Guest: Aitan Goelman, Victoria Toensing, Carrie Gordon Earll, Jack Gyves,
Tammany Fields, Bill Morrison, David Leavitt
DAN ABRAMS, HOST: Coming up, “Scooter” Libby pleads not guilty in the CIA leak case.
ABRAMS (voice-over): Lawyers for the vice-president's former chief of staff say he's not looking for a deal. Just looking for his day in court. And a new report suggests Karl Rove may still have legal problems ahead as well.
And after a group of elementary school students were asked explicit questions about sex, in a school board survey, the parents sued saying they should be the only ones to teach their kids about sex. They lost.
Plus, why did Dr. Phil go on “The Tonight Show” last night and say there's credible evidence that Natalee Holloway is alive, possibly part of a sex slave ring?
The program about justice starts now.
ABRAMS: Hi, everybody. First up on the doctor, Lewis “Scooter” Libby in court and pleading not guilty to five federal charges today including perjury and obstruction of justice. He was indicted Friday after an investigation into who leaked CIA operative Valerie Plame's identity to the press. Libby's lawyers confirmed today that he will not seek a plea deal.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... pleading not guilty. He has declared to the world that he is innocent. He has declared that he intends to fight the charges in the indictment and he has declared that he wants to clear his good name, and he wants a jury trial.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: OK, if that happens it seems almost certain Vice President Dick Cheney and Karl Rove would be called to testify. We're joined now by former federal prosecutor Aitan Goelman and MSNBC's chief Washington correspondent Norah O'Donnell.
All right, first of all, Aitan, from a legal standpoint, him coming out and saying look, we're not looking for a deal here. Does that mean there won't be a deal?
AITAN GOELMAN, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Of course not. You know it means that the posture that his lawyers are striking now and it's probably the smart one. And look, by hiring Ted Wells and Bill Jeffers (ph), those aren't two guys that you normally go to if you want to fold. But he could be just sending signals that he is going to be tough and might eventually want to—sorry, go ahead.
ABRAMS: But don't you usually plead? I mean wouldn't it—if there was a plea here, wouldn't it have probably already happened before these indictments were handed up?
GOELMAN: Not necessarily. No. Well, you know, Dan, arraignment is basically a nonevent. Everybody goes in and pleads not guilty, so that doesn't mean anything. But in terms of whether he would have struck a deal with the special prosecutor beforehand, I don't know that that's all that typical in these kind of cases and trying to you know beat the indictment and throw yourself on the sword. I mean this is a guy until—who until last week didn't know for sure that he was even going to be indicted.
ABRAMS: Yes, but Norah, as a political matter, are they prepared to have Vice President Cheney, other administration officials coming in and being forced to testify about all of this?
NORAH O'DONNELL, MSNBC CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Well, certainly Republicans don't want that to be the case and have argued that Libby should try and strike a deal. I noted, with interest, that Ted Wells, who is Libby's new high-powered lawyer that he has brought in today said we are not going to try this case in the media, which rather than the tradition use, if you will, of that term, I thought what Wells was trying to say is listen, we're not going to leak this stuff. We're going to do it behind closed doors noting the sensitivity, the political sensitivity involved.
Nevertheless, for the vice president to have a come to a trial and serve as a witness, perhaps, to defend or help his former chief of staff get off the hook would be very damaging and we're not just talking about—remember, exactly what the indictment by the special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald alleges. It says that even before Libby talked to any reporters that he had learned from four different government officials about Valerie Plame's identity and then he discussed it with seven government officials. All those officials who...
O'DONNELL: ... serve in the White House, State Department would all have to testify presumably as well.
ABRAMS: But and remember, you're saying to defend him, I think they would be called to prosecute him. Meaning, the prosecutors would call all these people to say hey, come on in because we want to prove exactly what you just said, which is he had those conversations.
O'DONNELL: Dan, you are exactly right because Libby's recollection of the event differs from the very people...
O'DONNELL: ... he worked with in the vice president's office...
ABRAMS: And now he's sort of saying—his lawyer is saying well, you know, it was a tough time. He might have made mistakes. I mean he's not saying that it—you know, he's not saying, I got it right. I got it right.
All right, let me—I want to ask about question. Victoria Toensing is going to join us in a minute to talk about this a little bit more. But the issue of Karl Rove, I mean Norah, there's a new report out there today suggesting the opposite of what so many thought now. Many believing, oh, you know what, Fitzgerald is wrapping up his investigation. It's pretty close to the end. There's not going to be anything more, “The Washington Post” suggesting something a little different.
O'DONNELL: And that's right. That privately, inside the White House, that there are discussions going on about whether Karl Rove should remain in the White House as a presidential advisor, whether he is too tainted now, whether he could be tainted further. And at the very least, whether he should apologize publicly for in fact you know having McClellan go out and lie for him and ruin the president's press secretary's credibility, if you will.
