying.  I had given an interview last week indicating that the Aruban people didn‘t have anything to do with this and that I needed their help and—help to solve this case and that‘s my position as of today. 

ABRAMS:  And I think that Beth has generally echoed that sentiment about the Aruban people.  Let me let you listen to a comment from Joran‘s mother.  This from a couple of weeks ago and then I want you to respond. 

HOLLOWAY:  OK.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANITA VAN DER SLOOT, JORAN VAN DER SLOOT‘S MOTHER:  I hope that everyone gives Joran a chance to continue his life.  I hope that we can go on to recover and that you will give us all the support we need so that life can be a little bit normal for us after really three months of very much of a surrealistic kind of life. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Dave, my guess is that you‘re not ready to let him move on with his life. 

HOLLOWAY:  Well what we‘re doing is we‘re continuing to move on with the investigation.  I was there in Aruba last week and met with the prosecutor, met with my attorney and met with the police department and felt like that we needed to have everything on a, you know a straight line, you know.  I noticed that there was communication issues involved and some of the things that I was trying to get to the police, the prosecutor didn‘t know about or some of the stuff that I gave to the prosecutor maybe the police didn‘t know about it.  Nothing real significant but, you know, when everybody is on the same page and same—looking at things the same way you know I just thought it would be a little bit more helpful in that manner.

ABRAMS:  One other point that he mentioned in this interview that we just heard about and, Dave, look, if I knew that you had not been talking about this publicly and your ex-wife hadn‘t been talking about it, I might be a little bit sensitive to it, but I think that you publicly recognize that exactly what happened between them is a significant fact. 

Joran van der Sloot was asked did you have sex with Natalee.  His response was, it‘s none of your business.  And then when he was asked again, he said that none of them, not he, not Deepak, not Satish had sex with Natalee.  Again, is that inconsistent with other information that you have? 

HOLLOWAY:  It is very inconsistent.  In fact, unless you believe the “Dr. Phil” show, it is very inconsistent.  A lot of the information that we had early on indicated they were pointing the fingers at each other, pointing who had killed her and so on and so forth.  And now apparently they‘re taking the soft shoe approach, so to speak.  This is my story and I‘m sticking to it.  So apparently he‘s got another story and that story is out to the American public.  What the American public does not know is the stories that were given in the depositions...

ABRAMS:  Dave, are they still investigating? 

HOLLOWAY:  They are, very much so. 

ABRAMS:  Let me just bring in real quick Susan Filan.  Susan, what do you make of all these developments?

FILAN:  Well I think this is a damaging statement for Joran van der Sloot and I think it gives encouragement to the prosecution because now he‘s making what I consider to be a fatal and a damming admission in that he‘s admitting to having relations with her on the beach that night.  I hate the little remark, she wanted to go look at sharks because it‘s been a fear that that‘s how her body was disposed and my apologies to Mr. Holloway for having to hear this, but I think that that‘s a funny little slip that he puts in.  I think that he is slowly building the case for the prosecution by constantly changing his story, the inconsistencies between stories...

ABRAMS:  But I think they‘ve heard...

FILAN:  ... and now the internal inconsistencies in this story...

ABRAMS:  But see, I think they have heard all the inconsistencies before and yet for some reason a judge in Aruba said you know what, yes, we know they‘re inconsistencies but it‘s not enough to hold him for murder. 

FILAN:  Just because it‘s not enough to hold him for murder doesn‘t mean it‘s not future enough to actually build this case and bring it.  They are having trouble holding him.  Let‘s build the case now and I think perhaps the next time when he is actually charged—remember, they were holding him without having charged him. 

OK, now he‘s out and he‘s making these statements.  This is terrific for the prosecution. 

ABRAMS:  All right.

FILAN:  It‘s internally inconsistent to say that someone who is inebriated, someone who‘s intoxicated, someone who has just been sexually assaulted, if you will, or had consensual sex, says leave me here on the beach.

ABRAMS:  Yes...

FILAN:  I don‘t think so. 

