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'The Abrams Report' for Dec. 23

Read the transcript to the 6 p.m. ET show

Guest: William Cannon, Mark Winters, Gary Solis, Chrisa Gonzalez, Margot Bach

DAN ABRAMS, HOST:  Coming up: One soldier‘s alleged effort to avoid returning to Iraq could keep him at home, but home in the slammer.  It involved a plan, an injury and a gun.  Prosecutors say the soldier had a family member shoot him in the leg, all in an elaborate plot to avoid being redeployed.  Now he, his wife and her cousin all facing criminal charges.  We talk to his lawyer and the lead prosecutor in the case.

And days after the TSA told us that airport screening policy is fair to women and necessary, a change in policy.  You won‘t be seeing this anymore.  We ask the TSA why.

Plus, what‘s Christmas like behind bars for Martha Stewart, Scott Peterson and other high-profile convicts?  How special are the meals?  And did you know that in Martha‘s prison, they had a holiday decorating contest?  Our guest says she knows whether Martha‘s team actually won.

The program about justice starts now.

Hi, everyone.  First up on the docket, a soldier who seemed prepared to do almost anything to avoid returning to Iraq, even getting shot.  Marquise Roberts spent seven months on front lines in Iraq.  Home on a two-week leave, Roberts knew he was being redeployed next month.  So the day before he was expected back at his base in Fort Stewart, Georgia, Roberts, his wife, Donna, and his cousin, Roland Fuller, allegedly concocted a scheme to keep him at home: shoot him.  The three drove to a nearby wooded area.  Roberts and Fuller walked deep into the woods.

And here‘s how Roberts described what happened next.  “I turned around, and Roland counted to three, and he shot once.  He then helped me to get back to the car, and he gave the gun to my wife.  She put it in the car.  We got in the car.  Roland got out of the house, and she drove me straight to the hospital.”

Now, they‘re all facing criminal charges that could land them in prison for years, not to mention Roberts‘s potential problems with the military.

Now, “My Take.”  Roberts is saying this is just a military matter.  And I sympathize the with family.  It‘s hard to put oneself in Roberts‘s position.  But whatever the reason, if they admit this is what happened, this is a crime, period.

Joining me now is Army Specialist Marquise Roberts‘s attorney, William Cannon, who says this is a military issue that should not be pending in a state court.  And the man prosecuting the case, Philadelphia County assistant DA Mark Winters.  And former JAG prosecutor Gary Solis, who will tell us what could happen to Roberts as far as the military is concerned.  Thanks to you all for coming on the program.

Mr. Cannon, what am I getting wrong here?

WILLIAM CANNON, ARMY SPEC. MARQUISE ROBERTS‘S ATTORNEY:  Well, Dan, I think that the civil interest is there.  Certainly, there was a violation of state criminal law in the activities charged here.  But certainly, the interest of the military and the government is certainly paramount to that of the local authorities.  This gentleman is an active Army soldier.  He‘s a specialist 4.  He‘s with a premier unit.  The unit wants to handle things in their own way under the uniform code of military justice.  And I think that the proper thing for the district attorney of Philadelphia is to permit this case to go to the military and let them handle this matter in their fashion.

ABRAMS:  But let‘s be clear.  They admit everything we just laid out, correct?  There is no dispute as to the facts?

CANNON:  Well, there‘s no dispute that statements were given and that the integrity of those statements is upheld.  There‘s a full admission to the conduct that you have described.

ABRAMS:  OK.  So bottom line is that he admits that they got into this scheme to shoot him, to keep him out of having to go back to the military.

Mr. Winters, has the military said to you, Back off, we want to handle this?

MARK WINTERS, PHILADELPHIA CO. ASSISTANT DISTRICT ATTORNEY:  No, they haven‘t said that.  What they have said to me is that they are obviously very interested in getting Mr. Roberts back, Specialist Roberts back, to Fort Stewart as expeditiously as possible.  And obviously, when and if the specialist is eligible to be released from custody here, it‘s my understanding that the military stands prepared to escort him back to Fort Stewart to deal with him as expeditiously as possible.  That‘s what they told me.

ABRAMS:  Explain to us as a matter of law how—I mean, I understand how the cousin and the wife may be charged with aggravated assault.  Is he charged with aggravated assault because he was part of sort of the scheme and plan to make it happen?

WINTERS:  Generally speaking, yes.  You have to understand, Specialist Roberts is charged with criminal solicitation to commit aggravated assault, which means he and his wife conspired to, in essence, recruit the family member, the cousin of his wife, to shoot him.  And because of that, he is technically under the law as responsible as those other individuals who were part of the same conspiracy.

ABRAMS:  Mr. Cannon, how much was your client injured in the shooting?

CANNON:  Well, I saw the injury.  He was shot in the back of his right thigh.  The bullet passed from the rear of his thigh through the front of his thigh.  He received emergency room treatment at the Albert Einstein Hospital here in Philadelphia, and he was checked by the medical department at the prison.  He is limping, but I think his wounds are going to heal relatively rapidly.

