'The Abrams Report' for Sept. 16

Guests:  Richard Feigen, Robert Mintz, Loren Ghiglione, Bob Kohn, Gerry Richards, John Fogg

DAN ABRAMS, HOST:  Coming up, so far CBS still standing by its report on President Bush‘s National Guard service. 


ABRAMS (voice-over):  But two experts hired by CBS says they can‘t verify the authenticity of documents involving President Bush‘s National Guard service.  With the evidence stacking up against them, is it time for CBS to say mea culpa?

Plus, a surprise announcement from Martha Stewart.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  So I have decided to serve my sentence now, to put this nightmare behind me and get on with my life. 

ABRAMS:  Stewart changes course, asking the judge to serve her five months behind bars as soon as possible.  She says she hopes to be out in time to plant her spring garden.

And in the Scott Peterson case, an expert could help prosecutors prove Peterson lied again, but this time not about an affair, but about whether cement in his home was used to make anchors.  Anchors prosecutors say were used to weigh down Laci‘s body.

The program about justice starts now.


ABRAMS:  Hi everyone.  First up on the docket tonight, it‘s official, Martha Stewart says she‘s ready to go to prison now.  Remember, she was sentenced to five months and five months of home detention back in July after she was convicted on four counts for allegedly lying to cover up a stock sale.  But the judge said Stewart could stay out of prison while she and her attorneys appealed the verdict. 

Well, today Stewart‘s attorneys asked the judge to reverse course, saying that Stewart was ready to start serving her sentence as soon as possible.  Sure she says she‘ll miss the holiday season.  She won‘t be carving jack-o-lanterns for Halloween on TV show or giving tips on decorating gingerbread cookies in her magazine this Christmas.  But according to Stewart she hopes to be out in time to replant her garden next spring.  She announced her decision at a press conference at her company‘s offices today. 


MARTHA STEWART, SENTENCED TO FIVE MONTHS IN PRISON:  This morning Walter Dillinger, who, as you know, is heading my appeals process, delivered a letter by hand to the chambers of Judge Miriam Cedarbaum.  The letter Mr. Dillinger submitted stated that all though we were grateful for the judge‘s stay of my sentence pending the resolution of my appeal, I had decided to ask Her Honor to vacate that stay of sentence and to begin the prison designation process. 

This process includes immediate notification of the Bureau of Prisons about my decision, being designated by that Bureau of Prisons to a facility, surrendering to the Bureau of Prisons on the appointed day, and beginning my period of incarceration as soon as possible without waiting for the appeals process to be completed.  I suppose the best word to use for this very harsh and difficult decision is finality and my intense desire and need to put this nightmare behind me both personally and professionally.

I must reclaim my good life.  I must return to my good works and allow those around me who work with me to do the same.  I cannot bear any longer the prolonged suffering while I and my legal team await vindication in the legal—in the next step of the legal process, the appeal.  And although I and my attorneys firmly believe in the strength of that appeal, recent delays and extensions have now made it abundantly clear that my appeal will not be heard until sometime next year. 

So I have decided to serve my sentence now, to put this nightmare behind me and get on with my life and living as soon as possible.  I know I have a very tough five months ahead of me.  But I understand too that I will get through those months knowing that I have the ability to return to my productive and normal life, my interesting work, and future business opportunities, supported through the ordeal by my friends and colleagues and loved ones. 

I am very sad knowing that I will miss the holiday season, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year‘s, always an opportunity to celebrate family, friends and religious traditions that mean so much to many of us.  And I will miss all of my pets, my two beloved fun loving dogs, my seven lively cats, my canaries, my horses and even my chickens.

It‘s odd what becomes of immense importance when one realizes one‘s freedom is about to be curtailed.  I hope too that I will be able to begin serving my sentence in the very near future, because I would like to be back as early in March as possible in order to plant the new spring garden and to truly get things growing again.  And the relief I feel at putting an end to all of this is great. 


ABRAMS:  “My Take”—she‘s making the right call.  Her chances of winning on appeal is tiny and even if she wins, she just gets a new trial, in her words no finality.  For her sake, her company‘s sake, I say she‘s doing the right thing. 

Joining me now is former federal prosecutor Robert Mintz and a long-time friend of Martha Stewart, Richard Feigen.  Thank you both very much for coming on the program.  Appreciate it.

All right, Mr. Feigen, let me start with you.  I assume that this was a difficult decision.  I mean, you know, on the one hand I‘m saying it‘s the right decision.  On the other hand, you know, she is allowed to stay out until the appeals are over.  Most people would take that opportunity.  What do you think was the primary reason that led her to say, you know what, it is time for me to put this behind me.

