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'The Abrams Report' for May 16

Read the transcript to the Tuesday show

Guests: James Gordon Meek, Carl Mayer, Bruce Afran, Andrew McCarthy, Loren Steffy, Gary Noesner, Jordan Williams, Brian Siebel, Larry Pratt, Joe Tacopina

DAN ABRAMS, HOST:  Coming up, never before seen images from September 11 showing American Airlines Flight 77 hitting the Pentagon.  The Pentagon releasing them only after they were used in the Zacarias Moussaoui trial. 

The program about justice starts now. 

Hi everyone.  First up on the docket, breaking news, new video of the attack on the Pentagon from September 11, 2001, material that was only seen in part by the jury in the Zacarias Moussaoui trial.  The pictures shot by Pentagon security cameras record the moment when American Airlines Flight 77 smashed into the southwest side of the Pentagon at 9:38 Eastern Time the morning of September 11, 189 killed.  This video based on what you saw there circled, could put to rest some of the conspiracy theories.

James Gordon Meek is the Washington correspondent for the “New York Daily News”.  He covered the Moussaoui trial.  Thanks a lot for coming on the program.  Appreciate it.  All right.  First let me ask you...


ABRAMS:  ... do you know why it took so long to release this?

JAMES GORDON MEEK, “NEW YORK DAILY NEWS”:  Well, according to Judicial Watch, which is an activist group here in Washington that sued the Defense Department to get the video, they published letters of the Department of Defense saying that they didn‘t want to release this video because it was evidence in the Zacarias Moussaoui trial as you mentioned, and so we didn‘t see it.

Now some of this has been leaked before.  When I saw it in the courtroom during the Moussaoui trial, I was pretty sure I had seen it before.  I think they had two different angles from two different security cameras in a parking lot shooting what amounted basically to still photos that they—the prosecutors strung together as a video which is what we see today.

ABRAMS:  And what is it—I mean we‘re seeing what looks like I guess

it‘s hard to see, but what is circled is a cone which, I guess is the first time—it appears to be the front of the plane—the first time we have actually seen a picture of the plane, and that is what may put these conspiracy theories to rest?

MEEK:  Yes, and you know what‘s interesting, Dan, is that during the time of the Moussaoui trial I can‘t—to be honest with you—I mean as you noted the image itself is hard to make out that it‘s even the nose of an airplane.  I don‘t remember whether or not I saw that or not or those frames were included in what I saw in the trial you know because what we were focused on that day was just the impact of the devastation on the attacks on the Pentagon that particular day at trial when they showed this. 

But it is hard to make out, but as you said maybe it will put to rest, although I tend to doubt it, the conspiracy theories that have pervaded on the Internet and elsewhere, which a lot of Americans I think believe that a plane didn‘t actually hit the Pentagon that day, that it was some sort of bombing.  But now that we have a little more proof maybe that it was a plane.

ABRAMS:  And what was the argument as to why it couldn‘t be released? 

Why it had to wait until the end of the Moussaoui trial.

MEEK:  I think just because it was being entered into evidence by the government.  And you know the government did show a number of video clips of people leaping from the top of the World Trade Center that had not been seen before, but other videotape we had seen of people leaping, you know, and so forth, so I‘m not sure why that was an excuse.  It‘s not clear to me why they made such a big deal out of this being a part of the evidence in the Moussaoui trial, meaning that they couldn‘t release it.  It‘s one of those inexplicable things that the government does, I suppose.

ABRAMS:  All right, James Gordon Meek, “New York Daily News”, thanks a lot.  Appreciate it.

MEEK:  Thank you. 

ABRAMS:  Switching topics to a lawsuit against the phone companies for allegedly giving up phone call data to the National Security Agency, the NSA, without a court order or a warrant.

Remember “USA Today” reported that NSA had a secret program to collect phone call records of tens of millions of Americans.  Attorneys Carl Mayer and Bruce Afran filed suit to stop the companies from turning over call records without a warrant or a customer‘s consent.  They‘re also seeking monetary damages from phone companies Verizon, BellSouth and ATT, saying the companies violated their subscribers‘ rights when they turned the information over to the government. 

Verizon now claims that it hasn‘t --  wasn‘t asked to provide any phone records to the NSA and didn‘t.  BellSouth insists it didn‘t either.  Spokesperson Jeff Battcher says—quote—“If we were asked we would say you must produce a definitive legal document for us to produce this information.”

At the White House, the new press secretary Tony Snow would neither deny nor confirm the program‘s existence. 


TONY SNOW, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY:  It said there is no wiretapping of individual calls.  There is no personal information that is being relayed.  There is no name.  There is no address.  There is no consequence to the calls.  There is no description of who the party on the other end is.


ABRAMS:  Carl Mayer and Bruce Afran are the attorneys who filed the suit.  Andrew McCarthy is a former federal prosecutor.  We should say his wife also works for Verizon.  Thanks a lot to all of you for coming on the program. 

All right, let me start with you Mr. Mayer.  Why the lawsuit? 

CARL MAYER, ATTORNEY WHO FILED NSA SUIT:  The lawsuit because this is the most intrusive and large-scale invasion of American‘s privacy, probably in our country‘s history.  Even during World War II the United States didn‘t monitor the domestic calls of its citizens.  There were laws put in place in the 1970‘s to stop surveillance of domestic citizens.  And we want an injunction to stop this problem and to stop the NSA from looking into these records.  Once you have the phone numbers, you can just type into Google. 

