Guests: Susan Filan, David Worby, Julie Renfro, Gloria Allred>
DAN ABRAMS, MSNBC HOST: Coming up in this less is more edition of the program.
The man that was shot by Vice President Cheney speaks out for the first time.
Harry Whittington released from the hospital, bruises on his neck and face. He says he feels sorry for the vice president.
And the parents of Natalee Holloway file a lawsuit against the chief suspect in their daughter‘s disappearance. But many now saying the case very well may get thrown out of court.
And security cameras capture guards at a Florida juvenile boot camp, restraining a boy as he‘s kneed and punched. He died a day later. The family is now blaming the guards.
The program about justice starts now.
Hi, everyone. He‘s out of the hospital. Harry Whittington, the 78-year-old lawyer hit in the face, neck and chest by a blast of birdshot from Vice President Cheney‘s shotgun at a Texas ranch last Saturday.
Whittington also suffered a mild heart attack after one of the shotgun pellets reached his heart. His doctors say Whittington is in excellent health, though they admit he‘s not exactly 100 percent.
Before he left the hospital he spoke to reporters.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HARRY WHITTINGTON, ATTORNEY: This past weekend encompassed all of us in a cloud of misfortune and sadness that is not easy to explain, especially to those who are not familiar with the great sport of quail hunting.
We all assume certain risks in whatever we do, whatever activities we pursue and regardless of how experienced, careful and dedicated we are. Accidents do and will happen. And that‘s what happened last Friday.
I am very grateful and want to thank al of the people who have remembered me in their prayers and the kindness that I have—that you have extended to my family, who‘s been here this week.
My family and I are deeply sorry for all the that Vice President Cheney and his family have had to go through this past week. We send our love and respect to them as they deal with the situations that are much more serious than what we have had this week.
And we hope he will continue to come to Texas and seek the relaxation that he deserves.
I also thank all of you for understanding the best you can that medical attention is very important to someone my age. You haven‘t failed to give my age.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: All right. Now on to the Natalee Holloway case where Natalee‘s parents have filed a lawsuit against chief suspect, Joran van der Sloot, and his father. The papers served in a movie-like moment.
The lawyers for Natalee‘s parents learned Joran and his parents were coming to the U.S. from Aruba for a network television interview. They drafted a lawsuit, got a process server on the plane with Joran and staked out the hotel where Joran‘s father was already staying.
While Joran‘s plane was in the air, and he was out of touch with his parents, Paulus van der Sloot was served in his hotel lobby as he was leaving yesterday afternoon.
When Joran‘s plane landed in New York, he had to pass by the undercover process server sitting three rows in front of him in order to get off the plane.
Joran was served and, according to an eyewitness to the event, Joran was also taunted by the team waiting for him at the airport.
Now, the lawsuit alleges that Joran, quote, “willfully caused personal injury to Natalee as a result of his sexual assault upon her; wrongfully, unlawfully and intentionally detained and directly restrained Natalee Holloway, depriving her of her personal liberty through force and/or threat of force. Abducted Natalee Holloway and prevented her from returning to the custody of her parents.”
The suit also claims that “Paulus van der Sloot breached his duty to Natalee by failing to take steps to prevent Joran from sexually assaulting Natalee Holloway.”
So is this lawsuit going to hold up?
Joining me now is the civil rights lawyer, Gloria Allred, who is also the author of “Fight Back and Win: My 30 year fight against injustice and how you can win your own battles.”
Former prosecutor and NBC legal analyst Susan Filan; and New York personal injury attorney, David Worby.
Thanks to all of you for coming on the program, appreciate it.
All right, Susan, let me start with you. I mean, it does seem that this is an odd lawsuit on two fronts.
I mean, first of all, there are a lot of conclusions. It sort of assumes that Joran assaulted Natalee repeatedly. It doesn‘t lay out the facts upon which they are basing that.
And number two, it‘s is a lawsuit filed in New York for something that happened to an Alabaman in Aruba.
SUSAN FILAN, FORMER PROSECUTOR AND NBC LEGAL ANALYST: Yes. Obviously, the first problem will be jurisdiction, a fancy word for does this court in New York have the power to hear this case. It may be better removed to federal court.
