Guests: Davidson Goldin, Clint Van Zandt, Don Kinsella, Dr. Robert Butterworth, Dr. Wayne Blackmon, Mickey Sherman, Susan Filan, Felix Vazquez
DAN ABRAMS, HOST: Coming up, finally, the fake New York City firefighter accused of sexually assaulting a woman on Halloween has been spotted, this time selling his blood in the south. We‘ve got late-breaking details.
ABRAMS (voice-over): Plus, after just six months an Albany teacher released from jail after having sex with an almost 17-year-old student. The judge seemed to feel sorry for her since she had sex with a number of his friends. Could this mean it‘s time to reconsider the age of consent? And should it be different for boys than girls?
Her husband disappeared from their Mediterranean cruise honeymoon, now in an MSNBC exclusive, the widow talks about what happened that night.
And a 1-month-old baby thrown from a third story window of a burning New York City apartment building. The man who caught that baby joins us live.
The program about justice starts now.
ABRAMS: Hi, everyone. We are going to get to all of that in just a moment, but first up on the docket, an election in Iraq that could have a monumental impact on Americans, as well as Iraqis. Its success or failure could impact when our troops come home. Millions of Iraqis turned out to elect a parliament, so many that polling places had to be kept open an extra hour.
Even in cities like Tikrit, Saddam Hussein‘s hometown, where the insurgency has been strong, Sunni Muslims who had stayed away from interim elections before reportedly turned out in force. Let‘s go right to Baghdad. NBC‘s Richard Engel joins us with the latest—Richard.
RICHARD ENGEL, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Dan, across Iraq, particularly in those Sunni Muslim areas, the heart of the insurgency here in Iraq, voter turnout was very high. The mood across the country was generally optimistic, but in the Sunni Triangle it was optimism mixed with defiance. I went to a polling station here in Baghdad in a Shiite neighborhood and found people really hopeful that this election will bring the national reconciliation that so many people here in Iraq believe is necessary to end the violence to reduce the number of insurgent attacks.
But in Fallujah we found people were voting not to support the political process but as a way to empower themselves. The Sunnis regret that they boycotted the elections one year ago. Now they want to be in the government in order to kick out the Shiite-dominated government and to be in a position that they can tell the Americans to leave Sunni areas—Dan.
ABRAMS: Well that‘s what I was going to ask you about, Richard. I mean it‘s fair to say, is it not, that the success or failure of this election could have an enormous impact on when American troops come home.
ENGEL: This is not the only event coming up. First, this government has to be formed. That could take several weeks, maybe even several months of negotiations as power-sharing arrangements are organized. Then it will be up to this government to try and revise the Constitution. Throughout this period the government has to stick together.
There will be a lot of political challenges, attempts from one coalition to try and break apart the other coalitions. So this—there are many political obstacles ahead.
ENGEL: Along this parallel track, the Iraqi security forces are going to continue to have to be developed, so it is not that we‘re going to see any dramatic changes overnight...
ENGEL: ... but Iraqis are encouraged that this is something that will lead to more stability and that as more stability progresses in this country, it will lead to a situation that U.S. troops can be reduced.
ENGEL: So it is a very important turning point but not something that we‘re going to see any differences in even in the next few months...
ABRAMS: Yes and it‘s an important distinction. I guess the way I could have phrased it is to say whether how important it is as a first step I think is the point you‘re making.
Richard Engel, thank you so much for that report. I appreciate it.
We have got breaking news to report in the search for the suspect in the Halloween night sexual assault of a 34-year-old woman in New York City. Finally, what is being described as a confirmed sighting of Peter Braunstein this time in Memphis, Tennessee. Braunstein suspected of sexually abusing a woman he used to work with for 13 hours on the night of Halloween after dressing up as a firefighter to get into her apartment building. He reportedly left town two days later. This recent sighting comes after numerous reported sightings of Braunstein in Ohio in early November.
Joining us now the man who told us about the story, New York 1 Davidson Goldin, who‘s been reporting on the story for us, and MSNBC analyst and former FBI profiler Clint Van Zandt.
All right, David, what do you know?
DAVIDSON GOLDIN, NY1: What we know is that on November 28, a Monday, Peter Braunstein was in Memphis. He went to T&N (ph) Blood Services and in exchange for 20 bucks he gave a pint of blood. People there asked him what he needed the money for. He told them he was going to Kansas. No one is quite sure if it‘s actually true that he was going to Kansas. He‘s said to have been acting agitated while he‘s been on the road. He had a gray backpack with him that apparently he would not let out of his sight and that‘s about all the cops know at this point. They did send a team of NYPD detectives down to Memphis after a tipster called into “America‘s Most Wanted”, say they thought they had seen him and sure enough NYPD detectives now say that they‘re certain it...
ABRAMS: Yes and that‘s what I was going to ask you. I mean you know we heard about—remember, there was this guy in the coffee shop in Brooklyn and we heard that all there was a lot of confidence and now we‘re hearing oh, he wasn‘t even in Brooklyn. Why are they so confident that this is him?