ABRAMS:  He says he didn‘t have sex with her, but you know he certainly seems to be indicating that something was going on there.  All right, Dave Holloway, as always, good luck to you.  Thanks.  I‘m sorry we have to talk about this in such detail, but I know that you think it‘s important to continue to keep this story alive.  B.J. Bernstein and Susan Filan, thanks a lot. 

Coming up, I guess I should have seen it coming.  Some who dropped the ball after Hurricane Katrina are blaming the media.  This time it‘s about the death count.  It is unbelievable what I‘m hearing and it‘s my “Closing Argument”.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  My “Closing Argument”—let the media scapegoating begin.  This time it‘s about the hurricane coverage, the allegation that the—quote—“media is responsible for overstating the death count in New Orleans.”  The latest so-called controversy comes now that the Superdome and Convention Center have finally been cleared out.  Officials say only 10 bodies were found, far fewer than many expected. 

This after the total death toll in New Orleans was far lower than the 10,000 some had predicted.  Rather than celebrating the news, some are trying to justify their inaction by pinning the blame on the never quite defined media.  It‘s particularly ironic when some of the same people who should have acted earlier, local, federal officials are saying they reported rumors and exaggeration and they failed to confirm reports, et cetera. 

But the pictures speak for themselves.  Are they suggesting this was somehow not a humanitarian disaster?  The FEMA director found out about the lack of food and water from the media.  But for the media and the public outcry, those numbers would have been higher.  Without broadcasting those devastating photos from the Superdome and the Convention Center, it‘s unclear how long it would have taken before someone in a position of authority actually responded.  And yet today I heard one congressman complain about—quote—“the hysteria of the media coverage.”

Were some apocryphal stories reported?  I am sure.  But the far more important question is were the conditions in the Convention Center nearly inhuman?  Yes.  Was there lawlessness at times?  Absolutely.  And who knows how many died later as a result of conditions there or how many bodies were taken out.  It‘s not really the point.  It‘s great news that the numbers were lower than predicted. 

That means we should be grateful for those who spoke out about the horrors.  As for the total death toll, the inflated numbers came from local officials.  It was the mayor of New Orleans who predicted 10,000 dead and as expected, he was quoted.  It was the State of Louisiana that ordered 25,000 body bags for Katrina victims and built a temporary morgue for 2,000.  So the—quote—“media” is to blame for providing those numbers, for not trying to verify the unverifiable? 

This is one of those rare stories where the reporters were there as it happened, reporting what they saw with their own eyes, not relying on accounts or sources.  I guess for some even that‘s not good enough, or maybe it‘s too good, too true, and the effect too significant.  Don‘t try to shift the blame game on this one. 

Coming up, many of you saying that price gouging should be permitted even in times of crisis.  Your e-mails coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  I‘ve had my say, now it‘s time for “Your Rebuttal”.  Last week we debated price gouging during times of crisis.  Most states have laws against it.  One of guests, Dr. Andrew Bernstein, argued those laws violate the basic rules of the free market and are immoral. 

Adam Schmidt, “If my hypothetical daughter decides to open a lemonade stand and quadruple her prices when the temperature hit 115, can the government roll up to my driveway and force her to lower prices because it endangers the lives of those who need it to prevent heat exhaustion?  If this is justified for the rights of the consumers just because they‘re in the middle of a hardship, it is only a few more steps to socialism.”

Oh, come on Adam.

From Baltimore, Ed Scherer, “Would Dr. Bernstein feel the same way about life saving medication being withheld from those he loves because they‘re not in a financial position to afford the medication?  Quite frankly, I prefer to live with a little more compassion for my fellow man.”

Finally, Richard Wray in Palo Alto supports Dr. Bernstein‘s argument that it will eventually lead to shortages.  “The ability to charge higher prices will attract more supply even in an emergency situation.  If I was in that situation, I would much rather have the option of getting what I needed by paying a high price than not being able to get it at all.”

Richard, so if price gouging was permitted, more gas stations would have stocked up three days before the hurricane hit?  Come on.  And I‘m sure those with loads of money would agree with you, but I‘m not so sure about everyone else. 

That does it for us for tonight.  Coming up next, “HARDBALL with Chris Matthews”.  Have a good night and I‘ll see you back here tomorrow.

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