I can tell you that there are those in Washington that are saying that the president has developed some tension with not only the vice president over this whole matter, but also, Karl Rove, and also the chief of staff. Big thing today that we noticed, Dan, was that Karl Rove, who is almost always at the president's side, did not join the president on this international trip. Instead, he stayed behind at the White House.
Legally, sources close to Rove think that he has dodged the bullet. As one source close to Rove told me, we think the angel of death has passed over us for now. But clearly, it may be that Rove has some political problems ahead of him inside the White House.
ABRAMS: Aitan, the report in “The Washington Post” today suggested that lawyers close to some of the reporters were saying that they are still asking questions. They're still investigating. Here's what Pat Fitzgerald said on Friday about the status of the investigation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PATRICK FITZGERALD, SPECIAL COUNSEL FOR THE JUSTICE DEPT.: Here's what I am trying to convey. We're not quite done, but I don't want to add to a feverish pitch. You know, it's very, very routine that you keep a grand jury available for what you might need.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: We're not quite done. I mean you know I hate to—I have been reading tealeaves on this for days now, but we're not quite done. What do you make of it? You worked with Patrick Fitzgerald, right?
GOELMAN: Yes, I think that you know the people who say Karl Rove is not going to be indicted or you know they are pretty sure Karl Rove is not going to be indicted base that on Patrick Fitzgerald's body language or tone of voice during that press conference. I think those are very dangerous tealeaves to read. I'd say Karl Rove still has a 50-50 shot of being indicted.
By all accounts, he was in the crosshairs until the very last minute and then you know something gave Pat pause and he decided that he, you know, didn't have enough to confidently go forward right then. But clearly, you know his eye is still on Karl Rove. He's still investigating. The reports are that he's trying to figure out just how likely it is that Karl Rove would have just misremembered his conversation with reporters.
ABRAMS: Let me read this—Victoria Toensing, we apologize to her. We're having technical problems with her location there. But we want—this is what Victoria Toensing wrote in an op-ed piece in today's “Wall Street Journal”.
When the Intelligence Identities Protection Act—this is what presumably what was being investigated here—was being negotiated Senate Select Committee Chairman Barry Goldwater was adamant. If the CIA desired a law making it illegal to expose one of it's deep cover employees, then the agency must do a better job of protecting their cover.
That's why a criterion for any prosecution under the act is that the government was taking affirmative measures to conceal the protected person's relationship to the intelligence agency. Two days—two decades later, the CIA either purposely or with gross negligence made a series of decisions that led to Mrs. Plame becoming a household name.
And I'm hoping we'll get Victoria to respond to what Aitan is going to say here. But Aitan, what Victoria Toensing is saying is it's the CIA's fault.
GOELMAN: Yes. And you know the CIA might have been negligent and the CIA might have been doing unilateral leaks that caused “Scooter” Libby to want to respond, but I think that's totally irrelevant.
ABRAMS: Is it? I mean she's saying as a legal matter that would then mean that the actual crime that was being investigated here was always a non-issue.
GOELMAN: Look if you read the indictment and if you believe the facts laid out in the indictment, Valerie Plame's neighbors didn't know she worked for the CIA. I don't know how to parse the you know adjective covert, but it's pretty clear that at the very least, if not that specific, 1982 law making it illegal to out covert agents. At least there's a credible case for leaking classified information to people who aren't entitled to have it.
ABRAMS: Here's what Pat Fitzgerald said on Friday about that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FITZGERALD: Valerie Wilson was a CIA officer. In July 2003, the fact that Valerie Wilson was a CIA officer was classified. Not only was it classified, but it was not widely known outside of the intelligence committee. Valerie Wilson's friends, neighbors, college classmates had no idea she had another life.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: Aitan, the fact that they were investigating that crime impacts the possible sentence Libby could face. And every time I ask federal prosecutors about this, you know they either say it's too tough to know or you get varying answers. What does your sense say if there's a conviction on all the charges here, what is the general sentencing range that Libby could face?
GOELMAN: Dan, I'm going to disappoint you. I'm going to go with it's too tough to know on that one. As you know, the sentencing guidelines aren't mandatory anymore...
GOELMAN: ... since the Booker decision...
ABRAMS: But they're still used.
GOELMAN: They're still used, but in this case for perjury, the base guidelines level is six. And then there are various enhancements—I think that's what you are referring to when you're talking about the underlying crime that you could add on and there may be you know national security enhancements. And I think basically...
GOELMAN: ... the judge is going to be able to do what he wants to do here. And you know, even if the guidelines are not themselves all that draconian here...
ABRAMS: Bottom line, you're just saying you don't know?
GOELMAN: I don't know...
ABRAMS: OK. All right. I just want to cut to the chase...
ABRAMS: All right. All right. Victoria Toensing joins us now on the telephone, a former federal prosecutor, deputy attorney general. She actually helped write the law that we've been talking about here.
Victoria, we're sorry about the technical problems we've been having. Aitan was basically—I read from your op-ed piece, and the point Aitan made is maybe the CIA was negligent in some manner or another, but he's saying that's really beside the point as to whether the crime was committed.
