Guests: Mathew Staver, William Schaffner, Greg Evans, Jean Casarez, Emily Stallard, Linda Sharp, Joseph Bruno
DAN ABRAMS, HOST: Coming up, breaking news in battle over Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers.
ABRAMS (voice-over): An influential conservative legal group has just announced they oppose her nomination, demanding the president withdraw it.
And the man New Orleans police appear to be punching here fights back.
Officers say he was drunk. He says he hasn‘t had a drink in 25 years.
Plus, Robert Blake didn‘t testify in his criminal trial, but now in the civil trial, he‘s telling his story under oath about the night his wife was killed. It should come as no surprise that at times it‘s been bizarre.
The program about justice starts now.
ABRAMS: Hi everybody. First on the docket tonight, an influential
conservative legal group has announced in the past couple of hours that
they will oppose Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court. The Liberty Counsel -
quote—“announced the president had a number of highly qualified candidates with proven track records and well developed judicial philosophies. He passed over them and chose an invisible nominee.”
We will talk to the group‘s leader in a moment. This comes only hours after the president jumped to Miers‘ defense in an exclusive interview with the “Today” show and for the first time, First Lady Laura Bush chimed in, telling NBC‘s Matt Lauer she thinks some of the criticism maybe based on the fact that Miers is a woman.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MATT LAUER, CO-ANCHOR, “TODAY”: ... conservatives are worried about what‘s going to happen when she gets on the bench and they‘re worried about what‘s going to happen in the future, and I get the feeling and I‘m not sure if this is too strong, I get the feeling some conservatives, President Bush, are feeling let them down by you...
LAUER: ... and they‘re thinking they‘ve supported you for so long and when an issue that is so important to them comes up that you let them down. How would you answer...
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My answer is Harriet Miers is going to be confirmed and people will get to see why I put her on the bench. She is an extraordinary woman. She is...
LAUER: You‘ve said she is the most qualified candidate for the job...
LAUER: Would you agree with that?
LAURA BUSH, FIRST LADY: Absolutely. Absolutely.
LAUER: You had pushed for a woman to be a nominee.
LAURA BUSH: That‘s right. And I know Harriet well. I know how accomplished she is. I know how many times she‘s broken the glass ceiling herself. She is a role model for young women around our country...
LAUER: Some are suggesting...
LAURA BUSH: Not only that, she is very deliberate and thoughtful and will bring dignity to wherever she goes, but certainly to the Supreme Court. She will be really excellent.
LAUER: Some are suggesting there is a little possible sexism in the criticism...
LAUER: ... of Judge Miers...
LAURA BUSH: That‘s possible...
LAUER: ... how would you feel about that?
LAURA BUSH: I think that‘s possible. I think she is so accomplished
and I think people are not looking at her accomplishments and not realizing
that she was the first elected woman to be the head of the Texas Bar
Association, for instance and all the other things. She was the first
woman, managing partner of a major law firm. She was the first woman hired
by a major law firm, her law firm.
GEORGE BUSH: My attitude Matt is when people get to know her, they will see why...
LAURA BUSH: They will.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: Joining us now is Matt Staver, the leader of Liberty Counsel, which has just announced it will not support Harriet Miers‘ nomination to the Supreme Court. Mr. Staver, thanks for coming on the program.
MATHEW STAVER, LIBERTY COUNSEL: Thank you.
ABRAMS: We appreciate it. It‘s fair to say, is it not, that you have a litmus test. If you can‘t say with near certainty that a nominee will vote your way on issues like abortion, church and state, gay rights, and some on the left do the same thing, you will oppose the person and that‘s what is happening here, right?
STAVER: Well I think what‘s clear is that we want a judge who is a judge who has a clear judicial philosophy...
ABRAMS: It‘s a litmus test.
STAVER: Well that would be a litmus test if you are looking at judicial philosophy, not how they‘re going to come out on any particular vote...
ABRAMS: So you‘re OK with someone if they have a clear judicial philosophy, be they left or right?
STAVER: I think be they left or right, as long as they respect the Constitution, they interpret the Constitution, they‘re true to the intent and the purpose of the Constitution, that‘s the key. And right now what we have is an invisible candidate. Frankly, nobody on either side of this debate knows where Harriet Miers stands on any judicial philosophy.
STAVER: She is 60 years of age and she‘s had a long history, a very accomplished one, I applaud her for breaking the glass ceiling and all of the accomplishments that she‘s done, but that doesn‘t qualify her to be a justice of the United States Supreme Court.
ABRAMS: We‘re confusing terms here. On the one hand, you are talking about qualifications and on the other side, you are talking about someone with a clear judicial philosophy. I‘m not sure that the two necessarily go hand in hand. I mean, would you—I‘m guessing and you can correct me if I‘m wrong, but I‘m guessing if there were someone, a candidate with a clear conservative point of view, even if the person wasn‘t—quote—
“qualified”, even if the person hadn‘t been a judge before, even if the person hadn‘t had the experience or even if the person hadn‘t weighed constitutional issues, if you knew the person was conservative, a guaranteed vote on your side, you wouldn‘t be opposing the person?
