Rich Ream, Dr. Dan Fischer, Mark Shurtleff, Scott Stewart, Drew Pinsky, Gregg Olsen
ANNOUNCER: DEBORAH NORVILLE TONIGHT.
DEBORAH NORVILLE, HOST: The lost boys, raised in a polygamist community, now they‘ve been kicked out, 400 young boys suddenly forced to fend on their own.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE They simply knock on their door and take them and let them off in the desert.
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NORVILLE: Some as young as 13. And wait until you hear why.
Tonight, exclusive, one of polygamy‘s darkest secrets.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Terrifying, absolutely terrifying.
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NORVILLE: What now for Mary Kay Letourneau? She spent seven years in prison for having sex with her 6th grade student.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VILI FUALAAU: I don‘t know what my feelings are right now, but I know I do love her.
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NORVILLE: Now he‘s 21 and she‘s free. Will they reunite? Plus: Star witness? She was the other woman in Scott Peterson‘s double life.
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AMBER FREY, SCOTT PETERSON‘S FORMER LOVER: We did have a romantic relationship.
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NORVILLE: Does she know anything about Laci Peterson‘s murder? Amber Frey gets set to take the stand.
ANNOUNCER: From studio 3K in Rockefeller Center, Deborah Norville.
And good evening, everybody. Imagine you‘re as young as 13 years old and you‘re being kicked out of your home, told to leave your community with nothing more than the clothes on your back, nowhere to go, no food to eat. Well, that‘s what‘s happening right now in the twin border cities of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Arizona. That‘s the home of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, which broke away from the main church several decades ago.
There are more polygamists living in those two cities than anywhere in America, upwards of 10,000. And an estimated 400 boys and young men have been kicked out of the fundamentalist church in the past six years for such transgressions as talking to girls, exposing their arms on hot summer days, or simply watching movies. The sect is led by Warren Jeffs, a reclusive self-proclaimed prophet who‘s believed to have himself at least 75 wives.
It is a fiercely closed society, where outsiders are shunned. But since last January, allegations of sexual abuse of children and child abuse have come to light as members, both men and women, have left the community. And now there are new revolutions of forced expulsion from the community of hundreds of boys. Why? Well, some charge that it‘s one way of getting rid of young men who could be considered competition for older men hoping to marry young girls.
Joining me tonight exclusively to shed some light on this secretive society is Rich Ream. Rich was expelled from the community when he was 20 years old. Also with us tonight, Dr. Dan Fischer, a former member of the polygamist church who left 12 years ago. He‘s the founder of the Diversity Foundation, a group which helps boys who‘ve been expelled from the church. And I thank you both for being with us.
Rich, I want to start with you first. What did you do to get kicked out of the group?
RICH REAM, EXPELLED FROM POLYGAMIST COMMUNITY : Well, that‘s actually an extremely long story, but to make it short, as we have limited air time, I was found to be in violation of several of their extremely strict rules of lifestyle. To cite a few—association with the opposite sex, consuming alcohol, using tobacco products—fairly normal teenager behavior.
NORVILLE: And how did you find out that you were persona non grata, that you were being kicked out? What did they actually do, put you in a truck and just haul you out of town?
REAM: Oh, no. Absolutely not. When it first came to the attention
of the church authorities that I was in violation of some of their rules, I
was called in for an interview with Warren Jeffs, at which point, he placed
me on what he referred to as probation. And I was to have regular contact
with him once weekly, if I recall correctly. And at some point, I was to -
· if he decided I was worthy of being reinstated in the church, then I could be re-baptized and reinstated in the priesthood structure of the church.
NORVILLE: And you didn‘t pass inspection, I guess, weren‘t considered worthy and were given your walking papers?
REAM: More or less, yes. That‘s what happened. I had several more visits with him, and each time I would talk to him, he would ask me what I had been doing, and if I spoke of anything that wasn‘t becoming to his rules and criteria there, I would be rebuked for it again. And eventually, when it came down to it, he finally told me the society had no use for me.
NORVILLE: And so you‘re told to leave town. What skills did you have? What education did you have? How were you going to be able to make your way in the outside society?
REAM: Well, I‘m thankful that I have always had very good survival skills. I‘ve got a strong back and two good hands. I‘ve always been able to make my living somehow, whatever it took to do it. I‘m experienced in several phases of home construction. I currently hold a job driving a truck. I‘ve done that for the past four years, and that‘s what I was doing at the time I was expelled, as well.
NORVILLE: And Dr. Fischer, I gather the story that Rich describes is one that you‘ve heard many, many times over.
