Guest: Clint Van Zandt, Pat Brown, Jake Williams, Charles Yoo, Diane Dimond
ANNOUNCER: This is a special edition of THE ABRAMS REPORT.
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ASHLEY SMITH, FORMER HOSTAGE: He said, Do you know who I am?
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ANNOUNCER: She came face to face with an accused cold-blooded killer and somehow lived to tell the story.
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SMITH: I wanted him to know that he wasn‘t dead.
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ANNOUNCER: Tonight, Ashley Smith‘s remarkable story of how she survived seven hours at the mercy of Brian Nichols.
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SMITH: He let me leave when I told him I needed to.
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ANNOUNCER: Plus, a tough day in court for Michael Jackson‘s young accuser. Has the defense punched holes in the teenager‘s story?
Now, live from Washington, Dan Abrams.
DAN ABRAMS, HOST: Hi, everyone. At any moment, the woman held hostage by the accused Atlanta shooter is expected to speak out live about her ordeal. That‘s exactly where we‘re expecting 26-year-old Ashley Smith, a widow, the mother of a 5-year-old girl, held hostage for seven hours, to speak out. Remember, it was the man suspected of shooting and killing four, including a judge and his court reporter, who is the guy who allegedly abducted her. We‘ will bring it to you live as soon as it happens. We‘re keeping an eye on those microphones.
It‘s the kind of story that usually ends in tragedy. Young woman alone in a parking lot in the middle of the night suddenly feels a gun in her ribs, face to face with a desperate stranger. He‘s Brian Nichols, the man who triggered a multi-state manhunt after allegedly gunning down three people in an Atlanta courthouse and one more while he was on the lam.
So the question that everyone‘s asking is, How did Ashley Smith survive seven hours as a hostage? As we wait for her to speak live, here‘s how it all began.
(voice-over): In the early-morning hours on Saturday, a massive manhunt is under way for suspected killer Brian Nichols. Just after 2:00 AM, 26-year-old Ashley Smith returns home to her new apartment in Duluth, just 25 miles north of Atlanta. Near her front door, Brian Nichols allegedly puts a gun to her ribs.
SMITH: He said, Don‘t scream. If you don‘t scream, I won‘t hurt you.
ABRAMS: Once inside, Nichols asked her, Do you know who I am?
SMITH: I said, yes, I know who you are. Please don‘t hurt me.
Please don‘t hurt me. I have a 5-year-old little girl.
ABRAMS: Nichols then allegedly binds Ashley with tape and an extension cord. He showers in her bathroom and then unties his hostage. She pleads for mercy.
SMITH: My husband died four years ago. And I told him that if he hurt me, my little girl wouldn‘t have a mommy or daddy.
ABRAMS: And Ashley grabs her Bible and a book called “The Purpose-Driven Life.” The fugitive and his terrified hostage begin to talk.
SMITH: He said he thought that I was an angel sent from God and that I was his sister and he was my brother in Christ.
ABRAMS: At 6:15 AM, Nichols orders Ashley to follow in his car as he moves the stolen pickup to another location. He dumps the pickup near Atlanta‘s Buford Highway. Ashley drives him back to her apartment. At 8:30 AM, the owner of the pickup, immigration agent David Wilhelm, found dead in his home. Police believe Nichols shot him sometime the night before. At 9:30 AM, Ashley tells Nichols she has to go see her daughter, who lives with a close relative. He agrees.
SMITH: He asked me, Is there anything I can do while you‘re gone, like hang your curtains or something?
ABRAMS: At 9:50 AM, once outside and alone, Ashley calls 911. A SWAT team converges on the scene.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There are three weapons underneath the bed. She‘s advising he‘s wanting to turn himself in.
ABRAMS: At 11:30, Brian Nichols waves a white T-shirt and surrenders without incident. Ashley‘s seven-hour ordeal is over.
SMITH: He reached in my heart and took some of my husband. I let him have it.
ABRAMS: Brian Nichols, after 26 hours on the run, is in police custody. Four people are dead. Ashley Smith survived.
SMITH: I just think it was the hand of God.
ABRAMS: I can tell you, not since the Elizabeth Smart story, that little girl who was found after nine months, have I heard a story that I think is just one of those stories that just makes you say, Oh, my!
All right, we are waiting, again, for a press conference from Ashley Smith at any moment. If we can put up the microphones? There it is. That‘s outside her home. We‘re expecting her to speak at any moment, and we are going to take that live.
I‘ve got a lot more sound here from Ashley from the last day. Let me bring into the conversation Clint van Zandt, former FBI profiler, and Pat Brown, criminal profiler and CEO of The Sexual Homicide Exchange, author of “Killing for Sport.”
