updated 10/23/2005 4:24:30 PM ET 2005-10-23T20:24:30

Guests: Cassandra Braun, Steven Clark, Jayne Weintraub, Robi Ludwig, Kamala Harris, Kendall Coffey, Laura Spencer

LISA DANIELS, GUEST HOST:  Coming up, a 16-year-old boy under arrest for Pamela Vitale‘s murder, expected in court this hour to be arraigned. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DANIELS:  Prosecutors debating whether to charge the teen as an adult as new details emerge about the crime scene and what police say the killer did after striking Vitale 39 times. 

And San Francisco‘s D.A. deciding if she‘ll seek the death penalty for the woman charged with drowning her three children in the bay.  We talk to the D.A.

Plus, sources say a decision is expected next week on charges in the CIA leak investigation.  It may not be the crime that‘s the problem, but the possible cover up. 

The program about justice starts right now. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

DANIELS:  Hi everyone.  Dan‘s off tonight. 

First up on the docket:  Breaking news in the murder of Pamela Vitale, the wife of high-profile attorney, Daniel Horowitz.  The 16-year-old suspect will be arraigned within the next half hour.  This as new details emerge about the brutal slaying and about the teen suspected of beating Vitale to death in her home on Saturday night. 

The “San Francisco Chronicle” said law enforcement sources reports that the killer beat Vitale with a piece of crown molding, striking her 39 times.  Then carved some sort of t-shaped symbol into her back, drank a glass of water, washed his hands in the sink, took a shower in the home and then walked out, leaving the weapon behind. 

Well the arrest was undoubtedly some good news for Daniel Horowitz and the rest of Vitale‘s family.  Earlier this week on this program right here Horowitz told Dan that in the end, none of it really matters. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DANIEL HOROWITZ, FOUND WIFE MURDERED:  When all of this craziness ends and the person is caught I‘ve got nothing in my life you know at its very core.  The very core of my life will never come back, no matter what happens.  There‘s nothing that‘s going to ever happen that‘s going to make it OK.  That‘s, you know, that‘s the bottom line.  Reality. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DANIELS:  The boy arrested Wednesday night is being described by The Associated Press as a quiet student at his former high school, only standing out because of his gothic-type clothes.  But former classmates also reportedly say he once drew a pentagram on the ground at school and said he told them he was reading from the book of Satan at lunch. 

Here‘s what else we know about him.  He‘s a former Boy Scout.  He‘s only 5‘5” tall, weighs 110 pounds, a 16-year-old college student who lives his mom about a mile from where the murder took place.  His older sister was killed in a car accident about two years ago and his mother and stepfather of 10 years filed for divorce this month on October 12. 

Joining me now from the “Contra Costa Times” Cassandra Braun, who has been following this story with us.  And Cassandra again, we understand that the suspect will be arraigned within the next half hour.  Do we know any details as to whether he‘ll be charged as a juvenile or an adult? 

CASSANDRA BRAUN, “CONTRA COSTA TIMES” (via phone):  Actually I can‘t say.  Last I heard they were still waiting on charges, so I really can‘t talk about the arraignment or whether he was going to be charged as an adult.  I don‘t know anything about that. 

DANIELS:  If the 16-year-old, the guy who was arrested is the man who did this crime, what might have happened?  Are we learning anything more about the confrontation itself? 

BRAUN:  Not that I have heard.  There—another newspaper has reported that he had a confrontation with Vitale, but—or that suspect did—but there‘s no indication based on the brutality of her murder that, you know that was—that‘s the reason for the altercation was solely because of this, you know, fraud—these fraud charges or investigation surrounding him and a friend. 

DANIELS:  Tell us a little bit more about this boy.  I mean he‘s 16 years old.  A lot of students say he was perfectly normal in the sense of the word until eighth grade when his sister died and then he wore gothic clothes, his hair was very strange, he shaved if off in strange parts.  What else do we know about him? 

BRAUN:  I mean basically friends who knew him describe him as quiet, sensitive, artsy type.  He was into Goth, wearing dark clothes.  He liked to wear makeup, but you know there was never—and because of this, he sort of stood out. 

People you know occasionally picked on him, but he seemed to take it pretty well and wasn‘t—there was no indication that he was bitter or violent by it or you know had any violent tendencies.  I mean I don‘t know about the reports, you know, that he studied...

DANIELS:  The Satan bible while eating lunch...

(CROSSTALK)

BRAUN:  Yes, I don‘t - they—I know some kids said that he had signed yearbooks with some pentagram like symbol, but you know people who actually took the time who knew him described him as being you know a really sensitive guy, you know, who‘s just really into art, really into music. 

DANIELS:  You know what caught my attention was the Sheriff‘s Office saying that this is still a very much ongoing investigation.  They‘re still investigating it.  Are you hearing sources saying that he may not be, if this is the person that killed Pamela Vitale, the only one involved, that there might be others.  That this is more complex than just a 16-year-old is arrested.

BRAUN:  I haven‘t heard either way if there are other, you know, people that they‘re looking into.

DANIELS:  From your experience though, is that routine for the Sheriff‘s Office to say yes, we‘re investigating.  This is not an open and shut case.

