Guest: Finley Harckham, Donna Rosato, Antonio Carlo
DAN ABRAMS, HOST: Coming up, the New Orleans mayor says parts of the city will open up this weekend though much of the city is still underwater.
ABRAMS (voice-over): And President Bush heading to New Orleans at this hour where he will say this was not a—quote—“normal hurricane”. And the—quote—“normal disaster relief system was not equal to it”.
Is the president still accepting responsibility?
And one of the FBI‘s most wanted fugitives turns herself in after more than 10 years on the run. She admits being involved in stealing millions. We‘ll hear from her.
Plus in Aruba, Joran van der Sloot‘s lawyer fights back. Last night, Natalee Holloway‘s mother made some serious accusations on this program, claiming that Joran kidnapped and raped her daughter even though Joran is now a free man.
The program about justice starts now.
ABRAMS: Hi everyone. First up on the docket tonight, the doors to the city of New Orleans will be opening up again.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAYOR C. RAY NAGIN (D), NEW ORLEANS: This coming Saturday and Sunday we will allow businesses to re-enter the city of New Orleans in the following areas. In the Central Business District, in Algiers, in the French Quarter and in Uptown.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: And starting Monday, residents in some of those areas will be allowed to return back home. Monday the 26th, the residents of the famous French Quarter will be allowed back to their homes. A strict curfew will be enforced and no one allowed out from dusk until dawn. Not the situation everywhere.
NBC‘s Michelle Hofland is in hard-hit St. Bernard Parish where it could be a lot longer before people are going home.
MICHELLE HOFLAND, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Good evening Dan. This is one of the 28,000 structures in St. Bernard Parish. Only 52 are not damaged. You see this here is a TFW (ph). This is a symbol for the unit that came by here, the National Guard. They knocked on the door, they yelled to see if anyone was here, didn‘t hear anything, so they left.
They‘ve been doing that house to house throughout this area. In some parts, they‘re letting people come in and see if there‘s anything left of their homes. The man who lives in that white house with the blue trim, he stopped by just a short while ago. He tried to get in his house and then realized that he had left his keys in Mississippi, but he was looking around.
This is the area where he grew up; this is his brother‘s garage here, a gas station. The cars, many of these were for sale, a couple of them they just bought at auction. They‘re all destroyed. And it‘s not just the floodwaters. The water here was about this deep, but it was also the wind damage around here.
But I also want to point out something else. There‘s some other damages when people come back here. Take a look at what the floodwaters have left behind. It is a thick coating of toxic goo. All the contaminants in the water, they left behind a toxic goo on the ground here, so it‘s dangerous to touch the ground or touch anything that the water has touched.
Another concern, you see this white house with the red trim, the National Guard just told us that there‘s a natural gas leak over there. We‘ve seen some men in white suits with masks on roaming around this area and what they‘re doing is turning off the gas, but there‘s a big concern in many areas around here about the natural gas. And so we‘re told that we can‘t be down here very long, so we‘re going to be leaving in just a short time.
But so far, they haven‘t been going into these houses to see if there are any dead unless the doors are open. We‘ve seen a couple homes that have been marked, the number of dead, but still no one has any idea how many bodies that they‘ll find once they begin going into these homes.
Dan, back to you.
ABRAMS: All right, thanks Michelle in St. Bernard Parish.
And MSNBC‘s David Shuster is standing by for us in New Orleans where the president is expected to arrive in about an hour, make a primetime speech on the Katrina recovery efforts. Here‘s David.
DAVID SHUSTER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Dan, across New Orleans, progress is being made and each step seems to (UNINTELLIGIBLE) get a few more. For example, they have established electrical power to various parts of the city. The water pumps, as you know, rely on that power and so their ability to connect the two has now brought the number of pumps up to speed to 40. Forty pumps are now operating out of about 170, and what that has done is further drain some of the water from the city to the point that about 90 percent of New Orleans is now dry.
The 10 percent that is still underwater, there‘s some suggestions that that water will be there for perhaps a couple of more weeks. A number of things have opened in New Orleans. The port is now taking large traffic, at least during the day. They cannot go at night because some of the navigational aids were wiped out by the storm. The airport has been open for a couple of days. They‘re going to be adding flights there over the weekend, and electricity, water and sewer services are coming to parts of the French Quarter and downtown.
And that has prompted the mayor to suggest that they might actually try and open those areas in New Orleans perhaps as early as next week. On the downside, there are large parts of the city that are dry, but environmental experts say that they are simply uninhabitable. Not only is the sludge and the mud pretty thick, but they have now severe rotting in some of these homes and furthermore, the mold is simply making some of these homes simply useless.
