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'The Abrams Report' for February 22

Read the transcript to the Wednesday show

Guest: Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Randall Larson, Chris Cuomo, Jonna Spilbor,

Susan Filan, Bob Plummer, Vernell Crittendon

DAN ABRAMS, HOST:  Some now saying the White House did not follow the law when deciding whether to allow an Arab company to take over control of many American ports.


ABRAMS (voice-over):  Politicians from both sides lashing out at the White House, saying a country that 9/11 hijackers called home shouldn't be running our ports.  But why is this different than when other countries have run port terminals in this country?  Is it just politics? 

And Joran van der Sloot and Natalee Holloway on tape in the hours before she disappeared.  This as Joran speaks out in an exclusive interview.  We get a sneak peek. 

Plus, an ABRAMS REPORT exclusive.  We talk to the man many have blamed for months.  For the first time we hear from the chaperone in charge of her trip to Aruba. 

The program about justice starts now.  


ABRAMS:  Hi everyone.  First up on the docket, the battle for our ports.  The question, did the White House committee that approved the sale of a company that runs many of our ports move too fast?  Should the United Arab Emirates ever be in charge of something as sensitive as our ports?  And did the administration pass over a 45-day investigation required by law?  Today, White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan defended the president and the process. 


SCOTT MCCLELLAN, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY:  The president felt it was very important to go back to each cabinet secretary who has responsibility for this process and ask them are you comfortable with this transaction proceeding forward?  And they all said yes. 


ABRAMS:  But top Republican leaders in Congress want the administration to—quote—“conduct a more thorough review”, even threatening legislation to block it.  Others in Congress want the deal canceled.  Many claim the committee that reviewed the port sale did a casual and cursory job accusing it of not learning the lessons of 9/11.


SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK:  You can't be too careful.  Don't be casual about terrorism.  Don't put other goals ahead of homeland security.  That's what is being done here. 

REP. PETER KING ®, NEW YORK:  Being negligent and it almost approaches criminal negligence. 


ABRAMS:  “My Take”—look, on its face it sounds terrible.  Letting a country that was a hub for some of the 9/11 hijackers run vital American ports, but I wonder whether this is just coming down to politics.  I mean how is this any different than Singapore or China running port terminals in California? 

If we want to say no foreign firms can run key parts of American infrastructure, let's have that debate.  But in the meantime, I want to know specifically why is there a greater risk that fundamentalists will infiltrate this company than any other, a Singapore company, a China company, a British company. 

Look, if the procedure wasn't followed, let's follow it.  But I don't want to overstate the issue and make it seem like we're suddenly turning over safety and security to terrorists.  Ileana Ros-Lehtinen is a Florida Republican; the port of Miami is right in the center of her district.  And Randall Larson is director of the Institute for Homeland Security. 

Thank you both very much for coming on the program.



ABRAMS:  All right.  Representative, what am I getting wrong here? 

REP. ILEANA ROS-LEHTINEN ®, FLORIDA:  Well I think that it is quite a big difference between a British company that is now the ones in charge, a company, a private company, and that being a British company, than a state run operation, which is what we're talking about.  Dubai World Port, this is an organization that is completely controlled and operated by a foreign government. 

And you're right.  We should have this debate.  Whether we want any of our sensitive infrastructure having to do with transportation owned by a foreign entity...


ABRAMS:  Explain to me how this is different, for example, than Singapore or China being in charge of ports in California. 

ROS-LEHTINEN:  Well, I—and we were able to stop one of the transactions that the Chinese did want to buy an operation...

ABRAMS:  But they're still running a port, aren't they, in Long Beach...

ROS-LEHTINEN:  ... one of the ports in California.  And post 9/11, this—the United States has changed radically.  And the deals that went on in the past are not...

ABRAMS:  I understand. 



ROS-LEHTINEN:  ... they're not going to go on in the future...


ABRAMS:  Right.

ROS-LEHTINEN:  ... so we are under attack...

ABRAMS:  That's your position...

ROS-LEHTINEN:  ... by...

ABRAMS:  But I just want to get—I want to make sure we have your position straight.  Your position is this was a mistake and your position is probably that some of the others were a mistake and that we should now review many of the agreements that we have. 

ROS-LEHTINEN:  We should—absolutely. 

ABRAMS:  OK.  Fine. Fine.

ROS-LEHTINEN:  Absolutely.  Post 9/11...


ROS-LEHTINEN:  ... this is a brand new world.  We were under attack. 

And we've got to look at...

ABRAMS:  All right...

ROS-LEHTINEN:  ... every transaction carefully. 

ABRAMS:  That's at least an intellectually consistent...

ROS-LEHTINEN:  And I don't know that United Arab Emirates...

ABRAMS:  Fine.

ROS-LEHTINEN:  ... are to be trusted. 

ABRAMS:  Fine.  That's an intellectually consistent position and I accept that.  All right.  But Randall Larson, you've told me before that the bottom line is that this is just not a threat because your position is they're not even dealing with security? 

RANDALL LARSON, INST. FOR HOMELAND SECURITY:  Dan, you know people are entitled to their own opinion.  But they're not entitled to their own facts.  They are not in control of the ports.  They operate the terminals.  Let me give you another example.  Less than 30 miles from where I'm seated, Saudi Air has a cargo terminal at Dulles Airport.  Cargo planes come in here every day from Saudi airlines and it's a terminal operation.

