Guests: Scott Bradley, Mike Gentine, Chester Gala, Eric Gala, John Ange, George Parnham, Matthew Staver, Douglas Laycock, Maureen Seaberg, Martha Bellisle, Clint Van Zandt
LISA DANIELS, GUEST HOST: Coming up, Arkansas police on a manhunt for three inmates who escaped from jail overnight. One is on trial for murder, another for rape. Police need your help.
The program about justice starts right now.
Hi everyone. I‘m Lisa Daniels. And first up on the docket, a manhunt for three Arkansas inmates on the loose, including an accused murderer and a rapist. They escaped with three other inmates through holes they cut in the ceiling in the Van Buren County jail at about 3:00 this morning. Three of them were captured within five hours of their escape. The other three are believed to have stolen a newspaper carrier‘s car 10 minutes after their escape, a 1995 Pontiac Bonneville.
Well the escape went unnoticed for about four hours and they were finally discovered missing during a routine check at 7:00 a.m. It turns out that one of the inmates, the murder suspect, had escaped from the same jail back in February.
Well joining me now on the phone is Van Buren County Sheriff Scott Bradley. And Sheriff, what is the latest right now on the manhunt?
SHERIFF SCOTT BRADLEY, VAN BUREN COUNTY (via phone): Well, right now we‘re just following up on all the leads that we‘re getting in, and trying to figure out which—you know which direction they‘re going and where they‘re trying to get to.
DANIELS: So where are you up to right now?
BRADLEY: Well, I can tell you the main thing we need help with is they left here in a 1995 Bonneville car, green in color, and if anyone sees that car, we sure could use a little help trying to find it.
DANIELS: How did you catch the first three, Sheriff?
BRADLEY: These three guys weren‘t as fortunate. The three that we‘re still missing, these guys, they got very lucky in finding a car they could take. The other three weren‘t so lucky, it took them longer and gave us a little time to track them down using the Calico Rock bloodhounds and the Arkansas State Police helicopter.
DANIELS: Look, I don‘t have to tell you, but there are some people in your community that say this is embarrassing. Callahan escaped from jail back in February, now he‘s done it again. How do you explain it?
BRADLEY: Right. Well I mean obviously I‘m not too happy about it either. We thought we had made the adjustments in the jail that this wouldn‘t happen again, but obviously they found a way to get out. I mean these guys sit back here for a year, year and a half at a time and do nothing but try to figure out ways to get out of these jails.
DANIELS: How dangerous are these guys still on the loose?
BRADLEY: The one that I‘m concerned with is William Callahan. He—we‘ve been holding him, his charges are capital murder and felony escape and aggravated robbery. You know, he‘s the one that we‘re really concerned with being you know, being the most dangerous.
DANIELS: And he‘s the one that escaped before. Now I understand that you put metal in the roof after Callahan escaped the first time.
DANIELS: How did they do this? I can‘t visualize how they did it.
DANIELS: They made a human ladder out of themselves and then went through the roof...
DANIELS: ... into the attic?
BRADLEY: Right. We put—it‘s a two story (UNINTELLIGIBLE) two story. It‘s 20-foot tall, 20-foot tall—excuse me—ceiling, and they wrapped one of the blankets around one guy and he stood on the rail and leaned forward. They had to, to reach the ceiling.
BRADLEY: So I mean they did that. They threw water on it and pried on the ceiling until a hole was big enough they could tie—reach up there and tie a blanket around the board. And then they all helped each other out, you know, the ones that could get out.
DANIELS: Well, I understand that there was supposed to be a head count done about every hour, but no one noticed they were gone for three, so what happened?
BRADLEY: Well, it‘s kind of—it was kind of in a corner and it was hidden a little bit, and you know, that‘s something we‘re going to have to look into and I‘m going to have to deal with.
DANIELS: What‘s the other side of the story here? Are you dealing with few resources, is that the problem here, why this keeps on happening?
BRADLEY: Well, you know, I don‘t—I think the jail could have been constructed better obviously. I‘m not taking—I‘m not blaming anyone else, I take full responsibility, because I am the sheriff. You know we‘re doing everything we can. We‘re going to go ahead and put metal in the whole ceiling, the whole thing.
Obviously being 20-foot tall I guess when it was built, they didn‘t think anyone could reach it. That‘s you know proven not to be true, so we‘re putting metal in the entire ceiling and, you know, we‘re putting in cameras so that we can better watch the inmates while they‘re back there, and we‘re just going to do everything we can. You know like I said, I‘ve got—I‘m going to deal with my employees over what happened, and we‘re just going to do our best to keep it from happening again.
DANIELS: Yes, these are all questions that have to be raised later, because obviously you‘ve got a situation right now. We‘re looking at the three people. Best of luck hunting these guys down. Thanks, Sheriff, for being on the show.
BRADLEY: You‘re welcome.