BRAUN:  Well I think so.  I mean it‘s still pretty early.  It‘s only been a few days.  You know they still I‘m sure are waiting back from results from, you know, forensics...

DANIELS:  All right, well...

BRAUN:  ... I imagine.

DANIELS:  ... just about 25 minutes from now, we‘re going to be hearing probably more about this arraignment, again, the 16-year-old to be arraigned at 6:30 Eastern Time.  Cassandra, many thanks...

(CROSSTALK)

DANIELS:  Appreciate all the knowledge.

BRAUN:  All right.

DANIELS:  Joining me now is former prosecutor and a friend of Daniel Horowitz, Steven Clark, also criminal defense attorney Janey Weintraub.

Steven, let me begin with you.  Last time you spoke to Dan, how is he doing?

STEVEN CLARK, DANIEL HOROWITZ‘S FRIEND:  It was a couple of days ago and he seemed to be doing pretty well.  I just called him to express my condolences to him and tell him how much I cared about him and he seemed OK.  Obviously, this is a horrible, horrible tragedy. 

I may be able to shed a little bit of information in terms of the arraignment process because under California law, if you‘re using the word arraignment, that implies that the case is going to be filed in adult court, which would mean he would be tried as an adult.  The real issue would be whether the D.A. alleges in addition to the murder charge a special circumstances based on what this man is alleged to have done relative to the carving into the back. 

That may be torture allegation, which could be special circumstances, which would mean he would face life without the possibility of parole.  So I think he‘s going to be tried as an adult and I think they‘re going to start off in adult court today. 

DANIELS:  That‘s interesting.  Let‘s talk about that because this crime is horrific, again, this allegation that some type of “t” was engraved in her back.  This is after the crime allegedly.  What is the determination?  What factors go into that to decide whether somebody is brought to charges, being a juvenile or an adult? 

CLARK:  Well, in California, we passed a proposition, which allows the district attorney, if someone is 16 years old and commits a murder, to go straight to adult court without having to go through the juvenile court first to determine whether they should be referred to adult court.  So the D.A. made that decision, I think, based on the horrific nature of this crime, and not only was, you know, it was just so horrific that people can‘t imagine it. 

And there‘s no evidence of any kind of mitigating circumstance in that situation so that‘s why the D.A. did it and it‘s a perfectly appropriate decision.  Not only was there a murder, a horrible murder involved, but the desecration of the body afterwards and also the criminal activity that led up to the murder, which is the drug activity in all likelihood and the credit card scam, so you have felony conduct leading to a murder and it‘s a perfectly appropriate place to have a case in adult court even though he‘s only 16 years old. 

DANIELS:  Janey, if this guy is charged, how do you defend a 16-year-old like this?  What do you say?  I mean he made a carving in the body.  He, if it‘s true, struck Pamela Vitale 39 times allegedly with some crown molding.  How do you defend him? 

JAYNE WEINTRAUB, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY:  Lisa, can you imagine the rage and the anger of this child, 16 years old, to be able to commit an act of violence like this.  This is a psychotic episode.  This is a kid who has an emotional breakdown.  He‘s sick.  He needs to be evaluated right away, number one, and number two, you take the defense from there.  You have to see what the experts say...

DANIELS:  OK...

WEINTRAUB:  ... hire someone to say...

DANIELS:  Jayne, cut through the chase here.  Are you saying insanity? 

That‘s what it sounds like...

WEINTRAUB:  Probably or some kind of diminished capacity as a mitigating circumstance that Steven was talking about before.

DANIELS:  Let‘s bring in clinical psychologist Robi Ludwig into the conversation here.

Robi, you‘ve heard some of the details of this crime.  I mean, the crown molding striking the victim 39 times, carving this “t” symbol into her back, allegedly probably when she‘s dead.  The suspect drank a glass of water, washed his hands, showered in the home, left the weapon at the crime scene.  What does this say to you?  I mean obviously to me it sounds like a very, very sick psychopath.

ROBI LUDWIG, CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGIST:  Yes.  Well it‘s hard to know whether he is a psychopath.  I‘d want to know and rule out whether he was on any kind of drugs because sometimes drugs can exacerbate that type of rage. 

What I find so interesting is everybody is looking for a logical motive and there may be a psychological motive.  This is a kid who appears to be disadvantaged in many ways.  One of the ways appears to be financially.

I wonder if he viewed the Horowitzes as being the haves in the community and targeted them in some way.  And it‘s interesting to me too that Pamela Vitale was a mother and that he went after a mother and killed her with such rage. 

Did he kill Pamela Vitale in a way to save his own mother?  I mean this was right around the time that his parents were getting divorced, so I‘d want to look at what the anger level is towards women, his relationship towards his own mother, and maybe Jayne has a point.  I mean was he psychotic at the moment of the crime?  I don‘t necessarily think that makes him insane, but these are all very interesting factors that I think we need to look at.