The environmental tests that have done across the city are a mixed bag. In some areas, it is clear that there will not be long-term toxicity. And that is good news because they can simply then bulldoze down some of the homes and buildings and start from scratch. In other areas though they are not sure.
The areas where there were gasoline spills or chemical spills, they‘re still not entirely certain what those areas may look like over the next couple of weeks. But in the meantime, again, the big news is the mayor‘s promising to try and open parts of the French Quarter and downtown New Orleans perhaps as early as next week. One of the big questions tonight is who will come to those areas, aside from the relief workers and the rescue workers who are already in the city.
Dan, back to you.
ABRAMS: All right, David thanks. It seems that people are finally ready to start assessing some blame for what happened. But if you listen closely to the leaders, the mayor, the Louisiana governor, FEMA, the president, they all seem to be saying if we‘re to blame, I‘ll take the heat while also talking about the failure of others. It‘s a big if and in just a few hours, the president is going to make a speech from the heart of New Orleans.
We‘ve just gotten in some quotes of what he‘s going to be saying. That is the live picture of the motorcade of the president arriving. Joe Scarborough, host of MSNBC‘s “SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY”, joins us.
Now Joe, you‘re the perfect person to talk to here because you‘re a conservative. You‘re a former Republican congressman, but you‘re also a straight shooter. You‘ve been very critical of the response at many levels. So I specifically said I want to talk to Joe. I want to find out what Joe thinks about what the president needs to say or not say.
Now we know he‘s going to unveil an unprecedented aid package for victims of the hurricane. But let me read you this, Joe. This is going to be one of the quotes from the speech tonight and you tell me if you think this sounds like accepting responsibility or possibly an excuse.
The storm involved a massive flood, a major supply, and security operation, and an evacuation order affecting more than a million people. It was not a normal hurricane and the normal disaster relief system was not equal to it.
It‘s all true, but is that where he wants to go with this?
JOE SCARBOROUGH, “SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY” HOST: No, absolutely not. I thought that 2001 taught us, September 11, 2001 taught us that we needed to start planning ahead for a catastrophic attack. And of course, what happens if there‘s a nuclear attack in midtown Manhattan? What happens if a nuclear device goes off or a biological weapon goes off in the port of L.A.? I thought that‘s why we were paying taxes. I thought that‘s why we were paying billions of dollars. I thought that‘s why we were restructuring our government in such a way that we can respond to these types of attacks.
I thought that‘s what the 9/11 hearings all last year were about. Some thought it was political theater. At times it was. But still it was supposed to be a wake up call and unfortunately, this has shown that our government, not just on the federal level, but also on the state and local level, still remains ill equipped to handle these type of crises.
ABRAMS: We are watching the president live shaking hands with refinery workers there in Pascagoula, Mississippi.
All right, Joe, you mentioned talking about the comparison to terrorism and again we‘ve got another quote here from what the president is going to say in his speech tonight and he says, in a time of terror threats and weapons of mass destruction, the danger to our citizens reaches much wider than a fault line or a flood plain. I consider detailed emergency planning to be a national security priority.
But your point is it should have been a national security priority before this happened.
SCARBOROUGH: Well, sure. You know, the thing that we‘ve been hearing from the governor of Louisiana and Mississippi, Haley Barbour, and the president is we weren‘t expecting this storm to be so large. We weren‘t expecting it to be catastrophic. If you go back and look at what everybody was saying, not only on my show, but on other shows, Friday night, Saturday on MSNBC and every other news channel, we were predicting that it was going to be a historic storm, a category five going into New Orleans, and it took a quick right turn at the end but nobody knew that.
The bottom line is this. You can still go into Mississippi. We—I saw you there last week. I‘ve got bad news for you. Ron Blome and I were talking last night, the NBC reporter, we still haven‘t seen FEMA arrive, so this argument that gee, this storm was so large we can‘t get enough people down there, we were overwhelmed, it just doesn‘t pan out. Because the fact is they haven‘t even begun the process. One person was told yesterday in Mississippi that we talked to, that they would not be able to file an application with FEMA for three more weeks.
So it‘s not a matter of being overwhelmed, so they had a moderate response to a massive storm. There are a lot of places where we‘ve seen absolutely no response and whether it was a category one or a category five storm, you would expect at least some federal presence there. It remains a colossal failure. The president is going to have to explain why we‘ve been paying all these tax dollars and why we should pay up to $200 billion moving forward to a federal government that again doesn‘t seem to be able to organize itself in a way to protect us.
