Guest: Janye Weintraub, Carolyn Atwell-Davis, David Mazie, Gary Young, Harvey Levin
DAN ABRAMS, HOST: Coming up, police search for an 11-year-old boy allegedly abducted by a convicted child molester. The boy‘s father lived with the guy, but never knew he was a sex offender.
ABRAMS (voice-over): Police find the man‘s car, but are still searching for him and the boy. The suspect served five years in prison for raping another 11-year-old, but never registered as a sex offender when he moved across state lines. Is it time to make it a lot easier to identify sex offender, particularly when it comes to children?
And jurors award a young girl and her family $135 million after she was paralyzed by a drunk driver, most of it coming from the company that served beer to the driver at an NFL game. Will this mean the end of beers at ball games?
Plus, we‘ve got Paris Hilton caught on tape. But this time, was she stealing a copy of the tape you‘re probably thinking of?
The program about justice starts now.
ABRAMS: Hi, everyone.
First up on the docket, authorities from a number of states searching frantically for an 11-year-old boy last seen in Florida on Tuesday when his father‘s friend picked him up from school, a friend who it turns out was a convicted sex offender who had served time for indecent assault, including other charges on another 11-year-old boy.
NBC‘s Martin Savidge joins us from Atlanta with the latest—Martin.
MARTIN SAVIDGE, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Hello, Dan.
There was a development this afternoon in a news conference hold down in Florida in which authorities updated the case. No major news. Let me tell you about the big development that happened this morning. And that was in north Georgia around 10:00, when a vehicle was found abandoned at the site of the very busy I-75 northbound. That is a very heavily used north-and-south corridor.
Police had seen this vehicle yesterday, but it wasn‘t until today that they heard it was part of an Amber Alert, so they went back, checked the vehicle, sure enough found that it matched the alert. And they have now taken that car in for investigation. The Amber Alert from Florida, it went out on Wednesday. However, the event actually happened on Tuesday.
Here is the way it went; 11-year-old Adam Kirkirt was getting out of school and he was picked up by a family friend, 42-year-old Frederick Fretz. What the boy‘s family did not know is that Frederick Fretz was a convicted sex offender, in 1991, had served time for molesting another young boy. The two disappeared.
Fretz was heard from later that day, Tuesday afternoon. He left a phone message on the family phone, saying, hey, the car broke down. We‘re lost out. We‘re out in the middle of nowhere. Come get us, but he didn‘t leave specific directions. Police went looking, never did find the car until today 400 miles away in north Georgia, where it was broken down.
And then this afternoon, the news conference, where authorities had some positive news. Here‘s what they had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS BLAIR, MARION COUNTY SHERIFF‘S OFFICE: The search in Marion County will continue with the same dedication that‘s shown since the beginning of the incident. We do not at this time believe that any foul play is involved. We believe that both individuals, Mr. Fretz and Adam, are together, possibly on foot in that location, and we‘re continuing our search.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SAVIDGE: Reportedly, dogs were brought in at the scene where that car was found. They trailed the two people for a distance and then lost the scent. Authorities believe the two may have gotten into somebody else‘s car, somebody who was probably trying to be a good samaritan and not aware of the case right now—Dan.
ABRAMS: Martin, explain to me this business about the registering as a sex offender. This was a guy who was a convicted sex offender, correct, and was he not on the rolls?
SAVIDGE: Well, no, he was supposedly listed in two rolls in two different states, but the state of Florida was not necessarily one of those states.
And the way the father and the way the suspect met is pretty unusual. The two of them were in jail in Marion County in Florida. And when they got out of jail, they were friends. And so he said to the one suspect, that is Mr. Fretz, why don‘t you come live with us for a while, which he did for three months. And part of his job was to pick up the boy from school. Everything seemed to work fine, until Tuesday, when he disappeared with the 11-year-old boy—Dan.
ABRAMS: All right, Martin Savidge, thanks a lot. Appreciate it.
My take. First of all, I generally support tougher criminal penalties for offenders like this guy. He served five years for molesting an 11-year-old boy, molesting and there were a bunch of other charges there. And I would also say, child molesters are different from other criminals, because they tend to be repeat offenders.
Now, I don‘t believe a conviction should mean a life sentence. I support sex offender lists when it comes to crimes against children. And these shoddy state-by-state lists are just not enough. A national database should be available to the public, not only law enforcement. Adam‘s father should have had access to a nationwide database, where he might have been able to learn the truth about his so-called friend.
Joining me now is director of legislative affairs for the National Center For Missing and Exploited Children, Carolyn Atwell-Davis, and criminal defense attorney Jayne Weintraub, who thinks that these registration lists are a big problem.
All right, Ms. Atwell-Davis, how does this work? Why is it that a guy like this seems to be able to avoid being on the registry rolls and does the public have access to it?
