Guests: Bret Hart, Kathy Jefcoats, Irvin Muchnick, Drew Pinsky, Vernell Crittendon, Avery Friedman, Bill Zanker, Stephanie Miller
DAN ABRAMS, GUEST HOST: New details tonight about the world wrestling star known as “the Canadian crippler,” now believed to have strangled his wife and suffocated his 7-year-old son in their home, the authorities now saying that Chris Benoit killed himself after killing them over two days. We‘re going to check in with one of Benoit‘s fellow wrestlers and friends, retired WWE wrestler Bret Hart, in just a minute.
But first, the details are disturbing and gruesome. The authorities now believe that Benoit strangled his wife, Nancy, on Friday, and then the next day, on Saturday, killed his 7-year-old son, Daniel, before hanging himself hours later in the weight room of his Atlanta metro area home.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SCOTT BALLARD, FAYETTE COUNTY, GEORGIA, DISTRICT ATTORNEY: There was a Bible placed at the—beside the body of each of the victims. The wife was bound on her feet and I think also on her wrists. There was some blood under her head. I don‘t have any idea at all about a motive.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: Authorities say they also found anabolic steroids and prescription drugs in Benoit‘s home. They don‘t yet know whether they were a factor. Court records show that Benoit and his wife had a turbulent marriage. She‘d filed for divorce in the past, alleging domestic abuse.
Retired WWE wrestler Bret Hart knew Benoit for 20 years. He joins us now from Calgary, Canada, for his first interview about Benoit on American TV. Thanks a lot for joining us. We do appreciate you taking the time. Let me ask you this...
BRET HART, FORMER WWE WRESTLER: Thank you.
ABRAMS: Did you ever see a violent side to him in his personal life?
HART: No, you know, I always—I always knew Chris as a very easygoing, cheerful kind of guy. I don‘t remember one time every seeing him lose his temper or lose his composure in any way at all.
ABRAMS: When you heard about the authorities coming forward and saying they believed it was a murder/suicide, I assume that was a pretty stunning moment for you.
HART: You know what? I just kept trying to tell myself there was some other reason for it. And I think probably a lot of people that knew him and a lot of wrestlers—I think everyone is sort of coming to terms with this right now. I think everyone was hoping there was some other—there was a better explanation than this. You know, I think it‘s going be a long time before anybody gets over this in the wrestling business.
ABRAMS: You knew both him and his wife. You knew him better than his wife. Is it true he met her initially in what was a stunt with another wrestler?
HART: You know what? I don‘t know anything about it. I just remember—I just knew her when—unfortunately, most of the times I met Chris‘s wife was at funerals. And you know, everything I knew about her was that she was a very nice person and that they got along great. I don‘t remember Chris ever confiding in me any kind of marital problems, and I never had any idea that things were anything but rosy there. I always thought he was a good family man and a good husband, and I never knew any different. Whatever problems have been building between him and his wife over the years, and even how they met, I wouldn‘t know.
ABRAMS: You say you met him at funerals. You know, we got some statistics which are pretty amazing, sort of sad and amazing, about the number of wrestlers who have died even in just, let‘s say, the last 10 years. Were you at the funeral of wrestlers at the time?
HART: I would say it‘s fair to say there‘s been far too many funerals in wrestling. I can‘t explain (INAUDIBLE) from so many different reasons. There‘s a tremendous amount of pressure put on wrestlers to perform every night and work a hard schedule. And over the years, there‘s been a lot of—you know, a lot of wrestlers have involved themselves with steroids and painkillers and things like that. But it‘s my understanding that a lot of that has been remedied over the last few years. And I‘m hoping that steroids aren‘t tied in with this as any kind of—I don‘t want see this pinned on steroids. I think there‘s a deeper—it goes beyond that, at this point.
ABRAMS: Is this going to bring wrestling down...
ABRAMS: I mean, is this going to be a sort of a pock (ph) that wrestling won‘t be able to overcome?
HART: Well, no, wrestling will—seems to always keep going. There‘s an unbelievable following of people that love their wrestling, and there‘s no reason for this to ruin that for everybody. But I do think that the people in the industry, the wrestlers, the—Vince McMahon, the WWE, I think they—even in every organization that‘s involved with wrestling—Chris Benoit was somebody that—everybody loved him. Everybody respected him.
And that‘s why this is so hard to accept and to take is because everybody‘s—everybody‘s so sore because we all loved him. This was a great man that we all would have—you know, if this man needed help, I th9ink there‘s—I can‘t think of any wrestlers that wouldn‘t have come to the aid of Chris Benoit and try to support him and help him through whatever he was carrying around. And you know, I think everybody‘s going to be brokenhearted over this one for a long time.
I think wrestlers are reeling from the deaths of so many of their peers and friends. Sensational Sherry (ph) died just a few weeks ago. Bambam Bigelow (ph) died a few months back. These guys all died because they had nothing left. They were depressed and brokenhearted. And I think depression is a big problem that wrestlers are dealing with on a day-to-day basis...
ABRAMS: Let me ask you—let me ask you...
HART: ... right now, and this is only going magnify it.
ABRAMS: Well, let me ask you about that. I mean, you said that he was the kind of guy anyone would go do anything for. Did people just misread him? I mean, or could it have been steroids or some other kind of drugs?
