Guests: James Gordon Meek, Steve Emerson, Pam Bondi, Yale Galanter, Liz Daulton, Pat Hernandez, Dexter Eaves, Amanda Taulbee
SUSAN FILAN, GUEST HOST: Coming up, the feds bust a terror plot targeting underground tunnels connecting New York and New Jersey.
The program about justice starts now.
Hi, everyone. I‘m Susan Filan. First up on the docket, another foiled terror plot. This one aimed at the tunnels that carry thousands of commuters between New Jersey and New York City every day. Three men are under arrest.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a plot that would have involved martyrdom, explosives, and certain of the tubes that connect New Jersey with lower Manhattan.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FILAN: The FBI says it worked with six foreign intelligence agencies to uncover the plot, and Lebanese authorities say they arrested and charged the ringleader, who swore allegiance to al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden and confessed to the plot. This plot was in the planning stages for later this year. Authorities said the plot involved at least eight people overseas.
Joining me now, James Gordon Meek, the reporter who broke the story in this morning‘s “New York Daily News”. Hello, James.
JAMES GORDON MEEK, “NEW YORK DAILY NEWS”: How are you?
FILAN: How close were these terrorists from completing this plan and when were the authorities aware of this plot?
MEEK: Well, Susan, I think this is like a lot of these plots that are revealed. I don‘t think they were all that close to executing anything, and I think we heard that from the FBI and New York City police and political officials and that, you know that‘s good. We should be glad that they disrupted this thing in the early stages, if that‘s indeed the case.
Although the homeland security secretary, Michael Chertoff said today that you know it‘s a very short distance between planning, such as what these guys were doing, and an actual, going operational as they say, getting ready to conduct a strike. So, you know luckily they nipped it in the bud, and they took care of it. So we should all be very glad that the FBI did its job.
FILAN: And how did you become aware of it today, of all days, in order to let the public know what had been going I guess for the past year that was going to be carried out later this year?
MEEK: Well I think there was an anticipation that the Lebanese government was going to announce the arrest as they have today of Emir Andaluslif (ph), who is one of the suspects described as the mastermind by the FBI of this plot, somebody who as you mentioned, swore biat (ph), which is a fealty (ph) to Osama bin Laden and claimed to be an al Qaeda operative. And so I think there was an expectation this was a story that was going to come out. I don‘t know that it had any connection; in fact, today‘s the first anniversary of the London subway bombing, so I think that‘s probably more coincidence than anything.
FILAN: That‘s exactly what I was wondering. I noticed that as well.
How did the FBI uncover this plot?
MEEK: Well as we reported, FBI agents were trolling in Internet chat rooms and somehow got a line on to these mobes (ph) who were plotting to attack us. And this is actually the scary thing, is that these were, as I understand it, and maybe with the case of the one guy in Lebanon, he may be an al Qaeda operative, but I think most of these people were not trained operatives of al Qaeda. They have not been to the Afghan camps before 9/11 to receive training. They were wannabes, but in this case our sources said that they were able to reach out to the terror network in Jordan of Abu Musab al Zarqawi, who had been the leader of al Qaeda in Iraq until the U.S. forces killed him a few weeks ago, and that makes it a little more scary because his network, apparently had pledged some support or some money, although it does not look as if they had actually delivered on any of it, so...
FILAN: So exactly how far in the planning stages were they?
MEEK: Well, according to officials who gave a press conference in New York City today, they were about to start surveillance of targets. So they were, you know they were at that phase where they decided what they wanted to do, and they were going to surveil their targets in New York City. Of course, you know the only way you can do that really other than on the Internet is to actually come to the United States, and as far as we know, none of them are here and none of them have traveled here, but that‘s a little fuzzy at the moment whether or not any of them had been here or not.
FILAN: And what was their idea about bombing these tunnels? What were they trying to do?
MEEK: Well it seemed that a mass casualty attack was not necessarily in their plans, but it was more that they were interested really in something that Osama bin Laden has often talked about, which is bleeding America‘s economy. And certainly 9/11 did that, and the subsequent wars that followed 9/11.
FILAN: But weren‘t they talking about flooding the entire area...
FILAN: ... the way Katrina devastated...
FILAN: ... New Orleans and...
MEEK: That would be one way to do it, if you still have a large enough bomb in the Holland Tunnel, for example, which goes from New Jersey into lower Manhattan, where the New York City‘s financial district and Wall Street are, then the idea was that you might flood lower Manhattan. Well the experts and city government and the experts we consulted said yes, it‘s possible, you might be able to breach the Holland Tunnel, let some of those Hudson River waters come in, but because lower Manhattan is about 10 feet above sea level it would be very difficult to flood lower Manhattan...
MEEK: ... and thank God that, you know, this is yet another one of those plots that perhaps wasn‘t fully realized or thought out by the evil doers.
FILAN: Right. And you refer to this guy—these guys as wannabes, well Zacarias Moussaoui was a wannabe and look...
FILAN: ... where he ended up. We won‘t tolerate wannabes. We won‘t tolerate gonnabes (ph). The only ones we‘re going to tolerate are the never ever gonnabes (ph). James Gordon Meek, thanks for joining us.
