Guests: Wendy Murphy; Lou Barletta, Brent Wilkes, Brittany McComb, Chester Gala, Eric Gala, John Ange, Vincent Ferrari
MICHAEL SMERCONISH, GUEST HOST: Right now in SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY, a developing story in the controversial Duke rape case as the defense again goes after the accuser‘s medical and police records on the eve of a major hearing. Is this getting to the truth, or is this blaming the victim?
And then two teenagers charged with assault in a school bus beating.
But what are we doing to stop the epidemic of bullying our kids?
And you‘ve got mail, huh? You say you don‘t want it? Well, we‘ll talk live to the guy who tried and tried and tried to cancel his America On Line account.
Welcome to SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY. No passports required, only common sense is allowed.
Thank you for being here tonight. I‘m Michael Smerconish, in once again for the big guy, who is still under the weather. We start with new developments in the Duke rape investigation. And folks, it‘s getting ugly. Just before tomorrow‘s big hearing in this case, defense attorneys are turning up the heat on the accuser. They want sensitive documents that dig deep into her past. To some, it looks like a classic case of blaming the victim. To me, I think this whole story looks like a classic case of false accusations.
Also tonight, the lawyers for one of the accused young man, Reade Seligmann, are compiling documents and photos of Seligmann volunteering with children, his college transcript with good grades, and an award for his participation in a high school student group, all of it clearly designed to give him an image makeover. What they‘re really after is to get his bond reduced. Fair enough. Me, I‘m still looking for the whole case to get thrown out.
Let me bring in former prosecutor and MSNBC legal analyst Susan Filan. Susan, you‘ve seen a lot of the documents in this case, but now you‘ve seen a photograph of Reade Seligmann with Santa Claus. Surely he‘s innocent!
SUSAN FILAN, FORMER PROSECUTOR, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: Oh, so what! That has nothing to do with anything. This motion to reduce bond is to me really a little bit much because the bond was set at $400,000. He made it! He‘s out. The claim is that a family member had to put it up, and they are losing the interest on that amount of money. That‘s, to me, not what we should be talking about. We should be talking about the allegations, whether they can be proven, whether they should have been brought at all, whether he is actually a falsely accused person, not...
FILAN: He‘s out on bond.
SMERCONISH: What do they want relative to her past? Because I know in a moment, we‘ll bring in Wendy Murphy, and I‘m sure she‘ll bang the drum on that issue, saying that it‘s irrelevant and potentially prejudicial. What are they looking for relative to where she‘s been before?
FILAN: Sure. They‘re looking for medical records pertaining to her mental health. They‘re looking to records in her past about another accusation about 10 years ago in which she claimed, again, three, that magical number three, men gang raped her.
The way to get this stuff is to get it what we call in camera, which means it goes to the judge, the judge reviews it in chambers. If there‘s anything either exculpatory to the defense or relevant to the defense, it would then get released to the defense. But it would be the judge‘s call. It would become relevant if it showed a pattern of false accusations or a pattern of incredibility or a pattern of mental disease or defect such that...
SMERCONISH: Well, Susan, wait a minute now. If a decade ago, this same alleged victim reported that she was raped by three guys, and 10 years later, she‘s claiming again raped by, initially, she said 20, but then brought the number down to three guys—what a heck of a coincidence. I mean, that‘s the equivalent of being bit by a shark twice, isn‘t it, or struck by lightning on two occasions in your life?
FILAN: Well, the question for this judge would be, should this ever get to the jury, I mean, is it relevant to the defense at all? If it can‘t be proven that that last accusation was clearly a false accusation, it may not ever get to the jury. But one thing I‘ve been saying all along, if I were a juror and I found something out like that had been kept for me and I had convicted, I think I‘d feel fairly hoodwinked. That‘s not the legal standard, though, for the courts to determine whether or not this comes in or whether or not this even gets released to the defense.
SMERCONISH: Let‘s bring in Wendy Murphy into the conversation. Wendy, always a pleasure for me to have you on SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY when I‘m guest hosting for Joe.
WENDY MURPHY, FORMER PROSECUTOR: Good to see you, Michael.
SMERCONISH: Thank you. Not sure if you mean that, but it‘s nice of you to say it...
MURPHY: I really do!
SMERCONISH: Hey, I want to show to you what was in “Newsweek” relative to whatever it is that occurred 10 years ago. And we can perhaps put that up on the screen. Ten years ago, she claims she‘d been raped three years earlier by three men, but her father told reporters that the rape never happened, and she never followed through with the authorities.
Wendy, why shouldn‘t that come in? I mean, my goodness, what a coincidence. Doesn‘t it show that she had to be making it up? A woman doesn‘t get raped twice in her life by three guys in each instance.
MURPHY: Actually, that‘s not a true statement.
SMERCONISH: Which part?
MURPHY: The data—well, a lot of things you just said, but the data
interestingly enough, people who are victimized as kids or as teenagers are much more likely to be raped as adults. That‘s pretty clear in the science.
But the interesting thing is, Michael, her father never said it didn‘t happen. What he described is that she didn‘t want to pursue it. No one has put out any evidence to suggest that it was a false claim.
And I got to just say something. You want to hear about whether that was a false claim, that‘s fine. I think people who lie to police, people who lie under oath actually should have that aired in a courtroom, if, in fact, it‘s more probative than prejudicial. But then let me ask you something. If these guys lied 10 years ago, falsely claiming to be innocent, for example, in those minor criminal matters for which they‘ve been prosecuted, I would say that you have to be fair about things and allow those false claims of innocence to come in.
