Guests: Randy Hopper, Gerald Lefcourt, Tiffany Erwin Moller, Susan Siravo, Gary Casimir, Dean Johnson, Jeanine Pirro, Tony Rackauckas
ANNOUNCER: Now THE ABRAMS REPORT. Here is Dan Abrams.
DAN ABRAMS, HOST: Hi, everyone. Wisconsin college student Audrey Seiler pleads not guilty to charges she faked her abduction last month. Now, if convicted, she could face jail time. We‘ll ask her attorney if she still stands by her revised abduction story.
A Martha Stewart juror allegedly said fellow jurors broke the rules and read news accounts of the case during the trial while Martha Stewart‘s lawyers pile on the accusations about juror Chappell Hartridge. They sat not only did he lie about his criminal record, he‘s also an embezzler and a drug user. But do any of these things matter in terms of getting Martha Stewart a new trial?
Prosecutors in the Scott Peterson case are testing blood found inside a van witnesses reportedly saw in Laci Peterson‘s neighborhood the night she vanished. We‘ll get a live report from Redwood City.
But first, a not guilty plea today from Audrey Seiler, that University of Wisconsin student accused now of lying to police about her own disappearance. Remember, she went missing March 27, was seen on surveillance tape leaving her campus apartment apparently alone. Police found her in a marshy area four days later. She said she had been abducted by a knife-wielding man. According to the criminal complaint she was alone in a fetal position on the ground and said—quote—“I can‘t leave the woods. A bad man will kill me. He‘s out there right now. You have got to help me.”
The next day Seiler gave more details. But then they say her story started to crumble and change. They say she admitted making up the abduction, saying—quote—“It just got so out of hand. I didn‘t mean for it to. Everybody did so much for me. I guess I just wanted to go somewhere to think and have time to myself. I set up everything. I‘m just so messed up. I‘m sorry.”
But went on to say that parts of her story really were true. She said that shortly after she left her apartment and was sitting in a park, a man came up to her with a knife and said you can‘t leave. She says he forced her to stay in the woods for five nights. But police apparently don‘t buy it. She‘s now charged with two misdemeanor counts of obstructing officers. Each count carries a possible sentence of nine months in jail and a $10,000 fine. She is free on bond and is home with her parents.
Joining me now is Audrey Seiler‘s attorney, Randy Hopper. Mr. Hopper, thank you for coming back on the program. Appreciate it.
RANDY HOPPER, AUDREY SEILER‘S DEFENSE ATTORNEY: My pleasure Dan.
ABRAMS: All right. So, you pled not guilty today to the charges.
Does that mean that she is saying that these charges are simply not true?
HOPPER: No, it means she‘s responding to a criminal complaint that where the police have stated what they‘ve stated. And actually, I want to compliment you. You did an excellent job of recapping what the police have said. And I think that‘s the important distinction to make here, is that this is exactly what the police have said, or it‘s what the police have said that she said.
ABRAMS: Is it true? I mean, is what the police alleging—does Audrey say that the police allegations are false?
HOPPER: Well, any lawyer who‘s worth carrying a briefcase is not going to start making judgments on the facts when we just received the complaint at 11:00 yesterday and just had the first appearance and the arraignment...
ABRAMS: Yes, but this is a very basic—I mean apart from sort of—
I‘m not asking about each and every detail in the complaint. I‘m just asking you generally they‘re saying she lied. Is that not true?
HOPPER: I understand what they‘re saying. Audrey is going to have her day in court and her story will come out then.
ABRAMS: And until that point you‘re not even going to put out a defense for her in terms of saying, for example, the police are misstating the facts or misstating anything in the complaint?
HOPPER: Not at this time. I had a very positive dialogue last week when I spoke with the prosecutor. I had a very positive meeting with him. The same thing happened again yesterday and again today. And I think that the case is moving in the right direction right now. I feel very good about where we are and where we‘re headed in the defense of our client.
ABRAMS: Can I read into that that it means you might be cutting a deal with the prosecutors?
HOPPER: Well I think everybody is trying to read into it, Dan.
ABRAMS: At least I‘m honest about what I‘m doing. I‘m reading into it. I‘m saying it looks...
ABRAMS: ... I‘ll tell you, it sounds to me like Randy Hopper is trying to cut a deal with the prosecutors.
HOPPER: And I think you and others are free to read into it as you wish. But I think you‘re also smart enough to know at this exceedingly early stage in a criminal proceeding that that‘s not even worth speculating about until we have all the facts.
ABRAMS: What is she—is she at this point conceding that she is mentally ill to a certain degree?
HOPPER: No, absolutely not.
ABRAMS: So there‘s no concessions at this point on her part, meaning no concession that she lied about anything, no concession that she‘s mentally ill.
HOPPER: No. Audrey is with her parents back here in Rockford, Minnesota. She‘s spending time with her parents and she‘s receiving the best treatment from various doctors that she can right now. And that‘s where the focus of the case is. Her lawyers, me and Mr. Meshbesher (ph) are dealing with the legal matters in the case, and that‘s as it should be.
ABRAMS: Let me ask you one other fact question and that is about the allegation with regard to essentially doing this for her boyfriend...
ABRAMS: ... to get her boyfriend‘s attention. Was she on the rocks with her boyfriend? Was any of this an attempt to get her boyfriend‘s attention?
