Guest: Davidson Goldin, Michael Gaynor, Clint Van Zandt, Susan Filan,
DAN ABRAMS, HOST: Coming up, New York police reportedly investigate whether a potential suspect in the gruesome rape and murder of Imette St. Guillen could be connected to three other rapes.
The program about justice starts now.
This is Rikers Island, where bar bouncer Darryl Littlejohn is being held right now on a parole violation while police in New York pour over evidence in Imette St. Guillen's murder. The bouncer at the bar where Imette was last seen started talking to police on Sunday.
A detective close to the case reportedly telling the “New York Daily News”—quote—“He is a suspect. He is the only suspect we have.”
Hi everyone. First up on the docket, the murder of Imette St. Guillen. While police have not charged Darryl Littlejohn in Imette's murder or officially named him a suspect, the investigation progresses. They've searched his house and seized his cars and continue to follow up on leads.
But as they work the case, new details are emerging. Police reportedly also looking for possible links between the potential suspect and alleged serial rapist posing as a law enforcement officer striking in the New York area.
Joining me now, “New York Sun” columnist Davidson Goldin. David, what do you know about this?
DAVIDSON GOLDIN, “NEW YORK SUN” COLUMNIST: What I know is that the people I'm talking to are saying not so fast. They're comparing this to a report a week ago that the incident involving Imette might have been related to somebody—a livery cab driver snatching people off the street and sexually molesting them.
On the other hand, though no one is saying it's not true because they're looking at it. At this point, they're looking at anything that could be connected with this guy. But we are being cautioned that just because they're looking at this possible theory does not mean they actually think he's done anything else.
ABRAMS: Tell me about these other three rapes that they're investigating.
GOLDIN: Over the last year, two in Queens, one just over the border in Nassau County on Long Island. Apparently someone in a blue Van witnesses describe posing as a law enforcement official. That luring women into his Van posing as that law enforcement official and then raping them.
The only interesting part of this and I know you may talk to somebody later on the show who describes some of this is that apparently Mr. Littlejohn masqueraded a bit here and there as a law enforcement official and he did apparently tell cops that when he met Imette in the bar nine days ago, the night that she died, he apparently had had a discussion with her where he claims to police she said she was an FBI agent. He joked back that he was a federal marshal.
ABRAMS: Yes and this is coming from the “New York Post”. Littlejohn would stroll around in jackets emblazoned with FBI, Bounty Hunter and U.S. Marshal over Army fatigue pants and with a pair of handcuffs hanging off his waist. He has told the cops that when St. Guillen jokingly told him she was an FBI agent he responded that he was a U.S. marshal.
And I guess that's the reason they're looking into this, because you've got these other cases where someone is masquerading as a law enforcement official.
GOLDIN: And they've got no reason not to look, but again what I'm hearing today is this is being compared to initial reports in the newspaper as in the first couple of days when nobody—before anybody even thought Mr. Littlejohn was involved and they thought that perhaps Imette had been abducted randomly from the street. There was a report that perhaps this was connected to a woman who a couple of months ago, back last month I believe it was, was abducted by a livery cab driver, cops shot that down. They're not shooting this down quite as strongly but they are saying let's not go there yet.
ABRAMS: Are they investigating anybody else right now?
GOLDIN: Not a soul. They think they've got their guy.
ABRAMS: And they're making it clear.
GOLDIN: They've made it clear, but you know look Ray Kelly and his police department are very savvy on this stuff. They're walking a fine line here. On the one hand, they're trying to reassure the public they've got their guy. On the other hand, they're trying not to come out and say that publicly to protect themselves because what if it turns out when the DNA tests come back later today and tomorrow, what if they're inconclusive.
ABRAMS: Later today or tomorrow is when we're going to get those DNA tests...
GOLDIN: We're expecting today and tomorrow...
ABRAMS: Under the fingernails possibly?
GOLDIN: Well, one issue that no one can figure out is the under the fingernail test taken 10 days ago, those should be back already. The question is comparing it to Mr. Littlejohn theoretically and we're told that he had to give a DNA sample to the state when he was let out on parole back in...
GOLDIN: ... 2004, he was let out of jail, just two years ago. They also took apparently some of his DNA from some food he ate in the police station. That's legal. They can just go swipe it right off. So presumably what they're waiting for is the most recent DNA of his that they took when he was being questioned to compare it. But there is certainly some concern among those of us who are following the case, why they haven't at least reported any of these tests back yet.
ABRAMS: We are expecting a neighbor of Darryl Littlejohn to call into the program so we can speak to him about this whole business about how he acted and wearing clothes of FBI or whatever. Stick around Davidson.
Joining me now for our panel, retired NYPD homicide detective Michael Gaynor, former FBI profiler, MSNBC analyst Clint Van Zandt, criminal defense attorney Jonna Spilbor, and former prosecutor and MSNBC legal analyst Susan Filan. All right, let's start with the detective and the FBI man, because we are at that point in this investigation.
Detective Gaynor, they are going to take their time here arresting him, right? They've got him in custody.
MICHAEL GAYNOR, FORMER NYPD HOMICIDE DETECTIVE: Yes, they have him in custody and they're going to take all the time they need. They're going to make sure this job is done efficiently and effectively and I might add that they're not going to exclude any of the possible suspects at this time...
ABRAMS: What's with the DNA? Why is it taking 10 days?
GAYNOR: Well there are scientific guys that are taking care of that issue and it does take a while...