DANIELS: And now we‘re going to go to a developing story out of Florida where a guard at the Federal Correctional Institution opened fire on FBI agents and Justice Department officials trying to arrest him and five others accused of swapping alcohol and drugs for sex with female prisoners over a two-year period.
Joining me now on the phone or actually in real life is Mike Gentine, capital bureau chief of Florida‘s Radio Network. Good to see you.
MIKE GENTINE, FLORIDA‘S RADIO NETWORK: Good to see you, Lisa. How are you doing?
DANIELS: Good. So what went wrong here?
GENTINE: What went wrong I think really the underestimation of the threat that these six guards pose. This is a three-year ring they‘ve had going of bringing in drugs and using their position to extort sex and/or money from these inmates at the Federal Correctional Institution, the women‘s prison here in Tallahassee. This—the Justice Department, the Bureau of Prisons got wind of it about a year ago they started the investigation and yesterday indictments came down through the U.S. Attorney‘s Office.
They went to serve these indictments. As far as we know though, they only brought two law enforcement officers, one of whom, as far as I‘m aware, is with the Bureau of Prisons and probably wasn‘t even carrying a sidearm, so you‘ve got these two law enforcement officers going into a situation to arrest six individuals, at least some of whom were probably armed, being prison guards, and I guess one of them decided he really didn‘t feel like going to prison. I can‘t imagine that would be a great future for a prison guard, so he opened fire, resisted the arrest, and two dead and one in the hospital because of it.
DANIELS: Well what about that question? If you‘re going to arrest six guys, why do you send two? Are we hearing what the answer might be? What is their reason?
GENTINE: We‘re not hearing much of anything to this point. The FBI made about a two and a half-minute statement I do believe it was, so details of any sort on this are sketchy and speculation about that. I mean you know you‘ve got sex, drugs and power going on here. Those are obviously the immediate interest in the story, but that question you raise of why do you send two people to arrest six all at once, especially in an environment where they may have weapons. I can only speculate, obviously not being in the law enforcement community, but I would guess there‘s kind of an assumption that people in law enforcement or corrections are going to be a lit bit remiss or a little bit reluctant to violently resist arrest against one of their own, and maybe that was the presumption.
Obviously the assumption was that there wasn‘t going to be a significant threat of violent resistance in this otherwise they would have sent more officers. Why they made that assumption is left for speculation.
DANIELS: Yes, because it really isn‘t a surprise or you would question whether one of them would be armed given the nature of their work. These are questions that I would have thought would be asked.
GENTINE: Exactly. Honestly, if I were in a law enforcement management role, if I‘m trying to arrest six people all at once, I‘m probably going to send at least six, just for safety sake, regardless of the circumstances, and like you mentioned, it‘s a prison. The guards obviously have weapons of some kind on them just to keep some order in the prison and certainly they have access to firearms, obviously one did in this case, and again, just—he just resisted the arrest and we have consequences from that.
DANIELS: Really quickly, what happened to the women? I‘m just curious.
Are they cooperating? Are they going to be in trouble?
GENTINE: I haven‘t really gotten much word on the women. The focus thus far has been on the six guards that were allegedly doing some things we‘d rather they didn‘t. I would assume...
DANIELS: That‘s putting it mildly, right?
GENTINE: I‘m trying to be non-judgmental here as much as possible. But no, we—I would assume the women involved here must have been cooperating at some level, because that would obviously be the most accessible path through which the FBI and the Department of Justice could get information on this to begin with.
GENTINE: So I‘m guessing some of them are probably going to be absolved of some of their role in this and really I think with all this focus now being on the law enforcement side of it, their charges might be less than they otherwise would be. Obviously some of them are going to have extended stays at the FCI.
DANIELS: Yes. We‘re going to have to see on this one. A lot of questions though are still outstanding.
GENTINE: A lot of puzzling questions.
DANIELS: Yes, a lot of assumptions being made maybe. Mike Gentine, thanks so much for coming on.
GENTINE: You got it. Thank you.
DANIELS: Coming up, a school bus ride turns ugly for a seventh grader, but this one is all caught on tape. Now the bullies are being charged. We‘re going to talk to the boy and to the prosecutor. That‘s next.
And the Texas mom who admits drowning her five children in a bathtub goes back on trial tomorrow. Her attorneys say she was insane at the time. That‘s not what a jury thought in her first trial. We‘re going to hear from Andrea Yates‘ attorney.
Plus, a high school pulls the plug on a valedictorian during her graduation speech. What‘s the problem? Apparently she mentioned God one too many times.
And your e-mails, send them to firstname.lastname@example.org. Remember to include your name and where you‘re writing from. I‘ll respond at the end of the show.
DANIELS: All right, take a look at this video. It started out as a normal bus ride home from school, but it took a very violent turn as two bullies beat up 10-year-old Chester Gala. The bus surveillance camera caught it all on tape and now Chester‘s parents are speaking out about what they‘re saying was an insufficient response to the abuse of their son.