HOPPER: Well, she certainly has had disagreements with her boyfriend. She‘s had arguments with her boyfriend. She‘s had ups and downs in the relationship, as I‘ve said all day today, not dissimilar to what many people experience in their relationships. Her relationship with her boyfriend is intact right now. He‘s back in Rockford. He‘s being very supportive of her. And I think there are a lot of inaccuracies that have been reported about that.
ABRAMS: But the police, right, are alleging that the reason she did this was so he‘d come back to her, the same way she had apparently felt sorry for her when she was hit from behind early in February, that he came to her aid and police essentially suggesting that she concocts this story so he‘ll come back and do exactly what he‘s doing now.
HOPPER: That‘s what they‘re saying in the complaint. That is again a very good recap of what the police are saying.
ABRAMS: But we‘re not going to get anything out of you as to what the defense is saying.
HOPPER: It‘s so preliminary, Dan. And you know we just picked up the files. We just got the cooperation from the prosecutor late yesterday, in fact, to get their file, which he showed me is about two feet thick.
HOPPER: And we have to spend an awful lot of time before we‘re going to be prepared to get into the nits and the nats of the facts. I hope you understand that as a lawyer, and I‘ll be happy to come back and talk further as we proceed through a complex maze of facts, and more and more will become clear as we go forward. It certainly will.
ABRAMS: We look forward to having you back to answer those questions.
Randy Hopper, thanks a lot.
HOPPER: Appreciate it.
ABRAMS: Coming up, Martha Stewart‘s team lays out in its effort to get her a new trial. One juror who says, allegedly, that fellow jurors broke rules which say no reading about the case during the trial. Another accused of admitting to being an embezzler and drug user. Our legal team debates whether any of this will actually get Martha Stewart a new trial.
There‘s a new al Qaeda tape likely recorded by Osama bin Laden. On it he vows revenge on the U.S. for, among other things, Israel‘s killing of the founder of Hamas. And he tries to split European allies with a three-month truce offer.
And get this. This story is unbelievable. A convicted child rapist who admitted attacking over 200 children is walking free today. Authorities are worried he will strike again. But we‘re going to ask how is he out. We‘ll talk to the D.A. whose office prosecuted this case.
Your e-mails firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your name, where you‘re writing from. We‘ll respond at the end of the show.
ABRAMS: Coming up, could new allegations of misconduct by Martha Stewart jurors mean a new trial for Martha? Our legal team checks it out.
ABRAMS: Lawyers for both Martha Stewart and her co-defendant Peter Bacanovic say their clients are entitled to new trials and they each have reasons. Martha Stewart‘s team continuing the assault on juror Chappell Hartridge. Remember last month they filed papers claiming Hartridge failed to disclose a 1997 arrest on charges of assaulting a woman he had been living with when he filled out his jury questionnaire. Well now they‘re saying not only did he lie about that, but he also left out other information about his family‘s criminal history.
On top of that the defense now claims Hartridge‘s son was convicted of the crime of attempted robbery in June, 2000 -- information specifically called for by the questionnaire and omitted. Additionally it is now clear that Hartridge was accused of and confessed to embezzlement from the Little League, attributing it to a cocaine habit, facts nowhere disclosed on the questionnaire.
Finally, there‘s additional evidence that Hartridge was investigated by his employer and terminated either for expense account padding or drug abuse. Peter Bacanovic‘s attorney filed papers for a new trial yesterday claiming a juror called them weeks after the guilty verdict and said, “Members of the jury had discussed extraneous prejudicial information relating to the defendants, including items reported in the press, but not introduced into evidence at trial. The information included the high cost of Ms. Stewart‘s handbag and the hourly rate charge by Ms. Stewart‘s lawyer.”
So we ask the question again—might Martha Stewart get a new trial? Joining me now, former federal prosecutor Tiffany Erwin Moller, who worked in the very office that prosecuted Martha Stewart, and world famous criminal defense attorney Gerry Lefcourt, who has handled many of these white-collar cases.
All right, Gerry, let‘s deal with the issue of Chappell Hartridge first, that jury. OK, so now the defense has dug up more dirt on this guy. More allegation that is he didn‘t tell the truth on his jury questionnaire.
But really, this doesn‘t and won‘t lead to a new trial, will it?
GERALD LEFCOURT, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, you know, that alone, it probably wouldn‘t. But the combination of facts that is now coming out—and I don‘t think you could keep the information from Stewart‘s lawyers separate from the information provided by Bacanovic‘s lawyers. Because now what we‘re seeing, assuming for a moment that what they‘re saying is true—and I do so assume, because I don‘t think that they would lie in an affidavit—is that the jurors were reading the very hostile press that Martha Stewart has received, and all kinds of things were in that press, not only about her expensive handbag and also, how much money the lawyers were making, but also, lawyer arguments that were held out of the presence of the jurors.
Can you have any confidence, after a juror comes out and says this is a victory for the little people, that this was not like a class struggle going on between Martha Stewart and her jurors, which really infected a fair trial. Now, whether the judge will consider all this enough to overturn it remains to be seen. But the judge should conduct a hearing, and all of this should be put on the record so that everybody knows what they were really discussing and how all of this...
LEFCOURT: ... may have affected the verdict.