STAVER: Well probably not, but the issue is not whether they came from an Ivy League school or whether they served on the judicial bench, or whether they‘re an academia, that‘s a side issue and that‘s not why we are opposed to this nomination...
ABRAMS: She‘s not going to vote—you are not convinced she is going to vote your way.
STAVER: We are not convinced that she has a judicial philosophy...
ABRAMS: But let‘s—you keep using that term and I want to figure out what that means. The bottom line is she doesn‘t have a judicial philosophy that you like.
STAVER: That‘s right...
STAVER: ... but nobody knows what that judicial philosophy is. That‘s the problem. I don‘t know whether I like it or not. I just don‘t know what it is and frankly, there is nothing in writing, there‘s nothing in print, there‘s nothing verbally that gives us any idea about how she approaches the Constitution.
ABRAMS: Well here‘s—let me read from your press release.
The president can‘t expect a nominee to begin thinking about judicial philosophy after appointment to the high court. Ms. Miers is 60 years of age and yet we have no clue from her speeches or writings about her judicial philosophy. If she hasn‘t developed a consistent judicial philosophy by now, then how can the president ask us to blindly trust him?
Well look, the president‘s position would be, she does have a judicial philosophy. It is consistent. I know what it is. And let me pull this—this is from the president talking today—number seven here. This is him talking on the “Today” show this morning about this very issue.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: It‘s what I told the American people when I campaigned for president, the type of judge I‘ll pick. I pick that type of person in John Roberts and I picked that type of person in Harriet Miers.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: He‘s saying she has a judicial philosophy and he knows what it is.
STAVER: Well but what is that and I don‘t think anyone really knows. And I think the African Americans and Hispanics and other people that went to the polls and jumped their political lines to vote for the president in 2004 did not do it so that they could simply rely on a trust me nomination...
ABRAMS: Wait. You are doing this for the sake of the African Americans and the Hispanics who crossed over?
STAVER: I‘m doing this for all of the conservatives...
STAVER: ... who really fought hard for this president. This is a defining moment in his career. And I think he has created a political debacle by this particular nomination and instead of galvanizing his conservative base, he‘s frankly fractured it.
ABRAMS: I have to tell you, I appreciate your honesty about this because I‘ve found that some people aren‘t being straight about this. They‘re saying—you know they are using the terms, those generally terms about qualifications and no (INAUDIBLE), you are being straight in the sense that you are saying, we want to know that she is going to vote our way on issues like abortion and gay rights and other church and state issues, et cetera, and you want to be confident that that person is going to vote your way. Am I fair in saying that?
STAVER: I think you are fair to some extent. For example, when President Clinton was president, he nominated Ruth Bader Ginsburg. We knew where she was coming from. We may not have agreed with where she came from, but he nominated her and she‘s been confirmed.
On this particular nominee, it‘s too much of a gamble to nominate someone that frankly nobody knows her judicial record. Nobody knows her philosophy. Not that she has to be a judge, but how does she even look at the entire...
STAVER: ... constitutional approach...
ABRAMS: But again...
STAVER: If she hasn‘t done it in 60 years, I doubt that she‘s going to create a judicial philosophy now.
STAVER: She might be a good candidate...
ABRAMS: But let‘s be clear—again I just want to be clear. You are not talking about just the fact that you want her to have—you wouldn‘t have supported Ruth Bader Ginsburg. You didn‘t, did you?
ABRAMS: Right. OK. So the fact that she had a judicial philosophy wasn‘t enough. You wanted judicial philosophy that supports -- and look, the left does this as well. Don‘t get me wrong. I mean I‘m not suggesting that you are out there alone on this.
I did this in my editorial yesterday talking about John Roberts and the fact that 22 senators opposed him. And I‘m hearing the same—sort of the same kind of complaints. We don‘t know. We don‘t know, et cetera. But let me ask you this. A poll, Pew Research Poll for the people and the press taken between October 6 and 10, 54 percent of conservatives favor the nomination of Harriet Miers. What do you make of that?
STAVER: Well I think that they favor, but I think that favor is going down. And 54 percent is a pitiful percentage when you consider the conservatives that supported President Bush. It should be up in the 90‘s and I think that‘s why this is a political debacle decision that he needs to correct.
I think even if in the end judge—or Harriet Miers because the justice of the United States Supreme Court and only time will tell, I think even in the end, if she has a judicial philosophy with which I am comfortable, I think it sends a wrong message to conservatives that if you have a judicial philosophy, if you have views on these morale issues, you‘ve got to keep...
ABRAMS: Well look and I have a problem with that on both sides. I think that the Senate has created a system where anyone with strong opinions who has written about anything—because the only way that they are forced to answer questions is they have written about the topic, if they haven‘t, then they‘re (INAUDIBLE).
Anyway, Matt Staver, thank you for taking the time to come on the program.
STAVER: Thank you. My pleasure.