But as for what there‘s alleged therein, look, this is a creative approach to trying to deal with what happened to Natalee Holloway.
In a civil case, as you know, Dan, it‘s just a preponderance of the evidence. It has to tip the scale 51 percent to 49 percent. It‘s not a criminal proceeding. It‘s not prove beyond a reasonable doubt.
And the most important thing, Dan, is in a civil suit, you get the powerful tools of discovery, interrogatories, deposition.
You get to put these people under oath, assuming it survives the motions to dismiss, and ask them what happened, and make them answer these questions under oath.
And lastly, Dan, it‘s a circumstantial case.
ABRAMS: All right, but let...
FILAN: Joran‘s given enough of his own statements that we can try to piece together what says he did. And Natalee‘s mom‘s going to tell us there‘s no way Natalee would have every consented to that.
ABRAMS: All right. But that‘s different from saying and I quote, “Natalee was kept against her will, Natalee was sexually assaulted, was fondled and was touched without her consent by Joran and his accomplices, over and over again, as she drifted in and out of consciousness.”
Gloria, are they going to be able to show that?
I mean, look, they‘ve been there. They have been witnesses who have heard, for example, Mrs. van der Sloot talking to Beth Twitty and it seems Joran has conceded there was some sexual activity that went on.
But how are they going to be able to prove that Natalee was held against her will, sexually assaulted repeatedly as she went in and out of consciousness?
FILAN: Well, it will be difficult. But, first of all, the biggest problem is jurisdiction. And that is no small issue, whether or not the court will dismiss this case. Because, of course, the people suing are either from Alabama, that Mrs. Twitty, and Natalee, and the father is from Mississippi, and all of the acts are alleged were done in Aruba, if they occurred.
And, in fact, the defendants are from Aruba or the Netherlands and they‘re suing under Alabama law in New York.
FILAN: This is a real question here of jurisdiction. But proving
that, in fact, there was a sexual assault is not going to be easy. They
are probably going to try to use any statements that were previously made
by any of the defendants or by other witnesses.
And Mr. Worby, let‘s talk about this issue that I know all the lawyers want to talk about. Let‘s keep it simple.
This issue of jurisdiction, you know, people are going to say, “How can they really try to sue in New York when it‘s an Alabaman woman suing over something that happened in Aruba?”
DAVID WORBY, PERSONAL INJURY ATTORNEY: Well, there‘s no question there are jurisdictional issues. But the law is, if they are served in New York, they are subject to New York jurisdiction.
Now, the defendants can move to, what‘s called Forum Nonconvenience, (ph) which basically is Latin for this is an inconvenient forum to move the case out of New York or have it dismissed.
But the New York courts would, thereafter, have power to potentially move the case down to Alabama.
But jurisdiction, once they‘ve been served in New York, is sustainable. The power over the person solely on the issue that they were served in New York State puts them in our power.
ABRAMS: Right. But that‘s not the end of the inquiry.
Here are the factors that are considered as to whether this lawsuit is going to hold up in a New York court.
“The burden on the New York courts.” I don‘t think that‘s going to be a big issue.
“The potential hardship to the defendants in this case.” That certainly, you know, they‘ll be able to argue it‘s hardship for them to come back to New York.
ABRAMS: “The unavailability for an alternative forum for the suit”.
“The residency of the parties.” Again, that works against hem.
“Where the basis of the cause of action arose.”
I mean, you go through this list, Mr. Worby, and it seems that just about each and everyone of them work against the Holloways.
WORBY: They totally work against the Holloways. But that‘s not the purpose of the lawsuit. Let‘s examine what the purpose is.
These are desperate parents that want to know what happened to their daughter. They found out that these people were going to be in New York. That gives them jurisdiction in the United States of America, not Aruba.
Once there‘s jurisdiction in New York, New York‘s court power attaches.
Is it a convenient forum? No. Will it be moved because of that?
Almost 100 percent likelihood.
Yes, but New York‘s can transfer...
ABRAMS: But if it‘s moved—Wait. But if it‘s moved, wouldn‘t they have to serve them then in Alabama?
