Guests: Tim Susanin, Solomon Weisenberg, Yale Gilanter, Susan Filan, Mark Edwards
DAN ABRAMS, HOST: Coming up, Zacarias Moussaoui, the only person to be tried in connection with 9/11 here gets life in prison and then says, quote, “America, you lost. I won.”
The program about justice starts now.
First up on the docket, the only question was life or death. The jury decides it‘s life in prison for Zacarias Moussaoui. Just a short time ago, we got the verdict. He‘s the only person tried in this country in connection with the September 11 attacks.
Jurors were asked to weigh the aggravating versus mitigating factors. Aggravating meaning reasons to execute, versus mitigating, reasons to impose life. The jurors appeared very divided, not a unanimous jury. Here‘s how many of the 12 accepted some of the 23 mitigating factors presented by the defense.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
EDWARD ADAMS, PUBLIC INFORMATION OFFICER: No jurors found that a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of release, under strict conditions of the Bureau of Prisons is likely to impose will be a more severe punishment for the defendant than a sentence of death.
No jurors found that the defendant believes that his execution will be part of his jihad and will provide him with rewards attendant to a martyr status.
No jurors found that the execution of the defendant will create a martyr for radical Muslim fundamentalists and to al Qaeda in particular.
Nine jurors found that the defendants‘ unstable early childhood and dysfunctional family resulted in his being place in the orphanages and having a home life without structure, emotional and financial support, eventually resulted in his leaving home due to his hostile relationship with his mother.
Nine jurors found the defendant‘s father had a violent temper and physically and emotionally abused his family.
Two jurors found the defendant‘s father abandoned him and his siblings, leaving his mother to support and raise their children on her own.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: Unbelievable that those are the reasons, it seems, the jurors used. Because the jurors said they didn‘t believe he would suffer more if he got life. Although some still believe that that was the real motivation behind the verdict.
Now moments after the verdict was read, some of the victims‘ family members spoke out.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CARIE LEMACK, MOTHER DIED ON 9/11: I‘m just glad to be an American today, because we finally have felt like justice has been done.
ROSEMARY DILLARD, FAMILY MEMBER DIED ON 9/11: He will be in confinement. He will not be released. And we can all take pleasure or gratitude in that.
ABRAHAM SCOTT, WIFE DIED IN PENTAGON: I‘m moving on now. This brings closure to me.
LEMACK: He‘s a wannabe who deserves to rot in jail, and I‘m just glad that he got what he deserves today.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: And then we heard from the attorneys for both sides.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PAUL J. MCNULTY, DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL: The jury has spoken. And we respect and accept its verdict. And we thank them for their service.
Zacarias Moussaoui fermented his hatred of America. He lied about why he was in the United States. And his intentions to fly a plane into the White House. This lie was a critical moment in the conspiracy, and it allowed his fellow terrorists to carry out their brutal plans.
EDWARD MCMAHON, MOUSSAOUI DEFENSE ATTORNEY: We knew that it would be critical to the integrity of the legal process for impartial jurors to render this verdict and we respect the jury‘s verdict.
In this trial, we saw the bravery and humanity of our fellow citizens, faced with unthinkable danger. And we also saw that the devastation caused by those attacks remains very real and enduring.
And in this case, victims were allowed to come into court and testify, regardless of their desire for a particular outcome. The testimony of the family members was intentionally personal, and it also displayed the deep divisions that Mark the issue of capital punishment in our country.
(END VIDEO CLIP0
ABRAMS: Joining me now from the courthouse, NBC News correspondent Kevin Corke.
So Kevin, make sense of all of the jurors‘ findings. We heard about all of the aggravating and mitigating factors, how many jurors found each one of them. Would you summarize what we know about what the jurors found?
KEVIN CORKE, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: I think there are three things that stand out in my mind, Dan. No. 1, the jurors felt as if Moussaoui was not directly responsible for the deaths of 3,000 people.
And so you step back and you read that and you think, well, then where are we going with all this? I mean, this is a guy who lied, and had he not lied to law enforcement agents, could have perhaps prevented the accident on 9/11, the tragedies that happened in New York, Washington, and in Pennsylvania.
And yet they also said some other interesting things. I also read a part in the mitigating factors where they said, none of the 12 impaneled jurists felt like this was a man who is schizophrenic or had some type of a sub type of that type of disorder. So this argument that, well, maybe he‘s crazy. Maybe, you know, he‘s acting sort of wild in court and maybe this guy is just nuts, that didn‘t fly with the jury either.
And yet when it came right down to it, they seemed to be saying this. That while they expressly said that the death penalty is not anymore—I‘m sorry, that life in prison is not anymore severe than death penalty, they did make a determination because they could not agree as a group, that yes, life in prison with what this guy is going to get.