ABRAMS: They're not losing it or anything are they?
GAYNOR: No, they're not losing anything.
ABRAMS: All right.
GAYNOR: They're going to hold onto everything. They're going to make a good show. They're looking towards the trial. They're not just looking towards making the arrest. They have plenty of elbowroom because this man is on parole.
ABRAMS: Clint, taking longer than expected?
CLINT VAN ZANDT, FORMER FBI PROFILER: No. You know, Dan, right now this case is kind of frozen in time. It's like, you know you take a sample of something and you hold it, you freeze it right there. The investigators have got the house, they've got search warrants, they've got the suspects, they've got the vehicles. The only thing that drives me nuts on this, and you may talk about it later, is the people in the bar who knew this five days ago, who knows what evidence this guy could have gotten rid of...
VAN ZANDT: ... that would have linked him.
VAN ZANDT: That's what drives me right up the wall.
ABRAMS: And you know what? You know, I'm going to be honest with you. I'm going to be honest with my viewers. I was going to wait and do that in our next segment. I was—we were trying to break it up, but Clint, this topic really gets me so riled up too. Let's just do it and we'll throw out the window our organizational skills here. The bottom line is, and David I know you've been talking to people about this, is that there were people in the bar, the guy who was a manager in the bar, who what, lied to the authorities?
GOLDIN: Well apparently what we're hearing, he's an actual owner of the bar, originally telling cops he wasn't even there in the first place. Now it turns out apparently he is the person who asked Darryl Littlejohn after the bar closed at 4:00 a.m., after last call to escort a very drunk Imette who wanted to finish her drink out of the bar and the question is what took so long.
Originally this weekend when the newspapers reported this, it sounded as if a lawyer for the bar had an epiphany over the weekend that he wanted to just let the cops know this, but what I've been told is that cops were beginning to focus back on the bar, last week due to a close, at least a work week, because they had no other suspects. They had no place else to go.
Imette doesn't appear on video cameras anywhere, just didn't make any sense. New York City has been a safe place for a while. This is not Mexico City, Dan. People don't just disappear even in the middle of the night from the streets.
So they began to look back at the bar, put the heat on the bar a little bit, and then lo and behold this owner of the bar who it turns out had been there and said she left alone, his excuse may be well I thought she left alone. I didn't consider the bouncer...
GOLDIN: ... walking her out leaving with her.
GAYNOR: Dan, as far as the witnesses are concerned, this is typical behavior. They often react in a way that's a little bit difficult for most people to understand. They're afraid of the situation they find themselves in. They're uncertain.
ABRAMS: Wait a sec. But Detective, this is not an ordinary case, all right.
ABRAMS: This is a case...
ABRAMS: ... that's on the front page of all of the newspapers in New York, of the “New York Daily News”, of the “New York Post”, front page, every day, just about, since this has happened...
GAYNOR: And they are getting a lot of mixed reports about what they actually did say during the first interview, but typically detectives are going to take their time and go back and re-interview these people and they're going to come up with the truth and if they did things right, it looks like they...
ABRAMS: This is what the “New York Post”—Littlejohn was hauled in for questioning Sunday but only after, only after Danny Dorrian finally came forward with a full account of what he saw that night. He spoke to police three times, but it wasn't until the last time that he finally acknowledged he was bartending that night and ordered Littlejohn to remove her from the bar.
Susan, I mean that—we'll talk more about the potential legal responsibility for him, but...
SUSAN FILAN, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: I think it's clear the only person Danny Dorrian cares about here is himself. I mean who else did he put in jeopardy having this guy, this alleged serial rapist and killer now out on the street.
I mean Clint Van Zandt made that point beautifully yesterday. He jeopardized other people. He only cared about himself. It's the most selfish thing and I know the detective says witnesses often act like that, but that is no excuse and I'm wondering, and I wouldn't be surprised if people started looking at Danny Dorrian for obstruction of justice, because he wasn't just uncooperative, he may have actually steered them away from what we now are going to find out happened to her that night.
GOLDIN: Just to go back in time, Dan, you've done this story plenty of times on your show, if Martha Stewart goes to jail for lying about an obscure stock sale, what about a guy who misleads police while a killer is on...
GAYNOR: Martha Stewart lied to the feds.
GAYNOR: That is totally different from lying to the New York City Police Department.
ABRAMS: It is...
GAYNOR: This is really very common behavior. These people didn't know what they were getting themselves into from the onset...
ABRAMS: Detective, I'm shocked. You sound like you're kind of apologizing...
GAYNOR: No, I'm not. A lot of things were done wrong as far as the people in the bar were concerned, but I don't want to jump to any conclusions that they were going to withhold information for any long period of time. I don't know all the facts as reported by “The Post”. I don't know how accurate they may be either, but I was confident that the police were going to speak to all the people in the bar and get the real story...
ABRAMS: Let me ask you. Detective, are you giving us a sort of inside view here into how the police investigating this case are thinking, or are you telling us this is just you as an outsider?
GAYNOR: Well, I don't know that I'd be typically the outsider, but from the inside and the outside, it's a very common practice to re-interview witnesses.
ABRAMS: That I know. Look, don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to lay any
blame here at the feet of the New York City Police Department. I'm saying -
· I'm blaming this guy. I mean if this is true, that he's interviewed three times in a case that he knows what this case is about. He knows that there was a woman found with a tape wrapped around her head, with a sock stuffed in her mouth, raped and murdered. He knows all of that, and if it's true, if it's true, that he's lying to the authorities about what he knows in the meantime, you know, it's incomprehensible to me.
