Guests: Davidson Goldin, Susan Filan, David Schwartz, Catharine Skipp, Brian Skipper, Carol Tracy, Dale Barnard
DAN ABRAMS, HOST, "ABRAMS REPORT": Coming up, the mother speaks out. She didn’t want her son to testify against the teacher her boy had sex with. That led prosecutors to drop charges. Now mom is lashing out at those who wanted to force her son to testify.
The program about justice starts now.
But first up on the docket, breaking news, the family of graduate student Imette St. Guillen on its way back to New York after bar bouncer Darryl Littlejohn was indicted today for Imette’s murder. The 24-year-old criminal justice graduate student was sexually assaulted, strangled, wrapped in tape, dumped in an abandoned lot on Brooklyn, New York—in Brooklyn, New York last month.
Joining me now with the latest on this once again is “New York Sun” columnist Davidson Goldin. All right, so Davidson you told us last week that you expected it was going to be Tuesday or Wednesday. Turns out now it is Wednesday. How many days did the grand jury sit and hear evidence?
DAVIDSON GOLDIN, “NEW YORK SUN” COLUMNIST: The grand jury heard evidence over about six or seven days, this was not a grand jury devoted to this case, Dan. This was a sitting grand jury hearing evidence on lots of cases in Brooklyn, New York. As prosecutors had evidence to present, they’d show up, present the evidence and around noon, 1:00 this afternoon, the grand jury indicted Darryl Littlejohn on first-degree murder charges. To justify first-degree murder...
ABRAMS: Yes, let’s talk about that. I mean because in New York the specific requirements, first degree murder, two possibilities with the law on this, either could be that there was another crime occurring or that there was some sort of torture involved.
GOLDIN: The theory is that the other crime was torture. Two possibilities we’ve been looking at here, Dan, are torture and rape. Indications were that Imette was brutally raped and there’s no indication that she wasn’t raped. The issue is there’s no evidence tying Darryl Littlejohn to that rape necessarily, whereas the murder the prosecutors are convinced he conducted clearly they say...
ABRAMS: Because if you’ve got his blood on the ties that bound her hands, they could certainly allege, look, that’s certainly part of the torture here, right?
GOLDIN: That’s exactly what we’re being told. The key evidence in this case, as you began to point out, is the blood on the ties that bound Imette’s hands. Also cell phone records indicating that Darryl Littlejohn’s phone traveled from the area near his home in Queens to where the body was found in Brooklyn. Also witnesses who say that Mr. Littlejohn was last seen walking with Imette out of the bar at about 4:00 a.m., just after last call and then a couple of homeless people, not clear how credible they’ll be as witnesses but they also say they saw Darryl Littlejohn and Imette St. Guillen enter the same car together.
ABRAMS: Because even a bartender wrote in “New York” magazine this week that they walked out together, right?
GOLDIN: That’s what he wrote this week. And he sort of popped out of nowhere. People weren’t that familiar with him, also in that article was an indication that Darryl Littlejohn was referred to the bar by his buddy Kwan, these bouncers in New York go by these street names.
GOLDIN: No one has seen Kwan in weeks. He’s an interesting part of the story we haven’t heard much about.
ABRAMS: Yes. All right. Davidson Goldin thanks very much for that.
Now to this teacher who had sex with her 14-year-old student, she will not serve any time behind bars, and now the victim’s mother is speaking out. This was just a day after prosecutors in Marion County, Florida, dropped charges against the 25-year-old former teacher in that county. Remember, she also admits to having sex with the boy, in nearby Hillsborough County. She struck a deal with prosecutors there, three years of house arrest, seven years probation. While mom didn’t want her son to have to testify against his former teacher and supported the plea deal, she is not happy with what Lafave had to say yesterday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DEBRA LAFAVE, HAD SEX WITH A STUDENT: I was very nervous. I have a lot of things in my past that have unfortunately become public, and it’s very hard to talk about sensitive issues that have happened as a child. I am very remorseful. And I believe that I’m going through therapy and doing everything that I can possible to better myself for the community and society.
“SALLY”, MOTHER OF DEBRA LAFAVE’S VICTIM: I think she, you know, I think she appears to be happy to—that it’s all resolved. I just don’t see any remorse. You know, I think she enjoys being in front of the camera. I have yet to see her really take any responsibility for her actions and it’s been this way through this you know 18 months, almost two years leading up to this.
A lot of information that’s never been brought in front of the press that just again from the various interviews with psychiatrists and whatnot, that’s what I—kept coming out of this, you know out of these meetings with is she—it’s as if she were the victim, not my son, and I hope one day she can accept responsibility for what she’s done. I know she said she did. I just—actions speak louder than words. I believe she should serve prison time for what she did, but at the end of the day, not at the expense of my son.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: So let’s assume for a moment that there was a double standard, that maybe a male teacher accused of the same crime would not have been spared prison time. Let’s just assume that for a minute. The question, is that such a bad thing if it’s true?
