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'MSNBC Live' for August 13

Read the transcript to the Monday show

Guests: Joshua Green, Michael Reagan, Stephen A. Smith, Adrienne Supino

DAN ABRAMS, HOST:  Karl Rove is out.  Rove announced this morning he was resigning from the Bush administration, the man who is sometimes referred to as “Bush‘s brain” will leave the White House on August 31.

My take.  If Karl Rove had been a professional wrestler, they might have called him “the Constitutional Crippler.”  I‘ll leave his political legacy to others, although I will say I thin it‘s foolish when searching for explanations for the 2000 (SIC) Republican rout to blame Rove, the political operative, as opposed to Rove, the chief policy analyst.  That was the war speaking.  How the Republicans talked about it in the campaign wouldn‘t have changed a thing.

But in terms of his legal legacy, Rove has long applied basic political strategy to the courts: Accuse your opponents or critics of engaging in the very behavior that could become your own Achilles heel.  Rove has accused judges of bending the law to fit their personal agenda.  It‘s true, some do.  But I can‘t think of a federal judge who has done that more than Karl Rove himself.

Rove called the federal judiciary fundamentally out of touch with mainstream America, a nice campaign slogan, but it demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding of the role of judges.  They‘re not supposed to reflect popular opinion.

It also demonstrates some hypocrisy.  He cites the will of the people until, of course, it comes to the people‘s reaction to this administration‘s policies.  Then he ignores it and even said, quote, “I‘m not going to stay or leave based on whether it pleases the mob.”  Rove‘s legacy is littered with examples of shifting rules to accommodate his own political objectives.

We don‘t know exactly how involved he was with certain decisions about everything from the NSA spying to Guantanamo, but we do know, according to Justice Department e-mails, that in January of 2005, Rove was asking about firing all 93 U.S. attorneys, that he passed along specific complaints about others, then reportedly advised on how to make the firings seem merit-based.

And to avoid being scrutinized ever, he sent more than 140,000 e-mails through the Republican National Committee‘s computer system instead of through the White House, thereby circumventing federal law.  That‘s according to a House oversight committee.

His philosophy: expand the power of the executive branch, often meaning his own power—and demean the branch of government willing to rein him in, the judicial branch.  Rove used court appointments as a political carrot, privately assuring religious groups, for example, that court nominees would share their beliefs.  And for the fired U.S.  attorneys, it was also about politics but in the form of political punishment.

He may be one of the great political operatives of all time, but from a lawyer‘s perspective, as someone who‘s studied the Constitution and relishes the rule of law, appreciates our courts, I will not shed a tear at his farewell bash.

Joining me now is Elizabeth Holtzman, former Democratic congresswoman from New York, who served on the Judiciary Committee and author of the book “The Impeachment of George W. Bush,” Josh Green, senior editor of “The Atlantic,” whose cover story on Rove appears in the magazine‘s September issue, and on the phone, radio talk show host Michael Reagan.

Thanks to all of you for coming on the program.  Appreciate it.  All right.  Josh, let me start with you.  Is it fair to say that Karl Rove has been behind much of the legal strategy of this administration?

JOSHUA GREEN, “THE ATLANTIC MONTHLY”:  You know, I think to a degree, it is.  I mean, one of the consequences of the Democrats taking over Congress in 2006 is that it pulled back a curtain and kind of let the world see just how involved Rove is at every level.  I mean, certainly, the U.S.  attorney scandal is a terrific example of that, the just—the kind of tawdry and shallow way that he became involved and kind of, you know, heedlessly brought politics into that process.  So I would say yes.

ABRAMS:  Michael, would you agree at the least that Rove is a guy who‘s had some level of disdain for the rule of law?

MICHAEL REAGAN, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  No.  I would—you know, I—what I would say is that he‘s someone who‘s been at the White House.  He‘s been a policy man for the president.  He‘s been involved in all the things the president‘s done, which is what happens when you‘re in charge of policy at the White House.  And because the president has been under fire from the Democrats since the time he won the 2000 election, they‘ve tried to get Karl Rove involved in everything.

There‘s nothing wrong with Karl Rove getting involved with the 92 -- letting people know what his opinion is about the U.S. attorneys being fired.  The fact is that every president has fired attorneys.  I think the mistake maybe he made now was he didn‘t get all 93 fired.  Then nothing happens to you.  If you get eight fired, you become a news item.

ABRAMS:  But the difference—well, the difference is that, in general, when U.S. attorneys are fired, it‘s not for strictly political reasons.  I mean, it‘s not for—you can fire them for political reasons...


REAGAN:  ... argument on that, you know, whether it was Clinton or Reagan or whoever it was, it always could have been for political reasons.  You could always find that in each and every thing.  You talk about Bill Clinton, you know, the firing that he did with U.S. attorneys that had some things to do with Whitewater or whatever.  You can always find that, if that‘s what you‘re looking for.  The fact is there was nothing illegal about what the president of the United States did in firing the U.S.  attorneys.

ABRAMS:  Elizabeth Holtzman...

REAGAN:  ... with the NSA and with...

ABRAMS:  All right...

REAGAN:  ... all the wiretapping...

ABRAMS:  All right, but...


