Guests: William Bowen, Susan Filan, Norm Early, Michelle Suskauer, Mike Watkiss, Bill Gavin, John Skipper, Staci Steinman
DAN ABRAMS, HOST: Coming up, a new independent report said the accuser in the Duke rape investigation initially said it was 20 players who raped her, then changed her story to three. Is it time for the D.A. to drop the charges?
The program about justice starts now.
Hi everyone. First up on the docket, another blow to the credibility of the accuser in the Duke University rape investigation. A report prepared by an independent committee for the Duke University president states the woman initially—quote—“told Durham police that she was raped and sexually assaulted by approximately 20 white members of a Duke team, a charge later modified to allege an attack by three individuals in a bathroom.”
But the report also criticized school officials for relying too much on the initial skepticism of some in the Durham and Duke Police Departments about the accuser‘s claim that she was raped at a party thrown by Duke lacrosse players at an off-campus house. And the report also criticized some officials failing to appreciate the significance race might play in the allegations. That they found the slow response time was due to lapses in judgment, not attempts to cover up the allegations.
Joining me now is William Bowen, former president of Princeton University and co-author of “The Duke Report”. Thank you very much for coming on the program. We appreciate it.
WILLIAM BOWEN, CO-AUTHORED DUKE REPORT: I‘m delighted to join you.
ABRAMS: Let me ask you first, before we get into the findings of your report, how certain are you? I mean it was stated as a fact that the accuser initially said that it was 20 people that assaulted her and then changed it to three. How certain were you of that?
BOWEN: Well we were relying on a Duke police report that was based on conversations the Duke police had with the Durham police. But I myself would not put a lot of emphasis on the difference between 20 and three. This was a large gathering of people. The woman claimed that she was badly treated, very badly treated, and then the specifics of the three people in the bathroom came out later.
ABRAMS: Well, but you say we shouldn‘t rely on it too much, I mean her credibility...
ABRAMS: ... is crucial here and if she‘s saying one time it was 20 and another time it‘s three, it‘s a big difference.
BOWEN: Well, I think it could be interpreted as there being a large group of people involved, a difficult situation. And then finally when it came right down to it, according to her account three people in a bathroom. All of this will get sorted out in the courts. I mean this is nothing that we set out to sort out nor can we sort it out.
ABRAMS: Right and I understand that. And you weren‘t asked to draw a conclusion...
ABRAMS: ... about that, but this is the first time that the public had heard—it is the first time I had heard that she had said it as 20 people versus three, so I just wanted to figure out where that was coming from.
ABRAMS: And you are saying it is the...
ABRAMS: ... Duke police getting it from the Durham police, right?
BOWEN: That‘s what we understand.
ABRAMS: All right.
BOWEN: It‘s of course up to Duke to decide what it wants to make public and what it doesn‘t. That‘s Duke‘s call, not ours.
ABRAMS: Understood. All right, now you say in this that taking at face value the reported comments of the Durham police officers and perhaps others and allowing their interpretations of credibility and the seriousness to shape Duke‘s thinking was a major mistake. Why was it such a mistake if the administration and the officials at Duke were being told by the Durham police this is just going to be a misdemeanor? This is—at worst there are probably not going to be any charges.
ABRAMS: She‘s not credible. Why was it wrong for them to say yes we relied on that?
BOWEN: Well because as the professor from the Duke Law School with whom we spoke, emphasized that Duke just can‘t rely on second party assessments of credibility. More attention should have been given in our opinion to the allegation itself, rape, assault. You know not nice things. And then when you add to that the racial aspect in a town where there‘s been of course a history as in so many parts of the country of discussions of race, you have a very volatile mix as subsequently people learn. It would have been better if they understood that sooner.
ABRAMS: And I again read now from your report. There are reports from several sources that members of the Durham police force initially on March 14 made comments to Duke police officers and others to the effect that the complainant kept changing her story and was not credible. That if any charges were brought, they would be no more than misdemeanors and that this will blow over.
Again, were you able to ascertain whether those statements were actually made by the Durham police officers or you‘re getting that...
ABRAMS: ... from the Duke police officers who say this is what Durham police told us?
BOWEN: Well, not so much from the Duke police officers as from staff and administrators at Duke who said in a number of interviews with us, not just one or two, at a number of interviews with us that they did not believe based on what they had heard that this was going to be a serious thing. Well, obviously they were very wrong in that.
ABRAMS: I want to read you a statement from one of the defense attorneys and I want to see if you think that it is an overstatement. Bill Thomas, an attorney for an unindicted player says I find it highly remarkable that this report contains information that the woman originally accused 20 people of raping her and then changed her story to three. It‘s also clear from this report that Durham police did not believe her allegations in part because she kept changing her story. This report casts even more doubt on her truthfulness. I find it strikingly remarkably important to the defense of this case.
