Guests: Ted Simon, Paul Halloran, Jake Goldenflame, Paul Leighton, William Fallon, Jon Leiberman, Tom Stacho, Stephanie Dietrich
DAN ABRAMS, HOST: Coming up, Saddam Hussein back in court. This time he threatens the judge, interrupts a witness and throwing papers.
ABRAMS (voice-over): His lawyer, former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark walks out of court to protest the proceedings, then returns. Should a former U.S. attorney general be helping Saddam with this kind of show? Does he have a special obligation to his country?
And the journalist New York police believe sexually assaulted a woman on Halloween for 12 hours is spotted in Ohio, possibly planning another attack.
Plus, a mother turns detective and helps another mom by finding where her two children were buried after being murdered. Stephanie Dietrich, a cashier, took the public reports and her dog Ricco to do what the authorities could not. She joins us.
The program about justice starts now.
ABRAMS: Hi, everyone. First up on the docket tonight, chaos in the courtroom at the trial of Saddam Hussein. The former dictator, furious and threatening the judge that—quote—“he‘ll be held accountable when the heroic Iraqi revolution arrives” and insisting he‘s not worried about a verdict or a sentence, even if it‘s death.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SADDAM HUSSEIN, DEPOSED IRAQI DICTATOR (through translator): I fear nothing from execution. All of you know me. Nobody need to explain my history from ‘59 to now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: Saddam‘s lawyers walked out at one point when the presiding judge wouldn‘t let former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark challenge the trial‘s legitimacy and demand better security for the defense.
Let‘s start by going to Baghdad and NBC News‘ Richard Engel who was in the courtroom today. Hi, Richard.
RICHARD ENGEL, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: How are you doing, Dan? It was quite a stormy session. It had threats, insults and even something of a call to arms from Saddam Hussein. At some stages he sounded more like a resistance leader than a defendant himself, quoting some of those passages that you mentioned when he seemed to threaten the court saying that the great revolution is coming and that the judge will be held accountable.
At which state, the judge said, this is an insult to the court and Saddam shot back, you are insulting the court by bringing liars into the courtroom, an apparent reference to the witnesses who had described what they had seen and experienced in Dujail after a failed assassination attempt on Saddam in 1982.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AHMED HASSAN MOHAMMED, SADDAM TRIAL WITNESS (through translator): I was 15 years old at the time and they tortured me. They blindfolded me. The woman in front of me, they tortured them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ENGEL: There were also exchanges between Saddam Hussein and the witnesses themselves, which the judge tried to control. But in general, it was a very chaotic session and the trial is due to resume tomorrow—Dan.
ABRAMS: Richard Engel, thanks a lot. Appreciate it.
So the question, should Ramsey Clark, the nation‘s former top law enforcement official, be in Baghdad defending Saddam Hussein? No question he deserves a lawyer but does he deserve this lawyer who‘s got the title former attorney general? I asked Clark that when I interviewed him in April.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RAMSEY CLARK, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: I‘ve never tried to have clout because I‘m a former attorney general. I try to have clout because of my word. The idea that you don‘t represent someone because they are awful, if they are, is contrary to the idea of their right to counsel.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: But does it make a difference that he‘s got that title, former U.S. attorney general? Monica Crowley is co-host of “CONNECTED” on MSNBC and Ted Simon is a criminal defense attorney and civil rights attorney as well. Thanks to both of you. Appreciate it.
All right, Monica, do you think it‘s different?
MONICA CROWLEY, “CONNECTED” CO-HOST: Of course it matters that he was a former attorney general of the United States. Ramsey Clark was the number two law enforcement official at one time behind President Lyndon Johnson. who at time was the number one law enforcement official. He has a responsibility to his country. The fact that he is in Baghdad in a wartime situation defending an enemy of the United States while he is still an American citizen is a disgrace.
ABRAMS: You know Ted look, I get the notion that Saddam Hussein deserves a fair trial. He deserves a very good lawyer too. I think it‘s very important that he have a good lawyer so that the proceeding is seen as fair by the world. But is there something in the title former U.S. attorney general that makes Ramsey Clark or anyone with that title have a different kind of obligation?
THEODORE SIMON, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY (via phone): I would say not because rather than throw words like traitor, I think we can start invoking words like heroic. I think Ramsey Clark in this situation suggests and defines the ideal to which all lawyers should aspire, but which few ever achieve to accept and vigorously defend even the most hated and despised. It brings to mind such cases as John Walker Lindh, if you remember, the so-called American Taliban when James Brosnahan went to his defense, I ask rhetorically is he a traitor or was his co-counsel a traitor, the former U.S. attorney for Virginia?
ABRAMS: Is there any comparison...