DR. DAN FISCHER, HELPS BOYS EXPELLED FROM POLYGAMIST COMMUNITIES:
Yes, we‘ve heard stories like Rich‘s. We‘ve heard stories that are more tragic than Richard‘s. One that comes to mind, a 15-year-old who was approached by his father—and tragically, this was a stepfather. This society has destroyed about 160 families within the last few years, so it was a stepfather who was interacting with him, and at age 15, told him he had three hours to be out of town. He could pack his bags, and he had to find his own way out, but he was not welcome back on UEP property, which is the property owned by FLDS church.
NORVILLE: And what was this kid‘s transgression? And does it mirror what Rich was describing—smoking and, you know, drinking beer or whatever?
FISCHER: Yes. Most of the transgressions can be less than smoking and drinking beer. In fact, looking at movies is a transgression, and that means G or PG movies. It means talking to someone of the opposite sex. It can be a number of issues. It can even be playing sports. Sports has been outlawed in this community. Holidays are outlawed. There becomes so many opportunities for transgressions to occur that it‘s absurd.
NORVILLE: We know that about a week ago Saturday, you led a group of these young boys on the steps of the state capitol to publicize this situation. And a couple of those boys came forward and talked about what their feelings were like when they, like Rich, like the boy you mentioned, were told to leave. Here‘s just a short sampling of what some of them had to say.
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TOM STEED, EXCOMMUNICATED FROM POLYGAMIST SECT: It took a good year (UNINTELLIGIBLE) contemplating suicide and such. And I believe all of these other children go through that, at some point.
GILBERT, EXCOMMUNICATED FROM POLYGAMIST SECT: It‘s hard to get away from something you‘ve known your whole life.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NORVILLE: The first boy said he contemplated suicide, and it took him almost a year to get over that. Help us understand, because you were once a part of this community, why being told to leave is such a traumatic experience for these young boys.
REAM: That‘s a very good question, and it goes to the basis upon which the society exists. We all have been raised as what is described as “calves in the stall.” That means that you were spoon-fed everything that you were to know. You look at where it‘s evolved to today, where television is outlawed, news is controlled. Most families play a couple hours of Warren‘s monotone sermons daily. It is a brainwashing of such proportions that you are indoctrinated that the rest of the world is to be destroyed, you‘ll go to hell.
Now, from a practical sense, one of the greatest controls is the reality that in these two border towns, the FLDS, the UEP, owns all of the homes, all of the property. They own the businesses. The families today, the fathers today know that if they are not totally obedient to Warren, they can have their own families destroyed. Their wives and children are taken. The husbands are sent out of town. Many within days have their wives remarried to other men with the children.
NORVILLE: Well, let me ask before we bring in our next guest, are some of these boys being pushed out of the community as a means of control of the parents of these young men?
FISCHER: I‘m not sure I understand your question.
NORVILLE: In other words, We‘re going to kick your kid out as a way of making sure that you toe the line.
FISCHER: That can be part of it. Certainly, there‘s other ways to have these parents toe the line. Many of the parents, I‘m sure, can feel bad when told—when instructed to kick their children out, but they know they must or they will lose their families, their homes. There are other parents who are in synch with Warren and feel it‘s the right thing to do to expel their children.
NORVILLE: Also joining our discussion is Flora Jessup. She‘s a child abuse advocate who has helped many young girls escape the polygamist community. She also was a former polygamist wife who herself escaped from polygamy 18 years ago.
Ms. Jessup, you‘ve been on the program before, and I remember you telling me that this wasn‘t religion, this was terrorism. The story of what these boys are going through very much mirrors what you‘ve been doing with young girls.
FLORA JESSUP, ESCAPED FROM POLYGAMIST COMMUNITY: Yes, it does.
NORVILLE: And why does it continue? Why in 2004 is this kind of activity able to happen?
JESSUP: I don‘t know. It‘s—it‘s continuing because we don‘t have the enforcement in place and the steps in place to help the people that do want out.
NORVILLE: And one of the problems in these communities, Ms. Jessup, is that the local law enforcement are very much a part of the religious community.
NORVILLE: In other words, they take their orders less from the statutes on the books, it‘s been alleged, than from the gentleman who runs the group.
NORVILLE: Can you explain how that works?
JESSUP: You‘ve got a law enforcement set-up in the community that is actually being used to punish—a lot of the young boys have had run-ins with the law enforcement up there, and it‘s because of the—on the orders of the leaders of the FLDS.
NORVILLE: We‘re going to take a short break. By the way, we‘ve had an ongoing request for months for sect leader Warren Jeffs to come on the program. Up until now, he has not responded to any of our requests.
We‘ll take a break. More with our guests. And when we come back, Utah attorney general Mark Shurtleff will join us. We‘ll ask him why this continues to happen, the same question we‘ve been asking, even though polygamy is illegal. And we‘ll also look at the fact that he has volunteered to mentor one of the boys expelled from the community. Back in a moment.