VICTORIA TOENSING, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR (via phone): Well, if we're just talking about the crime of perjury but I think it's pretty important to “Scooter” Libby's case because in his indictment, Fitzgerald has purposely put the word that her status was classified. And one of the first motions that I would file as a defense attorney is to get that prejudicial word out of there. Because if the CIA wasn't taking the appropriate steps to hide her identity then that's very—that's quite relevant to keeping that prejudicial word in the indictment.
ABRAMS: But again, and this gets to be one of those what is the definition of is, is...
TOENSING: No, it's not...
ABRAMS: ... let me finish the question. The difference in covert and classified, I mean there is a difference as a legal matter between being classified...
ABRAMS: He's not saying classified means covert as a technical, legal matter. He's saying it's clear that they made an effort to let people know she was a CIA agent.
TOENSING: But classified is a very important distinction from covert. And Fitzgerald himself said that the classified statute, for just shorthand let's just call it 793, is really open. It's very difficult. In fact, if we could have used that statute for the naming of an agent, we would not have had to pass the law in the 1980's.
We were told by the Justice Department that that statute could not be used for disclosing the name of somebody in the CIA. So, that's a very important distinction. You know, if we want to go after anything that's classified, then perhaps “The Washington Post” and Dana Priest ought to be subpoenaed for the story today about the European jail or whatever you want to call them of the CIA...
ABRAMS: My understanding was that it matters whether you're a government official with access to this information or not, doesn't it?
TOENSING: Well of course...
TOENSING: ... somebody with a government official gave that to “The Washington Post”...
ABRAMS: Oh I see what you are saying. Right. Right.
TOENSING: Oh, yes...
ABRAMS: No, I thought you were saying...
ABRAMS: I thought you were saying...
TOENSING: ... going after journalists, Dan...
ABRAMS: Right. I thought you were saying prosecute the journalists...
TOENSING: ... but subpoena them. I mean we either decide we're going to go after these classified stories. It shouldn't turn on whether the media likes the person who wrote the story or doesn't like...
TOENSING: ... the person who did the story and that's what this investigation hinged on.
ABRAMS: All right. Victoria Toensing, Norah O'Donnell, thanks a lot.
Aitan, stick around for another segment. Coming up, the court that ruled the pledge of allegiance is unconstitutional now ruling the parents have no constitutional right to stop a school from asking kids about sex.
Plus, why is Dr. Phil claiming that Natalee Holloway could very well be alive in some sex slave ring?
And how many wives can a judge have? One Utah judge has three. The state says goodbye. We want you out. He's fighting to keep his spot on the bench.
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.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They were asked, do they have times when they feel like they want to touch their private parts. Do they want—feel at times they want to touch other people's private parts. Do they feel like they might want to have sex? I mean they are very explicit.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: There's no disputing that. And there were more explicit questions in a 2002 survey given to 13 kids in the first, third and fifth grades at the Mesquite Elementary School in Palmdale, California. The purported purpose of the survey, to find out if students had psychological needs that weren't being met.
Parents complained about the explicit questions. The school dropped the survey, but then seven parents sued, claiming that they had—quote—
“exclusive rights to control their kids exposure to”—quote—“adult issues and sex education”, saying they were never informed their children would be asked questions containing sexual content, asked about their sexual thoughts and feelings, and that the person administering the test was only trying to advance her professional and academic goals.
A lower court ruled against the parents, and now the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has as well, ruling that all parents, not just the ones who sued, have no fundamental exclusive right to tell their kids about sex. No due process or privacy right that can override a school's decision to expose kids to information unless they violate a treason act. And the court says the survey was related to a legitimate purpose.
All right. “My Take”—maybe the purpose was legitimate but this is one of the stupidest surveys I have ever heard of. And I'm glad the school district stopped using it. Explicit questions like the ones we just heard are inappropriate for grade school kids. With that said, I think the court's decision is right, parents don't have the right to choose which topics they want their kids exposed to in school, if they want to home school their kids, that's something else, even when it comes to a subject as personal as sex, otherwise, we could see parental overrides on other sensitive subjects like evolution, race, the war in Iraq, you name it.
Are we going to say parents have some implicit right to be the only people allowed to talk their kids about certain topics? If you don't like what they're doing, lobby the school board, criticize the board members, but a lawsuit. I don't see how this one could have succeeded.
Jack Gyves is the Palmdale School District superintendent though he didn't have that job when this controversy started. Carrie Gordon Earll is an issue analyst with Focus on the Family. Tammany Fields joins us by phone. She's one of the parents who sued the district after her 10-year-old daughter got the survey. And former federal prosecutor Aitan Goldman joins us as well.
All right. Carrie Gordon Earll let me start with you. What do you think I'm getting wrong on this?
CARRIE GORDON EARLL, FOCUS ON THE FAMILY: Well the bottom line here is what this says if you enroll your child in public school, you automatically forfeit the right to be involved with these kinds of decisions. What the judges have said here, Dan is that parents' rights end at the schoolroom door. At the door of the school your rights end as a parent and we need to have some balance here.