All right, Pat, let me start with you. Am I—am I being naive by looking at this story and saying, Wow, it is amazing that she did the things she did and she did everything, it seems, so right?
PAT BROWN, CRIMINAL PROFILER: If I say yes, are you going to be mad at me?
ABRAMS: No. No. Tell me. Tell me.
BROWN: OK. Then yes. Actually, Brian Nichols was calling the shots the whole way through. I‘ve heard the same story from other people, where a man has come along, abducted them, held a knife to them and said, If you cooperate, I‘ll let you go. And they say, Please let me live because I have children. And he says, No problem. I just want to do, whatever he says he wants to do. And then somewhere in that process, the woman gets stabbed 75 times and left for dead so—or is just absolutely murdered.
So this is not true. She did what she had to do, and I commend her for, you know—what can you say? She struggled through an ordeal. But what she did did not change, necessarily, what he was going to do.
ABRAMS: Boy, I...
BROWN: He maybe was planning to turn himself in at that point and decided leaving a live victim would look better than leaving a dead victim. Who knows? But he was calling the shots, and she wasn‘t.
ABRAMS: Well, look, I don‘t know all the facts of this, Clint, but that seems like a very cynical way to look at what this woman did.
CLINT VAN ZANDT, FORMER FBI PROFILER: Well, you know—you know, Pat looks at a lot of people, and that‘s—and you know—so I—whatever she thinks from that side of the house. From my side of the house, I mean, I think this woman was good for at least 60, 70 percent of it. There may have been something within—within Nichols—I mean, you and I have talked about this guy...
VAN ZANDT: ... he ran out of steam.
ABRAMS: But wait. If she had started screaming and yelling and yelling and screaming...
VAN ZANDT: I think she would have been dead.
ABRAMS: Pat, and you...
VAN ZANDT: I think she would have been dead.
ABRAMS: You think it wouldn‘t have mattered what she did, he was going to do this no matter what?
BROWN: I‘m not saying that if she didn‘t upset him, he might not have killed her. That‘s something that can always happen. The guy can get crazier than he already is. But I‘m not saying that what she did necessarily saved her life. We don‘t want people to believe that you can always talk somebody out of killing you. You can‘t. Brian Nichols did a lot of things that were terrible. and he had time to think about. Supposedly, he abducted a girlfriend and raped her. Now, that was something he thought about, and she didn‘t come out so well in that.
ABRAMS: Right, but it doesn‘t...
ABRAMS: Wait a minute. It doesn‘t mean because he didn‘t hurt other people that they did anything wrong.
BROWN: Absolutely not!
ABRAMS: It‘s possible that at this particular time, as Clint and I have talked about, he was out of steam, all right? And he‘s looking for somewhere to go. But you know, if you don‘t do things right, things still aren‘t going to end up well. So I think there‘s a way to say—we‘re not blaming anyone else for what they did because this guy wouldn‘t have stopped...
ABRAMS: ... wouldn‘t have stopped no matter what they did.
BROWN: Exactly, because he is...
BROWN: ... calling the shots...
ABRAMS: No, no, no.
BROWN: ... on every single thing...
ABRAMS: Wait a minute.
BROWN: ... he chose to do.
ABRAMS: But with that said, that doesn‘t mean that he‘s not out of steam by the time he gets there, and as a result, he‘s sort of on that fence, and she gets him to go on the right side of it, right?
VAN ZANDT: Well, I think that‘s part of it. I think he ran out of steam. I think the people he killed were authority figures. They members of the system. They were members of this body that was trying to control this guy. And here is someone who just empathized with him, who identified -- I mean this woman‘s been through the school of hard knocks, just like he has. It‘s hard for him to look at her and hear her story, and here she‘s an angel of God and want to kill her.
ABRAMS: Let me play a piece of—we are waiting for a press conference from Ashley Smith coming up at any moment. Let me play another piece of sound from her from today.
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SMITH: I really didn‘t keep track of time too much because I was really worried about just living. I didn‘t want to die. I didn‘t want him to hurt anybody else. And I really didn‘t want him to hurt himself or anyone else to hurt him. He‘s done enough. He‘d done enough, and he really, honestly—when I looked at him, he looked like he didn‘t want to do it anymore.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: All right, Pat Brown, you wanted to say something, but we went to that piece of sound?
BROWN: Yes. I‘d say that this guy knew he was surrounded. I think he knew the game was up. He‘d tried to run away. He‘d done his damage. He knew he wasn‘t going to get much further. He had a long way to any border, from Canada, to Mexico from Georgia. And he also wasn‘t a—he was a city boy. He wasn‘t a country boy. So he wasn‘t going to be good at hiding out there and doing the survivalist stuff.