SMERCONISH: Well, relative to one of these guys...
MURPHY: Come on!
SMERCONISH: ... this incident of whatever it is that occurred in Washington, D.C., where apparently, he punches somebody in Georgetown and calls them fag or gay or some such thing, the whole world knows about that.
MURPHY: What I‘m saying is—what I‘m saying is defendants lie all the time! Defense attorneys lie all the time! If you want to bring in past lies, then it‘s got to be...
MURPHY: ... one side and the other.
SMERCONISH: Wendy, just so I‘m clear, I‘m not saying that the woman should be, you know, tried for being a hooker or an exotic dancer or whatever it is that her profession actually was on that particular night. But my goodness, it is so incredible to me that she would have claimed a decade ago that three guys raped her and now makes that same claim again. I mean, come on! I defy you to identify anybody who‘s been raped twice by the same number of guys!
MURPHY: Oh, please! Lookit, first of all, the whole story about that past rape has come out and supported by the police as something she reported and felt reluctant to do anything about in terms of prosecution. If this was a woman out to falsely accuse people and go wring them through the wringer, or whatever you call it, she would have gone forward with that case. She would have tried to push it through the court system. Instead, she said, Please, I don‘t want to go forward. I just wanted you to know.
SMERCONISH: Let me ask you...
MURPHY: That‘s actually not a bad thing to do. We want more women to come forward. Eighty-five percent...
SMERCONISH: But Susan...
MURPHY: ... never report...
SMERCONISH: Now—but now you‘re getting to the heart of the matter. Let me tell you what my concern is because you and have duked it out on enough occasions about this case. So let me just lay it on the line. My concern is that this is such a bogus case...
MURPHY: You don‘t know that!
SMERCONISH: Hold on. Let me finish my thought!
MURPHY: You‘ve only heard from one side!
SMERCONISH: Wendy, just for one minute, allow me to finish my thought. It‘s such a weak case, the nation is laughing on it. And real...
SMERCONISH: Wait a minute! Real rape victims who are out there, who are watching this and who are contemplating coming forth, are going to say, I‘m not coming forth because...
MURPHY: You‘re wrong!
MURPHY: ... that woman‘s been put through the wringer.
MURPHY: You‘re wrong!
SMERCONISH: But this woman‘s being put through the wringer because she deserves to be put through the wringer!
MURPHY: No! Lookit—lookit, people may well say, I don‘t like the fact that women get their butts kicked when they report rape. And you‘re right, the system needs to be repaired. For example, we should have rules across the board that punish defense attorneys who make up lies, like the big, fat lie in the Kobe Bryant case that that victim had sex with three men in three days. Absolutely false! The defense attorney said it anyway in open court! And you know what? She never got punished for it! She should have been...
SMERCONISH: How about if this woman...
MURPHY: ... disbarred!
SMERCONISH: All right, let me ask you this...
MURPHY: Let‘s change the rules to protect victims from this gratuitous harm!
SMERCONISH: If this...
SMERCONISH: I‘m all about protecting victims. I just think that the net effect of this case is not to protect victims, it‘s to punish the real victims. Here‘s my question for you...
SMERCONISH: Wait a minute. If she‘s lying, should she be prosecuted?
MURPHY: Absolutely! Anyone who makes a false claim to the police or to a prosecutor should be prosecuted, and any defendant who lies under oath when they falsely proclaim their innocence should be prosecuted for perjury!
MURPHY: Let‘s try that for a change!
MURPHY: They do it all the time!
SMERCONISH: Susan Filan is headed back to North Carolina tomorrow. And Susan, if I could just return to this bond issue—when we talk bond, we‘re talking bail, in lay terms, right?
FILAN: Right. Yes.
SMERCONISH: All right. These guys aren‘t going anywhere. I mean, $400,000? Isn‘t that excessive? They‘ve been on the cover of “Newsweek.” I mean, where in the heck is he going to run?
FILAN: It‘s not about running! He‘s out! He‘s out! What we‘re talking about is somebody‘s losing the interest and what $400,000 could generate if it were invested. Oh, please! Come on! This guy‘s out! If he were incarcerated on this bond, unable to make this bail, I‘d listen to you, but he‘s out. We‘re talking about somebody who‘s not getting enough money from the bank! I can‘t—I just can‘t even go there!
SMERCONISH: What do they hope to get from her computer? Because that‘s another one of the issues that‘s going to be litigated tomorrow.
FILAN: I don‘t know. I mean, that‘s a defense lawyer‘s fishing expedition, unless they‘ve got something that I don‘t know about. But...
SMERCONISH: You‘re sounding like Wendy now! Whatever happened to you?
MURPHY: Yay! Good job, Susan!
FILAN: Michael, take that back!
MURPHY: No, you‘re supposed to be happy! Say thank you!
SMERCONISH: One other issue. Wendy keeps saying to me—not tonight, but on prior occasions—you know, that if these defense attorneys, if they‘d get beyond their beer muscles—that‘s Philly expression, not her Boston expression—then they‘d be demanding a speedy trial.
FILAN: Oh, they don‘t have that in North Carolina.
MURPHY: Wrong! Wrong!
MURPHY: Wrong! Let‘s clear that up.
SMERCONISH: Let‘s do it.
MURPHY: There‘s a federal constitutional right to a speedy trial.
Every defendant across the country has the right to claim it!
FILAN: That‘s right.
MURPHY: And I‘ll tell you, I talked...
