Return to Transcripts main page
Breaking News in Debra LaFave Case
Aired March 21, 2006 - 20:00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
NANCY GRACE, HOST: Tonight, breaking news in the Debra LaFave case. Trial judge takes a stand and rejects a sweetheart plea deal for a cover girl turned teacher charged with sex with a child. But now, instead of taking this case to a trial by jury, where it belongs, bombshell, have prosecutors now made it impossible to ever prosecute Debra LaFave?
And also tonight, an Oregon woman looks for romance in all the wrong places, including the Internet. The new online boyfriend turns out to be a convicted felon and now she has gone missing.
Good evening, everybody, I`m Nancy Grace. I want to thank you for being with us tonight. Tonight, breaking news in the case of an Oregon woman who seemingly finds love online. Tonight, she has vanished.
But first tonight, breaking news out of a Florida courtroom. The judge in the child sex case of cover girl turned teacher Debra LaFave kicks back a plea deal giving LaFave only house arrest and straight probation. But in a stunning move, instead of taking this case to trial, the state folds.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The state attorney`s dismissal, we believe, was the right thing and the appropriate decision in this case.
DEBRA LAFAVE: Mental illnesses are real. They could cause good people to do bad things
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mental illness is not the fault of someone who suffers from it. No one wants to be mentally ill.
LAFAVE: I pray with all my heart that the young man and his family will be able to move on with their lives. I`m a strong Christian woman and I believe that God has a path for me and this was just a bump in the road.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GRACE: OK. Right when you think you have heard it all comes Debra LaFave. Let`s go straight out to news radio 970 WFLA reporter, Eben Brown. Welcome back, Eben. Just last night we were proud in the thought that the judge would take a stand and not allow straight probation and house arrest for a woman that`s already pled to sex with a child student in another jurisdiction. And now, in a stunning about-face, the state basically thumbs their nose and says, nanny-nanny boo boo. Judge, if you won`t take our sweetheart deal, we`re just going to pack up and go home and drop the case. Please tell me I`m wrong, Eben.
EBEN BROWN, NEWSRADIO 970 WFLA: Sounds you`ve got it right there. But the prosecutors wanted to make this easy on the mother of the victim and the victim themselves and they didn`t want to put the boy on trial.
GRACE: Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait.
GRACE: Make it easy on them. Question to you, Eben, I know you are a veteran reporter, but whoever said that a felony rape trial, a statutory rape trial, that`s what this is, is easy on anybody? You think I as a former prosecutor liked putting a child on the stand, watching them cry, watching them be upset, watching them stumble and fall and subject themselves to cross-examination? You think it is easy for a victim, Eben? No it, it is not easy for anybody but justice has a price, Eben.
BROWN: Prosecutors wanted to make sure a victim didn`t have to pay the price twice and they decided it was better not to have a trial at all.
GRACE: You know what.
BROWN: She`s already getting the punishment of a plea deal from the other jurisdictions.
GRACE: Which is straight probation and house arrest wearing and anklet, right?
BROWN: And registry as a sex offender.
GRACE: Oh, OK. Thanks. Very quickly to psychoanalyst Bethany Marshall, let`s talk about Eben Brown`s last statement and Eben`s not making this up. This is what the.
BETHANY MARSHALL, PSYCHOANALYST: Right.
GRACE: . the defendant`s family and the defendant and her defense team gave to the judge. All right wait a minute, wait a minute. Bethany, take a listen to the defendant, Debra LaFave, model-turned-teacher, convicted child sex offender. Listen to what she had to say.
GRACE: Roll it, Liz.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LAFAVE: The past two years have been hard on all parties involved. I pray, with all my heart that the young man and his family will be able to move on with their lives. Again, I offer my deepest apology. I want the world to see that bipolar is real. If anything, I am tired of the media -- I don`t think not one time has the media brought up the subject of my bipolar and I challenge you to read a book or an article on bipolar illness.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GRACE: I read the book. This can`t possibly be bipolar. Bipolar says drastically increased activity level and, according to the police report, Bethany Marshall, she had a very high activity level, including in the back seat of a truck, where the truckers were going by, ooh, ooh, they could look right in.
