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'The Abrams Report' for July 20

Read the transcript to the Wednesday show

Guest: Larry Kobilinsky, Benvinda De Sousa, Ken Starr, Kim Gandy, Abbie Vansickle, Joe Episcopo, Jim Lewis, Justin Hale

DAN ABRAMS, HOST:  Coming up, all three suspects in Natalee Holloway's disappearance forced to give up DNA samples.


ABRAMS (voice-over):  The FBI lab in Quantico receives a piece of hair found on duct tape on the beach.  This as Joran Van Der Sloot and the Kalpoe brothers, the three suspects, hand over saliva samples.  Could this be the break in the case? 

And Sandra Day O'Connor not entirely happy with the president's choice to replace her, saying she would have liked to have seen a woman.  We'll talk to the man who nominee-John Roberts worked for when he wrote a controversial memo about abortion, Kenneth Starr. 

Plus, John Couey allegedly admitted raping and killing Jessica Lunsford.  Now his niece says he raped her, too, years ago, so why didn't his family do anything about it?  Could this be the ticket to charge family members who lied about Couey's whereabouts when police were searching for Jessica? 

The program about justice starts now. 


ABRAMS:  Hi everyone.  First up on the docket tonight, news out of Aruba.  DNA samples demanded from three suspects in the disappearance of Natalee Holloway.  The question, what were they looking for.  Let's go right to Michelle Kosinski in Aruba.  So Michelle, what do we know? 

MICHELLE KOSINSKI, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  Well, we know yesterday prosecutors ordered all three suspects to give that sample.  As of this morning, we know it was in the form of cheek swabs taken at the hospital.  And this afternoon prosecutors gave to defense attorneys, their reasoning, their legal grounds for asking for this at this point in time. 

The attorney for Joran Van Der Sloot says prosecutors stated clearly, they want to test Joran's DNA and compare it with DNA from a sample they already have in their possession.  Now talking to the FBI, agents say that that sample they already have is that duct tape with hair on it that we've know about.  There are a couple of hairs on there.  Some of them light, some of them dark. 

FBI says they want to see if any of those hairs might be Joran's.  So that tells you how closely they're looking at it.  But it also tells you right now according to the FBI that that might be the only potential piece of evidence they are looking at right now. 

On the other hand, the attorney for Satish Kalpoe says his statement from prosecutors was much, much briefer, is one or two lines and says basically, it's necessary for the investigation to take a sample from Satish and if that saliva sample turns out to be not enough, this order could also compel a blood and/or hair sample.  Now Kalpoes' attorneys also say that last week, police went to their house, asked them to submit a DNA sample voluntarily but the boys said no.  They wanted to wait for that order coming from prosecutors and that's what they got yesterday. 


KOSINSKI (voice-over):  Joran Van Der Sloot is led out of jail in handcuffs.  This time, not to the beach where he says he left Natalee Holloway but to the hospital for a DNA test along with the Kalpoe brothers who said they dropped off Natalee and Joran the morning she vanished.  NBC News has learned that prosecutors ordered all three suspects to give a blood sample for DNA testing. 

They complied even though the Kalpoes have been out of jail.  They remain under suspicion that they may have been involved in what the court calls a serious crime, while Joran has been locked up for more than a month.  Natalee's mother, Beth, has been desperate for a break in this case. 

BETH HOLLOWAY TWITTY, NATALEE HOLLOWAY'S MOTHER:  I feel the answer will come—you know could come just as quickly as I got that phone call May 30 at 12:00 p.m. that she wasn't showing up for her flight.  I mean I feel like it could happen that quickly and—but I just try to remain, you know, neutral. 

KOSINSKI:  At the same time, Dutch authorities and the FBI are testing a shred of duct tape with long, blond hairs attached found along a remote beach in a national park.  More FBI agents are joining the investigation on the island.  They flew in Tuesday and met with Natalee's mother who finds it difficult now to get her hopes up about new findings when so many old ones have led her nowhere.

TWITTY:  There's too many highs and too many lows and you know I don't know how long we'll have to ride this out, so I just proceed very cautiously. 


KOSINSKI:  Now prosecutors don't share any of their evidence or legal grounds for this with us.  What we know comes from attorneys.  Originally, there was talk that these would be blood samples.  Now we know, as we said, these are saliva samples.  But according to at least one of the attorneys in play here, this order could compel blood and hair if necessary as this investigation continues. 

ABRAMS:   Michelle Kosinski thanks very much.  She's doing a great job down there.  Appreciate it.

Joining me now, forensic examiner and professor of forensic science at John Jay College of criminal justice, you probably recognize him, Larry Kobilinsky—Larry, good to see you.  Thanks for coming back on the program.


ABRAMS:   All right.  So what do we make of this?  We know that they've got this duct tape there, right?  That some guy walking in a park, he finds it; it's got some hairs.  Does that tell you that they've already been able to somehow match something or do you think they're just saying just in case? 

KOBILINSKY:  That's a good question.  I think that there are a couple of issues here.  First let's talk about the hair on the duct tape.  Normally, one does a microscopic analysis first to determine if there are similarities or differences between the hair caught on that duct tape and Natalee.  So they have apparently, not excluded that hair as being from Natalee. 