HART: You know, you have to leave that up to the forensic experts that‘ll tell you what was in his body and—it‘s my understanding that WWE had a really strong drug-testing policy in place since Eddie Guerero (ph) died a few years ago, and they‘ve been sort of—stamped out steroids and have been really making an effort to have no—there‘s no happy medium there. It‘s no steroids, period.
And I‘m hoping that you‘ll find that Chris Benoit—that this isn‘t so much tied in and connected to steroids. But I do think that, you know, it‘s possible that steroids are a factor. I think you just have to look at the facts as they come in.
ABRAMS: Bret Hart, thanks a lot for taking the time. We appreciate it.
HART: Thank you.
ABRAMS: Let‘s get to the investigation into what happened at Benoit‘s house. Kathy Jefcoats is a reporter for “The Atlanta Journal-Constitution” who‘s been covering the story. Irvin Muchnick is the author of the book “Wrestling Babylon: Pile-Driving Tales of Drugs, Sex, Death and Scandal.” And Dr. Drew Pinsky is an addiction medicine specialist who treats celebrities. He‘s also the author of the book “Cracked: Putting Broken Lives Together Again.”
All right, thanks to all of you for joining us. Appreciate it. All right, Kathy, so why do the authorities believe the murders occurred over two days?
KATHY JEFCOATS, “ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION”: I don‘t believe they know that yet.
ABRAMS: Well, that‘s what they‘ve said in their press conference. They said they believed that...
JEFCOATS: Right. I don‘t know that they know why they occurred over several days. The findings were that she was killed Friday, sometime Friday night. The little boy was killed sometime Saturday morning. And then several hours later, he hung himself.
ABRAMS: Do you know—do you know...
JEFCOATS: But they‘re not saying why.
ABRAMS: Do you know what they‘re basing that finding on, though, and how they were able to determine that one occurred one night, the other occurred later on?
JEFCOATS: Well, I‘m sure part of it is the autopsy. They were all three autopsied this morning at the GBI crime lab. And part of it is going to be, I believe Mr. Benoit made some phone calls and some text—and made some text messages to some people. So they‘re putting the timeline together.
ABRAMS: Do you know anything more about those texts?
JEFCOATS: Not anything that‘s been confirmed.
ABRAMS: OK. All right, look, here‘s—let me play a little bit more from—this is from the press conference today, talking about the timing of the deaths. Here‘s what they said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BALLARD: It would appear that some period of time elapsed between the death of the two victims and the suicide. And it struck me as somewhat bizarre that perhaps he even would be in the home with their deceased bodies for some length of time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: Mr. Muchnick, look, you‘ve written about this for a long time, and I assume this is not the typical sort of wrestling incident that one would write about. But you know, how does this fit in with what you know about the WWE, and more broadly about pro wrestling?
IRVIN MUCHNICK, AUTHOR, “WRESTLING BABYLON”: Well, where it fits in, although this particular incident is especially gruesome and grisly, is that many, many dozens of wrestlers—in my book I document about 87 over the last generation who have died of cocaine abuse, steroid abuse, painkillers and other aspects of the wrestling lifestyle. And I‘ve been told that my list is far from comprehensive.
So wrestling fans are used to wrestlers dying. They‘re not used to the sensational details of this particular case. But that‘s where it fits in, and it‘s a very sad commentary on the wrestling industry these days.
ABRAMS: But Dr. Pinsky, look, if we believe everything that we‘ve heard from Bret Hart and some other people, saying, Oh, you know, this is the kind of guy who—look, you hear this a lot of the time when you get a defendant or someone who does something like this. People always say, I never would have expected it. Some of the time they say they do. But could drugs explain, then, how a guy who was not likely to do something like this could do something like this?
DR. DREW PINSKY, ADDICTION MEDICINE SPECIALIST: Well, certainly. I mean, people who are addicted will engage in behaviors that are often bizarre, often very out of character. And it‘s interesting. People were saying, Well, we‘ll find out what drugs are in his system. Very often, it‘s when the drugs are not in their system, when they‘re in withdrawal, when they‘re craving, when they‘re struggling that the behavior can sometimes intensify. So the autopsy may not exonerate drugs and addiction as the issue here.
All right, look, there‘s anabolic androgenic steroids in his home. The fact is, if somebody comes to me with these sorts of bizarre thoughts or intentions, the last thing in the world you‘re going to do is let somebody like that be exposed to chemicals such as steroids.
ABRAMS: But let me read you this statement, Dr. Drew, from the WEE, all right? They say, “There‘s no current evidence that Benoit had steroids or any other substance in his body on the last test done on Benoit on April 20, 2007, he tested negative.”
Does that tell us anything?
PINSKY: Right, and—doesn‘t tell me anything because people cycle steroids. They don‘t use them every day. They use them in cycles for very brief periods of time. There‘s a lot of—as the author just mentioned, Mr. Muchnick, that there‘s is a lot of cross-addiction with steroids and stimulants—I beg your pardon, steroids, stimulants and opiates. And again, those things can be used in very short bursts, and it‘s when they‘re off them, again, that you tend to see the depressions, the irritability, the abnormal thinking. And it may not be an impulsive rage we‘re talking about here, but I have seen very gruesome suicides, I‘ve seen very intense violence both on the drug and off.