CAROLYN ATWELL-DAVIS, NATIONAL CENTER FOR MISSING AND EXPLOITED
CHILDREN: Well, I can‘t speculate as to why in this particular case he was not listed with the Pennsylvania state registering agency.
I understand his conviction in Pennsylvania was in 1991. The Megan‘s Law in Pennsylvania was enacted in 1995. Again, I don‘t have the specifics. Pennsylvania law enforcement should be able to answer that question.
ABRAMS: All right, what about federal, though? Is there any federal
· the only federal database that I understand exists is for law enforcement only, and the public doesn‘t have access to it. Is that right?
ATWELL-DAVIS: Yes, that‘s correct. The federal law on the state registration programs is called the Jacob Wetterling Act. And it was enacted to encourage states—and all states now do it. It gives federal funds to states to maintain their own sex offender registries.
And part of the federal requirement is that they send their sex offender registry information to the FBI for inclusion in the NSOR, National Sex Offender Registry. But that information is kept at the FBI.
ABRAMS: Yes. And that‘s the problem, isn‘t it? Don‘t you think that the public should have more access to some of these registries?
ATWELL-DAVIS: Yes. Every state does really some information—it does vary between states—about their registered sex offenders. And right now, you have to go every state Web site to get that information. It‘s important to know, though, that the Web sites in every state does not include all registrants. It only includes those that the state chooses to put on their Web site.
ABRAMS: Right. Right.
So, the bottom line is, Jayne Weintraub, that these lists, these state-by-state lists are a mess. It‘s nearly impossible for someone who wants to follow a particular person or find out whether someone has moved into the neighborhood, etcetera, to check it on any of these registration lists. Don‘t you think it‘s time to have some sort of federal list where you can just say, all right, I don‘t have to go into California‘s state database to find out if there is a sex offender; I just want to know, in general, is this guy a sex offender?
JAYNE WEINTRAUB, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: What are you doing, Dan? You looking up every one of your neighbors? You want to hire a private investigator?
In this particular case you‘re talking about, No. 1, they were in jail together. He knew that his friend was a convicted felon for child molestation. That is No. 1.
ABRAMS: That‘s wrong.
WEINTRAUB: He didn‘t know what he was in for? Come on.
ABRAMS: That‘s right. No, no, you‘re wrong. He was not in prison at that time for child molestation. The child molestation charge was earlier. And, apparently, this guy didn‘t talk about it and he didn‘t have to.
ABRAMS: Don‘t you agree, Jayne, that it‘s different when it comes to child molestation? It‘s a specific type of crime that tends to have repeat offenders and, as a result, should be treated differently?
WEINTRAUB: Yes and no. I think that they should be treated differently, but I think there is such a wide spectrum.
For example, Dan, if somebody downloads pornographic piece of material and sends it to someone, it is a federal crime. Maybe that person made a mistake. It was an abhorrent act of behavior. That person is then labeled a pedophile and has to register in the state of Florida. And in the federal court, they have to register wherever they‘re going to live, period, end of sentence. That person is just as stigmatized as the person who actually is a child molester. It‘s an overbroad law.
ABRAMS: Let‘s say there‘s a way to protect your friend who is downloading pornography, all right, and sending it to his pal. Let‘s say there is a way to avoid that. Would you at least say that you would support a national database of people who have been convicted of, let‘s say, more serious crimes, crimes against a person specifically, when it comes to child...
WEINTRAUB: Who should have access to this, your neighbors?
ABRAMS: Everyone, everyone.
WEINTRAUB: No, Dan. Because why don‘t you just label them pedophile, put a P. on them and they could never their life?
People pay their debt to society and then they are on supervision and they should be given the opportunity or some kind of hearing to demonstrate that they are not a threat or danger anymore. And they can get on with their live. Otherwise, they can never get a mortgage. They can never get a job. They can never have a life. So, what kind of rehabilitation do you want them to have?
ABRAMS: Yes, but my problem with that, Carolyn, is that that basically is saying we should treat child molesters like every other crime, where we say, once you‘re out, you‘re clear and free.
ATWELL-DAVIS: The courts have not held that. The fact of the matter is, this is public information. And giving the public information they can use to protect their children, to protect themselves is always in society‘s best interests.
And the courts that have looked at these laws have all held that they are constitutional, that they do not violate any constitutionally protected rights. And Pennsylvania itself has held just last year...
WEINTRAUB: That doesn‘t mean that they are right. It means that they need to be looked at. They are too overbroad. They need to be changed and they can be reversed. Just because a court ruled that it is constitutional doesn‘t mean it‘s not subject to a later challenge.
WEINTRAUB: We all have children, but we all have to be accountable and responsible as parents also. You just don‘t let your 6-year-old or 11-year-old get into a car with somebody who you don‘t know.
ABRAMS: Oh, so now we‘re going to say that we‘re going to start blaming every parent of a child who‘s been raped?