ABRAMS: ... really to Saddam Hussein? Meaning, we could talk about the various people who were tried with various crimes. But are they really comparable to Saddam? I mean isn‘t there something different about this case?
SIMON: One could argue representing an alleged terrorist in the United States who commits acts against the United States would purport to present a greater conflict...
ABRAMS: But they weren‘t former U.S. attorney generals, Ted.
SIMON: ... rather than here.
ABRAMS: Ted, they weren‘t former U.S. attorney generals. That‘s the difference.
SIMON: He‘s a former U.S. attorney general for some 30 years ago, but he‘s not invoking that nom de plume so to speak. He is a lawyer and he‘s representing an accused. In fact, I think we should be pleased that he is representing this person because it‘s in the highest ideals of American Democratic principles...
SIMON: ... and it would give a semblance of fairness to the proceedings.
ABRAMS: What about that Monica? What about the notion that -- look, Saddam Hussein is going to convicted, OK? I mean I think that‘s basically a foregone conclusion...
ABRAMS: ... no matter who his lawyer is. What about the notion of being able to say to the world, hey, he didn‘t just get a lawyer, he got a former attorney general of the United States and somehow that could add a level of legitimacy to the proceedings.
CROWLEY: Well there‘s a distinction to be made here. In the John Walker Lindh case or the Jose Padilla case, these people were American citizens and they are certainly entitled to a defense under American law. But the idea that a former U.S. attorney general would take it upon himself to volunteer his services to go and defend a man who is responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people including thousands of Americans, I would take great exception to. This man Ramsey Clark has a responsibility to his office of the attorney general and to his country. And he seems to have put that second to his own political agenda.
ABRAMS: Here‘s what Ramsey Clark...
SIMON: There are many great lawyers in the military dressed in military uniform who are representing foreign nationals out of Guantanamo and doing it in the highest...
CROWLEY: That‘s a big difference between defending Saddam Hussein in a voluntary capacity. Saddam Hussein, by the way, a long-term enemy of the United States and still some argue that he is giving inspiration to the terrorist insurgency that is continuing to kill American military personnel.
ABRAMS: Here‘s what Ramsey Clark said about this issue, again, in my April interview with him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CLARK: To show that an American stands up for human rights against those people that have been demonized by his own country seems to me to add validity to the idea that human rights are universal and that you stand up for them and you stand up for them above all in the meanest, toughest cases.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: Monica, are you willing to accept the scenario I laid out, which is that Saddam Hussein is going to get convicted whether Ramsey Clark is his lawyer or not? And if we assume that for a moment, that maybe it gives us a little credibility in the world to throw Ramsey in there saying hey, he‘s a former U.S. attorney general. He got the best lawyer that America can provide.
CROWLEY: Well, I mean there is something to that argument, Dan. I just feel that given a wartime situation and given the fact that Saddam Hussein continues to give aid and comfort if not inspiration to the terrorist insurgency that still targets American military personnel in Iraq, I think it is irresponsible for the U.S. attorney general or frankly anybody who had a position of authority in law enforcement in this country to voluntarily take it upon himself to defend this man.
ABRAMS: Ted, final question, no added burden you don‘t think when someone has got that title former U.S. attorney general in picking clients?
SIMON: I think he properly responded to your question, which was certainly he doesn‘t shy away from the fact that he once was the attorney general, but that doesn‘t deny him the opportunity of representing any person under any circumstances as long as he does it within the proper bounds of ethics and law.
ABRAMS: All right.
CROWLEY: And Dan, by the way, Saddam Hussein is being afforded all kinds of human rights far more than he granted his own people...
ABRAMS: Monica Crowley...
SIMON: ... not a fair comparison...
ABRAMS: ... Ted Simon, thanks a lot. Appreciate it.
CROWLEY: You bet.
ABRAMS: Coming up, a man convicted of raping a boy nearly 20 years ago is working as a high school basketball ref. It has led to a huge debate in his community.
And the journalist New York police say dressed up like a fireman on Halloween, broke into a woman‘s apartment, sexually assaulted her for 12 hours is spotted in Ohio, possibly planning another attack.
Plus, a mother turns sleuth helping another mother find where her two children were buried after their murders. We talk to the woman who along with her dog did what the authorities could not.
Your e-mails email@example.com. Please include your name and where you‘re writing from. I respond at the end of the show.
ABRAMS: A convicted sex offender named Phillip Paul (ph) has been refereeing college and high school games on the North Shore for eight years. It‘s in Massachusetts. He was convicted in New Hampshire in 1986 of rape and indecent assault of a 15-year-old boy. Basketball season kicks off next week, but some parents are not happy Paul will be sharing the court with their children.