MEEK: Thank you so much.
FILAN: Joining me now, terrorism expert Steve Emerson. Good afternoon, Steve.
STEVE EMERSON, TERRORISM ANALYST: Hi.
FILAN: So what do you make of this? I mean we learned that there are these real dangerous guys plotting again to try to strike at the heart of America, our freedom, our economy. Their plot was foiled, but how serious was this? How close were they and how lucky are we that we found it out now?
EMERSON: Well look, the fact of the matter is that there is almost an inexhaustible supply of wannabes. Al Qaeda terrorists are a little bit more harder to find. They‘re a little bit more rare species, but there are those out there that are still plotting against the United States and plotting to do something in the United States, which of course is what the FBI is tasked to stop.
The FBI‘s interdiction of this squad, and it came from FBI developed intelligence, was worked very cooperatively with five other countries or six other countries showing very unusual level of intelligence cooperation. So I think that the FBI deserves a pat on the back for being able to stop the operation, infiltrate by the means that they have used, and ultimately have at least one person put into custody and others rounded up.
FILAN: Steve, I want you to take a listen to a sound byte that I‘m going to play for you, and I want to get your reaction. This is from the FBI assistant director out of New York. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARK MERSHON, FBI ASST. DIRECTOR, NEW YORK: It‘s probably appropriate to make a comment on the unprofessional behavior of the unknown individual who in fact disclosed prematurely this investigation. It‘s clearly someone who doesn‘t understand the fragility of international relations.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FILAN: I mean that‘s serious stuff. It sounds like he‘s saying it‘s someone from inside law enforcement leaked this to the media. The media obviously now has disclosed it to the public, now we know, but for that we wouldn‘t have known. What is he saying?
EMERSON: Well he‘s basically saying two things. One is he did not want to embarrass some of the other countries that cooperated with the United States by disclosing their roles, which of course was disclosed here, and two, he probably wanted to leave more string out there to see the plot more fully developed in order to catch other would-be culprits or defendants that might be involved in this plot.
So obviously intelligence gathering is very—is not a precise science. It‘s an art, and here, in this case, when you prematurely disclose something, you end up basically informing the suspects of what is going on. It‘s impossible to continue the investigation any further.
FILAN: Take a listen to another sound byte, if you would, and give us your reaction on that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MERSHON: The real story here is a symphony of cooperation and coordination, not just in the New York/New Jersey metropolitan area, but frankly around the world, with a number of intelligence and investigative services. There are a total of six foreign governments who are assisting in this investigation. We are not prepared without charges to discuss the level of cooperation or identify those countries.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FILAN: I mean while we are living in super scary times, this gives me so much hope to see this level of cooperation, really the good guys teaming up to try to keep us safe. Is that how it sounds to you?
EMERSON: Absolutely. Clearly before 9/11 this type of cooperation would not have been possible. Look, even today logistically it‘s very difficult to get intelligence agencies to cooperate even with their own law enforcement agencies because of certain type of bureaucratic walls. But here there was a cooperation of multiple agencies, those doing intelligence gathering as well as law enforcement in at least six countries who ordinarily probably would not cooperate with the United States, but for very good persuasiveness by the FBI that they needed to disrupt the plot, so this is a good sign.
FILAN: Oh fantastic. Let‘s have some good news today. Steve Emerson thanks so very much.
FILAN: Coming up, another blow for prosecutors trying to convict John Couey for the rape and brutal murder of Jessica Lunsford. A judge rules Couey‘s criminal past cannot be used in his trial after ruling that his confession can‘t be used either. Well now are the prosecutors in trouble?
And a judge sets bail for the preacher‘s wife who admitted to police that she shot and killed her husband. But her lawyers say the amount is way too high.
Plus, a Texas child welfare worker abducted, sexually assaulted and murdered months ago, but still no arrest. Now, police are focusing on a former sheriff‘s deputy. We talk to the victim‘s daughter, up next.
Your e-mails send them to email@example.com. Remember to include your name and where you‘re writing from. I respond at the end of the show.
FILAN: Is it another blow for the prosecution in the John Couey case? The judge ruled the jury won‘t hear the details of a decade‘s old assault case, in which Couey, when he was 19, was accused of breaking into a home, going into a little girl‘s bedroom, covering her mouth with his hands and kissing her.
The prosecution wanted to use this case to show Couey‘s pattern of behavior against little girls, but the judge shot that down saying the case involved physical contact but no sexual molestation, thus no pattern. Couey is charged with kidnapping and raping and killing 9-year-old Jessica Lunsford last year. He‘s pleaded not guilty and jury selection begins on Monday.
Joining me now Florida prosecutor Pam Bondi and criminal defense attorney Yale Galanter. Pam, how bad a setback is this for the prosecution, if one at all?
PAM BONDI, FLORIDA PROSECUTOR: Well, the prosecution I believe, Susan, still has a great case. It‘s a setback though because of course Florida allows something called Williams Rule evidence or similar fact evidence. It would have been great for the jury to hear that of course he tried to assault someone else before, but I think that had issues because the case was so remote in time. I think that happened in 1978 and that‘s one of the things the court takes into consideration.