MARSHALL: Well, with bipolar there is hyper sexuality. There is dis- inhibition. There`s a lot of activity but you can be bipolar and have a conscience. I think it is very important for people to know that. And on behalf of mentally ill people, I want to say that just because you have a mental illness doesn`t mean that you can no longer distinguish right from wrong. And the other thing is, bipolar illness is one thing. Pedophilia is another. And it is possible to be bipolar and to be a pedophile and the two illnesses are intertwined, but being bipolar does not necessarily lead to the other. And because they are hyper sexual during a manic episode doesn`t mean that you will automatically pick a child victim.
GRACE: Bethany, I respect you deeply, everyone, Bethany Marshall is a renowned psychoanalyst, but when you say hyper sexuality, that has nothing to do with statutory rape, in other words, rape of a child, whether they consent or not having full-blown sex with a child is statutory rape.
MARSHALL: That`s right. That`s why I am saying bipolar illness and child molestation -- excuse me bipolar illness and being a pedophile are two different things. So even though she is bipolar, it doesn`t excuse her from what her pedophilia led her to do.
GRACE: Let`s take another listen to what Deb LaFave had to say in court. And if any of you have not heard the breaking news out of a Florida courtroom today, the judge was basically shackled by the defense and the prosecution, when he refused their sweetheart deal against this cover girl- turned-teacher, a convicted child sex offender. The state dropped the charges. Here is what Debra LaFave had to say in court.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LAFAVE: I`m a strong Christian woman, and I believe that God has a path for me and this was just a bump in the road. Right now, I am going through a class that`s online for journalism. I think that I have -- God has given me a great outlet to write and I would hope that I could reach people through writing. My passion was teaching. That`s taken away from me. I have lost family and I have lost friends. And, as you can see, my face has been plastered on every Internet address, every news outlet and that`s not easy. It`s not easy feeling the guilt and the remorse and having my own family suffer for my -- my actions.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GRACE: To veteran defense attorney Ray Giudice. It is all me, me, me, me, me, me, nothing about the fact that she is a convicted child sex offender.
RAY GIUDICE, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Nancy, if the roles were switched here and I had a 26-year-old man and 14-year-old girl and I argue on his behalf that he was bipolar and in a midst of hypersexual activity that would probably get me disbarred with all respect to our doctor. But, the focus on this evening`s show, if you don`t mind me saying, should be that the prosecution dropped the ball. Don`t blame the defense lawyer. He did his job. Don`t blame the judge. He stood and towed the line that you asked him to last night. Clearly the prosecution wasn`t ready to move forward.
GRACE: Hold on a moment -- I`m not disagreeing with you that the state should have taken this to trial. But, on the other hand, I want to go to Robin Tomlin, executive editor with the "Star Banner." She has communicated with this boy victim`s mother. The state would have to go forward, Robyn, without the cooperation of the boy`s mother. Correct?
ROBYN TOMLIN, EXEC ED, STAR-BANNER: Well, the boy`s mother is -- was not wanting the boy to have to testify in court.
GRACE: So, would the boy have testified even though the mom did not want him to?
TOMLIN: Well, that`s -- you know, that`s unclear. Truthfully, that`s not something that we asked her. Our reporter Mabel Perez (ph) spoke to her this weekend and then again spoke to her this afternoon, after this -- this ruling. And, you know, she`s really disappointed with the ruling and is upset with the judge --
GRACE: What? She`s the one that didn`t want to put her son on the stand. How can she possibly disagree with Judge Stancel?
TOMLIN: She is upset with the judge because she believes that he is attacking the prosecution and, in this case, her son for not wanting to accept a deal that she thinks was in the best interests of her son.
GRACE: Is there going to be a civil suit by this family?
TOMLIN: You know, that`s unclear. We did ask her today -- the judge asked that question, of course, in court, asked whether there would be a civil lawsuit because, you know, he wanted to know whether this boy would end up testifying in that case. And the boy`s mother`s response was that was none of his business and she took it as an attack on her integrity.
GRACE: Wait a minute. The judge asked about a civil suit and instead of her answering the judge she said it`s none of your business?
TOMLIN: That`s the response she gave.
GRACE: Whoa. Whoa. I think we can all safely wager if we were betting people that there will be a civil lawsuit. And Bethany Marshall, what about this boy, that is so embarrassed to take the stand against a child predator, what about that civil lawsuit when he has to give a deposition under oath? What`s the difference, except one is for money?
TOMLIN: There is no difference, basically, testifying in court, one case versus in the civil case, there`s no difference. I think what the public needs to understand and the mother is that, actually going and confronting the person who has molested and raped him could actually be a therapeutic experience, if he has the right kind of support. It is about the support. It is not about yanking him out of court and getting him out of this obligation.