I would assume that you don‘t want this report to take on that sort of significance, correct?
BOWEN: No. Our purpose, of course, is not to play a role in the adjudication of these serious allegations. That‘s what courts are for. Our assignment, which we did our best to carry out, was to evaluate the handling of a very complicated changing set of events by the Duke authorities, including the Duke Athletics Department.
ABRAMS: And why—and you mentioned race a moment ago. And this was one of the...
ABRAMS: ... key critiques in your report. You were saying that the fact that the administrators, in particular the president, didn‘t know that there was a racial component to this. Meaning that she was black...
ABRAMS: ... they were white. That these epithets were apparently hurled, isn‘t the more important question rape?
BOWEN: Well, their both aspects are important. Obviously rape is
abhorrent whatever the races of the individuals involved are. And Brodhead
President Brodhead made that crystal clear all along and we of course agree entirely with that.
But then when you add to the rape aspect, the fact that there is a racial dimension not just the fact that the players were white and the woman was black but the fact that there were racial epithets heard by a neighbor, reported on a 911-call, in a community where race continues to be an important matter as it is throughout so much of America. And we don‘t live in a color-blind world.
ABRAMS: Real quickly, you say in the end though you don‘t believe that there was a cover-up on their part. You think there were just lapses in judgment, correct?
BOWEN: There was absolutely no cover-up. No evidence whatsoever of anyone trying to conceal anything from anyone.
ABRAMS: William Bowen, thank you very much for taking the time. We appreciate it.
BOWEN: You‘re most welcome.
ABRAMS: Joining me now Carolyn Costello, a reporter with our Raleigh-Durham NBC station WNCN-TV. All right, so Carolyn, I understand why Mr. Bowen wants to minimize his report. His goal here was to simply tell Duke what did you do right and what did you do wrong, but my guess is that the lawyers in town, be it from the D.A. to the defense lawyers, are talking a lot about this report.
CAROLYN COSTELLO, REPORTER FOR WNCN-TV: That‘s true. I spoke with a couple of defense attorneys yesterday evening when this report first came out. They were pleased. Some of them kind of excited thinking maybe this would be the final straw in this case to make Mike Nifong drop it.
I spoke with some others today. They said they know better than that. That there have been lots of revelations that have come out during this investigation from the DNA results to the photo identification lineup. They wouldn‘t expect this to be any different. We spoke with Mike Nifong a little bit earlier as well and he said he is not giving much weight at all to the Duke report.
ABRAMS: And let me quote...
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE NIFONG, DURHAM, NC DISTRICT ATTORNEY: The facts of the case are things that are going to be set out at trial or perhaps in some motions prior to trial. But the fact that that is placed in some report doesn‘t mean that it is true. And even if it were true, it would not mean it was relevant, so it‘s just not something that requires comment.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COSTELLO: We have spoke with Duke‘s dean of students a little bit earlier as well and he said that all of the information that she got came from Duke police, which came from Durham police. She said she would have no reason to ever doubt the credibility of Duke police in all of her years of working with them. And she said it made absolutely no difference in the way she handled the case.
ABRAMS: Carolyn, what about the defense attorneys? I assume—I mean—I can‘t imagine why Mike Nifong is saying that even if it is true it is not relevant. I mean I can‘t see how that possibly can be the case. But are the defense attorneys saying that—I mean you said that a few of them were hopeful that this might be the straw that broke the camel‘s back essentially. Now we‘re a day later, are they losing that hope?
COSTELLO: Yes, they are losing that hope. They say that they know better than to believe that. They‘ve had two major contentions from the beginning here, that the lacrosse players did not do this and that there were major problems with the accuser‘s credibility.
They say that this is yet another piece of the puzzle that proves what they have been saying all along, but they say again that they know better. That there have been a lot of things that have come out that they thought oh my gosh—when the DNA results came back they thought my goodness the case should be dropped here. It wasn‘t. They don‘t expect this report to be any different.
ABRAMS: Carolyn Costello, as always keep up the great work out there.
Thanks a lot.
COSTELLO: Thank you.
ABRAMS: All right. Before we go to the—I just want to ask one question, because I‘ve got to take a break here. But Susan Filan, did I just hear the D.A. correctly in that interview with Carolyn Costello that even if it is true that she initially said 20 and then changed it to three, that that‘s not relevant?
SUSAN FILAN, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: Yes you did, Dan. That‘s exactly what he said.
ABRAMS: I mean—all right, you‘re a prosecutor. Is that not relevant?
FILAN: Well, what I think he is saying and I think it‘s along the lines of your former guest, Mr. Bowen said, it may have been some kind of hyperbolic exaggeration like something really bad happened to me at this group party. There were like 20 guys there and I was raped and sexually assaulted, not specifically meaning that all 20 were the ones that had sexual contact, but that it was in a context of a larger group, almost a gang that the rape occurred by the three people.