RICHARD FEIGEN, MARTHA STEWART‘S FRIEND:  I think the primary reason was that she has been through about I think two and a half years of real misery waiting for the prosecution, waiting for the trial, waiting for the verdict.  And all of that was very tough on her and I think she—what she really wants is closure.  I think even more than the appeal, I think she just wants this all to be finished because she‘s got 1,000 ideas she comes up with every day for her business.  She‘s enormously creative and energetic and I think she just doesn‘t want to let another indefinite period go by.  That was the torture of it all.

ABRAMS:  Mr. Mintz, she may want to plant that spring garden, but even from this point the Bureau of Prisons takes, what, six, eight weeks, something like that to actually assess what will be the best place to send her, right? 

ROBERT MINTZ, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR:  That‘s right.  They‘ll take probably a month, maybe a month and a half to decide where there‘s going to be a vacancy.  They‘re going to look to try to place her as close to home as possible, but if that is not possible, they have to place her in the type of security that best fits the offense.  In this case it is either Coleman, Florida, or Alderson, West Virginia.  Those are the other options besides Danbury, Connecticut, which is where the judge recommended and where Martha Stewart prefers to go and serve her time.

ABRAMS:  Yes, she wanted to be in Danbury, but here is what her lawyer said in a letter to the court.

“We‘ve been informed by the Bureau of Prisons that there is presently a moratorium on the designation of female prisoners to the facility in Danbury, Connecticut.  To permit Ms. Stewart to begin serving her sentence as soon as possible, we also respectfully request that the court amend its current recommendation.  If at the time of designation the federal prison camp in Danbury is unavailable, Ms. Stewart be designated to the federal prison camp in Coleman, Florida or any other similar and suitable camp.”

Mr. Mintz, bottom line, though, is even the judge only has limited authority as to where she‘s going to go, right? 

MINTZ:  That‘s right.  Judges can make recommendations, but it is really up to the Bureau of Prisons.  They have got to juggle around the vacancies and figure out what is the place where they can take her, they can accommodate her, and she can serve out her sentence.  In this case it is all likely and the signs are pointing that she‘ll be serving her time in Florida, which is her second choice. 

ABRAMS:  Mr. Feigen, I guess I was surprised to hear her saying that she is willing to accept another similar situation—another similar and suitable camp.  This is a woman who‘s been used to being in control her whole life.  This is one of the few issues where she‘s got a say and yet, she‘s willing to sort of give that up and say, you know what, I‘m just going to go wherever you need me to go? 

FEIGEN:  Well, I think that Martha is a realist.  She‘s come to terms with going to prison, which was tough.  I mean she always held out hope that she wouldn‘t be prosecuted, that she wouldn‘t be convicted, that she wouldn‘t be sent to prison.  And these hopes kept her in a sort of a—in a state of tension and now that it is settled, I think she‘s really come to terms with it.  And wherever they send her, I don‘t know that she knows much about these prisons, which one is less rigorous or tough—less tough, she‘ll go where they send her.  She‘s—you know, she‘s basically very strong and she wants to get back to her business, back to her creative life. 

ABRAMS:  Here‘s Martha Stewart talking about which prison she would go to. 


STEWART:  Unfortunately, there is no way to know today exactly when or how long it will take the Bureau of Prisons to be able to arrange for me to begin serving my sentence or where I will serve it.  I do hope that there will be room at the Danbury facility, which is the prison nearest to my home and close enough so that my 90-year-old mother and others can visit me. 


ABRAMS:  Our guests are going to stay with us.  We‘ve got more of the tape of Martha Stewart‘s press conference today.  We‘ll continue with this in a moment. 

Also coming up, CBS and the Bush National Guard documents.  Experts continuing to insist they were forged.  We‘ve been expecting a new statement from CBS for the past few hours.  If it comes, we are bringing it to you regardless.  We‘ve got a lot to talk to you about that topic.  The question, of course, is it possible that if they were fooled, that it is time for them to say who fooled them. 

Also we‘ve got coverage of Hurricane Ivan as it threatens the Gulf Coast.  Why mandatory evacuations are often, well, not really mandatory. 

And Scott Peterson under fire again accused of lying again, but this time not about his affair with Amber Frey, but about concrete that he may have used to patch up his—the driveway.  Concrete prosecutors say he actually used to weigh down his wife‘s body. 

Your e-mails abramsreport@msnbc.com.  Please include your name and where you‘re writing from.  I respond at the end of the show.


ABRAMS:  Coming up, we‘ve got a new statement from CBS about those National Guard documents and more on Martha Stewart‘s decision to head to the big house as soon as possible.  It‘s all coming up. 



STEWART:  And I must thank our loyal customers, our supporters, and our friends and all of our advertisers, please know that I understand your special needs, your special requirements and I thank you for your help and your support and your loyalty.  I hope that by ending the uncertainty and the awkwardness and the awfulness we can return to better times quickly and efficiently. 


