Guests: Stephen Meagher, Billy Martin, Tim Susanin, Susan Filan, Yale Galanter, Bethany McLean, Christopher Bebel, Joel Androphy
DAN ABRAMS, HOST, “ABRAMS REPORT”: Coming up, former Republican House leader Tom DeLay resigns from Congress just days after one of his former senior aides pleads guilty to conspiracy charges. Could this be a sign DeLay could be facing even more serious legal trouble?
The program about justice starts now.
Hi everyone. First up on the docket, the man known as “The Hammer” announces he’s hitting the road.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. TOM DELAY ®, TEXAS: Today I am announcing my intention to resign my seat in the House.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: Conservative warrior Tom DeLay leaving Congress after more than two decades in the House. The statement released this morning comes six month after DeLay was indicted on state campaign finance charges in Texas. And just days after a second former aide pleaded guilty to federal bribery charges in a scandal surrounding lobbyist Jack Abramoff.
DeLay said—quote—“The Abramoff investigation has nothing to do with me. I’ve never broken a law nor the spirit of the law.” But could this mean the feds are close to nailing “The Hammer”?
“HARDBALL” correspondent David Shuster joins us as well as former federal prosecutor Stephen Meagher. All right, so David, look, politically is one question, the question of why he would have done this. He says it was purely a political decision. But as far as we know, does this latest plea of guilty mean that the feds could be one step closer to DeLay?
DAVID SHUSTER, “HARDBALL” CORRESPONDENT: I mean absolutely, Dan, there is every indication, and you see it in a couple of different ways. First of all, there’s a reference—for the very first time in all these Abramoff legal documents there is now a reference to Tom DeLay as representative number two, and as you know sometimes that is a reference that refers to somebody that prosecutors may be considering for indictment.
And again, right now you’re seeing the photo of DeLay from when he was indicted on the state charges and he’s going to going to trial on that case later this year. But the other part of the federal investigation that has got to be very troubling for Tom DeLay is that Tony Rudy, his former chief of staff, the man who pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges last week, he has given prosecutors evidence that prosecutors believe is evidence of the criminal conspiracy involving DeLay. It is a letter that Tom DeLay wrote on behalf of one of Jack Abramoff’s clients, and again, this is information provided by Tony Rudy, who has already pleaded guilty now to conspiracy, essentially implicating his boss. So all the science certainly point to prosecutors, at least considering a DeLay indictment.
ABRAMS: So, there is a sense in Washington that the other shoe could drop.
SHUSTER: Absolutely. I mean it’s going to drop sooner or later. I mean there are indications, for example, that if not Tom DeLay that another congressman might get indicted. But certainly I mean Tom DeLay must have had to make the calculation that if he continued spending his money on this election campaign he might drain his resources that might otherwise be needed to defend himself. Because it certainly seems as if all the signs based on all his former staffers who are pleading guilty point to an investigation in which Tom DeLay is likely to be indicted.
ABRAMS: All right, Stephen Meagher, if you were Tom DeLay’s lawyer now, he’s been indicted at least six months ago on these state charges in Texas, which you know it seems to me based on reading the documents and talking to a lot of people down there, that could be a tougher case for the prosecutors. But if they end up having some of his senior aides pleading guilty, would that lead you as his lawyer to say we could be in big trouble here on other charges?
STEPHEN MEAGHER, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, certainly I think it’s hard to argue that the skies aren’t darkening significantly for Mr. DeLay. And were I his lawyer, I would be very concerned about this most recent development, particularly Mr. Rudy’s guilty plea, as well as the earlier plea by Michael Scanlon.
ABRAMS: Why? I mean specifically what would you be worried about?
That they were going to testify against DeLay?
MEAGHER: Absolutely. Both have cooperation agreements with the Justice Department now. And I think their guilty pleas are certainly an indication that the work of this task force is far from over.
ABRAMS: And David Shuster, in its simplest form possible, theoretically, what is it that DeLay could be worried they were going to say that he did?
SHUSTER: He would be worried that his aides would say that when Tom DeLay wrote a letter they would say it wasn’t just Tom DeLay out of the goodness of his heart or out of his conscience writing a letter for somebody, the aides—that Tom DeLay’s fear might be that his aides are now saying no, this letter meant much more. That this letter was part of a conspiracy, part of the scheme that we concocted to help Jack Abramoff and in exchange get favors in return.
ABRAMS: All right. Here—let’s put up number five here. This is how DeLay—that people that DeLay has related to who have pled guilty as of late. Michael Scanlon, his former press secretary, pleaded guilty to conspiring to bribe a member of Congress. Tony Rudy, former deputy chief of staff, pleaded guilty to conspiracy and corruption charges, and Jack Abramoff, of course the GOP lobbyist pleaded guilty to conspiracy, fraud and tax evasion charges.
