Guests: Loren Steffy, Cesar Luna, Dan Stein, Jake Goldenflame, Steve Miletich, Jack Levin, Susan Filan, Lauren Lake
DAN ABRAMS, HOST: Coming up, Mexico threatens to sue in American courts if National Guard troops at the border start detaining illegal immigrants. How can they sue if the U.S. is just trying to enforce its own laws?
The program about justice starts now.
Hi everyone. But first up on the docket, we are on a verdict watch. A jury is now deliberating the fate of former Enron CEOs Ken Lay and Jeff Skilling, accused of conspiring to hide Enron‘s enormous debt before the company came crashing down in 2001. They could face decades in prison if convicted. And the verdict could come at any time.
Joining me now at the courthouse is “Houston Chronicle” business columnist Loren Steffy who has been following and blogging the trial from the beginning. Loren, thanks for coming back on the program. Appreciate it. All right, so this is a pretty complicated verdict form, is it not?
LOREN STEFFY, “HOUSTON CHRONICLE” BUSINESS COLUMNIST: Yes, it is.
There‘s some six pages just for Jeff Skilling‘s charges alone.
ABRAMS: What‘s the mood in the courtroom? I mean, you‘ve got both sides trying to put a happy face on, particularly defense attorneys as they emerge from that courthouse. What‘s the mood in the courthouse as to how things went?
STEFFY: I think perhaps the overwhelming mood in the courthouse is one of relief. I think no matter which side of the case you‘re on, I think everybody is very relieved after four months of putting on this case to have it finally going to the jury.
ABRAMS: All right. Here‘s the attorney for Ken Lay, Mr. Ramsey talking about the jury instructions and I want to ask you about this because it sounds to me like he‘s not intentionally doing it but probably not—didn‘t choose his words carefully when talking about the jurors here.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It‘s been a lengthy case and there‘s a lengthy instruction and there‘s a very lengthy indictment, which I think was written by someone with a serious nervous disorder, which I think that the jury will have difficulty understanding.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: All right. Now he‘s not trying to diss the jurors there, but when he says he thinks the jury will have difficulty understanding, can we read from that that he‘s nervous?
STEFFY: This is actually a theme that Mr. Ramsey has hit on throughout this case. He actually brought this up in opening arguments. He thinks the indictment was written by somebody with a nervous disorder. It‘s really just another shot that he‘s taking at the prosecution. It has nothing to do with the jury.
The defense has maintained that the prosecution doesn‘t have a story, that what they‘re saying doesn‘t make a lot of sense and that the indictment has been confusing, it‘s impossible to understand the charges, and what he‘s saying is that he thinks the jury will have a very hard time deciphering all of this.
ABRAMS: Now if these guys are convicted, the first thing that‘s going to happen is the defense attorneys are going to start talking about appealing and talking about mistakes that were made at trial, et cetera. Do they already have their list ready?
STEFFY: I‘m sure they do. I think that they‘ve been watching for things that they could possibly appeal on throughout the case. I mean that‘s normally how these things work. I think that no matter what happens in this case, we‘re going to be hearing about it for a long time to come, whether there‘s an acquittal or a conviction, I think people will be revisiting this case for a very long time.
ABRAMS: This could be a long deliberation process, right?
STEFFY: Oh absolutely.
STEFFY: I think just getting through the charges could take them several days and that assumes that they would all agree, which is very unlikely, so we‘re probably looking at several weeks worth of deliberations.
ABRAMS: All right. Loren Steffy, enjoy yourself down there. Thanks for coming back on the program.
STEFFY: Thank you.
ABRAMS: Switching topics to a potential lawsuit over the president‘s new immigration policy. Get this, Mexico‘s foreign minister is threatening to the sue the U.S. if any of the 6,000 National Guard troops President Bush wants on the border help arrest, detain illegal aliens.
Luis Ernesto Derbez saying—quote—“If there‘s a real wave of rights abuses, OK, but if we see the National Guard starting to directly participate in detaining people, we would immediately start filing lawsuits through our consulates.”
White House Press Secretary Tony Snow responded.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TONY SNOW, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: What we‘re talking about is people doing things for which they‘ve been trained and that would be engineering surveillance, transportation and the like. As you know, people in politics say many things. We‘ll have to see what happens.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: Can—they‘re going to sue because the National Guard is enforcing U.S. law, whether you like the fact the National Guard is there or not, but I don‘t get it. Dan Stein is president of the Federation for American Immigration Reform and an attorney. Cesar Luna is a California immigration attorney. Thanks to both of you for coming on the program. Appreciate it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sure.
ABRAMS: All right, Cesar, explain this to me. I don‘t understand how Mexican authorities or the Mexican officials could somehow sue the U.S. for enforcing U.S. law.
CESAR LUNA, IMMIGRATION ATTORNEY: Yes, Dan. It would be a bit tough to do. We are mainly dealing with issues of standing and clearly this may be an issue of sovereignty, but I don‘t blame them from their reaction. I mean, this is a ridiculous concept, a ridiculous idea.