Joining me now, Chester Gala and his father Eric and John Ange, chief of the Juvenile Division in the Macomb County, Michigan prosecutor‘s office. Thanks so much everyone for being here.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, Lisa.
DANIELS: And I‘m especially happy to see Chester, because you are such a brave boy. Do you feel brave?
CHESTER GALA, ATTACKED ON SCHOOL BUS: No.
DANIELS: No? People are going to watch that video and think that boy was such a hero, you defended yourself and you acted so calm. What was going through your mind?
C. GALA: Well, that he was a big bully and that I wasn‘t going to listen to him when he was telling me to do stuff.
DANIELS: And you looked straight at him. What surprises me, Chester, is that all these kids sitting in back of you, they‘re not doing anything. Did any of them speak up?
C. GALA: Yes, when they got off the bus.
DANIELS: And what did they say to you?
C. GALA: Are you all right and stuff.
DANIELS: But no one came to your defense, you were all by yourself (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?
C. GALA: Yes.
DANIELS: Was this the first time that they picked on you?
C. GALA: Yes.
DANIELS: It was the first time. They never did anything before. They didn‘t insult you or call you names?
C. GALA: No.
DANIELS: No, so you weren‘t even prepared for this. You were just having a normal ride home and then all of a sudden it started.
C. GALA: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)
DANIELS: Yes. Were you really badly hurt? It sounds like you had a bloody nose and a couple of...
C. GALA: Yes. Bruise—and a couple of bruises and a bloody nose (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
DANIELS: Well, do you know other little kids are going to look up to you and think I want to be like this guy. Are you prepared for that, to be a role model?
C. GALA: I don‘t know.
DANIELS: Have the boys apologized to you at all? Did anyone say, hey, I‘m sorry?
C. GALA: No, they don‘t care at all.
DANIELS: They don‘t care at all. But you went right back on the bus, right?
C. GALA: Yes.
DANIELS: You went right back on the bus. Your dad said I want you to go back to school on that bus. I‘d be scared if my dad said that to me. I‘d say no way, but you went. Why?
DANIELS: Did he hear me? Your dad...
C. GALA: Yes.
DANIELS: Yes. You‘re thinking of your answer, right? Did you say to your dad, no way am I going on that bus?
C. GALA: No, I didn‘t really care about going back on the bus. They were going to be on there, so and that if they were, they would have probably stayed away from me.
DANIELS: Yes. Eric, let me ask you, I know you have some issues with how the bus driver handled it. I mean you could hear from the tape that she‘s saying something, she‘s saying what‘s happening, but she didn‘t stop the school bus. Do you think she should have pulled over and gotten a handle on the situation?
ERIC GALA, SON WAS ATTACKED ON SCHOOL BUS: I think she should have pulled over when she saw Chetty being taunted, where the other bully was pushing Chetty‘s face. As soon as she saw that, she should have pulled the bus over and separated them. Then this fight would never have happened.
DANIELS: Got to tell you, I mean I don‘t know your family obviously. It is so hard to see that video. I can‘t imagine if you are watching your son being beaten up like this, what‘s going through your mind. What happened when you heard what happened and saw the tape?
E. GALA: Well, when I heard what happened, it was pretty much downplayed. I asked my son if he wanted to go to the hospital or the doctor, he said no, and then I called the principal to tell him what happened and I immediately went home and brought my son to the police department, and I wasn‘t able to view the tape for quite a while after that, but when I saw the tape, it was just totally outrageous what I saw. I could not believe, especially that the bus would leave the school with children in the aisle ways and jumping from seat to seat. That just promoted un-discipline and they realized that the bus driver didn‘t care about discipline and it just perpetuated from that.
DANIELS: Yes. I mean you‘ve got to be proud of him. He handled himself in such a calm way. He‘s looking straight in the eyes of the people who are beating him up, and of course because he skipped two grades, he‘s much smaller than these kids.
E. GALA: Right.
DANIELS: What did you say to your son?
E. GALA: Well, I‘m proud of the way he handled himself. And again, my—this is my wife‘s—always told me she didn‘t want him taking the bus because something like this might happen and then it materialized, and it was just a nightmare.
DANIELS: Yes, I know you felt guilty about that. John, let me ask you, what‘s the likelihood that these kids are going to pay any time in jail? What is the consequence?
JOHN ANGE, MACOMB COUNTY, MI PROSECUTOR: Well, Lisa, there‘s a wide range—assuming that these young men are convicted, there‘s a wide range of things that are available to the family court. Jail is really not an option. In the juvenile world, it could be a juvenile facility, it could be a local detention center here in Macomb County. It could be probation with many, many terms, including therapy, anger management, and a number of other things, restitution and the like. So once that is resolved, once the juveniles are adjudicated, the court has a pretty wide spectrum of things that they can do.
DANIELS: And what‘s the bottom line here? Is this case going to trial? We know oftentimes it doesn‘t.