You know you could argue that he was also—didn’t just do it for the GOP, but he did a lot more for the GOP than for Democrats. So David, what’s the connection between Abramoff and DeLay?
SHUSTER: Well the connection with Abramoff is that Abramoff, of course, was hiring some of these former DeLay aides, and Abramoff, of course, flew Tom DeLay and his wife to Scotland. So the argument that prosecutors might make is that Tom DeLay received benefits, received illegal favors from Jack Abramoff in exchange for looking out for Abramoff’s clients. That’s the outline of the basic prosecution case. Of course, Tom DeLay says that no, he was simply supporting Jack Abramoff’s clients because of his conscience, that he felt it was the right thing to do and that’s where the battle lines appear to be...
SHUSTER: ... being drawn if this in fact goes towards an indictment.
ABRAMS: And again, DeLay says this is a political decision, not a legal one. We shall see. David Shuster, Stephen Meagher, thanks a lot.
SHUSTER: You’re welcome.
MEAGHER: Thank you.
ABRAMS: Tom DeLay will be Chris Matthews’ guest on “HARDBALL” today.
That is next here on MSNBC.
Capitol police are recommending prosecutors charge Georgia Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney with misdemeanor assault. This after the six-term Democrat allegedly scuffled with a Capitol police officer last week. The officer claims that McKinney was asked three times to stop as she tried to walk around a metal detector and that she then struck the officer.
Now members of Congress don’t have to go through the detector, but they are supposed to wear an identifying lapel pin, and McKinney admits she wasn’t wearing hers. But she says the officer then touched her inappropriately when he tried to stop her, and she says the real issue here is racial profiling. I had a spirited exchange with James Myart, one of her attorneys on the program yesterday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAMES MYART, JR., ATTORNEY FOR REP. MCKINNEY: The fact of the matter is, if he had known by face recognition Cynthia McKinney, this incident would not have occurred. The point is, is that he did not know who she was, so to him, at least in my mind, she was just another black person not abiding by authority.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: All right. As I said last night, you know, that doesn’t necessarily excuse hitting a police officer, if it happened and that she hasn’t provided any evidence that this occurred based on her race. But the question of course is how will the prosecutors go about deciding, whether to charge.
With me now, Billy Martin and Tim Susanin, both former prosecutors who worked at the U.S. Attorney’s Office that’s considering whether to file charges against McKinney. Good to see both of you.
All right. Billy, we know what the congresswoman says. And you know how these decisions are made in the office. The police are coming forward; they’re saying we want her charged. How do you go about making that decision?
BILLY MARTIN, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Dan, one of the things that’s great in Washington is that you have a prosecutor who will meet with the police and try to decide this. For a number of years I was the executive assistant U.S. attorney here in Washington of operations, and I ran all the criminal operations here in Washington. And I was part of a unit or a team that would sit down and look at this.
What we’re going to do or what they’re going to now do is determine if a crime occurred and can they prove it. What I really would hope, and I think the U.S. attorney will do this, is that everybody will step back from this, catch their breath, and figure out what’s the real just thing to do. This is Washington, and many congressmen both senators and members of the House of Representatives encounter difficulties and their conduct is viewed by the U.S. attorney without issuing any type of arrest warrants.
I think it may be difficult to—quote—“prove an assault occurred here”, and I think more troubling to me if I were trying this is what perception does she as a woman, whether she’s white or black, as a woman feel when a male touches her. And I think there’s a problem there because you have a woman going through Congress who she thinks was inappropriately touched as a woman.
ABRAMS: Well that’s what she’s saying, Billy. I mean that could just be her excuse because she hit a police officer and now she needs to say something.
MARTIN: Yes, but Dan if you think about it, as I understand it, the video camera sees her coming in, walking around the metal detector, but it does not capture what occurred between...
MARTIN: ... her and the officer. So you’re going to have a one-on-one situation here in Washington, and what are we trying to prove. Misdemeanors are handled in a variety of ways. Many of them are sent to diversion before going to court. I would hope there’s a police officer, if this matter could be resolved without resorting to filing criminal charges that probably should be done.
ABRAMS: Tim Susanin.
TIM SUSANIN, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well I have a different take on it, Dan, although I was low level enough at that office that had I overlapped with Billy he would have been my boss by several rungs on the ladder. But I tell you what. I think from what we’re hearing anyway, if we can believe the reports, she certainly was offended at the touching and Billy makes compelling statements about her perceptions.
But the reports are that she was called after several times. In other words, she was told to stop three times. That drastically changes that analysis. And I think the other thing that we’re hearing here is that there are eyewitnesses and perhaps even videotape. I tend to agree with Billy it’d be nice if this case could go away, but I come at it from a different angle.
