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'The Abrams Report' for May 19

Read the transcript to the Friday show

Guests: Dan Moldea, Celeste Headlee, Bill Portanova, Aitan Goelman, Barbara Boyer, Yale Galanter, Georgia Goslee, Ed West

DAN ABRAMS, HOST:  Coming up, breaking news about an uprising at Guantanamo Bay, detainees attack guards who were trying to stop what they thought was a prisoner trying to kill himself. 

The program about justice starts now.  

Hi everyone.  First up on the docket, breaking news about that fight between the U.S. military guards and prisoners armed with fans, lighting fixtures, and sticks at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.  The guards apparently lured into a room after being told a Gitmo inmate was trying to kill himself, this after other inmates had also staged suicide attempts around the same time. 

NBC‘s Pentagon correspondent Jim Miklaszewski joins us now.  So, Mik, I understand that we‘re learning some new details.

JIM MIKLASZEWSKI, NBC PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT:  That‘s right, Dan.  We just got a briefing from some of the military officials down there at Guantanamo Bay, who described this as the worst kind of confrontation between the detainees at Guantanamo Bay and the prison guards there, since that facility opened shortly after January 2001. 

Now according to the officials, they were in the medium cell facility,

which is called essentially unit four, it has about 10 bunks in each

individual cellblock and one of the guards noticed that one of the

detainees had taken some bed sheets and appeared to be fashioning it as if

to hang himself.  Then when guards had entered, the other detainees had

spread a combination of soapy water, feces, and urine on the floor, so it

was very slippery, and when a 10-man quick reaction force entered the

facility, 10 of the detainees jumped from their bunks on to those soldiers

and for a while, according to senior military officials at Guantanamo Bay,

quote—“we were losing the fight”—unquote. 

At one point, as many as five non-lethal rounds were fired from a shotgun to put down that uprising, which lasted, the confrontation itself lasted about five minutes, but when that got under control, at least two other cell blocks in that unit four also erupted and they tore their individual cell blocks apart, causing about $110,000 worth of damage.  Those that were responsible for this have been transferred now to a maximum facility.

There were a number of minor injuries among the detainees themselves, and a few bruises and scrapes—cuts and scrapes they were described to us, among the guards themselves.  No serious injuries.  And according to Guantanamo officials, the situation tonight is under control. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  Mik, you say that they are being sent to a maximum security facility, I think many people perceive all of Guantanamo as a maximum security facility, so how are their conditions going to be different now than they were beforehand? 

MIKLASZEWSKI:  Well in a maximum-security facility, they are confined to individual, very small cells, and kept there for as long as 23, 24 hours a day.  They are fed through a slot in the door.  They have their own toilet facility in their individual cell, but they‘re essentially not allowed to associate with other prisoners, except through the cell doors themselves. 

In the facility, the medium facility they were in, it‘s almost like a large dormitory room, with 10 bunk beds, and they get quite a bit of freedom throughout the day, they‘re allowed to congregate as we see here in this picture together.  They are allowed to play soccer, and do whatever they like, recreationally for most of the day, and are then locked down only at night for the most part during the—during their sleep time, but in the maximum facility—maximum security facility, they are pretty much almost in solitaire confinement. 

ABRAMS:  And finally you said that they were lured there essentially by the belief that there was a suicide attempt.  This comes on the heels of other suicide attempts around the same time, right? 

MIKLASZEWSKI:  Well, there were a couple of suicide attempts the day before, people taking prescription medicine, overdosing on prescription medicine, and the condition of two of those is undetermined today.  But military officials think that the man who was fashioning the bed sheets as if to commit suicide had no intention at all of doing that.  But his only intent was to lure the guards into that cellblock so that they could be attacked. 

ABRAMS:  Jim Miklaszewski, one of the great reporters, thanks very much for coming on.  Appreciate it.

MIKLASZEWSKI:  Thank you, Dan.

ABRAMS:  Switching topics, we‘ve learned that what led the FBI to begin digging at a Michigan farm, looking for the body of one time Teamsters boss, Jimmy Hoffa.  The “Detroit Free Press” reporting a 75-year-old federal prison inmate apparently told the FBI that Hoffa was buried on the Hidden Dreams horse farm near Detroit, once owned by a Hoffa associate. 

The FBI describing it as the best lead they‘ve had on Hoffa‘s whereabouts in years.  But Rolland McMaster, who owned the farm back in the ‘70‘s says he welcomes the search and his lawyer says the farm was searched after Hoffa disappeared and nothing was found.  Hoffa vanished on July 30, 1975, after calling his wife to say he had been stood up by a mob captain and a mob associated union leader at this Michigan restaurant not far from the farm. 

The search Hoffa‘s remains began here Wednesday.  Hoffa, of course, notorious for ties with organized crime, served time for attempting to bribe a grand juror before his sentence was commuted by President Nixon. 

Joining me now on the phone, Celeste Headlee, correspondent with Detroit radio station WDET and Dan Moldea is a Hoffa biographer and author of “The Hoffa Wars”.  Thanks to both of you for coming on the program.  Appreciate it.

All right.  Dan, first let me get your reaction in general to this search and then more specifically to where the tip came from. 