For your viewers who aren‘t familiar with this, they‘re thinking, “Wait a minute. I thought you had to be unanimous.” That‘s not the case in this circumstance. If it were unanimous, yes for death. Anything short of that meant that he would end up with life in prison.
By the way, some of the questions you had, Dan, I hope to have answers for you tomorrow. Tomorrow at 10 a.m., the sentencing portion of this will get underway in the courtroom, and we expect to hear from Zacarias Moussaoui then. And who knows? He may just ramble on. But it may be interesting, at least, for those of us who have been following this, to find out what he has to say.
ABRAMS: All right. Kevin Corke, thanks a lot.
Joining me now, former federal prosecutor Solomon Weisenberg and Tim Susanin.
And gentlemen, I‘ve got to tell you, I don‘t get this verdict. I mean, forget the outcome of life in prison. It just doesn‘t make a lot of sense to me.
On the one hand, you have the jurors saying we don‘t believe his actions resulted in the deaths of approximately 3,000 people but a good number of the jurors believe that his actions resulted in serious physical and emotional injuries to numerous individuals who survived. His actions were intended to cause, did cause tremendous disruption to the function of the city of New York, and its economy. You know, how do you have one without the other, Tim?
TIM SUSANIN, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, Dan, you‘re right. And especially when you look back at the findings of the eligibility phase six weeks ago. Our sense then was that the jurors were buying the prosecution‘s theory hands down, because they found that he lied. The lie was intended to further the conspiracy. That death resulted. Death was the cause of those lies. And here they seem to distance themselves a little bit.
I think the way those are reconciled is this: they do think that those lies had a role in this. And they do think that injury was caused and those other things you just articulated.
But that zeroing in on the direct cause seems to indicate that they think higher-ups are more responsible, that he was a bit player. And I guess when you couple that with some of the difficult childhood mitigating factors that came back...
ABRAMS: I mean, really...
SUSANIN: ... that outweighs the aggravating factors.
ABRAMS: I‘m stunned, Tim. And Solomon—Sol predicted this. You know, he said don‘t rule out those other factors early on. He said this before the verdict came back.
But I was stunned, Tim, that they came back and said, oh, you know, he lived a tough childhood and—about his religious upbringing. His father was abusive. And I didn‘t think any of that was going to be relevant in the context of this case.
SUSANIN: That‘s right. It seemed like we all kind of felt once the government threaded the needle at the eligibility phase, it was going to be downhill and this was going to be the easier argument to make.
But the context here though, as I think you‘ve reported before, Dan, is life was the sentence that was handed down a couple years ago when four al Qaeda members were tried for the East Africa bombing. And that does seem to be the trend in these cases. Of course, that doesn‘t explain the specifics here.
But I think when and if the jurors speak, we‘re going to hear that they thought he was a bit player and he had a difficult childhood. If they really think that he should have had life so they didn‘t make him a martyr, that‘s not what the jury form said today.
ABRAMS: Yes. Do you believe them, Sol? Do you believe the jurors when they say, “We don‘t believe that—in martyrdom was a factor. We don‘t believe that he would suffer more, getting life rather than the death penalty, et cetera”?
SOLOMON WEISENBERG, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Absolutely I believe that. But it‘s also important to keep in mind that those factors you talked about, that you had the spokesman talking about, at the top of the show, the mitigating factors that the jurors found, there‘s no absolute and necessary connection between that and the ultimate verdict here. Those were pretty fact-based. There were other mitigating factor questions that had to do with his mental state.
ABRAMS: Wright. So...
WEISENBERG: Not nearly as many voted for.
ABRAMS: Right. So lay it out for me. Based on what you heard from the jurors, what do you think was the reason they gave him life?
WEISENBERG: I don‘t know. But it only took one of them. And again, those last two questions you read where nine of them agreed, those were highly fact intensive. You could have had eight jurors or seven jurors saying, “Oh, yes, they proved that.” But then seven or eight of them saying, “But I don‘t think it means he shouldn‘t—he shouldn‘t get the death penalty.”
I think the real lesson here is that there‘s nothing I see that indicates that this jury didn‘t do what a death penalty jury is supposed to do: carefully weigh the aggravating and mitigating circumstances.
ABRAMS: Here‘s what some of the defense attorneys were saying outside of court right after this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCMAHON: This is the only case to our knowledge where victims have testified as witnesses called by the defense. This testimony demonstrated resilience and the possibility of renewal. As we have said many times, none of these witnesses testified for Moussaoui. They all spoke their minds as citizens of a free nation, uncowed by acts of terror.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: Sol, do you think that might have been what swayed some of the jurors? As he had victims‘ family members coming in and saying give him life?
WEISENBERG: Undoubtedly. It may have. Whether or not, you know, that‘s really articulated in the verdict form, we don‘t know. You pointed out some of the inconsistencies early on. If there are inconsistencies, and I‘m not sure that there are, you know, compromise verdicts are a part of life. It‘s a part of life.