They could have done that if there were major differences.  So it seems to me, the fact that they're continuing to do this DNA analysis tells me that so far, things are looking like an inclusion.  That's as far as the hair is concerned.  Now, on the duct tape, there may be some very other important evidence because attached to that adhesive may not only be hair but there may be fingerprints, there may be DNA or other trace evidence. 

When I say DNA, what I mean by that is when somebody handles duct tape, the skin from the fingertips sloughs off onto that adhesive.  Those skin cells contain DNA, so it is possible to obtain a complete genetic profile from that—those cells.

ABRAMS:   Let's be clear, Larry.  Do you think that they have all—you're saying that you think that they already may have a sense that, that hair is actually connected to this case and as a result, so—first question is, is it Natalee's hair, right...

KOBILINSKY:  That's correct.

ABRAMS:   Because if it's not, then it's—there's really no connection to the case. 

KOBILINSKY:  That's correct, Dan and I am saying that before any laboratory does mitochondrial DNA analysis, they will do a microscopic analysis first to attempt to do get an exclusion or an inclusion.  If there's an exclusion, there's no sense going any further...

ABRAMS:   Right.

KOBILINSKY:  ... with the hair.  So I think that at this point, they already have an inclusion based upon the microscopic analysis. 

ABRAMS:   Wow.  Wow.  I mean that would be the first real major piece of evidence.  That would be a really big deal. 

KOBILINSKY:  Well there is no other physical evidence that I'm aware of.  So this is a very key piece of information and if the duct tape has trace evidence that indicates the source would be Joran, then you know this is the...

ABRAMS:   Right.

KOBILINSKY:  ... piece of evidence that could break the case. 

ABRAMS:   But you know Larry, and I know you are one to warn about this as much as anyone.  I think that after all the “CSI” episodes, we have the sense that oh, if someone touches a piece of duct tape, then they leave a fingerprint.  That's not the way it works. 

KOBILINSKY:  Well, there could in fact be a partial print.  There could be a complete print.  There could be almost no print...

ABRAMS:   Right.

KOBILINSKY:  ... worth looking at but there could be other trace evidence...

ABRAMS:   Right.

KOBILINSKY:  ... that could have survived the traveling in the ocean. 

ABRAMS:   Right.  But my only point is that it is possible if not, you know, I'm not going to say it's likely, considering the timeframe we're talking about, but it's certainly possible that even if you found this piece of evidence, even if they believe that it was Natalee's hair, that they might still have a lot of trouble finding any other evidence on that tape or hair. 

KOBILINSKY:  Well I think that's true.  But it does tell us that there's something criminal about how her hair got on that duct tape and that may be sufficient given the changing stories of Joran...

ABRAMS:   Yes.

KOBILINSKY:  ... put it all together and no body, there might be enough to convict.  I—this is my guess. 

ABRAMS:   All right.  Well we shall see.  I think we're still a few steps away from there.  Larry Kobilinsky thanks a lot. 

Joining me now once again, Benvinda De Sousa, an Aruban attorney who's been hired by Natalee's family.  All right.  Benvinda let me ask you to serve as a sort of legal expert for us for a moment on Aruban law.  These three were ordered to give DNA samples.  Can they say to anyone you must come in or do they have any opportunity to challenge that? 

BENVINDA DE SOUSA, NATALEE HOLLOWAY'S FAMILY'S ATTORNEY:  No, it's—because they're still considered suspects, the two Kalpoe brothers are, even though they have been released and because Joran Van Der Sloot is a suspect, still in custody, they cannot contest that.  They must comply. 

ABRAMS:   And they must give DNA? 

DE SOUSA:  They must give DNA, yes, if so ordered by the judge. 

ABRAMS:   Now, you heard what Larry Kobilinsky was saying.  Have you gotten any indication that step one is happening here in the sense that some of the test results may be indicating that this is related to the case? 

DE SOUSA:  No.  Not yet.  My understanding is that the duct tape with what seems to be human hair was sent to the Netherlands for analysis and no results, as far as I know, have been disclosed yet. 

ABRAMS:   But even apart from whether they've been disclosed, are you getting any sort of behind-the-scenes tips as to whether it may or may not... 

DE SOUSA:  No.  Not yet.  It's too soon.

ABRAMS:   When have—have they told you that they will inform you, meaning I know that the family's been concerned about being kept updated on the status of the investigation.  Have the authorities said that they will tell you when they get results? 

DE SOUSA:  Yes.  That's true.  They have told me that they will tell me if any results come in.  Whenever they come in, they will inform me. 

ABRAMS:   Did they give you a sense of when to expect those? 

DE SOUSA:  I think a maximum of two weeks.  My guess would be a week to two weeks.

ABRAMS:   It might—I think it might even be sooner these days.  But I guess then we're talking about some test results being sent to the United States and others being sent to Holland, correct? 

DE SOUSA:  Yes.  Yes.  The FBI is taking a sample of that duct tape and the DNA to the FBI lab in order to analyze it. 

ABRAMS:  Is Beth encouraged by this? 