GAYNOR: Well, many crimes are incomprehensible. This whole issue is incomprehensible. But it happened and it happened again in this case apparently.
ABRAMS: All right.
GOLDIN: Also, Dan, you might want to just consider the background in terms of the Dorrian family. As it's been reported, the same family owns Dorrian's Red Hand Bar on the Upper East Side where 20 years ago Jennifer Levin was killed by a patron of the bar, Robert...
GOLDIN: It seems a big coincidence, the same family, and as you point out, the story has been on the front pages, but that didn't happen until a few days after she was found dead on Saturday, Sunday it was in the papers. Monday the “New York Post” had an exclusive but buried it. It wasn't until Tuesday that the story really began to get some legs. Up until that point, maybe the owner of the bar thought that this might just go away.
FILAN: Absolutely not. That's all the more reason that they if anybody should have known better to come forward. They obviously didn't learn their lesson at all.
ABRAMS: And here's what “The Daily News” reports.
A man at The Falls—this is from March 8 -- who identified himself as Danny the manager, Danny the manager, told “The News” last week he did not remember seeing St. Guillen. She could have been a credit card customer. We have hundreds of customers paying with credit cards, Danny said. I just hope they catch this guy. I just hope I have a job after this.
Certainly fulfilling, Susan Filan's comment about who he was concerned about. All right. Everyone is going to stick around.
Coming up, as we were just talking about, Littlejohn may not be the only one facing possible jail time in connection with this case. As a legal matter, Jonna Spilbor is still here. Is she going to defend this guy?
And we received more than 1,000 emails, 1,000, just over yesterday's debate about whether Imette put herself at risk by being out late and alone. I said I won't hear it, but everyone seems to want to talk about it on the radio and tons of e-mails. Well now we'll hear what her mother thinks about that and we'll debate it again later.
Plus, Debra Lafave back in court, the former teacher admits having sex with her student. Now awaiting a sentence. She thought she had a plea deal. Oh, oh, looks like Debbie's deal might go south.
Your e-mails email@example.com. Please include your name and where you're writing from. I respond at the end of the show.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VOICE OF RYAN KOCHER, IMETTE'S EX-BOYFRIEND: She was just an individual that really cared about making a difference and that's why it's such a big loss. The world is going to miss her. She meant a lot to a lot of people. A lot of people loved her. She was wonderful in every aspect of the word.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ALEJANDRA ST. GUILLEN, IMETTE ST. GUILLEN'S SISTER: Nothing will make it easier to be without her, but if this—if it could be prevented from happening to somebody else, that's, you know, for anyone who has ever loved anybody, we know—I mean, this has just touched hundreds of people. People who knew her immensely, people who didn't know her that well, and it's just...
MAUREEN ST. GUILLEN, IMETTE ST. GUILLEN'S MOTHER: Parents who had lost touch with their children.
M. ST. GUILLEN: I mean I have had responses in terms that people say my God, made us realize you know to call out—people just wanted to get back in touch with their families and their children and it's—so it's very important to get solved because we definitely wouldn't want this to happen to anyone else.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: Imette St. Guillen's sister and mother on why it's so important to catch her brutal killer. It's part of “Dateline NBC's” exclusive interview. You can see the rest of it on Sunday on “Dateline NBC”.
We're talking about this issue about the bartender now and the fact that it seems that some of the people who worked at the bar, particularly the manager there, knew more than he's been saying, in connection with Imette's brutal killing. Jonna Spilbor, here's the law, when it comes—in New York State with regard to hindering a prosecution.
A person renders criminal assistance when with intent to prevent, hinder or delay the discovery, apprehension or the lodging of a criminal charge against a person who he knows or believes has committed a crime—that's the key part—or is being sought by law enforcement officials, prevents or obstructs by means of force, intimidation or deception anyone from performing an act which might aid in the discovery or apprehension of such person or in the lodging of a criminal charge against him.
Bottom line is that they have to have known or believe that the person has committed a crime. All right, is the bar manager in trouble here?
JONNA SPILBOR, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: No, he's not in criminal trouble, Dan. I don't think the police should come down on him like a ton of bricks, because he didn't do anything differently than any other person under the circumstance would have done who doesn't...
ABRAMS: Everyone lies.
SPILBOR: ... who doesn't...
ABRAMS: Everyone lies...
SPILBOR: No, no, no, I'm not saying...
SPILBOR: I'm not saying that he lied.
ABRAMS: ... it's OK.
SPILBOR: I'm saying he didn't want to get involved. This is not a scene from “Law and Order” where all the witnesses come forward and are happy you know to provide...
SPILBOR: ... whoever with the information and there's—under New York law, there's no obligation to talk to the police, there's only an obligation to be truthful...
SPILBOR: ... once your lips start moving.
ABRAMS: That's right. That's right...
ABRAMS: ... but when you do talk to them and you say the things that he said allegedly, and you lead them astray, allegedly...
ABRAMS: ... that can be a crime.
SPILBOR: But how do we know that he didn't simply say, hey, guys, I don't want to get involved. Maybe she was a customer at the bar, maybe she had a credit card. I don't really know, I don't really want to talk to you and then three days later he has a change of heart and says yes, you know I do remember now and she was taken outside the bar by our bouncer. Well, you know, what are we going to do with that? Thank God he came forward, but I don't think we have to come down on him...
