Guest: David Novak, Judy Smith, Evelyn Hutcheson, Susan Filan, Michael Bachner, Mercedes Colwin
DAN ABRAMS, HOST: Coming up, Martha Stewart is back at home, but she tells the press there‘s a problem. Her cappuccino maker isn‘t working.
ABRAMS (voice-over): But everything else seems to be on track. She could soon be more successful than ever. Does it seem that a trial can actually help a celebrity while for everyone else it often means having trouble even finding a job?
And the FBI offers $50,000 for information about the murders of a judge‘s husband and mother, while white supremacist Matthew Hale‘s mother says he had nothing to do with the murders. We talk to her.
Plus in a new legal filing, Michael Jackson‘s team comes out swinging against Jay Leno, saying Leno should not be allowed to make—quote—
“cruel jokes about Michael Jackson.”
The program about justice starts now.
ABRAMS: Hi everyone. First up on the docket tonight, the writer F. Scott Fitzgerald once wrote that there are no second acts in American lives. Of course, he never met Martha Stewart. She was back home Friday morning at her 153-acre estate in Bedford, New York, after serving five months behind bars in a federal prison for women in West Virginia. And in true Stewart style, she stayed busy picking lemons from her greenhouse for hot lemonade—never had hot lemonade. And sent workers with hot chocolate—I‘ve had that—for a horde of reporters and cameramen freezing on the wrong side of the fence and joking about what she missed during her five months in prison.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARTHA STEWART, RELEASED FROM PRISON: All—we asked the guards every day for a cappuccino, just as a joke and because they‘d come in with their cups of coffee (UNINTELLIGIBLE). And so I got here, I have a (UNINTELLIGIBLE) cappuccino machine and it didn‘t work.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)
STEWART: So I don‘t have any cappuccino.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: Stewart also said she missed her friends and family while she was doing time and didn‘t miss material things or publicity. By the way, she soon got—there it is -- (UNINTELLIGIBLE) cup of cappuccino to celebrate her return, will also soon get an electronic ankle bracelet to monitor her movements while she serves five months of house arrest.
My take—now I know it is the popular thing now to attack Martha Stewart. She‘s rich. She‘s successful. She had a reputation for being unpleasant to some of the people who worked for her and now she‘s been convicted of a crime, done federal time, has more confinement to come, but I‘ve said this before. If she hadn‘t been Martha Stewart, she wouldn‘t have been charged, and she has served as much time as anyone else convicted of a similar crime. She was guilty of this crime. She lied, but I say now she served the prison time and it‘s time to accept that.
Before we talk about how celebrities sometimes get better treatment after serving time than others, David Novak, sentencing consultant, a former prisoner himself who has spent time in prison and in home confinement for mail fraud and sending a false distress signal. Good to see you again. Thanks for coming back.
All right, let‘s go through—I want to put up one and two here—exactly what the rules are for Martha Stewart under house arrest. First of all, five months confinement in the main house, 153 acres, movements monitored by an electronic anklet, allowed to work 48 hours a week outside the house. Can also leave to go to the doctor or a dentist, religious services, or grocery shopping. That‘s part of the 48 hours, right, David?
DAVID NOVAK, SENTENCING CONSULTANT: That is correct.
ABRAMS: OK, let me continue with this. Calls monitored 24/7, 9:00 p.m. curfew. No wine with dinner, no contact with any prison friends. Let‘s talk about those last two. No wine with dinner. She‘s not allowed to have any liquor at all, right?
NOVAK: No, she is not allow to have any alcoholic substance and that includes Scope mouthwash or Listerine because at any point in time her probation officer has the right to come by and ask her to be tested with a breathalyzer. Remember, she is still in federal custody, albeit a gilded cage, she is still in prison.
ABRAMS: And no contact with any—quote—“prison friends”. What does that mean...
ABRAMS: What if she met someone online while she was in prison?
NOVAK: Well, number one, she didn‘t have online access, so she couldn‘t have done that...
ABRAMS: That‘s true. All right, fair enough.
NOVAK: But no, in fact, there is a specific prohibition between convicted felons consorting with each other. It‘s, again, in order for inmates to have communication between facilities, there‘s a whole series of approvals that are required. And so casual contact is simply not allowed.
ABRAMS: It says she can go to the doctor, dentist, religious services, grocery shopping. She‘s allowed to work—that all part of the 48 hours a week outside the house. The gardening, going out—now she is not actually—right now this doesn‘t count as her time, right?
NOVAK: Well, this is counting towards her five months of home confinement...
ABRAMS: Right, but I mean in terms of the 48 hours per week she is allowed to spend outside of the house, the time we‘re seeing there picking the lemonades and playing with the horses, that doesn‘t count.
NOVAK: That‘s correct. Right now she is in limbo. Once she gets her ankle bracelet, she will not be allowed to even walk out to the fence and feed a horse. It would break the electronic tether.
ABRAMS: Can you cut one of those things off?