FILAN: Pam, I‘m going to put up for our viewers that rule that you refer to so they can listen to it and look at it with us.
In a criminal case—this is the Williams Rule—in a criminal case in which the defendant is charged with a crime involving child molestation, evidence of the defendant‘s commission of other crimes, wrongs or acts of child molestation is admissible and may be considered for its bearing on any matter to which it is relevant.
Yale, how is this not another evidence of child molestation? I understand remoteness, I get that, but the judge is saying this is physical assault, not sexual assault. He covers her mouth with his hand and kisses her through his hand. If he had kissed her on the lips, I mean is that the distinction?
YALE GALANTER, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, I think there are a couple things going on here, Susan. One in is in Florida, trial judges have great discretion in, you know interpreting this Williams Rule, depending on the case, the circumstances of the case, you know these decisions could go either way. This judge in this particular case decided one, since Couey‘s past crimes were 28 years old and that there was no sexual assault, and he wasn‘t even arrested in that prior case, but they did use those facts to violate his probation and get him a 10-year prison sentence, that that was too remote, and if it was admissible, it wouldn‘t be probative for the jury, but it would be too prejudicial, so this judge didn‘t want to risk the case getting overturned on appeal and erred on the side of caution, instead of doing what the prosecutors wanted in this case, but it‘s very discretionary here in the state of Florida, Susan.
FILAN: Pam, I get remoteness. I get the balancing act. I get trying to protect, you know, reversible error, but I don‘t get him saying this isn‘t sexual molestation. It‘s just physical assault. Just please decode that for me.
BONDI: Yes, I agree with you. I agree with you. It‘s a child. I absolutely agree with you. And what Yale said, it doesn‘t matter if Couey was ever charged with that prior crime, the law does not require it for it to come in, and it would be important for a jury, very important for a jury to hear it, because it shows a pattern of conduct. It shows what this guy was all about, and how he assaulted young girls.
FILAN: I got to tell you. I don‘t think the case is in trouble without this. I mean I don‘t have a problem with it not coming in for what it is, I mean if it‘s too remote and it‘s the balancing act, and we are protecting from appellate review or reversible error, but if you are going to make the right ruling for the wrong reason, it really bugs me and I hate for the public to go away thinking that we are going to make this distinction between kissing over the hand on the mouth and kissing on the lips.
So whatever his reasoning was, that I hope wasn‘t really it. Yale, if you were the defense lawyer for this guy, do you think the prosecution is going to be able to get their capital conviction?
GALANTER: I think it‘s looking weaker and weaker. I mean they had the confession thrown out. I mean just remember, Susan, the prosecution was not going to use these prior bad acts. They were not even going to try and file a Williams Rule motion to get this admitted. The only reason they did it was because the confession was tossed out by this judge because of the police misconduct, so you know what we are left with is, we‘re left with a very circumstantial case, and it really is going to be a toss up in terms of you know what the prosecutors are able to admit in this courtroom and whether or not they‘re going to be able to get Mr. Couey convicted.
FILAN: Pam, there is no way you can agree with Yale on that. I‘m sure you think it‘s quite a strong case. I‘m going to let you tell us why in a second. But I just want you to hear, Pam and Yale and our viewers, his confession, the one that the jurors will never hear, then I‘m going to ask you about that, Pam. Take a listen.
DETECTIVE: OK and as soon as I walked into this room you told me that you had done something to Jessica and she was underneath the back...
COUEY: I didn‘t mean to do it, though.
DETECTIVE: OK. Johnny, listen to me. You‘re all right. Like I told you before...
COUEY: I‘m sick.
DETECTIVE: ... it‘s a disease Johnny and we‘re going to help you out with it.
COUEY: I‘ve never done it before in my life. I mean I...
DETECTIVE: It just happened, didn‘t it? Like I said, it went one step too far, didn‘t it? John, listen to me. I know it‘s going to be hard but you‘ve got to tell me from the start what happened that night.
COUEY: We come off of that party.
DETECTIVE: Come off of that party?
COUEY: Yes, the one y‘all was talking about, and we done some crack, my sister. I was going high and I was drunk. I went over there and took her out of her house.
COUEY: Her house...
DETECTIVE: Who? Who are we talking about?
COUEY: Jessica‘s house.
DETECTIVE: How did you get into her house?
COUEY: The door was unlocked.
DETECTIVE: OK. So she gets up and she walks out of the house with you.
COUEY: Yes, sir.
DETECTIVE: Where do you go?
COUEY: I take her to my house.
DETECTIVE: Into your bedroom?
COUEY: Yes, sir.
DETECTIVE: She climbs up that ladder with you?
COUEY: Yes, sir. Yes, she went in first.
COUEY: Then I went in behind her.
DETECTIVE: What happens next?
COUEY: Than I sexually assaulted her.
DETECTIVE: Did she know that we were out there looking for her?