ABRAMS: I think that‘s a fair point and just so we put it into perspective and we‘re not just—and I know you‘ve been clear about not just talking about the president. You also talk about the failures of the governor and the mayor and the local officials there, et cetera. But it seems all of them are now saying and again this isn‘t just the president. It‘s also the governor. The buck stops here and I accept responsibility.
I don‘t know what that means.
SCARBOROUGH: Well I‘ll tell you what they should say if they want to tell the truth. The mayor should come out and say I was overwhelmed. I didn‘t want to anger my residents. I didn‘t want to force them to go into another evacuation after some had already evacuated for Ivan last year and Dennis this year. Because I can tell you, Dan, politicians are afraid to force mandatory evacuations...
SCARBOROUGH: ... on the residents because then if it doesn‘t hit they get angry at him, so the mayor didn‘t want to enrage his constituents, see a lot of people died because of that. The governor absolutely clueless throughout the entire week. At one point last week when they asked her about the National Guard, she said I don‘t even know what day it is. Again, people died because of the governor‘s incompetence in Louisiana and then the president and his—all the president‘s men, they just weren‘t focused on this...
SCARBOROUGH: You read the accounts, the president wasn‘t really told of what was going on and he was disconnected for 48, 72 hours. People died because of that. They all need to...
ABRAMS: Is it...
SCARBOROUGH: ... step forward and say my fault...
ABRAMS: ... can they do that, Joe, as a political manner? I mean you know look, you know politics. Can they say I screwed up?
SCARBOROUGH: Nothing works better than stepping forward and saying you know what, this storm was bigger than I expected. I should have been ready. We should have had our people on the ground earlier. We failed, but moving forward I guarantee you we‘re going to be working 24 hours a day, seven days a week to make up for that.
They need—because you know the thing is, Dan, this is—what is it, 800-pound gorilla in the room or the huge elephant in the room. Everybody knows that the locals, the state politicians, the federal politicians screwed up. When they get on there and start hedging, they sound like a 21st Century version of Bill Clinton in the 1990‘s. It turns Americans off. They want people to step up and take responsibility, and I haven‘t seen any Harry Truman in this crowd.
ABRAMS: Joe Scarborough, an equal opportunity insulter, getting at everyone. But Joe has been doing some great, great work in Mississippi and for those of you who don‘t know it, you should see the stuff that he and his wife have been doing behind the scenes. It is just amazing—on their own time. That‘s a live picture of the president who is leaving right now, Mississippi, heading to New Orleans Harbor and again, at 9:00 p.m. Eastern Time, he will be making that primetime speech. Joe, thanks a lot.
SCARBOROUGH: All right. Thanks a lot, Dan.
ABRAMS: All right. As I found out last week when I was in New Orleans and even when went back home with a New Orleans native who wanted to see his water logged home, the cost of rebuilding all the destroyed homes will be staggering and yet, most insurance carriers are probably going to say, we‘re not supposed to pay a penny.
And she spent more than a decade on the run, now one of the FBI‘s most wanted fugitives turns herself in. She admits she stole millions, but has an explanation.
Plus out of Aruba, Joran van der Sloot‘s attorney joins us to respond to allegations made by Natalee Holloway‘s mother on this program last night. She said Joran abducted and raped Natalee. But he‘s been set free and all restrictions on his travel have been lifted. We‘ll talk to his lawyer.
Your e-mails firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your name and where you‘re writing from. I respond at the end of the show.
ABRAMS: We have got some breaking news to report to you out of Mississippi. The state has just filed suit against some major insurers that are trying to deny coverage to residents whose homes were wiped out by Katrina‘s storm surge. Attorney General Jim Hood trying to force the insurance companies to pay billions to residents who did not have flood insurance.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JIM HOOD, MISSISSIPPI ATTORNEY GENERAL: When people buy insurance, they‘re buying it—it contains a hurricane provision in there and they assume that they‘re covered for hurricane, whatever damage it does and this exclusion in the fine print says that they‘re not entitled to any coverage for damage done by water.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: Remember, only about the—about three out of 10 homes apparently in the areas of Alabama and Mississippi actually had flood insurance. Many residents in the affected areas realizing that those insurance premiums they were paying every month didn‘t protect them from flood damage. Just realizing it now, many of them. Allstate insurance, one of the companies named in the suit, issued a statement a short time ago saying—quote—“It‘s unfortunate that this action has been taken so soon—they said—the fact is flood insurance protection has been offered by the federal government for nearly four decades precisely because flood damage is not covered by private insurers like Allstate.”