ABRAMS: But I‘ve got to tell you, and again, we don‘t know what the breakdown here in, Tim. We don‘t know how many wanted life versus how many wanted the death penalty. But the—listening to everything they found together, I can‘t entirely make sense of all of it. I guess the point that you were making or Kevin was making, that he was a bit player in this.
ABRAMS: It sounds like it was probably the finding.
SUSANIN: I think that‘s what we‘re hearing. It‘s tough, as well, because the specific findings are made with regard to the different mitigating factors, Dan. We don‘t know which of those, really, in their process, is the one that outweighed the aggravating factors.
And getting back to your question about the defense lawyers‘ statement a few minutes ago, about the victims testifying for the defense, I tend to think that implies that the jurors would not be open to the death penalty. Of course, they wouldn‘t be on this jury if that were the case. And their findings from the eligibility phase seem to undermine that.
So I think what we‘re going to come back to is what might have some fringe inconsistencies, but what‘s really going to be the lead here is this bit player.
ABRAMS: Yes, all right. Sol Weisenberg and Tim Susanin, thanks a lot. Appreciate it.
SUSANIN: Thanks, Dan.
WEISENBERG: Our pleasure.
ABRAMS: Coming up, it seems everyone is now talking in the Duke rape investigation. The D.A. effectively won re-election yesterday. Now he‘s talking about the case. But apparently, he‘s not ready to answer the real tough questions. We‘ll tell you why.
And for the first time, a member of the Duke lacrosse team is speaking out. He says he is 100 percent convinced a rape did not happen.
Plus, “DATELINE” at it again, busting more predators hoping to meet up on an illegal rendezvous with an underage child.
Don‘t forget your e-mails: AbramsReport@MSNBC.com. Please include your name, where you‘re writing from. Response at the end of the show.
ABRAMS: The man prosecuting the Duke lacrosse rape case has won the primary election in Durham, North Carolina, essentially assuring that he will follow this case until it ends.
Now, he‘s doing the media rounds and is making a lot of comments about the case, which we‘ll play for you in a moment. But the one program where he won‘t appear, one that he‘s been on twice before the indictments, this one.
Now that we know a lot more about the case, the D.A. knows he—that we won‘t be asking the softball question that other anchors and hosts have been asking about how it feels to win the election, how hard was the campaign, et cetera. That‘s what you‘ll hear elsewhere. We would be asking the tough questions about the case, questions that need to be answered in the wake of the evidence that has come to light in this case.
The D.A. seemed ready to do an interview. That is, until my producer informed him it was for this show. Then he said he was, quote, “not interested.”
Our producer, Alexis, is there all week in case D.A. Nifong changes his mind. I want to make sure that he recognizes you, Alexis, and wants to respond to the real questions. There‘s Alexis.
So D.A. Nifong, she‘s going to be around the courthouse. I encourage to you muster up the courage to come on the program, and if he says he can‘t talk about the case, well, that is a tough argument to make. It sure sounds to me like he‘s talking.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE NIFONG, DURHAM DISTRICT ATTORNEY: I was making decisions based on what the case presented to itself at the time and the best decisions I could make at the time. And it would be kind of pointless to speculate on what I would have done differently. I‘m satisfied that I have done the case the way it should have been done.
He is trying to get me off the case because he doesn‘t want to try the case against me. I don‘t blame him. If I were Kirk Osborn, I would be trying to get me off this case, too.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: All right. Well, he‘s talking.
Joining me now, former prosecutor and MSNBC legal analyst, Susan Filan; criminal defense attorney Yale Gilanter; and Mark Edwards, who is a North Carolina criminal defense attorney. Thanks to all of you for coming on the program.
Susan, I guess I shouldn‘t be surprised that the D.A. won‘t come on this show again. Again, he was on a couple of times before the indictment. I think this program has been leading the way in term of uncovered details in the case. I guess he‘s probably not coming on, because he knows I‘m not just going to talk to him about how the campaign was and let him give a campaign speech.
SUSAN FILAN, MSNBC NEWS LEGAL ANALYST: Nor should you. And he should come on your program, Dan. You‘ve been covering it. You‘ve been covering it fairly, as far as we can tell. If we‘re missing something, come on and tell us.
I think as the D.A., who‘s now elected—reelected, and he can‘t say it‘s politics now. It‘s just the case. He says that he‘s doing the right thing and he‘s a fair and just prosecutor. Come on! I‘m not baiting him.
FILAN: I‘m seriously saying, come on this program. This is the program that‘s got all the facts and all the details. If we‘re missing something, let us know.
ABRAMS: Yes. Now this—look, you know, it‘s not always the case that this is the program driving an investigation. But on this particular case, I think there is a real sense out there that we are. And as a result, I would think D.A. Nifong would want to come on this program.