Three years ago he executive board of Northeastern Massachusetts voted to allow Paul to continue refereeing after he was arrested for failing to register as a sex offender when he moved. He served two years for his conviction and fulfilled his probation, says he didn‘t realize he had to register because the crime was so long ago.
Joining me now is Paul Halloran with the Northeastern Massachusetts Board of Officials. They‘re the ones who allowed Phillip Paul (ph) to officiate. Paul Leighton, writer with “The Salem News”, convicted sex offender Jake Goldenflame and former Essex County Massachusetts‘ sex crimes prosecutor Bill Fallon. Thanks to all of you for coming on the program.
All right, Mr. Halloran, first let me ask you, how did you go about deciding whether to allow him to continue to officiate.
PAUL HALLORAN, NORTHEASTERN MA BOARD OF OFFICIALS (via phone): Well, Dan, what we decided was that we would not take away his membership on our board. The mitigating factors that we took into account were the—obviously the crime committed, when it was committed, the amount of time that had passed (INAUDIBLE) the fact that we had no record of any other convictions of that type or any other type since...
HALLORAN: ... he had officiated about 700 games in the interim.
ABRAMS: And what do you make—look, as you know, there are many parents simply saying the amount of time isn‘t enough; the bottom line is we‘re talking about sports with kids, et cetera. What is the response?
HALLORAN: I suspect that opinion. It is an opinion. It was our opinion that the facts laid in front of us—the fairest decision for everyone was that we would not take his membership away. I have the utmost respect for anyone who disagrees with that opinion, but again it is an opinion.
ABRAMS: Do the refs shower in the same area as the kids?
HALLORAN: You know, Dan, we often talk about this and we‘re (INAUDIBLE) why because I think we all grew up playing sports and showering. Kids almost without exception do not shower at the facilities anymore. I have not seen a kid in a shower in eight to 10 years and I do 50 to 60 games a year. So—but the real answer would be if they did, the answer would be no. We are usually in an office somewhere or our own locker room...
HALLORAN: ... has its own shower.
ABRAMS: Jake Goldenflame, you‘re a convicted sex offender. You‘ve written books on sort of warning communities about how to protect themselves against sex offenders. You know you‘re sort of -- you‘re split on a lot of these issues. What do you make of this one?
JAKE GOLDENFLAME, CONVICTED SEX OFFENDER: Well I think it‘s a very important case because—this is the first time that we‘ve looked at the issue of what do we do with the person who appears to be the former sex offender, the person who committed his crime, he paid for it...
ABRAMS: Right. OK, we know what the issue is...
ABRAMS: What do you think about the fact that he‘s a ref in basketball games and a lot of parents are saying he‘s dealing with kids?
GOLDENFLAME: Well I think in the beginning he should have made a disclosure to the people who appointed him and made him a referee. I think that was his mistake. I work with a number of the prisoners now who are serving time for sex offenses and I tell them when you get out you‘ve got to make sure that you are the one who makes the disclosure. Because if you wait until it‘s found out later, as we have in this case right here, all of a sudden the questions come up that should have been answered then. And it‘s hard to reconcile them in your favor now.
ABRAMS: Paul Leighton, what is the sense in the community as to which side people are coming down on?
PAUL LEIGHTON, “THE SALEM NEWS” (via phone): I think it‘s a little bit mixed. We haven‘t really heard any outrage about this, but we have spoken with some parents who don‘t like the idea of a convicted sex offender working with their kids in any way. And others have—think that it‘s been 20 years and these high school basketball officials don‘t have this unsupervised contact with kids and they are willing to give the guy a break.
ABRAMS: Bill, what do you make?
WILLIAM FALLON, FORMER ESSEX COUNTY MA PROSECUTOR: You know, Dan, I‘m outraged at this. What I‘m really outraged at is not trying did not give this guy a second chance but that the group would not let parents know. We are now getting to a situation in Massachusetts everybody was outraged, (INAUDIBLE) the church and everybody there because they put these sex offenders, unconvicted sex offenders, where there were only allegations in and around children.
Here we have them where they are mixing with children, high school age. This is a guy who molested and raped someone 15, 16 years younger. This is the exact age category of the people that he‘s dealing with and that Mr. Halloran with all due respect, you may have decided something but I would have felt a lot better if the parents were told that you had a convicted sex offender, who had not disclosed that to you, who was convicted of rape of a child and now we‘re putting him in there.
He might be the nicest guy in the world, but we‘re putting him in there, and a parent has a right to know that someone who has been convicted of one of the most heinous crimes for which he will be a lifelong sex offender registrant, in fact, has been set free by you to look around to see—and he might do nothing but I‘m not trusting anybody to say he‘s not doing anything. And Mr. Halloran, one other thing, I have spoken to a few referees. And it does seem, at least in some of the schools, there is a possibility of showering together. I agree it‘s not common. But again, this seems to be a choice that you have made for your substituted judgment which parents and their children should be considered.
