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'The Abrams Report' for August 25

Watch the transcript to Thursday's show

Guest: Clint Van Zandt, Arlene Ellis-Schipper, Elaine Lampert, Jim Moret,

Dennis Carroll, David Hackett, Ida Ballasiotes

DAN ABRAMS, HOST:  Coming up, Aruba‘s prison warden in an exclusive interview says Joran van der Sloot has caused some trouble.  That is, until he—quote—“got roughed up.”

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ABRAMS (voice-over):  And NBC gets hauled into court late last night after the warden invited our crew to take a look at and even talk to Joran behind bars.  We‘ll tell you what Joran said. 

And another ABRAMS REPORT exclusive.  A long-time friend of Olivia Newton-John‘s missing boyfriend joins us.  Maybe she‘ll be able to answer some of the questions about his mysterious past. 

Plus, who knew that convicted sex offenders really were being shipped off to an island to live together, even after they‘ve served their time?  We were there.  And let‘s just say some of the—quote—“ residents aren‘t so happy about their accommodations.” 

The program about justice starts now.  

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ABRAMS:  Hi everyone.  First up on the docket tonight, major controversy in Aruba after an NBC camera crew gets access to the prison where lead suspect Joran van der Sloot is being held.  The crew was even taken into Joran‘s cellblock and allowed to tape Joran in his cell.  Now there are all sorts of issues about Joran being on camera, the use of the tape, all of that.  We‘ll get to that in a moment. 

But first, what may have been missed in all of this about the tape is the fact that the prison warden told our reporter, Michelle Kosinski, about Joran and a bad temper, what could be a crucial element in the investigation. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN CORRESPONDENT:  Is it strange to see him in this environment? 

FREDDY MADURO, ARUBAN PRISON WARDEN:  Yes. 

KOSINSKI:  You must be kind of...

MADURO:  Yes.  Strange in a way and the other way, not because of his temperament, you know? 

KOSINSKI:  How did—where did you hear that he had a bad temper...

MADURO:  From other people. 

KOSINSKI:  And what did they tell you exactly about him? 

MADURO:  That when he doesn‘t get his way, he gets very angry and he even (UNINTELLIGIBLE) his mother tried to correct him once and he snapped at her and yes...

KOSINSKI:  Did he hit her? 

MADURO:  No, not really hit her but used a lot of bad language. 

KOSINSKI:  And did you see some of his temper here in prison? 

MADURO:  In beginning, yes with the policeman.  But then afterwards, the policemen really roughed him up and cuff him...

(CROSSTALK)

MADURO:  ... and then took him to the police station. 

KOSINSKI:  How did he act out toward the police officers?  What happened? 

MADURO:  They came to pick him up and he wouldn‘t go because his father was just incarcerated and he said no.  He wants his father free and then he would go.  They said no you have no say.  You‘re going.  No, I‘m not going.  So then he went back to his cell, but then they called (UNINTELLIGIBLE) that he has to come and then they call him back and then he made a fuss again, so they just grabbed him, hold him in a spot and cuff him and took him to (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

KOSINSKI:  He didn‘t fight with the officers, did he?  Did he... 

MADURO:  No.  He just—he gave him a rough time.  But no he can‘t because he‘s a young kid, you know.  Officers are very well trained. 

KOSINSKI:  How has he been now since he‘s been here for a couple of weeks? 

MADURO:  Now, he‘s normal.  He‘s been normal now.  He has no problems with no one.  He has incorporated himself into the system.

KOSINSKI:  Is he quiet?  Does he—has he made friends here? 

MADURO:  Yes, occasionally.  It‘s mostly—yes not really friends, no, but because he‘s a quiet type.  I see him once in a while and he smiles at me.  I smile back at him.

(END VIDEO CLIP)  

ABRAMS:  That is pretty amazing what you just heard there.  I mean this is the warden of the prison talking about Joran van der Sloot having a really bad temper and saying that at one point, the officers there had to effectively rough him up. 

Joining me now, Aruban attorney, Arlene Ellis-Schipper and former FBI investigator and MSNBC analyst, Clint Van Zandt, who was in Aruba last week.  Clint, first let me ask you as you listen to this, this is very relevant as an investigator, is it not? 

CLINT VAN ZANDT, FORMER FBI INVESTIGATOR:  Yes, I mean, Dan, the tape of Joran sitting there in boxer shorts, throw it away.  Who cares?  You know it‘s one more person in prison.  What counts is what you just pointed out.  Here is someone who comments on someone who has a significant anger management problem. 

When he doesn‘t get his way, he loses his temper.  He gives his mother grief.  He curses at her.  He‘s had fights inside the jail.  He‘s had arguments and fights with police officers.  I mean, you know, does this make him guilty of anything?  No, but it suggested this is someone who doesn‘t handle his anger well.  He doesn‘t handle rejection well.  He wants his way and if he doesn‘t get it, he perhaps goes physical. 