ABRAMS:  I don‘t get something.  Why do you want, as a legal matter, the military to take this over, rather than the civil authorities?  This is a guy who‘s back on leave.  He‘s at home.  This is something that is occurring at home, not really directly related, as far as Mr. Winters is concerned, to any military service.

CANNON:  Well, it‘s because Specialist Roberts believes his first obligations are to the United States Army.  He believes that the right thing to do at this point, with some error having been made because of the pressure brought upon him by the family, who were concerned about his welfare, that he knows he did something that‘s wrong.  He‘s sorry for it.  He wants to face the military, and he wants to do whatever repercussions follow this.  He‘s a good soldier.  I‘ve talked to his commander.  He did a wonderful job over in Iraq while he was there.  And let he throw the first stone only who has already been through what he has been through.

ABRAMS:  Mr. Winters, you get the final word on this part of it.

WINTERS:  Well, don‘t get me wrong.  The district attorney‘s office recognizes that there are military interests, as well as state and civil interests.

ABRAMS:  Right.

WINTERS:  So there‘s really two sets of concerns.  Obviously, the civil side, it‘s just against public policy to have people taking guns and shooting people.  And that is obviously a strong public interest that the...

ABRAMS:  If the military...


ABRAMS:  If the military comes to you and says, Let us handle this first, will you?

WINTERS:  Well, the military, I think, isn‘t going to ask us.  I think the military—once they have the opportunity to escort him back to Fort Stewart, it‘s my understanding and belief that they are going to do it.  And if they do that, what we will do here in Philadelphia is—obviously, since he won‘t be here with us, we‘ll wait and see what they do, what, if anything, they do, whether it be court-martial or otherwise...


WINTERS:  ... and then when that matter has run its course, we will see if we can get him back and address the state charges as we deem appropriate, after the military matter is dealt with.

ABRAMS:  All right.  Mr. Winters, thanks very much for coming on the program.  I want to ask Mr. Cannon...

WINTERS:  Thank you.

ABRAMS:  ... to stick around because when I talk to Gary Solis in our next segment about how the military deals with this, I want you there.

CANNON:  Fine, Dan.

ABRAMS:  We‘re going to take a break, and after that, we‘re going to talk about the TSA.  Remember they said that women need to be screened around their breasts?  Well, now they‘ve changed their minds, after some women complained.  Why?  And will that decision sacrifice safety?

Plus, Christmas in the clink.  Will the Redwood City jail have a special holiday meal for Scott Peterson?  And how did Martha Stewart due in her prison‘s holiday decorating contest?  Yes, there really was one.  Your e-mails,  Please include your name, where you‘re writing from.  My response at the end of the program.


ABRAMS:  An active duty soldier desperately trying to avoid a second deployment to Iraq allegedly gets his cousin to shoot him.  Three people charged in the conspiracy to keep the soldier at home, and the soldier himself, Marquise Roberts, remorseful, telling police, quote, “I‘m sorry that I wasted your time with this lie.  I‘m sorry that I did it.  I‘m sorry that I let my family, my father and the military down.  I pray for the forgiveness of God, my family, you all and the military.”

Roberts‘s wife defended her husband to police, saying, “Marquise was scared.  He never has been in trouble and is a god man.  He was worried about going back.  A lot of his friends were killed over there.  We‘re trying to start a family.  We did not mean to hurt anybody.”

The question, of course, is whether that remorse is going to be able to save them in any way.  And what about Roberts‘s military career?  Back with me again is the attorney for Marquise Roberts, William Cannon, and former JAG prosecutor Gary Solis.

All right, Mr. Solis, what happens now with regard to the military?  I mean, basically, Mr. Cannon is saying, Let the military deal with it first.  If they do, what happens?

GARY SOLIS, FORMER JAG PROSECUTOR:  Well, first, I speak for myself, not for the Army or for West Point, where I‘m employed.  But the Army has several options.  One, they can let the civilian authorities proceed with their prosecution, and upon completion of any sentence that‘s awarded, the Army can then take custody of Roberts and court-martial him for the military offenses, which are different from the civilian offenses that he has committed.

ABRAMS:  What are the offenses—I mean, what would he be charged with—let me ask you this way.  You heard the charges in the civil court.  Which is more serious in terms of the amount of prison time, being court-martialed or being charged with a crime in Philadelphia?

SOLIS:  Oh, well, it‘s really hard to say.  I would say that the court-martial charges are probably more serious because they could result in a maximum punishment of probably two years confinement and a dishonorable discharge and loss of all pay and allowances.

ABRAMS:  If he‘s admitted this, though, does he have any defense in the military?

SOLIS:  I think he‘s got a pretty hard row to hoe if he tries to plead not guilty.  And he doesn‘t have any leverage to go for a pre-trial agreement because the facts are out and he‘s made admissions.  So he could be tried for Article 115, malingering, and Article 87, missing movement (ph).

ABRAMS:  Mr. Cannon, is he going to plead not guilty?