MURPHY: I talked to a prosecutor in North Carolina unrelated to this case. And I said, What‘s with the nonsense, the defense spin that there‘s no right to file a speedy trial motion? And he said, and I quote—this is absolutely coming from a guy who has no dog in this race. He said, Defense attorneys who want a speedy trial can ask for it verbally and should ask for it either verbally or in writing on exactly the kind of hearing that they‘re having tomorrow...
MURPHY: ... in North Carolina!
SMERCONISH: ... in North Carolina...
MURPHY: If they don‘t ask for it, that tells you something!
SMERCONISH: What‘s—what‘s the law...
MURPHY: They don‘t want the truth coming out!
SMERCONISH: What‘s the law in North Carolina on this issue, Susan?
FILAN: I‘ll tell you one thing, but I think my ears deceive me because I think Wendy just quoted as her gospel source something a defense lawyer said, and I never thought I‘d hear that. The law in North Carolina is—of course, you have a federal constitutional right to a speedy trial. Nobody can take that away. But in North Carolina, you don‘t file an actual document as a motion...
MURPHY: You can! You can! Absolutely! There‘s nothing to forbid them!
FILAN: You can file anything, but it doesn‘t exist in North Carolina.
MURPHY: The defense motion...
SMERCONISH: We‘re out of time. Listen...
MURPHY: ... access to her records is not supported...
SMERCONISH: Here‘s the bottom line...
MURPHY: ... in California—I mean, in North Carolina!
SMERCONISH: Here‘s the bottom line. I‘m going to...
MURPHY: It‘s constitutional!
SMERCONISH: I‘m going to bet this pretty tie, as Tony Soprano would say, my Hermes tie, on the fact that this case never goes to trial, it dies a death of a thousand cuts, it implodes, and she says, I‘ve decided...
MURPHY: I‘ll take that bet!
SMERCONISH: ... not to go forward.
MURPHY: She‘ll take a pay-off, and that‘s called corruption! And you better condemn it if...
SMERCONISH: The tie is on the line. I don‘t know what you‘re putting up, but thank you for being here.
FILAN: Thank you for having me.
SMERCONISH: Thank you, Susan Filan. Thank you, Wendy Murphy.
Appreciate it very much.
Still to come: Desperate times mean desperate measures, cities taking matters into their own hands to keep illegal immigrants out. We‘ll talk live to one mayor who‘s going after Americans who rent to or hire folks who shouldn‘t be here.
And later: A 10-year-old suffers a beat-down on the school bus. Luckily, it was caught on tape. That boy is here tonight with his story, so stay with us.
SMERCONISH: Welcome back. Time for tonight‘s “SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY Showdown.” While Congress fiddles, illegal immigration is burning a hole in the pockets of local communities all over America. Some, like Hazleton, Pennsylvania, have decided not to wait for federal action but instead have taken matters into their own hands. Citing a rise in drug dealing, vandalism and gangs, the mayor of Hazleton is proposing a “get tough” crackdown on illegal immigrants. Businesses caught employing illegal immigrants would have their licenses revoked. Landlords renting to illegal immigrants would face a $1,000 fine. And English would be the official language of the city.
Hazleton isn‘t the only place where local authorities are taking matters into their own hands. Look at this map. Over 460 bills dealing with illegal immigration in 43 different states have been introduced just since January.
Let me introduce to you the mayor of Hazleton, Pennsylvania. His name is Lou Barletta. And also Brent Wilkes. Brent Wilkes is the national executive director of the League of United Latin American Citizens, or LULAC. Welcome, gentlemen, to SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.
Mayor Barletta, a lot of my relatives hail from Hazleton, Pennsylvania, and I know that it used to be called America‘s city. What went wrong?
MAYOR LOU BARLETTA, HAZLETON, PENNSYLVANIA: Well, that was the nickname. It was all-American city, and that‘s what made—makes Hazleton such a great place for people to live and want to live here. And that‘s what we‘re trying to preserve is the quality of life that small-town America could offer the people who choose to live here.
I welcome immigrants into the city. The city was built on the back and the country was built on the backs of immigrants, but it‘s legal immigrants. And when illegal immigrants come, people who have entered the country illegally, and start destroying the quality of life of cities such as Hazleton, the citizens here look for the mayor to do something, and that‘s what we‘re doing.
SMERCONISH: And when you talk about destroying the quality of life, there was a murder in Hazleton recently involving some Dominicans here illegally? Am I correct?
BARLETTA: That‘s correct. There was a series of events. It wasn‘t just one event, it was a series of events that have led up to this. And in fact, it‘s been the past few years that we‘ve had more and more incidents involving illegal immigrants, which is chewing up our budget. This is a small town. We have a very limited amount of resources to provide services for the people here. It‘s their hard-earned tax dollars that we‘re using to provide those services. And we‘re using that money time and time again, chasing down people who have committed crimes who don‘t belong here.
SMERCONISH: Let me just...
BARLETTA: Hundreds of hours of overtime.
SMERCONISH: I want to ask Brent Wilkes a question. Brent, you‘d agree with me that businesses should not hire illegal immigrants. On that much we, can agree, correct, sir?
BRENT WILKES, LEAGUE OF UNITED LATIN AMERICAN CITIZENS: We certainly do agree with that.
SMERCONISH: All right. So do you have any quarrel with the mayor‘s proposal to yank the business license of a business that employs an illegal?
WILKES: I sure do. It‘s...
WILKES: Because this is a federal issue, and the federal government has the power to enforce the federal immigration law on businesses, if they so choose to do so, and we encourage them to do it.