ABRAMS: Kathy, how long did it take them to come to the conclusion—I mean, we‘re talking about Friday and Saturday, bodies found on Monday—to come to the conclusion that it was a murder/suicide, do you know?
JEFCOATS: The district attorney, Scott Ballard, told me pretty quickly Monday. I can‘t remember what time it was, maybe 7:00 or 7:30 Monday night. On my way out there to the house, I gave him a call and I said, you know, Triple homicide, which would be really unusual for Fayette County, and he said, No, we‘re looking at a murder/suicide. So I think they knew pretty quickly.
ABRAMS: All right , Irvin, let me ask you this. Look, we‘re talking about—about anabolic steroids. We‘re talking about him being, you know, a wrestler and all—I mean, Could it just be that as in so many of the cases that we cover, that this is simply an angry husband?
Let me read you some of the details that we knew about his marital problems. They moved in together in 1997, married in 2000. May 12 of 2003, she filed for divorce, said she‘s being abused by him. May 12, 2003, the judge issued a restraining order against him. August 2003, she dismissed her request for a divorce.
Do you know anything more about it?
MUCHNICK: I don‘t know anything more about their particular marital situation. And you‘re quite right that we don‘t know, but we can look at the pattern of the pandemic of death in wrestling recent years, and I think it‘s reasonable to speculate that there was something more going on here...
ABRAMS: You know, I...
MUCHNICK: ... than a simple marital dispute.
ABRAMS: I read that they met as part of a wrestling stunt, that she was married to or going out with another wrestler, Irvin?
MUCHNICK: That‘s correct.
ABRAMS: Yes, tell me about that.
MUCHNICK: Well, he was wrestling in Ted Turner‘s old World Championship Wrestling, Chris Benoit was. And his wife, his future wife, Nancy, was a valet (ph), a TV character known as Woman (ph). She was the wife of Kevin Sullivan (ph), who was the booker or the storyline writer for World Championship Wrestling. Chris Benoit was a technically brilliant wrestler, probably one of the greatest dozen or so wrestlers of the last generation, but he wasn‘t very colorful, and they had a hard time putting him over as a true superstar because he couldn‘t do a great promo interview and do some of the other things of projecting a personality.
So Kevin Sullivan got the idea to put heat on him, as they say, by cooking up an angle or a storyline in which he hooked up with Woman, Nancy Doss (ph) Sullivan, who was Kevin Sullivan‘s wife. And then art imitated life, and they actually did run off together. And so the joke in wrestling for years, which seems like a really bad joke today, is that Kevin Sullivan is the booker who booked his own divorce.
ABRAMS: All right. Kathy Jefcoats, thanks a lot. We appreciate it. Irvin Muchnick and Dr. Drew Pinsky are going to stay with us.
Still ahead: The WWE is already blaming the media for speculating about ‘roid rage, but they‘re the ones who should be on the ropes. They honored a double murderer last night for three hours before they knew all the facts. Now, there‘s a report tonight they may apologize for their tribute to him. But isn‘t the damage done?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My whole family (INAUDIBLE) raised that way, my dad, my uncles, all my cousins.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: This inmate shot a corrections officer and then led police on a deadly escape this week. Turns out authorities already considered him a threat. We know because MSNBC interviewed him before he broke out. We‘ll show you that.
Plus, Barbara Walters shows us a side of her you may not want to see! Coming up in “Beat the Press.”
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VINCE MCMAHON, WWE CHAIRMAN: Tonight, this arena here in Corpus Christi, Texas, was to have been filled to capacity with enthusiastic WWE fans. Tonight‘s storyline was to have been the alleged demise of my character. Mr. McMahon. However, in reality, WWE superstar Chris Benoit, his wife, Nancy, and their son, Daniel, are dead.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: WWE chairman Vince McMahon last night during a three-hour tribute—three-hour tribute—to the wrestler who they later learned authorities say murdered his wife and child and then killed himself. Tonight, reports are that McMahon will apologize for that celebration of Chris Benoit‘s life, but the WWE is still on the offensive, attacking the media for questioning whether this could be the result of, let‘s say, ‘roid rage.
My take. The night that they were all found dead, the WWE celebrates Benoit‘s life for three hours on TV. The first thing we talked about here in the newsroom last night during the tribute, based on the facts we knew then, was that it was likely a murder/suicide. Now, I hope WWE chairman Vince McMahon apologizes. That‘s the right move. But even if he does, they really insulted the victims hour after hour last night. In the end, it was a celebration of Benoit‘s celebrity, rather than a cold, hard look at the facts of the case first.
Joining me now is Steve Adubato, MSNBC media analyst. And Irvin Muchnick joins us again. All right, Steve, you know, how big a deal is this for WWE? I mean, what do they need to do tonight?
STEVE ADUBATO, MSNBC MEDIA ANALYST: You know, Irvin said it before, 87 wrestlers, Dan, that we know of, that he documented in his book. The thing that happened with Chris Benoit is horrendous, not just because it happened to him, but now you got a little kid, a 7-year-old, and his wife. The problem I have with WWE is this, and Vince McMahon, who‘s a marketing genius on some level because (INAUDIBLE) They had—they should have waited. It was the only responsible thing to do.