COUEY: Yes, she knew. I told her y‘all were. You know I told her y‘all - I said they‘re out there looking for you and she seen it on TV too.
DETECTIVE: What happened next?
COUEY: I went out there one night and dug a hole, put her in it, buried her. I pushed - I put her in a plastic bag, plastic Baggies.
DETECTIVE: Was she dead already?
COUEY: No, she was still alive. I buried her alive. Like it was stupid, but she suffered.
FILAN: OK, Pam, this poor little girl was buried alive, suffocated with her stuffed animal, her last request, knew people were looking for her. This is as bad as it gets. Now the confession is out, the jury is never going to hear what we just heard, and now this pattern (UNINTELLIGIBLE) misconduct is out. Pam, what‘s left and how are the prosecutors going to nail him?
BONDI: Oh, Susan, I still think they have plenty of evidence, and thank goodness the judge did not suppress the body, the finding of Jessica‘s body because...
FILAN: Tell us why that is significant.
FILAN: Tell us what the evidence is.
BONDI: That is so significant, her body, because it clearly shows without the confession, that he was—she was alive when he buried her. She had...
FILAN: But how does it show he buried her?
BONDI: Well, there is other evidence. He made admissions to guards. He‘s made other admissions; his relatives are around, although he did not admit it to them...
FILAN: That‘s circumstantial. What‘s left that‘s direct?
BONDI: They found blood evidence, I believe...
BONDI: ... and evidence of her being in his bedroom, that little girl.
BONDI: I mean I think it‘s a strong guilt case, and I absolutely believe it‘s a strong death case, even though it‘s chilling to hear that confession...
BONDI: ... we have plenty of evidence to prove death because he is a prior sexual offender, and the fact that he buried her alive, and that will still be shown—by the way that—bless her heart—that poor girl tried to claw her way out of the garbage bag clutching her teddy bear. He‘s a monster.
FILAN: Yale, real quick. You‘re not going to be able to get away from her DNA on his mattress, real quick.
GALANTER: Oh, Susan, I agree with Pam 100 percent. I hope that the prosecutors in this case are able to nail him. You know as a criminal defense attorney I‘m upset at the police misconduct...
FILAN: Yes. Yes.
GALANTER: I‘m upset that the prosecution is going back, trying to bring in 28-year-old crimes that he was never arrested for...
FILAN: Got to wrap...
GALANTER: ... but in terms of the horrible part about this, I agree...
GALANTER: ... with you and Pam 100 percent.
FILAN: Pam Bondi, Yale Galanter, stick around with us. We‘re going to need you for more later on.
Coming up, a judge decides the preacher‘s wife who confessed to police that she killed her husband can get out of jail on bail. That‘s right. But her lawyers say the amount is so high it‘s like she didn‘t even get bail set at all.
Plus, a Texas child welfare worker abducted, sexually assaulted and murdered months ago, but still no arrests. Now police are focusing on a former sheriff‘s deputy. We talk to the victim‘s daughter, up next.
And our continuing series, “Manhunt: Sex Offenders on the Loose”, our effort to find missing sex offenders before they strike again. Our search today is in Oregon.
Police are looking for Tamo Robinson. He‘s 28, five-foot-ten, weighs 165. He was convicted of rape, hasn‘t registered his address with the state. If you‘ve got any information on his whereabouts, please call the Oregon State Police at 503-378-3720. We‘ll be right back.
FILAN: Mary Winkler, the preacher‘s wife who admitted to fatally shooting her husband in the back and running off with their children could walk out of jail tonight. The judge just set bail at $750,000. Winkler‘s attorneys says the bond is as high as setting no bond at all, thinking that a bond of about $25,000 would have been sufficient.
Joining me now on the phone WREC Radio reporter Liz Daulton, and back with me my panel, prosecutor Pam Bondi and criminal defense attorney Yale Galanter. So Liz, what can you tell us? Are you surprised by this ruling? Did you know it was coming today and did you think he‘d actually set it?
LIZ DAULTON, WREC RADIO (via phone): We had an idea that the ruling was going to come down today. I was not sure if it was going to be set or not, and it is a very high amount from what I‘ve heard from Farese, it looks like Winkler was going—is going to remain behind bars because she‘s not going to be able to post any type of that money.
FILAN: But she‘s got assets. I mean she‘s got that house and...
FILAN: ... and bond doesn‘t—you don‘t have to put up 750,000 cash.
You can put up assureity (ph). You can put up 10 percent.
DAULTON: You have to remember that the church is the owner of that property, so it‘s not sure if any—she is going to get any type of value off of that at all. She also doesn‘t have anyone helping her raise that money, so it‘s not sure if she has a significant person assisting her with that kind of - raising those funds.
FILAN: You say you hear it‘s high from Farese. Is there any other from the community that you‘ve gotten to hear whether they think it‘s high, whether they think it‘s low, whether they think it shouldn‘t have been set at all?
DAULTON: Well we do know that the prosecution was hoping that there was no bond set at all. That‘s all we‘ve heard from people in the community right now.
