Guests: Bill Sullivan, James Bruton, Yale Galanter, Woody Vann, Norm Early, Barrie Hartman, Mason Tvert
DAN ABRAMS, HOST: Coming up, Zacarias Moussaoui—the only man charged in this country in connection with 9/11 -- got life. And today, he faced off with the victims‘ family members in court. The program about justice starts now.
First up on the docket, the day after a jury came back with a life sentence for 9/11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui, his mother‘s attorney now saying they will try to make sure he serves his time in France?
We‘ll talk about that in a minute.
But first, it came after a face-to-face confrontation with relatives of 9/11 victims in court.
NBC‘s Pete Williams was in the courtroom this morning—Pete, thanks for joining us.
PETE WILLIAMS, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think this was very unexpected, Dan, because we had read some earlier transcripts indicating that the judge was probably not going to ask if anybody in the courtroom had anything to say, partly in fairness to people who had to watch in remote courtrooms, so that they wouldn‘t feel like they were missing an opportunity here.
But she did ask it and sort of impromptu three family members got up to speak, people who have sat through a good deal of the trial. And it was very dramatic because the courtroom isn‘t that big. Where they were speaking at the podium, Moussaoui was only about 15 feet away. And as they spoke, they looked directly in the eye, and he looked directly in the eye back at them, which was unusual for him.
Rosemary Dillard said: “I want you, Mr. Moussaoui, to know how you have wrecked my life. You wrecked my career. You took the most important person in my life from me.” She said she hopes he sits in the jail without any sun-and is never heard from again.
Abraham Scott said: “There‘s—we didn‘t do anything to take freedom away from this country. I hope that bin Laden will be brought to justice in this courtroom and I hope he gets the death penalty.”
And then Lisa Dolan said that she had only one thing to say to him, and that is that there is one final judgment day—Dan.
ABRAMS: And Moussaoui also had a chance to speak, Pete, and he threatened the U.S. He wasted an opportunity—“to learn why people like me, like 9/11 hijacker Mohammed Atta have so much hatred of you. If you do not want to hear, you will feel.”
What else was he saying?
WILLIAMS: Right. And, of course, as you know, under the federal rules, the person who is sentenced has the right to speak in court and he took advantage of it.
He started out saying, you know, he had his prepared remarks, but he wanted to respond to the family members. And he said, you know, you talk about how your lives were destroyed, maybe one day you‘ll think about how many people the CIA, how many lives the CIA has destroyed. And he said you have an amount of hypocrisy which is beyond belief. It‘s selective humanity. Only you suffer. Only you feel.
And at that point, the lead prosecutor, Rob Spencer, stood up and said: “I object to this. He‘s supposed to talk about the sentence. He‘s not supposed to give political speeches.”
And the judge said: “You‘re right. Mr. Moussaoui, confine yourself to the sentencing.”
And he said: “Well, I have nothing more to say because you don‘t want to hear the truth and as long as you don‘t want to hear, you will feel, America.”
And then, in one of his trademark little statements, he said: “God curse America and save Osama bin Laden. You‘ll never get him.”
ABRAMS: That‘s nice.
All right, Pete, look, we‘ve had a chance now to carefully look at the jury verdict.
What do you think happened here?
WILLIAMS: We don‘t know for sure, Dan. But in the spirit of your question, what we think happened, I think it was, among the 12 jurors, a 9-3 v. I think that—and you can sort of tell this from the ballot because three of the jurors said that they found Moussaoui‘s role in the 9/11 attacks to be minor. Three said he had only limited knowledge of the attack plans. And the jury could not be unanimous on one of the government‘s factors, which was that Moussaoui‘s actions resulted in 3,000 deaths on 9/11.
My guess here is that the jury in the first phase said, yes, we agree with the government‘s case. Maybe if Moussaoui had told the truth when he was arrested, maybe that would have prevented one of the hijackers from succeeding, grounded one of the planes and maybe as many people wouldn‘t have died. But we can‘t say that his actions directly led to 3,000 people being died. And they said that his knowledge was so limited that it didn‘t justify the death penalty.
But interestingly, the jury rejected two of the defense claims...
WILLIAMS: ... that giving him the death sentence would make him a martyr. Nobody agreed with that. And nobody agreed that giving him the death sentence would be harsher punishment than life in prison.
All right, Pete Williams, thanks a lot.
WILLIAMS: Dan, can I just say one other thing?
ABRAMS: Real quick, yes.
WILLIAMS: You mentioned earlier about—yes, about his mother wanting him in France.
WILLIAMS: U.S. officials I‘ve talked to today say not going to happen.
ABRAMS: Yes. Well, yes, that‘s—we expected that. Yes.
All right, Pete, thank you very much.
ABRAMS: Many of the same victims‘ family members who confronted Moussaoui in court today spoke out after today‘s proceedings. So did some relatives who saw the proceedings in other cities.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CARIE LEMACK, LOST HER MOTHER ON 9/11: The defendant went after the family members who had spoken and talked about how they were hypocritical and they didn‘t understand real pain.