But again, the minute he was told it was for this program, suddenly a change of heart and he was no longer interested in doing it.
But again, he‘s talking about the case. Here‘s the D.A. talking about defense attorney Kirk Osborn. This is No. 5.
And remember, the defense team has said that they went to the D.A. and said, “Look, we‘ve got proof that defendant Reade Seligmann could not have done this. We want to show you the taxi receipt. We want to show you the ATM.” And Osborne has said, “He wouldn‘t even meet with me to discuss it.”
Well, the D.A. responded.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NIFONG: Mr. Osborne seems to think that it‘s up to the D.A. to check with the defense counsel to see if it‘s OK to bring charges. That‘s not the way we do it. I bring charges based on the evidence that I have.
He‘s saying that, according to his time line, the crime couldn‘t have happened. And who says that‘s the time line? We‘re talking about the facts of the case.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: That is a—Mark Edwards, isn‘t that kind of a pompous position for the D.A. to take? I mean, I understand he doesn‘t have to check with the defense attorneys before he files charges. No one is suggesting that. But if a defense says, “I‘ve got evidence that can prove my client couldn‘t have done this,” isn‘t it a D.A.‘s obligation to listen?
MARK EDWARDS, NORTH CAROLINA CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, I‘ve never been a prosecutor. But, at least from the defense side, any time you can get a look at the other side‘s evidence, you try to do that, just to prepare for it, prepare to meet it and know what‘s coming after you.
So I‘m a little surprised he didn‘t look at it just for that reason alone.
ABRAMS: And I have to tell you, I don‘t understand, Yale, what his time line is. He says he‘s got a different time line than the defense. The problem is a lot of people out there saying, well, you know, how do we know that the time stamped photos are necessarily the time line? And it would be a fair question, if it was just the time stamped photos.
But D.A. Nifong has to deal with the fact that, in the photos, you don‘t just don‘t have time stamps. You‘ve got watches that are consistent with the time stamp photos. And you‘ve got the neighbor, whose time line is entirely consistent with the time stamp photos, as well.
YALE GILANTER, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Which, Dan, is probably the main reason he doesn‘t want to come on the show and face your questions, because you‘re going to confront him with what the actual time line is and say, instead of just making these pompous juvenile comments to these other reporters, why don‘t you answer the question? How are you going to get around this fact? And I think he realizes that.
The other thing, Dan, is you know, when you look at his comments that were played at the top of this show, I think he‘s looking for an exit strategy. When he says things like, you know, “I made the best decision I could at the time. And I can‘t go back on that decision. And I looked at the evidence I had at the time.”
I think now that the politics are over, he may well be planning how he‘s going to get Reade Seligmann out of this case.
ABRAMS: Really? I don‘t know.
Susan, I don‘t believe that. I think that he is going to move forward with this case. It just doesn‘t sound to me like he‘s going to back out. If the alleged victim backs out, different story.
FILAN: Sure, sure. I‘ve got to tell you, Dan, I just don‘t get it. As a—as a prosecutor, you have such enormous power. You have a duty to the public to do the right thing, to be fair, to be just. Not just to the victim but also to the accused and to the citizens of the state that you‘re advocating on behalf of.
So to be pompous and to be arrogant and to be smug in the face of victory, he just got reelected, smacks of something unholy to me. And I think what he should do is I think he should come on your program, and he should perhaps say, “Look, I can‘t go into great detail. I can‘t try the case in the media, but I want to be fair to your program, because you‘ve certainly covered this case. I‘ve got evidence that I can‘t disclose to you. I believe in what I‘m doing still.”
Say something. But to hide, to sneak away from the limelight of your show and to go on other shows, I don‘t know.
FILAN: I don‘t like it. Something about it just doesn‘t seem right. It‘s almost sort of silly and game playing. And I think, though Yale, I hate to agree with you, but I think “juvenile” is a pretty good word.
ABRAMS: Yes. And...
GILANTER: And Dan, even if he just comes on and says, you know, “I‘ve been listening to Yale. I‘ve been listening to Susan, your other guests, Dan. You‘re wrong. I can‘t go into why you‘re wrong, but I will prove you guys wrong.”
GILANTER: Give me the opportunity. At least let him come on and say the photographs are doctored. Something is wrong.
ABRAMS: Let me...
GILANTER: ... backed up.
ABRAMS: Let me just also tell my viewers, you know, I was tempted at one—I was thinking about putting up the e-mail address for the office or the phone number, et cetera, to get people to call. But you know what, I said it‘s more important that he does his work. I don‘t want him to get overworked with e-mailing or phone—making phone calls to him about a media issue. That‘s not the key to this case.
The key to this case is making sure he‘s investigating and figuring out exactly what happened. So I don‘t want people, you know, bothering him with all sorts of phone calls and e-mails.