What we're talking about is allowing parents to be informed. These parents were not told. And when you are talking about, talking to your 8, 9, 10, 11-year-old about masturbation and suicide, parents should have a right to have that information and opt out...
ABRAMS: Yes, they should.
ABRAMS: Look, there's no question—I mean look, I don't think there's any question—I'll ask the superintendent about this. I mean I don't think there's any question this was a dumb survey and parents should have been better informed. Superintendent, would you disagree with that that the parents should have been informed that there was going to be sex on there?
JACK GYVES, PALMDALE SCHOOL DISTRICT SUPERINTENDENT: Not at all. In fact I think you summarized our position pretty well as you gave your own.
ABRAMS: So, you would agree, right, that this was a bad survey, shouldn't have been done. It was a mistake, but you are saying, look, we get it. We made a mistake. We pulled the survey. We're just saying they shouldn't win this lawsuit as having some sort of fundamental right here.
GYVES: That's exactly true. I think the court dealt with the constitutionality of the parents' right to project themselves into school activities and school affairs. Our responsibility and I'm giving you a retrospective, as you indicated I wasn't here at the time. But I certainly defend a parents' right to be informed.
And whether it was an oversight or intentional on the part of the counselor who is not our employee who administered the survey, the then superintendent apologized for that oversight to parents. And we've since taken steps to make sure that nothing of that sort happens again.
And has I been a parent in that situation, I would have objected just as strenuously as these parents have done. Whether I would have gone as far as to contest the constitutionality of the issue is quite another thing.
ABRAMS: I'm going to talk to one of the parents in a minute. Let me read a little bit from the 9th Circuit's opinion here.
Schools cannot be expected to accommodate the personal, moral, or religious concerns of every parent. Such an obligation would not only contravene the educational mission of the public schools, it would be impossible to satisfy.
Ms. Earll, how do you draw the line? I mean is your line, if it's sex, they can't talk about it, but if it's violence or the war in Iraq, they can? How do you draw the line as to what schools are allowed to talk about and not allowed to talk about?
EARLL: Well, Dan, this ruling goes way over the top. There needs to be balance here. The court could have looked at parents as equal partners with the school district. But they didn't even give them equal footing. What the court is saying here is listen, parents, you're a taxi driver. Drop your kid off first thing in the morning, pick them up end of day, and what we do in between is really none of your business...
ABRAMS: No, no...
EARLL: Yes, it does...
ABRAMS: No, it's the same argument we hear...
EARLL: Excuse me, it does...
ABRAMS: ... on the other side with the abortion debate.
EARLL: It's a question of...
ABRAMS: It's focus on the legislator...
EARLL: Not at all.
ABRAMS: It is. Focus on the school board members...
EARLL: It's a question...
ABRAMS: Talk to them. Lobby them.
EARLL: ... of who decides.
ABRAMS: Right? I mean...
ABRAMS: The school board...
ABRAMS: Fire them. Get rid of them. Get a new school board.
EARLL: OK. Who decides? Is it going to be un-elected federal judges or is it going to be parents? Children are not the property of the state.
ABRAMS: How did the school board...
EARLL: They belong to families and parents.
ABRAMS: Who picks the school board members? How do they get a school board?
EARLL: Absolutely, they should be involved in that, but what you are getting away from here is how far this ruling goes. This ruling says if you enroll your child in public school, you automatically are forfeiting the right to be involved in any topic, sex education, science, sociology...
EARLL: ... parents all throughout the nation...
ABRAMS: This ruling says you're not allowed...
EARLL: ... should be shuddering by this ruling.
ABRAMS: ... to discuss certain things at your—where in the ruling does it say you're not allowed to discuss certain things with your kids at home?
EARLL: No, it says parents have no say in what school officials discuss with their children, not what they say at home. You talk about home schooling, if anything, this may cause more and more parents to leave public schools at a time when the public schools are begging, begging parents to be more involved. This ruling drives a wedge between parents and schools.
ABRAMS: All right. Let me read some of—and again, these questions are ridiculous. I mean the notion that kids were answering these questions. (INAUDIBLE) sex questions from the trauma symptom list for children—touching my private parts too much, thinking about sex they were asked about, thinking about touching other peoples' private parts, thinking about sex when I don't want to, washing myself because I feel dirty on the inside, not trusting people because they might want sex, getting scared or upset when I think about sex, having sex feelings in my body, can't stop thinking about sex, get upset when people talk about sex.
I mean look this is disgusting. And Tammany Fields, I can see why as a parent when you heard about these questions you were offended.
TAMMANY FIELDS, PARENT SUED SCHOOL DISTRICT OVER SURVEY: Yes. And just to correct you, with no offense, but it was not my daughter. It was my son.
ABRAMS: Oh, I'm sorry. I apologize.