DE SOUSA:  Well Beth is just awaiting to see what develops or what happens.  As you know, there have been so many other times before that something was found and it turned out not to be of any relevance of the case.  This has been an emotional roller coaster for Beth, for Dave and for Jug and the rest of the family.  So they're not speculating.  They'll just wait and see and wait for the results.

ABRAMS:   Benvinda De Sousa, once again thank you.  Appreciate it. 

DE SOUSA:  You're welcome.

ABRAMS:   Coming up, Sandra Day O'Connor not entirely happy with President Bush's pick to replace her.  We'll talk with Ken Starr, the boss nominee John Roberts worked for when he wrote that controversial memo about abortion.  Ken Starr thinking about how you're going to respond.

And new details about the man who admits raping and killing Jessica Lunsford.  His niece says he raped her too.  This story just gets worse.  Could this be though what prosecutors need to finally charge at least someone in the family, his family, in connection with this case?

Your e-mails  Please include your name and where you're writing from.  I respond at the end of the show.



GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I had a cup of coffee with the nominee and told him I thought things were off to a very good start for his nomination.  I'm not surprised.  He's highly qualified for the job.  He's the kind of person that will bring great dignity to the court.


ABRAMS:   A good cup of coffee.  Federal Appeals Court Judge John Roberts met with senators today as well as the president.  Beginning the process, he and the White House hope will speed his confirmation to the high court.  But this afternoon, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor gave a mixed review to the man picked to replace her. 

Quote—“I'm disappointed in a sense to see the percentage of women on our court drop by 50 percent, but I can't be disappointed in the quality of the person nominated.  He's first rate.”

Before we talk to former solicitor general Ken Starr about an abortion brief that is causing a lot of controversy that Roberts work while working for Ken Starr, here's NBC's Pete Williams with more on Roberts.


PETE WILLIAMS, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  John Roberts was a high school football captain in Indiana and a summer steel mill worker who graduated from Harvard Law and came to known the Supreme Court inside and out.  A law clerk to William Rehnquist and a lawyer arguing 39 cases, an unusually large number. 

JOHN G. ROBERTS, SUPREME COURT NOMINEE:  I always got a lump in my throat whenever I walked up those marble steps to argue a case before the court. 

WILLIAMS:  But as a justice, legal experts say he'd likely be more conservative than the justice he replaced, Sandra Day O'Connor. 

THOMAS GOLDSTEIN, SUPREME COURT EXPERT:  He's going to change I think the way the court decides cases.  He really gets to the point and I think is willing to announce broader rules than Justice O'Connor and I think he's more conservative.


WILLIAMS:  As a judge, Roberts has written virtually nothing about the explosive social issues.  But as a lawyer for the first Bush administration, he filed a brief in an abortion case that said we continue to believe that Roe was wrongly decided.  Then two years ago, he said that was the government's view not his, and that he believes Roe is now well settled law.  But women's groups say they fear he would try to erode abortion rights.

NANCY NORTHRUP, CENTER FOR REPRODUCTIVE RIGHTS:  Because at the end of the day if he agrees with those arguments that Roe should be reversed, he should not be on the Supreme Court.  We need a justice who will respect the freedoms and liberties of American citizens.

WILLIAMS (on camera):  Democrats will also likely ask him about a decision he joined as a judge just this week.  A ruling upholding the Bush administration's military commissions for trying detainees in Guantanamo Bay. 

Pete Williams, NBC News, at the Supreme Court.


ABRAMS:   Pete mentioned that abortion brief among others John Roberts wrote while deputy solicitor general, leading to a lot of controversy now. 

Joining me now is the man who was John Roberts' boss in the Solicitor General's Office, Ken Starr.  He was solicitor general in the first Bush administration.  He's now dean at Pepperdine Law School.  Good to see you Ken.  And Kim Gandy, attorney and president of the National Organization for Women and they are opposing Roberts' nomination. 

Ken, let me start with you on this question.  All right, so you were his boss, he write this brief.  I know the argument goes, look, lawyers represent the clients, they put it down, doesn't mean it's their personal view.  But when you're the solicitor general of the United States, which was your position, you've got a lot of power to try and influence the policy of the administration. 

First let me ask you this.  Would you say that it was your position that was represented in that brief? 

KEN STARR, JOHN ROBERTS' FORMER BOSS:  Absolutely.  Our position in the administration was as reflected in the brief, and we submitted it, but that was 14 years ago and there's been an enormous amount of development in the law since then.  Most importantly, the Supreme Court of the United States has reaffirmed Roe v. Wade and Judge Roberts has said that he accepts that as subtle law.  That was of course two years ago in a different context, but...

ABRAMS:   Right.

STARR:  ... he's a traditionalist, Dan.  He believes in law as being a stable body of rules and predictable principles. 

ABRAMS:   Ken, that was a sneaky answer you just gave me.  I asked you...


ABRAMS:   I said it was a sneaky answer you just gave me because...

STARR:  Sorry.

ABRAMS:   ... your position and you said yes...


ABRAMS:   ... it was our administration.  I'm asking if you, Ken Starr, the same way I would be asking—people are going to want to know about John Roberts.  Was it your position reflected as well in that brief? 