ABRAHAM SCOTT, LOST HIS WIFE ON 9/11: It was just like a dagger being stuck in my heart, personally. Just him not showing no remorse. It was extremely hard for me sitting in that courtroom listening to him without jumping across that little—that little fence and doing bodily harm to him.
CINDY MCGINTY, LOST HER HUSBAND ON 9/11: So arrogant and non-remorseful and just a despicable man.
LISA DOLAN, LOST HER HUSBAND ON 9/11: I didn‘t realize that he would be specifically talking to us. It was a little bit upsetting, a little bit disturbing.
ALEXANDER SANTORA, LOST HIS SON ON 9/11: This guy got the fairest trial that I think anybody could have ever asked for.
MCGINTY: Do you think if one of us were arrested and the Taliban put us on trial or al Qaeda put us on trial that we would have gotten a fair trial? That it would have been a trial by a jury of our peers? I think not.
MAUREEN SANTORA, LOST HER SON ON 9/11: Now it‘s over. The judge, you know, said what she needed to say. He will get consecutive life sentences and I hope he‘s forgotten.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: And now, to add insult to injury, word that the French government may ask the U.S. to send Moussaoui, a French citizen, back there to serve out his sentence. A foreign ministry spokesperson saying: “A possible demand for transferring Zacarias Moussaoui could be looked at, citing a prisoner transfer treaty signed in the ‘80s.”
An attorney for Moussaoui‘s mother says he‘s going to fight a legal battle to bring Moussaoui back to France.
You heard what Pete said about that.
Bill Sullivan is a former federal prosecutor.
You know, Bill, look, this is almost not a legal issue. I mean it‘s such a—a non-issue as a legal matter.
I mean let‘s first get that out of the way.
As a legal matter, it‘s not going to happen, right?
BILL SULLIVAN, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Absolutely. And I think the treaty cited by the French foreign ministry would not even have application, Dan. That treaty and other MLATS, mutual legal assistance treaties, deal with suspects who have committed crimes, allegedly, in one jurisdiction and they are nationals or residents of another jurisdiction and the countries agree to extradite for purposes of trial in the country where the offense was committed.
SULLIVAN: Not relating to post-conviction, post-sentencing transfers.
ABRAMS: And, again, some of the factors to consider—would the return public sensibilities because of the extremely serious nature of crimes? Yes.
Is it contrary to the foreign policy of the United States? Yes.
Is there a sentencing disparity with the United States? Yes, because in Europe, life sentences generally mean 20 years.
So it seems when you look at all the factors, each and every one dictates that the answer has to be no.
SULLIVAN: Plus, the French have absolutely no interest, aside from the fact that the defendant here, Mr. Moussaoui, is a French national. It is isolating for the French foreign ministry to even suggest, one day after the sentence was handed down, a life sentence...
SULLIVAN: ... that France would have an interest in that sentence being served in France, where, as you note, there is parole, where life sentences typically do not exceed 20 years.
ABRAMS: Why would they even consider it? I don‘t under—I mean it just seems to me such a stupid thing for them to say.
Why would any French official even suggest that they were seriously considering this?
SULLIVAN: It‘s frankly unimaginable, Dan. I know that the mother has an incentive for that and that she‘s found legal counsel and that it would be...
ABRAMS: Yes, great. OK, yes...
SULLIVAN: ... legal counsel has somehow gotten a hearing with the French foreign ministry. And the foreign ministry and the foreign ministry has suggested that there may be some avenue to pursue here.
But look at the statement that he said. He cites no specific treaty. He cites no specific provision and he articulates absolutely no reason that the French would have for purposes of holding Moussaoui on their soil.
ABRAMS: I mean particularly in—particularly in the wake of a life sentence.
ABRAMS: I mean you would think that if he got the death penalty they would say, oh, you know, the death penalty, it‘s so—it‘s in direct contradiction to everything we stand for, etc. etc. Here he‘s getting a life sentence. Just let it be.
SULLIVAN: A stupid political move, but perhaps a small effort at appeasement to the defendant‘s mother that will go absolutely nowhere. And I‘d be very, very doubtful to suggest at—I can‘t imagine the French would pursue it.
ABRAMS: I can‘t either.
All right, thanks a lot, Bill.
Appreciate you coming on the program.
SULLIVAN: Thank you.
ABRAMS: Forgetting Zacarias Moussaoui will be easier once he‘s tucked away inside a cell at the federal supermax prison in Florence, Colorado, known as the toughest prison in the country. The government has some of the worst of the worst rotting in cells there—Theodore Kaczynski, the Unabomber; Omar Abdel Rahman, the blind sheikh, jailed for the 1993 World Trade Center bombing plot; Ramsey Yousef, the 1993 bomb plot leader; the would-be al Qaeda shoe bomber, Richard Reid; 1985 Oklahoma City bomb plotter Terry Nichols; just some of the inmates Zacarias Moussaoui won‘t get to know in the next few decades.