CANNON:  I think it‘s predictable that he will do that.  I don‘t think that in the military court or in the civil court that there will be a contest of the charges.  But I‘d like to see him handled by the military.  I think the prosecution here in Philadelphia will be dropped if the military address this is matter.

ABRAMS:  Mr. Solis, is there a double jeopardy problem?  If he‘s tried, for example, in the military court, can then they retry him in Philadelphia, as well?

SOLIS:  Absolutely because the charges are different.  And although the facts are somewhat unique here, this is not a situation that is at all unusual.  In the military, we often see individuals who are tried in civilian courts for some crime, and then when their sentence is served, the military will take custody and try them for the military charges.  So no, this is not an issue of double jeopardy, nor is it an unusual situation.  It‘s not an everyday situation.

ABRAMS:  Right.  So Mr. Cannon, why are you so confident that the Philadelphia authorities will drop the charges?

CANNON:  Well, not so confident, but I think the practical thing would not be to bring him all the way back from Fort Stewart, Georgia, to face local charges of obstruction of justice and giving a false police report.

ABRAMS:  Bottom line, you‘re looking for some sort of plea here.  I mean, it sounds like the fact that he‘s admitting to the facts, you‘d like to work out a deal.

CANNON:  I think military counsel will work out a deal that will be in the best interest of Specialist Roberts.

ABRAMS:  Mr. Cannon, good to see you again.

CANNON:  Thank you, Dan.

ABRAMS:  Gary Solis, thanks very much for coming on the program. 

Appreciate it.

Coming up: After airports‘ beefed-up security included patting down at times around women‘s breasts with the back of the hand, they fielded hundreds of complaints.  They refused to change the policy until now.  We talk to a TSA official about why the change of heart, so to speak.

And two Christmases ago, Scott Peterson spent the holidays in his home as hundreds of his friends and neighbors scoured Modesto to find his wife.  This Christmas, he sits in jail.  We tell you what this Christmas will be like for him behind bars.


ABRAMS:  Less than a week ago on this program, we debated the TSA, the Transportation Security Administration‘s, policy that called for airline passengers to be patted down at checkpoints if they‘re picked by a computer program, trigger a metal detector, or are selected by a security screener who thinks that there is something about them suspicious.  The policy began after suicide bombers blew two Russian jetliners out of the sky last July.  But since then, hundreds of women around the country have complained that their breasts were, quote, “groped” by airport screeners in the name of national security.

On our program, TSA communications director Mark Hatfield defended the policy.


MARK HATFIELD, TSA SPOKESMAN:  It is a tough thing for us to do.  It‘s a necessary security measure.  But it gets to sort of a culture bridge that we haven‘t crossed before.  And we‘re hoping that it‘s only going to be an interim process until we have the technology that‘ll get at the threat.


ABRAMS:  Now, as far as we know, no new technology appeared in the last week that wipes out the need for the screening, but there was apparently a new TSA policy on patdowns.  Security screeners have now been directed to pat down female passengers only on the chest perimeter, with no touching between the breasts unless the passenger‘s chest triggers handheld metal detectors.  Passengers now told they can put their arms down after screening.  They don‘t have to feel like criminals.

“My Take.”  I supported the TSA policy because I trusted them when they said certain measures are necessary to protect our safety, and I was willing to wait until new technology became available.  So I don‘t really understand why the sudden change of policy.  Seems says (ph) to me that maybe this wasn‘t entirely necessary, after all.  So I‘m hoping for some answers.

And with me again, Mark Hatfield, the Transportation Security Administration‘s director of communications.  All right, Mark, what happened?

HATFIELD:  Well, first of all, let me make it clear it‘s not policy change.  Policy is still the same.  We‘re doing patdown, torso patdowns, on every secondary screening subject.  What we changed or modified was the procedure.  You know, at the end of the day, it‘s a fairly minor modification to that process, but I think it‘s one that‘s going to get at this customer service issue that wasn‘t going away.

ABRAMS:  So they were right, in the sense that there was no security value—I mean, we were having this debate on the program.  You and I together were debating a couple of people who were saying that it was too intrusive and that it didn‘t add to safety or security.  They were right?

HATFIELD:  Well, I‘ll tell you what.  I think it‘s important—I mean, we‘ve talked about this partnership we have with passengers.  We‘re serious about that.  And good partners listen.  So we listened.  We took a look at what the process was.

Let me make something very clear.  The threat is still very real.  The need to mitigate the threat of suicide bombers is still very real.  So we said, Is there a way that we can adjust this that gets away from that degree of intrusiveness but still provides us the security value that the patdown affords?

We think we‘ve found a way to do that, and we‘re hoping there‘s going to be a return in dividends in terms of customer satisfaction.  But I‘ll tell you, if we looked at this and said, Well, let‘s adjust the procedure, OK, that may degradate the security value, we wouldn‘t make the change if that were the case.

ABRAMS:  But see, that‘s my problem, is that I accepted what you and -

·         not just you in particular, but you and the people who are making the policy were saying about why we needed every aspect of it.  And now you what sound like you‘re saying is we didn‘t really need it, and as a result, you know, I‘m concerned about being able to take the TSA at face value in the future.

