Guests: Asa Hutchinson, Anthony Weiner, Larry Kobilinsky, Jeralyn Merritt, Mouwafak al-Rubaie, Dana Cole, Gloria Allred
DAN ABRAMS, HOST: Coming up, an ominous message from the attorney general.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... credible intelligence from multiple sources indicates that al Qaeda plans to attempt an attack on the United States in the next few months.
ABRAMS (voice-over): Officials show pictures of seven possible terrorists they want to find immediately, including an American convert to Islam and a woman. The FBI is suggesting some may already be in the U.S. Deputy Director of Homeland Security Asa Hutchinson joins us.
Plus, a verdict in the state trial of Oklahoma City bomber Terry Nichols charged with 161 counts of murder.
The program about justice starts now.
ABRAMS: Hi everyone. First up on the docket tonight, U.S. officials say recent intelligence indicates terrorists may be already in the United States could be planning an attack this summer. Officials say the terrorists could be planning the attacks to coincide with major events planned for the summer, like the World War II memorial dedication this weekend in Washington, D.C. and two political conventions in Boston and New York.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN ASHCROFT, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: Disturbing intelligence indicates al Qaeda‘s specific intention to hit the United States hard. Al Qaeda‘s own public statements suggest that it‘s almost ready to attack the United States. After the March 11 attack in Madrid, Spain, an al Qaeda spokesman announced that 90 percent of the arrangements for an attack in the United States were complete. The Madrid railway bombings were perceived by Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda to have advanced their cause. Al Qaeda may perceive that a large-scale attack in the United States this summer or fall would lead to similar consequences.
Several upcoming events over the next few months may suggest especially attractive targets for such an al Qaeda attack. These events include the G-8 Summit hosted by the United States in Georgia, the Democratic Party Convention in Boston this summer, or the Republican Party Convention in New York City. The face of al Qaeda may be changing. It is possible al Qaeda will attempt to infiltrate young Middle Eastern extremists into America as they did before September 11. Intelligence sources suggest that ideal al Qaeda operatives may now be in their late 20‘s or early 30‘s and may travel with a family to lower their profile. Our intelligence confirms al Qaeda is seeking recruits who can portray themselves as Europeans. Al Qaeda also attracts Muslim extremists among many nationalities and (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
ROBERT MUELLER, FBI DIRECTOR: Over the next few months we have reason to believe that there will be a heightened threat to United States interests around the world. Unfortunately, we currently do not know what forms the threat may take.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: The FBI director got pretty specific and he explained that there are seven individuals the FBI is actively looking for who could be planning attacks within the U.S. this summer, perhaps you know around the time of the election. Who knows? The seven include an American who converted to Islam and that‘s the guy down at the bottom, and a woman.
Joining me to give some perspective on all of this, Steve Emerson, our terrorism expert. Steve, first of all, you know how seriously do we take this? Is there—is this—have we taken it to a new level today? Do we really need to be concerned in particular about this summer?
STEVE EMERSON, TERRORISM EXPERT: Well, I think, Dan, the reality is that part of this is reading tea leaves. I do believe that you know we are trusting in the government officials to make these assessments. They‘re not putting on the table the actual raw intelligence. They‘re putting on the table for us the conclusions. What they have received is the internal chatter, the whatever sources are telling them whatever other types of intelligence they have been provided, and they‘ve made this conclusion that al Qaeda is about to strike.
I‘m not going to second-guess them. I believe that they have been correct previously. Obviously since 9/11, no one wants to be accused, as you know Dan...
EMERSON: ... of withholding information. There‘s—that‘s why the FBI issues all those alerts all the time, that almost become redundant and almost...
ABRAMS: Well that‘s...
EMERSON: ... you know extraneous.
ABRAMS: That‘s my concern, and we‘re going to talk about that in a
moment. These seven—you look, if anyone‘s following these very al Qaeda
· various al Qaeda operatives, it‘s Steve Emerson. He knows their names.
He knows their histories. Are these all people that you know of and that have long been on the radar?
EMERSON: I knew of six of them. I did not know of the seventh, which was an American Muslim convert from California, lower left-hand part of the screen, who apparently had converted to Islam in 1996 and actually went over to Afghanistan and Pakistan working with some radical Muslim groups, including al Qaeda. He had actually come on my radar screen back in 1999 when I found that he was working for a charitable conduit in California connected to al Qaeda. That, of course, was not investigated, because they were not on the radar screen before 9/11. However, the other ones have been on the radar screen. They‘ve been publicly sighted before, including a woman who was named as a recipient of al Qaeda instructions and a financial courier in the previous three years.