ABRAMS:  Arlene, were you startled to here the prison warden say that? 

ARLENE ELLIS-SCHIPPER, ARUBAN ATTORNEY:  Well, actually, no.  You know there has been a lot of talking around the island about what great temper Joran all of a sudden has and—or what have you.  I don‘t know what the warden bases his statements on other than he has no first-hand experience other than Joran‘s first problems in the prison. 

You‘re dealing with a boy that has problems because he was locked up.  I don‘t know.  The story with his mother, he says first he has a problem with the temper and then he says no, he just raised his voice.  So I don‘t know what to believe of it.  It‘s...

ABRAMS:  What do you make...

ELLIS-SCHIPPER:  I think it‘s inappropriate for a warden to discuss this at all. 

ABRAMS:  Well, that‘s for sure.  But inappropriate often means accurate and the warden says that they had to rough him up at some point.  Is he going to be able to use that at some point in this process, investigation, if he‘s charged, anything like that? 

ELLIS-SCHIPPER:  I don‘t think so.  The term rough him up actually shocks me.  On the other—from another point of view, I‘m concerned now for the rights of Joran van der Sloot as a suspect, how he‘s being treated.  I mean...

ABRAMS:  That‘s what I mean. 

ELLIS-SCHIPPER:  ... I think that the defense attorneys will look at that.

ABRAMS:  That‘s what I mean.

ELLIS-SCHIPPER:  Yes...

ABRAMS:  Will the defense attorneys use that...

ELLIS-SCHIPPER:  Oh, OK.

ABRAMS:  ... is what I meant.  Yes.

ELLIS-SCHIPPER:  Well I‘m sure.  You can bet your life on that.  I mean the mother has said from the get go already that Joran has no rights.  She has used the term (UNINTELLIGIBLE).  In Dutch that means wanted dead or alive.  He has lost all rights.  And this is a concern and now even the warden admits to roughing him up.  I mean we have a problem there, I think. 

ABRAMS:  Now we are told that the warden has been suspended as a result of this.  Would you expect that he‘s going to be getting his job back any time soon, Arlene? 

ELLIS-SCHIPPER:  I don‘t think so.  He has serious problems.  What he did was wrong.  He violated every rule in the book.  You need a permit by the minister of justice for—to let a camera crew in.  Those camera crews needs to be for the safety of a prison carefully orchestrated and I think he was a little bit star struck of seeing this camera crew and...

(CROSSTALK)

ELLIS-SCHIPPER:  ... he wanted his 15 minutes...

ABRAMS:  Well, when you see Michelle Kosinski, it‘s hard to say no.  Arlene Ellis-Schipper and Clint Van Zandt are going to stand by because NBC‘s Michelle Kosinski is the one who found herself at the center of the controversy last night when her tour of the Aruba prison led to an unexpected interview, not just with the warden.  That was expected.  But with Joran van der Sloot himself.  The first time any journalist has had words with the lead suspect since he was brought in for questioning. 

Michelle joins us now from Aruba.  All right, so Michelle, take us through exactly what happened last night. 

MICHELLE KOSINSKI, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  All right.  Well, it was yesterday when we had this interview and it was only an interview.  That‘s what we went there for, an interview with the director of prisons.  In fact, we were told by our producer ahead of time that basically he‘s just going to talk about how daily life is in the prison and that sort of thing.

And so he tells us at the end of the interview well, would you like to see one of the cells, and so we say yes.  And that starts the tour then that he takes us outside of the area where we did the interview.  We see a little bit of the grounds.  We see the exercise yard, some of the areas where the prisoners may need to be led from one building to another.

This is one of the newer areas, and then he asked us if we want to see the women‘s division.  Again, we say yes and keep in mind, before we started the tour, we asked him, do you mind if we roll tape during this because a camera crew is with us and he said yes, you‘re with me.  As long as you‘re with me, you can shoot wherever we go. 

So in the women‘s division we see how it‘s run, it‘s dark, it‘s quiet in there.  We see the guard area and he tells us, you know, this is a newer part of the prison.  Prisoners have just been moved over there in the last few months, much different than the older part of the prison where he says the conditions are actually pretty poor.

So we walked a little bit more.  He tells us a little bit more about that area and after that as we‘re walking and looking around, he asked us then do you want to see the juvenile area.  So again we say yes and that‘s when we go into this other building and we realize this is the same exact place where Joran van der Sloot is housed.  And we can see him right across from us.

Now, Dan, at this point we‘re inside the enclosed glass guard area, very similar to where we were when we saw the women‘s division.  And the jailer then asked do you want to come outside and approach his cell, so we do.  The camera, keep in mind, stayed back in the glass enclosed area.  And even before we left that area, we could see that Joran saw us.  He was looking up from a book he was reading several times.