They—all they do is they off-load and they on-load the airplanes.  They're not in charge of security at Dulles Airport.  We have that at international airports all around the United States and it's no different than these seaports.  They're not in charge of the port, just the terminal. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  Representative, what about that? 

ROS-LEHTINEN:  Well in the specific part, in my area, the port of Miami, what will happen is one part of the terminal will be operated by Dubai World Port and what happens is that even though the decision has to be unanimous, they only have 50 percent of the shares of that terminal.  That means that they have veto power. 

So no, they're not going to be hiring people.  They're not going to be screening people.  They're not in charge of security.  We will still have all of that customs officials there.  But they will have veto power over what happens in that terminal in the port of Miami. 

And that makes my constituents very nervous.  And all we're saying is let's take a second look.  That's why Peter King, the head of Homeland Security...

ABRAMS:  Right.

ROS-LEHTINEN:  ... Committee, and Denny Hastert are saying let's take a second look...

ABRAMS:  Some are saying more than that though...

ROS-LEHTINEN:  ... we want to review this...

ABRAMS:  Wait. 

ROS-LEHTINEN:  ... to make sure...

ABRAMS:  Some are saying more than let's just take a second look.  Some are simply saying the United Arab Emirates shouldn't be running our ports, period. 

ROS-LEHTINEN:  Well, first of all, they aren't running the ports.  And that's—and I agree with the panel member...

ABRAMS:  Mr. Larson, yes.

ROS-LEHTINEN:  ... that we exaggerate a little bit.  But in the specific cases of where they are going to have veto power, about the operations...


ABRAMS:  I got to tell you...

ROS-LEHTINEN:  ... that is open for debate. 

ABRAMS:  ... do you really—come on.  We wouldn't be having a national debate over veto power...

ROS-LEHTINEN:  ... have to be unanimous decision...

ABRAMS:  Wait.  Wait.  We wouldn't be having a national...

ROS-LEHTINEN:  Well it would have to be a unanimous decision...

ABRAMS:  Wait.  Wait.  But the reason that...

ROS-LEHTINEN:  ... and they have 50 percent of the shares. 

ABRAMS:  ... the American public is getting freaked out is not because they're going to have veto power over the decision over who run the cranes.  The reason...


ABRAMS:  ... the American people are getting very concerned is because there are a lot of politicians out there making it sound like our safety and security are at risk because the United Arab Emirates is going to be running our ports. 

LARSON:  And it's just not true. 

ROS-LEHTINEN:  I'm not saying that. 

LARSON:  It's not true, Dan.

ROS-LEHTINEN:  I'm saying that what is being changed now in my district, that the port of Miami, not one part of it now is owned 50 percent by any foreign country.  For the first time in the port of Miami, a foreign country will control 50 percent...

ABRAMS:  But you just said a minute ago that you're OK with England. 

ROS-LEHTINEN:  ... veto power...

ABRAMS:  You said you're OK a minute ago with England. 

ROS-LEHTINEN:  That is a private company.  This is a government.  And I think that you need to make the distinction and be intellectually honest yourself, to say that a company and a government are quite different entities. 

ABRAMS:  There is no...

LARSON:  Dan...

ROS-LEHTINEN:  We're talking about a state-run...

ABRAMS:  Go ahead, Mr. Larson.

LARSON:  Does the congresswoman have any problem at Miami International Airport?  Foreign airlines that are owned by foreign countries have terminals in those airports.  There's no difference. 

ROS-LEHTINEN:  We have—this is an international city.  We have lots of flights internationally coming in and out of Miami.  That's quite different than having a foreign government having control over...

ABRAMS:  No, but his position is...

ROS-LEHTINEN:  ... decisions that are going to be made.

ABRAMS:  Wait.  His position is...

ROS-LEHTINEN:  ... this is veto power...

ABRAMS:  ... that these foreign governments—wait.  Wait...

ROS-LEHTINEN:  I don't understand why you don't see that distinction. 

ABRAMS:  I'll explain it to you. 

ROS-LEHTINEN:  We have...

ABRAMS:  Wait.  Wait.  Wait.  Wait.  Wait.  You asked for an explanation.  I'll give it to you, at least what he's saying.  What he's saying is these foreign government who's run their airlines in a lot of these foreign countries, their airlines are run by the government.  They run...

ROS-LEHTINEN:  Dan, nobody is saying...

ABRAMS:  Am I wrong, Mr. Larson?


ABRAMS:  Isn't that what you're saying?

LARSON:  You're absolutely right.  Let stick to the facts... 

ROS-LEHTINEN:  Absolutely, but that does not mean...

LARSON:  And there's no difference between the air operations and the sea operations...

ROS-LEHTINEN:  Are you telling me that in Miami International Airport, there is a foreign government that has a veto power over decisions that are going to be made at the airport?  That's absolutely not true.  I mean you're stretching... 

LARSON:  And they don't have veto power in your port either. 

ROS-LEHTINEN:  ... the argument so much just to make your debate.  It is just not true. 

ABRAMS:  But see...

ROS-LEHTINEN:  It is far more than just landing rights in an airport.

ABRAMS:  But Mr. Larson, what about that?  I mean look, are you now the

same way you claim that others are overstating it.  Are you understating it

by making that comparison?


ABRAMS:  Explain to me why.

LARSON:  And I just want (UNINTELLIGIBLE) facts.  Two nights ago I was on with you, Dan, and Peter King, chairman of the Homeland Security Committee said midlevel bureaucrats approved this.  It was 12 deputy secretaries.  The deputy secretary of defense and energy and the state and the deputy attorney general and it was a unanimous vote that this is not a security risk. 

