Guests: James Hirsen, Jennifer Giroux, Firpo Carr, Shmuley Boteach, Geoffrey Fieger, Lisa Bloom, Jim Thomas
JOE SCARBOROUGH, NBC ANCHOR: I‘m Joe Scarborough.
There‘s breaking news in the Michael Jackson case. Word came in just minutes ago. A grand jury in Santa Barbara, California, has indicted Jackson on child molestation charges. Prosecutors charged Jackson in December with seven counts of committing lewd or lascivious acts on a child under 14 and two counts of administering an intoxicating agent to a child, reportedly giving him wine to drink.
Now, Jackson is accused of molesting the boy, who is identified in court papers only as John Doe. And that was between February 7 and March 10 of 2003. Jackson, of course, has denied all charges. The indictment came on day 13 of the grand jury proceedings, which were held in secret.
Right now, we want to go to Jim Thomas. He‘s on the phone. Of course, he was the Santa Barbara sheriff in 1993 during the investigation of the last Michael Jackson molestation charge.
Jim, what can you tell us?
JIM THOMAS, FORMER SANTA BARBARA SHERIFF: Well, we just learned about 10 minutes ago that there in fact has been an indictment. And that indictment has been sealed.
We‘ve been told by court authorities that they would continue to have that indictment under seal until the arraignment, presumably on April 30, which is next Friday. We believe by then that other sources will be able to confirm the exact nature of the indictments. That‘s something that we don‘t know right now, other than an indictment has been handed down by the Santa Barbara County grand jury.
SCARBOROUGH: Obviously, this grand jury has been extraordinarily secretive, the process. People are guessing it‘s been 12, 13 days.
Jim, when the word started leaking out earlier tonight that they may have come back with an indictment, if it is a secret process, how did NBC and other news agencies start getting word that the indictments were going to be coming down?
THOMAS: Well, actually, NBC got information that they would be going into deliberations today. And then later this afternoon at about 10 until 5:00 or 10 until 4:00 Pacific time, Judge Clifford Anderson, who is the judge overseeing the grand jury, went to the location where the grand jury meets.
Under the way that the law works in California, the only reason that the judge would be there would be one of two reasons, either to answer a technical question or, No. 2, to receive the indictment itself. About an hour and 10 minutes after that, the judge and the grand jurors left and we learned that there would not be any security detail for the grand jurors tomorrow. So at that point we had a pretty good idea that an indictment had been handed up, but we weren‘t certain until about 20 minutes after that.
SCARBOROUGH: All right, Jim Thomas, former Santa Barbara sheriff, thank you so much being with us.
Right now, let‘s take it over to Dan Abrams with “THE ABRAMS REPORT.”
Dan, what do you know?
DAN ABRAMS, NBC ANCHOR: Well, Joe, it seems pretty clear now that Michael Jackson is going to trial. We have confirmed that Michael Jackson has been indicted. We don‘t know exactly on what charges.
Now, people may be saying to themselves, wait a second, I already thought that Michael Jackson was indicted. Yes, charges were filed by the prosecutors. But now a grand jury has handed up an indictment. What does that mean? It means that 19 citizens evaluated the evidence presented by the prosecution and prosecution only, and at least 12 of them have come back and said that there was probable cause to believe that Michael Jackson committed these crimes.
Now, why is it that we don‘t know exactly what charges have been filed against him that he‘s been indicted on? The reason is because this grand jury could indict on all the charges that the prosecution presented. They could indict on more charges than the ones the prosecution presented, they could indict on less charges. All we‘ve been able to confirm at this point is that Michael Jackson has been indicted by a grand jury, again, not a big surprise.
Most people expecting that Michael Jackson would be indicted by this grand jury. Many experts will tell you, it is not tough to get a grand jury indictment. once the prosecution decides they want an indictment, it‘s pretty easy to get one, because, remember, no defense attorneys are present at the grand jury. Now, in the state of California, they have something that is somewhat unique in that they must present to the grand jurors exculpatory evidence, meaning evidence that seems to point away from Michael Jackson‘s guilt.
You can expect that, in about 10 days from now, when the defense gets their hands on the transcript from the grand jury, they will likely have some challenges to the way that this grand jury was conducted. We know that over a period of one, two, three, four, five, six or six-plus days, about seven days, there was testimony in front of this grand jury from a psychologist, from an attorney who represented the boy and his mother, from the accuser himself, from the brother of the accuser, from another attorney, from the father of the accuser, the mother of the accuser.
Again, there may have been more witnesses. Again, this is all secret proceedings in front of the grand jury. And that is why it is so difficult to figure out exactly what this grand jury has indicted Michael Jackson for. We do know that the prosecutors, when they filed the complaint against Michael Jackson, filed with regard to seven counts of committing a lewd act upon a child, two counts of administering an intoxicating agent, in essence, either giving a child drugs or wine, something of that sort.
And this is what the prosecutors presented to the grand jury.
NBC‘s Kerry Sanders joins me now.
Kerry, what else do you know?
KERRY SANDERS, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Well, what we don‘t know is if there are other indictments against other people. We do know that there is an indictment against Michael Jackson. And that‘s from our sources.
As you pointed out, the details within that indictment, the actual listing of the charges or the counts, as they‘re called, are not going to be made public for at least 10 days. However, they will eventually make their way to the defense attorneys and they will, of course, be put into the public record here so at some point they will be visible unless the judge then decides to seal that. That would be unusual but nonetheless he could seal the indictment.
And as you pointed out there is a lot of testimony over the 13 days and the transcripts of that testimony will make its way to the defense attorneys. Will it become public? Good question. We have done a little bit of research on that and it appears that in past cases there needs to be a step where the judge says, I am sealing all of the transcripts. Likely according to experts is that they will do what they call redacting some of the comments within there.
That means a piece of paper with a bunch of black lines on it taking out names, taking out specific dates, making taking out some terminology. But there will be, it appears, going to be some of the testimony that will become public for public inspection. And we‘ll get a little bit more idea over these 13 days what the witnesses have actually said to the grand jurors.
Likely arguing to keep all of that testimony a secret will be the defense attorneys, of course, because as you pointed out, Dan, the case that was presented to the grand jury is one that was put together by the district attorney here.
Now, when Michael Jackson has to return here to Santa Barbara County to go back to court to be arraigned on the charges in the indictment, one thing we know is that the court administration and the sheriff‘s department here is doing everything it can to try and make it look a little bit different than last time.
While it appeared to some people that the authorities here lost a little bit of control, they don‘t want to see the craziness outside the courthouse, the climbing on top of cars, the moon-walking and all the really kind of the frenzy that took place. They paid about $157,000 in costs just for the security administration for Jackson‘s last visit here that lasted for three hours.