But they‘re so pressed in these events to put a show on, to have a, quote, “angle,” as Irvin knows, a storyline, that they didn‘t even wait to figure it out because they were afraid that if they waited, they might have, quote, “missed an opportunity” to—in my view, on some level, take advantage of a storyline that was so horrific and salacious that they weren‘t responsible. And apologizing is just too late, Dan, because they should have known.
ABRAMS: Irvin, I don‘t get—I mean, look, mistakes are made, OK? The problem I have here is first that they‘re going after the media, saying, How could they be questioning question whether this was ‘roid rage, for example? OK. I understand their position. He took a steroid test. It came back negative in April. But as Dr. Drew told us before, that doesn‘t necessarily end the issue.
But they‘re doing that while they were the ones who spent three hours celebrating last night a guy who‘d become—the authorities now say is a murderer.
MUCHNICK: Well, look, Dan, I don‘t believe in making distinctions without a difference. There‘s a little bit of piling on going on here against the WWE. Not that Vince McMahon doesn‘t deserve it, but he didn‘t know. They ran a show. Actually, when they were running repeats of the broadcast, they probably did know that it was a murder/suicide. So perhaps they could have stopped it, but it was a TV show.
I also don‘t believe in distinctions about whether or not it was ‘roid rage because whether or not it was classic ‘roid rage or just some other combination of chemicals that so addled Chris Benoit‘s brain that he behaved in this bizarre way, he and his wife and his son are just as dead.
And I think what we should be talking about is how—is why we should all be caring about this. We should care, whether we‘re wrestling fans or not, because wrestling is not only a huge international multi-media merchandising juggernaut, but it has infected mainstream sports and society...
MUCHNICK: ... with wrestling values.
ADUBATO: Especially with kids.
MUCHNICK: And we‘re going to be seeing the same sort of thing...
ABRAMS: All right...
MUCHNICK: ... and we saw it over the weekend in the death of baseball star Rod Beck (ph). We‘re going to be seeing this in the sports heroes that we...
ABRAMS: But here‘s my concern...
ABRAMS: I feel like we‘re apologizing already. Even by talking about whether it‘s ‘roid rage, in effect, we‘re saying there has to be some other explanation. And yet, for example, we talk about the case of Bobby Cutts, which we‘ve been covering for the murder—accused of the murder of this nine-month-pregnant woman—wife or girlfriend. We‘re not saying there, Boy, what sort of mental deficiency must he have had? Here we‘re saying, Oh, he was a big wrestling star. There must be some explanation.
ADUBATO: Dan, there‘s a history. There‘s a pattern. There‘s a culture. It‘s not just the death—I mean, a ridiculous number of deaths, an absurd, unbelievable, statistically impossible number of deaths. The fact that when Eddie Guerero—when he was the WWE champion, when he dies the way he dies, and Vince all of a sudden says, Now we‘re going to crack down on steroids—ten years ago, there was a case that involved McMahon and Hulk Hogan and steroids. And Vince got off there. Instead of saying 10 years ago, We‘re going to crack down, we‘re going to do all these things, they waited another eight years...
ABRAMS: I know, but that‘s...
ADUBATO: ... for Eddie Guerero to die! It‘s absurd!
ABRAMS: I do feel like we‘re getting to the point of—like, the piling on on the WWE, fine. But I don‘t understand why the first thing everyone is assuming is it was the presumption that he must be innocent on the part of many in the public, I think, and the WWE.
Anyway, Steve Adubato, Irvin Muchnick, thanks a lot. Appreciate it.
Still ahead: MSNBC interviewed the tattooed-face inmate who killed a corrections office and escaped this week before the incident, as we will show you. It maybe should have come as no surprise that this guy was very dangerous. We‘ll show you that tape.
But first: A recent poll showed 88 percent of young people can‘t find Afghanistan on the map. They shouldn‘t feel too bad. Our friends over at CNN couldn‘t seem to find it, either. That‘s next in “Beat the Press.”
ABRAMS: Time for tonight‘s “Beat the Press,” our daily look back at the absurd and sometimes amusing perils of live TV. First up: Warning. You may find the following video disturbing, Barbara Walters on “The View” talking about her undergarments.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARBARA WALTERS, “THE VIEW”: I‘m not wearing them. I wonder if you can see my panty lines.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: I‘m not wondering! Please! Don‘t! Don‘t!
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WALTERS: (INAUDIBLE) see my panty line?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: No, Barbara! Don‘t do it! No! No!
Finally, over at CNN, the most trusted name in news, Anderson Cooper gives us the facts on Afghan refugees.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANDERSON COOPER, “360”: The vast majority of Afghan refugees have fled to Pakistan and Iran, and now both countries are threatening to send them home. And home, of course, is a shattered country where the Taliban has built new inroads and is eager for new recruits. More from CNN‘s Nic Robertson.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: Except that‘s not where Afghanistan is. I believe that would be Syria. The real Afghanistan is over there, east of Iran.
Coming up: A dangerous inmate escapes from custody after grabbing an officer‘s gun and killing him. This week, Utah authorities knew he was trouble when we interviewed him for one of our “Lockup” reports. So couldn‘t they have done more to prevent this? We‘ll show you that interview, where he explains what‘s behind all those tattoos.