DAN MOLDEA, JIMMY HOFFA BIOGRAPHER:  Well, the interesting thing

about this is the FBI is taking it so seriously.  We had a conference call

a bunch of us who‘ve investigated this thing in the past—yesterday. 

We were trying to remember a single time when the FBI has been out digging holes looking for Jimmy Hoffa and we couldn‘t think of one.

This is usually local law enforcement people doing these things.  The FBI is taking this seriously and I think the reason why they‘re taking this seriously is because (A), the informant who‘s led them to this, Don Wells, and (B), because it‘s at the former home of Rolland McMaster, who was a principal character during the investigation of Hoffa‘s disappearance back in 1975. 

ABRAMS:  And Celeste, what is it about this guy who has gave them the tip that has made them describe it as the best lead they‘ve had thus far? 


ABRAMS:  Hang on.  Let me let Celeste.  Go ahead, Celeste.

CELESTE HEADLEE, WDET RADIO REPORTER (via phone):  There are a couple

of things.  He took a polygraph test and supposedly passed it with flying

colors.  Also supposedly he knows details about Hoffa‘s disappearance on

that date in July of 1975 that were never public, that were known only to

law enforcement officials and of course like we‘ve said, the farm was owned

by Rolland McMaster and there was a rather famous falling out between

McMaster and Hoffa quite some time ago.  Hoffa even suspected that McMaster

was a government informer, but—and then of course, they sold that farm -

McMaster sold the farm 30 years ago, not long after Hoffa disappeared. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  So Dan, what do you make of all that? 

MOLDEA:  Well, I‘ve interviewed Rolland McMaster extensively 30 years ago and Don Wells as well.  Don Wells told me specifically that he lived on McMaster‘s farm back during that period of time.  He was in business with McMaster‘s brother-in-law, who happened to be the head of the Gateway Steel Division (ph), at McMaster‘s alibi for the day, Hoffa disappeared, was in Gary, Indiana, with his brother-in-law, the head of Gateway Steel Division (ph).  What‘s interesting about this is when Ralph Picardo gave the FBI the initial information about who killed Jimmy Hoffa, (INAUDIBLE)...

ABRAMS:  Whoa, whoa...


ABRAMS:  There are so many names here, Dan, I‘m losing track here a little bit. 


MOLDEA:  Let me just...


MOLDEA:  Ralph Picardo was the key informant who told the FBI the ultimate situation with regard to Hoffa.  The final thing he said was that Hoffa‘s body was stuffed into a 55-gallon drum, shipped via a Gateway transportation truck to an unknown destination.  Don Wells was in business with the head of the steel division from Gateway.  He also hired a guy named Jim Shaw (ph), who was also a driver for Gateway, whom the FBI suspected of being involved in the violence in local 299, which preceded Hoffa‘s murder.  This is a very legitimate investigation. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  So that was the question I wanted to get to, which is bottom line, you know, we had on a guest yesterday, who had written a book and was writing a book... 

MOLDEA:  This is “The Ice Man” book?

ABRAMS:  Yes, “The Ice Man” book.

MOLDEA:  Garbage. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  So, he was saying that he‘s confident that they‘re not going to find the body here, that his information is that there‘s no way that this is legitimate, you‘re telling us, hey...

MOLDEA:  It‘s a legitimate investigation. 


MOLDEA:  Rolland McMaster is a very smart guy.  Even at 92, he‘s a very wily guy and a very dangerous guy.  I can‘t believe that he would leave a trophy lying around that could put him in jail for the rest of his life.  I‘m going to be surprised if they find the body, but the FBI is taking this seriously so I‘m taking it seriously. 

ABRAMS:  And what about the guy who gave him the tip?  I mean do you view him as credible? 

MOLDEA:  Don Wells is credible. 


MOLDEA:  As the young lady pointed out, the guy‘s passed a polygraph test and he was there at the right time and at the right place, and again, when I interviewed him three, four times you know 30 years ago, I almost felt that he was telling me that he was—he knew things and when I met him face-to-face, he didn‘t want to talk on the phone.  When I met him face-to-face, he was spooked and he just simply refused to give it up. 

ABRAMS:  So you‘re saying...

MOLDEA:  I always suspected Don Wells and I was very excited when I heard it was Don Wells who was the informant. 

ABRAMS:  So you‘re saying you think it‘s possible that the body was there but was removed. 

MOLDEA:  Why would you do something like that?  I mean there are so many places in Detroit to dispose of a body.  Why not just burn it, chop it...


MOLDEA:  ... throw it in the water?  Why keep a trophy?  That‘s what I can‘t figure out. 

ABRAMS:  Oh, I see what you mean by the trophy.  OK.  Celeste, are we expecting more information to come out in the next few days or no? 

HEADLEE:  Well the FBI has said they are not going to give regular updates.  They said the investigation is going to take two weeks and we can expect not to hear any updates from them, until the investigation is complete.  I mean, there‘s media surrounding the site, so we‘ll probably get updates on what they‘re doing, but official updates from the FBI, we‘re not really expecting for another two weeks. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  Celeste and Dan, thanks a lot for coming on the program.

MOLDEA:  Thank you. 

HEADLEE:  Thank you.

ABRAMS:  Coming up, he was described as the murder suspect with yellow eyes.  A suspect in Philadelphia‘s first cop killing in over a decade, now his own family members reportedly helped turn him in. 