But I am troubled. And here is—here is what the D.A. said with regard to whether he feels vindicated after having won the election.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NIFONG: The whole idea of vindication indicates that there might be some sense that I‘ve done something wrong.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) ... a lot of people you did do something wrong.
NIFONG: Well, apparently not among the majority of the voters. But at least, you know, my situation with respect to that is that I feel that I did what was right. And I don‘t have anything to be vindicated for.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: Mark—Mark Edwards, it does seem that, whatever you think of the D.A., he really feels strongly that he‘s done the right thing with this case.
EDWARDS: I think so. Mike has—when he takes a position or takes a side, it‘s really hard too move him off of that.
ABRAMS: All right. Panel is going to stick around. Coming up, one of the Duke lacrosse players breaks his silence, saying he‘s 100 percent sure a rape did not occur.
And later, part two. “DATELINE‘s” Chris Hanson back in action, tracking potential sex predators before they strike. But before we go to break, this from President Bush just a few moments ago on the sentence of life in prison for Zacarias Moussaoui.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Moussaoui got a fair trial. The jury convicted him to life in prison, where he‘ll spend the rest of his life. In so doing, they spared his life, which is something that he evidently wasn‘t willing to do for innocent American citizens.
As I think about the trial, I can‘t help but think about the families who lost a loved one on September 11. I think about the rescuers who tried to save lives in the burning buildings. I—and I know that it‘s really important for the United States to stay on the offense against these killers and bring them to justice. And those are my thoughts about the Moussaoui trial.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: We are back.
For the first time, a Duke lacrosse player speaks out, telling a local Durham reporter that he is 100 percent sure that the exotic dancer was not raped in that house that night. The player wanted to remain anonymous, talked to a reporter from the ABC station WTVD in Durham, telling her this about the day his teammates, Collin Finnerty and Reade Seligmann, were indicted—quote—“It was probably the most emotional day of my life, because a lot of us kept holding on to the fact that maybe this was going to go away. And to see their faces on TV in handcuffs and to see their parents on TV and their expressions, it was tough. It was really tough, because you put yourself in that position, and it could have easily been any one of us.”
You know, Yale, it seems that there has been a theme. And I can tell you this from talking to some of the players, you know, on background, and from—from what you hear in the context of this case—that all of them seem to be saying the same thing, which is, they‘re suggesting it was a crapshoot as to—to who was identified. And they‘re just saying, oh, you know, Seligmann and Finnerty, they just got unlucky.
YALE GALANTER, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Oh, absolutely.
And, you know, Susan brought it up last night. It was a multiple-choice test. And the prosecution had to win. They were shown 47 photographs. Whatever she picked, these guys were going to get indicted. And that is really the tragedy in the photo lineup, that there was no independent corroboration or there was no testing.
You know, we talked about these fillers. There were no fillers put in. So, she couldn‘t get a wrong answer. And that really is horrible. You know, we—we spoke a couple of weeks ago, Dan, about how difficult this case would be to prove anyway, because 47 players, up to this point in time, are going to walk into court and say, nothing occurred. And that is great evidence for the defense.
ABRAMS: Well, if—I mean, if that happens, again...
GALANTER: If that...
GALANTER: Again, if.
GALANTER: What we know today is that all 47 players are consistent in their story that—that a rape did not occur that night. And that is great evidence for the defense.
ABRAMS: If—Susan, do you think, if the DA did have one or more of the players who were ready to testify against their teammates, that either the DA would be suggesting and hinting at it, and, B, do you think that the other players would know?
SUSAN FILAN, FORMER PROSECUTOR: I think absolutely not.
I think, if he has got somebody in his corner that is going to testify, he is not going to let that on. And I don‘t think, if someone is cooperating, their teammates are going to know.
And I don‘t have a problem with him not sharing that. I do have a
problem with him letting us go on, thinking that this identification was a
basically a pin the tail on a lacrosse player. Come on. Say something like: I still have confidence this case. I have heard everything that‘s been said. Have faith in me. I—I‘m listening to you. I—I hear what the defense is saying, and I‘m still going forward.
I think he has to meet it head on. But, no, I don‘t think he has to disclose the details of what he‘s got or who he‘s got.
ABRAMS: And—and, remember, this is a DA who is saying he‘s going to try this case himself now, very unusual for a DA to—to do himself.
FILAN: Not really, Dan, no.
ABRAMS: But he...
FILAN: No really.
ABRAMS: Wait. He has even said that it is unusual for him to be trying the case.
FILAN: No, he...
ABRAMS: And when asked about why...
FILAN: He has got tremendous—go ahead.
ABRAMS: I was just going to say, when asked about why he decided to do this case, his answer was that, well, you know, the nation is watching, the same reason the world is interested in this case. I feel that I have an obligation to be citizens to try this one myself.