So, in all likelihood, we‘ll see that things will be a little bit more demure, a little bit more controlled. But Michael Jackson will have to come back. And when he goes into the courtroom, he‘ll have to say either, yes, I‘m guilty or, no, I‘m not guilty. We expect him to say not guilty and then of course they move forward to setting a trial date.
ABRAMS: And, Kerry, thank you for clarifying the amount of days, 13 days, as Kerry Sanders points out, that this grand jury heard testimony from a whole variety of witnesses, including the boy himself, that not a big surprise. We expected that he would have to testify.
Remember, the first grand jury back in 1993 fell apart because the alleged victim in that case refused to come to the grand jury after settling with Michael Jackson out of court. And of course, that was a huge frustration for the prosecutors at the time because they essentially had to drop the case.
Now, Kerry, let‘s just clarify for people, this is really no surprise that he‘s been indicted. But yet for those people who say, wait a second, I thought that he was already definitely going to trial, there was this process in place with these grand jurors hearing testimony for two weeks and they are essentially serving as an additional layer here, that it is just not quite enough for the prosecutors in California to say we just want to file charges and move forward.
SANDERS: It was an option that the prosecutors had and they decided to use it. It is really quite unusual, but it‘s not unheard of. They have taken this approach before where they initially file a complaint and the complaint results in the charges, as took place here and then they go to the grand jury.
Now, legal experts would say, the reason that the prosecutors go to the grand jury is, it gives them an opportunity to see how the witnesses who they are going to build their case on, how they actually perform, as it were, in front of a court. Now, it‘s a grand jury, but they‘re sitting in a witness chair. They are sworn in. They have to answer questions. And it gives the prosecutors an opportunity to see how the story holds up in front of a body, in this case the grand jury.
ABRAMS: All right, Kerry Sanders, if you can stand by, we are going to going our coverage of a grand jury indictment of Michael Jackson. This has just come about within the last half-and-hour or so. NBC News has confirmed that Michael Jackson has now been officially indicted on charges of child molestation, we believe. All we know for certain is that he has been indicted.
We don‘t know exactly the charges, whether the grand jury has decided to indict on exactly the same charges as the prosecutor had filed and requested. We simply do not know that yet at this time. But one thing is certain. Michael Jackson will be appearing in court on April the 30th to be arraigned again. He will likely plead guilty again. And it‘s looking like this case will almost certainly go to trial.
We‘re going to take a quick break. More of our coverage of the Michael Jackson indictment coming up after this break.
ABRAMS: Welcome back to our continuing coverage of breaking news in the Michael Jackson case.
NBC News has confirmed that a grand jury has handed up an indictment of Michael Jackson. Now, remember, the prosecutors filed a complaint in this case. Generally, the way it works is, they go to a grand jury first and then they file the formal charges. Not so in this case. The prosecutors filed a complaint and then they still had to go to an independent body to say do we have enough evidence to take this case to trial?
In this case, a grand jury saying that there was probable cause to believe that Michael Jackson should go to trial. Now, again, we don‘t know exactly what charges the grand jury has handed up. We do know that the prosecutors filed a nine-count complaint, seven of a lewd act upon a child, two of administering an intoxicating agent. Very often grand juries tend to indict on the same charges as the prosecutors filed in a case like this.
Why? Because, remember, it is just the prosecutors who are present at the grand jury. There is no defense attorney, no cross-examination. And this is, though, an important day.
Jim Thomas is the former Santa County Barbara sheriff who worked on the 1993 case of Michael Jackson.
Sheriff Thomas, do you know anything else?
THOMAS: No, not more than that. We know there‘s an indictment. We don‘t know what. But in your discussion of having to go to another body, actually, the prosecutor had two ways to go.
He could have gone through the preliminary hearing. But it would have been more public, certainly more expensive. Michael Jackson would have been there every day and it would have been a spectacle. This way, he was able to do it in secret. But the result is the same. Michael Jackson will be going to trial.
ABRAMS: And without cross-examine. At the preliminary hearing, though, witnesses would have been called. The defense attorneys would have had an opportunity to cross-examine those witnesses.
THOMAS: Well, that‘s true. But, see, the DA has an advantage here by calling the grand jury and not having that happen until trial. So, basically, it was a chess move by the DA and one that I think from the prosecution‘s standpoint they‘ll think is the right move.
ABRAMS: All right, so now April 30. Michael Jackson will be arraigned again. We can almost 100 percent say with certainty he‘ll plead not guilty. You know, there‘s almost no question about that.
The last time Michael Jackson was in court, there was quite a spectacle outside the courthouse.
ABRAMS: You‘ve been talking to your friends over at the Santa Barbara County Sheriff‘s Department. They going to make sure it doesn‘t happen again?
THOMAS: Sure. And I think it‘s not only go to be the sheriff‘s department. I don‘t think the defense team wants that to happen again either.
So I would suspect that his appearance this time, should he appear on the 30th, as we suspect that he will, won‘t be anything like the last time. It was as appearance basically that it was out of control. It wasn‘t really out of control, but there was a perception that it was. They don‘t want that perception out there.
ABRAMS: Sheriff, do you think that the DA, who you know well, is relieved? I mean, sure, he expected to get an indictment here. Yes, no one is surprised that an indictment has been handed up. And, yet, when this DA, this very same DA went to a grand jury back in 1993, he eventually had to dissolve it because the accuser was unwilling to testify. Do you think there‘s a sense of relief on the part of the district attorney that he has now survived the first hurdle that he didn‘t survive back in 1993?
THOMAS: I‘m sorry, Dan, was that question for me?
ABRAMS: Yes, it was.
THOMAS: Yes, I‘m sure he does. But, you know, there‘s a big difference between then and 1993. There were two agencies involved. There was only one agency this time.
I believe he knew going into this case that if he wanted to get an indictment, he would be able to do that, because I believe he feels strongly in this case. But I would have to think that anybody involved in the prosecution would feel at least a sense of relief jumping any hurdle. This is a big one, because this is the one that gets him to trial, which is the place that he wants to go.
Remember, the DA has to believe two things to file these charges, No. 1, that Michael Jackson is guilty of the charges as filed, and, No. 2, that he can prove that to a jury. Now he‘s going to have that opportunity to try.
ABRAMS: And I think most people expect that this is going to be a tough trial. There is certainly ample evidence for cross-examination on the part of the defense attorneys.
We are going to take a quick break. Again, we are continuing our coverage of the grand jury indictment of Michael Jackson. More coverage coming up in a moment.
ABRAMS: Continuing our breaking news coverage of a grand jury indictment in the Michael Jackson case.
In the last hour, a grand jury has handed up an indictment of Michael Jackson. The prosecutors have filed a complaint, a nine-count complaint. Seven of the counts relating to committing a lewd act upon a child, two of them administering intoxicating agents to a child. We don‘t know exactly what the grand jury has decided to hand up.