SMERCONISH: But they won‘t get off their fannies! I mean, otherwise, Mayor Barletta wouldn‘t have to get involved in this.
WILKES: The thing is, Mayor Barletta‘s trying to take territory that doesn‘t really belong to him, and he‘s being selective on it. Only on immigration is he seeking to enforce federal law, but there‘s plenty of other law that he can enforce to businesses, if he wanted to, that are federal laws, but he‘s not taking those issues on. Is he checking to make sure they paid federal taxes? I doubt it. But he can do that, too.
I mean, the thing is, why is it just immigration that he‘s focused on, instead of all these other activities...
SMERCONISH: Well, I think it‘s because he‘s...
SMERCONISH: He feels that his city is under siege. Mayor, let me ask you, how you are going to be able to fine a landlord $1,000 if they provide housing to an illegal? In other words, how is someone who‘s renting property going to know this individual is here illegally?
BARLETTA: Well, we‘re—we‘re going to working with the landlord association here in the city of Hazleton to make sure that we have a plan here that‘s enforceable and effective and something that the landlords will understand. And obviously, we do not want to punish landlords who do not knowingly rent or lease to illegal immigrants here.
And we‘re not trying to stop immigrants. We need—there‘s a word that‘s always being left out when we have this debate, and that‘s “illegal.” And that‘s what we‘re trying to stop, people who are not paying taxes, people who have come into this country illegally, broke a federal law in coming into this country. All other immigrants are certainly welcome, but we have an obligation to provide a good quality of life for those people.
SMERCONISH: Go ahead, Brent. You want to respond to that?
WILKES: Yes, I‘d like to give him some friendly advice here. I think the real issue is immigrants or anyone who commits a serious crime in your community, I certainly would support your efforts to try to bring that person to justice, regardless of what their immigration status is. The problem is right now, there is not a good legal immigration system available. There‘s only about 5,000 slots for immigrants to come into. There‘s about a million immigrants coming in per year to fill those 5,000 slots. There‘s not the type of situation we had when Hazleton‘s growth took place. We had hundreds of thousands of immigrants coming into...
SMERCONISH: But Brent...
SMERCONISH: I have to tell you something.
WILKES: ... that‘s all they had to do. There was no limits back then.
SMERCONISH: I have to tell you, Brent...
SMERCONISH: ... purely coincidentally, you‘re talking about a community where my relatives, my forefathers came, but they did it legally. I mean, as Mayor Barletta said, they came to Ellis Island. They played...
SMERCONISH: ... by the rules. Now, hold on!
SMERCONISH: Wait a minute. We‘re talking about folks who are not playing by the rules, and they‘re lawless, in many instances, beyond just having their paperwork.
WILKES: The rules have changed, though. When your grandparents came in, they got off of the boat, they signed up at Ellis Island, they were in. There was no numerical limit. Now only 5,000 can get in a year. That‘s ridiculous. We changed the rules...
SMERCONISH: Well, you‘re giving them a license...
SMERCONISH: You‘re saying, Well, if you can‘t get in, then go ahead and break the rules...
SMERCONISH: ... in order to get here.
WILKES: Not, that‘s not what we‘re saying. We‘re saying, Change the law to be more reasonable, to allow...
SMERCONISH: Let me tell you...
WILKES: ... to come in. Until you do that...
SMERCONISH: One final...
WILKES: ... you‘re just asking for this problem to continue. And it...
SMERCONISH: Well, no. Let me tell you...
WILKES: ... want to hunt them down like they‘re some type of scourge and they‘re ruining communities. They‘re not.
SMERCONISH: No, but they‘re here illegally.
WILKES: ... they‘re working hard. They‘re working...
SMERCONISH: Let me just give you a big-picture analysis, and this is a thought...
SMERCONISH: Hang on, sir! This is for Mayor Barletta. Mayor, you know what this tells me? Because we just put this map up on SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY of what‘s going on across the country. What it tells me is that the federal government has been so devoid of its responsibility in protecting our borders, in particular our southern flank, that men like you, mayors all across the country, guy like Joe Vento at Geno‘s Steaks in Philadelphia, have to now take matters into their own hands. I‘m sure you don‘t want to get involved in this, but you have no choice.
BARLETTA: And I disagree with those that argue that this is just a federal case. I walk the streets of this city every day, and this is the battlefield, the streets and cities such as Hazleton, Pennsylvania. And people expect the mayor to provide a good quality of life. You know, the war room—the federal government may be in the war room, but the real battlefields are on the streets such as Hazleton.
SMERCONISH: Amen to that. And thank you for being here. Mayor Lou Barletta and Brent Wilkes, thank you, gentleman, for being on SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.
We want to know what you think. Would you support laws that go after the landlords and the businesses that house and hire illegal immigrants? Go to joe.msnbc.com and vote, and we‘ll have the results at the end of tonight‘s show.
And now to a story that we brought you first on Monday night, a high school valedictorian giving her graduation speech and had her microphone cut after she started talking about God and Jesus. The valedictorian, Brittany McComb, submitted a copy of her speech to the school district weeks before the graduation ceremony, and school officials hacked off the last half of it because they said that it, quote, “identifies a particular religion,” and they thought the last paragraph was proselytizing.
It‘s a story that has gained national attention, and we‘re happy to be joined tonight by that valedictorian, Brittany McComb. Hey, Brittany.
BRITTANY MCCOMB, FOOTHILL H.S. VALEDICTORIAN: Hi.
SMERCONISH: A 4.7, huh?