“My Take”—there’s no question adults, particularly those in positions of authority, need to be punished for having sex with underage children, but as I’ve said before, men molesting girls is a far more widespread and dangerous problem in this country than the few older women who are accused of molesting boys, so it’s a more important message to send to the men and many experts say that because of societal stereotypes, whether you like them or not, girls would likely suffer more long-term damage than boys. I’m not saying she should get off without punishment, but I also can’t say it troubles me that much that her sentence is lighter than it might be for a man who molested a girl. I know, a lot of people think that’s wrong.
Joining me is our friend former prosecutor and MSNBC legal analyst Susan Filan, as well as criminal defense attorney David Schwartz. All right. So Susan, why is that wrong? I mean why do we have to say it’s all equal, it’s always equal, it’s always the same thing, we can’t look at the circumstances, et cetera?
SUSAN FILAN, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: Because wrong is wrong. And breaking the law is breaking the law.
ABRAMS: Sentences are different...
FILAN: Hey, Dan, let’s rewrite the statute.
ABRAMS: ... in cases all the time, all the time. Judges have discretion to sentence and there’s a reason for that, so they can look at the circumstances and they can look at the case.
FILAN: Let’s rewrite the statute, Dan. Let’s say adults in positions of authority who have sex with underage girls go to jail, that’s a crime...
FILAN: ... but women who have sex with boys don’t go...
ABRAMS: Am I wrong? Am I wrong?
FILAN: Why don’t we decriminalize it?
ABRAMS: Am I wrong that judges have discretion?
FILAN: Oh, Dan, of course you’re not wrong that judges have discretion, but that’s a ludicrous thing to pose in the face of what you’re suggesting. Why don’t we rewrite the statute and say it’s OK for women to have sex with little boys, but it’s not OK for men to.
ABRAMS: Who’s saying OK?
FILAN: You’re not willing to go that far.
ABRAMS: Wait. Wait. Who’s saying OK? Who’s saying OK?
FILAN: You’re saying it’s not so bad. Translation, it’s kind of OK.
FILAN: These boys aren’t going to be as hurt as these girls.
ABRAMS: David Schwartz, I mean look, you take a more extreme position than I do on this.
DAVID SCHWARTZ, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Yes, I think Susan is completely out of touch with reality right here. We base it on our—on the way we are as a society. This really is a victimless crime, Dan, and I say victimless because you know what, this 14-year-old kid, she—that kid is walking around right now, he is the hero amongst his classmates, he is a hero amongst that school, and you know, think back, his hormones are raging and she did him a favor.
And you know what, if you think I’m crazy, Dan, I conducted my own poll because I thought when I heard this case, maybe I am a little crazy and I asked men from all walks of life, and you know what? It’s the same response that there is no victim in this case, and I think Susan is out of touch with reality here.
FILAN: I’m absolutely shocked.
ABRAMS: Go ahead.
FILAN: I am shocked that you’re going on national television and taking that position. I think that’s shameful...
SCHWARTZ: It’s not just me...
FILAN: ... and I am shocked.
SCHWARTZ: It’s not just me, Susan. It’s a poll...
FILAN: Doesn’t make it right.
SCHWARTZ: ... I polled 100 men and well over 90 percent of them, because I thought it may have been me, but you know what, there is no victim in this case. And when there’s no victim...
FILAN: Then why...
SCHWARTZ: ... there should not be any jail.
FILAN: OK, excuse me. If there’s no victim in this case...
SCHWARTZ: There is none.
FILAN: ... why was this boy so traumatized...
SCHWARTZ: I’ll tell you why.
FILAN: ... that he couldn’t go to trial? Why is his mom on television...
SCHWARTZ: I’ll tell you why, Susan...
FILAN: ... saying there isn’t going to be jail at the expense of my son?
FILAN: Why did the prosecution...
SCHWARTZ: Good question. Let me answer it.
FILAN: ... have to drop this case rather...
SCHWARTZ: Let me answer it. Let me answer it.
ABRAMS: Hang on.
FILAN: ... than go forward because this boy is so traumatized?
SCHWARTZ: It’s the media.
FILAN: How can you say he’s not a victim...
SCHWARTZ: It’s the media that traumatized him...
ABRAMS: The media’s fault, right.
SCHWARTZ: ... not the sex with the teacher. No, no, not—it’s the media attention, OK. And the prosecutors that tried to force him to testify in this case, because guess what? If he testified in this case, it would be clear that he was not traumatized at all.
ABRAMS: But wait a sec. Wait. Wait...
SCHWARTZ: Think back, Dan...
ABRAMS: David, David, look.
ABRAMS: I mean I made the point that people—the experts we have talked to say that based on societal stereotypes it’s possible that girls would be more impacted than boys...
ABRAMS: But I have to tell you that the majority of them also say that young boys are traumatized...
SCHWARTZ: Absolutely not.
ABRAMS: ... and affected negatively, not in the sort of macho, yo dude, high-five kind of way, but actually hurt by this in the long run.
