Guest: Paul Pfingst, Ron Richards, Charles Gittins, Tim Susanin, Merry Pantano, Carmen Dixon, Anne Bremner, Phillip Buri
DAN ABRAMS, HOST: Coming up, Michael Jackson has been hanging around with child actors for years and it seemed like they‘ve all supported him against allegations he sexually molested young boys until now.
ABRAMS (voice-over): Jackson considers child stars like Macaulay Culkin, Emmanuel Lewis and Corey Feldman his friends and supporters. In 1993, Feldman (UNINTELLIGIBLE) defended Jackson to police.
COREY FELDMAN, ACTOR: I mean, the closest he ever came to touching me was like maybe slapping me on the leg once, you know, talking about that I had lost weight.
ABRAMS: But now Corey Feldman says he‘s not so sure. Could he become a crucial prosecution witness?
Plus, a Marine could face the death penalty for shooting at two men he believed to be Iraqi insurgents. Second Lieutenant Ilario Pantano says the men kept moving when he told them to stop and he shot at them in self-defense last April. Now his attorney says he‘s been charged with murder.
And a woman tells police she rescued a baby she saw thrown from the window of a car. Turns out, she is the little boy‘s mother and made up the entire story. What charges could she face now?
The program about justice starts now.
ABRAMS: Hi everyone. First up on the docket tonight, could one of the child stars Michael Jackson used to pal around with become a star prosecution witness in his case? After years of defending the man he used to call his friend, former child star Corey Feldman is telling a lot more about Jackson. Prosecutors have subpoenaed him. The judge has gagged him, but Feldman has said plenty already.
NBC‘s Mike Taibbi has the story.
MIKE TAIBBI, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): They met in the ‘80‘s. The King of Pop and the child star, Corey Feldman, of such movies as “Stand By Me” and “The Goonies”.
FELDMAN: Did you call me?
TAIBBI: And when Jackson was rocked by his first child molestation allegation in 1993, the matter settled before any criminal charges were brought, Feldman was among several young celebrities Jackson had befriended who consistently defended him. Here‘s Feldman talking to detectives in that case, in a tape obtained by the program “Celebrity Justice”.
FELDMAN: He never did anything out of line.
TAIBBI: As recently as 2003, Feldman, his career stalled by drug use and other problems, repeated his Jackson story, this time talking to Larry King.
FELDMAN: I‘ve never seen him act in any inappropriate way to a child.
LARRY KING, HOST, “LARRY KING LIVE”: And he was never inappropriate with you?
FELDMAN: Never with me. Never with me.
TAIBBI (on camera): But now in a new broadcast interview, Feldman says he‘s come to the—quote—“sickening realization”—unquote—that there were many occurrences in his relationship to Jackson that have created what he calls a question of doubt.
(voice-over): New York psychologist Dr. Ira Cramer (ph), who has treated hundreds of sex offenders including pedophiles, says victims often deny the truth for years, even decades.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would say that that‘s usually how it happens.
Any other way would be a surprise to me.
TAIBBI: But several other former child stars have steadfastly defended Jackson. Among them, Macaulay Culkin and Emmanuel Lewis. The latter speaking out in a British documentary.
EMMANUEL LEWIS, ACTOR: Could anything negative happen between the two of us, the answer to that question, your question, is (EXPLETIVE DELETED) no.
TAIBBI: Given Feldman‘s changed story, his credibility would be easy to attack according to a NBC legal analyst close to Jackson‘s defense team.
RONALD RICHARDS, NBC LEGAL ANALYST: The statements are so murky that at the end of the day he‘ll probably be sifted out and not allowed to testify in front of the jury.
TAIBBI: That‘s to be determined. For now, Feldman remains on the prosecution witness list, apparently the first of Jackson‘s famous young friends with a story that could hurt him.
Mike Taibbi, NBC News, New York.
ABRAMS: Well, Corey Feldman has not accused Michael Jackson of sexual abuse. He‘s now saying that Jackson showed him nude photos when he was a teenager. Jackson is prohibited from speaking publicly about the case but has repeatedly denied ever harming a child.
“My Take”—here is the problem. The evidence that Jackson has acted inappropriately with children in the past is probably stronger than is the evidence in this case. So if people like Feldman testify against Jackson, if they‘re allowed to, that could mean trouble for Jackson.
Joining me now, former San Diego D.A., NBC legal analyst Paul Pfingst and criminal defense attorney and NBC legal analyst Ron Richards, who‘s worked with Jackson‘s attorney, Tom Mesereau, in the past. All right, let me play another piece of sound. This is from ABC News. This is Corey Feldman now saying that things, as he remembers them, are a little bit different.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FELDMAN: I started looking at each piece of information. And with that, came the sickening realization that there have been many occurrences in my life and in my relationship to Michael that have created a question of doubt.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: OK, Paul Pfingst, a question of doubt. We don‘t know exactly what doubt he‘s talking about. I guess doubt as to whether Michael Jackson could ever do something like this. But, boy, this is a lot late.