Remember, that grand jury could decide to indict on additional charges, on fewer charges. Additional people could be charged as well. But we have confirmed that Michael Jackson has been indicted by a grand jury. And that means that on April the 30th, he will be arraigned again. He will almost certainly plead not guilty again. Michael Jackson will be back in court again. And it certainly is looking like this case is heading to trial.
The grand jury heard testimony for 13 days. Some of that testimony included the testimony of the accuser, from his attorneys, from a psychologist who both the boy and his younger brother had spoken to. Now, remember, the younger brother is considered a key eyewitness to some of the allegations. He, too, testified, we believe, in front of the grand jury, as did the father of the boy, the mother of the boy.
And now we have confirmed that the grand jury has decided to indict Michael Jackson. The prosecutor filing charges not enough in the state of California. They either had to go to a grand jury or a preliminary hearing. The prosecutor decided to do it in a secret grand jury, where it‘s just the prosecution presenting evidence, no defense attorneys present.
We‘re going to continue our coverage of this with “SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY” coming up next.
SCARBOROUGH: Hi. I‘m Joe Scarborough.
And, of course, as you know, NBC‘s reporting breaking news. In the past hour, they‘ve reported that the grand jury in the Michael Jackson case in Santa Barbara, California, has handed down an indictment on Michael Jackson. Again, this news just breaking over the past hour.
Right now, I want to go to Dan Abrams, who, of course, is sitting at a desk. He‘s the host of “ABRAMS REPORT.”
Dan, tell me, what have you learned about what‘s been going on behind the scenes over these past 12, 13 days that have led to tonight‘s breaking news?
DAN ABRAMS, NBC CHIEF LEGAL CORRESPONDENT: Well Joe, 13 days of testimony in front of this grand jury, all of it secret. And when I say secret, theoretically, it remains secret, meaning these grand jurors are not allowed to talk about it ever, in essence. No books are going to be written, etcetera.
But now the case looks like it is heading for trial. Michael Jackson, on April the 13th, will be arraigned again. He is expected to plead not guilty again. And I think a lot of people out there are saying, wait a second, I thought we already did this. The prosecutor already filed the charges. Yes, but in the state of California, an independent body, be it a judge or a grand jury, has to, in essence, approve it. They have to say, OK, we know, prosecutors, you filed these charges.
But we need to look at it and make sure there‘s enough evidence to go to trial. It‘s a very low standard, though.
SCARBOROUGH: I want to stop you, Dan, because I think it‘s very important. Obviously, we‘re going to be talking about this a lot tonight. Americans are going to be hearing about this tomorrow, through the weekend.
They‘re going to be hearing that Michael Jackson got indicted.
But, please, if you will, educate our viewers that may not know about the law system as well as you and others know about America‘s legal system, and talk about the standard, because I was listening to you talking to the former sheriff of Santa Barbara County. And I wrote it down here. And he actually talked about tonight being a big legal hurdle for the prosecution to get over.
It‘s very important, though. Explain, if you could, how one-sided this process is.
ABRAMS: Yes, it‘s really not a huge legal hurdle.
I mean, everyone expected that Michael Jackson would be indicted by the grand jury once the prosecutor filed these charges. Why? Because the grand jury is effectively an arm of the prosecution, sometimes even investigative grand juries, where prosecutors convene a grand jury just to force witnesses to come in and testify. It‘s only the prosecutors present at the grand jury, no defense attorneys. No cross-examination. There are 19 grand jurors there.
They can ask questions. They can ask for certain witnesses, unlike a regular jury. Some of them, they‘re considered sort of more professional juries than are regular juries. They are impaneled for 90 days, although now that this grand jury‘s work is over, they will almost certainly be disbanded.
But the key point is that the only shot that the defense really has in a California grand jury—and this is more than in most states—is that the prosecutor is obliged by law to present evidence which is exculpatory, meaning evidence that tends to help Michael Jackson as well. Now, after about 10 days, the defense is going to get an opportunity to review the entire transcript of the grand jury. And you can expect that these defense attorneys are going to challenge that these prosecutors did not present enough of the exculpatory evidence to this grand jury.
But, again, this was expected. It was no surprise. And it certainly looks like Michael Jackson is now going to trial.
SCARBOROUGH: Dan Abrams, stay with us.
Right now we want to go to NBC‘s Kerry Sanders, who‘s live in Santa Barbara.
Kerry, what‘s the very latest in this breaking story?
KERRY SANDERS, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Well, Joe, I think what we‘re looking at now is the court administration and the sheriff‘s department preparing, as they have been, for the arraignment, which will come at the end of this month.
That means Michael Jackson will have to come back into the courtroom and hear the specific charges against him in this indictment. Each will be listed. Each will be announced. And then he will say either guilty or not guilty. And all indications are he will say he is not guilty.
When they go into that courtroom and after they have gone through the guilt or not guilt in that arraignment, they will then move to actually setting a date for trial. And indications here in Santa Barbara County that they will move to begin this trial either at the end of this year or the beginning of next year.
Now, one of the things that Dan points out about what takes place inside a grand jury is, as the witnesses come in and they are telling their stories, the district attorney has them there asking them their questions under oath, it also gives the district attorney an opportunity to see how the witnesses function or perform, as it were, at a grand jury in a real formal setting.
And so it allow him to understand how those same witnesses will then be on the stand when they‘re in the court. So we will eventually see the transcripts, as Dan pointed out, in about 10 days making their way into the public record. That means the defense will get them. It also means that reporters and other people will get an opportunity to see them. But in all likelihood the defense will argue that those records should be sealed. What we‘ll probably end up seeing is that some of the records will be sealed.
Parts of them will be, as they like to say in the court system, redacted, meaning that there will be black lines through certain parts of the actual transcripts, perhaps hiding names, dates, locations, things like that. But we will begin to see a much better idea of what it is that the district attorney has as he‘s about to move forward to going to actual trial here, Joe.
SCARBOROUGH: And, Kerry, you know, we have somebody with us in a minute that‘s going to be talking about the response from the Jackson family, somebody that knows the Jackson family.
But I want to ask you before we go to him, have you spoken with any of Jackson‘s lawyers today or over the past several days? Are they surprised at all that this indictment came down, or did they believe, like Dan Abrams said earlier, that the standard is so low not only in California, but in every state for returning an indictment in a grand jury, that they expected this all along?
SANDERS: They expected it all along. They knew it was coming. The only thing that they would like to know is, quite frankly, the same thing I think we would like to know, which is the details of the indictment, which is, did the grand jury go beyond the nine charges that were initially brought in the complaint?
The grand jury has a fair amount of latitude. They could add even more charges to that. That‘s, I think, what they‘d like to know. But a surprise? No, not a surprise, really, to anybody who monitors the grand jury process in just about any part of the country, not just specific to California. And it‘s as Dan pointed out. The prosecutors go in there. They‘re running the show. And so grand juries typically follow the lead of the prosecutors.