ABRAMS:  A lot of talk from Martha Stewart about her company when she announced today that she is ready to go to prison.  Remember, the court had said you can wait until those appeals are over, but as we‘ve talked about for many, many weeks now, the chance of winning on appeal were slim.  Martha Stewart wants to put this behind her, you know, as we‘ve been talking about with her friend Richard Feigen.  But also there are business reasons why Martha Stewart wanted to put this behind her. 

Do we have Tyler Mathisen from CNBC ready to go?  All right, Tyler, good to see you. 


ABRAMS:  ... give us a sense of the state of Martha Stewart‘s empire. 

MATHISEN:  Well, it has really suffered since late 2001, early 2002 when this whole issue involving her trading of the ImClone stock began.  She has really operated under a cloud and she has operated in an environment for magazines and media generally that has been marked by a prolonged business slump.  The sales are way off for her properties. 

She went from making, for example, a small profit.  Their magazine sales down 33 percent so far this year.  Ad sales down 59 percent, second-quarter loss $19 million.  She went from making a small profit in 2000 and 2001 of about 30 million, $38 million to last year‘s loss for the year of about I believe it was $34 million.  And this year those losses are running even deeper into red ink.  It‘s largely attributable, I think, to the fact that advertisers find her a bit toxic right now and don‘t want to patronize her properties like her television program.

ABRAMS:  Will this help, though, Tyler?  Let‘s assume she goes to prison.  She comes out, can she make it again? 

MATHISEN:  That‘s a great question.  I think the American consumer is very forgiving and people are still going to go out there and buy things.  I suspect that Martha Stewart‘s media properties will come back, but she will play a much smaller role.  The name Martha Stewart in the logo is going to be smaller and living is going to be bigger.  And so her role there is going to be diminished, it would seem to me as the front person for her media properties.

ABRAMS:  Tyler Mathisen, always great to see you. 

MATHISEN:  Great to see you.

ABRAMS:  All right, I want to continue discussing what Martha Stewart said today, what it means.  Let‘s play another piece of sound here.  I was struck by this reference by Martha Stewart today.


STEWART:  According to a recent article in “The New York Times” by Jim Holt (ph), America accounts for 25 percent of the world‘s prison population, despite the fact that we have just five percent of its population.  I will be joining more than two million other souls who are serving time, but I know I am doing the right thing for me and for my family, my colleagues, and my company. 


ABRAMS:  Robert Mintz, it seems that every time Martha Stewart holds one of these press conferences or speaks about her case, she says a lot of things that make a lot of sense and I think help her case a lot and then she says things like that, which I don‘t think are really helpful to her.  Do you agree with me? 

MINTZ:  I do.  This was clearly a marketing strategy more than it was a legal strategy.  From a legal standpoint, going to jail one minute before the court orders you to do so makes absolutely no sense.  This was really a direct result of the fact that her hope of getting this case reversed was really fairly remote and with each passing day the damage that was being done to her company was increasing...

ABRAMS:  But she‘s talking about the delays and the proceedings.  I mean look, we knew there were going to be delays.  They‘re acting as if this is some sort of surprise here.  But then she‘s talking about the souls, she‘s joining the two million other souls, I mean, you know, I would think Martha Stewart would want to distance herself in a way because a lot of people say that she doesn‘t belong there as much as most of those other people do. 

MINTZ:  To me what it says is that Martha Stewart still doesn‘t get it.  You‘re exactly right.  She says things that are on key for most of what she says, and then she throws something out there that just clunks.  That just hits you in such a way that suggests that she still doesn‘t get it.  She still doesn‘t think she did anything wrong and she‘s going to go to jail, but she really doesn‘t think she deserves to be there. 

ABRAMS:  And I have to say, you know, there were times though when, you know again, she was good in this press conference.  Here where she made a little joke about people who had seen her. 


STEWART:  And I just have one little joke, because despite what you all might think I do have a sense of humor.  And I was walking in front of the General Motors building the other day and there were a group of very well dressed businessmen standing outside and they looked at me, recognized me, and said, oh, she‘s out already.  Well, I hope that my time goes as fast as that. 


ABRAMS:  Mr. Feigen, you get the final word here.  Does she get it? 

FEIGEN:  Yes, I think she gets it and I think that she‘s right.  I think that she has a huge audience out there.  I—I‘m speaking objectively, not as her friend and I certainly don‘t know anything about the marketing business, but when I go out to an event with her, there are mobs of people cheering her on, cheering Martha.  People I talk to say that her products are great—I can‘t say, but I have a feeling that once this is over with and she gets it out of the press because the press has been killing her—in the beginning it killed her.  Every day on the “Daily News” front page...