REAGAN:  Most of America does agree with what‘s going on.

ABRAMS:  All right, look, let‘s stick with Karl Rove, though, and the legacy.  Elizabeth Holtzman, there‘s no question that there was nothing illegal.  No one‘s suggesting that it was illegal to seek to fire all of them or to seek to fire some of them.  The question isn‘t illegal or legal...


ABRAMS:  ... the question is...

HOLTZMAN:  No, no.  It is the question because it‘s possible under some scenarios that the firing of a U.S. attorney, who was, for example, investigating a Republican, and to stop that investigation, you fire that U.S. attorney—that could be an obstruction of justice...

ABRAMS:  All right.  Right.

HOLTZMAN:  ... and could be a crime.

ABRAMS:  Right, it...

HOLTZMAN:  So let‘s...


HOLTZMAN:  To call the U.S. attorney scandal political is wrong.  It could be criminal.

ABRAMS:  Look, it could be—it could be.  There‘s no evidence right now to suggest that anyone is going to open up any criminal investigations into the firing of the U.S. attorneys.

HOLTZMAN:  Well, that‘s because they don‘t have enough information yet.

ABRAMS:  All right.  But look, Josh Green, bring us back here for a minute.  I mean, the bottom line is that, again, we‘re looking at Karl Rove‘s legacy here.  I think that Elizabeth is probably on something of a fringe there in suggesting that there‘s going to be some sort of criminal investigation into the firings of the U.S. attorneys.  Would you agree?

GREEN:  Yes.  I think—I think Rove‘s real crime was—was ineptness.  I mean, he was just ham-handed in almost every way possible, and that‘s really what‘s kind of spilled out over the last couple of years.  And I think that‘s also the reason why Rove surprised so many people in Washington and didn‘t stick around until the end of the Bush administration and decided to throw in the towel today.

ABRAMS:  Why did he do that?

REAGAN:  Wait a minute.  If I could jump in here...

ABRAMS:  Well, go ahead, Michael.  Yes.

REAGAN:  I mean, he‘s not the first person to leave an administration very late in the administration.  My dad had it happen in his administration.  Other administrations, people leave, get their own lives in order because they know the president is a short-termer, lame duck, whatever it is.  This is not new...


GREEN:  ... outside politics and outside the White House.

REAGAN:  This is a man who was—you know, five times went before a grand jury on the Libby—the Scooter Libby case.  Did anybody indict Rove?  No.  Nobody indicted Rove because they didn‘t see any wrongdoing.  And they tried to get him on that...

ABRAMS:  Wait, wait, wait.


ABRAMS:  Let‘s be clear, Michael.  Let us not confuse the words

criminal with wrongdoing.  They‘re not the same thing.  Just because they -

no one could be charged with a crime does not mean there wasn‘t any wrongdoing.

REAGAN:  Well, where‘s the—where‘s the wrongdoing?

ABRAMS:  Well, look, the question was—look, again, if you want to get into Libby, we can get into that because it does relate to Karl Rove‘s legacy here, now that he‘s stepped down.  The question was, who did he leak to?  Why did he do it?  When did he do it?  Those are all important questions...

REAGAN:  But Karl Rove didn‘t leak anything.

ABRAMS:  Look, the bottom—Karl Rove had conversations with reporters that he probably shouldn‘t have had.  You going to deny that?

REAGAN:  Do we know that?

ABRAMS:  Yes, we know for a fact that he had...


REAGAN:  ... these conversations—look, if he did something that was, in fact, illegal, wrongdoing, whatever it is, they certainly would have said something in the grand jury.  They did not indict him, as many times as he came in there.  And I think everybody is searching to say, Oh, Karl Rove.  We couldn‘t get George Bush.  Let‘s get Karl Rove.  Let‘s get him and make sure he‘s a criminal on the way out of the building.

ABRAMS:  But again—again—and I‘ll go back to Elizabeth in a minute, but Josh, that‘s the difference, is just because he‘s not a criminal and just because he hasn‘t been indicted for a crime does not mean that he‘s not someone who we can criticize for his view of the Constitution and his position on judges and the judiciary in this country.

REAGAN:  No, I think that...


ABRAMS:  Let Josh respond to that.


ABRAMS:  Hang on, Michael.

GREEN:  ... call him the constitutional crippler, but you know, the one bit of poetic justice in all this is that, you know, the person Rove really ended up crippling was his own reputation.  And so he leaves the White House, you know, not indicted but in many ways disgraced, I think.

ABRAMS:  Elizabeth, go ahead.  Did you want to weigh in on it?

HOLTZMAN:  Well, I agree with the last comment.  I also want to say that what he did with the Justice Department—although we don‘t know the whole story yet because this is a man who‘s shown complete contempt not just for Congress, not showing up even after being subpoenaed, but contempt for the Constitution, which makes Congress an equal branch of government and it allows it to examine how the executive branch is operating—but here you have a Justice Department that was perverted for political purposes.  You had U.S. attorneys who were apparently—I mean, we don‘t know all the facts yet, but on the surface, it seems that U.S. attorneys were replaced because they didn‘t go after Democrats or they were removed because they went after Republicans.

