Botched Investigation?

This is a partial transcript from "The O'Reilly Factor," June 27, 2005, that has been edited for clarity.

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BILL O'REILLY, HOST: In the "Personal Story" segment tonight, we have been telling you that the investigation into the brutal murder of 9-year-old Jessica Lunsford in Citrus County (search), Florida, has been botched beyond belief. Now further evidence of that.

Documents released by the state of Florida show confessed killer John Couey repeatedly asked for a lawyer but was denied that request by Citrus County authorities, so his subsequent confession may be inadmissible. The prosecutor in the case, Brad King (search), continues to say that his failure to charge three other people who helped Couey is acceptable, and The St. Petersburg Times newspaper continues to protect King, personally attacking people who would disagree with King's assessment.

Over the weekend, the St. Pete Times ran an op-ed by King saying Couey lied about keeping Jessica captive in his trailer for days. King doesn't believe that happened. King may be right.

But what definitely did happen is the two people in the trailer who lived there with him helped Couey escape to Georgia and the other man may have helped, as well.

Enter Bill Grant, a former assistant state attorney who worked under Brad King. Mr. Grant submitted an op-ed to the St. Petersburg Times saying the entire investigation has been compromised and criticizing the paper for its personal attacks. Surprise, The Times has not printed Mr. Grant's article.

Joining us now from Kansas City, Missouri, is Bill Grant who is now a defense attorney.

All right, let's start with the confession. It's inconceivable to me and to everybody else watching that experienced law enforcement officers in the sheriff's department would not stop as soon as the guy said, "I need a lawyer," and give him one. It's inconceivable, is it not?

BILL GRANT, FLORIDA CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, there are several things to consider, Bill, when a defendant gives a confession and he invokes his right for counsel. I don't have personal information, only what you've gleaned, as well, regarding the confession that Couey gave to the deputy, to the detectives up in Georgia when he was arrested in Georgia.

But I can tell you that it is disturbing to read some of the context of the confessions that were given and the requests for counsel. And I can only tell you that I'm certainly holding out hope that the comments made by Rick Ridgeway, a deputy state attorney with Brad King's office, that the case is solid. Beyond that...

O'REILLY: I believe that they will probably throw out the confession, but just the fact that they botched it like this — and we know that because a transcript was released by the state of Florida.

Now, the failure to prosecute three people living in the trailer with Couey at the time of the girl's abduction, and it looks like murder, how do you read that?

GRANT: Well, the big problem there is that the information that hasn't gotten out to the public is that, when the deputies made the arrest on March 19th of these persons, they began the process of speedy trial under Florida law and the Florida constitution, where the state, after an arrest is made, the state will only have 90 days to bring them to trial for a misdemeanor or 175 days to bring them to trial for a felony.

What the sheriff's department should have done, and they do it every single day — I worked in that office in that county — is they come in and they do "intake." They come in and they visit with the state attorney, an assistant state attorney. They drop off the documents. They drop off their investigation.

They don't go out and make a warrant-less arrest because then speedy trial runs. Now we're stuck. We're going to be forever barred from charging them with a misdemeanor. And on September 10th of this year, we will be forever barred from charging them with — or going to trial on a felony.

O'REILLY: Yes, but King doesn't say that's the reason. King says that there is nothing to charge him with. And I think that's baloney.

GRANT: Well, let me tell you the distinction here. If Brad's position was that there is nothing to charge them with at that time, by the sheriff making the arrest it tied Brad's hands.

He could have always told them, "No, we're not going to go for an arrest. We want more investigation." You know, you can send detectives undercover. You can go and have beers with him at the local watering hole over there in Homasassa or whatever.

The bottom line is that the sheriff, Jeff Dawsy (search), initiated an arrest and he shouldn't have done it without the clearance of Brad King, period.

O'REILLY: So they're all covering for each other then? They're all covering up for each other?

GRANT: Well, I am astonished — I am simply astonished — that it hasn't come out that the arrest triggered the entire process of how the state has to bring folks to trial. And neither the sheriff nor the state attorney has mentioned that. I don't know what the reasoning is for that.

O'REILLY: OK. But I know that, when you were in Brad King's office working with him, you guys charged people with a lot less than what these three people did.

GRANT: That's true. That's a true statement.

O'REILLY: I mean, I want to get the B.S. off the table here. This is a massive cover-up. They're both covering for each other. And then The St. Petersburg Times comes in, and they're completely in the tank for King. Do you know why?

GRANT: You know, I have never seen the situation at the St. Petersburg Times so slanted, so hard, taking the hook, line, and sinker approach with the sheriff. I read the — I was in a little poppy's pizza place there in Inverness, Florida, a week ago, reading this editorial four or five days ago, reading this editorial and just became incensed that I would have to eat and listen read that The St. Petersburg Times wants to attack Congresswoman Ginny Brown-Waite (search) based on what they had.

And the bottom line is that the sheriff of Citrus County is the one that botched this investigation, if you ask me. And the fact that they want to then hide behind the "St. Petersburg Times," how he wells up when Jessica Lunsford's name is mentioned, the entire community wells up with sympathy for this family. And...

O'REILLY: What is the — and I just want to point out again. You wrote an article and submitted it to The St. Petersburg Times, which they did not run or haven't run yet, which is just disgraceful. It tells you about that newspaper.

You see, I'm so angry about this that I could spit. Because this is a 9-year-old girl who is brutally killed. I mean, no American should suffer the way this girl suffered.

We know those three people. We know they didn't cooperate with police and, indeed, helped Couey flee the state. We know all that. And they're walking around free doing whatever they do, which the sheriff says is drugs.

GRANT: And The St. Petersburg Times would have us just accept that notion.

O'REILLY: Right, no, no, but more than that. They attack, as you pointed out, the congresswoman and me for demanding justice.

GRANT: They did.

O'REILLY: They attacked us personally. So they're scum. I mean, that's what they are. Excuse me, my word, but that's what they are.

But see, I'm not getting this whole thing, as far as why they're all doing it. Do you have any idea of why they're all doing it?

GRANT: It's not fathomable to me. What I don't understand is how The St. Petersburg Times can draw a parallel between John Couey (search) and our congresswoman, Ginny Brown-Waite (search), of being in the mud together.

O'REILLY: It's awful.

GRANT: I think it's absolutely reprehensible. She's the sponsor of federal legislation, The Jessica Lunsford Act, now being incorporated into the Sexual Predator Act (search) with Representative Sensenbrenner.

And I just don't — I don't get it, Bill.

O'REILLY: No, I don't either.

GRANT: I don't understand it.

O'REILLY: It's something very, very wrong with Brad King, Dawsy, the sheriff, and the paper. I think they're all in on this cover-up together. And we're going to get to the bottom of it.

Counselor, thanks very much. We appreciate it.

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