New Orleans, no doubt many insurers will argue that it was the floods from the breached levee, not the hurricane that damaged most of the homes. Probably like the home Stewart Schmidt, who I met last week. He let me join him as he returned to his water logged home for the first time. Remember him?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Didn‘t have to break any glass even. That‘s a good sign.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That is a good sign.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh man.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You all right?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I just want to get some pictures.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right, got it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Your mom and dad?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) oh no, oh no.
ABRAMS: Everything is so much in tact and yet then you just see the water.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) I brought all my plants—my wife had all the plants on the front porch. We moved them all in.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: The water. And that‘s the question. Joining me now is attorney Finley Harckham, who‘s litigated these types of cases for a long time, and Donna Rosato, a writer for “Money” magazine, who has extensively researched this issue as well. Thank you to both of you. Appreciate it.
All right, Mr. Harckham, let me ask you first, in terms of this Mississippi lawsuit, basically the state of Mississippi is saying, yes, we know there‘s some fine print in there which says it doesn‘t quite cover if it‘s water damage, but the attorney general is saying effectively we want that provision suspended. Any chance of winning that?
FINLEY HARCKHAM, ATTORNEY: I think there is, Dan, because what the attorney general is recognizing is that the insurance industry for this catastrophe in Mississippi is essentially saying that the policies that they sold are worthless because on the one hand, they‘re saying there‘s no flood coverage and then they‘re saying it‘s incumbent upon the policyholder whose home no longer exists to prove that there was wind damage that might somehow come into play.
And so what this suit raises is the issue of whether these provisions ought to be voided on grounds of public policy because their—what the policy gives with one hand, it takes away with the other.
ABRAMS: Because when you‘re talking about the effects of a storm, right, I mean to say oh, it covers wind damage, but not water damage is basically saying, well, you‘re only a little bit covered for hurricanes.
HARCKHAM: That‘s right. And then—even then, they‘re saying you don‘t even get the little bit unless you can prove as to a house that no longer exists, the extent of the damage that was caused by the wind and not the water that was driven by the wind.
ABRAMS: But Donna, you all give very sensible tips to people in “Money” magazine about to sort of live your life and how to live an economically sound life, et cetera. Before this all happened, would you all have advised people to get flood insurance? Was that something that was on the radar?
DONNA ROSATO, “MONEY” MAGAZINE: Yes, actually flood insurance is an important thing to get. It‘s something you can research before you—wherever you live, you will know if you‘re in a flood plain or not, but flood is one of the most common causes of damage to a home and it doesn‘t cost that much money. So it would have been a good thing if you thought you were in a flood plain to take advantage of.
ABRAMS: But you can only get it from FEMA, right, and then there‘s a cap on how much you can receive.
ROSATO: There is a federal program that—because private insures don‘t want to offer flood insurance, there‘s a federal program that make its available, so you can get it if you want it.
ABRAMS: Finley, the insurance industry is going to say something similar to what Allstate said, which is you know flood insurance has been offered for a long time. People have known that flood insurance is out there for nearly four decades, they say, and the reason flood insurance, they‘ll argue, is offered by FEMA, by the federal government is because private insurers don‘t cover for floods. How do you get around that legally?
HARCKHAM: Well that is all true, but what has not been made clear to homeowners is the extent of the exclusion for flood. And I think the way you get around it legally is you say you can‘t give coverage for one herald (ph), wind, and then take it away because the effect of the wind is the flood and there is some precedent in various states where these types of provisions have been challenged.
ABRAMS: And what about New Orleans? I mean New Orleans is really the big question there, right, because you‘ve got a levee that‘s been breached that caused the vast majority of the damage and I would assume that a lot of the insurance companies are going to say hey, it was the floods. It was the water. It wasn‘t the hurricane directly.
HARCKHAM: Right and yet, there—if there was—if it‘s the breaking of a levee, it‘s not a classic flood situation of the river overflowing its banks. There was some other intervening cause that came into play.
HARCKHAM: I think the big thing to keep in mind as this case works its way through the courts is to remember the lesson from 9/11 when the insurance company cried foul and said they never intended to cover terrorism, that they were going to be bankrupted by terrorism claims and they turned around and had record profits the following year. They raised their rates and they can recoup their losses in no time and—so they‘re not going to be hurt if this lawsuit...
