Guests: Davidson Goldin, Susan Filan, Jonna Spilbor, Larry Kobilinsky, Clint Van Zandt, Kevin Weeks, Joe Coffey, Michael Franzese, Selwyn Raab
DAN ABRAMS, HOST: Coming up, police get a DNA match, tying a bouncer to murdered grad student Imette St. Guillen. Now they want him indicted.
The program about justice starts now.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COMMISSIONER RAYMOND KELLY, NEW YORK POLICE DEPT.: Darryl Littlejohn‘s blood was found on plastic ties that were used to bind Imette‘s hands behind her back. As a result of this and other evidence, Littlejohn is the prime suspect in this case. And his indictment will be sought for the murder of Imette St. Guillen.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: Hi everyone. First up on the docket, the major break in the case of murdered graduate student Imette St. Guillen. Police finally find what seems to be a definitive link between bouncer Darryl Littlejohn and Imette, his blood on bindings around her wrist. As early as this week, Littlejohn could be indicted by a grand jury.
Joining me now, “New York Sun” columnist, Davidson Goldin, forensics and DNA expert Larry Kobilinsky, who is also a professor at John Jay College of criminal justice where Imette was a student, former prosecutor, MSNBC legal analyst Susan Filan, along with criminal defense attorney Jonna Spilbor.
Good to see all of you. Davidson, let‘s start with the news of the day. They‘ve got the blood. They want the indictment. When is it going to happen?
DAVIDSON GOLDIN, “NEW YORK SUN” COLUMNIST: Not before Thursday, Friday at the earliest, perhaps not even until next week is what I‘m told. The grand jury today may have begun to meet. We‘re not even sure about that.
Typically, these grand jury meetings are secret or at least supposed to be secret, but Ray Kelly announced yesterday to the world that there would be a grand jury meeting, so the guidance we‘re getting is that at some point toward the end of the week there could be an indictment and certainly they expect one.
ABRAMS: And there is other evidence. I mean they have got the carpet fibers, which they say are consistent with carpet found in his home, correct?
GOLDIN: Those are consistent, but of course that as the defense lawyers will tell us is a common carpet fiber. That‘s not enough.
ABRAMS: Right. Do you know anything about the scratch on the neck?
ABRAMS: “New York Post” reporting the scratch on the neck, that he had a scratch on the neck when he came back to work.
GOLDIN: And that is why the fact that the people at the bar were misleading cops and didn‘t tell them at first that the bouncer, Mr. Littlejohn, had walked Imette out, could be an issue because cops have never had a chance to actually see that alleged scratch for themselves.
ABRAMS: The cell phone records tying him to the location where—near where her body was found.
GOLDIN: Cell phone records are very key to this investigation, because at this point, cops are trying to make it—the whole chain of how this occurred. With that they have the manager of the bar saying that the bouncer walked her out, they have got these somewhat credible, perhaps, homeless people across the street, who say they saw something. They have got this forensics evidence and they‘ve got the cell phone and as you move from cell phone tower to cell phone tower as you hit each tower there‘s a record of it.
ABRAMS: And here‘s Commissioner Kelly talking about that evidence.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KELLY: There is evidence, telephone evidence, telephone records that put the telephone that Mr. Littlejohn had in his possession in the vicinity, the immediate vicinity where the body was located, and also a route to that location.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: All right. Susan Filan, you have got all this evidence now, the police commissioner saying we want him indicted. What happens now in terms of the prosecution?
SUSAN FILAN, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: Well, he is going to be—the case is going to be presented to the grand jury. The prosecutors will put on their evidence. They‘re going to put on witnesses. I imagine an indictment will be very, very easy in this case, because remember, Police Commissioner Kelly said that DNA match places it one in a trillion. That‘s a very, very significant link.
You don‘t need to worry at the grand jury level about a defense. In other words, because his blood is there doesn‘t necessarily mean that he actually did it, that he killed her, that he raped her, that he strangled her, but at the grand jury level, you need not worry about that. You simply present the evidence that you have.
Is it more likely than not that he can be linked to this? Yes, of course it is. And the grand jury will issue an indictment. He‘ll then be arrested. He‘ll be booked and processed from Rikers Island on that and then he‘ll start in court and that‘s when...
ABRAMS: We should point out he‘s already in on a parole violation, so anyone who is wondering why he hasn‘t been arrested yet, they‘re really in no rush here the way they might ordinarily be if someone was out on the street.
Jonna, let‘s assume you‘re his attorney, apart from being extremely concerned, extremely worried, and, you know, feeling a bit overwhelmed, what else are you doing?
JONNA SPILBOR, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: This is a tough job. Here‘s what I‘m doing. You know, if a doctor tells you have three months to live, you don‘t say hey thanks a lot doc and walk out of his office and create a will. You get a second opinion.
The first thing I‘m going to do, I‘m going to take that blood evidence and I want it retested to make sure that the police investigators got it right. Now I can guess that probably there isn‘t enough to retest, which would be very convenient for police and prosecutors, but if there is, that‘s the first thing I‘m doing because this is the most damaging evidence against him so far.