PAUL PFINGST, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: Boy, if I were Tom Sneddon, I would run, not walk, away from witness. Because the opportunity for the defense to cross-examine him and to make him look silly and therefore diminish the rest of the prosecution‘s case is just so great. I‘m going to be surprised—I‘m going to be shocked if the prosecutors put him on the stand.
He has been on television so many times, saying so many good things about Michael Jackson that any jury is likely to think that is he trying to revive his acting career and get the attention he wasn‘t getting before? And so he—I think he is a worthless witness.
ABRAMS: All right, Ron, let me play this piece of sound from “Celebrity Justice” obtained, Corey Feldman speaking to the police in 1993.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FELDMAN: I mean the closest he ever came to touching me was like maybe slapping me on the leg once, you know, to talk about that I had lost weight.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: Closest he ever came to touching me was slapping me on the leg once. I mean I got to believe, Ron, they‘re not—I mean I guess he‘s subpoenaed. I guess it sounds like they might call him. But, boy, would I be shocked if they actually tried.
RICHARDS: Well, yes, I mean these—this has been the week, though, for very old double-digit allegations, as you well know, so nothing surprises me. The subpoena came after he shot the telecast about a week ago. So the judge hasn‘t even let in things that are after 1993. It would be almost not believable that he‘s going to let in things from the early ‘80‘s.
ABRAMS: And it sounds like, and I‘m going to play another piece of sound here from his interview with ABC News, but it sure sounds like even when you listen to exactly what he‘s saying, he‘s still not ready to offer particularly incriminating testimony against Jackson. Let‘s listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FELDMAN: You don‘t understand the toll that it takes, having to be friends with somebody like Michael Jackson. Because you spend your whole life defending this friend. No, he‘s not gay. No, he‘s not a weirdo.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: You know, so Paul, what is he going to say that‘s going to be so incriminating, that Michael Jackson had a book of, you know, nude people and he had stuff about sexually transmitted diseases?
PFINGST: Well you know, if he gets up on the stand and says something like he just said, you don‘t understand the toll of defending Michael Jackson, he‘s going look like a fool. Because the fact of the matter is, most people think hanging out with superstars is not a toll and you could have walked away any time you wanted to.
If—one of the dangers that sometimes can happen with prosecutors is you try to put little pieces together and make a big piece. But one of the things you have to worry about is that if one of your little pieces blows up, it blows up some of your bigger pieces with it. So I can‘t foresee any circumstances where a prosecutor could be so desperate as to try to put somebody like man on the stand and allow the defense a field day in cross-examination. Dan, I just can‘t see it.
ABRAMS: Ron, here is more of what Corey Feldman has said, again, this is now.
He says, we went to his apartment. I noticed a book that he had put out on his coffee table. The book contained pictures of grown men and women naked and the book was focused on venereal diseases and the genitalia. I was kind of grossed out by it. I didn‘t think of it as a big deal and for all these years I probably never thought twice about it. But in light of recent evidence, I have to say that if my son was 14 years old, 13 years old, and went to a man‘s apartment that was 35 and I knew that they were sitting down together talking about this, I would probably beat his ass.
You know, so what?
RICHARDS: Yes, I mean you have to—look, all children grow up and the fact is, is that Corey Feldman hasn‘t really had anything that‘s newsworthy in a very long time and it‘s a very powerful motive for someone to get free publicity on “20/20” tonight in prime time. This is more...
ABRAMS: This isn‘t going to help his career, tough, Ron. Ron, the bottom line is this is not going to help his career. I mean you know...
ABRAMS: ... coming out publicly and talking about Michael Jackson, I can‘t imagine is going to lead Hollywood to suddenly say, oh, that‘s the guy I want starring in my next movie.
RICHARDS: Well, it‘s creating a buzz.
PFINGST: He may think so, Dan.
ABRAMS: What Paul?
PFINGST: He may think so...
RICHARDS: And Dan, in Hollywood you sell the sizzle not the steak.
Just remember that.
RICHARDS: This is the land of where people self promote and we‘re not in the first period here. Corey Feldman is in the fourth period with two minutes to go in the game. There‘s nothing wrong with him throwing a “Hail Mary” and juxtaposing himself in the middle of this trial now...
PFINGST: Now Kato Kaelin did a good job, Dan. He stayed alive for a while.
ABRAMS: Yes, but...
RICHARDS: I‘ve never agreed so much with a prosecutor in one show in my whole life...
RICHARDS: ... and I just want say I agree with everything my colleague is saying today.