GRACE: I want to go to our star chamber. Tonight with us, very well- respected judges, criminal court judges that sat on the bench for many, many years handling cases such as murder, rape, arson, and child molestation. First let`s go to former judge out of Fulton superior court Gino Brogdon. Gino, I feel like this was a deal in the works from the get- go; that they tried to spoon-feed this judge, Judge Stancil, a sweetheart deal, straight probation and house arrest, Judge Brogdon and the judge said, no, this is a statutory rape, I`m not giving straight probation. Take it to trial. So what did the state do? They packed up, they took their toys, and they went home. What do you think, Gino?
GINO BROGDON, FMR JUDGE, FULTON SUPERIOR COURT: I think the judge was right, Nancy. I think there are far too many judges that hold their nose and they take a plea that they -- they disagree with and hope that it`s swept under the rug and that no one says anything about it. This judge showed some integrity and said I`m going to treat her the same way as she would be treated if she was a 26-year-old man having sex with a 14-year-old girl. We wouldn`t have this conversation about a sweetheart deal and an ankle bracelet and those things if the roles were switched.
GRACE: Well, let`s go to Congressman Ted Poe, also a former judge like Judge Brogdon out of Harris County, Texas, both of these gentlemen veterans on the bench. To you, Judge Poe, Congressman Ted Poe, what do you make of what Judge Stancil did in court today?
TED POE, FMR HARRIS COUNTY JUDGE: He did the right thing. Obviously, this case is one where roles were reversed. The defendant would go to the penitentiary. Because of who she was, the way she looked, I think the state gave her an excellent deal and her characterization of this as just being a bump in the road in her life, you know, that is horrible for her to say that. She belongs behind jail -- in jail and the judge did the right thing. I think the prosecutors are the ones who dropped the ball in this case, no question about it.
GRACE: I agree with you regarding the prosecution, of course, when you don`t have a victim that will testify, what are you going to do? Well let`s think about that for a moment. Joining me right now another veteran trial lawyer defense attorney Lisa Borden. Lisa, let`s think about this thing before we throw the baby out with the bath water. If we don`t have a victim to testify, number 1, hey Elizabeth, can you cue up those ridiculous phone calls this woman had with this young boy? You`ve got phone call evidence talking about them having sex. You have a witness for Pete`s sake, Lisa Borden where he had his cousin driving the woman`s car while they had full- blown sex with a child in the back with, you know, cars going down the interstate. Here is a guy, a kid with his pants down having sex but he`s too afraid, he`s too scared, he`s too nervous to testify. So, you`ve got the other child driver. You`ve got these phone calls, and you`ve got this child`s prior statement. Now, with all that together, you put this child up on the stands, you don`t think the state could make a case, Lisa?
LISA BORDEN, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: You know, Nancy, it is hard to buy the notion that the prosecution is putting forward here that without the victim`s testimony, they wouldn`t have been able to make their case. Obviously, they had another witness who actually was an eyewitness to the crime. They had plenty of other evidence that they could have moved forward on. And they had to have known what the judge was going to do today. He rejected the three-year deal before, three years in prison.
GRACE: To Eben Brown, newsradio 970, WFLA, I agree totally with Lisa Borden. And, Eben, did you read the police report? This shy, young boy described this woman fully naked, her tattoo at the bottom of her back, her -- let me just say delicately, bikini wax, her body, her tan line. He told all this to a group of guys at the police station and you expect me to believe he couldn`t get up on the stand on behalf of other child victims and testify, Eben?
BROWN: I think it is different when you are talking to your friends and you`re talking --
GRACE: It was the cops, Eben, it was the cops.
BROWN: Well, he was also -- he was caught -- the whole -- this whole thing was caught because he was bragging to somebody and someone overheard him. So, I think once he was brought in front of the police, maybe he knew he had to fess up to something and when put in front of a judge, it becomes a little bit more intimidating.
GRACE: Well, I`ve never heard a little more intimidating as an excuse not to take the stand on behalf of lady justice. Debra LaFave, she may be beautiful on the outside, everybody, but you are looking at a convicted sex child sex predator.