ABRAMS: Larry Kobilinsky, let me ask you about the other evidence, all right, because there are two pieces of evidence, which seem to point away from him. Number one; semen that was found on the blanket or body was wrapped in, not his. DNA found under her fingernails, not his. How significant?
LARRY KOBILINSKY, FORENSICS AND DNA EXPERT: Well, Dan, let‘s talk about the blanket first. We really don‘t know if the semen on the blanket has any relevance to the case. It could have been deposited at an earlier time before Imette was kidnapped. On the other hand, it could provide evidence that there is another individual who aided and abetted Mr. Littlejohn. That‘s number one.
Number two, as far as the DNA evidence under her fingernails, we know that she scratched her assailant. We know Mr. Littlejohn bled, because he had a scratch on the back of his neck. We know that the result came back inconclusive, but what that meant is that there was female DNA under the nails, presumably the victim herself. There may very well be male DNA as well, but it was masked by the predominance of female DNA. They need to do further testing.
ABRAMS: Let me ask you about this. My producer, Amy Harman (ph), actually is a graduate of your school and she was theorizing that it‘s possible that when Imette‘s hands were bound behind her back, that it‘s possible that she could have sort of scratched herself.
KOBILINSKY: Even without that happening, Dan, what happens when you sample an individual‘s fingernails, you scrape the fingernails, you will get cells that come from that person. So there‘s no surprise there. The only surprise to some people is that there‘s no male DNA there, and the fact is, as I said, there‘s a masking effect, when you have a predominance of one over the other.
ABRAMS: Bottom line, this is not dispositive, meaning this doesn‘t get him off necessarily?
KOBILINSKY: Not only is it not dispositive, but with further testing for YSTR, chromosome, these other markers specific for male, we may get even more of an inclusion.
ABRAMS: Here‘s another piece of evidence that is going to be controversial in this case. Commissioner Kelly talked about it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KELLY: There are witnesses that put the victim in the company of Mr.
Littlejohn when she left the bar that evening.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: All right, here‘s the problem, Susan Filan, with these witness, right? Let me read you a couple of quotes from local papers about who these witnesses are.
“Lorraine House said a dark man pulled up in front of the pub and a black man got out of the driver‘s seat and went inside. He returned quickly and guided a dark-haired woman into the van. She was staggering a little bit and he was holding her from behind by the elbows. I know he drove away mighty fast. He screeched off. That is what attracted my attention.”
OK, also sounds pretty incriminating. The problem, House had been abusing crack and the anti-anxiety drug Xanax. So how reliable a witness is she?
FILAN: Well, that is going to be a question for the jury and sometimes as a prosecutor, you think, oh, darn, I wish I didn‘t have a witness like this in my case, but in a case like this it may not be solved completely by forensics but may rely in large part on other circumstantial evidence. She is just going to be one piece of the puzzle. Remember the prosecutor‘s job is to go brick-by-brick...
FILAN: ... by-brick over that wall of reasonable doubt. And she may not be the perfect witness, but how many perfect witnesses are you going to have out there at 4:00 in the morning? So she may just be good enough as one piece of the puzzle.
ABRAMS: And they got—Jonna, they got another homeless person, Miguel Angel Cruz...
ABRAMS: ... was sleeping in a park across the street, told police he saw Littlejohn drive a blue van up to the bar, go inside, and then lead Imette out and into the vehicle. He was saying don‘t worry, I‘ll take you home. He put her in the van in the front seat and they left. She left like he was giving her a ride. Again, look, just because he‘s homeless doesn‘t mean he‘s not credible, right?
SPILBOR: No, that‘s true, but a defense attorney is going to rip apart any eyewitness and we‘re going to hang our hats on anything that we can and were these—was the crack addict and the homeless guy together or did they see him separate times? So we‘re going to rip them apart because eyewitness identification is inherently unreliable anyway and you can get an expert to go up there and testify how unreliable it is, couple that with a drug addict and a transient who could also be on drugs, and you don‘t have very credible witnesses for the prosecution.
ABRAMS: (INAUDIBLE) a lot of people could have been on drugs, I mean theoretically. But—all right, David, you were telling us last week that the manager of the bar only came clean after the police got information that basically said, hey, you‘re not telling us everything about this bouncer. Was some of the information they had gotten from these homeless people?
GOLDIN: I don‘t believe so, but what seems to have happened over the course of that week is as investigators looked at video cameras in the area, and looked for witnesses, nobody had seen a whole lot at first and certainly she wasn‘t on any video cameras. So short of the idea of somebody just plucking her from the front of the bar, it seemed like perhaps somebody had actually left with her and something had happened on her departure from the bar.
At that point, they began putting more scrutiny on the bar itself and the bar‘s lawyer came forward and said well it turns out, this manager (INAUDIBLE) owners, he‘s got a little more he wants to tell you and that‘s when he then came forward with this story that he‘d asked Littlejohn to walk her out and heard some commotion...
ABRAMS: And now—I guess Susan, look, if he wants to avoid getting into even further trouble, right, this guy Dorrian didn‘t come clean about what he knew about the bouncer, he can promise that he‘ll testify truthfully at the trial and say everything that he saw and witnessed.