FEIGEN:  ... “Post” front page and I think that really exacerbated a situation.  A lot of mistakes were made by her, I think by lawyers and so on.  And I think when this thing disappears from the newspapers and she‘s out of there, I have a feeling that she‘s got a big following out there.  People feel she‘s—realized an American dream, this poor Polish girl from New Jersey comes and makes it.  You know, I think it‘s a terrific story and I think that she‘ll—I think she‘ll come back. 

ABRAMS:  Very quickly, you had a chance to speak with her, did you not, in the last couple of days.  What did she tell you? 

FEIGEN:  Well she told me pretty much what—you know I knew that she wanted to get this over with before I left for Europe.  And I came back today and it wasn‘t a surprise to me that she‘d announced that she wants to put it behind her.  I guess she‘d have to rely on her lawyers‘ advice about the appeal process, but I know that she would have preferred to get the prison sentence over with and get back to work and back to building up her public again. 

I think she will.  I really think they‘re going to forget about the fact that Martha Stewart went to jail.  I think in another year‘s time it‘ll be past history. 

ABRAMS:  I‘ve got to tell you, I think she will be able to sort of bounce back.  I think Robert Mintz said it well when he said that the public is very forgiving. 

Robert Mintz, Richard Feigen, thanks very much for joining us. 

Appreciate it.

MINTZ:  Thank you.

ABRAMS:  When we come back, we‘ve got a brand new statement about CBS News about those National Guard documents.  Exactly what are they saying?  We‘re going to talk about it a lot. 

And later, millions flee Hurricane Ivan.  But some would rather stay in their homes, even with the killer storm knocking at their door.  What does it mean when they say mandatory evacuation?  We‘ll talk to the mayor of one of the cities in Ivan‘s path.


ABRAMS:  We have just gotten in a statement from CBS News in connection with those National Guard documents.  Of course, you know that this is related to this controversy, CBS News had a breaking news report last week, which suggested that President Bush had gotten some favors and had, you know, not done everything he had been asked to do by superiors when he was in the Texas National Guard.  But now a lot of document examiners have been saying those documents are actually forged.  CBS has issued the following statement. 

“We established to our satisfaction that the memos were accurate or we would not have put them on television.  There was a great deal of corroborating evidence from people in a position to know.  Having said that, given all the questions about them, we believe we should redouble our efforts to answer those questions so that is what we are doing.”

Keep in mind the word there is “accurate”, not authentic when it comes to those memos.  Now my parsing words here, joining me now is the dean of one of the most prominent journalism schools in the country, Lauren—sorry Ghiglione of the Medill School at Northwestern University.  Back again with us is forensic document examiner, he was chief of Documents Operations and Research Unit at the FBI, Gerry Richards and Bob Kohn, author of “Journalistic Fraud: How The New York Times Distorts the News and Why It Can No Longer Be Trusted”.  All right...


ABRAMS:  ... Dean Ghiglione, am I parsing words here by reading into CBS‘ statement where they say we have established to our satisfaction that the memos were accurate.  Accurate is something very different from authentic, is it not? 

LOREN GHIGLIONE, MEDILL SCHOOL OF JOURNALISM:  Well I think they‘re acknowledging what they can know and they don‘t know.  And the question is we certainly want watchdogs of those people in power and we want those watchdogs to have credibility and we also want watchdogs of the watchdogs to have credibility. 

So one question I would ask is will this satisfy the public as to the credibility of the CBS report?  There have been organizations, institutions in this society, for example, the National News Council, which existed for about a decade, which was outside of the news organizations, but did—had no power, but did look at news organization when there were complaints from the public. 


GHIGLIONE:  And this would have been a perfect case for that kind of organization, I think.

ABRAMS:  Bob Kohn, I mean it sounds to me and this is a very different type of statement than Dan Rather has been making on the “CBS Evening News” where they have been defending the authenticity of the documents.  Do you think that they are now backing off and saying, look, the essence of our story was accurate.  That he got favorable treatment.  That the issues brought up in this memo were accurate, but now they‘re starting to say but maybe the documents themselves weren‘t authentic.

BOB KOHN, MEDIA CRITIC:  They are backing off and they are playing games.  I mean any lawyer can take a look at this.  It is almost like it was drafted by a lawyer.  They‘re saying that they‘re accurate and not genuine.  Well it looks like they‘re going to this 86-year-old Mrs. Knox (ph), who was the secretary for Killian, the guy who supposedly wrote these alleged documents.

She said they‘re clearly forgeries, but she also said that she voted against Bush, never voted for Bush, even when he was running for governor.  She‘s against Bush.  She doesn‘t like what his policies are, and but she also confirms she thinks that her boss would have thought this...