ABRAMS: Thank goodness.
SPILBOR: ... like a ton of bricks.
ABRAMS: We should really be appreciative of his work—of this guy -
· right, of his help.
GAYNOR: Well in the final analysis, Dan, yes, they should be appreciative because it may have been key to help solving the case, although...
ABRAMS: Detective, I got to ask you...
ABRAMS: I'm going to ask you straight out, all right...
GAYNOR: Go ahead.
ABRAMS: ... because again and again you're defending these people if they lied to the authorities. Do you know them?
GAYNOR: No, I don't know them and...
ABRAMS: You don't know them personally in any way?
GAYNOR: Don't know them, never been to the location...
ABRAMS: OK. All right...
GAYNOR: But I want to say this. There's a lot of liability involved in this case as far as the bar was concerned. Whether or not they came forth—whether they were forthright or not with their original statement, you know, the key word that you mentioned there in the description was intent. We don't know what the intent was.
GAYNOR: I'm not saying they did a good thing. It would have been great if they would have come forward a lot quicker.
ABRAMS: It's interesting, Clint, and you know I respect Detective Gaynor for being so honest about his positions on this, but I am afraid that it's a jaded position, which is everyone lies to us. We get lied to all the time in these investigations. And as a result, we don't—you know, we say yes, they all lie.
VAN ZANDT: Look, whether Danny the bartender and others were taking amnesia pills or stupid pills, they contributed to this case not being solved right away. They contributed to maybe evidence not being found and whatever they did, whether it's legal or illegal, it verges on being inhuman, to have any suspicion whatsoever where you might know someone who brutally, horribly killed this woman, and you say, you do the old monkey, see no evil, speak no evil, hear no evil and the only thing you're concerned about is I might lose my job. Where is our humanity?
GOLDIN: Except that there may be the possibility they didn't mean to lie or didn't realize they were lying.
GOLDIN: After all, she did leave...
GOLDIN: ... on her own.
VAN ZANDT: No, no...
GOLDIN: She didn't leave with somebody else from the bar.
GOLDIN: The bouncer walked her out of the bar...
VAN ZANDT: No...
VAN ZANDT: We can't cut this people—we can't cut these people one inch of slack. You can't condone this behavior. You can't tell anybody in New York or anybody in the world that it's OK, give each other a high five if you don't tell the police, and maybe let a murderer get away for five days. No. You can't do that and still be a decent human being.
GOLDIN: Unless they didn't realize that's what they were doing. That's all I'm suggesting, because this bouncer worked for them, presumably turns out he's got this rap sheet. Let's assume they didn't know about it. Maybe they figured—they asked the bouncer to walk her out. He walked her out and that was the end of it. They didn't realize until a few days into it that maybe the bouncer had something more to do with it.
VAN ZANDT: And one reason perhaps they didn't know it is because the bouncer didn't take the 24-hour security course and didn't get fingerprinted and have his prints submitted like he should have done legally.
ABRAMS: My guess is Detective Gaynor is going to say no one does that.
GAYNOR: Well in fact, Dan, I teach the course and I fingerprint...
GAYNOR: ... these people for the state and for the FBI to be employed as bouncers, security officers of any kind in the state of New York. This law has been in effect since 1992 and if you want to know if a lot of bars actually subscribe to the law, probably they don't.
ABRAMS: You don't remember ever see Darryl Littlejohn in one of your classes...
GAYNOR: Never saw him in one of my classes.
GAYNOR: I certainly would have remembered him.
GAYNOR: But I can tell you that's where the liability is going to stand in this particular case as far as the people in the bar are concerned...
GAYNOR: ... not whether they came across quickly, but whether or not they employed due diligence in hiring this guy in the first place.
ABRAMS: Detective, David was...
ABRAMS: ... David was just asking a follow-up question. Go ahead.
GOLDIN: I was just saying who is out there enforcing this law? I asked that question to the state liquor authority, they said when there's a complaint...
GOLDIN: ... they follow up on it and it's up to—that's right, Detective, it's up to the local authorities. But...
GOLDIN: ... NYPD cops out there on a typical night when they're on patrol popping into bars and saying hi, can we see the license for your bouncers? I don't think so.
GAYNOR: The New York State Department of State polices the security industry. Not the police department. Not the liquor authority. They have their hands full with a lot of other obligations.
GOLDIN: Well, Detective, they license it. I don't believe they have a police force out there on the streets policing this stuff.
GAYNOR: The liquor authority doesn't license security guards. The Department of State and the Division of Criminal Justice Services licenses security guards.
GOLDIN: That's what I'm saying. The Department of State and Criminal Justice Services...
ABRAMS: All right...
GOLDIN: ... does these licenses, but who's out there checking to make sure people who are working...
ABRAMS: Let me...
GOLDIN: ... have the license? I'm told...
GAYNOR: Investigators from the Department of State.
ABRAMS: All right...
GAYNOR: No. Never the local...
ABRAMS: All right, Department of State, blah, blah, blah. OK. All right, so let me—this is Imette's ex-boyfriend, Ryan, talking about what the manager of the bar may not have said to the authorities early on.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KOCHER: I am truly disgusted. If anybody out there has any information and they're holding it back, I am disgusted to be a member of the human race. If they call themselves human beings too, I have no words for that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: Even if in most of these cases, these people don't get prosecuted, when you do it in a high profile case, (A), the public is watching, but (B), it almost puts the person on notice more. That this is the crime, this is what happened, and maybe it almost elevates the obligation to come forward.