ABRAMS: Coming up, a scene out of the movie “Outbreak” that many are now saying could become a reality. A deadly strain of the flu could hit the United States. Now president Bush says the military might be called upon to quarantine neighborhoods, even towns if necessary. The question is that really the best way to do it?
And Robert Blake never took the stand in his murder trial, but he is now in the civil trial against him and shocker, he has got some bizarro things to say in the way only he can say it. We‘ve got some of it on tape.
Plus, New Orleans police caught on tape seemingly punching a man. Now he‘s fighting back, saying they arrested me for public intoxication. I wasn‘t even drinking. We‘ll hear from him and his lawyer.
Your e-mails email@example.com. Please include your name and where you‘re writing from. I respond at the end of the show.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “OUTBREAK”)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have to get everybody else back into their houses. We ought to keep them there.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are not doing that, Sam.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, we‘re not doing it because I just drove through 100 people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: Dustin Hoffman playing a doctor calling for people in a small California town to be quarantined to keep them from spreading or catching a killer virus in the 1995 movie “Outbreak”.
In 2005, there‘s fear a bird or Avian flu virus has killed at least 60 people in Asia in the past two years, could become a worldwide pandemic, predictions ranging from the possibility of 100,000 to two million people dead in this country. Before we discuss whether neighborhoods could be, should be quarantined, NBC‘s Charles Hadlock has more on one city‘s effort to contain the flu.
CHARLES HADLOCK, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Hong Kong, city of six million people, so far this year it‘s free of the bird flu, but the danger is all around. The Avian virus has killed millions of birds, mostly chickens throughout Southeast Asia. The flu has been transmitted to humans in nearby Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia and Indonesia. Experts fear it‘s just a matter of time before the deadly bird flu mutates into a virus that can quickly spread from human to human.
(on camera): Southeast Asia is the perfect starting point for a pandemic where millions of people are in close proximity to each other and to the birds that can carry the deadly disease.
DR. FREDERICK LEUNG, UNIVERSITY OF HONG KONG: You would be surprised how fast that virus can travel from a third world backward country farm into New York City.
HADLOCK (voice-over): Dr. Frederick Leung says it‘s crucial that the first human to human case be reported immediately so that people infected can be quarantined, otherwise it may be too late to stop a worldwide health catastrophe.
LEUNG: The primary immediate response has to be quick.
HADLOCK: It‘s a lesson Hong Kong learned two and a half years ago. The city was ground zero for SARS, a deadly respiratory virus that killed 800 in 2003. The next global pandemic Dr. Leung fears won‘t be spread by birds alone, but by sick passengers on airplanes. Everyone coming off a plane at the Hong Kong Airport is electronically scanned for fever.
Sick travelers are detained and questioned about their contact with poultry. Tourists say they worry about the bird flu, but right now it‘s in a faraway place.
MARTHA ELLARD, SHREVEPORT, LOUISIANA: We just came from Hurricane Rita and Katrina, so we can live through anything.
HADLOCK: But the experts fear this natural disaster in the making could be an even greater calamity.
Charles Hadlock, NBC News, Hong Kong.
ABRAMS: Now at the White House last week, the president talked about the real possibility of imposing a quarantine.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: If we had an outbreak somewhere in the United States, do we not then quarantine that part of the country and how do you then enforce a quarantine. One option is the use of a military disable the plan and move, and so that‘s why I put it on the table.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: Using the military, is that really the way to deal with it?
Would it mean neighborhoods literally be sealed off?
Greg Evans is director of St. Louis University‘s Institute for Biosecurity. He says quarantines may be necessary. And Dr. William Schaffner is chairman of Vanderbilt University‘s Department of Preventive Medicine. He says the flu is a hard disease to quarantine.
Doctors, thank you very much for coming on the program. Appreciate it.
All right, Dr. Schaffner, let me start with you. Look, you are hearing the president there talking about the real possibility of a quarantine; you‘re saying it won‘t work?
DR. WILLIAM SCHAFFNER, VANDERBILT UNIVERSITY: Well I think it‘ll be very hard to make it work. Certainly initially we want to diagnose the imported cases very quickly and institute a voluntary quarantine of their contacts. But we are going to get repeated introductions and influenza spreads much more rapidly than SARS. So the notion of kind of walling off a neighborhood or something like that is unlikely to be very, very effective. It really hasn‘t worked for respiratory disease like influenza in the past.
ABRAMS: This is what the president had to say about isolating it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: Obviously, the best way to deal with a pandemic is to isolate it and keep it isolated in the region in which it begins. As you know, there has been a lot of reporting of different flocks that have fallen ill with the H5N1 virus. And we have also got some cases of the virus being transmitted to person and we are watching very carefully.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: Dr. Evans, if this becomes as serious as it sounds like it might, do you think quarantine may be the only option?
GREG EVANS, ST. LOUIS UNIV. INSTITUTE FOR BIOSECURITY: Yes, I think quarantine is one of the only tools that we have. It‘s how that quarantine is carried out. I‘m not certain that using the military to actually cordon off a city is the right way to handle it.