NORVILLE: Hundreds of boys have been expelled from Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Arizona, the twin polygamist cities dominated by the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Mark Shurtleff is Utah‘s attorney general. He is vowing to prosecute sexual abuse and welfare fraud within those polygamist communities. He‘s also signed up to mentor one of the expelled boys.
He joins us, along with Rich Ream, who was expelled when he was 20 years old, Dr. Fischer, a former polygamist and founder of the Diversity Foundation, a group which helps these boys, and Flora Jessup, a child abuse advocate who‘s helped young girls escape from the polygamist community. She also is a former polygamist wife who escaped from the community herself 18 years ago.
Mr. Attorney General, I got to ask you, if there‘s a 13-year-old kid who‘s been given the heave-ho by his parents, aren‘t those parents breaking the law and shouldn‘t they be arrested?
MARK SHURTLEFF, UTAH ATTORNEY GENERAL: I think they are, Deborah. And we have to understand the desperate nature of hundreds of boys. We are just trying to identify them now. We first were made aware of the numbers of boys about a year ago. We‘re trying to find out who truly has been kicked out. Some of the boys have run away. We need to make sure we follow the law.
But I hope your viewers understand how horrible the situation is for these boys. I mean, they are truly lost when not only are they cast into a society that they are ill prepared to deal with, with little or no education, and having been told that everybody—all authorities, all social service providers are evil, that they‘re of the devil and they‘re not to trust them, and so—and in addition to that, they‘ve lost their faith, so they are completely without rudder and without hope.
NORVILLE: Tell me about the boy that you‘ve agreed to take under your wing. What‘s his story?
SHURTLEFF: Well, we‘re still working on which boy is best suited for my situation and how I can help. There are so many that we want to be able to help. I am the chairman of the Utah Mentoring Network, which is there to try and provide help for at-risk kids. And now we have hundreds of boys who need not only financial support, they need a friend, they need a mentor. They need a guide. They need somebody to help them with their education. We are talking in the future, hopefully, once we have enough people signed up, to maybe have some people do foster care and maybe even adopt down the road. Right now, it‘s time to get names of people who—all over this country who are willing to help out these boys, is to call and get ahold of Dan Fischer‘s organization...
NORVILLE: Right. We‘re going to give the phone number at the end of the segment so that people have a chance to do that.
What I don‘t understand is why does it take so long? If this came to your attention a year ago and you had several dozens of boys a week ago on the steps of the state house there in Salt Lake City, what do you need to know in order to go knock on the door or the gate of that community and say, Mr. Jeffs and all these other parents out there, you‘ve got some ‘splaining to do?
SHURTLEFF: Yes. First of all, we need to get the boys to be willing to talk to us. Some of them...
NORVILLE: And these boys we‘re looking at on television are unwilling to talk?
SHURTLEFF: Many of them are. They‘re still afraid. You see on television many of them still hiding their faces. Only a few are coming forward. They will talk to Dan. They see him as...
SHURTLEFF: ... somebody of their group. But coming to us and speaking with us and getting the help that they need, they‘re hesitant. But some of the boys now, who have been in my office and spoken with me, have talked to the other boys and said, Hey, you can trust this guy. He is there trying to help out. We need to be able to put the services in place. Bottom line is the state of Utah, state of Arizona, we‘re not prepared to be able to handle these boys. That‘s why the call to the community.
NORVILLE: Rich, what are the other boys saying? You‘ve had a chance to talk to a lot of these kids and hear about their fears their and reluctance to share their facts with the state authorities.
REAM: Well, as far as the other boys go, the ones that I have had close contact with, it‘s exactly as Mr. Shurtleff already stated. They don‘t trust government agencies. They don‘t trust the law enforcement. And as far as not trusting law enforcement and government goes, that‘s a product of the society they were raised in, as well.
For example, just to cite a quick example, you have—or your parents are beating on you, so you call the local police force, and they show up and have a few words with your father and leave, and nothing‘s ever done about it, so it happens again. They have absolutely no trust in our government or society in general, and you can‘t blame someone for failing to trust something they are so new to and so entirely unfamiliar with.
NORVILLE: Dr. Fischer, you used to be a part of this community, and I know you left about a dozen years ago. Why did you leave?
FISCHER: Well, it was principally because I could see it deteriorating at such a rapid rate. It is a different society than it was when I was there. We—we‘ve seen tragic issues ahead when they became apocalyptic. They started preaching that the world was going to end in the year 2000, that, in fact, they had to reach a perfected level which would entitle them to be lifted up at a certain spot arranged by the prophet. They would be lifted up, and the rest of North America would be destroyed.
This has been used for a fear tactic. It continues to be used as a fear tactic. There‘s been many dates identified since the year 2000. These dates come and go...
FISCHER: ... and they reset dates.