NOVAK: Well you certainly good, but as soon as you did, you would get an exception report...
ABRAMS: Did you think about doing that when you had your bracelet on? Did you think to yourself come on, it would be so easy just to take a pair of scissors...
NOVAK: Oh absolutely, of course I did and anybody who tells you they haven‘t is probably lying to you.
ABRAMS: All right. David Novak thanks a lot. Appreciate it.
ABRAMS: Oh you‘re going to stay, actually. Stick around. OK.
ABRAMS: Even people who think Martha Stewart got a raw deal, you know, might wonder if her sort of triumphant return from prison proves that crime does pay. Stewart‘s stock in her own company, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia tripled in value in the five months she was in prison, on paper at least. She‘s worth over $1 billion.
Today even though the firm lost $60 million last year, now that she‘s out of prison, she starts collecting her $900,000 annual salary. She has two TV shows coming up, a homemaking show and a reality show produced by Mark Burnett, you know, he‘s the one doing “The Apprentice” and “Survivor.” And...
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Millions of people love Martha and followed her no matter what. Now many, many millions more have much more interest because of her troubles. America loves a comeback story.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: So does Martha Stewart join the ranks of rapper P. Diddy, publicist Lizzie Grubman, people who have had brushes with the law, but have gone on to turn that into even greater success? Judy Smith is a public relations specialist who has worked on scandals ranging from the Clinton impeachment to Washington Mayor Marion Barry‘s drug bust, et cetera. Judy thanks for coming on the program. Appreciate it.
JUDY SMITH, PUBLIC RELATIONS SPECIALIST: Thanks for having me.
ABRAMS: All right, so what‘s the story here? There is a sense, isn‘t there, that if you‘re a celebrity and you get into trouble and you don‘t do something really gross or really, really awful, that if you get convicted of a crime, you can actually use that that to your advantage these days.
SMITH: Well, I think we‘re seeing a lot of that, but let me say this. I think what Martha did was important. She really did tap into the American psyche, which is she handled the crisis with a lot of humility and...
ABRAMS: Come on, she really didn‘t, Judy. I mean when she was...
ABRAMS: ... before she went to prison...
ABRAMS: ... she made comments about very tough talk. I mean this was not someone saying I‘m sorry. She never accepted...
ABRAMS: ... responsibility for lying. This was not humility.
SMITH: No, but let me explain what I mean. When I say that, I mean that she was able to connect with people on a level that she had not connected before. When have you ever seen Martha Stewart cry on television? When she sat and she did the interview—I believe it was with Barbara Walters—she was fighting back tears. I think she cried. She connected with people. And so people saw her in a different light. And I think because of that, because people saw that she had some failures, that she was going through a tough time, people are more likely now to accept her successes.
ABRAMS: You know, Judy, my theory is...
ABRAMS: ... that any—it really follows that old maxim that any publicity is good publicity and it‘s not entirely true. Because look if this were murder or in the cases of people who have done sort of awful things, really awful things, I don‘t think they can recover. If Michael Jackson is convicted, even if he‘s not, I think he‘s going to have a real tough time overcoming this...
SMITH: I agree.
ABRAMS: He‘s not going to be able to use it to his advantage. But take Lizzie Grubman, for example, the P.R. princess here in New York. She had to serve time...
ABRAMS: She mowed into a group of people with her Mercedes SUV, and she has turned that around to be arguably more successful, certainly more famous. She‘s got a reality show now. Seems her business is booming. I think that people generally like it when someone is more famous. And this has made Martha Stewart even more famous.
SMITH: Oh absolutely. She is in more in demand now than she‘s ever been before and she‘s picked up a whole group of support, in particular women with businesses. If you look around the country, there‘s so many women now that support her from a business perspective because a lot of them felt that if this happened to a male, that if a male did this, it would be totally different.
ABRAMS: What about in the rap world, for example? It‘s almost like you need street credibility. You need to—if you serve your time—there‘s a guy, you know, Jamal “Shyne” Barrow, co-defendant of P. Diddy‘s in that trial...
ABRAMS: ... he actually fired a weapon. He‘s serving time. I‘m told from people in the music business that there is no one in more demand than him right now, and a large part of the reason is because he has quote—
SMITH: I think in that particular culture and particularly the rap culture absolutely. That credibility is key. When you talk about rap stars, a lot of times, yes, people talk about the music, but the next thing they talk about was he got shot 13 times...
SMITH: ... or he served X amount of time in prison.
ABRAMS: And David Novak, the ordinary guy, the ordinary non-celebrity who gets convicted even of one of these less offensive crimes, you know, let‘s say it‘s possessing a weapon or white-collar crime...
ABRAMS: ... or whatever, I mean a guy like you, I‘m sure it wasn‘t easy for you when you got out of prison. I‘m sure that you had a hard time getting a job.
NOVAK: Well in fact, it‘s very difficult. One thing I want to correct real quickly. Ms. Stewart was prosecuted for a crime that I see prosecuted all the time, and that‘s lying during the course of a federal investigation.