DANIELS:  Let me just check in with Steve for a second, because while I‘m hearing Robi speak, that sounds to me more like a fording approach.  It might be very accurate, but I know if you‘re going to sell that to the jury, you‘ve got to have a solid motive to present to the men and women on that jury, saying this is why he did it.  Would that pass muster?

CLARK:  No, it wouldn‘t because then you show the autopsy and crime scene photos to the jury, and you realize that this kid is a monster, and no jury is going to let him go.  So, yes, you have to go with the defense of mental insanity or defect because he probably does have something like that.

Nobody would ever do this without that.  But you also have to think of it from the jury‘s point of view, which is we can‘t let this kid go.  He is just too dangerous and I think that‘s ultimately what‘s going to happen here.

DANIELS:  Yes, the more random the less there‘s a motive.  The more, if I were on a jury, I‘d be definitely thinking that.  Everyone, a very big thanks.  Thanks for being on the panel. 

CLARK:  Thank you.

DANIELS:  Coming up, the woman charged with stripping her young children naked, throwing them to their death in the San Francisco Bay for the sharks pleads not guilty.  We talk to the D.A. deciding whether she could face the death penalty.

And a couple has a baby, but the government wants to take it away because the father is a convicted sex offender, even though he served his time.  Does he have a right to have children?

Plus, doesn‘t Washington ever learn its lesson?  Reports indicate the investigator in the CIA leak investigation may be more concerned about a cover-up at the White House than the leak itself.

And or course your e-mails, send them to abramsreport@msnbc.com.  Remember to include your name and where you‘re writing from.  I‘ll respond at the end of the show.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DANIELS:  A mother accused of throwing three of her sons into the San Francisco Bay was charged with three counts of murder.  She pled not guilty, saying the voices in her head made her do it.  We‘re going to talk to the San Francisco D.A. in just a minute, but first here‘s NBC‘s James Hattori.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JAMES HATTORI, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  Local fire crews will continue looking for two brothers, 1 and 6 years old, missing in San Francisco Bay and presumed dead.  The body of a third 2-year-old brother has already been recovered. 

JOANNE HAYES-WHITE, SAN FRANCISCO FIRE CHIEF:  We were hoping that we could intervene and make it a positive outcome and unfortunately, we were not successful in doing so. 

HATTORI:  The three boys were allegedly thrown into the bay by their mother, 23-year-old Lashaun Harris of Oakland, who faces three counts of murder and assault. 

TELICIA HARRIS, SUSPECT‘S SISTER:  She was just saying that people told her to do it.  She said voices told her.  I don‘t know what else... 

HATTORI:  Family members who prayed at the pier where it happened say Harris was diagnosed as schizophrenic, her behavior at times worrisome. 

DEMARCUS HARRIS, SUSPECT‘S COUSIN:  Sometimes she would be in a daze, you could say, she‘d be in a daze like in her own world. 

BRITNEY FITZPATRICK SUSPECT‘S HALF-SISTER:  She told my mamma once she was going to feed them to the sharks. 

HATTORI:  Harris had been living in a Salvation Army shelter in Oakland where officials didn‘t notice any problems.

KELLY GABLE, SALVATION ARMY SPOKESPERSON:  The signs just weren‘t there.  She was outwardly calm, polite, clean.  Her children were clean.  She kept them fed. 

HATTORI:  But experts say it‘s not always apparent when schizophrenics have delusions, in some cases hearing voice that compel them to act irrationally. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  It‘s a delusional belief.  Somebody‘s out to hurt them so they might strike out and hurt somebody or do some damage in an attempt to protect themselves. 

HATTORI:  Family members say Harris had been taking medication.  Experts say that‘s usually enough for schizophrenics to cope and even be parents.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Family reunification is the main goal for people with schizophrenia.  We want people to resume their normal lives. 

HATTORI:  But something in Lashaun Harris‘ family went terribly wrong. 

Leaving one son dead, two others missing in San Francisco Bay. 

There‘s a chance they may never be found? 

LT. JOHN COPLEY, SAN FRANCISCO COAST GUARD:  There is a chance that the victims will never be recovered, yes.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

DANIELS:  And that was NBC‘s James Hattori reporting.

And the “San Francisco Chronicle” is reporting that Lashaun Harris was treated at a Florida clinic just this past summer.  She reportedly told authorities she began hearing voices after she stopped taking her medication, but she didn‘t see a doctor because she said that she thought no one would be able to help her. 

Joining me now, San Francisco D.A. Kamala Harris.  Thanks for the time.  Appreciate it Kamala.

KAMALA HARRIS, SAN FRANCISCO DISTRICT ATTORNEY:  Sure Lisa, nice to be here.  Thank you.

DANIELS:  So Harris is facing three counts each of murder and assaulting a child.  She‘s eligible for the death penalty.  Do you think you‘re going to seek the death penalty in this one? 

HARRIS:  Well we‘re still in the process of reviewing all the facts and then comparing that to the law and we‘ll make a decision, but we have not made that decision yet. 

DANIELS:  When do you think you‘re going to make that decision? 

HARRIS:  Well evidence is still coming in.  As you pointed out with your piece, there is a lot of information out there about her state of mind, her psychological well being.  As you know, we still have two bodies that have not been recovered.  Evidence is still coming in.  And when the investigation is complete, then we‘re in a better position to determine what is the appropriate penalty. 