SCARBOROUGH: All right, thank you so much, Kerry Sanders. We certainly appreciate that update. We‘ll be back with you later in the hour.
Right now, let‘s get response from the Jackson family. We have Stacy Brown, who has obviously been a friend and a confidante of the Jacksons for quite some time. He‘s with us here in MSNBC‘s studio.
Stacy, you‘ve spoken with the Jackson family. What are you hearing?
STACY BROWN, JACKSON FAMILY FRIEND: Well, Joe, as you can imagine.
I was talking to Mrs. Jackson just a little while ago. We had a long conversation. And the hardest thing that you can do is tell a parent that their child is being indicted on such dastardly charges. And as Kerry was pointing out with the defense lawyers, they were expecting this. And so was the family. They expected this.
And Mrs. Jackson‘s reaction is simple. They feel totally that their son—that her son, Michael Jackson, is being railroaded, and she listed a slew of reasons to me tonight. She‘s not all that talkative usually—or normally, but tonight she was. And she told me, hey, they want my son‘s catalog. This is motivated by greed. It‘s motivated because my son is the biggest superstar in America and he happens to be African-American, and she feels that that played a role in it as well.
SCARBOROUGH: Well, you know, we‘ve heard that before, Stacy. The race card has been brought up by other members of the Jackson family. Of course, Jermaine Jackson comes to mind. He gave an explosive interview when this news started breaking.
I‘m going to bring in Dan Abrams again.
Dan, obviously you‘ve been a legal analyst for quite some time. You follow these type of stories. I‘m curious. Do you believe the race card is going to be played and that it‘s going to be a central part of Jackson‘s defense?
SCARBOROUGH: I think it‘s going to be a part of his defense subtly outside of the courtroom. I don‘t think you‘re going to hear a lot about it inside the courtroom. I do think you‘re going to hear a number of references to it from some of his family members, from some of his friends, from some of his supporters as to why they went after Michael Jackson.
But I can‘t really see yet how they‘d be able to get that into the trial, unless they‘ve got some very specific evidence about how race is relevant in this case. Now, again, I expect to hear a lot about it. But I think in a case like this, where Jackson really does have a lot of room for cross-examination, he‘s got a lot of evidence that they can use against the boy and his family, the fact that they initially denied that anything happened.
That‘s a pretty good defense. I think that it would be a mistake for the Jackson team to go off on tangents about race in this case inside the courtroom. And I don‘t expect that they‘re going to really do it.
SCARBOROUGH: You know, Brown, let me bring Stacy Brown in. And, of course, Stacy is also an MSNBC contributor. Stay with us, Dan.
I want to ask both of you—and, then, Stacy, I want to ask you the same question I just asked Dan. Do you believe that race is going to be a central part of Jackson‘s defense? And if he goes down that path, do you think it may cause him problems?
BROWN: Well, Joe, I honestly hope that it‘s not going to be any part of his defense, because I do believe, unfortunately, that Michael does not have the support of the African-American community that he had, say, 10 years ago. I think it would be a mistake.
SCARBOROUGH: Yes, Dan Abrams, we‘re going to go to break in one minute, but I want to ask you this first. And we‘re going to be talking about this when we come back. Do you expect, as this trial goes forward, and you just alluded to it, do you expect that we‘re going to see Jackson‘s defense team absolutely tear this accuser‘s family apart? Do you think that‘s going to be the central part of their defense strategy?
ABRAMS: No question. I think that they would love to attack the mother as much as they can, because there you don‘t have the issue of being a child, where they have to be a little more careful. They have to be a little softer on the boy himself and on his younger brother.
Both are going to be, I think, the two most important witnesses in
this case. But count on the defense making the family the issue, the fact
that this family has been involved in other cases where they have claimed -
· the mother has claimed, for example, that she was sexually abused by someone at J.C. Penney, for example. They‘d like to bring in as much about that case as possible, in effect, put this family on trial, without having to sort of completely destroy particularly a younger brother who‘s now 12 years old.
SCARBOROUGH: And, of course, that younger brother has also provided police with...
ABRAMS: Key testimony, yes.
SCARBOROUGH: Very explosive charges, which were reported in this morning‘s “New York Post” and other newspapers across the country. We‘re going to be getting to those new explosive charges that are just starting to filter out.
Dan Abrams, our legal expert, is going to be staying with us of “THE ABRAMS REPORT.” We‘re also going to be bringing in Lisa Bloom, famed defense attorney Geoffrey Fieger. And Rabbi Shmuley Boteach is going to also be here. Rabbi Shmuley Boteach—excuse me. He, of course, was a close spiritual adviser to Michael Jackson for quite some time.
We‘ll be right back.
Again, breaking news. NBC‘s reporting over the last hour that an indictment against Michael Jackson has been handed down in Santa Barbara, California.
We‘ll be back with more breaking news right after this break.
SCARBOROUGH: Michael Jackson has been indicted by a Santa Barbara, California, grand jury. We‘re going to take you behind the scenes. We‘re going to be talking to his former spiritual adviser, Rabbi Shmuley Boteach. We‘re also going to have the latest legal analysis and what this means for the pop superstar.
That‘s coming up in just a minute when SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY returns.
SCARBOROUGH: With me now is Lisa Bloom of Court TV. We also have defense attorney Geoffrey Fieger, and, of course, Dan Abrams of “THE ABRAMS REPORT.”
We‘re talking about the breaking news that Michael Jackson has been indicted by a Santa Barbara, California, grand jury.
And let me go to you first, Lisa Bloom. What is your reaction to today‘s news?
LISA BLOOM, COURT TV ANCHOR: Well, no surprise at all. It‘s so heavily weighted for the prosecutor. But there is one legal way still that Michael Jackson could avoid trial, which I haven‘t heard discussed. And that is, of course, that his attorneys could appeal from this grand jury indictment.
They could argue, for example, that all of the exculpatory evidence that they turned over in those binders during the grand jury proceeding was not introduced by the prosecutors. They could argue prosecutorial misconduct.
SCARBOROUGH: Lisa, break that down for us.
What happened was during the grand jury proceeding, in a very public way, Mark Geragos and Benjamin Brafman, the attorneys for Michael Jackson, came in with binders of evidence they say exonerated Michael Jackson. That‘s called exculpatory evidence. And under California law, the prosecutors have an obligation to present that to the grand jury. Probably they did, at least some of it was. But we don‘t know at this point how much of that was introduced.
So it wouldn‘t surprise me at all if these attorneys are trying to set up an appeal for their client by doing that. And it wouldn‘t surprise me if the next step for them is to go up to the California Court of Appeals, which is the next level of appellate court in California, and say, the prosecutors didn‘t do what they were supposed to do. Throw out this indictment. That happened in a recent high-profile case.