And later: Another notorious inmate goes free. This one (INAUDIBLE) Paris‘s post-jail payoff begins. We‘ll talk to a school president offering to pay Paris a million bucks to teach a course.
ABRAMS: We‘ve got new details about a white supremacist prisoner who allegedly shot and killed a corrections office Monday while he was out of prison getting a check up at a hospital. Curtis Allgier then led police on a high speed chase through Salt Lake City until they caught up with him at a fast food restaurant.
But the question, how does this happen? Utah prison officials must have known how dangerous he was. MSNBC‘s “Lockup” talked to Gier (ph) two years ago inside the Utah State Prison.
CURTIS ALLGIER, INMATE, UTAH STATE PRISON: My whole family are skinheads. I was raised that way. Like I had my uncles, all my cousins. I have been getting tattooed since I was 13 years old. Once you start getting tattoos, it is addicting, the ink is addicting, the pain, to an extent to me, is addicting.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Curtis Allgier is serving one to 15 years for burglary, forgery and escape.
ALLGIER: A lot of people see the swastika and they say, well, that is hate. To me that is not what I wear it for. I wear it as a symbolism of pride of who I am and a symbolism of good luck. And I have a lot of them.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Curtis is locked down with gang leaders in Uinta 2 because he is considered a threat to inmates in general population.
WARDEN CLINT FRIEL, UTAH STATE PRISON: In Uinta 2, that is where we will house our maximum security gang members. This is generally the leadership, those that are trying to run the gang.
SGT. TRAVIS KNORR, UTAH STATE PRISON: They are the more active gang members. And that is the reason we have them here is because they are so active and they are the ones who like to start trouble.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: While proud to be a skinhead, Curtis does not want to be considered a gang member anymore.
ALLGIER: I am no part of them, I have never have been a part of them, nor will I ever be a part of them. Those dudes, in my mind, are weak and lame. They are not white supremacists, because of these groups that commit crimes and do all the crap that they do, people are going to look at us bad.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: At Utah State Prison, staff estimates that almost 1,000 inmates, roughly one quarter of the prison population are active gang members.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are around our rivals all day. Anything can happen.
JONATHAN GARDNER, INMATE, UTAH STATE PRISON: Just stick with your gang, stick with who you know and where you‘re safe.
ALLGIER: It‘s not a gang. It‘s not an organization. Being a skinhead is a way of life.
ABRAMS: That is the guy. Here now, Vernell Crittendon (ph), former spokesman for San Quentin Prison, now a prison consultant. And still with us Dr. Drew Pinsky.
Thanks to both of you. All right. Vernell, let me just lay out the timeline here for you, all right, about what we know this guy did. At 7:45 a.m. he kills a corrections officer. This is on Monday. Forced two people out of a Ford Explorer a block from the hospital, reportedly called a friend on a cell phone, led police chase to an Arby‘s restaurant seven-and-a-half miles away, changed into a T-shirt and long shorts, and then he was arrested 55 minutes later.
The question, Vernell, that everyone is asking is, how does a guy this dangerous even get the opportunity, the possibility of escaping in this day and age?
VERNELL CRITTENDON, FORMER SAN QUENTIN SPOKESMAN: That is one of the things that really is puzzling about this particular case because it appears from the news reports that he was actually allowed to have a situation created where he was a one on one.
A one-on-on that he would know was going occur as he was going an MRI where metal restraints were not going be authorized and where the staff would have been responsible to change his restraint gear from that metal to most likely plastic cuffs.
ABRAMS: But, Vernell, you know, the statistic that stunned me was that 8,000 criminals escape from state prisons each year. How—when we have got all this high tech technology out there, right, and we have mastered—look, you have studied prisons for years and years and years, you are now a consultant to prisons, how do we still have a system whereby 8,000 prisoners can escape from state prison every year?
CRITTENDON: I have to think that you‘re going to find, though, that many of those men are minimum custody inmates that are able to effect those escapes. I think that it is a more rare incident when you find people such as Mr. Allgier that are actually identified as threats within the prison system and they are able to effect an escape.
Most departments and corrections really exercise a great deal of restraint when dealing with any type of transporting or movement outside of our security area with those types of inmates.
ABRAMS: So you would agree then that it was probably a mistake in how they were guarding this guy, so to speak, when he was at the hospital?
CRITTENDON: I thought that—when I read the news reports that indicated it was a one-on-one situation, right then and there I thought that there was a policy that needed to be reviewed.
ABRAMS: Well, that‘s right, because I don‘t want anyone to think that we are somehow suggesting that this corrections officer is in any way to blame. The problem is when you have only got one person there guarding a dangerous guy like this, who‘s getting an MRI, and had to have his cuffs taken off, and they put plastic restraints on instead, you have got to make sure that you have got a situation where the corrections officers have the inherent advantage in numbers, right?
CRITTENDON: And also there are some procedural things that would—you would want an armed person. And then you would want to also have a person that was unarmed that would be with you. So therefore if there was a need to physically restrain the inmate, the person that was unarmed could physically restrain him. If the inmate overpowers him, then the officer could bring in deadly force who is the armed officer standing some six to 10 feet from the inmate.