I was a prosecutor, not only a congresswoman, and I never, before prosecuting a rapist or a murderer, said, Well, are you a Republican or a Democrat?  I‘m going to go after you if you‘re one, not the other.  I mean, that‘s not what our system of justice is.  And Karl Rove took our government and tried to make it all political, including things that we think are pretty sacred, like justice that‘s fair and not partisan and not political, but that if you‘ve committed a crime or you haven‘t committed a crime, you‘re going to be dealt with on the merits and not on the basis of politics.  So I think his legacy has been a disaster for this country.

ABRAMS:  Michael, you would agree, wouldn‘t you, that Karl Rove has a tendency to politicize everything?

REAGAN:  Well, I think people in the White House, people in government have a tendency to politicize everything.  It doesn‘t matter if you‘re Democrat or Republican.  When you‘re at that level, you do politicize everything.

And he‘s—I think he‘s in trouble because he has been successful in getting the president elected, reelected again.  And he seems to be the great, big target in Washington, so everybody wants to jump on him.  He‘ll be gone in a month from now.  Everybody‘s going to forget about Karl Rove, and they‘re going to find somebody else to, in fact, jump on.  That‘s the way it works in Washington, D.C.

ABRAMS:  But Josh, I think that doesn‘t really address how significant Rove was and how significant his contributions have been to this administration and how radical, in some ways, particularly with regard to, again, I think, the legal legacy his positions have been.

GREEN:  Yes.  I don‘t think that fixes it, by a long shot.  I mean, look, there really never has been a figure in the modern American presidency quite like Karl Rove, a political adviser who had that much say not just over politics and policy but apparently over the judiciary and who acted from as raw a set of political motives as Rove obviously did.  You know, Michael‘s of course right to say that politics are always a thought in the White House, but never were they put forward to the degree that they were in the Bush White House, and Karl Rove was the main driver of that.

ABRAMS:  Elizabeth Holtzman, Michael Reagan and Josh Green, thanks a lot.  Appreciate it.

Still ahead: Just a few days ago, Laci and Scott Peterson would have celebrated their 10th wedding anniversary, but instead, Scott‘s on death row for the murder of Laci and their unborn son.  Coming up, a prison insider gives us an update on Scott‘s incarceration, including why he recently stopped writing letters to his so-called fans.

But first: An on-line report says NFL star Michael Vick may be suspended for the entire season because of those dog fighting allegations.  The NFL says, Well, no decision has been made on that.  At least one of his teammates is now saying they don‘t want him back.  ESPN‘s Stephen A. Smith joins us next.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Third and nine.  Harrison under a rush, steps forward, throws, soft toss, and caught!  Dwayne Blakeley (ph), the tight end.


ABRAMS:  The Atlanta Falcons took the field for the first time this season on Friday, and they did it without their star quarterback, Michael Vick.  The embattled NFL star has been ordered to stay away from Falcons training camp after allegations that he ran a dog fighting ring from his Virginia property.  And tonight, the news for Vick could be getting worse.  Reports are surfacing that the NFL could be about to bench him for the entire 2007 season.  An on-line report quoting a pair of NFL sources says Vick will be suspended for the fall season, a decision those sources say will be announced sometime this week or next.  That report from Yahoo!  Sports quotes on NFL source who says the plan was to make sure it was announced before the season, Given what everybody has seen, from what league security found and what the feds are telling us, there‘s really no choice.

Here now once again is ESPN‘s Stephen A. Smith.  Stephen, thanks for coming back.

STEPHEN A. SMITH, ESPN:  It‘s my pleasure, man.  Nice to be here.

ABRAMS:  All right.  What do you make of this report?  You think that the NFL‘s already decided?

SMITH:  It wouldn‘t surprise me.  Now, to the NFL‘s credit, to be fair, they categorically denied that any decision has been reached.  But there‘s no question, in light of the allegations that have been levied against Michael Vick, if you‘re the NFL, you have the image of the league to protect, and with all of these animal rights activists, with the PETA, the Humane Society, the pressure that‘s being brought to bear because of this particular instance, there is no choice at all but to make sure that this man doesn‘t play football again, although it‘s plausible that they don‘t have to do anything and he still won‘t play football because the trial date is in November, and he‘s not going to play before then.

ABRAMS:  As you point out, the NFL VP of public relations says no decision has been made.  The commissioner has already said he‘ll get to it as soon as—he‘ll get to it as—as if it‘s on the back burner!


SMITH:  But at the same time, there‘s no rush because...

ABRAMS:  Right.

SMITH:  ... again, Michael Vick has been told to stay away while they investigate this matter.  The Atlanta Falcons have made it clear they‘re not interested in having him because the case is pending.  You take all of those things into consideration, combined with the fact that nothing‘s scheduled to take place in regards to him specifically until November, and really, there is no rush.  He‘s not going to play football.  Whether they suspend him or not, he‘s not coming back this year.

ABRAMS:  This was surprising to me.  It wasn‘t surprising to you.  It was surprising to me.  Warrick Dunn, another star player for the Falcons, said the following.  “I don‘t think anyone right now on this team is hoping that Mike comes back.  Mike is going to be missed and he has been missed, but at the same time, you have to go on.”