You want to give me your phone number now I‘ll get your address right from Google.  Plus, the NSA has all sorts of vendors that could sort through and sift through this information.  We have been besieged, deluged from citizens across the United States who want to be plaintiffs to this action and want to stop this.  We represent plaintiffs in over 18 states. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  But why ask for money? 

MAYER:  Well because that‘s what the statute provides...

ABRAMS:  I understand what the statute provides...


ABRAMS:  ... but you said it was to make a point.  That you are just trying to make a point, why ask for money?

MAYER:  Well we‘re both public—we‘re public interest litigators who have been doing this for 20 years.  We‘re not big class action litigators.  You ask for money because that is what the law provides as deterrents.  You must deter these companies from unlawfully and unconstitutionally turning over records to the NSA and to the government. 

ABRAMS:  Mr. Afran, Mr. Mayer used the word surveillance and monitoring, but we are talking about, are we not, phone numbers, right?  I mean we‘re talking about the compiling of a list of numbers and they say it‘s to see where the calls are going, to see if there are any patterns, et cetera.

BRUCE AFRAN, ATTORNEY WHO FILED NSA LAWSUIT:  Well what‘s wrong with that is first of all it‘s a misrepresentation.  There is no point in getting the numbers if they are not looking to see who owns the numbers.  We‘ve done tests of this.  You can type any phone number into Google or and within a millisecond a name and address of the owner comes up, except for unlisted numbers.  The NSA has even better technology than Google and White Pages, so first of all, it‘s a misrepresentation.  They know exactly who the numbers are.

ABRAMS:  Wait.  Wait.  Wait.  But you‘re saying—so you‘re saying that they don‘t have to do anything, meaning they—when they get all these numbers, you‘re saying that they also have a list that has all the addresses and all the information about who these people are. 

AFRAN:  Anybody can find out...

ABRAMS:  Well that‘s not what I asked you though.  I didn‘t ask you about anybody.  I asked you if you‘re saying that the NSA has this list that you‘re talking about, which lays out the address, et cetera, of everyone who‘s involved.

AFRAN:  If we can get that, we know the NSA can get...

ABRAMS:  But can get it is different than did get it, isn‘t it? 

AFRAN:  No, because the point of the NSA having the numbers and the records of calling is to find out who is calling who.  They say that identities are protected.  They‘re not.  Once one has the history of calls, all one needs to do is type in the number to learn who made the call.  That‘s the violation of civil liberties.

ABRAMS:  Why are you blaming the phone companies, though?  I mean the government is coming.  They‘re saying look we need help here and what do you want—you are saying the phone company should say, show us a warrant, right?

AFRAN:  The Telecommunications Act says the phone companies cannot give this information to the government even if the government asks.  That‘s what Congress put limits on the phone companies...


ABRAMS:  I mean look, I think that most people view this with great trepidation, the idea that all these phone numbers of millions of Americans are being monitored.  I mean when you say monitor it doesn‘t mean they are listening to the calls, but it means compiling these lists of phone numbers.  And you know I think that there are probably a lot of people out there who are angry at the phone company saying wait a sec, you guys just did this without asking for a warrant or anything else.

ANDREW MCCARTHY, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR:  Well I think that this is actually probably a civil libertarian‘s dream as far as the kind of surveillance and national security that we ought to be doing because here we have a situation where what the government has done is taken information, which the Supreme Court has said for over a quarter of a century, actually doesn‘t implicate any Fourth Amendment interests, put it into a databank, but shed it of the personal identifying information so that when they do scans of it and this is computer scans, so that it‘s not a human search. 

It‘s also not a search that implicates the Fourth Amendment.  What kicks out are hits, interesting numbers, which have called other numbers.  That is numbers that they are suspicious of in the first place, which have called other numbers, and now you can follow the numbers that those numbers called, so that the only people whose personal information will be scrutinized downstream are the people who there is actually a good basis to be...


MCCARTHY:  ... curious about.

ABRAMS:  But there is still that makes people uncomfortable about the idea that there is someone in there deciding when that hit takes place, right?

MCCARTHY:  But being uncomfortable is a predicate for asking more questions.  And I think when you ask more questions about this program, what you will say is you know look we don‘t have human intelligence; our only real protection against being hit again is this kind of communications intelligence trying to identify where the embedded people may be who could be a threat...

ABRAMS:  Shouldn‘t the phone companies tell people, though?  Shouldn‘t they say look, by the way, we are going to tell you right now, if the NSA comes knocking, we are going to give it to them. 

MCCARTHY:  Well I don‘t think they can and I don‘t...

ABRAMS:  Why can‘t they?

MCCARTHY:  ... think they should. 

ABRAMS:  Why can‘t they?

MCCARTHY:  Well because they get asked questions all the time or they get asked for assistance all the time from government in connection with national security investigations, in connect with criminal investigations...

ABRAMS:  Why can‘t they give a warning as do many companies that says look, in the event that the National Security Agency or another federal agency asks us strictly for numbers, we are going to provide them.

MCCARTHY:  I actually believe that the contract that people fill out or sign onto when they get phone service does provide something like that. 

ABRAMS:  Do you know, Carl Mayer?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I know when I got phone service...

MAYER:  I haven‘t seen anything like that in - certainly not in my Verizon contract.  In fact, there are very stringent privacy strictures that are put into these—into place by these companies.  I suspect that these phone companies are violating...

ABRAMS:  Would that matter...