ABRAMS: Why not?
EVANS: But—well because I don‘t think it will work. I mean American people won‘t stand for it. But you can use the military in an effective way. You can have people quarantined, mandatory quarantine in their homes and the military then has responsibility for bringing food, water to the homes of the people that are quarantined and then at the same time can make sure that the people are under quarantine.
ABRAMS: How do you deal with the fact that the military people are going to be bringing food, et cetera, are going to be then exposed to the virus?
EVANS: Well I mean that is true but they can take protective actions. I mean someone is going to have to and you can‘t quarantine people without providing them with provisions. Is that a possibility? I mean there are protective measures that can be taken.
The military certainly is in a position to learn what those protective measures are using masks and other type of protective clothes and would probably be the best group to be able to do this. We have no other large-scale group that would be able to serve this function during a quarantine.
ABRAMS: Michael Leavitt, the health and human services secretary said this.
It will require school districts to have a plan on how they will deal with school opening and closing. It will require the mayor to have a plan on whether or not they‘re going to ask the theaters not to have a movie, et cetera.
You wouldn‘t disagree with that, Dr. Schaffner, would you?
SCHAFFNER: Oh absolutely not. In fact we encourage it. There is going to be a federal plan, there are state plans, local plans. Indeed my own institution has a plan and we have drilled it further, and so, I think it will be very important to put the emphasis on local public health and local security folks, the local municipalities to control the introductions. I think the military can be terrifically helpful in moving vaccine and moving drugs from point to point around the country. I don‘t think they are going to be terribly useful going door to door. There are just not going to be enough of them.
ABRAMS: Dr. Evans, are we going to really see thousands of Americans dead because of this?
EVANS: Oh yes, I think that there‘s no doubt.
ABRAMS: Really? No doubt?
EVANS: There‘s no doubt if this comes about, there will be thousands of Americans dead. However, what we want to do is reduce the number that are going to die. I mean some people are going to die. There‘s no question about it. I don‘t believe that the local authorities, particularly what we have seen after Katrina, are in a position to be the most effective individuals to actually carry out the logistics of quarantine and isolation.
EVANS: I think that we have to have a federal response to do this.
ABRAMS: And Dr. Schaffner, I was reading a men‘s health article today. They were saying that young people could be the ones who are most at risk, at least based on the 1918 flu?
SCHAFFNER: Well that was the 1918 flu. We have had two other pandemics in ‘57 and ‘68 in which that was not the case. We will just have to see. In any event, Dr. Evans is correct, if we have a pandemic, it will have a major impact on our society, and we would all work, federal and local, to mitigate that impact.
ABRAMS: All right, Doctors, thanks a lot. Dr. Evans, Dr. Schaffner, thanks a lot.
EVANS: Thank you.
SCHAFFNER: Thank you Dan.
ABRAMS: For those of you who thought the absurdity of the Robert Blake trial was over, think again. His dead wife‘s family is suing him now and they‘ve got him on tape talking about the night Bonny Lee Bakley was killed.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERT BLAKE, SUED FOR WRONGFUL DEATH BY WIFE‘S FAMILY: I couldn‘t rouse her. First I thought she was sleeping. I shook her. I saw the blood on her nose and I went for help.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you say anything to her during that time?
BLAKE: Yes, as I was getting in and reaching down for the keys, I said something like, wake up, toots.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: Blake is back in the hot seat and as always it‘s a side show. He already testified for four days in the civil case after being acquitted of murdering Bonny Lee in the criminal case. Blake‘s antics will almost certainly not be overlooked by the jury—here is just a sample from his taped deposition.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BLAKE: Don‘t get cute with me. Now I‘m not going to tell you again.
Now let‘s stick with the facts.
BLAKE: This is not three hours between each question. You just heard me say that. I don‘t care if he made a mistake. I‘m not allowed to make mistakes and neither is he.
BLAKE: Did you hear that?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I‘m hearing...
BLAKE: OK, thank you.
BLAKE: Oh I beg your pardon. Are you unhappy about something? That is a filthy stinking lie. What is it based on? Nothing but your own personal nonsense.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: Joining me now is Court TV correspondent Jean Casarez who is covering the trial. Jean thanks a lot. All right, before we show more tapes and quotes, is Blake as bizarre on the stand as he seems in this deposition tape?
JEAN CASAREZ, COURT TV: He‘s very similar to what we have just heard. You know how we would describe him though? He is highly intelligent, because whatever question is asked of him, he has an answer and it is really a good answer at the outset because for instance Eric Dubin said to him, well when you realized your gun was gone, why didn‘t you take your car? You had the car keys. Why didn‘t you go to the front of the restaurant to go in and get the gun?
And he said that would have been a ridiculous thing to do and started describing all of the streets near the restaurant and how they‘re one way and you couldn‘t park and the only way to go would be to just walk back to the restaurant.
ABRAMS: So he‘s still maintaining that he went back to get his gun from the restaurant and that when he went back to get his gun, lo and behold, his wife got killed in the meantime?