NORVILLE: You know, what I don‘t understand—I mean, Ms. Jessup has used the term “terrorists,” and we talk about terrorism now with al Qaeda and they talk about trying to infiltrate the terrorist cells. Dr. Fischer, how hard would it be for someone in Mr. Shurtleff‘s law enforcement arena to go undercover, to become a part of this community, and get the goods, if indeed laws are being broken and children are at risk and families are in danger, to go in and make the case and put an end to this alleged behavior?
SHURTLEFF: Just your question demonstrates the challenge. Namely, this society is a cloistered society which, from the prophet of the ‘30s, were instructed that they should raise their people. They do not, as a rule, take in converts. It would be near impossible for anyone to enter and join the society. It is a society which has evolved losing our gorgeous American freedoms in steps each decade since the ‘40s, the ‘50s, and now find themselves in a virtual Taliban-like condition with virtual Taliban-like leadership.
NORVILLE: And Flora Jessup, let me go to you now. Given the things that Dr. Fischer has said and that you‘ve expressed, as well, on this program, how are young ladies and young men within the community getting information about life on the outside, that it‘s not to be feared, or do they simply not get that word?
JESSUP: They don‘t get—well, they‘re taught—whatever they‘re taught in the community is that—that‘s what they know. They don‘t know anything other than what they‘re being told because there‘s no outside influences being allowed in.
NORVILLE: All right. We‘re going to let that be the last word. Attorney General Mark Shurtleff, you mentioned that there is an address that people can get in touch with, a phone number. We‘re going to show that in just a moment. And will you come back on, sir, when you‘ve got some arrests to make, and tell us about them?
SHURTLEFF: Absolutely. I‘d be delighted to. We‘re hoping for that.
NORVILLE: All right. Attorney General Shurtleff, Flora Jessup, Rich Ream, we wish you lots of luck, and the other young men you‘re working with. And Dr. Fischer, good luck to you, as well.
By the way, if you do want some more information on how you could play a role in helping some these displaced boys you‘ve heard about, you can contact the Diversity Foundation. Their toll-free number, 1-877-GET-A-DAD.
ANNOUNCER: Coming up: Her love affair with a 12-year-old boy led to a seven-year prison sentence and two daughters. Now this registered sex offender says she‘d consider having more children with her former student. But will they reunite?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VILI FUALAAU: I don‘t know what my feelings are right now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NORVILLE: What‘s in store for Mary Kay Letourneau, when DEBORAH NORVILLE TONIGHT returns.
NORVILLE: On now to the story of Mary Kay Letourneau and Vili Fualaau. She‘s the former elementary school teacher who was released from prison Wednesday after spending seven years behind bars for having sex with Fualaau, her former sixth guide student when he was just 12 years old and she was 34. She was convicted of two counts of child rape.
The couple had two children together. The girls are now 7 and 5 years old. And this weekend a judge agreed to lift the no-contact order between Letourneau and Fualaau, who is now 21 years old. He‘s back home in Washington state to see if he and Mary Kay can make a life together.
Joining me now is Scott Stewart, Vili Fualaau‘s attorney. He talked with his client over the weekend. Also with us tonight, Anne Bremner. She is an attorney who befriended Mary Kay Letourneau and spoke with Mary Kay just about two weeks ago, before her release.
We welcome you both to the program.
Scott, I‘ll start with you first. She spoke with Vili over the weekend. What‘s he have to say about Mary Kay getting out and when might the two of them have a chance to meet, now that the order has been lifted?
SCOTT STEWART, VILI FUALAAU‘S ATTORNEY: Oh, I think he‘s very excited about Mary Kay getting out. I actually talked to him when he was in New York. I was the one that was able to tell him that the order had been lifted. He was thrilled, he was excited, couldn‘t wait to get home. I can tell you, they haven‘t actually met, but he‘s looking forward to it.
NORVILLE: Have you spoken to Mary Kay as well?
STEWART: I have. Mary Kay contacted me yesterday. I was in my car, driving down the road, in no way did I expect a call. I have made my phone number available to just about everyone, and Mary Kay called, and primarily I think because I was someone she could reach out to in order to reach out to Vili.
NORVILLE: And what is she—what is she looking forward to, what has she expressed to you? That she wants to see him right away? That she wants to connect with her kids first? What is her timetable?
STEWART: You know, what‘s—I think she was as surprised as Vili that the order got lifted as fast as it did, and she had—she expressed to me that she‘s—just gotten out of seven years in prison. She went so far as to say she‘s adjusting to the food, and she was not prepared for Vili to be available so fast. And she had made arrangements to spend some time with her family. She told me Vili was a top priority right now. But she also recognizes that she has four children independent of Vili that she needs to reconnect with, and she needs to make sure that she can start forward with those children, independent of you folks, independent of the media.