FILAN: Exactly. Why are we taking the position that everybody lies, who cares, so what. Why don't we take the position, don't you dare obstruct a criminal investigation. Don't you dare mislead authorities because you're afraid of losing your job or worst, you're the guy that said to this alleged killer bouncer hey, get the drunk little lady out of here.
He allegedly delivered her to her death. That's what he's worried about. So why don't we send a message, folks, let's be truthful and let's be honest at the beginning of an investigation where somebody's life and somebody else's life may be at stake. And as Clint keeps saying, he's so right, evidence could have been lost, evidence could have been destroyed.
Does anyone want to see this case not properly prosecuted or not be able to secure a conviction because we care more about Danny Dorrian who is the regular witness who doesn't want to come forward? He's worried about him and his job. I don't think so. Let's not come down on this side of the message that we should be sending.
ABRAMS: All right. Let me do this. Everyone is going to stick around for a minute, because coming up later, we had more than 1,000 e-mails about one topic. Our debate yesterday over whether Imette put herself in danger by drinking alone late at night. I said I don't want to hear about how she may be to blame. A lot of people think we ought to be talking about it. I'm going to read a lot of your e-mails. Everyone is going to weigh in on it and we're going to continue this discussion.
But first, coming up, the former Florida teacher who admits having sex with her student back in court. She thought she had a plea deal to avoid jail time, but could a judge throw it out and force her to go to trial?
Our continuing series, “Manhunt: Sex Offenders on the Loose”, our effort to find missing sex offenders before they strike. Our search today is in Nevada.
Authorities are searching for Dannie Young. He's 46, five-nine, weighs 160, was convicted of sexual assault, has not registered his address with the state. If you've got any information, they want to hear from you, the Fugitive Unit, 775-684-2644. Be right back.
ABRAMS: Coming up, Debra Lafave, the Florida teacher who had sex with a 14-year-old student is in court. She had entered into a plea that she thought would get her no jail time. Now another judge saying I'm not so sure that's a good idea. Details coming up after the break.
ABRAMS: Remember her? Debra Lafave, in court today, she admits she had sex with a 14-year-old student. She entered into a plea that she thought was going to ensure she got no time behind bars, but now, a possible problem. A judge saying I'm not sure I'm going to accept that deal.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN FITZGIBBONS, LAFAVE'S ATTORNEY: To place an attractive young woman in that kind of hell home, is like putting a piece of raw meat in with the lions. I'm not sure that Debbie will be able to survive.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: That's what her lawyer was saying. In return for pleading guilty, she was sentenced to three years house arrest, seven years probation. For the next three years, she'll have a 10:00 p.m. curfew, has to stay at least 1,000 feet from schools, day care centers, any other places kids congregate, forbidden from having any contact with the victim, lost her teaching certificate. She'll also have to register as a sex offender. But what happened?
Joining me now NBC's Kerry Sanders who was in the courtroom today. Well Kerry, it initially looked like this was a done deal with one judge, but now it seems they're in another judge's courtroom and it's not so certain.
KERRY SANDERS, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's rather complicated, but what we have here is two jurisdictions. You have Tampa, which is Hillsborough County and you have here in Ocala, which is Marion County. Now the first plea agreement when in the Hillsborough County court system, it's been agreed to, it's a done deal there. Now you have Marion County, where the judge is raising the question, with the exact same plea deal, wait a second, I'm not sure this serves the interest of the people of Florida.
She, he believes, should stand trial and if convicted, he's raised the question whether she should indeed go to prison for what she allegedly has done here. Why in two different court systems or two different jurisdictions? The same victim, but there are allegedly multiple liaisons between the 25-year-old teacher and the 14-year-old student. The contact in Tampa in Hillsborough County went to that court system. But there were also repeated visits here to Marion County, where it's alleged she had multiple sexual engagements with this 14-year-old boy and that's why it's now in this court system.
Now, the prosecution and the defense have reached a plea agreement and come in and said, we think this is the best thing. Not necessarily for Debra Lafave, the 25-year-old teacher, but for the 14-year-old victim. Psychologists testified saying that he has already experienced some psychological damage and to put him on the stand could further present problems for him down the road. So the judge listened to that, said he thought it was interesting, but he also said it was a 14-year-old boy when this happened back in June of 2004. He's a little bit older, and the judge went on to say, nobody likes to testify in any sort of criminal case.
SANDERS: You have criminal cases where police officers come out, they don't like to testify, and so he raised the question of basically saying, no go on this plea deal. We're going forward to a court case.
ABRAMS: Kerry, here's what the victim's mother had to say following the November plea deal.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
“SALLY”, VICTIM'S MOTHER: What we agreed upon is a fair punishment, and I believe that she is taking responsibility for her actions now, and I pray that she gets the help that she needs so that she can move on with her life as well.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: So you've got the family supporting this deal where she gets no time, as you pointed out, in an effort to avoid the boy having to testify. Didn't they know that there was this potential problem with this other court when they entered into this deal?
SANDERS: Well, they knew it potentially could happen, but actually it's quite rare for a judge to turn down a plea deal. Plea deals, as you know, are really what greases the system in many ways. If there were no plea deals, you know they'd have 24-hour court here and the courthouse would be about 24 stories tall.