ABRAMS: That‘s Aafia Siddiqui, right?
EMERSON: That‘s correct.
ABRAMS: This—but if there‘s an American guy, can‘t they find his family? Can‘t he be easier to track down?
EMERSON: Well, that‘s a good question. The fact is that you would think there would be e-mail traffic, telephone traffic. Perhaps he cut off everything. I don‘t really know. The fact that he‘s—his name is disclosed now, even though they knew about him a while ago, probably suggests that they exhausted all the intelligence avenues and they‘re basically now relying on somebody to recognize him. That‘s clearly why they‘re issuing it right now. Otherwise they would have kept it quiet.
In terms of the other ones, El Shukrijumah, he may have an American passport and may be traveling under a disguise, which doesn‘t resemble anything what he looks like on the pictures displayed today.
ABRAMS: But very quickly, Steve, these warnings with these pictures do help sometimes. I mean it does seem that there is an international response when some of these people‘s names get put out, correct?
EMERSON: Remember, just about a year and a half ago the FBI mistakenly put out some pictures and the people put out that they were identified or suspected of being terrorist suspects immediately identified in Afghanistan, it turns out they were innocent. But the reality is that because you put them out on the Web and you have televised news conferences, you increase the chances that someone will recognize them and that‘s really what you‘re hoping for here.
ABRAMS: Yes. Steve Emerson, as always thanks.
EMERSON: You‘re very welcome.
ABRAMS: Just a few minutes ago I talked to the Homeland Security Department Undersecretary Asa Hutchinson about this new threat, and you know I began by asking him if they intend to raise the terror threat level from yellow up to orange.
ASA HUTCHINSON, HOMELAND SECURITY DEPT. UNDERSECY: We do not intend to raise the terror threat level at this time. Secretary Ridge evaluates it every day. We make a decision. At this point we are increasing our security every day, but there‘s not any specific intelligence that would justify raising the national alert level and we do not intend to do so.
ABRAMS: But this sound as ominous as almost anything we‘ve heard come from your office or the attorney general or the FBI. I mean this sounds like a pretty specific timeframe. We‘re talking about sometime this summer al Qaeda may be in this country. You know, when you compare it to some of the other warnings, it sounds pretty serious.
HUTCHINSON: Well, there‘s two things that are important here. First of all, logically we need a strong law enforcement preparation this year. It didn‘t take Madrid to tell us that we would be a target this year, during election year during three national security events. So law enforcement will be more alert. We will be doing more in the security arena, increasing it every day. Secondly, obviously, if the public can be involved in helping us to identify seven individuals, and that‘s helpful as well. So it‘s not alarmist, we‘re not raising the alert level, but we‘re asking for enhanced law enforcement efforts this year and the public‘s involvement as well.
ABRAMS: To put this into some perspective, I want to play a piece of sound from you almost exactly a year ago today when the threat level was raised. Let‘s listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HUTCHINSON: The Department of Homeland Security, in consultation with the Homeland Security Council raised the national threat level from elevated to high risk of a terrorist attack. This change is based upon the recent terrorist bombings in Saudi Arabia and Morocco, also in conjunction with intelligence reports concerning anti-U.S. terrorist group intentions. The United States intelligence community believes that terrorists continue to plan attacks against targets in the United States. And for this reason, the alert level has been raised.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: A lot of my viewers have already written in asking what is different now from then. Why then was the terror threat level raised, and yet, not now?
HUTCHINSON: Well, the difference is at that point we had very specific intelligence that we were responding to that we believed was credible. Here in this case, we have, since last summer, increased security virtually every day. We have greater capability today. And the information that we have is based upon historic reporting. But there‘s nothing that would indicate immanency, something that would be specific enough to justify the threat level. And so I think the public understands that we‘re being careful about this, enhancing security.
But we do not need to raise the threat level every time that we know from a law enforcement standpoint we need to be more alert. We‘re doing that. But the purpose of that enhanced security level is to say there‘s some immanency here. We believe that the public needs to be aware of that, and we‘re not raising the threat level at this point, and it‘s different than where it was this time last year.
ABRAMS: And finally, you know part of the answer is, is it not, that you‘re just getting better at this as time passes?
HUTCHINSON: Well, that‘s exactly right. Whenever we have a security level for yellow a year ago, right now that‘s a greater capability if you‘re at the same yellow. Our security is much better...
HUTCHINSON: ... and more protective today, because we‘ve enhanced security virtually at every point. So we‘re getting better at what we do. But we‘re also getting better in terms of intelligence and how we can be specific about it. We can analyze it better. We can make better decisions based upon it.
