Guest: Jim Thomas, Jonna Spilbor, Susan Filan, Jesse Jackson, Ashley White
DAN ABRAMS, HOST: Coming up, just when we thought the Michael Jackson trial was almost over, major developments that could change everything.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS (voice-over): Jurors in the Michael Jackson trial will get to hear from the accuser again, a big victory for prosecutors. But they also try to introduce evidence of another boy‘s description of Jackson‘s genitals. So how is Jackson holding up? We ask his spiritual adviser, Reverend Jesse Jackson.
Plus, she was sexually abused by her adoptive father. He posted her pictures on the Internet. Now, he‘s in prison and she‘s speaking out for the first time.
The program about justice starts right now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: Hi, everyone.
First up on the docket tonight, with the Michael Jackson case racing to an end, two huge rulings today that could change the course of this trial. One ruling good for the defense; one good for the prosecution.
First, for the defense. Back in 1993, another boy drew pictures of Jackson‘s genitals after accusing Jackson of molesting him. Jackson was then photographed.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL JACKSON, SINGER ACCUSED OF MOLESTATION: I have been forced to submit to a dehumanizing and humiliating examination by the Santa Barbara County Sheriff Department and the Los Angeles Police Department earlier this week. They served a search warrant on me that allowed them to view and photograph by body, including my penis, my buttocks, my lower torso, thighs and any other area that they wanted. They were supposedly looking for any discolorations, spotting, blotches, or other evidence of a skin color disorder.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: But today, the judge ruled the jury will not hear about that. Ruling number two, good for the prosecution. The jurors will hear from the accuser in this case again on tape.
NBC‘s Mike Taibbi is at the courthouse, along with NBC News analyst and former Santa Barbara county sheriff, Jim Thomas.
All right, Jim, let me start with you. You were involved in this case back in 1993. Why would this account of Jackson‘s genitals have been helpful to the prosecutors in this case?
JIM THOMAS, FORMER SANTA BARBARA COUNTY SHERIFF: Basically, Dan, what it would have been was—it would be more 1108 information. In other words, it would have shown that Michael Jackson had been in a position with another young accuser and to the point to where that accuser could give some graphic description of Michael Jackson in an excited state.
That would have told the jurors that he had been there before. And if he‘d been there before, it‘s likely he is there this time.
ABRAMS: And it was really to—they said to rebut the notion that the defense had put forward that Michael Jackson was this private, kind person where nothing happened. And they said this would disprove it. The judge saying no, it is not going to come in.
Here‘s what the prosecutor‘s argument was. This was number one. The fact that this child was able to give a description of a unique feature of his anatomy that could not have been known by him except for a very intimate acquaintance with Michael Jackson is very good circumstantial evidence of the fact that the relationship between he and at least that child was something more than casual and something more than innocent.
The judge ruled, “I‘m going to deny the request to bring in evidence of the blemished penis.” The prejudicial effect would far outweigh the probative value. All right.
So Mike Taibbi, the prosecutors lose on that one, but they win on another big one, right?
MIKE TAIBBI, NBC NEWS: Yes, I think showing this tape can have and likely will have an impact on the jury, impact in that they‘ll pay very close attention to it. Don‘t forget, this accuser was on the stand...
ABRAMS: Let‘s explain what the tape is again.
TAIBBI: All right. The tape is the police interview of the accuser in which he, for the first time, and on tape, obviously, on audiotape, videotape, did describe the allegations, what he alleged Michael Jackson did to him.
Don‘t forget, he said it first to a psychiatrist, Dr. Stan Katz. Then Dr. Katz reported to series of allegations by this accuser. He was then brought in along with his siblings and his mother to give their own police interview. So this is that tape, presumably more emotional, presumably with him less guarded and sympathetic than he appeared to be on the stand.
Don‘t forget, when he was on the stand, he ended up being perceived by many as sort of dissembling a little bit, not that familiar with the truth, or contradicting himself, and sort of a wise guy, very much a wise guy, challenging Mesereau, et cetera, not a particularly sympathetic figure.
Although, as Jim Thomas has pointed out, someone who did stick to his story throughout, not at all shaken from that basic story.
ABRAMS: Now, the defense is threatening. They‘re saying, “All right. You guys want to bring in that tape so the boy gets to testify effectively a second time in a way you like better? Fine, you want to do that? We‘re going to call the boy back. We‘re going to call his mother back.” They‘re making all sorts of threats, but is it actually going to happen?
TAIBBI: Well, I have to tell you, I‘ve spoken to defense sources on this issue. And they say it is not a threat, that because of the defendant‘s right to confront his accuser, even if that accuser is on videotape, they have to find some way to challenge him. And the only way to do it is to bring the boy back.