ANGE: It‘s really too soon. We have a pretrial date set sometime in July. I do want to say that Eric Smith, the prosecutor in Macomb County, whether it‘s student on student, student on staff, bomb threat, anything in the school, he is personally involved and takes very seriously and we‘ll know a little more clearly after the pretrial. At this time it‘s just too early to speculate whether we‘re going to have a trial on this or not.
DANIELS: I want to go back to Chester. You‘ve seen the video. You‘ve seen it before. I don‘t know if you can see it in front of you, but what do you think when you watch it? Do you think yes, I did well there, I stood my ground?
C. GALA: Well, I get madder every time I see it.
DANIELS: Yes, you do get mad, right? Are you going to take karate?
C. GALA: No.
C. GALA: All you do in karate is make some moves with your arms.
DANIELS: No. Well you‘re already doing the moves with your arms, right? You‘ve got it down pat.
C. GALA: Yep.
DANIELS: Listen, I think that you are tremendously gifted in handling yourself, and I wish you the very best and I‘m glad your dad brought this to the attention of a lot of people, because parents have to know what‘s going on, on the bus. Chester, Eric and John, thanks so much for coming on. Appreciate it.
ANGE: Thank you, Lisa.
DANIELS: Good luck, Chester.
C. GALA: OK.
DANIELS: It‘s been five years since Andrea Yates drowned her five young children one by one in a bathtub and tomorrow jury selection is set to begin in her retrial. Originally convicted back in 2002, an appeals court overturned the verdict because of erroneous testimony from a key prosecution witness, the only psychiatrist who said that Yates was sane when she drowned her children.
Her lawyers again plan to present an insanity defense this time around and one of them joins me now, George Parnham. And George, thanks so much for taking the time out. I know you‘re really busy because of the retrial tomorrow, really appreciate it.
GEORGE PARNHAM, ANDREA YATES‘ ATTORNEY: You‘re welcome, Lisa. Thank you.
DANIELS: So let‘s talk about Andrea Yates. She‘s back in jail after spending some time in a psychiatric hospital. How is she doing right now?
PARNHAM: Well, I saw her yesterday. We took her down and readmitted her to the Harris County jail. She was obviously nervous, scared, apprehensive.
DANIELS: Let‘s talk a little bit about the trial. Park Dietz, he‘s really the reason that there‘s a retrial here and you know he‘s also the one expert witness to say that Yates was sane when she drowned her kids. He‘s really been a powerful witness, George, for the prosecution. I‘m curious how you plan to deal with him.
PARNHAM: Well, you know, to Dr. Dietz‘s credit, I have sensed over the years since the verdict was returned in this case, a degree of perhaps uncomfortableness with the verdict that was rendered. I think that Dr. Dietz may well assess Andrea‘s actions in a new light. We have four years of additional mental health evidence that we will present.
There‘s no question but that he has stated publicly that he doesn‘t think that a woman that is this severely mentally ill needs to be placed in a penitentiary system. He thinks that a person of Andrea Yates‘ mental illness level needs to be treated and hospitalized for as long as is necessary, and in Andrea‘s case, it‘s probably for the rest of her natural life.
DANIELS: Just to get everyone up to speed, Dr. Dietz testified in the Deanna Laney trial. In that case Laney killed her three children saying she was directed by God and said that she would go to heaven. That‘s what she thought. She was acquitted.
Now Yates said she was directed by Satan and thought she would go to hell because she said apparently that she knew what she was doing. Now I‘m assuming that you‘re going to bring in Laney‘s trial to discredit Dr. Dietz, am I correct in that?
PARNHAM: I don‘t know if it‘s going to be something that will end up discrediting Dr. Dietz. I think Dr. Dietz‘ testimony in Laney‘s case was superb for demonstrating the reality of a person who was suffering from a delusion of psychotic proportions. Delusions are not something according to Dr. Dietz that can be willed away. They aren‘t something that can be understood by a non-delusional prying mind, and I think that that information will be information that will be made available to this jury.
DANIELS: Oh, I did read that you plan on introducing evidence of Yates‘ mental illness, since her 2002 conviction. Are you doing that and why is that relevant?
PARNHAM: Well, that‘s a good point, and I guess that question is comparable to the question that we ask as to why is it relevant to Andrea‘s mental state in 2002, or at least 2001 when she drowned the kids to have her examined by a new psychiatrist five years later. That‘s exactly what the state requested and exactly what occurred.
Three weeks to a month ago Andrea Yates was videotaped by a forensic expert hired by the state for 11 hours about her mindset back on the day she drowned her kids. Now, if that‘s relevant to her mindset, then certainly the severity of her mental illness seems to me as documented by the years that she has suffered from that mental illness is also relevant as to her mindset on the day she drowned her kids.
DANIELS: It‘s no secret that you have really been personally involved in this case. I don‘t think that‘s stretching it. You‘ve said that yourself. Is she different from when you met her back in 2001? Has she changed?