ABRAMS: You know, Tiffany, it sounds bad. I mean people say, oh, you know you had a juror who lied and Martha Stewart is on trial for lying. But you know that is way too simplistic. The bottom line is if this case gets overturned for these reasons, every jury verdict in every high-profile case is going to be reviewed. And what they‘re going to do is the defense attorneys are intentionally not going to find out too much about the jurors before the case. They‘ll wait until after the case and then say (UNINTELLIGIBLE) look what we‘ve found. We‘re entitled to a new trial.
TIFFANY ERWIN MOLLER, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: You‘re exactly right Dan and that‘s why the courts have set an extremely high standard for these sorts of motions. I mean let‘s get back to what the law is. The law in the second circuit is with respect to the Chappell Hartridge issue first, and the law in the second circuit is that look, you have to show not only that the juror lied, and I‘m not sure they‘ve even made that showing. But assuming (UNINTELLIGIBLE) they did, that the lie would result in the jury - - the judge having to exclude the juror for cause, meaning make a legal determination that that juror is—couldn‘t be impartial and is biased. And none of the facts that they‘ve asserted so far...
ABRAMS: But wait. But it goes beyond that, Tiffany. I mean that‘s just the beginning. That‘s just to get them a hearing. To actually get a new trial they would have to show more than just that this juror would have been dismissed from the case. They then have to show that this juror has somehow infected the process as well.
ERWIN MOLLER: Well, that‘s right. I was getting to that. I mean it‘s sort of a lengthy process. You sort of touched on the third sort of showing that the defendants would have to make here. And you‘re exactly right. The courts have held the defendants in these sorts of circumstances to a very high standard for the reason you just articulated. It really—these sorts of postmortem looking at the deliberative process of the jury is really dangerous.
ERWIN MOLLER: It goes to the finale...
LEFCOURT: You know what? This is all ridiculous. This is slippery slope. It‘s OK for jurors to lie, but the defendant is charged with lying, and that‘s the only lie we care about.
EMERSON: No, no...
LEFCOURT: It‘s OK for the jurors to violate a direct order of the court, not to read the press...
ERWIN MOLLER: Well...
LEFCOURT: ... and have that press infect the jury in such a way as a juror comes out and says this is a victory for little, you know...
ERWIN MOLLER: Well you‘re making...
LEFCOURT: ... for the little people.
ERWIN MOLLER: ... you‘re making a lot...
LEFCOURT: And then you ignore it.
ERWIN MOLLER: ... of assumptions...
ABRAMS: Let Tiffany respond. Go ahead, Tiffany. Go ahead.
ERWIN MOLLER: Thanks Dan. You‘re making a lot of assumptions there. First, you‘re assuming that Chappell Hartridge lied. And I mean look, with respect to the allegation that he...
ABRAMS: Let‘s just assume for a minute for the purpose of this argument that he did.
ERWIN MOLLER: That he did, OK.
ERWIN MOLLER: But the lies have to be something that—or the misstatements have to be something that would show that the juror is biased, is unable to deliberate fairly and impartially...
ABRAMS: And were done so that he could get on the jury. I mean that‘s really what they‘re going to have to prove. They‘re going to have to show not just that he lied, but that he lied so that he could get on the jury...
LEFCOURT: Oh Dan...
ABRAMS: ... and so it could affect the process.
LEFCOURT: Why he lying if it‘s not to get on the jury?
LEFCOURT: Because if he told the truth, he probably wouldn‘t...
LEFCOURT: ... get on the jury.
ABRAMS: ... you know the courts have held again and again that jurors are often embarrassed...
ABRAMS: ... to disclose certain details...
LEFCOURT: But this was...
ABRAMS: ... and that‘s not enough for a new trial.
LEFCOURT: ... in a private questionnaire. This was not in front of anyone else. This was a questionnaire that was signed under the penalties of perjury. And really not in front of a whole room full of jurors where the juror might be embarrassed. Why would you lie, except to get on the jury...
ERWIN MOLLER: Yes, but let‘s talk about the allegations for a second here because...
LEFCOURT: But look, let‘s talk about the press stuff that was in that jury room. And you combine all of this stuff, and you‘ve got to say to yourself do you have any confidence in this verdict?
ERWIN MOLLER: But you don‘t know what the press stuff is. You keep referring to that. I mean all we know is that one juror has said...
LEFCOURT: Well we know that your former chief has said that it has to do with...
ERWIN MOLLER: Let me finish please.
LEFCOURT: Go ahead.
ABRAMS: Let her finish.
ERWIN MOLLER: Let me finish.
ERWIN MOLLER: I‘m having a little bit of audio trouble here. I apologize.
ABRAMS: All right, go ahead.
ERWIN MOLLER: But the press stuff you‘re referring to, all we know so far is that one juror has come forward and has said that some jurors read accounts of an expensive handbag and expensive legal fees. Look, Martha Stewart is a rich woman. The jury was told that. The defense actually offered evidence of her wealth to show that she wouldn‘t be bothered with this little ImClone trade. So I mean the notion that she‘s rich is out there, and the notion that rich people have expensive handbags and expensive lawyers isn‘t something that‘s prejudicial.
ABRAMS: Hang on. Gerry...
ERWIN MOLLER: In order for the judge to even conduct a hearing, much less to order...
ABRAMS: All right. Gerry, here‘s my theory on this. Jurors always misapply the law. Not always, but very often in cases. Judges give very lengthy instructions, and if we started reviewing each and every case as to whether the jurors actually obeyed each and every one of the judge‘s rules, 90 percent of verdicts in high-profile cases would be in question.