SCHWARTZ: Oh, come on. Think back, Dan. When you were 14, it wasn’t so long ago. Think back to little Dan Abrams in high school. Think back to your hormones raging and think about it. If this would have happened to you, would this—would this have affected your life for the rest of your life?
ABRAMS: My concern, David...
SCHWARTZ: Absolutely not, Dan. Come on.
ABRAMS: My concern is that a lot of guys look back on this and say yes, if I was 14 man, I would have loved it, dude, but the reality is that when you really look back on it and you think about how sort of malleable all of us were at age 14, it’s a nice thing to be able to look back and say oh, you know that would have been neat. I had fantasies about my teacher. It’s a very different thing to say that it actually doesn’t matter. That it actually is a victimless crime.
SCHWARTZ: Oh, it matters, Dan. It matters. The teacher deserved to be punished. I just don’t think the teacher...
ABRAMS: You said it’s a victimless crime.
SCHWARTZ: It’s a victimless crime, but it’s still illegal, it’s still against the law for the teacher to do what she did. She cannot teach anymore, no question about it. She needs psychiatric counseling, no question about it. She should be punished in some way because she broke the law.
ABRAMS: David, you have to agree, right, any time a woman does this we say she’s got psychological problems, any time a guy does this, we say he’s a pervert and we lock him up.
SCHWARTZ: Well you know what? That’s how we are as a society and it doesn’t happen in every case...
FILAN: That doesn’t make it right.
FILAN: You’re basically writing into social justice, you’re basically writing into legislation something that’s basically wrong and you’re condoning it.
SCHWARTZ: I’m not condoning it.
FILAN: That is the most patronizing disgraceful position and let me tell you why. This young boy and if any of you are parents out there listening and you have children and you send your boys and your girls to school, you’re not sending them so that their teachers can molest them...
FILAN: ... and have sex with them. You’re sending them so that they can be educated and when it does happen, it’s wrong, and it does hurt the child.
SCHWARTZ: I agree with that, Susan.
FILAN: He’s 14. He’s a child...
FILAN: ... and because his hormones are raging, that’s why he’s not in a position to consent and because he lacks the capacity to consent, that’s where it’s a crime. That’s why it’s illegal.
SCHWARTZ: I agree it’s a crime, Susan. I just want to get back to Dan’s...
SCHWARTZ: I want to get back to Dan’s original question, is there a double standard and is it OK? Yes, it’s OK that there’s a double standard. There are differences between men and women. We were made differently. There is a double standard. I’m not saying it’s not a crime. I’m not saying she shouldn’t be punished, but there’s a level of punishment.
SCHWARTZ: She shouldn’t go to jail for three decades.
ABRAMS: Hang on one sec. For the double standard, here’s what—here’s—Debra Lafave was asked about this yesterday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What do you think about the double standard?
LAFAVE: I don’t think there is one. I think we all should check the statistics and I don’t think there is a double standard.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: You know, Susan, we actually did check statistics and they don’t really exist.
FILAN: I wonder why.
ABRAMS: No, I mean, but seriously, no one has actually taken numbers down as to how do you compare female teachers, male teachers that have been punished state by state, et cetera, and done a sort of national database and said this is the comparison between men and women. But there is—I mean look, Susan, you would agree, right or wrong, that there probably was a double standard here, right?
FILAN: There was a problem with this case in that this boy was so traumatized, he couldn’t testify. As a result, the prosecutor’s hand was forced to drop the charges, because the judge lost his ability to be practical, stood on principle and forced the prosecution’s hand, so is that the double standard, or do you really think the state said, hey, kind of cool, she’s kind of hot, she had a sex with a little boy but he probably loved it so we’re going to let her go. I don’t think so. I don’t think so for a minute.
FILAN: I think this kid was so traumatized they had to handle the case this way and I think...
SCHWARTZ: Susan, he was traumatized because he had to testify on national television. That’s why he was traumatized. Again, he wasn’t traumatized because he had sex with the hot...
ABRAMS: How do you know?
SCHWARTZ: ... 25-year-old teacher.
FILAN: What do you...
ABRAMS: How do you know?
SCHWARTZ: I know based on my conversations...
FILAN: His own mom...
SCHWARTZ: ... with other men...
SCHWARTZ: ... that there is no way this kid is suffering any trauma. You know what, he’s going to be OK. Let’s focus our resources on the scum, the 40-year-old male that goes to parks and tries to pick up 14-year-old girls and have sex with them. Let’s concentrate our resources on that, please.
ABRAMS: Here’s Debra Lafave talking about whether she would reoffend.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you think that you will not reoffend?
LAFAVE: Absolutely not.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How do you know for sure...
LAFAVE: In my hearts of heart, I definitely know. I am a strong Christian woman and I believe that God has a path for me, and this was just a bump in the road.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: Well, that—you know that sounds to me a little bit like a copout. You know I think that they’ve got to watch her. They’ve got to watch her carefully. Even by her own admission, she says oh I’m bipolar; this may have led me to do this. Well, you know as you talk to the experts, again, if you’re bipolar, you’re probably bipolar for life. So they got to watch her, if that’s going to be the reason, although I don’t really buy that either. Because we got all these e-mails...