PARNHAM: Night and day.
PARNHAM: She is—she is able to talk with me intelligently, presuming of course that I can intelligently carry on a conversation with her. She hurts visibly every moment. She is distraught about her children. She recognizes that mental illness put her children in the position of being victimized by this horrific disease, and she has displayed, you know, the naturalness of a mother‘s love for a child who has departed.
DANIELS: Will her ex-husband Rusty be there for this trial?
PARNHAM: Yes, I think Rusty is going to come in.
DANIELS: For support?
PARNHAM: Well, we‘ll see. I‘m sure that is his intent...
DANIELS: All right.
PARNHAM: ... and I‘m sure that will happen.
DANIELS: George Parnham, thank you again for being here.
DANIELS: I know how it is right before a trial.
PARNHAM: Thanks, Lisa.
DANIELS: It‘s very busy and really appreciate it.
PARNHAM: Appreciate the time. You bet.
DANIELS: And coming up, a high school valedictorian brings up God in her graduation speech and her school is not amused. They cut her mic because they say she crossed the line.
And new details about the man police say killed his wife and then shot the judge deciding on their divorce. It turns out his apartment was full of explosives.
And our continuing series, “Manhunt: Sex Offenders on the Loose”, our effort to find missing sex offenders before they strike again. Our search today, West Virginia. Police are looking for Clayton Lewis Queen.
He‘s 42 years old, five-foot-eight, weighs 155 pounds. He was convicted of gross sexual imposition and hasn‘t registered his address with the state. If you‘ve got some info on his whereabouts, please call the West Virginia State Police at 304-746-2133. We‘ll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRITTANY MCCOMB, CENSORED VALEDICTORIAN: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) were wrong and they denied me my free speech.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DANIELS: But high school valedictorian Brittany McComb wouldn‘t be denied when it came to talking about her religion, so Brittany defied the school board only to be silenced. And now her dad says they‘re going to sue.
NBC News Campbell Brown has more.
CAMPBELL BROWN, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Graduation, for the students of Foothill High, a public school in Henderson, Nevada, 18-year-old Brittany McComb was halfway through her speech last Friday describing how she filled the voids in her life with God.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)
BROWN: Then school officials cut her mic. And many in attendance started to boo.
BROWN: Brittany had been warned she would be cut off if she stuck to the text she submitted for approval in May. A school official had crossed out several of her references to God, the Bible, and the crucifixion, and handwrote the reasons why, identifies a particular religion and proselytizing.
BILL HOFFMAN, CLARK COUNTY, NV SCHOOL DISTRICT ATTORNEY: We reviewed the speech with the student and explained that there were certain portions of the speech that had crossed the line and she agreed to give the speech as edited.
BROWN: And a week before the speech, the school district sent a letter to Brittany‘s attorney, citing a 2003 case that bans preaching in commencement speeches.
HOFFMAN: We want to be able to protect the rights of all of our diverse population. We don‘t have a student imposing their personal religious beliefs on.
DANIELS: And that was NBC‘s Campbell Brown reporting. Matthew Staver is president and general counsel of Liberty Counsel. Douglas Laycock is a professor of constitutional law at the University of Texas. Thanks both for being here. Appreciate it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Happy to do it.
DANIELS: ... let me start with you, Matthew. It‘s a school-sponsored forum, there are two 9th circuit court of appeals decisions supporting the school. Where‘s the gray area here?
MATTHEW STAVER, LIBERTY COUNSEL PRESIDENT: I think the gray area is not really gray at all. In fact, what we have is a distinction between school speech, which the school does, versus the student initiated speech which is what we have here and in this particular case, Brittany was there on that platform not because the school voluntarily put her there, she wasn‘t put there because the students voted her on the platform. She was there because she was the number one student in the class.
As a result of that academic achievement, she has the right to be able to thank her friends, thank her family, thank the school, thank her classmates and also to thank God for what he has done in her life, and I think that‘s the crucial distinction. This is her speech and as Brittany said, everyone knows that her expression would not be the expression of the school. It‘s the expression of Brittany, and so when they cut off her microphone, they violated her constitutional rights for free expression. I think they sent a bad message and I think it‘s unconstitutional.
DANIELS: Douglas, what about that argument? That this is a woman saying, hey, this is what worked for me. I‘m the number one person in the class. Let me tell you why I‘m so successful. What‘s the problem?
PROF. DOUGLAS LAYCOCK, UNIVERSITY OF TX CONSTITUTIONAL LAW EXPERT:
Well, I think Matt is exactly right. The question here is whether this is a free speech opportunity for the student or a school program in which the school constrains what she can say, and we don‘t really know what the school‘s policy is. If they—if the only thing they censor is religion, then I would be on Matt‘s side.