KOHN:  ... at the time and it looks like they‘re trying to say, well, the sentiments behind these forgeries are accurate and we‘re going to redouble our efforts.  Well, what efforts?  Just last Friday they said that they weren‘t going to be doing an investigation...

ABRAMS:  All right...

KOHN:  ... right? 

ABRAMS:  ... stick around.  We‘ve got a lot more on this topic and those memos when we come back.  We may hear more from CBS too.

All right, also coming up, live coverage of Hurricane Ivan.  The killer storm is getting closer by the hour.  The question, why when there are mandatory evacuations are people—some people not leaving?  What does it mean by mandatory?

We‘ve got the latest on the Scott Peterson case as well.  Some very important testimony today.  It‘s coming up.


ABRAMS:  Coming up, we‘ve got more on those CBS memos.  We‘ve got a new statement from CBS.  All of that coming up, but first the headlines.


ABRAMS:  We‘re back and we‘re talking more about the CBS News report on President Bush‘s military memos or if these memos actually existed.  CBS issued a statement only moments ago where they said that we established to our satisfaction that the memos were accurate, accurate.  They don‘t say authentic. 

House GOP leader Chris Cox today called for an investigation into the continued use by CBS News of—quote—“apparently forged documents concerning the service record of President George W. Bush intended to unfairly damage his reputation and influence the outcome of the 2004 presidential election.” 

The letter went on to say that there‘s growing abundance of evidence that CBS News has aided and abetted fraud.  But the head of that committee says that‘s not going to happen. 

Even in the face of accusations of criminal conduct, the network is standing by its report on the memo.  Here is the network‘s defense.  It did its homework.  CBS says the story was based on documents provided by un-impeachable sources, interviews with former Texas National Guard officials and individuals who worked closely with Colonel Jerry Killian.

The documents are backed up, they say, by independent handwriting and forensic document experts.  Well, we don‘t know everyone who they talked to and at least one former friend and colleague of Killian told CBS he thinks the memos are real.  Another who CBS originally called a source now tells NBC News that he thinks that the memos are likely forgeries.

CBS has contacted five document examiners, three of them have spoken

out.  Two told ABC News they had concerns from the get-go and could not

vouch for the memo‘s authenticity.  CBS says they were asked to look at

only one of the four documents and that in the end the two women played a -

·         quote—“peripheral role.”

The third examiner has said he verified that the signatures on the memos came from the same source but not their authenticity.  Since the show aired, CBS says that it consulted two more document examiners who say that the memos are likely not forgeries. 

Yesterday Killian‘s former secretary said she doubts the authenticity of the memos.  She said she would have typed them, but that the content is consistent with Killian‘s thoughts about then First Lieutenant Bush.  CBS notes that—quote—“she confirms the contents of the documents which was the primary focus of our story in the first place.”

All right, we‘re back now with a great panel.  We‘ve got the dean of the Medill School at Northwestern University, Loren Ghiglione, forensic document examiner, former FBI agent, Gerry Richards, and Bob Kohn, author of “Journalistic Fraud:  How The New York Times Distorts the News and Why It Can No Longer Be Trusted”.

All right, Mr. Richards, why is it that when it comes to the document examination, let‘s not talk about the story as a whole for a moment.  Let‘s just talk about the authenticity of the documents.  Why is it that when we called document examiners yesterday and today in an effort to get someone on who would say, hey look, I‘m convinced that these are likely authentic, why are we having such a hard time finding somebody to at least back up CBS? 

GERRY RICHARDS, FORMER FBI AGENT:  Well, I think it‘s just a matter of the proof that‘s involved.  Most competent, well-trained document examiners aren‘t going to say that because the evidence is pretty overwhelming that they are not authentic documents.  That they were produced on a word processor and not on a Circa 1972 machine.  Anybody who does come forward and say that they are authentic would have a real problem in trying to prove that particular fact. 

ABRAMS:  Dean Ghiglione, let‘s assume for a moment then that the documents are not authentic.  For the sake of argument, let‘s assume that for a moment.  And yet, let‘s say that CBS still says, all right, you know what, even if the documents aren‘t authentic, the heart of our story is still true.  It doesn‘t change the heart of our story.  As the dean of the most prominent journalism school in the country, is that an acceptable explanation from CBS? 

GHIGLIONE:  Well, I‘m always nervous about hypothetical...

ABRAMS:  You do it all the time in your school.  Come on.  You can play one with us. 

GHIGLIONE:  Right.  But, you know, I think that you want the credibility of that news organization and broadcast and journalism in general can to be—to withstand scrutiny and I would be nervous about a position that would say, well, gee, don‘t worry about the authenticity of the documents.  It seems that‘s part of the case they made. 