I think he knew he was going to get caught. And the best way, at this point, for him to play the next game is to get caught in a nice way, so people have some sympathy for him. I personally think he played his game. I applaud the woman for keeping her cool, but I‘m not saying it changed his mind at all.
ABRAMS: Wait. Who‘s got—who‘s got sympathy for him based on the way he was captured? I mean, how...
BROWN: Well, I think he‘s working on the sympathy.
ABRAMS: ... did he gain sympathy? From who?
BROWN: I think—I think he has gained sympathy.
ABRAMS: From who?
BROWN: I think now people can see him as a—everybody. Juries. They‘ll say, Well, he didn‘t kill the girl. He had a heart in there someplace. He‘s not a psychopath. He had a heart. He wanted to help her out. He wanted her to go back to her child. That‘s—you can gain some sympathy doing that. I think that‘s what he was playing for.
ABRAMS: I guess. I don‘t know any juries who are going to feel particularly sympathetic.
VAN ZANDT: If I live in Atlanta and somebody tells me he comes in the back of the courtroom and shoots the judge in the back of the head, there‘s not a whole lot of sympathy left to me for this guy.
BROWN: I think you‘ll find there‘s going to be quite a bit out there now.
ABRAMS: Yes. You mean—you mean so that he shouldn‘t be found guilty. You‘re not talking about the death penalty.
BROWN: Now he‘s—exactly. He‘s trying to portray himself as at least human and not a cold-blooded killer. He is human if he could let this woman live, isn‘t he? I mean, it does work, to an extent. And he may have thought that through. And I personally believe did he.
ABRAMS: Wow. All right, well...
BROWN: Maybe I‘m cynical, but I believe...
ABRAMS: I‘m giving Ashley Smith more credit than you are.
BROWN: Oh, I give her credit. I‘m just not giving him any credit.
ABRAMS: No, I‘m giving her the credit of fooling him.
BROWN: I don‘t think so.
ABRAMS: And you‘re saying, No, he‘s too smart. Yes, you‘re giving him the intelligence factor. And I‘m saying, You know what?
ABRAMS: She outsmarted him. Right. But you don‘t—you don‘t buy that. OK.
BROWN: I don‘t buy it, no.
ABRAMS: All right. All right.
BROWN: I don‘t buy it.
ABRAMS: Pat Brown, Clint Van Zandt are going to stick around because when we come back, we‘re continuing to wait for that press conference from Ashley Smith at any moment. And my exclusive interview with that woman, the attorney who was prosecuting the accused shooter before the rampage. She may have been his real target. I‘ve got the exclusive. And just who is this guy? His former college football coach joins us next.
And later, the Michael Jackson case. His accuser on the stand admits to lying. We‘ll be right back.
ABRAMS: We are waiting for a live press conference right here at any moment from Ashley Smith, the woman who was kidnapped by the alleged Atlanta courthouse shooter. She spent seven hours with him. She survived and escaped to be able to call the police. And they were there within an hour to arrest this guy with SWAT teams, and he‘s now in custody.
Now, earlier tonight, I talked to the woman who could have been Brian Nichols‘s primary target, the assistant DA for Fulton County, Atlanta, Gayle Abramson. She‘d been prosecuting Nichols for rape when all this happened. I asked her about a death threat she received while Nichols was on the run and which may have come from Nichols.
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You were in protective custody Friday after a call comes in to the jail that basically says, I‘m going to kill Gayle Abramson. Have you gotten any more information about whether that call was actually made from Nichols?
GAYLE ABRAMSON, FULTON CO. ASST. DA: Actually, I haven‘t. I know that the authorities have looked into it and are looking into it. I also know that the suspect may have been questioned about it, but I haven‘t gotten any information on whether that call actually came from him or not.
ABRAMS: How was it—when you were prosecuting him—look, no one likes being prosecuted and no one generally likes the prosecutor when you‘re the defendant. But give me a sense of what it was like inside the courtroom with him before any of this happened.
ABRAMSON: Well, Dan, the first—during the first trial, nothing was really out of the ordinary. And the second trial, things started to become a little bit odd. There was some odd behavior. And of course, you know that the suspect, the defendant, was discovered with some door hinges in his shoes. Once that was taken care of, there was no other reason to fear him, really, no overt behavior on his part that would have made any of us think that something like this could have happened.
ABRAMS: So he didn‘t, like, eyeball you in court or something? Because I know prosecutors have told me that the defendants are staring them down in the courtroom, et cetera. That did not happen with him?