ROS-LEHTINEN:  Well that's fine.  I mean if we want to say...


ROS-LEHTINEN:  ... trust the government.  They made the right decision.  I believe in congressional oversight. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  Well...

ROS-LEHTINEN:  I believe that a deal this important...

ABRAMS:  And I don't think Mr. Larson has any problem with that...

ROS-LEHTINEN:  ... affecting six major ports needs hearings. 

ABRAMS:  All right.

ROS-LEHTINEN:  How about a few hearings...

ABRAMS:  All right.

ROS-LEHTINEN:  ... like Alice in Wonderland? 

ABRAMS:  Let's just be...

ROS-LEHTINEN:  The verdict first...

ABRAMS:  ... that's fine.

ROS-LEHTINEN:  ... and then maybe a little trial.

ABRAMS:  Let's just be careful not to misstate the issue.  And I'm afraid that a lot of people—I'm not saying you are because I think you've been very clear about your position.  There are a lot of people out there who are misstating the issue and claiming that the United Arab Emirates is going to be running security and is going to be dealing...

ROS-LEHTINEN:  I agree.  That's not true...

ABRAMS:  ... with all the issues of security at the ports in the United States, and Mr. Larson was very vocal a couple nights ago.  He's being vocal again.  and I know you're not saying that, but I just want to make it clear to my viewers when they're evaluating...

ROS-LEHTINEN:  No.  All I'm asking is congressional oversight. 

ABRAMS:  ... this issue.  All right.  We shall see.

ROS-LEHTINEN:  And I congratulate Peter King...

ABRAMS:  All right.

ROS-LEHTINEN:  ... and Speaker Hastert for saying...

ABRAMS:  All right.  All right...

ROS-LEHTINEN:  ... we need to review this...

ABRAMS:  All right.  Congressional oversight again. 


ABRAMS:  That's not the issue that's getting America up in an uproar.  It's not the issue of congressional oversight.  It is the idea of safety and security...

LARSON:  (UNINTELLIGIBLE) debate the facts, Dan.

ABRAMS:  I know.  Let's debate.  Representative and Randall Larson, thank you so much for coming on the program. 

LARSON:  Thank you.

ABRAMS:  Appreciate it.

LARSON:  You bet you.

ROS-LEHTINEN:  Thank you.

ABRAMS:  Coming up, Natalee Holloway and Joran van der Sloot on tape together the night she went missing.  We get an early look at Joran's interview with “Primetime Live” and talk with the man who snagged the interview.  He doesn't work at this network.  He is still a friend of mine.  He joins us.

Plus another ABRAMS REPORT exclusive.  We talk to the chaperone who was in charge of Natalee's trip to Aruba.  (UNINTELLIGIBLE) a lot of people have questions for him.

And this murderer and rapist was supposed to be executed last night.  His execution postponed again, this time indefinitely because the state couldn't find a doctor to take part.

Your e-mails  Please include your name and where you're writing from.  I respond at the end of the show.


ABRAMS:  We have talked about this story a lot on this program.  Now we've got a videotape.  You're looking at just released video of Natalee Holloway and suspect Joran van der Sloot together at an Aruban casino the night she disappeared almost nine months ago.  It was obtained by ABC News. 

Joran is in the lower left of the circle.  Natalee is three people to the right of him.  They spent the night at a black jack table before leaving for a walk on the beach where Joran says he left Natalee the night she was last seen.  ABC got the video and the first sit-down interview with Joran. 



sat down there and then within five minutes, there was a group of girls from Mountain Brook School that came up to me and sat down next to me.  And they wanted to play as well.  They had already been drinking that day and had drinks with them.  We played black jack for a while and I told them whether or not to hit.


ABRAMS:  That was the very interview that led to Joran and his father getting served with a lawsuit on behalf of Natalee's family.  Joran and his parents were flying to New York for the ABC interview.  Joran from the Netherlands where he's in school.  His parents from Aruba.

Paul van der Sloot was served at his hotel and this—you can see that in the video.  And Joran was served as soon as his plane touched down in the U.S. 

Joining me now my pal ABC News senior legal correspondent Chris Cuomo, who got the interview with Joran.  Chris, good to see you. 

CHRIS CUOMO, ABC NEWS:  Good to see you my friend.

ABRAMS:  So bottom line, Joran says he had nothing to do with Natalee's disappearance, right?

CUOMO:  Absolutely.  He maintains it consistently.  Now and obviously the big issue is why didn't he say that right from the beginning?  Indeed he did say right from the beginning he had nothing to do with her disappearance.  But the story was a very different one from the one he's telling today. 

ABRAMS:  Did you push him on the inconsistent statements?  I mean he said different things at different times about what happened that night. 

CUOMO:  Yes.  Look, I'm no Dan Abrams but I pushed him the way I felt appropriate.  Obviously the lies are a big problem.  And you know we pushed him for two reasons, right?  One is because there are substances of inconsistencies. 

The second reason is that you want to see how he reacts without crossing the line from journalism to prosecutor.  You want to see one question.  Does he ever think about it?  How sure is he about it?  Does he provide detail about it?  Does his story waiver?  Does he give odd rationales for it?  That was another reason to pursue this interview.

ABRAMS:  Here's what Joran says about why he gave the different stories. 