ABRAMS: But it‘s a stupid thing to say. It‘s a stupid thing to—if what you‘re saying is true, right, that as a legal matter, it‘s a frivolous claim, it‘s not smart when the country is so divided over the immigration issue for the foreign minister to get out there and start talking about suing, because the National Guard is going to be enforcing U.S. law, whether you like it or not.
LUNA: Well we have to remember though Dan that there are regulations in place for individuals to seek the court systems, if they—if their rights have been violated, if their constitutional rights have been violated and perhaps the U.S.—the Mexican consulate or Mexico may be of help in those scenarios, but I think the concept of bringing the National Guard to the border really sends the wrong message.
ABRAMS: That‘s fine. That‘s fine. That‘s a policy issue, but that doesn‘t relate to the threat that the foreign minister is making about filing a lawsuit. Look, Dan Stein, I‘ve actually gone through all the possible legal scenarios, the Alien Torts Claims Act...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right.
ABRAMS: ... the Posse Comitatus Act, the Vienna Convention (UNINTELLIGIBLE) I mean you name it. The bottom line is they‘ve got no case to suggest that the National Guard can‘t detain people at the border, whether you like the policy or not.
DAN STEIN, FEDERATION FOR AMERICAN IMMIGRATION REFORM: Yes, Dan, I mean there‘s no legal basis for this. Posse Comitatus, of course, could be changed statutorily by—they have by Congress anyway, but look, this is part of a continuing pattern of increasing belligerent talk from the Mexican government, challenging the right of the United States to control borders.
I mean here you‘ve got President Bush offering a token fig leaf gesture, frankly it‘s not much anyway. National Guard troops and support roles providing logistical during the two-week training missions. I mean it‘s nothing, OK?
And all of a sudden you get this ejaculation of anger from the Mexican government saying they‘re going to go into our courts and this intimidation tactic to somehow suggest we don‘t have the right to control our own borders, and it is the tone and tanner of this thing...
STEIN: ... and the idea that there are somehow two rules. There‘s Mexico‘s immigration policy and can you imagine Guatemalans suing in Mexican courts for rights to immigrate there illegally and the Mexican government that has this view that we basically don‘t have the right to control our own borders.
ABRAMS: Yes, see that‘s the problem, Cesar, is that I think that by threatening this lawsuit, it gives the impression that somehow Mexico gets to decide how we enforce the borders, again, whether you like the policy or not.
STEIN: It is the wrong message, Dan, but it was caused by the U.S. mishandling of this immigration...
ABRAMS: But that‘s not caused by anything. People make choices based on the evidence that they have...
ABRAMS: ... and the Mexican government made a choice to make this statement regardless of whether they like the policy or not. I mean, if you‘re telling me you think it was a bad idea for them to threaten this lawsuit, you‘re not going to sit there and say, well, the reason I think it‘s a good idea is because of X, Y, or Z. No, you‘re saying it was a bad idea, it was a dumb thing for them to threaten the lawsuit.
LUNA: I certainly can‘t speak for the government of Mexico and it was perhaps a bad political move. However, we have to understand that the immigration debate is a global concept. We require cooperation from our allies, including Mexico.
ABRAMS: I understand...
LUNA: Putting troops...
LUNA: ... on the border doesn‘t really help anything.
ABRAMS: And I apologize to you for cutting you off on that because that is a—you know that is a debate that will be ongoing in this country for a long time. I‘m just trying to focus on this lawsuit that is being threatened by the foreign minister, and particularly, when he uses the language that if we see the National Guard starting to directly participate in detaining people, well, Dan Stein, I don‘t think there‘s any question that the National Guard is going to at least assist in that process if need be.
STEIN: I agree with you. The point is, it‘s ultimately a political judgment of the Congress, of the executive branch of the United States. This was the kind of decision which until recently, the Mexican government respected as a hollowed element of U.S. sovereignty outright to make these judgments, and they are now throwing into question the core attributes of the exercise of our sovereign right to control our border, whether it‘s through direct...
ABRAMS: Maybe they think it‘s the American way. Maybe they‘ll think no, they‘ll appreciate the fact that we‘re threatening lawsuits.
STEIN: Yes, but see—I mean I think they think we‘re suckers, but I also think they‘re making President Bush look incredibly weak. I mean here he is coming out, trying to sound like he actually cares about controlling the border, which we all know isn‘t true, and this minor small little gesture even that provokes this kind of response.
I mean I think we‘ve really got to deal with this. Mexico is becoming very aggressive internally. The consulates are being very aggressive in lobbying state governments and federal government...
STEIN: ... in ways they never have before...
ABRAMS: Well look, let them lobby.
STEIN: ... and it‘s going to create rift.
ABRAMS: Let them lobby. Let them lobby. I mean if they want to lobby, let them lobby...
STEIN: ... but consular officers are supposed to do consular duties...
STEIN: ... not lobby the change...
ABRAMS: But you know all these foreign governments...
ABRAMS: All these foreign governments...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... are supposed to protect their own citizens.
ABRAMS: Dan, they all hire lobbyists...
ABRAMS: Our state government...
ABRAMS: Hang on a sec.
ABRAMS: Hang on. Hang on a sec, Cesar.
ABRAMS: Our state government should be big enough boys and girls to be able to say, OK, thank you for your lobbying effort, we‘re either going to accept it or reject it, but the notion that somehow because they‘re lobbying that we can‘t make decisions on our own, I mean you know...