To tonight`s trial tracking, our whole panel will be back including (INAUDIBLE) Grand jury indictment expected in the assault and murder of 24- year-old New York grad student Imette St. Guillen. The grand jury today hears evidence against 41-year-old bouncer Darryl Littlejohn, last seen with the girl at a Soho bar Feb 25. Police also calling Littlejohn tonight a person of interest in other sex attacks around the area.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LAFAVE: I believe that my family know, they know who I am and right now, my family and my friends are all that matter and, as you can see, the room is full of media outlets. I`m sorry, but it doesn`t matter to me. The people behind me is what matters to me.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We only hope now that, in the next few weeks, Debbie will basically fade to a footnote in everybody`s memory and that she and her family and friends can move on with their life and the young man and his family can also do the same.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GRACE: Joining me right now as a special guest, Victor Vieth, the director of the National Child Protection Training Center. Victor, I recall distinctly prosecuting a statutory rape case, the young girl was 14- years-old as I recall putting her on the stand, three sentences into her direct testimony, I remember it distinctly, she put her head down, she could not testify any further. I immediately asked the judge if I could cross her as a hostile witness, not that she was being hostile, so I could lead her and led her through her prior statement. She held her head up one time when I asked her to identify her attacker and pointed at the defendant. Now, there are ways to prepare a child witness, Victor.
VICTOR VIETH, DIR, NATL CHILD PROTECTION TRAINING CENTER: Yes, absolutely. As a prosecutor, you want to sit down with your victim. You don`t want to give them the option of not testifying. You want to explain you represent the state. The case is going to go forward and then simply say what are you most worried about and listen to the victim and see what you can do to limit those worries. For example if the victim says I`m really worried about media coverage, can you close the courtroom to most outsiders and in 16 states, you can. Can you get the victim in and out of the courthouse without the glare of the media? I mean, you know, what are you most worried about? Are they worried about a vigorous cross-examination because they have seen myths on TV about how cross-examinations are handled? Can you explain to them what likely the cross will be and how to prepare for that? For example, you know, Nancy, most victims are going to be crossed on a delay in reporting, prepare them for that. How are you going to respond to that? You know, the better prepared they are, the lower the stress level.
GRACE: Exactly, Victor.
VIETH: I agree with the psychologist before that, you know, there is a number of studies that show that most kids do very well long term. Short term it is going to be stressful, immediately after it is going to be stressful. Who do you want in the courtroom with you? Who do you want excluded? Does this child have a psychologist? We are supposed to handle child abuse cases as part of a multi-disciplinary team.
GRACE: And you know what`s interesting victor, in this case, Judge Stancel, who I have great admiration for tonight, said, look, my ruling may be different if you can give me any psych evidence suggesting this kid would be permanently damaged. Is that right Elly (ph)? Is that correct Eric, right?
UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Right.
GRACE: So he told them out in the hall, look, if you give me some shrink testimony justifying what you are saying, I may have a different ruling. That never happened. Speaking of the alleged boy victim, Elizabeth roll the phone calls that this boy taped on behalf of police.
(BEGIN AUDIO TAPE)
14-YEAR OLD BOY: Like, I don`t want you to like get pregnant or anything. I was thinking about it and I was just thinking it next time - now that we`ve had sex about three times, if I should like (INAUDIBLE) a condom or something.
LAFAVE: You`re being all weird.
14-YEAR OLD BOY: All right. So what time are you planning on heading on over?
LAFAVE: Are you sure. Like I just feel - I mean I don`t want you lying to your mom. I mean it`s like.
14-YEAR OLD BOY: No it`s all right. She`s (INAUDIBLE) sales meeting all day.
LAFAVE: You`re sure.
14 YEAR OLD BOY: Yeah.
14 YEAR OLD BOY: Yes.
LAFAVE: Pinky promise.
14 YEAR OLD BOY: Yes.
LAFAVE: Say pinky promise.
14 YEAR OLD BOY: Pinky promise.
LAFAVE: All right. Tell me a time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GRACE: She made the kid pinky promise about lying to his mom, but yet no one wanted him to testify for lady justice. Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LAFAVE: I am very remorseful and I believe that I`m going through therapy and doing everything that I can possible to better myself for the community and society. And I`m going to be in therapy for a long time, hopefully for the rest of my life, because it has helped me tremendously.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GRACE: Helps me tremendously. I believe I`m going to therapy. Well, are you, or aren`t you? You know, what happened today in court is trial 101. The prosecution wouldn`t play ball with the judge and take the case to trial. They nol prossed the case. What does that mean, Ray Giudice, null prossed.