MAYER:  ... their own privacy...

ABRAMS:  Bruce Afran, would that—it would matter to me—it matters to me whether there is a warning.

MAYER:  Sure it matters.  That‘s why Qwest did not - Qwest refused to turn over these records and properly so.  Quest refused to turn them over saying if you want to go to a court and get a warrant, go to a FISA court, get the attorney general to issue an opinion.  And they refused to turn them over, so these other phone companies have misread the laws, they have misread the Constitution of the United States.  And I believe what they‘re doing is holy illegal and improper.

MCCARTHY:  You don‘t need a warrant for this kind of information.  It‘s not—the content of conversation is yes, you absolutely need a warrant for it, whether it‘s a FISA warrant or title three, and we can have that whole argument about the other aspect of the NSA program, but this information does not implicate any Fourth Amendment interest...


MAYER:  The statute says any customer records can‘t be turned over without a warrant, a court order, and there are a couple of other exceptions...

MCCARTHY:  Yes, they can give them a certification...


MCCARTHY:  ... that says the government is making a proper request. 

MAYER:  Yes, but the NSA doesn‘t have that ability to give that certification.  It doesn‘t apply.

MCCARTHY:  The fact that whether the NSA and again, we don‘t know exactly how their program works, but whether the NSA ultimately gets the records doesn‘t mean they have to be the one who makes the representation on the part of the government. 

AFRAN:  Let‘s be clear about this.  The law says these records cannot be given to any government agency without a warrant...


MCCARTHY:  It absolutely doesn‘t say that. 

AFRAN:  The law says specifically these cannot be given without a warrant or the permission of the subscriber.


AFRAN:  And what the government is doing is violating the law Congress put on it and it can‘t do that.

MCCARTHY:  You don‘t need to get a warrant to get information that doesn‘t have an expectation of privacy.  Under the Electronic Communications Privacy Act there are provisions for getting this information without a warrant. 


AFRAN:  Let me point out further.  The only exception is when a government agency has subpoena power.  The NSA has no subpoena power.  Congress does not give our spy agency subpoena power over the citizen. 


AFRAN:  This is a gross violation of the laws Congress has set up.

ABRAMS:  Got to wrap it up.  Carl Mayer, Bruce Afran, Andrew McCarthy, thanks a lot.  Appreciate it.



ABRAMS:  Coming up, it‘s down to the wire in the Enron trial, defense attorneys giving closing arguments today.  The jury could get the case tomorrow.  The question everyone is asking, will that guy, Ken Lay, the former CEO get convicted? 

And could followers of this man Warren Jeffs, an accused polygamist and FBI most wanted, fight for their leader and help create another disaster like at Waco? 

Plus, Joran van der Sloot, a suspect in Natalee Holloway‘s Aruba disappearance almost a year ago, due in court tomorrow right here in the states to duke it out with lawyers for Natalee‘s mom. 

Your e-mails  Please include your name and where you‘re writing from.  I respond at the end of the show.


ABRAMS:  It is crunch time at the Enron trial, defense attorneys giving closing arguments today, following the government‘s closing remarks yesterday.  The jury could have the case tomorrow.  Prosecutors say former Enron execs Ken Lay and Jeff Skilling are trying to deceive the jury in the exact same way they deceived investors.

“Houston Chronicle” business columnist Loren Steffy has been inside for the entire trial and he joins us from the courthouse.  Loren thanks for coming back on the program.  We appreciate it. 

All right, so the heart of the prosecution is that these guys are continuing to lie.  They lied before.  They‘re lying now.  The defense is saying what? 

LOREN STEFFY, “HOUSTON CHRONICLE” BUSINESS COLUMNIST:  Well the defense is basically making a lot of the arguments that they have made throughout this case.  They spent a lot of time attacking the credibility of the government witnesses, especially the witnesses who had various plea agreements and what not asking jurors, you know, do you believe them or do you believe the evidence that we were able to put on, the experts that we put on, things like that.  That‘s really been a key part of their case and they‘re sort of walking through the indictment step by step and trying to show that they have created reasonable doubt on these issues. 

ABRAMS:  How much time is Lay and Skilling facing? 

STEFFY:  Well they could each face as much as 25 years, in some cases more depending on all the charges.  Of course there are only six charges against Lay and there‘s 28 against Skilling. 

ABRAMS:  And how is it coming across?  I mean what is the sense in the courtroom?

STEFFY:  Well I think a very telling moment was this morning Dan Petrocelli, who‘s Jeff Skilling‘s lawyer, was running through some exhibits, some things he wanted jurors to remember and he said write down these exhibit numbers, and not one single juror lifted their pen.  So I think that‘s very telling you know as to how things are going for them. 

ABRAMS:  Meaning not well? 

STEFFY:  Not well. 

ABRAMS:  Because there was a sense coming into this, Loren, I think among many people who were watching the case closely that despite what many people might have thought that there really might have been an acquittal here.  I think a lot of people came in thinking these guys may walk out of the courthouse. 

STEFFY:  Well you know one of the things that keeps coming up in this case is a lot of times you‘ll hear people on the defense side saying what we are doing here is criminalizing business risk and this actually came up this afternoon.  Some of Ken Lay‘s attorneys raised this issue.  I think what you have to keep in mind is that a lot of the things that happened at Enron were very unique to Enron. 