CASAREZ: Right. He didn‘t think she had been shot though. He thought it was a brain aneurysm. He saw blood, just as we heard, in her nose, on her mouth, and thought something had happened to her medically.
ABRAMS: Dr. Blake thought it was an aneurysm?
CASAREZ: That‘s what he initially thought, yes.
ABRAMS: Here is one of the things that he testified to in the trial this week and I want to ask you how this helps his case. This is number one.
He said I didn‘t have much of a life. I was very, very single, very much a loner and there aren‘t many women who will simply just sleep with you and get back on the bus, if you know what I mean. With Bonny, pathetically a part of me required that, that help me make it through the night and I will see you later. Doesn‘t that hurt his case?
CASAREZ: I think the plaintiff would definitely say it hurt his case. That question though came on cross-examination by his own attorney and after saying all of that Peter Ezzell said you know that‘s really humiliating, isn‘t it? So I think the defense wants to get that raw honesty out. They want to ask the questions that everybody wants to know the answers to, but nobody is asking.
ABRAMS: One of the big issues seems to be how many times he changed his story. Look, the evidence against Blake isn‘t circumstantial, physical evidence. It is more sort of what he said, how he acted, the sort of general circumstances surrounding it, how he felt about his wife at the time and the plaintiff‘s attorney said to him how many times would you say you changed your story on the night your wife was murdered?
If you ask me a question that may sound simple to the whole word about how many versions there are about this, I‘d have to say there are versions because I‘m 72 years old. I‘m not a machine and I am dyslexic.
Here is what he said in the taped deposition.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When you talked to the police on the night of the murder, did you tell them the truth?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. At any point after you...
BLAKE: Let me just elaborate on that a little bit.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sure.
BLAKE: I was there for hour after hour after hour. I was interviewed several times by different groups of people. And I was conscious and aware and answered questions. Whether I got vague or irritated or sleepy or even marginally disoriented by the end of all of it, those things are quite possible.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: So Jean translated that means that he is admitting that he has told different accounts.
CASAREZ: Yes, he is and he started off his testimony by just what you said, saying there are versions. And after that then we heard all of the versions. There are inconsistencies. Are there enough though to find him liable for Bonny Lee Bakley‘s murder? Well that‘s obviously up to the jury.
ABRAMS: Is he a good witness? I mean he seems like such a, sort of a nut.
CASAREZ: He‘s a nut, but is honest. Now he‘s an actor, right? So an actor, honesty is what you want for the part...
ABRAMS: Is he a good actor?
CASAREZ: ... so if he‘s acting, he‘s a tremendous actor. If he‘s real up there, it is real honesty that seems to be coming from his mouth.
ABRAMS: And this is the first question that the plaintiff‘s attorney
it‘s number seven—asked Blake. He reportedly responded politely, but that was the end of the niceties.
The plaintiff‘s attorney said, how many times would you say you lied under oath since your wife was murdered on May 4, 2001?
Blake: I couldn‘t make any estimation because I haven‘t lied under oath.
In the end, Jean, do you think—he didn‘t testify in the criminal trial—do you think his testimony in the civil case is going to help him or hurt him?
CASAREZ: Boy, that‘s the question of the year. You know the standard is so different, as you know, in a civil trial. It is more likely than not did he kill his wife. That is an easy standard really. Eric Dubin says that he loves it when Blake just lashes out and is so mean and angry on the stand, that that is the killer coming out. But yet on the other side, you‘ve got a man, a 72-year-old man that to many could be just telling what he believes is the truth.
ABRAMS: The bottom line is that there is an enormous sort of common sense aspect which tells you who else could have done this. I mean the idea that he leaves and goes, gets his gun from the car, and his wife is killed in the meantime certainly wasn‘t happy about being married to Bonny Lee Bakley, but—and he acted—you know there were these people who came in and testified that they asked him—that he asked them to snuff or whack her, et cetera. But they were somewhat discredited on the witness stand and so what you‘ve really got is just the sense that, come on, who else could have done this, right?
CASAREZ: You‘re right. You are so right. More likely than not did he do it, but then you‘ve got the defense case—the defense is bringing on Christian Brando. There‘s a tape where Christian Brando is talking to Bonny Lee Bakley, says you have done so much to so many different men. It is amazing that one doesn‘t come along and put a bullet in your head. So...
ABRAMS: All right. Jean Casarez thanks.
CASAREZ: Thank you.
ABRAMS: Coming up, a desperate search for a missing teenage girl.
Her mother thinks she may have left with an older man that she met online.
We‘ll talk with her mother and one of her best friends up next.
And New Orleans police arrested this man for public intoxication, in the process punched him a few times. Now they are facing criminal charges. The man says he hadn‘t a drink in 25 years. We‘ll hear from him and his lawyer coming up.
ABRAMS: Police in Richmond, Virginia, searching for a missing 17-year-old girl and the man they think she is with. Her mother and a friend of hers join us next after the headlines.