FILAN: Well let me tell you why that‘s no big prize. When you‘re subpoenaed to testify, you have to testify, and when you‘re under oath, you darn better testify...
ABRAMS: Not if it can be incriminating though. You don‘t have to testify if it‘s going to incriminate you.
FILAN: Oh, that‘s a whole different issue, Dan. I mean yes, well if it‘s going to incriminate him, then he‘s going to take the Fifth Amendment and if you‘re saying that he‘s going to give up his Fifth Amendment rights, then they have to give him immunity. So we‘re out of the land of the gentle promise now. I mean he‘s either in big trouble or he‘s not and I think that the police saying that they‘re laying off him now because they need him as a witness is a huge break for him and I wonder how far that...
ABRAMS: But wait, Jonna, couldn‘t he demand immunity? I mean if you‘re his lawyer, right...
FILAN: You can‘t demand it. They have to give it to you...
ABRAMS: I understand. I understand...
ABRAMS: But he can also say I‘m not going to cooperate unless I get immunity.
SPILBOR: Yep. Absolutely you can say that and Susan is also right, though, because immunity is not something that‘s automatic. The prosecution is either going to grant it or they‘re not, but he could clam up because I agree with you. He potentially can incriminate himself and when you‘re in that position, your Fifth Amendment rights take over.
ABRAMS: Go ahead...
GOLDIN: Right now, Dan, any action against Mr. Dorrian or the bar is on hold at the request of the NYPD. That could change once there is an indictment and I think what you‘re talking about, the idea of some sort of immunity deal, a lot of people are waiting to hear about that, because that does—would appear to be likely I guess.
ABRAMS: Well I mean again, if he lied to the authorities, which it seems he did, if, if, if he did, then he‘s in big legal trouble as well, and he could say I‘m not going to cooperate because anything I say can and will be used against me.
GOLDIN: But he‘s not in New York. Martha Stewart lied to the feds.
She went to jail for that...
GOLDIN: ... New York lying to the cops is not...
ABRAMS: No, no, no, but...
FILAN: No, no, but if he‘s hindering prosecution...
ABRAMS: Yes, exactly...
FILAN: ... he‘s obstructing justice...
ABRAMS: That‘s right.
FILAN: ... it‘s not just a lie.
ABRAMS: That‘s right. It‘s not just a lie.
ABRAMS: It‘s what he said and the context in which he said it, which could absolutely get him prosecuted for hindering prosecution. We went over the statute last week in this case and it‘s clear that if he knew or suspected—Susan, what‘s the standard, new or suspected a crime was committed?
FILAN: Yes and that he had the intent. He had—the intent was to deceive or lead away.
FILAN: Now he‘s going to argue that I didn‘t mean to, but that‘s not what intent means under the law.
FILAN: Intent is your conduct...
FILAN: ... and your conduct was basically steering the cops away.
GOLDIN: And the prosecutors do want to go after him if they can.
SPILBOR: Dan, the standard is knowing or believing and that‘s going to be hard for prosecutors to prove...
FILAN: No, I don‘t think that‘s going to be hard at all.
ABRAMS: Well I‘m going to be very interested to see whether he cuts a deal. That‘s what—I want to know whether you know he‘s got a very good lawyer, I‘ll tell you that. You know I know the guy, he‘s a good lawyer, and he‘s probably going to be saying look, I‘m scared. We‘ll see.
Everyone is going to stick around. Coming up, if Littlejohn is Imette‘s killer, then there is no question the system failed, from a parole officer who didn‘t know Littlejohn was working past his curfew to a bar that wasn‘t supposed to hire him in the first place. Littlejohn should not have been anywhere near Imette the night she died. We‘ll talk about that.
And Tony Soprano is back. We talk to a real life mobster, the former number two, one of the FBI‘s most wanted, he‘s refused to go into the witness protection program and now he‘s speaking out about his life in crime. It‘s a cable exclusive. Plus, just how true to life is “The Sopranos” anyway? We‘ve got people who would know. Join us.
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.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KELLY: Well this is a very significant development. When you talk about DNA here, we‘re talking about the certainty of one in a trillion. So it is a—you know, a very important piece of evidence for us.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: Police in New York saying they got the big break in the investigation into Imette St. Guillen‘s murder. This weekend, blood from the prime suspect bouncer Darryl Littlejohn allegedly found on the plastic ties binding Imette‘s hands behind her back.
If it turns out Littlejohn is the one who sexual assaulted, tortured and strangled Imette, there will be a lot of questions to be answered, like why didn‘t Littlejohn‘s parole officer know he was working as a bouncer at night? He had a 9:00 p.m. curfew, and how did Littlejohn get hired as a bouncer when hiring a convicted felon as a bar employer is illegal.
Joining me now, joining the panel, Clint Van Zandt, former FBI profiler and MSNBC analyst. All right, Clint, let‘s go through this.
CLINT VAN ZANDT, FORMER FBI PROFILER: Sure.
ABRAMS: Number one, state probation authorities, right?