ABRAMS: Yes. No, look, I mean I think that it‘s hard to argue that this testimony, “A”, is going to be—I mean first of all as a legal matter, Paul, and I‘m almost out of time here...
ABRAMS: ... but he would have to have committed a sexual offense on Corey Feldman, right?
ABRAMS: He would have had to break the law...
ABRAMS: ... in order for his testimony to be admissible.
PFINGST: Yes, the prosecutor would have to show that there was some commonality between what he did with Corey Feldman and what he did with the boys involved in the accusations here. And clearly, any commonality is so remote, there‘s no touching, no fondling, no sexual acts and so on, so I think it‘s dead. I‘m surprised—frankly, I‘m very surprised that this man would even get a subpoena.
ABRAMS: Yes. All right.
RICHARDS: It could be a flashback from the heroin usage.
ABRAMS: It‘s always good to throw in a little libel right at the last minute when the segment is over. All right, Paul Pfingst, Ron Richards, and thanks to “Celebrity Justice” for all of those tapes. Appreciate it. One of you is coming back at the end of the show.
Coming up, according to his attorney, one Marine could possibly face the death penalty for shooting and killing two men, fleeing a suspected terror hideout in Iraq. The military says they‘re still investigating. We talk to the Marine‘s attorney and his mother coming up.
Plus a proposed law in Washington State could make it OK for parents to spy on their kids, listening to their phone conversations. This, after Washington‘s highest court ruled teens have a right to privacy in their own homes, but isn‘t it their parent‘s home?
And a woman tells police she rescued a baby she saw thrown from the window of a car. Turns out she‘s the little boy‘s mother. She made up the story. What happens to her and the boy?
Your e-mails firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your name and where you‘re writing from. I respond at the end of the show.
ABRAMS: Coming up, a Marine who says he shot and killed two men fleeing a suspected terrorist site in Iraq in self-defense could be facing possible murder charges, maybe even the possibility of the death penalty. Coming up.
ABRAMS: We‘re back. Can a Marine be charged with murder for shooting alleged Iraqi insurgents? He says he felt threatened. Attorney Charles Gittins says that‘s just what his client is facing and the attorney says that Marine 2nd Lieutenant Ilario Pantano has been charged with premeditated murder for his role in an action south of Baghdad last April 15.
According to Mr. Gittins, Pantano‘s platoon stopped Iraqi insurgents in an SUV as they drove away from an arms cache, then ordered the Iraqis to strip the SUV‘s interior, figuring it might be booby-trapped. When the Iraqis stopped stripping the vehicle and came towards them, refused an order in Arabic to stop, Lieutenant Pantano shot and killed them, according to his attorney. The Marines say that while they‘re investigating Lieutenant Pantano‘s actions, no charges can be filed until the investigation is complete.
“My Take”—look, I don‘t know what happened. I do know that I have a lot of sympathy for our servicemen and women who are required to make life and death split-second decisions every day, and I hope no one is charged for making the wrong call. But first of all, I‘m not convinced Lieutenant Pantano is even being charged. And second, it sounds like the allegations here are more serious than just a split-second decision, but let‘s talk about it.
We‘re joined now by Lieutenant Pantano‘s mother, and the force behind a Web site, DefendtheDefenders.com that‘s raising money for his defense and Charles Gittins is Lieutenant Pantano‘s attorney. Tim Susanin is a former Navy JAG and federal prosecutor. Thanks to all of you.
All right, Mr. Gittins, just so we understand this, the bottom line is you‘ve been saying that he has effectively been charged here with murder. And yet it sounds like the military is saying what are you talking about, he hasn‘t been charged at all.
CHARLES GITTINS, LIEUTENANT PANTANO‘S ATTORNEY: Well, that‘s absolutely true. He has been charged and I‘m sitting here holding the charge sheet, which shows that the charges were preferred on the first day of February. They were sworn to by an officer and they were—a Marine prosecutor by the name of Steve Keen (ph) had the accuser swear to them. So to the extent that the Marine Corps is saying my client hasn‘t been charged, that‘s just flat-out provably false.
ABRAMS: Is that right, Tim?
TIM SUSANIN, FORMER NAVY JAG: Actually, that‘s wrong, Dan. I mean in the sense that he says his client has been charged, we understand that to mean that the military has brought charges against him and he‘s going to stand trial for those charges. What‘s happened here is an accuser has come forward and filed a complaint, made allegations, that type of thing. And that‘s the basis for the investigation that‘s going to take place in March. Only after that investigation takes place, will he be charged with offenses. If any, as a result of the investigation, the charges could be dropped if they don‘t believe the accuser.
ABRAMS: All right, Mrs. Pantano, what is your position as to what happened with your son?
MERRY PANTANO, SAYS MARINE SON FACES MURDER CHARGE: I believe my son made the correct decision in a situation of intent pressure and danger.