GOLDIN: Well they never really thought he was in Brooklyn. People called in and said they thought he was there and they had to go check it out. They are sure they say that this is him. It was after they got the tip they sent a bunch of detectives down to Memphis with a photo lineup and they showed the person who called in an array of pictures and the person fingered Braunstein.
There‘s also an indication that they have other reasons to think it‘s him. We‘re not sure, for example, but they might have been able to test the blood. We just don‘t know. But NYPD is saying now they‘re certain this was him. The first time they‘ve seen him since he was seen in Ohio in early November.
ABRAMS: All right. Here‘s the information that they have provided in terms of his description. He is now well groomed, clean-shaven, neatly dressed, was wearing a long, black, wool coat, carried a grey with green top backpack that would not let out of his possession. Stated that he needed the money to get to Kansas and said he was a freelance writer.
Clint, if he needs money that could mean he‘s going to get desperate, right?
CLINT VAN ZANDT, FORMER FBI PROFILER: Yes. Well you know, Dan, 20 bucks isn‘t going to get you very far. And what I find interesting is here is this guy desperate who‘s been on the run since Halloween and yet he‘s still keeping up his physical demeanor. Somehow he‘s able to find a place to change clothes, to take care of his clothes, to shave and yet 20 bucks is important to him for transportation money. So, it‘s you know you‘re kind of convoluted type of situation right now. Is this really the guy?
If you know NYPD has identified him by DNA on the blood, so be it. But you know $20 you know may get him across town but that‘s not going to get him across the country.
ABRAMS: Right, but Clint, that‘s exactly the point I‘m making, is that if he‘s willing to go into a place where there are a lot of people and someone is going to get a chance to look at him real close...
VAN ZANDT: Sure.
ABRAMS: ... and he‘s giving blood to make 20 bucks. That could mean that he needs money.
VAN ZANDT: I think it‘s got to mean he needs money, Dan. You know the police are on the credit cards, they‘re on the checks, they‘re on the any other type of electronic or other means he would have. So he‘s left either working day labor jobs, which is not his background or committing crimes to get money. And of course he‘s found a new way. Sell your blood, but you know there‘s only so many pints of blood that...
VAN ZANDT: ... you can sell for 20 bucks apiece.
ABRAMS: Yes. David, do we know does he have any connections in this area?
GOLDIN: Police say they don‘t know why he‘s in this area except that they know he is hiding from them. There‘s an elite fugitive task force now searching for him. And Dan, you pointed out that he doesn‘t seem to be afraid of people seeing him. That‘s been the case it seems for quite a while now. When he was in Cleveland he was spotted in strip clubs, hanging out in the same bar day after day flirting with witnesses. This is a guy who at least periodically while he‘s been on the run has not been afraid to be in public.
ABRAMS: And Clint, so that leads to the question could this be a guy who wants to get caught?
VAN ZANDT: Well I don‘t know if anybody—if he wants to get caught all he‘s got to do is dial 911...
ABRAMS: You know what I mean though...
ABRAMS: I mean...
ABRAMS: I thank you for that biting analysis...
VAN ZANDT: But it‘s a guy...
VAN ZANDT: ... it‘s a guy who‘s got problems...
ABRAMS: All right. Right.
VAN ZANDT: ... because his dad has even said he‘s got psychological problems.
VAN ZANDT: So I think that tells us something about his background.
ABRAMS: Right. All right. And I like playing this piece of sound because I do think it‘s important just in case he‘s watching. You know, yes he had a falling out with his dad, but it‘s such an emotional plea from his father. Here‘s Peter Braunstein‘s father on this program last month.
(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: But this is a sighting that we‘re talking about what from weeks ago? Why are we just learning about it now?
GOLDIN: Well this is when the police are putting it out, which leads us to believe they only heard about it in the last few days. They are not talking about it that specifically. We do know that it had to take time for it to be on “America‘s Most Wanted,” for them to get the tip, for them to send detectives down to Memphis. They‘ve been hearing about sightings of this guy all over New York City and they don‘t believe those. And certainly there‘s no reason to think he‘s still hanging out in Memphis waiting for the cops to come find him.
ABRAMS: But the New York authorities—I mean this is credible enough that the New York authorities are going to Tennessee.
GOLDIN: It‘s not only credible enough that they went to Tennessee; it‘s credible enough that after getting back from Tennessee, they now want the word out. I guess they want the word out for two reasons. One is they want other people to hear about this and maybe spot him. And I think they also want to scare him a little bit. They want him to know that they have some sense maybe not where he is right now, but where he‘s been and perhaps they can figure out where he‘s going.
ABRAMS: All right. Davidson Goldin broke the story for us. Thanks a lot. There‘s the number, 800-577-TIPS. Clint Van Zandt, you can read his column on our Web site. Thanks to you as well.
VAN ZANDT: Thanks, Dan.
ABRAMS: Coming up, today an Albany teacher who had sex with her 16-year-old student is released from jail. The judge said he felt sorry for her.
Plus, her husband disappeared on a Mediterranean cruise while on their honeymoon. In an MSNBC exclusive, she talks about what happened that night.
And later, the miracle catch, a month-old baby thrown from a burning apartment in New York. The man who caught that baby joins us live.
