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PAULA ZAHN NOW

Interview With Christopher Reeve; Interview With Tommy Thompson; Charges Delayed in Michael Jackson Case

Aired November 25, 2003 - 20:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: "In Focus" tonight: the Michael Jackson case, new searches, charges delayed, and a secret videotape of Jackson on the plane flight to turn himself in.
A star high school athlete convicted on sex charges, but now some of the jurors say they made a mistake. Why is he still in jail?

And we'll talk with Christopher Reeve about his new milestone. For the first time since his accident, he can breathe on his own for hours -- his first full interview off the ventilator.

Good evening. Welcome. Glad to have you with us tonight.

By one account, since the war began, President Bush has been to 41 fund-raises and no funerals for U.S. troops killed in Iraq. Is there something wrong with this picture?

And the controversy over NBA superstar Alonzo Mourning, who quit the game this week because he needed a kidney transplant just months after signing a $22 million contract his team still has to pay.

Plus: Congress OKs a $400 billion overhaul of Medicare. We're going to tell you who it helps, who it leaves out and what it will mean to you and your family.

Also, as you look ahead to turkey and all the trimming, what if you heard that radically cutting calories, a starvation diet, could let you live to be 140 years old?

First, though, here are some of the headlines you need to know right now.

A close associate of Osama bin Laden is now the key suspect in last week's deadly attacks on British targets in Turkey. CNN has learned that a team of Arab, Israeli and European investigators believe Abu Musab al-Zarqawi helped organize the bombings. They suspect he's hiding someplace in Iran.

Federal authorities say they have blown the lid on a drug smuggling ring they say involved 25 current and former U.S. airport workers. Police say most of them were baggage and cargo handles who took incoming drug shipments and diverted them from security screeners.

Country singer Glen Campbell apologized today to his fans after spending the night at a Phoenix jail after a drinking and driving arrest. Besides DUI and hit-and-run charges, the 67-year-old is also charged with assault for allegedly kicking a police officer.

Michael Jackson's defense team is digging in and lashing out today. Attorney Mark Geragos said money is what is motivating the accuser and that his celebrity client will not be slammed like a pinata. He also had a surprise for reporters that could point to plain old mischief on someone's part. The Michael Jackson case is "In Focus' tonight.

And we begin with our national correspondent, Frank Buckley, who joins us from Los Angeles this evening.

Good evening, Frank.

FRANK BUCKLEY, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good evening, Paula.

An incredible revelation regarding that private plane trip that Michael Jackson took with his attorney, Mark Geragos, from Nevada to Santa Barbara on that day that he turned himself in to authorities.

Today, Mark Geragos, Michael Jackson's attorney, filed a lawsuit against Xtra Jet -- that's the charter airplane company that transported Michael Jackson -- claiming that the company allegedly secretly videotaped Michael Jackson and Geragos while they were riding on that aircraft. Then they attempted to shop that videotape around, according to Geragos, to media outlets.

Geragos was angry. He said it was a violation of attorney-client privilege. He said it was an invasion of privacy. And he put anyone on notice who might attempt to gain financially from Michael Jackson's legal problems.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARK GERAGOS, ATTORNEY FOR SCOTT PETERSON: This is not the lottery. This is this man's life. This is his family's life. These are scurrilous accusations. We are going to -- and I've been given full authority -- we will land on you like a ton of bricks, we will land on you like a hammer if you do anything to besmirch this man's reputation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BUCKLEY: Geragos and his attorneys were able to successfully obtain a temporary restraining order prohibiting the distribution of that tape or altering of that tape in any way, also of altering that aircraft in any way. We can tell you that a representative for Xtra Jet said that they had no statement at this time.

And separately, on the investigation of Michael Jackson, we were told that, instead of the formal filing of charges taking place just after Thanksgiving, as we had been told in the past, a source close to the investigation told us today that that is now going to take place some time after mid-December.

The reason given, Paula, that they just have so much information that they need to look through and they just need some extra time -- Paula.

ZAHN: Frank Buckley, thanks for the update.

We're going to get some expert analysis on the surprising developments now from our own resident legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin. Always good to see you.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Hi.

ZAHN: Let's go through this delay, and when we will see these formal charges. We heard the rationale for the prosecution wanting this. Is this a huge boost to the prosecution?