ABRAMS: What happened?
PANTANO: I believe that he reacted in the right way, not only to protect himself, but to protect his men.
ABRAMS: But what happened? Give us the scenario about where he was and what happened.
PANTANO: I can‘t speak to the incident any more than is on the Web site. For that you would have to ask his attorney.
ABRAMS: OK. Mr. Gittins, what happened?
GITTINS: You got it exactly right in the beginning. He was involved in a stop, in a group—two Iraqi insurgents who had been fleeing from a place where the Marines had located IED-making equipment and weapons, a weapons cache. This was bad guy country and when the—when these Iraqis refused to follow his orders and came at him, he killed them, as was the right thing to do at the right time and he shouldn‘t have to second-guessed. And it‘s a dangerous precedent to set for our military people who now need to think about whether or not when they make a decision in combat they‘re going to face murder charges—premeditated murder charges.
ABRAMS: Yes, I was going to say—and you say that he‘s facing the possibility of the death penalty here, right?
GITTINS: Premeditated murder in the United States under the uniform code of military justice carries maximum punishment of death.
ABRAMS: And the bottom line is it doesn‘t seem like, Tim, the prosecutors here view it as that kind of close call, right?
SUSANIN: Well, that‘s right. When you look at what the accuser has stated, Dan, it‘s a very different story and that is that these two Iraqis were detainees. They were in custody and that Lieutenant Pantano relieved the guards who were guarding these two, that he had the guards uncuff the two Iraqis, sent the guards away so that they wouldn‘t see what was going on, and then that Lieutenant Pantano shot these two Iraqis in the back and left their bodies out in public to send a signal, to send a message and put some kind of mocking sign on their bodies and that type of thing.
Now we have to remember, that‘s just the version that the accuser has given. During the course of the investigation, of course, one thing I would expect that Mr. Gittins is going to do is challenge the credibility of the accuser. So we have two very, very different versions here. One‘s a classic self-defense. The other is a premeditated murder and it‘ll be the job of the investigator in March to see which version has credibility.
ABRAMS: Let me take a quick break here. We‘ll come back. We‘ll talk more about this. But the fact that you know, you think about it sometimes and the fact that a soldier is facing the death penalty, a Marine facing the death penalty is - anyway we‘ll talk about it in a minute.
But another story we‘re going to do, police thought this baby thrown from the window of a moving car. It turns out the Good Samaritan who said she rescued him is actually the baby‘s mother. What happens to the mother and baby now?
ABRAMS: We‘re talking about a lieutenant in the Marines who is being investigated for having shot two Iraqis. His attorney says that his client has effectively or he says his client has been charged here and could face the death penalty. His mother, Merry Pantano, joins us as well.
All right, Mr. Gittins, just so I understand this and again, Tim Susanin was explaining this a moment ago, saying, look, he hasn‘t been charged yet. All they‘re doing is investigating and that you seem to be overstating the case a little bit at this point.
GITTINS: Actually, rules for court-martial 300, 301, 302, 303, 304, 305 all talk about charging. My client has been charged. Anyone who practices military justice knows that when charges are signed and sworn to by an officer authorized to administer oaths that is a charge.
SUSANIN: Is he going to trial on those charges, Charles?
GITTINS: The charges have—those—the charges have been served on my client.
SUSANIN: Is me going to trial on those charges?
GITTINS: Well we don‘t know that yet.
SUSANIN: Right and they can—those charges could be dropped as a result of Article 32, correct?
GITTINS: They—that is absolutely true. But for the Marine Corps to say my client hasn‘t been charged and for you to say my client hasn‘t been charged is absolutely positively false, and I‘ll show you the manual for courts-martial pages to prove it.
SUSANIN: Well I‘ve seen the manual and I‘ve seen the charge inspection you‘re talking about. But the point is when you say he‘s been charged, I think you‘re implying to the viewing public that he‘s going to trial on those charges and that‘s not really accurate.
The Article 32 officer, that is the equivalent, Dan, really of a magistrate who‘s kind of conducting somewhat of a grand jury proceeding, is going to look into the realm of possibilities and decide which, if any, of the charges will be sent to trial. There might not be any charges that survive. If there‘s some discipline that needs to be taken care of from a non-trial...
SUSANIN: ... angle, administrative discipline, that type of thing, that could be recommendation from the officer, too.
ABRAMS: Mrs. Pantano, how are you holding up through all this?
PANTANO: I‘m concentrating on the mission and the mission is to have my son exonerated of all of these charges. When he was charged on February 1, when he was—had to sign a document stating these were the charges, we decided to be very proactive and at that point decided to establish the Web site called DefendtheDefenders.org—you can also go to it by saying dot-com—and we have had such an outpouring of support from his comrades in arms, people he served with just in Iraq and the Sunni triangle, his superiors, his piers, his troopers, and his platoon...