ABRAMSON: Well, several times, I feel as though he probably did look my way or look at me. It‘s my practice, I take my cases very seriously, and I focus on the evidence in presenting the case. I did have some communication from him about Thursday, when he looked at me and he got my attention and told me he thought I was doing a much better job, which I found to be a sarcastic remark and one from a defendant, so I did not respond. But really, that‘s the only communication I received from him. As far as other looks, I make it my practice to not look at a defendant when I‘m prosecuting. So there could have been times where he did look at me in a threatening manner, but none that I would have seen.
ABRAMS: And tell me exactly—well, first tell me about—you mentioned the two sort of homemade knives-type things he tried to sneak into the courtroom the day before. You had asked for more security as a result of that, right?
ABRAMSON: That‘s correct.
ABRAMS: And what happened?
ABRAMSON: We had—well, we had discovered the information on Thursday morning, the 10th of March, that the night before, Mr. Nichols was discovered with those in his shoes. We were immediately called into Judge Barnes‘s chambers, both his attorney, Nichols‘s attorney, myself and my investigator, and we discussed the matter. We asked for more security, and all agreed that we would let the sheriff‘s department know, which they were alerted, and they did provide more security in the form of more deputies coming into the courtroom.
But as far as, you know, him being in a holding cell or other places like that, he seemed to be a threat now in the courtroom, and as far as asking for more security in the courtroom, we did receive that security.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: Brave woman.
All right, we are waiting for a press conference from another brave woman, Ashley Smith. She‘s the one who was kidnapped. She‘s the one who turned this guy in. She‘s the one who had to spend seven hours with this guy. Initially, she was tied up, et cetera, got him to eventually untie her and be able to talk him down, essentially, before she was able to call police.
So the question that a lot of people are asking is, Who is this guy? Who is Brian Nichols? Family members have described him as a good person who came from a stable home. Others have just said he‘s downright intimidating.
Joining us Jake Williams. He was Brian Nichols‘s football coach at Kutztown University in 1999. Also, Charles Yoo, a reporter for “The Atlanta Journal-Constitution,” has spoken to several of Brian Nichols‘s friends and relatives. Gentlemen, thanks very much for coming on the program. Appreciate it.
All right, Mr. Williams, let me start with you. As a—you know, look, you were his coach. I don‘t know how well you got to know him in that context. But give us a sense of this guy when you knew him.
JAKE WILLIAMS, BRIAN NICHOLS‘S COLLEGE FOOTBALL COACH: Well, again, I was Brian‘s coach. I coached outside linebackers in 1989, ‘90 and ‘91 at Kutztown University. Brian—you know, in that position, I would say on average, we probably had eight to ten players that I coached. And so we probably spent a few hundred hours together during his first season, his freshman year, in ‘89.
ABRAMS: Seem like a normal...
ABRAMS: ... normal freshman to you?
WILLIAMS: Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. Very talented, very athletic. You know, when I was informed of the situation on Friday evening by an Allentown paper, a reporter who kind of put two and two together that I might know Mr. Nichols, I was shocked that the shooter in Atlanta...
ABRAMS: I‘m sorry to interrupt you, Mr. Williams. If you could just stand by for just a moment, we want to go to that press conference live at the home of Ashley Smith, the woman who was held hostage for seven hours by Brian Nichols.
SMITH: I want to thank everyone for their prayers and support over the last several days. I also want to extend my deepest sympathies to the families of Judge Barnes, Julie Ann Brandau, Deputy Teasley and Special Agent Wilhelm, as well as my prayers for Deputy Hall, who is fighting for her life right now in the hospital.
As I‘m sure you can imagine, this event has been extremely difficult and exhausting for me and my extended family. I‘ve experienced just about every emotion one could imagine in the span of just a few days. Throughout my time with Mr. Nichols, I continued to rely on my faith in God. God has helped me through tough times before, and he‘ll help me now.
I hope that you‘ll respect my need to rest and to focus my immediate attention on helping legal authorities proceed with their various investigations. It‘s natural to focus on the conclusion of any story, but my role was really very small in the grand scheme of things. The real heroes are the judicial and law enforcement officials who gave their lives and those who risked their lives to bring this to an end.
Thank you for your prayers, and may God bless you all.
ABRAMS: Ashley Smith. Oh! A woman who spent seven hours—again, this is—you know, this is still fresh, ladies and gentlemen. This is not something where she‘s had time to relax and think about it. This all happened in the last couple of days. So it‘s really hardly surprising that she is still feeling the aftereffects of this.
Clint van Zandt, I mean, you know, you listen to her, and you know, it‘s not surprising that she‘s saying, Hey, all right, enough. I‘ve told my story. Let me deal with law enforcement now.
VAN ZANDT: Yes. And you know—and she‘s reaching out. I mean, she realizes—this is a woman who lost her husband four years ago in a brutal murder, a still unsolved murder, as far as I know. And now she has to go through these other murders that once again, tangentially, are related to her.