STARR:  As the solicitor general of the United States, my position was an official position.

ABRAMS:   All right, so you...

STARR:  ... so you can't dissect it that way to say what's your personal position in your hearts of hearts versus what you were charged to do as an official of the United States government.

ABRAMS:   So, if—let me ask you this.  If your position...

STARR:  Yes.

ABRAMS:   ... was that Roe v. Wade shouldn't be overturned, would you have had any concern about writing that brief? 

STARR:  You're always concerned if you cannot advance an argument in good faith but we did not have that concern.  We felt at that time, before the court reaffirmed Roe v. Wade...

ABRAMS:   Right.

STARR:  ... that in fact the issue was one that should be brought to the court for reconsideration and that was the administration's position.  But that was my brief by the way.  When I hear, Dan, people saying this was his brief or he wrote the brief...

ABRAMS:   Yes.

STARR:  ... you know what the process is, but the buck stops with the solicitor general and that was my brief.

ABRAMS:   If you were the nominee, Ken, and...

STARR:  Yes.

ABRAMS:   ... I'm going to play senator for a minute and I were to say...


ABRAMS:   ... to you, all right.  That was the position back then.  Is your position today that you would still vote to overturn Roe v. Wade, what would your answer be? 

STARR:  My answer would be, Senator, with all respect, I can't answer that question just as, and you know...

ABRAMS:   Yes.

STARR:  ... you're laughing but you know...


STARR:  ... that has been the great tradition, including with Justice Ginsburg, including with Justice Breyer, including with Justice O'Connor.  She refused to answer that very question. 

ABRAMS:   Is it fair to say that his views were fairly consistent with yours when it came to this issue? 

STARR:  We were lawyers for the executive branch and so...

ABRAMS:   You guys talk, you had a drink when you're writing the brief.  You say hey, you know, does this argument—does that argument—you know, what do you think of this...


STARR:  But we also knew that we were lawyers advancing a position for the administration at a time when the question was...

ABRAMS:   Ken's too good...

STARR:  ... much more open...

ABRAMS:   I'm not going to get—all right, I'm not going to get it from him.  I'm not.  I'm going to try.  I'm going to try.  I'm not going to get it from him.  No, I understand.  I'm just joking. 

Kim Gandy, look, let me ask you a separate question.  And that is, look, it is—I think it is fair to say that John Roberts probably does not share your views on Roe v. Wade whether he'd vote to overturn Roe v. Wade or just support certain restrictions, there's going to be no way to know that. 

He's not going to answer the question in the confirmation process.  Isn't he exactly what President Bush promised when he was running for reelection and as a result, shouldn't people like you say you know what, we're not happy.  This wouldn't be our guy.  But you know what, our guy isn't in power. 

KIM GANDY, NATIONAL ORGANIZATION FOR WOMEN, PRESIDENT:  Well you know he doesn't look anything like what our guy would be.  We knew that George Bush would appoint a conservative, but what we hoped for was a moderate conservative, someone in the mold of Sandra day O'Connor who would support and maintain the rights and the freedoms and the legal safeguards that we have come to expect as a people in this country. 


GANDY:  That's what we don't see in John Roberts. 

ABRAMS:  ... there's a little bit of a disingenuous argument that I think some on your side have been making and that is to suggest that somehow there's an obligation that the court retain its current structure and that because Sandra Day O'Connor is a swing vote, that that obligates the president to maintain that balance. 

GANDY:  Well, Dan, as you well know, President Bush is there in election that was a very, very close margin.  Literally, a few hundred thousand votes in the state of Ohio put George Bush into office.  That is hardly a mandate.  The Senate is split.  The country was split. 

It is absolutely reasonable for the court to be—for Sandra Day O'Connor to be replaced with someone who is a centrist.  Someone who is a moderate and every poll shows that the people of this country do want someone who's a moderate. 

ABRAMS:   Look...

GANDY:  We expect a moderate conservative...

ABRAMS:  I have to tell you...

GANDY:  ... as opposed to a moderate liberal, but a moderate nonetheless.

ABRAMS:   My regular viewers know that I did an editorial where I said that it would be a real shame for some of the reasons you're stating if the president were to appoint one of the ultraconservatives out of the judicial mainstream.  I said—I encouraged him not to do that.  I don't think that you can make the argument that John Roberts is one of those people. 

GANDY:  I'm not sure you're going to give me the opportunity to make the argument, but I absolutely can make the argument based on his record that he would flip back the other direction on a lot of the cases that Sandra Day O'Connor was the fifth vote, was the deciding vote.  She was the deciding vote on title IX, equal employment opportunity...

ABRAMS:   Yes, that's right.

GANDY:  He's argued the opposite...


GANDY:  She was the fifth vote on Roe v. Wade. 


GANDY:  He's argued the opposite direction.  Case after case after...


ABRAMS:   She was actually the sixth vote on Roe v. Wade, but you know...

GANDY:  She was the fifth vote in Stenberg v. Carhart...

ABRAMS:   Right...

GANDY:  ... which is the most recent time...