VAN DER SLOOT:  I was scared.  I was—I didn't want anyone to know. 

I didn't want anyone to know I left her at the beach. 


ABRAMS:  He admits now, right?  I mean he's not challenging the fact that he said initially that he dropped her off at the hotel and then later on that he changes his story. 

CUOMO:  Yes.  He now acknowledges that that story was bogus.  And Deepak and Satish Kalpoe, the two young men who drove him and Natalee to the beach also say the Holiday Inn story was bogus.  Where the stories now diverge is about well then what did happen? 

According to Mr. Van der Sloot, he says they went to the beach.  They had a romantic rendezvous and he goes home, picked up by one of his friends, Satish.  The Kalpoe brothers however have now recanted on that story and say neither of them picked him up.  You know this. 

But it adds another layer to what you need to ask him about and to see why it makes sense.  You know when we're dealing with people who have told inconsistent or false stories, a big part of the intrigue is well why did you tell that story?  Why did you use this detail?  What were you getting at?  Because sometimes the method of deception may reveal what was being hidden from the truth.

ABRAMS:  Does he concede that at least this looks really bad for him? 

I mean the last one seen, changes his story, et cetera.

CUOMO:  Yes.  Absolutely.  I think one of the interesting things about this interview is his demeanor.  He does seem a little damaged by this.  He does seem contrite.  And yet at the same time, he does have a little bit of a sense of indignance about him.  He doesn't think he's been treated well by the family or by the media even though he lied about the events of that night. 

ABRAMS:  Yes.  Here's what he said about that during your interview.


VAN DER SLOOT:  I think I've been portrayed unfairly.  I've been portrayed as a murderer and a rapist and everything that I'm not. 


ABRAMS:  There's no sort of Perry Mason moment, though, in this interview.  There's no moment where you get the gotcha moment, right? 

CUOMO:  Well, there have been months and months of investigation by numerous you know prosecutors and police authorities, and they have not found a smoking gun.  I don't think that is what it is really about.  Other than your attempt to throw me under the bus and try to diminish me my interview...

ABRAMS:  No, no, no, no, no, no...


ABRAMS:  I don't mean it like that.  I mean...

CUOMO:  No, I know what you mean.

ABRAMS:  ... because people are going to ask, they're going to want to know—you know the bottom line to the interview, right, and you said at the outset that he's saying that he had nothing to do with it.  But I think that people are also going to want to know, you know is there anything, which we're going to be able to pull from this. 

Look, I'm fascinated watching this guy.  I would have loved to have gotten this interview.  But you know somehow—I don't know.  Every once in a while it's going to happen where you get the big one and I don't, so this is one of those rare cases.  So with that said, you know people...

CUOMO:  Mark it up to one more piece of bad judgment on his part.

ABRAMS:  Exactly.  People are going to want to know, you know they're going to want to know is there something from this and there is.  It sounds like there's a lot of detail, right...

CUOMO:  Yes.

ABRAMS:  The devil is going to be in the details. 

CUOMO:  Right.  In all honesty, this is an interview that's worth watching.  Why?  Because until now, you've heard about all of this but not from him.  And when you're trying to find the truth, you want to hear it from the mouth of the person who is supposed to be telling it.  And I think just in that alone...


CUOMO:  ... it is worth it.  Because you'll now have fodder for whatever opinions you came into it with.  And more importantly, you will hear the questions you want put to this young man put to him.  I promise you that. 

ABRAMS:  Yes.  Is it bad that I'm going to admit that I'm going to watch—I don't know.  I'm going to watch it...

CUOMO:  I watch you. 

ABRAMS:  Well, you know I'm fascinated by this.  All right.  Here is Bo Dietl on the program last night.  He's the one who served Joran van der Sloot.  And I was asking him because I had heard that one of the producers over at ABC was roughed up by Bo.  Here's my question and his answer.  I want you to talk to me about it.


ABRAMS:  We're hearing from people over at ABC that you roughed up one of their producers who was on the scene there and...

BO DIETL, PRIVATE INVESTIGATOR:  If anything, I was pushed by someone.  I don't know if it was a producer.  Someone pushed me and I think the tape states exactly what happens and I tell the guy you can't push me.  I'm doing an official service.

ABRAMS:  Isn't he then thrown on the ground by a couple of people who were with you? 

DIETL:  No.  No.  He pushed me and I kind of pushed him back.  I said I'm serving a summons.  No one else touched anyone else. 


ABRAMS:  Chris, this was someone who was working with you, correct? 

CUOMO:  Yes.  Absolutely. 

ABRAMS:  And what happened? 

CUOMO:  Well, what was happening is you know in the general course of things when you have an interview flying in, you go and get them at the airport and you bring them to the location for the interview.  And that's what my producer was going. 

Look, to traffic in this, if that's what Dietl wants to do, then he can.  Obviously the answers to what happened and what did not happen are on his own tape.  Because while he was serving process, he was also having it all videotaped by his own cameraperson.  So the answers are there.  It's not something for us to traffic in, but certainly if he wants to, he has the tape. 

ABRAMS:  Chris Cuomo, good get, good interview, good stuff.  Thanks a lot.  Appreciate it.

CUOMO:  Thank you pal. 

ABRAMS:  You can see Chris' entire report tomorrow night on prime time on ABC. 

Joining me now MSNBC analyst and former Connecticut prosecutor Susan Filan and defense attorney Jonna Spilbor.  All right, Jonna, bad idea for Joran to go public?