LEFCOURT: Dan, I think that you have a popular belief. But I think, from my experience—and I think from experience of most trial lawyers, jurors conscientiously try to follow the law.
ABRAMS: Try. That‘s right. Conscientiously try they do...
LEFCOURT: And they do. And you know but in this situation we have jurors going out and—you know, and again, it‘s an allegation. And I agree with Stephanie to this extent...
ABRAMS: Tiffany, yes.
LEFCOURT: ... there ought to be—excuse me, Tiffany.
ERWIN MOLLER: That‘s OK Gerry.
LEFCOURT: There ought to be a hearing to determine exactly who was reading what and how was it discussed in front of the jury.
ERWIN MOLLER: No, but they don‘t get a hearing until they make a specific showing that there was extraneous information that was prejudicial. That‘s rule 606-B...
ABRAMS: All right.
LEFCOURT: Well they‘ve already made a showing.
ERWIN MOLLER: They haven‘t made a showing...
LEFCOURT: There‘s a lengthy affidavit from Richard Strassberg...
LEFCOURT: ... who was your chief in the same office.
ERWIN MOLLER: That‘s not prejudicial. Come on Gerry...
ABRAMS: All right.
ERWIN MOLLER: ... they‘ve got to make a bigger showing than that, and you know it.
LEFCOURT: Well, that‘s what prosecutors always say in order to uphold a verdict...
ABRAMS: All right, we...
ERWIN MOLLER: That happens to be what the law is...
ABRAMS: ... we shall...
ABRAMS: ... we shall see. I am predicting that Martha—this will go nowhere.
ABRAMS: That maybe they‘ll get a hearing, at best, but that in the end the judge will not—because I don‘t think the judge can grant a new trial in this kind of case. Otherwise I just think too many verdicts would be in question. But Gerry Lefcourt will be invited back on the program to put it in my face.
LEFCOURT: All right.
ABRAMS: Tiffany Moller, Gerry Lefcourt, thanks a lot.
ERWIN MOLLER: Thanks, Dan.
ABRAMS: Coming up, we‘ll go live to Redwood City, California to the Scott Peterson trial where prosecutors are now testing blood found in a van, which may have been spotted in the area where Laci disappeared.
Plus, a new al Qaeda audiotape likely recorded by Osama bin Laden within the last three months calls for a three-month truce for any European country that pulls its troops out of Iraq or other Muslim countries. That‘s coming up.
ANNOUNCER: This is THE ABRAMS REPORT. Here again is Dan Abrams.
ABRAMS: Big developments in the Scott Peterson case, where the prosecution now says it will test blood found in a brown van that the defense has suggested could be connected to Laci‘s murder. You remember some witnesses said they saw such a van in the neighborhood at around the time that Laci went missing or at least the last time that she was seen. The prosecution discounts the theory. Also today a day to set—May 7 defense attorney Mark Geragos will argue to move the trial again.
I‘m joined now by Susan Siravo of NBC station KNTV live from the courthouse. So Susan, lay it out for us. This is a new brown van that was found that has blood in it, and why is Mark Geragos to upset about the fact that the prosecutors are testing it?
SUSAN SIRAVO, KNTV CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is a very confusing story and it‘s kind of convoluted, the whole brown van issue. So, Dan, I‘m going to try to explain it as simply as I can so everyone can understand. Apparently as you mentioned, there were some witnesses that spotted a brown van in Laci Peterson‘s neighborhood around the time that she went missing. Now, various brown vans have been tracked down by attorneys during this whole process. Now, one that the defense, rather, tracked down, the prosecution also took a look at that van. The prosecution cleared it because they determined that that van was nowhere in the area.
However, when the defense looked that van over, they found some blood evidence in that van. So when the prosecution got wind of that, they decided that they wanted to test that blood evidence, along with the defense. Now, the problem there is that there‘s only enough evidence to do one test. So the prosecution and the defense were arguing about who would do the test. The judge determined that the prosecution‘s lab would do the test, and then they would provide the defense with the daily lab note so they could all monitor what was happening with that situation.
Now the reason that this has been confusing, Dan, is because there was another brown or tan van involved in the Peterson case and this was a van that was involved apparently in a burglary at a home across the street from the Petersons‘ house or next-door to the Petersons‘ house. So there‘s been some misreporting as to which van they‘re really talking about in this case. I also want to mention, Dan, a really important date, May 7. That‘s when Mark Geragos is going to argue once again for a change of venue. Yesterday he spoke about it in court. He was very emphatic that the bay area is really too close to Modesto. He mentioned the fact that Laci Peterson‘s body and the baby‘s body were found in the bay area.
So getting a fair and unbiased jury just because of that is also going to very difficult. And of course he mentioned that he believes this jury pool is polluted. And also, the fact that he‘s had two so-called stealth jurors so far and he claims that there are going to be more stealth jurors coming up in the coming weeks—Dan.
ABRAMS: Well, Susan, very quickly. So, there was that brown van involved or a brownish van apparently involved in that burglary. There was also a brown van that belonged to those satanic worshipers, allegedly. This is—is this that van or is this a different van?
SIRAVO: Well, no one exactly clarified if this van has any connection to any alleged satanic cults-type people.
SIRAVO: We just know that there have been a number of brown vans tracked down, and this is one that both the defense and the prosecution have looked over.