FILAN: Liz, I want to put up on our screen for our viewers what the conditions are in addition to the money that she would have to put up to secure her release. She‘s got to live with a friend. Weapons must be removed from the home. And she‘s got to be under supervision of state probation at all time.
She‘s got to be confined to Warren County except for visits with children and attorneys. Who is this friend that she‘s got to live with?
DAULTON: There is a friend from Midfield that has offered her a place to stay and offered her some—several different kinds of positions that she could take if she were released on bond. It‘s just a family friend that she has known for a very long time.
FILAN: And do these visits with her children have to be supervised by probation or supervised by anybody at all?
DAULTON: As far as I know, the visitations that have—the one visitation that has occurred, it‘s only been because the parental grandparents have allowed it, so I‘m assuming that they are going to definitely ask for some type of surveillance.
FILAN: Liz, stick around. Pam, former—Pam, our prosecutor, look, this is a capital case potentially, even though it hasn‘t been set or declared as or charged as one yet, but given that it‘s a capital offense, even though the prosecution hasn‘t declared whether they‘re going to proceed that way, shouldn‘t the judge have set bond in this case. The rule in Tennessee is you‘re entitled to bond, but for in a capital case.
BONDI: Yes, absolutely. They—she should not have been given bond in my opinion. And if he was given her bond it should have been in the millions because you‘re right. You have to understand, she does not have to walk in and post $750,000 cash. It can be $75,000. She can get a bondsman.
Her friend, her relatives can put up a house as collateral. And you know she meets all the criteria for detention. She‘s a flight risk. She committed a murder that could be a capital murder, and she is clearly unstable. I mean she absolutely needs to remain behind bars, and I think it‘s frightening that there‘s a chance she could get out.
FILAN: Yale, the purpose of pretrial detention isn‘t to punish, it‘s to ensure your appearance in court. It can‘t be excessive under the United States Constitution. The amount of bail can‘t be excessive. But look, shot him in the back, long gun, while he is asleep, point blank, and then, hello, gets her kids, gets some cash, gets a pizza, loads them into the car, and splits. Well what works about flight risk? How can you say she is not a flight risk under these circumstances?
GALANTER: Susan, there are two issues that go into bond. One, ties to the community or danger to the community, and (B), risk of flight...
FILAN: OK, she sounds dangerous to me and she sounds like a flight risk to me.
GALANTER: This particular judge found looking at all of the facts and circumstances of this case, that $750,000 would assure her appearance in court. And after all that‘s what bond is for. You are not supposed to detain somebody pretrial before the guilt or innocence phase until a jury or a finder of fact comes back and actually says she is guilty, or she admits her guilt in a court.
So this judge finds that $750,000 is a sufficient enough amount of money with the conditions of bond, the monitoring, supervised, being at home with a friend, to say hey I‘m satisfied, I think I can let her out of jail. And that‘s really what bond is supposed to be.
FILAN: You know I love the presumption of innocence too. I‘m all for playing by the rules. But you know this hasn‘t been decided by the prosecution‘s office whether they are going to charge it as a capital case, Yale. So given that, and you are not entitled to a bond, although the judge could set it if he wanted to or she wanted to in a capital case, isn‘t it totally premature for the judge to set it now?
GALANTER: No, it‘s—Susan, I actually think it‘s the opposite. It should not accrue against the defendant, because the prosecution has not made that determination. And if they do make that determination, they could always go back in front of the judge, on a motion for reconsideration...
FILAN: And have bond revoked.
GALANTER: Sure. These bond rulings are not fixed in stone. I mean you know she deviates to the right or the left; the prosecutors can always go back and try and modify the bond or revoke it. So in that regard I don‘t think that‘s the issue, but I think in terms of today‘s ruling, the way the case sits today that this judge is very satisfied that the 750 and the conditions of release will assure her appearance in court and that‘s the ultimate issue.
FILAN: Yale, real quick, is this bond high or low?
GALANTER: I think she is very lucky to have the bond, Susan. I really do. In that regard I agree with Pam. Most murder cases the bonds are in the millions.
FILAN: OK. Liz Daulton, Pam Bondi, Yale Galanter, thanks so much.
GALANTER: Thanks, Susan.
FILAN: Now, to Houston and the Andrea Yates‘ trial. Remember her? She is the mother accused of drowning her five children in a bathtub. She‘s pled not guilty by reason of insanity, and we are now learning the details behind at least two apparent suicide attempts before she took the lives of her children. Details coming from psychologists and psychiatrists who treated Yates and from her own mother-in-law testifying for the defense. Andrea Yates‘ now ex-husband Rusty is expected to take the stand next week.
Pat Hernandez is a radio reporter with station KTRH in Houston. He‘s been covering this trial and he joins us now. Hey. How are you?
PAT HERNANDEZ, KTRH RADIO: Just fine, Susan. How about you?
FILAN: Fine, thanks. And Pam Bondi and Yale Galanter are still with us on this. Can you fill us in? What is going on? What‘s the latest? What‘s happening in court?