NORVILLE: Sure, sure.
STEWART: She wants to reconnect with her kids and make sure that that relationship can carry forward in a positive fashion. But she clearly had the goal of reconnecting with Vili as soon as she felt that she could comfortably do so and do so without having any negative impact on her children.
NORVILLE: Anne Bremner, you spoke with Mary Kay about two weeks before she got out. Have you had a chance to speak with her since she has been free?
ANNE BREMNER, ATTORNEY: Yes, I talked to her today on the phone.
I know Mary—it‘s like they say you meet the most interesting people at work. I know her because I defended the police department out here in a case that Vili Fualaau and his mom brought against the police in the school district. And that‘s how I got to know Mary.
BREMNER: And she‘s doing well. I think, like Scott said, she wants to make sure that she thinks of her children first and acts responsibly after being in prison for seven years.
NORVILLE: And give us a sense of how all this is going to come together. She and her husband, Steve Letourneau have four kids. He‘s since moved to Alaska and the children are living up there. Are there plans for her to reconnect with her older children from her first marriage, from her only marriage?
BREMNER: Yes. And she has seen her older children far more infrequently than she‘s seen her children with Vili Fualaau. But, of course, she wants to see them. They‘re still young. I mean, the youngest is 10.
And, you know, when you think six children in this case that are affected, she knows that they‘re the most important consideration right now, above all else.
NORVILLE: What does she as a mother think that needs to do to reconnect with her six kids, with four who haven‘t seen her very much for the last seven years and two who have never had an opportunity to live with her? It must be a daunting task.
BREMNER: Well, exactly. It‘s almost something that is so daunting, it might seem insurmountable. But she loves them. She‘s a mother. And she wants to be a mother first. She wants to be a daughter. She wants to move slowly in terms of seeing Vili Fualaau.
She‘s trying to be responsible. There‘s been a lot of media money in this case, tabloids. There‘s been so much attention. Mary can benefit under Washington law. She never has.
NORVILLE: She cannot.
BREMNER: No, she can. She can, but she has not. She‘s chosen not to benefit financially. And she‘s got cameras all over her house and all kinds of attention. And she‘s just trying to take one step at a time, as she‘s come out of prison after seven years.
NORVILLE: I gather Vili is going at it much the same way. Here is something that he said the other day to Matt Lauer on the “Today” program the day after Mary Kay was released from prison.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THE TODAY SHOW”)
VILI FUALAAU, FATHER: I think about it all the time. I think about it like through the years that have passed by. I‘ve thought about like the first thing I‘m going to say, how am I going to react. Am I going to cry or, no, I don‘t want to cry, like certain words, like what am I going to say? Am I going to hug her first? Am I going to say something nice, something romantic? Or am I just going to—or is she going to run to me, or who is going to run to who? It just goes on and on and on.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NORVILLE: Scott Stewart, help us understand how prepared Vili is at the age of 21 for a life with this woman for whom he clearly has a great deal of affection still.
STEWART: You know, I obviously only recently met Vili, but I can tell you, because I do criminal defense, dealing with males in my office is a frequent part of practice.
Vili is mature. He‘s articulate. I conveyed to him last night Mary Kay‘s feelings about, you know, wanting to make sure that all of the media surrounding this—and Anne Bremner is right. It‘s overwhelming out here for them. I conveyed to him that she wanted to make sure that didn‘t affect or impact her ability to reconnect with her kids. And Vili stepped back and said, that‘s just smart.
He totally understood. He‘s there. He‘s waiting, and I think he‘s ready when Mary Kay is ready. And Vili is not in fantasy land. Vili—he‘s had some strong feelings for about eight years, and he‘s taken into it like a 21-year-old, a mature 21-year-old. He hopes that those feelings take him somewhere, but he feels he needs to connect with Mary Kay. He looks forward to when she‘s ready to do that, and hopefully those feelings will move forward and they‘ll develop. And he‘s real excited about that.
NORVILLE: And Anne Bremner, when you speak with Mary Kay and she envisions her future life, what does that picture look like as she describes it to you?
BREMNER: Well, over time, she has always been—her aim has always been true. She has always said this is a love story. She acknowledges it was a crime story because she served a lot of time. But, you know, she‘s a very hopeful person. She‘s a very positive person, and she wants to have everything, you know, end with a happy ending.
NORVILLE: Does that include a life with Vili, do you think?
BREMNER: I think it could, and I think she‘s been guarded about that, because the no-contact order was in place. She didn‘t want to jeopardize that. So she didn‘t want to say anything through anybody.
And like Scott said, it happened so fast, getting lifted, I think that there‘s kind of a morning after where you sit and you sit back and you say I want to make sure everything I do is right, because there‘s been—this has been such a tragedy for so many years for so many people.