So when we approached his cell, me and a producer, that‘s when we were able to see him and say hello.  In fact, the prison director talked to him a little bit in Dutch before we spoke to him.  We‘re not sure what he said, but just a few words exchanged.  And I asked him how he was doing, was he OK in there; just a very brief conversation and he answered all of our questions. 

He was very quiet and calm.  He still kept reading.  He was looking at us though and answering our questions.  Our producer asked him a few things and she mentioned she had written a letter to his mother.  He seemed to know about that and he was very polite and calm the whole time.  He did tell me—the last question I asked him was do you have any messages you‘d like to relay to anyone basically and he said no I really can‘t comment anything about my case right now and that was it.  That‘s when we left the area and left the prison shortly after. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  Now what exactly—I mean what exactly did he say?  I mean you asked him a few questions.  Were his answers literally just one word, two-word answers? 

KOSINSKI:  Exactly.  It was not anything that you could get a real substantive answer or any progress in the case, any feeling as to how he felt things were going.  It was mainly just asking him how he was doing.  He was very quiet.  He didn‘t try to hide or give us any indication that he didn‘t want to talk.  He never asked us to leave. 

And there was—one of his cellmates—one of his two cellmates was in there sitting right next to him.  He didn‘t say anything either.  Our producer asked him a couple of things about, you know how—basically the same things, how things were going.  And when we started to ask him if he wanted to say anything of substance about his case, that‘s when he said I really can‘t talk about it. 

ABRAMS:  There was a hearing last night, a court ordered NBC not to air that particular video of Joran.  There were no other restrictions, just that we couldn‘t use the tape.  Here‘s what Joran said at that hearing. 

Quote—“There are eight stalls on my block.  I sit in the first cell.  When I was sitting in my cell, I saw a cameraman, a soundman and two reporters.  I then tried to go to the bathroom, but my cellmate was taking a shower, so I couldn‘t get in the bathroom.  I knew that they did not come there especially for me.  The two ladies were met through the door to go inside the juvenile area by the warden.  One of them asked me how are you.  I said fine.  They mentioned something pleasant about my mother.  And then I asked if I—then I was asked if I had anything to say the American people and I said no.  And then one of them said Melanie and Elaine send you kisses.  And I noticed that the reporters had audio recording devices with them.”

Michelle, was the sense that you got from the hearing was that the court wasn‘t angry at you, at NBC, the sense was the court was saying...

KOSINSKI:  Right.

ABRAMS:  ... what the heck was the prison warden doing letting you walk around there, right? 

KOSINSKI:  Exactly.  The issue was if this video were to air, if it were to air, would that be a violation of Joran van der Sloot‘s privacy.  The judge explicitly said—the first thing he said before the ruling was we don‘t have any reason to doubt the integrity of the journalists involved.  And we felt good about that.  We really didn‘t want anyone to think that we had snuck in there.  That we had used a hidden camera.  That we had somehow finagled our way into this.  It was basically to our surprise put in front of us...

ABRAMS:  Yes.

KOSINSKI:  ... and we said yes every time he offered more access.  So we felt good about the judge‘s ruling that we did not...

ABRAMS:  Yes.  All right...

KOSINSKI:  ... basically, he said we had the authority to be there... 

ABRAMS:  I‘ve got to take a break. 

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  I‘ve got to take a break here.  No one can legitimately claim that Michelle Kosinski did anything but a fantastic job in the context of this.  Michelle thanks a lot.  Appreciate it.

Coming up, so the judge stops MSNBC from airing the footage.  But is that the right thing under Aruban law and the lawyer for Joran van der Sloot slamming us. 

And new images of Olivia Newton-John‘s missing boyfriend.  A long-time friend of his joins us exclusively...

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANTONIO CARLO, JORAN VAN DER SLOOT‘S ATTORNEY:  The judge said, you know, it had to be shown that NBC acted in an unprofessional way or tried to be sneaky.  But again, we respect the decision of the judge (UNINTELLIGIBLE) that it‘s—that there is only one reasonable explanation for the conduct of NBC today that they wanted to obtain footage of our client (UNINTELLIGIBLE) our client was detained in his cell and we find that unacceptable.  The Aruba justice system says that is unacceptable and if NBC airs that, we will go after NBC for each time for (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  All right.  Calm down, Antonio.  I mean the court ruled that we can‘t air it, no one‘s airing it.  We‘re talking about this video that Michelle Kosinski got an interview, effectively, with Joran van der Sloot inside the Aruban prison.  Not because it was sneaky.  You know, he‘s even admitting, the court says it wasn‘t sneaky.  It was because the warden had invited NBC in and said, hey, you want to walk over there. 

What, she‘s supposed to say, no, no, no, no, no.  Maybe I shouldn‘t go over there.  All right.  Arlene Schipper, Aruban attorney, I don‘t even understand really what the issue—is this going to be a jury trial?  Isn‘t this going to be—even if he‘s charged, correct, he would be tried by a judge, right?  So is there really a concern that the judge is going to be unfairly influenced? 