I don‘t think anyone is hoping—their star quarterback?

SMITH:  Well, see, Warrick Dunn, first of all, he‘s class personified. 

If you know some of the philanthropic efforts that he‘s put forth, you know he‘s a class human being from top to bottom.  But the reality is, is that because of the distraction it‘s caused, combined with the fact that this man is looking at his life, Warrick Dunn, as well as an abundance of Atlanta Falcons, are conscientious enough to know that Michael Vick, the last thing he needs to be concerned about is playing football, and the last thing this team needs to be concerned about is worrying about him.  They need to concentrated on the matter of playing football because there‘s a season that‘s up coming, and it is his problem.  That sounds cruel, but it‘s not their problem, it‘s Michael Vick‘s problem.

ABRAMS:  Right.  Because when he uses the language, and no one on this team is hoping he comes back...

SMITH:  Considering the situation right now.  You don‘t want that kind of distraction for anybody.  And you know that he needs to concentrate on that.  Now, if he were exonerated, for example, tomorrow, then everybody would be looking for him to come back because you‘d want him to be able to move forward with his life.  But the situation is still pending, so you can‘t look at it from that perspective.

ABRAMS:  And it seems to get worse and worse.  I mean, today we‘re hearing that they‘re scheduling, you know, a hearing for these two—two of the co-defendants...

SMITH:  For plea agreements.

ABRAMS:  Plea agreements (INAUDIBLE)

SMITH:  Oh, he‘s in trouble.  Make no mistake.  All the boys—I mean, with friends like that, who needs enemies?  You like down with dogs, you‘re going to catch some fleas.  And that‘s clearly the situation with Michael Vick.  All of his friends—one of his friends that already pled guilty, and obviously, he‘s reached a plea agreement, so he‘s going to dime Michael Vick out to the feds.  These two, it would seem, by all the evidence and all the reports that are coming out, are going to do the same exact thing.

Michael Vick has claimed he‘s innocent, and he had better be innocent because everybody around him seems to be saying he‘s guilty.  The indictment certainly makes it look as if he‘s guilty, and now his friends are ready to talk about him, as well.  He‘s on his own.  Make no mistake about that.

ABRAMS:  It‘s a big discussion in sports radio.  Everyone is talking about this.  Everyone‘s talking about it in the country, but in particular on sports radio, on sports networks.  And it was one guy, this guy Paul Zeise, who‘s a reporter for “The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette,” who went on television and he made the following statement, and he‘s been asked never to—not to come back on the program.  “It‘s a really sad day in this country when Michael Vick would have been better off raping a woman, if you look at the outcry of what happened.  Had he done that, he probably would have been suspended for four games and he‘d be back on the field.”

Now, he could have phrased this in a better way.  But the point I think he‘s making—and we‘ve talked about this before on this program—is that you look at what happens to NFL players accused of domestic violence, for example, and you know what?  Life goes on.  No one seems to care all that much.

SMITH:  Right.

ABRAMS:  But my goodness, when you‘re accused of dog fighting, you‘re done!

SMITH:  Well, first of all, it‘s certainly plausible that that‘s exactly the point that he was trying to make.  I‘ve spoken to a few people in the journalism industry who know him intimately and came to his defense, privately, at least, to say that he did not mean that in any other way than you just explained.

ABRAMS:  But am I wrong?  Am I wrong in that...


SMITH:  In general, when you use that analogy, no, you‘re not wrong.  But the problem with his statement compared to yours is that you were responsible enough to know that you are on the airwaves, and if you‘re going to elocute and articulate a message, you had better make sure that you have the time and you‘re concise enough to fully express and elocute your thoughts because it can be misconstrued.  And you can‘t bring it to the equation raping a woman and have that statement subject to interpretation and expect to keep your job.  I‘m not saying that he meant it the way that it was taken.


SMITH:  I don‘t know him personally, and would like to believe that he didn‘t mean it that way.  But the reality is, he has a responsibility to make sure he watches his mouth, and he slipped and dropped the ball in this particular situation, and that‘s why he‘s been asked not to come back.

ABRAMS:  Final question.  Is Michael Vick going to play pro football again?

SMITH:  I don‘t want to say no.  I definitely don‘t believe that will be the case in the year 2007.  But you‘re innocent until proven guilty.  I know a lot of people in America don‘t want to hear that.  We seem to be allergic to that these days, especially when it comes to professional athletes.  But until his day in court comes and the evidence is put forth, then I‘m going to assume that it‘s not nearly as egregious as the federal government and the federal indictment has indicated.  But I will acknowledge that that‘s wishful thinking because I read the 18-page indictment.  It looks really, really bad, and I wouldn‘t be surprised at all if he never plays football again because from what I saw, it looks like he‘s going to be behind bars, although I hope otherwise.  I hope he didn‘t do this.

ABRAMS:  Stephen A. Smith, good to have you in the house.  Appreciate it.

SMITH:  No problem.

ABRAMS:  Coming up: An inside look at Scott Peterson‘s life on death row, from his favorite section in the prison library to why he stopped writing letters.  A San Quentin insider gives us a rare update.