WEINTRAUB: No, Dan. Police have access to this material. The FBI has this material.
ABRAMS: So, what are the police going to do?
WEINTRAUB: ... to help, God forbid, are in a bad situation.
ABRAMS: Oh, and just picture this, Jayne. The police go outside the house of some convicted child molester and you‘re going to go crazy. You‘re going to say, what are the police doing there? He‘s already served his time. Leave him alone.
WEINTRAUB: Dan, if there is a situation where‘s there‘s a missing child, there is a need for the information to be in law enforcement, Dan, not in the public‘s hands.
ABRAMS: All right, I have got to wrap this up. But Carolyn Atwell-Davis.
Jayne Weintraub is going to stick around, will join us later.
If you have seen Adam Kirkirt, if you have got any information on him or Frederick Fretz, police ask that you call them at 1-352-732-9111.
Coming up, the judge in the Michael Jackson case rules jurors will hear from an expert on child abuse who will explain why the accuser may have waited to report the alleged abuse. Jackson‘s attorneys are furious. With the case set to begin later this month, we have got more on today‘s hearing.
Plus, a young girl is paralyzed for life after a drunk driver crashes into her family‘s car. Her family sued the company that served the driver beer and got $105 million from them. Does the punishment fit the crime? And will this mean the end of beers at ball games?
Your e-mails to ABRAMSREPORT@MSNBC.com. Please include your name, where you‘re writing from. I respond at the end of the program.
ABRAMS: Coming up, a big ruling in the Michael Jackson case that could help prosecutors explain why the young accuser acted the way he did after he says he was abused by Jackson.
ABRAMS: We‘re back.
A setback for the defense in the Michael Jackson case, a key ruling that is going to allow prosecutors to call an expert witness to testify about why young victims continue to express love for their abusers, for example.
In one of the last pretrial hearings before jury selection begins in 10 days, MSNBC‘s Jennifer London was inside to Santa Maria courthouse.
Jennifer, why so much fighting? Why the defense fighting so hard to keep this guy off the stand?
JENNIFER LONDON, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Well, Dan, the defense‘s argument is essentially this. They say, quite simply, the accuser is lying. And they say, if the court allows this expert witness to testify after the accuser, the defense claims that could lend some credibility to the accuser‘s testimony.
Defense attorney Thomas Mesereau saying he does not believe that this expert should be able to bolster the credibility of someone the defense says is simply not credible. The prosecution for its part arguing that they think it is very important for the jury to understand why a child who has been sexually abused may act a certain way, for example, as you mentioned, Dan, why they may still show affection toward the accused or why they might not tell someone right away or why their story may change over time.
The prosecution also saying that this expert would not offer any direct testimony about Michael Jackson, that they say this expert will offer very general testimony. Ultimately, Judge Melville ruling in favor of the prosecution, saying this witness will be allowed to testify when the trial begins.
Also today, they finalized the jury questionnaire. Judge Melville saying he took the questions that both sides submitted. He narrowed it down significantly. It is now about seven pages and jury selection, Dan, will begin on January 31.
ABRAMS: Jennifer London, thanks a lot.
My take. I say, let the witness testify. Let the defense and try and discredit that witness and the accuser on cross-examination. That‘s what it‘s for.
Joining me now, Harvey Levin, attorney and executive producer of “Celebrity Justice.” And back with me, criminal defense attorney Jayne Weintraub.
Harv, what do you make of the ruling?
HARVEY LEVIN, EXECUTIVE PRODUCER, “CELEBRITY JUSTICE”: Well, it makes sense to me.
Look, this kid is not without credibility. There was probable cause to get search warrants in this case largely based on the boy. The grand jury held Michael Jackson to answer on these charges. So it‘s not like you can discount this kid as an out-and-out liar. And he has problems, though. He didn‘t tell the truth, if you believe him now, to Children‘s Services. It took a long time for this kid to open up. And the prosecution needs to explain why that is.
And it‘s kind of like, Dan, Stockholm syndrome, where you get to love your abuser. And that is what they are going to try and show on the stand, that this kid was conflicted.
ABRAMS: And, Harv, the defense will be able to call their own witness to say, well, that guy you just heard from didn‘t have it quite right.
LEVIN: You know what, Dan? That is true. I think the guy who is probably going to be the most important in terms of this boy is going to be the psychologist who got the boy finally to open up, Dr. Stan Katz.
I think that the defense is going to ask this guy some serious questions, why did this kid suddenly flip? And I think the prosecutors will try and get Stan Katz to justify it as well.
ABRAMS: Let me a—this is what prosecutor Ron Zonen said today in court about allowing this witness to testify.
He said: “It‘s important to allow him to testify to dispel myths associated with child abuse trauma and to show why a child might demonstrate affection or even love for the person who does the offense.”
So, Jayne, what‘s the big problem?