ABRAMS:   Yes, but that wasn't...

GANDY:  ... that the Supreme Court...

ABRAMS:   Yes, but I'm not going to let you...


ABRAMS:   ... get away with that.  That was not a question of whether Roe v. Wade gets overturned...

GANDY:  It absolutely...

ABRAMS:   It was not...

GANDY:  In Stenberg v. Carhart, there was no exception for the woman's health and it would have outlawed most of the common forms of abortion down to 12 weeks.

ABRAMS:   Right.  It was not an—look, I'm not going to dispute the fact...


GANDY:  It was not and nobody said overturned...

ABRAMS:   Right.

GANDY:  ... but on the most recent decision affecting Roe v. Wade, it was a 5-4.  She voted with the majority.  She was the deciding vote in that case. 


GANDY:  And he wouldn't be. 

ABRAMS:   It's not about Roe v.—again, it's—and I understand why you say that...


ABRAMS:   Because as a political...


GANDY:  It may not be about that to you...

ABRAMS:   Right.

GANDY:  ... but for me, that's very important...


ABRAMS:   Right.  That's fine and I'm—if you want to say that that part of it is very important, that's fine. 

GANDY:  It is. 

ABRAMS:   But it's disingenuous to say this is about Roe v. Wade getting overturned because no matter what John Roberts' position is there is no way that Roe v. Wade will be overturned with this court.  Now...

GANDY:  I think that that's—if the case that has just come through the circuit overturning the 2003 abortion ban act, which is no doubt on its way to the Supreme Court, if that is upheld, it may not technically overturn Roe v. Wade but it would dramatically limit access...

ABRAMS:   Fair enough.

GANDY:  ... to abortion for many, many, many...

ABRAMS:   Fair enough.

GANDY:  ... women in this country...

ABRAMS:   Final question...

GANDY:  ... who expect to have that access.

ABRAMS:   Ken Starr, I've got 30 seconds. 

STARR:  Right.

ABRAMS:   Give me a general sense of what you made of John Roberts as he worked for you. 

STARR:  A great traditionalist.  That is he loves the law.  He genuinely does.  When he talks about the lump in the throat, he's absolutely serious.  He loves the law.  He's not driven by these results, which we're hearing a lot of discussion about.  What's the result here?  He is a great traditional lover of the law.  Trained by Henry Friendly, one of the great...

ABRAMS:   Conservative, right?  Fair to say solid...


ABRAMS:   ... conservative...

STARR:  I would say traditionalist.  That is he respects the materials of the law greatly.

ABRAMS:   Ken Starr, Kim Gandy, thank you both so much.  Appreciate it.

STARR:  Thank you.

ABRAMS:   Coming up, John Couey admits raping Jessica Lunsford, burying her alive.  Now it turns out his niece says he raped her two years ago.  So, the family members he was living with knew he was dangerous, told police they didn't know where he was when Jessica, their neighbor, goes missing when they did know that at least he was in the house.  The question is can they now be charged in connection with this case?

And a young woman back in an Indonesian court where she was sentenced to 20 years for smuggling marijuana getting another chance to prove her innocence.


ABRAMS:   Coming up, Florida prosecutors release documents in the murder of 9-year-old Jessica Lunsford.  New details about the criminal past of the suspect, John Couey, apparently molested members of his own family.  They turned a blind eye.  They lied to police when they were searching for Jessica.  So the question, can any of them now finally be charged in connection with Jessica's death?  First the headlines. 


ABRAMS:   Newly released documents in the Jessica Lunsford case offer more horrifying details about the abduction and murder of this little 9-year-old.  Taken from her bedroom, kept in a closet, repeatedly molested, then buried alive.  The 852 pages detail convicted sex offender John Evander Couey's history of sexual abuse, including the allegation that he molested or fondled at least four of his own family members when they were little girls. 

Even more disturbing, some of the people in the house were Couey says he held Jessica and molested her for days before burying her alive were aware of his past.  One of them even claims Couey molested her when she was a child.  So they all know Couey was a convicted sex offender.  That he's in the house.  They know Jessica's missing and instead of helping the investigation, they lie to police.

Now it's important not to forget exactly what he said he did to Jessica in his confession to police.


DETECTIVE:  Did she know that we were out there looking for her?

COUEY:  Yes, she knew.  I told her y'all were.  You know I told her y'all -

·         I said they're out there looking for you and she seen it on TV too.

DETECTIVE:  What happened next?

COUEY:  I went out there one night and dug a hole and put her in it, buried her.  I pushed.  I put her in a plastic bag, plastic baggies.

DETECTIVE:  Was she dead already?

COUEY:  No, she was still alive.  I buried her alive, like it's stupid, but she suffered.

DETECTIVE:  OK.  So she gets up, she walks out of the house with you?

COUEY:  Yes sir.

DETECTIVE:  Where did you go?

COUEY:  I take her to my house.

DETECTIVE:  And to your bedroom?

COUEY:  Yes sir.

DETECTIVE:  She climbs up that ladder with you?

COUEY:  Yes sir.  Yes, she went in first.


COUEY:  Then I went in behind her.