HATFIELD:  Well, I‘ll tell you, I want to make sure that we remedy that because we really appreciate your support and the sanity that you inject into some of these debates that get a little bit off the end of the scale.  So let me say this.  As far as the patdown is concerned, the full torso patdown is still available to screeners the way it was done prior to today.  What we‘ve changed is a piece of the procedure during the routine patdown.

If a passenger‘s chest area alarms, we‘ll still do the complete patdown.  If there‘s a visual anomaly in the way the clothes are fitting, we‘ll still use the full patdown.  We haven‘t eliminated it, we‘ve taken it out of probably the majority of those secondary patdowns, but it‘s still available to the screeners.  It‘s still part of the tool kit.  And the patdown itself is still very much there.

And frankly, Dan, I‘ll tell you, I imagine there‘s going to be a measurable percentage of those who complained before who still aren‘t satisfied.  So there‘s a point at which, you know, the patdown itself, no matter where they‘re being touched, is what offends people.  And we‘re not going to be able to get—that‘s what I referred about the cultural bridge that we‘ve crossed, that we‘re actually touching people.  So it remains what it was last week when we spoke, or several days ago when we spoke, a necessary procedure, one that we‘ve made a modification to, but the policy is still the same, in terms of doing it.

ABRAMS:  Just so I understand this, and my viewers understand, we‘ve been watching these patdowns, and I know the policy is to use the back of the hands around the chest area.


ABRAMS:  Be specific with us.  The difference now is—because we see in these patdowns on the videotape that some of the women are being patted down with the back of the hand in between their breasts, for example.  That‘s off limits now?

HATFIELD:  It‘s not off limits.  There are at least two different scenarios where the screeners will still be doing that.  So don‘t be...

ABRAMS:  But it‘s not automatic, the way it had been before.

HATFIELD:  We‘ve taken it out of the default setting to where we‘re not doing it to everyone, but that‘s still part of the tool kit, and you‘ll still see that used.  So it‘s not—we haven‘t retreated, Dan.

ABRAMS:  All right, but...

HATFIELD:  -and I really want to make sure that you understand that.

ABRAMS:  But in terms of the automatic, it‘s now under the chest?

HATFIELD:  Exactly.

ABRAMS:  And just so people can know what to expect when they go to the airport, it‘s under the chest...

HATFIELD:  Under the chest line and then up the sides, the full back, the lower abdomen.  And so—and the lowering of the arms is still part of the new procedure.  That was the first change that we talked about we made last week.  And we‘ll still go to the full torso patdown if the two different criteria—if one of those two criteria is met.  And PS, there‘s a full body patdown, by the way, for individuals—and this goes back to day one of TSA—there are times where we have to do a full patdown for individual who physically can‘t go through the walk-through metal detector.

ABRAMS:  Right.  Look, I can—I told you this before.  I have a lot of respect for the TSA people.  I think it‘s a vast...

HATFIELD:  I appreciate that.

ABRAMS:  ... improvement over the system that used to be in place.  These people are, you know, seemingly educated.  They seem to know what‘s going on.  They seem to know the policy.  Big change from before.  But I got to tell you, we got to be honest with people here, Mark.  The bottom line is if people...

HATFIELD:  Absolutely.

ABRAMS:  ... feel like you‘re not being straight, and I‘m going to come to the defense of the TSA and say, Look, they say we need this for security, I want to be safe, you got to be straight with us at all times about what‘s going on here.

HATFIELD:  Let me tell you, you can count on one thing from me and from the TSA.  You‘ll get direct answers to your questions, you know, no mumbo-jumbo governmentese.  I‘m going to tell it like it is.  And in this situation—you know, I‘ll tell you, there‘s an important thing to remember here.  That partnership between the TSA and the traveling public which we call upon for everything from moving the lines more quickly to helping us be alert for other possible dangers that are in the airport around the aviation system, that partnership has got to be preserved.

And if there‘s a situation—you know, people asked me today, Well, how many people complained?  Is it because so many, you know, 400 or 500 complained?  You know, how many have to complain before you change something?  I said, You know, it‘s not a number.  It‘s not a percentage.  It‘s a situation where if the perception gets to the point where we start jeopardizing that sense of partnership...


HATFIELD:  ... we‘re going to take action.  We‘re going to look for a way to do it better.

ABRAMS:  Then you got to give those—some of those women credit for coming forward and saying, This is going too far.  And it seems, in the end, the TSA agreed.  Mark Hatfield, good to see you again.  Thanks for coming back on the program.

HATFIELD:  Thanks for having me.

ABRAMS:  Coming up: My next guest knows how Martha Stewart is spending her holiday season behind bars.  She spent some time at the same prison and says she knows whether Martha‘s unit—and this is a true story—won a decorating contest at the prison.  And what about Scott Peterson and other high-profile convicts?  How will they spend the holidays?  Do they get a special Christmas dinner, for example?

Your e-mails,  Please include your name, where you‘re right from.  I respond at the end of the show.