FILAN: Well, look, he has got tremendous trial experience, over 300 cases of them, most of them felonies, and many of them murders. So, he has got tremendous trial experience.
Plus, he is the DA. He did seek these indictments.
FILAN: There is a lot of media attention.
If he is going to put his neck on the chopping block, he ought to...
FILAN: ... follow all the way through with it, and not hand it off to a junior person, who could possibly get imploded by this.
FILAN: So, I don‘t have a problem with that.
ABRAMS: I am still predicting that, at least with regard to Reade Seligmann, that this case will not even go to trial. We shall see if—if that happens.
Here is what one of the players said, that—this player who spoke anonymously. “I wish he hadn‘t said the DNA was going to exclude innocent parties, because, in our minds, we thought this was all going to come back negative and this is going to be over. So, from our perspective, we thought this was going to be over. And from the community‘s perspective, they thought they were going to get three guilty parties. And neither came back.”
I—I think, in retrospect, even the DA, Mark Edwards, would probably agree that it was not a smart thing for anyone to have filed an affidavit that says that the DNA will rule out any innocent persons and show conclusive evidence as to who the suspects are.
MARK EDWARDS, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: I think you‘re absolutely right about that. And I agree with the player‘s comments. I think it did leave a lot of people to think that—that this case is going to be settled by those DNA results. And, obviously, it wasn‘t.
ABRAMS: All right.
Susan Filan, Yale Galanter, Mark Edwards, thanks a lot. Appreciate it.
FILAN: Thank you, Dan.
ABRAMS: ... men apparently expecting sex with underage boys or girls caught by “Dateline NBC” again. Wait until you hear who they caught this time.
Your e-mails, ABRAMSREPORT@MSNBC.com. Please include your name, where you‘re writing from. I respond at the end of the show.
ABRAMS: Coming up, “Dateline”‘s Chris Hansen is back with another sting operation, trying to catch would-be sexual predators before they can act. Wait until you see who he busts this time.
ABRAMS: Tonight, “Dateline NBC” airs another in its series of sting operations targeting potential online sexual predators.
In past undercover investigations, they nabbed a doctor, a teacher, even a rabbi, all allegedly coming to a house to possibly have sex with an underage boy or girl.
This time, they went undercover at a house in Greenville, Ohio, to see if men who had engaged in sexually charged conversations with what they thought was a minor on the Internet would show up.
Once again, here‘s “Dateline”‘s Chris Hansen.
CHRIS HANSEN, DATELINE NBC (voice-over): What you‘re about to see happen is going to repeat itself over and over again at our undercover house. The man emerging from the shadows is 40-year-old Alonzo Wade. He‘s been chatting online about sex with a girl who said she was 15. When she says she‘s worried she‘ll get pregnant, he says, “I am fixed.”
He drives 104 miles, more than two hours, to meet the young teen home alone. And look. He‘s loaded down with alcohol.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Come on.
HANSEN: Del, pretending to be the young girl, waves him in.
ALONZO WADE: Where are you?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I‘m just going upstairs to get a Band-Aid. I‘ll be right back down, OK?
WADE: All right.
HANSEN: Then he appears to pull down the zipper on the front of his pants. What he‘s planning to do next, we‘ll never know.
HANSEN (on camera): How are you tonight?
HANSEN (voice-over): He stops as soon as he sees me.
(on camera): Now, what were you doing with your pants there when you were heading towards the door?
WADE: My zipper came down. Excuse me. I was just going to go outside and make sure everything was OK.
HANSEN: You brought quite the selection tonight.
WADE: Yes, sir.
HANSEN: What do we have here?
WADE: Well, that‘s mine.
HANSEN (voice-over): Alonzo claims the 12-pack of beer and two six-packs of Mike‘s Hard Lemonade are all just for him.
HANSEN (on camera): Were you going to give any to the 15-year-old?
WADE: Oh no, no, no, no, no. I don‘t do that.
WADE: I‘ve got a 15-year-old daughter myself.
HANSEN: Well, come on...
WADE: I asked her what...
HANSEN: ... Alonzo. You brought the 12-pack and two six-packs to...
WADE: I said, what does she like to drink? I say I was never what—
I was going to bring it. You got it in black and white that it would say that I would bring it. But...
HANSEN: And you brought it.
WADE: Yes, I did.
HANSEN: You say that...
WADE: But she also asked for it.
HANSEN (voice-over): Alonzo says he didn‘t want to drink in front of his daughter, so he came here to drink, not to have sex. But he seems to leave the door open.
(on camera): It appears to be clear from this transcript that you are open to the idea of having sex with this girl.
WADE: No. Well, it appeared yes. Would I, no? Or maybe. All right. Maybe.
HANSEN: What is it Alonzo? Yes, no, maybe so?