That was the Jayson Williams case a little over a year ago. And the prosecutors had to come back with a second superseding grand jury indictment.
SCARBOROUGH: Geoffrey Fieger, obviously, you‘ve represented a lot of clients that have had their cases go before grand juries. I know in another high-profile case, in a sports case, a sports figure said you can even indict a grapefruit. I mean, it is a one-sided process.
I want you, speaking for defense attorneys and for defendants, to explain to our audience just how one-sided this process is, not—listen, not to say, hey, Michael Jackson‘s innocent or not guilty, but just to explain that this is not that big of a legal hurdle to cross over.
GEOFFREY FIEGER, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Yes, exactly right.
My law partner was a prosecutor in New York and presented cases to over 1,000 grand juries, at one point got the grand jury to indict a beard that he was wearing so—because his wife thought he should shave it off. They‘ll literally do anything the prosecutor says.
Dan‘s been saying over and over again that this is an independent body. I guess you could say that in the abstract, Joe. But a grand jury is about as independent from the prosecutor as my little finger is to my hand. There‘s actually a silver lining to this whole story, and that‘s this. Although the story is that now Michael Jackson has been indicted by the grand jury, the reason the prosecutor may have gone to the grand jury and not had a preliminary exam where he would have had to publicly air all the evidence, may be that the prosecutor doesn‘t feel particularly good or feel that the evidence is particularly compelling.
And it‘s a way for a prosecutor to avoid airing publicly a rather weak case, to try to perhaps coerce a settlement or even a plea. So this isn‘t the worst news that Michael Jackson could have gotten today.
SCARBOROUGH: Dan Abrams.
I think that if Geoffrey wants to quote me correctly, I said it‘s actually an arm of the prosecution, but that they need to go to an investigative body—an independent body, meaning someone other than the prosecutors.
ABRAMS: As they did in this case.
You know, Lisa makes the point about the appeal. Expect an appeal. I don‘t think there‘s any question.
FIEGER: It‘s a useless exercise, though, Dan.
ABRAMS: Right. And that‘s point I‘m going to make, is that expect an appeal. Expect the defense attorneys to say they didn‘t present enough exculpatory evidence, and yet, expect that the chances of them winning that on appeal are infinitesimal. It is extremely unlikely that that sort of appeal will go anywhere.
SCARBOROUGH: So, Dan, why do they do that?
ABRAMS: Well, they do it because it‘s a legitimate legal motion for them to say. Look, they would say, present the case our way. Unfortunately, for them, the rules are, they present the case their way, meaning the prosecution presents the case in the light most favorable to the prosecutors.
Now, remember, the other point I would make here is that, yes, it‘s true grand juries indict almost anything. I would say that the only little point that you could make about—that moves it a little bit from all the way to the prosecution to just a little bit more towards the defense in a high-profile case like this is that the grand jurors know that they‘re being closely scrutinized. When they know that, they know what a high-profile case this is. I think that sometimes that leads the grand jurors to take their role a little more seriously, to lead them to be a little bit more independent. It means a little bit more.
And yet, I use the word “a little” again and again.
FIEGER: Remember, again, Lisa, and you‘ll confirm this, so will you, Dan, that they don‘t have to present admissible evidence in front of the grand jury. It could be hearsay. It could be stuff that will never get into a trial. And so in a lot of ways, you know, Michael Jackson would rather have this happen today than have a preliminary exam, where this is done in public and he‘s bound over in a preliminary exam.
BLOOM: Well, let me say one thing.
Look, these are 19 citizens from the community. They don‘t work for the prosecution. They‘re not getting paid by the prosecution. The truth is that they‘re only hearing the prosecution‘s side of the story with some exculpatory evidence. It‘s supposed to be all exculpatory evidence revealed to them. But to say they‘re an arm of the prosecutor I think is a little bit unfair to these citizens.
ABRAMS: What‘s an investigative grand jury, Lisa? What‘s an investigative grand jury?
BLOOM: That‘s the grand jury that investigates matters brought before them, including this and other matters.
And the reason prosecutors convene investigative grand juries very often is so they can subpoena witnesses that they might not otherwise be able to talk to. That‘s to me an arm of the prosecution. It doesn‘t mean that—I‘m sort of somewhere—Geoffrey‘s accusing me on the one side, and you‘re accusing me on the other side.
BLOOM: That‘s what we‘re here for, Dan.
ABRAMS: Yes, the bottom line is...
FIEGER: You‘re a sandwich, Dan.
BLOOM: Why did you invite us, Dan? Because
BLOOM: ... on both sides and argue with you.
BLOOM: But these are 19 people who probably are just as starstruck as anyone. I think there is some significance to what happened today.
SCARBOROUGH: Well, we‘re obviously not attacking these 19 citizens who of course were pulled off the voters rolls and put on this grand jury.
But, Lisa, you just cited early in the show an example of a grand jury that—in a high-profile case in California.
BLOOM: Right. That was New York, Jayson Williams.
SCARBOROUGH: OK, New Jersey. Explain the facts of that, briefly.
BLOOM: OK, Jayson Williams, which, by the way, is a trial we‘re watching live right now on Court TV, he was indicted in 2003 for a number of charges resulting from the shooting of his limo driver by a grand jury.
His high-profile defense attorneys took the matter up on appeal. The New Jersey Court of Appeals accepted that very quickly for appeal. It looked like they were going to reverse the grand jury indictment. The prosecutors came back, bam, with a second superseding indictment, getting rid of the problems from the first time around, and they were able to get rid of the appeal that way and go forward.
But many of us, including me, think that the court of appeals would have thrown out that first grand jury indictment based on some prosecutorial misconduct that occurred at that proceeding, namely, referring to Jayson Williams having mob connections and things that were really outside the scope of that proceeding.
ABRAMS: Even if there were no grand jury indictment, Joe, even if the grand jury decided not to indict, they still could have gone the other way, which is to take it to a public preliminary hearing and present the evidence to a judge in the hope that that judge would then allow the case to move forward.
SCARBOROUGH: So what‘s the next move for Simpson‘s (sic) defense attorneys? I throw this open to all of you all. What is the next step?
FIEGER: The next move is to get the transcripts of the grand jury, find out what exactly was the evidence that was presented. Lisa may be right, although it‘s an exercise in futility. They will never win in the courts of appeals, and if they lose, it‘s more bad news for Michael Jackson publicly. So there‘s a down side to appealing.
But they‘ll see what the case is about. They‘ll see what the witnesses said, and they‘ll be able to prepare their case based on that.
SCARBOROUGH: Do all three of you agree that the prosecution made the right decision to keep this process secret, instead of having an open hearing?