Frequently prosecutors are accused of loving to go after a celebrity, a politician. Most lawyers like to try their cases in the courtroom based on the facts and the law without the glare of the spotlight that a celebrity trial like this would bring. I think that the U.S. attorney that Ken Wainstein is sitting with his staff thinking how can we make this go away.
ABRAMS: Well that’s what I was going to say. I mean is there an argument to be made that maybe, and Billy isn’t quite saying this, but I think that he’s alluding to this, that maybe it’s just not worth it?
SUSANIN: Well, sure. I think that’s an argument to be making as you’re sitting around with the upper echelons at that office kicking around. The problem is security everywhere is a serious matter, particularly these days, particularly the Capitol building and its office buildings and it’s tough when a—when the process comes forward with evidence. Remember the standard is probable cause. That’s a low threshold...
SUSANIN: ... if these reports are right and we have a straightforward simple assault on videotape, it’s hard to turn that down.
ABRAMS: Again, the actual assault may not be on tape. But Billy, we’re getting a lot of e-mails on this and what people are saying is it’s simply never OK to hit a police officer, and that that message...
ABRAMS: ... needs to be sent in particular to a Congressperson. Again, be it black, be it white, be it male, be it woman, that they’re not above the law.
MARTIN: Yes, Dan, and what I don’t understand, and clearly I don’t have all the information nor does the public yet, but I understand that the officer was shouting out to her and she as a member of Congress perceived that he wasn’t talking to her. I mean really—there’s no exchange between the two of them until the touching occurs. Now these are issues that would come out in trial.
But if he’s saying stop, stop, stop, and as an 11-year member of Congress if she doesn’t perceive that he’s speaking to her and she keeps going, if he then touches her, I think it makes it difficult. And the standard here should not be whether probable cause exists. The standard should be whether they can prove this case.
ABRAMS: All right. Bottom line, I’ve got a yes or no answer. Billy, do you expect that they will file charges against her?
MARTIN: I hope they don’t.
ABRAMS: Tim, do you think they will?
SUSANIN: I think they will, yes.
ABRAMS: All right. Billy Martin, Tim Susanin—I think that they will too, but we shall see.
SUSANIN: Thanks, Dan.
ABRAMS: Because I think you both may be right, that it just may not be worth it, but anyway, all right.
Coming up, the father of the woman who says she was raped by Duke lacrosse players says she identified her attackers. We hear from him next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One of these men approached me online with a proposal. He would pay me $50 if I took off my shirt for a few minutes while sitting in front of my Web cam.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: That’s how a teenager says his life in Internet porn started when he was just 13. Today he told a disturbing story to Congress. We’re going to play a tape.
Plus, former Enron executives Ken Lay and Jeff Skilling apparently set to take the stand in their own defense, Skilling possibly as early as tomorrow. But is it really a good idea?
Your e-mails email@example.com. Please include your name and where you’re writing from. I respond at the end of the show.
ABRAMS: We’re back. She’s identified all of them; at least that’s what the father of the woman accusing three Duke University lacrosse players of rape says. The results of DNA tests on 46 members of Duke’s Lacrosse Team are expected any day. The co-captains of the team have called the allegations—quote—“absolutely false”. Their lawyers say none of the players had sex with the exotic dancer who says she was raped, strangled and assaulted in a bathroom. The alleged victim’s father sat down with MSNBC’s Rita Cosby in his first national television interview, doesn’t want his face shown in order to protect his daughter’s identity.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She sounded like she was in a lot of pain, and her face was swollen up. She had bruises on her eyes, and she just looked awful. When you looked at her you could tell she had been beaten up.
RITA COSBY, HOST, “RITA COSBY LIVE & DIRECT”: How would you describe the way she looked with her bruises that day when you saw her after the hospital?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She looked like she had been in a fight. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen the boxers on TV. She looked like she had been in a real good fight and lost.
COSBY: And where else did you see the bruises? You said you saw them on her face...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just on her face, and I remember seeing a bruise on -- a scratch on her arm. And—but she told me she had a cut on her leg. She said my leg is hurting real bad. She said I think it was thrown out of joint. As a matter of fact, she told me the doctor had tried to put it back in the joint.
COSBY: When you finally confronted her, what did she say to you?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She said that she had been raped by three men.
They had took her pocketbook, her cellular phone and her money all the stuff she had.
COSBY: What did she say that the men said to her in that house?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She said they were making racial slurs. They was calling her (BLANK) you know and all of that. She says she remember that while they were beating her.
COSBY: What else did she describe about what it was like in the house?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She did tell me she thought she was going to die.
She said she thought they were going to kill her.
COSBY: Why did they take, you know, her pocketbook and her money and her cell phone?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She said they took her cell phone because she was trying to call 911.
COSBY: Would she be able to I.D. them?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She says she did. She I.D.’d them (INAUDIBLE).
COSBY: Was she able to I.D. all three?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
COSBY: No doubt in your mind it was those three?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No doubt in her mind.