WORBY: Once the New York courts have jurisdiction, the defendants can try to remove it because they are from Aruba and the plaintiffs are from Alabama, into a federal court of New York, from which they can move to dismiss it and/or the federal court can transfer it from a New York court to Alabama federal courts. Or it could be transferred potentially from New York State Court.
ABRAMS: Bottom line, Mr. Worby, bottom line, do you think this case is going to hold up in a New York court?
WORBY: It won‘t stay for long. But New York courts aren‘t going to dismiss it, in all likelihood, because of those grounds.
WORBY: And remember, what you mentioned earlier is crucial. Can they prove that there was a false imprisonment? No. However, courts must accept pleadings as true for purposes for considering a motions to dismiss.
All these parents want, they want this kid under oath. They want to find out what happened. And the only way they can do that is for this case to survive a motion to dismiss, which it possibly can do in New York if transferred to another jurisdiction.
ABRAMS: All right. Let me do this. Everyone‘s going to stick around for minute because I want to talk about the father.
I mean, remember, they are not just suing Joran van der Sloot. They‘re suing his father saying he should have been able to prevent something like this from happening.
And guess what? At the same time as this lawsuit is filed, right now, today in a courtroom in Aruba, Joran and his father apparently trying to clear their names.
Not just say, “We should be released or this lawsuit should be released.” They want their names cleared.
We‘re going to get a live report from Aruba on what happened today in court.
And later, a Florida mother says this tape, showing guards at a juvenile detention center, restraining her son proves that those guards killed him.
The medical examiner says it was something else. But we‘ll hear form the family next.
Your e-mails to email@example.com. Please include your name, where you‘re writing from. I‘ll respond at the end of the show.
ABRAMS: Continuing now with the news in the Natalee Holloway case, it is ironic that while a lawsuit was filed in the United States yesterday, by the Holloway family, against suspect Joran van der Sloot and his father, today in Aruba, Joran‘s attorney and the prosecutor met with the judge in a closed door hearing, apparently an effort by the van der Sloots to clear the teen as a suspect.
Joining me by phone is editor in chief of “Aruba Today” newspaper, Julia Renfro.
Julie, thank you or coming on the program.
So what happened today in court?
(BEGIN AUDIO FEED)
JULIA RENFRO, EDITOR IN CHIEF, “ARUBA TODAY”: This afternoon, Antonio Carlo, the lawyer of Joran van der Sloot went before the judge to release his client, Joran, from suspicion in the disappearance of Natalee Holloway.
Of course, opposing this procedure was the prosecutor, Karen Janssen, who feels that they are still on a solid road to bringing Joran van der Sloot, the main suspect to trial.
ABRAMS: Did the judge rule?
RENFRO: No, he didn‘t. He said it will be two weeks and he will give his ruling.
The consensus here on the island is that he will not be released from suspicion. And even if he is, it wouldn‘t make a difference. Because if, as the prosecution says, they are on a road to finding some potential evidence.
If they do find evidence, he will be rearrested or at least re-included as a suspect in the disappearance of Natalee Holloway.
ABRAMS: What are the arguments they were make? I assume that van der Sloot‘s lawyers were arguing that there is absolutely nothing to implicate him?
I mean, it is clear that he gave inconsistent statements to the authorities, right?
RENFRO: Right. And there is actually no physical evidence linking Joran to her disappearance. Anything more than him being the last one known to be with her.
ABRAMS: And his statements?
RENFRO: And his original statement, which he obviously changed after he had been arrested.
ABRAMS: Yes. I mean, he apparently gave, at least, I think, three different accounts of what happened of exactly...
RENFRO: Yes. Two different accounts and the third, a slight change on how he actually got from the beach to his home.
RENFRO: But, it was consistent that, you know, originally he said he dropped her off at the Holiday Inn. After he was arrested, he changed that to he was alone with her on the beach and left her there. And then it was a matter of did he get a ride home or did he walk home.
ABRAMS: All right. So we will look out for that ruling.
Thanks a lot, Julia. I appreciate it.