GIUDICE: Well, nol prosecutori in Latin, Nancy, means we decline to prosecute. The state has filed a motion, a pleading with the court that says we null prossed this indictment; we are not moving forward. There are certain limited circumstances under which a nol pros one can be revived and a case reopened.
GRACE: You know what, Ray, let`s just face the facts the case is dead.
GIUDICE: I agree.
GRACE: I don`t care what defibrillator you drag out of the closet, you are not going to revive the case. Robyn Tomlin executive editor "Star Banner," is it true, I think I heard you say earlier that when the mom was asked are you bringing a money, a civil lawsuit, she said none of your business?
TOMLIN: She told us that it was none of the judge`s business and she said that it was an attack on her integrity, trying to make it look like she had an ulterior motive.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LAFAVE: My greatest regret would probably be the fact that I put this young man through this. I mean, the media has totally taken it out of proportion, and he`s suffering even more so by the media`s actions.
He is a young man, and his privacy has been violated. He has walked outside of the door and been approached by media. His picture was published on the Internet.
His support is unconditional. And I`ve known him for 20 years now, and he has proved that he loves me unconditionally. And we`re just going to take it day by day.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GRACE: So it`s the media`s fault. It`s the media`s fault. Now, why would the media want to talk to this young guy because you had sex with him? It`s called statutory rape, Ms. LaFave. It`s a felony.
I want to go straight out to former federal prosecutor Michele Martinez. Michele, what do you think about what went down in court today?
MICHELE MARTINEZ, FMR. FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, I think it`s a travesty. It`s very unfortunate. And, you know, we`ve all had reluctant witnesses before. It`s part of the job. You work with the witnesses; you hold their hand; you use a carrot; you use a stick. Whatever it takes, you get them into court.
This victim was 16 years old. He`s not 10 years old. He`s not a young child. He`s a young man. And the prosecutor should have figured out a way to drag him into court, if necessary. And if they couldn`t do that, they should have made their case some other way.
But it`s obvious that this defendant has no remorse whatsoever, and she`s getting off scot-free.
GRACE: Well, I noticed today in court, Michele Martinez, that one of the reporters said: Is it true you`re doing an interview with "Vanity Fair"? And she went, "I`m not going in that direction right now."
MARTINEZ: Well, she`s getting her 15 minutes of fame. This is all working out exactly the way she wants. I mean, everything...
GRACE: I smell a book deal.
MARTINEZ: ... is going well for her.
GRACE: I smell a book deal.
You know, Ray, you and Lisa brought that up earlier.
To Eben Brown, NewsRadio 970 WFLA, do we have any idea whether LaFave is banned, barred from making any money off this?
BROWN: Her plea deal in Hillsboro County is still in effect. That`s the Tampa area. And she`s not allowed to profit by this in any way. She can`t sell her story for a movie; she can`t write a book, none of that. So she`s not allowed to have a book deal.
GRACE: For how long? For how long?
BROWN: For, I believe, the rest of her life.
GRACE: Can a plea, Lisa Borden, cover you for the rest of your life?
BORDEN: Well, I would think that, after her probation comes to an end, it`s going to be tough for that to follow her. And I thought I had read that it extended to the end of her probation period.
GRACE: Correct, so for three years. How long is her probation, Eben?
BROWN: Three years house arrest, seven years probation, 10-year period.
GRACE: OK, another issue regarding that is funneling the money to some other account. I mean, I just -- when she would not come right out and say she`s not doing interviews, and she says she wants to go into journalism, hello? Big red flag, "I`m writing a book." Let`s take a look at the judge`s decision.
Elizabeth, do you have that graph of the judge`s statement today?
The judge refused to play ball with the sweetheart plea. Quite frankly, the allegations against Debra LaFave are true. If they`re true, the agreed-upon sentence shocks the conscience of this court. This is Judge Stancil standing up for Lady Justice.
Ray Giudice, did you read his order? It was about six pages long.
GIUDICE: I read it thoroughly, Nancy. It`s a very careful drafted order. And it goes bit by bit, page by page, showing the prosecution, if they had done certain things or made even an effort to do certain things, and Victor pointed out many of them, about preparing this witness, he might have considered the plea.
There are certain mitigating circumstances that needed to be shown for the judge to depart from the mandatory sentencing. The prosecution threw in the towel on this one.
GRACE: Caved, totally caved.