ELLIS-SCHIPPER:  I don‘t think that has anything to do with the case.  The case is just that his privacy was violated.  It is about the public opinion or whether you want to be on portrayed, whether you want your picture in the world sitting in a jail.  I don‘t think the issue was whether a judge will be influenced.  It is true, there‘s no judge—jury trial.  It is a judge trial, but that is not the point. 

ABRAMS:  Well, I would think that that should be—here at least, that would be the claim the defense attorneys would make and I think that that‘s why it‘s important, as you do, to distinguish what the real claim is here.  Let me get number seven here ready also.  Because the attorney, you know, for van der Sloot, it seems to me that van der Sloot‘s attorney is focusing his anger in the wrong place.  I mean he should be angry, if he wants to be angry, at the warden, right?

ELLIS-SCHIPPER:  I agree, but I think he is.  I think it‘s two-fold, the responsibility here.  I mean I don‘t...

ABRAMS:  What did NBC do wrong, Arlene?

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  What did NBC do wrong?

(CROSSTALK)

ELLIS-SCHIPPER:  Well, if you‘ll let me talk, I will explain to you.

ABRAMS:  Yes.

ELLIS-SCHIPPER:  Basically, I don‘t think that MSNBC is that naive to actually think that picturing or filming someone in this situation, without his permission, without asking the defense attorney for permission would be allowed.

ABRAMS:  I‘m that naive. 

ELLIS-SCHIPPER:  Of course the warden is—well...

ABRAMS:  I am.  I swear to you.  I‘m a lawyer...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  I‘m a lawyer and I would be that na‹ve—if I had been there and the warden had invited me into the prison and said your camera crew can stay here...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  ... but yet you can walk up to Joran and say hello, I would have said OK, if the warden is saying I‘m allowed to do it, then I‘m allowed to do it. 

ELLIS-SCHIPPER:  Well from I understand in the states, if you want to film a suspect in prison, you specifically need the agreement of the suspect as well.  I don‘t care which warden gives permission.  You need it. 

ABRAMS:  Yes.  Well...

ELLIS-SCHIPPER:  And basically...

ABRAMS:  ... I‘ve been to prisons and when—the warden set the rules in the prison and you‘re right that most of the time, the wardens go through the lawyers and they say, hey, before we do this, you know, you should talk to your client, et cetera, but the wardens control prisons.  They make the rules.  They decide what happens in a prison. 

ELLIS-SCHIPPER:  Well it‘s a little bit different here.  This is not a private prison or something.  This is director of state prison and he needs permission.  Basically, of course, I agree with you, he‘s the primarily responsible person who made the mistake and that it‘s clear.  In Aruba, that‘s clear.  Everybody blames him as well.  But the fact that the attorney is mad, I think it‘s emotions...

ABRAMS:  Yes.  No, I think that‘s true...

ELLIS-SCHIPPER:  It has gone too far according to them. 

ABRAMS:  Yes.  No, I think that‘s fair.  All right.  Arlene, good to see you.  Thanks for coming back.  Clint, sorry, we didn‘t—I didn‘t get back to talking to you more, but Arlene is so much fun...

(CROSSTALK)

VAN ZANDT:  She‘s wrong, but she‘s fun to talk to.

ABRAMS:  Yes.  All right.  All right. 

Coming up...

ELLIS-SCHIPPER:  I‘m not wrong. 

(LAUGHTER)

ABRAMS:  All right.  New insight from Olivia Newton-John‘s boyfriend who vanished from a fishing boat two months ago.  In a minute we‘re going to be joined by one of Patrick McDermott‘s friends, but first, Newton-John and Patrick McDermott rarely made public appearances together but last year, McDermott appeared on the Australian TV show “This Is Your Life,” and made his feelings for Newton-John very clear. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You truly are an incredible human being and someone so special to this whole planet.  And if we could all just be a little bit like you, we‘d all be a little better off.  I love you with all my heart, enjoy this evening and I‘ll talk to you later.  Bye. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Joining me now (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Patrick McDermott‘s friend, Elaine Lampert—McDermott.  Thanks very much for coming on the program.  We appreciate it.  I‘m also joined by “Inside Edition” chief correspondent, Jim Moret. 

All right, Elaine, give us some insight into this man.  The bottom line is we don‘t know a lot about him.  We‘re hearing about him having financial trouble.  I know that you‘ve spoken to his ex-wife.  What do you make of everything? 

ELAINE LAMPERT, PATRICK MCDERMOTT‘S FRIEND:  Well, I last saw Patrick on June 24 when he played tennis.  We played tennis as a group here in Studio City, California.  And he seemed fine.  He was happy.  He‘s a good tennis player and he‘s a wonderful father, and nobody can believe he just disappeared.  That‘s what we‘re all worried about. 

ABRAMS:  What did his ex-wife have to say to you about everything? 