SMERCONISH: Nice effort. There were no surprises here. I mean, they told you—and I have a copy of the speech in front of me. They said, Brittany, here are the parts we don‘t want to you read. And so as you stood there, you knew when you were crossing the line that they had drawn in the sand, correct?
MCCOMB: Yes, I knew exactly where the mike would probably be cut.
SMERCONISH: So why did you do it nevertheless?
MCCOMB: Because it‘s my freedom of speech, and it was what was on my heart and what I wanted to tell my classmates. It‘s how I became successful. It really is. So I mean, the fact that, you know, they‘re saying that it identifies a particular religion—I just—I really feel it‘s free speech (INAUDIBLE) you know, that‘s what Christ and his death, and like, the foundation I have in biblical truth is what got me where I am.
SMERCONISH: I think there‘s a misperception in America about what went on here. I know that when I first heard the story, I sided with you. And I thought that the school was completely put off by the notion of any mention of God in the speech. But in reality, now that I look at the speech itself and I see that which they allowed and that which they wanted deleted, they permitted you to reference God, by my count, five times.
SMERCONISH: They struck reference to God only when it became clear to what God you were referring. And let me just put up on the screen, if I can do this, because there‘s a part that I want folks to know that they found unacceptable. “God‘s love is so great that he gave his only son up to an excruciating death on a cross so his blood would cover all our shortcomings.”
You know, God is an amorphous concept. When you talk about God, it could be your God, my God, somebody else‘s God. When you talk about that God, it‘s a Christian God. Can you understand how the school would say, Well, you know, to someone who‘s Jewish, to someone who‘s a Muslim, to someone who‘s an atheist, you‘ve gone too far?
MCCOMB: I can totally understand, but the fact is, I mean, censoring that—and, like, I believe that when you talk about your beliefs and your convictions, you‘re giving people choices. You‘re telling them what you believe, what you‘ve found to be true in your life. And when you give people choices, that‘s how they have freedom. And when we censor things, then we‘re denying them the choice to choose. And you know, we‘re denying them the freedom to choose, so...
SMERCONISH: See, I am not one of those who thinks we‘ve got to, you know, eradicate reference to God everywhere. I wrote a whole book about the subject of our need to be unmuzzled. But in this particular case, it seems to me like the school was pretty reasonable with you. They know that your Christianity, your faith, is a very important part of who you are, and I‘m sure of your success as a student.
SMERCONISH: SO they were allowing you to make reference to God on five different occasions. It‘s only when you started talking about Jesus in particular that they said, You‘ve gone too far. So here‘s my question. What if you had been sitting there not with a 4.7, but you know, maybe like me, with a 3.0, and somebody else was the valedictorian and they started to talk about the Prophet Mohammed. You know, the Prophet Mohammed was such an influential part—wouldn‘t you feel a little bit uncomfortable?
MCCOMB: Actually, I—like I said before, I believe that, you know, you should be convicted and passionate about your beliefs. If you find them to be true, then I want to hear about them so that I can, you know, go research and find out for myself if, you know, that is also true for me.
SMERCONISH: Is there a lawsuit coming?
MCCOMB: Yes, sir.
SMERCONISH: There is a lawsuit.
MCCOMB: Yes, sir.
SMERCONISH: And you‘re headed off to a religious-based education?
MCCOMB: I am.
SMERCONISH: Where are you headed?
MCCOMB: I‘m headed to Biola (ph) University.
SMERCONISH: All right. Well, that seems like a good fit.
MCCOMB: Yes. I‘m very excited.
SMERCONISH: Thanks for being on SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.
MCCOMB: Thank you very much.
SMERCONISH: And go tear ‘em up in college the way that...
MCCOMB: I will.
SMERCONISH: ... you did in high school. Brittany McComb, thank you.
MCCOMB: I will. Thank you.
SMERCONISH: Up next: caught on tape, bullies on the bus. We‘ll talk live to the little kid involved in this pummelling. I want to know, where was the bus driver? And what about the bullying not caught on tape?
And once you‘re a member, they won‘t let you leave. A super-secret cult? Not exactly, America On Line. One man‘s recorded nightmare that‘s launching a revolution.
SMERCONISH: Would you support laws that go after the landlords and businesses that house and hire illegal immigrants? Go to Joe.MSNBC.com to vote right now, the results at the end of tonight‘s show. But first, here‘s the latest news from MSNBC world headquarters.
SMERCONISH: You‘ve got mail, but you don‘t want mail? Well, too bad. You‘ll see and hear in excruciating detail how hard it was for one guy to cancel his America Online account.
And when thousands of dollars come raining down on a city street, you know you‘re watching “Must See SC.”
Welcome back to SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY. I‘m Michael Smerconish in for the big guy tonight. Those stories in just minutes.
But first, as more and more school districts are installing surveillance cameras on school buses to monitor student behavior, we‘re seeing shocking incidents like this caught on tape.
Ten-year-old Chester Gala was riding the bus home from school last month when he was punched over and over and over by a boy twice his size. You can hear the school bus driver telling the bully to knock it off, but she keeps on driving.
Cameras have captured other beatings, too, where students and parents, bus drivers, even school administrators have gotten involved. It‘s getting out of control!
Joining me now is Chester Gala, who was attacked on the bus, his dad, Eric Gala, and also John Ange, chief of the juvenile division in the Macomb County Michigan prosecutor‘s office.
Thank you all for being here.
Chester, we just saw the tape. It‘s awful. I hope you‘re doing all right. Tell us what happened on the bus that day.