And two top lawyers at a prominent law firm known for suing big companies for big damages find themselves on the other side of the law, indicted for paying people off to help scam the system and score millions in legal fees.

Plus, prosecutors in the Duke rape case handed over 1,300 pages of documents to defense attorneys yesterday.  They‘re going through them.  But what if there is nothing new and incriminating in the documents? 

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


ABRAMS:  They sue for big bucks, often the symbol of the need for changes in our civil legal system.  Now the prominent law firm Milberg Weiss Bershad and Schulman, along with two partners has been indicted for allegedly paying people to be plaintiffs in their cases so the firm could make hundreds of millions in attorney‘s fees.  The government claims the firm and attorneys David Bershad and Steven Schulman paid more than $11 million in secret payments to three plaintiffs who sued more than 150 times.

The payments were moved through casinos and cash kept in secure locations in Bershad‘s office.  The charges include racketeering, conspiracy, mail fraud, money laundering, conspiracy, obstruction of justice. 

Joining me now is former federal prosecutor and now attorney Milberg Weiss Aitan Goelman, and former federal prosecutor Bill Portanova.  All right.  Before I get to Aitan about the defense here, Bill, boil it down to us in sort of plain English what they‘re alleging they did here.

BILL PORTANOVA, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR:  Well it‘s very simple.  Any time you get somebody else‘s money by lying, it‘s called fraud.  If you use the mail, they call it mail fraud.  If you use the phone, wire fraud.  It doesn‘t matter.  And I think what they‘re suggesting here in this indictment is that some of this money, which was paid out secretly to plaintiffs, was supposed to go to other people.  And therefore, since those other people didn‘t get it, these people did get it, that‘s the fraud, I believe the government claims happened here.

ABRAMS:  Aitan, this is a firm that is heralded by some and by others viewed as the problem in our legal system.  They‘re basically saying that these guys are pulling out these kind of quasi-fake plaintiffs in order to get these hefty legal fees.

AITAN GOELMAN, ATTORNEY FOR MILBERG WEISS:  Well, I mean, the legal fees in this case, each of them was awarded by a court, and in each of these cases, each of these class action cases, the court decided that the settlement was fair and reasonable... 

ABRAMS:  That doesn‘t—wait, that doesn‘t address the question of whether it turns out later that some of the plaintiffs were fakes.

GOELMAN:  Well, plaintiffs weren‘t fake, Dan, and the allegation is, and I have to quibble with Bill about what the indictment says, and you know, I don‘t fault Bill because I don‘t think it‘s a very clear indictment.  The indictment doesn‘t say Milberg Weiss stole money that belonged to someone else.  The indictment says that Milberg Weiss paid referral fees, which are legitimate and legal and that those referral fees ended up going to plaintiffs or part of those referral fees. 

ABRAMS:  No, what they‘re saying is that they basically got these plaintiffs to buy shares in a company that they knew the price was going to go down, and the reason that they get them to buy in the company is so that they can become part of a class action lawsuit, and then they get paid some money and the law firm gets paid enormous amounts of money when they sue.

GOELMAN:  Dan, the fraud here that‘s alleged is on a services fraud and when the government uses on a services fraud you know that they can‘t prove that any actual money was lost.  What they‘re saying is that these clients were deprived of their lawyers‘ honest services, but the clients got, according to the government‘s own allegations, a portion of the attorneys‘ fees.  Not a portion of the...

ABRAMS:  Right.

GOELMAN:  ... settlement that went to the class.  A portion of the attorneys‘ fees, so they‘re accusing Milberg of taking some of the money out of its own pocket and paying to plaintiffs.  That‘s what the allegations are.  There‘s no allegation that Milberg ever stole any money from the... 

ABRAMS:  No, forget about stealing.  Forget about stealing.  The allegation here is that effectively this is the problem with our legal system is that one of the ways that people scam the system is by lawyers who love suing big companies, finding not really—not real plaintiffs and getting them involved in these cases, then suing for big bucks, where the primary money goes to the lawyers.  That‘s effectively the sort of public policy claim behind this lawsuit, fair? 

GOELMAN:  Absolutely.  And actually, that‘s a very good point—that‘s what—there‘s this kind of misconception that the lawyers get a lot of money and the class gets pennies, the class gets nothing, but in this case Dan, and this is why the indictment doesn‘t make any sense at all, the lawyers got a percentage of the overall recovery, so if the class got $100 million, the court might award the lawyer 10 percent, OK, $10 million.  The lawyer has got to pay...

ABRAMS:  Right...


GOELMAN:  I mean the indictment alleges a conflict of interest, but there can‘t possibly be a conflict if both the lawyers and the class‘ interest is in maximizing the amount of the settlement. 

ABRAMS:  Except—unless of course, Bill, if the class isn‘t a real class.  I mean that‘s the problem.

PORTANOVA:  Well, on this one though, I have to agree with my colleague there, because there really is a plaintiff.  You don‘t have to be an innocent plaintiff wandering through the woods who happens to stumble into this to be a legitimate class action plaintiff.