BLOOM: Oh, I do, absolutely. First of all, it keeps costs down. Keep in mind, the Santa Barbara DA‘s office is not a wealthy body. They avoided the circus they had at the last arraignment, because Jackson himself was not present. They avoided the defense attorneys being present, cross-examining witnesses. And they almost ensured the outcome that they got today.
ABRAMS: And I think the defense is happy with it, too, to tell you the truth.
When they initially decided to go to the grand jury, people were saying, oh, the defense attorneys must be so upset. They would have wanted to cross-examine the witnesses. No, I think that they want to keep as much of this quiet as possible. I think that they‘re happy. They know that preliminary hearing or grand jury, the case is going to trial. Yes, you can make the argument that in a preliminary hearing they can practice their cross-examination, they can get certain statements on the record.
But I can tell you that I think that these defense attorneys—I can tell you with almost certainty that these defense attorneys were pleased with the fact that it had gone to a grand jury, as opposed to a preliminary hearing.
FIEGER: That‘s right.
SCARBOROUGH: Geoffrey Fieger, Geoffrey, let me ask you what I asked Dan earlier, and that is, you‘re the defense attorney. You‘ve been following this. Do you make the accuser‘s family the central focus of your defense? Do you go after this mother, say that she‘s unstable, that she‘s accused others of sexual harassments and she‘s basically trying to win the lottery?
FIEGER: Only collaterally. You don‘t make it so obvious an attack.
What you do is suggest that there‘s a motivation other than the truth for these charges. You don‘t need to make a head-on attack, because when people are attacked, other people such as jurors tend to come to their aid, consciously or unconsciously.
The biggest problem in this case for Michael Jackson is twofold, one, where he‘s being tried. Nobody should underestimate this. He‘s been charged in one of the wealthiest counties in California. Almost an entirely white jury pool is going to be called. And they are going to look at Michael Jackson like he‘s a freak from the moon, as opposed to being tried, perhaps, in L.A., where they might be more acceptable.
ABRAMS: Santa Maria is very heavily Hispanic, though. Santa Barbara
FIEGER: The jury pool is almost entirely white, Dan.
ABRAMS: So does Geragos try to get a change of venue and move it down to Los Angeles?
BLOOM: Of course he will.
FIEGER: Geragos won‘t be trying this case.
But the second problem is the other accuser. I believe that they called in the young man who‘s now an adult from 1993 and got his testimony before the grand jury, and that would substantiate the charge that‘s underlying this right now. And that is a problem for Michael Jackson.
ABRAMS: We were actually told he didn‘t testify in this grand jury.
SCARBOROUGH: So do they try to move this down to Los Angeles or some other venue?
BLOOM: Oh, without a doubt. Geragos, just like he‘s doing in the Scott Peterson case, is going to want to move it to his home turf, Los Angeles, which has much more pro-defense juries.
On the race question, I think it‘s really unfortunate that Michael Jackson‘s parents came out today and said this is motivated by greed and race in a case where nobody is asking for a dime and where the accuser is Hispanic. Nobody ever talks about his race, as if he doesn‘t count, as if he‘s not a human being. I just think it‘s unfortunate that they bring that up over and over again.
SCARBOROUGH: All right, Lisa, stick with us, Lisa. We‘re going to Be back after the break with you.
Also, Geoffrey Fieger, Dan Abrams, thanks so much for being with us.
We greatly appreciate it.
And after a short break, we‘re going to be talking to the former Santa Barbara county sheriff, also going to be talking to Dr. Firpo Carr, who‘s a friend of the Jackson family a family spokesman. Much more on the indictment. We‘re also going to be talking to Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, Michael Jackson‘s former spiritual adviser, who will take us behind the scenes, possibly, what Jackson may be thinking tonight.
We‘ll be right back after this break.
SCARBOROUGH: NBC News is reporting that the former king of pop, Michael Jackson, has been indicted in California. We‘ll get a response from the Jackson family spokesman and much more.
But, first, let‘s get the latest headlines from the MSNBC News Desk.
SCARBOROUGH: Santa Barbara‘s former county sheriff, Jim Thomas, is with us tonight Santa Barbara.
Jim, what‘s the latest?
JIM THOMAS, FORMER SANTA BARBARA COUNTY SHERIFF: Hey, Joe.
Well, as you‘ve been talking about, we know that Michael Jackson will go to trial, assuming that the defense doesn‘t win a 995 motion, which would challenge the grand jury.
I know that the prosecutor had two ways to go. He could either go the secret route through the grand jury or the public route through the preliminary hearing. The secret route was better for him tactically. And, frankly, it saved the county a lot of money, because we would have been through three or four weeks of a public preliminary hearing with Michael Jackson there every day. So we think we‘re going to be going to trial on the case and we‘ll see where it goes from there.
SCARBOROUGH: How long until the trial, most likely?
THOMAS: The judge said in the last hearing that he would like to see the trial by the end of this year. But people on both sides, I think, are saying that that would be unrealistic and it will probably be some time after the 1st of the year.
SCARBOROUGH: Jim, we‘ve been talking tonight about the fact of how Michael Jackson‘s attorneys could appeal this indictment. If they do appeal it, how likely is it that they would succeed?
THOMAS: Well, Joe, I‘m not an attorney. But talking to the experts, I think is highly unlikely. The DA is not working in a vacuum here.
He knows he‘s going to be challenged. He knows where he‘s going to be challenged. And he made sure that when he made the presentation to the grand jury that those issues would have been taken into consideration. Let me give you an example. A lot of people thought that he would have used the boys from the 1993 case. He did not. One of the reasons, I believe, is because they have not yet been approved to testify in trial, which would require a judge to approve their testimony.
Had they testified and had they been part of the indictment, then I think that might have been an issue that could be challenged by the defense.
SCARBOROUGH: All right, Jim Thomas, thanks so much for being with us.
Let‘s go right now to Dr. Firpo Carr. He, of course, is a Jackson family spokesman.
Dr. Carr, give us your response and tell us what the Jackson family‘s thinking and telling you tonight about these indictments that have been handed down.
FIRPO CARR, JACKSON FAMILY FRIEND: Real Simple.
And I‘ll go straight to the point. First of all, why is Michael Jackson going to trial? He is going to trial to legally determine his innocence. People are acting already as if he‘s guilty. This is not a guilty verdict. This is just saying, OK, we feel—these 19 individuals feel that there‘s enough information here to go to trial.
Michael Jackson still right now, according to the Constitution of the United States, is still innocent. He‘s presumed innocent. That‘s the fact. As far as the family is concerned, you‘ve heard them. They feel that this is a sham. This is a shakedown. This is an effort to get money from someone who is presumed wealthy and it‘s a meal ticket.
For instance, even if some child somewhere, say, bumped up against Michael, just to show you how outrageous this whole thing is and what he has to put up with in the family, then something innocuously happens to him, all of a sudden now you have some adult or some parent somewhere saying that, OK, we have a chance here to exploit this situation. We have a chance to make money off of him because he‘s Michael Jackson.