DANIELS:  If those two bodies are not found, does that make your case harder to prove? 

HARRIS:  Certainly, it makes it more difficult, but as you know, that has never been a reason that we cannot prosecute a homicide.  There have been many situations, although rare, where we can prosecute successfully prosecute homicide even when we don‘t have the body. 

DANIELS:  Are you worried about an insanity defense?  I mean this one seems to have it written on it.  I mean a very sick woman, apparently she reportedly stopped taking her medication.  Are you worried about that insanity defense? 

HARRIS:  I think you‘re absolutely right.  That it‘s clear from all of the information we‘re getting from the family, through the media, if nowhere else, that they believe that she had mental illness as an issue.  We will, of course, rely on psychologists and experts to tell us what it is they find after they do a medical and a scientific analysis of who she is and what her capacity is.

So, of course, it‘s out on the table.  It‘s certainly something that everyone‘s talking about.  It is potentially an issue, but I haven‘t, at this point, been convinced that that will be a dispositive issue. 

DANIELS:  Look, you‘re a D.A., I‘m a journalist.  I‘m also a lawyer and I just—it‘s not numbing to hear these cases.  Every time you hear...

HARRIS:  Right.

DANIELS:  ... a case like this it‘s just horrific.  I mean apparently...

HARRIS:  Absolutely.

DANIELS:  ... she told the cousin that she stripped the children and threw them in the bay, wanting the sharks to eat the children.  Just from a personal perspective, is this one of the most horrific crimes that you have dealt with? 

HARRIS:  Without a doubt and I‘ve been a prosecutor for a long time.  I have personally prosecuted homicides, child sexual assault, some of the worst human behaviors you can imagine and whenever we have a mother who at her hands, causes her three young children to be killed, it is horrific. 

You‘re absolutely right, Lisa.  It is a tragedy.  It is tragic and I can tell you that my city is in a state of shock and we are dealing with it.  But it is.  And I‘m glad to say that we don‘t see these kinds of cases that often. 

DANIELS:  And I‘m glad you don‘t because we‘re dealing with children here, who are defenseless, who are...

HARRIS:  Absolutely.

DANIELS:  ... relying on their parents and caregivers to take care of them. 

HARRIS:  Absolutely right.

DANIELS:  You heard that relative say they tried very hard to get the children away from Harris and into the care of Social Services.  Do you see any blame here that Social Services did not step up to the plate and take these children away or is it more complex than that? 

HARRIS:  We are not conducting an investigation of the Social Services‘ response to this mother and this family, but I know that is happening.  I think in general we have to really come to terms with the fact that as a system, we‘re probably not set up and designed to be as accurate as we want to be in terms of detecting parents who are on the verge of harming their children and that‘s something that I think we have to take a critical look at as a system and as a society.  What can we do better to not only create support systems for parents but also figure out and detect when they are on the verge of harming and in this case fatally harming their children. 

DANIELS:  Kamala Harris, thanks again for your time.

HARRIS:  Thank you.  Thank you.

DANIELS:  Too bad the circumstances are so bad. 

HARRIS:  Yes.

DANIELS:  Well moving on for a moment.  You know what the old saying is.  The cover up is always worse than the crime.  Well it seems that may be the case in Washington yet again where the White House is waiting to see whether top advisors will be indicted by a federal grand jury.

The man making the final decisions, special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald is keeping very quiet about whether he will file charges in his investigation into who at the White House leaked the name of CIA officer Valerie Plame to reporters.  This investigation centers around the fact that outing the identity of an undercover CIA agent is a federal crime.  That‘s the principle involved. 

But according to “The New York Times”, that‘s not what Fitzgerald is now focusing on.  Again, according to “The Times”, if he decides to indict top White House advisors, Karl Rove and Scooter Libby, it will be for allegedly covering up the leak.  Fitzgerald is reportedly considering pursuing charges of perjury, obstruction of justice and false statements in connection to what Rove and Libby told the grand jury about their roles in the leak. 

Joining us now former U.S. attorney Kendall Coffey.  And Kendall, let me start by asking you why.  Is it because the underlying crime is too hard to prove so you go for the cover up? 

KENDALL COFFEY, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY:  Absolutely.  Just ask Martha Stewart.  So many times we have seen it, not what you did, but whether you fibbed in the process of going through the investigation and I agree with what we‘re seeing.  That‘s got to be the focus in terms of where the special prosecutor is right now. 

DANIELS:  Is it pretty much out of the question that they will be indicted for the underlying crimes?  Is it just too hard to prosecute that? 

COFFEY:  I think it‘s very hard to prove.  You‘ve got to get inside somebody‘s head to show that they knowingly and intentionally not only outed somebody that they knew to be a covert agent, but somebody that they knew that the United States was trying to protect the identity of, tough stuff to prove, false statement, on the other hand, much, much easier. 