ABRAMS:  No, but if you‘ve sued over 150 times, if you‘re one of a number of plaintiffs who keeps suing and suing and suing in all of these various lawsuits and lo and behold, the same law firm is getting involved every time, the allegation here is that they‘re effective—and Aitan, you‘re going to probably quibble with the words I‘m using—but they‘re effectively hiring these plaintiffs to go out there so that the law firm can make money. 

PORTANOVA:  Well, Dan, my concern here, as an old federal prosecutor, thinking about trying to try such a case, is I‘m sure I could beat the drum and get the jury upset about class actions and lawyers in general, but when the law is clear that you can generate class action lawsuits just like this, a federal prosecutor is going to have a very tough time getting a conviction, especially if it does turn out that all they did was fee split the attorneys‘ fees as opposed to taking it from the other plaintiffs.

ABRAMS:  But, again, I think both of you are making this more complicated than it needs to be.  Let me read to you from the crux of the indictment. 

To bring these lawsuits, Milberg Weiss needed persons who would agree to serve as named plaintiffs.  And whom the courts would likely approve to represent absent class members or shareholders.  The firm paid certain individuals a substantial portion of the attorneys‘ fees that the firm obtained in the actions, in which such an individual served or et cetera, was named as a plaintiff.

I mean that‘s the problem.  Again, the allegation here is the heart of our

the problem with our legal system is that they‘re basically saying that the law firm is making tons of money at the expense of these companies with essentially fake plaintiffs. 

GOELMAN:  No.  No, Dan, that is not the point of the indictment at all.  First of all, that‘s not the crux of the indictment.  That‘s the fluff.  That‘s the background.  What they‘re saying isn‘t that these are strike suits and there‘s no merit in these suits.  They‘re not fighting that one way or the other. 

What they‘re saying is that the money that was supposed to go to the class, that part of the money that went to the attorneys‘ fees ended up with the clients and that somehow that deprived the clients, the class of the honest services of their lawyers.  But if you ask anyone, Dan, and this—you‘re right, the reason Milberg Weiss is so controversial is that the people who litigate against them hate them, but love them or loathe them, everybody agrees that they are effective and what this indictment charge is essentially is that they, you know, might have sold their clients out too cheap.  They might not have demanded enough money from these companies, but anyone who litigated against Milberg Weiss...

ABRAMS:  No...


ABRAMS:  It‘s not saying they didn‘t demand enough money.  They‘re saying they didn‘t give their clients enough money from the fees that they received.

GOELMAN:  No, no, no, it‘s saying that the interests of the class might have been compromised because the lead plaintiff was interested in maximizing the attorneys‘ fees...

ABRAMS:  Right.

GOELMAN:  ... but the attorneys‘ fees are a portion...

ABRAMS:  But they were essentially fakes. 

GOELMAN:  But the attorneys‘ fees are a portion of the class recovery.  If the class gets 100 million, the attorney gets 10 percent...


GOELMAN:  If that class gets more, the attorneys get more.  It doesn‘t make any sense mathematically. 


ABRAMS:  That‘s again what I think you‘re doing is making this way more complicated than it is.  The bottom line is the allegation is they‘re essentially getting front men, facades, to pretend that they are the lead plaintiffs and the allegation is that—I mean you can‘t do that.  It‘s not legal to do that and if they did that, they‘re going to be guilty and if they didn‘t, then they still could be in trouble...


ABRAMS:  ... because any time a firm gets indicted, they get into trouble. 

All right.  I‘ve got to wrap.  Aitan, Bill Portanova, thanks a lot.

Now to breaking news from Philadelphia where police have just announced they are charging the so-called yellow eyed cop killer, the prime suspect in the murder of police officer Gary Skerski, 16-year veteran, married father of two, shot in the throat and killed May 8 after he and his partner responded to a call about a robbery. 

The suspect had been described as having yellow eyes, armed with a sawed-off shotgun, wearing a state property jacket, a Yankees hat, and ski mask.  He allegedly shot Skerski in the neck, then shot at Skerski‘s partner and fled in a gray SUV.  After authorities released surveillance tape, the suspect‘s own relatives went to the authorities to identify him.  Police spotted him coming out of an apartment building where he tried to flee yesterday afternoon. 


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Detectives alertly moved in on that vehicle when that male tried to ram that vehicle into his—the other vehicles on the scene.  He subsequently exits the vehicle, and as he‘s running away, the detectives can clearly see that this male is attempting to pull a gun out of his back pocket. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  We found on this male two semi-automatic weapons, one in coat, the right hand pocket, one in the left hand coat back pocket.  The man was shot twice, taken to Albert Einstein Hospital and right now he‘s in critical condition. 


ABRAMS:  Now police identified the man as Solomon Montgomery of North Philadelphia.  In 2001, he was charged in Philadelphia with a number of felonies. 

Joining me now by phone is “Philadelphia Inquirer” staff writer Barbara Boyer.  Thanks a lot for taking the time.  We appreciate it.

All right.  So Barbara, what exactly is he alleged to have done?  He was engaged in a robbery and then the police arrive at the scene? 

BARBARA BOYER, “PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER” (via phone):  Police arrived as a customer inside the bar called 911 and advised them that there was an individual in the bar in the process of a robbery.  Officer Skerski arrived with his partner, they established that there is a robbery going on.  As Officer Skerski goes around the rear, two men rear exit as his partner was at the front entrance.  The robber allegedly goes toward the back door, orders one of the bar employees to open that door and goes out, blasting a shotgun, which hits Officer Skerski in the neck. 

