Michael Devlin's Lawyer Speaks Out About Jailhouse Interview

This is a partial transcript of "The Big Story With John Gibson," January 22, 2007, that has been edited for clarity.

JOHN GIBSON, HOST: It is the "Big Crime" story: The Missouri man accused of kidnapping Shawn Hornbeck and Ben Ownby gave a jailhouse interview to a reporter this weekend without his lawyer's consent.

Michael Devlin agreed to see the New York Post reporter during visiting hours, but the problem is the reporter identified herself to jailers as a "friend." Now Devlin's attorneys are yelling and screaming at the jail for letting the woman inside in the first place. They say their client is not safe there and should be moved.

With me now is criminal defense attorney Michelle Suskauer and live on the phone from St. Louis is Devlin's attorney, Michael Kielty.

Michael, if I could go to you first, your client, Mr. Devlin, gave an interview this weekend. Turned out to be a New York Post reporter, although she evidently identified herself as a friend to the jailers. Here are a couple of the points from the interview. The first thing is he said, evidently, that the years with Shawn, Shawn Hornbeck, were the happiest of his life. And another point he made was that his parents now shun him. I know you have many objections to the fact this interview was conducted, but what is so bad about it?

MICHAEL KIELTY, MICHAEL DEVLIN'S ATTORNEY: Well, let me address the interviewer first, OK? Here's a young lady who enters the jail, the facility, under false pretenses, who deceives my client and then writes an article that's supposed to be true. I think that she has lied to the jailers, she has lied to my client. I don't see where her article has any veracity whatsoever. In fact, I know as a matter of fact that there are some false accusations and statements that just weren't made.

GIBSON: Mr. Kielty, why, if Michael Devlin knew for a fact she was not a friend, why did he talk to her?

KIELTY: I can only speculate as to that, OK? But put yourself in his position. He has been in solitary confinement for days on end, getting very little sleep, and he has the opportunity to go out and talk to somebody. Now, this person never identified herself as a member of the press. To the contrary, I believe she stated that she was a friend of the family and that she was a local university student.

GIBSON: But did she say to him that she was a friend?

KIELTY: She did say she was a friend of the family and that she was a local university student that wanted to talk.

GIBSON: Michelle, who is responsible here? I mean, is Devlin responsible for talking to somebody who talks to him, or has this reporter really done something out of bounds?

MICHELLE SUSKAUER, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: John, unfortunately we sort of can't control our clients that are in custody. This is sort of akin to a jailhouse snitch and making statements to someone that he is in custody with. This is not law enforcement. His lawyer does not have to be present, unfortunately. So what he says is, you know, could be possibly admissible in court.

The question is: Is it relevant and does the state really need to use any of this information? I'm sure his attorney is going to be objecting up and down that this is really prejudicial and it's not relevant. I don't know whether any of this information can come in. He didn't make any admissions about the case.

GIBSON: Mr. Kielty, does this affect your case one way or another?

KIELTY: Well, we're not that far yet. The issue that I have right now is when there is an accused person in a correctional facility, that correctional facility is there to protect that person. Not only from the outside world but also potentially from himself, as has been noted in the media in the past couple of days.

There was a time period when anybody in general and in particular this case, when a jail keeps somebody in solitary confinement to decide whether or not they are a risk to themselves for suicide. One name that sticks to mind right now is what if this person would have brought in a weapon instead of a tape recorder and you have something like what happened with Jack Ruby and Lee Harvey Oswald.

GIBSON: Mr. Kielty, let me show you one other thing. Let me move on beyond this.

There is another report, and this is a neighbor hearing whimpering, screaming, and pleading sounds from the Devlin apartment over a period of months or years when he was a neighbor of Michael Devlin's while Shawn Hornbeck was there. Mr. Kielty, you will face this kind of information as well.

KIELTY: I look forward to seeing the information. Right now if this case were tried today, there hasn't been any evidence and Mr. Devlin would be found innocent. I don't have any evidence. The state hasn't given me any. And I can't speculate on what it is or isn't.

GIBSON: Are you going to say that Shawn Hornbeck wound up in Devlin's apartment on his own, wasn't kidnapped?

KIELTY: I don't know I can make a comment to the facts at all. Once again, I don't have any facts. I'm not privy to any of the state's evidence.

GIBSON: Michelle, if you're in the position of Mr. Kielty, you have a guy who has a kid that has gone missing for four years in his apartment...

KIELTY: No, sir, these are allegations.

GIBSON: They are allegations. But nonetheless, that's where he was found. Michelle, maybe you can offer a little advice here. What does your colleague do about this?

SUSKAUER: I don't want to propose to give him advice. He has a very challenging case with a difficult situation. And certainly if this gentleman, this former neighbor, is an actual witness and he actually heard this, certainly this is going to be very damaging. It's going to be very challenging to face that information because he's going to be able to testify as to what he heard. He's going to be able to testify if he heard sounds.

GIBSON: Mr. Kielty, we are going to be back in touch with you. Good luck with this case.

KIELTY: OK, can I make one more comment?

GIBSON: OK. Michelle, I have got to run now. Michelle Suskauer, thank you.

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