LAMPERT:  She was very concerned about him.  She‘s heart sick about the whole thing.  She doesn‘t want her son involved in media—talking to the media and I think that‘s why she‘s kind of laying low.  That‘s my opinion. 

ABRAMS:  Yes.  And again, when was the last time you saw him or spoke to him?

LAMPERT:  I saw him June 24.

ABRAMS:  And he didn‘t seem despondent?  He didn‘t seem beside himself?  He didn‘t seem suicidal? 

LAMPERT:  No.  None of that.  None of that.  He was happy go lucky, playing tennis. 

ABRAMS:  So those who question whether he may have left or even faked his own death, you just don‘t buy it? 

LAMPERT:  No, none of us do.  We‘ve had discussions at tennis.  We meet every Monday and Friday, so there‘s a discussion now every Monday and Friday.  No one can believe it.  They can‘t believe he would leave his son. 

ABRAMS:  And as far as you know, how did his family come to realize that he was missing? 

LAMPERT:  Evidently, he was supposed to pick up his son the following weekend from the boat trip and he didn‘t come to pick up his son, which is very unusual.  His ex-wife called the house and he did not call her back.  So that‘s when she started to investigate what was going on and she called the house and I guess she went over there and then they found out that he never came back from the trip. 

ABRAMS:  And when you say from the boat trip, you mean from his boat trip, right?  You‘re meaning after...

LAMPERT:  Yes. 

ABRAMS:  ... he had been on this boat trip, he was then going to pick up his son.  Do you know how many days after the boat trip that was? 

LAMPERT:  I think it was two or three days after the boat trip. 

ABRAMS:  So...

LAMPERT:  It was before the weekend. 

ABRAMS:  So they started to wonder, literally, two days, three days after the boat trip, not six days, 11 days as we‘ve been hearing. 

LAMPERT:  No, I think more like five or six days that they started to wonder where he was. 

ABRAMS:  And his ex-wife agrees with you, that no way, even though he had financial problems, that he would have just left or faked his own death? 

LAMPERT:  Actually, she‘s stunned.  She doesn‘t know what to believe.  And we hope, you know, it would be nice if he just did one of those runaway bride things, but we want him to come back if that‘s what he did. 

(CROSSTALK)

LAMPERT:  And—pardon me. 

ABRAMS:  I‘m sorry.  I wanted to give you an opportunity because I know that you had said that you know you would want to speak to Patrick just in case he‘s listening and that‘s the reason that you‘re doing this interview.  So please, go ahead. 

LAMPERT:  Absolutely.  If he‘s out there somewhere, call home.  Your family misses you.  Olivia misses you.  All your tennis friends are worried about you.  You have to call home.  You have to call someone.  It can be me. 

ABRAMS:  Was Olivia Newton-John his girlfriend?  I mean we keep hearing about girlfriend-boyfriend and yet it seemed she didn‘t know that he was missing for a while. 

LAMPERT:  I think she was out of the country when this first happened and then she knew about it.  I‘m sure that she knew about it at least 10 days after he was missing.  And then they—what they tell me is they wanted to interview everyone that was on the boat before they went public because they wanted to interview before anyone could disappear.  Perhaps they would know something and they wouldn‘t want to talk to the police.  So they wanted to interview all the people that were on the boat before they went public and it took them several weeks to do that, to find everyone. 

ABRAMS:  And as far as you know, have they gotten any leads that are usable? 

LAMPERT:  Not as far as I know.  We have the number for the Coast Guard;

I‘ve spoken to them.  If we hear of anything, anybody from tennis, if they know anything, call.  Call the police. 

ABRAMS:  Jim Moret, what do you make of this? 

JIM MORET, “INSIDE EDITION” SENIOR CORRESPONDENT:  It‘s amazing how few people really know what happened.  We‘ve gotten in touch with someone who was on that boat and—says they were on the boat and said they don‘t remember seeing this person.  They don‘t remember seeing Patrick McDermott, which really coincides with what we were told before.  Nothing extraordinary happened on this trip. 

And you know we‘re trying to piece together his financial past and his relationship with his ex-wife.  And you know we may be taking certain things out of context.  We do know that a couple of years ago he tried to secure more visitation with his son and in a declaration to the court, his ex-wife said that he was not the best influence on his son. 

That he wasn‘t aware of his son‘s school schedule.  That he had played hooky with his son.  I‘m looking here.  He had a lack of anger management.  She described dysfunctional behavior.  But that‘s not to suggest that this was the situation, two, three, five, six weeks ago, so we‘re trying to recreate the past and there are big gaps in this story, Dan.  There just are.

ABRAMS:  Yes.  All right.  Jim, sorry we didn‘t get to spend more time with you, but I wanted to give Elaine her say.  And we‘ll have you back on tomorrow, Jim.

Elaine Lampert, thank you so much for taking the time.  We do hope that—we‘ve got that number up the whole time, so if he‘s watching, we hope that he calls or anyone calls. 