ABRAMS:  So how did they end up catching him? 

BOYER:  Well, by all indications, their intensive manhunt using forensic evidence, reward money, led to the capture.  My understanding is that the crime commission that put up $125,000 reward received a tip that was passed on to police, that identified him by name.  About the same time, several people believed to be relatives, went to the police, one of whom had a picture of him in clothing that was captured on a surveillance tape of the robbery in progress and said, this is who you‘re looking for. 

They then were able to determine the neighborhood where they thought he was staying, they found a gray Volvo SUV that they believed may have been used in the robbery.  As they were watching that vehicle, they had it under surveillance, they saw their suspect come out and get into that vehicle.  And that‘s when they had a confrontation that leads to the shooting. 

ABRAMS:  And that—at that point there was a shootout? 

BOYER:  At that point, police move in with their vehicles to block him in.  He collides with two of the police vehicles, gets out of his car, runs up a street into a back alley with police in pursuit, both in their vehicles and on foot.  He was hiding under a car, and the officers say that they saw him reaching his—the rear of his belt, toward his back pocket.  They believed he was reaching for a weapon when they fired three shots at him.  He was apprehended with two handguns. 

ABRAMS:  Barbara Boyer, thanks a lot for coming on the program.  Appreciate it.

BOYER:  A pleasure.

ABRAMS:  Coming up, attorneys in the Duke rape case faced off for the first time in court.  Now defense attorneys pouring through 1,300 pages of documents, courtesy of the prosecutors.  But what if, just what if we already know the evidence that the prosecutors have? 

We‘ve got more of “Dateline NBC‘s” crackdown on potential online sex predators.  We‘ll show you how someone showed up at the house with props.  Coming up.




MIKE NIFONG, DURHAM, NC DISTRICT ATTORNEY:  Your honor, today we provided 1,278 consecutively numbered pages of documentary evidence, two VHS tapes and one CD-ROM containing photographs.


ABRAMS:  (INAUDIBLE) defense attorneys in the Duke rape case are scouring almost 1,300 pages of documents turned over to them yesterday by D.A. Mike Nifong.  We‘ve heard people say over and over again he‘s got to have something else.  Well if he does, the defense should know what that something else is.  What happens if there isn‘t something else?  What happens if the documents show more problems with the case? 

Joining me now, criminal defense attorney Yale Galanter and former federal prosecutor Georgia Goslee.  Ed West joins us.  He is a North Carolina criminal defense attorney. 

All right.  Yale look, I know you‘ve been in somewhat regular contact with some members of the defense team.  Do you have any sense of what they found in those documents? 

YALE GALANTER, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY:  Yes, I can tell you Dan that the preliminary indication is that there is no smoking gun.  That silver bullet that we‘ve all been discussing, that we‘re hoping that Mike Nifong had something before indicting these three innocent boys, that does not appear to be there.  As a matter of fact, what appears to be there is more exculpatory information that seems to support the boys‘ defense? 

ABRAMS:  Like what? 

GALANTER:  The only caveat to that is that they are still going through the documents.  It will probably take the whole weekend for them to review the whole 1,300 pages.  Well to give you an example, the preliminary indications are that when the complaining witness went to the rape treatment and was examined by the rape treatment nurse, she never made any mention when asked, did the boys use condoms, she said no.  So if there was...

ABRAMS:  Really?

GALANTER:  Yes.  If there was unprotected sex, you would expect even if there wasn‘t any form of ejaculation by any of the boys, the transfer of the skin cells that would normally happen during that type of intercourse, but apparently she told the people that were treating her that these boys did not use condoms.

ABRAMS:  Georgia, if that‘s true, I think even you would concede that‘s not a good detail for the prosecutors?

GEORGIA GOSLEE, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR:  Well, it may not be.  Good evening Dan and Yale.  It may not be a good detail necessarily, but I think that remember, he‘s turning over exculpatory evidence, but remember, there is also incriminating evidence.  I think yesterday, observing the defense team in the court in North Carolina yesterday, they seemed to come in and my sense was they came into the court and basically said, OK, your honor, we‘re here, now we‘re ready to jump ahead of the line. 

I think the defense attorneys in this case are making a grave error, because listen, every case is going to rise and fall on its own facts, and the merits are the merits, but there are also a lot of psychological dynamics.  I think they‘re being rather presumptuous to think that they should jump ahead of the line and have this case tried when there are other criminal defendants waiting.


ABRAMS:  If that‘s the best...

GALANTER:  Georgia...

ABRAMS:  If that‘s the best...


ABRAMS:  ... the prosecutors can do is complain about how the defense team wants to get this case to trial as fast as possible.

GOSLEE:  No, I think they have more to complain about than that and I

think there is much more evidence.  Obviously, they have got to go through

those tremendous—the large number of documents and they‘re going to get

I think probably much of it may not be significant, may not be eventful. 

There are probably going to be some things in there that may be helpful like the narratives of the witnesses, witness statements and things like that, but I think in the long run, we‘re going to see and you know we keep saying it, it may not be a smoking gun, but I think there‘s some seriously incriminating evidence. 