ABRAMS:  We‘re back.  Martha Stewart used to be the person many of us would look to around the holidays for recipes and decorating tips.  Certainly, I was one of them.  But this year, she‘s decking the halls at a federal prison camp in Alderson, West Virginia.  I talked to a former prisoner who spent Christmas at that prison and has some new information about Martha‘s holiday this year.

But first, NBC‘s Ron Allen with more.


RON ALLEN, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  Martha Stewart writes “It‘s hard to be selfish while spending Christmas with 1,200 other inmates,” a holiday greeting dictated from prison and posted on her Web site.

ERIC DENZENHALL, PUBLIC RELATIONS MANAGER:  When you are the business, you have to stay in front of the public, no matter how you can.

ALLEN:  She reassures supporters, “I‘m fine, with lots of time to think, exercise, and not eat the bad food.”

ANDREW ROSS SORKIN, “NEW YORK TIMES”:  I believe that her PR people and probably lawyers and a whole other assortment of other people spent a lot of time tweaking every little sentence to make sure each word was perfect.

ALLEN:  “Cleaning has been my job,” she reports, “washing, scrubbing, sweeping and much more.”

MARTHA STEWART:  Every day you make the beds.  Every day!

ALLEN (on camera):  One thing Stewart does not mention, a big holiday gift she gave herself, some $8 million, by cashing in shares of her company‘s stock last week.  The price has been soaring, up more than 70 percent while she‘s been in jail.

(voice-over):  Some estimates suggest she‘s making hundreds of millions of dollars with product sales rising, and that lucrative deal with NBC for a talk show after her release positioning Stewart for a big comeback.

But it wasn‘t all about Stewart.  Her holiday wish list calls for prison reforms, better rehabilitation and education programs for inmates with her “who will never have the joy and well-being you and I experience,” she writes.  The third message from a famously successful entrepreneur and strategist due for release in March.  And PS, it ends with a link to another appeal of her conviction filed Wednesday just before the holidays.

Ron Allen, NBC News, New York.


ABRAMS:  Couple hours ago, I talked to Chrisa Gonzalez, a former federal prisoner at Alderson, who told me about Martha Stewart‘s holiday, and she says it‘s not that bad.


CHRISA GONZALEZ, FORMER ALDERSON PRISONER:  The prison goes all out for the inmates.  They have the decorating contest, which is always something the inmates look forward to.

ABRAMS:  A decorating contest?  I mean, tell us about that.


ABRAMS:  You‘re in prison, and there‘s a contest amongst the prisoners of who can make the best decorations?

GONZALEZ:  Yes, absolutely.  They give the inmates a certain amount of money to purchase supplies.  I believe this year it was $25.  They use what is on hand, but the unit manager can also go out to the local Kmart and purchase materials for the inmates.  There‘s a decorating committee.  And the inmates decide on a theme for that year and they decorate the unit.

ABRAMS:  This is a common area I assume you‘re talking about, right?

GONZALEZ:  Yes.  Yes, it is.

ABRAMS:  It seems a little bit unfair to have Martha Stewart on one of the teams here.

GONZALEZ:  That‘s very ironic, isn‘t it.  The decorating maven is involved in a decorating contest when she goes to prison.

ABRAMS:  And tell me how this works.  So each side, each unit or whatever, gets $25 and maybe a little bit of extras, and then they have to go and just—what, hang up popcorn and cardboard and other things in their unit?  And who decides who the winner is?

GONZALEZ:  They actually have people—former guards and people from the town of Alderson that come in and judge the contest.

ABRAMS:  What do you win if you win the contest?

GONZALEZ:  Oh, if you win the contest, the inmates decide on a prize for the unit.  It can be board games, curling irons.  One year they did stationary.  They passed out stationary to all the inmates.

ABRAMS:  So there really is a sense behind bars that Christmastime is going on, at least in this minimum security prison where you were.

GONZALEZ:  Right.  Now, every federal institution celebrates Christmas, but usually at the camp level, it‘s—it‘s much easier to celebrate.  And it gives the inmates something to look forward to.  It‘s always difficult, no matter how—you know, Alderson, in my opinion, was a pretty easy place to be, but you‘re still away from your family, you‘re away from your children.  It can be very depressing, and this gives the inmates something to look forward to, brings them all together.  And it‘s actually pretty exciting.

ABRAMS:  And do they give gifts and—I understand that there‘s someone—is there someone who dresses up as Santa or anything and comes in and gives gifts?

GONZALEZ:  No.  The year I was there, nobody dressed up as Santa.  But now, I was at four different federal institutions, and one of the institutions I was at, somebody did dress up as Santa.  But usually...

ABRAMS:  You‘ve been to a number of them?

GONZALEZ:  Four, yes.

ABRAMS:  All right.

GONZALEZ:  Four in three-and-a-half years.

ABRAMS:  And how does Alderson compare, the one where Martha Stewart is now, to the other federal prisons in terms of Christmastime?