All right, we‘ll let that be the last word. Anne Bremner, Scott Stewart, thank you so much, both of you, for being with me.
STEWART: Thank you.
BREMNER: Thank you.
STEWART: Thank you.
NORVILLE: When we come back, we‘ll continue to look at the relationship between Mary Kay and Vili, including some of their love letters. I‘ll be joined by an author who chronicled their relationship. And we‘ll also speak with addiction specialist Dr. Drew Pinsky.
NORVILLE: What drove Mary Kay Letourneau to have sex with her 12-year-old student? Could her love letters hold some clues to the question?
That‘s coming up next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THE TODAY SHOW”)
MATT LAUER, CO-HOST, “THE TODAY SHOW”: Do you like being a father?
FUALAAU: Well, you know, I can‘t take it away. So I deal with it and I appreciate what God has put in my life. I love the kids and I love being a father.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NORVILLE: That was Vili Fualaau on “The Today Show” talking about being a father of two at the age of 21.
Vili Fualaau first slept with his former elementary school teacher Mary Kay Letourneau when he was just 12 years old. She was 34. Mary Kay, of course, is now out of prison. As we‘ve heard just a moment ago, the two do plan to need again when the media hoopla dies down, whenever that might be.
Joining me now is Dr. Drew Pinsky. He‘s an addiction specialist, the co-host of the radio show “Love Line.” Also with us tonight, Gregg Olsen, who wrote a book about the Mary Kay Letourneau story called “If Loving You Is Wrong.”
Gentlemen, thanks, both, for being with us.
Dr. Drew, you hear from kids all the time on your Web site, on your radio show. Are there a lot of boys fantasizing about having sex with their teacher?
DR. DREW PINSKY, AUTHOR, “CRACKED”: Well, it certainly is the case that young males fantasize about having sex with females older and younger.
But the fact is when a 12-year-old is actually whisked away by an adult, it can have shattering effects, male or female. There‘s sort of a double standard in our culture. People think that somehow if this happens to a male, it‘s OK. We understand if a 12-year-old female is abused in this manner, it is something that can be catastrophic.
The reality is, if you look at the outcome data on these 12-year-old males, they have lots of depression, lots of personality disorders, serious problems functioning later in life. So to think of it as something that‘s completely benign is simply untrue.
NORVILLE: And there are also a lot of people in the abuse counseling arena who are a little bit perturbed frankly at the media, because they say this is described as a love affair, a forbidden relationship, as though it‘s all sort of hearts and flowers. Do you get upset about that?
PINSKY: Oh, I was squirming in my seat when I heard Mrs. Bremner a few minutes ago talk about Mary Kay referring to this as a love affair. It‘s unfortunate.
I wish love affairs worked out like this, but this is pathology. This is a recipe for disaster, taking a victim and a victimizer, a perpetrator, and putting them together, unless they‘ve both been treated for a long period of time. They will trade role of victim and victimizers in this relationship and it could really be a catastrophe. Now, I understand they want to form a family. I understand there are really serious issues to be considered here.
But let‘s look at what this actually is. Consider for a second, Deborah, what if a 10-year-old had a pituitary tumor that made him look like a male.
PINSKY: Is it OK, then, that he gets along with a 30-year-old female? This is a 12-year-old. What if one of Mary Kay‘s 12-year-old children gets whisked away by a 35-year-old? That‘s OK? It‘s an incredibly disturbed situation.
And the fact that Vili still idealizes it and doesn‘t question what a 35-year-old is doing with him suggests that he hasn‘t made any progress in this either.
NORVILLE: And I want to also take a look at some letters with Mary Kay.
Gregg Olsen, you wrote the book about this story. And as a part of your research, I know you‘ve come across letters that Mary Kay was able to write in defiance of the no-contact order to Vili while she was in prison. Before we look at the specifics, what do those letters say to you?
GREGG OLSEN, AUTHOR, “IF LOVING YOU IS WRONG”: Well, they pretty much document really where she was at, at that time, which was, she was deeply obsessed or devoted, however you want to put it.
She wanted contact with him. She wanted him to go to the courts and say that he was a party to this relationship, that she did not rape him, and that it was a love affair. She wanted it, and he never did it, which I found very telling. I mean, he had many years to do so.
But I want to say something about Dr. Drew, what he just said. You know, what we‘re hearing now, hopefully, is a stronger, older, and more mature Mary Kay Letourneau. And certainly with Vili Fualaau, we‘re hearing a guy that is a lot more thoughtful and he‘s thinking about whether this really is the right relationship.
Put the spin on it however you want. It will be a tough relationship to make happen. And I think they‘re going to try. So let them try.
NORVILLE: And when you go back and think about that clip that we saw just as we‘re coming in from the break, Matt asked him, do you like being a father? He loves his girls. It‘s a blessing in his life. Pause, pause, pause, pause, pause, I like being a father.