ABRAMS: All right, let him respond. Go ahead Mr. Halloran.
HALLORAN: We are not an assigning authority. We—our board does not assign officials games. We notified the gentleman who assigned Phil and all officials in our area at the beginning and the end of the process, both by letter and the member himself notified them. So they were told what we were dealing with at the beginning and how we judged it at the end.
Now I believe that our board fulfilled its disclosure responsibilities by doing that. Had we been an assigning authority where we were actually sending him into gyms, I do agree with you sir that it would have been incumbent upon us to inform each individual school. Each individual school does not contract with us to provide them officials. They contract with an assignor who in turn sends us in to do the games.
FALLON: So the assignor made the decision not to notify the schools even though you think that they should have been notified. Never mind notify the parents...
HALLORAN: I don‘t know that the assigners, sir, did or did not notify the schools. All I know is that we notified the assignors in writing of our decisions and what they did with that information, they would have to answer to that.
FALLON: But this is sounding like a see no evil, hear no evil. I‘m not saying you did anything wrong but if we‘re talking about protecting children, putting people in the proverbial henhouse, if you will, the fox in the henhouse—again, nothing may have happened but what we know is children don‘t come forward easily to suggest that they have been abused.
ABRAMS: And Jake Goldenflame, you always tell us that sex offenders need to stay away from temptation.
GOLDENFLAME: Well I think that‘s the only way you can possibly guarantee that you won‘t re-offend and...
ABRAMS: All right.
GOLDENFLAME: ... I think that a person who has that conviction should think twice before taking this kind of job...
ABRAMS: But think twice is one thing. You know, again, you purport now to be someone who is helping sex offenders and communities...
ABRAMS: ... keep their kids safe and keep the sex offenders away from them.
ABRAMS: It sounds using your own philosophy that you would say that this ref shouldn‘t be there.
GOLDENFLAME: That would be my preference. I know that I would not take a job like that and I would recommend others with a background like mine not do so either.
ABRAMS: Why wouldn‘t you take a job like this?
GOLDENFLAME: Because I know my own weakness. That‘s my strength. That‘s what recovery is about. It‘s just like the alcoholic knows his weakness. We have to know ours and respect it.
ABRAMS: And your weakness would be what, that when you‘re seeing kids...
GOLDENFLAME: If I‘m around adolescent boys I know that I feel a sexual attraction for them and that‘s going to tempt me, so I never place myself in a position where I‘m around adolescent boys. Here we have somebody who was convicted of an involvement with an adolescent boy. I would think it would be in his best interest not to want to be around kids of that age.
ABRAMS: Paul Leighton, from what you understand is he going to keep ref‘ing games?
LEIGHTON: Yes, the last I talked to him, which was last Friday, he said that he continues to referee games. He feels that its his right as a citizen, that he‘s paid his debt to society and that—and yes he does plan to continue officiating games.
ABRAMS: All right. Paul Halloran, Jake Goldenflame, Bill Fallon, Paul Leighton, thanks a lot. Appreciate it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thanks, Dan.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you.
ABRAMS: Coming up, the journalist wanted accused of sexually assaulting a woman for 12 hours on Halloween in New York spotted in Ohio at strip clubs. The authorities fear he may be looking for another victim.
And a mother and her dog do what the authorities have been trying to do for years—help another mom find where her children were buried after they were murdered. She joins us.
And our continuing series, “Manhunt: Sex Offenders on the Loose”, our effort to help find missing sex offenders before they strike. Today we begin our weeklong search in Illinois.
Authorities need your help locating Jerry Brown. He‘s 48, 5‘6”, weighs 240. Convicted of aggravated criminal sexual assault, rape, child abduction, and deviant sexual assault, never registered after being released from prison in May of 2004.
If you‘ve got any information, please contact the Illinois Sex Offender Registry Team, 888-414-7678.
Be right back.
ABRAMS: Coming up, new details about the so-called fake fireman who sexually assaulted a New York City woman for more than 12 hours. He‘s apparently been spotted in Cleveland. Authorities are worried he‘s got another victim in mind. The details after the headlines.
ABRAMS: We‘re back. We‘ve got new details in the search for the man suspected in that sick, Halloween sex assault on a New York woman that lasted for almost 13 hours. Authorities fear he could be targeting his next victim.
On Halloween, a 34-year-old woman opened her apartment door for someone she thought was a New York City firefighter. Police say it was 41-year-old freelance writer Peter Braunstein dressed as a firefighter who chloroformed then assaulted her, verbally torturing her with intimate details about her life, tying her up, stripping her naked, forcing her to wear nothing but expensive shoes.