WEINTRAUB: Yes, the big problem is three things.
No. 1, this is not a scientific expert that is going to study based on science and give an expert advice answer. This is an expert who is going to get up, bolster the prosecutor‘s witness, or accuser, who has a million pieces of baggage with him. And, No. 2, what are we doing here with an expert? This is human nature. The prosecutor needs an excuse to show why the kid delayed in reporting crime.
ABRAMS: How is this any different than any other psychological expert?
WEINTRAUB: Well, because a psychological expert can testify about, for example, a disease, post-traumatic stress syndrome. A psychologist can testify about drug addiction. These are things based in science.
LEVIN: But, Jayne, Jayne, what is the difference between this and, say, an expert testifying about battered wife syndrome?
WEINTRAUB: Battered wife syndrome is an acknowledged psychological syndrome that is in the book and on the books.
LEVIN: It is the same thing. Same thing.
WEINTRAUB: And I‘ll tell you something, so being molested as a child, but that is not why the prosecutor wants to call this expert.
The prosecutor wants to clean up this kid. And what they are going to get into is the battle of the experts.
ABRAMS: So what?
WEINTRAUB: They are going to have to let the defense have an expert psychologist examine the child. Now, you know there are going to be motions from the prosecutor trying to block it.
ABRAMS: Well, all right. Look, that is not a particularly persuasive argument for why they shouldn‘t allow this guy to testify.
Let me take a quick break here. We‘re going to come back.
The defense attorney, Tom Mesereau, was really—I mean, he said, what if they are flat-out liars? We‘re going to talk about that in a minute.
And a tragic drunk driving accident left a young girl paralyzed. The driver clearly responsible for the crash. A jury ordered the company who served him beer at a football game to pay the girl and her family $105 million. Is it fair to put so much of the blame on the company?
ABRAMS: We‘re back talking about a big ruling in the Michael Jackson case and also looking ahead to a hearing next week in the Jackson case.
All right, so this ruling today basically says that this expert can come in and testify about why the boy may have acted the way he did. Why didn‘t the boy report the abuse immediately? Why did he still show affection for Michael Jackson?
Here‘s what defense attorney Tom Mesereau said in court today: “What if they are flat-out liars? They have a history of lying in school.” He‘s talking about the boys, the accuser and brother—“lying in school, lying in acting school, lying in the community. What if they testify in order to help their mother obtain money? They,” the prosecutors, “have a weak case. Our whole position is that they should not be allowed to bolster their witnesses‘ sheer lack of credibility.”
The problem, though, Harv, is that what the defense is basically asking the judge to do is to say, assume that the kid is lying and then make your ruling from there.
LEVIN: Yes, and it doesn‘t work that way.
I mean, the defense, honestly, has plenty of ammunition against the mother in this case, so it‘s just kind of interesting they are making a big deal about this. All this amounts to is bringing an expert on. Dan, and I got to tell you something. I think it‘s always dangerous to bring an expert on to try and explain a child‘s actions, because you start wondering, why do they need so many experts to explain this kid?
In some ways, less is more, when you just basically say, look, the kid was scared. The kid was confused. He was ashamed . And I think that is more relatable than calling it...
WEINTRAUB: Harvey, this is not a kid that was confused or ashamed.
He gave sworn statements under oath that Michael Jackson never touched him.
LEVIN: Right. But you know what?
WEINTRAUB: This is not, I love him. This is, he never touched me.
He never did anything wrong. Mother takes him to a lawyer for $20 million.
Oops, I made a mistake?
LEVIN: You‘re missing my point. I am not saying this kid is lying or telling the truth. What I‘m saying is that, I think, if I were the prosecutor, I would just basically say, look, jury, you can understand that kids are scared, confused, ashamed, and not start calling experts.
I think it actually hurts prosecutors to try and justify all of this.
You kind of leave it the way it is.
LEVIN: Because people can understand a 12-year-old kid is scared. He doesn‘t understand what a sworn statement is.
ABRAMS: The defense team has a lot of ammunition here against this kid. They‘ve got a lot of ammunition against his mother. I don‘t think they should be particularly worried about an expert witness who‘s going to come in or not come in, in this case.
ABRAMS: All right, Harvey Levin is going to come back in a bit to talk about some really interesting cases.
LEVIN: What‘s really important, Dan.
ABRAMS: Yes, exactly, really important, Paris.
ABRAMS: Jayne Weintraub, great to see you again. Thanks a lot.
WEINTRAUB: Thanks, Dan.
ABRAMS: Coming up, anyone who has been to a pro sporting event has probably seen someone who has had too much to drink, but should the company serving alcohol to fans be responsible if someone gets into a car crash? A jury said yes, awarded the victim‘s family more than $100 million. So, should this mean, could this mean the end of beer at ball games?