STEIN: Well I think they‘re—I mean they‘re doing something very detrimental to their image and part of what‘s fueling this incredible public backlash is the sense that our government won‘t stand up to foreign governments trying to manipulate U.S. immigration law.
ABRAMS: Yes. All right, Cesar, you want to make a final comment on the lawsuit?
LUNA: Yes, I do think it‘s a bad move for Mexico. I don‘t think they would have standing, the right to sue, but they do have a genuine effort in protecting their own citizens from danger. That‘s all I think is happening.
STEIN: Well they should bring them back home.
ABRAMS: Dan Stein, Cesar Luna, thanks a lot. Appreciate it.
LUNA: Thank you.
ABRAMS: Coming up, “Dateline NBC” is back at it, teaming up with Perverted Justice in another undercover sting to catch potential online sex predators, even though many of these guys have seen the “Dateline” report. Another guy showing up in the buff to meet what he thought was an underage girl.
And a possible break in the unsolved murder of a federal prosecutor four years ago. The FBI gets an anonymous letter from someone claiming to be the killer.
Plus, Natalee Holloway‘s family in court with suspect Joran van der Sloot‘s lawyers. His attorney is asking the judge to throw out the lawsuit, which is seeking damages against the van der Sloots for the disappearance of Natalee almost a year ago.
Your e-mails email@example.com. Please include your name and where you‘re writing from. I respond at the end of the show.
ABRAMS: “Dateline NBC” is back with another investigation into the potential online sex predators in Fort Myers, Florida, decoys from the Internet watchdog group Perverted Justice put fake profiles of underage kids online and the men reached out to them within hours. They were then invited to come to a house that also happens to be outfitted with hidden cameras. Here‘s Chris Hansen.
CHRIS HANSEN, “DATELINE NBC” (voice-over): Meet 23-year-old Ryan Macintosh (ph), screen name QX4BOI19. He owns a high-end dog boutique. He‘s here to meet a boy who told him online he was 14. The decoy says you won‘t tell anyone I‘m gay will you and QX4BOI19 replies, if you don‘t tell anybody you (blanked) my (blank). Del from Perverted Justice is playing the male decoy, invites him in and scoots behind the door before he sees her.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Watch TV or something. I‘ll be right back out, all right?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right.
HANSEN (on camera): Why don‘t you make yourself at home here. Have a seat. What‘s going on?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not much. How are you?
HANSEN (voice-over): Like many other men caught in our investigations, QX4BOI19 insists he didn‘t come here for sex with a young teen.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was just coming over here to hang out and I felt like I would be more a big brother more than anything.
HANSEN (on camera): Big brother.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes...
HANSEN: So you‘re coming over to be a mentor?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In a way, yes and I‘m sure you heard that 20 billion times.
HANSEN: Twenty billion and one counting tonight.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I had no intention of having sex with him tonight.
HANSEN: What were you going to do?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just hang out.
HANSEN (voice-over): QX4BOI19 sits and talks to me for more than 10 minutes, then amazingly when I start to tell him who I am...
(on camera): Well, I‘ve got to tell you...
(voice-over): ... he already knows.
HANSEN (on camera): (UNINTELLIGIBLE)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I know.
HANSEN: And we‘re—you know? Have you seen the previous stories?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
HANSEN: You have?
(voice-over): You might think that after five computer predator investigations in five states, we would have seen and heard it all. But there‘s not much we could do to prepare for Marvin Lackhand (ph), screen name crazytrini85. He‘s been chatting online with a Perverted Justice decoy playing the part of a 14-year-old named Cindy. Cindy tells him she‘s a virgin and he sends her a picture of his genitals. Crazytrini85 asks her if she‘ll try various sex acts and then he asks her if she has a Jacuzzi.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) (BEEP) you in there.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What are you driving...
HANSEN: Crazytrini makes a bizarre sexual request. The decoy says she‘ll give it a try if he‘s willing to strip off all his clothes and walk into her house naked.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That‘s him right there. He‘s pulling in the driveway.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There‘s like a green thing under the back door.
HANSEN: The decoy keeps talking to him as he walks up the driveway.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He‘s coming around.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK. Yes, just like whatever you want, I guess totally naked, because that was the deal, right?
HANSEN: This is a man who apparently sticks to a deal. He walks in the back door, takes off all his clothes in the laundry room and goes in search of the decoy.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where are you?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why don‘t you just take a seat. Have a cookie, I made them because they‘ll go with the cool whip, it was kind of a little surprise.
HANSEN (on camera): Do you want to explain yourself? Grab that towel right there, please. Wrap it around yourself and please sit on that stool. What are you doing?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Making a mistake.
HANSEN: Making a mistake. What is going on in your mind?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don‘t know.
HANSEN: You don‘t know. Now what do you think would have happened, Marvin, had I not been here and had there actually been a 14-year-old girl in that next room? What would have happened after you walked in there naked?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Something probably would have happened.
HANSEN: Something like what?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Something along sexual lines.
ABRAMS: Joining me now is “Dateline‘s” Chris Hansen. All right. Chris, for the first time members of my staff after seeing this latest installment said that they started to actually feel sorry for some of these guys. Do you feel bad for any of these guys?