ABRAMS: We are back. Police in Richmond, Virginia are searching for a missing 17-year-old girl and the man they think she might be with. Monica Sharp last seen around 10:30 in the morning on September the 18th, leaving her house to walk her dog. Police and her family seem to think she is with 57-year-old Jeffrey Nichols. She may have left with Nichols after meeting him on the Internet.
Joining me now once again is Linda Sharp, Monica‘s mother, and Emily Stallard, Monica‘s friend. Thank you both for coming on the program. Appreciate it.
All right, Linda, I had a chance to talk to you about some of this last night. Let me ask Emily. Emily, did you ever hear her talk about this guy Nichols or about meeting someone on the Internet, et cetera?
EMILY STALLARD, MONICA SHARP‘S FRIEND: No, sir, I didn‘t.
ABRAMS: So you knew nothing. This was the first time you had ever heard of him was after she went missing and you heard his name?
STALLARD: Right, I didn‘t. And again, like I hadn‘t talked to her in a couple of months since I started going to a different school than hers, so...
ABRAMS: All right, Linda, we talked about this last night. Are you getting any help? Are the tips coming in that have been of use? I mean if she‘s out there with this guy, you would think that you know there would be some way that people would either be able to see him or see her.
LINDA SHARP, MONICA SHARP‘S MOTHER: You really would, but so far, there have not been any credible tips. There have been some tips. The police have investigated those tips, but they have not turned out to be my daughter and the man she is with.
ABRAMS: What is the theory as to how she ended up with this guy?
That he sort of snookered her over the Internet?
SHARP: I really—yes, I think that‘s it, yes.
ABRAMS: That they were in some sort of chat situation and he says (INAUDIBLE) come meet me here and she goes and meets him. She didn‘t say to you, hey mom—what was the last you heard from her?
SHARP: Well I think that she did not plan to meet him on that specific morning because it was just a situation where she was called to get up and take her dog out for a walk. I mean she didn‘t take keys or her purse or any clothes or a suitcase or anything like that. Now she may have discussed this via the computer meeting him someplace at some time. But we don‘t think that that specific morning that she had made a plan to meet him.
ABRAMS: Let me again describe his car, green four-door, 1999 Oldsmobile Alero, Illinois license plate, 6219015. Let‘s put up the full screen number one—there you go -- 6219015, Illinois is the license plate they are looking for. Again, the tip line number for the Richmond police is 804-646-679 -- 6764, sorry, 6764. And Linda, you‘re convinced that this guy has her?
SHARP: I think so, yes.
ABRAMS: All right. Linda Sharp, Emily Stallard, thanks a lot.
SHARP: Thank you very much.
ABRAMS: Coming up, a man beaten by New Orleans cops is fighting back saying he wasn‘t drunk. In fact, he says I haven‘t had a drink in years. We hear from him and his lawyer.
And it turns out Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers does have a paper trail. Newly released letters to President Bush—portions—sound like notes one might pass in high school. My “Closing Argument”.
And our continuing series, “Manhunt: Sex Offenders on the Loose”, our effort to find missing sex offenders before they strike. Our search this week is in California.
Authorities are looking for Glenn Cash, 46, 6-foot, 180, convicted of rape, hasn‘t registered with the state of California. If you‘ve got any information regarding Glenn Cash, please contact the California Department of Justice, 916-227-4974.
ABRAMS: Coming up, New Orleans police caught on tape seemingly punching a man. Now he‘s fighting back saying he wasn‘t even drinking that night. We‘ll hear from him and his lawyer coming up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LT. DAVE BENELLI, NEW ORLEANS POLICE ASSOCIATION PRESIDENT: You have to talk to all the witnesses that were on the scene, and some of the witnesses were federal agents.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: Well now some witnesses have turned up to what‘s been described as an unprovoked beating by police in New Orleans French Quarter Saturday night. We are also hearing now from Robert Davis, the man we‘ve seen punched by police on videotape.
Before we talk to his lawyer, NBC News Carl Quintanilla has the story.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CARL QUINTANILLA, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It‘s impossible to tell what set them off.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I started to walk across the street and bam.
QUINTANILLA: Police say before this videotape was shot, Robert Davis was drunk and not complying with officers‘ commands. They had even pepper sprayed him. But in the French Quarter, where police are experts at managing drunk and belligerent behavior, why would police have trouble restraining a 64-year-old former elementary school teacher who says he hasn‘t had a drink in 25 years and was only looking to buy cigarettes.
ROBERT DAVIS, SUBJECT OF TAPED BEATING: They didn‘t read my rights, anything. All I know is this guy attacked me and said I will kick your (EXPLETIVE DELETED).
QUINTANILLA: The police here are scrambling to salvage their image, worried it will refresh memories of the 1990‘s, when some officers were convicted of cold-blooded murders.
QUINTANILLA: Circumstances have been anything but normal since Katrina. Eighty percent of officers lost their homes while working around the clock. Two committed suicide. All of it clearly had an effect on this officer when he grabbed the TV producer who caught the arrest on tape.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I‘ve been here for six weeks trying to keep my (EXPLETIVE DELETED) self alive and you like (EXPLETIVE DELETED) want to come and (EXPLETIVE DELETED) up my city. Go home!