And these were not sort of typical business issues that companies were dealing with.  What is being criminalized here, if you can use that term, or what the prosecution is alleging is that Lay and Skilling actually misled investors and misled employees about the condition of the company.  So it‘s not a question of what the company was doing so much as what the actual state of the company is compared with what the top executives were saying about it. 

ABRAMS:  When does the jury get the case?

STEFFY:  The jury should get the case tomorrow.  The defense is supposed to wrap up its portion of things this afternoon and then the prosecution has about two hours of additional closing arguments tomorrow morning and the jury will get the case after that obviously.

ABRAMS:  Loren Steffy, the daily source for your Enron trial, thanks a lot for coming on the program.  Appreciate it.

STEFFY:  Thank you.

ABRAMS:  And now to the manhunt for polygamous leader Warren Jeffs, leader of the 10,000, of the Fundamentalist Church of Latter Day Saints and the newest member of the FBI‘s 10 most wanted list.  He is charged with sexual assault on a minor, conspiracy to commit sexual conduct with a minor, and rape as an accomplice. 

Jeffs has compounds in at least four states, was last seen in April 2005 at a church compound near Eldorado, Texas where almost 1,000 of his followers live.  Now that he‘s on the FBI‘s most wanted list, many area residents are worried.


J.D. DOYLE, ELDORADO RESIDENT:  The public basically panicked.  You know they thought oh Jeffs is going to be out here.  We are going to have a Waco. 


ABRAMS:  Waco, April 19, ‘93, remember the standoff, federal agents, David Koresh‘s armed religious cult, the Branch Davidians?  And then after 51 days federal agents raided the compound.  Four federal agents died.  More than 70 cult members died during the raid.  So, could Eldorado, Texas turn into another Waco? 

Joining me now Gary Noesner, the FBI‘s former chief negotiator, who was at the Waco standoff, and on the phone Jordan Williams from NBC affiliate KWES in Midland, Texas.  He‘s been to the compound in Eldorado twice and has talked to members of the community.  Thanks a lot to both of you for coming on the program.  Appreciate it. 


ABRAMS:  Gary let me ask you, do you think it‘s going to turn into another Waco? 

NOESNER:  Well I mean there is always a potential.  You have got a group of individuals that has a different belief system and they don‘t feel they‘re subjected to civil law.  They tend to isolate themselves away from people that would disapprove of the way they live their lives and the beliefs that they have.  And if law enforcement doesn‘t handle this very delicately, it could indeed explode into a more dangerous situation, which everyone wants to avoid.

ABRAMS:  Jordan Williams, is there a sense in that community there, in Eldorado, where you‘ve been spending a lot of time that this could really, you know, get real ugly? 

JORDAN WILLIAMS, KWES-TV REPORTER (via phone):  Well, Dan, there certainly is a lot of concern.  The compound is located about a mile and a half outside of the city limits and it‘s in Sliker County (ph), and I have spoken with the sheriff there and he wants to make it real clear, every time I interview with him he says look, no laws have been broken here.  He has to have information, evidence, even a sighting of Jeffs to be able to go on the property, enough evidence to convince a judge to get a search warrant, and he says at this point he doesn‘t have it. 

And I want to tell you in an interview with me last week he told me that some members of the group that he has met with, they say only 75 are permanently living there.  You can take that however you want, whether that‘s men, women and children, whether it‘s 75 families, not a firm number, but that‘s what they are telling him.  So there is really no feel, at least on his part even, exactly of how many people are living at this new temple and this compound.

ABRAMS:  Here is what Eldorado resident J.D. Doyle said about the potential that they are stockpiling weapons. 


DOYLE:  These people are more concerned with digging ditches, laying pipe and building buildings.  They‘re not terrorists.  They are peaceful people.  These are not Davidians who had gun ranges and fired automatic weapons.  As you can see, there is no gun range.  And I‘ve been (UNINTELLIGIBLE) for two years.  Never been shot at, never—they wave at you. 


ABRAMS:  Jordan, is that true?

WILLIAMS:  They haven‘t waved at us.  We were at the gate and that‘s the farthest we‘ve ever gotten and the gate to their property is about a mile from the actual new temple.  And this is the group‘s first temple, as everyone has been reporting, and so we have never gotten past the gate.

While we were there last week, a tanker truck pulled up and before we could even get over to try to approach the driver, he had sped past the gate and down a dirt road.  And these people, at least to the media, shy away from us and have in the times that I‘ve been to their compound, at least try to go to their compound, they have not welcomed us at all. 

ABRAMS:  Let me ask you, Jordan, and then I‘m going to follow up with Gary on this, do you know, have the authorities tried to get into the compound?  Have they been there? 

WILLIAMS:  The sheriff, the local sheriff makes quite a few visits to the group.  He has told me he has been there probably upwards of two dozen times in the last two years since the group started construction. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  Well Gary, what do you do now?  I mean if you‘re in this position where this guy is on the FBI‘s most wanted list.  It‘s suspected that he could be at that compound.  What does the FBI do? 

NOESNER:  Well it‘s a very delicate situation.  I mean we have religious freedom in this country and that‘s certainly a paramount (ph) issue here, but also there are privacy rights.  And we have to have reasonable cause to believe that he‘s in there.  Even in the Waco situation, the sheriff in McLennan County had made many visits to the Branch Davidians.

They were fairly receptive to those visits, but you know I think it is a whole different matter when we talk about trying to go in, in force and searching a building, maybe living up to an expectation that some within may have that the authorities are out to get them.  These people primarily want to be left alone, I suspect. 