ABRAMS: Very quickly, Donna, you told one of my producers that this was one of those rare instances where you all don‘t have advice really to give people as a result of this.
ROSATO: No, that‘s not true...
ROSATO: ... do have advice.
ABRAMS: All right, then I misunderstood them. OK.
ROSATO: Yes, if you have—if you‘ve been displaced from your home and you don‘t have flood insurance, keep track of all your expenses, apply to FEMA, and there are other things that you can—President Bush is going to announce a whole bunch of financial aid tonight. There‘s going to be political pressure for helping these victims.
ROSATO: So there is something to do.
ROSATO: The best thing you should do right now is document all your costs, everything that you‘ve lost and save all those records.
ABRAMS: You heard her. I‘m glad to hear you guys have advice to give people...
ABRAMS: Finley Harckham, Donna Rosato, thanks a lot. Appreciate it.
ROSATO: Thank you.
HARCKHAM: Thank you.
ABRAMS: As we‘re all glued to our TVs, we met some unforgettable individuals in the story, some of the most heart-wrenching reports brought to us by our own Kerry Sanders. Now here—now an update on one of the most difficult stories that Kerry filed.
KERRY SANDERS, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As the floodwaters began to rise in New Orleans, thousands of hospital patients were evacuated to the international airport. In this sea of human misery, a single hurricane survivor, 91-year-old Mark Juneau, seemed to define the chaos. He called out to me. All he wanted was something to eat and drink.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We‘re just going to do very little sips here for you, OK. There.
SANDERS: Within 24 hours, Mr. Juneau like others, was on a military plane out, but his family had no idea where he was taken.
TONI LIENEMANN, MARK JUNEAU‘S DAUGHTER: When I saw him on the NBC video at the airport with you feeding him the MRE and the water, I said, he will never get out of there. This is it. This is it. He will not survive this.
SANDERS: It was a race to find him.
MARIE SARRAT, MARK JUNEAU‘S DAUGHTER: OK, he is alive and we‘ve always thought that where there‘s life, there‘s hope.
SANDERS: The families called hospitals in Houston, Dallas, Birmingham, finally in metro Atlanta.
LIENEMANN: Bingo. That was it. And what a feeling. That is probably the best feeling I‘ve ever had in my whole life.
SANDERS: The farm boy from Meckler (ph), Louisiana, the veteran Navy man who fought in World War II was in rough shape. Dehydrated, the trauma was taking its toll. But it was not the first time he‘d faced odds.
SANDERS: During World War II, munitions explosions at sea put him in and out of the hospital for three years.
SARRAT: He was supposed to die when that detonator blew up in his hands. He was 29 years old and he should have died at 29 years old, and he didn‘t.
SANDERS: Six days after locating their father, he passed away. His family says Mark Juneau will be buried next to his wife, Emma (UNINTELLIGIBLE) near New Orleans.
Kerry Sanders, NBC News, Gulf Breeze, Florida.
ABRAMS: Coming up, she was living on the run for 12 years after driving away with millions in a stolen armored truck, so why did one of the FBI‘s most wanted turn herself in?
And later, Natalee Holloway‘s mother was on the program last night making some serious allegations against Joran van der Sloot, the young man she believes killed her daughter in Aruba. He‘s now free. A court ruled yesterday to lift any restrictions on his travel. Tonight, Joran‘s lawyer responds.
Don‘t forget tune in tonight, 9:00 p.m. Eastern Time, President Bush addresses the nation from New Orleans.
Stay with us.
ABRAMS: Coming up, our effort at making the hearings for Supreme Court-nominee John Roberts, a little more exciting. Let‘s just say it‘ll be short, sweet, and have a beat. First the headlines.
ABRAMS: We‘re back. The last two days, we‘ve been analyzing the questions and answers in the hearing for Supreme Court-nominee John Roberts. Some Democrats trying to get him to answer questions about his views of a variety of issues. Headline, he‘s still not answering questions on a variety of hot button topics, saying it wouldn‘t be appropriate because that issue could come before him when he‘s on the court. So rather than have the same discussion we‘ve been having the last two nights, we‘re going to play you some of the sparring that went on today. And well we‘ve added a little bit of music to try to spice it up.
SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: Now, yesterday as I told you I was sort of confounded by the refusal to answer certain questions.
JUDGE JOHN ROBERTS, SUPREME COURT NOMINEE: I‘ve tried to be as fully expansive as I can be and drawn the line where as a practical matter I think it‘s necessary and appropriate. The basic question, Senator Feinstein, Senator Schumer, what kind of a justice would I be? That is the judgment you have to make.
SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D), CALIFORNIA: Last night, we gave you the Pryor (ph) memo, Senator Durbin asked a number of questions, I asked a few, and you read that memo I hope last night.
ROBERTS: I did, Senator, yes.
FEINSTEIN: Do you believe you were wrong?
ROBERTS: Senator, on the underlying...
FEINSTEIN: Could you say you were wrong if you believed you were wrong?
ROBERTS: Well, I can say the—the reason I‘m hesitating and this is what was brought out in the congressional research service memo that you attached to it, these issues come up all the time in related questions.
SCHUMER: So if you were sitting here, what question would you ask John Roberts so that we could—so that you or us could be sure that we weren‘t nominating what I call an ideologue. Someone who you might define as somebody who wants to make law, not interpret law and then how would you answer the question you asked yourself?
ROBERTS: I begin by saying that‘s a good question.
SEN. PATRICK LEAHY (D), VERMONT: Judge, you‘re really going to miss us, aren‘t you? You‘re going to miss doing this every day. It‘s—you‘re not even going to answer that one, are you?
ROBERTS: Well, it‘s a once in a lifetime experience, Senator.
ABRAMS: I‘m not going to miss these hearings. What a charade. I mean I don‘t blame anyone in particular, but we didn‘t learn anything new about John Roberts‘ judicial philosophy and it didn‘t change nothing, but the music was nice.
Coming up, she‘s been on the run since taking off with millions in a Las Vegas casino heist in 1993. After over a decade on the FBI‘s most wanted list, she turned herself in this morning. We are expecting to talk to her attorneys.
Plus in Aruba, Joran van der Sloot out of jail. Last night, you heard from a very angry Beth Holloway, Natalee‘s mother. Tonight Joran‘s lawyer responds.
Your e-mails email@example.com. Please include your name and where you‘re writing from. I respond at the end of the show.
ABRAMS: We did our first update on the Natalee Holloway case since Hurricane Katrina yesterday with the mother of Natalee Holloway and she is furious that all of the suspects have been released. She made some serious, serious accusations. Joran van der Sloot‘s lawyer responds in a moment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BETH HOLLOWAY TWITTY, NATALEE HOLLOWAY‘S MOTHER: No other 17-year-old Aruban young man would have abducted and raped a young female American tourist. You know, I just—it‘s just incredible that this Dutch young man chose to you know commit this horrendous crime against Natalee.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: Beth Holloway Twitty on this program last night making some very serious allegations against Joran van der Sloot who was released from jail almost two weeks ago, now is in the Netherlands where he‘s attending a local university.
The allegation is so serious we felt it only appropriate to again reach out to Joran‘s attorney. Antonio Carlo joins me now and I wanted to give you the opportunity to respond to Beth Holloway Twitty‘s comments. Thanks very much for coming on the program. What do you make of it?
ANTONIO CARLO, JORAN VAN DER SLOOT‘S ATTORNEY (via phone): No, first of all, you know, I‘m not going to comment on those allegations made by Mrs. Twitty. You know my client responds only to the courts of Aruba (UNINTELLIGIBLE). The court of appeals decided yesterday that there was no sufficient grounds to continue the pretrial detention. And this pretrial detention has been terminated and I think, you know, this decision of the court of appeals has to be respected.
ABRAMS: Why do you think that the prosecutors and Beth Holloway Twitty are so convinced that your client is involved and yet, it seems that the court is simply saying that there‘s just not enough evidence?
CARLO: OK, you know our legal system, if the court of appeals says there is not enough evidence, that‘s for me a final decision and I‘m not going to argue or doubt that decision.
ABRAMS: Let me—here‘s something significant, all right. Because she made some specific points about statements that she had seen. Let me let you listen to Beth yesterday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TWITTY: I have seen several of Joran‘s statements and I don‘t know why he was released. I hope that these statements were not withheld from evidence presented before the judge of instruction because they are hugely, hugely showing his involvement in this crime against Natalee. I mean he has her coming in and out of consciousness, repeatedly throughout his statements. You know he admits to bringing her to his home and even gives a date and a time, 1:40 a.m. on May the 30th and has sex with her in his home.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: Mr. Carlo, she‘s saying saw specific statements that your client made and that sound incriminating.
CARLO: Again, my client is not accountable to Mrs. Twitty. He is accountable to our legal system. The court of appeals has spoken. The court of appeals has full access to all the files and the court of appeals have held there is no sufficient grounds to continue his pretrial detention and that‘s the end of it.