CHESTER GALA, ATTACKED ON SCHOOL BUS: Well, I was just looking back and he said I couldn‘t look at him. And I said I can look where I want. So then he started pointing fingers in my face, and I kept blocking them out of my face. So then he just got up and started punching me.
SMERCONISH: Chester, I know you‘re a bright, young fellow. You actually jumped ahead two grades?
C. GALA: Yes.
SMERCONISH: So these fellows, they had you—it was a mismatch. I mean, they‘re much, much bigger than you, right?
C. GALA: I guess.
SMERCONISH: Had they ever given you a problem previously on the bus?
C. GALA: No.
SMERCONISH: They had not. What did the bus driver do?
C. GALA: Nothing. All she said was stop, but that didn‘t work. She could have stopped the bus, but she didn‘t care.
SMERCONISH: She didn‘t do a thing, and meanwhile you had a bloody nose, I‘m told. Is that right?
C. GALA: Yes.
SMERCONISH: And what happened to those two boys, as far as you know?
C. GALA: Well, the one boy got suspended, and the other one was taken off the bus. But the one that was taken off the bus got a special bus, so (INAUDIBLE) I had to wait, like, two minutes for the bus, and everybody else had to wait a half an hour.
And the other person was suspended. So he didn‘t like school anyways, so that was like a treat for him, too, so nothing really happened bad to them.
SMERCONISH: Unbelievable. I want to ask your dad, Eric Gala, a question or two. Eric, it‘s a darn good thing we have this videotape, but I‘m told that folks gave you a workout when you tried to get a copy. What happened?
ERIC GALA, SON ATTACKED ON SCHOOL BUS: Well, I asked if there was a tape, and they told me there was but I could not view it. And it wasn‘t until I got a hold of the local media that they finally allowed me to see the tape.
SMERCONISH: And you‘re on sort of a crusade, and I say that in a positive way now, to raise awareness of bullying incidents. I mean, listen, I‘m looking at you in the monitor. You look like you‘re contemporary of mine. I‘m 44. How old are you?
E. GALA: 48.
SMERCONISH: OK, well, there have always been bullies, but, I mean, were the bullies like this when we were growing up? I don‘t think so.
E. GALA: No, this was the most cowardly thing I‘ve ever seen.
SMERCONISH: So what is it that you‘re trying to do? You want there to be an awareness of bullying and what? You think there need to be more comprehensive approaches to the subject in schools?
E. GALA: I think that the bus and superintendent should have done more, as far as preventing this, by periodically viewing these tapes to see that there is no discipline before the bus even leaves and correct that. There‘s just too much apathy.
I‘d like to see parents asking to see these tapes just on a periodic basis to make sure that their children are on a disciplined bus. I had no idea.
SMERCONISH: I‘ve got three young sons, a six-, an eight-, and 10-year-old. When I saw the image of your boy, it was like a stomach punch for me. I cannot imagine what it felt like for you the first time you watched this video.
E. GALA: The first time I saw it, I was outraged.
SMERCONISH: Mr. Ange, the prosecutor, welcome to SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY. What are we doing with the two fellows who are responsible for this outrageous conduct?
JOHN ANGE, MACOMB COUNTY PROSECUTOR: Well, both of those individuals have been charged with assault crimes. And I‘m really proud to say that they were charged prior to this case getting all of the media attention that it has. In other words, it was charged on its merits, not on the fact that it had come to media‘s attention or the public‘s attention.
And I really credit that to Macomb prosecutor Eric Smith. He has told us in our division that we are to prioritize any violence in the school, student on student, as Chet suffered, student on staff, or bomb threats, and things like that that we deal with in the schools.
SMERCONISH: Mr. Ange, I want to show some videotape, both to you and to the folks at home who are watching SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY, of some other incidents that have taken place, some outrageous stuff that‘s been captured by videotapes.
And here‘s the question, as we watch this horrific violence, do we need more, in terms of what tools a prosecutor in your possession has at his disposal? Does there need to be an additional approach taken? Or do you have what you need to go after these sort of folks?
ANGE: Well, with that video, we have a lot. I mean, that is something—you talked about being a contemporary. I‘m 41 years old, and I rode the bus for four years of high school, and this stuff didn‘t exist. So this is an incredible tool that we‘ve been given, and it speaks for itself.
And you talk about violence or bullies in the past. You look at this video, and you look at the difference in size between Chet and those individuals, as well as just the nature of it, the relentless nature of it, and those things, I think, even in our day, that was something that would not be tolerated. But that video equipment in an incredible tool.
SMERCONISH: Yes, I remember—man, I remember a couple of, you know, food fights on the bus, but nothing like that.
Hey, Chester Gala, they tell me that—well, you tell me. How long before you went back on the bus? Chester, how long after that incident before you returned to the bus?
C. GALA: The next day.
SMERCONISH: You‘re a tough guy. I really respect you for that. And we‘re all so sorry that this happened to you, but I think that says a great deal about Chester Gala. So continued success in school, all right, my friend?
C. GALA: OK.
SMERCONISH: All right, Chester Gala, Eric Gala, and John Ange.
I‘m joined by Rita Cosby right now, host of Rita Cosby “LIVE &
Rita, you‘re out there in L.A. What‘s the deal?
RITA COSBY, HOST: Well, Michael, we‘ve got a lot of news that we‘re covering from here and across the country. Right now, a manhunt is on for three escaped convicts on the loose in a stolen car. One is a murderer. We‘re going to have the latest details on the search for the three dangerous criminals.
Plus, a topic that you and I have covered quite a bit, MySpace.com is changing its rules. But will it be enough to protect kids from perverted sexual predators online?