PINSKY: What he said was, you can‘t take them away.
When somebody asks me if I like being a father, I say, I love my children. It‘s the best, the greatest thing that ever happened, not, you can‘t take them away now...
PINSKY: ... be undone. That speaks volumes about where he is. He‘s a 21-year-old young man who is trying to contend with these profound life circumstances that have been brought upon him by an adult. There‘s a reason there‘s a covenant between adults and children. It‘s to protect the children.
There‘s a reason laws are in place, to protect the 12-year-old, no other reason than that, because the effects are profound.
NORVILLE: And let‘s look at some of the contact that was made when this boy was still very much a minor. This was a letter that Mary Kay sent in 1998 while she was pregnant. She said—quote—“I miss you too much. Every day, my body changes. My hair is so long. I know I look better than the prettiest you‘ve ever seen me. My tummy is growing every day and she,” meaning the baby, “is so strong and beautiful looking. If they take her from me, I will die. She‘s all I have.”
That‘s a letter sent to Vili when he‘s, what, 16 years old maybe?
OLSEN: Yes, about 15.
NORVILLE: About 15 years old.
Gregg, what do you believe the impact on Vili was at that time?
OLSEN: Well, I‘ll tell you what. He was a very confused young man. He did go through all the things Dr. Drew has mentioned. There was depression. There was, you know, trouble with the law. There was drug and alcohol abuse. All of that happened to him.
But what I‘m saying now is, the man that I saw, the young man I saw three weeks ago is very thoughtful about this. He‘s not going to rush into this and say that this is a fairy tale after all. He‘s going to see whether it works out for him and for Mary and for their kids. So I think he‘s moved on somewhat. There‘s a lot of spin out here that this is the forbidden love story of the century or whatever, but he‘s in control right now, I believe.
NORVILLE: And, Drew, when you hear Anne Bremner say that Mary Kay‘s priority right now is to try to reconnect with all of her children, not only the two that she had with Vili, but her four older kids that are now living up in Alaska, are those the comments of a woman who has learned while she‘s in prison and benefited, presumably, from some counseling?
PINSKY: I hope so. The fact is that she apparently has had some treatment. And if indeed she has, she would look very cautiously about the relationship with Vili, as Gregg is saying.
And if indeed there has been success and progress, we will see this indeed be a very slow progress. And, listen, this is not an evil person. This is a woman who has suffered greatly, believe me.
PINSKY: I imagine she‘s suffered profoundly. And the fact that she is a mother trying to reconnect with six children, it is a tragic story, but it is a story of pathology and mental health issues. And it needs to be dealt with accordingly.
NORVILLE: Well, listen, I appreciate you, Drew, for making sure that we in the media keep honest as far as that goes.
And Gregg Olsen, thank you so much for being with us and sharing your insights on a story that has certainly fascinated America for a number of years. I appreciate both of you being with us.
ANNOUNCER: Up next, she was once Scott Peterson‘s lover.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AMBER FREY, FORMER MISTRESS OF SCOTT PETERSON: When I discovered he was involved in the—or the Laci Peterson disappearance case, I immediately contacted the Modesto Police Department.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: Now Amber Frey‘s testimony could help convict him of murder. But what does she know about the death of Laci Peterson?
DEBORAH NORVILLE TONIGHT is coming right back.
NORVILLE: The other woman in Scott Peterson‘s life, his former mistress Amber Frey is supposed to take the stand tomorrow in Peterson‘s murder trial. What might she know about the murder of Laci Peterson and just how damaging could her testimony be to Scott Peterson?
Joining me now from Redwood City, California, with a look ahead to what‘s coming is Dan Abrams, NBC‘s chief legal correspondent and the host of course of “THE ABRAMS REPORT” here on MSNBC.
Dan, I gather you have got some new information about just how coosome a twosome these pair may have been.
DAN ABRAMS, NBC CHIEF LEGAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, just new details about the dates that they went on, sort of how they met. They first meet at a bar. They sort of pick each other out based on the clothing that they‘re wearing.
They almost immediately go back to Scott‘s hotel room so he can—quote—“change and shower.” And he brings these strawberries and wine for them to have before they go to dinner. He does change. He does shower. They do go out to dinner. And, of course, then they come back to that same hotel room later that night.
But I think some of the most interesting details, the fact that, you know, at one point he‘s going with Amber Frey to drop off her daughter, that he takes the daughter to go by a Christmas tree with Amber, it is not purely a sex fling, as the defense is characterizing it. And, as a result, that really could help the prosecutors in both trying to establish motive. And, they say, it also shows premeditation, because Scott Peterson is making some incriminating statements before Laci went missing.