And we‘ve seen Paris Hilton do a lot of things on tape. We‘ve got the latest video showing her committing what one person says could be a crime.
ABRAMS: We‘re back. If you‘ve been to a professional sporting event, you‘ve probably seen people get drunk at the games. But now sports teams and vendors may want to think twice after the largest liquor liability award in U.S. history. NBC‘s Mike Taibbi has the story.
MIKE TAIBBI, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Though burdened by a wheelchair, a breathing tube and monitors, Antonia Verni could speak of her dreams like any 7-year-old.
ANTONIA VERNI, PARALYZED BY DRUNK DRIVER: A kindergarten teacher, a singer and a ballerina.
TAIBBI: Her hopes resilient despite a tragedy five years ago. During a football game at Giants Stadium, a fan named Daniel Lanzaro was served enough beers by stadium vendors, more than a dozen by Lanzaro‘s own count, to push him three times above the legal limit. Antonia, then 2, was picking pumpkins with her family that day. Later, at this intersection, Lanzaro‘s car smashed into the Verni‘s car, leaving Antonia paralyzed from the neck down.
RONALD VERNI, ANTONIA‘S FATHER: ... occupational therapists, physical therapists...
TAIBBI: Her father explained caring for Antonia could cost an estimated $42 million over her lifetime. A jury awarded more than three times that amount, $30 million from Lanzaro and $105 million from the Aramark Vending Company. Ronald Verni says he‘ll direct some of the jury‘s award to stem cell research because of its potential as a treatment for spinal cord injury.
VERNI: Maybe 10 to 15 years down the road, it can develop into something.
TAIBBI: Right now, it‘s a struggle that consumes the family. At Thursday‘s news conference, Antonia suddenly needed her breathing tube cleared, her distress evident. Later, when she sang her favorite song, “Celebration”...
ANTONIA: ... celebrate, celebrate, celebrate you and me...
TAIBBI: ... the assembled reporters, who aren‘t supposed to, applauded. Mike Taibbi, NBC News, New York.
ABRAMS: It‘s just such a horrible story. I remember we had little Antonia on the program. What a doll. All right, but let‘s get to the legal issues here. The drunk driver pleaded guilty to vehicular assault, serving a five-year prison sentence.
“My Take.” I said it before. I feel for this family. They‘re unquestionably entitled to the money from the drunk driver, and even some from the company that sold the beer, because, after all, the guy selling the beer violated rules by selling more than two beers. He may have even violated a New Jersey law that says you can‘t sell alcohol to someone who‘s clearly intoxicated. When you‘re talking about who needs to hear the message loud and clear, it‘s the drunk drivers. This guy went out to strip clubs after the game. He is and should be the one held primarily responsible. Using this “culture of intoxication,” argument, we‘d be shutting down most bars in America.
Joining me is David Mazie, attorney for the Verni family, and Gary Young, general counsel to the New Jersey Restaurant Association. Gentlemen, thanks very much for coming on the program.
Mr. Mazie, why doesn‘t a verdict like this, if it stays on appeal, basically lead to the notion that we should close down all bars because there are cultures of intoxication at all bars?
DAVID MAZIE, ATTORNEY FOR THE VERNI FAMILY: Bars are very different from stadiums, especially football stadiums. If you had heard the evidence in this case, we had a number of different Aramark employees who actually testified—a number of them are actually police officers, off-duty police officers—that Aramark instructed them that if somebody was intoxicated and if they weren‘t causing a problem, they should serve them. We had John Mara, the president of the Giants, testify that because the beer is cut off in the beginning of the third quarter, that Aramark sells as much beer as possible in the first half.
I mean, the evidence was unbelievable that they actually encourage a culture of intoxication. It‘s different than a tavern.
ABRAMS: But I don‘t—I don‘t get—I still don‘t get it, Gary Young. I don‘t get how if you‘re—I‘m sure at bars, they‘re trying to sell as much liquor as they can, which is the same thing as trying to sell as much liquor as you can before the end of the first half.
GARY YOUNG, GENERAL COUNSEL, N.J. RESTAURANT ASSOCIATION: Well, I would agree with that. Obviously, all alcohol is a profit motive operation for the bars that sell it. But at the same time, I can tell you, representing restaurants that have liquor licenses, they train their employees not to serve to visibly intoxicated patrons simply because of the exposure that it gives them.
ABRAMS: Right. And Aramark in this case argued unsuccessfully that this guy was an alcoholic and, as a result, that no one could have been expected to tell that he was intoxicated. Jury obviously didn‘t buy that argument. But let me—here‘s a piece of sound from the father, talking about the responsibility of the company that sold the beer.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VERNI: It‘s common knowledge that you buy a ticket, the next thing you buy is a beer and you start partying. There‘s nothing wrong with that, but then the seller of the beer has the responsibility to monitor their customers. It‘s that simple.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: Isn‘t that hard, though, Mr. Mazie, in the context of the stadium? I mean, you got these guys saying, Beer here, beer here.” They‘re running around, trying to sell as many beers as possible. Isn‘t it going to be real hard for them to monitor each and every person who‘s buying a beer?