HUTCHINSON: So I think we have an improved system, and when the public sees that we would raise the alert level, then they know that we have the specific intelligence to back that up.
ABRAMS: We‘re counting on you, Undersecretary. Thanks a lot for coming back on the program. We appreciate it.
HUTCHINSON: Thank you.
ABRAMS: Coming up, yes, we‘ve been talking about it, the government warning of these new al Qaeda threats. But some critics say the warnings don‘t do any good. What‘s wrong with putting a lookout for certain individuals? We‘ll talk to a New York congressman who says it‘s just not worth it.
Plus, Terry Nichols found guilty of 161 state murder charges, counts, in connection with the Oklahoma City bombing. Is there anything that could spare him a death sentence now?
And an exclusive in the Kobe Bryant case. What the defense believes could be a blockbuster piece of evidence they say shows the alleged victim lied.
And Michael Jackson‘s alleged victim‘s family suing Los Angeles Child Protective Services or at least filing a claim. What happened to this is not about money?
Your e-mails firstname.lastname@example.org. I‘ll respond at the end of the show.
ABRAMS: Coming up, warnings that al Qaeda is planning to attack the United States in the next couple of months, but some say the warnings just aren‘t worth it. Well talk to one congressman who thinks just that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ASHCROFT: We don‘t have a specific plan. We plan to make announcements whenever they would be in the national interest to make announcements, and one of the reasons we make announcements is that the American people can help us reduce the risk by participating in an aggressive approach to disruption.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: Attorney General Ashcroft this afternoon explaining why officials decided to announce the latest terror threat, even though they admit there is no specific intelligence on time, place, nature or target of an attack. The attorney general says the government‘s warning gives the public a motive to be on alert and information that might help them spot some suspicious activity or individuals. What‘s wrong with putting out these pictures and warning that an attack could be imminent? New York Democrat Anthony Weiner serves on the House Homeland Security Task Force and he thinks the new warning for terror does little more than create public panic.
Congressman Weiner, thanks for coming on the program.
REP. ANTHONY WEINER (D-NY), HOUSE HOMELAND SECURITY TASK FORCE: My pleasure, Dan.
ABRAMS: So what‘s the problem? What‘s wrong with the attorney general showing seven pictures of people, saying, look, be on the lookout for these people? We have indications that there could be an attack this summer.
WEINER: I don‘t have a problem with showing pictures and saying look out for these guys, if you see them or if you see someone packing dynamite into a bag and leaving it behind, beware. The problem is that we‘re in this cycle of essentially Americans getting conflicting signals. They had today the head of the FBI saying we‘re going to essentially get hit and get hit hard. We can‘t tell you when. We can‘t tell you how.
You had Secretary Ridge going on all of the shows saying go about your business, but be vigilant. You know I think the administration misunderstood the lessons of September 11. The problem was that intelligence wasn‘t making its way to the top rung, to the decision makers, to law enforcement. All the information doesn‘t need to be dumped into the public domain the minute they get it. And I got to tell you what is the message we‘re sending to Americans who are packing their kids into the car for a weekend vacation Memorial Day, that we are going to be a victim of terrorism, but we really can‘t tell you much about where it‘s going to happen or how.
ABRAMS: But can‘t we put faith in the American people to do what they‘ve done so far, which is to allow them to put it in perspective, which is to say yes, look, we‘ve heard this before. It‘s important to have this type of information but I‘m not going to change my vacation plans. I‘m not going to change what I did, as has been the case thus far.
WEINER: Well, I‘m not really sure why, then, we‘re putting the information out there. What is the purpose? Is it to say that we should be on edge and we should be wary and aware that terrorism lurks around every corner? I think that‘s something—that is the drum beat of message that we‘ve gotten virtually nonstop since September 11.
ABRAMS: Well here‘s what Attorney General Ashcroft said about the reason for making this announcement.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ASHCROFT: Over and over again in the intelligence, which I read on a daily basis, I find it sad that activities in law enforcement and by an alert population disrupt and prevent and cause the discontinuance of terrorism. It indicates to me that the activities both of the American people and the American law enforcement community can be very valuable in saving American lives by virtue of disrupting terrorism.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: So that‘s the explanation.
WEINER: Well, I think there‘s a huge difference between law enforcement getting information that they need and, by the way, the resources that they need to deal with terrorism and the American public reading a senior administration official in The Associated Press saying there is clearly a steady drum beat of information that they are going to attack us and hit us hard. I‘m not sure what a vigilant public does. What we need is that for the law enforcement at all levels, particular in places like my hometown of New York, to get the information and resources that they need.