JONNA SPILBOR, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY:  I am mortified just thinking about the interview.  Look, here's the thing, Dan.  I have a philosophy and it goes like this.  Always tell the truth.  Just don't always be telling it.  And that philosophy is always on point when you're dealing with a defendant or in this case, a potential defendant. 

Here's my question for Chris Cuomo.  Why did this guy give the interview?  He's acting as if he's already been acquitted, you know, and he's far from it.  Charges could be leveled on him at any time.  And when you give a public statement like this, which is forever...

ABRAMS:  Well I'll answer for him...

SPILBOR:   ... memorialized on tape...

ABRAMS:  I'll answer for him, OK...

SPILBOR:   All right.

ABRAMS:  Because when you're a reporter, trying to get an interview, you don't say to the person doing the interview hey putz (ph) don't do this interview.  That's for the lawyer to do. 

SPILBOR:   No...

ABRAMS:  That's for his lawyer to do.

SPILBOR:   No, exactly. 

ABRAMS:  Right.

SPILBOR:   No, no, no.  I'm not—this is a really good get—and I'm sorry that you didn't get it, Dan.


SPILBOR:   But I want—if I'm advising Joran as his attorney, I'm going to sit him down and say don't talk.  And if you talk, you are an idiot.  And he talked.  So there you have it. 

ABRAMS:  Yes.  Susan, you know I wonder at some point, though, someone like Joran I think has to make a statement.  Meaning, he's made so many statements to the police at this point that they have, I'm sure, everything he said on record.  And I know prosecutors are going to try and use, you know if he makes something—a little detail ends up being different, it can come back to hurt him.  But I wonder at this point whether it was a smart strategy or not. 

SUSAN FILAN, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: Well he's obviously trying to clear his name.  He had a hearing in Aruba trying to get his name cleared.  He thinks that he's been treated unfairly.  He thinks he's been branded as a rapist and a murderer.  And this is his attempt to clear himself.

But I think that they're still suspicious of him and they're looking at him very carefully.  And this interview is going to hurt him.  It is one more piece of the puzzle.  And I guarantee you, and I haven't seen it yet, and I'm going to watch it, too that there's going to be something different in this interview and these answers than what he gave before. 

And that is going to hurt him.  And it is not going to be because time has elapse and his memory has changed or faded.  It's because he's trying brick by brick to etch himself out as a suspect.  And he's not going to be able to do that. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  Susan Filan and Jonna Spilbor, if you can just stick around.  Because coming up, a lot of people wondering what Natalee was doing at the casino late at night. 

Up next, an exclusive with the man who was in charge of her trip.  The chaperone finally speaks out. 

And this murderer was supposed to be executed last night.  California put his execution on hold indefinitely because they couldn't find a doctor to help. 

And our continuing series, “Manhunt: Sex Offenders on the Loose”, our effort to find missing sex offenders before they strike.  Our search today is in Montana. 

Authorities trying to find Robert Barber.  He is five-nine, 160, was convicted of second-degree sodomy on a female under the age of 15.  He has not registered with the state.  If you've got any information on his whereabouts, the Ravalli County Sheriff want to hear from you in Montana, 406-375-6282.

Be right back.  



ABRAMS:  We are back with an ABRAMS REPORT exclusive in the Natalee Holloway case last seen nearly nine months ago.  Natalee was in Aruba last May celebrating her high school graduation and after a night at a casino and Carlos N' Charlie's bar she never came back to her hotel. 

Since then, many have asked where was the chaperone?  Why was she out so late?  Why was she at a casino?  Joining me now to answer those questions in an exclusive interview, Bob Plummer, teacher and the chaperone on the Aruba trip.

Bob thanks a lot for taking the time.  We appreciate it.  So tell me, what happened?  I mean a lot of people are saying where was the chaperone?  Where was the chaperone?

BOB PLUMMER, CHAPERONED NATALEE HOLLOWAY'S ARUBA TRIP:  Well, number one.  We had been—we had met with the students and the parents before we went down there.  And we were not there as chaperones.  We were there mostly for contact purposes in case there was an emergency. 

That was understood by the parents, by the kids.  These kids were 18 years old.  Legal to be drafted in our country's service.  Legal to do what they wanted to do.  So we were there in case they needed us for an emergency, a medical emergency or what not.  We were not there to baby sit these kids.  And that was made well known to us before we ever went. 

ABRAMS:  Some of them were 17 though.  Did that matter?  Did it matter if they were 17 versus 18 as to your supervision? 

PLUMMER:  They did not go anywhere like that if they were 17.  If they were underage, they didn't go into the bars or anything like that. 

ABRAMS:  And what was done to make sure of that though?  I mean what was—was there—were you involved in monitoring them to make sure they didn't go into certain places?

PLUMMER:  There were three or four.  And we knew who those kids were and we didn't have to worry about that.  We knew that going in.  And they knew it also.  See, that's part of the problem here.  And that's part of the reason why I decided to come on the show was to dispel these myths about well these kids were just down there for a drunken party, a drunk fest and were out of control.

They were breaking things and were breaking the law.  And that's totally false.  And that's what is really irritating me the most, is people assuming things like that about these kids that they don't know.  And that couldn't be further from the truth. 

I can't tell you how many adults we had come up to us and tell us what good kids these were, how well behaved they were, how they conducted themselves like adults.  And they were some—you know they were kids we should be proud to be associated with.  And I am and I was then and I still am. 

