Geraldo Rivera Live - Wednesday, August 2, 2000
The Rivera Live Transcript
August 2, 2000, Wednesday
HEADLINE: SEXUAL ASSAULT CASE SIMILAR TO JONBENET RAMSEY MURDER CASE IS DISCOVERED
ANCHORS: GERALDO RIVERA
REPORTERS: LEANNE GREGG
BODY: Mr. JOHN RAMSEY (Father of JonBenet Ramsey): (From May 24) You need to realize there's a killer of children that walks among us. It's not Patsy, and it's not I. Let's get on with finding the killer. That is our single and only objective in doing any of this.
GERALDO RIVERA, host:
John Ramsey made that emotional statement back in May, again vigorously repeating the consistent denial that he and his wife, Patty, had absolutely nothing to do with their daughter, JonBenet's, horrific death.
Now, for the first time in three and a half years, there is a real new development that could conceivably--maybe that's a stretch, but I think, you know, conceivably support the couple's claim of innocence. Police in Boulder, Colorado, are testing evidence from an attempted assault on a teen-age girl who attended the same dance studio as JonBenet. NBC's Leanne Gregg says authorities are looking for any connection between the two crimes.
LEANNE GREGG reporting:
The crime scene: a basement of the Ramsey home where JonBenet's body was found. Police in Boulder are running more tests on evidence found here. They're checking to see if palm prints at the Ramsey crime scene match prints found at the scene of a sexual assault of a 14-year- old girl that happened after JonBenet's murder.
Chief MARK BECKNER (Boulder Police): There is a killer walking the streets in this country. We just have to figure out who that is.
GREGG: Comments from Boulder police Chief Mark Beckner months ago. This week Beckner says he doubts there's a link between the two crimes, but admits it's worth a second look.
Police reports say the 14-year-old girl went to JonBenet's dance academy. She was attacked in her bed. Her mother interrupted the assault, and the attacker got away.
Attorneys for John and Patsy Ramsey say by dismissing a possible link, Boulder police demonstrated a lack of objectivity that's been evident from the beginning of the investigation. JonBenet's parents consistently deny involvement in the case, but remain under suspicion. During an earlier interview, the Ramseys said an intruder killed their daughter, and they won't give up on finding the person responsible.
Mr. RAMSEY: (From WSMV-TV): Well, what we've wanted and what we continue to want is that the investigation continue.
GREGG: A grand jury disbanded last fall after examining the case for 13 months. No charges have been filed. Leanne Gregg, NBC News, Denver.
RIVERA: Yesterday John Ramsey called the development 'hugely significant.' Just hours ago he spoke by phone with an Atlanta TV station.
Mr. RAMSEY: (Courtesy WXIA) My belief is that this killer probably has killed before and will act again. So to know that it happened within two miles of the house, potentially, within nine months of JonBenet's murder was--was shocking. As I say, on--on the one hand, it's tragic that it had to happen, but it--to me, it's encouraging that what we believed would happen, we have a record of it and--and some knowledge and some more information that can be put into the piece of the puzzle.
RIVERA: NBC's chief legal correspondent, Dan Abrams, joins us now from New York City. First of all, Dan, is this indeed a significant development, and why the hell didn't we hear about it before?
DAN ABRAMS (NBC News): Well, look, I don't know why we didn't hear about it before. This is the sort of incident that the police should have been looking into long ago. Now I--I spoke with the police chief, Mark Beckner, yesterday at length about this, and his position is, 'We did know about it. We investigated this. I personally'--I, Beckner--'knew about this as soon as I became briefed on the details of the Ramsey case. And the fact that the press didn't know about it until now isn't our problem.'
The problem is, though, that the DAs didn't know about it. The prosecutors who brought...
ABRAMS: ...who brought this case to the grand jury didn't know about this other incident. And that is problematic, regardless of what you think about the Ramseys' guilt or innocence. And it boils down to this-- and this is sort of the same idea Beckner was--was saying to me--is if you believe that the Ramseys did it, then this is really irrelevant. I--if you're convinced that the Ramseys did it, who cares if there was an intruder in someone else's house? But if you leave open the possibility that the Ramseys didn't do it or you believe the Ramseys didn't do it, then this is extremely significant. Nine months later, another girl attacked sexually, went to the same dance studio, same sort of lying-in- wait kind of attack. All relevant factors.
RIVERA: Right back. Hugely Significant, said Mr. Ramsey. Is it?
RIVERA: A significant development in the JonBenet Ramsey case. I really do think it is significant, a kind of a--a look-alike case nine months later. Dan Abrams and--and I have been pretty close to this case, and neither of us, through our various sources heard it. Maybe because the cops didn't want to tell us, Dan.
ABRAMS: Well, you know, y--that--that's--that's the interesting part is: Why didn't we know about this? This is a 33-page police report of facts that sure do sound similar to the Ramsey case. And as I made this point to Mark Beckner, the police chief, when I spoke with him, you know-- and that is this doesn't happen in Boulder. The notion that some...
ABRAMS: ...someone would be in someone's house, an intruder would be in a little girl's house while the mother is home, sexually assaulting the girl, that in and of itself even happening once seems extremely unlikely in Boulder. And the fact that the Ramseys have always maintained that that's exactly what happened in their house in the JonBenet Ramsey case is something at the very least worth looking into.
RIVERA: In Denver tonight, the city's former chief deputy district attorney, our pal Craig Silverman, joins us. He's now a civil and criminal trial lawyer.
Craig, what the hell happened here?
Mr. CRAIG SILVERMAN (Civil and Criminal Attorney; Former Prosecutor): Well, I think it's another interesting sideshow in this tragic circus of a case. It's hard to believe that the DAs did n--did not know about it. I mean, what's the source of that information? And...