Some have said that‘s a huge risk. Ron Richards, who is one of our sometime legal analysts, has said that, that this is a real threat, potentially a fatal error in calling this boy back, because, what if the second time around, having listened to where this trial is gone, he really nails it?
TAIBBI: And he comes on, and says, “Listen, this stuff happened.” Well, that may be the last image of this accuser that this jury has to think of what they saw and what they heard from this boy. And it could be very difficult. However, the defense is confident that they can get him to...
TAIBBI: ... they know he will say.
ABRAMS: All right, Mike and Jim, stick around for a minute.
Also joining us, MSNBC analyst, former prosecutor Susan Filan in Santa Maria, and criminal defense attorney Jonna Spilbor.
All right. Jonna, as a defense attorney—all right, so you lose this effort to keep the tape out. Now, there‘s going to be this tape of the boy being more emotional, probably more convincing about what he‘s saying about Michael Jackson. Do you really risk it to bring him back in, bring mom back in?
JONNA SPILBOR, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: No way. I would not put that kid on the stand again for a second bite at the apple for all the reasons you mentioned. He‘s going to be a lot more well-rehearsed, so to speak. I think what Tom Mesereau can do, though, with this tape, is just shows the jurors that, you know what, all it shows is that this kid knows how to lie repeatedly, because he already told his story to the jury. He‘s telling it again on this tape.
First of all, it‘s cumulative. Second of all, it‘s hearsay. It got in. So what? I think he just needs to show that this kid is an accomplished liar, and hopefully he can show that maybe in closing argument from viewing the tape. That‘s the best he can do.
ABRAMS: I don‘t know.
Susan, what do you think?
SUSAN FILAN, FORMER PROSECUTOR: Oh, boy. Putting the boy on the stand again would be legal suicide. What that would do—you see, because when he comes on, he‘s going to come on as a defense witness, which means that the prosecution gets to question him through cross-examination, which means they can lead, lead, lead. They can lead their horse right into the barn.
And I think to leave this case with the jury, with the accuser having been rehabilitated by the prosecution, would be great for the prosecution and fatal for the defense.
ABRAMS: So you think—both of you seem to think that it‘s bluster on the part of the defense sources that Mike is talking to.
Mike, is it possible this is just bluster?
TAIBBI: You know, I don‘t think so. And I think there‘s also another element to consider about this tape. There was some discussion this morning about how exactly to edit it. The judge wanted some of it edited out. He said there was extraneous material.
But there was an inference that the way the police officials, deputies sheriffs, were questioning this boy seemed to lead him on. And you know, there‘s always an issue in these alleged molestation cases on how those interviews are conducted.
Perhaps it‘ll be shown that the boy was led too carefully in this interview, too persuasively. Perhaps the boy will say some things that he later contradicted in his testimony in this trial, and Mesereau may be able to go to town with that.
We‘ll have to see exactly how useful this tape is. I don‘t agree, just on its face, that this is legal suicide. I think the legal team has a sense—they know what‘s on the tape—and a sense of what they can do with it.
Jim Thomas, do you know what‘s on that tape?
THOMAS: No, not more than anybody else, Dan. I‘m told that it‘s a tape that shows him in a much more sympathetic mood, shows him reluctant to talk about what had happened. And it kind of fits the profile of what we‘ve been told by the experts who have testified in this case.
It doesn‘t come by as rehearsed. It comes by as something that law enforcement actually had to draw out, which is consistent with, at least in my experience, in dealing with people in sexual encounters.
ABRAMS: So does this mean, Jonna, that the defense made some sort of mistake that allowed the prosecutors to bring this back in? I mean, because basically what the judge is saying is, as a result of what the defense did in this case, now prosecutors can introduce this tape of the boy to show that it wasn‘t scripted. But there was really no way the defense could avoid this, right?
SPILBOR: It was not a mistake. The only reason this is getting in is because the defense impeached this kid‘s credibility. And if you look at the California evidence code section 1236, they‘re allowed to bring in a prior consistent statement—that‘s what this is, it‘s a consistent statement—if certain conditions are met.
Now, I can argue all day long that those conditions are not met, but the statement is getting in. They had to attack the kid‘s credibility, Dan. You know that in their case in chief. That‘s what they did. But that‘s what opened the door to get this video in.
ABRAMS: Go ahead, Mike.
TAIBBI: Yes, one last point. This may not be the last image of this boy on tape or this boy being examined and cross-examined. The last image from the defense, surrebuttal, could well be the mother of the accuser. And everybody knows what five days on the stand were like. If that‘s the image, and that she‘s supposedly the ring leader of this alleged scam against Michael Jackson, that may be the image...