ABRAMS: Yes. All right. Susan, thanks a lot. Appreciate it.
The question that I have is why is Mark Geragos so upset about them testing the blood? You‘d think, oh, OK, maybe this will help prove that Scott Peterson didn‘t do it.
I‘m joined now by Westchester County New York District Attorney Jeanine Pirro, former San Mateo County prosecutor and defense attorney Dean Johnson, who‘s tried numerous cases in the same courthouse, and Gary Casimir, who is a criminal litigator.
All right. So, Gary, let me start with you. What is Mark Geragos so upset about? He‘s yelling and screaming, it‘s Alice in Wonderland, blah, blah, blah. I mean he should be thrilled they‘re going to finally test the blood and be able to prove that Scott Peterson didn‘t do it.
GARY CASIMIR, CIVIL & CRIMINAL LITIGATOR: Yes, I don‘t know why he would be upset about this. The only aspect of the report that I heard that would lead me to believe he would have a reason to be mad is the fact that there‘s so little blood and he can‘t do an independent test of his own. Lately he‘s not been very trusting of the prosecution in this case or the government‘s agents in handling the blood, and if the blood gets destroyed the evidence that he may be using to exonerate Scott may be gone. So, in that respect he may have reason to be mad.
ABRAMS: But, Dean, he‘s basically saying, well you know they cleared this van already. They say that they know it‘s not, so why are they now—the reason they‘re now testing it is to make sure that the defense doesn‘t have an argument to make like why didn‘t they test the blood in the van.
CASIMIR: Right. But that‘s exactly my point...
ABRAMS: Let me go to Dean on that. Go ahead. Let me go to Dean.
DEAN JOHNSON, FMR. SAN MATEO COUNTY CA PROSECUTOR: I think what Mark is so upset about is the fact that the district attorney essentially dismissed this evidence initially and said, oh, we know what the evidence is going to be. We know that this van is not connected to the case. Now suddenly they seem to reverse field and they go back and say OK, we‘re going to test the blood.
Bottom line is Geragos is engaged in a lot of theatrics in the court and has been for the last several days. But he‘s got to be thrilled that this is going to be tested as well.
JOHNSON: If this turns out positive at all for Laci Peterson‘s blood, game over for the prosecution. Scott Peterson did not do it.
ABRAMS: All right, Jeanine, I‘ve teed it up for you.
JEANINE PIRRO, WESTCHESTER COUNTY NY DISTRICT ATTORNEY: Theatrics? It‘s more like histrionics. I have not seen Geragos be calm any day. So for him to get excited is nothing new. This is the bottom line. The van was tested by the prosecution, the brown van that was connected to the neighborhood where Laci lived. And in fact, Geragos then bought the van himself, as far as I know. Now what we‘re doing is we‘re doing a dragnet for all the brown vans in the Modesto area, in case they have blood in them.
So now there‘s not enough blood for everyone to test. What do you do? This is not unusual at all. You have the prosecution test. You have the defense be there, if they want to be there, and you make all this stuff available. This is again, much ado about nothing. It‘s a satanic cult, Donnie in the brown van. It‘s the neo Nazis. It‘s the two men in the park. It‘s the fugitive. I mean what‘s a day without a trial balloon for Mark Geragos.
CASIMIR: But Jeanine, if the blood turns out to be Laci‘s, you have to admit the prosecution‘s theory goes out the window...
CASIMIR: ... and they‘re going to have to do a complete turnaround and use another theory.
PIRRO: You are speculating. You‘re—we‘re all speculating here.
CASIMIR: Of course we are.
PIRRO: If it does, then we‘ll talk about it. But right now what Geragos is doing is he‘s pulling all the brown vans and testing them for blood.
PIRRO: You know it‘s almost laughable at this point.
CASIMIR: Well I‘m not sure if he‘s—I‘m not sure he‘s the one who found the van or what—how the van was exactly found...
PIRRO: That‘s my understanding.
CASIMIR: But let‘s say...
JOHNSON: Yes, we don‘t know the circumstances under which this van is found. And we‘re also, I think, possibly confusing this brown van with the brown van that was connected to the burglary across the street...
PIRRO: No we‘re not...
JOHNSON: ... from the Peterson house.
PIRRO: No, this is brown van number two.
JOHNSON: But the...
PIRRO: This is not...
PIRRO: ... the first van.
JOHNSON: All right, this is brown...
PIRRO: And that‘s why the...
JOHNSON: ... van number two. But it has...
PIRRO: ... that‘s why the prosecution...
ABRAMS: Hang on. One at a time.
PIRRO: ... said that this van is not connected to Laci. They didn‘t want to look at it because it was never in the area as the original brown van that was already tested and bought by the defense.
JOHNSON: But think it through to the next step. If there is trace blood evidence in this brown van, number one, number two or number 100...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right.
JOHNSON: ... don‘t you want to test it to keep...
JOHNSON: ... Mark Geragos from raising...
JOHNSON: ... a bunch of red herrings during the case...
ABRAMS: Yes, you do...
ABRAMS: You absolutely do.
ABRAMS: All right, so question number two. This change of venue thing again coming up. And since Dean, you‘re the expert out there. You‘re the one who‘s worked out there and practiced out there. I mean Mark Geragos doesn‘t have a chance, does he, of getting this case moved again?