ABRAMS: I.D. all three of them. Joining me now MSNBC legal analyst and former prosecutor Susan Filan, and criminal defense attorney Yale Galanter. You know, Susan, you and I have been talking on this program about the difficulties the prosecutors could have if they can’t identify who these people were. But if she’s identified the three of them, that would make the DNA less significant.
SUSAN FILAN, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: Absolutely. If she has identified the three men, and I have to say, Dan, that in the application for the search warrant she—the police do enumerate the names of three men that she identified. That search warrant is dated...
ABRAMS: First names.
FILAN: ... first names.
ABRAMS: First names.
FILAN: OK. That’s dated March 16. That’s just two days after the alleged assault occurred. So it’s not as if she told her dad and her dad is coming out now with this news the first time. This apparently identification was made almost immediately thereafter. So if she did in fact identify them and she can by name or by lineup or however, the DNA then would become corroborative.
But if there is no DNA, it’s a classic rape case like we try all the time. He said-she said, and they don’t have to testify, obviously, they can remain silent. But if she’s able to convince a jury, and the medical documentation is going to support the injuries that her dad just described, well I mean...
ABRAMS: Well then, Susan, but why would the D.A. then be waiting—the bottom line is if he’s convinced, as he said on this program, he said I’m convinced that a crime was committed, right?
ABRAMS: And if she’s identified the three people and you’re saying that the police have the three names in the affidavit, why wait for DNA that even the D.A. is conceding probably won’t—may not even be there?
FILAN: Well what’s the rush? I mean there’s really no reason to rush this. We don’t have people who are flight risk. What we have is a case that needs to be thoroughly investigated. The T’s crossed, the I’s dotted. There’s no reason to rush this.
And we saw this with Imette St. Guillen. I mean we were all chomping at the bit. Don’t they have the guy? Don’t they have the guy? There’s no other suspects, but we waited, the forensic results came back, an indictment was turned in by the grand jury and he was dually arrested. There’s really no reason to rush this and there’s every reason to wait for as much evidence as possible.
ABRAMS: You know, I don’t know. Yale, you’ve been listening to the public statements from the D.A., he’s been on this program a number of times. It didn’t sound to me like he was saying that she had identified the three people, and he keeps talking about her not exactly being able to say what happened. You know, were they wearing condoms, for example, were they not, because she was being assaulted from behind, et cetera.
YALE GALANTER, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well you know, her credibility is definitely an issue here. And here’s what the main concern of the district attorney is. Without DNA evidence it does become a he said-she said. On one side you know you’ve got 46 or 47 members of a team who are going to say that nothing occurred.
On the prosecution side you’re going to have one witness. So her credibility has got to be stellar. The more the D.A. looks at her credibility and says, well, she couldn’t determine whether they wore condoms, she doesn’t know whether there was DNA deposited in her, in any of her body cavities.
FILAN: But that doesn’t go to her credibility...
GALANTER: She’s unsure of the—right, she’s unsure—it does go to her credibility. Unsure—she’s unsure of the identifications. Because you know that what’s going to happen is these boys’ attorneys are going to march them into court and their story is going to be, you know, straight. It’s going to be the same, you’re going to have 47 boys that come in and say absolutely positively nothing occurred.
ABRAMS: I’m not so sure about that, Yale. Let me pose another possibility. Let’s assume for a moment...
ABRAMS: ... that someone saw something, but didn’t see the actual assault. All right, let’s assume someone who is in that house saw three young men pushing someone into a bathroom. But right now their lawyers are saying wait until charges are filed. Let’s wait. I don’t want you to say anything until then. That person could be called then to testify against three others.
GALANTER: Yes, but, Dan, the defense attorneys are doing a little more, they’ve taken a very hard line. What they’ve said is that nothing occurred. When they were asked about whether it was consensual or nonconsensual, they said that’s not...
GALANTER: ... even an issue...
ABRAMS: That’s why I’m saying that if someone saw...
ABRAMS: That’s right.
GALANTER: ... there was no sex that occurred.
ABRAMS: That’s right and that’s why I’m saying that if someone saw three young—three of these men, if someone else at the party saw the three of them pushing her, moving with her towards the bathroom, et cetera, that would be very bad for them, right?
GALANTER: Well there’s nothing in any of the paperwork that’s been filed...
ABRAMS: Nothing. Nothing. That’s right.
GALANTER: ... nothing in the warrant, the affidavit...
ABRAMS: Absolutely nothing.
GALANTER: ... and that type of evidence would be the winner for the prosecution, and there’s nothing mentioned, Dan. Why wouldn’t they have put that in any of the warrants so far?