ABRAMS: But can you just tell me is that not true what she just said?
CARLO: Again, I‘m not going to comment on those allegations made by Mrs. Twitty because my client is not accountable to Mrs. Twitty. My client is accountable to the court of Aruba and he has been held accountable and the court of appeals...
CARLO: ... has decided there is no sufficient evidence. That‘s the end of it.
ABRAMS: No, I mean there‘s no question that‘s what the court has held. I would think you might want to help though clear your client‘s good name in addition to in the legal system.
CARLO: No, I believe that his good name has been cleared by this decision of the court of appeals. I have no problem with the decision of the court of appeals. So you know, my client is satisfied with the decision of the court of appeals and you know that‘s the end of it.
ABRAMS: What is he up to, Joran?
CARLO: No, he‘s now focusing on his studies in Holland and that is what he‘s doing right now. He‘s trying to continue with his higher education and that is what he‘s up to right now.
ABRAMS: Antonio Carlo, thank you for taking the time. Appreciate it.
ABRAMS: Why would one of the FBI‘s most wanted fugitives on the run for 10 years turn herself in? Heather Catherine Tallchief accused of being the get-away driver in an armored truck heist back in ‘93, apparently said she was tired of running and wanted to give her 10-year-old son the chance to live a normal life. The 33-year-old spoke publicly today before turning herself in, describing what it was like to say goodbye to her son and explaining the strict orders that she got from her accomplice, Roberto Solis.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HEATHER CATHERINE TALLCHIEF, FUGITIVE WHO SURRENDERED TODAY: What he told me was today I want you to follow these orders, that you listen well, carry these plans out without fail and then he gave me instructions on how to drive the vehicle step by step, street by street to a predestined garage. He was certainly someone I listened to and I obeyed and I respected so I—if he said to do a certain activity or a certain thing, I‘d follow through diligently.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All this time, you were basically in hiding. Were you worried, looking over your shoulder, worrying is today the day that the cops come for us?
TALLCHIEF: No, I was too busy being a mother. I didn‘t have time to think about those things. I had motherly duties to attend to.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not at all, never in that whole period.
TALLCHIEF: I basically put that thing very far back in my mind and pretended like it didn‘t exist because it‘s a hard thing to confront. Maybe I would scare myself or mentally collapse. I don‘t know. But my way of dealing with something extraordinarily tremendous as this was to, not think about it much. And if I did, I probably would try to think of something more pleasant.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Have you talked to your son today?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No. When was your last conversation with him?
TALLCHIEF: Monday morning when I took him to school.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What did you tell him?
TALLCHIEF: I told him—this is hard. Have fun at the sporting club and do some work. And yes, and yes, I‘ll see you soon. When I say soon, it will be in the near future, not a long future. I want to be positive and optimistic, so I will say I‘ll see him within a year‘s time, give or take. I‘m hoping. I came with a plan and I feel that we‘re going to achieve it and I don‘t feel that this is wrong. This is the right thing so I never had a doubt.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: Yes, well now she‘s turned herself in after all those years.
Coming up, did you know there‘s a levee board in New Orleans. That‘s what they do. They deal with the levee. Apparently though, they had some other priorities when the red flags were waving about the city‘s levee system, coming up.
Plus your e-mails on the Natalee Holloway‘s investigation, many of you were happy about our segment last night and as always, others not. (UNINTELLIGIBLE)
ABRAMS: With many residents of New Orleans heading back to their homes as early as Monday, we are learning about a group of officials who were supposed to be responsible for maintaining the levees. It turns out those officials may have focused on other priorities that didn‘t include levees at all.
NBC‘s chief investigative correspondent Lisa Myers has the story.
LISA MYERS, NBC CHIEF INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It‘s called the Mardi Gras Fountain and its unveiling was celebrated this year in typical New Orleans style.
MYERS: The cost, $2.4 million, paid by the Orleans Levee Board, the state agency whose main job is to protect the levees surrounding New Orleans. The same levees that failed after Katrina hit.
BILLY NUNGESSER, FORMER LEVEE BOARD PRESIDENT: They misspent the money, so any dollar they wasted was a dollar that would have went to the levees.
MYERS: Billy Nungesser, a former top Republican official, was once president of the Levee Board and says he lost his job because he targeted wasteful spending.
NUNGESSER: A cesspool of politics. That‘s all it was. Provide jobs for people and state senators and you know contracts, giving out contracts.