ABRAMS: Yes. You know, I—absent someone telling me something
else, I feel for this woman so much. I mean, and I say that because, you
know, who knows with these stories, but everything I‘ve heard points me to
· you know, she deserved the credit.
VAN ZANDT: She deserves the money.
ABRAMS: She‘s the reason...
VAN ZANDT: She deserves the money.
ABRAMS: She deserves the reward...
ABRAMS: Isn‘t there a question as to whether she‘s going to get the reward?
VAN ZANDT: Well, I think the question, Dan, is that the FBI contributed, the Marshals Service contributed, two or three other agencies. I think they‘ve got to get together in a pow-wow, everybody vote and say, Let‘s give her the cash.
ABRAMS: Unless there‘s something that I don‘t know about, for her to not get the reward is insane.
VAN ZANDT: I can‘t imagine what it would be.
ABRAMS: All right. Let me go to John (SIC) Yoo, a reporter for “The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.” He‘s been talking to a lot of the family and friends of Brian Nichols.
You know, we‘re hearing from Mr. Williams, his coach, saying, you know, seemed like a normal guy. A lot of the times in these cases, Mr. Yoo, we hear about pasts of killing cats and doing other things that makes you say, Oh, this guy was a psychopath to come. Doesn‘t sound like that‘s what you found in his background.
CHARLES YOO, “ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION”: Actually it‘s Charles Yoo. And no, in fact, the neighbors and friends from Baltimore, where he grew up, recall a well-mannered, poised, charismatic, good Catholic school student who learned to play piano from his mother, who went to karate classes two or three times a week and who was very popular among his friends. So they are shocked and stunned beyond belief and deeply saddened for the family and the families of the victims.
ABRAMS: Anything that you found where people said, I got to tell you, I got a story about this guy that will give you insight, which suggests that this was something coming, or did all of the people you spoke to say, We never would have predicted this?
YOO: All of them have told me that they did not—they don‘t—they do not recognize the man they see on TV right now. In fact, he was a completely different person when they grew up with him. But there was one incident at Kutztown. He—Brian Nichols knew how to defend himself when confronted. He—one time, he knocked this guy out with one swift martial arts-type kick. And the man was knocked unconscious. So he was very athletic and very swift.
ABRAMS: Very quickly, Coach Williams, bottom line, that echoes what you knew of him, right?
WILLIAMS: That‘s exactly right. I‘ve heard of that story. My understanding—you know, Brian was a young player. He played behind some of our upperclassmen, but was extremely talented athletically and very handsome, I recall. That‘s why I used to say to my wife, whenever we would see Tyson Beckford or the singer Tyrese on television, Oh, he reminds me of Brian Nichols, one of my players.
And the story about the karate kick is something that I had heard as his coach, that someone approached him and started an altercation with Brian and Brian responded by swiftly ending the matter.
ABRAMS: I got to wrap it up, actually, Mr. Yoo. But Jake Williams and Charles Yoo, thanks very much for coming on the program. I appreciate it. Pat Brown and Clint van Zandt, thanks to you, as well.
YOO: Glad to be here.
ABRAMS: Coming up later: Michael Jackson‘s accuser back on the stand. This time, it could mean good news for Jackson. And up next, MSNBC‘s Joe Scarborough is live in Atlanta with a look at the next step for the accused Atlanta shooter. Before we go to break, a look back at the victims of Friday‘s deadly rampage.
ABRAMS: We‘re back.
While Brian Nichols spent the day locked up again, authorities were sorting out the case, preparing to file charges against the accused Atlanta courthouse gunman.
For more, let‘s go to the Fulton County Courthouse in Atlanta and MSNBC‘s Joe Scarborough.
Joe, good to see you. So, some people are saying that, based on what this guy did when he had this woman kidnapped, he shouldn‘t get the death penalty?
JOE SCARBOROUGH, HOST, “SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY”: I‘ll tell you what, Dan. You know what? Everybody is talking right now about Ashley Smith, obviously, the single mother who was held hostage for seven terrifying hours.
You look at the newspaper, the front page of “The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.” I grabbed it at the airport when I came in, nothing—no pictures the people murdered, a small picture right here of Nichols, the murderer who started this rampage. It‘s all about Ashley Smith. “An Angel Sent From God,” a screaming headline, three-quarters of the front page devoted to Ashley Smith and the story about what happened at the end.
And it certainly, Dan, has humanized the killer. You know—the
alleged killer, as we should say. But, you know, Dan, you and I are both -
· being in the law, we‘re both familiar of people finding God, finding Jesus when they‘re on death row. I—the question is, was this guy really a student of to go ahead and beat the rush and do it while he was still out on the loose? Did he figure this was his best chance to humanize himself?