DETECTIVE:  What happens next?

COUEY:  Then I sexually assaulted her.


ABRAMS:   Joining me now, “St. Petersburg Times” reporter Abbie Vansickle, who has looked at all the newly released documents.  All right.  Abbie look, we know that the prosecutors have said up to this point that they didn't have enough to charge because they didn't—family members didn't know that Jessica was in the house, et cetera.

All right, we'll get to that later.  But what do we know specifically about the allegations of sexual abuse of Couey on his own family members, particularly anyone who was in that house. 

ABBIE VANSICKLE, “ST. PETERSBURG TIMES”:  Well Couey's niece said that Couey had molested her when she was a young girl and that he had also molested her sister and this niece was living in the house with Couey at the time that Jessica disappeared. 

ABRAMS:   And she knew that he was in the house when the police...

VANSICKLE:  She knew that he was in the house.

ABRAMS:   Sorry, when the police came looking for Jessica, she knew that he was in the house, correct? 

VANSICKLE:  Right.  Yes.  This niece knew that Couey was in the house and she did not tell investigators.  None of the people in the house told investigators that Couey was living in the house. 

ABRAMS:   And they all have different excuses, right, for why they lied? 

VANSICKLE:  Right.  They had all said that they knew that he had a warrant for his arrest for failing to register as a sex offender, but they all say they had no idea that Jessica had ever been in the house or that he was connected to her in any way. 

ABRAMS:   Do you know how long ago did this alleged molestation of some of the family members occur? 

VANSICKLE:  That was years ago but there are several different accounts.  Another account is from Couey's estranged wife and she says that Couey had molested her young daughter as well, and that was also several years ago. 

ABRAMS:   Wow.  The reason I'm asking about the years is because I want to get into it with my lawyers in the next segment about the statute of limitations, et cetera, to find out whether Couey might be charged for molesting—sorry—whether some of the family members who knew about it could be charged for endangering a child or somehow charge them in connection with the molestation of other family members. 

VANSICKLE:  Right.  Well, none of these allegations had ever been reported to police.  That's something that came out in these interviews.  That none of these family had ever come forward. 

ABRAMS:   Any—do we know anything more about physical evidence? 

VANSICKLE:  Some of Jessica's fingerprints were found on a glass table in the house and on a cardboard box, which was found in Couey's closet. 

ABRAMS:   This case, it just absolutely disgusts me.  Abbie, thanks a lot for coming.  Appreciate it.

VANSICKLE:  Thank you.

ABRAMS:   All right.  So here's the question.  Can Couey's—any of Couey's family members be charged with anything in connection with her death?  Our legal team is going to be up next.  Does any of this new information change anything?

And last night, we spoke to a medium helping the Holloway family find Natalee.  She probably could have predicted that we'd get a lot e-mails.  We did. 

Your e-mails  Please include your name and where you're writing from—you get that predicted.  (UNINTELLIGIBLE)


ABRAMS:  Coming up, John Couey allegedly molested his own niece.  His family knew he was dangerous, so based on the new information, can any of them be charged in connection with Jessica Lunsford's murder?  Coming up.



DETECTIVE:  OK.  As soon as I walked in this room you told me that you had done something to Jessica and she was underneath the back...

COUEY:  I didn't mean to do it, though.

DETECTIVE:  OK.  Johnny, listen to me.  You're all right.  Like I told you before...

COUEY:  I'm sick.

DETECTIVE:  It's a disease Johnny and we're going to help you out with it.

COUEY:  I've never done it before in my life.  I mean I...

DETECTIVE:  It just happened, didn't it?  Like I said, it went one step too far, didn't it?  John, listen to me.  I know it's going to be hard so you got to tell me from the start what happened that night.


ABRAMS:  Well he eventually told police that he snuck into Jessica Lunsford's room, took her to his house, repeatedly molested her and then buried her alive.  But three other adults in the same house when this was going on repeatedly told police that they didn't know anything about Jessica Lunsford's disappearance and they said that Couey wasn't in the house when they knew that he was. 

So does this new information that he allegedly molested family members, including allegedly one person in that house change anything? 

Joining me now, former prosecutor, Joe Episcopo, as well as criminal defense attorney, Jim Lewis.  All right.  Gentlemen, thanks very much for coming on the program.

Let me read first what the D.A. said about charging any of the family members, putting aside the new information just based on what they knew about lying about Couey being in the house. 

There is no evidence the other three occupants of the trailer knew Jessica was in the mobile home.  There's no evidence that they knew Couey had committed this crime.  This is not a situation where there's weak evidence or where a jury might not convict.  This is a situation where there would be no evidence of a crime to introduce.  The jury would never deliberate because the judge would be required to dismiss the case, as there's not a shred of evidence of guilt.

Joe, you think that this new information changes anything? 

JOE EPISCOPO, FORMER PROSECUTOR:  I don't think the new information really makes that much difference.  I believe that these people are principles.  In other words, they knew a crime was being committed...

ABRAMS:   How did they know...


ABRAMS:   How did they know a crime was being committed? 

EPISCOPO:  Because Couey had the girl in the room. 