GONZALEZ:  Oh, Alderson was by far the best.  No comparison.  Absolutely no comparison.  Usually, what they‘ll do—every institution will give out a gift bag, and pretty much what it is, is candy and chips and crackers, that type of thing.  Every institution, you‘ll get a bag like that, and that does include Alderson.  But most institutions, that‘s all they do is just pass out that bag the day before Christmas and that‘s it.  Now, they will decorate usually.  Every place I was at, they had a tree. 

But Alderson is the only place where they have this decorating contest.  The staff will pass out cookies and egg nog and hot chocolate to the inmates.


GONZALEZ:  They have carolers.

ABRAMS:  Wow.  Carolers?

GONZALEZ:  Yes.  it‘s...

ABRAMS:  The carolers come in?  Is there a chimney for Santa to come down, too, and leave some milk and cookies?

GONZALEZ:  No.  You‘d almost think that there would be, though.

ABRAMS:  Let me ask you one more question.  The menu—all right, this year‘s menu for Christmas at Alderson prison, cream of potato soup, Cornish hen, cornbread dressing, glazed sweet potatoes, vegetable medley with cheese, dinner rolls, blueberry pie with vanilla ice cream for dessert.  Not bad.

GONZALEZ:  Not too bad.  It‘s not as good as what it sounds like, though, actually.  Now, the year I was there...

ABRAMS:  But...

GONZALEZ:  Go ahead.

ABRAMS:  I‘m sorry.  I apologize.  Very quickly, the people that you know who are still there or were there, any sense of how Martha Stewart‘s been doing, et cetera?

GONZALEZ:  Actually, she‘s doing very well.  She‘s very well liked.  She‘s been very kind to the other inmates.  She‘s very respectful of the staff.  She just seems to be another inmate.  In fact, from what I understand, the other inmates are very protective of her, considering all the media attention.  I spoke to a friend of mine who told me that there‘s photographers all over the place trying to get pictures of Martha Stewart, and the inmates will actually gather around her to keep the photographers from taking pictures of her.

ABRAMS:  Really?

GONZALEZ:  But she is very well liked there, yes.

ABRAMS:  I‘d want her on my team...


GONZALEZ:  ... very well with everyone.

ABRAMS:  I‘d want her on my team in the decorating contest, that‘s for sure.

GONZALEZ:  Actually, her unit did not win.

ABRAMS:  They didn‘t win?

GONZALEZ:  No, they didn‘t win.

ABRAMS:  She was on the team and they didn‘t win?

GONZALEZ:  They didn‘t win.  No.  I think that if—had her unit won, there might have been some resentment from the other inmates...

ABRAMS:  I guess that‘s true.

GONZALEZ:  ... considering how talented Martha Stewart is.  But I think that, you know, there might have been—there might have been some protesting going on.

ABRAMS:  Chrisa, are you going to be able to stay out of prison now?

GONZALEZ:  Oh, absolutely.  Definitely.  It only took one time for me to learn my lesson, that‘s for sure.

ABRAMS:  Good luck to you.  Thanks for coming on the program.

GONZALEZ:  OK.  Thank you very much, Dan.

ABRAMS:  So she says it‘s not that rough for Martha.  What about Scott Peterson?  Christmas may not sound quite so good when you know you‘ll never have it as a free man.  Up next, details of what Peterson‘s holiday will be like.

And last night, I said the Justice Department was wrong to interpret the 2nd Amendment as guaranteeing everyone a constitutional right to own a gun.  My opinion got the e-mails flying, some of you saying you will never watch the show again.  I read some of them and respond.


ABRAMS:  Most people celebrate Christmas by sitting down to a feast with menus like this one: serve some chicken, baked potatoes, broccoli and cheese, and cake for dessert.  This menu didn‘t come from somebody‘s house.  It didn‘t come from the MSNBC cafeteria.  It actually came from Mule Creek State Prison in California, where Lyle Menendez is currently serving out a life sentence for murdering his parents.  Prisoners at his facility get treated to an extra helping of food this Christmas, and they‘re all chipping in money towards the cost of renting movies for a movie marathon on Christmas day.  They‘ll be watching “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King,” “Alien Versus Predator,” “Spy Game” and “Starsky and Hutch.”  those prisoners not interested in watching a movie can participate in pinochle or chess competitions.

And Scott Peterson will spend the rest of his life celebrating Christmas at San Quentin prison, but this year at the Redwood City jail, while he waits to have his sentence formalized, inmates there will be served turkey ham, a sort of mystery combo meat, yams, peas and carrots, and vanilla pudding for Christmas dinner.  On Christmas day, members of the Redwood City community come to the jail to pass around bags of homemade cookies, candies and apples.  And at all the prisons in California, chaplains will offer Christmas services for the inmates.

Second helpings and movies.

“My Take.”  I‘m for allowing prisoners to celebrate a religious holiday in a slightly different, a slightly better fashion, although I do wonder why the community is coming to the jail to give out goodies, rather than giving that to the less unfortunate on the outside.

Joining me now is someone who can tell us more about Christmas behind bars, Margot Bach from the California Department of Corrections in California.  Thanks very much for coming on the program.