ABRAMS: Just so people understand, surrebuttal means that—all right, so right now we‘re in the prosecution‘s case where they‘re responding to the defense. The defense may get a final opportunity to respond to the prosecution.
That would be—it goes rebuttal and then surrebuttal. So that‘s what Mike is talking about.
Let‘s take a quick break. Everyone is going to stick around.
Coming up, you know, it‘s not easy to hear lawyers arguing about privates, particularly about Michael Jackson‘s privates. But they did it today.
And also, how is Michael Jackson holding up in the trial? That man may know. He is the spiritual adviser who‘s been speaking to him every morning. A familiar face, the Reverend Jesse Jackson.
And a young victim of sexual abuse testifies to keep her abuser behind bars. He‘s not just a sexual offender. He was grandpa. She joins us.
Your e-mails, Abramsreport@MSNBC.com. Please include your name, where you‘re writing from. I‘ll respond at the end of the show.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARTIN BASHIR, DOCUMENTARY FILMMAKER: I suppose the problem for many people is what happened in 1993, or what didn‘t happen.
JACKSON: Didn‘t happen.
BASHIR: Just cast your mind back. What was that like when you first heard the allegations that were being made against you?
JACKSON: It was shocking. And I‘m not allowed to talk about this, by way of law, so...
BASHIR: But how did you feel about what was being said? I‘m not asking you to talk about what was said.
JACKSON: I was shocked because God knows in my heart how much I adore children.
BASHIR: But isn‘t that precisely the problem, that when you actually invite children into your bed, you never know what is going to happen?
JACKSON: When you said “bed,” you‘re thinking sexual. They make that sexual. It‘s not sexual. We‘re going to sleep. I tuck them in. I put little, like, music on, a little story-time. I read a book. It‘s very sweet.
I put the fireplace on, give them hot milk. You know, we have a little cookies. It‘s very charming, very sweet.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: Michael Jackson talking about the 1993 case. And today in court, prosecutors tried to get that 1993 accuser‘s description of Michael Jackson‘s genitals into evidence.
Susan Filan, were you surprised that the judge said no?
FILAN: Not at all. That was the correct legal ruling. And I think part of the problem with the prosecution‘s argument was what they advanced on their papers was actually different than what they had argued in court.
And perhaps, had they argued what they argued in court, it might have come in. But even then, I really don‘t agree with this...
ABRAMS: All right. Why don‘t you tell us what it is, all right?
FILAN: Sure. They argued in their papers that they wanted to put that information in to rebut the notion that Jackson is very shy and very private. In court, they argued that they wanted to put it in to rebut the notion that it‘s impossible for a child to be able to see him in an excited state because it‘s completely innocent what goes on in the bedroom. You heard it yourself, milk and cookies.
Now, had they advanced that argument, it‘s to rebut the fact that nothing could have happened, it may have come in. But it‘s still so inflammatory and so prejudicial, and it has a huge “ick” factor. And I‘m just not sure, quite frankly, anyone could have dealt with it.
But the shy argument fell because the defense said that they did a transcript search, and the only time “shy” and “private” ever came up was once. And it was in one question, and the question was the same. So there was never even an answer to it.
ABRAMS: Jim Thomas, you led the investigation in 1993. Did you look at the pictures of Michael Jackson‘s genitals?
THOMAS: Well, I had the opportunity to, Dan, and I turned it down.
And that‘s a decision that I still cherish to this day.
ABRAMS: Yes, I guess it‘s not exactly one of those things that you want to have sticking in your head for all that time, kind of image. But the bottom line was, though, Jim, how consistent was the picture that the 1993 accuser drew to what the actual photographs showed?
THOMAS: Well, what I hear from my investigators from back then is that it was almost identical. I don‘t know that to be a fact, because I didn‘t view them. But I understand they were very consistent.
ABRAMS: Yes. All right. Well, Jim Thomas‘s claim to fame will be, “I refused to look at the pictures of Michael Jackson‘s genitals.”
THOMAS: And I stick by it.
All right. Mike Taibbi, it seems the schedule has changed. We were talking about closing arguments on Tuesday. That‘s not going to happen now, is it?
TAIBBI: Man, am I glad you changed the subject.
It is not going to happen on Tuesday. I would not think, particularly if at least three of the four major witnesses that the defense says it might bring on, or intends to bring on in it‘s surrebuttal, or brought on, you know that they‘re not going to be able to finish with the mother of the accuser right away, because it took her five days to finish her story in direct and cross-examination of the case in chief for the prosecution.