HANSEN: So, maybe you would have had sex with this girl?
HANSEN: What should happen to you, Alonzo?
WADE: I should go to jail.
HANSEN (voice-over): And that‘s exactly what‘s about to happen.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sheriff‘s Office. Put the beer down right now.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Put it down.
HANSEN: To Alonzo and all the other men who will show up at our undercover house, including this man, 26-year-old Jim Rutherford, who drove two hours to meet someone who said she was a 13-year-old girl home alone. He is a sixth grade teacher.
(on camera): Do you ever watch “Dateline NBC”?
JIM RUTHERFORD: Oh, damn, I have seen one of these.
HANSEN: You‘ve seen one of these?
RUTHERFORD: Yes. You know that‘s—and that was what—one of the reasons I thought, why am I doing this? This could be a setup.
HANSEN: You‘ve actually seen our previous programs on computer predators?
RUTHERFORD: I didn‘t think I was a predator. I wasn‘t out—I wasn‘t coming up here for anything physical.
HANSEN (voice-over): That‘s a common excuse we have heard again and again. And this man knows it.
RUTHERFORD: I know you‘ve heard this. Hell, I‘ve seen people sit here and say the same stuff.
HANSEN (on camera): You were suspicious. You had seen our previous stories, probably got a chuckle out of what happened to some of these guys.
RUTHERFORD: Yes. And, honestly, I sat there and watched and thought, those guys are sick. Why would you do that? And that was what, a month, a month-and-a-half ago. And then here I am.
ABRAMS: Tonight, “Dateline” airs a second series from Greenville, Ohio.
Here‘s a look at some of the potential predators Chris Hansen confronted.
HANSEN: Do you often come to visit young girls after chats on the Internet?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Never. Never.
HANSEN: Did you bring anything with you tonight?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Such as?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I did. But...
HANSEN: You did? You brought condoms?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: However...
HANSEN: So, you were just going to kick back and chat and, just in case something happened, you brought condoms.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Look, here‘s the deal.
HANSEN: Will you put them on the table, please?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I‘m sorry?
HANSEN: The condoms.
There you go. So, you had a big night planned, huh?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Please, listen to me.
HANSEN: I have got nothing but time.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is nothing, I swear. You know, I don‘t want to do anything, you know? I don‘t want to hurt anyone. I just wanted to talk, I swear to you. You know, if she had..
HANSEN: How were you going to use the condoms in the conversation?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I wasn‘t going to use them at all.
KEVIN WESTERBECK: I was going to plan on meeting her to say, hi, how you doing? And that was it.
HANSEN: Hi, how you doing, and that‘s it?
WESTERBECK: And that‘s it.
HANSEN: So, less than a week before you‘re supposed to go to court, where you‘re probably going to be designated a registered sex offender...
WESTERBECK: Registered sex offender, yes.
HANSEN: And then you‘re going to prison...
WESTERBECK: That‘s correct.
HANSEN: ... for 11 months...
WESTERBECK: That‘s correct.
HANSEN: ... after pleading guilty to solicitation of a child for sex, you just figured, oh, I‘m just going to pop in and have a nice little conversation with a 13-year-old girl? That‘s your story?
WESTERBECK: That is my story, sir.
HANSEN: Why are you here?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I came to meet this gentleman.
HANSEN: This gentleman?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mmm-hmm.
HANSEN: And how old is the gentleman you came here to meet?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He told me that he was 15, I believe.
HANSEN: Fifteen? You want to try again? How about 14?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well...
HANSEN: How old are you?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Forty-three.
And you came here to meet a teenage boy, why?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I told him I was coming to meet and talk.
HANSEN: Just to meet and talk.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mmm-hmm.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And you thought that was appropriate, for you, as a grown man, 43 years old, to come here to meet a teenage boy, who was home alone?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I had my reservations.
HANSEN: Your reservations?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But he asked me to.
HANSEN: So, that made it OK?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I didn‘t see any harm in just chatting with him, no.
ABRAMS: “Dateline”‘s Chris Hansen joins me now.
Chris, they all say the same thing. I mean, are you getting the same answer again and again and again from these guys? “Oh, I just wanted to talk”?
HANSEN: At least at first, that is what we get, Dan.
But, often, and—and, as we will see tonight, as our investigation continues, at some point, a lot of these guys finally come clean and say:
You know, look, I have known I have had a problem for some time. I have known that I needed treatment.
They seem almost relieved sometimes to—to get this off their chests, to be caught, to be done with this.
ABRAMS: Let—let‘s be clear. You also have in your hand there interchanges that—that they have had with what they thought was the child, right? I mean, so, when they say, “Oh, I was just here to talk,” you have in your hand what?
HANSEN: I have the entire transcript of their online chat, from beginning to end.