JOHNSON: Dan, I would have hoped that we had put this change of venue issue to rest. I guess we‘re going to put it to rest on May 7 when we finally have a hearing. The change of venue motion didn‘t have a chance to start with, and now that we‘ve got 40 potential jurors who say they can be fair and conscientiously decide this case and we‘re going to have 70 by the time the opening statements are given, the motion has even less of a chance. Geragos has been raising this issue of the stealth juror, but that‘s a complete non-secular. It has nothing to do with the change of venue...
CASIMIR: Dean, I just want to say one thing...
JOHNSON: ... simply because...
ABRAMS: Let me let Gary in.
JOHNSON: ... because there are going to be stealth jurors no matter where you go. Geragos wants...
CASIMIR: ... the problem Dean is he has a right to point it out. He caught two already. There were two people who lied about past incidences where they were involved in battered cases, as well as one woman who said Scott is going to get what he deserves. So I mean you‘re right. He may not get a change of venue this time. But if he acquires enough evidence to show that this kind of—that there‘s a pattern going on and there‘s a percentage of these people on the jury, he may have an appeal later on. I‘m sure he may not get it. But he‘s got to do this history.
CASIMIR: He‘s obviously doing...
ABRAMS: Hang on Dean. Let me let Jeanine in.
ABRAMS: Let me let Jeanine in.
PIRRO: My question is, first of all, is Mark Geragos monitoring the Internet? How did he know that this stealth juror number two was on a spiritual Web site?
ABRAMS: He got a call. He got a call from...
PIRRO: Yes. OK...
PIRRO: ... and the second thing is juror number one who was bounced denied ever saying that, and the judge said hey, wait a minute, Geragos. If you‘re going to start bringing in these whistleblowers, I want them to take the stand because we‘re ruining people‘s reputations who are denying that they ever said this.
PIRRO: And remember, Geragos got this moved once based upon a false survey done by college students. So...
ABRAMS: All right. Well...
ABRAMS: ... look, that‘s not why he got the first change...
PIRRO: That was one of the...
ABRAMS: All right. All right...
PIRRO: Come on Dan...
ABRAMS: All right. All right (UNINTELLIGIBLE). The first change of venue he deserved to get. He ought to have gotten. I think that was the right decision by the judge. I think that this trial is going to stay where it is for now.
ABRAMS: That would be the right decision. Jeanine Pirro, Dean Johnson, Gary Casimir, thanks a lot.
Coming up, the voice the CIA says is likely Osama bin Laden vowing revenge on the U.S and trying to split America‘s European allies by offering a truce deal to them.
Plus, this one‘s really—this gets me. A serial child rapist who had been convicted and sentenced to 19 years to life is instead out on the street. What? We‘ll talk to the D.A. who‘s prosecuted the case and find out what they are doing to try and stop the man who‘s admitted to raping or molesting over 200 kids.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: That, the CIA says is likely the voice of Osama bin Laden. A new audiotape surfacing today believed to be an attempt to drive a wedge between Europe and the U.S. It was released, shocker, to the Arab TV station. This time it‘s Al Arabiya, and in it bin Laden offers a truce to Europe, but vows to keep fighting the U.S.
Quote—“I offer a truce to them with the commitment to stop operations against any state which vows to stop attacking Muslims or interfere in their affairs. Whoever rejects this truce and wants war, we are its sons, and whoever wants this truce, here we bring it.”
In the tape bin Laden said the truce door is open for three months, but could be extended. Several European states immediately rejected the offer. Italy, Germany, France, and Britain among them. Remember, three days after the terrorist train bombing in Madrid, which killed 191, Spanish citizens voted in a socialist government who vowed to remove their 1,300 troops from Iraq if the U.N does not take charge there by June the 30th.
I‘m joined now by MSNBC terrorism analyst, Steve Emerson. All right, Steve, is this a new strategy by bin Laden? I mean suddenly focusing on the Palestinian issue, claiming that the U.S. is going to get retaliated against for killing the founder of Hamas, and “B”, trying to make it seem like he‘s willing to cut deals with Europe?
STEVE EMERSON, TERRORISM EXPERT: Dan, the fact that he pulls in the Palestinian issue, he‘s done that for a while. He pulls in the traditional buzzwords for the Islamic cause that he wants to resonate. But I have to tell you, I think—I‘m looking at the actual text of the speech, and I‘ve got to tell you, I think he‘s got pollsters and public opinion propaganda makers that really rival the best in the United States. His language is strikingly populist.
If you look at some of his words, in which he talks about the bloodsuckers of corporations like Halliburton, and he‘s using language that‘s very populist and orientation. He offers a peace treaty to the populations of Europe that he says really want peace. So what he is doing is he‘s taking the temperature after the Madrid bombings. He has seen the level of alienation from the Madrid and the reactions of Madrid from the population in Spain to the existing government. He‘s looked at the reaction to the killings of Europeans in the last week or so in Iraq, and he says I can basically drive a wedge between the European populations and their governments.
Number two, I can rehabilitate my image by putting myself in the image of somebody who‘s really reasonable and I want to cut a deal. I think it‘s a masterstroke by bin Laden here. I don‘t think people will buy it, but I think it‘s an attempt, because I think he‘s more desperate now than he‘s ever been before. He‘s really on the ropes a bit here.