ABRAMS:  When did you or anyone who was with you realize that Natalee wasn't there on the return trip? 

PLUMMER:  The next morning when we're checking passports, checking off a list.  We had a list that we—I met with the kids every day, the whole chaperones, the whole group.  We met with the kids every day and I would physically see them.  Not if—you know if someone said well so and so is in the shower or so and so is asleep, no, go get them.  Bring them here. 

So we knew you know where they were.  That next morning, we went and woke them up.  We physically went to each room.  The chaperones did to wake the kids up to make sure that they were awake, getting their stuff together so that they would not miss the bus to the airport.  We had two separate charters going to the airport.  And so when we got that first bus off and was in the process of starting to get everybody together for the second bus, about 10:00, that's when we realized she was not there. 

ABRAMS:  And what did you do when you realized she wasn't there? 

PLUMMER:  We immediately went to the room, started talking to her roommates.  And after, you know pretty quickly, 10, 15, 20 minutes we determined she was not there on the grounds.  We notified the security there at the hotel and told them you know we were concerned that she had not come back because that was not something in her character. 

ABRAMS:  And what happened next?  You go to the security and then did you contact her parents immediately? 

PLUMMER:  Yes, within about 30 minutes.  We called the person that had set up the trip.  And then they called her parents to tell you know that she was not there because we—the buses were getting ready to leave to go to the airport and she was not there to get on the bus.  So yes, it was pretty quick after that that we notified them that you know something is not right. 

ABRAMS:  And I assume that the friends and the—that you spoke to had said almost immediately that they had seen her with Joran van der Sloot or someone who they described as him and Deepak and Satish...


ABRAMS:  Right?

PLUMMER:  Yes.  We—I would say it was not long after that.  We already had that name from the kids.  We knew you know the name of who that was and who that she was last seen with. 

ABRAMS:  Had you seen him before? 

PLUMMER:  Vaguely.  You know I would not say that I remember seeing you know this gentleman in the casino around the hotel because you know was not looking for him so I can't say that you know for sure that I did. 

ABRAMS:  Did you—again, when you say that you didn't see him at the casino, there was a monitoring process in place where you would see which kids were out at which places and you say that the 18-year-olds, for example, you know you couldn't control everything that they did, et cetera, but were you responsible, for example, for making sure that certain people didn't drink too much? 

PLUMMER:  No.  No.  That was not our job and didn't have to worry about it.  Like I said before, out of all the kids down there, I guarantee there was not more than a handful that we had to even at one time or another, even though it was not our responsibility.  If I thought someone might have had a little too much, I would say, look, you know I think you've had a little too much.  Why don't you go to the room? 

Even though we were not supposed to do that, it was more us doing it out of just a concern for these kids because these were kids that we had you know watched go through school and you know had a little bit of concern for.  But no, I didn't—that was not our responsibility.  And like I said, it never became a problem. 

ABRAMS:  Do you think...

PLUMMER:  But also, the kids...

ABRAMS:  Yes...

PLUMMER:  ... the kids never—they never really left anywhere.  We were there at that resort every day.  I think out of the four days we were there, I was off the premises of that resort for two hours on Saturday afternoon when we went to—went into town to shop a little bit.  Other than that, myself, the other chaperones, we did not leave that resort. 

And the only time that the kids did, they had a snorkeling trip set up for half the kids one day and then half the kids next day.  And then also other—besides leaving going there, the only other place they went was down to Carlos N' Charlie's in the little area there around the bar. 

ABRAMS:  Did you see Natalee at Carlos N' Charlie's that night? 

PLUMMER:  No, I didn't go. 

ABRAMS:  OK.  Did any of the people who were running the—who were chaperoning, did any of them see...

PLUMMER:  One of the other adults went, yes, even though he was not required to go, he did go, yes.

ABRAMS:  What did he say about what he saw there? 

PLUMMER:  Other than just the kids having a good time.  He didn't say there was no one out of control.  There was no one rowdy, no one didn't—you know didn't—didn't seem like they were really drinking too much.  That was the indications I got. 

ABRAMS:  Did he describe Joran's demeanor? 

PLUMMER:  Not that I can recall, no.  And that's the thing too...


PLUMMER:  You know he was probably not looking for this guy because at that point in time no one was specifically looking to identify this guy.  I mean you know he was not—no one knew that he was a danger at that point. 

ABRAMS:  Why are you going public now?  I mean this has been many, many months later.  It sounds like you're frustrated. 

PLUMMER:  Yes, frustrated because the misinformation and the lies that have been told about either the kids or about Natalee's parents, what went on.  How the kids control themselves or didn't control themselves.  It just got so irritating listening to that.  You know as far as what people think of the chaperones, I could really care less because I'm comfortable with what we were doing. 

We were doing what we're supposed to do.  The parents of the kids are comfortable with it.  The kids are comfortable with it.  So as far as that is concerned, I'm not really concerned with that.  But the fact that people continuing to question the behavior of these students, the behavior of Natalee's parents and as far as their motives and what they're doing, it just gets ridiculous after a while.

ABRAMS:  And when you say that, you mean why would Natalee's—because we get e-mails all the time.  Why would Natalee's parent have sent her on this kind of trip, et cetera?

PLUMMER:  The thing is too I tell people over and over again, this could happen anywhere.  I mean why is it that because she was sent on this trip—that it could happen anywhere.  People don't go missing every day on the streets of America and they're never found?  I mean why is it such a big shock that they let her—and most of this—one thing, too.  Most of these students are very well seasoned travelers.  These kids have had opportunities provided to them...