Police have tracked Braunstein to Cleveland where they say he‘s been in strip clubs and bars, using aliases and posing as a movie producer and retired cop. Braunstein‘s father, remember, appeared on this program a couple of weeks ago pleading for his son to turn himself in.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ALBERTO BRAUNSTEIN, PETER BRAUNSTEIN‘S FATHER: Peter, I beg of you, please, turn yourself in voluntarily. Don‘t wait for the police to capture you. Just call and walk in voluntarily. And we‘ll try to cure you as soon as you surrender. You are sick. So please, don‘t prolong this agony. I beg of you put an end to it and call the police.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: Joining me now Jon Leiberman from “America‘s Most Wanted”. They‘ve revealed a lot of new details about this case. And Lieutenant Tom Stacho from the Cleveland Police Department. Thanks to both of you for coming on the program.
All right, Jon, let me start with you. Look, you guys were the ones to uncover a lot of the details here. Take us through what we know.
JON LEIBERMAN, “AMERICA‘S MOST WANTED”: Yes, well I‘ll tell you, Dan, as John Walsh likes to say, the world is becoming a much smaller place for Peter Braunstein and that‘s because of our millions of viewers and the dozens of tipsters who actually called in. What we found out over last week was this. That Peter Braunstein was tracked from New York to Cleveland.
He took a Greyhound bus there. He slept at a $30-a-night motel for four nights. Cops say he was hanging out in the bars in the evening. He put an ad in the Cleveland newspaper, Dan that said he wanted a driver, said he was a tourist in town. And we know from our tipsters and from cops that a number of drivers responded to his ad.
One of them he hired and he took—he told them to go to a number of strip clubs around Cleveland and that‘s where the important point here is, Dan, and that is that according to our tipsters and the cops, Braunstein had actually targeted another victim at one of these strip clubs. Luckily he hasn‘t been able to strike again. But make no mistake about it, this is a dangerous guy that we need to get off the streets.
ABRAMS: What does that mean, targeted another victim?
LEIBERMAN: Well we can‘t go into all of the specifics for investigative reasons, but I can tell you this, he actually had eyeballed a couple of strippers at a particular strip club and indicated to people around him that those were the ones that he wished to go home with, if you will. And there are some other details as well. But police very much believe this guy could be armed. He‘s definitely dangerous. He has a history of mental illness and paranoia and a lot of drug use, so this is a dangerous guy.
ABRAMS: But Jon, how do we know that these tips are more credible, for example, than the ones in New York? I mean there was that guy who owned the coffee shop who was saying I am convinced I saw him in Brooklyn recently. It sounds like if everything you‘ve got is right that he couldn‘t have been in Brooklyn.
LEIBERMAN: Yes, police believe now at this point that those sightings in New York were just that. They were bogus sightings and the tips out of Cleveland were credible because police on the ground there, the U.S. Marshals and the NYPD detectives on the ground actually went to these motels, they showed photos of Braunstein. They got the receipts from the motel, from the bar, they saw he was using different names, very similar to Peter Braunstein. He used names like Peter Grant, Peter Brown, Peter Brosnic (ph) and—or Bronson rather, and so they were able to piece together that exactly he was definitely in Cleveland and then around November 12 he took a bus over to Columbus, Ohio, and now the search is on in the Midwest.
ABRAMS: Lieutenant, are you convinced that he was at least at one time in Cleveland?
LT. TOM STACHO, CLEVELAND POLICE DEPT. (via phone): It sounds like based on the information that we did receive from NYPD and from the U.S. Marshal Service that he was here in Cleveland. Currently we‘re evaluating the number of tips that came in, working in a cooperative effort with NYPD detectives and the U.S. Marshal Service Fugitive Unit trying to track this guy down.
ABRAMS: Do you think he‘s—do you think based on the tips you are getting that he‘s still in Cleveland?
STACHO: It‘s impossible to tell right now. Again, like I said, we are evaluating those tips. I can tell you though that our fugitive unit and the U.S. Marshal Service Fugitive Unit are focused, a relentless group. If he‘s here they‘re going to track him down. They‘re going to find him.
ABRAMS: Here, again, Alberto Braunstein, Peter Braunstein‘s father on this program last month.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRAUNSTEIN: Anybody, who can commit this crime must be mentally deranged or must have emotional problems. And therefore, I implore him to finally come home and get the help he needs.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: Jon, any indication that he‘s reached out to any friends? I mean there was discussion that he had some friends in the area.
LEIBERMAN: There are no indications that he reached out to anybody in Cleveland. We do believe that he‘s tried to reach out to some people back in New York City via phones that he‘s using, disposable cell phones and things like that. But really at this point, cops are stumped as to why he chose Cleveland as the place to go to, but I‘ll echo what the lieutenant said. I mean there are dozens of officers and agents and marshals on the ground and they are going to track this guy down. We urge our viewers to call 1-800-CRIMETV or log on to our Web site at amw.com...
