GuestS: Lisa Bloom, Mickey Sherman, Martha Coakley, Raoul Felder, Garrett Lee
DAN ABRAMS, HOST: Coming up, preparations for President Ronald Reagan‘s funeral include fear of a possible terror attack.
The nation‘s capital plans extraordinary security as four American presidents, leaders from around the world, and hundreds of thousands of mourners are expected to join to remember Ronald Reagan.
Plus, Laci Peterson‘s family members take the stand in Scott Peterson‘s murder trial. He talked to many of them about Laci‘s disappearance.
And a painful custody battle over 4-year-old twins. A judge orders a former “Playboy” model to give them up because of what she allegedly said about their adulterous father. Now she‘s fighting back.
The program about justice starts now.
ABRAMS: Hi, everyone.
First up on the docket tonight, day five in the Scott Peterson trial, with Laci‘s sometimes frustrated family members back on the stand, today, her stepfather, Ron Grantski, and brother, Brent Rocha, Grantski telling jurors that he told Peterson to his face that his I went on a fishing trip on Christmas Eve alibi was, quote, “fishy,” and yesterday, half-sister Amy and mother, Sharon, recounting the last time they spoke to Laci, on the other hand, Sharon admitting that Laci never told her of another affair that Scott had early in the marriage.
Why is that significant? Sharon is saying that Scott acted oddly as they searched for Laci, and she wondered why almost immediately, Peterson used the word “missing” to describe Laci.
Now, prosecutors argue that Peterson killed his wife in part to be with then-girlfriend Amber Frey (ph), that he didn‘t want to have to tell Laci about it. Peterson claims he told Laci about his affair with Frye and Laci accepted it. The defense will say Laci chose not to tell her family about any of Scott‘s indiscretions.
Let‘s go to the courthouse and MSNBC‘s Jennifer London.
So Jennifer, how would you recap the most important testimony of the day?
JENNIFER LONDON, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Well, Dan, let‘s start with Laci‘s brother, Brent Rocha. He just finished up his testimony for the day. Among other things, he talked about a very specific incident with Scott Peterson. They were at a pool party shortly before Laci disappeared, Brent saying that Scott confided in him that Scott was not doing so well at work and was a little worried about his work situation.
Under cross-examination by Mark Geragos, Geragos brought up a trust fund that Laci and her family were entitled to, Laci, her brother, and her sister, a multimillion-dollar trust, Geragos getting Brent to admit that Scott was not entitled to any of this money should anything happen to Laci. The money would only go to Laci, her brother, her sister, and their offspring, Geragos pointing out in court that basically Scott Peterson didn‘t stand to gain any money from Laci‘s disappearance.
Now, earlier today, we did hear from Laci‘s stepfather, Ron Grantski.
He testified that he was an avid fisherman, and in all the time he knew Scott Peterson, Peterson only went fishing with him once, Grantski also saying he never knew that Scott Peterson had a boat, Grantski also saying that he started to become suspicious of Scott after Laci‘s disappearance, saying that at one point after she disappeared, Grantski went up to Peterson and told him, quote, “I think your Berkeley fishing story, or your Berkeley fishing trip is a fishy story. Did you do something else? Do you have a girlfriend?”
Peterson answers no and walked away.
Now, under cross-examination, Grantski did admit that on Christmas Eve, the day Laci disappeared, Grantski also went fishing. He went fishing alone, just like Peterson did, and Grantski also admitting that, like Peterson, he didn‘t tell anyone ahead of time about this fishing trip.
Now, Dan, both Brent Rocha and Ron Grantski also admitting during their testimony that at any time, they never once saw Scott yell at Laci Peterson. They never even saw him get angry. And they certainly never saw him get violent with her at any time.
ABRAMS: All right. Jennifer, stick around, because I want to bring in my legal team, and when I do that, I‘m going to go through and sort of summarize how the family‘s testimony has helped the prosecution and how the family‘s testimony has hurt the prosecution.
Criminal defense attorney Mickey Sherman joins us, and attorney and Court TV anchor Lisa Bloom.
All right. Before I go to you guys, let me read this, these two lists we‘ve put together, how the family‘s testimony has helped the prosecution. They say that Scott behaved strangely after Laci disappeared, that he lied about having an affair, that he seemed unwilling to work with Laci‘s family in the search, that Brent Rocha said that Scott had problems with his job and he said he was nervous about becoming a father.
And the stepfather says, you know, I always wanted to go fishing with Scott. He never seemed to want to go. And then the one time we went, he left a brand-new fishing pole at my house.
On the other hand, the family‘s testimony also has helped the defense. Here‘s how. First of all, that Scott had another affair, the mother conceded today, and Laci never told her mother about it. So the defense is saying, yes, so she never told them about Amber Frey either. Scott Peterson has said that he told Laci about his affair with Amber.