HERNANDEZ: Today we had Eileen Starbranch, who is a psychiatrist, testify
for most of the morning, and also after lunch, and then after that, for
about the past two hours, Ms. Barbara Roberts (ph), who is a clinical
psychologist from Debraroe (ph), both had testified that they treated her -
not treated her in the sense that they prescribed anything, but took sampling of her wherewithal, how she felt, and they were both in agreement in that this was a very sick woman.
Dr. Starbranch also talked about prescribing her two antidepressants—I take that back—one an antidepressant and an anti-psychotic medication, and she had said that for a while, she was doing great. And all of a sudden, Rusty Yates called to say that she took a turn for the worst, that she stopped taking her medication, and that any of the medication that she was prescribed she was flushing down the toilet.
And then after that Barbara Roberts (ph) testified that she was—she too was in agreement about how Yates was a very sick woman. Both were in agreement, though, although they testified differently, that contrary to what Rusty Yates wanted as far as having more children as long as the Lord would allow, that that was not going to help her as far as her mental state was concerned.
Under cross-examination, the prosecutors were asking Ms. Roberts (ph), so are you telling me that Yates was a very sick woman? How would you compare her to other people that you have seen? And Ms. Roberts (ph) says that she was probably the sickest woman that I ever seen.
FILAN: Pat, how did...
FILAN: ... how did she look in court? How did Andrea Yates look in court?
HERNANDEZ: It‘s very sad to see this woman because you know she‘s sitting in court, she‘s obviously observing what is going on, but you have to wonder, in the five years that this happened, how much of this she‘s taking in...
FILAN: You say it‘s sad to look at what she is observing. She‘s observing what she herself did. I mean she wouldn‘t be there but for her own actions.
HERNANDEZ: But as far as her, you know, what it means to her mentally, I can‘t even gauge that. You can see—it‘s like you are looking inside a house through the windows and you don‘t see anybody there.
FILAN: But it sounds like...
HERNANDEZ: That‘s my...
FILAN: ... the writing was on the wall that this person had problems. She stopped taking her meds. She tried to kill herself. How she was ever left alone with those five kids, and I mean it‘s just mindboggling, and now to say I stopped taking my medicine, that‘s why I was crazy, so please let me off. This case drives me nuts.
HERNANDEZ: Well and I think it has—it does and it also (UNINTELLIGIBLE) I think with—I mean there are two that played this game, and we are talking about Rusty Yates, even though...
FILAN: Yes, real quick.
HERNANDEZ: ... you know he‘s a very religious man. He‘s a very religious man, but you‘ve got to wonder how much of it did he know...
HERNANDEZ: ... about her illness?
FILAN: Yes. Well...
HERNANDEZ: So it‘s a very sad state. It really is.
FILAN: Sick or not, to me it‘s murder. Pat, I misspoke. It was just you and me on this segment alone. We didn‘t have our other two guests. Thanks for joining us.
HERNANDEZ: You‘re welcome.
FILAN: Coming up, today is the last day of THE ABRAMS REPORT. Sad as that may be, we‘re very excited about our replacement. We‘ll meet the man who‘s taking over, up next.
And a Texas murder mystery, a child welfare worker abducted from her home and sexually assaulted and murdered in March, but still no arrests. Now police are focusing on a former sheriff‘s deputy. We talk to the D.A. and the victim‘s daughter, up next.
FILAN: Coming up, it‘s the last ever ABRAMS REPORT today, but there is a super cool new man taking over and we‘ll meet him up next. Stick around.
FILAN: A 53-year-old mother and Child Protective Services worker is murdered in Texas. And the scent from the scene leads to an unlikely place, the home of a former sheriff‘s captain in the town where she lived, but the story gets even stranger.
Still in her nightgown, Sally Blackwell was discovered in a cattle pasture on March 15. She had been strangled and sexually assaulted. When police arrived at the scene, they quickly zeroed in on some potential persons of interest. One of them being former Sheriff Michael Buchanek. What they did next is something you‘d see on “CSI”.
Joining me now Sally Blackwell‘s daughter, Amanda Taulbee and Victoria County, Texas District Attorney Dexter Eaves. Thank you for joining us.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you for having me.
FILAN: Mr. Eaves, a couple of years ago, Boachanick made the town‘s current sheriff the executor of his estate and at that time documents were created and put in a sealed envelope. How did that envelope come into play in this murder investigation?
DEXTER EAVES, VICTORIA COUNTY, TX D.A.: Well, actually you know it‘s a little awkward I know for our sheriff. I believe that he was a Good Samaritan in this case. Someone was going off to Iraq, and he held the papers for him. But in the end, it actually helped the investigation in that within hours he was able to take that sealed envelope, and it was a perfect scent pad to help the dogs that were tracking in the case. So, it is going to be awkward for the prosecution at some point, but I believe the sheriff has been doing a very good job up to this point.
FILAN: So basically what happened was that sealed envelope, with that person‘s sent, Buchanek‘s scent on it, was taken out to the murder scene, placed near the deceased, the victim, and from that the dogs tracked all the way back to the Boachanick. Isn‘t that correct?
EAVES: Well I‘m not necessarily saying that they took the envelope out to the crime scene, but what they did is the dogs you know need a scent to go from, and that was one of the sources for the dogs to track from, and yes, they did follow it to a person of interest, is what we call the person at this point.