HANSEN: Well look, you know these aren‘t all the same level of potential predator here, and obviously you know as you talk to these people and you read the transcripts, there are some younger guys who clearly are lonely, clearly don‘t have anybody to go deal with on a normal social basis, so they act out on the Internet and they look for people and again, I‘m not defending anything that these guys are doing...
HANSEN: ... but yes, I mean, obviously not is all right in their life for them to end up in this situation.
ABRAMS: Do you see any difference between the younger guys and the older guys as to how they deal with all of this?
HANSEN: I think the younger guys probably have more potential to be opportunists and I think some of them may in fact be first time visitors in a situation like this. You know, you‘re going to see some opportunists and then you‘re going to see some of the other people who are just not wired right and you‘re going to see some of the other people who are just you know plain bad. It‘s a combination of things.
ABRAMS: We heard the guy we‘re seeing there on the screen say that he actually knew who you were because he‘d seen the “Dateline” report. Do you think that there are a good number of people who are not coming to the house for fear that this might be a setup?
HANSEN: When we were in Ohio, it just so happened that one of the previous investigations was airing on MSNBC at the time and we saw chatter in the chat rooms about you know I don‘t want to walk into a “Dateline NBC” thing, but we see that all the time and yet guys still show up. I‘m sure it‘s having some sort of an effect, but I think a lot of these guys think that they can‘t be everywhere all at the same time, this is a great opportunity for me and I‘m going to fulfill my fantasy.
ABRAMS: Yes, there‘s only one Chris Hansen, so you can‘t be everywhere. Do any women show up?
HANSEN: We have never seen a woman walk through the door and Perverted Justice, the online watchdog group, has been doing this for four years and only once they tell us have they ever had a woman agree to show up. It tends to be at least when it comes to this Internet activity, more of a male dominated crime at least in our experience. You know we‘ve all seen the cases where there have been female predators. We‘ve seen the infamous teacher cases. The experts tell us that if you do see a female predator, the target is more often than not going to be somebody that that woman already knows.
ABRAMS: And we should be clear, when the decoys are putting their fake profiles online, they‘re putting some of them as boys and some of them as girls, right?
HANSEN: Absolutely. And it‘s not like they‘re avoiding having a conversation with a potential female predator. I mean, they‘re not out there hunting, they‘re out there just sitting in a chat room with a profile, so they can‘t control you know for the most part who is going to approach them, because they‘re just—they‘re passive and they don‘t have a conversation with anybody until they‘re first approached by you know the man...
ABRAMS: What happened to the two guys we just saw?
HANSEN: Both of them were arrested when they left the house. Both of them are now facing criminal charges in Fort Myers, Florida. They have not yet entered pleas as far as we know. That‘s going to come soon when they have another court appearance.
ABRAMS: Does this get easier for you to confront these guys as you do it more often?
HANSEN: It‘s always a little anxious, because as much as you try to know about the guy before he comes into the house, as much as we try to look into the background of these men, you know, you‘re really not 100 percent as to who these guys are, so you‘re on your toes.
ABRAMS: Chris Hansen, thanks a lot as always.
HANSEN: Thank you, Dan.
ABRAMS: You can see “Dateline” “To Catch A Predator” tonight on NBC at 9:00 Eastern, 8:00 Central. We were asking the question before, why would these guys show up, even after having seen “Dateline” and Chris was saying, you know, some of them effectively can‘t help themselves.
Speaking of that, joining me now is convicted sex offender Jake
Goldenflame, who‘s also the author of “Overcoming Sexual Terrorism: 60 Ways To Protect Your Children From Sexual Predators”. Jake, thanks for coming back on the program. All right, so...
JAKE GOLDENFLAME, CONVICTED SEX OFFENDER: Thank you.
ABRAMS: ... why these—some of these guys have seen the “Dateline” report, they know about the humiliation of showing up at the house with the decoys and they‘re still going. Why?
GOLDENFLAME: There‘s two reasons I think. And I reach back into my own experience and my worst years, 20 years ago, when I was looking for teenage boys on the freeway. It‘s the same kind of game played over the Internet, that‘s all.
Number one, there is the thrill of danger, the risk of getting caught. It‘s the same reason why everybody else buys tickets on the roller coaster ride and the second reason is quite frankly, secretly, many of the men want to get caught. I can remember being in that same phase.
There‘s a hunger for some kind of punishment because you know what you‘re doing is wrong, and secondly, if you get caught, then all of a sudden your whole life is washed away and you cannot have to worry anymore. It‘s all over.
ABRAMS: And so you think that subconsciously, they‘re saying what, help me?
GOLDENFLAME: Secretly, I don‘t know, it‘s a cry for help. Basically what I think is more accurate is there‘s the thrill of danger and there‘s the hunger for I want to get caught. I think they want the punishment, the shame.
ABRAMS: Are you surprised that there are no women? I‘m not really that surprised, but are you?
GOLDENFLAME: No, because when a female predator is operative, she tends to more attract somebody to come to her and then she, you know, allures the person, versus the male who actually goes out courting. This is a—this would tend to be a more male dominated role. I would think so.