Why won‘t he get to know them?
James Bruton was the warden at Minnesota‘s Oak Park State Supermax Prison.
He‘s the author of “The Big House: Life Inside A Supermax Security Prison.”
Thanks for coming on the program.
The reason he‘s not going to get to know these people, in all likelihood, is because one of the hallmarks of the supermax in Florence, Colorado is almost no interaction between prisons, right?
JAMES BRUTON, FORMER SUPERMAX PRISON WARDEN, AUTHOR, “THE BIG HOUSE”:
That‘s pretty much the trademark of most of the high security facilities that are being built around the country. Previously and the new types of institutions that are going up, it‘s pretty much total isolation, very little contact with staff, as well as very, very little, if any, contact with other prisoners.
ABRAMS: I was there a few years ago and, you know, in addition to being struck—we see the—we see what the cell looks like there. Everything is literally attached to the walls so that nothing can be removed, nothing can be taken and turned into a weapon, etc. Even the showers monitored in terms of a timer, right?
BRUTON: Well, one of the things we‘ve learned through the years is that whatever you have available that an inmate can get at and reconstruct, they‘ll cause problems with it by breaking it, by maneuvering with it, causing problems, concerns to hurt themselves or hurt others. That just about anything that creates any kind of a separate mission can be used for a weapon to cause considerable damage to the cell or to another person.
ABRAMS: And even their meals that, you know, people picture prisoners going to meals, they don‘t get to go to meals. They get them, from the way I saw it at the time was they would literally put them into this sort of middle ground area, in between the cell and where the hallway was. They would then close the door again. Then the food would be sitting there. Then they open up the cell so the person can come out and take their food and have no contact with the prison guards.
BRUTON: That‘s right. Even in the most secure of the supermax prisons, you have usually certain areas where even the isolation becomes greater, just like you describe. I‘ve been there several times, as well, and that‘s the way we operated at Oak Park Heights in Minnesota, as well.
That certain people are so dangerous and so predatory that, through technology, cameras and doors moving by computer and so forth, are the way inmates move around and get the necessities of life without human contact.
ABRAMS: And while we see a window in that cell, it is intentionally constructed so that they won‘t know where in the prison they are, correct?
BRUTON: Well, that‘s one of the reasons. And also so that there is an inability to communicate with other people. I mean they‘re not isolated alone on an island, but they could do many, many years in an institution and never really know who else is serving time with them.
Usually in the supermaxes, this wouldn‘t necessarily represent every single for every person, but there are certain areas of the supermax that are designed for exactly as you‘ve just described.
ABRAMS: Can they get visitors?
BRUTON: It depends on the institution. It depends on the person. What you usually want to have—and I don‘t want to speak for the Bureau of Prisons. They have an outstanding institution and policy and program and so forth. But usually what you want to do is at some point have some type of incentive-based program for good behavior that an inmate can get up every day and look forward to something.
And one of the positive things that inmates do look forward to to keep them on the right track is a visit. Now, most of those visits are isolation type visits where they don‘t get any personal or human contact, they don‘t touch each other, usually in an isolation type room, by telephone or by some type of speaker system.
ABRAMS: The bottom line, it‘s not going to be an enjoyable life that Zacarias Moussaoui is going to live?
BRUTON: Well, if I, you know, if I was in a position like that and I was going to prison for the rest of my life and I wanted to be safe, I‘d probably want to be in a place like that, because the likelihood of anybody getting to him and hurting him is pretty remote.
But on the other hand, the down side of that is it‘s going to be pretty much isolation and you‘re going to be learning to live with yourself the rest of your natural life.
ABRAMS: Yes, all right.
Jim Bruton, thanks a lot for coming on the program.
BRUTON: Thank you.
ABRAMS: Coming up, the D.A. investigating the Duke rape case still refusing to come on the program about justice to answer the tough questions. But you see there, he‘s doing the rounds and he‘s dropping hints that he‘s got more evidence.
We‘ll tell you what that might be.
And he‘s still invited to come on the program. He knows that.
Plus, the University of Colorado trying to curtail pot smoking on campus by posting pictures of students puffing on the Internet, hoping someone will turn in a classmate. Is treating the students like sex offenders a good move?
And ever wonder what happens to your car when you leave it with a valet? Well, our buddy Bill Stanton goes undercover to see who took what.
Your e-mails, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please include your name, where you‘re writing from.
Our response at the end of the show.
ABRAMS: We‘re back.
With the election behind and the D.A. prosecuting the Duke rape investigation case is speaking out. And while it appears he is still not ready to return to THE program about justice to answer the tough questions, he is talking about the case and suggesting he has more up his sleeve.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM “RITA COSBY LIVE & DIRECT”)
MIKE NIFONG, DURHAM DISTRICT ATTORNEY: Well, one would hope that I would not be proceeding without some evidence and there is a lot evi—a lot more evidence in the hands of the defense attorneys right now than most of the public knows about and I expect that soon there will be more such evidence.
QUESTION: Is it safe to say, just in general, you have a lot more than we know about?