ABRAMS:  Yale.

GALANTER:  Dan, at the end of the hearing yesterday, Mike Nifong told the judge that in that two—that 1,278 pages, the two tapes and the one CD-ROM that he had turned over, everything he had in his file, those were Mike Nifong‘s words.  There is nothing else.  There are no smoking guns.  There are no silver bullets.  Everything he had in his file has been turned over to the defense...

ABRAMS:  All right.  Ed West, let‘s be clear. 

GALANTER:  ... smoking gun was there, we‘d know it.

ABRAMS:  Let‘s be clear, Ed.  If the prosecutors have something, be it a witness who is going to testify about what happened at that party, or some piece of very incriminating evidence, the defense would have it in their possession now, correct?

ED WEST, NC CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY:  Absolutely.  In North Carolina, we have a comprehensive discovery now, the statute was amended a couple of years ago and you are entitled to everything that‘s in the law enforcement file, not just the D.A.‘s file, but the law enforcement files as well.  That‘s why Kirk Osborn was asking for rough notes yesterday, because he wants to see everything...


WEST:  ... and so there‘s no question about that.  The only exception to that might be where a prosecutor might go and say, there‘s something here, Judge, that we don‘t want to hand over and we need you to look at it because we don‘t want to hand it over and that may be because there may be the risk of embarrassment to someone or they may be worried about somebody‘s safety or something like that, but if they‘re just a witness who is saying yes, I saw this...

ABRAMS:  Right.

WEST: ... you know it‘s got to be there. 

ABRAMS:  If they said—if she did say that they did not use condoms, that‘s a problem.  It‘s also not entirely consistent with what the D.A. has suggested either. 

WEST:  No.  Absolutely.  And I think it again points to some of the problems here and if I could point out one of the points that was made, it‘s not just exculpatory evidence in the sense that we typically think of it that is being turned over.  I mean it should be everything, and one of the reasons for that is because prosecutors tend to look at it very literally and narrowly in terms of what is exculpatory, but things that may not appear that way to a prosecutor, certainly for a defense lawyer may feel completely different.

GOSLEE:  And you still may be a little premature in determining that there is nothing there because they just received the documents yesterday. 


ABRAMS:  Fair enough.

GALANTER:  But, Georgia, I—Georgia, Dan, I can tell you the first thing that these lawyers looked at was for that smoking gun.  There was nothing in that packet in terms of a witness statement or a piece of evidence...

ABRAMS:  What about the medical report, Yale?

GALANTER:  They did not...


ABRAMS:  What about the medical report?

GALANTER:  No, the medical—well, the medical information that was contained in the packet seems to be consistent with what the defense has been saying all along, Dan. 


GOSLEE:  Well you know, the only problem I have I think with that is...

ABRAMS:  Quickly, yes.

GOSLEE:  ... that well, the devil is in the details.  They‘ve got to...

ABRAMS:  All right.

GOSLEE:  ... review these documents...

ABRAMS:  All right.  We‘ll give them time...

GOSLEE:  ... and then they‘re subject to interpretation.

ABRAMS:  We‘ll give them time.  We‘ll give them time.  I promise we‘ll talk about this Monday.  I get the feeling we‘re going to know a lot more.  Yale Galanter, Georgia Goslee, Ed West, thanks a lot.


ABRAMS:  Coming up, more of “Dateline‘s” undercover sting of potential online predators.  Wait until you see who showed up, what turns out to be a date with “Dateline‘s” Chris Hansen.


ABRAMS:  Coming up, one guy showed up naked.  We‘ve got another look at more potential online predators who showed up to “Dateline‘s” (INAUDIBLE) in Florida.  Coming up next.


ABRAMS:  More now with “Dateline NBC‘s” undercover investigation targeting potential online predators.  The latest investigation in Fort Myers, Florida.  The online watchdog group Perverted Justice provided decoys who posed as minors online.  And after they were contacted, they invited the men to a house where “Dateline‘s” cameras were rolling. 

Once again here is Chris Hansen.


CHRIS HANSEN, “DATELINE NBC” (voice-over):  On the first day alone, 10 men show up at our undercover house in Fort Myers, Florida, where supposedly a young teen is home by herself and ready to have sex. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Here he comes.  Here he comes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Copy that.  Wave him up.  Get him in.

HANSEN:  This is Brian Goswitch (ph), screen name bayjones.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Hey, come on in, the door is open.

HANSEN:  He‘s here to meet a girl who said online she was 15.  He lied to her about his age, claiming to be 24.  He‘s really 32.  And based on what he had to say online, want to (BLANK) my brains out, it‘s not hard to guess why he‘s here. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I got some wine coolers.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Wine coolers are just fine.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You weren‘t kidding when you said a big house.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I know.  The house is beautiful.  I love my house.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes.  Are you the only child?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Yes.  Oh, did you bring protection?



HANSEN (on camera):  The only bad news about that is you‘re probably not going to need that type of protection tonight.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  See I knew this was going to be a setup. 

HANSEN:  You did?


HANSEN:  How did you know that?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Because the way she was talking online.

HANSEN:  Brian, what‘s your last name?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I don‘t have a last name.