The prosecution in this case did suggest that this is not special treatment. In fact, they said in the last year, there have been 150 sexual offender cases, both men and women charged and they said in those 150 cases, 60 percent of those cases were actually plead out and gave the—gave no jail time, so they say this is not a special treatment and there's been a lot of question. Is she getting special treatment because she's a woman, because she's pretty...
SANDERS: ... because et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.
ABRAMS: Kerry, real quick, when are we expecting a ruling from the judge?
SANDERS: The judge indicated that he'd be back in about seven to 10 days and he'll announce at that point.
ABRAMS: Kerry Sanders, thank a lot. Appreciate it.
Back with us, criminal defense attorney Jonna Spilbor and MSNBC analyst and former Connecticut prosecutor, Susan Filan. Jonna, are you surprised that this second judge is saying maybe no to the deal?
SPILBOR: Very surprised. I'm shocked that he's saying maybe no to the deal and I don't know why the cases out of that courthouse weren't dismissed as part of the original plea deal...
ABRAMS: Well that's right. That's actually what I—that's the way I should have phrased the question to Kerry. Go ahead, I'm sorry.
SPILBOR: Oh, no, and that's my point. Judges encourage plea deals all the time and as your reporter stated, 60 or 65 percent of similar cases have plead out. That's probably closer to 95 where I come from, so why this judge is not just going to bang his gavel and sanction it is beyond me.
ABRAMS: Susan, why wouldn't they? I mean isn't the way they ordinarily do it is they say all right, we want to keep this in one court so we can just have one judge sign off on the plea deal, let's make sure the prosecutors who have agreed to this in the neighboring county, dismiss the charges so there's only one judge.
FILAN: Not necessarily. When you've got different jurisdictional issues, transfer can only be by the consent of the presiding judge in the other jurisdiction. Let's say this judge said I'm not sending that case to that other courthouse, because I know they're going to dismiss it and I'm the independent constitutional officer here that's got to dispense justice and I think this stinks to high heaven.
I'm not surprised that he threw it out at all. Because if he the ultimate arbiter of justice in this case doesn't think it's fair, doesn't think it's right, it's where the buck has to stop. And justice isn't a number's game. We don't just rubber stamp deals because we're too busy and it's too hard and it's too much.
We have to do the right thing in every single case. Ordinarily when a victim wants a deal, the prosecution wants a deal and the defense wants a deal, ordinarily it goes through, but if the judge can't live with it, thinks it's wrong, that judge is actually doing the right thing.
ABRAMS: Well I don't know if he's doing the right thing. He's doing...
FILAN: He's doing what he thinks is right.
ABRAMS: ... what he thinks is the right thing...
FILAN: That's exactly right.
ABRAMS: ... even if it's not what the prosecutor or the defense and the victim want, I get concerned...
FILAN: But that's the judge's job...
ABRAMS: I understand...
FILAN: The judge (UNINTELLIGIBLE) everybody happy. The judge says I got to do what I think is right.
ABRAMS: Yes, well. I mean you would think that part of their job isn't about happiness, but it's about you know making sure if this kid doesn't want to testify, what are they going to do? This kid is going to refuse to testify and then they're going to drop the charges...
ABRAMS: ... and then nothing is going to happen.
FILAN: Well it doesn't sound like this kid is going to refuse to testify. It doesn't sound like that's what's happening. It's saying—people are saying it's probably not going to be good for him. He's not going to like it. He's not going to want to. And the judge is saying nobody likes to testify, criminal cases aren't fun. This is a prosecution. Now hopefully he's not going to have to force the prosecutor's hand to have to drop the charge.
ABRAMS: Yes. Real quick, this is the boy talking to Debra Lafave and he said at one point, maybe next time I should wear a condom he said.
BOY: I'm a little worried though.
BOY: Like I don't want you to like get pregnant or anything. I was just thinking about it and I was just thinking if next time, now that we've had sex about three times, if I should have like a condom or something.
LAFAVE: Oh, you're being weird.
ABRAMS: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) All right, Jonna and Susan, stick around.
Coming up, we're going to switch gears. We received over 1,000 emails last night about our segment with a Boston radio host who I said was effectively blaming Imette St. Guillen for putting herself in a compromising situation, which led to her murder. You all know how I feel about this. I'm not going to tolerate pot shots to the victim. Plus, Imette's mother weighs in on this issue in an exclusive interview.
Your e-mails firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your name and where you're writing from. I respond at the end of the show.
ABRAMS: Coming up, we got over 1,000 e-mails. Many of you taking me on for standing up for Imette St. Guillen rather than blaming her for being out late and drinking. A lot of e-mails, a lot of discussion coming up.
ABRAMS: We're back. Today the “Closing Argument” and the “Rebuttal” all in one. Why? Because we have so much to talk about and I have so much to say. Last night, I debated Boston radio talk show host John DePetro who was talking a lot about why Imette St. Guillen was out alone at 4:00 a.m. and drunk before she was abducted, raped and murdered. I said I will not allow this victim to be attacked. We received over 1,0 emails on this topic, and so what I want to do is I want to go through a little bit more again of those e-mails that you've sent in and talk to the guests about whether they agree.
Crystal in Kentucky, “If a man went drinking and left a bar at 3:00 a.m., then turned up tortured, raped and dead, no one would be asking why was he out at that hour or why he didn't have a friend with him.”
Jonna Spilbor, you don't disagree with that, do you?
SPILBOR: No, I don't disagree with that at all, but I do think you're being way too hard on your viewers, Dan, and nobody is blaming Imette St. Guillen for being out at that hour, but we are saying...