So I think that that‘s how he would argue that. That it‘s not an inconsistency. It‘s not an attack on her credibility. What he is basically saying is hey, guys, so what.
ABRAMS: And you don‘t agree with that though, do you?
FILAN: I don‘t know, Dan. I think that...
ABRAMS: Come on. Every day, Susan, we‘re getting something else...
ABRAMS: ... another problem...
ABRAMS: ... another question...
ABRAMS: ... and every day Mike Nifong is saying it doesn‘t matter.
It doesn‘t matter. It‘s not relevant. He is saying he didn‘t even know. I hadn‘t heard anything about 20 as opposed to three, is his quote. It is not something I believe to be true. I haven‘t seen the report and have no knowledge of it. I hadn‘t heard anything about 20 as opposed to three. Well now that he has heard it, he is saying oh it‘s not relevant.
FILAN: Yes. I thought—I didn‘t think he said I didn‘t hear it. I thought what he said is every time I...
ABRAMS: I‘m reading a quote.
ABRAMS: I‘m reading a quote from him.
ABRAMS: So that‘s where he said I hadn‘t heard anything about 20 as opposed to three. It is not something I believe to be true.
FILAN: OK and I think there‘s another quote, Dan, with that that‘s basically him saying that every time he talked to her she was consistent in saying it was three. So what he‘s basically saying is she may have said that...
FILAN: ... but she didn‘t say it to me, which is his way of saying I didn‘t hear it.
ABRAMS: So he didn‘t hear it. If she said it to the Durham police, that‘s still very—let me take a break here.
FILAN: But is it in any police report, Dan? I mean this could be hearsay, double hearsay...
ABRAMS: Yes, it could be. That‘s right...
ABRAMS: He said—but he said if it is true.
ABRAMS: Even if it‘s true it‘s not relevant.
ABRAMS: That‘s nuts. All right. Take a break. We‘re going to talk more about this. I got—Norm Early, the former Denver D.A., is with us as well and Michelle Suskauer is going to join us in a moment. I mean is it time, is it time for the D.A. to say no mas.
And “HARDBALL‘s” David Shuster is now predicting the presidential adviser Karl Rove will be indicted in connection with his testimony in the CIA leak investigation. Shuster joins us next.
Plus, a news anchor disappeared more than a decade ago. Now a man says he‘s convinced she is buried in his yard. He‘s hiring experts with ground penetrating radar to search for her, but why now?
Your e-mails email@example.com. Please include your name and where you‘re writing from. I respond at the end of the show.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NIFONG: The facts of the case are things that are going to be set out at trial or perhaps in some motions prior to trial. But the fact that that is placed in some report doesn‘t mean that it is true. And even if it were true, it would not mean it was relevant, so it‘s just not something that requires comment.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: Even if it were true it wouldn‘t be relevant. Mike Nifong doing an interview with Carolyn Costello at our NBC station down there.
He‘s talking about the fact that there‘s this new independent report that
came out at Duke University. Again, it was a report that was intended to
evaluate how Duke handled it, but in it, it says that the accuser initially
quote—“told Durham police that she was raped and sexually assaulted by approximately 20 white members of a Duke team, a charge later modified to allege an attack by three individuals in a bathroom.”
And the D.A. is saying even if that‘s true, that‘s not relevant. Back with me MSNBC legal analyst and former prosecutor Susan Filan, along with former Denver D.A. Norm Early and criminal defense attorney Michelle Suskauer.
Norm, come on, you‘re not going to support that, are you?
NORM EARLY, FORMER DENVER D.A.: Well, of course it would be relevant, Dan, but what you have to do is narrow down who said what. Right now we have a situation where we‘re talking about an amorphous entity, the Duke Police Department, the Durham Police Department. Who said it? Under what circumstances did they allegedly hear this?
Were there others around who could have heard the same thing? Was this one of the individuals who was conveying to the victim the entire time that this was no big deal. It was not going anywhere by gesture or by mannerisms or just by their demeanor. Is this is a police officer to be believed in the entirety...
EARLY: ... of the circumstances...
ABRAMS: See, my concern, Norm, is that the D.A., Mike Nifong, seems to have the blinders on at this point and that‘s my concern, is that we get a new piece of information like this. Nifong says in a quote—“I hadn‘t heard anything about 20 as opposed to three”, basically saying that she was consistent with him and yet if she did say that to the Durham Police Department early on, if she did say to someone it was 20 as opposed to three, the notion that he‘s saying it‘s not relevant suggests to me that he‘s not keeping an open mind about new evidence in this case.
EARLY: Well, Dan, one of the problems of course as I‘ve discussed before is the district attorney talking about the facts of the case while the case is pending and before it gets to trial. But this is a situation that we‘re facing here that could be very much like what Susan said earlier. That we‘re talking about her relating the story and saying there were 20 people involved, where there are a whole bunch of people involved...