NIFONG: I think that‘s probably pretty safe to say.
What is exculpatory or inculpatory evidence always depends on the context in which the evidence is offered. If somebody, for instance, offers an alibi with respect to one time, that does not necessarily help much with respect to another time. A lot of assumptions are made any time the defense team offers what they say is exculpatory evidence with respect to what the state‘s case actually is.
And right now, I don‘t believe that the members of the defense team really understand what the state‘s case is, or, to the extent that they do, they don‘t want to talk about that.
QUESTION: They‘re saying that maybe the wrong guy has been pulled. If he had seen the ATM records, if he had seen the surveillance video, the cab driver (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...
NIFONG: I have seen all those. I have seen all that, yes ma‘am.
QUESTION: And has that changed your impression of who has been indicted?
NIFONG: No, ma‘am.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: That was on “Rita Cosby Live & Direct.”
Joining me now from North Carolina, criminal defense attorney Woody Vann; Yale Galanter, who is also a criminal defense attorney; and former Denver Prosecutor Norm Early.
I should also point out that Woody had represented the alleged victim in a previous case back in 2002.
Thanks to all of you for coming on the program.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You‘re welcome.
ABRAMS: ... it sure sounds like the D.A. is saying, number one, I‘ve got more evidence than either you know about or you‘re talking about; and, number two, that all of this alibi stuff doesn‘t really matter because I‘ve got a different time line.
YALE GALANTER, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, I think he‘s playing a cat and mouse game, Dan.
I can tell you that where this case is being prosecuted, it‘s pretty much what they call an open file discovery, which means he gets to see whatever the defense has, the defense gets to see whatever he has. There are a couple of exceptions to that rule, but not many.
So it‘s not like this cat and mouse, I‘m going to spring a surprise on you.
I think that Mr. Nifong is being very coy with his statements. And to be honest with you, I don‘t think he‘s got anything right now.
ABRAMS: But, Yale, look, you—again, you‘ve been in contact with the defense team. Be straight with us.
Is there anything more that the defense team has that is incriminating in this case that we haven‘t heard about?
GALANTER: Well, the only thing that I can think that Mr. Nifong is talking about is evidence that he may have against Collin Finnerty. I mean most of the discussion that we‘ve had over the past couple of weeks has involved the time line, the photographs, the ATM recipients, the dorm swiping as it relates to Reade Seligmann. So he may be talking about Collin Finnerty.
Now, when I take what he said the other night, the night of the election, about I made decisions based on what I had at the time, and looking back on it I can‘t, you know, use hindsight based on what I had at the time, it makes me believe that when he did charge Reade Seligmann, that he really didn‘t know about the ATM recipients and he didn‘t know about the dorm swipe card and he didn‘t know about the taxicab driver‘s testimony and record.
So I think this could have to do more with Collin Finnerty than it does Reade Seligmann.
ABRAMS: All right, here‘s the potential evidence that we‘ve put together, Woody Vann, as to possible evidence he could have.
I guess they could have a cooperating team member, which would be
huge. Now, the hair or other DNA evidence, I‘ve actually seen the DNA
report and there is reference to inconclusive DNA tests. There‘s also
reference to possible mixtures of DNA and—that remained inconclusive.
There are additional party photos, photos depicting, I guess, again, we‘re saying there could be additional party photos. There could be photos depicting her injuries, medical records, toxicology reports, etc.
Do you have any sense of exactly what he‘s talking about, Woody?
WOODY VANN, NORTH CAROLINA CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Other than what you just said, Dan, I can‘t—I can‘t think of anything else. These are items that he already has in his possession that will be released to the defense attorneys when he submits his response to the discovery request. I can‘t think of anything else right off hand, other than those things that may be derived from that, that is, you know, the DNA report from the, you know, from the new—from the private lab...
ABRAMS: You know, Norm, when he talks about having a different...
VANN: But we don‘t know anything about (UNINTELLIGIBLE) yet.
ABRAMS: ... when he talks about having a different time line, the
point was that is that that would mean that the next door neighbor‘s time
line is either wrong or—right? Because, I mean, if the next door
neighbor is saying he sees the women walk in at midnight, that‘s consistent
with the time stamped photos that the defense says that they have. Reade
Seligmann is on his phone starting at about 12:05 or so, making phone
calls. The women were dancing for about five minutes. You know, it does -
if you accept that it starts at midnight, makes it very hard to figure out where he could have done this.
NORM EARLY, FORMER DENVER DISTRICT ATTORNEY: Yes, but one of the things that‘s clear is that the prosecutor in this case has been in office for 27 years. And while he had not been dealing with the media for 27 years, what he had been doing is evaluating cases and prosecuting cases for 27 years. Presumably, a number of those cases were sexual assault cases.
So the benefit that he has, as a prosecutor, is being able to compare the facts in this case, as he knows them, to the facts in other cases that he‘s had as a prosecutor. And he‘s able to gauge whether this is a good case or a bad case.