Victor Vieth, director of the National Child Protection Training Center, Victor, in many jurisdictions now -- and it`s been ruled upon by the U.S. Supreme Court that this is allowable -- especially in cases like this, Victor, you can actually have the child, if they`re afraid of their attacker, go in a separate room, testify, direct and cross on video camera.
That`s totally acceptable. Florida is very innovative. Is there any reason to believe that couldn`t happen here?
VIETH: Yes, you`d probably have to put the victim on first. You`re going to have to prove under Maryland v. Craig that he can`t do it any other way. But if he truly can`t do it any other way, than closed circuit television is an option.
Can I make a real quick point, Nancy?
VIETH: The argument that some mental illness so lowered her inhibitions that she couldn`t control her sexual activity is ridiculous. If that were the case, she`d be having sex on the street randomly with a passersbys. If you can control when, where and how you`re going to have sex, you can control whether or not you`ll have it in the first place. So that`s just a ridiculous defense of the defendant.
GRACE: Response, Bethany Marshall?
MARSHALL: I completely agree with that. And that`s why I said earlier -- she`s saying that, because she`s bipolar, she couldn`t help herself. She chose to do this because she`s a pedophile, and the two are two completely different disorders.
And plus, if she was intact enough to be a teacher, to be driving around in a car with a kid, she wasn`t so manic that she just lost her mind and didn`t know what she was doing.
GRACE: And not only that, Bethany, what about these phone calls we just played for the viewers, where they actually planned their upcoming sex activity, complete with who was going to bring the condom?
MARSHALL: Well, you have to be very organized to do that. And someone who is in a manic episode is quite disorganized, chaotic, agitated. And so, yes, I mean, this was part of her pedophilia disorder.
GRACE: Back to Eben Brown, NewsRadio 970 WLFA, tell me it`s not true that the fiance has a two-year-old child?
BROWN: He does have a child by an ex-wife.
GRACE: So this is kind of like the fox guarding the henhouse. I mean, LaFave has been told not to be around children. What are they going to do with the baby?
BROWN: Debra is not allowed to be around kids. She said that herself today, so they will make other arrangements about how Mr. Beck will visit his child and will have to do so without Debra LaFave to, you know -- going to visit his child without Debra LaFave, who now goes by the name of Debra Jean Beasley. She`s no longer Mrs. LaFave.
GRACE: She`s now Mrs. Beasley?
BROWN: Ms. Beasley.
GRACE: Oh, excuse me, Ms. Beasley. Will he continue seeing the child?
BROWN: I believe that`s his intention. He wants to be a father to his child, we`re told.
GRACE: To Lisa Borden, Lisa, the nol pros, dropping the case, will that in any way affect a civil money lawsuit this mother and boy could bring?
BORDEN: It shouldn`t create any problems for the victim or the victim`s family.
GRACE: I`m glad to hear that. They won`t have any problems suing the school district; is that what you are saying?
BORDEN: Well, other than the fact that apparently this boy doesn`t want to testify. But assuming that they can persuade him to testify during a civil suit, the nol pros shouldn`t cause any problems.
First of all, they have the guilty plea from the other county, so there`s that. And the burdens are different anyways. The criminal case would have been beyond a reasonable doubt. In a civil case, it`s only a preponderance of the evidence they`re weighing, so it`s not going to be a problem.
GRACE: So she`s basically -- the boy and the mom are set to go forward with a civil lawsuit because they`ve got the guilty plea to house arrest and probation in a sister county. I get it.
Let`s go to our star chamber, veteran judges that have sat and presided over criminal cases. To Gino Brogdon, out of the Fulton Superior Court, Atlanta, Georgia, Gino, there are a million ways to deal with witnesses that are reluctant. Name a few.
BROGDON: Absolutely. Well, one is the preparation of the witness, bringing the witness into the courtroom, letting the witness be familiar with the surroundings, give the witness some idea of the kinds of questions that will be asked, where the defendant will be seated, making sure the witness understands the protections that will be in place, and the importance of the witness`s testimony.
I mean, this case would have been better had they tried it and lost it without the boy`s testimony than to just drop the ball this way; there were a number of ways to deal with this.
GRACE: Judge Brogdon, you said something very interesting that struck a chord with me.
Let`s go to Congressman Ted Poe, former judge, Harris County, Texas -- both of these judges, respected and veteran trial judges -- Judge Poe, in this case, in this particular case, what would your reaction have been, as a judge?