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: We‘re back. She pled guilty to raping a 16-year-old student, was sentenced to six months including time served and this morning she walked out of jail, New York schoolteacher Beth Geisel. Her case was riddled with controversy because there were two other boys that she had sex with. They were 17, legal in New York, old enough to consent, only charged for having sex with the 16, almost 17-year-old. And the judge even indicated he seemed to kind of feel sorry for her.
Joining me now Beth Geisel‘s attorney Don Kinsella. Thanks a lot for joining us. We appreciate it. All right, so what happens to her now?
DON KINSELLA, BETH GEISEL‘S ATTORNEY: Well, she‘s obviously completed the jail part of her sentence. She‘s going to go to rehab.
ABRAMS: And when you say rehab, what kind of rehab?
KINSELLA: It‘s going to be well alcohol abuse rehab, 90-day in-patient program.
ABRAMS: And are you—you are I assume pleased—comfortable with the sentence that this judge imposed, correct?
ABRAMS: Let me let you hear this piece of sound. This is from the 17-year-old, one of the 17-year-olds, not the one she was charged for having sex with, talking about the relationship he had with Beth Geisel.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How many times did you have sex with Beth Geisel?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Probably 10 or 11 times.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did you love her?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don‘t know if I loved her. I mean that‘s a strong word. She was like a real good friend for me, a friend that you have sex with.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did your teacher ever say the relationship was wrong?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She never really said it was wrong. She said it was crazy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: I mean you listen to that, you listen to that kid, Mr. Kinsella, and it—certainly he gives a very different impression than the one that the judge gives across, which is that these boys were all sort of manipulating her and using her in some way.
KINSELLA: Well I think he also said that he was trying to get her to stop drinking and what not in another part of that interview that they didn‘t play. But in any event, what the judge said was really a small part of what he had to say to her about her fault.
ABRAMS: What do you mean?
KINSELLA: Well he told her she‘s an adult, she was a teacher, she shouldn‘t have been doing this. It was criminal and she was going to pay. He added by the way the kids aren‘t entirely blameless either.
ABRAMS: He said and I—quote—“The 16-year-old in this case is a victim in the statutory sense only. He was certainly not victimized by you in any other sense of the word.”
That doesn‘t seem too ambiguous, does it?
KINSELLA: No, it‘s not ambiguous. It‘s a fair statement. This kid in one of the incidents with her piled up chairs to block her exit from a press box that he had broken into at a school. Another incident he and the 17-year-old you just showed both were involved with her at the same time.
ABRAMS: Let me ask you this. We‘re going to talk about this right after this segment. I want to get your sense of it. Do you think based on being involved in this case that it‘s time to change the age of consent and/or make different rules for whether boys or girls are involved?
KINSELLA: That‘s really difficult to say. The age of consent seems to be a problem because kids apparently mature a little earlier than they may have before. That‘s for legislators and experts to look at. I think the problem here is when they change the rape statute to gender neutral language they didn‘t account for the situation where a female could also not give consent by reason of alcohol or something like that.
ABRAMS: So you think that there should be a difference with regard to boys and girls?
KINSELLA: Well I think that prosecutors can use their discretion to determine what acts are criminal and what acts are perhaps not best handled in the criminal justice system.
ABRAMS: All right. Don Kinsella thanks a lot for coming on the program. Appreciate it.
KINSELLA: Thank you.
ABRAMS: The judge who heard the case—look, I don‘t think there‘s any other way to say it—was sympathetic to her. He said—quote—“At the time this occurred you were needy, drinking heavily and had low self esteem. While you looked at this as affection, you were being used, abused and sexually abused. You became their playmate.”
Sure doesn‘t make her out to be the horrible person, which brings us to our question. Should someone who is 17 or almost 17 be viewed as a victim and should it be different if the—quote—“victim” is a boy?
Joining me now psychiatrist and attorney Wayne Blackmon who says don‘t lower the age and gender doesn‘t make a difference, psychologist Dr. Robert Butterworth thinks there is a difference depending on gender and criminal defense attorney Mickey Sherman.
All right, Dr. Butterworth, look, this is a case that I think poses one of those difficult questions where you‘ve got 17 year olds not being charged—she‘s not being charged for, but a 16, almost 17-year-old, that means she has got to serve time. You say it should be different in certain cases where it involves boys versus girls.
DR. ROBERT BUTTERWORTH, PSYCHOLOGIST: Well yes. I mean all the psychological testing generally means that boys mature less than girls but we all know that at 16 and 17 both age groups really don‘t have the ability to really make good judgments. But here we go again, it‘s another case where it seems to me that somebody is let off because there is something embedded in our culture, something embedded in the psyche of our culture that if a boy is seduced by an adult female it sometimes not as serious...
ABRAMS: But you...
BUTTERWORTH: ... the other way around.
ABRAMS: But you said on this program before that you think that the psychological impact is greater on girls than on boys.
BUTTERWORTH: Because of society—when a girl has sex with somebody, and it‘s not really by consent, they‘re looked upon as used—you know by their peer group as used goods, you know they‘re prostitutes, almost. But when a boy has sex, their esteem goes up by their peers. So even though they may be more callous about sexuality, the peer group will say wow, look at you. You‘re really a stud. So even though you are hurt in a different way, it does have some ramifications. It‘s just different.