Based upon what he says he has, he has he has determined that this is a good case, that it‘s a prosecutable case and it‘s one he should pursue.
Now, as to Reade Seligmann, maybe he believes that out of all the people at this party, 37 people, she just happens to pick the one who has a “alibi.” And why would he the “alibi?” because maybe he felt like he needed one and started manufacturing one.
I don‘t know what the evidence is. You don‘t know what the evidence is. But, you know, he‘s got the total panoply of evidence.
ABRAMS: All right, well, look, and he certainly is expressing a lot of—look, listen to this sound bite, all right? This is a man who‘s expressing a lot of confidence. I have to tell you, I‘ve met Mike Nifong a couple of times. He‘s a very nice guy. I enjoyed talking to him. Not really certain, again, why he can‘t muster up the courage to answer the tough questions on the program, particularly when you listen to this piece of sound.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NIFONG: The short answer is no. You have to understand that obviously the defense attorneys would probably prefer to try the case against somebody who is less experienced than I am or against somebody who is less committed to case than I am. And you can certainly understand that. I mean if I were one of those attorneys, I wouldn‘t really want to try a case against me, either.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: Oh. Just so you guys can see, I‘m hitting my chest like a gorilla.
ABRAMS: Go ahead, Norm.
EARLY: Dan, I think that once a prosecutor starts making statements like that, it is reasonable for a person like yourself, who runs—who has a show like this, who is making an inquiry maybe into the case, to assume that maybe they should come on your show and be a part of answering those kind of questions.
You know, I‘ve said before, I think the best posture for a prosecutor is to not make statements or start answering questions in the first place and then people like yourself won‘t be saying well, he‘s doing it in this forum, why won‘t he do it in this forum.
But, Yale, I have to tell you, nevertheless, I have been surprised, listening to him, at the level of confidence that he‘s retaining in his case. I mean he‘s saying I‘ve got other evidence. He‘s saying your time line doesn‘t dissuade me.
GALANTER: Dan, I‘ll tell you, I‘ve gone over the search warrant a number of times and I also went over the return and inventory today, just to make sure that we weren‘t missing anything. The only thing that he could have that‘s concrete that would move the time line up 15 or 20 minutes before midnight, possibly is these dancers‘ own phone records, because he may have subpoenaed those records, which we wouldn‘t have access to and the defense wouldn‘t have access to yet. And that would show exactly when the girls left, when they arrived, you know, or the lack of phone calls, if they were dancing earlier. And he may be able to establish that.
That would take away the strength of Reade Seligmann‘s alibi.
ABRAMS: That‘s a fair point. But remember, you also have to add in the time that the alleged victim says she went out to her car, right?
ABRAMS: That she‘s then coaxed back into the house...
ABRAMS: ... and then they‘re separated...
GALANTER: And she...
ABRAMS: ... and then she‘s raped.
GALANTER: Right. And she says that the assault took place during 30 minutes. So I think it‘s a tough road to hoe for Mr. Nifong, but possibly, you know, he may come into court and say look, eyewitnesses make mistakes as to the time all the time.
GALANTER: And, you know, the 10 or 15 minute assault our complaining witness could have said was 30. People aren‘t looking at their watches when they‘re assaulted.
But that‘s it. That window is maybe 10, 15 minutes before midnight and he may have, you know, Ms. Roberts and the complaining witness‘s cell records to back that up. That‘s the only thing I can think of.
ABRAMS: All right, Yale, Norm, Woody Vann, thanks a lot.
Again, I should point out my producer, Alexis (ph), is still out there, D.A. Nifong. And, again, you‘re still invited to come on the program to respond to anything that is being said.
Do we have Alexis up on the shot?
I just want to make sure he knows what she looks like.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, she‘s here.
ABRAMS: All right. She‘s there.
There she is. All right.
Just in case the D.A. can‘t remember what she looks like, there she is.
All right, coming up, the University of Colorado is posting pictures of its own students allegedly smoking pot in an effort to get other students to turn them in.
And later, you give your keys to a parking attendant, you‘re enjoying a nice meal at a restaurant, but what‘s going on in your car? An undercover investigation is coming up.
And our continuing series, Manhunt: Sex Offenders on the Loose, our effort to find missing offenders before they strike.
Our search today is in South Carolina. Authorities want your help finding Elvin Ballard. He‘s 46, 6‘, 200, convicted of criminal sexual assault and hasn‘t registered his address with the state. If you‘ve got any information on his whereabouts, please contact the Lexington County Sheriff Fugitive Unit Hotline, 803-785-2534.
Be right back.
ABRAMS: It is an institution of higher learning. But some students at the University of Colorado Boulder taking that term a bit too literally as in too high too often. University is fighting back. Every year on April 20th students apparently throw a party where they publicly smoke marijuana on campus. This year 2,500 showed up.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We‘re just up here celebrating 420.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, dude, come get high with us, bro.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You‘re on the camera smoking weed!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My parents are going to see me on TV smoking weed.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Excellent.