ABRAMS: You say people won‘t buy it, and yet you know I believe that it to a certain degree worked in Spain, and you know I‘ve been debating back and forth with some of the viewers, et cetera on this issue. But I am convinced that the Spanish citizens ultimately gave in to the terror attack. I mean is it possible that some European countries will either overtly or subtly react in a way that gives in to bin Laden?
EMERSON: But, Dan, you‘re absolutely right. In fact, I probably just misspoke because you‘re right. I think it‘s too—I was wrong in saying that people won‘t buy it. We don‘t know what people will say. And the reaction is going to be judged in the opinions in the polls tomorrow and editorials. I‘m sure we will actually see some editorials in Europe saying, you know what? Bin Laden‘s got a point. We shouldn‘t be interfering in their affairs.
Let‘s get out of Iraq. Let‘s stop supporting any American position around the world and he‘ll stop bothering us. The fact of the matter is his promise of not interfering, of not attacking European lands shouldn‘t be seen for anything other than what it is. He‘s just taunting them, trying to rehabilitate...
EMERSON: ... his image. And intimidate...
EMERSON: He now...
ABRAMS: ... almost Hitleresque in the promises. Oh, yes, we won‘t attack you. We—oh, yes, yes. He‘s really—that‘s a good guy to trust.
EMERSON: Absolutely. Very Hitleresque. I mean it‘s got that very notion of sounding I want to be reasonable. All you have to do is follow my instructions right now and you won‘t have any problems. Obviously this is a mad man. But he‘s now mastered the language of what now is being used in European public opinion. And also language, by the way, Dan, that looks very similar to some of the attacks, I have to say, on President Bush. When he says President Bush and the media giants in the U.N., the people say that here.
ABRAMS: Yes. Steve Emerson, thanks a lot.
EMERSON: You‘re welcome.
ABRAMS: Question—how in the world did a serial child rapist who‘s admitted attacking over 200 children get out of jail free after being sentenced to 19 years to life—unbelievable. We‘re going to talk to the D.A. whose office prosecuted the case.
And later, my “Closing Argument”—the Arab media‘s deplorable habit of demonizing U.S. troops in Iraq.
ABRAMS: All right. We‘re having a little technical difficulty with one of our stories, so we‘re going to go now to my “Closing Argument”. My “Closing Argument”—our military officials getting a taste of what it‘s like for Israel to deal with the Arab media. Earlier this week General John Abizaid, American commander of U.S. troops in the Middle East, complained that—quote—“the Arab press in particular, Al Jazeera, and Al Arabiya, are portraying American troops as purposely targeting civilians and yet, we absolutely do not that, and I think everybody knows that.”
Well, we know that, but I assure you many in the Arab world do not, thanks to inaccurate instigators in the Arab media. They do the same to Israeli troops, falsely reporting or suggesting that Israel is somehow deliberately killing civilians. Of course, if Israel wanted to kill Palestinian civilians, they could take out the entire population of the West Bank, no problem. But instead they go out of their way to avoid it, and as a result, even miss out on opportunities to kill terrorists.
Now, one can legitimately argue that Israel needs to take more care to avoid civilian casualties when targeting terrorists, and that Israel needs to make more compromises when it comes to the settlements. But no one remotely objective can suggest that Israeli or U.S. troops actually seek to kill civilians. But the facts don‘t matter when it comes to much of the Arab media. They show photos or video of dead—quote—“civilians”, Al Jazeera then frames it in a way with analysis and interviews that suggest it was or might have been intentional. I can‘t even imagine how frustrating it must be for General Abizaid trying to protect American lives while also going to great lengths to protect Iraqis as well.
Then rather than getting any credit for those efforts in the Arab world, these media provocateurs suggest our troops or Israeli troops for that matter are moral equivalent to the savages who blow themselves up on airplanes or on buses with bombs covered in nails dipped in rat poison. They even refer to suicide bombers who try to maim and harm civilians as martyrs. It doesn‘t matter to Al Jazeera that for the so-called martyrs civilian deaths are the goal, while for American and military officials, civilian deaths are nothing but trouble.
General Abizaid is right that everyone should know that. But unfortunately, objective truth often doesn‘t play well in the Arab media.
Coming up, “Your Rebuttal” to my “Closing Argument” last night where I defended the 9/11 commission from partisan attacks, and we‘re going to have that story about that child molester -- 200 kids he admits to molesting, and he is walking the street. Talk to the D.A.
ABRAMS: A guy who admits molesting over 200 children is now walking free. We‘re going to talk to the D.A. in a moment.
ABRAMS: A convicted child rapist who‘s admitted attacking more than 200 kids dating back to 1976, tonight he‘s a free man. How does it happen? Well that‘s what many people want to know. Edward Stokes, convicted in 2001 for molesting a 16-year-old boy in California. In a letter to his therapist, Stokes wrote, “I look like a normal adult, not like a wild man, a criminal, no beard, scars, tattoos or lost fingers. There are no outward appearances to warn boys and young men to avoid me is the difference between a healthy life and the probability of emotional, mental or even physical damage, pain or even death.”
So what happened? Stokes‘ attorneys appealed. They won after a new police report showed that the victim made conflicting statements to police. The problem—the boy committed suicide and so they couldn‘t question him about the discrepancies. So the guy gets the conviction thrown out on a technicality, but what about the other 211 he says he molested? How is it possible that this guy is walking free?