And that if the boy brings—I know the judge is going to try to limit any examination or cross-examination. But there‘s quite a bit to do now that this tape is going to be played and these other additional witnesses will be brought on.
ABRAMS: Yes, if they end up calling the accuser and the mother back to the witness stand, we could be talking about closing arguments the following week, so who knows?
TAIBBI: That‘s what they‘re talking about, possibly the following Monday, a week from this coming Monday.
ABRAMS: All right, well, you know, I‘m coming out there. But I need to know, Mike, because your dog—remember, Mike? You told me that your dog, two weeks from, I think it was a few days back that this case would be over two weeks. And I said no. That dog of yours is going to be lonely.
THOMAS: You‘ll love California.
TAIBBI: ... last night. He said he‘s packing the bag. If I‘m not back in two weeks, he‘s going to move to Florida.
ABRAMS: Susan Filan, Jonna Spilbor, Mike Taibbi, Jim Thomas, thanks a lot.
All right. Michael Jackson‘s spokesperson this morning said Jackson is relying on his faith in the judicial system and in God to get through these tough times. I‘m joined now by a man who speaks to Jackson on a regular basis, the Reverend Jesse Jackson, who‘s also a spiritual adviser to Michael Jackson.
Reverend Jackson, thanks so much for coming back on the program. We appreciate it.
REV. JESSE JACKSON, SPIRITUAL ADVISER TO MICHAEL JACKSON: Good to be with you again.
ABRAMS: So I understand you spoke to Michael this morning. Does he still seem confident that he‘s going to be able to move on with his life, that he‘ll be acquitted of these charges?
J. JACKSON: Well, we spoke today. We had prayer again today, as we often do. He feels very much the pain and scars of these attacks, but he also feels he‘ll be vindicated, and partly because he declares his innocence, and partly because each witness who has come before that stand in cross-examination that it‘s been the money-motive issue.
And I‘m convinced that reasonable doubt has been established, not matter how scurrilous the charges have been. In the counter-argument, there‘s always been reasonable doubt established.
ABRAMS: Is he preparing for life after this case? Meaning, is he already mapping out his music career, et cetera, as to what happens next?
J. JACKSON: He really is. I think Michael‘s concerned, a, about the impact of the trauma of the trial. Michael‘s also concerned very much that, when this is over, that those forces who triggered this based upon the money interest, and there are money interest, the attempt to call his loan, his assets was (UNINTELLIGIBLE) greater than the loan.
He‘s concerned about the money factor. I‘m sure that will be the next phase of this battle. But then he has plans for a kind of theme park in Africa. He has plans far beyond this crisis.
ABRAMS: When you say a theme park in Africa, is that something that he—is that a new project for him?
J. JACKSON: Yes, he has this kind of fascination with Africa. He‘s been there many times. He wants the children of Africa to have a theme park just as Neverland has a park.
But of course, he has to go through this trial and have to go through challenging those who brought it upon him. He feels that economically, with their money motives. But beyond his music career, and his writing interest, and his spending his works to Africa are very much on his agenda.
ABRAMS: Does he have the money to be starting a big project? I mean, we keep talking and hearing in this trial about how he‘s broke.
J. JACKSON: Well, he‘s not broke. Michael has been, in some sense, cash-strapped, because he‘s not been on the road working at all. And unlike Disney, Neverland is a free theme park, which is a big outlay of cash. So he has been to some extent cash-strapped.
But at some point in time, the loans he had were more than covered, like two-thirds greater than the loans, but there was an attempt to rush through a closure on him, which has been unnecessary and unthinkable. But that stopped. And that process has been worked out. There‘s no longer that tension about, will he face foreclosure? That‘s not going to happen.
ABRAMS: He‘s not selling Neverland, as far as you know?
J. JACKSON: No, he‘s not selling Neverland. And he‘s not selling the Elvis, and the Beatles, and the Jackson catalog, as well. Those are just rumors that really do not have foundation.
ABRAMS: Let me ask you something. If he is found guilty—and I know that you are hoping he‘s not, and he‘s hoping he‘s not—but if he is found guilty, I‘m sure he‘s going to turn to you for guidance once again.
Is he going to be able to make it in prison? And a lot of people say, “Boy, Michael Jackson in prison, don‘t think he‘ll be able to make it.”
J. JACKSON: Well, there‘d be a (UNINTELLIGIBLE) but you have to take the hand that you‘re dealt. And through it all, you have to pray and hope that his innocence will prevail in the court. But you have to be prepared to go one way or the other.