TOOBIN: Sure. They want it. What I don't understand is why Mark Geragos surrendered his client when there are no charges pending against him. You know, people don't usually walk into police stations and say, go ahead, book me and charge me whenever you feel like it.

ZAHN: So why do you think he did it?

TOOBIN: Well, I think what was likely the scenario is oftentimes when you have a defendant who is represented by a lawyer, you arrange a surrender date that is convenient for everyone so you don't -- so you'd have an orderly process, the lawyers, you know...

(CROSSTALK)

ZAHN: Mr. Geragos is kind of a busy guy right now.

TOOBIN: He is a famously busy guy. But usually you would think a day or two until charges. Here, the prosecution is going to be able to accumulate a great deal more evidence, because the search warrant was just executed, and this arrest warrant will now be apparently a much more powerful accusatory document. Geragos gave him that chance by apparently agreeing to this delay in the filing. I have never heard of an arrest warrant being filed so much later than an arrest date. I don't think it's ultimately all that significant, but it is an advantage for the prosecution.

ZAHN: Well, say what you want to say about Mark Geragos. Because he certainly is a lightning rod for a lot of criticism. You clearly think this is a strategic blunder?

TOOBIN: I would say a tactical blunder. You know, strategic overstates it. But it is strange to surrender your client, subject him to this incredible personal humiliation, and then once the arrest warrant comes out, you'll have an even, you know, another round of extremely bad publicity, with greater detail in it, because they've had this extra time to prepare the arrest warrant.

ZAHN: We just heard Mr. Geragos' very strong reaction to the fact that he and his client were secretly videotaped on the charter jet that flew them from Los Vegas into Santa Barbara. What is the potential that that tape could actually be used by the prosecution?

TOOBIN: I think extremely unlikely. I mean, it really is an appalling thing that someone would tape an attorney and client together. I mean, this is the heart of what attorneys and clients are supposed to do, communicate freely and openly without suspicion.

The only way I could see this being used against Michael Jackson, if there is some portion of the tape that Geragos is not on, where Michael Jackson is talking to someone else on the plane. Even though Mark Geragos and company could sue the jet company, because the government is not involved in the misconduct, because the government didn't do this taping, they could use that evidence, potentially, in court. They couldn't use it if it's covered by the attorney-client privilege, but if Jackson is talking to someone else and it's incriminating, maybe they could use it then.

ZAHN: You say this idea of videotaping on the plane is appalling. Is it against the law?

TOOBIN: Certainly civil -- I'm not sure. I'm not rendering my verdict yet. I think it's certainly probably a violation of Michael Jackson's rights, it's certainly probably a civil offense. Whether it's actually criminal, that I couldn't tell you. I think if there's anything on tape between Jackson and Geragos, it's not coming out anywhere, and it really shouldn't.

ZAHN: Jeffrey Toobin, always glad to have your insights.

TOOBIN: All right.

ZAHN: Thanks so much.

More ahead tonight on Michael Jackson. I'll be talking with a private investigator who worked on the first molestation allegations against Jackson just about 10 years ago. And on "LARRY KING LIVE" tonight at 9:00 p.m., Larry has an exclusive interview with Michael Jackson's civil co-counsel.

And an historic $400 billion overhaul of Medicare that President Bush wanted is ready for him to sign into law. The Senate passed the measure 54-44 today in a vote that saw both backers and opponents cross party lines.

It is a complicated package. And Kathleen Koch puts it in "Plain English."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KATHLEEN KOCH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): When it comes to drug coverage, the sick and poor are the biggest winners.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For the first time, we will say to seniors who are low-income that you will no longer be treated as a second- class citizen.

KOCH: Those with high drug bills get a huge break, when the government picks up 95 percent of their costs after they spend $3,600 a year. The poorer seniors get their drugs almost for free. Losers, seniors who earn more than $80,000. For the first time, they'll have to pay more for doctor visits. More winners, rural and urban hospitals with a large number of poor patients. They'll get higher payments, incentives to treat those Medicare recipients. Doctors win, too. Instead of cutting payments to doctors who treat seniors on Medicare, they'll get a 1.5 percent increase.

Losers? The pocketbooks of future generations.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: My friends, $400 billion is merely a down payment.

KOCH: The price tag for Medicare reform.

Kathleen Koch, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: President Bush calls passage of the Medicare reform bill a great victory for seniors. But is it? And who will ultimately pay for it?

Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy Thompson joins us from our Washington bureau this evening.

Always good to see you, sir. Thanks so much for spending some time with us.

TOMMY THOMPSON, HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES SECRETARY: Paula, it's always a pleasure to be on your program. Thank you.

ZAHN: Thank you.

You said that today's vote in the Senate represented the most significant improvement in health care for seniors in 40 years. But I would love for you to take a look at these most recent poll results that show...

THOMPSON: Sure.

ZAHN: ... only 33 percent of seniors actually wanted this bill to pass. How do you reconcile this?

THOMPSON: Well, when all the Democratic presidential candidates are out bashing the proposal and you have individuals talking about filibustering it and you have a lot of people making accusations that this is the death knell of Medicare, seniors are very anxious. And they've got a great deal of anxiety about it.

But the truth of the matter is that this bill is going to be good for seniors, especially low-income seniors, and those individuals who have had to make the difficult choice of whether or not they're going to purchase drugs to help them out with their health needs or purchase food or other necessities will no longer have to make that choice, when we're able to get the bill up and running in 2006. They will be able now to have the Medicare provisions be able to pay for their drugs. And that is what everybody has been talking about for the last 10 years. And, finally, we scored the touchdown today for the seniors. We gave them Medicare with prescription drug coverage.

ZAHN: You mentioned the low-income seniors you think that benefit from this. A lot of other people mentioned the disabled also as victors in this.

THOMPSON: That is correct.

ZAHN: But Senator Daschle described this bill as simply a bailout for the drug and insurance industries. Is he wrong?

THOMPSON: Well, you can make -- absolutely wrong.

You can make all kinds of accusations. This is the most complex and very lengthy piece of legislation. It's extensive. And you can find something in there that you can find that you don't like and talk about.

But the truth of the matter is, when you look at what is good for seniors, this is a very good bill. In the totality of it, this is going to help low-income seniors. And I know Senator Daschle has been talking about helping low-income seniors. Well, this bill does it. This is the bill that is going to help seniors be able to purchase drugs and not have to elect to purchase something else in order to purchase drugs. This is a good bill.

ZAHN: Let's talk about the purchase of drugs.

THOMPSON: Sure.

ZAHN: A patient who has gotten some $5,100 worth of drugs under this plan will have to pay for the last $2,800 of that themselves, with Medicare sharing none of the cost. Won't that be a terrible burden for some Americans?

THOMPSON: Paula, just think, the first $2,200 is going to be paid by 75 percent by the federal government, which they don't have right now.

I think, if you would ask any senior that's paying $5,100 that over 50 percent of these drugs that he is paying 100 percent now and is only going to pay 50 percent in the future is going to be able to say, this is a pretty good deal. I'll take it. Anybody that's going to be able to pay 50 percent of my drug bill, I'm going to walk up and kiss that individual and say thank you. And that's exactly what this bill does. It allows for seniors all over America to get a break on their drug purchases.

ZAHN: Finally, sir -- and I need a quick answer to this -- what about the charge that we're simply mortgaging our children's futures here and they will pay the burden for this? THOMPSON: Well, the truth of the matter there, once again, is that Medicare is going broke and we have to fix it. And this bill is the first step towards fixing it and making sure that it's on a path that is going to be able to continue for your children and grandchildren.

ZAHN: Tommy Thompson, secretary of health and human services, thank you so much for your time tonight.

THOMPSON: It's my pleasure. Thank you.

ZAHN: Coming up, I'll be asking our Victoria Clarke about the increasing pressure on President Bush to acknowledge the casualties of war.

And kidney disease ends the career of NBA star Alonzo Mourning, but not without controversy. We'll explain why.

And a star high school athlete facing 10 years in prison for sex with another teen, well, now some jurors say the conviction was a mistake. But he's still sitting in jail.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERT WILLIAMSON, JUROR: When I looked at the ladies in the jury room, some of the older ladies, there was just a look of shock on their faces. And I could see how everyone was saying, what have we done?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: President Bush is facing increasing pressure to address the growing number of U.S. casualties in Iraq. Some critics say the president is spending his time more on fund-raising and not enough for funerals for soldiers killed fighting for the U.S.

Well, yesterday, the president met with family members of some soldiers killed in Iraq. It was his third meeting with families since the war started out. But some say it is too little too late.