Scott‘s consistently said that he didn‘t do it to the family, that Laci was the beneficiary of a $2.3 million trust, but that Scott would not get any of the money, that the stepfather admitted going—himself going on a solo fishing trip on Christmas Eve by himself, not really telling anyone, although he admitted he was back by 9:30 in the morning, that Amy Rocha, the sister, said that Laci was active and walking, that helps the defense theory that she was seen in the neighborhood after Scott left that morning, the defense says that proves that he couldn‘t have done it, that Amy Rocha actually invited—that Scott invited her over for dinner on the night that the prosecutors say he killed Laci.
Of course, the defense is going to say, Why would he invite Amy over for dinner if he was going to kill her that night? And there was also some questions about identifying clothing. OK.
That‘s a lot of stuff. But Lisa Bloom, you know, you would think that the family members‘ testimony would be primarily helpful, and it sounds like it‘s primarily helpful to the prosecutors, but there‘s a lot of problems with it too.
LISA BLOOM, ANCHOR, COURT TV: Well, it‘s like a prologue to a book. It‘s just getting our attention, really. It‘s raising a lot of suspicions about Scott Peterson.
This is not proof beyond a reasonable doubt, but it‘s something that makes the jurors, I think, sit forward in their chair and wonder, Why is the husband of a missing pregnant woman not more actively involved in the search? Why is he not responding to her mother‘s questions? Why is he giving only monosyllabic answers? Why is he lying to her stepfather?
But overall, it sends a very important message to this jury, Dan, the message that Laci Peterson‘s family is standing behind her, that they are looking to this jury for justice, and that they believe Scott Peterson did it. And I think that‘s why the prosecution started with these folks.
ABRAMS: Yes, I mean, Mickey, I don‘t question why they started with them, but I think that on the whole, you know, the fact that the defense has gotten so many points out of this, so many arguments they can make based on the family‘s testimony, pretty strong for the defense.
MICKEY SHERMAN, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: You know, these—I think the jury is leaning forward in their chairs, because they‘re waiting to hear some solid evidence that points to the fact that he may have committed the crime. These are not building blocks for a conviction here. A little bit is gossip, a little bit is interesting, but there‘s so, it‘s so, it‘s light-years away from proving that someone committed a murder.
ABRAMS: But (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...
SHERMAN: OK? And I think the Grantski fishing trip evidence is Terrific on the defense part.
BLOOM: Oh, come on, Mickey. Look, Ron Grantski was fishing 90 miles south near his hometown of Modesto. He was fishing early in the morning when people normally fish, and most importantly, he didn‘t have a pregnant wife at home who didn‘t know where he was. He didn‘t lie to family members about it.
SHERMAN: Bottom line, you, bottom (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...
BLOOM: It‘s a little different.
SHERMAN: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) fishing doesn‘t tell anybody. We were told this is, like, an unheard-of thing. And here somebody directly connected to this case did the same thing. Again, we are, we are...
BLOOM: Yes, but he didn‘t lie about (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...
SHERMAN: ... so far away from real evidence here.
ABRAMS: But, see, Mickey, what this does, and, you know, it gets kind of complicated unless you‘re really following each and every point in this case. But what it does is, it begins to prove that Scott‘s lying, and that seems to me to be something that‘s really easy for jurors to understand.
SHERMAN: Yes, but also, what‘s he lying about? He‘s lying about having an affair. Well, that‘s what cheating guys do. I mean, that‘s not a great revelation here.
BLOOM: Yes, but he wasn‘t having the affair on December 24. He wasn‘t lying about being with Amber Frye, he was lying about fishing or golfing, depending on which story you believe that he told.
And you know what, Dan? There‘s one important piece of evidence that came through from Amy Rocha‘s testimony, the half-sister, which is that when she saw Laci Peterson on December 23, she was wearing khaki-colored slacks. Those are the slacks that Laci ultimately washed up in. Scott Peterson said she was wearing dark slacks the next day.
So some of the little details are being brought out now, and they could be important building blocks later.
ABRAMS: Very quickly, Jennifer London, what are we expecting tomorrow?
LONDON: Well, Dan, you know, to be completely honest, we have not heard. We do expect more neighbors to be on the stand. They‘re sort of telling us right now they‘re putting what they call civilians, not cops. As I mentioned, Brent had finished up, the judge telling us that more witnesses would take the stand this afternoon. We believe one of those will be a girlfriend of Laci Peterson‘s.
But in terms of tomorrow, they haven‘t said yet.
ABRAMS: All right, Mickey, I thought I was out of time, actually. Go ahead, I‘m sorry, you wanted to respond to Lisa. Go ahead.
SHERMAN: No, yes, I just think, you know, it, these are interesting facts. But, you know, this is a six-month trial. A lot of the facts that we‘re hearing now are going to be long forgotten when they start talking about forensic evidence, if they ever get to that point.