MYERS: In fact, NBC News has uncovered a pattern of what critics call questionable spending practices by the Levee Board, a board which at one point was accused by a state inspector general of a longstanding and continuing disregard of the public interest. Beyond the fountain, there‘s $15 million spent on two overpasses that helped gamblers get to Bally‘s riverboat casino. Critics tried and failed to put some of that money into flood protection, $45 million for private investigators to dig up dirt on this radio host and board critic, then another $45,000 to settle after he sued.
ROBERT NAMER, LOCAL RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: They hired a private eye for nine months to find something to make me look whacko, to make me look crazy or bad.
MYERS (on camera): Critics charged for years the board has paid more attention to marinas, gambling and business than to maintaining the levees. Example, of 11 construction projects now on the board‘s Web site, only two are related to flood control.
JIM HUEY, LEVEE BOARD PRESIDENT: I will assure you that you will find that all of our money was appropriately expended.
MYERS (voice-over): Levee Board president Jim Huey says money for the levees comes from a different account than money for business activities. And that part of the board‘s job is providing recreational opportunities.
And despite the catastrophic flooding, Huey says...
HUEY: As far as the flood protection system, it is intact. It is there today. It worked. And 239 miles of levees, 152 floodgates, canals throughout this entire city, there were only two areas.
MYERS: But those two critical areas were major canals. And their collapse contributed to hundreds of deaths and widespread destruction.
Lisa Myers, NBC News, Washington.
ABRAMS: Coming up, many of you writing in angry about what Natalee Holloway‘s mother said on the show last night. Your e-mails are next.
ABRAMS: We‘re back. Now it‘s time for “Your Rebuttal”. Louisiana authorities charge the owners of a nursing home with 34 counts of negligent homicide after 34 bodies were found there. The victims allegedly left to die by nursing home administrators who didn‘t evacuate ahead of Katrina.
Don Martin from Bradenton, Florida, “If the nursing home owners are being charged, why shouldn‘t all of the parents of children that were not evacuated after the call for a mandatory evacuation be charged with child endangerment?”
From Chicago, Illinois, Rich Gibson, “They eventually did evacuate some of the residents, but failed to get everyone out. I think the owners would be hard pressed to say we thought we‘d be safe and then upon discovering there was water rising that 34 people lost their lives.”
Last night I spoke to Beth Holloway Twitty, the mother of missing Alabama student Natalee Holloway, missing from Aruba since May 30.
Jeanmarie Miller from Flint, Michigan, “Natalee‘s mother made a comment that the Aruban government was trying to hide behind Katrina in making some of the recent rulings in the cases against Joran van der Sloot and the Kalpoe brothers. Was she suggesting that the Aruban justice system should have been put on hold until her daughter‘s story was once again front page news?”
Howard Aronoff, “I object to you continuing to allow Natalee‘s mother, Beth, to make totally unsubstantiated claims that Joran van der Sloot and the two Kalpoe brothers raped and killed Natalee. She continues to refer to a myriad of statements made by the three, which support the claim. I can‘t recall a single time that these so-called statements were acknowledged by Aruban officials. At best they are the result of leaks from unauthorized people and might even be invented out of thin air.”
Howard, you‘re right that they‘re unsubstantiated and I made that point, but regardless, don‘t expect the Aruban authorities to acknowledge it the same way American authorities wouldn‘t either. I also don‘t care if they were leaked by unauthorized individuals. I only care if it is true. And you‘re right. We do not know if it is true. And that‘s why we had on his lawyer tonight.
From Beckley, West Virginia, Frances Thompson. “I know the Katrina coverage and Supreme Court coverage is more important right now, but I appreciate the time you gave to let us know how things are going in the Natalee Holloway case.”
But J. Doyle from San Francisco, “Taking time away from the tragedy of likely thousands of mainly poor African Americans to again present the Aruban story suggests the disappearance of one rich white girl is somehow on par. It is not.”
Well considering it is the first time we did a segment on it after weeks of 24-hour Katrina coverage, it is hard to argue that we‘re suggesting it is on par and I think actually I made the point in response to someone who wrote in that many of my viewers probably disagree that we‘re not doing enough Natalee Holloway coverage.
A number of you writing saying you want more, more, more. I‘ve got to tell you, I don‘t think the majority of you want that, but I know, I know. People are going to write in and say yes you do.
Your e-mails firstname.lastname@example.org. “HARDBALL” with Chris Matthews up next. See you tomorrow.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.