NOVAK: So to say she was targeted, I think, is a bit unfair...
ABRAMS: Well, all right, we can debate that later. I think...
ABRAMS: ... that the circumstances of this case, they wouldn‘t have gone forward with the prosecution with someone else, but that she was guilty of this crime.
NOVAK: OK, I‘ll respect that...
ABRAMS: All right.
NOVAK: ... but coming out of prison without the wherewithal of Ms.
Stewart can be an incredibly intimidating experience...
ABRAMS: Who wants to hire a convict, right?
NOVAK: Well and that the point exactly. It will be interesting to see if Omnimedia begins changing their job applications.
ABRAMS: But give us a sense. I mean honestly were you knocking on doors? Did you have to disclose at all times I‘m a—I‘ve just served time. I just finished serving time for mail fraud, et cetera?
NOVAK: Well that‘s correct. If you are asked the question, you are obliged legally to provide an honest answer. And in my experience, I found that it was actually more appropriate for me to simply go out and do my own business because the doors that had been open to me prior to incarceration simply weren‘t there anymore.
ABRAMS: All right. David thanks a lot. Judy Smith, one of the best, thanks a lot for coming on the program. Appreciate it.
SMITH: Thanks for having me.
ABRAMS: Coming up, white supremacist Matthew Hale was convicted of plotting to kill a federal Judge, now her husband and mother are dead. Hale‘s mother says he had nothing to do with it. We talk to her next.
And jurors see a video that prosecutors say Jackson‘s accuser‘s family was forced to make they say to prove to the world he was not a child molester.
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, the FBI now offering $50,000 for information about the murders of a judge‘s husband and mother. A white supremacist Matthew Hale‘s mother says he had nothing to do with it. We talk to her next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERT GRANT, CHICAGO FBI SPECIAL AGENT: The FBI is offering a reward of up to $50,000 to persons who come forward with information which leads to the identification of a person or persons who are involved in the murders of Mr. Michael Lefkow and Mrs. Donna Humphrey.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: The latest in the investigation in the murders of federal Judge Joan Lefkow‘s mother and husband. Authorities are working on hundreds of leads and processing key pieces of evidence. While they haven‘t identified any suspects, they are pursuing persons of interest. One lead is that known white supremacist Matthew Hale was convicted in 2003 of soliciting the judge‘s murder. He‘s issued the following statement.
“There is simply no way that any supporter of mine would commit such a heinous crime. I totally condemn it and I want the perpetrator caught and prosecuted. I only hope they sincerely wish to apprehend this animal instead of railroading the innocent. Only an idiot would think that I would do this. My sentencing date is April the 6th.”
Joining me now on the phone from East Peoria, Illinois is Evelyn Hutcheson, Matthew Hale‘s mother. Thanks very much for taking time to come on the program. Let me ask you about the statement that I just read from your son who says that really only an idiot would think that he was behind it. The reason that, first of all, apart from his motivation, your position is it would have been impossible for him logistically to have been involved in this?
EVELYN HUTCHESON, MATTHEW HALE‘S MOTHER (via phone): Well absolutely.
He‘s under the sams (ph). That means that he has no contact with anybody. He‘s not allowed to speak in a legible voice. If he were to talk to himself, he cannot speak in a legible voice, but everything is monitored with him. When we talk to him on the telephone, there are FBI people sitting there listening. When we visit him, we‘re not allowed to touch him or anything. We see him through glass and talk to him on a phone and there are two FBI people sitting there listening. So there‘s no way...
HUTCHESON: ... that he would—first of all he would never do this. I mean his sentencing is coming up April the 6th. And there‘s no way that he would—if he were a violent person, which he is not, and if he were a violent person, he wouldn‘t have anybody do this now because his sentencing is coming up April the 6th.
ABRAMS: All right. Let me ask you about—let‘s put him aside for a moment because of you know, the logistical issues. It does sound like it would have been pretty difficult, but you know you read some of the stuff these people are talking about on the Internet, some of the people who support him, and it is not at all hard for me to believe that one of them was behind this.
HUTCHESON: I don‘t have any idea because I don‘t have—I don‘t get on the Internet and know what anything is being said...
HUTCHESON: ... so I have no idea, but I can tell you this. That any of his followers—he has always preached nonviolence, and it has never changed. And I keep telling every time I‘m interviewed, I keep saying read the trial transcripts and you will see that he had nothing to do with any of this.
ABRAMS: But he was convicted, right? I mean the jury convicted him...
HUTCHESON: ... yes, but there are a lot of things, first of all, the judge allowed Ben Smith into that trial, which he should never have done because after Ben Smith went out and did the things that he did, then Matthew was investigated. The house was gone through, everything was done to try to link him to that, and he had nothing to do with that. And so then when his trial came up, then the judge allowed Ben Smith in, but what he said—and this is a very important thing—what he did is he told the prosecution he was not to bring it up during the closing argument. The first thing he did is said the government had evidence that Matthew Hale ordered a member of his organization to go out and kill two people...