ABRAMS: All right. Drew, let me ask you to put your profiling hat on for a moment. You look at these tattoos all over his face et cetera, and his head, and what does it tell you?
PINSKY: Well, one thing that my patients tell me that have these sorts of aggressive tattoos is almost every single one of them was severely physically abused. And they will tell me—as children, and they will tell me that they are sort of acting out on their body as a way of seeming to seek for control.
Like before someone else has a chance to act out on me, at least I do it to myself. And it certainly is a message to the outside world, this is the way I aggress against my body. This is the aggression I have in me. Watch out, I could easily turn it on you.
. ABRAMS: And, Vernell, finally, how—what is—how do we prevent prisoners in situations where they have to leave the prison from having an advantage? Is it strictly numbers?
CRITTENDON: Well, I want to first just say that I actually concur with his assessment about the number of tattoos and the types of tattoos, that that is in fact a signal that that person themselves are fearful and have been harmed and victimized, and that is one of the ways in which they project to the rest of us, keep away, keep back from me, because I‘m a mean person.
Now the ways that we can do this best, I think, are, one is that you have to have systems and policies that are in place. One is the types of handcuff or restraint gears that you use, two is the numbers of staff that you would use in those situations.
But I think the real safety for the public is finding ways to build these treatment centers inside of your security areas. And once you are able to do that, you have minimized a great deal of this threat.
ABRAMS: Well, our hearts go out to this corrections officer who was forced into this situation and ultimately killed. Stephen Anderson, there he is. You know, everyone wishes the best for his family in what must be a very, very difficult time. Vernell Crittendon, Dr. Drew Pinsky, thanks a lot. You can see more about this and that prison, everything that was happening there during—on July 4th here on MSNBC.
Up next, Bobby Cutts, the man accused of murdering pregnant mom Jessie Davis, had a number of run-ins with the law. He‘d abused the mother of one of his children, so why does it still sound like the attorney for his police union is defending him even after his arrest? He‘s back to try to defend his statements up next.
Later, Paris Hilton is out and she is being offered $1 million to teach a course because she is “brilliant.” We will speak to The Learning Annex president making that offer coming up.
ABRAMS: An officer from Ohio—a police officer, stands accused tonight of murdering his wife and unborn baby. But it sure sounds like the union that represents him is still defending this rogue officer rather than the officers who arrested him.
Bobby Cutts Jr. was arraigned yesterday and he will be back in court next week to face double murder charges. It‘s a story we‘ve covered extensively over the past couple of weeks. But a segment we did last night left me believing that the police union was actually offering a defense for Bobby Cutts.
Our guest was Avery Friedman, an attorney hired by the Canton Police Union. He said there was no reason Cutts should not have been on the force despite his violent past, at least that‘s what it sounded like to me.
Number two, he seemed to blame Cutts‘ ex-girlfriend for not bringing forward evidence that he had beaten her. That could have kept him off the force. And third, during recent interviews, he seemed to be offering a defense for Cutts, saying he didn‘t kill Jessie Davis, he merely found the body and buried it.
That theory would be directly, of course, at odds with the police department‘s charge that Cutts committed the murder. I was outraged last night. I invited Avery Friedman to come back on the show tonight. He did. I intend to give him the chance to defend his statements.
But first, last night he made the argument that Bobby Cutts belonged on the force despite his past.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AVERY FRIEDMAN, ATTY. FOR CANTON POLICE UNION: He was on the force because he belonged on the force. If I were the chief of police, I don‘t think I would ever have a police officer that had ever had any problems. But commonly on most forces you have people that have bumped into the law and had problems. So Bobby Cutts‘ service as a police officer was what it should have been.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: What it should have been. Joining me now is Avery Friedman, the attorney representing the Canton Police Union.
Thanks for coming back on the program. We appreciate it. I‘m going to give you a full opportunity to defend each of those three issues. Let‘s talk first about the facts.
FRIEDMAN: All right. And thank you, Dan, I appreciate that. As you know, we were sitting here in the dark with all of the lights down and the mike off.
ABRAMS: I understand, I understand. So let‘s talk about it, all right? Now issue number one, and that is, it sounds to me like you are basically saying, look, this was a regular, ordinary cop, when I would think that the police union should be saying, we don‘t want to have anything to do with the guy.
FRIEDMAN: Well, you are exactly right. The police union has nothing to do with the criminality of this individual. The men and women who are sworn to serve and protect in Canton, Dan, are sickened by what has happened. So they are not involved at all with the defense of this case. They are outraged at what has happened here. And so I think we are appreciative that we have had a chance to clarify that.
ABRAMS: So but—then why are you making comments that sound still like you are saying, hey, look, you know, so the guy had a couple of misdemeanors, so he had a few problems in his past? I mean, this is a guy who was found guilty of breaking into his girlfriend‘s apartment. He pleaded no contest to that.
FRIEDMAN: Well, we know the history, let me ask you...
ABRAMS: But our viewers may not. I‘ve got to go over it so the viewers know what I‘m talking about. He was hired in 2000, despite that conviction—despite the no contest plea. And then he was—went through this whole rigmarole about lying about how a gun ended up in the hands of his convicted felon cousin where the police were initially trying to say, look, this is a big deal. He then appeals, et cetera. But again, it makes me think you should be saying this guy was a rogue cop.