DANIELS:  All right, actually let‘s throw out the definition of perjury.  I want out viewers to look at it.  Under perjury, a witness must be under oath before a grand jury and knowingly make a false material declaration, the penalty, a fine and up to five years in prison.  How hard is perjury to prove in a case like this?

COFFEY:  Well I think it comes down to what a jury believes when they hear differing accounts.  For example, it‘s being reported that in the first grand jury appearance by Karl Rove where he undoubtedly was under oath, that he was asked apart from one journalist, who he did confirm talking to about the critical subject, asked whether he spoke to any other reporters. 

Supposedly he said no.  Turns out that he had in fact spoken on July 11, 2003 to Matt Cooper.  Was that an honest mistake of recollection by a really busy guy or a flat out falsity by someone willing to lie? 

DANIELS:  Kendall, let me ask you this.  I think this is interesting.  If both are indicted for a type of cover-up, is it possible that we‘re going to see a scene like somebody has cut a plea and that person will testify against one.  Are we going to have you know Scooter Libby testifying against Karl Rove?  Is that possible here? 

COFFEY:  Well anything is possible.  We know so little about what‘s going on inside a grand jury elect process, but it doesn‘t strike me as likely.  If there is somebody that they‘re going to make a deal with, it‘s going to be someone down the ladder, somebody who gets a very favorable deal because that‘s the way you work it.  Libby and Rove are both big targets and it‘s much more likely that the prosecution strategy would be to get immunity or some kind of sweet deal with somebody down the rank who heard enough about various conversations about the higher up‘s to give them a strong case. 

DANIELS:  Do we have any idea how many administration officials were actually called in to testify? 

COFFEY:  Well it seemed at point like most of Washington was going through that grand jury, but I don‘t think we have any reliable information at to who was seriously getting looked at.  Obviously, those two names are very much in the forefront and I think the reality is that there are discrepancies, some real differences between what they have said under oath and what the prosecutors believe to be the actual facts.  Big judgment call, prosecutor discretion was it in fact, somebody who just forgot because these obviously are very busy people and that‘s the very difficult decision that‘s on Fitzgerald‘s table as we speak.

DANIELS:  Well what might be interesting is that Fitzgerald has this new Web site, as you know, and we might see the charges first online.  We‘ll have to see.  Kendall Coffey...

COFFEY:  Yes.

DANIELS:  ... thanks so much.  Appreciate all the insight. 

COFFEY:  Hey, thank you. 

DANIELS:  Coming up, the state wants to take this couple‘s newborn baby away because he‘s a convicted sex offender who served his time for rape and sodomy. 

Plus, first there was the famous mug shot now and today Congressman Tom DeLay had his day in court, well sort of.  He wasn‘t arraigned because he doesn‘t want this Democratic judge to hear his case he says. 

And our continuing series “Manhunt: Sex Offenders on the Loose”, our effort to find missing sex offenders before they strike again.  We wrap up our search in Colorado today.

Please help authorities locate this guy.  He‘s William Edward Dean.  He‘s 52 years old, 6‘2”, weighs 198 pounds.  Dean was convicted of sexually assaulting multiple children.  He is yet to register with the state of Colorado.

If you‘ve got some info on his whereabouts, please contact the Colorado Bureau of Investigation.  There‘s the number, 303-239-5732.

Take a good look at him.  We‘ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DANIELS:  Coming up, the state is fighting to take away a newborn baby from his mother.  Why?  Well his father is a convicted sex offender, but first the headlines.

(NEWS BREAK)

DANIELS:  We‘re back.  And in a California courtroom at this hour the 16-year-old arrested in Pamela Vitale‘s murder is being arraigned and we are waiting for word on what exactly happened in the courtroom and whether he‘ll be charged as an adult or a juvenile.  And when we find out, we‘ll be sure to bring it to you. 

But first, child welfare officials in Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania are trying to take a newborn baby away from its parents because his father is a convicted sex offender.  DaiShin WolfHawk pleaded guilty to the rape and sodomy of two teenage girls back in 1983, but the couple denies claims that he also sodomized his own daughter and that his wife, Melissa WolfHawk, used cocaine and meth while working as a prostitute.  On Monday a federal court extended a temporary restraining order against child welfare services for 10 days, leaving the baby in the custody of his parents, but Wednesday the county court granted welfare officials permission to take the newborn, but the hospital wouldn‘t release him so soon after birth. 

Joining me now, Laura Spencer, former prosecutor and back with us criminal defense attorney Jayne Weintraub.  Let‘s start with you, Laura.  Like it or not, sex offenders have kids all the time.  Why is this case different? 

LAURA SPENCER, FORMER PROSECUTOR:  Well the truth of the matter is we don‘t know everything that the authorities know in this case.  But the fact of the matter is this woman also has a 21-month-old child that is living with a couple in Maryland, due to concerns about her husband‘s fitness as a father.  So this is not the only time that this issue has arisen. 

DANIELS:  OK, Jayne, let me ask you the same question.  Why is this case different?  We know sex offenders have kids all the time.  They‘re not taken away. 