Plus, a major bombshell announcement from an “American Idol” favorite. We‘re going to tell you which contestant is finally opening up about a dark secret. Plus, the reason I‘m here, Michael, the countdown to our “American Idol” tour. I‘m going to talk with two former big-name contestants. We‘re going to have that and a whole lot more at the top of the hour. That‘s why I‘m here in L.A.
SMERCONISH: Now, come on, give us a clue. Don‘t leave me hanging like this. Which one is it?
COSBY: You know, you‘re going to have to find out. You just have a few minutes. You can hang on.
SMERCONISH: All right, Rita.
Up next here, the never-ending phone call to cancel America Online service. Why won‘t they just let customers quit? I bet it‘s not this hard to join. We‘ll talk to one man whose excruciating experience sparked an online revolution.
And we didn‘t use AOL to use this soon-to-be Web classic. You‘ll see this guy bust a move in “Must See SC.”
But first, heroes and villains of SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY. First Lady Laura Bush, a former librarian, mind you, who is now under attack from fellow librarians. When Mark Rosenzweig, representing the American Library Association, learned that Mrs. Bush was to speak at one of their events, he called it nothing more than a photo-op for the Bush administration and accused the first lady of fake gentility.
Maybe it‘s time for Mr. Rosenzweig to go back to the card catalog and find some books on respect. Tonight, he gets his own chapter in the Scarborough book of villains.
SMERCONISH: If you want to join America Online, it couldn‘t be easier, just a couple of clicks of the mouse. But just try and cancel. Apparently, America Online doesn‘t take too kindly to customers who try to quit them.
Take a listen to the unreal nightmare one user phone while trying to cancel his account with the online giant. And keep in mind what you‘re about to hear is after he waited 15 minutes on the phone just to get a pulse, a live, breathing person.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AOL REPRESENTATIVE: Hi, this is John at AOL. How may I help you today?
VINCENT FERRARI, TRYING TO CANCEL AOL ACCOUNT: I wanted to cancel my account.
AOL REPRESENTATIVE: Sorry to hear that. Let me pull your account up here real quick. Can I have your name please?
FERRARI: Vincent Ferrari.
AOL REPRESENTATIVE: You‘ve had this account for a long time.
AOL REPRESENTATIVE: Use this quite a bit. What was the cause of wanting to turn this off today?
FERRARI: I just don‘t use it anymore.
AOL REPRESENTATIVE: Do you have a high-speed connection, like the DSL or cable?
AOL REPRESENTATIVE: How long have you had that?
AOL REPRESENTATIVE: The high-speed?
FERRARI: ... years.
AOL REPRESENTATIVE: Well, actually, I‘m showing a lot of usage on this account.
FERRARI: Yes, a long time ago, not recently.
AOL REPRESENTATIVE: Well, OK, I mean, is there a problem with the software itself?
FERRARI: No, I just—I don‘t use it. I don‘t need it. I don‘t want it. I just don‘t need it anymore.
AOL REPRESENTATIVE: OK. So when you use this—I mean, use the computer, I‘m saying, is that for business or for school?
FERRARI: Dude, what difference does it make? I don‘t want the AOL account any more. Can we please cancel it?
AOL REPRESENTATIVE: Last year was 545 -- last month was 545 hours of usage.
FERRARI: I don‘t know how to make this any clearer, so I‘m just going to say it one last time: Cancel the account, please!
AOL REPRESENTATIVE: Well, explain to me what‘s, why...
FERRARI: I‘m not explaining anything to you. Cancel the account.
AOL REPRESENTATIVE: Well, what‘s the matter, man? We‘re just—I‘m just trying to help here.
FERRARI: You‘re not helping me.
AOL REPRESENTATIVE: I am trying to help.
FERRARI: Listen, I called to cancel the account. Helping me would be canceling the account. Please help me and cancel the account.
AOL REPRESENTATIVE: No, it wouldn‘t actually.
FERRARI: Cancel my account. Cancel the account.
AOL REPRESENTATIVE: Turning off your account would be the worst thing that...
FERRARI: Cancel the account.
AOL REPRESENTATIVE: OK, because I‘m just trying to figure out...
FERRARI: Cancel the account. I don‘t know how to make this any clearer for you. Cancel the account. When I say “cancel the account,” I don‘t mean help me figure out how to keep it. I mean: Cancel the account.
AOL REPRESENTATIVE: Well, I‘m sorry. I don‘t know what anybody‘s done to you, Vincent, because all I‘m...
FERRARI: Will you please cancel the account?
AOL REPRESENTATIVE: All right. Some day, when you‘ve calmed down, you‘re going to realize that all I was trying to do was help you, and it was actually in your best interest to listen to me.
FERRARI: Wonderful. OK.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: I‘m joined now by the man who made that call to AOL, Vincent Ferrari.
Vincent, I‘m listening. I‘m thinking like “Seinfeld,” like this is Jerry and Kramer‘s involved somehow. Are you kidding me?
FERRARI: And that‘s what I was thinking, too. And it was like, “I can‘t believe this is actually happening to me.” You know, it‘s like, here it is right in front of me, and it‘s—you know, it‘s just happening that way, and I‘m recording the whole thing.
SMERCONISH: Here‘s my favorite line: “Dude, what difference does it make? I don‘t want the AOL account anymore. Can we please cancel it?” This guy‘s got, like, all the time in the world to hang with you.
FERRARI: Well, I mean, I hear that‘s what the retention specialists are for. I mean, they‘re there to keep you on the phone and, you know, bring up every objection.