ABRAMS:  Yes.  Well, you know, if they are hiding a guy who‘s on the FBI‘s most wanted list that may not be up to them.  Why—Jordan, why do people think he may be there? 

WILLIAMS:  Well your guess is as good as mine.  The fact that this is their first temple I think concerns a lot of people.  The fact that you know he may be trying to bring top church leaders of the FLDS there.  I think that is one driving force that people in the community fear is that he‘s built the temple here, he‘s probably coming here.  The sheriff is willing to bet that he‘s been there before at some point, just not after, you know, not since a warrant has been issued for his arrest...

ABRAMS:  But he‘s got a lot of these temples, right?

WILLIAMS:  Yes, he does.  Well no, not temples.  He has a lot of the compounds...

ABRAMS:  Right, compounds, yes.

WILLIAMS:  This is their only temple.  And as you look at the aerial video, we flew over it last week.  That‘s actually a rock quarry that you just saw.  That is—they have quarried all the limestone for the temple right there on the site.  These people are very self-sufficient.  They have got their own dairy, farm fields.

We even saw fire trucks out there, at least one fire truck, on the property, so they are largely self-sufficient.  People in the community know them to be doctors and lawyers, so you‘re right, they try to stay to themselves.  And from—I mean there is a lot of concern there.  That‘s their main meetinghouse you just saw, a kind of a u-shaped building at the end there.  So they have a lot of stuff right there on the property.

ABRAMS:  All right.  Gary Noesner and Jordan Williams, thanks a lot. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You‘re welcome.

ABRAMS:  Coming up, New York City taking out-of-state gun shops to court, trying to stop firearms from crossing the state border. 

Plus, Aruban suspect Joran van der Sloot‘s attorney heading to court tomorrow, hoping to get a lawsuit filed by Natalee Holloway‘s mother thrown out.

Our continuing series, “Manhunt: Sex Offenders on the Loose”, our effort to find missing offenders before they strike.  Our search today is in Tennessee.  Police are looking for Donald Lynch. 

He is 65, six-foot, 205, was convicted of 11 counts of child rape, 38 counts of aggravated exploitation of a minor, has not registered his address with the state.  If you‘ve got any information on his whereabouts, Tennessee wants to hear from you, 800-824-3463.  Be right back. 


ABRAMS:  Coming up, New York City is suing out-of-state gun shops for selling guns that wind up on the streets of New York, first the headlines.


ABRAMS:  The city of New York is suing 15 out-of-state gun shops it claims supply a significant portion of the guns that flow into the city.  They say they traced guns from those stories to more than 500 serious crimes in New York City including 20 actual or attempted homicides.  

The city hired investigators who went undercover with hidden cameras and entered stores in teams of two to attempt illegal, what are called straw purchases.  When a buyer completes the paperwork, passes the background check to buy a gun, but hands the weapon over to someone else who‘s not allowed to own a firearm. 

The lawsuit asks the federal court to order supervision and extra training for dealers in Georgia, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and Virginia and is seeking damages and compensation.  Joining me now Brian Siebel, senior attorney for the Brady Center To Prevent Gun Violence and executive director of Gun Owners of America, Larry Pratt.

Gentlemen, thanks for coming on the program.


ABRAMS:  All right...


ABRAMS:  ... Mr. Siebel, what is the point of New York suing these out-of-state gun owner—what are they hoping to achieve? 

BRIAN SIEBEL, BRADY CENTER TO PREVENT GUN VIOLENCE:  Well they are hoping to stem the supply of illegal guns that are ending up in the streets of New York. 

ABRAMS:  By doing what?  I mean exactly what do they want to happen?

SIEBEL:  Well I think they want to prevent these gun dealers from making the straw sales that they were caught red handed doing by the undercover investigations.  I mean one percent of the gun dealers in America are supplying about 60 percent of the crime guns and we all know who these dealers are, but the problem is ATF has not been able to crack down on them, so New York has to essentially go after them itself in order to enforce the laws and to prevent further illegal sales to gun traffickers that then end up—those guns end up on the streets of New York.

ABRAMS:  Larry, the position of the gun lobby has always been, we‘ve got enough laws on the books.  We don‘t need any new gun laws.  It sounds like what they‘re saying here is let‘s just enforce the laws that are on the book and make sure that these gun dealers are abiding by those rules. 

LARRY PRATT, GUN OWNERS OF AMERICA:  Well I think what they‘re running the risk of finding, mouse trapping them in court is that there are stores that are large volume stores, and of course if you have a large volume, it‘s not too unlikely that some of those guns will end up at one time or another being used by a criminal, but regardless, there have been stores throughout the country including in these target states that work closely with the BATF and if you will, running the guns into New York or some other urban jurisdiction precisely so BATF can track what‘s going on.  Now, if it turns out that one of these stores is those, well BATF knew about that and yet...

ABRAMS:  Wait...

PRATT:  ... the stores...

ABRAMS:  That‘s kind of a red herring though...


PRATT:  I don‘t think it‘s going to be a red herring...


ABRAMS:  But it is.  I mean the broad question is—they are saying we want to make sure that—New York City is saying we want to make sure that these out-of-state gun dealers are simply abiding by the law.  What is wrong with them demanding that?

PRATT:  Because the law frankly doesn‘t do any good.  You know in England they‘ve gotten rid of all...

ABRAMS:  That is not a decision for you or I to make.


ABRAMS:  I mean that‘s the legislatures have decided what is against the law.  New York is saying...