PANTANO: ... people from the first Gulf War when he served over there and people from school, people from his business life. He worked 10 years as a civilian before he decided to go back into the Marine Corps. Everybody is coming forth. His childhood friends are calling and saying, I couldn‘t believe this. What can I do? Call me. It is incomprehensible and very disturbing. I feel my son will be exonerated. My son is very honorable.
ABRAMS: All right.
PANTANO: He is a fine Marine. He‘s a fine leader...
ABRAMS: All right.
PANTANO: ... and he respects the Marine Corps. He respects his uniform. He knows the rules of engagement.
ABRAMS: All right, Merry Pantano, thank you very much for coming on the program...
PANTANO: You‘re welcome. Thank you for having me.
ABRAMS: I‘ve got to believe this is going to be a tough time for you.
PANTANO: Thank you, Dan.
ABRAMS: Charles Gittins, thanks a lot. Tim Susanin, good to see you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thanks Dan.
ABRAMS: Coming up, kids in Washington State might have to get used to the idea that they don‘t have a whole lot of privacy in their own homes. Lawmakers want to make it OK for parents to listen in on their children‘s phone conversations. That‘s because the state‘s highest court ruled that they can‘t do it.
And turns out this baby boy was not thrown from a moving car. His mother made up a story about finding him on the side of the road. Our I‘ve got “Just One Question?” segment coming up.
Your e-mails email@example.com. Please include your name and where you‘re writing from. I respond at the end of the show.
ABRAMS: Should it be illegal for parents to eavesdrop on their children‘s telephone conversations? First the headlines.
ABRAMS: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) All right, here is the segment. Your child is on the phone. It‘s your house. You can listen in, right? Not if you live in Washington State where the state‘s highest court just ruled that parents who listen in on their kid‘s phone conversations are violating their privacy. A group of Washington lawmakers trying to change that. They sponsored a bill currently on the House floor making it OK for mom and dad to pick up the phone in the kitchen when little Johnny is on the phone in the basement and listen away.
The bill reads “Parents have the right and the responsibility to monitor the communications and conversations of their children to better assist in preventing them from being intimidated, coerced, enticed, induced, lured, coaxed, tricked, persuaded, baited, provoked, or otherwise drawn into delinquent or criminal behaviors or other behaviors the parent may oppose or have concerns about.”
The issue, of course, just how much privacy your child should be entitled to. “My Take”—this was a close call for me, but if a child is living in his or her parent‘s house, then it‘s the parent‘s phone. If he or she wants to have a private conversation, go over to your friend‘s house, use the pay phone on the corner.
Joining me now on the phone, Carmen Dixon, the Washington mother at the center of a Supreme Court decision upholding a kid‘s right to privacy, criminal defense attorney Anne Bremner, who thinks giving parents the right to eavesdrop is outrageous, and attorney Phillip Buri who argued in support of the rights of parents to listen in on their children‘s phone calls in front of the Washington Supreme Court.
All right, Ms. Dixon, let me start with you. Your daughter did not know you were listening in on her conversation, right?
CARMEN DIXON, EAVESDROPPING MOM (via phone): No, she did not.
ABRAMS: And you heard her boyfriend talking about some sort of criminal activity, right?
DIXON: Yes, I heard him talking about—he had mugged a woman on the street, knocked her down, a older, elderly lady, and stole her purse for money, to get money out of her purse.
ABRAMS: And so what did you do? Did you go to your daughter or did you go to the police?
DIXON: I went right to the police immediately.
ABRAMS: And what did your daughter think about that?
DIXON: She didn‘t know about it until we went to court and I testified and they were in closing arguments, she was in the courtroom at that time and then she knew about it then.
ABRAMS: She probably wasn‘t too happy with you (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
ABRAMS: Right. All right. Anne Bremner, what‘s the matter with a mom in her own house listening in to make sure, as the statute says, to protect children from being enticed into doing awful things?
ANNE BREMNER, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: It—children have a right to privacy. We have a law in Washington State, we‘ve had it since 1881 long before we were a state and long before we had phones, where it‘s illegal, it‘s criminal to listen in on someone else‘s conversation. No exceptions. None...
ABRAMS: So let me ask you—does that mean that you shouldn‘t be able to go into your kid‘s room, either, shouldn‘t be able to look in any of their pockets, see if maybe there might be drugs, et cetera?
BREMNER: I was going to say to my mom the statute of limitations ran on this crime a long time ago, if she was ever listening in on mine, but that‘s completely different, Dan, because what you are dealing with is snooping, if parents want to snoop on their kids...
ABRAMS: Wait. How is snooping...
BREMNER: But eavesdropping...
ABRAMS: How is snooping different from eavesdropping?