ABRAMS: Right. But...
SPILBOR: ... and I'm among them...
SPILBOR: ... that she could have prevented putting herself in that -
· in a situation where she could have been and was harmed.
ABRAMS: Right. And so what is her curfew? Just so all the women out there—I asked the same question of John yesterday—just so women in America know what time their curfew is, Jonna, why don't you tell them.
SPILBOR: You know the curfew is whatever time you are not alone on the street at an hour where you can be abducted and nobody can hear you scream.
ABRAMS: All right...
SPILBOR: So I don't know. Could be 4:00 in the morning. Could be 10:00 in the morning.
ABRAMS: But again, so—but what about—is 10:00 p.m. alone OK but 4:00 a.m. alone not OK? Is 4:00 p.m. alone OK for a woman?
SPILBOR: Dan, OK, let me ask you something. Is it ever OK to get in a car and not put your seat belt on?
ABRAMS: Is it ever OK to get in your—first of all, that's against the law...
ABRAMS: ... OK.
SPILBOR: OK, back seat.
SPILBOR: ... back seat, back seat.
SPILBOR: I know you sit in the back seat when you...
ABRAMS: ... in the back seat, fine...
SPILBOR: Is it ever OK...
ABRAMS: ... in the back seat...
SPILBOR: ... not to put your seat belt on?
ABRAMS: No, it's definitely a good idea to put your seat belt on...
SPILBOR: Thank you, that's my point.
ABRAMS: ... and you know what? No, no, no, no, and now if you get hurt because you were sitting in the back seat of a car I'm not going to go and say oh Jonna Spilbor...
SPILBOR: Of course not.
ABRAMS: ... should have had her seat belt on...
SPILBOR: No, no...
ABRAMS: No, I will not...
ABRAMS: because I will not go blaming the victims...
SPILBOR: But you wouldn't be blaming me.
ABRAMS: ... in any of these cases.
SPILBOR: You wouldn't be blaming me...
ABRAMS: Of course I would be.
SPILBOR: ... but it's a good idea when you're in a car to put your seat belt...
ABRAMS: I'm not asking what's a good idea and what's not.
SPILBOR: It's a good idea...
ABRAMS: I'm talking about a woman who was viciously raped...
ABRAMS: ... and killed...
SPILBOR: ... not to leave a bar by yourself.
ABRAMS: ... and I refuse to let people like you soil her reputation day after day.
SPILBOR: I'm not. I'm not. That's unfair. It's unfair to your viewers, it's unfair to me. I am not blaming her.
ABRAMS: Virginia Gordimer in New York. “Dan why are young people hanging out all night in bars instead of going to dinner at a restaurant followed by a movie, like in the olden days?”
See, Susan, what I like about this e-mail is it's honest. This to me is really what the position is. It's not about was she alone or wasn't she alone. A lot of people just think it's kind of untoward that the single woman is out drinking.
FILAN: I just can't relate to that. I mean people are different. If we were all the same, we'd have absolutely nothing to talk about. Why isn't it like the olden days, because it isn't. So what are we going to do that society has changed. We live in a multinational—what are we going to do? Everyone is supposed to sit home. Everyone is supposed to watch TV.
FILAN: We should all be home watching THE ABRAMS REPORT...
ABRAMS: Hey, Clint...
FILAN: ... but that doesn't matter.
ABRAMS: Clint, you go on a lot of these cruises with a lot of old people. I mean is this...
VAN ZANDT: To include myself.
ABRAMS: That's right. All right, so but you know is this do you think the position that people are really taking at heart and just sort of claiming oh, it's about late night but they really feel like they should be going out to a movie and dinner instead?
VAN ZANDT: Yes, let me encapsulate this, Dan. One of the things a profiler is concerned with is victimology and when you look at victimology as you well know, you're looking at the activity the victim was engaged in, the time, the place. She made choices, just like hundreds of thousands of other people make choices to be out at night and go unmolested.
Her assailant made a choice. Whoever this bastard is made a choice to put his hands around her neck and choke the life out of her. She made a choice, consistent with what hundreds...
VAN ZANDT: ... my kids are in their 30's, they go out at midnight when I'm long since in bed. That's their choice. But whoever did this horrific thing to her...
ABRAMS: The problem is...
VAN ZANDT: ... he did the horrible crime...
ABRAMS: ... what it sounds to me like people are saying is that the killer is 95 percent responsible but she's five percent responsible and that's what's driving me nuts. Let me read one more and then we got to take a quick break.
“You go, Dan. I feel as though I picked up and transported to another time in America—this is Dawn in California. A time when women were considered less than fragile, unable to be ourselves, to all the moronic people who seek to control women, shut up and worry about your own side of the street.”
Take a quick break. When we come back, an exclusive interview with Imette's mother days after laying her daughter to rest. She's going to respond to these comments that her daughter was somehow to blame for being out too late. That's next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROB STAFFORD, “DATELINE NBC”: The—I know you've tried to avoid the reporting, but talk radio particularly in Boston, I mean, a few people, and they have been shot down at every turn. To those who said, hey, Imette shouldn't have been out that late at night.
M. ST. GUILLEN: Why? STAFFORD: What do you say?
M. ST. GUILLEN: She's 25 years old. She lives in New York City. There's tons of people in New York City. Did those people who spoke, were they ever 25? What did they do at 25? You know, I mean, you can't live your life in a glass bubble. I mean you have to experience life and for them, I just say hey, that's their issue, not ours, you know...