Joining us from Washington is regular contributor, former Pentagon spokesperson Victoria Clarke. Along with us tonight, Democratic strategist and former House Judiciary Committee chief minority counsel Julian Epstein.

Good to see both of you.

VICTORIA CLARKE, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Hi, Paula.

JULIAN EPSTEIN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Good evening.

ZAHN: Good evening.

Torie, I'd like to start with you this evening. CLARKE: Sure.

ZAHN: We all look back at Ronald Reagan and how eloquently he mourned the loss of life in the Beirut bombing, of President Clinton after the catastrophe of the USS Cole. Why isn't President Bush more comfortable with the role of mourner in chief?

CLARKE: Well, I don't think it's about titles. I think it's about what he does.

And, since 9/11, when he was in New York -- and no one will ever forget those images of him at the World Trade towers -- to the many, many times he has met with people in the military who have been injured in the war on terror, has met with their families, many times privately, sometimes publicly.

ZAHN: Why no funerals?

CLARKE: I think what he's done is make absolutely sure people understand how much he appreciates the sacrifices these people are willing to make.

And I saw the father of a soldier who was killed quoted today in the paper saying, if he did one funeral for one soldier, then you would feel obligated to do all of them. What is really going on, as somebody who was involved in some of these decisions, what's really going on is, they're paying enormous respect and having great sensitivity toward the families and what the families want.

I know, for instance, that many, many times, very senior people from the administration go out to Walter Reed Hospital to see those who have been injured, to meet with their families. And it is kept very, very private, at the family's request. So, I think, if you look at the number of times this president has been out at events, at memorials, at services, and giving speeches, he always makes so clear how much he appreciates the sacrifices they're making.

ZAHN: Torie, I hear what you're saying about the balance this president is trying to strike.

But, Julian, let's review something that candidate Wesley Clark had to say. He actually drew parallels with Vietnam. He said: "Our president has refused to attend a single funeral for a single soldier killed in Iraq. Even worse, he has banned media coverage and proper public ceremonies for deceased soldiers returning from the war, the kind of cover-up tactics we saw during Vietnam."

Is that the truth?

EPSTEIN: I think he makes a good point.

Look, Torie and I are probably looking at different statistics on this. There's been 431 servicemen died in combat in Iraq. The president has been to zero funerals. In the meantime, he has been to 40 fund-raisers. As many have pointed out, if he had spent a tenth of the time going to funerals as he has spent going to fund-raisers, that would make a significant difference.

And there are families of servicemen that have died who have made that point. When there was a major catastrophe, the worst day in U.S. combat in modern-day history on November 2, when we lost 16 servicemen, rather than doing what you would expect a great leader to do, which is to console the nation, to try to give meaning to a great loss like that, the president stuck his head in the sand and said nothing.

This is yet another one of the many exhibits, whether you agree with the war or didn't agree with the war -- and I supported the war, because I think that the goal of liberty there is important.

ZAHN: All right.

EPSTEIN: There is a growing feeling in this country that this administration is not handling the war very well. And this is an exhibit of that.

ZAHN: Let's come back, Torie, to this perception issue.

Don't you concede the picture that Julian is painting is harmful to the president, when the president has attended some 41 fund-raisers during a period of time that some of these family members would loved to have seen him attend a single funeral for a U.S. soldier?

CLARKE: Well, obviously, I don't agree with the picture he's painting. And I think the overwhelming majority of the families of those who have been lost in this war agree with the president and greatly appreciate what he has done as commander in chief.

And the single most important thing to those families, to those people who have been injured, who have died in service, is knowing that their sacrifice is worth it. And the president makes that very, very clear every single day.

EPSTEIN: Just a quick point about that, Paula.

One of the country's greatest war heroes is Senator John McCain. Senator John McCain is now saying that the attempt to shut down the cameras at the Dover Air Base, which has traditionally been the kind of last public rite for soldiers who are felled in battle, is something that shouldn't be happening. So Senator McCain is criticizing the president.

(CROSSTALK)

EPSTEIN: Secondly, the worst thing that we're doing right now for the soldiers is that we're cutting and running. The administration, rather than adding troops, which we need in Iraq right now, is bringing troops back.

ZAHN: All right, that's on to another issue.

EPSTEIN: That is not helping the soldiers. That's important and it is related to the soldiers. Cutting and running on the soldiers now is not something that is going to be particularly helpful.