I can tell you what our police commissioner said this morning, that they get information all the time. They have heard nothing specific that leads them to believe that there‘s any threat targeting New York City. So that means that they‘re getting the same type of information that Minneapolis, St. Paul, and Toronto, Canada are getting. I‘m not sure what value it really has. But I want to tell you something. At the final analysis, government should be judged on whether or not it‘s keeping us safe. Right now people are walking on pins and needles, wondering if the guy next door is about to launch an attack is hardly making us feel safer.
ABRAMS: Yes, but you know, but again, if something does happen this summer or something is prevented, I guess we‘ll look back on it and we‘ll say you know it wasn‘t such a bad thing. I guess that‘s the problem with hindsight.
WEINER: Well, the problem is that if there is this type of chatter that goes on all along, which is what Tom Ridge said today...
WEINER: ... that this isn‘t inconsistent with the chatter we always have, then it makes you wonder what the real value of this was.
ABRAMS: Congressman Weiner, good to see you. Thanks for coming back on the program.
WEINER: My pleasure. Thank you.
ABRAMS: Coming up, Terry Nichols guilty of 161 counts of murder now faces the possibility of the death penalty. Can anything spare his life?
And a potential bombshell in the Kobe Bryant case—proof, the defense says, that the alleged victim lied to investigators. The exclusive details are coming up.
ABRAMS: We are back. Oklahoma jurors today found Terry Nichols guilty on all 161 counts of murder for his role in the Oklahoma City bombing, the worst terrorist attack in U.S. history before 9/11. The same jury will now decide if Nichols gets death by lethal injection or life in prison. Now remember, he‘s already serving a life sentence after a federal court conviction in the deaths of eight federal officials at the Murrah Building.
MSNBC‘s Larry Weidman joins us from McAlester, Oklahoma. So Larry, new witnesses are going to testify about whether he should live or die. Who‘s expected to ask the jurors to spare Nichols‘ life?
LARRY WEIDMAN, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Well, Dan, the defense has said
they have 200 people on its witness list. That certainly will include his
· some of his family members and even some of the families of victims in the Oklahoma City bombing have told us that they were called to testify. Many of them are opposed to the death penalty in principle. Others feel that, as they did with Tim McVeigh, they‘d rather not see him executed because they think he might still have more information that he might be forced into giving.
But many of the family members and survivors who were here watching the end of the trial today were very pleased, though, with this verdict. It came very quickly, after only four hours. And we talked to some of them about what it meant to them. Here‘s a bit of what they told us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) candidate for the death of 160 people. This is the first time anybody‘s been charged with 160 people‘s deaths and I think it‘s long overdue.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I feel like our daughter‘s been vindicated, yes. Because this trial was for her, as well as the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) for my daughter, and I‘m happy about that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WEIDMAN: The jury gets the Memorial Day weekend off. They come back here at 9:00 Central Time on Tuesday morning to start that penalty phase. It could take a month—Dan.
ABRAMS: Larry Weidman, thanks a lot. Amazing, the idea of having some of the family members coming in and testifying for Terry Nichols that he not get the death penalty. We appreciate it.
Coming up, we‘ve got exclusive news to break to you—break in the Kobe Bryant case. Evidence that could show the alleged victim may have lied to detectives.
Plus, the family of Michael Jackson‘s accuser puts in a claim against the Los Angeles Child Services. What happened to they will not be suing?
Your e-mails, email@example.com. Please include your name and where you‘re writing from. I read them at the end of the show.
ABRAMS: Coming you, an exclusive in the Kobe Bryant case. Proof the defense says that Kobe‘s alleged victim lied to detectives, but first, the headlines.
ABRAMS: Welcome back. Now to another ABRAMS REPORT exclusive. This time in the Kobe Bryant case. Sources close to the case confirming the prosecution‘s own lab has found scientific evidence that could prove the alleged victim lied to detectives.
NBC‘s Michelle Hofland has the story—Michelle.
MICHELLE HOFLAND, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Good afternoon, Dan. That‘s right. Detectives—or sources tell me that defense believes that this is a big break for them, and that it‘s for two reasons. First of all, that they may be able to show that the accuser lied to detectives, number one, and that number two, they believe that she has acted in a way that is not typical behavior of somebody who has been raped.