But I cannot emphasize enough to you, Joe, that we need to stay focused here. The reason why he is going to trial is to determine legally whether or not he‘s innocent or guilty, I should say. Right now he is presumed innocent. And as far as the family is concerned, they are—as Jermaine Jackson says, 1000 percent behind him. They are totally—we are totally convinced that he is still an innocent man.
SCARBOROUGH: All right, let me bring in right now Rabbi Shmuley Boteach.
Obviously, you spent a lot of time with Michael Jackson. Some called you his spiritual adviser. In fact, you see a lot of the tape that we roll of Michael Jackson, you‘re always there right by his side. What are your feelings tonight?
RABBI SHMULEY BOTEACH, AUTHOR, “THE PRIVATE ADAM”: Well, you know, the shock has gone, because the arrest was just so shocking.
Someone that you were once close to who you are now told you never really knew and there was a whole underside, sinister side. And so I‘m not shocked. I think that people really aren‘t sort of getting what‘s happening here. This isn‘t like a celebrity case, like Martha Stewart or like Kobe Bryant, where suddenly out of the blue we were told that they had done something terrible, and for which they were tried.
Michael Jackson, well before these allegations, was a life in decline. And even had these allegations not come about, Michael really needs to rescue himself.
SCARBOROUGH: You say he‘s a life in decline. Why? Are you talking about things that you saw when you were with him?
BOTEACH: No, on the contrary. I never had any reason to believe whatsoever that Michael Jackson was a pedophile. Until today, I have to admit that it‘s difficult for me to believe. Even when I hear things about allegations that he gave children wine, when Michael used to come to our house for the sabbath meals, he wouldn‘t drink the wine.
Even then, I knew he called it Jesus juice. He would joke about that, because he wouldn‘t drink it, because he was a teetotaler. So this is like a whole new side of him that I‘m told exists, existed, that I really did not witness. Michael was with my children, never alone, but all the time. And I have to tell you that even when Michael was with his accuser, who I met only on one occasion over a few days, because my family was at Neverland when the child was there, it didn‘t seem that Michael was even taking that big of an interest in him and the family.
It was like he was doing a good deed in bringing a family that had a child that was afflicted with cancer, letting them make use of the facilities in Neverland. But Michael did not spend a lot of time with the family.
SCARBOROUGH: Rabbi, did you ever—I just want to ask you this, because you brought up the fact that Michael Jackson was there with your children, never alone, but there with your children. Was there ever a moment, ever a moment when you had any concerns whatsoever that Michael Jackson, if he had the opportunity, would possibly do some very bad things to your children?
BOTEACH: God forbid, no. No. Of course, if that were the case, I never would have been around him. And my children, of course, were never left alone with him. So it‘s a bit of a—the question doesn‘t really apply.
But having said that, I have a lot of complaints about Michael Jackson. If I thought he was a pedophile, I would tell you. My complaints really revolve around what I consider to be his self-absorption, his belief in his own P.R. and his deification of self, and how he really began to believe he was the king of pop, and how he just couldn‘t be a bit more humble.
Even now with those allegations, if Michael had not gone to Hawaii, if he didn‘t do that obscene scene outside of the courtroom where he was egging on his fans to—you know, it was just so inappropriate.
BOTEACH: So my complains have nothing to do with pedophilia. He‘s a life in decline. But I personally had no reason to believe this stuff. And I do find it sort of shocking.
SCARBOROUGH: Geoffrey Fieger, this morning, “The New York Post” had some shocking reports. I‘ll just read briefly. It says: “Jackson‘s accuser told the cops that the singer used a perverted cocktail of over-the-counter cold medicine and wine to knock out and molest a cancer-stricken boy.” Sources told “The Post” yesterday this is new information that apparently the grand jury got.
If that‘s not the case, how do you unring that bell?
FIEGER: Well, from a defense perspective, you don‘t want to ever hear that evidence come into a trial. But if it comes in, then you‘ve got to attack the credibility. That‘s all you can do. Remember, there‘s not going to be any physical evidence here, none whatsoever.
You‘ve got to also remember that the charges are not contemporaneous with the act. In other words, the boy did not or his family did not immediately go to the police. This was many weeks, if not months, afterwards that complaints were made. And the strongest evidence that Michael Jackson has is that tape of the boy proclaiming his love for Michael Jackson and how great a guy Michael Jackson is. Remember, in that Michael Jackson documentary, that young man, supposedly after the fact, or very close to it, was indicating how good Michael Jackson was towards him.
SCARBOROUGH: And how positively he fell for him.
FIEGER: That sort of stuff is important.
SCARBOROUGH: Unfortunately, we‘ve got to go to break.
Geoffrey Fieger, Lisa Bloom, Stacy Brown, Firpo Carr, thanks so much for being with us.
Shmuley, stick around. We‘ll be right back, because, still ahead, TV networks love to make money. So why are they passing on the biggest blockbuster of the year? Is Hollywood trying to blacklist Mel Gibson?
That‘s coming up next.
SCARBOROUGH: Now, if you haven‘t caught Mel Gibson‘s movie “The Passion” in theaters, but you want to see it, may have to pick up a DVD.
“The Passion” has made over $360 million and may be on the way to being the biggest grossing movie of all time. But the network heads in Hollywood may be taking a pass on putting it on TV. Are the networks getting cold feet after Janet Jackson‘s debacle at the Super Bowl or is Hollywood trying to blacklist Mel Gibson?
With me again is Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, radio talk show host who‘s been an outspoken critic of “The Passion.” Also, we‘ve got Jennifer Giroux, founder of SeeThePassion.com and a close personal friend of the rabbi every time she comes on the show.
SCARBOROUGH: We also have James Hirsen. He‘s, of course, is author of “Tales From the Left Coast.” He‘s spent a lot of time with Mel Gibson and the cast of “The Passion” since its release.
Let me start with you, James.
Are you surprised that the networks appear to be passing on the biggest movie of the year?
JAMES HIRSEN, AUTHOR, “TALES FROM THE LEFT COAST”: I am surprised.
SCARBOROUGH: Is it media bias?
HIRSEN: Well, it could be.
You know, I spoke to my source at Icon Productions just before I came on the show. And they indicated to me that they were unaware of any of these refusals. Now, they have one of the savviest guys in Hollywood, the former head of ICM, Jeff Berg, out there exploiting this. And it‘s relatively early in the game, Joe. And it‘s possible that this could be kicking the tires, a bit of negotiation.
But what you have to contrast it with is the way Hollywood reacted to Richard Clarke‘s book, “Against All Enemies.” They were beating the doors down to get that—to get at that. As a matter of fact, one of the organizations that‘s cited in the Associated Press report here, HBO, was bidding on Clarke‘s book, and Sony ended up signing it. So it could be an indication of bias. It could be an indication of concern, as some of the reports say, over the content of the film.