I think he is convinced of his innocence and convinced that those who made the charges did not stand the test of cross-examination. So frankly, we‘re looking forward more to his being acquitted than his being found guilty. But no matter what happens, Michael has amazing strength and resilience.
I mean, while he looks kind of delicate, and dances, and talks in a kind of high-pitched voice, he‘s really a very tough and smart guy.
ABRAMS: And if he, again, if he is acquitted, and I know we‘ve touched on this before, but I assume that would you say to him, “Michael, you can‘t ever have a child sleep in your bed again,” right?
J. JACKSON: Oh, yes. I think that some of what he has done is just on the edge. It is high risk. And now me and his family is very acutely aware of what has happened. And I that this type risky behavior will never happen again. It shouldn‘t have happened in the first place, but certainly it will never happen again.
ABRAMS: Yes, well, that‘s for sure.
All right. Reverend Jackson, thank you very much. Appreciate it.
J. JACKSON: Thank you.
ABRAMS: Coming up, two stories of brave, young survivors of sexual abuse speaking out tonight. Police track down a child pornographer by releasing photos he took of his own adopted daughter at Disneyworld. Now she‘s talking about her ordeal for the first time.
And a young woman abused by her own grandfather testifies at his parole hearing to keep him behind bars.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ASHLEY WHITE, MOLESTED BY ADOPTED FATHER: I just want you to never hurt another child again.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: Ashley White joins us to describe why she is fighting so hard to keep him behind bars.
ABRAMS: Coming up, her pictures were seen on the Internet, sexually abused by her adoptive father. Now the young girl at the center of a nationwide search speaks out for the first time. Her story, after the news.
ABRAMS: We‘re back. We reported on her story when it seemed her abuser was on the loose. Now, for the first time, she‘s speaking out. Her picture was all over the Internet being victimized by her abuser in hundreds of sickening sexual images. Only her abuser and those posting the pictures of her being molested knew who she was.
In an effort to help track this guy down, authorities digitally removed the little girl from six of the pictures and publicized them. Well, it turns out the man behind the abuse, no stranger.
Bob Kealing of our Orlando affiliate WESH sat down with the girl for an exclusive interview and tells story.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I just can tell what he is feeling.
BOB KEALING, WESH REPORTER (voice-over): We will call her Mia. She is 12 years old. Her favorite color is purple. Her pet hamster‘s name is B.J.
“MIA,” ABUSE VICTIM: One day, I was watching a show. I forget what it was about. It was on Discovery Channel about hamsters. That was right after I got it, when he was sitting there watching it. That‘s Theodore. This is Marley (ph).
KEALING: This insightful and funny sixth grader.
MIA: I will give him a hair transplant.
KEALING: Has been through hell. Mia‘s new adoptive mother, Faith.
“FAITH,” ADOPTIVE MOTHER OF “MIA”: When she was in Russia with her parents, she was stabbed in the back of her neck, where she still has scars.
MIA: Going down, you don‘t have to pedal.
KEALING: Russian authorities moved Mia to an orphanage. Then came new hope, an American from Pittsburgh. He saw five-year-old Mia and decided to adopt, but her savior was just another monster.
(on camera): He brought her over here specifically to abuse her?
FAITH: I believe that.
KEALING: And you said she provided some confirmation for that, too, didn‘t she?
FAITH: Yes. She said everything started the same day.
KEALING (voice-over): For six years, Faith said Mia was a virtual slave, forced against her will to have sex. And it didn‘t stop there. Mia‘s abuser took sexually explicit photos of her in arcades and hotel elevators.
FAITH: She knew it wasn‘t normal, but she was scared, and he told her that no one would believe her, or that there was just no way out of it.
KEALING: The abuser sold hundreds of images of his own adoptive daughter to Internet pedophiles. Some were taken during Orlando vacations.
FAITH: My daughter told me they went to Disney ever year, so they went quite often.
KEALING (on camera): So, it would happen there year in and year out?
FAITH: But he also did things like this year at his home.
KEALING (voice-over): Two years ago, the FBI finally unmasked Mia‘s monster. In February 2004, a judge sentenced Pittsburgh engineer Matthew Alan Mancuso to 15 years in prison for producing child pornography of his own daughter. But he has not been tried for raping her.
MIA: I think it‘s wrong how he didn‘t get charged with half the stuff he did, and I don‘t think that should happen to anybody.
FAITH: She‘s scarred for life. I mean, and her pictures are on the Internet. And they can‘t be stopped. You know, there‘s no way of stopping them completely. How do you tell a 12-year-old her pictures are all over the Internet?
KEALING: A few months ago, Mia and Faith packed up and moved hundreds of miles away from Pittsburgh.