Sources close to the investigation tell NBC News that the state crime lab‘s own test results show Kobe‘s accuser had sex with somebody other than Kobe Bryant in the hours before she arrived at the hospital for her rape exam. Lab test results not just from the underwear that she wore to the hospital, because we‘ve already heard a little bit about that over the past few months, but also, DNA evidence from her own body.
Now, let me step back a little bit. Back at the preliminary hearing last fall, it was revealed that the state crime lab had test results showing that in the underwear that she wore to the hospital, they found DNA evidence, semen and sperm from somebody other than Kobe Bryant. But that now—then after that there was a big battle between the defense and the prosecution about getting those test results done on that underwear. But then after that Kobe‘s accuser‘s attorney said that, you know what? There is a simple explanation for all of this.
The 19-year-old simply mistakenly put on a dirty pair of underwear after she left Kobe Bryant‘s hotel room when she says she was raped and before she got to the hospital. But what our sources tell us that just does not make sense once you look at the scientific evidence. That what they found is sperm and semen inside the woman‘s body, and that this is fresh, and that they believe that this will prove that she had sex, according to what the defense hopes to prove, from the time she left Kobe‘s hotel room and the time that she got to the hospital the next day.
Now, two reasons—big reasons why this is significant is that the defense hopes that this will prove that this is not how rape—people who are raped act, number one. And number two, that she lied to detectives. Now, she told detectives in an interview that she had not had sex with anyone except about three or four days prior to the time that she had been with Kobe Bryant.
In the preliminary hearing she said—quote—“Detective Winters—this is Pam Mackey—asks, when was the last time that she had consensual sex? And she suggests then—Pam Mackey asks the detective and she has recently corrected that to be very specific as of June 28. Is that correct? And he said I‘m not certain about the date, but I recall it‘s either the 27th or 28th, somewhere in that area” and that would be about three days before her encounter with Kobe Bryant.
Now, there is a gag order, so the district attorney‘s office and her attorney say they cannot comment. Hal Haddon, who is Kobe Bryant‘s attorney, e-mailed with this response. We are not allowed to discuss lab test results, and it is inappropriate to do so. Dan, this bombshell could be dropped as early as tomorrow morning at the next hearing. Back to you.
ABRAMS: Michelle Hofland, thank you very much for that exclusive report.
All right, let‘s put this into perspective. Bottom line is what the defense is going to say is that she lied to detectives, and they‘re going to say that‘s important because she says she had sex three days before, and they believe they can prove that sex actually occurred closer to the time of the incident. I don‘t understand how they‘re going to be able to show that sex occurred after the incident with Kobe Bryant versus, for example, that morning.
But let‘s ask our panel. Maybe they can figure it out—former Denver District Attorney and MSNBC analyst Norm Early, Colorado criminal defense attorney Jeralyn Merritt and forensic scientist and DNA expert Larry Kobilinsky.
Larry, let me start with you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
ABRAMS: First, on this issue of whether they‘re going to be able to somehow prove that she had sex after the incident with Kobe Bryant. I don‘t understand how they‘d be able to prove that.
LARRY KOBILINSKY, FORENSIC SCIENTIST: Well, Dan, let me see if I can dissect this out. The fact of the matter is by the time she got to the hospital and was checked by the emergency room physician, if the sperm were motile, that is, if they were still moving around, that would be proof that she had had sex within hours. That would be an absolute bombshell, because we know that the DNA that we‘re talking about here is not from Kobe.
The other part of this issue is how the evidence was collected. There‘s usually oral, vaginal and anal swabs, but there‘s also another kind of swab called the dried crust swab. And the question is how did they do this analysis? Did they look at that dried crust swab...
KOBILINSKY: ... or did they look at the vaginal swab? Sperm disappear from the vaginal vault very rapidly. After one day it‘s exponentially decreased. By three or four days, you can‘t find it. On the other hand, if they looked at a dried crust...
KOBILINSKY: ... and if the personal hygiene were not there, that would mean that she could have had sex three or four days previously.
ABRAMS: All right. You know and again, I should just remind my viewers that, you know, I know this is graphic and, to tell you the truth, a little bit gross. But the bottom line is that this is what‘s going to be at the heart of this case. And this is what‘s going to be argued in court every day. Norm Early, it sounds bad for the prosecutors.
NORM EARLY, FMR. DENVER DISTRICT ATTORNEY: Only for people who don‘t use their heads. Who would believe that somebody with a torn vagina, who was bleeding from that torn vagina on her way home is going to hop in bed with somebody else and have sex with a totally different person? I mean it‘s just absolutely incredulous. What you‘ve got here, Dan, is the defense machine at high gear, their propaganda machine. They have called this woman a harlot. They have called her a racist. They have called her crazy. And now they‘re calling her a liar. I mean can‘t they come up with about...