But first: Larry King gets personal with his transgender guests, like, really, really personal in, like, a weird way.  “Beat the Press” is up next.


ABRAMS:  Time for tonight‘s “Beat the Press, our daily look back at the absurd and sometimes amusing perils of live TV.  First up: Over on “the most trusted name in news,” Larry King spent the hour on Friday talking about sex change surgery and asked the questions we all wanted answered.


LARRY KING, “LARRY KING LIVE”:  And what did they do with regard to a penis?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  That‘s not as simple because, as doctors say, it‘s easier to dig a hole than build a pole.

KING:  What are you now, then, other than—are you just a man dressing up as a woman?

You‘re not a cross dresser.

You‘re a transgender, but you haven‘t had surgery.

So basically, you‘re a cross dresser.


ABRAMS:  Then Larry really pursued CNN‘s theme of “keeping them honest” with these next set of questions.


KING:  You stand up in the women‘s bathroom.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  No, I don‘t.  No, I sit down in the women‘s bathroom.

KING:  You do sit down?


Like some of the questions that you‘re asking, very illustrative of people‘s misunderstanding.


ABRAMS:  A misunderstanding?  We‘re glad Larry was able to get that cleared up.

Next up: Sometimes reporters have to rely on unorthodox methods to figure out what‘s happening.  My pal, CNN‘s Rick Sanchez, asked colleague Ted Rowlands to use one of those methods on Thursday.


RICK SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR:  This may be an obvious question to you, Ted, but is there anything you were able to tell just from their body language as you watched some of them walk out?


ABRAMS:  Almost 15 minutes later, another reporter tried to take Rick‘s lead, but suddenly, Rick is cautioning against the very sort of speculation he just asked about.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I‘m trying to detect a little bit from his body

language what he might be ready to -- -

SANCHEZ:  Yes, but you know, it‘s always—it‘s always—it‘s always tough to do that because, you know, it puts us in a situation where we‘re trying to read people, and you know, just as easily wrong as you are right.


ABRAMS:  Yes.  So why‘d you ask about body language in the first place?

Finally, and I admit we‘re taking this one completely out of context.  We are completely piling on unfairly here to my pal, Rick.  We‘re not going to play any sound.  What was he talking about here?

Let‘s take a look again.

The ever-illustrative Rick Sanchez showing us how to get the drill in on (INAUDIBLE)

Coming up:  He‘s one of San Quentin‘s most famous and infamous inmates, but what is life like on death row for Scott Peterson?  A rare update from a prison insider, including why Peterson has apparently stopped writing fan mail.

And up next: New outrage tonight in the execution-style killing of three New Jersey students.  Turns out one of the suspects is an illegal immigrant free on bail after being charged with raping a 5-year-old.  Immigration officials say tonight they were never notified about him.  How did he fall through the cracks?  Coming up after the Peterson (INAUDIBLE)


ABRAMS:  New allegations tonight in the killings of three promising students in Newark, New Jersey.  We now learn one of the suspects is an illegal resident arrested for the third time in less than a year and who had been accused of raping a 5-year-old girl.  A judge today revoked Jose Carranza‘s $200,000 bail at the request of prosecutors.  Authorities are still looking for two more boys and this man, 24-year-old Rodolfo Godinez, who started his rap sheet just before he got his green card.  What is going on here? 

The residents at the Ivy Hill Park apartment complex say these guys glorified the notorious MS-13 gang on their MySpace pages.  Joining me now is Adrienne Supino with New Jersey Network News.  Thanks for coming back.


ABRAMS:  All right, so let‘s talk about this guy, Jose Carranza.  He has been arrested three times.  How is it that the immigration authorities didn‘t know about it? 

SUPINO:  That‘s the question that everyone is asking right now, Dan.  I mean, this guy was in the system.  He was arrested twice, once for raping a child starting at age 5, repeatedly over years.  He was also arrested in connection with a bar room fight.  Immigration officials were never notified.  Now, Essex County prosecutor‘s office says the reason is because, like many municipalities, the rule there is, you know, if you‘ve been sentenced, they‘ll notify ICE...

ABRAMS:  Convicted, not just accused, right?

SUPINO:  But these guys were charged.  Carranza was charged in this case, and that‘s how he was able to get back on the streets. 

ABRAMS:  How is he out at all?  I mean, he‘s charged with child rape. 

You know, you would think that they‘d keep him behind bars. 

SUPINO:  Yes.  I mean, this is what ICE officials said.  They said, if they were notified, he would have been on their radar and not able to be back on the street, but his bail was reduced.  It was really one judge who decided to go a little easier on him, reduce his bail, and he was allowed back out, allegedly, to commit these terrible murders. 

ABRAMS:  We‘ll talk about the legal issues about this in a minute with Jack Furlong.  Let me ask you about this gang connection, this MS-13, this gang.  What is the evidence to suggest that these guys were part of some violent gang?

SUPINO:  Well, authorities will not confirm the gang angle, but what

we do know is that these teenage suspects had MySpace pages.  And on these

MySpace pages, they glorified this MS-13.  This is one of the most violent

gangs in the country.  It has roots in El Salvador.  I mean, they‘re known

for some of the most violent and sophisticated crimes that are going on in

our country right now.  So not confirmed, but, you know, I talked to some

law enforcement sources who tell me that, you know, these guys don‘t carry

cards that say, “I‘m an MS-13 member.”  So not a surprise that they‘re not

that authorities aren‘t able to confirm the gang link here.