EARLY: ... and then she eventually gets to the point where she says three of them in a bathroom. That is entirely possible. And until you are able to narrow down who heard it and what they heard and under what circumstances they heard it, you are not going to be able to ascertain whether she‘s talking about being raped by 20 people or raped only by the three.
ABRAMS: Michelle, what do you make of it?
MICHELLE SUSKAUER, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: I just think that everybody here is in denial. It‘s unbelievable. This is such a major development. There have been so many major developments; it‘s very different from 20 to three. And for her to have said this to a Duke police officer or a Durham police officer who then related it to a Duke police officer, assuming we can find who said it and that it was—that it‘s admissible, I think this is just a major blow.
And for Mike Nifong to say that this is not relevant, he‘s just—just like you said, Dan, he has blinders on and he is in denial. This case keeps getting better for the defense every single day. And it‘s just—this case has everything going for it for a defendant. And normally in a case you just may have like one or two things and this has everything going for it, you know prior allegations and mental issues and suggestive lineups and now you have you know this 20 men who may have attacked her now down to three.
And so I think that this is very, very significant. And I think once it gets narrowed down as to who she said this to...
SUSKAUER: ... assuming it was that day and that it‘s admissible, that‘s it.
ABRAMS: Susan, how do you—if you are a defense attorney in this case, how do you go about finding out which Durham police officer said that?
FILAN: You hire obviously investigators who are close to local law enforcement and you get somebody to have a beer with, somebody to say hey level with me. I mean come on. Who said what? Did this happen? And how can we get this out without getting anybody in trouble? Because right now everybody is covering themselves big time if in fact...
FILAN: ... Durham police did say to Duke police don‘t worry about it. Dan, if I can read one sentence from this report because I think this is key to what may be going on in Nifong‘s mind and this is what Bowen found in his report. Forgive me for reading, but the discounting by police and others of the importance of the seriousness of the allegations may have reflected a belief that the matter would not be pressed because the charging party was not that important or reliable.
Nifong may say hey we‘ve got a victim here that police wrongly discounted because she wasn‘t worth much; she is not important. She‘s not a white lacrosse player. She‘s not a white Duke student. She‘s from a different race, from a different class, from a different school. And if that is what Nifong thinks happened here and that this was mishandled and there was in fact a rape, he is going to go all out and he may look like he‘s got blinders on, but the blinders to him are going to be justice. And he is going to do right by her especially if she was wronged initially by law enforcement.
SUSKAUER: It doesn‘t sound like he is pursuing justice though. It sounds like he is being vindictive, especially reinstating charges against Duke players...
SUSKAUER: That‘s what it sound like.
SUSKAUER: So you don‘t know. No, he‘s—it really sounds like—you know what? He should be gathering all of the evidence...
FILAN: No, no, no, if he think that‘s this victim was mistreated and if he think that this charge was mishandled, because she was deemed not important, not significant, she‘s not one of us, she‘s not one who matters...
FILAN: ... he‘s going to go all out. He‘s going to do what he thinks is justice, which is to take every complaint and every...
ABRAMS: But is it possible...
ABRAMS: Susan, I think that‘s a very...
ABRAMS: I think that‘s a very realistic theory as to what is going on in the D.A.‘s mind. But my concern is—let‘s even assume that that‘s exactly what he is thinking, that maybe there were some mistakes made early on, et cetera. I guess then they‘re going to have explain away though a lot of things that happened early in this investigation, right?
FILAN: That‘s right...
ABRAMS: They‘re going to have to explain away why someone, some police officer seemed to think that she said...
FILAN: That‘s right.
ABRAMS: ... she was raped by 20 people instead of three.
FILAN: And let me tell you how you do that. You hang that cop out to dry and that‘s how you do it. And everybody is going to have to sweat around that.
ABRAMS: Go ahead, Norm.
EARLY: Yes. Without being able to pin it down to who said what, it is not coming into evidence at all. And it seems to me that what we‘re talking about here is defense spin. The...
ABRAMS: This came out of a Duke report.
EARLY: Well let‘s talk about that report...
EARLY: ... for a second, Dan, because the people who authored the report said that this is what we‘re able to find out in the limited amount of time that we had to do this report.
ABRAMS: And their job wasn‘t to find out what actually happened to her.
EARLY: I understand that...
EARLY: But this is thrown in there, Dan...
ABRAMS: It is. It‘s in there because—and again it‘s not in there as a question. It‘s the first finding of the communications issue after the victim of the alleged assault was taken to the emergency room at the Duke hospital having earlier heard Durham police—having earlier told Durham police that she was raped and sexually assaulted by approximately 20 white members of a Duke team, a charge later modified to allege an attack by three individuals in the bathroom, the official report of the Duke Police Department, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. I mean look...