PRATT:  No, think about you‘re saying.  You are saying that it‘s these rogue gun stores.  Well there are no stories rogue or any other to speak of in England at all, and yet they‘ve got twice as many crime guns the cops estimate...


ABRAMS:  But that‘s a...


ABRAMS:  That‘s a policy argument about gun control. 


ABRAMS:  I‘m not going there right now.


ABRAMS:  I‘m saying specifically—let‘s talk specifically about this lawsuit.  New York City is saying we want these out-of-state gun owners to abide by the law.  We want to make sure that they are following the law that‘s on the books.


ABRAMS:  What‘s wrong with that?

PRATT:  I think you‘re going to find that they are, but even if they weren‘t, for argument...

SIEBEL:  They‘re clearly not here...


SIEBEL:  They were caught red-handed...


ABRAMS:  Wait.  Wait.  Let Larry finish.


ABRAMS:  Let Larry finish.

PRATT:  They are not going to get their way on this because the facts just don‘t support that this is a viable way to control crime and crime guns.  Crooks get their guns...

ABRAMS:  Yes, I know.  All right...


ABRAMS:  Again, this is a policy...


ABRAMS:  Larry, all right, enough.  These are the policy arguments that you know we can have discussions...


ABRAMS:  ... another day.


ABRAMS:  I want to focus on this lawsuit though.  I just want to focus on this lawsuit.

PRATT:  And the facts in this lawsuit are not, I don‘t think, going to be favorable to New York City and other whatever case that are with them on this because they‘re likely to find out that some of the folks they think were doing bad things are actually guys that have been working with the BATF. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  Well...

SIEBEL:  That‘s not the case.  Every one of these...


ABRAMS:  Go ahead, Brian.  Go ahead.

SIEBEL:  Every one of these gun dealers has been caught red-handed on videotape selling to a straw buyer and circumstances under which it‘s very clear that it was an illegal sale.

ABRAMS:  Well let me ask you...


ABRAMS:  ... if that‘s the case, why not just charge them?  I mean why do you have file a civil lawsuit?

SIEBEL:  Well one of the problems we have is that right up here in Congress right now the House of Representatives is considering a bill that would actually protect these gun dealers, would make it nearly impossible for ATF to go after and revoke the licenses of these gun dealers. 

ABRAMS:  All right, but again...


ABRAMS:  That‘s a policy argument on the other side...


SIEBEL:  No, the reason for the lawsuit is to expose the problem of the small number of gun dealers selling almost all the guns that are used in crime and...

ABRAMS:  But I understand that...


ABRAMS:  But again, focus on my question.


ABRAMS:  My question is, if they are breaking the law, right...


ABRAMS:  ... why not charge them with crimes, rather than suing them in a civil court? 

SIEBEL:  Well...


ABRAMS:  Hang on.  Let me let Brian finish and then I‘ll give you...

SIEBEL:  New York City said they would be turning over the sting tapes I believe to law enforcement.  It‘s possible they could be charged.  But the important thing is that New York City has been harmed, and the only way for New York City to be compensated for the harm that it suffered and to prevent this in the future is for a court to step in.  The problem has been ATF has not been enforcing these laws as strongly as they should be.  And Congress is trying to actually tie both behind, get ATF to tie their hands their backs...


SIEBEL:  ... prevent further...

ABRAMS:  Larry, focusing on the specific...


ABRAMS:  ... of this case, yes.

PRATT:  There is another legal issue that I think hasn‘t passed the laugh test and that is you‘ve got New York City suing somebody from out-of-state.  They don‘t have jurisdiction to bring this suit.  If I go to New York and get mugged and I bring suit in Virginia against New York City because I got mugged up there, that doesn‘t seem to me to be jurisdictionally very sound.  That‘s nuts, but that‘s what this suit is all about.

ABRAMS:  Well, but wait.  If someone is engaging in some sort of illegal or negligent reckless activity in Virginia, right, and you‘re from New York...

PRATT:  No, if I go to New York City and get mugged...

ABRAMS:  No, no, but you can then go from New York and sue them in Virginia and say hey look...

PRATT:  No...

ABRAMS:  ... the reason—what do you mean no?  Of course you can.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  If someone engages...


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  If I might add here...

PRATT:  It‘s like you‘re trying to get my local city council to collect taxes from New York City residents instead of you know where I live.


ABRAMS:  Brian, go ahead, real quick.


ABRAMS:  Brian, real quick, yes.

SIEBEL:  Yes, well court cases happen all the time where you can sue the person where you‘re injured.  That‘s all New York is doing here.  They are suing in a place where they‘ve been injured and they‘re suing the out-of-state dealers because they‘re the ones who are engaged in the wrongdoing.

ABRAMS:  All right.  We will see.  Brian Siebel, Larry Pratt, thanks, a lot.


ABRAMS:  Coming up, lawyers for Natalee Holloway‘s mother and chief suspect Joran van der Sloot square off in a New York courtroom tomorrow.  Is Joran showing up?  His lawyer Joe Tacopina will tell us, up next.

And later, it was a mistake, but does Britney really deserve the scorn she is getting over this picture of her son in the back seat?  I defend Britney Spears, sort of.  It‘s my “Closing Argument”.


ABRAMS:  Coming up, Aruban suspect Joran van der Sloot‘s attorneys heading to court tomorrow hoping to get a lawsuit filed by Natalee Holloway‘s mother thrown out.  Joran‘s lawyer is with us, next.