ABRAMS: Yes. Because maybe—I mean I guess and again, Susan, we are engaging in speculation here, but I’m trying to evaluate sort of both presuming for a moment that someone will be charged, and then a moment switching gears and presuming that someone won’t be charged, et cetera. But if someone were charged, that could open up the floodgates. There could be other people who were there who would then come forward and offer up a testimony that they haven’t offered up to this point.
FILAN: I think that’s right. I mean don’t forget, just when charges are filed doesn’t mean that the investigation stops. It’s certainly a time when a lot more information generally comes forward. It may be just as you say, Dan, everyone is kind of holding their breath now to see if they—if this did occur, if they can get away with it. But once the floodgates are opened...
ABRAMS: I don’t know if it’s get away with it.
ABRAMS: But I’m not even saying...
ABRAMS: I’m not even saying get away with it. I’m saying that if there’s a kid who was at the party who may have seen something, but his lawyer is saying for now wait, that’s not hoping they get away with it. That’s taking his lawyer’s advice.
FILAN: Of course it is. Why do you think the lawyer is giving that advice? The lawyer is basically saying...
ABRAMS: Because the D.A. has said...
FILAN: ... let’s all stick together.
ABRAMS: ... he may charge the other people at the party for aiding and abetting. That’s why.
FILAN: Exactly. Translation, get away with it. Don’t come forward, maybe can you get away with it. May we can all get away with it.
FILAN: We’re all going to stick together and the lawyers are ganging up...
ABRAMS: So they’re all—so you’re saying that even if there were people at that party who didn’t see anything but they were at the party, that according to you they’re then guilty by association?
FILAN: No, no, no, no. I’m talking about a witness that has information that was an eye or an ear witness to this alleged assault that doesn’t come forward.
ABRAMS: All right.
FILAN: That’s what I thought you were asking me.
ABRAMS: Yes. All right. Well look, we’ll see. Susan Filan and Yale Galanter. Yale, good to see you back on the program.
GALANTER: Thanks, Dan.
ABRAMS: Susan, as always.
FILAN: Thank you.
ABRAMS: Coming up, the teen says his life as an online porn star started when he got a Web cam. This is a horrible story. But he says it spiraled out of control, leading to him being molested, addicted to drugs. He is now telling his story to Congress and he is naming names. This kid has really become a brave kid.
And it didn’t work for former Tyco exec Dennis Kozlowski or WorldCom Bernie Ebbers, but former Enron chiefs Ken Lay and Jeff Skilling are preparing to testify in their own defense, hoping it will keep them out of the slammer.
ABRAMS: Coming up, a young boy lured into Internet porn when he was just 13. He essentially became an Internet—quote—“porn star”. He told his story to Congress today. It is hard to hear. It is most unbelievable. We’re going to play it, first the headlines.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JUSTIN BERRY, STARTED IN INTERNET PORN AT AGE 13: For five years beginning when I was 13 years old, I operated a pornographic Web site, featuring images of myself floated onto the Internet by Web cams. I was paid by more than 1,000 by men to strip naked, masturbate and even have sex with female prostitutes while on camera.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: Justin Berry lured into Internet porn when he was just 13. He told his story to a congressional committee today in an effort to shed some light on this problem. Justin says he’s just one of hundreds of kids out there engaging in similar behavior. The most frightening part is he had no intention of getting involved, it all started out innocently. Despite being a star student and the class president, Justin was a lonely kid when he got a Web cam thinking he could make some friends online. Instead he became entangled in a Web of porn, molestation, money, drugs over a period of five years, ultimately building a—quote—“client list” of more than 1,500 people. Here’s Justin’s story as he told it to Congress today.
BERRY: One afternoon a few weeks after setting up my Web cam one of these men approached me online with a proposal. He would pay me $50 if I took off my shirt for a few minutes while sitting in front of my Web cam. He explained to me how to set up an account on PayPal.com, an instant online money payment system. I was excited about the $50, an amount that struck me at the time as a huge sum of money. Taking off my shirt seemed harmless, I did it at the pool. The money arrived and I took off my shirt.
My viewers complemented me and it felt good. The weeks that followed are a blur. But I now understand that by removing my shirt I signaled that I could be manipulated. More gifts and money arrived, along with increasingly explicit requests. They wanted me to take off my pants, remove my underwear and eventually masturbate on camera. The seduction was slow. Each request only went a bit further than the last and the horror of what was happening didn’t strike me at that time. I wish I could say I hated what was happening, perhaps that would absolve some of my sense of guilt. But the truth is I did not.
As more clothes came off, more people contacted me, the complements were endless, the gifts and payments terrific. I thought I had achieved online what eluded me in real life, I was popular. Everyone wanted to know my thoughts, everyone wanted to give me things. I was the king of my own universe. All I had to do in exchange was strip and masturbate while alone in my room. Men began to reach out to me. One man, Ken Gourlay, approached me online to discuss my interest in computers.