FILAN: I don’t buy it at all.
ABRAMS: ... from people saying I’m bipolar, I would never do anything like that. This is craziness. Anyway, all right. Susan Filan, David Schwartz...
SCHWARTZ: Thank you.
ABRAMS: ... we’re going to get a lot of e-mails on this one. Thanks a lot.
Coming up, an Ivy League professor sentenced to house arrest for drugging and sexually assaulting a woman. Prosecutors are furious saying he got off easy because of who he is.
And a serial killer in Daytona Beach, Florida, now a woman tells police she thinks her ex-husband could be their man.
Plus, police cracking down on car thieves with a new tool, using the cars as bait. It’s working. Car theft in one city down a whopping 50 percent, we got the tape.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now all of a sudden the motor home turned into a snowplow and we pushed snow all the way up to the windshield and we were stuck.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I told you we’d make it, mom. I told you we’d make it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I did good mom.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I love you daddy.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I love you baby.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Say hi Mema. Hi PawPaw. We made it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I’m proud of my family. They’re tough.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: That was the scene in southern Oregon, a family reunited. As we told you yesterday, the family trapped in their R.V. in heavy snow. Rescuers called off the search, it had been more than two weeks, so two of them struck out on their own for help, now all them back together again and healthy.
Now to Daytona Beach where a serial killer is on the loose and a woman says he could be her ex-husband. The woman reportedly in police custody right now says her ex has a history of murder, confessed to shooting a woman at close range and is a paranoid schizophrenic. Three women were found dead in Daytona Beach in three months, all victims of gunshot wounds and all three bodies dumped, one in an alley, one in a ditch and one on a dirt road.
Joining me now on the phone, Daytona Beach Police Captain Brian Skipper, and in Miami, “Newsweek’s” Catharine Skipp, who’s been following this story closely. Before I get to the captain, let me ask you Catharine, what are you hearing about the connection between this woman and the serial killer?
CATHARINE SKIPP, “NEWSWEEK”: Well, Captain Skipper can probably speak a lot better to this because he’s there, but they’re looking at several people right now but the investigation still has a long way to go.
ABRAMS: Well let me—the reason I asked you first because I think the captain is going to have to be careful about what he says and doesn’t say. Captain, what can you tell us?
CAPT. BRIAN SKIPPER, DAYTONA BEACH POLICE DEPT. (via phone): Well I can tell you this. She is not in police custody. We have absolutely no comment to make regarding any information that she has brought to us relative to this investigation. And I really can’t comment much about anything that she’s provided to you...
SKIPPER: ... or the media.
ABRAMS: And that’s what I feared. But you say that—because we had reported that she was in protective custody. Not true?
SKIPPER: She is not in police custody.
ABRAMS: OK, but she is being protected?
SKIPPER: I do not know about that. I first heard about that last night and I have no information about what that is...
ABRAMS: All right...
SKIPPER: ... or where it’s taking place.
ABRAMS: Catharine, the captain is going to have to be very careful about...
ABRAMS: ... what he can say and can’t say. So you can tell us what you know about how she came to find the police or go to the police, do you know?
SKIPP: No, really, the things going on in the street, there’s a lot of talk on the street, everybody is talking about it, so I’m assuming that she came out of just the chatter that’s going on around there. Everybody is very aware of it, everybody is talking about it all the time.
ABRAMS: You spent time in the neighborhood where the three women were taken from. Is there a lot of fear there?
SKIPP: I wish there was more fear there. It seems to be the women that we spoke with, you know, crack is the main thing and that’s all they really, you know—it’s get the next, you know, rock of crack, and you do what you have to do to get it.
ABRAMS: Because we were hearing stories about you know some prostitutes carrying knives with them, et cetera, to try and protect themselves, which most experts tell us isn’t very smart anyway, but...
SKIPP: Well, those prostitutes carry knives all the time. My understanding is they’re not seeing more knives on the prostitutes that they’re picking up (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
ABRAMS: Captain Skipper, do you have anyone who you’re considering a person of interest at this point?
SKIPPER: We have a number of people who are considered persons of interest, yes we do.
ABRAMS: Any theories—are you still convinced that they’re all connected, all three?
SKIPPER: Yes, we are convinced that they are connected. The theories, that field is wide open. Basically every theory is still in play and—so everything is in game.
ABRAMS: We saw a report that the serial killer might be a former police officer. Do you know where that’s coming from?
SKIPPER: Well, like Catharine alluded to a few minutes ago, there’s a lot of talk on the street and yes, that theory has popped up and it is being considered, but it is not the focus of our investigation at all.
ABRAMS: Do you know what is leading people to think that or speculate about that?
SKIPPER: No I don’t, not at all.
ABRAMS: Are you pretty close? I mean it sounds like you’re narrowing the field here.
SKIPPER: No, Dan. We’ve got a long, long way to go. We’re making slow steady progress, but quite frankly I don’t think we’re going to be making an arrest any time soon.