ABRAMS: I don‘t want to get viewers too confused. I want to just—we decided on this. We‘re going to just pick one number because I don‘t want—I want people to have one number. There was the Cleveland, there‘s this. We just—we picked NYC Crimestoppers as the number we‘re going to keep putting up.
And I‘m sure you guys support that. I mean look, you guys do a great job of getting people to just call the authorities, so that‘s the number for now we‘re going to put up. And again, that‘s the one we keep putting up. I just don‘t want to get—people to get confused.
This is the ad you were talking about a moment ago, Jon. Driver wanted to chauffeur tourist around Cleveland starting immediately, $11 per hour, plus gas and expenses. Needs your own transportation and valid license. Must be available evenings. Contact Peter Grant. You guys were the source of that information. How are you convinced that is in fact Peter Braunstein?
LEIBERMAN: Police are convinced based on that phone number there, based on corroborating stories that police on the ground have gotten. We passed on the tips to police. They corroborated it on the ground in Cleveland. And they are 100 percent sure that that ad was placed by Peter Braunstein in Cleveland. Braunstein has a bunch of cash on him. That‘s how he‘s been paying for these ads. That‘s how he‘s been paying for the motels where he‘s staying and for his drinks in these bars and things of that sort. They are convinced that that indeed was placed by Peter Braunstein.
ABRAMS: And finally, Jon, premeditation, is there the sense that he was ready to flee and had an escape plan hatched?
LEIBERMAN: Absolutely. Cops say this was well scripted from the get-go. He went on eBay about a month or two ago before the attack. He allegedly bought fire pants on eBay and potassium nitrate and the list goes on and on. An old police badge on eBay. They believe he scripted this whole thing out.
He went to a hotel shortly after the Halloween night attack in New York and then he took a train up to New Jersey and a bus out to Cleveland. They believe all of this pretty much is scripted out. Peter Braunstein wanted to be the star in his own episode, in his own play, and that‘s exactly what he‘s doing here.
ABRAMS: Well and I got to say it‘s always so helpful when someone gets profiled on “America‘s Most Wanted” because I really do think it really makes sure that there is a national audience out there who is watching. And you guys really uncovered a lot of information. Jon Leiberman, thanks a lot for coming on the program. Appreciate it.
LEIBERMAN: Thanks, Dan.
ABRAMS: And Lieutenant Stacho, thanks a lot to you as well. Good luck.
STACHO: Thank you.
ABRAMS: Coming up, an Ohio cashier and her dog Ricco do what police couldn‘t, find the remains of two children believed to have been murdered by their own father two years ago. We talk with the woman and her dog Ricco next—just talk with the woman.
And the former 9/11 Commission members issue a report card on how well the government is doing protecting America from another terror attack. Let‘s just say the U.S. is not on their honor roll. It‘s my “Closing Argument”.
Your e-mails firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your name and where you‘re writing from. I respond at the end of the show.
ABRAMS: Coming up, an Ohio mother and her dog Ricco do what police couldn‘t, help another mother find where her two children were buried after they were murdered. The amateur detective and her dog join us next.
ABRAMS: We are back. What can I do to help is a question so many of us ask so often? How can I help crack this or that case. Well Stephanie Dietrich, a cashier and mother who lives in Akron, Ohio didn‘t just ask, she acted. For months the authorities were searching for the bodies of Sarah Gehring and her brother Philip, allegedly murdered by their father in July of 2003.
Stephanie took what she had read in news reports and implored the trusty nose of her dog Ricco and started searching in July. Last week she led police to a hole that Ricco started to dig in Hudson, Ohio, over 600 miles from where the children were last seen in Concord, New Hampshire. Sarah and Philip‘s bodies were found there.
Manuel Gehring, the children‘s father, had confessed to killing them two and a half years ago. He just told police he buried their bodies somewhere along Interstate 80, a stretch of highway between Pennsylvania and Nebraska, then he killed himself in prison.
Joining me now is Stephanie Dietrich, the woman who cracked the case, along with her dog Ricco. Stephanie, thanks a lot for taking the time to come on the program. Appreciate it.
STEPHANIE DIETRICH, FOUND BODIES OF MURDERED CHILDREN: You‘re welcome.
ABRAMS: So tell me how you first got interested in this case, how you first read about this case.
DIETRICH: I had heard it on the news and then when the mother put out a plea this summer because the case was two years old and it was unsolved still, she was going to do—come across the united—well, come across Ohio, there was a recent update and I just pulled up some information on the computer and started looking in my area.