WEINTRAUB:  It‘s not different.  I mean I think some hot dog from some state agency just got on this.  The truth of the matter is, is that this violates all notions of due process.  Before a hearing and an opportunity to be heard, they are trying to take away a newborn baby from its mother, breast-feeding, by the way, and take it out of that home with what, with no evidence whatsoever. 

This man was a convicted sex offender.  It is presumed he was rehabilitated, he served his time and that he is a free man.  If they are so concerned about it, why don‘t we have leper colonies and just shoot people and don‘t let them go do their time and be rehabilitated. 

DANIELS:  OK...

WEINTRAUB:  In this country, we have laws and even the state has to abide by them. 

(CROSSTALK)

SPENCER:  Yes, we do.  We have laws to protect little children that cannot protect themselves...

WEINTRAUB:  And to protect the man just the same.  Even though he was branded as a sex offender 20 years ago, that doesn‘t mean that he‘s a danger to the child now.  What evidence is there? 

SPENCER:  That is not the only allegation here.  That is not the only allegation that‘s pending here. 

DANIELS:  OK, wait, wait...

SPENCER:  There is another child...

DANIELS:  Hold on.  Let me ask you Laura—let‘s talk about what we‘re not saying.  Is it the mother, is it her alleged prostitution, is it alleged drug use that‘s really at the heart of this or is it...

SPENCER:  ... it may be.  It may be.  This is a confidential procedure and so the authorities cannot come out and give us all of the evidence that they have that they based this decision upon.  But it may very well be that they‘re concerned about the mother‘s admitted drug use. 

(CROSSTALK)

WEINTRAUB:  And very well may be it‘s not.  And because it‘s a confidential secret proceeding that they didn‘t even want to engage in, they just wanted to go behind the mother, the father and go to the hospital...

SPENCER:  That‘s why it‘s called confidential.

WEINTRAUB:  ... and basically kidnap a newborn baby and you think that‘s OK?

SPENCER:  I think that‘s fine.  Yes, I think this is a baby that cannot speak for itself.  I think this is a man who has a past molesting children.  He‘s been convicted.  There‘s been an allegation...

(CROSSTALK)

SPENCER:  There has been an allegation that he molested another child. 

WEINTRAUB:  It was nothing more than an allegation. 

SPENCER:  A 21-month-old baby.

WEINTRAUB:  It was nothing more than an allegation...

SPENCER:  Well that‘s not true.  There are documents.  According to my research, there are documents in New York that he was on probation for having molested this child.  Now, I may be mistaken about that, but I know...

WEINTRAUB:  He was on supervision when he was released from prison is what I read. 

DANIELS:  Hey, guys, give me a paycheck here.  (UNINTELLIGIBLE) you‘re doing very well in outlining what the argument is, but I was curious, do you guys know of a precedent for this case, anything ring a bell that might be similar? 

WEINTRAUB:  I‘ve never heard of a state agency coming in and taking a newborn child within 24 hours from a mother and father...

SPENCER:  Well you won‘t know because...

WEINTRAUB:  ... that are alive and healthy in the hospital. 

SPENCER:  You would not know because generally these proceedings are confidential.  So how would you know? 

WEINTRAUB:  Well, the fact that court proceedings can‘t be confidential.  We don‘t have court proceedings that don‘t become a matter of public record and the parties cannot be gagged here.  The parties can always speak.  Like the mother is free to speak and the father is free to speak...

SPENCER:  Which is why we know about this case.  But in general, juvenile and dependency proceedings are confidential.  We don‘t know about them.  We don‘t know about the evidence in this case. 

DANIELS:  Let me just jump in here...

SPENCER:  All we know is that a judge believed that there was enough reason, enough evidence to issue an order allowing the authorities to take this child for its protection. 

WEINTRAUB:  And thankfully, a federal judge stepped in and said no. 

We‘re going to have a hearing of due process...

SPENCER:  No, the federal judge stepped in and said they couldn‘t ask her about her pregnancy anymore. 

DANIELS:  OK.  Let me ask you about the county court versus the federal court.  Any question on who has the authority here, Jayne? 

SPENCER:  Well, they were different issues. 

WEINTRAUB:  No, there‘s no question.  Federal court will always have the higher jurisdiction and have the higher authority. 

DANIELS:  Well I think you guys did a really good job outlining the two sides of this debate.  I think people are really split on this one.  But Laura Spencer, Jayne Weintraub, a big thank you. 

WEINTRAUB:  Thank you Lisa.

DANIELS:  Appreciate it.

All right.  Moving on.  Coming up, Tom “The Hammer” DeLay makes his first court appearance after being indicted.  He comes up fighting claiming the judge should be removed because he‘s a Democrat. 

Also was Michael Brown more concerned about his dinner reservations than he was about this scene in New Orleans?  Yes, according to the former FEMA director‘s e-mails.  You be the judge.