ABRAMS: But here we‘ve got...
EARLY: ... 10 or 15 more things before the trial starts?
ABRAMS: But we‘re talking about scientific evidence here...
EARLY: Oh, Dan, we don‘t know that it‘s scientific evidence. What we do know is that someone from the defense team has given this to the defense attorneys to spin it in the country and given it to members of the media...
ABRAMS: Well let‘s—all right, let‘s assume it‘s true.
EARLY: ... and that‘s what‘s wrong.
ABRAMS: Let me ask you something. Let‘s assume for a moment—and I think it‘s a fair point to say we don‘t know exactly what‘s in the report, in the lab report. But we do know that this is the argument the defense is going to make, and they‘re going to say that the laboratory results prove their position. Assuming for a moment that using Mr. Kobilinsky‘s logic, using his—that kind of expertise, they‘re going to get someone in there who says that this is, you know this seems to be the case. Now, the prosecutors want to retest, correct?
EARLY: The prosecutors, if they were smart, would retest it by an independent lab. Not for the purpose of trying to bolster the CBI, but basically confirming what the CBI said. They‘re perfectly happy with the CBI results, and the CBI results do not say what the defense is contending in its latest P.R. blitz.
JERALYN MERRITT, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: I‘m going to assume like you, Dan, that this is what the CBI results say. And if that‘s true, it is a bombshell. Because if you remember, the sex that she had on the 27th or 28th, with her prior boyfriend, he allegedly wore a condom.
EARLY: And they‘ve never broken before, right?
MERRITT: So it wouldn‘t be his semen that was inside her two days later.
ABRAMS: Let‘s assume she lied...
MERRITT: She had already turned in...
ABRAMS: Let‘s assume Jeralyn...
ABRAMS: ... let‘s assume for a minute that she—that they asked her when is the last time you had sex, that she got nervous and she made it two days earlier as opposed to the morning of, for example. Is that that big a deal?
MERRITT: Because—yes, because the critical issue here is did she have sex after the sex with Kobe. And there is also DNA on her thigh, reportedly. And if that DNA on her thigh when she got to the rape exam tests to a white male and not to Kobe, how did that get on her, unless she had sex after the sex with Kobe? And that is going to be critical, because no jury is going to buy that a woman is raped when she decides to voluntarily have sex after the rape...
MERRITT: ... with someone else.
ABRAMS: I think everyone on the panel would agree.
EARLY: Oh, absolutely. But she‘s going to do it with a torn vagina and bleeding from it. This is preposterous.
MERRITT: But Norm...
MERRITT: ... she didn‘t have a torn vagina.
MERRITT: She didn‘t have...
ABRAMS: All right, all right...
MERRITT: ... a torn vagina.
EARLY: ... because her blood was on Kobe Bryant‘s shirt. Her blood...
MERRITT: She had pinpoint...
EARLY: ... on Kobe‘s shirt...
MERRITT: ... lacerations...
ABRAMS: All right, we are going to...
MERRITT: ... pinpoint lacerations on her posterior fourchette...
ABRAMS: All right, all right, all right...
MERRITT: ... that could have been consistent with consensual sex.
ABRAMS: All right, we‘re going to continue this conversation tomorrow. This may come up again in court in the next couple of days. Look out for it. Expect to hear about it, and you‘ll hear all about it on the program about justice. Norm, Jeralyn and Larry, thanks a lot...
EARLY: Thanks a lot Dan.
ABRAMS: ... for joining us on such short notice.
Coming up, could Michael Jackson‘s alleged victim be looking for some sort of payout? The family has filed a claim that has some critics questioning their motives. The details up next.
ABRAMS: We‘ve got some breaking news to report to you in connection with activities in Iraq. For weeks we‘ve been talking to you about Muqtada al-Sadr, a radical Shiite cleric who has been battling with U.S. forces in various cities in Iraq, in particular, his militia of fighting with U.S. troops. We can now report to you that there appears to be a development which could lead to an end to some of this fighting.
I‘m joined now by on the MSNBC live line from Baghdad by Dr. Mouwafak al-Rubaie, who is a Shiite and the government‘s national security adviser. Doctor, thank you very much for taking the time to come on the program.
Tell me what sort of agreement has been reached?