ABRAMS: So it was her plea that got you? There was something about the way...
DIETRICH: Very definitely her.
ABRAMS: Please tell me.
DIETRICH: It was just that she asked for the public‘s help and I am the public. I don‘t know how else to tell you. It was because she asked for help. Otherwise I would have just heard the news story like everyone else did and just gone on about my day.
ABRAMS: And so you hear this plea and then you go on the Internet and you gather articles, et cetera. How did it lead you even to the general area where you and Ricco ultimately found the bodies?
DIETRICH: Well, the transcript that I had, Manuel knew for sure that Route 8 and 303 intersected each other and I knew where that was. And he knew that he had to take 8 North to get back to the Ohio turnpike to continue west and so I didn‘t have anything else I was doing that was any more important than this, so I just started looking.
But I didn‘t start originally in the Hudson area. I started on Hopley Road (ph) in Akron because he said Akron, Akron, Akron and that‘s it. It stands out in my mind. And when you read the transcript they spent very little time in Akron or around the Akron area looking for those kids.
ABRAMS: So how did you end up in Hudson?
DIETRICH: Because 303 and 8 intersect up there. And Manuel knew that, so that‘s where I went to.
ABRAMS: And—all right, so you get to the Hudson area and then what do you do?
DIETRICH: I got lost. I got turned around. And so, at that point I figured that Manuel, a lot of times he didn‘t know if he had driven two hours or four hours. And he said he made two right turns off the interstate, but if he was in that state of mind it didn‘t necessarily mean two right turns. And it crossed my mind that well maybe when he was headed back to Route 8 North, that‘s when he spotted a place and so I just—I was all turned around up there. And I just was—any opening was a place to look and what was pulling in one more space, you know.
DIETRICH: I pulled in there on Tuesday and walked back with Ricco and it was shotgun season in Ohio. And Ricco is 101 pounds and brindle brown and he didn‘t need to be in the woods because there were a herd of deer up there and I had already heard shots go off in another place that I was at that day. So I didn‘t stay there on Tuesday and then Thursday I told the detectives in Hudson about it and...
ABRAMS: Let me just ask...
ABRAMS: Let me take one step back.
ABRAMS: What happened on Tuesday? So you get to the spot and what does Ricco do?
DIETRICH: We just walked back there and he didn‘t do much of anything on Tuesday. He played under the trees and he chewed a few sticks and then I left because I saw a herd of deer and I didn‘t want him to take off after them.
ABRAMS: All right. So then you come back on Thursday and then what happened?
DIETRICH: I went back with a shovel and I had a chain on Ricco that time because I didn‘t want him taking off after the deer and he had an orange safety vest. And I put him on one tree that he snapped a branch off of and he went and laid peacefully under this other tree and then he was content. It wasn‘t like he was impatient for me. And he just watched where I was at and he played with the stick he was chewing on. And he just laid there and he was content.
So, I had checked a few places and just turned over a few shovelfuls of dirt and then I went under the tree where he was at and I was—I planted my feet basically and looked up overhead because I knew that the tree had branches that reached down to the ground and that they might be as big around as an adult‘s forearm.
And I started looking up at the branches and they were snapped off and I thought to myself well this looks like somebody needed to work in this spot. And it—they were snapped off too high for like deer to have bumped them. And I also knew that Manuel had backed into the area and from the same spot without moving my feet I could just—it was the perfect space to back into. And so I had moved the dog off the spot with the shovel and I just kind of bumped him off and it was probably not more than five little shovel fulls that I spotted black plastic trash bag.
ABRAMS: Wow and so then you called the police?
DIETRICH: No, I kept digging a little. I wasn‘t digging aggressively
because I didn‘t want to puncture anything. I really never wanted to be
the digger. I just wanted to find the spot that it was in and have other
people come do that stuff, but the ground was ready to freeze in Ohio and I
hadn‘t had much luck with authorities as far as getting help. I mean so I
it was today—it was now or never I was going to dig, you know.
And so I spotted a little bit of duct tape. I spotted black plastic and dug to the left a little bit and I saw duct tape on the plastic and I didn‘t know what direction it ran, this plastic and it had some mass to it. It wasn‘t just flop—you know it wasn‘t just laying in there. So, then I dug a little to the right and I knocked something loose with duct tape on it, so I knelt down and picked it up and it was a cross made of duct tape and sticks.
And I knew that he had made a cross on the chest of the children out of duct tape, but I thought it would just be two pieces stuck on the black plastic. But as soon as I picked up that cross I knew what I had pretty much. And I laid it on a stone it was near the spot and went back to my car and just as I approached my car a Hudson police officer pulled across the opening and he was already in touch with the detective I had talked to that morning.
ABRAMS: Right. Then you sent them...