Your e-mails send them to abramsreport@msnbc.com.  Remember to include your name and where you‘re writing from.  We‘ll respond at the end of the show.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DANIELS:  Coming up, we are waiting for word from a California court where the teen arrested in Pam Vitale‘s murder is being arraigned. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DANIELS:  “The Hammer” hit back today and very hard.  Former Majority Leader Tom DeLay, known as “The Hammer” for his ability to get his way on Capitol Hill.  Today he made his first appearance in a Texas court to be arraigned on conspiracy and money-laundering charges, but that arraignment was put off thanks to a counterattack by DeLay and his attorney, who filed a motion asking Judge Robert Perkins to recuse himself, that is, take himself off the case. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DICK DEGUERIN, TOM DELAY‘S ATTORNEY:  The motion is serious.  It deals with not just the fact that the judge is an active Democrat, as he has every right to be, but that he has supported causes and persons that have been in direct opposition to Congressman DeLay. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DANIELS:  Of course the former House majority leader is insisting he is innocent and that the charges are a political attack by a Democratic prosecutor, Ronnie Earle.  For his part, Earle says he‘ll fight DeLay‘s motion to remove Judge Perkins. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RONNIE EARLE, PROSECUTING TOM DELAY:  Membership in a political party does not determine the quality of justice in this country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DANIELS:  NBC News correspondent Chip Reid was in the courtroom.  Chip give us the scoop.  I‘m sure that he practiced that smile because he certainly had that smile on a lot in his mug shot, too. 

CHIP REID, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  He sure did.  I tell you the whole offensive by Tom DeLay is just amazing.  And I cover Congress, of course, and so I‘ve been telling people don‘t be surprised by anything Tom DeLay does.  I mean people expected him to have this horrible dour expression in his mug shot.  He comes out beaming.

A picture the Democrats are not going to be able to use in those political ads as they had hoped to.  And then here today we expected this to be a simply quick legal proceeding where they handled some housekeeping matters.  Maybe he actually made a plea.  We weren‘t even sure if that was going to happen and then right out, they come with both barrels firing. 

You‘ve got Deguerin going after the judge for being a partisan Democrat and you‘ve got DeLay going after Ronnie Earle for being a partisan Democrat.  They completely stole the show.  Now that doesn‘t mean eventually that this isn‘t going to turn bad for them because eventually they‘re going to have to turn away from the politics and to the law itself, you would think, unless they do manage to get it dismissed quickly.  But for right now, they‘re doing about as well as they could possibly do.

DANIELS:  I mean talk about the smile we‘re just looking at a video and even as he‘s having a conversation, look at him.  He‘s just laughing.  It‘s clear that the strategy was to put on a happy face here.  But question, why delay it?  You would think that he would want this starting so he can get through it, as he would say, back to the House so he can be the majority leader again. 

REID:  That just shows you‘re exactly right.  That‘s one of the real difficulties for him here.  That by doing these kinds of motions, he‘s going to delay things, obviously.  And he needs to get this done as quickly as possible and that shows how important it is to him to get another judge here.  He just does not trust this judge.  That‘s obviously clear. 

Deguerin doesn‘t and they also really very badly want to get this case out of this area, out of Austin.  As Deguerin said today, this is the last bastion or enclave is the word he used, of liberal Democrats in this entire state.  What worst place could there possibly be for Tom DeLay to go to trial?  So those two things, they want a different judge and they want a different place for this trial.  They‘re going to fight very hard for those even if it does mean it takes more time. 

DANIELS:  Are people saying that hey, Tom DeLay could be found guilty?  I mean this could be a terrible losing—a terrible loss for him.  Is anyone taking this seriously that he may end up going to jail? 

REID:  Oh absolutely.  Well I don‘t know about going to jail.  I mean that‘s something to be determined way down the line, but certainly, there are people, even in his party who think it‘s a realistic possibility that he could conceivably be found guilty in this case. 

I mean if you look at the fact pattern here of what happened, it does appear that by moving corporate money and eventually getting that same amount of money into Texas political campaigns, that at least the spirit of the ban on corporate contributions was violated.  Now, it‘s still a long way to go to prove that his fingerprints are all over it, but certainly, there is the possibility here that Ronnie Earle could have the goods.  And there are a lot of people back in Washington deeply worried about that and I should say there are also some Republicans back in Washington who are already maneuvering and putting themselves in position to run for his majority leader position. 

DANIELS:  Well his nickname is “The Hammer”.  We‘ll see if he lives up to his name.  Chip Reid, thanks again.  Appreciate it. 

REID:  You bet Lisa.

DANIELS:  Coming up, former FEMA head Michael Brown told Congress he didn‘t know how bad Hurricane Katrina was until days after it hit.  If Brown had been checking his e-mails could the devastation at the Super Dome and the Convention Center have been avoided?  You‘ll see.

And heartfelt reaction to Dan‘s live interview with defense attorney Daniel Horowitz about his wife‘s brutal murder. 

And of course our continuing series, “Manhunt: Sex Offenders on the Loose”, our effort to find sex offenders before they strike again.  Today we end our search in Colorado with Michael Doane Keslar. 

He is 52 years old, 6‘1”, weighs 215 pounds.  Keslar was convicted of sexually assaulting a child and of second-degree sexual assault and he is not registered with authorities.

If you‘ve got info on his whereabouts, please contact the Colorado Bureau of Investigations.  Write down the number. 