ABRAMS:  By themselves though...

PLUMMER:  They've traveled more than most adults...

ABRAMS:  Traveled by themselves?

PLUMMER:  ... they're not that naive.

ABRAMS:  Traveled by themselves?

PLUMMER:  Pardon me? 

ABRAMS:  They'd traveled by themselves? 

PLUMMER:  Yes, sir. 


PLUMMER:  I'm sure they probably have. 

ABRAMS:  So in retrospect, anything that you would have, could have, should have done differently?

PLUMMER:  No.  Not at all.  I mean you know like I said, we met with the kids each day.  We were around them all day every day.  But like I said, these were 18-year-old students who were going to be leaving home within two months, going to different cities throughout the United States and some out—throughout the world to different universities, living on their own, going places, wherever they wanted to do, doing what they wanted to do.  So you know what are you supposed to do? 

ABRAMS:  Let me ask you a final question.  Tell us what...


ABRAMS:  ... Natalee was like.  You must have gotten to know her at least a little bit on the trip.

PLUMMER:  A very sweet girl, was—she was not a very I guess what you'd call a party person.  She was pretty much a reserved student, always had been.  Fairly quiet.  Just a very nice, outstanding young woman. 

ABRAMS:  Bob Plummer thanks a lot for taking the time to come on the program and I guess the term could be clear the record.  Thanks a lot. 

PLUMMER:  Yes.  Thank you. 

ABRAMS:  We wanted to talk to Susan and Jonna some more, but we are fresh out of time.  See you guys. 


ABRAMS:  Coming up, a California execution put on hold for a second time because the prison couldn't find a doctor or any of their professional to be there.  We talk to someone from San Quentin about what happened.  The victim's family says it feels like a punch in the stomach. 

And later, why you're lucky you did not win the Powerball lottery last weekend.  It's my “Closing Argument”. 

Your e-mails  Please include your name and where you're writing from.  I respond at the end of the show.


ABRAMS:  Coming up, California was supposed to execute a convicted murderer last night, but it put the execution on hold again because they couldn't find a doctor to be there.  Coming up.


ABRAMS:  We're back.  A death row execution in California put on hold at the last minute because doctors refused to get involved in the process.  Michael Morales was convicted of stabbing, raping and murdering teenager Terri Winchell 23 years ago.  He was scheduled to die Tuesday morning, then later on Tuesday night, but his execution ultimately stayed indefinitely because of a dispute over whether doctors could be involved in putting him to death. 

A federal judge had ordered a doctor to be there to monitor the execution, make sure the anesthesia was working so Morales didn't feel pain when he was given lethal doses of drugs that would make his heart stop.  But the doctors walked out and San Quentin couldn't find any others willing to step in.  The judge ordered a hearing on the issue for May.  That means his life is spared for now. 

Joining me now is the man who has been keeping us informed every step of the way on all of these issues and the one who told Michael Morales last night that his life had been spared, San Quentin Prison spokesperson Vernell Crittendon.

Vernell, thanks for coming back on the program.  We appreciate it. 

LT. VERNELL CRITTENDON, SAN QUENTIN PRISON SPOKESMAN:  Good evening, Dan.  It is good to talk with you and your viewers. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  So tell me exactly how this happened.  So the doctors are there.  This is for the Tuesday morning.  The doctors are there.  The anesthesiologists we think are going to be involved in the process and then what happens? 

CRITTENDON:  Well what happened was is once they had reviewed the opinion of the Ninth Circuit the anesthesiologist became concerned about their role as identified by the Ninth Circuit.  Specifically, the concern was is that they would personally have to intervene in the process if they found that Michael Morales was indicating any signs of pain or was regaining consciousness.  And they felt that this would—was clearly medically unethical for them to be directly involved in the taking of a human life... 

ABRAMS:  How long before...

CRITTENDON:  ... and then subsequent...

ABRAMS:  How long before...


ABRAMS:  How long before the execution was that—did that happen? 


ABRAMS:  Meaning, a lot of people are asking, why this took until the very last minute.  I mean you've got witnesses coming.  You've got family members expectations, et cetera.  And how long was it before the execution was scheduled that these doctors stepped in and said you know what we can't do it. 

CRITTENDON:  Well actually the discussion began just about an hour and a half before the scheduled execution that I became aware of that there was this concern.  The discussion went right up until about a little after 2:00 a.m.  And at that point, the anesthesiologists felt that they could not be involved in the process.  And that is when the warden then stood down...

ABRAMS:  Right.

CRITTENDON:  ... from carrying out the execution and we rescheduled it.  But then there was a subsequent decision from a United States district court that then on the opinion of the Ninth Circuit, and the district court's opinion is the one that made it very difficult for the institution to comply.  And that was because they identified that it would require for lethal injection, a licensed medical professional, licensed to inject medication intravenously to carry it out. 

ABRAMS:  And you couldn't find one. 

CRITTENDON:  This was—this order was received in the afternoon of the 21st.  And so we merely had a few hours in order to put that—to implement that plan.  And there just was not ample time. 


CRITTENDON:  So at this point, as you know...

ABRAMS:  I don't understand...

CRITTENDON:  ... we're going to have an evidentiary hearing regarding the constitutionality of it. 