DIETRICH: So he knew who I was.
ABRAMS: ... you sent them over there.
ABRAMS: Let me play a quick piece of sound. This is what the children‘s mother had to say on Saturday after finding out.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TERI KNIGHT, CHILDREN MURDERED: This has just been something. It‘s -
I described it earlier today to a friend, it‘s like a ball and chain.
That it‘s just—that this unbelievable burden, not having them found. And so that does feel like somewhat of a relief. It‘s tough but it‘s better than not knowing where they are.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: Stephanie, it seems that you have achieved your goal of doing what you could to help a woman who reached out and said she needed help. You came to answer that call. So you know I know this is not a happy time for you, but I think that you feel you have achieved your goals and I think you deserve a lot of credit from everybody. So thank you very much.
DIETRICH: Thank you.
ABRAMS: Coming up, 9/11 commissioners give the government one last report card assessing America‘s readiness in preventing another terror attack. Both Congress and the Bush administration are earning more F‘s than A‘s. It‘s my closing.
ABRAMS: My “Closing Argument”—why does it seem so difficult to get the government to take the fight against terrorism seriously here in the United States? Today what was the bipartisan 9/11 commission issued a final report and it is bleak, giving the U.S. more F‘s than A‘s in 41 areas, from the sharing of intelligence by government agencies to the failure to curtail the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. The group now working as a nonprofit says the government has failed to make the necessary changes.
2004, President Bush called the commission‘s recommendations constructive. Well it‘s time for more than just lip service. The report was issued on the same day that a suicide bomber tried to attack an Israeli shopping mall. Police say the bomber blew himself up on a line of people going through a security check at the mall‘s entrance. A guard spotted the bomber and as he approached him, the bomber blew himself up. Five killed, 35 wounded, no question, many, many more would have died if the terrorist had made it inside or targeted an American mall for that matter. There would have been no security line, no customary security check and likely no guard to notice someone suspicious.
But what does one have to do with the other? Well Israel is a lesson in what a nation can do to combat terror. To date there has never been a successful breach of an Israeli shopping mall by a suicide bomber despite more than 100 attempts. And while setting up security checkpoints at shopping malls was not on the 9/11 Commission‘s list of recommendations, many more obvious and basic recommendations were, like creating one comprehensive no-fly list to keep terror suspects off planes as opposed to each agency keeping a separate file or making sure emergency responders have radio communication capabilities or allocating homeland security money to states based on actual risk as opposed to how powerful the state senators are.
Since 2002, Israel‘s security measures have prevented 95 percent of Palestinian terror attacks. And while they have a unique issue, we‘ve been lucky that the attacks of 9/11 haven‘t been repeated. Just about everyone agrees that it‘s not a matter of if but when. So let‘s not let it take another attack on U.S. soil to convince the administration and Congress that preventing terror at home should be priority number one. The 9/11 Commission was bipartisan for a reason, so people would listen without the roar of politics being heard in the background.
Coming up, your e-mails. Stay with us.
ABRAMS: I‘ve had my say, now it‘s time for “Your Rebuttal”. Remember the tapes we have been talking about in connection with the Natalee Holloway case. They‘re the tapes from the “Dr. Phil” show and then the person who actually interviewed Deepak Kalpoe, one of the suspects in the case, and then there‘s the one from Aruba. Well we asked, did suspect Deepak Kalpoe say on that tape that he and the other suspects did or didn‘t all have sex with Natalee and did he say how easy it was or how easy it would have been. It‘s an important question. Many of you convinced you heard it, but you heard it differently.
Angie in Tennessee, “I admit that it‘s hard to differentiate whether he‘s saying no she didn‘t or she did, but what I do know for sure is that the words would have been are on none of the versions.”
Del from Wood River, Illinois, “I heard one tape saying did, two tapes said didn‘t, but clearly all three tapes ended with how simple it would have been.”
Ann Marcol from Prospect Heights, Illinois, “I distinctly heard on both of them yes we did.”
Robert Moffatt, “I listened to your story over the Internet without the video so I could avoid being influenced by any transcript. I repeatedly hear the young man Kalpoe say, no, she didn‘t.”
Gary Cheezig, a musician and music teacher from Edina, Minnesota, “The three tapes are the same. The man is answering yes, she did. Listen to all three tapes. Don‘t read the words. Close your eyes and you will hear it.”
Andy Innis, a musician who says he plays by ear from North Carolina, “I feel very strongly based on my experience that he says no she didn‘t on every tape.”
Wow. Just depends on how you hear it (INAUDIBLE).
Your e-mails abramsreport—one word -- @msnbc.com. We go through them at the end of the show.
That does it for us tonight. Coming up next, “HARDBALL” with Chris Matthews.
See you tomorrow.
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