Coming up, an island off of the coast of Washington State—this is an unbelievable story.  It sounds idyllic.  You don‘t want to pack your bags and book the next flight I promise you unless you‘re a convicted sex offender.  It is for sex offenders only, an island where they are sent after they serve their time...

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Coming up, you‘ve sent us e-mails saying convicted sex offenders should be locked up on an island.  Well Washington State is doing just that.  We‘ll go inside.  First the headlines. 

(NEWS BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEVE GROENE, SHASTA & DYLAN GROENE‘S FATHER:  This needs to stop here. 

People like this should not be allowed out in public. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  When we report on horrifying crimes like the kidnapping of 8-year-old Shasta Groene and the murder of her 9-year-old brother, Dylan, allegedly by a released sex offender, many of you write in and ask why don‘t these states not release them or why not lock them all up together on an island.  Well I was surprised to find out that one state is doing just that.  We‘ve got an exclusive look at McNeil Island. 

You may have seen my story this morning on the “Today” show.  There‘s a lot more to it that we couldn‘t show, we show you now. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ABRAMS (voice-over):  It‘s an environmental marvel, nestled in the pungent sound off of Washington State, a wildlife preserve reachable only by an occasional ferry.  But think less Maui, more Alcatraz.  Two hundred and twenty-five of Washington‘s most violent sexual predators confined on this remote island after a jury deemed them too dangerous to be released. 

DR. HENRY RICHARDS, MCNEIL ISLAND SUPERINTENDENT:  Being on an island sounds like part of the magical solution to dealing with this severe category of offenders. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  We have 192 cameras within the facility that we can monitor at any given time, nine pan-tilt zoom cameras where we can actually panoramic.  We can zoom in on things.

ABRAMS:  But the special commitment center on McNeil Island isn‘t a prison. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Really very important for us to keep in mind, for all of our staff, that people are not here for any form of punishment. 

ABRAMS:  They‘re called residents.  They‘ve already served their prison time, sent here for treatment.  Superintendent Dr. Henry Richards says they allow the residents to make it feel as—quote—“homey as possible.”

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I think it‘s really very important for us to keep in mind, for all of our staff that people are not here for any formal punishment.  They‘re here for treatment and so we try to make it as pleasant environment as we can. 

ABRAMS:  But critics say it‘s just another round of punishment.  Attorney Dennis Carroll represents more than 60 of the residents. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The reality is nobody leaves.  There are very, very few people who leave.  No one‘s gradually been unconditionally released.

ABRAMS:  That make it unique.  Fifteen other states allow for the confinement of violent sex offenders even after they‘re released from prison.  McNeil is the oldest and the only one on an island. 

DENNIS CARROLL, ATTORNEY FOR COMMITTED SEX OFFENDERS:  We‘re locking people up under this law, not because of what they did, not because we think they‘re definitely going to re-offend, because we think that they might re-offend. 

ABRAMS:  Convicted pedophile Richard Scott has been at McNeil for two and a half years. 

RICHARD SCOTT, MCNEIL ISLAND RESIDENT:  We have a whole bunch of guys here that are actually incapable of chasing someone that committed a violent offense because they‘re bedridden or they‘re in a wheelchair.  We have a (UNINTELLIGIBLE) program that 75 percent of the population are not in so they really are just doing time here again for the same crime they already did time for. 

ABRAMS:  The U.S. Supreme Court rejected that argument in 1997, ruling that states could keep dangerous sex offenders with mental abnormalities off the streets, even after they serve their sentences. 

RICHARDS:  The nature of the offenses too, have to be predatory, so they involve strangers or they involve relationships established solely for the purpose of sexual exploitation and most sex offenses don‘t occur necessarily under those situations.  So we‘re already talking about a really small group of people. 

ABRAMS:  In 2001, a federal judge ordered the state to create a halfway house, an all filing facility that would allow the lowest risk offenders an opportunity to blend back into society.  But even that institution, which opens next month in Seattle, is hard to distinguish from a prison. 

MARK DAVIS, SEX OFFENDER HALFWAY HOUSE MANAGER:  They‘re on a GPS system which acts essentially as a house arrest monitored when they‘re physically here.  If they were to leave the facility, it would notify us immediately.  But they‘re also contained within a  -- the grounds which are secured.  They‘re secured using you know magnetic locks on doors, strong doors, safety glass and secure fencing. 

ABRAMS:  Ida Ballasiotes, who fought to help create the McNeil facility after her 29-year-old daughter Diane was raped and killed by a released sex offender, prison-like conditions are exactly what they deserve. 

IDA BALLASIOTES, DAUGHTER MURDERED BY SEX OFFENDER:  I‘ve heard people say oh, well let‘s get them treatment.  You know they‘ll never get their lives together if we don‘t.  Well I‘ll tell you, they‘re not going to get their lives together.  It‘s not just going to happen.  People don‘t want sex offenders in their neighborhood.  It‘s just that simple. 