BREMNER: Because this is a privacy law. You have a right to privacy under Washington State law, under the statute, in your private conversations. And that‘s something the legislature has held on to...
BREMNER: ... and the Supreme Court, 9-0, 9-0 said that the parent can‘t be listening in and that‘s what the statute says, and that‘s a very strong interest under the Constitution.
ABRAMS: Right, but basically what the Washington Supreme Court was doing, Mr. Buri, is basically interpreting the law as it was and now the Washington legislature is saying OK, fine. If that‘s what the law was, it‘s time to change it.
PHILLIP BURI, ATTORNEY: That‘s exactly right. The point to the Supreme Court‘s opinion is that because Washington has such a strong law if there‘s going to be a change to allow parents to listen to their children‘s phone conversations, that change has to come from the legislature. So we‘re awfully glad that the legislature is now taking action.
ABRAMS: Mr. Buri, don‘t you agree with me, I think its more intrusive for parents to go into their kid‘s room, look under their bed, look in their drawers, do all of that than to listen to their phone conversations.
BURI: Well, it depends on the parent and it depends on the child. I‘d agree with you, but I know that with my 6-year-old daughters they are much more concerned about me listening to their phone conversations. With my 10-year-old son, don‘t go in his room.
ABRAMS: Yes and so, Anne, let‘s talk about the current legislation. I mean the current legislation is basically saying, all right, it‘s time to change the law. It‘s time to make it so that it‘s OK for parents to listen in on the conversations.
ABRAMS: Why is that such a big deal?
BREMNER: Because the Constitution, the right to privacy, we‘re a society of laws not of men. We‘re not a society of parents and Will Rogers had that great quote, that great line, that the Constitution protects aliens, drunks and even U.S. senators. Well it protects children, too...
BREMNER: ... and that‘s what this law is based upon...
ABRAMS: But children, as you know...
BREMNER: ... constitutional right.
ABRAMS: ... have lesser right—I mean they don‘t have the same rights as adults. And you are telling me, right, that you think it is that much more intrusive to listen in on phone conversations than it is to go into your kid‘s room, look in their pockets, look in their drawers, look et cetera, right?
BREMNER: Well what I‘m saying is, is that because we have a right to privacy in our conversations, you don‘t come and carve an exception, say well except for with parents or except with, you know, a certain situation that we think, as...
ABRAMS: Wait a sec...
BREMNER: ... as a culture...
ABRAMS: ... there‘s an exception for parents who—most people can‘t go into someone else‘s house, right, and just sort of rummage through their stuff...
BREMNER: That‘s right.
ABRAMS: ... as an exception because you live in the house with your parents.
ABRAMS: And as a result the parents have a right to go in. They‘re not going to get arrested for going in to a kid‘s room and taking things out of his pockets.
BREMNER: Well the bottom line is, if you go to your neighbor‘s house you‘re committing a burglary...
BREMNER: ... if you go in without permission...
BREMNER: But if you go in...
ABRAMS: You keep telling me...
BREMNER: ... your kids I mean you got all kinds of...
ABRAMS: But you keep saying it‘s the right of the—that kids have the same rights of privacy as everyone else. They don‘t.
BREMNER: But they do under this statute. Under this statute, and it makes it a criminal offense, and what I‘m saying is there‘s no reason, there‘s no reason to carve exceptions out of the statute when our legislature in Seattle have said that we believe in privacy. We believe in a common law right to privacy in Washington State we have under the case law and of course the constitutional right to privacy...
ABRAMS: Yes, but...
ABRAMS: Stop with the Constitution. It‘s legislation that they‘re considering right now, and the bottom line is, the legislation, you don‘t need to talk about the Constitution. The bottom line is, either it makes sense or it doesn‘t make sense in the context of what other rights children have or don‘t have.
BREMNER: Well, what we have and what—there‘s no reason in this situation to carve out an exception for children. The law has been the law for a long period of time and there‘s no reason to carve out some exception. Period. And that‘s, you know, Washington State we‘re a little kinder, I think. We‘re a little gentler, and I think that we‘re going to give children some rights.
ABRAMS: Ms. Dixon...
BREMNER: And we‘re not going to take away the rights with some new law and that‘s what the bill is trying to do...
ABRAMS: Ms. Dixon as a mother, what led you to eavesdrop on the conversation?
DIXON: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) at the time my daughter was 14 and she was an out of control teen, so I was listening on a regular basis. That‘s the only way I had control of knowing where she was and what she was doing. And the law is so absurd that we aren‘t able to parent our children. And we have to be able to do that. We can go on their computer, we‘re told all the time, make sure you monitor their computer. Go into their history and see what they‘re doing. You have to be able to parent your children. And the law is so absurd that it‘s a national outrage and they‘re going to change the law.