All right, so Scott Peterson is not in prison yet.  He is in a jail in Redwood City.  Give us a sense of how different Christmas day is there for him than any other day.

MARGOT BACH, CA DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS:  You mean at the county jail where he is now?


BACH:  Likely he‘ll have visitors from his family, just like they have in prison, although we don‘t accept visitors coming in bringing gifts.  That‘s prohibited in state prison.  Family member who come in cannot bring gifts to their family members.

ABRAMS:  And what about—I mean, we were talking about the food—gets a special menu, et cetera, on Christmas day?

BACH:  In California prisons, they get a special menu.  They have special programs.  I think that‘s true in the county jail there in Redwood City, as well.  They have movies that are all G-rated.  I don‘t know if Mr.  Peterson will have an opportunity to watch a movie on Christmas day, but he‘ll likely have an opportunity to watch television.

ABRAMS:  They‘re not going to have the sort of decorating contest, though, that Martha Stewart and her inmates are having, huh?

BACH:  No, but you know, if you go to San Quentin right now, the gates are decorated.  There are Christmas trees and wreaths on some of the doors.

ABRAMS:  Yes, well, look, I think—I think that‘s fine.  But you know, have you heard—I mean, the fact that the community comes and gives them homemade cookies and things like that, doesn‘t that strike you as a little odd that they‘re spending all that time cooking for the prisoners, as opposed to the less fortunate on the outside?

BACH:  Well, they‘re probably doing it for both sides.  I mean, they consider inmates and prisoners less fortunate because of their circumstances, and perhaps they‘re doing it for people on the outside, as well.

ABRAMS:  Yes, I certainly hope they‘re doing it for people on the outside.  Eric Menendez—he‘s married, isn‘t he?

BACH:  Well, both of them are married, actually...


BACH:  ... and they can have visits from their wives on Christmas day.

ABRAMS:  No conjugal—no conjugal visits, though, right?

BACH:  No.  They can‘t have conjugal visits because they don‘t have a parole date, and that‘s the law in California.

ABRAMS:  And so Erik Menendez, again—is he getting the same sort of basic—he‘s not with Lyle in the same area, right?

BACH:  Well, actually, he is close in the same general geographic area.  He‘s in a prison outside of Sacramento, and they‘re both in, actually, protective custody, sensitive-needs (ph) type of yards.  And they‘ll have visits from their wives, if they choose to have those.  They‘ll have a special meal.  They can attend Christmas services and participate in other activities.

ABRAMS:  But they‘re not together, right?

BACH:  No, they‘re at different prisons.

ABRAMS:  They both got married while they were in prison, right?

BACH:  Yes, they did.

ABRAMS:  Yes.  Just got to wonder, I mean, you know, what kind of woman wants to marry a guy who‘s never getting out.

BACH:  Well, there are a lot of those kinds of situations in prison.

ABRAMS:  Yes.  It‘s kind of weird, though, right?

BACH:  Well, I think it takes a special kind of person to marry someone in prison.

ABRAMS:  Yes, “special” is the right word there.  Charles Manson, final one I want to ask about.  What‘s up with him in prison?

BACH:  Well, he‘s housed actually at the Corcoran (ph) state prison in Corcoran, in the protective housing unit, where he is housed with about 24 other inmates.  I‘m not sure if he celebrates Christmas or not, but he‘ll be offered a holiday meal, like the rest of the inmates at the institution.

ABRAMS:  All right.  Margot Bach, thank you very much for coming back on the program.  We appreciate it.

BACH:  You‘re welcome.

ABRAMS:  Coming up: From Scott to Amber, Jackson to O‘Reilly, this was quite a year for legal news.  I‘ve got my take on it in verse.  It‘s my “Closing Argument.”


ABRAMS:  My “Closing Argument.”  When I look back at the year‘s high-profile cases, there was plenty to cover even without Bronco chases.  Scott Peterson became a household name, not the best route to take for that sort of fame.  This year‘s Kato Kaelin that luscious Amber Frey, two different kinds of house guests called to help expose a lie.  Martha Stewart never thought she‘d spend Christmas in the clink, but then who‘d have pegged Bill O‘Reilly as a loofah-loving kink?


ABRAMS:  The real story this year, the trials we didn‘t see.  Kobe‘s accuser decided there were places she‘d rather be.  He said, I‘m sorry, she pulled out of the case.  But for naughty boss O‘Reilly, it was about saving face.  He paid millions, the case went away.  Hopefully, she saved any tapes for, you know, a rainy day.  But the thriller was supposed to be Michael‘s trial.  Was he just a child lover, or is that called a pedophile?  Delays mean that one won‘t start until next year, leaving something on the horizon for news purists to fear.  Like it or not, the program about justice isn‘t going anywhere.  We‘ll be back in 2005 with more legal fare.

Coming up, word just in that Scott Peterson‘s been arrested.  We‘ll explain in 60 seconds.