MOUWAFAK AL-RUBAIE, IRAQ NAT‘L SECURITY ADVISER (via phone): Well, I‘m very pleased to announce that there is a letter signed and sealed by Muqtada al-Sadr addressed to the members of the Shiite. Basically it says I announce my agreement to the following plan. Number one, eliminating all armed men at the stations put in government buildings to use by the government operatives and institutions (UNINTELLIGIBLE) army fighters who are not (UNINTELLIGIBLE) from the city seizing the pursuit and the trial of persons in the Shia (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and not to return to that. And number two, opening the way for the police of the Iraqi national forces to carry out their duties and providing security and order and the threat from anyone getting (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...
ABRAMS: I think we are—I think we‘re losing the doctor there for a moment. But again—you can see we just got disconnected there. Again, the headline there that there appears to be some sort of agreement that al-Sadr sent a letter to Iraqis there to the Shiite community, said he‘s making the offer to—because of the tragic condition in Najaf after weeks of fighting between his militiamen and the Americans and the damage suffered by the city‘s holiest shrine.
There‘s still a lot of answers to be answered. For example, what happens to his militiamen? Remember that the U.S. government has been after him for a while. The question also has to be asked, does this mean they‘re going to call off the search for him. But it does seem to be a major piece of progress in connection with the battles that have been ongoing between U.S. troops and Muqtada al-Sadr. We will certainly keep you updated throughout the evening here on MSNBC.
Coming up, the 9/11 commission hints they may not have a unanimous report. Why, like a jury, they should have to go back and try to make it happen? It‘s my “Closing Argument”.
ABRAMS: Coming up, is Michael—is the accuser in the Michael Jackson case now suing? Well not quite, but it could be some money. We‘ll talk about that...
ABRAMS: We are back. Could Michael Jackson‘s accuser now be looking for a payout? Well, possibly. The young boy, his mother and two siblings filed a claim yesterday seeking unspecified damages against the Los Angeles Department of Children and Family Services for allegedly violating the family‘s privacy, by allowing this document to leak out, the department‘s confidential internal memo which came out in December. The report found that initial allegations of any misconduct were—quote—“unfounded.”
An official from the boy‘s school first alerted a Los Angeles child abuse hotline after watching the now famous Martin Bashir documentary. In the TV special the boy talked about the fact that he and Michael Jackson had slept in the same bed. Family now asking for compensation alleging—quote—“The memorandum may well have been requested or prepared for the specific purpose of leaking it to the press.” Now the family says the claim has been filed in the hope that the department will investigate and comply with the law in the future.
Also today, Jackson‘s attorney filed a motion asking the judge to reduce bail, saying $3 million too much, beyond the legal requirement. The defense asked for it to be reset at $130,000. In a late filing tonight, the D.A. says the bail reduction shouldn‘t happen, saying Jackson‘s situation is truly unique.
Let‘s bring in our “A Team”, criminal defense attorney Dana Cole. Dana is close friends with Jackson‘s attorney Thomas Mesereau. In fact, he just finished a case with him last week. And victims‘ rights attorney Gloria Allred. Gloria has repeatedly called on officials to remove Jackson‘s three children from his custody. Thanks to you both.
All right, so Dana, I mean look, what the actual claim says is, it suggests we‘re not looking for money here. We just want to make sure they abide by the law and we want to make sure that they do an investigation.
DANA COLE, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, I hate to correct you, Dan, but the claim actually does not say that. It says they want an investigation. They want an apology. But it also is a claim for money damages. That‘s clearly in there.
ABRAMS: Yes, I know it is. It is, but you know—and again, I‘m not saying it‘s not in there. I am saying that it is clear they are trying to suggest by the final paragraph of this claim that what they‘re really looking for, they say, is action. You‘re saying, they‘re looking for more than that.
COLE: Right. I mean I‘m sort of reminded of the Seinfeld line, not that there‘s anything wrong with that. And if in fact the document was improperly leaked, then perhaps they should go to court and they should sue the county of Los Angeles.
The problem arises in that it is inconsistent with the public position they‘ve previously taken, which is this family is not motivated by money. It is not intending to file lawsuits and now here we see the exact opposite. They‘re going to court for a somewhat minor thing, of leaking a document. Yet a major accusation such as child molestation, oh, that, no, they‘d never to go court on that. It just seems rather inconsistent and disingenuous.
ABRAMS: Yes, Gloria, I mean this doesn‘t sound like this was a particularly smart move, was it?
GLORIA ALLRED, VICTIMS‘ RIGHTS ATTORNEY: I don‘t have any problem with what the family did. In fact, they have a right to seek compensation if in fact they feel that their child‘s...