FIELDS: That's OK. Yes, I was. I was actually more than proud of my son because we did raise him to be very communicative with us and so he did just that. And he relayed to us what was said. And he's very articulate and he's a smart, bright boy. And so he...
ABRAMS: What was your reaction when he came back and he said do you know, they are asking me all these questions. What...
FIELDS: I was shocked. I was absolutely—I felt very betrayed as he did because we had trusted that school. My son had been there since kindergarten. This was his fifth grade year. And it was the ultimate betrayal because we were not told...
FIELDS: ... look, we're going to ask your kids major questions about sex.
FIELDS: Do you have a problem with that? I would have said absolutely...
ABRAMS: Oh absolutely...
FIELDS: ... no, my son is not going to participate in this.
ABRAMS: Yes. No, I can completely see...
FIELDS: And he always participated in everything to better that school. I supported the school in all their functions. I have always been...
FIELDS: ... a great believer in every parent being a part of their child's schooling.
ABRAMS: Let me—Aitan, look, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals tendency to get overturned a lot on some of these fundamental issues, constitutional questions, I think on this one they got it right as a legal matter.
GOELMAN: Absolutely, Dan. I think you get 10 different appellate panels in any circuit in the country and they all come out in this way. And look, you are absolutely right that this was colossally bad judgment on the part of the school board or the educators.
Nobody wants their 6-year-old answering those questions. But the proper forum for this is not federal court. I find it a little bit ironic that Focus on the Family, which opposes un-elected federal judges creating whole cloth constitutional rights when they're not explicitly in the Constitution would want to expand the constitutional rights this way and create a right to you know this kind...
GOELMAN: ... of enormous privacy right.
ABRAMS: I'm troubled by that, too, Mrs. Earll.
EARLL: Well, it's not a matter of—it's a matter of how far Judge Reinhardt went. Judge Stephen Reinhardt declared that parents give up their rights at the schoolhouse door and that is ridiculous. And you're going to be hard pressed to find parents in this country who will agree with what the 9th Circuit had said here.
FIELDS: Well let me say this...
ABRAMS: I just got to wrap it up. I'm sorry...
FIELDS: ... the thing that I find frightening about this is if they are saying that it's OK once your child gets into the school grounds that they are free reign, what about situations like throwing a different arena in here, Mary Kay Letourneau...
FIELDS: ... a person of her...
ABRAMS: They're not saying they get free reign. They are saying you can't get money. I mean that's what they're saying.
FIELDS: But my point is that now they are saying that you know that -
· but see, a lot of people are misconstruing this whole thing.
FIELDS: They think it was a test or they think that these kids took this survey by teachers or they think that it was a sex education class...
FIELDS: ... it wasn't.
ABRAMS: I think we've made it very clear that this—everyone agrees on this panel that you were put in a horrible position, Ms. Fields. And you shouldn't have been put in this position. You shouldn't have been forced to go to these sort of lengths, but as a legal mater, I don't see how they came down any other way. I think Aitan is right. I think any other federal appeals court in the country would have ruled this way. We shall see. Maybe they'll take it up.
Jack Gyves, Carrie Gordon Earll, Tammany Fields, Aitan, thanks a lot.
GOELMAN: Thanks, Dan.
ABRAMS: Coming up, Dr. Phil tells Jay Leno there is credible evidence Natalee Holloway is alive? Maybe even part of a huge sex slave ring? Where is he getting that from?
And our continuing series, “Manhunt: Sex Offenders on the Loose”, our effort to find missing sex offenders before they strike again. Our search today is in Delaware.
Authorities need your help finding Roderick Jamison, 22, brown eyes, black hair, 5'10”, 160, convicted of raping a child younger than 16 and for soliciting sex under a child under 16. He's wanted on other charges. If you've got any information, please call 302-395-8254.
We're back in a minute.
ABRAMS: Coming up, Dr. Phil says Natalee Holloway may be very well alive and involved in some sort of sex trade in the Caribbean and he's basing that on what? First the headlines.
ABRAMS: We're back. With Natalee Holloway's family and the Aruban authorities now engaged in a public war of words after Beth Holloway and her ex-husband demanded a new team to run the investigation, it seems there's little they agree on except they say that they are focusing on the same possible suspects. Joran van der Sloot, Satish and Deepak Kalpoe, the last people known to have seen Natalee alive.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BETH HOLLOWAY TWITTY, NATALEE HOLLOWAY'S MOTHER: They know what, they know who, they know where, they know when, they know how and they know why. So, I want them. I want the answers.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: And Aruba's deputy police chief, Gerold Dompig, was on MSNBC's “RITA COSBY LIVE & DIRECT” last night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEROLD DOMPIG, ARUBAN DEPUTY POLICE CHIEF: I still believe that these boys have been lying, they are still lying, and everybody knows that by now. So, there's no doubt in my mind that they know something. They are guilty of something.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: So, why is Dr. Phil telling such a different story on last night's “Tonight Show” with Jay Leno?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. PHIL MCGRAW, “DR. PHIL” HOST: Without creating false hope, we have reasonable belief and some credible evidence that Natalee Holloway is alive. We cannot prove that at this point and we don't know where she is. But you know, there is a huge sex slave underground in some of those countries down there. Young women have disappeared from that part of the world before. And we have reasonable cause to believe that she may well be alive.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: I don't know. I certainly don't know any of that evidence.