He operated his own Web hosting company, called Chain Communications, I was awed. Here was someone running a real Internet business, talking to me, a 13-year-old kid and treating me as an equal. And in the months that followed, Ken raised the possibility of hiring me at Chain as an executive director of sales and marketing, it seemed like a dream come true. As I was working for him, Ken recommended that I attend an elite computer camp at the University of Michigan where I could obtain advanced certifications.
My mother agreed to send me there that summer while I was still 13. At that time I thought it was just luck that Ken and Chain were both based in Ann Arbor, Michigan. I now know that I had been set up. Ken picked me up at camp one day to show me Chain. He took me to his home, there I was sexually molested by Ken for what would prove to be first of many times by him and other adult men. With the help of my family and my psychologist, I now understand that my molestation by Ken was a turning point that set me on a path to self destruction.
Afterwards, Ken apologized, promising me it would never happen again. But it did. By this time I had formalized my Web cam business, I had opened a site called Justinscam.com where child predators could come and watch and offer me money and gifts to do what they wanted. After my first molestation I began to act out sexually, I was reckless, part of me wanted to die. And every day on camera part of me did. I had already established a new site called Mexicofriends.com, which featured me engaging in sex with Mexican women.
My father helped by hiring prostitutes for me to have sex with on camera. The number of members—of paid members sky rocketed. I was 16 years old. I became even more self destructive. I abused marijuana terribly and consumed so much cocaine that I’m amazed I survived. My life was a swirl of drugs, money and sex. When a paying member of my site, Greg Mitchell, offered to come to Mexico and bring me gifts I accepted. He too sexually molested me.
But I no longer cared. I just wanted his money. I had become exactly what my members viewed me to be, what their degrading conversations convinced me I was, a piece of meat for sale to the highest bidder. Just after my 18th birthday I tried to leave the business. Money was still coming in from Mexico Friends, but I wanted nothing to do with it. I used it to purchase clothes and other items for homeless people in California.
I rented a truck and delivered the materials myself. I was looking for my own redemption, but I failed. I was still addicted to drugs, and Greg Mitchell urged me to return to the business as his partner. Together, he said, we could set up a new Web site, Justinsfriends.com. I resisted for months, but I could not find my way in the real world any more. Depressed and high on drugs every day, I agreed to return to porn.
Today I have been off drugs for nine months and just finished my first quarter at college. My grades are good and I have friends. But every day I have regrets. Not just for the dreadful decisions I made in the past years, but for failing to have the impact that I had hoped on this illegal trade. I have never been asked by law enforcement about any of the 1,500 names I provided them.
Some of those who molested me, like Mr. Gourlay, and who made all of this possible, are continuing to live their lives unaware or uncaring about any government inquiry. I have watched as my former members go online to attack me, boldly proclaiming themselves as my former customers, and having no fear that their self disclosure could result in their arrest. And events have proved them right. Since I left the child pornography business last summer, I have risked everything to get to tell these facts to persons who care, like this committee. It is my hope that Congress will do everything it can to see to it that children are protected. And that our law enforcement effort is competent to combat this evil.
ABRAMS: Justin is 19 now. He’s studying Web site development in college. He won’t say where, in part because of death threats he reportedly received last fall, from former—quote—“clients and business associates” when they became aware he was planning to go to the authorities. But maybe the most disturbing part of this story, only one apparently, only one of Justin’s thousands of—quote—“customers” has been charged. Gregory John Mitchell, he referred to in the piece, pleaded guilty to four federal crimes in January.
Coming up, Jeff Skilling, Enron’s former CEO, could take the stand as early as tomorrow. The question, will his testimony keep him out of jail or backfire.
And later why the allegations of rape against members of the Duke Lacrosse Team is a particularly hard story for me to cover. My “Closing Argument”.
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, Enron’s former CEO could testify as early as tomorrow in his own defense. But executives don’t have a great track record when they take the stand. Could he be talking his way into more trouble? Coming up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DANIEL PETROCELLI, JEFF SKILLING’S ATTORNEY: We like our position. We are very anxious to get our story told. Mr. Skilling is very anxious to take the stand and to answer all the questions that I have to put to him and all the questions that the government has to put to him.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: Tomorrow could be D-day in the Enron trial when former CEO Jeff Skilling could take the stand in his own defense. The government argues Skilling and Ken Lay misled investors and Wall Street about Enron’s financial troubles before the company imploded. The question of course, will it help or hurt the cause? Former top execs accused of white-collar crimes do not have the best track record when it comes to taking the stand.
Remember Bernie Ebbers, former head of WorldCom, took the stand at his trial. Most didn’t find his testimony particularly believable and he was convicted. Former Tyco chief, Dennis Kozlowski, testified at his try about what he said was accidentally failing to report 25 million in special bonuses on his taxes, he too was convicted. And former investment banker Frank Quattrone got on the witness stand at both of his trials, was ultimately found guilty, though an appeals courts threw that conviction out.