If the letter talks about anything else she wants, she can talk about religion too, but my guess is that‘s not their policy. They had her submit the text in advance for editing and potential censorship and my guess is if she wanted to give a speech urging the audience to impeach the president or to pass a third term amendment so we could keep the president longer, they would have censored that too. That their view probably is graduation is an inclusive event for the whole community and they don‘t want anything that‘s controversial or divisive. And if that‘s their policy, they can apply that to religion as well as politics.
DANIELS: Let‘s talk about specifics. Matthew, let me read to you what she would have liked to have said. This is what she wanted to say.
Quote—“I can guarantee 100 percent no doubt in my mind that if you choose to fill yourself with God‘s life, rather than the things society tells us will satisfy you, you will find success, you will find your self-worth.” This is not just thanking Charla my friend or Katie. This is not thanking my favorite teacher. This is—what is this? Is it conversion?
STAVER: I think it‘s her individual expression that she could say, for example, I want to guarantee you 100 percent that if you stay off of drugs, you‘re not going to have the consequences from those drugs. I know. I have a personal experience with that situation myself, and that would be fine. In this particular case, however, because it mentions God, the school apparently thinks that they can censor or must censor that particular viewpoint.
And I don‘t believe that they can censor and single out that viewpoint solely because it‘s religious. If she can talk about the subject matter or the topic in general, which apparently she was able to in the other parts of her speech, but get censored only when she mentions God, that‘s when it crosses the line, especial when it‘s her own student initiated speech as I believe it was in this case.
DANIELS: But to play devil‘s advocate, and I ask you both this because they‘re actually more aligned than one might think. There is a difference between talking about drugs, thanking your friends, thanking your teachers and God. You know who says it? The court does, the Supreme Court. God is in a special category all to himself, so do you see the difference?
LAYCOCK: Well, God is in a special category when it‘s the government speaking, and if the school picks her for some—because they want a prayer or picks her by student election, it‘s plainly the government speaking. Matt is right that this is the hardest case. She‘s picked on a neutral criterion, which is her grades and if the school said we‘re going to give a free speech opportunity to the valedictorian and she can talk about anything she wants, then the only remaining argument is we‘ve got a captive audience and is that a problem, but...
DANIELS: Well that‘s a big one. Hey...
LAYCOCK: Am I skipping over what the school said?
DANIELS: That‘s a big one though.
LAYCOCK: The school...
DANIELS: Let me just say...
LAYCOCK: It is a big one...
DANIELS: ... I‘m hostage. I‘m in the audience. I‘m a classmate. I‘m hostage to what this woman is saying.
DANIELS: My kid is graduating. I‘ve got to listen to this woman talk about God.
LAYCOCK: I understand, but before we get there, the school‘s policy is the valedictorian gets a chance to speak, but she has to submit her text for prior censorship. That doesn‘t sound like a free speech opportunity. And my guess is that because the school feels—is organizing the program, feels responsible for the program and is aware of that captive audience, it doesn‘t want anything that‘s going to be seriously divisive in the community, and if they would censor controversial political stuff too and I bet they would, then we don‘t have a case of the school singling out religion in the way that Matt describes.
DANIELS: All right. Well, we don‘t have the school on, so obviously we don‘t want to put words in their mouth. But Matthew Staver and Professor Douglas Laycock, I think we outlined the debate here. It‘s a good one and it‘s a hard case, so I appreciate you both talking about it and coming on the show.
STAVER: Thank you. My pleasure.
DANIELS: All right.
LAYCOCK: You‘re quite welcome.
DANIELS: Coming up, the New York man charged with promoting his wife‘s suicide pleads not guilty and now we‘re hearing the details of his wife‘s final moments before driving off a cliff with her kids in the back seat.
And while family and friends mourn the death of Charla Mack in Reno, authorities are still on the hunt for her estranged husband who they say killed her. He‘s considered armed and dangerous. And you‘re not going to believe some of the stuff that they found in his house. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) scary, we‘re going to tell you about it next.
DANIELS: Coming up, what might have led a New York woman to drive off a cliff with her two young children in the backseat. We‘ve got the statement from her husband who watched the whole thing happen. Coming up.
DANIELS: We‘re learning more about the final moments that led up to a horrible suicide in New York. Victor Han is charged with endangering his children and promoting his wife‘s suicide. The family was visiting a state park and Han says he stepped out of the car to take a picture of the view when his wife, Hejin, locked the doors, put the car in drive and drove off the cliff with the couple‘s two young children in the back seat. Well the children survived, but Hejin did not. Victor Han has pled not guilty to the charges and now we have our hands on the deposition that he gave to police detailing his wife‘s final moments.
Joining me now to talk about it, “New York Daily News” reporter Maureen Seaberg. Good to see you, Maureen.
MAUREEN SEABERG, “NEW YORK DAILY NEWS” REPORTER: Hi, Lisa. Thanks for having me.