HUTCHESON: ... and injure many others.
ABRAMS: We hear these sort of complaints in trials all the time about statements that could have been, should have been made...
ABRAMS: ... but they almost never have an actual impact on the verdict.
ABRAMS: And that‘s, you know, the reality is that you know, people complain, they appeal on these issues and they almost always lose.
HUTCHESON: I certainly hope that is not the case with Matthew...
ABRAMS: Yes, yes...
HUTCHESON: ... because the Judge did not stop him from doing that.
HUTCHESON: And then Matthew‘s attorney, who was not doing his job, did not stand up and demand a mistrial, which he should have done. So it was a sham, and I—that‘s why I‘m saying everybody...
HUTCHESON: ... that really believes this is of Matt should read the court trial transcript...
HUTCHESON: ... and they will see different.
ABRAMS: Yes, I can‘t say I read the whole transcript, but I did read some of the quotes of the conversations that he had with the FBI...
ABRAMS: ... informant and you know, certainly in some of it sure looks like he‘s...
HUTCHESON: He never asked -- and you have to remember...
ABRAMS: He OK‘s it though. He certainly OK‘s...
ABRAMS: ... the killing of a...
ABRAMS: ... no...
ABRAMS: All right...
HUTCHESON: No and you don‘t understand what happened with that.
First of all, Tony was always the one that brought it up. That‘s the mole.
HUTCHESON: He was always the one that brought it up...
HUTCHESON: ... and he pushed on that and pushed on that to get Matt to ask him to kill someone. Even before the judge, there were a couple of other people because he wanted him to, you know, because it was obvious that the FBI was trying to get him...
HUTCHESON: ... in a situation where they could have him arrested. He never once ever, ever told Tony to go kill anybody.
HUTCHESON: He—in fact, he said, I will not be a part of any of this. I want to change things legally.
ABRAMS: I got to wrap it up. It‘s my fault for bringing up sort of a side issue here. You know, my bad on that. But again, he was convicted of that crime. We‘ll see what happens on the appeal. And Evelyn Hutcheson, hopefully we‘ll do this again. We‘ll talk a little bit more in depth about the issues at hand here. Thanks a lot.
ABRAMS: Coming up, jurors deliberating in the Robert Blake murder trial. The question, of course, will the jury convict—they‘re deliberating. That‘s—remember this case? The jury is actually deliberating.
And if you tune into “The Tonight Show” for the Michael Jackson jokes, you might be upset the next couple of weeks. Jackson‘s lawyers are hoping there are no more quote—“cruel Michael Jackson jokes from Jay.”
ABRAMS: The family of the boy accusing Michael Jackson of molestation praised Jackson, called him a father figure in a videotape shown in court today, but the accuser‘s sister will be back on the stand again on Monday, says the family was forced to do it, were even given scripts. Today she took tough questions from Jackson‘s attorney who claims the family has a history of making false accusations.
NBC‘s Mike Taibbi is live outside the courthouse in Santa Maria and he joins us now. All right, so Mike, give us a general sense of how she did on the witness stand—important witness.
MIKE TAIBBI, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Well all you need to know are two things, Dan. One, in the video to which you are referring, at one point she‘s praising Michael Jackson and was relentlessly upbeat about Michael Jackson. She starts to cry she‘s so emotionally overwrought, jury riveted as they were watching it. Later on she also started to cry when she was answering another question and at that point the jury had stopped keying into her. They were looking away. A couple were shaking their heads because she was no longer persuasive, so thorough and methodical had been the dismantling of her credibility by Tom Mesereau in this case.
He did what all good defense attorneys do. He got this witness to admit not only that she had lied in the past in several venues and changed her story, but that she chose when to tell the truth and when to lie. In a sequence of questions, she finally had to admit that that‘s, in fact, those words of what she did from time to time.
ABRAMS: And Mike...
ABRAMS: ... she‘s so important because on direct examination, she said to the prosecutor, I saw Michael Jackson serving alcohol to my brothers.
ABRAMS: Michael Jackson gave me some and I saw him sitting around on the bed with a bunch of empty bottles around the bed with my brothers.
TAIBBI: And said I was so scared, we were all so squared, and that is the false imprisonment charge. Basically she outlined the entire prosecution case against Michael Jackson and today one element by element it was all dismantled. I think she was not in the end and Mesereau is not through with her yet, not at all an effective witness.
ABRAMS: When you say not an effective witness, I mean she is you know, 17, 18, and after the direct examination...
ABRAMS: ... after the prosecutor questioned her, everyone saying oh my what—you know this is brutal for Michael Jackson. This is really going to be tough...
TAIBBI: Effective, soft spoken.
TAIBBI: You bet...
ABRAMS: So she‘s been completely discredited?
TAIBBI: Well, I think that she‘s been made to admit that she chooses when to tell the truth and when to lie. She‘s been made to say some things, absolutes, like we never discussed the Bashir film, we never saw the Bashir film, we never discussed this case, we never discussed my testimony...