(CROSSTALK)

ZAHN: Torie, I need as brief as possible a final point.

CLARKE: Sure.

The reason the ceremonies, the return of bodies at bases, is not covered is because it's a legal battle the previous administration, the Clinton administration, fought and won when they were in office.

ZAHN: OK, we end on that note tonight.

Victoria Clarke, Julian Epstein, thank you for both of your thoughts.

EPSTEIN: Thanks for having us.

CLARKE: Thank you.

ZAHN: And an NBA star leaves the court with life-threatening kidney disease. We're going to tell you about the controversy behind Alonzo Mourning's retirement.

And a star high school athlete with a bright future convicted for having sex with another teen now facing 10 years in prison. We're going to find out why some jurors in that case now say they made a mistake.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: Now on to a story about teenage sex, race and an unhappy, confused jury, and a star high school athlete trying to salvage a once bright future. The teen is now facing 10 years in prison, even though some jurors now say they made a mistake.

Brian Cabell reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BRIAN CABELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Inmate Marcus Dixon had it all earlier this year, high school football stardom, a 3.96 grade point average, a full scholarship to Vanderbilt. Then he found himself on trial.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He had taken my clothes off.

CABELL: A 15-year-old girl claimed the 18-year-old Dixon had raped her in a high school trailer. He called the sex consensual.

MARCUS DIXON, DEFENDANT: ... was to go to the trailer. So I put my bag in my car and I went to the trailer. And that's where we had sex.

CABELL: The jury deliberated for six hours. (on camera): Dixon was found not guilty of forcible rape, but guilty of statutory rape, a misdemeanor and also of aggravated child molestation. And that's where the controversy arises.

(voice-over): At least two of the jurors say they thought the molestation charge was a minor one and Dixon would go home that day credited with time already served. No, the judge told the jurors, the charge carried a 10-year minimum mandatory sentence.

WILLIAMSON: When I looked at the ladies in the jury room, some of the older ladies, there was just a look of shock on their faces. And I could see how everyone was saying, what have we done?

CABELL: Dixon was sent to prison with what his new attorney calls an outrageous sentence based on a poorly constructed Georgia law.

DAVID BALSER, ATTORNEY FOR MARCUS DIXON: That law is designed to protect children from adult sexual predators. It is not designed to cover consensual sexual conduct between teenagers.

CABELL: However, prosecutors say Dixon was not a model citizen. He had a prior sexual history, they say.

JOHN MCCLELLAN, PROSECUTOR: When he was a sophomore in high school, he was sitting in a classroom and he looked at another girl sitting in that classroom and said, "Look over here." And he exposed himself fully from the waist down.

CABELL: Another time, prosecutors claim, he reached inside a girl's shorts -- an exaggeration, say Peri (ph) and Ken Jones (ph), who became Marcus' guardians when he was 10. And, they claim, race is an issue in this case.

(on camera): If the girl had been black, would there be a problem here?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No.

CABELL: If he had been white, would there be a problem?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No.

CABELL (voice-over): Prosecutors dispute that and say Dixon was convicted for his misconduct, not for his race.

So, Marcus Dixon sits in prison. His attorney will appeal the case to the Georgia Supreme Court. And at least one juror questions whether justice was done.

KATHY TIPPETT, JUROR: He made a bad decision. We all make bad decisions.

CABELL: Brian Cabell, CNN, Rome, Georgia.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: The retirement of NBA star Alonzo Mourning due to a relapse of kidney disease just months after signing a $22 million contract.

And my interview with Christopher Reeve, his first full interview without a ventilator, on the moment he first was able to breathe on his own again.

And tomorrow, a report on groundbreaking research in Israel to restore sensation to people with spinal cord injuries.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: Here are some of the headlines you need to know right now.

Parts of the Iraqi army may go back on the job. Defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld says some of the units may be recalled as part of the process of giving Iraqis more responsibility for their own security.

The world's Muslims are observing the end of the holy month of Ramadan. In Baghdad, Iraqis are keeping a sharp eye as they turn out to pray at mosques. With U.S. troops operating under tighter security, guerrillas are funding -- or finding Iraqi police and civilians easier targets.

In the U.S., a sign of the season today near the White House, as Lynn Cheney placed the topmost ornaments on the national Christmas tree. The vice president's wife got a hand from Peter Nostrand (ph), the president of Christmas Pageant of Peace.