ABRAMS: And every year the university tries to discourage the party. One year they turned on the sprinklers to disburse the crowd. This year they took it a step further. The university closed down the field students planned to use for the party, posting signs warning that anyone who set foot on the field would be busted for trespassing, and that they could be videotaped or photographed, and they were.
Well, teaming up with Boulder‘s police department, the university has posted 150 pictures of university students with bongs, pipes, and any other sort of paraphernalia, on a Web site. The school is advertising a $50 reward for anyone who can identify the alleged stoners. It‘s working. Police have been overwhelmed with calls identifying pictures of people in the photos, remember, of course, have not been charged.
Joining me now is Barrie Hartman, a spokesperson for the University of Colorado at Boulder; and Mason Tvert, the campaign director for Safer Alternative for Enjoyable Recreation, a group that seeks to legalize marijuana use.
Thanks a lot for coming on the program. Appreciate it. All right. Barrie Hartman, let me start with you. Explain to me how this works. You put up these pictures and any student who turns someone in gets $50 for turning him in. Where is that money coming from?
BARRIE HARTMAN, UNIVERSITY OF COLORADO SPOKESMAN: The money is coming the fines that the students will pay, up to $100 fine, and those fines will go to pay the rewards.
ABRAMS: Are you worried that it‘s creating a little bit of a tattletale environment on the campus?
HARTMAN: What we‘re worried about is that this has become a bigger problem than we thought because we have so many people calling in with identities. We have had hundreds of calls at the university and it‘s more than we can handle. That‘s the problem.
ABRAMS: How do you decide who gets the $50, first one to call in gets it?
HARTMAN: The person has to be successfully prosecuted through the office of judicial affairs.
ABRAMS: Oh, wait a sec. So they identify them.
HARTMAN: And the first.
ABRAMS: And then if you decide not to prosecute them, they don‘t get paid?
HARTMAN: That‘s correct.
ABRAMS: Are you going to be prosecuting any of them?
HARTMAN: Well, we sure are. We have 57 positively identified or identified, at least, and they will be going before the Judicial Review Board, and that board will decide whether they are fined or whether they are—some other action may be taken.
ABRAMS: And when we say prosecuted, you mean within the university, correct?
ABRAMS: You don‘t mean taken into the.
HARTMAN: This is not.
ABRAMS: You don‘t mean taken into the criminal justice system?
HARTMAN: Nobody goes to jail.
ABRAMS: All right. Mason, that sounds like a fairly reasonable solution, considering the fact that they didn‘t just close off this field, they warned them, you‘re going to be photographed, you‘re going to be viewed as trespassing. And the school is saying, look, we are not going to seek have these people prosecuted criminally, we just want to deal with it within the university. It seems kind of reasonable, right?
MASON TVERT, SAFER ALTERNATIVE FOR ENJOYABLE RECREATION: Well, no. I think it‘s completely unreasonable for a university to punish and penalize its students for making a rational decision to use marijuana instead of alcohol.
ABRAMS: It‘s illegal.
TVERT: It‘s quite obvious that.
ABRAMS: But it‘s illegal.
TVERT: It is illegal and the university is not the law enforcement. The university is going to throw students out of the school for using a drug far less harmful than..
ABRAMS: I don‘t think he said throw them out of the school. I think what he said was fine them.
TVERT: Well, if they go to office of judicial affairs, they have every—a very good chance that they will be suspended from school. We see it over and over again. And what it comes down to is appears.
ABRAMS: Look, here‘s the thing, I know you don‘t—look.
TVERT: It appears that the university.
ABRAMS: I understand that you don‘t like the law, and we can have a debate on that at another point, but it is the law, and the university has an obligation.
TVERT: Well, they broke—it appears they may have broken the law, sir. It appears that the CUPD may have broken the law by violating some constitutional rights that these students enjoy. This is a field that‘s open 364 days out of the year.
ABRAMS: Oh, so it‘s a constitutional.
ABRAMS: Wait, it‘s constitutional right for anyone to go on a university‘s field? The university does not have the right to close the field when they so choose?
TVERT: They have clearly closed the field once they found out students were coming out to rally based on a political measure (ph). That would be like the city of Denver closing the Civic Center Park when they heard...
ABRAMS: What are you talking about?
TVERT: . about the immigration rallies. I mean, it‘s absurd. If they hear that a political rally is going to occur, and then they close down that part of...
ABRAMS: Let‘s just show—can we show the video again just so we‘re clear as to what this political rally was? The political rally was people talking about how their parents are going to see them smoking pot on camera. And they were warned that they could be photographed there. They are breaking the law.
Again, it‘s not a major law. I‘m glad to see that they are not saying they are going to take them into the criminal justice system. But I would think that you should be saying thank you to the university for saying we‘re not going to make this an even bigger deal than we could make it.
TVERT: Well, it appears the university has made it a huge deal, and the university is spending countless state and university dollars worrying about students using a less harmful drug than alcohol. And right now, the university has spent more time and money worrying about one day of student marijuana use than 365 days of heavy student alcohol use and abuse. I mean...