MAZIE: Not according to them. Each and every person from Aramark testified that within 15 to 20 seconds, they can tell if you‘re intoxicated. Another thing that came out was they‘re supposed to be training these people through the—something called the TIPS course, which is a nationally known organization. It turned out after the evidence that even though they said everyone was trained, that only half of the beer tenders were actually trained. One of the people that was enforcing the rules, an Aramark supervisor, was a year out of high school, was working at a gas station, and wasn‘t even old enough to drink. And he‘s supposed to be enforcing these alcohol policies. It was ridiculous.
ABRAMS: But again, think about it, Mr. Mazie. You go to a bar and there‘s a bartender who‘s sometimes in college who‘s serving beers, this and that. I mean, I would think—and I have no idea about statistics on this issue, but I would think that there‘s a good percentage of bars in this country that have people who are between the ages of, I don‘t know, 21 to 23, serving beers who are ultimately responsible for how much people are going to drink.
And it seems to me that when you‘re imposing this kind of liability on this company, you‘re going to be imposing it on bars across this country.
MAZIE: You have to serve responsibly. That‘s the law. You said it in the outset. That‘s the law. If you‘re not going to serve responsibly, give up the liquor license. Give it to somebody who can actually serve responsibly.
ABRAMS: You agree with me, don‘t you, Mr. Mazie, as a practical matter, this verdict will likely be reduced substantially as this case goes up through the courts.
MAZIE: Absolutely not.
ABRAMS: Come on! Really?
MAZIE: I‘ll make a gentlemen‘s bet with you. Absolutely.
ABRAMS: All right. You‘ve got a gentlemen‘s bet.
MAZIE: If you want to break it down...
ABRAMS: You think this $135 million verdict‘s going to stick?
MAZIE: Do you know how it breaks down?
MAZIE: It‘s $22 million to take care of her the rest of her life. The estimates were between $22 and $42 million, so it‘s the low end of that. With regard to her pain and suffering, they gave this girl, who can‘t even breathe on her own...
MAZIE: ... can never move anything below her neck, $30 million.
Quite honestly, I thought they could have tripled that.
ABRAMS: Did the drunk driver have any money?
MAZIE: No, we settled with the drunk driver. They get a credit for 50 percent of the compensatory damages. I heard you this morning with regard to the punitive damages -- $75 million is against a $5 billion asset base...
ABRAMS: Yes, but asset base, the bottom line is that—you know, you talk about—everyone loves to talk about in these cases how much the company—like, the chairs are worth in the offices of the company. The bottom line is the net income of this company is $260 something million, right?
MAZIE: It is. It is.
MAZIE: But you know what? They didn‘t even bring that up during the trial. All they said was, We‘re worth—we have $5 billion in assets and we have a $1 billion net worth. That was their testimony from their CFO. The punishment, as you said, have to fit the crime. And according to New Jersey law, as well as law around the country, you need to take into consideration the financial resources of the entity, so that if you‘re going to punish them, they going to feel it.
ABRAMS: Mr. Young, no chance this‘ll stand up, as is, on appeal, right?
YOUNG: I sincerely doubt it. I think that, clearly, this reflected an impassioned jury. Further, the New Jersey law that Mr. Mazie‘s referring to, there‘s a public policy statement by the legislature expressing concern about the ability of restaurants and bars to get insurance, in the first instance, and secondly, there‘s a recognition that this type of verdict not only affects the owners of these establishments, but all the citizens in general throughout the sectors of society.
ABRAMS: Yes. All right. I‘ve got to wrap this up. I mean, Mr. Mazie, don‘t get me wrong, I‘m not suggesting your clients weren‘t entitled to compensation in the context of this case because, you know, you had a very strong case, it seems to me. The question was simply how much? How much will hold up on appeal?
Please, you know, send our regards. We appreciated it when you had the Vernis on the program last time. Please send our thoughts and prayers to that family, as well. I think about it. Every since that interview we did with Antonia, I haven‘t been able to get her out of my mind, so you know...
MAZIE: She‘s very special kid.
ABRAMS: All right. Thank you very much for coming on the program. I appreciate it. Good night.
MAZIE: You‘re welcome.
ABRAMS: Coming up, we have got some breaking news to report in the context of that missing boy we were talking about, Adam Kirkirt, the 11-year-old who had gone missing after a family friend had picked him up for school, missing for days. He has been found. We‘ve got news coming up.
ABRAMS: We‘ve got some breaking news to report to you about a story we reported earlier in the program. Adam Kirkirt, that 11-year-old boy missing since Tuesday after a family friend picked him up at school, a family friend who it turns out was a convicted child molester—Adam has been found. Martin Savidge has been reporting on this story. Martin, what do we know?