So, I mean, the vast majority of my time in this house is spent reading all these transcripts, because I need to have a working knowledge of—of what this person said to the decoy, even if it doesn‘t end up that that person shows up.
But, yes, I have gone through it. I have got it highlighted. And, so, I have that, along with, in many cases, some background on this guy. Like, when you saw Kevin Westerbeck (ph) there, the fellow who was going to report to prison in just four days, you know, we knew all that before I walked in.
So, you know, he may get away with it for a little while. But, ultimately, I will confront him with this.
ABRAMS: And let‘s be clear. There‘s no ambiguity in the—in the papers that you have in front of you, in terms of the interchanges they had, that they were sexually charged, right?
HANSEN: No. The chat is the chat.
I mean, you know, you—you see what they have said, you know, and it starts with the man actually approaching the decoy in the chat room. And it—it goes from there. So, you know, it is unmistakable. And you see exactly how some of this stuff plays out, the grooming process and how it goes from, “Well, I couldn‘t do that; you‘re too young,” to, “Well, you know, if you‘re OK with it, then, you know, I will pop by, and, by the way, should I bring condoms and beer?”
ABRAMS: So—so, again, I mean, just so people are clear, when—when we hear these guys say, I just came over to talk, you have evidence that that is a very unlikely story.
I mean, we have not just the chat log, but, in many cases, you see what these guys have brought with them, alcohol, condoms, other items. And, in this case, and in tonight‘s investigation, we will actually go from the house where we have our hidden cameras to the interrogation room, where the police talk to these guys, to the jail, to the classroom. Our cameras followed these guys all the way through the system.
And, so, it is pretty eye-opening. And the first guy you saw, who—who brought the condoms, but wasn‘t really going to do anything, it turns out that his dad, he tells detectives, is a police officer, and his mother is a prosecutor. In fact, when he shows up in court, the mother actually represents him.
I mean, here‘s a guy, you know, clearly, who should know better. The other guy, Westerbeck (ph), who you saw, the—the shorter fellow, it turns out that—that not only had he been convicted before of doing this same thing, and was supposed to go to prison four days after the Sunday night he showed up at our house. Just this week, he pleaded guilty to—to sexually abusing a 13-year-old female relative in his home.
It—it is astounding.
ABRAMS: It‘s—and it is important that you‘re out there, doing this, because, as we saw from one of the guys, who said, I saw this on “Dateline,” hopefully, this is going to make these guys realize that, you know, they can get caught.
“To Catch a Predator,” 9:00 p.m. on “Dateline” tonight.
Chris, thanks a lot for coming back on the program.
HANSEN: Thanks, Dan.
ABRAMS: Appreciate it.
HANSEN: Any time.
ABRAMS: When we come back, your e-mails. We showed you undercover video yesterday of private eye Bill Stanton talking to a psychic, who said, for $34,000, she could help him out. Well, it turns out that she was a phony.
Your e-mails, a lot of you saying, not all psychics are phony—coming up.
ABRAMS: Now it is time for “Your Rebuttal.”
Yesterday, we spoke to private investigator Bill Stanton, who went undercover to see just how real some psychics were. He found some scams with expensive price tags.
But many of you saying they‘re not all like that.
Jennie Thompson writes: “I‘m a genuine psychic/medium and find the work of the so-called psychics offensive. A psychic will not remove curses for any amount of money.”
Valerie Swan in California: “I‘m a genuine clairvoyant and healer, and I don‘t cheat people out of money. In fact, I do healings and some readings for free, if someone has a crisis and can‘t afford my $100 fee.”
And Christian de Rezendes: “As someone who works with psychics and mediums regularly, I truly resent how this story was presented, as if all psychics operate in this highly fraudulent and deceptive manner.”
And we‘re still getting tons of e-mail about the alleged rape involving the members of the Duke lacrosse team. The team had to cancel the rest of the season after the allegations were made, the coach forced to resign. A committee at Duke determined the lacrosse team‘s season next year should not be canceled. I said I agreed with the decision.
John Zanetti in Florida: “The University of Colorado football team did not have to cancel their season when accusations of recruits being given alcohol, strippers and sex or that sexual assault or harassment claims by several females against team members. USC has a Q.B. indicted on a sexual assault charge and several other players with brushes with the law over the past year. Are they going to cancel their season or expel the students? UConn had two star basketball players arrested over the summer for stealing laptops from students. Season wasn‘t canceled, and the players played.”
Anne Henry writes: “The racist, hateful comments that night by other players are far worse than usual college antics.”
Your e-mails, ABRAMSREPORT—one word -- @MSNBC.com. Please include you name, where you‘re writing from. I respond at the end of the show.
We will be right back.
ABRAMS: That‘s it for us tonight, live from Washington, D.C.
“HARDBALL,” Chris Matthews up next.
I will see you tomorrow.
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