VAN ZANDT: Yes. Number one, the state number right away had the responsibility to monitor this guy, to make sure he wasn‘t working in an environment such as a bar where liquor is being served and number two, to make sure he was home every night, 9:00 p.m. curfew.
VAN ZANDT: Didn‘t do it.
ABRAMS: This is in connection with his conviction as a bank robber.
VAN ZANDT: That‘s correct.
ABRAMS: Then you got the federal—I mean let me read—this is number eight here. Because of a glitch in the system, Littlejohn was not placed under federal supervision. He also did not report voluntarily to federal probation officers. He fell between the cracks said Tony Garoppolo, the top federal probation official in Brooklyn. Mr. Garoppolo said a support worker responsible for the error was laid off sometime ago.
VAN ZANDT: Yes. That‘s fine. Now we found somebody else to blame. We‘re blaming some GS-3 clerk, we said they dropped the ball. What happened to the rest of the system? This guy should have been under two layers of supervision. There should have been two different parole officers monitoring him, and it looks like nobody was.
ABRAMS: David, look, you know the New York stories as well as anyone, and it seems that a lot of stories lately have been—have occurred, bad things have happened because local people, federal people, probation officials, people who were responsible for monitoring children, et cetera, are blowing it.
GOLDIN: Well, Dan there are lots of laws out there and the question is what laws are actually enforced. There‘s this law that, as Clint pointed out and you point out, a convicted felon can‘t work in a bar, but who is out there checking every night gazillions of bars in New York City. Countless numbers, every block has got a bar.
There are nightclubs and trendy places like The Falls, is anybody actually going checking to see whether anybody has the license they‘re supposed to have. As far as New York State parole officials, they had been monitoring Mr. Littlejohn. They did an unannounced home visit. He was home.
He had been checking in with them, saying he is working at a full-time job apparently at a mortgage company. What they didn‘t know was that he was moonlighting at night at this bar.
ABRAMS: And when you talk about The Falls, this is the bar apparently illegally hired a convicted felon. They didn‘t check his background, not properly licensed to perform security, no checks conducted by any NYC regulatory agents. It seems, Susan, that there was a failure at every level by The Falls, but they also it seems didn‘t even follow up on his resume. I mean he says on his resume I think that he was a former federal marshal and that was just all not true.
FILAN: I mean it is absolutely ridiculous, to think that a guy like this can just talk his way into a job where essentially, you know he‘s not just bouncer for the bar. He‘s security. What does security mean?
Security means that the patrons of the bar are safe, fights don‘t break out. Young women that are there of age, drinking legally are in a safe environment. But really what this bar allegedly did if Darryl Littlejohn is the killer is deliver Imette St. Guillen to her death. She basically was fed into the jaws of a shark.
And that‘s because they didn‘t do their homework. I mean and apparently he used to like to wear clothes with the logo U.S. marshal on them and he was I read in one of the papers that he reportedly just a very angry man. Didn‘t anybody‘s bells go off?
Doesn‘t -- I mean you just have to ask what kind of humans are we.
Don‘t we care about one another at all?
ABRAMS: Clint, you laid it out for us in a note where you were basically saying look, the state failed, the feds failed. The Falls failed. Then you went on from there, right?
VAN ZANDT: Yes, yes, the failures just go on and on between the agencies that should have been monitoring between the bars and then not only did the bar not pay 75 or 100 bucks to get a background investigation or not only did they not pick up the phone and call the Marshal Service and say we got a guy who says he‘s a former marshal. Is he in fact that?
But then we have these allegations that she was taken out by this guy that the bar manager didn‘t tell the police, Dan, for five critical days...
VAN ZANDT: I mean you know one of the challenges for the NYPD was finding physical evidence. How much could this guy have gotten rid of in five days?
ABRAMS: Is this changing, David, the way bars are doing business in New York now?
GOLDIN: Presumably it will have some effect. At this point, it‘s sort of too soon to tell. A lot of depends on what happens to The Falls and bar owners like the owners of any other business I think look at each other and they see what each other gets away with or doesn‘t get away with.
ABRAMS: But I‘ve got to believe that seeing the story and hearing about it, you know, some of them may say whoa, you know I didn‘t even think about all the issues that come up with hiring a security guy. We should probably go and double check.
GOLDIN: Well that‘s what I was saying about the fact that there are all these bars, they‘ve got people working there, depending what their jobs are. Steve Dunlevy (ph) from the “New York Post” had a conversation with his old friend Jack Dorrian (INAUDIBLE) the leader of the family in essence and he was making the point, claiming that Mr. Littlejohn wasn‘t really a bouncer working inside.
He was just outside checking I.D.s and looking at who was going in. Trying perhaps to lay the groundwork for an argument that he didn‘t really work in security and if in fact he didn‘t work in security, he didn‘t need this license. Of course, he still shouldn‘t have been there anyway because he was a convicted felon.
ABRAMS: Right. And Jonna, I‘m assuming, again, I‘m now switching your client for a moment. If your client now is The Falls or the Dorrian family, that‘s what you‘re starting to think about, right?