FILAN: And that person is Boachanick, yes?
EAVES: That‘s one of the persons, yes.
FILAN: But this scent on this envelope tracked from the dog to Boachanick, yes?
EAVES: To this person of interest.
FILAN: I know we‘re not calling him a suspect and I‘m not trying to get you to, but the person of interest...
FILAN: ... that the dog tracks to is Boachanick, yes?
EAVES: That‘s correct.
FILAN: OK. Now from there, your sheriff, who is presently in charge, is in an awkward position. I‘m going to have you take a look at something that he had to say in regards to this. What some people are saying is a potential conflict of interest. I‘m going to ask you to comment.
He says there is no compromising here. None. And whoever is the person who committed this heinous act, believe me, I‘ll be the first to bring him or her in.
FILAN: Well he‘s in a tough spot, because he helped this person out. They did this transfer of the documents. Now this envelope leads back to this person. But the sheriff is in charge sort of, of investigating I guess you could call a friend, an acquaintance, somebody he had once tried to help out. How is he handling that?
EAVES: Well and I believe you know people who are from the area understand, and T. Michael O‘Connor is—he doesn‘t need a job. He is the kind of person that people know of character and integrity. He was helping out someone who really had no one else to go to, who handed him a document and said look, I‘m going off to Iraq. Would you hold this for me?
FILAN: Do you think it‘s going to interfere with his ability to do his job?
EAVES: No, I really don‘t. In retrospect, I‘m sure it‘s like my dad who picks up hitchhikers. You know I tell him all the time, hey God will watch out for you, but maybe in the future you know don‘t pick up anybody any more. I think the sheriff probably in retrospect, you know he won‘t be taking any documents from anybody no matter where they‘re going or...
EAVES: ... for whatever reason.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
FILAN: ... what do you think about the fact that an arrest has not been made in your mom‘s case?
AMANDA TAULBEE, SALLY BLACKWELL‘S DAUGHTER: Well, losing a parent you know under any circumstances is extremely hard, but losing my mom, who I was very close to, to a violent crime is really unbearable, and we have definitely waited a whole lot longer than we expected to get DNA results back, and we are definitely ready for some answers.
FILAN: Do you think the sheriff should stay on as lead investigator in this case, or do you think he‘s got a problem?
TAULBEE: I am very uncomfortable with the fact that I learned about his connection to this person of interest through the media, rather than him being forthcoming about it from the get-go. I think that that has lessened my family‘s ability to you know trust what is going on in this investigation. I continue to wonder if that‘s something I didn‘t know, what else do I not know? And that‘s a very hard thing to be dealing with when I am already hurting, and I shouldn‘t be having to ask these questions.
FILAN: There was another person of interest who was somebody that I think you would characterize as someone that your mom was in love with. Are you suspicious of him?
TAULBEE: No, I am not.
FILAN: So in your mind he‘s got no connection to this?
FILAN: Are you suspicious of the other person of interest that we‘ve talked about on this show?
TAULBEE: I don‘t know him. You know I have certainly heard a whole lot of different things about this investigation, but I don‘t know him personally, and I cannot speculate about what kind of man he is.
FILAN: Mr. Eaves, it‘s been three months. What is taking so long? I mean I was a prosecutor for many, many years. I know what labs are like, but when you want results you get them. What‘s going on?
EAVES: Well, I tell you this is more than probably the normal murder investigation. I don‘t know what type of prosecution that you have done, but...
FILAN: Good ones.
EAVES: I‘m sure you were. And in cases like this, though, where there is several different scenes, there is a murder scene, there‘s a kidnapping scene. There‘s three or four miles of area that they have to cover, and on top of that, we have a lab in Corpus Christi that is a great lab. Those folks have done, you know work on the 19 immigrants a couple of years back. They‘ve done some really, really great work, but there is only so many of them right now. Ninety days...
FILAN: Real quick.
EAVES: ... in South Texas is not a long time. It‘s probably forever for the family, and I can‘t even imagine...
TAULBEE: Yes, it is.
EAVES: ... what they are going through right now.
FILAN: Well, Amanda Taulbee, my heart goes out to you.
TAULBEE: Thank you.
FILAN: Dexter Eaves, do your job and solve this crime. Thanks for joining us.
EAVES: We will solve this crime and we will get it done.
FILAN: Today is the last day ever of THE ABRAMS REPORT. Well wait until you meet the man who‘ll be sitting in this chair on Monday.
FILAN: Time now for “Your Rebuttal”. Today it‘s all about me. Not my idea.
Lynn Nagrani from Roswell, Georgia, “I decided I wasn‘t going to watch THE ABRAMS REPORT anymore and thought I now had an extra hour each day. Then I checked back in yesterday and there was Susan. Susan loves doing the show and brings similar joy and energy as did Dan Abrams. I‘ll take joy and energy any day of the week. Go, Susan.”