It certainly has had an impact for quite a few people around the Atlanta area.
ABRAMS: Joe, my concern is that, when people say that—and Pat Brown, our profiler, was saying something similar, which was basically that this was his plan, to try and humanize himself—I don‘t know. I feel to me like that is taking away credit from Ashley Smith. It‘s basically saying he was a pawn in his grand plan.
SCARBOROUGH: You know what? I think when you‘re in the middle of that, I don‘t think this guy was wise enough to let her out, to put “The Purpose Driven Life” in her hand, to have her start witnessing to him about her faith in God.
No, I don‘t think it was calculated. I think this was Ashley Smith taking matters into her own hands. You know, the guy could have killed her. He could have taken her car, continued driving north to Tennessee. Anybody that knows Georgia knows that Gwinnett County isn‘t far from the Tennessee line and that he could have tried to cross it on some back road.
So, no, I‘m not saying that at all. I think there may be some cynics out there saying that, but there‘s no doubt that, right now, Atlanta isn‘t talking about those who were murdered. Tonight, they‘re talking about Ashley Smith. And they‘re talking about how she ended this hostage crisis.
ABRAMS: Legally, any question, you think, that Fulton County is going to get the first crack at this guy?
SCARBOROUGH: No question at all.
Obviously, the authorities today were talking, as you said, the feds and the state officials were juggling charges back and forth. The feds stepped back. So, Fulton County gets the first shot at this guy. Obviously, there‘s a lot of embarrassment among Fulton County sheriff‘s officials. They‘re very angry. They very embarrassed. They want a piece of this guy. And I‘m sure they‘d love to see him convicted of first-degree murder and love to see him executed.
That‘s what they want to happen. That‘s why the feds backed off and gave it to them. They think they can expedite it much more quickly. But, as you know, Dan, if the guy is up for the death penalty, it is going to take a long, long time to get him convicted.
ABRAMS: Yes. Joe, very quickly, on your show tonight, coming up in less than half-an-hour, you are going to talk about faith in this context?
SCARBOROUGH: Yes, we are. And we‘re also going to talking obviously about Ashley Smith and about her terrifying 27-hour ordeal, again, held hostage by this guy, who allegedly killed three people, was on a murder rampage.
And, yes, it‘s a remarkable story. We are going to be—we have got an all-star panel. And we‘re actually going to be talking to the person who baptized her when she was a young girl and who has known her, her entire life to talk about how Ashley could have been with a kidnapper and a killer and brought an end to this hostage crisis.
ABRAMS: That‘s Joe Scarborough, and “SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY” coming up at 10:00 Eastern time right here on MSNBC.
Let me just—you know, Joe makes a good point there. And that is about the victims here, about remembering them, a judge. The fact that these judges, these prosecutors—and I‘ve said this before—I‘m going to say it again—putting their lives up on the line, giving up the big-paying job at the law firms, staring down the worst of the worst, don‘t forget that. A lot of the time, they don‘t end up in shootings. It‘s just their lives get turned upside down.
All right, coming up next, Michael Jackson‘s accuser back on the stand, appears to be contradicting himself. Could this be a big win for Jackson? Coming up.
ABRAMS: Michael Jackson‘s accuser takes the stand again. And this time, what he said could help Jackson.
Stay with us.
ABRAMS: We‘re back.
Big development in the Michael Jackson case today, putting the alleged victim back on the hot seat. The 15-year-old cancer survivor says Jackson molested him. He acknowledged today that he once told the dean of his middle school that Jackson—quote—“didn‘t do anything to him.” The question everyone is asking, bombshell? What is it going do to the state‘s case?
Joining us now, two people who‘ve been listening to the testimony, defense attorney Michael Cardoza and Diane Dimond, Court TV‘s chief investigative editor.
Good to see both of you.
DIANE DIMOND, COURT TV: Thanks, Dan.
SCARBOROUGH: All right, Michael, what do you make of it? Let me read actually the exact quote and then let me ask you what you think of it.
MICHAEL CARDOZA, NBC LEGAL ANALYST: Sure.
ABRAMS: This is the exchange between Tom Mesereau, the defense attorney, and this young boy.
“Sometime during that conversation, Dean Alpert looked you in the eye and said, are these allegations that Mr. Jackson sexually abused you true? Right?”
“And you said they were not true, right?”
“Yes, I told them Michael didn‘t do anything to me.”
“The first time he asked you, you shook your head no, right?”
“I don‘t know.”
“And the second time he asked you, you said to him, no, he didn‘t touch me in any sexually inappropriate way, correct?”