SAVIDGE: Hello again, Dan. Well, you often hope for a happy ending in a situation like this, but as you and I both know, it doesn‘t necessarily turn out that way. But it did in north Georgia just a short time ago, as 11-year-old Adam Kirkirt has been found alive and well. He was seen by an NBC camera cameraman being placed in the back of a police car up there. What they have not located right now, but they believe they know the whereabouts, and that is Frederick Fretz, the 42-year-old sex offender in whose custody they believe this young boy has been for the past couple of days.
They are holed up in an area that is in north Georgia, as I say. It‘s about 30 miles north of Georgia, Bartow County area. The original car—that‘s what triggered all of this this morning—was found at 10:00 o‘clock this morning, and it was apparently discovered around exit 283. Now, the search is going on at 285. It‘s heavily wooded up there, but they believe that they have Fretz surrounded, and authorities are closing in. There are a lot of police up there.
But the best news is that 11-year-old Adam Kirkirt has been found alive and apparently is well. His exact condition, obviously, is going to be diagnosed now, now that he‘s safely in police custody. For his father, it has got to be a great relief. And the investigation of trying to find the suspect is fully under way—Dan.
ABRAMS: Martin Savidge, thanks very much for that. Wow. That is great news. Look at that. Adam, little Adam, was found.
All right. Let me take a quick break. When we come back, we‘re going to have more on a couple of stories of celebrities making headlines, Bill Cosby and Paris Hilton. We got another videotape—not the one you‘re thinking of—coming up.
ABRAMS: One‘s famous for making people laugh, the other‘s famous just, well, for being famous. Both are making headlines today. A former female employee at Philadelphia‘s Temple University now accusing comedian Bill Cosby of groping her one year after the incident allegedly took place. After complaining of stress, she says, Cosby gave her a couple of pills. Her memory‘s fuzzy from the evening, but says she recalls him touching her breast and placing her hand on his genitals. Cosby‘s lawyer calls the accusations, quote, “utterly preposterous.”
Meanwhile, in a different type of reality TV, Paris Hilton, seen here
reaching over a counter at a West Hollywood newsstand—do we have that? -
· grabbing a DVD. A surveillance camera captures all the action—although, that‘s not the tape. According to a clerk, Hilton was furious they were selling her now infamous—there it is—her now infamous sex tape (UNINTELLIGIBLE) the tape was obtained by “Celebrity Justice.”
And again joining me is the executive producer, Harvey Levin. All right, Harv, so what is this—I mean, it‘s a little bit hard to—let‘s put up the tape again because we showed it a little bit late there. What exactly is the clerk saying happened?
HARVEY LEVIN, EXECUTIVE PRODUCER, “CELEBRITY JUSTICE”: Well, the clerk says that she came there, and it was innocent enough at the beginning. Apparently, she saw not only the tape, but she saw a poster advertising the tape, became enraged at a point and said, Look, what kind of a—you know, What does this say to all of the young kids who like me, and took the poster, ripped it up. You can see from this tape that we obtained that—you don‘t quite see her grab the poster and rip it, but you see her ripping something and throwing it to the ground. And then you do see an arm, it seems like it‘s Paris‘s arm, kind of reach near the register and grab one of the DVDs that was for sale.
Dan, we know that the sheriff‘s department investigated this, and we were told this week that they believe there were two crime there. One was petty theft and the other was vandalism, and they referred it over to the DA, and the DA will make a decision next week.
ABRAMS: Well, very quickly, Harv, we didn‘t hear back from the Hilton lawyers. Any luck on your part?
LEVIN: No. They have—they have said absolutely nothing about it. And I think the way Paris behaves in the next week could really be telling in terms of whether she‘s prosecuted.
ABRAMS: This Bill Cosby thing sounds a little shady. This allegation comes a year after the alleged incident? I don‘t understand. Why now?
LEVIN: Yes. And you know what‘s really weird about it, Dan, is that she didn‘t complain to the Philadelphia police, she complained to the cops up in Canada. She was working at Temple University, quit Temple, moved back to Canada, and then the police there somehow got wind of it a long time after, and the cops up there called the cops down in Philly. So there‘s a lot about this story that makes you wonder. And it‘s important not to prejudge Bill Cosby at this point.
ABRAMS: Yes. And she says her memory is fuzzy from the evening, too?
LEVIN: Yes, that she is somehow under the influence of some pill, unclear what...
LEVIN: ... but yet she remembers that he touched her very specifically. And you know, it raises a lot of questions.
ABRAMS: Yes. It sure does. All right, Harv, it‘s good to see you again. Thanks.
LEVIN: Good seeing you, Dan.