ABRAMS: Oh, really? All right, well this is a quote, again, that we have from the woman who believes her ex-husband is the killer.
I don’t think he’s ever going to stop until he’s dead or he’s incarcerated for the rest of his life. I won’t feel safe until one of those two things happens.
But again, as you heard the captain point out, they are looking at a whole host of possibilities and the fact that he’s saying that, you know, he doesn’t think that there’s going to necessarily get the guy any time soon, Captain, that certainly leads me to believe that maybe this woman doesn’t have the real guy.
SKIPPER: That’s a possibility.
ABRAMS: Yes. All right. I don’t want to push you on this. I appreciate what you’re doing.
ABRAMS: Captain Skipper, thanks a lot for taking the time and Catharine Skipp, we appreciate you taking the time as well.
SKIPPER: Thanks for having me.
ABRAMS: And this is why he’s on...
SKIPP: Thank you.
ABRAMS: Remember, if you’ve got any information for the police about this, here’s the number, 1-888-277-TIPS. Please call with any information.
Coming up, this man admitted to sexually assaulting the young niece of his college roommate. Now prosecutors say his Ivy League background prevented the judge from giving him any prison time.
And he was acquitted of murder in the criminal trial, found responsible in the civil trial. Guess who that is? That’s Robert Blake. What’s he doing now? He’s working as a ranch hand and talking up a storm.
Our continuing series, “Manhunt: Sex Offenders on the Loose”, our effort to find missing offenders before they strike. Our search today is in New Mexico.
Authorities are searching for Cindy Calvert Hohmann. She is 47, five-nine, 200 pounds. Convicted of continuous sexual abuse of a minor and lewd and lascivious acts with a minor under the age of 14. She has not registered her address with the state. If you’ve got any information on her whereabouts, please contact New Mexico. They’re looking for her, 505-827-9297. Be right back.
ABRAMS: We’re back. A doctor sentenced to house arrest instead of prison for an admitted sexual assault of his former college roommate’s niece. The question, did this medical researcher's outstanding career lead the judge to go soft on him? Tracy McIntosh, a leading researcher at the University of Pennsylvania, was accused of assaulting his college roommate’s 23-year-old niece in his office after drinking in several local bars.
The victim also believed McIntosh drugged her, though that was never proved. McIntosh was charged with rape and other crimes. The D.A.’s office negotiated a plea deal. McIntosh pled guilty to sexual assault, a lesser felony, class two, and possession of a controlled substance. He smoked marijuana with the victim before the assault.
Prosecutors thought say they expected McIntosh would get at least two to three years in a state prison, but Judge Rayford Means sentenced him to fines, probation, and house arrest. The D.A. is now appealing that sentence. The D.A. was asked in court—quote—“Are you saying that if Mr. McIntosh were a truck driver or a mill worker, he wouldn’t have been treated this way?” D.A. William Young responded that is patently obvious from this record.
Carol Tracy is executive director of Pennsylvania’s Women’s Law Project and joins us now. Is this as outrageous as it sounds?
CAROL TRACY, WOMEN’S LAW PROJECT: Yes, it is.
ABRAMS: Tell me why.
TRACY: There’s no question about it. In this—in cases like this, one wants the law to really focus on the crime, the act itself, not the actor, and it sends a terrible message both about the administration of justice, but also about whether women are going to come forward if the person who has assaulted them is a person of power and position and privilege.
ABRAMS: This is what the victim had said in court. I was raped and it was the most disgusting thing ever. He took something from me that I will never get back. It will affect me for the rest of my life and I don’t want this to happen to other women. Now we should say that she apparently signed off on the plea deal that he get the lesser charge of sexual assault, but I don’t think anyone expected that that would mean no time behind bars, right?
TRACY: That’s right. And you know, sexual assault is still a very serious charge, it’s a felony. It’s a second-degree felony.
ABRAMS: Well and we say two to three years, actually the statute says it could be five to 10 years. We were just saying as a practical matter, it was likely to be two to three years. And remember this is a guy—we’re not questioning whether anything happened. This is a quote from him.
“My actions were inappropriate and I totally admit it. I’m deeply sorry for my conduct.” So it sounds like what you’re saying is the fact that he is this researcher with all of these awards, et cetera, led the judge to go soft on him.
TRACY: I don’t think there’s any question about that and it certainly sent shock waves through the community in Philadelphia, and it really begs the question that with—people have wondered about forever about why women don’t come forward to prosecute, to come forward in cases of sexual assault and domestic violence. There’s a belief particularly if the person who has assaulted them is powerful, that justice won’t be done.
ABRAMS: We spoke with some former prosecutors in Pennsylvania and they said that some of the factors that made this case or would have made this case harder to prosecute is the fact that they were out drinking together, that was consensual, that they were apparently smoking pot consensually, but she’s also saying well, OK, fine, but I was also drugged, right? And that wasn’t proven but that’s the allegation.