“I don‘t know. I‘m pretty sure that I told him that.”
You know, Michael, I think that this—and I‘m just going focus on this first—isn‘t that big of a deal for the defense, because this kid wasn‘t telling anybody about what happened at that time.
CARDOZA: Well certainly, Dan, the DA is going to put an expert on the stand later on in their case that is going to talk about what victims of molestation do. And they‘re going to explain to the jury, quite simply, that most of those victims don‘t readily tell people. In fact, if questioned, they‘ll deny it.
So, the question then becomes for the jury, is that what happened in this particular case or is this alleged victim telling two different stories?
ABRAMS: Diane, I mean, look, some people came out of the courtroom when this happened. They were saying, this is the big—this is it. And I am going to read another interchange which I think is very significant.
But, on this one, you agree this is not that big a deal, right?
DIMOND: Yes, I agree with you, because, at this point in time, my sources are telling me the reason this boy is in the dean‘s office is because he has just had yet another fight outside, with people calling him all sorts of homosexual slang terms because he‘s been seen on television holding Michael Jackson‘s hand.
So, I mean, you have been a 13-year-old boy. I never have. But after you‘ve just had a fight about that, now you go into the dean‘s office and he asks you, is it true? I mean, is this homosexual thing true? And he says, no, it‘s not true. Twice, he says it. It doesn‘t surprise me, because it wasn‘t—this was in the spring of 2003. It wasn‘t until June 2003 he went to a psychologist who has expertise in this area, knows how to push the buttons, and that‘s when he allegedly got this confession.
SCARBOROUGH: Here‘s what troubles me, all right? This is the interchange that troubles me.
Let me give my viewers a little warning here. This is graphic. Again, this is what the case is about. I mean, this case is a graphic case. I just want to give you the heads-up. If you want to leave the room, please do so, because this gets a little specific. And the issue relates to exactly what this boy said about people talking to him about masturbation.
And the reason it‘s important is because the defense is saying that this kid had a script, that basically mom is saying or whoever is saying this is the story we‘re going with and we got stick with it. And the defense, it seems, is trying to say, aha, look, the script is falling apart.
All right, let‘s start with the direct examination of the boy.
“Jackson said that, if men don‘t masturbate, they can get to a level where they can, might rape a girl or they might be, like, kind of unstable. So he was telling me that guys have to masturbate.”
Well, it seems the DAs knew there might be a problem with that. So, in the grand jury: “Did your grandmother ever talk to you specifically about why men masturbate?”
“She told me, like, if sometimes certain men, if they don‘t do it, like their sexual urges can get elevated to a certain level.”
“Did she ever say that sometimes men rape women if they don‘t do that?
Do you remember if you used the term?”
“No, I don‘t remember.”
The problem is, on cross-examination, he was asked: “Why did your story change?”
And he says: “It didn‘t change because Michael tried to explain it to me at first. He was pushing me on it. He was telling me it was OK to do it. Michael was saying, you have to do it. She didn‘t make the identical quote.”
Diane, you know, the idea that he has two different people saying to him, if you don‘t masturbate or something about masturbation and raping girls is a little bit hard to believe.
DIMOND: You know, I noted that and it happened almost right off the bat this morning. And that was a really good catch on your part, because I thought, wait a minute, what elderly Hispanic grandmother is going to use that phrase, if you don‘t masturbate, you‘ll rape a girl?
And Mesereau caught him on it right away. And I think he tried to explain his way out of it by saying, well, you know, my grandmother was telling me about urges and things and, you know, it was natural to do and everybody did it. But Michael told me I had to do it.
DIMOND: And he was animated at that point. But I caught that, too.
That was very interesting.
ABRAMS: Yes. Michael, I think this is a big problem. This is exactly what they‘re looking for, is that the idea that there‘s a script and that he blew it on the script.
CARDOZA: Oh, no question about it.
Right from the get-go, that was one of the first questions that Mesereau asked this morning. And that does show that this boy may be telling contradictory stories. So, you get to the other evidence. I know not telling the principal about the molestation. Well, those things start to add up. That‘s what the jury is going to look to. And when they look back to denying it to the principal, they might say, you know, maybe he‘s denying it because it really didn‘t happen.
So, the jury will look to all the little contradictions here. Another thing that I thought was interesting today, when you talk about the school, he said on cross-examination, yes, I got in a couple of fights in school and, yes, I was able to stand up to a number of the teachers. Yes, I did get in the face of some of the teachers.
Well, if he was doing that, then why was he the passive victim here? So, Mesereau went on to make those points with the jury, too. There was interesting cross-examination.
ABRAMS: And I got to tell you this. And this, to me, is the No. 1 problem for the prosecution this case, No. 37.