SMERCONISH: Oh, my god. There‘s a title for it, “retention specialist”?
FERRARI: Retention specialist. Yes, I‘ve learned a lot about the way AOL works in the last couple of days.
SMERCONISH: Why were you recording this? You must have known something was coming.
FERRARI: Well, I run a Web site. And, you know, I‘m always looking for something interesting for the readers, you know? So I decided to record the conversation.
I figured, you know what, if the rumors are true and AOL is really difficult to cancel, then this would be, you know, a great thing for the readers to hear. If the rumors were false, then I‘d be proving everybody wrong and that would be just as good. So, you know, one way or the other, I was getting an interesting story for my site. That‘s really all it was.
SMERCONISH: Well, you got more than an interesting story for your site.
SMERCONISH: I read recently that 800,000 people dropped AOL in the last quarter. I mean, that must be what‘s driving this, that they‘re getting banged so hard by people abandoning them...
SMERCONISH: ... that they‘re doing all that they can to keep you in the tent.
FERRARI: And they didn‘t use—I mean, from what I heard, they didn‘t used to be this bad, but, you know, recently, you know, considering how many people have been canceling, I mean, I‘m getting horror stories on my Web site. You know, people just—“Hey, this happened to me, too.”
You know, I have—the post that I originally put this, I got almost 300 comments on it, people just telling me, “Yes, man, this happened to me, too.”
SMERCONISH: Vincent, how old are you?
SMERCONISH: All right, you‘re 30 years old, and the guy says to you what?
FERRARI: “Can I speak to your dad?”
SMERCONISH: Did he say dad or daddy?
FERRARI: Thank god he only said dad.
SMERCONISH: Who‘s your daddy? All right, to be fair, kind of, I want to show you what AOL had to say about the incident. “We have zero tolerance for customer care incidents like this, which is deeply regrettable and also absolutely inexcusable. The employees in question violated our customer service guidelines and practices and is no longer with the company.”
So they canned, I guess, whoever this guy is that talked to you.
FERRARI: Yes, John is no longer with the company.
SMERCONISH: Now, you didn‘t report this to AOL.
SMERCONISH: You just sort of made this publicly known what had happened, and then, what, they tracked you down and they apologized to you?
FERRARI: They did track me down. They apologized. I got a call for an interview last week, and they told me—I found out through them that John had actually been fired, so up until then I had no idea that he‘d actually been terminated.
SMERCONISH: So here‘s what I suspect happens next. Now, they offer you, for free, like AOL for a year, and then, at the end of the year, they want you to re-sign, and when you try and get out of that agreement, then you go through this whole process again.
FERRARI: No, I can tell you for a fact that AOL—I will never be an AOL customer ever again.
SMERCONISH: I don‘t want to say this just about AOL, but the reason that I love this story is that so often I have been involved in incidents like this where you just want to, like, reach through the phone and throttle somebody, and it takes so long to get through to a warm body, hit this prompt for this, and this for that, and, finally, you know, after you hit 000...
FERRARI: Well, I think what it is, is I think, not only did it touch a nerve, but it proved what people had been hearing all along. You know, there was always this rumor that AOL was really impossible to cancel, but now people have it and here it is. Here‘s John, here‘s me, here‘s Nicholas, you know, giving his apology afterwards, saying it‘s an isolated incident, but there a lot of people commenting, proving it‘s nowhere near an isolated incident at this point.
SMERCONISH: All right. I have one last question for Vincent Ferrari.
SMERCONISH: The AOL voice, John, we shall call him, says, “Some day when you‘ve calmed down, you‘re going to realize that all I was trying to do was help you.” Is that day today?
FERRARI: Probably not. And it‘s probably not going to be in the foreseeable future, either.
SMERCONISH: All right, Vincent. Thank you, Vincent Ferrari.
Up next, it‘s raining money, lots of it. Where? Why? Find out in tonight‘s “Must See SC.”
SMERCONISH: It‘s time for tonight‘s “Must See SC,” some video you‘ve got to see.
Up first, talk about your lucky day. These people in Wales were just crossing the street when cold, hard cash started falling from the sky. A mystery driver threw the pile of money out his window and sped off, leaving a free-for-all for $37,000 worth of Welsh bank notes.
One quick-handed pedestrian managed to make off with $14,000. Nice haul.
Next up, if you ever find yourself in an abandoned warehouse with these guys, don‘t let them challenge you to a game of horse. Now, we found this on the Internet, so, you know, we can‘t exactly say that there‘s no fancy camera work going on here, but if it‘s legit, these guys deserve a match against the Harlem Globetrotters.
And finally, remember that old college roommate you had who you just knew was out of his mind? Well, this guy‘s roommate set up a camera and now has the video to prove it. The kid‘s got moves.
We‘ll be right back with the results of tonight‘s live poll.
SMERCONISH: The results are in from our live SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY poll. We asked: Would you support laws that go after the landlords and business owners who house and hire illegal immigrants?
Now, take a look at the voting: 94 percent said yes; 6 percent said no.
You got something to say? We want to hear from you. Get in front of your computer and air it on your Web cam, then e-mail it to Joe@MSNBC.com. Just keep it short and keep it clean. And, parents, if you‘re not sure how to do it, then go ask your teenager for help.
That‘s all the time we have for tonight. I‘m Michael Smerconish with the privilege of sitting in for the big guy. Rita Cosby “LIVE & DIRECT” starts right now.
COSBY: Hey, Michael, and you did a good job filling in. Thanks so much.
SMERCONISH: Thank you.
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