ABRAMS: Dr. Blackmon, do you disagree with that?
DR. WAYNE BLACKMON, PSYCHIATRIST & ATTORNEY: No, look, I sent you a two-page bibliography...
ABRAMS: Yes, I know.
BLACKMON: ... to show you that the psychological damage to boys by being exploited sexually by women is equal. I agree with what Dr. Butterworth is saying. There are some societal constraints. What we have to get our hands on is the fact that adolescent brains are not the same as adult brains. We know that. They are immature...
ABRAMS: But how do you define that? No one is going to disagree with that, but when you use general terms like adolescent, let‘s talk specifics...
BLACKMON: I‘ll explain.
ABRAMS: We‘re talking about in this case a 16, almost 17-year-old. The other boys were 17 and what the judge is saying here is that these boys, whether the judge is right or not, let‘s accept for a moment for the sake of argument that what the judge said is accurate in this case, and there is a debate about that.
BLACKMON: I‘ll explain. OK...
ABRAMS: Fine, but almost 17 years old and 17 years old, you‘re saying they cannot make decisions about something like this and as a result, they should be viewed as victims in all cases.
BLACKMON: OK, let me explain. OK, because this is the written position of every major medical organization from the AMA, the APA, on down. This is why the Supreme Court earlier this year said no death penalty for anybody 18 and under...
ABRAMS: It‘s a different issue. I‘m not going to accept that comparison...
ABRAMS: I‘m not going to accept—it‘s a completely different situation.
BLACKMON: Can I finish, Mr. Abrams?
ABRAMS: No, not if you...
ABRAMS: I‘m going to offer commentary on part of your comments...
BLACKMON: You asked me to explain, let me explain. It is a bright
line for a reason. It is the same reason we don‘t allow these people to
sign contracts. We don‘t allow them to engage in certain things. There is
the brain is developing and areas of the brain do not fully mature in people generally until they are about 18 years old. As a result, even 17-year-olds have dramatically different outlooks on the future, on planning, on ability to restrain impulses. And so as a society we have said quite rightly we will take a bright line and say 18, no exceptions. That‘s why we have statutory rape laws.
ABRAMS: Right, we do. But Mickey Sherman, it is state by state. The age is different depending on the state and do you think it should be different based on gender?
MICKEY SHERMAN, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: No, I don‘t. I really don‘t. I think you can have all the psychiatric and psychological opinions in the world but I don‘t think there should be a difference. I think you‘re just inviting problems. To me the age is the issue. Here in Connecticut the age of consent is 16.
She couldn‘t have been prosecuted here. It was consensual sex and the fact that—the judge in fact seems to say that basically she was like being used. And the young man in his interview says you know she‘s a friend I have sex with all the time. And I think the technical term is booty call.
You know it‘s—I just don‘t see these young boys as victims. Bad judgment on her part, she should be fired? Of course, but prosecuted for having consensual sex with young men who in many states are above the age of consent, I don‘t see it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh he doesn‘t see...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don‘t see it...
BUTTERWORTH: ... come on. This is like the old boy network. Guys feel hurt. They just can‘t say anything because all their friends are saying boy you‘re really cool. But inside they‘re torn apart...
ABRAMS: But wait a second...
SHERMAN: The kid has said that he had sex all the time with his friend, was torn apart...
ABRAMS: And what about...
BLACKMON: ... misunderstanding—you‘re mischaracterizing what we‘re talking about.
BLACKMON: Because what we are talking about is adults exploiting adolescents.
ABRAMS: ... isn‘t it possible...
ABRAMS: Wait. Wait. Dr. Blackmon, is it possible that a 15-year-old boy could rape a woman?
BLACKMON: Let me explain...
ABRAMS: Is it possible, legally, 15, 16? We charge people with rape.
BLACKMON: We treat them differently. And we treat them differently and the consequences to them is different because the science. And here‘s the thing that you have to put your arms around and why I was referring to the earlier Supreme Court case. The science is overtaking the law. The current science is showing us things that we never could see before and that what was so compelling to the Supreme Court and what will be compelling in the future...
ABRAMS: But if that‘s true, then no 15-year-old or 16-year-old should ever be charged with rape, period.
BLACKMON: He could be charged with rape, but the consequences to him have to be different because of who he is.
BLACKMON: That‘s the point.
ABRAMS: You would believe then that every—according to your theory then, anyone under 18 if they‘re charged with murder no matter what the crime, should never be tried as an adult. They should always be charged as juveniles.
BLACKMON: The penalties are different for them. That is why the Supreme Court...
ABRAMS: ... not the case. The bottom line is if you are charged with murder in this country in almost every state you can be charged in some states if you are 12, if you‘re 13, if you‘re 14, if you‘re 15, if you‘re 16, if you‘re 17, you can be charged with murder. Now you‘re right. You can‘t get the death penalty...
ABRAMS: No, the penalties aren‘t different. The penalty, that one penalty is the only one that is different.
BLACKMON: That is not true. Because there are mitigating circumstances. When it comes to sentencing this is brought in. This is the point...