ABRAMS: Again, but that‘s not.
TVERT: . this is a town plagued by alcohol riots and overdose deaths.
ABRAMS: You may be right. Look, I‘m not going to challenge the fact
I mean, you may be right that in the end alcohol use may be more dangerous than marijuana use. Let‘s just put that aside. That‘s—our system doesn‘t work on people like you and me getting to decide what‘s more dangerous. We decide it based on what‘s legal and what‘s not. Pot‘s not legal.
TVERT: And the judge and jury will decide that, sir...
ABRAMS: No, no, but it‘s not a jury. This isn‘t a jury issue. Pot‘s not legal.
TVERT: It is. It‘s because the.
ABRAMS: It‘s not legal—you‘re not disputing the fact that pot‘s not legal, are you?
TVERT: We‘re saying that pot should be legal given that it‘s less harmful than the drug that I‘m.
ABRAMS: But that‘s not what I asked you.
TVERT: . sure that many of these administrators take themselves.
ABRAMS: That‘s not what I asked you. It‘s not legal, is it? That‘s an easy question.
TVERT: No, but these students are not going to be cited for marijuana, sir. They are going to be cited for trespassing. And there is no physical evidence of them using marijuana, and they are being treated like sex offenders, having their photos posted online with, you know, a reward for information about them. It‘s absurd and disgusting and it‘s not the way this country is supposed to work.
ABRAMS: That‘s a separate issue, and that‘s the one I wish you had focused on from the moment one, which was, the idea that sort of treating them like sex offenders I think is the strongest argument that one would have on the other side as opposed to—but, you know, again, you‘re right, there is no evidence. I‘m sorry, my bad, no evidence there that anyone was smoking pot. Barry Hartman and Mason Tvert, thanks a lot. Appreciate it coming on the program.
Coming up, first it was the psychics, now parking attendants. Private investigator Bill Stanton is back with more undercover work. What happens when you leave your car with the valet? That‘s coming up.
ABRAMS: Valet parking is convenient. But what really happens when you put one of your most valuable possessions in the hands of a stranger?
“THE TODAY SHOW” went undercover to find out and here‘s Katie Couric.
KATIE COURIC, HOST, “THE TODAY SHOW” (voice-over): For many people, a car is one of their most valuable possessions, at an average cost of $26,000, the most expensive thing they own, second only to their home. It‘s also a traveling safe where we leave CDs, sunglasses, even cash.
But every day thousands of drivers turn over their keys to a stranger.
BILL STANTON, PRIVATE INVESTIGATOR: Valets, can you trust them with your car keys? We‘re going to find out today just what they do when you leave one of your most expensive possessions with them.
COURIC: Gary Gross (ph) knows the risks all too well.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I travel in and out of L.A. often and would valet my car. On almost every occasion I would have money taken out of my car.
COURIC: Security specialist Bill Stanton traveled to Los Angeles with valet service on almost every street corner to see how a BMW loaded with cash and hidden cameras would fare going from valet to valet.
At first many notice the money. But apparently were not tempted. One valet even put the money in a safe place. But over the course of a day, another raised suspicions. That valet spots the money but drives out of sight to look further. He began to rummage through the car.
STANTON: Why would he be checking? He‘s looking at the watch. Look at him. Right now he‘s looking for something cash and carry. He‘s thinking what can he take that I‘m not going to catch?
COURIC: As he was seemingly about to take what he wanted, his eye caught our hidden camera and panic set in. Even though the hidden camera was discovered, the valet was caught red-handed. After watching what happened from our surveillance stand.
STANTON: All within seconds, he‘s going through my stuff, going through my pockets, looking in the glove compartment. Let‘s see what this guy has to say for himself.
COURIC: Bill took action.
STANTON: I need you to admit to me what you did. We both know. Can you do me a favor, can you take your hand out of your pocket? I‘m a retired cop.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK.
STANTON: And I‘m with “THE TODAY SHOW.” You know and I know you went through the car. You can‘t be doing that to people that park their car.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would take it, I would look at it, and I would put it back. I swear I didn‘t take anything.
STANTON: You thought about it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
STANTON: I want you to look at me, I want you to give me your word you are not going to do that to anybody else.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I swear that I never did see this and.
STANTON: That doesn‘t give you a right to look through anybody else‘s stuff.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I know, this is like the first time I did something like that and I am really, like, sorry for that.
STANTON: You seem like a bright young guy. You shouldn‘t have to do this. Just don‘t let me find you doing this to anybody else.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It‘s a range of emotions. They might only take a few dollars, but still it leaves you with a sense of being violated and angry.
ABRAMS: Joining me now is private investigator and “TODAY SHOW” contributor Bill Stanton.
Bill, is part of the effect to wear like the tight little black T-shirts where they see you walk out and they‘re like, man, this guy‘s cut, he‘s going to beat me up?
STANTON: I shop at Gap Kids, yes, Gap Kids, that‘s where I shop.