SPILBOR: Well definitely, although I don‘t think there is any criminal liability on the bar owners right now but there sure is civil liability, especially if Littlejohn is found guilty. They negligently hired this guy. They‘re going to be responsible for Imette‘s wrongful death without a doubt and they should be writing the check right now.
ABRAMS: Well particularly if the bar manager, as is reported, asked Littlejohn to remove her from the bar.
SPILBOR: Yes. Well, of course if that‘s the case and they did deliver her to Littlejohn, assuming that he‘s guilty or assuming that he could be proven guilty by a preponderance of the evidence, which is the standard in civil court, the bar owners are 100 percent liable.
ABRAMS: Let me just—Larry Kobilinsky, real quick, still a lot of DNA testing and physical evidence to be tested?
KOBILINSKY: Absolutely, Dan. The case is still ongoing. The analyses are still ongoing. They don‘t need any more at this point to indict. We‘re going to spend a lot of time bringing in all that other physical evidence and it‘s all going to come together. The puzzle will be solved and I predict there will be a conviction in the case.
ABRAMS: And real quick, Larry, how is the community over there at John Jay where she was a student doing?
KOBILINSKY: Well, I‘ll tell you, there‘s a very good feeling now that this fellow has been caught. There‘s been—it‘s been very frustrating and shocking and now maybe there‘s the beginning of closure...
ABRAMS: And there was probably a concern that could it have been one of our own.
KOBILINSKY: I think a lot of young women were feeling that, but now I think there‘s a relief throughout the community and the college.
ABRAMS: All right. Clint Van Zandt, Larry Kobilinsky, Susan Filan, Jonna Spilbor, Davidson Goldin, thanks a lot. Appreciate it.
VAN ZANDT: Thank you.
ABRAMS: Coming up, his former boss is one of the FBI‘s 10 most wanted, accused of nearly 20 murders, but now Whitey Bulger‘s former top deputy is turning on his boss, talking to prosecutors and get this, refusing to go into the witness protection program. He joins us. We‘ll face the whole thing.
And how real is everything we see on “The Sopranos”? We talk to three people who would know. They say “The Sopranos” plot lines really are pretty accurate.
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 New Jersey.
Police are looking for Lee Barnes. He‘s 55, five-nine, 170, was convicted of aggravated sexual assault of four female juveniles, has not registered his address with the state. If you‘ve got any information on his whereabouts, please contact the New Jersey State Police, 609-882-2000. Be right back.
ABRAMS: Coming up, a former Boston mobster is just out of prison and telling all in a cable exclusive. First the headlines.
ABRAMS: For 12 years, south Boston native Kevin Weeks served his first deputy to one of the most notorious crime bosses in history. James Whitey Bulger, the former head of the Irish mob out of south Boston to this day occupies a spot on the FBI‘s most wanted list right next to Osama bin Laden.
From the early 1980‘s to the mid 1990‘s, Weeks apparently taunted, assaulted, helped commit brutal murders at Bulger‘s request, terrorizing south Boston. In 1995 Whitey Bulger learned he might be arrested. He disappeared.
Weeks later learned Bulger‘s trusted boss and friend had been an informant for the FBI for 20 years and ratted out dozens to the FBI. So when Weeks was arrested in ‘99, he agreed to testify against Bulger, leading to Bulger‘s indictment. In exchange for his testimony, Weeks spent just 72 months in prison and was released last year. And now he refuses to enter the witness protection program. Has a new book out entitled “Brutal:
The Untold Story of My Life Inside Whitey Bulger‘s Irish Mob”, which is on shelves this week.
Joining us now in a cable news exclusive, Kevin Weeks, author of “Brutal”. Thanks a lot for coming on the program. We appreciate it.
KEVIN WEEKS, FORMER NEW ENGLAND MOB MEMBER: You‘re welcome.
ABRAMS: So no witness protection program. Aren‘t you worried someone is going to come after you?
WEEKS: No. No. Not at all.
ABRAMS: Victim‘s family members?
WEEKS: No. They‘re all legitimate people. They‘re not criminals.
ABRAMS: And how about someone on behalf of Bulger?
WEEKS: No. I don‘t think he has anyone out here. I was the last one he had left.
ABRAMS: What kind of crimes are we talking about? I mean we know the crimes that Bulger committed, murders it seems somewhat regularly. You describe them in your book. How about you yourself?
WEEKS: I participated in five murders, extortion, money laundering and drug dealing, loan sharking.
ABRAMS: And do you have any sense of how the victims‘ family members feel about the fact that you‘re out?
WEEKS: I imagine they would be upset.
ABRAMS: I‘m sorry, can you say that again. I...
WEEKS: I said I imagine they‘d be upset. Maybe I deserved more time.
ABRAMS: Because I had read that you‘ve said in the past, that if you were one of them, that you would think that they should—if you were one them, you would think that you should have gotten more time, right?
WEEKS: Oh, positively. I mean if it was someone in my family, I‘d want to kill them if they hurt someone in my family.
ABRAMS: Doesn‘t sound like there‘s a lot of remorse there. Any remorse?