HANSEN:  You don‘t have a last name?

(voice-over):  And that‘s about all he‘s willing to say. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I‘ll just leave...

HANSEN (on camera):  No, I‘m not finished asking questions yet. 



UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I‘m not wanted here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Seven-thirty is here...

HANSEN (voice-over):   But most men who show up at our house are willing to talk.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  He is on the steps.  Open the door.

HANSEN:  Like this man, 30-year-old Kenneth Forton.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Watch.  He‘s coming fast.  He‘s in the kitchen. 

Call out. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Hey, I‘m in here. 

HANSEN:  He‘s been chatting online with a decoy...


HANSEN:  ... posing as a 15-year-old.  He describes detailed plans for their sexual rendezvous.  He says he likes to start with oral sex, after that he asks her what position she‘d like to try first.  And he also asks if he can do more. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Can I tie you up?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  You got like ropes and stuff?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes, I work construction, so I have all kinds of stuff. 

But if you like rope, I‘ll bring rope.


HANSEN:  So did he actually bring rope? 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Hey, I‘m about to put on my bra and panties, come on in. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Keep going.  He‘s coming fast. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Rob, go ahead.  Chris Hansen.

HANSEN (on camera):  How are you doing?


HANSEN:  Why don‘t you have a seat (INAUDIBLE) in that chair please.

(voice-over):  He says he‘s here to met a girl but he can‘t remember her name and he‘s a little vague about her age.


HANSEN (on camera):  Rather young.  As in...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Fifteen or 16.

HANSEN:  Fifteen.  And how old are you?


HANSEN:  And it‘s OK for a 30-year-old man to come to a home where a 15-year-old girl is alone why? 


HANSEN (voice-over):   During their online chat, they talked about condoms.  He also said he‘d bring marijuana. 

(on camera):  Did you bring condoms with you?


HANSEN:  Not in your car? 


HANSEN:  Did you bring marijuana?


HANSEN:  Are you sure?


HANSEN (voice-over):   But is he telling the truth?  We‘ll find out later when police search his car. 


HANSEN:  But now, he does admit to bringing one thing. 

(on camera):  Did you bring rope with you tonight?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I have rope in my car...

HANSEN:  You have rope in your car? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes, for my job.

HANSEN:  You talk about using the rope in various sex acts with this 15-year-old girl.  What would have happened if a 15-year-old girl was here and I wasn‘t?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Same thing that‘s happening now, just talking.

HANSEN:  Do you see why that‘s very difficult for me to believe based on this chat? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes, I do.  That‘s the god‘s honest truth though.

HANSEN:  But why should I believe that? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Because I have a 6-year-old daughter that I‘m trying to see.

HANSEN:  You have a 6-year-old daughter.  How would you feel if a stranger...


HANSEN:  ... came into your home...


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I‘d hate it.  I‘d hate it.

HANSEN:  So why then is it OK for you to come into this home where you thought a girl was alone?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Bad judgment. 

HANSEN (voice-over):   There seems to be a lot of bad judgment in the air.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  He‘s making the turn.  He‘s nervous.  (INAUDIBLE)

Call out.  Call out. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Hey, come on in. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  He heard.  (INAUDIBLE) awesome, back away.  He‘s opening the door.  He‘s in the laundry room.


HANSEN (voice-over):   Here comes 22-year-old Elias Balin (ph), screen name daytona02, a small business owner.  He‘s been chatting online with a girl posing as a 14-year-old named Laney.  She asks him if he‘ll bring her vodka and let her drive his car.  He says whatever you want sweetie and when Laney tells him her bedroom is hot, he types are you hot, mommy.  Let‘s make love.  He drove two and a half hours to get here.  It‘s just before 1:00 in the morning.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Just sit down and watch TV for a little bit. 

I‘ll be right out.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Where are you? 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Oh, I‘m just changing my shirt real quick because I got chocolate on it.  Just take a seat.  I‘ll be right there.  I made you some cookies.  Did you bring me my drink?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Can you come out?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Yes, I‘ll be right there.  I just got to change. 

HANSEN (on camera):  Why don‘t you do me a favor and come on in.  Will you bring your stuff in?

(voice-over):  It looks as if daytona02 has come bearing gifts. 

(on camera):  What have we got here? 


HANSEN:  A rose.  What about condoms?  Did you bring condoms? 


HANSEN:  You did?  Why don‘t you put those on the table. 


HANSEN:  So you brought a rose, alcohol, and some condoms.  What does that add up to?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I don‘t know, sir. 

HANSEN (voice-over):   Then he reveals something we didn‘t know. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I knew if something would happen like this, I would get in trouble because I‘m married.

HANSEN (on camera):  You‘re married?


HANSEN:  That‘s not what you said in the chat. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  No, no, I didn‘t say that.  I didn‘t say that...


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  No, but I‘m married. 

HANSEN:  You are married? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes, sir.  But I really love her.  The thing is that (INAUDIBLE) we don‘t get along sometimes. 

HANSEN:  Now what do you think she would say if she knew that you were coming here to have sex with a 14-year-old girl?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  She would kill me he.  I don‘t want to think about it.  She would kill me.  Yes, sir.  I would get a divorce.  Her dad has 10 brothers.