It can be true, as they say, and this is important.  It‘s not to be just tossed aside, that their report can be accurate despite these documents and so I think they‘re in a little bit of a catch 22 situation. 


GHIGLIONE:  They certainly don‘t want to run away from their report if they actually believe it to be true and yet they do have to fess up if the documents present a problem.  It seems to me that they need to investigate that and have people investigating it and who will be trusted as credible...


GHIGLIONE:  ... whatever they say. 

ABRAMS:  Mr. Kohn, let me read to you a couple of the experts who seem to have been siding with CBS, Bill Glennon and after the fact expert that CBS hired.

“Everything that is in those documents that people are saying can‘t be done, as you said, 32 years ago is just totally false.  Not true.  Proportional spacing was available.  Superscripts were available as a custom feature.  Proportional spacing between the lines was available.  You can order that any way you‘d like.”

What do you make of that? 

KOHN:  The guy‘s wrong, OK.  There are enough word processing experts who have gone on television saying that they‘re 100 percent forgeries.  There was proportional spacing, but the size of the computer font that generated the typeface on that document didn‘t exist in 1971...

ABRAMS:  Mr. Richards, is that true? 


ABRAMS:  Let me ask Mr. Richards.  Is that true?

RICHARDS:  Yes, that‘s true.  Basically there was proportional spacing on numerous typewriters, however, they were not very common.  It was semi - - it was not common to have that type of typewriter.  In addition, the superscript that‘s on there is a different sized font and it is in a different position.  It is actually raised.  Most of the typewriters who had, you could specially order the superscripts, but they would be even with the top of the type, as a rule.

The way you can tell it is all of the rest of the memos that have I seen at least have what‘s called mono spacing, either 10 or 12 letters to the inch, which is very typical of most government computers at that particular time.  I was in the FBI and that‘s mostly what we had. 


ABRAMS:  All right, I‘ve got to wrap it up.  Dean Ghiglione...


ABRAMS:  ... Gerry Richards and Bob Kohn, thanks very much.  We‘re going to certainly stay on top of this story. 

Coming up, we‘re tracking Hurricane Ivan.  There have been two people reported killed by tornadoes spawned by the storm.  Still some people are saying mandatory evacuation, phooey. 

And Scott Peterson again accused of lying, not about his affair with Amber Frey this time, but about the concrete he used to patch up his driveway.  Concrete prosecutors say he more likely used to weigh down his wife‘s body.  Coming up.



BRENT:  And then they talked about cement in your shop that‘s used for, I don‘t know, anchors or something.

SCOTT PETERSON, ON TRIAL FOR MURDER:  Yes.  I made a boat anchor with some cement and then I put some in the driveway here, yes.

BRENT:  So they‘re just piecing all this together?


BRENT:  Circumstantial.

PETERSON:  Well I mean there‘s the cement, yes.  The police has asked me a lot about that.


ABRAMS:  We are back.  What may be another one of Scott Peterson‘s lies caught on tape telling Laci‘s brother he used the same concrete to make those boat anchors and to patch up his driveway.  Not so says today‘s witness, an expert in concrete and construction material.

This is crucial because prosecutors are trying to show that the concrete was used really to make anchors to weigh down her body in the water, not for innocent reasons like fixing his driveway.  Edie Lambert from NBC affiliate KCRA has been in court all day.  She‘s back with us.

Edie, important stuff (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

EDIE LAMBERT, KCRA CORRESPONDENT:  Yes, it really could be.  As you know, Modesto police know that Scott Peterson bought a large bag of concrete, 80 to 90 pounds.  He told them that he made an anchor.  They found that.

The question is what did he do with the rest of the concrete.  And Dan, at the end of the day, after hours of testimony from this concrete expert we still don‘t know.  You just heard the explanation that he gave to Laci‘s brother.  That he used it on the driveway.

But, the concrete expert said it doesn‘t match.  The concrete used in the anchor does not match the half-pound sample taken from outside the house.  As you know, prosecutors believe that Peterson made about five anchors, used at least four of them to weigh down Laci‘s body in the bay.  The reason they think that they saw circles in his warehouse were binterings (ph) of concrete debris where the anchors could have been manufactured. 

To help prove that point, remember that pitcher the police thought Peterson used as a mold, the anchor didn‘t actually fit.  Today‘s expert said it was used for something.  He connected concrete debris found inside the bottom of it like a jigsaw puzzle. 

Now, Mark Geragos‘ biggest challenge to the evidence today it the sample taken from outside the house.  He said it‘s possible that was taken from a fence post used with different concrete than the concrete used in the driveway.  It was never made clear that the sample that they collected outside the house by Detective Brocchini is definitely from the driveway. 