WEEKS: I have a lot of remorse, but I don‘t dwell on it. I can‘t change things in the past, so I try not to—you know, I compartmentalize my life and I move on. Was it right what we did, no? I mean what right did we have to kill people for being informants, when they were the two biggest informants?
ABRAMS: Who gets the money from the book?
WEEKS: Fifty percent of the money that I receive goes to the victims‘ families.
ABRAMS: And the other 50?
WEEKS: That‘s split up amongst the co-author, literary agent and stuff.
ABRAMS: Did you work this out with the family members or are you just donating this to them? I mean did they say this is what we‘d like or is this just based on the fact that they sued, et cetera?
WEEKS: No, this is based on the fact that I was hit with unlawful deaths and suits and their lawyers and trustees, bankruptcy (INAUDIBLE) worked it out so the families would get some money. They haven‘t gotten any money from anyone, including the government, so it was worked out that they would get proceeds from the book.
ABRAMS: Do you know where Whitey Bulger might be? I mean have you been able to help the authorities at all in finding this guy?
WEEKS: No, I haven‘t had contact with him since ‘96.
ABRAMS: But you do point out that he stashed away $30 million to $50 million throughout the world?
I didn‘t say thee stashed away. What I said was he made 30 to $50 million throughout the world...
WEEKS: Well I didn‘t say that he stashed away 30 to 50 million. What I said was he made 30 to $50 million, but he had been stashing money all around.
ABRAMS: So you think that he‘s probably got cash in different places in the world?
WEEKS: Most definitely.
ABRAMS: You turned on him only after finding that that he had been an FBI informant. If you hadn‘t found that out and you‘d been arrested, would you have still testified against him?
WEEKS: No. No, I would have went away and did my time.
ABRAMS: For life?
WEEKS: Up to life, yes.
ABRAMS: So it was only finding out that he was talking that led you to talk.
WEEKS: Well, you know, other people in the case, that were involved with him, decided to cooperate, and you know, he was ratting on everybody, so I mean, what loyalty do I owe him when he was giving up people?
ABRAMS: You know, the way the book is written, it does sound at times like you idolize Whitey Bulger. Is that fair?
WEEKS: Not idolized him. I respected the guy. I looked up to him. He was more like a mentor to me and teaching me as I went and you know I wrote the truth in the book, exactly how everything went, and yes, I mean I did look up to the guy. And then he just betrayed all of us.
ABRAMS: But this guy—I mean you were saying that you have some remorse, and this guy was a brutal killer, now indicted on a number of murders and suspected in others. How can you look up to a guy like that?
WEEKS: Well, I said I did. I didn‘t say I do now. I mean he—whatever trust and loyalty I owe him, I—that‘s gone.
ABRAMS: But you—but it‘s fair to say that when you read the book, it does—you do sort of portray a sort of almost heroic image of this guy.
WEEKS: No, I don‘t portray him as a hero or anything, I just tell the facts, the truth. I mean you know you can‘t discredit someone for his discipline, his intelligence, his cunning. I mean that doesn‘t change the fact, you know, he was a murderer, yes. He was an informant, yes. You know, he was a lot of things.
ABRAMS: Do you want to see him caught?
WEEKS: You know, eventually I think they will.
ABRAMS: If he‘s watching, what would you want him to hear you say?
WEEKS: There‘s nothing he can hear me say. He already knows it all, you know.
ABRAMS: What do you mean he already knows?
WEEKS: He knows what he did. He knows what his partners (INAUDIBLE) have been doing. You know what can he say? He can‘t explain anything.
ABRAMS: What are you doing now as a profession?
WEEKS: Well, I work construction and then this book is taking up a lot of time.
ABRAMS: Were people reluctant to hire you because of your past?
WEEKS: Some people were.
ABRAMS: Others not?
WEEKS: No, I mean, I have—you know, I came back and had a lot friends that still existed out there, got a lot of support from the community, people I dealt with and stuff, and they helped me out.
ABRAMS: When you say support from the community, I would assume there are also people that probably want to ring your neck. Do they ever come up to you and say hey, I know who you are and try to do anything to you or say anything to you?
WEEKS: No, no one—I‘ve never run across that. No one has approached me or said anything to me.
ABRAMS: Kevin Weeks, thanks very much for coming up on the program.
WEEKS: You‘re welcome.
ABRAMS: Coming up, most of us get a lot of our information on the mob from TV, I don‘t mean the news. One former NYPD detective says “The Sopranos” is the best representation of crime life on TV. So how real is it? I‘ll ask three people who would know.
And a lot of you writing in about whether twice-convicted child molesters should face the death penalty. Bill in Oklahoma, your e-mails. Remember, email@example.com. Include your name and where you‘re writing from. I respond at the end of the show.
ABRAMS: Coming up, “The Sopranos” are back. Everyone loves watching that fictional crime family on TV, but we ask does it really provide an even remotely accurate picture of what‘s really happening? When we come back.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is Tony Soprano, talking about the Angelo Geocalone (ph) murder. The sound quality is not good, but I can back it up in court. He said...