ABRAMS: You know, Mickey, does it disturb you, though, just looking at the macro picture here, and that is that you‘ve got a mother, Sharon Rocha, who wanted to believe Scott Peterson was innocent. She said publicly, I don‘t think there‘s any way this guy could have done it. Then, as time passes, and she sees more and more evidence, not only was she presuming him innocent to start, she was convinced he was innocent to start, and now she‘s come and done a full 180.
SHERMAN: But, you know, Dan, it‘s heartbreaking, but it‘s not relevant. Unless she‘s got some solid evidence or some eyewitness testimony, or some confession on his part, how she feels—Dan, our sympathy and our heart, our heart (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...
ABRAMS: But she‘s feeling that way based on the evidence, though, I mean, that‘s what I‘m saying, that she‘s come all the way around based on the evidence.
SHERMAN: But she—A, she‘s not on the jury, and B, one would expect a loved one to want closure here. She wants to have this crime solved, and I think that she‘s been made to believe, through everyone telling her, including especially the authorities, that this is the guy, and she‘s going with it.
ABRAMS: Yes. Lisa, very quickly. Lies, lies, lies. I mean, that‘s really the focus right now of the prosecution‘s case, correct?
BLOOM: Absolutely. And that‘s important, Dan. Because he‘s not just lying about having the affair. He‘s lying about what he did on December 23 and December 24, about what Laci Peterson was wearing, where Scott Peterson went. These are critically important issues when his wife is missing, and he wasn‘t with Amber Frey on those days. So why was he lying?
BLOOM: I think those are important questions.
ABRAMS: Very quickly, Lisa, do you agree with me, though, that this is a tough case? I mean, this is not, you know, this is not a slam-dunk, this could come out either way by the end, in terms of not whether he did it or not, but how the jury will come out?
BLOOM: I don‘t think it‘s a slam-dunk, but I think Scott Peterson or his defense team has to explain why he was on December 24 where the bodies washed up four months later, and we‘ve never heard a good explanation for that.
ABRAMS: I agree with you that they‘re going to have to explain that, and, you know, I think they‘re going to have to say that he was framed. I mean, they have to.
BLOOM: Yes, well, that‘s preposterous. I mean, if you believe in that kind of conspiracy theory, good luck. I think the defense has a lot to prove to persuade the jury of that.
SHERMAN: He‘s got to prove that they haven‘t proved the case, that‘s what he‘s got to do.
ABRAMS: All right. Mickey Sherman, Lisa Bloom, and, I‘m sorry. I mean, I have the wrong, I have the wrong name up on my prompter. Jennifer London, I am so sorry. I can‘t see you, so I couldn‘t remember who the third person was. It said Brown, and I knew that wasn‘t you.
All right. Thanks. See you later, Jennifer London.
LONDON: Thanks, Dan Abrams.
ABRAMS: It‘s not like I don‘t know Jennifer London‘s name. I know her name very well. That‘s how I knew it was wrong.
BLOOM: Live TV.
ABRAMS: You can log onto your—our Web site, abramsreport.msnbc.com, for an interactive look at the timeline of Laci Peterson‘s disappearance.
Coming up, it‘s one of the nation‘s most prestigious private schools. Tuition alone costs more than $30,000. It‘s a high school. Now its trustees are being charged criminally for failing to take reports of sexual abuse seriously. We‘ll talk to the Massachusetts DA prosecuting the case.
And later, after more than a decade of searching, a man accused of raping more than 20 women busted after DNA helps Ohio police finally find him.
Your e-mails, firstname.lastname@example.org. I‘ll respond at the end of the show.
ABRAMS: We are back.
Becoming a trustee of the prestigious Groton School in Massachusetts is considered an honor. After all, the school had graduated many of America‘s leaders, including former president Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
But now those trustees have been indicted by a grand jury on a criminal charge for failing to report an allegation of sexual assault.
According to the DA, the parents of a 16-year-old student told the school in 1999 their son had been sexually assaulted a year earlier by a fellow student. But the school did not report the abuse to the department of social services.
Now this isn‘t the first time a student has come forward about alleged abuse at Groton. Fire years ago, a student announced at a school assembly that a series of, quote, “rapes and molestations” had occurred on campus, and the alleged attackers were students still at the school.
Authorities began an investigation. Three years later, the Massachusetts Supreme Court forced the school to turn over files to a grand jury. The school released the following statement yesterday. “Groton School has stood by patiently for more than five years while wild and misinformed stories have circulated in the press. We welcome the opportunity to finally show that we did nothing wrong.”
Well, they did not welcome the opportunity to come on the show and address those misinformed stories. But Martha Coakley did. She‘s the district attorney for Middlesex County who‘s prosecuting the case.
Good to see you again. Thanks for coming on the program.
MARTHA COAKLEY, DISTRICT ATTORNEY, MIDDLESEX COUNTY: Hi, Dan.
ABRAMS: All right. So you‘re charging the trustees here criminally?