ABRAMS:  We are coming up on a year since Natalee Holloway disappeared in Aruba.  Joran van der Sloot is scheduled to be in court tomorrow here in the United States.  He and his attorney are trying to get a civil suit filed against him and his father by Natalee‘s parents tossed out.

Joining me now is Joran‘s attorney, Joe Tacopina.  Joe, thanks for coming on the program.  Appreciate it.


ABRAMS:  First question, is Joran showing up in court? 

TACOPINA:  No, he won‘t be here tomorrow.

ABRAMS:  Doesn‘t need to be there, right?

TACOPINA:  He‘s in school...

ABRAMS:  In the Netherlands. 

TACOPINA:  ... in the Netherlands, so...

ABRAMS:  Right.  All right.

TACOPINA:  ... not quite that convenient for him.

ABRAMS:  Now, the primary argument you‘re making here is going to be one of jurisdiction, right?  You‘re going to say that this case doesn‘t belong in this court.

TACOPINA:  Well this is not really so much—yes, in theory, but it‘s not really a jurisdictional argument.  It is based on a (UNINTELLIGIBLE) convenience legal principle and in New York State the laws are pretty clear.  There‘s a leading case that lays out five factors, Dan that the court needs to consider whether or not New York is convenient for him and the five factors are whether the parties are nonresidents.  Here all parties are nonresidents.  Whether the course of action arose in a different, a foreign jurisdiction, here it did.  Whether the—there is going to a burden...


TACOPINA:  ... on New York courts.  Here obviously we‘re dealing with some foreign languages involved in some of the litigation, the hardship to the defendants.  Clearly, there would be enormous hardship on the defendants unless there‘s an alternative form available and you know the answer to all those questions is yes.  The courts have held that you need two or more of those factors to be in favor of the court ruling (UNINTELLIGIBLE).  We have all five.

ABRAMS:  Do you—I mean it sounds—I mean look, you have a pretty strong legal argument in that regard and we talked about that before here, but do you expect that the court is actually going to throw it out at such an early stage?

TACOPINA:  I—you know what?  To borrow a line from my adversary, I was not dropped on my head at birth.  I‘m not going to go into tomorrow‘s proceeding predicting what the court is going to do, but I am confident in our position.  I‘m confident in our legal positions and Dan, I‘m very confident in our factual arguments if we should ever get there, although I don‘t think we will.

ABRAMS:  All right, but what if they file suit in Aruba?  Right?  I mean they could do that, right?

TACOPINA:  Sure and we‘d invite that.  As a matter of fact, they could serve me tomorrow, I‘ll accept service in court and they want to give us service with a suit in Aruba, we would love to litigate. 

ABRAMS:  Why do you want to—I mean don‘t you just want to not go to court on this?  I mean...

TACOPINA:  Well, sure, but you asked me if they wanted to, I would gladly accept service tomorrow.  I mean do I want to litigate, of course not.  Do I want to show and prove that Joran has had nothing to do with Natalee‘s disappearance and her death, if in fact she is dead? 

I mean look, you know I think this case has taken a different direction in the last several months.  Fortunately, I think people are starting to realize that there has been a massive void where there should be evidence of his guilt and people are looking elsewhere.  The investigators are looking elsewhere and that‘s a refreshing thing and hopefully, I—his name will be cleared very shortly. 

ABRAMS:  Do you have a theory as to what happened to Natalee? 

TACOPINA:  I have a few.  I have a few, but...


TACOPINA:  ... you know what?  No, you know, Dan, I‘m not going to share that because it‘s just as unfair for me to speculate as to what happened to Natalee, both for the Holloway family and for people who I believe to be involved as it was for people to speculate about Joran‘s guilt.  So I‘m not going to go down that road.

ABRAMS:  But your investigators has some evidence? 

TACOPINA:  You know, I think some of those leads have been followed up on.  I know some of them are actively being followed up on.  And I‘m still hopeful, Dan, believe it or not, I may be in the minority here, but I‘m still hopeful that one day soon this thing is resolved. 

ABRAMS:  What about you?  You had threatened some lawsuits against people who kept saying that Joran sexually assaulted Natalee, that Joran murdered Natalee, et cetera.  Are you filing those lawsuits?

TACOPINA:  Well, it‘s not so much a threat as a promise.  I mean you know we have Rosemarie Arnold, who‘s been on your show, myself, Chad Seigel, we‘re reading through transcripts and going through dozens of transcripts and people have made statements and we‘re going to make some decisions at the end of this, you know, litigation.  But people have made statements that are slanderous, libelous, and actionable, and we are going to pursue at least two claims.

ABRAMS:  Against people who have made comments, what, on TV and stuff?

TACOPINA:  That‘s right, public comments and yes on TV.

ABRAMS:  Talking head types? 

TACOPINA:  Just people. 

ABRAMS:  What do you mean just people, ordinary...

TACOPINA:  Not you, Dan, not you...

ABRAMS:  Man on the street people or like...

TACOPINA:  You‘re going to see—Dan, I‘m not going—I‘m not—you know, we‘re not to tip out hat at this early juncture, but...

ABRAMS:  You know who it is, though?  You know the two people you‘re suing.

TACOPINA:  Oh, yes.  We have—I have two people who are—who have made the grade.  So...

ABRAMS:  Do they know it? 

TACOPINA:  They will. 

ABRAMS:  But they don‘t know it yet?