EARLY: And Dan, I saw Bowen backing off of that right here on this very show a little bit earlier saying clearly...
EARLY: ... that she may have been saying there were a bunch of people involved and eventually there were three in a bathroom...
SUSKAUER: But why are we making excuses here?
EARLY: You don‘t know what happened.
EARLY: You weren‘t there and I wasn‘t there...
ABRAMS: To be fair...
EARLY: Neither one of us was there.
ABRAMS: But to be fair to the people doing the report, I mean I know this is not what they wanted the headline to be of this report.
ABRAMS: I can promise you that. They didn‘t want the headline to be the credibility of the accuser. They wanted the headline to be here is what Duke did right, here is what Duke did wrong.
ABRAMS: The problem is when you throw in a stat like that...
ABRAMS: ... that no one knew about...
ABRAMS: ... the defense attorneys didn‘t know about, the prosecutor didn‘t know about because it came from a Duke police report, boy, you better be ready to deal with the response that we‘re seeing now. All right, I got to wrap it up. Susan, Norm, Michelle, thanks a lot.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you, Dan.
EARLY: Thank you, Dan.
ABRAMS: Switching topics, he‘s testified to special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald‘s grand jury five times, now our own David Shuster says the signs show an indictment could be imminent for Karl Rove as the CIA leak investigation wraps up. At issue, the president‘s chief political adviser‘s claim under oath that he forgot a conversation with “TIME” reporter Matt Cooper about outed former CIA officer Valerie Plame.
David Shuster is correspondent for “HARDBALL” on MSNBC and joins us now. All right, David, I know you want to be clear here because...
DAVID SHUSTER, “HARDBALL” CORRESPONDENT: Right.
ABRAMS: ... you don‘t want to sort of go out on too much of a limb and say Rove is definitely getting indicted, but...
ABRAMS: ... you do think that when you put together the pieces of the puzzle that it all points to an indictment for Rove.
SHUSTER: Right. I mean the lawyers that are familiar with this stuff in the case, outside of the case who are observing all of this, they all point to a couple of key issues.
First of all, Dan, you know that defense attorneys don‘t tend to put a witness into a grand jury at the end of the investigation into them unless they start with the idea that that‘s their only way of avoiding an indictment. So you start with the idea that two weeks Team Rove felt they had the burden to stop the charges. That‘s the first point.
The second point is that it has now been 14 days is since Karl Rove testified. He asked for and did not get the clear all from prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald when he testified after three and a half hours. He has not gotten any indication over the last 14 days that he has been cleared, and a number of attorneys suggest that this spells trouble.
But the third point and the one that I find perhaps to be the most intriguing and that other lawyers have said is awfully intriguing as well and that is in the Libby indictment Karl Rove is referred to as official A. As you know, it‘s a designation that prosecutors use in indictments when they want to put pejorative information in about somebody but there are restrictions against naming them until they‘ve been charged. So officials use this official A or official number one or representative number one.
We‘ve gone backed and looked at all the cases that prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald prosecuted in New York and also in Chicago as U.S. attorney and in every single investigation, anybody who has been named official A in a Patrick Fitzgerald indictment eventually gets indicted themselves. Every case.
Now, it‘s quite possible that Karl Rove is going to defy the history of prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald and as you know that prosecutors tend to have a little bit of a higher burden when they are dealing with a public official especially somebody in the White House, but at least the lawyers in this case say that if you are betting do not bet on Karl Rove getting out of this.
ABRAMS: All right, David, a quick question about protocol, Rove‘s legal team saying that they have not heard anything about an indictment. What is the protocol as to how it would occur? What would happen if there was going to be an indictment, how would Rove‘s lawyers find out about it and when?
SHUSTER: Well and that gets to the whole issue of target letters. Rover‘s lawyers have suggested look, Karl Rove has not been notified he is a target. Well that‘s interesting, but the fact of the matter is when “Scooter” Libby was indicted, for example, he got a notification that very morning. He got a phone call from prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald‘s office saying OK, here is your official notification and by the way, the grand jury is going to indict you in two hours.
It‘s expected that the same sort of scenario would happen with Karl Rove. He gets a call from the prosecutor‘s office. His lawyer is notified. At that point we expect that Rove would have to find a new lawyer because it‘s expected if he is charged, Bob Luskin could be a witness in this case and then of course prosecutor Fitzgerald goes to the grand jury, asks them to vote. They need a majority to indict...
SHUSTER: ... then Fitzgerald releases the indictment publicly.
ABRAMS: David Shuster, as always, thanks a lot.
SHUSTER: You‘re welcome.
ABRAMS: Coming up, the leader of the nation‘s largest polygamous sect now on the FBI‘s 10 most wanted list. So what exactly was going on inside and how is the FBI going to track down this guy living a very secret lifestyle.