ABRAMS:  A seemingly simple thought with a seemingly simple but controversial solution. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ABRAMS:  So coming up, is it a good idea?  We‘ll debate with some of the people you just saw in that story. 

And our continuing series, “Manhunt: Sex Offenders on the Loose”, our effort to find missing sex offenders before they strike again.  We continue this week‘s search in Alaska. 

Danny Kneedler, convicted of sexual assault in ‘82, hasn‘t registered with the authorities.  He‘s 59, 5‘9”, 300 pounds.  If you have any information about where he is, please call the Alaska Department of Public Safety, 907-269-0396.

Back in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Coming up, sex offenders kept on an island even after they‘ve served their time.  A debate about our exclusive story coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KEVIN AMBERS, CONVICTED RAPIST:  More fearful of spending the rest of my life in prison or be at this treatment facility and not having the opportunity because of the stigma that is attached to sex offenders and how we‘re portrayed as possibly recommitting offenses. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  One of the residents at McNeil Island, that remote island off of the state of Washington where some of the state‘s most violent sexual predators are confined after they‘ve served their prison sentences.  A controversial place, one what seems like a great idea to a lot of people.

Joining us now from Washington, former state representative, Ida Ballasiotes, who helped pass the law, setting up McNeil Island after her daughter was killed by a released sex offender.  David Hackett, the lead prosecutor in Seattle‘s sexually violent predator unit, and Dennis Carroll, an attorney who represents more than 60 of the sex offenders on the island.  Thank you to all of you for coming on the program.

All right, Mr. Carroll, let me start with you.  What is your biggest gripe with the island?  You know that it‘s probably politically popular that people like the idea of convicted sex offenders being away from everyone else.  What‘s your biggest gripe with it?

CARROLL:  Well certainly it‘s a popular idea and it has broad public support.  My biggest gripe is that it‘s a serious intrusion on people‘s civil liberties.  There is this notion in American justice that if you do your time, you‘re going to get out and you‘re going to have an opportunity to reintegrate yourself into the society. 

ABRAMS:  But hasn‘t the U.S. Supreme Court...

CARROLL:  Another...

ABRAMS:  ... addressed that issue?  I mean the U.S. Supreme Court said it is constitution.

CARROLL:  Absolutely.  I—that‘s true.  The U.S. Supreme Court has up upheld this law as many other courts throughout the United States. 

ABRAMS:  So is there any specific problem you have with McNeil Island in particular? 

CARROLL:  Well the Washington experience is interesting in that the McNeil Island facility, the special commitment center, has been under a federal court injunction since 1994 for providing inadequate treatment in inadequate condition conditions.  In fact, for several years they were held in contempt by the federal court because they were not making progress in the injunction. 

They have done better in the past few years, but still, the reality is, nobody‘s graduated from that program to reach the point of unconditional release.  We‘ve had 15 years of this law and we have, what, 10 people out on conditional release.  That to me says the real purpose of this law is to not let anybody out.  And that‘s how it was sold to the courts as being constitutional.  That we‘re not only going to protect the public...

ABRAMS:  Yes.

CARROLL:  ... but we‘re also going to provide treatment and a light at the end of the tunnel...

ABRAMS:  All right.  David Hackett, how do you justify that no one has graduated? 

DAVID HACKETT, SEATTLE SEX CRIMES PROSECUTOR:  Well it comes down to we file on the worst of the worst of the worst sexually violent predators.  These are people that rape and molest children again and again and again, and we do provide a treatment program for them.  We give them that option.  Many of these people like the Mr. Scott that you interviewed and the Kevin Ambers, they don‘t want to do treatment.

They don‘t want to get better, at least they haven‘t availed themselves to do everything they need to get back in to society.  When we do release them, we look at conditional release where they‘re closely monitored.  Because of this population, I don‘t think we‘re going to see a lot of people make it through that program, but we give them the opportunity and the tools to do that if they so choose.

ABRAMS:  I think Dr. Richards summarized it well when he said this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICHARDS:  No one is ever cured of these disorders.  In my view, it‘s very, very rare. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  And Ida, I would assume that as a result, you don‘t have a problem with the fact that no one‘s graduated. 

BALLASIOTES:  No, I don‘t, Dan and I think what should be made clear is that someone cannot participate in treatment, though the residents don‘t feel well, that that‘s part of the condition of release.  It‘s not really complicated.  So they‘re sitting there not going to treatment and just being...

ABRAMS:  What about those who do go to treatment, Ida?  What if they did go to treatment?  What if a doctor said all right, you know what, this person‘s been going for three years.  We think that...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  ... they‘re getting better.  Would you then oppose anyone being released from the island? 

BALLASIOTES:  I think conditional release is the thing that we can hope for.  There has to be some supervision of these individuals, where they go, who they associate with.  Their past behavior would indicate what future behavior might be and I know many defense attorneys don‘t agree with that.  But they take into consideration those residents and inmates and fail to remember that there were a string of victims with these people. 