ABRAMS: Jake, do you have any problem with what “Dateline” is doing? I mean I think it‘s fantastic. I think it‘s—I think if it instills some fear, I think that‘s good, and I think that catching these guys before they strike is good too...
ABRAMS: ... do you have any problem with it?
GOLDENFLAME: No I don‘t. I think it was wisely pointed out a few moments ago that these guys span a rather large spectrum. Some of them are opportunists, that‘s the proper term. Some of them have or may be really potentially dangerous people. You may be dealing with some people and I‘ve seen some of these “Dateline” shows where I‘ve looked at people.
I remember one night I was watching one guy who came into the kitchen, and the decoy was sounding their voice from another room and he began making a bee line, I mean, immediately he started heading for that kitchen and I said to myself, that guy strikes me as a rapist and sure enough it turned out he was a convicted rapist. Some of them are that dangerous.
ABRAMS: All right, Jake Goldenflame, thanks a lot for coming back.
GOLDENFLAME: Thank you, Dan.
ABRAMS: Coming up, Thomas Wales, a federal prosecutor in Seattle murdered over four years ago. The FBI has just received an anonymous letter from someone confessing to the killing. Do they buy it?
Plus, Aruban suspect Joran van der Sloot‘s attorneys in a New York courtroom today arguing that a lawsuit filed by Natalee Holloway‘s family should be 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 Kelly Brady. He‘s 49, five-eleven, 165, was convicted of sexual offenses against a child, has not registered his address with the state. If you‘ve got any information on his whereabouts, please contact Tennessee Department of Investigations, 800-824-3463. We will be right back.
ABRAMS: Coming up, more than four years after a Washington federal prosecutor was gunned down in his own home shot execution style in the head, a huge new clue. The FBI is asking for your help. The details after the headlines.
ABRAMS: In Washington State, more than four years after federal prosecutor Thomas Wales was gunned down inside his own home, the FBI received an anonymous letter from someone purporting to be the killer. While profilers there doubt parts of the letter, they believe the author could be someone connected to Wales‘ murder, possibly even written to create a diversion in the investigation. Here‘s how the letter begins.
OK, so I was broke and between jobs. I got an anonymous call offering X-dollars to shoot the guy, so I drove to Seattle to do the job. I did not even know his name. Just got laid off from a job. Nice talking lady. I didn‘t know her name. She called me, talked to me by name, and asked if I needed some money. I agreed to pursue the matter. Hell, I was going bankrupt.”
Here‘s what else we know about the letter. It‘s postmarked January 23 from Las Vegas. It purports to have been written by the killer. Gidget is the name used in the return address, a commercial address in Las Vegas. It does contain factual inconsistencies and unrealistic claims. The FBI says it also contains previously released information to the public.
Now a Washington airline pilot who Wales prosecuted for fraud has been under investigation and in a strange twist, he traveled to Vegas at the same time the anonymous letter was mailed from there.
Joining me now, “Seattle Times” staff writer Steve Miletich—Miletich, is that right...
STEVE MILETICH, “SEATTLE TIMES” STAFF WRITER: Correct.
ABRAMS: ... and criminologist Jack Levin from Northeastern University. Thanks to both of you for coming on the program. All right. Steve, how much credence is the FBI giving this?
MILETICH: Well, I think they‘re treating the letter seriously.
Because it came out of nowhere four years plus into this investigation. And it would be highly unlikely that someone would sit down and write a letter like this unless that person had some interest in the case, a connection to the case or is the killer.
ABRAMS: Let me read some more from the letter.
Go to Seattle, heck I lived there once, no big deal. Hang out in this guy‘s backyard. She even gave me the address. Stop off at a place, pick up our gun and drop it off at a specified location when you‘re done. Then you‘ll be directed to where your money is.
You know, Jack, there‘s something I guess almost contrived about this. It almost seems like...
JACK LEVIN, CRIMINOLOGIST: Right.
ABRAMS: ... someone is trying to talk like a criminal might talk and say yes heck you know I was bankrupt, and I was this and that.
LEVIN: Sounds like it came from a novel to me.
LEVIN: You know, you‘re right, look, this is not a serial killer. A serial killer might be motivated to write a letter like this, send it to the FBI in order to taunt them or become big shot celebrities. A professional hit man would not feel pains of conscience, certainly wouldn‘t confess years later, wouldn‘t feel the moral pangs of conscience to do that, so I really don‘t see the motivation for the killer to write this letter.
ABRAMS: The wife was out of town, I had no witnesses here, I was curious about who knew me so well. I used cash to pay for all my expenses to avoid an audit trail. No cell phone. I was directed to a place to pick up the gun they wanted me to use and an address. The gun was there.
I mean, Jack, are there any professional hit men in this country as far as you know?
LEVIN: Oh, there are professional hit men.
ABRAMS: There are?
ABRAMS: So all they do—everyone knows that if you want—and put aside like I guess mobsters, et cetera, but there are people who for a living actually kill people?
LEVIN: Certainly. There always have been and there always will be, at least a few people in our society who are sociopathic, they don‘t have a conscience, they don‘t feel remorse when they do the wrong thing and they can kill with moral impunity and they‘re very good at it. And let me tell you something.