FRIEDMAN: That is exactly what I am saying. What you have to understand is that my involvement on behalf of the union is the advancement of human rights cases. I was not involved in that.
The union‘s position was that once the court found that he was not guilty, an independent federal mediator—and again, I am not defending the guy. I have never met him, I don‘t—until now, didn‘t even know what he looked like, never spoke with him in my life, Dan.
And to say that the union is defending him is really outrageous. They are not. They are sickened by what this guy has done. They don‘t want to have anything to do with him.
ABRAMS: All right. Let me—here is number two. I had interviewed his ex-girlfriend, Nikki Giavasis, and she had been beaten up by this guy. And here is what you said last night about her.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FRIEDMAN: The point is that if evidence—for example, I heard Nikki talking a little bit earlier that she never reported some of this violent behavior. It strikes me that if she would have, this guy would not have been on the department, wouldn‘t be on the force.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: Yes, it is Nikki‘s fault, right?
FRIEDMAN: Not at all. In fact, victims like Nikki, and those are my people, the victims who fight back against excessive force by police officers, it is difficult for them to step forward. If they did—Dan, what I said was correct. If victims step forward...
ABRAMS: Sure it‘s correct but it sounds bad.
FRIEDMAN: Wait a minute, let me answer your question.
ABRAMS: It sounds awful.
FRIEDMAN: Let me answer your question. If victims stood forward, turned over the evidence, rogue cops would not be serving on local police departments anywhere in America.
ABRAMS: Yes, but still...
FRIEDMAN: So I am exactly correct on that.
ABRAMS: ... whether you are correct or not, it sounds bad for you to be saying, if she had come forward, maybe we wouldn‘t have this problem.
FRIEDMAN: Well, actually, the fact is that victims every day are reluctant to stand up and...
ABRAMS: I know they are.
FRIEDMAN: ... and give that...
ABRAMS: But they don‘t need...
FRIEDMAN: ... information.
ABRAMS: They don‘t need lawyers telling them, you know what, you should have done this, and you could have saved...
FRIEDMAN: Well, as a matter of fact, I think the response was, yes, that is something she is going to have to live with. But the truth is, if people, and again whether they are victims, whether they have information, any kind of evidence, Dan, that police are abusing their position, it has got to be brought to the department or...
ABRAMS: Of course it does.
FRIEDMAN: ... nothing gets done.
ABRAMS: But that‘s—all right. But there is a time and place for it. And that wasn‘t the time nor place.
FRIEDMAN: I totally agree with you. And I think—again, I think if the department...
ABRAMS: Do you want to apologize to her? To Nikki?
FRIEDMAN: ... would have had it, he would have been gone.
ABRAMS: You want to apologize to Nikki about that?
FRIEDMAN: I‘m not going to apologize to anybody.
ABRAMS: All right. Let me—listen to the final—this is from “Good Morning America.” Two sound bites where you seem to be laying out Bobby Cutts‘ defense.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM “GOOD MORNING AMERICA”)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: According to one attorney, Cutts says he did not kill Jessie Davis. Instead he arrived at her home and found her dying.
FRIEDMAN: The information is that he went to the scene, he saw Jessie Davis, she reached for his trousers, her eyes rolled back, and she died. He panicked, he called a friend, the friend came over and assisted him in the removal of the body.
Well, our information was that Bobby Cutts Jr. received assistance from another individual, removing the body of Jessie Davis from her home and transporting it to the site where it was buried.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: “Our information.” You are laying out the defense for Bobby Cutts, right?
FRIEDMAN: No. Now would you like the truth?
ABRAMS: I just heard that you said “our information.”
FRIEDMAN: Would you like the truth?
ABRAMS: I‘m listening, tell me what—tell me—explain that.
FRIEDMAN: OK. That was a quote that came from a source who called a reporter sitting next to me and I recounted what the source—that was not me. I never talked to the guy, the source told the reporter. And when that happened, I said to the reporter, you have a duty to turn that evidence over to law enforcement. That wasn‘t...
ABRAMS: So “our information”...
FRIEDMAN: ... my quote.
ABRAMS: “Our information”...
FRIEDMAN: That was the source‘s quote.
ABRAMS: So “our information”...
FRIEDMAN: You turned it upside-down, Dan.
ABRAMS: ... meant somebody else‘s information.
FRIEDMAN: No, it meant from the source who called the anchor. That is the truth, that‘s the information. And now you have got it straight.
ABRAMS: All right. Avery Friedman, you have got watch your words a little more carefully, that‘s the only warning...
FRIEDMAN: As you do, Dan. As you.
ABRAMS: I will give you. But thank you, I appreciate your taking the time to come on the program.
FRIEDMAN: Good to be with you tonight.
ABRAMS: I should point out also last night we had a graphic in our segment about Bobby Cutts—we did a segment where we were playing the interview that Bobby Cutts did and we had the wrong graphic up. We‘re sorry about that.
Up next, our next guest wants to pay Paris Hilton a million bucks to teach a course. Plus, a look at the day‘s winners and losers.