TRACY: Well it wasn’t proven because it didn’t go to trial. But there was certainly a lot of circumstantial evidence, including a woman sitting in one of these restaurant-bars and projectile vomiting and her description of just being in and out of consciousness, I mean, I think it would have gone to credibility, but I think that it may well have been proven if it had gone to trial and she was very clear that she did not consent to this.
ABRAMS: This guy is a 52-year-old physician, married, father of two, served as director of the Head Injury Center at the University of Pennsylvania. He received many awards and his research was funded by the National Institute of Health and the Veterans Administration. Let’s remember why this college roommate’s niece was there, right? I mean she was supposed to be there for what, advice and career counseling?
TRACY: Well, she was becoming—she was being admitted to a graduate program at the University of Pennsylvania, and apparently they were having dinner or drinks where he was talking to her about potentially working in his lab, so that it—it was a personal and a professional context.
ABRAMS: So I mean, the point is that there’s also a sort of abuse of power here. Has he been sanctioned by any of the professional organizations, et cetera?
TRACY: Not that I’m aware of. I mean, he resigned from the University of Pennsylvania.
ABRAMS: But—all right, we’ll have to follow up. Because if you don’t know, we’ll find out exactly what happens to this guy. But your—but the judge, you think, just saw this guy’s resume and said, oh, well, you know, he’s working with the National Institute of Health and he’s done so much, et cetera?
TRACY: I think so. It’s inexplicable. This isn’t a judge that has this, you know, particularly lenient reputation in the city. It’s perplexing to everyone that this happened. And there’s no question that he was a very important scientist.
ABRAMS: Let me ask you a broader question. I guess I’m often surprised at how lenient many of the sentences are for forcible rape. I mean this was not—again, this was sexual assault, it’s considered a lesser crime, but just in general, I’m always surprised that when people are convicted of forcing themselves on a woman, whatever you call it, sexual assault, rape, et cetera, that they’re not getting that much time.
TRACY: You’re absolutely right. It’s stunning. It is the second most serious crime when the uniform crime code lists it right under murder. It’s an incredibly serious crime. It’s a terrible invasion of a person’s body...
TRACY: ... and invasion of a person’s bodily integrity and autonomy. It’s a terrible, terrible crime. But apparently the sentencing around it is very lenient...
TRACY: ... and in this case, it could have been as little as two years. And again...
TRACY: ... the only difference between the first degree and second degree—the first-degree rape and the second-degree felony sexual assault is violence.
ABRAMS: Yes. Right.
TRACY: There wasn’t any additional violence such as a gun or knifepoint and those kinds of issues...
TRACY: ... but it’s very serious.
ABRAMS: Total sidetrack here, do you agree with me that it’s ridiculous to make a comparison between this teacher, this 23-year-old teacher who had sex with her 14-year-old student in cases of where a man is forcing himself on a woman?
TRACY: I don’t know that it’s ridiculous. I think they’re two very difficult issues. But I do think that the comparison is different. I mean, in that case, for whatever reasons, the district attorney couldn’t proceed...
TRACY: ... apparently because the witness, and it’s also important to understand that there are hundreds, probably thousands of cases each day in courts throughout the United States where prosecution does not occur in domestic violence...
TRACY: ... and sexual assault cases.
ABRAMS: Right, but those...
ABRAMS: And that’s exactly my point. Is those are the cases we need to be concerned about. The fact that there’s an isolated case of some attractive female teacher is having sex with her 14-year-old student to me is not a national problem. What you’re talking about is.
ABRAMS: But anyway, I got to wrap it up. Carol Tracy...
ABRAMS: ... thanks a lot for coming on the program.
TRACY: Thank you.
ABRAMS: Appreciate it.
Coming up, car thieves who think they’ve hit the jackpot end up writing their own ticket to jail. Big city police using new tactics to nab them. We’ve got the tape.
And did teacher Debra Lafave get off easy? Maybe so. Her victim wouldn’t take the stand against her, but I say in this case many seem to be ignoring the victim. It’s my “Closing Argument”.
Plus, just a year ago Robert Blake was strumming a guitar and wistfully singing “Over The Rainbow” outside the courtroom where he was on trial accused of murdering his wife Bonny Lee Bakley, but oh what a difference a year makes. He was acquitted of murder, found responsible for her wrongful death in a civil trial, ordered to pay 30 million to his wife’s family. The one time star of “Baretta” has filed for bankruptcy. His new gig apparently working as a stable boy on a friend’s ranch where he took time to share these deep thoughts.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERT BLAKE, ACQUITTED OF WIFE’S MURDER: You know, in the last year, I’ve spent nights without sleep, and get into that horrible why me state, you know, that ugly whiny thing that you hate yourself for but here you are and there’s nothing you can do about it and then an hour later, I’m—poetry is coming to me. I want to go act, I want to go teach, I want to go dance. Good horse, (UNINTELLIGIBLE). Are you the good guys? (UNINTELLIGIBLE)
I can be an actor no matter what happens. I was in the middle of a job when my father committed suicide. I went to work the next day. Because that’s my norm. But I can act no matter what. And I could do that when I was 2 years old. That’s just my gig. As a prisoner, I suck. As an actor, they pay me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: Coming up, will car thieves take the bait? Police using new tactics to nab big city car thieves. We’ve got the tape.