In this letter, the writer talks about returning the gun to the killer or the person who hired him. No reputable hit man is going to do that. He‘ll want complete control over the weapon. And in this letter, it talks about the number of shots that he fired, and he‘s not sure. It might have been two, it might have been four.
Listen that would be like a CPA who doesn‘t know debits and credits. I mean he would know exactly how many shots he fired, and certainly he talks in this letter about waiting after he killed the victim. A good hit man, even a bad hit man would not wait at the scene of the crime. He‘d get out as fast as possible. There are too many very strange things in this letter to be authentic.
ABRAMS: I drove to the address and parked some distance away north of downtown. I kind of camped out in the backyard of his house and waited for the guy to settle in at his computer. Once he was there, I took careful aim. I shot two or possibly more times and watched him collapse. I absurdly waited a few minutes and then left. I‘m sure that he was dead.
All right. So Steve, if there are all these inconsistencies, right, as Jack points out, as the FBI clearly knows, why are they giving it so much value?
MILETICH: I think the key reason is because there is a history in these type of cases of people sending letters like this to throw investigators off the trail. They actually have a term for it, a formal term, but it comes down to the fact that they collected—the FBI and other law enforcement agencies have collected these types of letters over the years, and have seen a pattern where people come up with two basic scenarios to try to throw investigators off.
One, a hit man or two, that the person who do it was mentally deranged. And usually it turns out to be from someone connected to the case, often from the killer, and it‘s kind of a of a ham-handed attempt to throw investigators off.
ABRAMS: Retracing my steps, I dropped off the gun, found my money and returned to Vegas. I feel bad about it, but I needed the money and there were no witnesses. I really don‘t know who fronted the money, but the XX-dollars was there and I sure needed it. I mean this is not just a hit man supposedly, Jack. This is a hit man with finance problems who‘s now I guess regretting that he took the job.
LEVIN: Well, again, a hit man who‘s the least bit effective over a period of time is not going to be remorseful. And he‘s not going to feel like writing a confession. If anything, this letter is meant to taunt the FBI, not to help them solve the case. You know, it is possible that this letter writer had a connection to the killer, but what is the connection? It could be that he met him in Las Vegas, they had a few drinks together, the killer confessed and this guy decided to have a little fun at somebody else‘s expense...
LEVIN: ... and write this letter.
ABRAMS: Steve, why was this airline pilot investigated in connection with this case?
MILETICH: He was prosecuted along with several other people by Tom Wales in a fraud case. And there was escalating bitterness in that case between the prosecution and some of the defendants.
ABRAMS: I‘m sure there‘s a lot of people, right, who didn‘t like the prosecutor because he prosecuted them.
MILETICH: Correct. But in this particular case, the suspect, who was an airline pilot, the charges against him were dropped, but a company he was associated with pleaded guilty. He turned around after the case was over and filed a lawsuit against the government, claiming he had been maliciously prosecuted and asked for $125,000 in legal fees. That type of action is somewhat unusual. It‘s indicative of the—a personal nature of that prosecution and the suspect‘s reaction.
ABRAMS: If you have got any information, please contact the FBI, toll free, 866-322-7009 -- I believe there‘s a $1 million reward, right Steve?
ABRAMS: All right. Thanks to both of you, Steve Miletich and Jack Levin. Appreciate it.
LEVIN: Thank you.
MILETICH: Thank you.
ABRAMS: Coming up, Natalee Holloway‘s parents filed a civil lawsuit against the chief suspect in their daughter‘s disappearance. Today both sides were in court. The question, was the judge just going to throw the lawsuit out?
And later many of you like me coming to Britney Spears‘ defense. Well, kind of, after pictures show Britney driving her son around in a convertible with the car seat installed backwards. Coming up.
ABRAMS: Coming up, the Natalee Holloway case makes it into a New York City courtroom. The latest coming up after the break.
ABRAMS: Natalee Holloway‘s parents are in court today in New York. They are suing the family of Joran van der Sloot, once considered the lead suspect in Natalee‘s disappearance. They say Joran along with help from his father abducted and assaulted Natalee. Natalee was from Alabama. The van der Sloots live in Aruba and now both sides are trying to convince a judge why the case does or does not belong in New York.
The hearing ended a short time ago. The judge said she would consider the case and issue a ruling later. Here‘s Joran van der Sloot‘s lawyer, Joe Tacopina leaving the courtroom.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE TACOPINA, JORAN VAN DER SLOOT‘S ATTORNEY: This is not a situation where we‘re afraid of the facts. Aruba is the appropriate forum. As I‘ve said before and I said today in court, Aruba is the place this case should be tried if they want to try this case. As a matter of fact, if they were ready to serve us with papers today and are moving the case to Aruba, we would gladly accept on behalf of our clients.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: Joining me now is former prosecutor and MSNBC analyst Susan Filan and defense attorney Lauren Lake. All right, Susan, how do you possibly justify having this lawsuit from people who live in Alabama talking about something that happened in Aruba in New York?
SUSAN FILAN, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: OK, Dan, what you‘re basically saying is the defendants are going to attack jurisdiction, why serve it in New York, why file it in New York, why have it stay in New York? Because there is no forum more convenient. Where would you have it? Aruba? Alabama? Mississippi?