BECKEL:  Just stick around for a minute, because I may want to sort of fact check on this.  I want to check in on the legal side of this, the outrage over an illegal immigrant committing this kind of crime after he‘d already been accused of raping a 5-year-old girl is leading to lots of new questions. 

Let‘s bring in the great criminal defense attorney Jack Furlong.  Jack, good to have you back.  So, Jack, how do you make sense of this?  I mean, how is it that this guy has been accused of all of these crimes, is an illegal immigrant, and nobody knows about him?

JACK FURLONG, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY:  Well, people knew about it.  They just didn‘t happen to be related to ICE, the ones who did know about it.  Look, the judge who lowered his bail is going to be taking an inordinate amount of heat over the next couple of days.  How did this happen?

Everything I‘ve read about Carranza, from a defense perspective, he‘s presumed innocent, he never did anything wrong.  OK, start with that.  The aggravated assault, his first crime, he‘s in a bar, and he gets into a discussion with somebody, and he brings a bottle over somebody‘s head, and that‘s an aggravated assault.  And everybody who was in the bar said this is a family neighborhood bar.  This guy went crazy.  He was obviously a sociopathic danger to everybody.  Everyone down at the Ivy Hill Park says this guy was like robbing people and shaking people down for months, if not years, and recruiting kids.

Then he‘s accused of a child sexual assault.  I don‘t know anything about the facts of the case, but I do know, as a general proposition, you know, a $1 million bail is not something this guy is going to make in all likelihood.  Somehow his bail gets reduced because of the slowness of the prosecution.  They‘ll put you up for bail review, and he walks out the door.

ABRAMS:  The law is going to be changed now, right?  There are already councilmen who are already saying, “We need to change the law.”  And it‘s a good idea, isn‘t it?  I mean, even if someone is accused—we were talking about Michael Vick earlier in the show, right?  The guy is not going to be able to play in the NFL because he‘s been accused of a crime.  If you‘re an illegal immigrant in this country accused of raping a 5-year-old, I would think that at the least the INS could know, the same way the Atlanta Falcons get to know.  

FURLONG:  Yes, I‘m sure you can notify them.  But just as a practical proposition, they don‘t tell ICE until after there‘s a judgment of conviction, because they‘re trying to honor the presumption of innocence.  Nobody knows whether this guy raped a 5-year-old.  Nobody‘s giving us any facts about that case.  Nobody‘s giving us any facts about what his involvement in this case is.  But everything that we have read suggests that the guy was not a baby rapist, not a robber, not a murderer.  He‘s just an out-and-out sociopath who‘s done whatever he wants to do. 

ABRAMS:  Wait, why do you say that there‘s no evidence that he‘s a child rapist when he was arrested and accused of child rape? 

FURLONG:  He was accused.  And, you know, I have had many, many, many discussions about child sex cases. 

ABRAMS:  Look, I‘m not saying that we take away the guy‘s freedom before he went to trial.  What I‘m saying is that, when he‘s accused of that crime, the immigration authorities ought to know about it.

FURLONG:  Yes, but what you did just say is let‘s take his freedom away while he‘s accused of that crime.  He has a constitutional right to bail. 

ABRAMS:  No, I said you don‘t have to take his freedom away while he‘s accused of the crime.


ABRAMS:  Look, if you‘re here illegally, and you are even accused of any crime, why not just say, all right, you‘re here illegally already.  We weren‘t going to say—we‘re not going around on these blind searches for anybody we can find, but if you‘re an illegal immigrant in this country, and even accused of a serious crime, that‘s it. 

FURLONG:  OK, and then what you‘re doing is going to lock the guy up on that immigration detainer and send him into the federal system where he‘s never going to be punished in the state system for what he did.  You‘re going to give that guy...

ABRAMS:  That sounds like the biggest bunch of lawyer doubletalk...


FURLONG:  He‘ll never see the light of day.  He‘ll be offered a get out of jail free card.  You want to go back to Nicaragua or do you want to go here and face justice?

SUPINO:  There is a law enforcement perspective, as well, that says, look, anything that takes away from the investigation of the actual crime committed is just basically drawing the attention away from where it would be.  And you know what?  There‘s a lot of immigrant groups in New Jersey and these laws that you‘re talking about changing, they‘re going to get a lot of pushback on this.

ABRAMS:  Yes, they may get pushback, but I‘ll tell you, I‘ll be stunned if this doesn‘t pass in the New Jersey state legislature after this.  We shall see.  Criminal defense attorney Jack Furlong and Adrienne Supino, thanks a lot.  Appreciate it. 

FURLONG:  Thanks, Dan.

ABRAMS:  All right, so we‘ve been talking about this gang, this brutal gang, this MS-13.  Rita Cosby had the change to take a look at them.  She found the violent gang is continuing to increase its stronghold in cities across America. 