Right now Dr. Brian Peterson is on the stand.  He‘s the coroner who conducted the autopsies on Laci and Conner Peterson.  I am told that one of the alternate witnesses is in tears.  This is graphic testimony.  He got started late in the day and they‘ll hear much more about it tomorrow.

Dan, back to you.

ABRAMS:  Edie Lambert thanks very much.  We‘re also told that it‘s so bad, you know, Scott‘s mother is shielding her face with a note pad.  Lee and Janey Peterson, Scott‘s father and sister-in-law had shifted away from the video screen and are now facing the jury. 

You know, this just reminds you this is—we talk about this—all of this evidence, but they‘re now showing a dead body up on the screen.  And, you know, you can only imagine how that must feel to the people who cared about her. 

We‘ve got more breaking news.  This time on the third major hurricane that belt parts of the Southeast, Hurricane Ivan.  The storm is expected to hit the Gulf Coast overnight somewhere in the 300-mile stretch between Grand Isle, Louisiana, and Apalachicola, Florida.  Two people have already been reported killed in Panama City, Florida by tornadoes that spun off this storm and Ivan has forced the evacuation of some two million Gulf Coast residents and tourists.

Though some are still staying at home, even refusing in some cases to obey mandatory evacuation orders.  We‘ll talk about that in a minute.  But first, for the latest on the storm, let‘s go to MSNBC meteorologist Sean McLaughlin—Sean. 

SEAN MCLAUGHLIN, MSNBC METEOROLOGIST:  Good evening Dan.  I‘ll tell you what, the Gulf Coast is bracing for a major hurricane in about nine hours or so.  Here‘s Hurricane Ivan, still a strong category four, sustained winds 135 miles an hour.

There‘s the eye wall, about 100 miles off the coast of Alabama and you just said it.  We are tracking some just awful, awful weather.  Severe weather now in these outer rain bands in between Apalachicola and Panama City.  Here on the VIPIR high-resolution radar, you see these little circle marks.

These are sheer markers.  This is basically showing us some rotation in the upper levels that could possibly turn in to tornadoes.  We are watching this very closely.  There are tornado warnings in this area.  This activity will continue now. 

Again, landfall about nine hours way, Dan, from a category four Hurricane Ivan.  There‘s going to be a lot of devastation, probably making land in between Mobile and Pensacola, Florida.  We‘ll be here all night long—Dan. 

ABRAMS:  Sean McLaughlin, thanks very much.  And you know, that goes for Florida as well.  There have been mandatory evacuation orders in some local areas, for example, in Pensacola, Florida.  The question is how mandatory is mandatory?  What happens to those who ignore a mandatory evacuation order?

I‘m joined now by the mayor of Pensacola, John Fogg.  Mayor, thanks very much for joining us.  First let me ask you, are you feeling the winds there yet?

JOHN FOGG, MAYOR, PENSACOLA, FLORIDA (via phone):  Yes, we are.  We‘re seeing gusts approaching 60 now, probably sustained at 35, 40.  and we are also seeing waterspouts and some tornadoes on a pretty regular basis now. 

ABRAMS:  What does a mandatory evacuation order mean?  I mean I think when you hear the word mandatory, you think it means you have to leave. 

FOGG:  Well, mandatory is usually applied to beach areas, low-lying areas, flood plains and people who live in manufactured homes, because we know that those areas are going to be pretty well disseminated in a hurricane like this. 

ABRAMS:  But some of them don‘t leave, right?

FOGG:  No.  There is one couple on Pensacola Beach that at this point has refused to leave.  And the law does not allow us to physically remove them from their home.  But what we do or what law enforcement is doing is asking for their next of kin actually and leaving some sort of indication on the house that there may be a couple in there when we get back after the storm. 

ABRAMS:  Where are you now? 

FOGG:  I‘m in my home, which is about 85 feet above sea level, so there‘s no flood danger here.  There is, of course, concern for wind.  But down here we‘re kind of used to it.  We had Hurricane Erin and Opal.  My home is fully boarded up and we‘re already on generator power.  So this is about as good a place as any.  I think in this level of storm where we are, it‘s a safe place to be. 

ABRAMS:  Mayor Fogg, good luck.  Stay safe.  Thanks very much for coming on the program.  We appreciate it. 

FOGG:  Well, thank you very much. 

ABRAMS:  Coming up, the number of people sentenced to death in this country falling significantly.  I say it means the punishment is finally fitting the crime and that it‘s actually good for those who support the death penalty.  It‘s my “Closing Argument”.


ABRAMS:  Coming up, your outrage over our coverage of those CBS documents in the president‘s National Guard service.  We get to your e-mails.