ABRAMS:  I‘ve had my say.  Now it‘s time for “Your Rebuttal.”  Lots of e-mails about our segment last night on the Justice Department memo that says that the 2nd Amendment to the Constitution grants every individual American a constitutional right to own a gun.  The amendment reads, “A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”  Professor Volokh defended the administration.  I said that‘s a radical position in stark contrast to almost every federal court opinion on the subject.  And I quoted from my own law review article from many years ago, where I said that it was only a right granted to individuals serving as part of a well-regulated militia.

Dan McNeill writes from New Jersey, “... every amendment within the Bill of Rights referred to an individual right.  In that context, why should the 2nd Amendment be singled out as different from the other nine?  Secondly, you must place yourself in the context of the time in which it was instituted.  In those pioneering days, gun ownership was a necessity.”

Well, Dan, it does apply to individuals, individuals serving as part of a well-regulated militia.  And it‘s different because it‘s the only amendment with a preamble that states its purpose.  Take a look at the copyright clause.  It has a similar preamble that states its purpose at the outset.  And you‘re right, at the time it did apply to all able-bodied males.  But as I said, does that mean the amendment should not apply to women, blacks or older people now?  Times have changed, and so has the application of all of the Bill of Rights.

From Virginia, James Ballance echoes the sentiments of some of you,

which is basically that, since I don‘t agree with you on the constitutional

analysis on the issue, you can‘t watch the show anymore.  are echoed saying

·         I can‘t watch the show anymore.  “Now solely because of your stance concerning the 2nd Amendment, my opinion of you has been altered to that of just another lawyer, no better than the ambulance chasers who ply the airwaves with their tawdry ‘If you‘ve been injured‘ ads.”

Sorry you feel that way, James.  I don‘t have that kind of animus toward people who agree with you.

Also from Virginia, Bob Wainright. “The amendment could easily have said, The right of the militia to keep and bear arms will not be infringed, but it doesn‘t.  It says, ‘the right of the people.‘  And since the militia is composed of the people, this is what one would expect.”

Bob, that‘s because it never was the militia‘s right to keep and bear arms.  It was individuals who were part of it.

From New York, Iris Paschedag responds to Bob with an argument on the other side.  “‘A well regulated militia‘ could have been left out of the argument entirely if the Founders only wished to guarantee the right of individuals to bear arms.  Since the phrase was included in the amendment, we can only come to the conclusion that it was important to the amendment‘s meaning.”

Ray Brandell in Connecticut.  “I agree with you completely.  I think the Constitution is quite clear.  The Founding Fathers wanted to preserve state militias because they were afraid to let the federal government have a monopoly on military power.  I don‘t see anything confusing about the 2nd Amendment.”

From New Hampshire, Barton Goodeve is just happy to see us talking about something other than the Peterson case.  “It was high time we got to see some evidence of your excellent legal education.  After way too many months of Scott and Amber tapes, your 2nd Amendment piece was refreshing and interesting.  Please do more shows at this level.”

Deb S. in California just likes the show.  “You‘d better watch out.  With your common sense and high likability, you could give lawyers a good name.”  So Deb, why no last name?  You should be proud.  Come on!

Your e-mails, one word,  We go through them and read them at the end of the show.

And now it‘s time for our newly branded ABRAMS REPORT feature, “Oh Pleas!”  It‘s where you‘ll find stories about America‘s most incompetent criminals, pathetic lawyers and ridiculous lawsuits.  And today it‘s where you‘ll find the latest on the Scott Peterson case.  According a press release from the DA in New York‘s Nassau County, Scott Peterson has been placed under arrest for—get this—operating a home improvement business without a license while defrauding a woman, leaving her essentially homeless.  And more charges may be filed.  The Nassau County, New York, DA, Dennis Dillon, claims a woman signed a contract with Peterson to demolish and then rebuild her home after Peterson apparently faked a call to the local consumer affairs bureau to reassure her that he was a licensed home improvement contractor.  And then—you weren‘t supposed to put up the picture yet!


ABRAMS:  And then Scott Peterson allegedly took money from her four times, checks worth more than $14,000 each, to tear down and rebuild her home.  The tearing down, that took place.  The rebuilding, she‘s still waiting for that.  DA Dillon says Peterson used another contractor‘s valid home improvement license, lied to the woman who hired him and just continuously put her off when she complained.  Now she‘s living with her family because her home is open to the elements and uninhabitable.

This is the part where I was supposed to say, Oh, did we mention it‘s a different Scott Peterson?  OK.  There it is.  If this had been Joe Peterson, do you think the DA would be putting out a press release about trying to rebuild homes without a license?  But it worked.  It caught our attention.  Scott Peterson, different Scott Peterson, there he is.

And now we want to welcome the newest member of the ABRAMS REPORT team.  One of my producers, Aparna (ph), gave birth to her daughter, Haley (ph), on December 11.  Haley weighed in at 6 pounds, 10 ounces.  Our best wishes for the holiday to Mom, Dad and little Haley.

That does it for us tonight.  See you back tomorrow with a look back at the biggest legal stories of 2004.  Got an all-star legal team weighing in, so make sure you come back tomorrow night.

Coming up next, “HARDBALL” with Chris Matthews.  Thanks for watching. 

Good night.



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