The question, is there any way Ken Lay and Jeff Skilling can buck the trend? Joining me now “Fortune” magazine senior writer Bethany McLean, who’s also the author of “The Smartest Guys in the Room: The Amazing Rise and Scandalous Fall of Enron”, Houston white-collar defense attorney Joel Androphy, and former SEC prosecutor Christopher Bebel. Thanks to all of you for joining us. Appreciate it.
All right. Bethany, bottom line, Skilling and Lay both going to take the stand?
BETHANY MCLEAN, “FORTUNE” MAGAZINE: They both are. Skilling could be up as soon as tomorrow. Petrocelli says his direct examination could last about three days, and Lay will be up as soon as Skilling’s cross-examination is done.
ABRAMS: Is this—you know this case as well as anyone, Bethany. Is this do you think driven in part by these guys saying I insist on taking the stand? Because in all these cases we always hear lawyers say, my client wants to take the stand, et cetera, et cetera. Some of the time it’s true. Some of the time it’s not. But I get the feeling in this case, particularly with regard to Skilling, he really wants to get up there and talk.
MCLEAN: It is absolutely true. I think Jeff Skilling believes he can convince anyone of anything, and certainly during his years at the helm of Enron he did just that. The same is true of Ken Lay. I also think in this case I’m not sure the defense—well, obviously they always have a choice, but one hurdle the defense has faced here is getting witnesses to testify. Many witnesses are terrified that they’ll face prosecution from the government if they testify for the defense. And so frankly the defense is a little short on witnesses without Lay and Skilling.
ABRAMS: Bethany, what’s the toughest thing that they are going to have to explain, and it’s sort of the broadest, apart from the minutia, but on its broadest level, what is the hardest thing for them to explain?
MCLEAN: I think they’re going to have to explain why they needed Andy Fastow’s partnerships at Enron. There’s so many details they’re going to have to explain, and I think the hardest thing for them is going to be holding up under very tough questioning from the prosecution. Neither Ken Lay certainly isn’t experienced at handling those kind of tough questions, and while Jeff Skilling did sit through a long congressional investigation, congressional people were far less informed than the prosecution is of what actually happened at Enron.
ABRAMS: Christopher Bebel, all right, so your client comes to you, says I want to testify, I want to testify, but I assume a lot of time you still got to say thank you, that’s nice. I appreciate it, but it’s not going to happen.
CHRISTOPHER BEBEL, FORMER SEC PROSECUTOR: That’s right. And that’s exactly what should be happening here. Problem is, if the lawyer said this, the clients would probably get a new lawyer. I think both of these defendants have had extraordinary success in the business world. They have achieved that success by using their persuasive abilities in every encounter on a regular basis. They’re convinced they can call upon those same abilities to convince these jurors that they should be acquitted.
ABRAMS: But Joel, there’s something different about this defense, is there not? I mean the defense here is the company was in good shape. And so there is a bit more of an expectation that they would take the stand, maybe, than in an ordinary case.
JOEL ANDROPHY, WHITE-COLLAR DEFENSE ATTORNEY: I’m going to assume that they tried this case several times to mock juries in preparation for this trial. I’m assuming also that in some of the mock trials they testified. I’m also assuming in other ones they did not testify. And at the end of day, this isn’t just a guess on their part, this is from jury feedback. Most high profile cases have these pretrials, to gauge what testimony helps, what hurts. So at the end of day, sure, there may be a tremendous amount of client arrogance, but this has been tested. I don’t think they’re guessing here.
ABRAMS: Bethany, do we know?
MCLEAN: Do we know whether they’re guessing?
ABRAMS: Whether it’s been tested. Whether it’s been tested.
MCLEAN: I don’t think we know that, but I’m sure Joel is right. This defense team has just uncovered every stone, they’ve missed nothing they could possibly have spent a dollar researching, so...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well...
MCLEAN: ... my bet is with Joel.
ANDROPHY: Well let me add one thing. I know the jury consultant in this case and I don’t know anything about any mock trials or anything, I haven’t had those discussions with them.
ABRAMS: No, I understand. I understand.
ANDROPHY: But I’ve tried and worked with Robert Hirschhorn many times, and so has my partner, and we mock trial...
ANDROPHY: ... a lot of cases together.
ABRAMS: Christopher, what about the fact that you’ve got Skilling’s testimony in front of Congress, you got statements from Ken Lay that he made publicly. Are any of those going to come back to haunt them?
BEBEL: You bet they will. Those statements will serve as a launching pad for 20 questions. One of the strongest things the prosecutors can do here is tee up some of the quarterly conference calls before analysts, and probe right in on some of the most optimistic...
ABRAMS: Right and say...
BEBEL: ... statements that were made.