But I think when the dust settles, when you have a film that has done half a billion worldwide, that has been seen by tens of millions of people, there‘s just too much at stake, too much money here, and it will land either at a network licensing deal or at a cable network. Incidentally, Showtime passed on this, Showtime, of course, the cable channel that showed the controversial “Reagans” miniseries.
SCARBOROUGH: The Reagan movie right.
Jennifer Giroux, are you surprised by reports that we‘ve seen today in the “USA Today”? The AP is reporting on it also, that network heads are nervous about this. In fact, the reports are that ABC, at least, has already passed up on it, and the other ones are balking at it? Does that surprise you and do you think that shows media bias?
JENNIFER GIROUX, SEETHEPASSION.COM: Joe, I‘ll go on record as saying that I think this is going to go to the networks and somebody‘s going to pay big money for it.
ABC does not surprise me. Let‘s take a little inventory. Here they are. They show the first lesbian, two girls kissing on afternoon TV on “All My Children.” Then they allow Peter Jennings to go on and insult millions of Christians in the “Paul and Jesus” documentary that he did, which was absolutely fictitious, calling us the Jesus movement, as if it was like Jonestown. Jesus movement.
It was absolutely insulting and offensive. Peter Jennings is no different than Andy Rooney. He just smiles more in what he did to Christians. Every night, they force into the living rooms of Americans premarital sex, extramarital sex, violence, language, our lord‘s name in vain. It is not the shock or the violence of “The Passion” that ABC is passing on. It is the truth. It is the passionate, wonderful, powerful truth of the message of Jesus that Mel Gibson did so miraculously.
SCARBOROUGH: Rabbi, it sounds like this is a good time to bring you in here. Of course, have a lot of people saying, hey, you know what, these networks had absolutely no problem running “Schindler‘s List” in its totality, a very disturbing movie, a great movie, a very disturbing movie. Why should they have any problem running “The Passion”?
BOTEACH: Because “Schindler‘s List” doesn‘t malign Germany. Germany did in fact slaughter six million Jews in the most horrible and brutal way.
The reason why they‘re balking from “The Passion,” and rightly so, and
this might be one of the first just decisions coming out of Hollywood, is
that it is a malignant, malicious lie that has led to the slaughter of
millions of Jews for the past 2,000 years. The fact is that Jennifer
Giroux and those who endorse this film have simply forgotten that the lie
HIRSEN: I can‘t believe
BOTEACH: Wait one second.
That the Jews killed Jesus led to Crusades and led to pogroms and led to (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and inquisitions. And it culminated in the Holocaust. Now, it is a lie. And, thankfully, thank God that there‘s a couple of honest executives.
GIROUX: You admitted that you were wrong about Michael Jackson.
Don‘t you think
BOTEACH: Well, let‘s not compare the Michael Jackson story with this. Michael Jackson is one individual. Millions of Jews dying through 2,000 years is serious.
GIROUX: Give me one second to address what you said, Rabbi, because you have played fast and loose with your facts. You have put lies out there about “The Passion.” You have had your own translations that you have put out there of the Bible. You have made victims of Jews and Christians alone by the fictitious things that you put out there.
BOTEACH: Whoa, whoa, Jennifer, I thought we were becoming friends.
You‘re calling me a liar on TV?
GIROUX: Because it is true to the Christian and Jewish traditional.
SCARBOROUGH: I‘ll tell you what. Hold on. You hold on. We‘re going to continue in just one minute talking about whether the media elites are trying to keep you from seeing “The Passion” on TV. That‘s coming up in just a minute.
SCARBOROUGH: Don‘t forget, you can sign up for my newsletter. It‘s Joe.MSNBC.com. You can also catch us on Sunday nights, Sunday through Thursday at 10:00 p.m.
And we‘ll be right back in one second with our continuing explosive debate on “The Passion.”
SCARBOROUGH: Charges of media elitism are sweeping across America as the networks appear to be balking at putting “The Passion” on.
Let‘s go back to James Hirsen.
James, you wanted to respond to the rabbi.
GIROUX: Well, I think that the rabbi is one of the few voices left that makes these kinds of hyperboles, exaggerated claims about “The Passion.” Now this film has been shown in countries throughout the world, throughout the United States. All of these dire predictions of pogroms and the like have not taken place. As a matter of fact, what has happened is, people have confessed to crimes. Houses of worship are overcrowded.
My gosh, we have an outbreak of faith, deepening faith. We really have to be concerned about that. Fortunately, I do not believe the executives in Hollywood share these kind of anti-Christian biases that the rabbi keeps promoting.
BOTEACH: There‘s been an outbreak of bigotry. It may not lead to violence. But here we have on national violence, Jennifer Giroux has said several times that Jews are not going to heaven. There‘s only one way to God, and it‘s Jesus.
GIROUX: I never said that.
BOTEACH: Well, I‘ll ask you. Do you believe that Jews who don‘t believe in God are going to heaven, yes or no, Jennifer? No spin. You called me a liar. I know your scripture backward and forward. I respect Christianity.
BOTEACH: Hold on. Hold on. But you don‘t respect me. Yes or no, do Jews who don‘t believe in Jesus go to heaven, yes or no?
GIROUX: You have called me a bigot and intolerant.
BOTEACH: I will say that you are going to heaven, even as a Christian.
GIROUX: See, that‘s not a way to define bigotry.
BOTEACH: See, here‘s the problem. This is pure bigotry. And there
has been an outbreak
GIROUX: Rabbi, if you would let me answer.
BOTEACH: You believe that as a Jew, Jennifer, that because I don‘t believe in Jesus, I‘m going to that big 9/11 in the sky, OK? I‘m going to be spiritually exterminated. And that‘s sad, because I respect you and I‘d like you to respect the Jewish community.
SCARBOROUGH: Jennifer, I‘ll give you the last word. Go ahead.
GIROUX: Rabbi, the most charitable thing I can do for you is to tell you the truth of Jesus‘ message. It would be anti-Semitic to exclude the Jewish people from the message of Jesus. And it was meant for the Jews. Thank God for Saint Paul. Me, who was a not a Jew in my heritage, would not have been a Christian otherwise.
BOTEACH: Jennifer, I love you the way you are, Jennifer, bigotry and all. Love me the same way.
SCARBOROUGH: You know what? We are going to end on that high note.
We all love each other.
SCARBOROUGH: Thank you all so much for being with us.
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, Jennifer Giroux, you two really need to take it on the road.
And, James Hirsen, thanks, as always, for being with us.
Tomorrow night in SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY, we‘re going to bring you more from the explosive news on Michael Jackson. That‘s tomorrow night.
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