POE: Well, in this particular matter, the boy should have been -- he should have testified. I think it`s lazy prosecution in this case not to prepare the kid.
There are a lot of witnesses, not in just in these type of sexual assault cases, that don`t want to testify. Most witnesses don`t want to testify. So you have to tell them the advantages of testifying, prepare them for that.
And this boy should have testified in this case. They should have made sure that it happened, and I think it`s lazy prosecution that he didn`t testify. They just weren`t ready.
GRACE: And back to Gino Brogdon, you know, Gino, before you became a judge, you tried cases. The duty of the state is not to only cherry-pick cases they think they can win, but take cases to trial that they believe are true.
BROGDON: That`s right.
GRACE: You don`t pick a case to try because you think you can get a conviction; you pick a case to try to protect the victim and to protect the people of the jurisdiction.
BROGDON: That`s right, and also, Nancy, to give the public some confidence in the system itself. If pedophiles can get off this way because the prosecution caved or because the defendant is attractive or for whatever reason...
BROGDON: ... then the public loses confidence in the system, then it works for somebody that looks like her and doesn`t work for somebody that looks like me.
So it`s a -- there are a bunch of goals in prosecuting this case. And, frankly, many would say that this young man would do better by going through the testimony. It`s going to be tough, Nancy. You`ve tried a lot of cases. You understand that victims...
GRACE: Oh, it`s never easy.
BROGDON: Absolutely. They suffer through the trial, but what`s the greater good?
GRACE: Now, here`s a case where the victim backed out because of death threats. Anybody remember this?
Roll, Elizabeth, please.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want to try this case. And I have evidence heard by 12 citizens of this community. However, the victim has informed us, after much of her own labored deliberation, that she does not want to proceed with this trial.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GRACE: Now, in that case, unlike this case, the victim had gotten death threats and people had actually broken into her home, trying to dissuade her from testifying against NBA great Kobe Bryant. Stay with us.
GRACE: To tonight`s "Case Alert." Good news. The missing family of six we told you about last week found alive today. The Stivers family apparently took a wrong turn in their humongous RV, got stuck in snow two weeks ago on a trip up the Oregon coast.
Until today, the rescue seemed like a long-shot. Foul play suspected. Family members rejoice.
Happy to have some good news for a change. But that didn`t last long. Take a listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know, you hear about all these scary Internet stories. And you always think, "Well, it`s not going to happen to somebody I know."
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But it may have happened to Ken Lewis` ex-wife. Lucille Lewis, a woman everyone calls Louie, vanished just months after moving to Montana to be with a man she met on the Internet.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She left her job for 25 years, which was kind of unreal.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Lewis says he and Louie entered their 20-year marriage amicably. They were still friends. But when Louie introduced him to her new online boyfriends, red flags went up.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GRACE: Red flags, I guess so. Straight out to "Lake County Leader" editor Ethan Smith. What`s the last time anyone heard from Lucille Lewis?
ETHAN SMITH, EDITOR, "LAKE COUNTY LEADER": Well, Nancy, the last time was probably in late January. The person who`s considered a suspect, her online boyfriend -- actually, I should probably use the phrase "person of interest."
GRACE: Yes, we should. He`s not an official suspect. Go ahead.
SMITH: Correct. He claims to have dropped her off at the airport sometime in the first couple days in February. So he is supposedly the last person to see her, although she did have contact with family members in late January. And following a few days without any contact, they became very concerned.
GRACE: Steph Watts, one of our own producers, has been investigated this case. Steph, give me the background.
STEPH WATTS, NANCY GRACE PRODUCER: Well, Nancy, what happened is Lucille -- Louie, they called her, met Stipe online. There`s a couple different Internet sites here, so we don`t really want to name the site that she met him on, because it`s really just a tool for people...
GRACE: Cut the chase, Steph. Go ahead. What happened?
WATTS: Well, she fell in love, packed up her stuff, moved down in with Stipe. And the family has not heard from her since January 31st of this year.
GRACE: Steph, true-false, did she use her hard-earned savings to buy the man a trailer?
WATTS: That`s true, Nancy.
GRACE: Oh, good lord in Heaven.
WATTS: You`ve always got the facts right.
GRACE: All right, she bought the guy a trailer. When was the last time they heard from her?
WATTS: January 31st. According to a co-worker, she was planning on coming back, selling her house, and relocating permanently in with Stipe. There`s a picture of him now on the Internet. Nancy, imagine hooking up with that guy online.