And a TV anchor disappears on her way to work. A local man says he saw people digging in his yard days after she went missing. It‘s 11 years later, now he is searching for her with ground penetrating radar in his yard. Got that for you, coming up.
ABRAMS: Coming up, a polygamist is now one of America‘s most wanted.
What exactly went on inside his secret sect? First the headlines.
ABRAMS: We‘re back. Yesterday we told you about infamous polygamist Warren Jeffs now on the FBI‘s 10 most wanted fugitives list. Joining me now is Mike Watkiss, reporter from Phoenix station KTVK and the producer of the award-winning documentary about polygamy called “Colorado City and the Underground Railroad, and Bill Gavin, the former assistant director of the FBI‘s New York office. Gentlemen, thanks a lot for joining us. We appreciate it.
All right, Mike, start by describing to us, if you will, why this guy could be so hard to find.
MIKE WATKISS, REPORTER FOR KTVK-TV: Because unlike most fugitives, Dan, he never has to surface. Law officers will tell you that most fugitives have to come up for air, they need money, they need substance, they need shelter. This guy has 10,000 people. He is the absolute leader of every aspect of their lives and he has money being sent to him, has safe houses now all over the United States.
America is just waking up to this, but this has been a huge issue for the last decade here in Arizona and Utah. This guy has basically been on the run and building himself a network throughout the United States of safe houses and compound, huge compound has now been developed in Texas. He has followers in Utah, Arizona, Canada, Mexico, South Dakota, Colorado, so really you could throw a dart at a map. He could be anywhere.
ABRAMS: But I think you‘d be able to, Mike—and I‘ll ask Bill about this in a minute—you‘d be able to find some of these followers. You talk about how many of them there are out there and squeeze them for information.
WATKISS: Well you‘ve got to understand the depth of their devotion to this man, Dan. They‘re not going to give up anything. His followers are not going to give up anything. There is now $100,000 reward out for him. His faithful followers are not going to cash in and drop a dime on him.
But there have been a lot of people disenfranchised under his leadership, marrying these young girls, forcing young boys out of the communities, all the stories we‘ve now heard. There‘s a lot of people who are disenfranchised and very angry at him. Hopefully one of them is going to step forward, still has information and is going to lead to his arrest peacefully.
WATKISS: But that‘s still a subject of debate. Hopefully, it‘s going to be peacefully.
ABRAMS: Here‘s Flora Jessop, a former sect member born into this cult and she was on the program last night. Here‘s what she said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FLORA JESSOP, ESCAPED FROM POLYGAMOUS SECT: There is child molestation, child rape, incest. There‘s fraud. His bodyguards, if you will, or the God squad as we refer to them, have beaten children severely.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: So Bill Gavin, with all this information—with Mike Watkiss telling us how many people he‘s got helping him, about the safe houses, about the fact that he is underground. He is going to be tough to find, no?
BILL GAVIN, FMR. FBI ASST. DIRECTOR, NEW YORK: There‘s no doubt about it, Dan. Mike is right on target. These people will protect him in a fanatic manner that we don‘t realize not having been exposed to it and following it for all the years that they have been doing it.
ABRAMS: But I‘ve got to assume...
GAVIN: The one thing...
ABRAMS: ... that there have been other investigations of fanatical groups, right, where the leader has been on the run and the authorities have got to find him.
GAVIN: Yes, that is absolutely true. He will be found sooner or later. It‘s not going to be an average fugitive investigation. It‘s going to take some time and it‘s going to take a lot of penetrative investigative work. But what Mike said is true. It probably won‘t be somebody within the group that betrays him. It‘ll be one of the disenfranchised persons that do.
The FBI will have a case—does have a case now open in every single office of the FBI in the United States and as you well know, we have offices all over the world. Those offices will be briefed, too. If he should have fled the United States and is now using some of that money that obviously has disappeared from the UEP and put in offshore banks and what not, all of those things will be checked.
They‘ll be looking at all of his credit cards that have ever been used, any contacts that have been made from the very beginning. There will be an investigation inside the investigation. And by that I mean we‘ll take apart everything that has been done in the past amount of time that he has been on the run. I mean look at—he‘s a polygamist. It‘s going to take forever just to question all the in-laws...
GAVIN: This is just horrible.
ABRAMS: And I want people to be clear.
GAVIN: It‘s horrible.
ABRAMS: I mean when we use the term polygamist, sometimes I think that that becomes a little antiseptic and it doesn‘t sort of lay exactly sort of what the—this guy has been up to and the horrible things that he did to girls primarily, but to children in general. Here again, Flora Jessop, this former sect member who left, talking about what he did to her sister.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JESSOP: My sister, who was another of his victims, at 14 was forced to marry her stepbrother and raped so brutally on her wedding night that she almost died from the hemorrhaging.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: See, Mike, my concern is that when what we talk about sort of this polygamist, who‘s now on the FBI‘s most wanted list, it sort of—it conjures up this imagine of this guy has married a few women, et cetera. This guy is beyond that. This is a guy who is a dangerous awful human being.