I guess Dr. Phil knows it better.
Joining me is MSNBC analyst and former FBI investigator Clint Van Zandt, who was down in Aruba investigating this. Clint, you know look, I'm not suggesting that I have all of the exact...
ABRAMS: ... same sources as Dr. Phil...
CLINT VAN ZANDT, FORMER FBI INVESTIGATOR: Yes.
ABRAMS: ... but I find this very hard to believe.
VAN ZANDT: Well, I do too. Let's look at both sides, Dan. You know one side says that it's a dirty little secret in this world that between one and four million people are trafficking across the world every year, women, children that are involved in sex slavery. It's also known that when you get down to the Caribbean, there's at least—in all of the islands combined, there's at least 100,000 people—women and children otherwise that are engaged in some type of prostitution, sex slavery...
VAN ZANDT: ... so, does that go on? Yes, it does. But you know, if Dr. Phil has credible evidence with his investigative team that have neither the resources nor the equipment or anything else of the FBI, the Aruban police, the Dutch F-16's and everything else that flew over, if he's got a lock on the truth, this is the time he needs to write it up, lay it on the desk of the FBI and say, here, I, Dr. Phil can prove that she was kidnapped off that island.
She was sold into slavery and that she's either in some Sultan's temple or she's chained to a bed in the back of some crack house down in South America. And Dan, that's the time Navy SEALs, Army Delta are going to take that place down and get her out of there. So if you've got the information, let's not talk about it on TV. Let's go get her back.
ABRAMS: Yes. Look, he's even saying I can't prove it. That we don't know for certain. We just have credible evidence...
VAN ZANDT: You know...
ABRAMS: ... and reasonable belief...
VAN ZANDT: I think it's terrible, Dan, to hold out false hope to Natalee's family or any other family that's lost a child or a loved one over the years...
VAN ZANDT: ... to think that if it could be Natalee, it could be my child too.
ABRAMS: Clint, my concern is this is sort of like the satanic cult theory in the Peterson case. I mean...
VAN ZANDT: Yes.
ABRAMS: ... there was some satanic activity in certain areas...
VAN ZANDT: Sure.
ABRAMS: People were making drawings, et cetera. OK. But what's the link between that and the Peterson case? And...
VAN ZANDT: Yes.
ABRAMS: ... it's the same point you are making. It's yes, OK, there is some sort of sex slave trade that goes on down there.
ABRAMS: But what's the evidence that that's what happened to Natalee?
VAN ZANDT: Never—everything I looked at down there and everything I've researched and talked to the FBI and the State Department, there has never been an incident of a U.S. tourist kidnapped from Aruba and sold into sex slavery. So, where—you know that sex slavers would be walking down the beach and just happened to find Natalee there after she had had some conversation with Joran van der Sloot. And you know this convolution of planets and everything coming together that the timing would have been perfect.
VAN ZANDT: Now, there's a story I heard when I was down there that Joran van der Sloot...
VAN ZANDT: ... sold her to pay off a gambling debt, so who knows? But you know if there's something to back this story up, let the authorities know it.
ABRAMS: Yes. Yes. Yes. All right. Look, I like Dr. Phil and you know I hope—look, if he's got evidence, I think everyone would like to see it. Clint, thanks very much. You can always read Clint's column on our Web site as well.
VAN ZANDT: Thanks, Dan.
ABRAMS: Coming up, a Utah judge fighting to keep his seat on the bench based on the fact that he's married, well more specifically that he has got three wives. We debate that after the break.
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: Coming up, a Utah judge fighting to stay on the bench based on his marital status. Let's say he has more than one. And we'll show you after the break.
ABRAMS: Coming up, a Utah judge fighting to stay on the bench based on his marital status. Let's just say he's got more than one. We debate after the break.
ABRAMS: A Utah judge who has 32 children with three women he claims are his wives is fighting to keep a seat on the bench. Polygamy is illegal in Utah and the state's Judicial Conduct Commission insist that Judge Walter Steed's behavior in his private life affects the reputation of the judiciary there. They want him removed.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COLIN WINCHESTER, ATTORNEY FOR JUDICIAL CONDUCT COMMISSION: A judge who does not follow the law and live his life above repute both professionally and personally makes the judiciary as a whole look bad. People lose respect for the judicial branch.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: Yesterday, the State Supreme Court heard arguments and outside Steed defended his lifestyle saying that bigamy should be legal.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HON. WALTER STEED, POLYGAMIST: If that's a law that has to be lived, to receive the highest degree of glory in the celestial kingdom, then it ought to be legal.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ABRAMS: When he was appointed in 1980, Steed allegedly legally married his first wife and spiritually married his second wife who happens to be his wife's sister. Steed is a judge in a primarily polygamist town and the state's attorney general, as well as the county attorney have so far refused to file charges against him.