ABRAMS: Bill, the bottom line though is it seems most of these guys were pretty honest.
STANTON: You know what, it‘s refreshing to see that these guys do put the money back. I mean, we were putting it out there, diamond rings, watches, most -- 95 percent were straight up honest.
ABRAMS: Diamond rings meaning from your personal collection, of course?
STANTON: Yes, yes. The Q.Z. (ph) that the girls get, absolutely.
ABRAMS: Right, right, right. All right. So he‘s going through your pockets. The one guy is going through your pockets in the back seat. And what did you have in there, a phone or something?
STANTON: Yes. He was looking at the cell phone. What for? Maybe to get identity theft. What these guys do, what people do is they treat their car as an extra room in their house. Think about what you leave in your house. Bills laying around, you know, credit cards, pre-approved credit cards, all these things are available to the bad guy if they want to take it.
ABRAMS: Now I know you were doing this for “THE TODAY SHOW,” but all the other guys who didn‘t take anything, did you tip them?
STANTON: Oh, yes. They got tipped big. You know, NBC expense account.
ABRAMS: Oh yes? All right, well, that‘s good. Yes, yes, exactly, the finance guy‘s on the line just now. He just jumped in to say Stanton is in big trouble.
STANTON: I‘ve got to pay it back.
STANTON: Thank you, Dan, for exposing me.
ABRAMS: Yes, exactly, Bill, this stuff has been really good, all this undercover stuff has been fascinating.
STANTON: Thank you. Thanks for the opportunity.
ABRAMS: Thanks again for coming back. We‘ll keep bringing it on.
Bringing it on. Psychic is my favorite, though. Can you cry on demand?
STANTON: Well, Dan, I‘m going to be crying as soon as we go off the air.
ABRAMS: See you, Bill. Good seeing you.
STANTON: Ten-four, bye-bye.
ABRAMS: Coming up, your e-mail‘s mixed reaction to the life sentence for Zacarias Moussaoui.
Plus, I challenge the D.A. investigating the Duke lacrosse rape case to come answer the tough questions on this program, some of you telling me to shut up, saying, he owes me nothing.
And our continuing series, “Manhunt: Sex Offenders on the Loose,” our efforts to find missing offenders before they strike. Today we are in South Carolina, police are looking for Ernest Bolin, 45, five-six, 160, convicted of kidnapping, hasn‘t registered his address with the state. If you have got any information on his whereabouts, Lexington County sheriffs want to hear from you, 803-785-2534.
ABRAMS: Now it‘s time for “Your Rebuttal.” Zacarias Moussaoui, the only person to be tried in connection with 9/11, sentenced to life in prison instead of death. Mixed reactions on his sentence.
Kim Jennings: “There was no hesitation with the death sentence for American Timothy McVeigh, so why Moussaoui? Plenty of Americans have had bad childhoods and jurors felt no sympathy. Perhaps Americans are harder on their own than a foreign terrorist.”
Perhaps. But you know the difference, of course, McVeigh was the mastermind, leader of the bombing, Moussaoui may not have even known about 9/11. But I hear you.
From Houston, Texas, Kathy Stewart: “He will rot in jail with no access to the outside world and will be forgotten by all his buds in the Middle East and elsewhere. He did not win and he knows it.”
Randy from Allentown, Pennsylvania: “The deputy attorney general should take the jurors out to dinner for saving the government from the embarrassment of having a death penalty reversed on appeal. No way the Supreme Court would allow this guy to be put to death.”
I don‘t know about that. Columbus, Georgia, David Lawrence: “It may sound perverse, but I‘m so pleased Moussaoui didn‘t get what he wanted.”
Maetta K.: “A great punishment for Moussaoui would be to give him a sex change operation and drop him off in one of the Arab countries that treats women the worst.”
That‘s a good one.
Yesterday the Durham district attorney, Mike Nifong, effectively won
re-election and was doing the media rounds in addition talking about the
case, talking about the campaign, et cetera. He seemed ready to do an interview, until my producer informed him the interview request was for this program. And then he said he was, quote, “not interested.”
I encouraged him to muster up the courage to come on the program and answer the tough questions.
Jean Newman in Eagle River, Alaska: “Mr. Nifong does not owe you or your guests any explanations. You‘re not an attorney on the case, nor the judge or the jury.”
Sally Gosselin in Santee, California: “Dan, get a grip! The D.A. owes you nothing. He doesn‘t need to come on your show or anyone else.”
No, he does not, but when he‘s doing the rounds and answering, much of the time, softball questions, I wanted to afford him an opportunity to redeem himself. So the offer remains open. And I once again encourage the D.A. to come on the program. As I said before, I had nice conversations with him and I‘ll hope he‘ll come back.
Your e-mails, abramsreport, one word, @msnbc.com. We go through the e-mails at the end of the show. Please make sure you include your name and where you are writing from.
We‘ll be right back.
ABRAMS: That does it for us tonight. Coming up next, “HARDBALL” with Chris Matthews. I will see you back here tomorrow.
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