BLACKMON: The science is overtaking the law. The science is overtaking the law. And it‘s going to take a while for this to sort through. And Dr. Butterworth is correct; there is a sexist attitude here that actually makes it harder to see the damage that is being done by women against boys. We have to treat them equally and we have to stop exploitation of young people.
ABRAMS: Dr. Bruce Rind did a study—I know that Dr. Blackmon does not give the study a lot of credence, but it says—it‘s quoted in “The New York Times”, “Abuse implies harm in a scientific usage and the term should not be in use if there is consent and no evidence of harm.”
And I guess your response would be well evidence of harm is hard to define...
BLACKMON: Do you want me to answer the question...
BLACKMON: I‘ll tell you what I think...
BLACKMON: Because Dr. Rind‘s study was condemned by both Houses of Congress, specifically Dr. Rind‘s book...
ABRAMS: You disagree...
BLACKMON: ... was pulled...
ABRAMS: You disagree. The bottom line is you disagree. I got to wrap it up...
SHERMAN: This is a great argument against mandatory sentences because every case is different. Every victim is different. Every perpetrator is different and you‘re going to get two shrinks to give two different opinions. Let it be up to the judges to make...
SHERMAN: ... individual decisions in each case...
ABRAMS: In Mickey‘s words, it seems we have two—quote—“shrinks” who agree. Dr. Blackmon and Dr. Butterworth...
BLACKMON: And the entire psychiatric...
ABRAMS: ... thanks a lot for coming on the program.
BLACKMON: ... profession agrees.
ABRAMS: We appreciate it.
The woman whose husband disappeared on their honeymoon cruise in the Mediterranean breaks her silence in an MSNBC exclusive interview, talking about what happened that night.
And later, he‘s the catcher of his company‘s baseball team and boy, did he made one heck of a catch yesterday saving a month-old baby from a burning building. He joins us next.
Our continuing series, “Manhunt: Sex Offenders on the Loose”, our effort to find missing sex offenders before they strike. Our search today continues in Indiana. The authorities need your help finding Willie Rayford, 42, six foot, 190. He was convicted of molesting a child. A warrant has been issued for his failure to register.
If you‘ve got any information on his whereabouts, there‘s the number, 800-622-4779. Be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JENNIFER HAGEL SMITH, HUSBAND DISAPPEARED ON HONEYMOON CRUISE: And
you play back in your mind at that time, just the wedding and just—
everything just flashes and you think, this is a sick joke, right? Because
and we just got married, right, you‘re kidding me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: It‘s an MSNBC exclusive, George Smith‘s wife breaking her silence. Jennifer Hagel Smith woke one morning on her honeymoon cruise to find her husband missing. She was told by the ship staffers that they thought he‘d gone overboard sometime during the night.
There‘s more to the story. George Smith‘s disappearance is being investigated by the FBI. And just last week his family came out saying they believe he was murdered. In her first interview, Smith‘s new wife talked with MSNBC‘s Joe Scarborough.
Hagel Smith told Joe she and George had plans to meet another couple. After a romantic dinner on the ship she says they toasted to their future, talked about how lucky they had been, not knowing that in a matter of hours Smith would be gone. Here‘s what she says happened after dinner.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HAGEL SMITH: George and I you know go back to the room—quickly.
And then we on our way up he wanted to just drop off his sport coat. Because the other night when we were—we would usually meet our—this other couple, you know we‘d go to the casino and meet them, just play at the Craps table, play Blackjack for a little while and call it a night. This particular night we did our same routine. We you know dropped off George‘s jacket and came back down and...
JOE SCARBOROUGH, “SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY” HOST: What time was that that you dropped off the jacket? (INAUDIBLE) and I know it‘s...
HAGEL SMITH: Right.
SCARBOROUGH: ... hard to remember exact times.
HAGEL SMITH: Around 11:00...
SCARBOROUGH: Was it like around midnight...
HAGEL SMITH: Around 11:00.
HAGEL SMITH: So—and you know and that‘s the point where you know and I can‘t speak of, and you know I wish I could. I know that there‘s a lot of questions that a lot of people have. And that‘s where...
SCARBOROUGH: So you can‘t say what happened in the casino that night
from that point on...
HAGEL SMITH: Right.
SCARBOROUGH: Is that where the FBI tells you not to talk?
HAGEL SMITH: Right.
SCARBOROUGH: Tell you about—what about who you saw and...
HAGEL SMITH: Yes, that‘s all under that same FBI category.
SCARBOROUGH: You wake up in the morning and there are two different stories about where you woke up. And again, one said you woke up in the room. The other said you woke up three flights up. Can you tell us where you woke up?
HAGEL SMITH: It‘s nothing scandalous. I can say that. If that‘s what people are wondering, it‘s not scandalous.
SCARBOROUGH: Yes, but you can understand why...
HAGEL SMITH: Right.
SCARBOROUGH: ... ask that question...
HAGEL SMITH: Right, of course.
HAGEL SMITH: Of course.
HAGEL SMITH: Sometimes you know the answer or the truth is more basic or more simple than people like to think it is. So people can you know read into that, as they will.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: “My Take”—I don‘t really get this case that much. Joining me now is former prosecutor and MSNBC analyst Susan Filan and former FBI profiler and MSNBC analyst Clint Van Zandt.