ABRAMS: If you’re going to steal a car, you better be careful about which one you choose. Police departments around the country are reeling car thieves in with some attractive bait. They’re rigging a bunch of cars with video and tracking devices and just waiting for the car thieves to fall into the trap.
NBC’s Don Teague has the story.
DON TEAGUE, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): What you’re watching is a car thief about to have a very bad day.
TEAGUE: He doesn’t know it yet but the car he just stole is a trap set by the Dallas Police Department. He’s already locked in, every turn he takes is being tracked by satellite, every move he makes is caught on hidden cameras as police close in.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)
TEAGUE: Same with this guy and her. They’re all just minutes from being arrested.
OFFICER NOEL RENDON, DALLAS POLICE DEPT.: They think they got away, you know, scott-clean and then all of a sudden they see the police behind them.
TEAGUE: Dallas police have arrested 97 people for trying to steal so-called bait cars since the vehicles were first put on the streets here 18 months ago. Perhaps more importantly, auto thefts in the city have dropped by double digits as fear has spread among thieves that the next car they steal could be one of these.
(On camera): We’d like to show you the outside of one of the bait cars, but for obvious reasons, police don’t want you to see what they look like. Let’s just say they’re the kind of cars pros like to steal.
(Voice-over): And police departments nationwide love the idea of letting the bad guys come to them or at least their cars. In Columbus, Ohio, they’ve even added a sound track.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It’s a setup car.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Cause it’s a setup car.
TEAGUE: It’s all bad news for thieves, but a classic win-win for police and insurance companies who provide the bait cars, hundreds nationwide for free.
FRANK SCAFIDI, NATIONAL INSURANCE CRIME BUREAU: Most of the companies that provide these cars stand to lose lots of money in the coverage if these vehicles are stolen.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Better not drive crazy or stupid.
TEAGUE: Still, there’s a car stolen in the U.S. every 26 seconds or so, $7.5 billion worth of wheels gone in 60 seconds.
SGT. MIKE COLEMAN, DALLAS POLICE DEPT.: Most thieves are opportunists. If they see an opportunity, they’re going to take it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Got driving license, insurance card?
TEAGUE: In Dallas, most thieves are still caught the hard way by good old fashioned police work, but officers here are making the most of their new tool and having some laughs along the way. Catching car thieves in the act.
Don Teague, NBC News, Dallas.
ABRAMS: Joining me now is Lieutenant Dale Barnard with the Dallas Police Department. Lieutenant, thanks for coming on the program. Appreciate it. All right, explain to me something about how this works.
Are there keys in the car?
LT. DALE BARNARD, DALLAS POLICE DEPT.: Some cars have keys and some do not. It varies in different situations as to the type of car or maybe in the fact the neighborhood that they’re in and the patterns of auto thefts in that area.
ABRAMS: How long does it take from the time they start driving the car until the time they realize, I got suckered?
BARNARD: That depends upon the police response. It can be a matter of, you know, one or two minutes, sometimes if the police officers are close enough. We know about it within just a matter of a very few seconds.
ABRAMS: Has anyone ever tried to break into one of these cars and sort of figured out it was a bait car?
BARNARD: We’ve had a few that towards the end have looked around and actually made the explanation that this is a bait car.
ABRAMS: And so then they couldn’t be arrested, right?
BARNARD: Oh, no. They were arrested.
ABRAMS: Because they had actually gone and tried to take it, right?
I mean because you know...
ABRAMS: Some people are going to say this isn’t entrapment. There’s a response to that, right?
BARNARD: Absolutely. The mere leaving of a car there available (UNINTELLIGIBLE) is not entrapment. The courts have determined that entrapment would entail that we actually have to physically hand them the keys and tell them to steal the car.
ABRAMS: There’s no persuasion or inducements by the police officers, right? You’re just basically leaving a car...
ABRAMS: ... in an attractive area?
BARNARD: That’s correct. Some are left for a matter of minutes and some are left for days before somebody steals them.
ABRAMS: Any type of car in particular that seems to be a favorite? Is it the same—we always here, the Toyota Camrys or whatever the cars that are the number one most stolen cars in the country?
BARNARD: The popular cars to steal nationwide are always up there in the Dallas area, Honda Accords are very popular. Chevrolet trucks are very popular. But we cover the extremes from what people consider to be very cheap cars to also the extremely expensive cars.
ABRAMS: How much time do they get generally these guys once they’re caught?
BARNARD: If they have any record at all, it goes by the value of the vehicle, but even the cheap cars, the people are getting usually a minimum of three years actual prison time.
Lieutenant Dale Barnard, thanks a lot for coming on the program.
BARNARD: Thank you very much.
ABRAMS: Coming up, teacher Debra Lafave avoided prison time because her victim didn’t want to take the stand. Should prosecutors have forced him into the courtroom? I say no, not in this case. It’s my “Closing Argument”.