“My Take”—this is an easy one. I don't care whether the prosecutors choose not to pursue it. It's again against the law in Utah. Then it seems like it's the end of the issue. Not only do we have to make sure judges abide by the law, but they should be held to an even higher standard. This isn't about bigamy, polygamy; it's about the rule of law. If Judge Steed wants to challenge the law, go for it, but until he wins he should get off the bench.
Joining me now is criminal defense attorney Bill Morrison and he says Steed should not be forced off the bench. And former Utah prosecutor, David Leavitt who says he should be tossed.
All right. Mr. Morrison, what am I getting wrong?
BILL MORRISON, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well I think, Dan, the problem we have here is that, what kind of a standard are we really talking about when we talk about high standards and what kind of laws are we going to impose. There's a fundamental right of due process that for heaven's sake we all should abide by including the fact that there ought to be some criminal charges that are filed.
He shouldn't be on a defensive—in a defensive posture already. And there ought to be a conviction. None of those things have happened. The A.G.'s Office is taking the high road. The State Prosecutor Office is taking the high road and he's a practicing judge and ought to remain so.
ABRAMS: So, the judicial—so, the standard for judges can't be higher than for everyone else. Meaning, even though for other people if they decide not to charge, you got to sort of drop it. For judges we can't say you know what, if it's pretty clear he's breaking the law even if they don't pursue it, we can't hold him to a higher standard?
MORRISON: You know I think that he should be held to a higher standard, but I have a problem with the pretty clear part because...
ABRAMS: What isn't clear? What isn't clear...
MORRISON: Who gets to make that determination and...
ABRAMS: Well, but based on the law that's on the books...
ABRAMS: ... what is unclear about whether he's violating it?
MORRISON: Well, the fact that they haven't charged him with anything. And what law has he violated? Because he is a polygamist. You show me a law in the state of Utah that outlaws polygamy and we'll talk about that.
ABRAMS: All right.
MORRISON: And Mr. Leavitt I'm sure is going to say...
MORRISON: ... that bigamy is the ambit under which they want to file their charges, then let them go for it...
MORRISON: They haven't done that.
ABRAMS: Utah code section 767101, am I wrong about this? A person is guilty of bigamy when knowing he has a husband or wife or knowing the other person has a husband or wife the person purports to marry another person or cohabits with another person.
MORRISON: Can you imagine the enforcement of that law? And let's talk about that very briefly. Cohabitation, is that what we're really talking about?
ABRAMS: Look, talk to the legislator about it.
MORRISON: ... wait a second.
ABRAMS: Talk to the legislator about it.
MORRISON: Oh I agree with you. But is he held to a higher standard than say a police officer who has a mistress? Is that what we're talking about? Or a judge that has a mistress or a legislative officer that has a mistress? That's the standard they want to impose on this judge. It's not realistic.
ABRAMS: Mr. Leavitt, it seems to me they are opposing a higher standard than that on this judge. But go ahead and respond.
DAVID LEAVITT, FORMER JUAB COUNTY, UT DISTRICT ATTORNEY: Dan, thank you. From my perspective, polygamy is against the law in the state of Utah. It has been for a long time and should continue to be against the law. And I believe also the public servants should be held to a higher standard.
Now, I don't want to insert myself necessarily into the Supreme Court's decision but I have full confidence in their abilities and I believe it's a court full of good justices. And I think that the critical point here is the rule of law. And whether the justices feel like Judge Steed is flaunting his polygamist lifestyle and not in fact obeying the law.
ABRAMS: What do you make of the argument that look, he's not being prosecuted and where do you draw the line as to getting into the business of interpreting laws that aren't being prosecuted?
LEAVITT: Well, prosecutors have broad discretion regarding which cases are prosecuted and which are not. I am not familiar enough with Judge Steed's circumstances to know why the county prosecutor and the attorney general refuse to prosecute the case. I suppose that they have good reasons.
If a case is against the law, then it ought to be prosecuted. But in any event, when a man who is a judge stands and says, I'm a polygamist and that's against the law then, I think that calls into question.
LEAVITT: We have the chief justice in Arkansas, who was never prosecuted, but removed, I believe, for not removing the Ten Commandments and I think that's certainly—it's not exactly the same but similar.
ABRAMS: Yes, I have to say Mr. Morrison, I do think that there's a comparison there. It's basically saying, look, I don't like the law. I don't think the law is constitutional. But before I even challenge it in the courts, I'm going to make a decision for myself as to whether I want to abide by it. I think you're going to have judges who do that.
MORRISON: Well, you know, if you are talking about a consistency and we really should have a consistent standard that the A.G.'s Office has to follow and the Prosecutor's Office has to follow. And if we're going to enforce the law across the board...
ABRAMS: Judges should be the highest...
ABRAMS: They should be the very highest.