Where is that convenient to the plaintiffs? Where is that convenient to the defendants? It‘s not any more convenient anywhere. It‘s not any less convenient anywhere and the courts give great deference to the plaintiff‘s choice of jurisdiction. They chose New York. They have personal service on the defendants.
They‘re in persona jurisdiction. They‘re personally served. There‘s no reason for this not to go forward in New York. Let me say, I‘m not going to say they don‘t have any jurisdictional issue, but I think it‘s one that they can and will survive and should survive.
ABRAMS: I don‘t know. I mean—go ahead. I mean I don‘t see it, but go ahead.
LAUREN LAKE, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: That was so good Susan.
LAKE: However, you know what, let‘s be honest here, from a human perspective, we all in our guts, we‘re rooting for Beth and Natalee‘s family saying we want this girl found too, but come on, legally there is just no jurisdiction here. There is no way in the world you can say—what are they going to call all the witnesses from Aruba to come to New York to testify?
FILAN: Why not?
LAKE: Oh, come on Susan...
LAKE: ... let‘s be serious here.
LAKE: This can‘t happen this way.
FILAN: Beth has said - Beth Holloway Twitty has said that she was subjected to death threats in Aruba and that if she returned to Aruba, she would be chopped up and fed to the fish. Remember, this is a woman that called for a boycott of tourism to Aruba. Aruba suffered great economic...
LAKE: And she he went back over and over again...
LAKE: ... to look for her daughter...
LAKE: ... so surely she can go back again for a lawsuit that she wishes to file.
FILAN: She also said...
LAKE: Now that right there...
LAKE: Susan, that doesn‘t cut it. That doesn‘t cut it.
ABRAMS: Go ahead, Susan. Yes.
FILAN: She‘s also said that witnesses have said that they are afraid to testify in an Aruban court and won‘t tell the truth the way that they have to the investigators and to people...
ABRAMS: That‘s not—but that‘s not an argument. You can‘t just say oh well, because witnesses say that they‘d rather testify in New York than in Aruba...
FILAN: No, they‘re not saying they would rather testify, they‘re saying they won‘t and they‘re afraid...
ABRAMS: Beth is saying...
FILAN: ... to testify...
ABRAMS: Beth is saying...
FILAN: ... and I think the courts can consider that whether the lawsuit...
ABRAMS: Look at the guy walking behind Beth. Do you know who that is? That‘s Bo Dietl. All right. If she‘s got Bo with her, I think she‘s going to be OK.
LAKE: And Dan, Bo already showed he knows how to handle his business when we watched the tapes of that serving.
LAKE: So let‘s get back to the point...
LAKE: Let‘s get...
FILAN: Let the witnesses into court...
LAKE: But Susan, let‘s get back to the point of the court and the fact that this is just not a convenient forum. I love the fact that you put forth a very vigorous argument here, but it is not convenient. This act didn‘t even occur here. The people don‘t live here. What interest does it serve the state of New York?
ABRAMS: Let‘s put up the five reasons that the defense is saying this case should be moved out. None of the parties are New York residents. The alleged incidents happened in a foreign jurisdiction. The burden on the New York courts is tremendous. Hardship to the defendants. And the Holloways can file suit in Aruba.
FILAN: And you can argue for and against each of those but what the court has to do is it has to balance out all of those factors and in the end if the rule of law is that the court gives great deference to the plaintiff‘s choice of forum, there is no forum more convenient. It isn‘t unduly burdensome on New York courts and it isn‘t unduly burdensome on the defendant who has been personally served in New York. There really isn‘t any reason to kick it. Where are they supposed to go? Alabama? Missouri? Aruba?
LAKE: To Aruba where the act allegedly happened.
FILAN: That‘s not their choice of forum...
LAKE: Go there. Why would it not be?
LAKE: They‘ve already shown that they can go back and forth to Aruba for every investigation, every search, every piece of evidence. She has gone back there a million times.
LAKE: So why can‘t she go for a suit that is rightfully filed there?
LAKE: There‘s no way the New York state court needs to entertain this lawsuit and what kind of precedent would that be setting if they start listening to lawsuits from everybody whose family member was harmed allegedly in another country?
LAKE: We‘re going to start every time somebody lands in New York, they can be served and we‘re going to try...
ABRAMS: Go ahead, Susan...
FILAN: That‘s not the rule of law though...
ABRAMS: Susan, go ahead.
FILAN: That‘s not the rule of law. That just isn‘t. I mean they can go back to Aruba but they don‘t want to and therefore they shouldn‘t have to. The courts have already ruled...
LAKE: It‘s not about want.
FILAN: It is.
LAKE: It‘s about jurisdiction under the law.
LAKE: It‘s not about want. You can want a lot of things. If there‘s no jurisdiction, Susan, the case should not be heard.
FILAN: Well that‘s—I mean any first year law student can tell you that.
LAKE: It‘s not about want.
LAKE: So why are you speaking about want? That‘s not even a legal term. Want is not a legal term.
LAKE: That‘s not even a first year law term either.
ABRAMS: Go ahead...
FILAN: Did you hear the court‘s ruling that they give great deference to the plaintiff‘s choice of forum?