ABRAMS: Whoops! All right. I can tell what you she was going to say. We‘re going to try and get her back. She was going to say they have a right to file this claim—she‘s back. All right, so Gloria you‘re back. And you were saying that they have a right to file this claim. I know they have a right to file the claim. The question is, was it the right thing to do? I mean what Dana Cole is saying is look, in the context of this case it‘s just not very smart of them after the D.A. is going out publicly and saying they‘re not going to file a civil lawsuit. It‘s not about that. And then they go and file this kind of claim. I don‘t know. It seems silly.
ALLRED: It‘s not inconsistent, Dan, at all with what they said. What their lawyer said was that they didn‘t have any plan to file a lawsuit against Michael Jackson during the course...
ABRAMS: So you would have advised that this was a good move...
ALLRED: ... and they haven‘t done that.
ABRAMS: If they came to you...
ABRAMS: Go ahead.
ALLRED: ... I would say that they should reserve and preserve their rights and in order to do that, they had to file this claim if they ever wished to file a lawsuit against the county. And I think that they certainly may have rights against the county. And they needed to file this claim in a timely way, which they did. Nothing wrong with that. It doesn‘t affect their credibility. And I think if a child‘s rights were violated by anyone, whether it was Michael Jackson or anyone else, that child should have a right to pursue any lawsuits that they can pursue.
ABRAMS: Dana, how about just that idea that look all they‘re doing is preserving future rights.
COLE: Well that‘s true. And in fact, to file a lawsuit against the county of L.A., you first have to start with this claim. But I‘ve got to tell you, Gloria, you‘re in la, la land if you think that at the end of the day, this family is not going to sue Michael Jackson. That‘s simply preposterous. You know that‘s coming down the track.
ALLRED: I didn‘t say they‘re not going to. I said their attorney said that they‘re not going to be doing it, at least during the course of the criminal prosecution. There‘s no reason, by the way, if a child has been sexually molested, that they shouldn‘t file against the person that they allege has sexually molested them. And at the same time, a criminal case can and should be prosecuted. These are not false alternatives. These are alternatives that can go at the same time. You‘re right that it can—the motives at some point if he files against Michael Jackson. But, there‘s no reason to have that effect his credibility. He should be able to seek compensation and also have him prosecuted.
ABRAMS: Go ahead Dana. Final word.
COLE: The final word is a jury should know that this kid at some point in time intends to sue because that does provide a financial motive. Again, it‘s not improper to say I‘m going to sue. But that‘s information that a jury should know in evaluating the case.
ABRAMS: All right, Dana Cole, Gloria Allred. Gloria, sorry about those technical problems. Thanks for coming on the program. Appreciate it.
ALLRED: Thank you.
COLE: Thank you.
ABRAMS: All right, my “Closing Argument”—the dangers of a non-unanimous report from the 9/11 commission. Some of the commissioners are now suggesting that parts of the commission‘s final report may be divided into a majority and minority finding and some of them seem to think, it‘s no big deal. Republican Commissioner Slade Gorton said, unanimity is a nice goal, but it isn‘t going to be a necessary goal.
Democrat Bob Kerrey said he thinks a divided report would not be a—quote—“failure.” Really? They all seem to be reassured by the fact that it likely would not be divided along party lines. They say that the dispute would be primarily on recommendations for changing the FBI and CIA, not necessarily the most controversial and political subject, the intelligence and policy failures. Nevertheless, a divided report could be a public relations disaster.
The partisans, who have already taken swipes at the panel, would have the necessary ammunition to argue the report should be irrelevant. Even if the disputed issues were not the most political, it would back up the partisan‘s claim that the commission itself was consumed by politics. The FBI and CIA could argue there was no clear mandate. Yes, it‘s a congressional panel and whatever they recommend, they have an impact on Congress as it should, but it‘s also a panel that was supposed to provide some definitive answers to the public about what happened and what we should do now.
A divided report will fall short of that mandate. You know when a jury tells a judge we‘re hopelessly deadlocked, the judge instructs the jurors to go back and try to work it out. Here the public should serve as the judge and demand that they go back and resolve their differences. Compromise on certain issues. Listen to one another, but make sure when they‘re done, the five Democrats and five Republicans have spoken with one voice. It‘s the only way this report will have the necessary impact.
Your e-mails, firstname.lastname@example.org. Sorry we didn‘t get a chance to get to them. We had to do that live interview. We will certainly get to your e-mails tomorrow.
Coming up, “HARDBALL” with Chris Matthews. You see it right there on the screen. He‘s got Brigadier General Janis Karpinski on the program.
Thanks for watching. I‘ll see you tomorrow.
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