ABRAMS: And I‘m sure...
ABRAMS: ... I‘m sure seeing her on that videotape as well, as you point out, crying, is going to make it real tough. Mike, stay with us, all right. Because coming up—let me take a quick break here...
ABRAMS: Coming up, Jackson‘s lawyers want the last laugh saying Jay Leno must stop telling jokes about Michael Jackson. Come on.
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ABRAMS: Coming up, Michael Jackson‘s legal team comes out swinging against Jay Leno, saying the gag order doesn‘t allow the cruel jokes against Jackson. First the headlines.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Went very good. Went very good.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: Very good, very good—Michael Jackson as we walked out of the courtroom this afternoon. On the stand today the sister of Jackson‘s accuser—now remember she was in the house. She came in the direct examination and said, I saw Michael Jackson serve my brothers alcohol. I saw my brothers on a bed with Michael Jackson lying there with empty alcohol bottles in the room. Well, today the jury watched her family praise Jackson including her on a videotape. She says they were forced to do it.
Jackson‘s attorney scored some points when he pointed out the contradictory statements in her testimony. Back with me live from the courthouse in Santa Maria, NBC‘s Mike Taibbi. Joining us criminal defense attorney Michael Bachner who represents one of the unindicted co-conspirators and Connecticut prosecutor Susan Filan.
All right, Susan, this sounds like trouble for the prosecutors. I mean this great witness we‘re all talking about yesterday, oh the accuser‘s sister, she‘s saying she saw it, she was an eyewitness, and now Mike is telling us so there she is weeping on the rebuttal video. Michael is such a great guy. We love him.
SUSAN FILAN, CONNECTICUT PROSECUTOR: It still may be true, Dan. It still may be that she did see it and it may be that her credibility did undergo an attack, but you have to remember that you have to evaluate a witness‘ testimony in whole and not in part and not picked apart by little pieces. So on balance, it may be in the end they believe that she saw it, but there were times when she was not always truthful.
ABRAMS: Yes, but Michael Bachner, you know what the judge‘s instructions says at the end of the case. If you don‘t believe—what is it—if you don‘t believe part of the testimony, you can disregard all of it.
MICHAEL BACHNER, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: That is right. The judge instructs the jury normally that if you find that a witness lied in a material matter in connection with something important, you may disregard that witness‘ testimony in its entirety or believe any part of that testimony you think is credible. And frankly, what Mr. Mesereau is doing here is he is, contrary to what Ms. Filan said, he is dissecting this line by line, piece by piece, ultimately attempting to show that this was, in fact, a family that was set out to lie against Michael Jackson and has done that.
ABRAMS: Let me play—I have an exclusive interview that‘s going to be airing on “Dateline” on Sunday night with Bradley Miller, who is—was an investigator who worked with Mark Geragos, who was Jackson‘s attorney at the time. One of the things he talked about was the making of this rebuttal video, meaning this videotape that was shown in court today that the prosecutors say was the reason that Jackson‘s family was quote—
“imprisoned”. The defense says, look, they said these things because they meant them. Here‘s what Brad Miller said about the making of that rebuttal video.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRADLEY MILLER, FORMER JACKSON DEFENSE INVESTIGATOR: That almost didn‘t take place that evening because the mother was refusing to sign a release stating that she was giving up any rights to any kind of compensation for this tape and she didn‘t want to do that. She was concerned about that because she had heard that Mr. Jackson had received millions of dollars for the Bashir documentary and was sure he was about to receive millions of dollars for this documentary. And again, she wanted to know—I can‘t remember the precise words, but it was something like who‘s going to take care of me and my little family? She had been asking for, I believe, a house, a car, college educations for her children, and it was made very clear to her by the videographer that if she didn‘t sign the release, that was fine, but the videotape would not be made and everyone could just go home.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: Very quickly Susan, even if that is true, you know, I don‘t think that that‘s so horrible that she‘s asking for money for making a videotape. I think that in and of itself is going to entirely destroy her credibility.
FILAN: No, I don‘t think that in and of itself is going to be her undoing. What they‘re trying to paint a picture is just this money grubbing woman who will do anything for a buck, including formulate this vast conspiracy against Michael Jackson, trying to take down the King of Pop. And the question is can she do that? Can she get her 13-year-old boy and other children to orchestrate this elaborate scheme to accuse him falsely? Is that what the jury is going to believe at the end of this?
ABRAMS: I got to move on because I really want to get this topic in. Late night host Jay Leno is on the Jackson defense team‘s witness list, which means he is subject to the gag order theoretically. We told you last night about how Leno is trying to get the court to clarify the gag order so he can effectively tell jokes about the case. Well, not that it seems to be stopping him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAY LENO, HOST, “THE TONIGHT SHOW”: Let‘s see what‘s happening in the news and I‘m allowed to talk about.
LENO: Hear about this gag order?