How does that work?
COAKLEY: Well, there‘s no one individually charged, because our allegation is that it was an institutional failure. There were a series of individuals at the school who, at least based upon this indictment, consistently failed to do what the law requires them to do. It‘s pretty straightforward. It‘s a mandated reporter law. All of the states have them. And it says if you have reason to believe that a child is sexually, physically, or seriously emotionally abused, no ifs, ands, or buts, you have to report to the department of social services.
Our allegation is that after this time period, in looking at the school‘s conduct, they didn‘t do what the law requires. We‘ve had discussions with other institutions around these issues, and we felt that this time, after the grand jury investigation, that we had to seek an indictment.
ABRAMS: But here you‘re a just talking about a potential fine, right?
I mean, no one‘s going to prison.
COAKLEY: Absolutely. It is one thing where we can talk loudly, but carry a small stick. It is $1,000 fine, it is a misdemeanor.
ABRAMS: Now, is your sense that this is some sort of hazing ritual at the school? And, you know, again, I‘m not trying to minimize it, but I‘m saying that from their perspective, from the students‘ perspective involved, because you have a number of reports of things like this happening. Is your sense that this is some sort of regular ritual?
COAKLEY: Well, the allegations, at least, are that over a period of time, this kind of behavior, and certainly calling it hazing tries to minimize it. But there are people who die from hazing. In this instance, we‘re saying there was sexual abuse that was part of this ritual.
There‘s no question that it was some sort of procedure that the students followed. There was some music involved. It‘s been reported in other instances as to what occurred. But the concern we have is that this came to the attention of those in charge of the school, that other students had been victimized.
At that stage, they have an obligation, because of those other students and because they themselves are caretakers, to report to the department of social services, primarily, Dan, so that an outside investigation can take place.
We have a rule like this so that abuse in families and abuse in institutions can be brought to the outside civil authorities, and that it should not be handled in-house.
ABRAMS: Now, you know, I don‘t want to get too graphic here. But we‘re not talking about sort of what classically would be known as a full-fledged rape, is that correct?
COAKLEY: In this particular instance, no. We‘re talking about indecent assault and battery for the individual on which our indictment is based, that‘s correct.
ABRAMS: But there, it sounds like what you‘re suggesting is that there have been other cases?
COAKLEY: Well, there are allegations around, particularly in the civil suit that I‘m not privy to, nor can I comment on, about other kinds of behavior. But at least in the instance we‘re talking about, it was sexual molestation, in Massachusetts, indecent assault and battery.
ABRAMS: This is really just to send a message. I mean, if you‘re talking about $1,000 fine for a board of trustees, it can‘t be worth it in terms of the finances for you to go after this case. It‘s got to be because you want to send a message, right?
COAKLEY: Well, and every indictment in some ways does that. But that‘s right. This is a statute that requires people to do things. Not unlike filing an income tax. And if you don‘t do it, there are penalties. We usually try to encourage people. We‘ve had reports before. We try and use education around making sure that they won‘t do it again.
Our concern in this case was that we needed to make sure that for the public and for others in the institution that we felt that the purpose of the statute was understood, and the kinds of things that we believed had happened in the past would not happen again.
So, right, the $1,000 fine, it‘s not going to really change anybody‘s finances. But the point is, we believe there was a violation of trust in this case.
ABRAMS: Martha Coakley, good to see you again. Thanks for coming back on the program.
COAKLEY: Thanks, Dan.
ABRAMS: Coming up, after more than a decade of searching, DNA helps Ohio police finally track down a man they say raped more than 20 women and terrorized an Ohio town.
And later, the former “Playboy” model lost custody of her twins to the married man with whom she had an affair is fighting back.
ABRAMS: A serial rapist who police say could be responsible for as many as 21 rapes in Ohio and California has been caught, 13 years after he allegedly began terrorizing Columbus, Ohio, area women. Police say DNA tests linked him to the crimes.
Elizabeth Scarborough (ph) of NBC‘s Columbus affiliate WCMH has details.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get off my back.
DEPUTY CHIEF TONY LANATA, COLUMBUS POLICE DEPARTMENT: Our purpose in being here today is to announce the arrest of the Linden rapist.
ELIZABETH SCARBOROUGH, WCMH, COLUMBUS, OHIO: It took 12 years and countless hours. Now police believe the man known as the Linden rapist is in their custody.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Told me that he cut my throat (UNINTELLIGIBLE) so I couldn‘t fight.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just show me your badge.
SCARBOROUGH: The suspect‘s name is Robert Patton (ph).
LANATA: This series consisted of 11 rapes were all matched by DNA and several other rapes.
SCARBOROUGH: In all, police say Patton can be connected to 21 rapes. The rapes began in 1991 and happened in phases. From 1991 to 1993, police say eight women were raped, all in Linden. A year passed, then between ‘94 and ‘95, another eight women were raped, this time in and around Linden. Two weeks later, police say Patton appeared in Pomona, California, to rape another woman.