HANSEN:  Ten brothers?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  They would kill me. 

HANSEN:  They‘ll all be looking for you. 

(voice-over):  Daytona02 says he knew he was taking a big risk and worried this might be a setup.

(on camera):  You say this might be a trap.  I‘ve seen that on TV.


HANSEN:  What did you see on TV exactly? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  That—well, in the news actually, because the people get like arrested because of chatting, like with underage girls.

HANSEN:  Right.  So you saw it on “Dateline NBC”. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes.  Yes, news, just the news. 


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  (INAUDIBLE) oh my God.  I didn‘t think it was going to happen.

HANSEN:  I‘m Chris Hansen with “Dateline NBC”. 


HANSEN:  If there‘s anything else you‘d like to tell us, we‘d like to hear it. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I just made a mistake.  And I won‘t do it again for sure. 

HANSEN (voice-over):   As soon as the men leave our house, police work quickly and sometimes aggressively, taking the suspects down to the ground.  That‘s because in Florida it‘s relatively easy to get a permit to carry a concealed weapon, so these officers aren‘t taking any chances.


HANSEN (on camera):  Anybody get hurt in the takedowns? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  No.  No, 24 people and no one was injured.  All the officers are safe. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Let me see your hand. 


HANSEN (voice-over):   As a man is being arrested, an unmarked police vehicle moves into position.  The suspect is put into a car and taken to a transfer station.  This is the married man, Lee Greer (ph), who hoped his wife would never know that he showed up for a date with a girl who told him she was 13.

(on camera):  How is this going to go over at home? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I really, really, really prefer it not to go home. 



UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You‘re on vacation?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  No, I‘m down here working.

HANSEN (voice-over):   His picture is taken. 


HANSEN:  And when the police search his rental car, they start collecting evidence.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You‘re supposed to bring condoms, booze and lunch. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  He‘s coming around back. 

HANSEN:  And remember that man Kenneth Forton, who online asked a girl claiming to be 15 if he could tie her up?  Look what the police find in his car.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  (INAUDIBLE) rope.  There‘s rope. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  (INAUDIBLE) duct tape and extension cord. 

HANSEN:  He did admit to me that he had rope in his car but he denied bringing anything else.

(on camera):  Did you bring condoms with you?


HANSEN:  No.  Not in your car? 


HANSEN:  Did you bring marijuana?


HANSEN:  Are you sure? 


HANSEN (voice-over):   It turns out, he wasn‘t telling me the truth. 


HANSEN:  The police find the marijuana...


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  A little bit of weed.

HANSEN:  ... and a box of condoms. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Get on the ground.  Get on the ground. 


HANSEN:  All of the 24 men who were arrested outside our house were charged with felonies, attempted lewd and lascivious behavior with a minor and attempting to solicit a child over the Internet. 


ABRAMS:  That was “Dateline‘s” Chris Hansen.  All of the men went before a judge who set bail.  Eleven are still in custody.  Many say that they‘re innocent, but will have to be arraigned before they can plead not guilty. 

Coming up, a lot of you reacting to the first televised court appearance in the Duke rape case.  Many of you not so happy with D.A. Mike Nifong.  Your e-mails are coming up.


ABRAMS:  Now it‘s time for “Your Rebuttal”.  Last night more of “Dateline NBC‘s” undercover investigation targeting potential online predators.

Amy Delmonte asks, “If they can lure this many in, how many more must there be?”

But from Summerfield, Florida, Bob Schmitz, “Just what‘s the point?  If there were teenyboppers willing to have sex with adults, then what?  Who were the teenagers?  Surely they didn‘t actually have a teenager doing this.”

No, Bob, they did not.  That‘s the point.  To prevent it from happening to a real teen.  Clearly, the intent is there and the law is all about intent.

Jackie responds to those who feel sorry for the men that were caught.  “To the people writing in saying that the individuals who are being caught on ‘Dateline‘ sexual predators show are sick and how dare we pick on them, are you serious?  The next time these people watch the news and see that a child has been found raped and dead on the side of the road or buried alive, remember, these are those sick poor men you are referring to.”

Karen Roy in Rocky Hill, Connecticut on the excuses these men give when they‘re found to have condoms the men often say they always carry condoms.  “I find it hard to believe that these characters who look like they‘re from a Star Wars bar scene always carry condoms around because they have that much opportunity to get lucky and that they want to be prepared.”

Yesterday, Reade Seligman, one of the three Duke lacrosse players accused of rape, made his first court appearance.  His attorney says he has an airtight alibi, wants to get the case to trial. 

Nicole Paraggio in Durham, North Carolina, “The men accused are suspended indefinitely from Duke until an outcome is reached.  Might it be possible that Reade Seligmann believing himself to have airtight evidence of his innocence might want to get to trial so he can exonerate himself and return to school?”

Pat Franks in Richmond, Virginia, “I was outraged at the D.A. Nifong‘s behavior in court today.  He has virtually tried to destroyed the reputation of three young men and he seems to think it‘s funny.”

Your e-mails abramsreport—one word --  We go through them at the end of the show.  We will be right back.


ABRAMS:  That does it for us tonight.  Coming up next, “HARDBALL” with Chris Matthews.  Have a great weekend.  See you next week. 



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