RITA COSBY, HOST (voice-over):  La Mara Salvatrucha, more commonly known as the MS-13, are considered by the FBI to be the most dangerous gang in the U.S., leaving their mark from El Salvador to Honduras to Guatemala to Mexico, and now on U.S. soil.  In the last decade, the United States has experienced a dramatic increase in the number and size of this transnational street gang, which has quickly became a nationwide problem. 

The majority of MS-13 members are foreign-born and are frequently involved in human and contraband smuggling and immigration violations.  Like most street gangs, MS-13 members are also committed to such crimes as robbery, extortion, rape and murder.  They also run a well-financed prostitution ring.  The FBI says MS-13 are the fastest growing and most violent of the nation‘s street gangs.  So much so, even other gangs fear them.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  MS-13 about hurting people.  They go around robbing, hurting people, killing people for no reason, no reason.

COSBY:  And you will be stunned to hear that this ruthless gang, who will kill for the sake of killing, has made its way to cities and suburbs across the country, even settling into small communities and boldly announcing their presence with violence.  Northern Virginia is reported to have the strongest number of MS-13 members in a single city.  And there are many cities infected now by MS-13. 


ABRAMS:  Coming up, we‘ll take you to San Quentin‘s death row for a look at its most infamous inmate, Scott Peterson.  A prison insider tells us why he‘s apparently stopped writing fan mail and the latest on his appeal.  And later, in “Winners and Losers,” a young photographer is shocked to find a self-portrait of herself from age 14 used on the cover of a hard-core porn film.  She‘ll tell us how she‘s fighting back, coming up.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  This is a nine-by-six cell.  Now, I can put my hand from here to here, and I can‘t even stretch my arms all the way out. 


ABRAMS:  San Quentin prison, where tonight Scott Peterson remains on death row.  We‘ll have more on what life is life inside that prison in a moment, but first, new details on how San Quentin‘s most infamous inmate is spending time behind bars.  Peterson was convicted of murdering his wife, Laci, and their unborn son and now apparently frequents the law library at San Quentin as he works on his appeal.

On the phone with more details, the man referred to as the dean of death row, Vernell Crittendon, who worked at San Quentin for nearly 30 years, was there when Peterson entered death row and saw Peterson there a week ago.

Vernell, thanks for coming back.  We appreciate it.  All right, so you got to see him about a week ago.  How did he look?

VERNELL CRITTENDON, SAN QUENTIN PRISON:  Oh, just happened to see him being moved through the prison while I was there with a group of at-risk youth from San Francisco.  And noticeably he had lost weight, but looked very healthy and well-groomed. 

ABRAMS:  What is your understanding about sort of what he does on a regular basis there? 

CRITTENDON:  Well, he‘s now assimilating him, just as (INAUDIBLE) into the main lifestyle of the death row community.  So he‘s spending a lot of time working on that case, going in and using our law library, as well as visits and socializing on the exercise yard with a compatible group of death row inmates. 

ABRAMS:  Now, apparently, he‘s not writing a lot of fan mail anymore, right? 

CRITTENDON:  That was my understanding, was that the mail has not—was not at the level that I was experiencing prior to my retirement. 

ABRAMS:  Because what apparently he‘s told—he‘s been saying on this Web site that is opposed to capital punishment, so they give access to all the death row inmates, as he‘s saying that he‘d love to write back to everyone, but because his letters are being sold, he doesn‘t want to do that as much anymore, but he is still getting visitors there, right?

CRITTENDON:  Yes, he does receive visits, as the other death row inmates do, so yes, he does.

ABRAMS:  Do you know if these visitors are non-family members, maybe people he just has met since he was convicted?

CRITTENDON:  Well, that I‘m not clear on, but my belief was, prior to my retirement, that was an experience I did with this, that he was starting to visit with individuals that he met since his arrest.

ABRAMS:  Ladies?  Mostly women?

CRITTENDON:  I would think that most of his visiting card, prior to my retirement, was females, but he also has males on there.

ABRAMS:  And when you saw him, he was walking from where to where?

CRITTENDON:  Oh, he was just milling with a group of other death row inmates under escort, moving from death row out to the visiting room. 

ABRAMS:  Vernell Crittendon, thanks a lot.  Appreciate it. 

CRITTENDON:  Dan, it‘s always good talking with you. 

ABRAMS:  You may call it San Quentin.  Scott Peterson calls it sweet home.  MSNBC was granted unprecedented access, including a never-before look inside the death row there.


JOHN SEIGENTHALER, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  This is death row.  In fact, this is California‘s only male death row where the method of execution is lethal injection.  The most sadistic death row inmates are isolated in the adjustment center, where assaults are almost ritual.  In one recent 18-month period, 45 of the 85 inmates at the adjustment center have successfully attacked staff.  The number of attempts, off the charts.  

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  (INAUDIBLE) I‘m on death row, and there‘s nothing you can do to them.  And (INAUDIBLE) there‘s nothing you can do to them tomorrow.  That‘s their mentality, “You can only kill me once.” 

SEIGENTHALER:  One of the most volatile times at the adjustment center is mealtime.  They get ready to serve breakfast to the death row inmates.  Today, it‘s two pancakes and grits.  Inmates also get a bag lunch with the meal.  At one time, it took only one officer to serve an inmate a meal.  He wore very little protection.  Today, since attacks are common place and vicious, it takes three officers wearing full riot gear. 