DANIELS: Oh, my pleasure. You know I thought one of the saddest lines of the deposition was what his wife said to Victor right before she drove off the cliff and that according to him is don‘t I always take care of you?
DANIELS: And I know you‘ve been in the community, Maureen. I know you‘ve been to the church and you talked about—talked to people that they knew. Do we know what she meant by that?
SEABERG: Well, I believe it refers to the mistress who was on the scene, Tiana Yin. This is no Amber Frey, if indeed Victor Han is our Scott Peterson. She‘s a woman who was in court just Monday on charges that she slapped a police officer during a parking dispute. I think that Hejin had her hands full.
DANIELS: But there‘s a difference. I‘m thinking about what you said. There‘s a difference between the mistress situation and, the way I read it, is didn‘t I do a lot for you. Haven‘t I done a lot and the reason I ask you is because we also know that he in his deposition revealed that he thought of committing suicide up on Bear Mountain...
DANIELS: ... because he brought them Chinese food for her birthday.
DANIELS: What type of sick relationship is this that we‘re thinking of committing suicide because we‘re giving Chinese food on a birthday?
SEABERG: I know. I know. And you know it‘s so interesting because the Korean American community on Staten Island is not one without resources. A past president of the Korean American Association there is a psychiatrist. These folks needed help a long time ago and should have reached out.
DANIELS: Let‘s talk about the phone call that you mentioned. Here‘s what the deposition reads, if we put up.
We finished lunch at about 1:30. At about this time Hejin got a phone call. I asked her who it was and she said it was nobody. I asked her further about the phone call and she said it was her mother. She said her mother told her to take good care of me.
Do we know who was on the phone? Do we think that it really was the mistress that you alluded to before?
SEABERG: I am not sure, but I know police officers and investigators will be looking at the phone records shortly and I hope to be able to tell you who was on the phone when she made the fatal decision.
DANIELS: So what are people from the community telling you? Did they know that this family was obviously deeply troubled? They had some issues.
SEABERG: Yes, they sure did. They have a very strong community at the Korean American Presbyterian Church in Flushing. Hejin apparently confided not only to her sister but to several members of the church that she was profoundly depressed. She said I have sad emotions. I have very up and down emotions. And people there urged her to pray for her family, but what doesn‘t figure with me is where was the suicide taboo, if these folks are indeed as religious as they appear to be.
DANIELS: That‘s a really good question and it‘s also such a shame that—and it‘s not blaming them, but that the community didn‘t do something to help them. Obviously there were so many issues here. It‘s such a sad story. Maureen Seaberg, thanks so much for coming on and giving us what you know.
SEABERG: Thank you, Lisa.
DANIELS: Coming up, police find explosives in the home of the man they say stabbed his wife to death and then shot the judge working on their divorce and a court gives custody of their daughter to his parents. We‘re going to get you details next.
And your e-mails, keep bringing them in. The Duke lacrosse rape case is a big one. One of you saying it has nothing to do with race but with money.
DANIELS: The scene in Reno, Nevada outside a private memorial ceremony for murder victim Charla Mack, about 500 friends and family gathering for her funeral, while a global manhunt continues for her estranged husband, Darren Mack, who is a wealthy pawnshop owner wanted for her murder and for shooting the judge presiding over their divorce. Authorities consider him armed and dangerous and what police found in his home reveals just how dangerous he might be. Bomb-making materials in the master bedroom, a receipt from the purchase of a Bushmaster 223 caliber rifle, an empty rifle case, several boxes of ammunition.
They also found a lot of e-mails and documents referencing family court Judge Chuck Weller. Also some handwritten notes alleging corruption by him. Further complicating all of this, the sad story on Friday a judge awarded temporary custody of their 8-year-old daughter Erika to her grandmother, Joan Mack, Darren Mack‘s mother, who lives in Reno with open visits for Charla Mack‘s family.
Well joining me now to talk about it is Martha Bellisle, legal affairs reporter for the “Reno Gazette-Journal” and former FBI profiler and old friend, MSNBC analyst Clint Van Zandt. Well not old, but you know what I mean.
CLINT VAN ZANDT, FORMER FBI PROFILER: Yes, thanks, Lisa. All right (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
DANIELS: Thanks for being on the show. Let‘s start with you, Martha.
What about these explosives? What do we know about them?
MARTHA BELLISLE, “RENO GAZETTE-JOURNAL”: The way that it was described to me yesterday by a lieutenant was it‘s called ammonium nitrate binary explosive, and what it is, it‘s two different compounds and alone they‘re stable but when they‘re combined, they become volatile and they basically need to be triggered in order to explode. You either need to shoot at it or have a cap—some sort of cap that makes it explosive, a blasting cap.
And it‘s often used for long-range target practice. Because if you‘re shooting a long-range rifle, you can‘t see if you hit your target, so you put this out there and when you hit, it explodes, but it was also—I was also told that if it‘s combined in large quantities and a blasting cap is added, it can turn into a bomb.