Six years passed without any sign of the serial rapist. Then in 2002, police say he resurfaced in the Linden area, raping four more women. The last rape police know of happened in June of 2002.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You got any leads, give us a call.
SCARBOROUGH: Over the years, police handed out flyers in Linden with this composite of the suspect, and they talked to residents about staying safe.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It scares me. I have butterflies the whole time.
SCARBOROUGH: Now the neighborhood can begin to recover. On Monday morning, Columbus police identified the suspect through DNA. By afternoon, Patton was captured.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right here, (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just (UNINTELLIGIBLE) down.
CLARENCE LUMPKIN, LINDEN COMMUNITY LEADER: I just want to go up and down the streets in Linden and shouted that they got him, they got him.
ABRAMS: That was Elizabeth Scarborough of NBC‘s Columbus affiliate,
And there‘s a late update to this story. It turns out the DNA sample that linked Patton to the crime was taken three years ago, when he was in prison on a burglary conviction, meaning five rapes that happened after 2001 might have been prevented. Police say they hadn‘t tested the DNA because of a lack of funds and call the consequences tragic, to say the least.
Coming up, a judge took away her children because of what she allegedly said about their father. But her lawyers say the punishment doesn‘t fit the crime. Now the former “Playboy” model is fighting back in another court.
And with world leaders and thousands of mourners on their way to Washington for Ronald Reagan‘s funeral, the nation‘s capital scrambles to beef up security.
Your e-mails, email@example.com, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) with your name and where you‘re writing from.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RONALD REAGAN, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE United States: A new beginning for America. And every evening, bring us closer to that shining city up on the hill.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: The world says farewell to our 40th president. Continuing live coverage from California and our nation‘s capital on MSNBC.
DAN ABRAMS, HOST: Coming up, a bitter custody battle between a former “Playboy” model and the father continues. The details coming up, first the headlines.
ABRAMS: Last week we told you about a bitter custody battle between a former “Playboy” model and the adulterous father of her 4-year-old twins. A Manhattan family court judge ordered Bridget Marks, the mother of the twins, to turn the children over to their father, casino magnet, John, Aylsworth. He had an affair with Marks while married. The ruling said Marks‘ anger towards Aylsworth, including false accusation that he molested the girls, made her an unfit parent.
It was a tearful scene last Tuesday after Marks was ordered to turn the twins over to their father. Marks and her attorney went to a federal judge yesterday asking him to intervene, to put on hold the state judge‘s order and return the children to Marks‘ custody. For now, the federal judge refused saying he‘ll revisit the issue after July 5.
Now, I‘ve been thinking about this case for a while. Here‘s what I think: I think this judge should not have taken the kids away this mother. This guy didn‘t even want these children. But if she lied and was trying to obstruct justice, if, then I say charge her. And if she‘s convicted, then the father gets custody. Joining me now to debate are family law attorneys, Raoul Felder and Garrett Lee.
All right, Raoul, what do you think of my theory on this?
RAOUL FELDER, FAMILY LAW ATTORNEY: I love you, but I don‘t think much of the theory. You know, there‘s nothing proven in this case. Sure, maybe the judge found that these were unfounded accusations of sexual abuse. But that‘s just the judge saying that she didn‘t believe the witness, the mother in this case. It doesn‘t mean that a crime was committed here.
By the way, if you‘re talking about crimes, from the little bit I know about this case, the father presented himself as a happily married man, brought the family from California. Turned out there was a divorce case on file at the same time between him and his wife, and at the same time, apparently, just broke up with another woman who lost her children because of drug problems. So I think the father has more to worry about the long arm of justice than the mother here.
ABRAMS: Yes. And I have to say I‘m not suggesting that she should be charged. I‘m sort of saying put up or shut up is the point that I‘m making is that, you know, I just think for a judge to say, oh, well - and I‘m going to read—let me read from part of the judge‘s decision: The mother‘s failings, her unbridled anger towards the father, an inability to foster the paternal relationship make her ill-suited to be the custodial parent. It goes on to say, While petitioners had extramarital affairs—referring to the husband—his failings impact on his ability to be a good husband, not a proper custodial parent, irrespective of whether his wife continues with the marriage.
Garrett Lee, what do you make of it? Mr. Lee, what do you make of this? OK.
FELDER: He‘s dumbfounded.
ABRAMS: I don‘t think he can hear me.
All right. Raoul, you know, look, now taking into consideration sort of the point I‘m making, which is sort of put up or shut up, I mean, it seems to me that if they‘re saying she was effectively obstructing justice here and you know that‘s a little bit of a stretch, then I say fine. You want to charge her for that, fine, but don‘t take aware her kids just based on some finding.
FELDER: I get your point, Dan.