LENO: You know, I‘m a potential witness in the Michael Jackson trial. As you know, there‘s a gag order for everyone involved in the Michael Jackson trial. In fact, I believe I‘m the first person over the age of 12 that has been gagged by Michael Jackson.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: Today the Jackson team shot back with a short but sweet response. Leno should be gagged, Jackson‘s attorney said, because he has valuable information about the accuser‘s family and Jackson‘s lawyers seem to suggest he shouldn‘t be making such a stink about it.
Quote—“Heaven forbid that for a few weeks Mr. Leno will not be able to make cruel jokes at Mr. Jackson‘s expense.”
Michael Bachner, if you‘re the attorney and look, you represent one of the unindicted co-conspirators. If you were Michael Jackson‘s attorney, you‘re really going to fight Jay Leno being able to tell jokes on TV?
BACHNER: Well you know, actually, I probably wouldn‘t be making that kind of a stink about it...
ABRAMS: It‘s ridiculous.
BACHNER: ... frankly, and show that Michael Jackson can roll with the punches and he understands that this is humor. At the end of the day, Jay Leno is going to give whatever testimony he‘s going to give, helpful or not. But you know, the danger, frankly, of this is that—I know Mesereau hasn‘t done this, but you could put someone on the witness list just because you think that that person in the public arena doesn‘t like your client and you want to shut him up. So just by saying well now you have a gag order. No talking.
ABRAMS: Well here‘s what the defense says (UNINTELLIGIBLE). Mr. Leno was interviewed by law enforcement on February 9, 2005, and stated that he received telephone calls from Jane and John Doe, talking about the family here. He said that they were looking for money and that the call sounded scripted and coached. He said that they were looking for a quote “mark”.
That‘s again according to the defense as to what the Leno‘s relevance to this case is. And let me just go to 11 here. This is one of their other comments.
Mr. Leno is an accomplished entertainer and usually a genuinely funny man. However, while the prosecution of Michael Jackson might be a convenience source of material, it is hardly crucial commentary on important political or social topics.
Susan, what relevance does that have? I mean whether it‘s—whether the defense team thinks that this is a crucial topic, Jay Leno makes jokes for a living and he makes good ones.
FILAN: That was an absolutely hilarious segment and of course he should be allowed to do it. It‘s absurd to try to gag him. He can‘t talk about his testimony. He can‘t say this is what I‘m going to testify about. He can‘t say this is what I did testify about. But outside of that, the man is a funny man and he should be allowed to do his thing.
ABRAMS: This is ridiculous and Mike Taibbi, very quickly, what are you expecting up on Monday?
TAIBBI: Well they‘re going to continue with the cross-examination of this witness, the accuser‘s older brother—I‘m sorry—older sister. And then we are told that the younger brother who is the only corroborating witness who allegedly saw with his own eyes the acts of molestation that are really the center of this whole case. So it looks like they‘re frontloading the case, the prosecution is, with some pretty heavy duty witnesses or witnesses that presumably have key information. So far as Jackson‘s spokesperson said today, it looked like a pretty good run for the defense and that the prosecution witnesses have seemed to turned into defense witnesses.
ABRAMS: Well, we shall see. We shall see. Mike Taibbi, Susan Filan...
ABRAMS: ... and Michael Bachner, thanks a lot.
Coming up, the California man on trial for killing his nine children. But prosecutors say, well, he might not have been the one who actually pulled the trigger. The question is, can he still be convicted?
And jurors deliberating in the Robert Blake trial—they‘re deliberating. The question, of course, is the jury likely to convict based on what is really a circumstantial case?
Plus, a pregnant Texas girl and her boyfriend kill their unborn child.
He‘s charged with murder. She‘s not. Why not? Coming up.
ABRAMS: Back now with “Just A Minute” where I lay out the day‘s other legal stories. My guest has a minute to discuss each one with me. Joining us now is criminal defense attorney Mercedes Colwin.
All right, Mercedes. Issue one: Marcus Wesson on trial for killing his nine children. The prosecutor began the opening statement today—yesterday by alluding to the possibility that Wesson never fired a single shot. She cited evidence that could indicate it was actually Wesson‘s daughter who shot the children before turning the gun on herself. That said, the prosecutor still stressed that Wesson was every bit a murderer who used incest, fear, and misrepresentations of Christian teaching to persuade the children to partake in the murder.
Question: Can he be convicted of the murders even if he didn‘t pull the trigger? He sure can—right?
MERCEDES COLWIN, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: He absolutely can because if he‘s indoctrinating these older children, as the prosecutor is trying to prove, into killing them—going through the series of killings and then killing themselves, that‘s how it‘s going to be. He‘s really an accessory to the murder. It‘s as if he were to hire a hit man to go and kill his family. It would have been the same thing. So even though he didn‘t fire a single shot, he still could be convicted of murder.
ABRAMS: But what if he was just an awful guy who did all the other things that they talked about, incest and everything else, but didn‘t actually say you should go shoot everybody.