ABRAMS: My “Closing Argument.” Why is it lawyer for high-profile defendants think the rules should be different for them? The latest example in the Michael Jackson case is lawyers trying to mandate exactly what the prosecutor can call themselves, the defense arguing that the prosecution should be referred to as the, quote, “government,” instead of as “the people.” They say it‘s the only way to even the playing field.
In so many jurisdictions in this country, including in federal court, the prosecutors are called “the people.” Furthermore, the California penal code and the government code specifically say that the prosecutors are to be referred to as “the people of the state of California.” Just because you‘re Michael Jackson doesn‘t change who the prosecutors are. A grand jury of citizens handed up an indictment. Seems to me to be a non-issue.
They also want to prevent prosecutors from referring to the accuser and his family as, quote, “victims,” and instead want them referred to by name or as “the complaining witnesses.” This is the same sort of politically correct nonsense we heard from Kobe Bryant‘s lawyers. This is an adversarial proceeding. The prosecutors believe the boy was a victim. They should be able to argue that, just as the defense should be able to call the boy an accuser or a complaining witness, rather than the alleged victim. Eventually, they should be able to call him a liar, if they so choose.
But give the jurors more credit. What‘s next, that prosecutors shouldn‘t use the words “guilt” or “guilty” because the jury hasn‘t rendered a verdict yet? I should say, the judge in the Bryant case did instruct the prosecutors not to refer to the woman as the, quote, “victim.” So who knows?
But with a few exceptions, it seems these pedantic arguments almost only come up in high-profile cases with high-profile defendants. The jurors must presume Jackson and every other high-profile defendant innocent until proven guilty, but the prosecutors can‘t. How can they effectively try to prove he‘s guilty if they‘re forced to present their case in a way that only suggests he‘s innocent?
Coming up: No robbery is a success without the perfect escape route. One thief in Milwaukee had to learn that the hard way. We‘re Back in 60 seconds.
ABRAMS: I‘ve had my say, now it‘s time for your rebuttal. On the program Wednesday, three attorneys who were fired by The Donald on last season‘s “Apprentice” talking about the legal issues of the day. From Maryland, Terry Hart (ph). “Dan, did you bother to interview these three terrible attorneys prior to having them on? At least now you know why The Donald fired them.”
California, Steve Cohen (ph). “What are you doing? You have a good, original show. Take back some integrity and leave attention-starved reality outcasts to others.”
Donna Giveny (ph) in Florida writes, “Great to see new legal faces, not the same old commentators everyone has over and over. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) to you. The group tonight was refreshing.”
And in my “Closing Argument” Wednesday, Paul Shanley, the defrocked Catholic priest, finally standing trial for the rape of a young altar boy in the ‘70s. I said don‘t expect to see justice served. There‘s only one accuser left. He said he had a repressed memory of the incident. The rest of the cases, the accusers are either barred by statute of limitations, they‘re unable to testify or there are problems with their testimony. I said legal technicalities, civil lawsuits and traumatized witnesses could mean Paul Shanley walks out of the courtroom a free man.
Joe in Florida, “I can sympathize with the guy who could not remember being traumatized by the priest. I‘m traumatized by you every night and try to forget until I get home from work the next night and then turn on the TV and see you again. I say bring back the two babes from ‘The Apprentice‘ as a settlement for me being traumatized by you every night.”
Finally, Brenda Beam (ph). “Mr. Shanley was a bag egg as a priest and apparently betrayed his vows, and his writings advocated sex between men and boys. But in the U.S., we don‘t get tried for advocacy but for actual infringement of the law.”
Brenda, he was this, he was that, but come on! I‘m not saying we should do anything that would be extra-judicial, but when many of the allegations will not come to court because of the statute of limitations, that‘s a travesty. You‘re using technicalities and legalities to be an apologist for this man.
Your e-mails, abramsreport—one word—at msnbc.com. We go through them at the end of the show.
“Oh, Pleas!” You think this guy would have secured himself a position in the stupid criminal hall of shame. A would-be robber in Milwaukee walks into a local pet store, demands money from the clerks, flashed a gun. Clerks triggered a silent alarm and set off the store‘s automatic locking system. When the man tried to leave the store, he couldn‘t. Store‘s surveillance tape caught him pleading with the clerks to let him out.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Open the door!
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It‘s an automatic locking...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I‘m not playing, man.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Open the door now! Please, open the door!
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It‘s an automatic lock.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Open the door!
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We can‘t!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Open the door.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We can‘t unlock the doors.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Open the door, man! Please, open the door!
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We can‘t unlock the doors.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let me out the back.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: Maybe he got last laugh, though. He eventually escaped out the back door. He‘s is still on the loose.
We have just again an update. That little boy, Adam Kirkirt, that we referred to earlier in the program, has been found. It appears he‘s alive and well, the 11-year-old who, it seems, was abducted from his school. It‘s good news.
That does it for us tonight. See you tomorrow.
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