ABRAMS:  My “Closing Argument”—why jurors‘ newfound reluctance to impose the death penalty tells me the punishment may finally be fitting the crime.  A new report from the Death Penalty Information Center found that in the past four years, juries have imposed far fewer death sentences than in the 1990‘s.  An average of 290 a year in the ‘90‘s, but in 2003, just 143 death sentences issued.

A number that has been sinking since 2000.  I‘ve long said that I support the death penalty but believe it should be reserved for the worst of the worst.  That over eager prosecutors sometimes overcharge defendants and treat it like a garden-variety punishment.  I‘m sure recent stories have had an impact.  Stories about people convicted, sent to death row and then released, either because they were innocent or because there wasn‘t enough evidence after a review of the case. 

I think these numbers are a good thing for anyone who supports the penalty.  Death penalty opponents like the cite cases where the death penalty was misapplied and they have a valid point.  There have been problems.  Now there‘s a response.  That jurors seem to get it.  Although I have to say, I know of no case where it‘s clear an innocent man was actually executed. 

But there was a problem.  Now DNA evidence, which was not available in many of those cases, is readily available.  The death penalty should not be just another option in a prosecutor‘s arsenal.  And even if some of them don‘t get that, it‘s reassuring to see that many of you do. 

All right.  I‘ve had my say.  Now it‘s time for “Your Rebuttal”.  In last night‘s segment on the—quote—“newly discovered memos” from CBS that purport to show that President Bush had political help while in the National Guard.  Now based on the fonts and spacing, many experts suspect that the memos are fake, actually created by a computer rather than a ‘70‘s year typewriter.

We had a former chief of the Document Operations Research Unit at the FBI, as well as a historian who specializes in IBM Composer typewriters on the program to discuss the memos.

Marc Wallis in El Paso, Texas doesn‘t think that was good enough.  He writes, “Why do you continue to do stories on this without having someone on who supports CBS‘s side?  They have their own document experts who essentially dispute the two you had on the show Tuesday.”

Actually, I don‘t think that‘s true.  To be honest with you Marc, we tried.  We could not find a single qualified expert who was willing to come on and say he or she believed the documents were likely real.  But both of our guests said they thought it was possible that they were authentic.  But they doubted it.  Many of you still believe that they could be real. 

From Scottsdale, Arizona, Lance Lawson.  “The documents in question were simply icing on the cake supporting the case that Bush received preferential treatment to land a coveted spot in the Air National Guard at a time when there were hundreds on a waiting list ahead of Bush.”

Juanita Johnson from the Bronx in New York.  “When the IBM Selectric came out, there were several balls and all you had to do was substitute the balls for the superscripts and smaller font, a fairly easy task.  I‘m certain older typists and secretaries are laughing at the lack of knowledge concerning fonts, superscripts and subscripts.”

Sharon Buck, “Obviously, the supposed experts of yours never took a basic typing class.  I can tell you that yes, you could make a “th” higher than the number and you could center it.”

I don‘t think that any of my guests said that you couldn‘t do it.  First Lady Laura Bush said Monday on radio Iowa that these documents are probably altered and probably forgeries.

Arman Noorbehesht in Fresno, California and others make this point. 

“First lady has publicly said she believes the documents are probably fake.  If the president‘s own wife has to say probably, that indicates in her mind there‘s actually the possibility that the documents are real, which would mean to me the content of the documents are real.  If the documents—if the content of the documents are fake, then she would know as a fact the documents themselves aren‘t authentic.”

Arman, how do you figure that even the president would know what sort of private memos a colonel had stashed away and as a result, whether they were real? 

Finally, last night I hosted the show from Bethpage Golf Course in Long Island, New York, at a fundraiser for the Sean Kimberling Testicular Cancer Foundation. 

Rebecca Abbott in Key West, Florida.  “I seriously and sincerely applaud your publication of the dangers of testicular cancer.  However, I have to admit to some disappointment.  As you repeatedly announced your live presence on a golf course, I thought for a moment that O.J. had found the real killer and you were going to break the story.”

Your e-mails, abramsreport—one word -- @msnbc.com.  We go through them at the end of the show.  Please include your name and where you‘re writing from. 

Coming up next, “HARDBALL” with Chris Matthews.  And be sure to stay tuned to MSNBC throughout the night for full coverage of Hurricane Ivan, where it is, where it‘s headed.

Thanks for watching. 


Copy: Content and programming copyright 2004 MSNBC.  ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.  Transcription Copyright 2004 FDCH e-Media, Inc.  (f/k/a Federal Document Clearing House Inc., eMediaMillWorks, Inc.), ALL RIGHTS  RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material other than for research. User may not reproduce or redistribute the material except for user‘s personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon MSNBC and FDCH e-Media, Inc.‘s copyright or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.