QUINTANILLA: The officers are not expected to go on trial until January, but prosecutors may be under pressure to make an example of them.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The videotape on its face certainly appears to be extremely incriminating.
QUINTANILLA: Trying to convince a city and a nation their police can still be trusted.
ABRAMS: Robert Bruno is Robert Davis‘ attorney and he joins us now.
Thanks very much for taking the time. We appreciate it.
All right, so...
JOSEPH BRUNO, ROBERT DAVIS‘ ATTORNEY: Joseph Bruno, thank you very much.
ABRAMS: Sorry, Joseph Bruno, I apologize. I don‘t know, you know I‘m not going to sit here, I don‘t think anyone fair minded can watch that tape and try and defend anything that the police officers did there. The question that some have asked is was there or was there not, from your—watching that videotape, any resistance by your client at all. We are going to play it in slow motion as you talk about this.
BRUNO: Well, resistance, the man was attacked from behind and I‘m absolutely certain that he did what anybody would do when attacked from behind. He did what he could to protect himself. You know you have to—
I want one thing to be crystal clear my client has authorized me to say and wants to make this point crystal clear, he doesn‘t make this broad-based indictment against the city of New Orleans, against the police department as a whole.
He, like me, respects the great heroic effort that most of the officers put forth in these past weeks. We have been listening just like you about all the accusations about our New Orleans Police Department. I live here. I don‘t like it. I don‘t want to hear it.
What this is all about is an attempt to make certain that a few bad apples are taken from the force and that we take some action to give you, the public out there, some incentive to want to come to our city and not be concerned and not be worried about walking on Bourbon Street or anywhere in the city and have to be worried about something like this happening...
ABRAMS: Are you satisfied with the way the police have reacted? I mean they immediately took action against these guys.
BRUNO: I‘ll tell you, I am very impressed and so is my client. My client is thrilled that we don‘t have this—and we hope that it goes a step further because what I‘m expecting is for them not to pursue these charges against my client. I mean it‘s utterly preposterous, but we are thrilled.
I think it sends a great message to the community. I think it sends a great message to the country at large. You know this police department is not going to tolerate this kind of behavior.
ABRAMS: All right.
BRUNO: You don‘t have to be concerned about walking on Bourbon Street.
ABRAMS: Let me play this piece of sound from Robert Davis and then I want to ask you about it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVIS: I don‘t know what I did really. I‘m still trying to figure out what I did to get this, you know. The only thing I did, there was an officer on a horse. I remember that, because he was standing—he was on a horse right there, right there. And I asked him...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE)
DAVIS: I asked him about the curfew, because I wasn‘t sure of the time of the curfew.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: So, again, the facts leading up to this—and again, this is not a question in some way meant to justify anything here, but just so we understand all the facts here...
ABRAMS: The facts are...
BRUNO: I know exactly where you are coming from.
ABRAMS: Right. The bottom line is he is saying that he‘s literally walking down the street, he asks a police officer on a horse a question about the curfew, and the next thing he knows, he is being assaulted and attacked by the officers?
BRUNO: Right. And I have to tell you that that is the normal natural reaction to that is to assess and say well what the heck did I do to deserve that and you do question yourself. You do say to yourself well maybe I said something. Maybe my tone was wrong. Maybe—I mean the poor guy in the last couple of days has told me, he says well, maybe my beard was scruffy, maybe my—I had the wrong clothes on.
These are the kind of things that go through your head after you have this kind of experience. And that‘s why it‘s so difficult to deal with. You look at the tape. I mean I just finished talking to Bill O‘Reilly. He wants to know what did you say to do that. And there‘s the automatic presumption there that somehow or other there is a justification for that. There is no justification whatsoever...
ABRAMS: But there is something...
ABRAMS: But there is something in between justification and at least understanding the facts of what it was that set them off, which doesn‘t mean that they are justified in doing what they did. But did he, you know, did he...
ABRAMS: ... say something smart to them...
ABRAMS: ... or talk back. Again, not intended to justify but intended...
BRUNO: No, no...
ABRAMS: ... to get the facts out?
BRUNO: Yes, well you see you know I have been living here my entire life. You have to understand Mardi Gras. You have to understand the policemen during—with crowd control. I tell my own children—I say to my children when you are out in public and you‘re at a Mardi Gras parade and a policeman comes up to you and says stop. You say nothing in response.
You do whatever he tells you to do because we recognize these things as residents of New Orleans. These guys are under extraordinary pressure to deal with the crowds, to deal with the drunks, to deal with all these things, and the problem is that there is frankly a better way to do it. I mean I think the big issue here is of appropriate training...
BRUNO: ... to know before you get into a situation...
ABRAMS: That‘s fine...
ABRAMS: As you said, though, you said you weren‘t indicting the police department as a whole. You were just talking about these three...
ABRAMS: ... individuals. So...
BRUNO: Not at all. Not at all.