WATKISS: Well, your perceptions are absolutely on target, Dan. First of all, Flora Jessop is one of the great heroes in this story. She has been sounding this cry for a decade, pushing authorities to do something, and she is one of my great heroes in this story. But is exactly right, this is not a group of consenting adults who want to go out and marry one of these crazy hillbillies, a bunch of women who want to be with him, they‘re all adults. It‘s not like that at all.
To establish a polygamous community on sort of the industrial level of Warren Jeffs following in Colorado City, Arizona, it‘s assembly line polygamy. For each men to have at least, the faithful men to have at least three wives, they have to indoctrinate these young girls from the moment of their birth that their only value is to do what the prophet says and marry one of these guys.
They are deprived of any meaningful education. He has pulled all of the children—all of his followers‘ children out of public education many years ago, so the girls have no education, no opportunities, no contact with the outside world and they‘re told you marry when we tell you to marry.
And they recognize if you don‘t marry the girls at 14, 15, and 16 and allow them to get 20, 21, they‘ll get a mind of their own and they‘ll never sign on to this. But by the time they get to that point and married at 14 and 15, they have three children. They‘re not going to go anywhere.
ABRAMS: Bill Gavin, I mean we know that he may be in disguise, but the fact that he‘s six-three or six-four, that could help someone recognize him.
GAVIN: That could be somewhat helpful. A lot of the populations today, Dan, are tall. This man is just a hideous, horrible criminal who tries to go under the guise of being a religious leader. He‘s not. He is a horrid criminal who needs to be caught and taken off the street.
ABRAMS: Mike Watkiss and Bill Gavin, thanks a lot. Appreciate it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A pleasure.
ABRAMS: Coming up, a local Iowa anchorwoman vanished more than 10 years ago on her way to work early in the morning. Now a local man says he believes her body is buried in his yard.
And later your e-mails on Warren Jeffs. One person asks could he be prosecuted for abusing young girls if the parents consented to the marriage? I‘ve got the answer coming up.
And our continuing series, “Manhunt: Sex Offenders on the Loose”, our effort to find missing sex offenders before they strike. Our search today is in South Dakota.
Police want your help finding Ronald Betts, Jr., 44, six-one, 265, was convicted of first-degree rape, has not registered his address with the state. If you‘ve got any information on his whereabouts, please contact the Sioux Falls Police Department, 605-367-7212. We‘ll be right back.
ABRAMS: Coming up, it‘s been 10 years since an Iowa anchorwoman vanished, now a man believes she‘s buried in his yard. The details after the break.
ABRAMS: We‘re back. It‘s coming up on 11 years since a news anchor from Iowa vanished and now a man has come forward saying he thinks she‘s buried in his yard. Twenty-seven-year-old Jodi Huisentruit was scheduled to report for work before 4:00 a.m. on June 27, 1995. A colleague spoken to her on the phone at about 4:00 and she said she‘d be there in a few minutes. She never arrived.
Instead, police found Huisentruit‘s car in the parking lot of her apartment complex. A pair of red shoes, a blow dryer, a bottle of hair spray, car keys and earrings were scattered nearby. This coupled with the spotting of a white van in the area at the time and witnesses who reported hearing at least one scream led police to believe it was likely foul play.
Now comes Duane Arnold, who says the answer to this mystery lies behind his cabin located about 30 miles from where she was last seen. Joining me now on the phone reporter John Skipper from the Mason “Globe Gazette” and Staci Steinman, a friend of Jodi Huisentruit. Thanks to both of you for coming on the program. Appreciate it.
All right. John, let me start with you as to the latest here. Why does this guy believe that the body is in his yard?
JOHN SKIPPER, MASON, IOWA “GLOBE GAZETTE” (via phone): Well, it‘s my understanding that he actually saw something that he thought was suspicious 10 or 11 years ago, shortly after the disappearance. And the property was investigated at that time. And—excuse me—and he has subsequently just said things of the nature that he just couldn‘t sleep because he was just sure that something could be found out there.
So he went on his own and hired an engineering company that did some ground penetrating radar work. And the radar came up with something. It looked like there was some object or something underground. And so that‘s where we are now...
ABRAMS: Are police giving it any credence?
SKIPPER: The Mason City police who have been investigating this for 11 years say that they were out at his cabin 11 years ago or roughly 11 years ago and had dug up some of the property where he thought something had been going on and had found nothing suspicious. So they wanted to check with the sheriff.