DANIELS: OK, so let‘s just cut to the chase. Either he was using this allegedly for perhaps target practice, to help his aim, or it could have been the beginnings of a bomb. Is that what the two theories are?
BELLISLE: Basically, yes. The police don‘t know what his intentions were. They‘re going through his computer that was at his house found in the kitchen right now to try to determine what he might have been—what his intentions might have been, but they don‘t know, but right now, they‘re saying anything is possible...
DANIELS: Clint, why hasn‘t this guy been found with all the technology and there have been some tips, what‘s been going wrong that he‘s still on the loose after all this time?
VAN ZANDT: Well you know you can see how serious the authorities are. The FBI put him on the top 10 most wanted list, so you know he‘s—it‘s like a pair of book ends, you‘ve got Osama bin Laden on one end of the top 10 and this guy on the other. The challenge is of course that he was in the pawnshop business. You and I know that could be a very cash lucrative business. I can just imagine this guy stashing $100,000 at his house for a rainy day and here‘s a guy, he‘s into—he goes to swapping parties.
He‘s taking multiple girlfriends down to South America. He‘s refusing to pay the wife the $10,000 a month the judge demands. I mean this is a guy, he‘s he into bullets, guns, sex, money. He‘s got his own little fantasy world and all of a sudden the court said hey buddy, you‘re not going to be doing these things. You‘re going to start paying your money and be responsible for this.
I don‘t think the guy could take it, now he‘s on the run and the challenge is how are they going to track him down, if they can‘t follow his cell phones, if they can‘t follow his credit cards, if he‘s dumped his car, maybe he changed the license plates, where did he go? Is he sitting down in Mexico watching us right now? Could be.
DANIELS: Well, Martha, Charla‘s brother confronted Mack‘s family attorney after the child custody hearing I understand. Do you know what happened there?
BELLISLE: Scott Freeman is representing the Mack family and he said that after the hearing—or I guess it was before the hearing the brother walked up and shook his hand and got really close—or took his hand and got close to his face and said so how does it feel to defend a murderer?
BELLISLE: Scott was a little bit shaken.
BELLISLE: Well yes he was shaken up by that, he was a little upset, and he just said that we need to conduct these hearings, you know, through the lawyers, all the communication needs to happen through the lawyers.
DANIELS: Well you can understand, if the children are going to his mother, that‘s upsetting to the other family.
BELLISLE: Well, the Mack family has been very involved with her life from the start. They‘re—been a part of the Reno community for a long time, and she‘s been a part of the Mack family, and she lives here and her friends are here, so it sort of makes sense. Charla‘s mother lives in California. Her brother lives in the Washington, D.C. area, so—but the bottom line is for both families, is that they want to have both involved in their daughter‘s life and they‘ve made that really clear that although she may be staying with Joan Mack, Charla‘s mother is—she has an open door and she‘ll be spending time with the 8-year-old.
DANIELS: Well got to leave it here, but I think there‘s a lot of questions about why has this trail gone cold and what can be done to catch this guy. Martha Bellisle and Clint Van Zandt, thanks so much for coming on the show.
VAN ZANDT: Thanks, Lisa.
BELLISLE: Thanks for having me.
DANIELS: All right. Well coming up, many people say race has a lot do to with the Duke lacrosse rape case, but one of you is saying (UNINTELLIGIBLE) it‘s about money. Your e-mails are next.
DANIELS: OK, time now for “Your Rebuttal”. Many of you writing in on all aspects of the Duke lacrosse rape case.
Bill Gee from Irvington, New Jersey writing this, “I thought it was a grand jury that indicted the Duke players. Help me out because maybe I‘m missing something. I thought Nifong presented the case and the grand jury did the rest.”
Well, Bill, you are right on all those counts. The grand jury did indict the players, but if the prosecutor gets new evidence, that changes the facts, so it‘s really up to him to drop the case. I hope you understood that.
Jimmy Black, “You have made it evident that these three players are being railroaded. I think the outrage from the black community should be examined. Here we have three rich white kids who appear innocent, yet they‘re still being brought to trial. A major stink is being made about this fact, but think about it. If three rich white kids can get screwed by the system, what about the poor minorities? I think your show should address the fact that had it not been for their skills and expensive attorneys, this case would be much easier to prosecute. These kids aren‘t better off because they‘re white. They‘re better off because they‘re rich.” OK. We‘ll bring it up to the people that make these decisions.
Nick from Saint Charles, Illinois, “Whoopee cushion, $6; custard pie to splat in someone‘s face, $12; fake pack of gum that snaps your finger, $1.25; the practical joke that is Nifong‘s prosecution of the lacrosse players, worthless.”
Had to read that a couple of times to understand the joke, but I got it.
Send your e-mails to the abramsreport—one word -- @msnbc.com. We‘ll go through them and read them at the end of the show.
That does it for us. Up next, “HARDBALL” with Norah O‘Donnell.
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