FELDER: Your point is well taken. What happened is they used a sledgehammer to knock down a thumb tack that was maybe sticking up here. There were a number of things that could have happened, 10 different, 12 different possibilities—revisit it in a few months or so. It just doesn‘t make any sense. This father, by the way, didn‘t want the children to be born.
ABRAMS: That‘s right.
ABRAMS: Garrett Lee, all right, now I can hear. I mean there is something—I‘m sorry about that. That‘s our fault. There is something very troubling, is there not, about the idea that this mother has brought up these children since day one? I don‘t think—I think she should be punished in some way, meaning make her go to psychological counseling. But the idea that now she can only see her children with monitored visits and very limited visits?
FELDER: That she pays for.
ABRAMS: That she pays for? Why is that acceptable, Mr. Lee?
GARRETT LEE, FAMILY LAW ATTORNEY: I think that maybe, Dan, something that could be found to be acceptable in the sort term. I think that we would all agree that in the long term, it is not the best solution and possibly not what‘s in the best interest of the children. I think we do have to appreciate that this jurist or Judge Goldberg did have the opportunity to review thousands of documents, thousand of pages of court documents, to review hours and hours of testimony, not only from experts appointed by the court, but experts also retained by Miss Marks. And in her opinion it is in the best interest of the children that she take this remedy now and order that the visitation, at least for the time being, be supervised, notwithstanding also the full custody change.
ABRAMS: The idea that they took the children away, though. It seems to me the burden‘s got to be pretty high. When you‘re talking about the best interest of a child, that when you have 4-year-old girls who have only known this mother, and sure, they‘ve had visits from the adulterous father, fine. But they‘ve been brought up by this mother. The bar, I would think, has got to be really high to say this was so bad that we‘re going to take the children away from her and give them to the father who never wanted them to start.
LEE: Yes, Dan, I believe it‘s clear from this Miss—Judge Goldberg‘s rulings that she did believe that the accusations made by Miss Marks in this case were of such a damaging nature that it did warrant her to take—or to exercise such a severe remedy, which is allowed under the laws of the State of New York.
ABRAMS: Yes, but Raoul, allowed is one thing, but this just seems to
FELDER: I‘m sure. It‘s horrendous. Now, by the way, it‘s based on a theory of parental alienation, which is basically junk science, pseudo science, it‘s never been treated to—or examined under the scientific methodology of any sort. It‘s by a doctor who‘s now dead, who many psychiatrists questioned.
And by the way, the judge did something else here that I can‘t understand. She made an incremental decision. You read her decision. That‘s not the whole decision. She said, Wait, I‘m going to render the rest of the decision sometime later. So you couldn‘t even go to the appellate court because the appellate judges who look at these things had to say wait, we don‘t have the whole decision yet. So she‘s been effectively denied her rights to even get appellate review at this point.
ABRAMS: Raoul, do you follow—you do a lot of divorce cases, and I‘ve got to assume that in a—maybe I‘m overstating it, but I‘m going to guess in a majority of them there‘s an allegation by one parent or the other that somehow they are trying to influence the children.
FELDER: That‘s right on target because the problem with this parental alienation, I never had a divorce where each parent says the other one is wonderful, great, the most wonderful person in the world, love them, kiss them all up and everything. That just doesn‘t exist. It‘s like easy work. The two things don‘t go together.
ABRAMS: Yes. I got to tell you, Mr. Lee, I‘m guessing—and again, this is the problem with these family cases, is by the time this appeal is all addressed, these children will have been with the father and his wife for a while, which is a problem. But if it‘s done quickly, my guess is that they‘re going to get returned to the mother. Do you disagree with me?
LEE: You know, I think that does remain to be seen, Dan. I think that we have to see what an appellate court will rule, what decision they‘ll make, whether they‘ll remand it back to the lower court to examine further evidence, whether they‘ll disagree with the lower court‘s interpretations of the laws of the State of New York. I don‘t think that‘s any guarantee but that remains to be seen.
ABRAMS: Raoul, as opposed to what you actually think should happen, what do you think will happen?
FELDER: Oh, well, I think it‘s going to be reversed. I haven‘t met one commentator or any lawyer who looked at the thing say it‘s not going to be reversed. The real problem is that the judge arranged it in such a way there‘s not effective appellate relief. And yes, if she told us further, the federal courts would get involved.
ABRAMS: Yes. All right, Raoul Felder and Garrett Lee, thanks very much, appreciate it.
LEE: Thank you.
ABRAMS: Coming up, as the nation mourns the death of former President Ronald Reagan, the nation‘s capital scrambling to put extensive security in place for Ronald Reagan‘s state funeral. We‘ll take a look at some of those measures.
And tune in all day tomorrow for special coverage. Chris Matthews and Lester Holt anchor as President Reagan‘s body is moved from California to the nation‘s capital for that funeral on Friday.