All right. You know I don‘t know. She‘s saying that she can basically come out, Clint...
VAN ZANDT: Yes.
ABRAMS: ... and talk about everything but the FBI told her just don‘t talk about exactly what happened in the relevant hour? That sounds weird to me.
VAN ZANDT: Well you know she‘s—if this is the case, she‘s one of the first people that I know that ever follow that, Dan. You know of course the FBI would like to put a cone of silence over any investigation and to have nothing get out. But here we are six months later, she‘s come out, she has, bless her soul, indicted the cruise industry, but we‘ve got this critical period of time.
What was her contact with her husband? Where were they? Who was around him? Where was she all night long on her honeymoon night? I mean these are the things...
VAN ZANDT: ... hopefully the FBI knows...
ABRAMS: And Susan, his family seems like they don‘t want to talk about her. I mean they come out and they hold this big press conference announcing that they‘re effectively going to go after the cruise line for all the things that they say the cruise line did wrong. And yet, when it comes to talking about her, they won‘t talk about her.
I mean her—their lawyer was on this program saying the media is trying to create this and the media is trying to create that. It is weird, it is weird that this family doesn‘t seem to want to talk about the wife and the wife is talking but she won‘t talk about the important details of what happened.
SUSAN FILAN, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: Well I think from the wife‘s point of view, what she wants to see is this case solved. I mean I think she‘s living an absolute nightmare to go away on your honeymoon, lose your husband...
ABRAMS: Of course.
FILAN: ... and not have any closure. So I think she‘s trying to follow the FBI‘s advice, but at the same time she‘s come under scrutiny. She‘s come under criticism. Not only is she a grieving widow, but now everybody is kind of attacking her and questioning her in the media. So I think she‘s trying to do two things.
Justify herself a little bit and follow the FBI‘s advice. As far as there‘s looking like there is a breach between she and her in-laws, it does from the outside looking in appear to be that this isn‘t you know a close daughter-in-law with her in-laws and it‘s not clear why, but Dan I agree with your observations. I think you‘re barking up the right tree frankly...
ABRAMS: Here‘s—Joe asked her, what can you tell us about that night? Here was her response.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HAGEL SMITH: I know you‘re doing your job and you have to ask, but again, my number one priority, and I‘m going to say this again and again, is just you know doing what the FBI has told me. And basically you know, there‘s nothing that I‘m going to sort of release that happened to me that night. I‘m excited in the future to be able to talk freely and openly, because that will mean that the FBI solved their case.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: Clint, why wouldn‘t she be able to talk about what happened to her that night? I mean...
VAN ZANDT: Yes.
ABRAMS: ... she‘s not considered a suspect as far as we know.
ABRAMS: And so why—I mean why wouldn‘t she be able to talk about what happened to her? I can understand her saying I can‘t tell you about what happened to him or what I know...
VAN ZANDT: Yes.
ABRAMS: ... about what happened to him. But why can‘t she talk about what happened to her?
VAN ZANDT: Yes, two quick things, Dan. Number one, my best-case scenario is that the FBI has the investigative part of it wrapped up. That it either has been or it‘s being presented to a grand jury and they are waiting hopefully to get indictments on someone, if, in fact, this is a case of homicide or otherwise.
Secondly, from the investigative standpoint, the FBI has got the security—the tapes from 100 different security cameras, they‘ve got the key card code print-out for every person who has been in every cabin on that ship the night they went missing. They have the interview of witnesses. So you‘ve got one, two, three, four, perhaps, different levels of evidence that should present a very good picture of where she was, where her husband, and who was with him that night.
ABRAMS: I don‘t know. Susan, I just don‘t get—I got to tell you...
FILAN: Well Dan...
ABRAMS: Go ahead.
FILAN: ... if there‘s going to be a prosecution and she‘s going to be a key witness, I think it‘s fair to say that law enforcement doesn‘t want her going on the record and making statements that could in fact later...
ABRAMS: But then they wouldn‘t want...
ABRAMS: But they wouldn‘t want her saying anything then. I mean this is what I don‘t get, is I‘ve never heard of a case where the FBI said to someone it‘s OK to go out there and talk, just—you can only talk about everything that happened up to midnight and then you can talk about what happened when you woke up in the morning. I mean they either say look don‘t talk to the media or it‘s OK to talk to the media.
FILAN: Well the bottom line is they really can‘t stop her...
ABRAMS: That‘s right. They can‘t...
FILAN: They can make a recommendation...
ABRAMS: That‘s right.
FILAN: I think she‘s trying to follow their advice as best she can, but I think maybe it‘s her own interpretation of what they‘re telling her...
ABRAMS: That makes sense. That makes sense. No, that makes sense to me. That she‘s trying to walk the line and say you know I got to get some of the story out, but I really don‘t want to blow this investigation.
FILAN: Right and don‘t forget...
FILAN: ... you know his parents have now gone on the record and made a statement and for her to maintain her silence, I think she probably felt a little uncomfortable.