ABRAMS: I--my--my sources--my sources are good on that, and I can tell you...
Mr. SILVERMAN: Right.
ABRAMS: ...the DAs did not know about it.
Mr. SILVERMAN: Right, but the--you know...
RIVERA: Alex Hunter refused comment today, I must say.
Mr. SILVERMAN: Well, Alex Hunter has surrogates, and Alex Hunter benefits by putting out this story; so do--so do the Ramseys. And, you know, Mark Beckner is going along with it and he is saying the right things because they have a meeting scheduled toward the end of the month. And there's really only one way this case is going to be solved at this point, and that's a confession by whoever did it. It's time that the key witnesses cooperated, and you can bet there's more than one Boulder cop who's fantasized about getting the confession of a lifetime from one or more Ramseys.
RIVERA: OK. In San Diego, we welcome Pete Peterson, a private investigator whose firm also has branches in Denver and LA; Mr. Peterson hired by the family of the 14-year-old to look into the girl's assault.
What do they think, Pete?
Mr. R.W. PETERSON (Private Investigator): Well, how do you mean 'What do they think?' I mean, obviously...
RIVERA: Do they--do they think there's a link?
Mr. PETERSON: Well, let's put it this way. We think there's--there's a possibility of that. I don't know that I'm directly convinced. There is--we investigated it for about a year and a half, as well as the Ramsey case. We got involved in that because of it. There are d--some--some definite parallels with regard also to handwriting, and some of the people...
RIVERA: How come you didn't tell anybody, Pete?
Mr. PETERSON: I did. You know, the only reason--this is a new development--it's not a new development; this has been there for three years. And somebody by the name of Charlie Brennan, a reporter, picked it up. I mean, we were out there with it--we were out there with it. We talked to the DA; we talked to Lou Smit.
RIVERA: So you did--did you talk to the DA?
Mr. SILVERMAN: Right. So--so the Ramseys have known about this for a long time. Let's...
ABRAMS: No, if--if--but wait...
Mr. SILVERMAN: Let's put the cards out that we know. Ellis Armistead, a private investigator, quit the case. I'm sure he had knowledge of this situation.
ABRAMS: If the Ramseys knew about this, it would have been in their book.
Mr. PETERSON: No, I don't think he had knowledge of it.
ABRAMS: If the Ramseys knew about this...
RIVERA: I agree with Dan.
ABRAMS: ...I guarantee you it would have been in their book. This would be a bombshell for the Ramseys.
Mr. SILVERMAN: You know...
ABRAMS: Why wouldn't they want to make it public if they'd known about it?
Mr. SILVERMAN: Dan--Dan, you make a good point about this being somewhat rare in Boulder. But here, a few miles away in Denver, I prosecuted a lot of rapists who sneak into the house and wait for their prey.
ABRAMS: Yeah, but--and, Craig...
Mr. SILVERMAN: That happens.
ABRAMS: Yeah, but--but that--that--that's not what I'm talking about. The reality--no--no, it's not...
Mr. SILVERMAN: But there are so many innocent people nowadays,
Mr. PETERSON: But, gentlemen, it's not rare in Boulder.
ABRAMS: It is rare in Boulder.
Mr. PETERSON: It's not rare in Boulder.
ABRAMS: It is rare.
RIVERA: Wait, what do you mean--what do you mean by that, Pete? What do you mean by that?
Mr. PETERSON: It's not rare in Boulder.
ABRAMS: He's wrong.
Mr. PETERSON: Hold up, hold up, the talking heads there, please. It's not rare in Boulder. This happened on three different occasions during a one-month period close to this case. There was another lady we talked to who had a gentleman hiding in her apartment. Now you can go back...
ABRAMS: Right, but we're talking about children.
Mr. PETERSON: ...go back and--go back and check the police reports.
ABRAMS: Yeah, but wait...
Mr. PETERSON: There were three other incidents just like this, like the case we investigated, and we talked to at least two of these people.
RIVERA: All unsolved, Pete?
Mr. PETERSON: Right. And these were people that were secreted in their house for a period of hours until they came home or while they were home.
ABRAMS: But--but what makes this--but what makes this different...
RIVERA: Let me just explain to the folks...
Mr. PETERSON: Now this is common. This is fairly common in Boulder.
RIVERA: All right. Dan, I'm going to let you finish. I just--if the g--the intruder theory is that the guy was in--was--was there when they all went to bed. I mean, in this--in this other case, Pete--Pete's case, the intruder had to be there because there was an alarm system on the house
Mr. PETERSON: He was there. They set the alarm at 11 PM.
RIVERA: ...and the alarm only triggered when the mother and the--and the child fled the house to go to the cops.
Mr. SILVERMAN: Yeah, but, Geraldo, what if the Ramseys--what if the Ramseys...
ABRAMS: Right, but--but here we're talking about attacking a child, Geraldo.
RIVERA: Dan, go ahead.
ABRAMS: That's the--that's the difference. In Boulder, it has happened that people have come into people's houses, particularly college students. It's happened fairly often that intruders end up in women's homes.
Mr. SILVERMAN: Right.
ABRAMS: The difference is here you have a child who is being attacked, a female child, while the parent is in the house.
Mr. SILVERMAN: Right. But what has happened after that, Dan...
ABRAMS: That is the comparison that makes it particularly unique.
Mr. SILVERMAN: Dan, what has happened after that at the Ramsey house...
RIVERA: OK, listen, we're going to do more on this. And, Dan, certainly when you're in this seat on--on Monday, you're going to--you're going to follow it up, on--I'm positive.