ABRAMS:  Mr. Carroll, what about that? 

CARROLL:  Well certainly scientists will tell you that the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior, but this is a diverse group of people at this special commitment center.  Many of them like Mr. Ambers has been in treatment for a number of years and has made progress in the treatment program.  I think more folks should be given an opportunity to transition out of the facility and go to the halfway house that they have on McNeil Island, if you want to call it a halfway house, as well as to the Seattle facility that they‘re going to open up fairly soon. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  Ida Ballasiotes, David Hackett, Dennis Carroll, thank you all so much.  It‘s an important issue, a very creative solution, and I look forward to continuing to follow what they‘re doing there.  Appreciate you all taking the time. 

BALLASIOTES:  Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Thank you, Dan. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Thanks, Dan. 

ABRAMS:  Coming up, I say it‘s time to stop the hypocrisy about coverage of the Natalee Holloway case.  I‘m going after some people.  It‘s my “Closing Argument”.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  My “Closing Argument”—what is it about the Natalee Holloway story that turns generally well-intentioned and intelligent media folks into raging hypocrites?  It‘s time for all of us to put up or shut up, so let me be clear from the outset.  We cover this story a lot.  We also cover a lot of other stories.

Other shows cover it more than we do, but we cover it.  And it is for you the viewer to decide how much of it you want.  But I think some of the others are panicked that the next time they‘re at some elite media party, they‘ll be scorned by their friends for having covered the story.  The latest self-loathing comes from CNN and ABC‘s “Good Morning America”.

Quote—“It‘s easy and it‘s brainless, said CNN president Jonathan Klein in defense of sportscaster Bob Costas‘ refusal to fill in on “Larry King Live” when the producers wanted to cover the Holloway story.”

I talked about this a bit after Anderson Cooper went after this show and others for covering the Holloway case while continuing to cover tabloid stories himself.  Look, there‘s no question in terms of international significance or in accessing what is truly newsworthy.  In the old school sense of the term, there is no way to justify covering the Aruba story.

And yet CNN makes all sorts of excuses.  Well, sometimes it may be newsworthy or Larry King chooses his own topics.  You can‘t have it both ways.  What about Bob Costas, long one of my favorite sportscasters.  What did he think when he agreed to fill in for Larry King for four weeks?  Did he think they‘d cover the healthcare debate ever? 

Larry interviews old school celebrities, survivors of weird stuff, newsmakers on occasion, but often covers tabloid stories.  I‘m not criticizing the show.  It‘s a successful, highly rated interview show.  King is a legend.  I respect the man, but that‘s what they do.

Then on “Good Morning America” today, correspondent Heather Cabot reported that NBC was hauled into court after obtaining video of suspect Joran van der Sloot behind bars.  She turned it into a broader piece about media coverage and concluded saying—quote—“Many media outlets including this one devoted considerable air time to this story and perhaps this latest story will help stem this feverish coverage.”

(UNINTELLIGIBLE) they need Aruban court provided aspirin to bring down their fever?  Is this some epidemic beyond their control?  Why can‘t these other networks just be honest with the viewers?  It‘s an interesting story.  Many people are fascinated.  Many of us have come to feel for the Holloway family, to feel like we have a personal stake in the outcome. 

Others who cover it more than we do have tried to make insincere arguments about why the case is a crucial lesson in crime solving and international justice, but come on, that‘s nonsense.  It‘s a fascinating crime story.  Look, I have no problem with those who frown on the amount of coverage this story has received.  I get it.  But to use a metaphor, if you‘re wearing leather, you can‘t also claim to be upset that the cow has been killed.

Coming up, in fact, last night we decided not to cover Aruba in our program.  Some of you say if we do that, you‘re not watching.  Your e-mails are up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  I‘ve had my say, now it‘s time for “Your Rebuttal”.  For all the people who complained that we cover the Natalee Holloway story too much, we didn‘t last night.  Some of you angry about that.

Jackie Robertson, “I love you and your show, but I do not care about Olivia Newton-John‘s friend.  I wait all day to hear the news about Natalee.”

P.J. Brogan, “Last night you had no coverage on her disappearance.  If you are not going to cover it, I am not going to watch your show.”

Come on, P.J., there was nothing going on in the story until after our show was over.  I‘ll cover it, but I‘m not going to just put it on so we say we did the story.

Your e-mails abramsreport—one word -- @msnbc.com.  We go through them at the end of the show.  Please include your name and where you‘re writing from because if you don‘t, we almost certainly won‘t air your e-mail.  If you give your name, we will.  You can --  I mean I‘d prefer both.  That‘s what I‘m saying, but I‘m just saying that we‘d prefer...

That does it for us tonight.  Coming up next, “HARDBALL” with Chris Matthews.  Have a good night.

END

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