(on camera): How do you like it down here?
MIA: I love it down here.
KEALING (on camera): Her mother says Mia is well aware of how difficult it‘s going to be to bring the man who abused her for so long to justice. And, for that, they will both lean on the Faith that‘s gotten them through so much already.
MIA: Lead me to the towering rock of safety, for you are my safe refuge, a fortress where my enemies cannot reach me.
Since I know I have people that are backing me up and are there for me, it makes things easier, because I know that they‘re there for me. So, so, like, with them, I could probably do anything.
KEALING (voice-over): The child who came to symbolize the plight of all victims of child pornographers says she‘s fine now and happy.
FAITH: How would you like a hug?
KEALING: Scars and all, Mia has walked through fire and found love on the other side.
ABRAMS: Joining me now, the reporter that you just heard from, Bob Kealing.
Bob, thanks for coming on the program. We appreciate it.
All right, this seems like a really strong girl, considering everything that‘s happened to her, to be able to smile and laugh. It seems amazing.
KEALING: Yes, yes, she really is strong girl.
And she‘s—one word I would use to describe her is really captivating. I mean, she‘s funny. And she‘s got a great sense of humor. And, in some circles, before she was located, she was referred to as the girl without a smile, apparently referring to some of these terrible pictures on the Internet.
But I can tell you now that that smile is very much back on her face.
SCARBOROUGH: So, explain to us how this guy got caught.
KEALING: Well, as these Internet pornographic pictures were circulating, a task force, an FBI task force in Pittsburgh also took notice. And, in 2003, they arrested this man. And, in February of 2004, he was found guilty and sentenced by a federal judge in Pittsburgh to 188 months in prison, which turns out to be 15 years and eight months.
ABRAMS: And that was before they even realized it was the same person who was molesting the girl in the pictures?
KEALING: No. Actually, Dan, the way the authorities in Pittsburgh have been explaining it, even as recently as today, is that, from the very beginning, they wanted to press child rape charges against Mancuso, state charges. But the feds there asked them to put those charges on hold until they could press their Internet pornography case against Mancuso.
They are say that he is still facing those child rape charges. In fact, they‘re saying that he‘s scheduled to be arraigned on them as soon as next month.
ABRAMS: Wow. All right.
Well, if you get to see her again, please wish her our best and, you know, just let her know that we were talking about her and saying what a strong smile and strong girl she seems to be.
KEALING: And, you know, Dan, even today, she had to tell her story to detectives from Orange County, Florida, where they‘re going to be pressing a case here in Orlando because of those pictures from Disney. They have jurisdiction and they‘re going to go after rape charges here, too.
ABRAMS: All right, Bob Kealing, thanks a lot. Appreciate it.
KEALING: You bet.
ABRAMS: Coming up, a young woman—another disturbing story, this one—a young woman confronts the man who abused her when she was 7. Now she‘s fighting to keep him behind bars. The man was her grandfather. She joins us next.
Plus, the Army dismisses all charges against a U.S. soldier who shot two suspected Iraqi insurgents. I say it‘s about time.
ABRAMS: Coming up, a young woman sexually assaulted by her grandfather now fighting to keep him behind bars—her story next.
ABRAMS: Back now with the story of a young victim of sexual abuse victim fighting to keep her perpetrator behind bars.
The man who abused her, her grandfather. Ashley White was just 7 years old when she was targeted by her mother‘s father. The abuse lasted nine months. Eugene Swenson was convicted of sodomy on a child for abusing Ashley and aggravated sexual abuse on a child for molesting three of his other grandchildren. Ashley‘s mother believes Swenson molested additional family members as well.
He was convicted in 1994 and has served 11 years in prison. Now, he denied molesting Ashley initially. And then, recently—now he‘s up for parole—Swenson says he abused children. He says it was because he was a victim of abuse as a child himself. He now believes he‘s rehabilitated and wants the chance to get his freedom back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
EUGENE SWENSON, CONVICTED sex offender: Left an impression upon me that, hey, he could do it. It‘s not that bad. I‘m ashamed, terribly ashamed, of my past behavior.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: Back in 1997, the first time he was up for parole, Ashley was just 11. And she bravely asked the parole board to keep him in prison. She got her wish.
Ashley was back at the prison earlier this month for Swenson‘s latest parole hearing again fighting to keep him behind bars. This time, she mentioned another child murder victims, like Jessica Lunsford, Sarah Michelle Lunde and other children abused and murdered by registered sex offenders.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ASHLEY WHITE, ABUSE VICTIM: I continue to struggle to survive the horrible memories of Mr. Swenson, what he did to me. He used and abused children and destroyed countless lives by his choices for 50 years.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: The parole board is still weighing that decision. They say they‘ll make a decision in the next week or two.