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: Hate it when that happens. “The Sopranos” are back. After nearly two years off, the premiere is already filled with murders, gangsters turned FBI informants, and a mob boss picked up by the authorities. But how true to life is Tony Soprano and everything else we‘re seeing on the show? Do informants really meet with the FBI in cars? How often do they get killed before they testify?
Joining me now is a former captain of the real life Colombo crime family in New York and author of “Blood Covenant”, Michael Franzese, author of “Five Families: The Rise, Decline and Resurgence of America‘s Most Powerful Mafia Empires”, Selwyn Raab, who has covered the mafia for nearly 40 years for “The New York Times” and Joe Coffey, former NYPD homicide detective, who tracked the mob for more than 30 years in the organized crime homicide unit and with various other units. And he‘s written a book about his experiences as well.
All right. Let me go through a number of questions that I have. First of all, Joe, let me ask you, how much pressure is there on witnesses to participate with the FBI? I mean do they really go out there and keep trying to get them to come on over to the other side?
JOE COFFEY, FORMER NYPD HOMICIDE DETECTIVE: You first have to understand the motivation of informants. I categorize them in three separate categories. One is vengeance, one is money and one is avoiding jail. We found that the most productive informants are the ones who are operating out of vengeance.
ABRAMS: And so, very often, they‘ll come to you is what you‘re saying?
COFFEY: Yes. And on some occasions, they come to us. Other times we catch them in a situation that they can‘t walk away from, and we turn them and they become informants in return for reduced jail time.
ABRAMS: So do you meet them in cars...
ABRAMS: Do you meet—the way that they—in “The Sopranos,” they meet them in this car and is that how you did it?
COFFEY: Well you normally want to met them out of the view of the public eye. You meet them in some—a lot of times in hotel rooms, sometimes you‘re forced into meeting them in cars. “The Sopranos” depiction of organized crime is pretty accurate. I would say it‘s up there with “GoodFellas”. “GoodFellas” and “The Sopranos” are the most realistic depiction of organized crime that I‘ve seen.
ABRAMS: Michael Franzese, do you agree with that?
MICHAEL FRANZESE, FORMER CAPTAIN OF COLOMBO CRIME FAMILY: To a degree. I‘m not a—I don‘t actually watch “The Sopranos” in sequence. You know I see a show every once in a while.
FRANZESE: I will tell you this. If there was ever a mob boss visiting a psychiatrist, he‘d probably be in the trunk of a car by the end of the week, but, you know, they‘d figure he is becoming an informant, but “GoodFellas” certainly is very, very accurate and “Donnie Brasco” is another show that was very accurate. I knew most of those guys and that was an accurate depiction of that portion of the life.
ABRAMS: Let me ask you this. One of the things that happened on “The Sopranos” was that one of the characters wanted to move to Florida, he‘d come into a retirement—sorry, he‘d gotten an inheritance of $2 million and he wanted to get out, so he goes to Tony and he says I want out. How hard is it to get out?
FRANZESE: I have never known a situation throughout my 15 years in the life where anybody asked to walk away or asked to go out. I mean it just doesn‘t happen. I mean normally if you leave that life, you either you know leave in a coffin, as they say, or you enter in a witness protection program and start cooperating with the government.
You know rare cases, I mean, one being my own when you know we‘ve been fortunate enough to make a break and that wasn‘t easy. I mean that didn‘t come without a struggle and a price, but you don‘t go and say I quit or I‘m ready to resign and leave, that‘s just not part of the life. When you take that oath, it‘s a lifetime oath, a lifetime commitment.
ABRAMS: Do they just hang out all day the way these guys do? I mean did you used to sit around at some place like Bada Bing and just you know wait for something to happen?
FRANZESE: You know, there‘s different levels and different hierarchy in that life. I mean there were other guys that, you know what, were not the great earners, that would sort of be there on call to do whatever, always trying to grind out a living and then you had guys that were a lot more aggressive involved in business and you know I was very aggressive during that time. I worked 15, 18 hours a day, and, you know, I was real interested in making money.
ABRAMS: What would do you?
FRANZESE: So you got—you know, well, I was involved in a lot of different things. I had you know the normal book-making operation that all of us are involved in, you‘re all shylocks. You‘re in that life. You‘re involved in, you know usurious loans, part of the life, but I also had many legitimate businesses.
I had car agencies, car-leasing companies. I was involved in a major
a gasoline tax scam throughout the ‘70‘s and ‘80‘s that eventually was my downfall, but again, you know and you—when you rise to a certain level in that life, you reach a level of captain, you‘ve got a lot of guys underneath you and you‘re constantly you know working for them and with them and interacting with other families, so it‘s a pretty hectic pace at some point.
ABRAMS: All right, Selwyn Raab, let me ask you to give us a little history here including what‘s been happening as of late. How hard is it to prosecute members of the mob?
SELWYN RAAB, AUTHOR, “FIVE FAMILIES”: It‘s become relatively simple since the passage of the RICO, Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations Act, and that really went into effect in 1980 and since then, it‘s a very broad law. It‘s easy to get people now on conspiracy, so it‘s been the best weapon in the—in law enforcement arsenal.