COLWIN: Well that‘s what the defense is going to try to say. Look, he may be a creep and he did some of the things that we don‘t really think are great, but the fact of the matter is he didn‘t provide the methodology in which the killings took place. He certainly didn‘t talk to them about killing themselves. It‘s sort of they‘re children and apparently these other children—they‘re going to say he rambled a lot, but he talked in the abstract. And wouldn‘t you have killed yourself if the authorities came by, so nothing truly clear and convincing that he actually did anything to induce the killing.
ABRAMS: All right. Issue two: Both the prosecution and defense in the Robert Blake murder trial finished closing arguments today. The jury is deliberating the fate of the former “Baretta” star accused of murdering his wife. During his closing, Blake‘s lawyer said the murder weapon, a 60-year-old handgun, the evidence is circumstantial, there‘s nothing linking his client to the weapon. The prosecutors introduced all sorts of witnesses, couple of people who said that Blake tried to get them to kill his wife.
So question, Mercedes—what do you think is going to happen in this case? They got enough?
COLWIN: I don‘t think they do. I mean there‘s always a heightened expectation by the juries to look for some forensic evidence and there really isn‘t any forensic evidence. I mean there is the sort of weird behavior that Blake exhibited when he came back and said oh I forgot my gun and he had some gun residue on his hands, but it could have been the gun that he had left at the restaurant as opposed to the gun was...
ABRAMS: The idea of leaving the gun—you leave the gun...
COLWIN: A little strange, though, Dan...
ABRAMS: Yes, you hate that. You leave the gun at the restaurant. Your wife gets killed in the meantime and a couple of other people come forward and say...
ABRAMS: ... you‘d ask them to kill your wife?
COLWIN: There‘s certainly—there is strange behavior, but nothing really truly linking him to the crime. Plus, the fact that Blake really isn‘t a very sympathetic person.
COLWIN: ... one of the greatest circumstantial cases we‘ve covered is obviously the Scott Peterson case. Laci was someone that people beloved. Blake is a drifter and there‘s lots of evidence that others may have wanted to kill her. I think there‘s enough there to create reasonable doubt and I think he‘ll be exonerated.
COLWIN: We‘ll see. Want to bet on it, Dan?
ABRAMS: No, I didn‘t follow the case closely enough...
ABRAMS: You know, I‘m willing to bet on all these cases if I‘ve watched them, but...
ABRAMS: All right. Issue three: A 16-year-old Texas girl—this is really an interested case—pregnant with twins tried for weeks apparently to kill the fetuses by beating her own stomach. After she realized it wasn‘t working, she pleaded with her boyfriend to step on her stomach. The boyfriend obliged. The fetuses killed. Now 18-year-old Gerardo Flores is charged with murder and the baby‘s mother, not facing any charges.
Question: Can they do that? Can they not charge the mother?
COLWIN: I think it‘s so abusive if they don‘t charge the mother. The reason being is that they look to the legislative intent of the statute that this particular case...
ABRAMS: This is about abortion, right...
COLWIN: And it‘s—well it‘s about abortion, also about women that fall victim of domestic abuse. Here‘s a young woman who conspired with her boyfriend to kill her fetuses. That‘s not what the laws intended to protect...
ABRAMS: But if she‘d wanted an abortion, she could have gotten one, right?
COLWIN: She absolutely could have, but...
ABRAMS: ... what‘s the difference...
COLWIN: ... that falls under the auspices of Roe v. Wade and all the progeny that follow thereafter basically says if you go to a licensed physician, you can abort your fetuses. You can‘t go and conspire with someone to kill the fetuses, though, and that‘s where the distinction lies.
COLWIN: One is constitutional protection. The other is, I believe, a criminal act.
COLWIN: And it‘s a misapplication of this particular law. It‘s going to probably go up—I‘m sure it‘s going to be somehow challenged in the appellate courts and we‘ll see the application of this particular Texas law and how it applies...
COLWIN: ... the future.
ABRAMS: ... tough call in this case, I got to say...
COLWIN: It is.
ABRAMS: ... as a legal matter, I get why she can‘t be charged and as a practical matter it seems sort of ridiculous, but...
COLWIN: It‘s outrageous.
ABRAMS: All right. Mercedes Colwin, good to see you.
COLWIN: Great to see you Dan. Thank you.
ABRAMS: Coming up, a federal judge‘s family murdered execution style. Many suspect it‘s a revenge killing. While I say it‘s finally time to appreciate prosecutors and judges who are putting their lives on the line for doing the right thing every day. It‘s my “Closing Argument”.
ABRAMS: Coming up, with the killing of this judge‘s family, my “Closing Argument” today is going to be about why prosecutors and judges often don‘t get enough credit for the jobs that they do. It‘s my “Closing Argument”.
ABRAMS: My “Closing Argument”—as of late Americans have been better about appreciating how our soldiers, police officers, and firefighters put themselves in harm‘s way for the rest of us. That‘s refreshing and I really hope it continues. But after this week, we should be thinking seriously about adding judges and prosecutors to the list of those we truly appreciate. Federal Judge Joan Lefkow came home Monday night to find the dead bodies of her husband and mother both shot execution style. Just last year, white supremacist leader Matthew Hale convicted of plotting to kill Judge Lefkow.