Ashley White is now 18 and on a campaign against all child molesters.
She joins us now.
Ashley, thank you very much for coming on the program. Appreciate it.
WHITE: Thank you for having me.
ABRAMS: All right, first, before we get into all this—all the details about this case, how are you doing?
WHITE: I‘m doing better.
ABRAMS: Yes. I assume, each time you talk about it, it can‘t be easy.
WHITE: It‘s actually not so hard to talk about it, because I know I‘m helping other people by telling them my story. So...
ABRAMS: All right, then let‘s—let‘s do it.
You started the campaign when you were 11, 11 years old. You go into the parole board and you say, you say, don‘t let him out. Was that—how did that feel as an 11-year-old?
WHITE: Well, the only thing I was really focusing on is him calling me a liar over and over again and not admitting it. And, so, my main focus then was to confront him and tell him that he was a liar and it did happen and that he was not my grandfather anymore. So, that was mainly my focus back then.
ABRAMS: What did you think when he finally fessed up?
WHITE: Oh, it was—I was so shocked. I didn‘t think I was going to be able to go up there and speak at all. I mean, he—I started believing what he was saying, you know, because somebody calls you a liar for so long, you just think, well, did it not happen? But then you know that it did. And you have all the memories.
And so when he when he said it happened, it was just like, wow.
ABRAMS: Now, you mentioned these other girls who were later murdered, because you think that that may have been what he had in store for you.
WHITE: He did have my bags packed and his bags packed for a camping trip. But I don‘t think he was going to take me camping.
So, all sex offenders, they have a cycle. And it goes to molesting, sodomy, kidnapping, rape and murder.
ABRAMS: And you think that that may have been what was going to happen, what he was planning for you?
What are they telling you about his chances of getting out?
WHITE: They haven‘t really said much.
At the parole hearing, they said that one day that he will get out, so we need to be prepared. But they took it back and they apologized for saying that, because they was—they shouldn‘t have said that. So, right now, we haven‘t really heard anything. We‘re just waiting on the verdict.
ABRAMS: And I assume that you still remember what he did to you as a 7-year-old. I mean, these images are still vivid memories for you, right?
ABRAMS: And so when you‘re—you know, when you‘re talking about this, when you‘re in the parole board—and we saw you in tears there a minute ago—that‘s, I assume, that‘s what you‘re thinking about.
WHITE: Yes, it was.
That‘s another thing that was so hard. Everything was just flashing in my mind over and over again. So, that was actually before he admitted, so...
ABRAMS: Has he reached out to you in any way to say how sorry he is? In addition to the awful things he did about you, but, as you said, he kept calling you a liar over the years. Has he said to you, you know, at the least, I‘m so sorry for doing all of this?
There‘s a no-contact order, but he broke it. And he actually contacted all the other victims in my family and, you know, sent cards and how sorry he was and, you know, just all those other things. But he ignored me and one of my other cousins, so, that he also called a liar.
ABRAMS: Let me ask you something. What are you up to these days?
WHITE: Not much, just fighting for good causes. We‘re doing the Butterfly Foundation, trying to work for tougher laws on sex offenders.
And I‘m trying to do Ashley‘s Butterfly Haven, which is going to be an intake center for abused children. So, that‘s what I‘m up to these days.
ABRAMS: All right. Well, Ashley, listen, good luck to you.
WHITE: Oh, thank you.
ABRAMS: And these stories are just—it‘s—it‘s so awful as an outsider to hear about it. But to see your strength and your ability to fight the good fight is uplifting, I have to say.
WHITE: Thank you.
ABRAMS: Thank you.
Coming up, the military dismisses murder charges against a Marine who
gave up a career Wall Street to fight in Iraq. I say they did the right
thing. It‘s my “Closing Argument.”
ABRAMS: My “Closing Argument.”
Bravo to the United States military today for dismissing all charges against Marine 2nd Lieutenant Ilario Pantano. Pantano, a former Wall Street trader, left a successful career in Manhattan to return to the Marine Corps after September 11.
While deployed in Iraq in April 2004, he led a search mission outside of a suspected terrorist hideout in Mahmudiyah. According to Pantano, after capturing suspected Iraqi insurgents, he told two of them to remove the seats in their car to help facilitate a search for weapons. He said they began conferring and moving towards him. He yelled at them in Arabic to stay back.