ABRAMS: ... and say to them, come on, you didn’t really believe this, did you?
BEBEL: That’s right. Didn’t you know at the time that international assets were overvalued by $5. billion, things of that sort.
ABRAMS: Yes. All right. We shall see, it could happen as early as tomorrow. Bethany McLean, Joel Androphy, Christopher Bebel, thanks a lot.
Coming up, the alleged rape at Duke University Lacrosse Team party is really splitting many in the town of Durham where Duke is and around the campus. It’s also a hard story for me to cover. I went to Duke. I’ll tell you why. It’s my “Closing Argument” coming up.
And Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney facing possible charges for hitting a Capitol police officer. Her lawyers told me it was an example of racial profiling. I had some tough questions for them. To say the least, many of you agree with me. Your e-mails are coming up.
Our continuing series, “Manhunt: Sex Offenders on the Loose”, our effort to find missing offenders before they strike. We’re in North Carolina this week.
Authorities need your help finding Harry Hutchinson, 55, five-one, 183. He’s wanted for first-degree rape and hasn’t registered his address. If you’ve got any information on his whereabouts, please contact the Iredell County Sheriff’s Office. Here’s the number, 704-832-2349. Be right back.
ABRAMS: My “Closing Argument”—why the rape allegation against members of the Duke Lacrosse Team has been a particularly challenging story for me to cover. First of all, as a Duke graduate and someone who loves the school is not something that you want to hear about your alma mater. The entire Duke community is suffering and I consider myself a part of that community. Furthermore, many of my friends at Duke played lacrosse back in the day and they have strong feelings about the case and about the team. But for years I’ve been covering stories on this program that have made me particularly sensitive to abused women. Apart from murder or attempted murder, there is no more serious crime in my book than rape and an allegation of gang rape makes it that much more horrific.
My university affiliation means nothing compared to my sense of right and wrong. I am hoping for some definitive answers in the next few weeks. It seems the defense, if it gets to that point, would be that no sex occurred, not a battle over consent. That would make it a bit more clear cut. But for now, advocates for the woman and for members of the team and even those who just seem to want to inject themselves into the debate need to take it down a notch. The prosecutor and the university are taking allegations very seriously and no one has been charged yet.
When I have an opinion about what really happened, I’ll share it with you as I always do, but for now I’m going to examine the evidence, thoroughly analyze what we know, and try to be the voice of reason, in what could become a case that touches on a number of the most sensitive issues. I promise, it’s not easy for me either.
Coming up, a U.S. congresswoman facing possible charges for hitting a police officer at the Capitol. She said it was racial profiling. Most of you do not buy it. Your e-mails are next.
ABRAMS: I’ve had my say, now it’s time for “Your Rebuttal”. Georgia Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney accused of hitting a Capitol Hill policeman after he says he asked her three times to show her I.D. before entering a House office building. She was not wearing an identifying lapel pin. She insists the officer is to blame, that he should have recognized her, and it must have been racial profiling. I had some tough questions for her lawyer about what evidence they had that this had anything to do with race. Almost all of you agreed with me.
Lynne Nolan in Bethesda, Maryland, “It seems that Congresswoman McKinney is more concerned about not being recognized than racial profiling in the Capitol Building. She should be ashamed of herself for hiding behind the racial card to cover her bad behavior. It’s an affront to every black person.”
From Calabasas Hills, California, Michelle Young, “There is no reason to ever attack anyone who does not recognize you. This is not about profiling. It’s about ego.”
Dennis Bryant in Palm Harbor, Florida, “I guess her argument is don’t you know who I am. Please, that has got to be the oldest excuse in the book.”
Terry Socol from Skokie, Illinois, “I think you did a terrific job in your interview with Cynthia McKinney’s attorneys. However, it was obvious that they had an agenda and were trying to make this into a racial issue.”
But Reverend Leonard Mitchell in Ardmore, Oklahoma writes, “From the tone of the interview with Congresswoman McKinney’s attorney you have shown that for all of your sophistication, you are woefully ignorant of the problems African Americans have with law enforcement in this nation.”
Reverend, did you listen to what I said when I agreed that racial profiling is a problem? That doesn’t mean that there’s any evidence that it’s relevant here.
Ted Brassfield in Michigan, “I’m a black man and I know that profiling exists here in America. What bothers me more than anything else is when racism is used when it doesn’t apply, making the whole concept of racism a joke to average white Americans. I don’t care if the congresswoman was black or white. She needs to stop when an officer tells her to.” Agreed.
Your e-mails abramsreport—one word -- @msnbc.com. We go through them at the end of the show.
We talked earlier about Tom DeLay stepping down. We talked about it from the legal side of the equation, this being the program about justice. The program about politics is coming up with the interview.
Chris Matthews has Tom DeLay on the program. Make sure you stick around. Matthews is up next. See you tomorrow.
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