ABRAMS:   But they didn't know that.

EPISCOPO:  Well they're saying they didn't know that...

ABRAMS:   Right.

EPISCOPO:  So they're lying, OK.

ABRAMS:   But they'd have to be able to prove that that knew that Couey had her there. 

EPISCOPO:  Well you've got all these circumstantial incidences that you can use to try to prove that, and yes, this new evidence probably could be used.  However, I still say that they're principles.  They knew a crime was being committed, they assisted in the commission of that crime and therefore, they can be indicted for murder and sexual battery. 

ABRAMS:   I'm going to give the D.A.s here a little more credit than that.  I think that if they had any evidence that the three—because I think they'd love to charge these people.  Politically, it would be only a bonus for them if they could charge any of these three people for—if they believe that any of them actually knew that Couey had committed this crime, I think that they would have charged them. 

Although I agree with you that as a practical matter, people say they lied about the fact that he was in the house.  Jim Lewis, what about the fact that, you know, could they possibly charge any family members for putting children in danger, for example.  That some of these family members knew that Couey had molested other family members and as a result—and the fact that they did nothing about it, could they go and charge them for something like that? 

JIM LEWIS, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY:  I don't think so.  I don't think that the state would be able to show that they had a legal duty to inform the police that they had been molested and if they didn't know for a fact that Jessica was in there I don't see how possibly that the state could make a case.  I would disagree. 

I don't believe that they are principles.  They may be able to be charged with something called accessory after the fact if they covered up—that they covered up and maybe lied to the police about some of the circumstances that they did later find out about. 

ABRAMS:   And that—I believe that would be Florida law, let me refer to it.  Any person who maintains or assists knowing that the offender had committed the offense of a child abuse, neglect of a child, aggravated child abuse, or murder of a child under 18 is an accessory after the fact.  If the felony offense committed is a capital felony, the offense of accessory after the fact is a felony of the first degree.

Serious crime. 

LEWIS:  It is.  And I think that the state attorney there ought to seriously look at that as a potential in this case.  Unfortunately, though, this is probably one of those circumstances where what's morally right and what you can actually prosecute someone for a crime, probably are going different ways. 

ABRAMS:   Joe, you disagree? 

EPISCOPO:  I disagree with that.  I think if you indict them for the principal offenses, those are lesser included that may come out and give the jury an opportunity to decide on those.  I think that the state attorney dropped the ball here.

ABRAMS:   In what sense? 

EPISCOPO:  Well, look, it's pretty obvious to all of us that these people seem to have some knowledge about this man Couey.  They knew there was a girl missing and he was in the house.  I mean they didn't do anything to assist the police.  They gave him a bus ticket.  They allowed him to leave. 

ABRAMS:   But is it the D.A.'s fault or is it the law's fault?  I mean it seems to me that the problem is that there wasn't a law on the books that basically demands that people—I mean, there had been a misdemeanor law on the book that expired, but it seems to me there just wasn't a law in the books that applied to this kind of case unfortunately. 

EPISCOPO:  I think...

LEWIS:  I would agree to that...

EPISCOPO:  ... that it could have been tried.  I think it could have been tried and it would have been up to the jury to decide.  I don't think it would have been dismissed by a judge. 

ABRAMS:   Jim, final word on that. 

LEWIS:  Well I don't think that the state attorney still has the option as evidence comes out maybe to do something like that.  But again unfortunately, I don't think there is a law on the books that makes it a crime not to report a crime.  These weren't their children.  This child was not in their custody or control so these child abuse statutes probably really don't come into play. 

ABRAMS:   Yes.  Well again and this goes to something we talked about in the context of another child abuse case.  Then it's time to change the laws and I know that there are efforts underway but you know this—anyway, this case is just absolutely sickening and every day we get new details that come out that just make it worse and worse.  Joe Episcopo, Jim Lewis, thanks. 

LEWIS:  Thank you.

ABRAMS:   Coming up, Schapelle Corby convicted of smuggling marijuana into Indonesia, sentenced to 20 years but now a court rules she can present new witnesses.  A last chance.


ABRAMS:  Schapelle Corby has been given another chance.  The 28-year-old Australian beauty student was convicted in May of smuggling nine pounds of marijuana into Indonesia and sentenced to 20 years in prison.  The marijuana found by Customs as she entered the Bali airport, Corby's lawyers argued the drugs were planted.  The drug gangs in Australia put the drugs in her surf bag after she checked it at the airport. 

Indonesian court didn't buy it, convicted.  After intense international pressure from Australia and even from Australian actor Russell Crowe, the court granted her a new hearing and her new lawyer claims he has a secret witness who will admit to planting the marijuana in Corby's bag.  But at the hearing earlier today, one of Corby's witnesses showed up in court, but only one.  The Indonesian court gave her what it called a last chance, scheduling a new hearing for August the 3rd

Joining me now from Sydney, Australia, Justin Hale, reporter for Australian radio station Radio 2UE.  He's been covering the case since it began.  Thanks a lot for coming on the program.  We appreciate it.

All right.  So what do you make of today's developments?  I mean do you really think that the defense has witnesses who are going to clear all this up? 