GRACE: Thanks, Steph. Thanks for all your confidence in me.
Now, I know we don`t know what site they met on, but it`s not the site`s fault. I know she was on eHarmony. I know she was on Date.com. eHarmony has been very cooperative with us. She had a profile there. Is there any way that these women can know the guy they`re talking to has a felony record?
WATTS: No, Nancy. It`s impossible when someone lies about their information online. And I do want to make it clear: eHarmony, I`m reading the statement from them that they just sent us -- eHarmony reached out and talked to detectives. They`re cooperating fully. They`ve provided information, and they volunteered all this information without a subpoena.
He did not have a profile on eHarmony; she did have a profile on eHarmony.
GRACE: Let`s go for Lucille`s sister, Cassie Jones. Cassie, what do you make of her disappearance? This isn`t like her at all.
CASSIE JONES, SISTER OF LUCILLE "LOUIE" LEWIS: No, no, it isn`t. I`m very concerned. Usually, she would call home, call a family member. We stayed in contact all the time.
She always stayed in contact with a friend or a family member. And to have gone this long without contacting anyone, I fear that something has happened to her.
GRACE: The tip-line, 406-883-7301. Help us find out what happened to Lucille.
We`ll all be right back. To tonight`s "All-Points Bulletin." Law enforcement on the lookout for Louis Joseph Spencer II, wanted in connection with Houston bank robberies. Here`s exclusive video of one of those robberies, Jan. 2. Watch the suspect holding a cell phone to his ear the whole time, keeping the other hand near his waist displaying a gun.
In a November robbery, he actually took a couple of shots at the bank security guard. He missed. Spencer is 29, 5`10", 180 pounds, bald, green eyes. If you have info on this man, Louis Joseph Spencer II, call the FBI, 713-693-5000.
Local news next for some of you. We`ll all be right back. And, remember, live coverage of a 73-year-old woman on trial for bludgeoning her husband to death, 78, 3:00 to 5:00 Eastern, Court TV.
Stay with us as we remember Private First Class Ryan Walker, 25, Pendleton, Oregon, one of five soldiers killed, roadside bomb, Iraq. His father says his son didn`t have an enemy. Walker is a medic who had already earned the Purple Heart. Ryan Walker, American hero.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know, you hear about all these scary Internet stories and you always think, "Well, it`s not going to happen to somebody I know."
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GRACE: Straight back out to Cassie Jones, the sister of Lucille Lewis, now missing, we believe, since January when she dropped her job of 25 years, bought a trailer with her own money, and moved out to meet a guy she had met online.
Did she lose her mind, Cassie?
JONES: At the time, I thought so. It was so unlike her. I didn`t know what she was -- where her mind was at.
GRACE: What has this guy been telling the family?
JONES: Well, some of the things he was telling us was that he was a retired federal marshal, that he`d been hurt in the line of duty. He was on disability.
GRACE: So far, only the disability part`s ringing true to me.
JONES: Yes. He was a great storyteller.
GRACE: And she fell for it, online.
JONES: Yes, she did.
GRACE: Back to Ethan Smith with the "Lake County Leader" -- hold on. Let me quickly get to Pat Brown, criminal profiler.
Pat, before I go back to Ethan, what do you make of this guy online? He had a criminal history; we all know that now.
PAT BROWN, CRIMINAL PROFILER: Right, he did. But, you know, it`s interesting. The best personality profile you will find online come from your prison inmate dating sites. I mean, those are the guys that -- oh, my god, they just sound absolutely wonderful.
So when women go online, they`re trying to get out of their little pond, the pond that has the fish they know and are rather boring. So they go into this big ocean, and the fish are much flashier. And these guys just swarm on in They`re like male black widows. They know who to go after.
Lonely women, especially one who`s been in a 20-year-old marriage, her life is now upside down. She feels not needed or wanted anymore, and she wants something in her life that`s meaningful and someone who loves her. And here he comes along, and he knows every single line to throw out there.
GRACE: Pat Brown, I`m afraid you`re right.
We`ll keep you updated on the case. And a special thank you to all of my guests tonight, but especially to Cassie Jones. We`ll stay on the case, Ms. Cassie. Thank you.
Our biggest thank you, from myself and all of the staff, is to you for being with us, inviting us into your homes. I`m Nancy Grace signing off tonight. Hope to see you right here tomorrow night, 8:00 sharp Eastern. And until then, good night, friend.