And a lot of you don’t have any sympathy at all for Debra Lafave. One of you thinks that the victim was just a lucky 14-year-old. Your e-mails are coming up.
And our continuing series, “Manhunt: Sex Offenders on the Loose”, our effort to find missing offenders before they strike. Our search is in New Mexico.
Authorities are looking for John Bemus. He’s 56, five-eleven, 180, was convicted of aggravated sexual assault and hasn’t registered his address with the state. If you have any information on his whereabouts, please contact the New Mexico Department of Public Safety, 505-827-9297. Be right back.
ABRAMS: My “Closing Argument”—what happened to all the people who claimed to be defenders of the victims? Seems in the case of the teacher who had sex with her 14-year-old student, they, including a judge involved in the case, have decided this victim comes second to the system. I understand the anger over the fact that Debra Lafave won’t face any jail time, just three years of house arrest. I was the first one out there criticizing her yesterday when she spoke out for the first time.
But let’s not forget that the victim did not want to testify. And his mother and he are apparently satisfied with the outcome. So leave them alone. The judge and some pundits suggest the boy should have been subpoenaed, forced to testify. To what end? To make more of a spectacle out of the case, to put the boy through more pain? To those who say well that happens in many sex assault cases, they say it’s crucial the case be brought to trial, I say that is generally true but not here.
There is no comparison between this case and a forcible rape or even a case where a woman is severely battered by her husband. And then the victim fears testifying. I disagree with those who suggest the boy will look back on this with some sort of macho pride. I believe it will likely be damaging to him in the long run, but it would be far more damaging to force him to testify. Let’s not forget she’s being punished, house arrest is a type of confinement, although not a particularly tough type. As I’ve said before, I also believe it is more important as a society to send a message to male sexual predators than females.
There are just far more of them out there. Call it a double standard. I’ll call it doing what the system does every day, making choices about the message to send. This was not a sentence that—quote—“shocked the conscience” as the judge claimed. Look, I wouldn’t have shed a single tear if Debra Lafave had served time, but to suggest this boy should have been forced to help in that effort is in the words of his mother a re-victimization of her son.
She said—quote—“I couldn’t protect him when the time came from what she did—I couldn’t protect him from what she did to him, but I can protect him now.”
Coming up, some of you saying it’s a lot simpler than that, the reason Debra Lafave isn’t in prison is because she’s beautiful and many guys either saying the kid is lucky or telling us about their own stories about having sex with their hot teachers. Your e-mails are coming up.
ABRAMS: We’re back. I’ve had my say, now it’s time for “Your Rebuttal”. Yesterday a judge threw out the plea deal for Debra Lafave, the Florida teacher who had sex with her 14-year-old student. In response, prosecutors dropped the charges, although she still got charges against her in another county. Lafave finally spoke out blaming her bipolar disorder as a reason she had sex with a 14-year-old student.
Tim Gruber asks, “Does this mean grown bipolar men can use the defense for having sex with underage girls?” Tim, no one bought this defense. It was just her explanation after the fact.
Monica Donohoe, a licensed therapist who’s worked with sex offenders and victims writes, “Bipolar does not make you sexually offend kids. As usual, the prosecutor chickened out.” Monica, again, I don’t know that the prosecutor is the one to blame here. The victim and the family didn’t want the boy to have to testify.
Bette Amsler in Staunton, Virginia, “How can you call what this gorgeous chick did a crime? Where have you been, Dan? One of the best lovers I ever had was 19 and I was definitely older. Get a life, Dan.” Ouch! Bette.
From Ocala, Florida, Don Emerson, “I’ll bet hard cash if you did an off the record poll amongst his classmates, the boys for the most part would be saying the victim was a lucky son of a gun.”
Jerry Dull in Concord, California, “I had sex with my teacher at the age of 14 for several years. She was a beautiful woman and it didn’t hurt me a single bit.” You know what’s kind of amazing? The number of e-mails we got from guys saying oh, I had sex with my 14-year-old—when I was 14, I had sex with my teacher. Joe over here was suggesting it’s sort of like those “Penthouse” letters, right Joe?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, never true.
ABRAMS: Never true, right? Yes. Yes. All right.
ABRAMS: Finally, in Austin, Texas, Jerry writes, “Here’s the bottom line. If Debra had bad hair, bad skin, bad teeth, and an extra 100 pounds, she’d be going to jail.”
Dave Silver, “I’m a 35-year-old man. When I was 15 I had an affair with a—another one -- 32-year-old teacher of mine. I absolutely 100 percent knew exactly what I was doing and I never felt as though she had taken advantage of me in any way. There is a double standard because there should be.”
All these guys. What schools did they go to?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don’t know.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not in Secaucus.
ABRAMS: Yes. Not where you went to school.
ABRAMS: All right. Your e-mails—I know a lot of you are going to be mad that I’m joking about it. All right, you can bring them in. I’ll put them on tomorrow—email@example.com . We go through them at the end of the show.
That does it for us tonight. Coming up next, “HARDBALL” with Chris Matthews. See you tomorrow.
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