(END AUDIO FEED)
All right. Back with me is our panel.
Let me read from this lawsuit, again, that‘s been filed. And, again, it‘s not just Joran they‘re going after. They‘re going after papa.
And remember that Paulus, the father was arrested as well and eventually released.
“Paulus van der Sloot knew Joran van der Sloot had a long history of sexual assaults on young women, engaged in underage drinking and gambling and that he would leave his house late at night. He created a permissive environment, in which Joran‘s criminal proclivities were permitted to fester and be acted upon, unchecked.”
Gloria, is that a cause for a lawsuit?
GLORIA ALLRED, CIVIL RIGHTS ATTORNEY: Well, they‘re alleging that under Alabama law, Dan, that it is.
In other words, what they are saying is that it was reasonably foreseeable, given what the father allegedly knew about his son, that the acts they allege the son did to Natalee would occur.
They are alleging that the father knew that the son had engaged in sexual assaults in the past. And, of course, they are going to have to prove that, in fact, there were sexual assaults in the past, and that the father knew. And that, therefore, he should have prevented him from perhaps being with Natalee, and they are, of course, making a leap and saying that he then sexually assaulted her.
So they have a lot to prove here but it is a cause of action that they have alleged.
ABRAMS: Susan, how much of a legal long shot is this case?
FILAN: Well, you know what this is? This is actually pretty creative lawyering. This is pretty courageous lawyering.
Sometimes lawyers don‘t think outside the box. And they think, “Oh, gee, I can‘t win, I won‘t bring it.”
Here, they‘re going that extra step and they‘re saying, “We really don‘t know what happened but we think we know, and we can prove it by a preponderance of the evidence. And, darn it, we‘re going to bring this lawsuit and we‘re going to find out.” So I think that...
ALLRED: Well, wait a second. I don‘t know how creative it is. Obviously, the reason you go after the father is because he‘s the one that has deep pockets. The son is not going to have any money should they find that, in fact, the son did what is alleged. The only way to get really get any money out of this is to go after the father and to try to prove that the father is in some way legally liable.
FILAN: Well, what is created about it, Gloria—and hi, Gloria, good to see you again.
ALLRED: Hi. You too.
FILAN: ... is that most lawyers that most lawyers would say, “Oh, this could never survive a motion to dismiss. There‘s juridictional issues. It‘s going to fail to thrive. It‘s going to be tossed out of court.” And they‘re going for it anyway.
I don‘t think it‘s just a question of the deep pockets. What they‘re basically saying is, look the van der Sloot‘s created the equivalent of a vicious attack dog and set that attack dog into motion, lo and behold, it attacked. And so they should be responsible for it.
Not only did they know he was an attack dog, they created him to be an attack dog. And I think that‘s not a bad cause of action to allege. They can‘t bring it in bad faith. They have to have some basis in fact. They have to have some belief that they can prove it. Otherwise it‘s completely unethical.
ABRAMS: David Worby, let me switch gears a little bit. And that is, when he was served, when Joran van der Sloot was served, there are allegations that he was taunted. There are allegations of efforts at a possible physical confrontation. It didn‘t apparently happen.
Is it possible that Joran van der Sloot could end up suing back?
WORBY: Well, in this country anyone can sue anyone. I can turn around and sue you tomorrow for—well, it was a great show so I couldn‘t do that but—no, anyone can sue anyone in this country.
Unless there‘s been an physical altercation to provoke an assault and battery claim, there wouldn‘t be a claim.
You know, the service in likelihood was valid. The case against the father, in the United States of America, 95 percent of our states do not permit that type of case, unless a parent have entrusted a child with a dangerous instrumentality, such as a gun or something like that. There usually is not a cause of action against the parent. The cause of action is against the kid.
If it survives, they get the kid in court, he‘s lied before. They can show the person that‘s lied once, lies more than once. They survive a motion. Maybe they have a chance.
ABRAMS: All right, we shall see.
Gloria Allred, Susan Filan, and David Worby, thanks a lot.
ALLRED: Thank you, Dan.
ABRAMS: Coming up, a 14-year-old boy dies in a Florida boot camp after being beaten by guards. But it was the next day.