TACOPINA:  I don‘t know.  I don‘t—you know, Dan, I haven‘t contacted them.  I‘m not negotiating with them.  When this is all said and done, when Joran is finally cleared, when the civil litigation is over, we are going to be pursuing the claims that I‘ve been talking about because it‘s the right thing to do, because people have sought to destroy this boy‘s life without any facts, without any evidence, and there are people who have made these claims, Dan, recklessly, and in violation of the law quite frankly.

ABRAMS:  Are you going to put any of my competitors out of business? 

I mean is that going to be like a good thing for me?

TACOPINA:  We‘ll talk off camera, Dan.

ABRAMS:  All right.  Joe Tacopina, thanks a lot.

TACOPINA:  Thanks.

ABRAMS:  Coming up, this picture of Britney Spears driving her son around in a convertible with the car seat facing the wrong way...


ABRAMS:  ... causing quite a stir, I said yes, it‘s bad, but is it really that bad?  It‘s my “Closing Argument”.

And our continuing series, “Manhunt: Sex Offenders on the Loose”, our effort to find missing offenders before they strike.  This week we are in Tennessee.  Authorities want your help finding Rodney Lyons.

He‘s 35, five-nine, 160, was convicted of eight counts of child rape, hasn‘t registered his address with the state.  If you‘ve got any information on his whereabouts, please contact Tennessee, 800-824-3463.  We‘ll be right back. 



ABRAMS:  My “Closing Argument”—I‘ve head it with the scurrilous attacks on Britney Spears‘ parenting.  That‘s right.  I‘m going to take on the thankless task of defending Britney, sort of, her latest headline grabbing maternal transgression, a photo of her 8-month-old son Sean in a car seat facing the wrong way.  Oh, the horror to think how lucky she is to think her child survived the ride.  Now let me be clear.  I don‘t really care about Britney Spears.  I don‘t know her music and I know very little about her life, but it seems when it comes to Britney, the parental police are always on patrol. 

No question, car seats are crucial in helping to save children‘s lives.  In fact, there‘s a California vehicle regulation which requires that children under age 1 be facing backwards.  Fair enough, she made a mistake.  But many including my own producer said today that her child and unborn child after birth should be taken away from her because this shows she‘s an unfit parent.  I‘m looking right at my producer. 

(UNINTELLIGIBLE) Alas, if you ask around, many parental purists say the misdirected car seat is not the only problem.  She should not have been riding with her child in a small convertible car, some have quipped.  The car seat was too big.  And my personal favorite, that the child should not have been exposed to the sun.  This comes on the heels of another photo where she had her child in her lap as she tried to escape paparazzi, again, not a smart move. 

I hope she does not—quote—“do it again,” but I have to wonder, do all of these maternal magistrates always make the safest decision for their kids?  Let‘s hope none of them have ever fallen asleep in bed with a baby or even had the child sleep in an adult bed at all, of course both considered potential hazards.  I assume none have even placed a baby on soft bedding, considered a suffocation risk or even placed a baby to sleep on its stomach rather than back and they never jay walk with their kids or allow them to eat any fatty foods either, right? 

Is she the most meticulous mom?  Apparently not.  I have no idea what she does with her child behind closed doors.  At the least she could use a crash course, so to speak, in P.C. parenting, but the champion child rearers out there might want to ask themselves, if they were always being photographed, might they ever be busted for a child safety infraction?  Accusing someone of being an unfit parent is serious stuff.  I wonder whether the accusers always live up to the standards they‘re applying to Britney. 

Coming up, many of you saying that my coverage of the Duke rape investigation is biased, I respond.


ABRAMS:  I‘ve had my say, now it‘s time for “Your Rebuttal”.  After a third Duke lacrosse player was indicted yesterday, many of you wrote in supporting our coverage, but some say it is biased.

Yvonne White, “You should remove yourself from this case because it‘s obvious you cannot be fair.”

Susanne Van Hecke, “I‘m so very disappointed in the manner that you are handling the Duke rape case.  You‘ve become so biased.”

It seems you‘re confusing bias with opinion.  I have opinions based on fact.  I‘ve made it very clear that I hope this D.A. has more than we know, otherwise this case is going down in flames, because there are too many problems with it.  That‘s not bias.  I came into the case with an open mind like I do every case.  You may not like the facts, separate issue.

From Washington, Connie Manson, “Because he‘s a Duke alumnus, Dan is understandably true to his school.”  OK, that‘s an accusation of bias, but as I said before, being true to my school would mean not covering the story.  They‘d like it to go away.  I don‘t think anyone can accuse us of that.

And Helene Mesler from Montana, “You certainly are not coming off with a fair and unbiased report.  It is acceptable for the prosecutor or the defense attorneys to get emotional, not you.”  I‘m sorry, Helene, why can‘t I get emotional?  You can watch other networks to watch people fake it.  Here I‘m going to give it to you as I see it and feel it.

Isreal Planell represents the majority of the e-mails.  He says, “Please keep up the good work, which is excellent in regard to the Duke scandal.”  Thank you.

Finally, Todd Quinton in Texas to a lighter look at the case, “Has the Durham D.A. heard about the alligators killing three women in Florida or are they really sure that it‘s alligators?  Send the Durham D.A. down there and he might be able to charge some Duke lacrosse players for it.”

Your e-mails  Please include your name and where you‘re writing from. 

That does it for us tonight.  “HARDBALL” with Chris Matthews is up next. 



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