“What you‘re telling the jury is, that after this investigation starts”—this is the timing of everything happening, that the investigation is going on, that Michael Jackson has never touched the kid, that they‘re getting all these people together to say nice things about Michael Jackson, even though Jackson has never done anything wrong. And at that point, the questioning: “After the investigation starts, Mr. Jackson supposedly starts touching you inappropriately?”
ABRAMS: You know, that‘s it, Diane. I mean, that‘s problem No. 1 for the prosecution.
DIMOND: No, see, I don‘t agree with you, because Tom Mesereau does a very good job at cross-examining, but he mixes up things that happened in 2001, in 2003, and then back to 2002. And he‘s very good at that.
But the bottom line is that this boy started to say he was touched inappropriately after they made an audiotape with the man you recently interviewed, Bradley Miller.
DIMOND: After they‘d done the rebuttal video and the very next morning after they did the Child Protective Services interview.
ABRAMS: Right. And I‘m saying that‘s odd. That‘s odd to say that that‘s when he starts molesting him.
DIMOND: Three places, they were on the record. And so the state will contend—and I will bet you hear this in the closing argument—he had him three times on the record. He had a clear path to do whatever he wanted, because he could always point to those three things.
ABRAMS: Michael, I‘ll let you come back in two seconds.
Take a quick break, Michael Cardoza back with a response in a moment.
ABRAMS: We‘re back talking about the accuser on the witness stand in the Michael Jackson case. Only got a couple minutes left.
Michael Cardoza, you wanted to respond to a point about the timing here. I was saying that I think the timing is a big problem with the prosecutors here, the fact that, supposedly, there‘s this investigation and he‘s making this statements and everyone is looking at Michael Jackson. He‘s never molested the boy and then decides, OK, I guess I‘m going to get all these statements on the record and then I‘ll be clear and free to molest him?
CARDOZA: Yes. Well, that doesn‘t make much sense. It doesn‘t smack of common sense.
On cross-examination, Mesereau suggested that, in fact, the alleged victim in this case told Tom Sneddon, the DA, that, no, I was molested before that rebuttal video, the rebuttal video to Bashir‘s video. That throws the timing way off. So, what‘s the jury to believe there?
And, Diane, because, as you know, the prosecution did change the timing in the course the first time that they filed this case.
ABRAMS: Until the time we see it now, they are like, oh, well, actually, we thought it started earlier, but, no, no, I guess it didn‘t start that early.
CARDOZA: They had to, to fit with that video.
DIMOND: The grand jury shifted the dates a bit.
Here‘s the bottom line to my thought about these last few days with this boy on the stand. A lot of the reporters rushed out of here today and said, oh, my gosh, the prosecutors—the case is lost. At Court TV, we do this all the time. We do this for a living. And I will tell you that one day does that not a trial make.
And on the core issues, pornography, masturbation, lots of drinking, drinking every night, this boy was not shaken in his story. He stuck to it. And whether you believe it or not and whether he‘s being a great actor or not, Tom Mesereau, while he got a lot of little points in and a lot of good little points, I think, on the core issues here, the boy did not waver. And I‘ll tell you, this jury...
CARDOZA: But the core issue is credibility, Diane. The core issue is credibility.
DIMOND: And I concede to you, I‘m not sitting here telling you I think I know that this boy is telling the truth, because it‘s not up to us. We can sit here and opine about all these little points. It‘s the 12 people sitting in that jury box. And they are paying complete attention.
ABRAMS: Yes. OK.
ABRAMS: All right.
All right, very good. Diane Dimond, it‘s good to see you.
DIMOND: Thank you.
ABRAMS: Michael Cardoza, thanks a lot. Appreciate it.
CARDOZA: You‘re welcome, Dan.
ABRAMS: Up next, “SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY” with Joe Scarborough. We‘ll be back, though, before that happens, so, not Joe yet. One more of me.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SMITH: he said he thought that I was an angel sent from God, and that I was his sister, and he was my brother in Christ. And that he was lost and God led him right to me to tell him that he had hurt a lot of people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: She‘s talking about the alleged Atlanta courthouse shooter.
And Ashley Smith held a press conference just about half-an-hour ago. Joe Scarborough, coming up next, is going to have full coverage of exactly what it is that she said. And she was in tears. It was a heartbreaking press conference just moments ago. Joe will play it for you. And he‘s going to talk about what people in the community there are saying. He‘s down in Atlanta.
We‘re back tomorrow same time, another special edition of THE ABRAMS REPORT. Michael Jackson‘s teenage accuser will be back on the witness stand, and any of the other big justice stories going on, and tomorrow at 6:00 p.m., regular time for the program.
See you. Thanks for watching.
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