We‘ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DANIELS:  My “Closing Argument”—now, remember former FEMA director‘s Michael Brown‘s testimony on those horrific failures that followed Hurricane Katrina.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL BROWN, FORMER FEMA DIRECTOR:  My biggest mistake was not recognizing by Saturday that Louisiana was dysfunctional. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DANIELS:  OK, take a look at some e-mails from Marty Bahamonde.  Marty was the only FEMA staffer in New Orleans and his e-mails are rather interesting.  His e-mails to Mike Brown and others show that when it comes to dysfunctional behavior, FEMA may have had no competition. 

Bahamonde told the Senate committee Thursday he knew by 11:00 on Monday morning August 29 that the levee had failed and catastrophic flooding would follow.  Who did he tell?  Well according to a Senate testimony he told FEMA headquarters at 11:00.  Mike Brown knew by 7:00.  I don‘t know where that information went.

Apparently, Michael Brown didn‘t quite get the drift and apparently neither did Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, even President Bush.  All of them insisted, I‘m sure you remember this, that they didn‘t know the levee had broken until sometime the following day. 

My question is this.  Did they not get the e-mails?  Did they not understand the e-mails?  Take a look at the hard evidence from August 28, the day before Katrina hit, another e-mail from Bahamonde.

Quote—“Medical staff says they will run out of oxygen in about two hours, everyone is soaked; this is going to get ugly real fast.”  Yes, that was from the Superdome, again the day before Katrina hit. 

This also from the 31st direct to Michael Brown.  Quote—“Thousands gathering in the streets, with no food or water, hundreds still being rescued from home.  Many will die within hours.”  Apparently, that didn‘t get Brown‘s attention either.

Well what did get Brown‘s attention?  His stomach.  According to the e-mails, I‘m not making this up, a FEMA press secretary did have concerns with Brown‘s meal schedule on a trip to Baton Rouge that day. 

Quote—“It is very important that time is allowed for Mr. Brown to eat dinner.  We have to get to and from a location of his choice.”  No wonder Bahamonde sent this note off on September 3.

Quote—“The leadership from top down in our agency is unprepared and out of touch.  I still can‘t get out of my head the vision of children and babies I saw sitting there, helpless, looking at me and hoping I could make a difference.”

Michael Brown says he received conflicting information on what was going on in New Orleans.  What‘s my point?  Maybe he and FEMA would have functioned much better if they had just read their e-mails from their men on the ground and if they were reading them, why didn‘t they listen? 

Coming up, many of you still writing in with kind words for Daniel Horowitz.  We‘ll read your e-mails.  That‘s next. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DANIELS:  Welcome back.  I‘ve had my say, now it‘s time for “Your Rebuttal”.  I‘m actually going to read them, not respond.

Many of you writing in about the gruesome murder of Daniel Horowitz‘s wife, Pamela Vitale. 

Ian Thompson from Columbia, South Carolina writes this.  “During the discussion about the murder, when asked about the carving on the poor woman, one of your guests began by saying, well, it‘s like that game kids used to play in the ‘80‘s, Dungeons and Dragons.  I‘d like to point out that that statement is inaccurate.  The murder of Pamela Vitale is a horrendous thing and people that did or currently do play Dungeons and Dragons feel the same way about this terrible event as people who don‘t play.”

Many of you still writing in about Dan‘s interview with Daniel Horowitz.  Judy Krile writes this—quote—“I absolutely thought your putting Daniel Horowitz on the air was the best thing to do.  Talk about a reality show.  You showed his reaction in a very compassionate way, which is something reality shows do not do.  Bless you for being such a good friend to him and for sticking with him when the sensationalists are just out to make the loudest noise.”

Bill and Iris Egbert write this.  “Please pass on to Daniel Horowitz my heartfelt sympathies on the tragic loss of his wife.  Tell him that while it is true that most of us only know him as a TV commentator, it‘s also true that many of us can tell what a kind man he is.  In a society where we teach our male children to be so hard and that kindness is a weakness, he is a refreshing example of how untrue those beliefs are.”

Millie writes this, “On comes Daniel Horowitz looking totally

devastated and speaking about a love that was pure and true, his core, his

reason for living.  My child, with tears in her eyes, stated: ‘That‘s what

it‘s all about, huh mom?  I‘m going to find me a love like that.‘”

That‘s my favorite e-mail.  Send your emails to the abramsreport—one word-- @msnbc.com.  We‘re going to go through them and read them as many as we can at the end of the show. 

Before we go, we just want to update you on the teen being arraigned for the murder of Pamela Vitale, Daniel Horowitz‘s wife.  Our producer in the courtroom tells us that the proceedings have been postponed a bit, but they should be starting very soon.  Again, we thought it was going to happen at 6:30 Eastern Time.  We‘re waiting to hear just what the 16-year-old will be charged with, whether he‘ll be tried as an adult versus a juvenile. 

Please be sure to stay tuned to MSNBC for the latest on his arraignment.  We‘ll be sure to update you. 

I‘m Lisa Daniels.  Dan will be back here on the desk, in the chair on Monday.  Coming up next, “HARDBALL” with Chris Matthews.

Have a great night everybody and a great weekend.

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