ABRAMS: Mr. Buri, though, this new law, though, doesn‘t apply to e-mails, does it?
BURI: I think it does.
BURI: I think that it‘s broad enough that it can be interpreted that way and certainly, if I get the case involving a parent looking in on e-mails, I would argue to the Supreme Court that the legislative intent is pretty clear that parents have the responsibility to monitor what their kids are doing. And whether that‘s on a phone, whether that‘s on the computer, or whether that‘s in their room...
ABRAMS: But the law is clear...
ABRAMS: ... the law says phone, though, right? I mean the law doesn‘t say and other similar things.
BURI: The law talks about communication. And again, I think that because it‘s not clear in the statute, you would have a good case.
BURI: But I also think that the legislative intent is clear.
ABRAMS: All right.
BURI: Parents are responsible for their kid‘s behavior. Parents have to have the right under certain circumstances to be able to know what the kids are doing in their home.
ABRAMS: All right, fair enough. Carmen Dixon, Anne Bremner, Phillip Buri, thanks a lot for coming on. Appreciate it.
BURI: Thank you.
DIXON: Thank you.
ABRAMS: Coming up, a woman who claims to have witnessed a newborn being thrown out of a car turns out really to be the baby‘s mom. Question:
Can charges be filed against the mother and what happens to that little baby boy?
And can you be arrested for having sex stickers on your car? It happened. Stay with us.
ABRAMS: Time now for “Just One Question?”. We lay out today‘s “other legal stories” and ask our guest just one question. Back with us, criminal defense attorney and NBC News legal analyst Ron Richards.
All right. It was all a hoax, the Good Samaritan who rescued the Florida baby allegedly tossed out of a car an hour after he was born. Turns out she wasn‘t a Good Samaritan at all. No, she‘s his mother. She apparently made up the story because she didn‘t want to keep her newborn son. Little Johnny, as he‘s been named, is safe in the hospital in stable condition. His mother has been committed for psychiatric evaluation. Just one question, what happens to mom and baby now, Ron?
RICHARDS: Well, I think that the mother should be charged with filing a false police report, should have to pay the cost of the investigation, and should have to listen to three hours of Corey Feldman CDs.
ABRAMS: And you know, it‘s interesting, because as you know, the law there, she could have just dropped the baby off at a firehouse and she would have been OK.
All right. An elementary school in northern California is requiring that all of its students wear badges, tracking their whereabouts on school grounds, using radio signals, threatening students with disciplinary action if they refuse to participate. The system is currently being tested with only seventh and eighth graders being monitored. Some parents calling it a violation of their children‘s rights and they‘re asking the school board to rescind it. Just one question, is it legal for students—schools to track their students that way?
RICHARDS: Well, I think it‘s legal. Because there‘s a lot of problems in the school and by keeping these devices on the children, remember it‘s eighth grade and less, you can at least know if somebody has not shown up for class, if they‘re in a part of the school without supervision. And I mean come on, my parents told me I never had any rights at that young age, so I don‘t see what the problem is just keeping these kids...
RICHARDS: ... in an area or a grid. Yes, I think it‘s OK. There‘s a lot of shootings...
ABRAMS: Can you put a leash on them?
RICHARDS: Well, it‘s electronic—it‘s just an electronic leash just making sure they know where everybody is. I mean the parents can watch it from the Internet, from their house if they want. I don‘t know why they‘re getting all bent out of shape.
RICHARDS: They have security cards now to get into the schools.
ABRAMS: Yes, I don‘t know. All right. New Mexico man has been
charged with distribution of sexually oriented material to minors because
he has stickers on his car portraying cartoon images of bare-breasted
females in sexually compromising positions. He says he put the stickers on
his car, get this, to protest his town‘s law prohibiting alcohol and beer
sales on Sunday. If he‘s found guilty, he face a maximum of 364 days in
jail and $1,000 fine. Just one question—can you get arrested for having
a bumper sticker on your c
RICHARDS: That‘s patently unconstitutional. I mean if we‘re not going to prosecute Janet Jackson or CBS for last year‘s Super Bowl, certainly we‘re not going to arrest people for blowing off some steam by expressing themselves through a bumper sticker.
ABRAMS: But you would agree, Ron, if they painted the side or their -
· you know, they put a big photograph of two people having sex on the side of their car, might be a problem, right?
RICHARDS: But Dan, another man‘s noise is another man‘s music. I mean that‘s how—we live in a free society, marketplace of ideas. If you don‘t want your children to see what‘s happening on the street...
RICHARDS: ... keep them indoors.
ABRAMS: Yes, all right, I just got a very succinct message...
RICHARDS: Well, are we going to prosecute...
ABRAMS: No, the message I got was, Dan, that was your second question and the segment is called “Just One Question?”. Ron Richards, thanks a lot. Coming up...