MORRISON: And I agree with you. And it is against the law to sodomize, and sodomy laws are against the law. So, if we've got any gay judges, we better excise them immediately.
ABRAMS: I think the Supreme Court dealt with that issue, but all right. Anyway...
MORRISON: I do too, with Lawrence v. Texas...
ABRAMS: Right. That's what I'm saying...
MORRISON: I agree with you...
MORRISON: I agree and same thing with polygamists.
ABRAMS: Well, good luck on that one. You can cite that one. You're not going to win, but all right Bill Morrison and David Leavitt, thanks. Interesting conversation.
LEAVITT: Thank you.
ABRAMS: Coming up, another judge bites the dust in the Tom DeLay case. I say this entire thing is an embarrassment to the judicial system. It's my “Closing Argument”.
And later, many of you writing in angry at Beth Holloway. Your e-mails.
And our continuing series, “Manhunt: Sex Offenders on the Loose”, our effort to help find missing sex offenders before they strike again. Authorities in Delaware are looking for this man, Bruce Stanford, 35, a black male, 5'9”, 160. He was convicted three different times of rape, is wanted by the state on other charges.
If you've got any information on his whereabouts, please contact the Wilmington Police Department, 302-654-5151.
Be right back.
ABRAMS: My “Closing Argument”—why the insane legal wrangling in the Tom DeLay criminal case is a supreme insult to all judges. Both sides are arguing that the various judges can't be fair based on their political affiliations. At first glance, it sure sounds sensible. After all, DeLay is accused of illegal political fundraising in the defense that it's a purely political indictment.
The problem? Most judges in Texas are elected. That's the system. There won't be any state judges with no political affiliations, and you just don't get to cherry pick your judge. I've said before I have a problem with the election of judges in part for this very reason. It also means they're always running for something. But if that's the system you have, then you have to trust that the judges will rule based on fact and law, not politics, the way judges are supposed to.
To those who say well even the perception of bias is a problem. Well then don't elect your judges. Because if you do, then the bias had better be pretty clear and direct if you're going to have them removed. And I'm not convinced we've seen that here. Nevertheless, judicial heads are rolling. Tom DeLay's team picked the fight.
His attorney, Dick Deguerin, succeed in having Judge Bob Perkins removed because he had made more than $5,000 in donations to Democratic candidates or causes that DeLay said opposed him. Then today, prosecutor Ronnie Earle, the Democrat who sought indictments against Delay, succeeded in the getting rid of the Republican judge who was supposed to select the judge to hear the case.
Judge B.B. Schraub recused himself after Earle pointed out that Schraub had made more than $5,000 in donations to DeLay's Republican allies. Schraub then said he would ask the chief justice of the Texas court, also a Republican, to name a judge for DeLay's case. Late this afternoon, the chief justice selected another Democrat, Senior District Judge Pat Priest, been on the bench 25 years.
Wouldn't be surprised if DeLay had a problem with him, too. The words of the infamous diet guru Susan Powter, stop the insanity. The bottom line, this tit for tat completely undermines and insults the ability of judges to decide cases impartially.
I don't blame the lawyers for making the motions, but I'm confident that whoever ends up deciding will inevitable be accused of playing politics. That's bad for all of us and a lesson in why we may want to rethink having judges who are also politicians.
Coming up, many of you angry at Beth Holloway after she demands to have the Aruban investigators and prosecutors removed from the case.
ABRAMS: I've had my say, now it's time for “Your Rebuttal”. Last night we told you Natalee's Holloway's divorced parents have come together to demand Aruba's attorney general pull the team investigating Natalee's disappearance.
Jack Streleckis, “I didn't realize that the families of victims run police investigations. If this crime was in the U.S., would the family have any influence over the investigation?”
Jack, influence? Yes. You get to answer who does the investigation?
From Richmond, Virginia, Judy Shackelford, “Please encourage Beth to call for a boycott of Aruba.”
Jan Brennan in Pittsburgh, “She's managed to disrupt this investigation from day one. Let us hope the Arubans see through this latest ploy.”
Last night we got an exclusive look inside the former home of Scott and Laci Peterson. One tease, I said this is where they lived before Scott allegedly killed her.
Donna Velcio in Phoenix, Arizona, “As you know Dan, after a person has been convicted of a crime, the act they committed is no longer referred to as an alleged act.”
From Pasadena, Linda Roberts, “I thought that if someone was convicted and sentenced to death that one would say the house where he killed Laci. He's still alleged to have killed her?”
Well look, Linda and Donna and everyone else who wrote in about this, you're right. Once there's been a conviction, there's no need to say allegedly. And I thank you for listening closely, but I still would say allegedly with regard to the location as to the—where the actual killing occurred. So, you guys are right, but with regard to the second e-mail there, I might have a little dispute with you as to, I think you can still say allegedly as to the location.
All right. Nice lawyerly response (INAUDIBLE). Your e-mails firstname.lastname@example.org.
See you tomorrow.
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