This particular cabin is in another county so it‘s another jurisdiction. The police wanted to check with the sheriff in that county. The police have pictures of what they dug up 11 years ago and wanted to compare that with the site that the man is talking about now to see—you know obviously if it‘s a different site, it‘s a different story, but if it was the same site, then they would have to decide what they wanted to do.
ABRAMS: Staci, is there any sentiment among the friends of Jodi as to what happened to her?
STACI STEINMAN, JODI HUISENTRUIT‘S FRIEND: I think it‘s a consensus that we all think it was someone just interested in her. Maybe a casual acquaintance. That is sort of my belief which makes it harder for—to crack the case obviously when it is not someone that was a close friend or relative or something...
ABRAMS: Is anyone holding out hope that maybe she ran away somewhere and could be alive somewhere?
STEINMAN: I don‘t think so, no. That wouldn‘t be in her character at all. So, no, I don‘t think any of us believe that she had—she‘s run away.
ABRAMS: What do you make of this new report from this guy?
STEINMAN: I get a little anxious when I hear reports like this or updates because I don‘t know, it brings all those emotions back to the surface. You kind of relive it all. You hope that it is something, but at the same time it is scary too, so I don‘t know. I hope they find something. Maybe it will lead us to the person that did this to her...
ABRAMS: John, this is not the first lead. I mean there have been all sorts of leads coming and going in this case, right?
SKIPPER: Right and I was going to mention that, Dan. For the last 11 years there have been leads, clues, tips that have been called in to the police by I‘m sure well meaning people and it has kind of gone in cycles. I think Staci might be able to confirm this, too. It—the first couple of years after this happened, there were all sorts of Jodi sightings all over the country where people—because there were posters out with her pictures on it and it was well publicized.
And people would call in and say well they saw her and then the authorities would go and check it out and it wasn‘t her. Then there was a period where it seemed like any time there was somebody in jail for some offense like sexual assault or something like that, that somebody wanted - somebody would call and want that person to be looked into to see if they were in Mason City at the time and that sort of thing. None of those panned out.
SKIPPER: And then now we‘ve had at least one instance that I can remember in the last couple of years where there was a body that was discovered in a farm near Mason City or on a farm near Mason City and it turned out to be a man. It was indeed a body, but it was a man. So you see in this case if they find anything, the radar just showed that there was something underneath. It could be a suitcase...
ABRAMS: Yes, yes...
SKIPPER: It could be an animal.
SKIPPER: It could be you know.
ABRAMS: Right. We don‘t know. All right. John Skipper and Staci Steinman, thanks a lot.
SKIPPER: You bet.
ABRAMS: Coming up, the defense in the Duke lacrosse rape case placing a lot of faith in pictures taken at that party. One of you asks why were the players taking a picture of the alleged victim‘s shoe? I‘ll have the answer when your e-mails are read after this break.
ABRAMS: Time now for “Your Rebuttal”. The FBI added polygamist Warren Jeffs to its top 10 most wanted list, is offering a $100,000 reward. He‘s accused of forcing young girls into sex and marriage and faces a charge of sexual assault on a minor, in addition to other charges.
Eric James in Houston asks, “Can you or your legal analysts tell us if Jeffs might dodge some of these charges if the parents of children who are married say they consented to these marriages?”
No way, Eric. A parent cannot agree to allow a crime to be committed against his or her child.
Barbara Kennedy in Georgia on the rape allegations made against three members of the Duke lacrosse team and the pictures that the players took of the accuser. “Please explain to me why the guys at the party took a picture of the dancer‘s shoe.”
Now, this picture was actually part of a larger photo from the party. We just highlighted this particular part to show the shoe because of its significance.
Finally, after being sentenced to life in prison last week, 9-11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui wanted to change his plea, now saying he lied on the stand about being involved in the terror plot, although he pled guilty to six conspiracy counts related to the attacks on 9-11.
Mark Taylor seems very sympathetic to Zac. “The case against Moussaoui‘s involvement in 9-11 hasn‘t been proven. He got convicted primarily because he was the one who said he was guilty and now he‘s denying that. He wants a re-trial and he should get it because there‘s a strong possibility that he‘s right this time.”
A strong possibility he‘s right this time. So every time a defendant changes his or her mind and decides to—quote—“come clean”, he or she gets a new trial? No. He had his opportunity. He pled guilty.
And then even though he claimed to be part of the plot during the sentencing phase he still only got life and not the death penalty. He and his supporters should be thanking their lucky stars for that, not talking about whether he deserves a new trial. It‘s not going to happen. And it shouldn‘t.
Your e-mails abramsreport—one word -- @msnbc.com. We go through them at the end of the show. Please include your name. That‘s it. Include your name and where you‘re writing from. I did it...
I just want to say it again because it‘s that important. We‘ll be right back.
ABRAMS: That does it for us tonight. Coming up next, “HARDBALL” with Chris Matthews. See you tomorrow.
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