M. ST. GUILLEN: Yes, they're so fortunate not to have done anything in their life that they can look back at and regret, you know. Right Ally (ph)?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: That's Imette's mother and her sister in an exclusive interview with “Dateline's” Rob Stafford. It's going to air Sunday night. I completely agree with them.
More of the e-mails we're getting on this topic of whether she should have been—whether she was out too late, et cetera. I said, I don't care. I don't care what time she was out. I don't care if she was drinking. You can give people advice, prospective advice, don't do this, don't do that. When someone is killed, to look back on it is saying this is what they should have done differently to avoid getting killed. I don't want to hear that. That's my position. A lot of people disagree.
Like Butch Taylor, “I love to ride motorcycles. I wear a helmet, but if I did not and were killed in an accident by someone who ran a stop sign it would be perfectly accurate for anyone to say that the person running the stop sign was responsible for my death, but on the other hand, it would also be fair to say that I was foolish for not wearing a helmet.”
Yes, but Butch, the problem is a lot of people would say, you're foolish simply for riding a motorcycle. I wouldn't say that if you get killed riding a motorcycle, but that is far more dangerous than a woman going to a bar, a crowded bar in new York.
Nicole Mayer in Virginia. “There's a lesson to be learned here. It's not that anyone should drink—shouldn't drink, be out alone at 4:00 a.m. The lesson to be learned is there are evil people on this planet and they could just as easily have grabbed her off the street, out of a cab, from her apartment, at noon on a sunny day surrounded by dozens of witnesses.” I completely agree.
C. from Pennsylvania, “Thanks for using your legal expertise and logical reasoning fairly to defend this victim and stand firm on your conviction. The opposition showed who they are and their arguments were outdated and laughable arguments that clearly seek to demonize the victim and control young women with fear.”
Let me skip to nine, Vickie Jackson from Minnesota says the following. “Do you leave the doors of your home unlocked when you aren't home or after you go to bed at night? Just as Imette had the right to be out alone that fateful night that she was murdered, she had the right to be out alone, but should she have been?”
I again say, Vickie, now that she's dead, brutally raped and killed, I don't care. I want to know who did this and that's all. Detective, do you disagree with me on this? Detective Gaynor?
GAYNOR: No, I agree with you 100 percent. Right now the blame is only on the killer, nobody else. Your analogy with the motorcycle was very apropos. You might as well blame people for waking up in the morning and going about their business. She deserves no blame whatsoever.
She had every right to believe she was going to be protected. Protected in the bar, protected by the bouncer, was telling everybody he was a law enforcement officer and you can't hold her accountable in any way.
ABRAMS: This is the classic one. This is what I fear, again, what really people—“I remember an old saying—Scott Colwell from Indiana writes -- when chasing women at the pick-up spots and it goes like this. The good girls go home at midnight.” All right, Scott.
Go ahead, David. You wanted in.
GOLDIN: I was just going to say, they were talking about who was to blame other than the killer. Perhaps the owners of the bar for employing this convicted felon...
GOLDIN: ... and perhaps authorities for having a law on the books that might go un-enforced. What's the purpose of having a law...
GOLDIN: ... and not enforcing it.
ABRAMS: That's fine. That's fine. But—and I agree with that, but the question that we're focusing on specifically is should she be blamed for staying out late and they say oh I'm not blaming her, but what was she doing out. It's called in my book blame.
We've got Alexander -- no, where are we up to? Alexander Sloan in Minnesota. “Whether a crime follows on the heels of an instance of poor judgment or an instance of benign happenstance, the crime occurs explicitly because the perpetrator, of his own free will, has made up his mind to commit the crime. Imette St. Guillen committed no unlawful or improper behavior.”
But Sue from Wisconsin, “The reality is a 24-year-old woman alone on the streets at 4:00 a.m. is playing Russian roulette with her life.”
Detective, is that true? I mean just tell me as a matter of law enforcement, is that true?
GAYNOR: No, not at all. As a matter of law enforcement, she has every right to be out there.
ABRAMS: Let me just read one more and then we got to go to break.
Stacey Beyer in Wisconsin, “So let's encourage all women to go out until 2:00 a.m. and get so intoxicated they can barely stand by themselves and then walk through the darkest streets of the city. Angels rarely drink until 2:00 a.m.”
At least when you make comments like that it's just clear you're just being judgmental and you're judging Imette and that's great. I won't do it.
Michael Gaynor, Clint Van Zandt, Jonna Spilbor, Susan Filan, Davidson Goldin, thanks a lot.
Coming up, could good looks and a charming personality sway a jury against convicting an accused serial killer? Talk about this story after the break.
ABRAMS: Will an accused serial killer be able to win over a Pennsylvania jury in part with his looks and charm? Thirty-two-year-old Hugo Selenski is on trial in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania for allegedly murdering two suspected drug dealers, then burying their remains in his backyard. Authorities think he may be a suspect in as many as 14 other homicides, but Selenski's good looks, his confident attitude, a daring prison escape in 2003 have given him a sort of local celebrity status.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE COSGROVE, PENNSYLVANIA DEFENSE ATTORNEY: You do hear this comment from many people about how handsome he is and how charming he is and they're almost curious as to how that person then could be facing charges like this.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: So will handsome Hugo be able to convince the jury? I'll have more on this story tomorrow morning on the “Today” show and again on this program tomorrow night.
Thanks for watching. “HARDBALL” is up next.
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