Joining me now for an exclusive interview, the Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas, whose office prosecuted the case. Mr. District Attorney, thanks very much for coming on the program. All right, just lay it out for us. How is it possible that this guy is walking free?
TONY RACKAUCKAS, ORANGE COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY: Well you know, he had a very good fair and complete trial. The—both sides waived jury. The judge heard all the evidence, a very competent, very experienced, highly regarded judge. And he convicted the defendant and Mr. Stokes was sentenced to 19 to life in prison. As you know, then the case was appealed by the defense and it was reversed by the court of appeals. And the reversal was based on the fact that we didn‘t have a police report at an earlier time when we did an interview with the victim.
ABRAMS: That‘s the one case, though. All right, so he gets it thrown out on a technicality. But let me read this from his supposed manifesto, a letter to his therapist.
“Ninety-seven percent chance of re-offending as a general summary for
a male homosexual pedophile. Add 28 years of offending history, 15 years
prison, 212 hands-on victims, and what do I see—he‘s talking about
himself—a monster. If not a monster, then almost 100 percent chance of
re-offending without treatment.”
So, what about the other cases?
RACKAUCKAS: He‘s a monster, like he says. He‘s been convicted a number of times in the past and he‘s done prison time. On this particular charge, he would have never gotten out because in California, we have what we call a one-strike law for people who commit this kind of an offense. Unfortunately, he‘s out. He‘s—now he is someplace in the Seattle area and we need to keep an eye on him. Because as he said, he has—he said he has a 97 percent chance of re-offending in his view without treatment and he is not getting treatment. So he must have 100 percent chance of re-offending. So...
ABRAMS: But why can‘t he get prosecuted on any of these other cases? I mean I understand he served time for some of these other cases. He serves a three-year sentence. He served some other time apparently. But why is it that no one can go after him for some of these other kids where he‘s allegedly confessed?
RACKAUCKAS: Well he‘s been prosecuted for the cases that we have evidence concerning. And you know any other cases, if the—if there‘s good identification of the victims, and the kind of case that where the evidence can be developed, then of course it would be prosecuted. But we don‘t have those.
ABRAMS: Let me do this Mr. District Attorney. Do you know—is there a phone number that people can call if they have any information? I‘m going to put up a picture of this guy and I want to know if anyone has got information about any of these cases who they can call. Do you have a number that they can call?
RACKAUCKAS: Well if they have any information about these cases, I‘d like them to call directly to my office. It‘s 714-834-3636. And that‘s not the general office that you get—where you get the telephone tree. That‘s my office and my secretary will answer that telephone if there‘s any information about this case or any of these cases.
ABRAMS: All right, you got the number ladies and gentlemen -- 714-834-3636. The district attorney giving you his direct line. If you‘ve got information about that guy because he is walking free right now because of a legal technicality. He gets out. Mr. Rackauckas‘ office convicted him. He‘s confessed to over 200 cases and he is out there free. Now, has no one been able to track him down recently?
RACKAUCKAS: We know that he‘s in the Seattle, Washington area now.
ABRAMS: All right. Mr. Rackauckas, we‘re going to stay on this story, I promise you, and thank you very much for coming on the program.
RACKAUCKAS: Thank you very much.
ABRAMS: All right. Now it‘s time for “Your Rebuttal”. The 9/11 commission already being accused of partisan politics even before their final report is released. I said I would accept and defend the commission‘s unanimous report no matter what. Because remember, five Republicans, five Democrats are coming together and agreeing on the findings.
Kevin Portlock from Virginia Beach, Virginia wants me to—quote—
“wake up.” He writes, “You keep talking about how you want to keep politics out of the 9/11 panel. Dan, open your eyes because it‘s too late. The Democrats on this panel throw softballs to Clinton people and the Republicans throw softballs to Bush people.”
Tom Conwell, “I feel that the Democratic commissioners are so partisan that they are incapable of objectively assessing the results of the data collected.”
Kevin and Tom, let‘s assume both of you are right. That says nothing about what happens when both sides, Republicans and Democrats agree on a unanimous report. Then the politics don‘t matter. Unless you‘re suggesting that somehow one side or the other is going to capitulate.
Larry Parker from Texas writes, “How come every time a tough question is asked of a politician these days, all you guys on TV start hollering partisan politics?”
Oh, Larry, you think we‘re inventing this stuff? Well listen to Gary May from Nevada, California. He wrote in about Democratic Commissioner Richard Ben-Veniste who was on the show last night.
“If Richard Ben-Veniste thinks he is not engaging in partisan politics, he is living in the land of Oz.”
Tom Pandolfi, “He‘s a disgrace to the Democrats and going with party lines regardless of getting to the truth. I think you could get more of a non partisan person to interview who would give an honest opinion.”
Yet, some of you supporting my effort to take the politics out of 9/11 by supporting any unanimous decisions that come from the commission. Dorothy Carter, “Keep up the great job of trying to keep the 9/11 commission non partisan.”
And from Altoona, Pennsylvania Dr. Darla Wilshire. “Please keep up the support of the commission and make the howlers sling back into their caves.”
Your email, email@example.com. One word, abramsreport—there it is—and I‘ll respond at the end of the show. Remember to include your name and where you‘re writing from.
Coming up next, “HARDBALL” with Chris Matthews. Chris talks with “Nightline‘s” Ted Koppel about his experiences in Iraq.
Thanks for watching and I‘ll see you tomorrow.
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