ABRAMS: I think I‘m only—I think these questions are only coming up because her parents—because the—George Smith‘s parents are being so evasive about their relationship with her. But look this could all just be little internal family squabbles and have nothing to do with anything. I don‘t know.
But the guy who does know is Joe Scarborough, he‘s all over this story, 10:00 more of Joe‘s exclusive interview with Jennifer Hagel Smith. Susan Filan and Clint, thanks a lot.
Coming up, a weekend baseball player makes a life-saving catch, a month-old baby thrown from a burning building. He joins us.
ABRAMS: Coming up, flames from a third story apartment, a mother pleads for someone to save her baby. Someone did. The man who caught the baby joins us now. It‘s all on tape.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FELIX VAZQUEZ, SAVED BABY: And she did say catch my baby, catch my baby. I had (INAUDIBLE) the window, but she didn‘t let it go straight. She just threw him.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: She threw him. He caught him. Unbelievable, happened in the Bronx, New York on Wednesday. There‘s a bad fire in a third floor apartment, panicked mom Tracinda Foxe went to the window with her 1-month-old son, Eric, in her arms. She said she prayed to God to save Eric, for someone to step up and catch him. She let him go. Eric fell 30 feet and into the arms of Felix Vazquez. Just moments later firefighters were in the apartment giving Tracinda oxygen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DENNIS MARTIN, NEW YORK CITY FIREFIGHTER: We got her, got a mask in there for her, that should calm her down, shut the door.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: Seems both mother and baby are doing well now. With me now is the man who caught the baby, New York firefighter Felix Vazquez. Felix, thanks a lot for coming on the program. Appreciate...
ABRAMS: I‘m sorry. I got your title wrong. Felix, I apologize to you...
ABRAMS: ... housing authority supervisor Felix Vazquez, is that correct?
VAZQUEZ: That‘s correct.
ABRAMS: Sorry about that. Felix, thanks for coming on the program.
Tell me what happened.
VAZQUEZ: How are you doing? Like I was saying, I was doing my report in the morning. And one of the caretakers had called in that there was a fire at the location 1460 Washington Avenue and I immediately ran over there because they had said that there was a baby involved. I thought that the baby was inside the apartment, not outside, hanging out from the window.
And when I got there I noticed that there was something but I couldn‘t really tell if it was a baby or not. I thought it was a towel, a white towel hanging. The smoke cleared (INAUDIBLE) and all the residents were going crazy. Oh, my God. Oh, my God. It‘s a baby. It‘s a baby.
That‘s when the mother was yelling out the window, please, somebody, save my baby. Save my baby. And I had sent some of my caretakers right below the window just in case if she lets the baby fall straight down. (INAUDIBLE) I kept looking and looking and she kind of panicked and she threw it, so I just jumped, got there in time, and caught the baby. It was an instant, quick, something that happened so fast.
ABRAMS: How long a period was it when—from the time that you realized that she was actually going to drop the baby to the time that the baby was dropped?
VAZQUEZ: A few seconds. But like I said, it happened so fast that it just, you know, instant, was just, you know, it was something that—I don‘t know what to tell you. It was just something incredible. It was a reflex, you could say when you see the baby, you know the mother throwing out the baby like that and I just jumped in and grabbed the baby.
ABRAMS: And you then gave the baby mouth-to-mouth?
VAZQUEZ: That‘s correct. I gave him mouth-to-mouth. The baby was just you know like from his face he had all that soot and all that. And he blew bubbles and then he (INAUDIBLE) started crying. I passed the baby over to (INAUDIBLE) and she proceeded the CPR and then the fire department came over and took care of the rest.
ABRAMS: Have you talked to the mother?
VAZQUEZ: Yes, I did. I spoke to the mother yesterday, as a matter of fact, yesterday afternoon. We spoke around 3:00 or 3:30 in the afternoon. She showed me the baby. The baby was in good health. She was in good health and I just saw the mother this afternoon also. The baby is doing great and she‘s doing fine.
ABRAMS: Were you confident when you saw the mother on the third floor that you‘d be able to catch the baby if she dropped it?
VAZQUEZ: To be honest with you, I wasn‘t that confident. It was just
like I said, it was a reflex. I‘m glad I did.
ABRAMS: You‘re a catcher, aren‘t you, in your baseball league?
VAZQUEZ: Yes, I‘m a catcher for the New York City Housing Authority.
We‘ve got a team (INAUDIBLE).
ABRAMS: And I can‘t imagine that that‘s really had anything to do with your ability to catch a baby, but...
VAZQUEZ: Well no, they can‘t say I didn‘t catch anything. Now there you go, the big story is right here. I did catch something. It was a baby.
ABRAMS: All right, Felix. Look, congratulations. I think there are a lot of people out there who want to pat you on the back and say thank you and first and foremost I know that mother. Thanks a lot for coming on the program. Appreciate it.
VAZQUEZ: No problem. Thank you.
ABRAMS: Coming up, why the president shouldn‘t pick and choose which criminal investigations he wants to comment on. It‘s my “Closing Argument”.
And our continuing series, “Manhunt: Sex Offenders on the Loose”, our effort to find missing sex offenders before they strike. This week we‘ve been searching in Indiana.