ABRAMS: Let me—final question, he was arrested for public intoxication. Let‘s be clear. He has not had a drink for the last 25 years. I mean if a witness comes forward and says I go I go drinking with this guy or I was drinking with him that night, the person is lying?
BRUNO: If that—listen, my client tells me that‘s the case—I was shocked just like you were shocked when he told...
BRUNO: ... on public TV I didn‘t even know that he was in alcoholics...
ABRAMS: But that‘s his position.
BRUNO: He tells me he never had a drink.
ABRAMS: All right.
BRUNO: That‘s his position.
ABRAMS: All right.
BRUNO: And if somebody comes forward, I‘m with you. It‘s like the deal in California. Just, you know if he says I never said the word...
BRUNO: ... and one guy says I heard you say the word, it‘s all over.
ABRAMS: All right.
BRUNO: I agree.
ABRAMS: Joseph Bruno, thank you very much for taking the time to come on the program. We appreciate it.
BRUNO: Thank you.
ABRAMS: And we will have the other side tomorrow night. One of the lawyers for the police officers will be joining us.
A lot of you writing in about that—your e-mails are coming up.
And you‘ve heard conservatives complain Harriet Miers doesn‘t have a paper trail. (INAUDIBLE) but she does. It‘s my “Closing Argument” coming up.
And our continuing series “Manhunt: Sex Offenders on the Loose”, we continue to try and find missing sex offenders before they strike. We‘re in California this week.
Police are looking to locate Samuel Orozco Acosta. He was convicted of lewd and lascivious act with a child, hasn‘t registered with California authorities, 69, 5‘5”, 165.
If you‘ve got any information regarding his whereabouts, please call 916-227-4974. Back in a minute.
ABRAMS: My “Closing Argument”—it turns out Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers does have a paper trail after all. True there are no records of her thoughts on the great constitutional questions of the day. The president‘s Supreme Court nominee has never served on the bench or argued before the high court. Much of her legal work has been for corporations and for Mr. Bush.
But thanks to the Texas State Library and Archives Commission, we can now read some of her personal thoughts on the man who hired her. They‘re embedded in notes, the kind of notes you might find stapled in the back of a ninth grader‘s scrapbook with lipstick kisses in the margin, from a greeting card to then Governor Bush in 1997.
Quote—“Hopefully Jenna and Barbara recognize that their parents are cool, as do the rest of us.”
Whatever the president‘s daughters thought about their dad, the seemingly awestruck Miers seems to be channeling their thoughts in this note from 1995.
Thank you for taking the time to visit in the office and on the plane back. Cool.
And if it‘s possible to flatter your way on to the high court, Miers may have been making an early bid for judicial greatness in this 1997 birthday card.
You‘re the best governor ever, deserving of great respect.
And just to show the admiration ran both ways, here‘s how Mr. Bush answered back. I appreciate your friendship and candor. Never hold back your sage advice. P.S. No more public scatology.
FYI, scatology is generally defined as a sort of obsession with excrement. But Senate investigators for both sides are already at work tracking down any scatological comments.
Coming up, after that police beating in New Orleans, I asked whether the cops being charged could use a Katrina-defense. Most of you are not buying it. Your e-mails are up next.
ABRAMS: I‘ve had my say, now it‘s time for “Your Rebuttal”. Three New Orleans police officers charged with battery after they were caught on tape apparently beating a 64-year-old man on Bourbon Street. We asked, could they claim a sort of Katrina defense? A sort of, we were losing it defense? Most of you don‘t buy it.
Ernest Adams in Southfield, Michigan, “The three New Orleans police officers were allowed to use the excuse concerning the hours they had worked or losing their home, what‘s to prevent any criminal from saying I grew up without a father, I didn‘t finish school, I lost my home. That‘s why I killed 10 people.”
From Lake Weir, Florida, Karla Barrett, “Just because of the situation in New Orleans, that doesn‘t give them a free ticket to act how they did. The man they beat also lived in New Orleans and most likely was under stress too.”
Aeva, a nurse since 1971, from Cape Cod writes, “Nurses and doctors are under the same stresses for the same period of time over and over again. They don‘t resort to assaulting the patients and trust me Dan, the patients are sometimes very combative, spitting, kicking, punching, et cetera.” Oh I‘m sorry Aeva.
But Lauren Allen, wife of a police officer in Washington, D.C. disagrees. “I‘m very upset that you‘re agreeing with the police that are saying these police officers went too far. This situation would never have happened if the person in question cooperated with the police officers in the very beginning, drunk or not.”
Look Lauren, our regular viewers know I like to give the police the benefit of the doubt, but not here. Whether he resisted or not, that sort of beating is almost impossible to defend. In fact, I believe your automatic defense of the police works against all of the hard working police officers who are risking their lives every day. The vast majority of them would never have done this whether somebody was resisting or not.
Your e-mails abramsreport—one word -- @msnbc.com. We go through them at the end of the show.
That does it for us tonight, up next “HARDBALL”. I‘ll see you tomorrow.
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