LAKE: Exactly. But the bottom line is there must be jurisdiction.
FILAN: And there is...
LAKE: And there is not...
LAKE: At the same time, have you heard...
LAKE: ... have you heard of minimum contact?
FILAN: ... jurisdiction in this case.
LAKE: What about minimum contact?
ABRAMS: Here‘s what the lawsuit says. The lawsuit says that Joran assaulted Natalee, kept her against her will. Natalee was sexually assaulted, was fondled and was touched without her consent by Joran and his accomplices over and over again as she drifted in and out of consciousness. Natalee did not consent to these sexual acts nor in light of her intoxication at the hands of Joran and her periodic unconsciousness could she.
Do you think, Susan, if this case is dismissed, is—if they determine that New York is not the appropriate forum, that the case will be filed in Aruba?
FILAN: I think it will be filed somewhere else. I don‘t know that it will be filed in Aruba. This case isn‘t going to go away. Again, remember of course, as you know, Dan, it‘s a civil case, which means the burden of proof is a preponderance of evidence. Is it more likely than not? Can the scales be tipped in favor...
FILAN: ... and the plaintiff‘s lawyers have already come out and said this case is thoroughly investigated, they‘ve got their proof, they‘re able to prove their case...
ABRAMS: And the defense said—yes, I know. And look, both sides are claiming that they‘ve got their investigators and yes, they both got some of the best investigators...
FILAN: But the point is that the plaintiffs aren‘t backing down. They‘re not saying this is a frivolous lawsuit. We did it to grab headlines. We did it to prove a point.
ABRAMS: No, no, no, no, no, no...
FILAN: They‘re saying...
FILAN: ... we‘ve really got the meat and potato.
ABRAMS: No, and I understand that...
LAKE: It‘s not that, but it‘s still a factual mess, Dan.
LAKE: That‘s going to be tough to prove.
ABRAMS: We‘ll see. I think this case is going—and again, I think you made the point earlier that it doesn‘t mean that you‘re against the Holloway...
LAKE: Absolutely not.
ABRAMS: ... family. To say that as a legal matter this case still may get thrown out of a New York court. Susan Filan and Lauren Lake, thanks a lot. Appreciate it.
FILAN: Thank you.
LAKE: Thank you.
ABRAMS: Coming up, Britney Spears in that photo, I kind of sort of defended her. Many of you say what am I doing defending her? I‘m not a parent. Oh, please. Your e-mails are next.
Our continuing series, “Manhunt: Sex Offenders on the Loose”, our effort to find missing offenders before they strike. Today we‘re in Tennessee.
Authorities need your help finding Jason Pederson. He‘s 30, five-nine, 150, was convicted of lewd and lascivious act against a child, hasn‘t registered his address with the state. If you‘ve got any information on his whereabouts, please contact Tennessee‘s tip line, 800-824-3463. We‘ll be right back.
ABRAMS: Time now for “Your Rebuttal”. Yesterday in my “Closing Argument” I said I‘ve had it with the scurrilous attacks on Britney Spears‘ parenting that came out after a photo of her 8-month-old son Sean was distributed. His car seat was facing the wrong way.
Comes on the heels of another photo where she had her child in her lap as she tried to escape paparazzi. I said look she clearly made mistakes. I wonder whether those who were calling for her to lose her kids are always making the safest decisions about how their babies sleep and eat, et cetera. I called them maternal magistrates and parental purists.
Cassandra Holman, “Quit defending Britney‘s poor parenting. You don‘t have any kids and you have no idea what you‘re talking about. If you have Child Protective Services show up at your home, you‘re a lousy parent.”
Dorothea Conte, “I‘m 75 years old and the parent of four and I really don‘t know if I wouldn‘t still mess up and not measure up to their high ideals, even with my vast experience. Shut up and let the girl enjoy her kid and make the same mistakes we all have.”
Rebecca Coleman, “I feel it‘s irresponsible of you to suggest that we should cut Britney some slack on an important child safety issue, for the second time, because she‘s in the public eye.”
Larry Tunforss in Bullhead City, Arizona, “Eighty-six percent of all car seats are installed wrong. I must agree with you that Spears is no different than any other average parent.”
Sharon Young in Texas, “I‘ve seen many people including myself with a baby faced the wrong way in the car seat just like Britney had her baby positioned.”
Robert Moran, “As for all those out there making a stink over her driving with her child in a car seat facing the wrong way, when they all start driving the speed limit then maybe they can say something about her.” Good point.
And Geraldyne Marsh echoes one of the other concerns mentioned because it was a convertible car. “Please become aware of the severe damage to children exposed to sun at an early age.” How do you know the baby didn‘t have sunscreen on?
Your e-mails firstname.lastname@example.org. Make sure your name and where you‘re writing from. Be right back.
ABRAMS: That does it for us tonight. Coming up next, “HARDBALL” with Chris Matthews. See you tomorrow.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
Copy: Content and programming copyright 2006 MSNBC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Transcription Copyright 2006 Voxant, Inc. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material other than for research. User may not reproduce or redistribute the material except for user‘s personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon MSNBC and Voxant, Inc.‘s copyright or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.