Please help the authorities locate Arthur Sims. He‘s 53, 6‘2”, 200 pounds, was convicted of molesting a 13-year-old, has failed to register with the state. If you‘ve got any information on his whereabouts, please contact the Indiana Sheriff‘s Association, 1-800-622-4779. We‘ll be right back.
ABRAMS: My “Closing Argument”—imagine this introduction. Joining us now to discuss the case is our president, George W. Bush. Sure it‘s farfetched but it does seem the president has gotten into the legal analysis game. During an interview with FOX News, President Bush was asked about the case filed against former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay. He said he believes Delay is innocent.
This only a few weeks before Delay‘s trial is expected to begin. Now, if the president was a legal commentator like me who offers up opinions on all ongoing cases and is often ignored, that would be one thing, but this is the president. A president who has repeatedly refused to comment on any criminal investigations and cases. Even when the president was asked about the indictment of the vice president‘s chief of staff “Scooter” Libby, he said—quote—“I told you before I‘m not going to discuss the investigation until it‘s completed.”
So why the willingness to offer up his opinion that Tom DeLay didn‘t
launder money through his political action committee? White House
spokesman Scott McClellan said today the president was exercising—quote
“presidential prerogative.” What? Look, I have said I think the Delay case is going to be a tough case for prosecutors to prove, but I‘m not the president.
And I‘ve not refused to comment on any other ongoing cases. The president didn‘t often any explanation for his confidence in Delay‘s innocence. He just said that he hoped to see Delay back in the majority leader seat because—quote—“I like him and plus, when he‘s over there, we get our votes through the House.” (INAUDIBLE) maybe that‘s the reason.
And even if it‘s not, it sure makes it seem awfully selective for the president to speak up just for this defendant. A case mired in politics, so much so that four separate elected Texas judges were assigned to preside over the case before both sides are ready to move forward. Judge after judge has been accused of being too political.
Now don‘t tell me this president was forced into answering the question, either. When President Bush does not want to answer, he doesn‘t answer. He also knows when he speaks, people listen. And that‘s why it wasn‘t a real good idea to pick a highly charged political case that is only weeks away from jury selection to begin his career as a legal analyst, although he is invited to be a guest on this program to discuss any of the cases that we cover.
ABRAMS: I‘ve had my say, now it‘s time for “Your Rebuttal”. Last night my “Closing Argument” some instigators trying to cause trouble by encouraging boycotts of stores or retail chains that say Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas. I said trying to force these stores to always use the term Christmas rather than the more general and inclusive term holidays is just petty.
Tom Glover in Hamilton, New Jersey, “Please explain how you give a pass to those establishments which boycott the Merry Christmas greeting, but you have a problem with us when we decide to boycott the boycotters.”
Tom, lighten up. That‘s the point. Who cares whether the person who is thanking you for coming to the 30 percent off sale says Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays or have a nice day? Not me. Since when did a visit to the mall take on religious significance?
Jim Robinson from Wetumpka, Alabama, “Finally someone with some common sense. Why can‘t rabble rousers understand that I and others wish them Happy Holidays, whatever their particular holiday is?”
Liesl Forbes (ph) in Kenton, Ohio, “I‘m a Christian and frankly I‘m embarrassed by the outcry over Merry Christmas. Would Jesus ever lead such a rally? Absolutely not.”
And Debbie writes, “This seems like just another way to divide people when Christmas is supposed to be about bringing people together. I‘m a Christian. I just don‘t care if people say Happy Holidays or Season‘s Greetings.”
Also last night more of my exclusive interview with a former member of Scott Peterson‘s defense team, Matt Dalton, whose new book on the Peterson trial argues Scott Peterson is innocent, says he didn‘t get a fair trial.
Ann in Walnut Creek, California, “We, viewers, have been bombarded with opinions about why we should hate Scott Peterson for so long now and I find it quite refreshing to hear a different point of view. I appreciate your fairness. You allowed this man to speak without cutting him off.”
Michael Truhett, “You asked him some straight-up, hard questions. He couldn‘t answer those questions directly because everyone would see right through him. None of his so-called witnesses were credible, obviously, or Scott Peterson‘s attorney would have called them to the stand.”
Your e-mails abramsreport—one word -- @msnbc.com. We go through them at the end of the show. Tomorrow, we‘ve got some developments brewing in the Natalee Holloway case, real developments. The Aruban authorities have come to the United States. They are going to be in Washington, D.C., meeting with authorities there to report on the progress of the Natalee Holloway case.
And as you all know, there‘s been a lot of controversy, the state of Alabama, the governor there asking for a boycott of Aruba. The Aruban authorities are running scared and as a result, they‘re coming forward to explain to the authorities in Washington exactly where they are on the Natalee Holloway case. So, that could lead to some interesting information.
That does it for us. Coming up next, “HARDBALL” with Chris Matthews.
See you tomorrow.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
Copy: Content and programming copyright 2005 MSNBC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Transcription Copyright 2005 Voxant, Inc. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material other than for research. User may not reproduce or redistribute the material except for user‘s personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon MSNBC and Voxant, Inc.‘s copyright or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.