But getting back to “The Sopranos”, the way I would rate it and look at it, it‘s good entertainment, but it‘s lousy history. I‘ve written extensively about the mafia and in my book “Five Families” about how a program and some other show business ventures like “The Sopranos” unwittingly become allies of the mafia...
ABRAMS: In what sense?
RAAB: They become a precious asset because they humanize them, and despite all of the privities that Tony Soprano commits, it‘s very difficult not to identify with him, not try to understand, sympathize with him as if he‘s going through a mid-life crisis and all the problems he has.
ABRAMS: And then you‘ve got people who are being hired as consultants, I mean on these various programs who are criminals.
RAAB: Well, yes. The one really accurate aspect of “The Sopranos” is the profanity-laced conversation. The dialogue is great, that part is true, and they‘ve—obviously they‘ve read the transcripts or heard the bugged conversations. But the rest of it is a joke to—Tony Soprano wouldn‘t last five minutes as a major mob boss.
RAAB: Well for one thing, look the way he often starts his day. He comes shuffling down his driveway in his bathrobe. If anybody wanted to knock him off, he‘s an easy target. He drives himself around by himself, no bodyguards. He sits in cafes in the daylight on street corners talking with his pals and then his whole point about the very sexy attractive psychiatrist he sees. No mob family would tolerate that. It‘s never been tolerated.
Anyone who is suspected in any way of being mentally unstable would be out in a minute, so all of that is a wrong picture. But what you really have is a picture not so much of a mob family, what you have is a dysfunctional suburban household where everything is falling apart for this guy going through a mid-life crisis.
He‘s got his marriage is breaking up. His children are rebelling against him. His mother wanted to kill him. His uncle tries to—his uncle shoots him. All of these problems that are surfacing for him, so in that sense you almost -- it‘s very difficult not to sympathize with him. And you really don‘t get the feeling about all the depravities and all the horrors that the mafia really brings.
They‘re almost—he‘s almost like an amiable rogue. And many of the people around him, I mean they‘re cracking jokes. They‘re having a good time. So you get this vicarious appeal that a lot of people would envy him. Look at him. He lives in a small mansion. Money is—dough is rolling in for him. He has a bevy of beauties who are at his call. He drives...
ABRAMS: But I wonder, Michael Franzese, I mean it seems to me that is what—I mean you look at John Gotti, for example, the father, and it does seem that he did live something of that life.
FRANZESE: Well I mean to a degree. First of all, I have to agree. I‘m not going to sit here and claim that you know all “The Sopranos” is accurate, but you got to understand something. It is Hollywood. If characters weren‘t likable or interesting to a degree, the show would not last, so I mean I understand that part of it.
I think you know what people don‘t understand though is that the family members, I mean I can certainly sympathize with them. It‘s one of the reason why I walked away from that life. You know it‘s brutal on families. I don‘t know anybody that was involved in that life, any of my contemporaries whose families didn‘t suffer greatly as a result of that person‘s membership...
ABRAMS: How were you able to walk away?
FRANZESE: Well you know it was difficult. You know I walked away and you know I—one thing in my favor, I knew the life very well. I knew what these guys would do and wouldn‘t do. I changed my patterns and my lifestyle, moved out to the West Coast.
I didn‘t testify in court against any of my former associates, which was a big plus in my favor. You know I worked for several years, I mean the boss of my family was extremely upset with me and I had some situations that I had to deal with over the years. But quite honestly, I outlasted everybody. I mean most of the guys that I dealt with during that life are either dead or in prison for the rest of their lives.
FRANZESE: I agree with, you know the detective who said that you know the RICO law has...
FRANZESE: ... wrecked havoc...
FRANZESE: ... on the families. So I mean it‘s been a rough situation there.
ABRAMS: All right. Michael Franzese, Selwyn Raab and Joe Coffey, thanks a lot. Appreciate it.
Up next, your e-mails on whether two-time convicted child molesters should be sentenced to death. Coming up.
ABRAMS: We‘re back. Time for “Your Rebuttal”. Last week, we told you about a bill in Oklahoma that would allow for the execution of second time sex offenders.
Zori Cohen writes, “It will not serve as a deterrent as the abusers. It will serve as a deterrent to the child and adult reporters who may have some kind of relationship with the abusers. Example, a father who abuses his child.”
Kate Donahue from Shaker Heights, Ohio, “It should be the death penalty for first time child abuse offenders—for the first time.”
From Long Beach, California Phil Williams writes, “Unless our legal system can be 100 percent sure that the child who claims to have been molested is telling the truth, which is not always the case, innocent persons alleged to have committed such heinous crimes might be wrongfully put to death.”
Billye Nipper from Blanchard, Oklahoma, “As a Catholic and as a person I abhor what some Catholic priests have done to children, but I don‘t think each one of them should be put to death.”
From West Bloomfield, Michigan, Kate Knight, “Finally, someone has the right answer. These monsters destroy innocent children‘s lives. As a society, we‘d be better off using this solution.”
Your e-mails firstname.lastname@example.org. We‘ll be right back.
ABRAMS: That does it for us tonight. “HARDBALL” with Chris Matthews up next.
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