ABRAMS:  Right.  What I don't understand is why these doctors only decided to read the opinion an hour and a half before the execution is scheduled.  You would think that they would say you know what?  Let me figure out what I'm going to do first.  Then I'll tell you if I can come. 

CRITTENDON:  Well, Dan, as usual, you make good sense. 

ABRAMS:  Because—no, I mean it really—it confounds me.  I mean I'm not suggesting that we need to get this guy executed so quickly, et cetera.  I'm just saying that in terms of the process, I don't get why this came down to the last second.  And then the doctors say oh you know what?  Oh well, you know it seems that we're going to be involved.  I mean what did they think that they were going to be doing there? 

CRITTENDON:  Well, I believe that once they had an opportunity—once they had reviewed very closely the opinion of the Ninth Circuit, that these concerns of their personal intervention into the process became a reality to them.  And that's what raised their concerns and brought them to the conclusion that it was medically unethical and that they may be putting their licenses in jeopardy.  And with that, they excused themselves from the process. 

ABRAMS:  Yes.  I think the licensing is a big issue.  It's something we talked about on this show a lot.  Real quick, Vernell, what's—how is Scott Peterson doing, adapting at San Quentin? 

CRITTENDON:  Well, Scott Peterson is adjusting well.  You know he's still on death row.  And he's got a few years before he'll have his defense attorneys assigned.  So life for him hasn't changed.  You know Dan, something that was interesting that happened with Michael Morales this morning when going through the briefing with him of what life was like for him during this whole ordeal. 

And as he was explaining it, it was that he laid in the death watch cell there, laying on the floor, on the mattress.  And it was now getting close to midnight.  And he says he looked up when he heard some noise outside the death watch cell and there the officers walked in with the restraint gear, the leg irons, the EKG equipment hook-ups for him and then they just stood there silent.

He says he felt at any moment they were going to then say all right it's time.  Midnight came up and they never said anything.  He said he just sat there waiting and that 1:00, 2:00, and no one ever said anything to him.  And then after 2:00 a.m. one of them approached him and said, you can relax.  We're not going to execute you at this time. 

Michael Morales says I then laid down to think I could get some sleep because I was just exhausted.  But he says that the only thoughts he had was of the Winchell family and the suffering that they must be going through and his family and friends and the suffering that they were going through.  Because he says that he was prepared for this execution. 

ABRAMS:  Yes.  Yes.

CRITTENDON:  So it was kind of interesting to hear that...

ABRAMS:  It is...

CRITTENDON:  ... his opinion.

ABRAMS:  ... and that's one of the things that's troubled me is the idea that the victim's family members are being told it's going to happen, it's going to happen, and then as a result of an issue with doctors, it is not happening.  And it's unfair I think to a certain degree to the family members...


ABRAMS:  But, all right...


ABRAMS:  Vernell Crittendon...


ABRAMS:  ... thanks a lot. 

CRITTENDON:  ... and they felt the same way.

ABRAMS:  Yes.  Thanks a lot. 


ABRAMS:  Appreciate it.  Good to see you again. 

CRITTENDON:  Good to see you, Dan.

ABRAMS:  Coming up, they just won $22 million in the largest Powerball drawing ever.  They're thrilled, but I say maybe they shouldn't be.  It's my “Closing Argument”.


ABRAMS:  My “Closing Argument”—why you should be relieved you did not win the lottery.  Today, eight meat-processing plant employees accepted checks for over $22 million each.  It's the latest Powerball jackpot.  It sounds great and let's be honest it is great.  But I just hope they know about the curse of the lottery.  For many, life changes too quickly. 

Friends, family, acquaintances all want a piece.  And many end up far worse off than before.  Get this, a 2002 study found that a third of lottery winners eventually went bankrupt, one-third.  And for many, it is far worse than that.  Fifty-eight-year-old Jack Whittaker won $314 million in 2002 took the lump sum pay out of 117 million.  Almost immediately his luck changed. 

Hundreds of thousands of dollars stolen from his vehicle, house and office.  Five hundred thousand taken after he passed out at a strip bar.  He later pleaded no contest to assaulting a bar manager.  Had to surrender his driver's license, undergo substance abuse counseling after he was arrested for drunk driving a second time. 

Then in 2004, his 17-year-old granddaughter was found dead of an apparent drug overdose.  In 2003, Kellie Rogers (ph) won more than $3 million in Britain at the age of 16.  She was a foster child.  She had been working for minimum wage.  What seemed like a rags to riches story just ended with big trouble and bigger breasts.  Her home was robbed shortly after the lottery win.  She got pregnant, became a single mom.  Then she sought a restraining order against the father of her child. 

Finally she announced publicly that she was modeling topless with her new breast implants.  An effort she said to get back at the ex-boyfriends who she thought used her for money.  Two years after winning, she spent most of the cash.  Mack Wayne Metcalf won over 65 million in Powerball in 2000 at 45.  He left his wife, spent the next three years caught in a spiral of paranoia and alcoholism. 

He died almost penniless three years later due to complications from alcoholism and painkillers.  He told his family that he wouldn't wish winning the lottery on his worst enemy.  I'm not saying it would be a bad thing to suddenly be rich and carefree.  Money can't buy you love and sometimes it buys you a lot of headaches as well.


ABRAMS:  Sorry, we ran out of time and so I can't get to your letters.  I'm saving them.  A lot of good ones and we'll get to them tomorrow.  That does it for us tonight.   

Coming up next, “HARDBALL” with Chris Matthews.  See you tomorrow. 




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