NORVILLE: One of the other things the California attorney general said before this case got started was—quote—“It will be a slam-dunk.” It‘s been anything but that up to this point. What can Amber Frey bring into the mix that could turn the case to the prosecution‘s advantage?
ABRAMS: I think there are a couple of points that she‘s going to make which are very important in this case.
And put aside the whole issue of their relationship, all right, and their affair. He said to her that his wife was dead. He said that in early December. And some could say, well, that was just his effort to continue the affair. And he also said that, at the end of January, he would be able to spend a lot more time with Amber Frey. Those two things...
NORVILLE: But, you know, his cover story on that, Dan, is going to be, remember, he was an international businessman. That was the story he told Amber, with homes in San Francisco and San Diego. He was a busy man. His business affairs would be such that they could be together more by that point.
But, to me, the fact that he‘s telling these lies about his—you know, his sort of international flair is less important than the fact that he‘s saying they‘ll be able to spend more time in January, because that, for the prosecutors, is the premeditation, or at least a large part of it. They‘re saying he was plotting this back in early December. He‘s telling Amber Frey his wife is dead. He‘s saying, I‘ll be able to spend more time with you at the end of January.
And the prosecutors are going to say that‘s because he knew he was going to kill his wife.
NORVILLE: There‘s another question. There was evidence that was being looked at beginning on Thursday. The trial came to a screeching halt. The jury didn‘t really know what was going on. Everybody stepped away. There are some who suggest that Amber Frey‘s testimony could take away from whatever the significance is of that evidence.
First of all, do you believe that, and, secondly, what is this evidence that‘s being tested up and down?
ABRAMS: Well, look, I don‘t think it detracts from the evidence. I mean, apparently, it‘s some items that were found around the bodies that weren‘t tested. OK. The defense is describing them as potentially exculpatory.
Well, any evidence that hasn‘t been tested is arguably potentially exculpatory. So that‘s not a particularly helpful description. But the bottom line is not, I don‘t think, that evidence. I think the question is going to be how good a witness will Amber Frey be, and she‘s going to be backed up by audiotapes. So I think that‘s going to be the key question here.
NORVILLE: And how well prepared is she? I mean, she‘s been under the spotlight for a very long time. And she‘s certainly not a woman that wanted that. She voluntarily went to the police and did, as she said, tried to do the right thing. How good is she going to be on the witness stand? Is she tough enough to take whatever they dish out?
ABRAMS: I don‘t know. I do know that the defense is going to try to suggest that she knew before December 30, when she went to the authorities, that Scott Peterson was married to Laci, that Scott Peterson‘s wife was missing. They‘re going to try and portray Amber Frey as a liar, as a scorned woman, as an angry woman.
But, again, the prosecutors have got and try to keep these jurors focused on the ball. And that is the tape. I mean, if Scott Peterson made these statements on tape, in a way, it becomes irrelevant how angry or credible Amber Frey is as a witness.
NORVILLE: Well, let me move on quickly to another case that‘s made headlines the last several days. And that‘s the murder of Lori Hacking. Today, her husband, Mark Hacking, was officially charged. You know, he‘s made a confession. They talked about it today, the police authorities in Utah. How likely is a confession made in a psych ward to stand up in court?
ABRAMS: There‘s generally no reason why a confession in a psych ward would be any different from a confession in a coffee shop. The only question is going to be, is the defense going to use a mental illness defense here, to say that Mark Hacking, in essence, didn‘t understand what he was saying?
If they‘re going to say that he was effectively in custody or that his answers were being manipulated, OK, well, that‘s the sort of argument that you could make at any point. But just because he was in a psychiatric ward doesn‘t in and of itself mean it‘s not admissible. The defense is going to have the burden then of explaining why it‘s inadmissible, why he felt that he was in custody or why his answers are completely unreliable.
NORVILLE: Well, Dan, am I nuts, but am I thinking right in that—this guy worked in a psych ward. The first thing he does is go stand naked in a hotel and run around and then get put in the psych ward. If you‘re trying to plead insanity, he‘s certainly done a lot of the right things to make that work for him, hasn‘t he?
ABRAMS: Yes. Yes. But insanity defenses are so tough and Utah is one of these states with a really, really tough burden for a jury to find someone insane. They almost never do. And as a result, it is generally a losing argument. This is the kind of case I think that many people believe is going to plead out before the case even starts.
NORVILLE: We shall see. Dan Abrams, thanks so much.
Dan, of course, will stay in Redwood City as Amber Frey takes the stand. And we‘ll be checking back with him.
And we‘ll check back with you right after this.
NORVILLE: That`s our program for tonight. Thanks for watching.
Tomorrow night, more on the Peterson case through the eyes of best-
selling crime writer Patricia Cornwell, as Amber Frey takes the stand.
"SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY" is coming up next.
Thanks for watching. See you tomorrow.
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