When they did not respond, Pantano says he opened fire in self-defense. The problem, Pantano apparently reloaded his gun and fired 60 bullets into the two men. He then hung a Marine slogan sign over their body that read, no better friend, no worse enemy. The prosecution‘s main witness, a Navy medic, said he didn‘t see exactly what led to the shooting, but turned around once the shooting had started and saw Pantano firing at the backs of the Iraqis.
Military prosecutors pursued premeditated murder charges against Pantano, charges that carry a potential penalty of death. There were weaknesses in the prosecution‘s account from the beginning. Their main witness had just been demoted, based in part on Pantano‘s review. He never saw what precipitated the shooting.
One of witnesses heard Pantano yell stop. Most of the other Marines at the scene praised Lieutenant Pantano as a leader and Marine. No question, there was political pressure from Iraqis, who demanded Pantano be held accountable. But after pretrial hearings in April, the Marines investigating the case recommended that the criminal charges be dropped.
Bottom line, no one saw what happened right before Pantano began shooting. And, in the heat of battle with suspected insurgents, we have to give our troops the benefit of the doubt. We‘re asking our men and women in the military to fight and sometimes to kill. That doesn‘t mean we should excuse the mistreatment of prisoners.
Abu Ghraib was a stain on the military and this country. An unprovoked killing should be charged. But when we‘re talking about murky accounts and conflicting testimony, particularly from a Marine with the impressive record Pantano amassed, we‘ve got to be willing to assume he didn‘t just randomly assassinate these men.
The prosecution‘s evidence should be more definitive before we put one of our Marines on trial for his life. I‘m glad to see this case dismissed.
Coming up, the runaway bride not running from the law. Your e-mails. Many of you feel sorry for her, angry me for saying the DA made the right call—coming up.
ABRAMS: I‘ve had my say. Now it‘s time for your rebuttal.
Runaway bride Jennifer Wilbanks. Yesterday, Gwinnett County district attorney Danny Porter announced she‘ll be charged for making false statements and filing a false report. I said the DA did the right thing by filing the charges.
Bernadette Rooney in Massachusetts: “What‘s with you, Dan? I can‘t believe you are so heartless when it comes to someone who is mentally ill. I don‘t approve of anyone lying to police or causing so much damage, but have a heart. Would she have behaved like that if she were in her right mind?”
Bernadette, what does it mean you don‘t approve of it? I mean, that‘s a relief that you don‘t approve. But if you‘re going to excuse every crime by saying someone has a screw loose, no crimes in this country are going to be prosecuted.
Michael Kaner with his—quote—“two cents”: “How can the Georgia DA indict her? Any phone call or false report was made in New Mexico, where the authorities have said they won‘t charge her.”
That‘s true, Michael, but the calls were made to Georgia and to the Georgia authorities. That‘s a crime.
From Lebanon, Pennsylvania, Ginny, who says she was actually raped. And she writes: “It really angers me when someone like her files false accusations. People like her don‘t know or fail to realize how their self-serving actions affect those who truly are victims of sexual violence.”
And the defense rested in the Michael Jackson trial.
Gordon Carlson in Los Angeles asks: “If Jackson is convicted, could he be remanded into custody immediately or would he remain free pending a sentencing hearing?”
Well, he could be placed into custody. And I think he would be considered a possible flight risk.
Finally, Barbara in New Jersey writes about my prediction that, if Jackson is convicted of anything, it might be a compromise verdict, where jurors only convict on the charge of serving alcohol to a minor with the intent to molest: “Sorry, Dan. A conviction for giving alcohol to a minor with the intent to molest and not a conviction for molesting doesn‘t make any sense. What, he got too tired and fell asleep?”
Barbara, it probably doesn‘t make sense. I agree. But I‘ve seen jurors come back with verdicts that don‘t make sense. They just feel that, in the end, the result is just.
Your e-mails, ABRAMSREPORT@MSNBC.com. We go through them at the end of the show.
“Oh, Pleas.” It seems suntan oil protects from more than UrMDNM_.V. rays. The case of one woman in Fountain Valley, California, proves how suntan lotion really does blocks your body from harm. A female whose identify hasn‘t been released wanted to safeguard her skin while jogging in Regional Park last Sunday morning.
She greased her entire body with suntan oil, took off running. After a bit, she noticed someone was trailing her steps. She slid off the path to hide, in hopes the follower wouldn‘t find her. Unfortunately, he was hot on her heels. But, when he went to grab her, she slipped out of his hands, literally. The girl had so much oil applied on her body that the prospective attacker couldn‘t keep his hands on her. The slithery jogger escaped unscathed. Authorities searched for the attacker, never found the man with the slippery hands.
That does it for us tonight. Coming up next, “SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.”
See you tomorrow.
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