In spite of the riot gear, attacks at the adjustment center have continued, so prison officials took the extraordinary step of installing Plexiglas shields to protect officers while they serve meals to prisoners.  The shields has rollers, which allow officers to slide it along a pipe running the length of the tier.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I don‘t think you ever get used to it.  I think if you ever get to that point where you feel like you‘re getting used to it, then I think you might want to get a job change. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Because that means you‘re going to start dropping your guard and get you and somebody else gets hurt. 


ABRAMS:  Up next, Drew Carey falls down on the job, Dick Cheney falls short on a promise, and a young woman‘s photographs fall into the wrong hands.  Hold on tight.  The day‘s “Winners and Losers” are coming up.



ABRAMS:  Tonight‘s “Winners and Losers,” for this 13th day of August 2007. 

Our first winner, Merv Griffin.  During a 50-year career, he became one of the pioneers of talk television and earned almost a billion dollars, creating game shows like “Jeopardy” and “Wheel of Fortune.”  He died on Sunday. 

Our first loser, Drew Carey in the game show business for less than a month, and he injured himself on the set of “The Price is Right.”  Bob Barker‘s recent replacement bruised his arm while rehearsing the grocery game. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The price is wrong, bitch.

ABRAMS:  The second winner, Dick Cheney circa 1994.  The then-retired secretary of defense seemed to recognize the very dangers that have materialized in Iraq, ones the new and improved Cheney continues to ignore.

RICHARD CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  It‘s a quagmire if you go that far and try to take over Iraq.  Because if we‘d gone to Baghdad, we would have been all alone.  There wouldn‘t have been anybody else with us.  It would have been a U.S. occupation of Iraq.  How many additional dead Americans is Saddam worth?

ABRAMS:  The second loser, Vice President Dick Cheney now, who remains in denial about the realities of the situation in Iraq. 

CHENEY:  I firmly believe, Larry, that the decisions we‘ve made with respect to Iraq and Afghanistan were absolutely the sound ones, in terms of our overall strategy.

ABRAMS:  But the big loser of the day, Jeromy Jackson, suing McDonald‘s for a no cheese quarter-pounder that turned up au gratin.  Never mind that the South Carolina resident didn‘t actually check the burger before biting, he‘s demanding $10 million for injuries suffered due to his allergic reaction to cheese. 

But the big winner of the day?  Lara Coton, suing a porn company that took her picture from a personal Web site and put it on the cover of a hardcore porn video called “Body Magic.”  When she demanded the producers they remove her photo, she says they told her sales of her non-film bombed and said, quote, “Nice try, toots.”


ABRAMS:  Lara Jade Coton, thanks a lot for joining us from London.  And her attorney, Richard Harrison, joins us, as well.  Thanks to you for coming on the program.

All right, Lara, let me start with you.  How do you find out that innocent pictures you‘ve taken have somehow been used for the cover of a hardcore porn DVD?

LARA JADE COTON, PICTURE STOLEN FOR PORN DVD:  It was back in January that I found it on a blog Web site, and someone recognized it off my Web site and noted me immediately and asked if I gave them permission to use it. 

ABRAMS:  And so then what?  So then you decide, you know what?  The best way to deal with this is probably to write to the guy who runs the company? 

COTON:  And the replies I got were quick shocking.  I just contacted them asking for written confirmation it remove the photograph, and all I got that was, “So far the DVD bombed.”  I was blamed for the downfall of the sales.  And I wasn‘t exactly a household name, so (INAUDIBLE) first.

ABRAMS:  I‘m going to read from what you quoted in the letter.  “I‘m sure by the end of the month your face will be history.  We have stopped selling the DVD.  Until the cover is replaced, we have further checked out your name, and it‘s not like it‘s a household name,” misspelled.  “Actually removing your image will help improve the sell of the DVD.  So far it bombed.”

And now you‘ve got yourself a lawyer, Mr. Harrison, it seems like a pretty good case to take? 

RICHARD HARRISON, ATTORNEY:  It seems like a fine case to take, Dan.

ABRAMS:  In the claim that they knowingly did this, meaning that they literally went scouring the Internet looking for an attractive woman and they came upon this and just stole it? 

HARRISON:  I think that‘s exactly what happened.  They went searching, as I understand it, for a suitable picture for the cover of this movie.  I don‘t know that they intended for it to be Lara or work, but they certainly went looking for what they thought was a picture that would help them sell their product. 

ABRAMS:  And, Lara, what are you up to now? 

COTON:  I‘ve just finished college, and I‘m starting university in September to do photography. 

ABRAMS:  And I‘m assuming, even if you win this lawsuit, this is probably you could have done without? 

COTON:  Yes, you could say it. 

ABRAMS:  Lara, well, good luck to you.  Thank you very much for taking the time.  We appreciate it.  And, Richard Harrison, thank you. 

COTON:  Thank you. 

HARRISON:  Thanks, Dan.

COTON:  Thanks.

ABRAMS:  That‘s all the time we have for tonight.  Stay tuned for “To Catch a Predator.”  Thanks for watching. 



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