And Carol Brogna from Mountain View, California, “Dear Dan, my husband and I continue to miss your presence on THE ABRAMS REPORT but enjoy watching Susan Filan at the helm in your absence. Please do not discontinue this program. It‘s one of the most intelligent hours on television today and it‘s been fun to watch Susan develop and improve her television and interviewing skills.”
Kay Bomar, “If I can‘t have Dan Abrams, I want Susan. I don‘t always agree with her, but she does sort of have an Abrams type personality and a great sense of humor. Please don‘t let her get away. Even when I‘m disagreeing with her, she doesn‘t make me angry.”
And Meredith Knight from Scarborough, Maine, “Susan Filan is knowledgeable and spunky. What a pleasure to see, listen to her on a daily basis. She‘s got the tempo, the wit, and the expertise to carry off this change. Here‘s hoping I‘m not alone with this and I‘ll be seeing a lot more of her.”
And Gloria Cox, “Boy, is this lady good. Keep her on as host of the show.”
And Donna Schulman from Plantation, Florida, “You are the best. I thought Dan was usually very tough on you as a panelist, and I wrote him several times to that effect. I hope he‘s smart enough to keep you on as his permanent replacement.”
Well, Donna, you will see a lot of me as the MSNBC legal analyst, but wait until you see who is going to take over this time slot on Monday. You‘re going to meet him right after the break. You‘ve got to stick around.
FILAN: We‘re back now with the man who‘s taking over THE ABRAMS REPORT time slot at 4:00 and 6:00 Eastern on MSNBC. Tucker Carlson...
TUCKER CARLSON, HOST OF “TUCKER”: Susan Filan...
FILAN: ... host of “TUCKER”...
CARLSON: Yes, that‘s true. We‘re getting a new name and a very new time slot. For a year we‘ve been at 11:00, which is a great time to be on, but it has a very specific audience, people who are watching TV at 11:00, not the same people watching we don‘t think at 4:00 and 6:00. So I think a lot of the—our new viewers will be unfamiliar with the show. Hope they‘ll like it. I think it may be a little jarring.
FILAN: How could you not like Tucker? I mean there is nobody on the air like you.
CARLSON: Well, it took me—you know, the name, I cringed a little bit. But you know I‘ve stopped cringing. No more embarrassment for me. I think a lot of viewers of this show will be familiar with some of the themes we‘ve taken up. You‘ve been a frequent guest, viewers of this show may not know, on “THE SITUATION” at 11:00, talking about a topic we‘re going to continue to hammer day in and day out and that‘s the Duke...
CARLSON: ... rape debacle, the travesty, the hoax currently in progress put together just a quick—I think you‘re in this—montage of some of the highlights I think of the...
FILAN: But you don‘t have strong feelings about this, right?
CARLSON: I do have strong feelings.
CARLSON: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) slowly they have come out you know over time.
FILAN: And you‘re so subtle. It took me a while to get where you‘re coming from.
CARLSON: Yes, I know I‘m a subtle guy, Susan. Watch, here are some of the things we‘ve been talking about on “THE SITUATION”.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CARLSON: You are on the stripper‘s side because she is black. You are against the alleged rapists because they are white. This is a racial issue to you and you know it and I just think...
CARLSON: ... it‘s destructive...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I‘ll tell you what...
CARLSON: ... to insert that into this.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If this had been 40 young black athletes and this had been a white stripper, you‘d have your bow tie on tonight.
CARLSON: I have no idea what you‘re talking about.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I know you don‘t.
CARLSON: I think you‘re implying...
CARLSON: ... that I would take the...
CARLSON: Hold on—that I would take the side...
CARLSON: ... of the stripper because she was white, which is absolutely ridiculous and you know it because my life is not organized around race as yours is.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I hope somehow that we‘ll break the code of silence by these...
CARLSON: And I hope that you will give every human being, every child of God the benefit of the doubt as you‘ve given this young woman and good for you. I hope you‘ll give the same to these young men.
You know what you have, Wendy? You have feminism. I have facts. You have feminist theory. And I think...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have common sense.
CARLSON: ... facts win over feminist theory.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You might want to borrow some, some night, Tucker.
CARLSON: OK. Good luck, Wendy. Were you really a prosecutor? Is that honestly true?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Of course I was a prosecutor...
CARLSON: I want evidence of what these guys did. They‘ve been accused of a very serious...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well let me tell you...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Let me tell you something. You are being spun like a dumb dog. Every time the defense just spews nonsense, you accept it as fact and you put it on your show.
CARLSON: That‘s what you say every week...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Let me...
CARLSON: ... but counter that with actual evidence. I have put up evidence here.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Let me ask you something.
CARLSON: You bring evidence to the table to prove your point.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, that is not evidence.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CARLSON: Wendy Murphy, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) I don‘t know if I can handle too much more of her. But you, Susan, I hope you will come on.
FILAN: I‘d be delighted. I‘d love to come on your show as always.
CARLSON: Thank you, Susan.
FILAN: We wish you the best. You guys, you got to watch “TUCKER”.
Coming up “HARDBALL” with Chris Matthews. Have a great weekend. Stay tuned for “TUCKER” here on Monday.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
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