ABRAMS: Tonight‘s big winner and loser of the day. The loser, Elwood, who recently earned the dubious title of world‘s ugliest dog. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, the owner of the mutt thinks he is the cutest thing that ever lived.
Winner, the owner of arguably the world‘s most infamous dog, Paris Hilton. She is out of the pound, back at almost 10 pounds lighter. Yes, Lynwood Correctional, the new hot weight-loss spa.
Here now, syndicated radio talk show host Stephanie Miller. And Bill Zanker, the president and founder of The Learning Annex. The school recently offered to pay Paris $1 million to teach an hour-long course on how to build your brand.
Thanks to both of you for coming on the program, appreciate it. All right. Bill, you are offering her a thousand bucks—you‘re offering here a million bucks?
BILL ZANKER, PRES. & FOUNDER, THE LEARNING ANNEX: I am offering her a million dollars to teach a course on how to brand. I think Paris is one of the most recognized brands out there. Our students at The Learning Annex Wealth Expo (ph), they would love to learn how to brand. You know, they are small entrepreneurs.
ABRAMS: You can understand why this is kind of a joke, though, right?
ZANKER: Why is that?
ABRAMS: I don‘t know.
ZANKER: Because if we pay—we pay Donald Trump $1.5 million to speak at our expos. We have Tony Robbins there...
ABRAMS: I‘m sure he‘ll be thrilled—I‘m sure he‘ll be thrilled to be compared to Paris Hilton in terms of what he can offer the paying public. Stephanie Miller, I feel like this is almost a gimme to you.
STEPHANIE MILLER, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: You know, Dan, first of all, I‘m grateful to Bill for identifying, oh that‘s what she is, she‘s a brand. Bill, if I were you, I would have got with Elwood the dog. I think he probably has a keener understanding of foreign policy or something that could benefit the students. But...
ZANKER: I think that brand—Paris‘ brand is the most recognized brand out there. And that is what branding is all about.
ABRAMS: But was it an accident, or did she actually create this? I mean, did she really—is she going to—what did she—what is she going to impart upon these students?
ZANKER: I think she really created a great brand. And I think all small business owners and entrepreneurs want to know how to brand. They want to stand out. And it‘s a million dollars and we hope she‘ll give it to charity. And she always does two things. She‘ll give some money to charity, which she says she wants to do, and number two, she‘ll help a lot of people learn about branding.
ABRAMS: Go ahead, Stephanie.
ZANKER: And you know, at The Learning Annex, we‘ve been bringing personality to life...
ABRAMS: All right. Let me let Stephanie respond.
ZANKER: ... for a long time.
ABRAMS: Stephanie, go ahead.
MILLER: You know, Dan, I am just grateful to Bill for this, because I was worried about her. I was starting a canned goods drive in my neighborhood, because you know, that hotel heiress money does not go as far as it used to, Dan, here in Los Angeles.
ZANKER: ... gigs, you know the great gig, and we do these expos all around the United States and we can have her speak at every one of them. Listen, we got so many e-mails and so many calls...
ABRAMS: I‘m sure, what does it cost?
ZANKER: People want to hear her.
ABRAMS: What does it cost if you—if Paris accepts and you pay her a million bucks, how much do I have to pay to have Paris teach me about branding?
ZANKER: You would have to come in and pay either anywhere from $179 to $499 for a VIP ticket. And I bet you with Paris there, that VIP section would be sold out overnight. Overnight.
ABRAMS: I mean, that is more than Stephanie—that‘s more than what Stephanie—Stephanie, when you go to events and speak, that‘s more than they charge, right?
MILLER: Dan, I really would like someone to teach a course on how I could get someone to pay me a million dollars to teach a course on nothing at The Learning Annex. How could I look into that?
ZANKER: Well, it‘s not nothing, it‘s about branding. I think you‘ve got it wrong. It‘s a great brand and we all need to know how to brand.
ABRAMS: All right. I don‘t know. I mean—but you know. Do we have that video—that shot of Paris with the glasses on? The—we just sort of—no? All right. We created this little funny graphic with Paris with her glasses on as a sort of joke.
MILLER: By the way, Dan, I would like to apologize to Elwood the dog. I‘m sorry, that was a picture of Anne Coulter, and I misinterpreted. I apologize.
ABRAMS: Stephanie Miller, we meant to have you on as well on another topic. We will definitely have you back. And Bill Zanker, I don‘t think she is going to take it.
ZANKER: Well, I hope she does, I think she will.
ZANKER: I think it‘s a million dollars will do it, a million dollars for charity?
ABRAMS: I will bet a dollar that says that she is not going to take it.
ZANKER: Well, I think that you are going to see the new Paris Hilton. And this is part of the new Paris Hilton.
ABRAMS: Bill Zanker and Stephanie Miller, thanks a lot. Missing your fill of Mr. Scarborough? Tune into “Morning Joe” tomorrow at 6:00 a.m. right here on MSNBC.
Up next -- (INAUDIBLE) on Willie Geist. Up next, the doc-block, thanks for watching.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
Copy: Content and programming copyright 2007 MSNBC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Transcription Copyright 2007 Voxant, Inc. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material other than for research. User may not reproduce or redistribute the material except for user‘s personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon MSNBC and Voxant, Inc.‘s copyright or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.