RICHARDS: Thank you for having me.
ABRAMS: ... what I learned about being on the other side of the media, coming up.
ABRAMS: What it‘s like for me to be on the other side of the media spotlight. It‘s my “Closing Argument” coming up.
ABRAMS: My “Closing Argument”—I‘ve always believed, if you can‘t take it, don‘t dish it out. No question on this program I sometime dish it out. Well this past week I‘ve been put to the test. A number of articles or items have been written about me and my personal life. Not exactly hard news reporting but reporting nonetheless. The problem, some of the stories just weren‘t true.
And so now I found myself on the other side, to some degree, suddenly dealing with being a media target. I considered four possible options. Do nothing. Calmly try to set the record straight. Angrily demand the stories be corrected or take the tough lawyerly route and threaten to sue.
I chose the second. Calmly try to set the record straight with the facts. One paper retracted its first false story. Others still picked up the initial mistake and restated it again. So let‘s be clear. The issues I‘m talking about are very, very minor, but when someone writes or even says something, anything unflattering and untrue, you want to bite back. But I need to have a thick skin, so I gave up.
No yelling, no lawsuits. In the end it‘s how I hope someone would try to correct any mistake I made calmly with the facts. But it was a useful exercise for me. When you have the power of a bully pulpit, which I have a little one here, be it to discuss the most important issues of the day or the most shallow, we have to make sure to never forget what Confucius said. To be wronged is nothing unless you continue to remember it. I‘ll remember it.
Coming up in 60 seconds, police nab a bank robber because he didn‘t know how to spell. It‘s tonight‘s “OH PLEAs!”
ABRAMS: We‘re back. I‘ve had my say, now it‘s time for “Your Rebuttal”. Last night on the program, I talked to Tamara Green, a second woman who accused Bill Cosby of sexual abuse. It came weeks after another woman claims she was drugged and molested by Cosby. Green saying she had a similar incident with him more than 30 years ago. I asked Ms. Green to respond to accusations made by Cosby‘s attorneys in a letter sent to NBC, which questioned her credibility.
Some of you not happy, including Dottie Mille. “No wonder she didn‘t come forward 30 years ago. Why are women treated so badly when men abuse them? Go Tamara.”
From Nebraska, Elizabeth Cahoe. “So let me get this straight. A woman has to be pure as the driven snow in order to come forward and say that Bill Cosby drugged and sexually molested her as well? I was surprised that you didn‘t say things such as she once cheated on a test in third grade. She pushed a girl down on the playground in second grade. She once gave a boy cooties.”
But Tony Eisfelder seemed to recognize that Ms. Green appreciated the opportunity. “She seemed to welcome responding to your questions and had a reasonable answer to everything. Also she was willing to come forth with explanations on her own unrelated problems, even volunteering into before it was asked of her.”
Jeanne Marie, “I appreciated Dan Abrams treating her comments with respect and giving her space to speak them.”
But a lot of you just don‘t buy her story. From Placentia, California, Jim Worth. “I found it amazing that she remembered in detail what she told Mr. Cosby that night. That she was so wasted that she walked out in front of her place and almost got hit by a car. I‘m not an attorney, but give me 15 minutes with her on the stand and there will be no doubt that she‘s a liar.”
Steve and Bonita Carter in Charlotte, North Carolina, “How is it that she can recall with any clarity the events that supposed night when she admitted to being stoned out of her mind?”
And Debi Blaustein, “As a woman who was brutally raped 20 years ago and did come forward, I am so angry at con artists like her who degrade the process and ruin it for women who truly have been violated, molested, or raped.”
Send your e-mails abramsreport—one word -- @msnbc.com. We go through them at the end of the show.
“OH PLEAs!”—note to prospective bank robbers. Be sure to use spell check when writing your hold-up notes. A witness at a Long Island, New York bank noticed a teller becoming distraught. There‘s a man standing at her window this past Monday—distraught either because the teller was being held up or because she couldn‘t decipher the hold-up note.
The remedial robber spells the words “robbery”, r-o-b-r-i and “quick”, k-w-i-k. The eyewitness followed him out of the bank and recorded his license plate number. Police picked him up and linked 43-year-old Thomas to at least 13 other bank robberies dating back to March 2003. Because all of the hold-up notes had the same misspelled words, he‘s been charged with six count of robbery with a possible nine more charges pending. Some say spelling really is a lost art in America these days. Really, maybe particularly true among some of our finest bank robbers.
That does it for us tonight. Coming up next, “HARDBALL” with Chris Matthews. Thanks for watching. Have a great weekend. I‘ll see you here on Monday.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
Copy: Content and programming copyright 2005 MSNBC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Transcription Copyright 2005 Voxant, 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 Voxant, Inc.‘s copyright or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.