ABRAMS: We‘re back. The nation‘s capital scrambling to put extensive security in place for Ronald Reagan‘s state funeral, as Californians by the thousands come to the Reagan library to say goodbye. Tens of thousands have paid respect so far. So many have been trying to come see the casket that the library has extended the viewing hours till 10:00 p.m. Pacific Time. Joining us from Simi Valley is NBC‘s George Lewis.
GEORGE LEWIS, NBC CORERSPONDENT: Hey, Dan, the latest update from the Reagan people is that more than 70,000 people have gone through to see Ronald Reagan‘s flag-draped casket. They‘ve been filing through, according to the Reagan people, at the rate of about 3,000 an hour. Earlier, they said they were going through at about 2,000 an hour, but they speeded that up with the addition of extra city buses to try to accommodate everyone. They‘ve also reduced the long wait. So they had originally planned to shut down the line, waiting to get on the buses by now, but now they‘ve extended that until 6:00 Pacific Time. The viewing will go on until 10:00 Pacific Time. They‘re trying to accommodate as many people as possible.
Among the visitors here today was Democratic presidential candidate, John Kerry. He paid a very brief visit, stopped by the casket. We‘re told by people who were in there with him, he crossed himself and then left quietly without making any remarks. There have been other VIPs coming by all day.
Now—from now on, what‘s going to happen is that the viewing will close at 10:00 p.m. tonight. Tomorrow morning at 8:00 a.m., Nancy Reagan will arrive with members of the Reagan family. They‘ll all get in a hearse. There will be a funeral procession to the Point Mugu Naval Air Station, which is about a half-hour drive from here. There will be military honors, pallbearers, a 21-gun salute playing of ruffles and flourishes and “Hail to the Chief.” And then, at about 9:30 Pacific Time, the plane will depart for Andrews Air Force Base in Washington. Mr. Reagan‘s body to lie in state at the capital with a funeral service on Friday in Washington.
Now, this whole thing has been accompanied by very tight security obviously. This has been declared a national security event by the administration. So we have here the presence of the Secret Service controlling security. So the people coming in to view Mr.Reagan here at the library have to go through metal detectors and security procedures before they can go inside the library. That heavy security will continue all weekend. Certainly it will intensify in Washington when Mr. Reagan‘s body lies in state at the U.S. Capitol—Dan.
ABRAMS: George Lewis, thanks very much.
Now to the nation‘s capital, which as George points out, is preparing to host tens of thousands of mourners. Tomorrow, President Reagan‘s casket will be flown to Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland, then sent in a hearse to the heart of Washington. The casket will be transferred to a horse-drawn caisson where it will make its way from 16th Street and Constitution Avenue down to Pennsylvania Avenue and on to the capitol where the president will lie in state.
On Friday, leaders and dignitaries from over 170 countries will come together at the National Cathedral for President Reagan‘s funeral. President George Bush, his father, former President Bush, former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, former Canadian Prime Minister, Bryan Mulrooney, Supreme Court justice, Sandra Day O‘Connor, all expected to have an active role in the proceedings. This combined with the present day reality of terror threats has sent police, Secret Service, the FBI and other agencies into overdrive to make sure the security is tight. Greg Staddard (ph) of NBC station WRC in Washington has more.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): Law enforcement from several agencies will provide security as the nation‘s capitol pays its final respects to former President Ronald Reagan. Chief Ramsey says more than 20 world leaders will be in town, and that presents a challenge for police.
CHIEF CHARLES RAMSEY, WASHINGTON DC POLICE: We do have numerous heads of state that will be coming. Some are individuals that we consider to be somewhat high risk, so they will require some additional coverage and security.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: D.C. Police have cancelled all days off from Wednesday through Friday. The Joint Operations Command Center will be up and running by the middle of the week, complete with 14 cameras constantly scanning the area.
RAMSEY: Our Special Operations Division is already working 12-hour shifts and have had their days off cancelled. They‘re carrying the brunt of this in terms of a lot of the escorts and so forth.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Like President John F. Kennedy‘s funeral, a horse-drawn caisson will carry Mr. Reagan‘s body to and from the capitol building where thousands of visitors will have to pass through security checkpoints before they‘re allowed inside.
CHIEF TERRY GAINER, U.S CAPITOL POLICE: And we‘ll be entering on the south side of the capitol, so they‘ll really kind of cue up over in the Garfield Circle area, which is right across from the Botanical Gardens. They‘ll go up our walkway there and pass through magnetometers and be allowed into the capitol.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Police say history indicates the process route will be packed and among the crowd plenty of law enforcement.
RAMSEY: In a post 9/11 world we have to be very concerned about that and aware of the potential for something to happen, not that we‘ve received any information at all.
ABRAMS: That was Greg Staddard (ph) of NBC station WRC in Washington reporting.