JUSTIN HALE, REPORTER, AUSTRALIA'S RADIO 2UE (via phone):  It's a speculation now whether this witness actually does exist.  There was a development just recently that the Australian government (UNINTELLIGIBLE) said they would never offer immunity.  The defense says it has someone who is prepared to confess (UNINTELLIGIBLE) putting or putting the marijuana into the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) bag but that witness is only going to (UNINTELLIGIBLE) in court if he's offered immunity from prosecution from the Australian government.  And our justice minister has said that that's never going to happen.

That in the last couple of hours we've heard that he's invited Corby's lawyer to make an application for immunity.  So that may develop during the course of the day.  And if there is an offer of immunity, well the lawyers say they can present someone who is going to clear Corby's name.  Now the thing is they're being very secretive about the identity of this witness.  And in the past we have seen Corby's lawyers promised great things, but then deliver very little. 

And that's the same with today's trial.  They promised to have 12 star witnesses from Australia who had evidence that was going to clear Corby, and what we ended up getting was one law professor who just wanted to argue on the interpretation of the narcotic laws.

ABRAMS:   The best argument she's got, right, is that there was some sort of drug activity going on at that airport and basically, the same time, they just don't have any specific evidence that that's what happened here, right?

HALE:  That's exactly right.  And the judges here have been very flexible.  They've been saying look, OK, the case is closed.  We'll reopen it on the proviso that do you provide us with witnesses (UNINTELLIGIBLE) direct evidence pertaining to this case.  We don't want to hear from police officers who may have investigated other cases concerning baggage handlers at (UNINTELLIGIBLE) airport.  We want to hear something about this marijuana found in this bag. 

Now really, it seems doubtful that the defense actually has those witnesses.  And unless they can actually find someone who can more or less tell them exactly how that marijuana got in that bag, well the judge isn't going to just close the case again and...

ABRAMS:   Yes.

HALE:  ... the verdict will stick. 

ABRAMS:   I mean look, it seems to me that this is a case where the government is more upset about the kind of sentence she got maybe than the actual conviction.  But let's see.  Let's see.  We'll continue to follow it.  Justin Hale, thanks a lot.  Appreciate it. 

Coming up, some of you very cynical about the supernatural.  Your reactions to the medium we had on our show last night who claimed to be in touch with Natalee Holloway.


ABRAMS:  Welcome back.  I've had my say, now it's time for “Your Rebuttal”.  Last night I said at the top of the show that even though Washington and many in the media were buzzing that President Bush was going to nominate Edith Brown Clement to the Supreme Court that I didn't buy it. 

Michael Brethren from Charlottesville, Virginia, “Bravo.  Thank you for not jumping to conclusions as it seemed everyone else had done.”

Jessie Sweeney from Portland thinks John Roberts will be confirmed by the Senate because he's hot.  “When I first heard Bush's pick was John Roberts, I thought it was the super handsome newscaster at CBS.  I definitely think he'll be confirmed easily because he appears so affable, intelligent, gentle and great looking.” 


ABRAMS:   Also last night, I went after director Roman Polanski is suing “Vanity Fair” in London.  Polanski testifying by videophone because if he sets foot in England he could be deport to the U.S. where he's a wanted man.  He fled before being sentenced for the statutory rape of a 13-year-old girl. 

Kevin H. writes, “Roman Polanski is suing because a magazine insulted his honor in some way?  How is that even possible?  He's a convicted child molester who escaped justice by fleeing the country.  Basically the lowest form of scum on the planet.”

But Al Rue writes, “There are good and plenty of reasons why the British court should allow Polanski to have his cake and eat it too.  The British have no dog in the California's hunt.  Even convicted felons have civil rights.  Wouldn't your program tonight have been stronger if you had talked about the reasons why the court might have chosen reasonably to allow Polanski to appear by video?”

Absolutely not, Al.  What does this have to do with the civil rights of a convicted felon?  This is about a felon who is a wanted man.  I'm looking at the big picture.  Not whether the British do or don't have a dog in the fight.  A fugitive from American justice has the nerve to use the courts to try to get money from an American magazine? 

We also spoke with a medium working with searchers who say she's communicated with Natalee Holloway in Aruba. 

John Killam from Clifton Park, New York, “Lending credence to such charlatans risks diverting limited funds from legitimate avenues of investigation. “ 

Warren, Michigan, Curt Labiak, “If this wasn't so serious it'd be hilarious.  When you lead up to the question and asked her why Natalee hasn't been found and she replied maybe she doesn't want to be found, I just about fell out of my chair.”

Mike Proctor from Houston, “She admits that when Natalee first contacted her, her response was I'm too tired Natalee.  Come back in the morning.  My God.  The girl is dead and the psychic tells her to come back tomorrow.”

It's a horrible thing, but Brian Abel from Sonoma, California.  “I can't believe you had a medium on your show.  You could have had me on.  I'm an extra large.” 

Now that's just funny.  Your e-mails, one word,  We go through them at the end of the show.

That does it for us tonight.  Coming up next, “HARDBALL” with Chris Matthews.  The great David Gregory is sitting in tonight.



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