The beating is caught on tape. It was released just a few hours ago.
The medical examiner says, “That wasn‘t the cause.”
In our continuing series, “Manhunt: Sex Offenders on the Loose,” our effort to find missing sex offenders before they strike. We wrap up our search in Missouri today. Looking for Dennis Hittler. Appropriate name. He‘s 50, 5‘10”, 190. He was convicted of sodomy. He has not registered his address with the state.
If you‘ve got any information on his whereabouts, please contact the St. Charles County Sheriff‘s Department at 636-949-3005.
Be right back.
ABRAMS: We‘re back. A 14-year-old violently beaten in a Florida boot camper earlier this year. It‘s caught on tape.
The boy did die the day after the beating. And now a judge has ordered the tape to be released to the media.
NBC‘s Martin Savidge has the story.
MARTIN SAVIDGE, NBC CORRESPONDENT: The video from the security camera shows 84 minutes of 14-year-old Martin Lee Anderson‘s first day at juvenile boot camp.
On an exercise field, he seems to collapse while jogging. Guards rush in and restrain him for reasons unknown.
Anderson is pulled to his feet as the crowd of guards grows. Several times, he falls. At least one time, after what appears to be a knee to the back.
Later, a guard looks as though delivers several sharp blows as the teen is held on the ground.
A woman in white, with a stethoscope, is present for much of the time.
Later, the guards make several attempts to get Anderson to his feet, but each time he collapses.
Finally, paramedics arrive and he‘s taken to a hospital where he dies the next day.
Florida authorities admit the tape is troubling.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FRANK MCKEITHEN, SHERIFF, BAY COUNTY, FLORIDA: It is very obvious to us, that there are valid concerns raised in some of the procedures that are being used in this particular incident.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SAVIDGE: A coroner ruled Anderson died of natural causes, the result of complications from, what was called, an undiagnosed sickle cell trait.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It‘s outrageous.
SAVIDGE: The youth‘s mother, who said she had to leave the room at times watching the tape, calls that ruling ridiculous.
VICTIM‘S MOTHER: There wasn‘t nothing wrong with my baby. They know that. This is a cover up.
SAVIDGE: Members of the Florida Black Caucus are demanding the boot camp be closed and the officers involved arrested.
Florida currently has 600 boys between ages 14 to 18 in four boot camps around the state. But this latest incident is causing some to think twice about the system.
VICTIM‘S MOTHER: I feel like my baby was just being picked on. They picked on him so much until they murdered my baby in that field.
SAVIDGE: The U.S. Department of Justice and the FBI have launched their own investigations into the young man‘s death.
Martin Savidge, NBC News, Atlanta.
ABRAMS: Coming up, some of you think the attorneys I‘ve been talking to about Dick Cheney‘s hunting accident don‘t know a shotgun from a shovel. Your rebuttals next.
Remember e-mails. firstname.lastname@example.org. Include your name, where you‘re writing from. and I‘ll respond at the end of the show.
ABRAMS: We‘re back. I‘ve had my say, now its time for your rebuttal.
We continue to get a lot of e-mails about Vice President Cheney‘s accidental shooting of his friend on that hunting trip.
Mary Hardy, from Tamps: “If Dick Cheney was on his time, as some of you viewers seem to think, when he shot his friend while quail hunting, who is paying for the EMT/ambulance that is following him around?”
Glenn Hardwell, from Scottsdale, Arizona: “Do you realize how many millions of people who understand the exact scenario Cheney was in are listening with amusement to lawyers who don‘t know a shotgun from a shovel. I‘ve been shot in the face with bird shot and I popped it out of my cheek and then went on hunting.
“Well, Mr. Whittington couldn‘t and did not do that. So it does make it a little different.
Alice de Schweinitz, from Springhill, Florida: “Sure, the sheriff did a great job of investigating the Cheney shooting. And Brownie did a heck of a job during Katrina.”
Your e-mails to email@example.com. We go through them at the end of the show.
That‘s it for us tonight.
Coming up next, Hardball with Chris Matthews. Have a great weekend.
And I‘ll see you next week.
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