Authorities have said they‘re pursuing various leads, but the investigation clearly centered on followers of Hale. Judge Lefkow hardly the first judge to be targeted and prosecutors who take on the worst of the worst also risk reprisal from those criminals they prosecute. These are judges and prosecutors who often gave up the opportunity to make far more money in private practice in order to serve the public good.
In Iraq, no one‘s under the illusion that being a prosecutor or judge is safe. This week a father and son, an investigative judge and prosecutor in Saddam Hussein‘s trial in Iraq assassinated, gunned down in Baghdad—both working for the special court set to hear charges of human rights abuses against Hussein. The same day another judge on that special court severely wounded. Let‘s be clear, there‘s a reason these stories are so important. Violent attacks on judges and prosecutors threaten our justice system and our democracy and that of Iraq as well.
I know these days, it‘s P.C. to criticize judges for rulings that particular interest groups don‘t like and look, some deserve criticism. But I fear judges are the new scapegoats used by those who want to politicize everything, replacing the media, of course, it‘s just so 1990‘s to talk about media bias. As for prosecutors, if you listen to defense attorneys, prosecutors get the wrong guy in every case.
Well you know what? The vast majority of the judges and prosecutors in this country‘s courtrooms are doing the right thing. And I don‘t think we sufficiently appreciate the risks they take. Sure, courtrooms aren‘t as dangerous as burning buildings or the streets of Iraq, but this week we should appreciate their efforts. What judges and prosecutors do inside a courtroom can have serious repercussions for them once they walk outside.
Coming up in 60 seconds, last night we told you how much used breast implants were selling for on eBay. Tonight guess how much pictures of me are going for? Not much. Coming up.
ABRAMS: We‘re back. I‘ve had my say, now it‘s time for “Your Rebuttal”. In the Michael Jackson case, many of you more interested in the guy holding Michael Jackson‘s umbrella than the trial itself including Bert Amada. “If Jackson goes to prison, the guy I will feel sorry for is the man who holds his umbrella, who will have to go to jail with Jackson in order to hold the umbrella over him as he walks around the prison yard.”
And late night talk show host Jay Leno has been subpoenaed to appear as a defense witness in the case. He‘s asking the judge to clarify the gag order to allow him to continue to make jokes about Jackson.
Frankie in Wisconsin—“I‘m appalled by the fact that Jay Leno or anyone else would want to joke about the M.J. trial.” Lighten up, Frankie, or as those t-shirts used to say “Frankie, say relax.”
And we‘re live at midnight last night following Martha Stewart‘s release from Camp Cupcake, minimum-security federal prison in West Virginia. At times it was hard for me take our live coverage of her release seriously.
Lee Weissert, “What would otherwise have been tedious theater of the absurd was actually made eminently enjoyable by your dramatization of the play-by-play. I particularly liked your coverage of running of the stop sign.” We saw a car going through a stop sign.
But Jon Hinch writes, “Your program tonight sank to so many lows I lost count. You and your guests bemoan the circus aspect of her release, but you were there slathering for any juicy tidbits of gossipy heresy.”
Finally last night, we told you about a woman who is auctioning her
‘69 double H breast implants on eBay. They‘re going for more than $16,000
each. Pije Siobhan from Alabama writes, “As most everyone knows, people
will bid on anything at eBay they consider valuable or interesting. I
would not dare bid on a used breast implant. But I did bid on an
autographed photo of you and won. Just so you know that $8 photograph is
worth more than any thousand-dollar hunk of silicone to me.” Eight bucks -
· you guys want autographed pictures of me? Write into the show. I‘ll sign them and send them to you. Eight bucks...
“OH PLEAs!”—we‘re not going looking for a ride home—we‘re not to go looking for a ride home after a late night of drinking. Theresa Zygula had one too many by the time a Pittsburgh suburb bar closed. Forty-nine-year-old woman forced to retire her drinking stumbled out of the bar with only 80 cents on her. With no ride home and just 80 cents, she walked across the street and knocked on the neighbor‘s door, a running car sitting in the driveway.
Well good luck. When no one answered, decided to help herself to the transportation. Borrowing the car, she returned home safely to sleep off, but unfortunately, those neighbors, well they were the police. Zygula had stumbled to the police station across the street and stole a police cruiser.
An officer had run into the police station to use the restroom, left the cruiser running. The police found the stolen vehicle later in the morning near her house, then followed the footprints left in the snow leading them to her home. She was charged with theft and driving under the influence. Come on—how hammered do you have to be to not know that you‘re driving a police car?
That does it for us tonight. Coming up next, “HARDBALL” with Chris Matthews. Have a great weekend. “Dateline” special Sunday, 7:00 p.m., my interview with Bradley Miller. Thanks for watching.
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