A programming note. We won‘t be here tomorrow, but for good reason so that MSNBC can bring you live coverage of President Reagan‘s casket arriving in Washington and its procession down Pennsylvania Avenue to the capitol. Chris Matthews and Lester Holt will anchor our coverage all day. MSNBC will have live coverage of the former president‘s funeral on Friday as well.
For an interactive look at the events honoring President Reagan this week, log on to reagan.msnbc.com.
Coming up, how administration lawyers have tried to justify the use of
torture in the way only a lawyer can. It‘s my closing argument. And
donƒ_™t forget, send us your e-mails. I read them. Include your name
and where youƒ_™re writing from
ABRAMS: My closing argument: how lawyers can justify just about anything, including torture. “The Wall Street Journal” and “New York Times” report that in 2003 a team of administration lawyers wrote a memo concluding that President Bush is not bound by either an international treaty or a federal law that ban the use of torture. Come on! “The Times” reports the lawyers even used this absurd argument to justify their findings: that even if an interrogator knows—quote—that severe pain will result from his actions. If causing such harm is not his objective, he lacks the requisite, specific intent even though the defendant did not act in good faith.
Translated into English, they‘re saying that even if some sadistic interrogator uses torture, it‘s not a problem as long as the interrogator has some goal other than just hurting the guy. His goal could be to go to sleep earlier that night. And so according to these findings, torture would be OK if he thought he might get some answers faster. As long as the interrogators‘ reason for using the tire iron was to go to sleep early rather than to harm the subject, it‘s OK? What kind of reasoning is that?
The report also says the interrogator is not guilty of torture if he or she—quote—ƒ_oHas a good faith belief his actions will not result in prolonged mental harm.” Look, I have long accepted the administration‘s controversial argument that many suspected terrorists should not be considered prisoners of war, thereby limiting their ability to challenge their detentions in U.S. courts. And I am willing to occasionally turn a blind eye if a key al Qaeda operative is being questioned abroad aggressively, even physically. And I believe Attorney General Ashcroft when he said today the administration rejects torture as a matter of policy. But the lawyers are still defending it as a matter of law. Language that will almost certainly be used as a defense by the soldiers accused of abusing prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison. This memo is clearly a lawyer‘s effort to legally justify the legally unjustifiable. It effectively argues that no rules apply to the U.S. If true, what right would we possibly have to criticize others who torture U.S. citizens or our troops? We‘re supposed to be better than that even our lawyers.
All right, Iƒ_™ve had my say. Now, it‘s time for your rebuttal. Last night, I read an email from Barbara Berger in Glenview, Illinois that caused quite a stir. Barbara, along with other Michael Jackson defenders, thought it showed bias by us against Michael Jackson that we did not cover a recent announcement by the authorities that they found no wrongdoing by Jackson in connection with new allegations against him, separate from the ones he was charged with. I said we didn‘t cover the recent announcement because we never covered those allegations in the first place, because they didn‘t seem credible enough. Well, many, many faithful ABRAMS REPORT viewers who also happen to be Michael Jackson fans wrote in correcting me and attached a transcript from our April 14 show where I did mention the story.
Susana Sierra writes, “Last night on your email rebuttals, you claimed you didn‘t bother to bring up the fact that Mr. Jackson was cleared of second allegations because you‘ve never covered it on your show. Well, you did.” Attaching the transcript.
From Dallas, Texas, Jennifer Fitzgerald—“You obvisouly have slective memory. Please take a look at your own transcript and perhaps your own repressed memories become clearer.”
And Blessing in Washington, D.C.—“You said you didn‘t cover Michael Jackson being cleared of the L.A. allegations because you never covered the actual investigation. Well, guess what, you‘re a liar! Yes, now, please admit you‘re wrong.”
OK, look, a lot of others saying the same thing. Blessing, I was sort of wrong. On April 14, we did report the LAPD was investigating another claim of child abuse against Michael Jackson dating back to 1980‘s. I should have said that. But it was in the context of a discussion about, and I quote myself, “What happens when people start coming out of the woodwork in high profile trials.” Even former Santa Barbara Sheriff Jim Thomas said on that show it sounded like an allegation he had heard which was deemed to be not credible.
The focus of the discussion was on how you deal with bogus claims in high profile trials. So while we did not cover the allegation in a way that gave it any credence, I did use it as a jumping off point for a discussion. I was wrong to choose the words I did, but I do not believe it showed any bias on our part not to do an in-depth story that just backed up the premise of our previous segment. But seriously, thank you all for paying such close attention to the program. I know it‘s you who‘s always going to keep me honest.
Your e-mails, abramsreport—one word -- @msnbc.com. Please include your name and where you‘re writing from. We read them on the air.
Coming up next, “HARDBALL WITH CHRIS MATTHEWS.” Joining Chris tonight, Richard Allen, who served as President Reagan‘s national security adviser from ‘81 to ‘82. Don‘t forget Chris and Lester anchor tomorrow‘s coverage of President Reagan. I will see you Thursday.
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