Alonzo Mourning's NBA comeback came to a sad end this week. The New Jersey Nets player announced that he was leaving the game for good as an illness he battled before resurfaced once again.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN (voice-over): It was hard to believe. Just weeks after leading the Olympic team to a gold medal in Sydney...

ALONZO MOURNING, NEW JERSEY NETS: It's been a tough week-and-a- half. Right now, the main objective is to get me healthy.

ZAHN: Superstar center Alonzo Mourning announced he had a rare kidney disease, one that would force him to leave the game. The seven-time All-Star refused to quit, surprising fans and teammates by returning at the end of that season and helping the Miami Heat to the play-offs. But just a year later, the same kidney problems sidelined the superstar again. Then a surprise.

MOURNING: But I'm excited, extremely excited, because I get to play the game of basketball again.

ZAHN: A four-year $22 million contract with the New Jersey Nets and a chance to return to the NBA full-time. It lasted just 12 games. Now, with his condition far more serious, the 33-year-old retires for good, turning his attention to a much more difficult challenge, finding a kidney donor and beating a life-threatening illness.

MOURNING: I'm 33 years old, and I want to live at least to be 80, you know, and see my kids grow up and see my grandkids. And that's important to me, and I got to stop playing this heroic role.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: Well, today, "New York Post" sports columnist Pete Vecsey raised eyebrows by implying that Mourning's comeback was not about playing, it was about money, the $22 million he was guaranteed to get, whether he was healthy or not.

I'm joined from Watertown, Massachusetts, now by Dr. Brian Pereira, president of the National Kidney Foundation. Thanks for joining us, tonight. Sir, I wanted to start off by reading a small part of that article today, where Mr. Vecsey wrote, "You mean to tell me that this disorder is so poisonous that a gunite-shaped (ph) specimen gulping all the right pills and paying heavenly medical bills can essentially waste away overnight and be hooked up to a dialysis machine tomorrow night?" Can things change that quickly here?

DR. BRIAN PEREIRA, PRES., NATIONAL KIDNEY FOUNDATION: Well, kidney disease is slowly progressive, and patients with kidney disease can have remission for a fair amount of time before the treatment ceases to work and then the kidney disease can progress downhill. So that's not unusual.

ZAHN: So how can a doctor though, clear someone with this serious an illness to play a grueling 82-game season of basketball?

PEREIRA: Some of the kidney diseases, particularly clomedlar (ph) diseases, who've been in remission, can allow the patient to have a perfectly normal life, carry on all of the athletic needs, as well as their day-to-day jobs. So that's not completely inconceivable.

ZAHN: So if he was your patient, you might have granted him that and said, Go out and play?

PEREIRA: Well, I'm not privy to the details of his illness. Given the privacy rules around HIPPA, even the newspapers haven't been able to give me enough information. So I can't make a judgment call.

ZAHN: But given what we know about his deterioration now, what would have been the consequences if he had continued to play?

PEREIRA: Well, patients who are in remission can lead a completely normal life. So there's no reason to speculate that playing aggressive sports could have led to deterioration of his kidney disease. But when kidney disease progresses, then it can be asymptomatic for a while, but at the more advanced stages, they get symptomatic.

ZAHN: Dr. Brian Pereira, thanks for your expertise this evening.

PEREIRA: Thank you. And for more on the kidney disease that is forcing Mourning out of the game, joining me in the studio is sports commentator and sports columnist Rob Becker.

Always good to see you, sir. Let's continue with the tough words in "The New York Post" this morning, where Mr. Vecsey wrote, "How can a guy with a ominous kidney condition that forced him to miss all but 13 games in the 2000-2001 season and forbade him from working up a single serious sweat last season, be considered a $22 million bargain?" You say he's way off base. Why?

ROB BECKER, SPORTS COMMENTATOR: Well, he's off-base. First of all, on the value of that contract, Jerry West, who knows NBA talent better than anyone, said he's worth about $10 million a year. He was being paid about half that, so the risk was already built into the contract. Both sides knew all the facts about this man's medical background. And in a negotiated contract, they decided this makes sense. You can't get centers like this easy in the NBA.

ZAHN: So you are saying they were willing to accept the risk?

BECKER: Absolutely.

ZAHN: That's what the doctor just said.

BECKER: They took a risk.

ZAHN: You can lead a perfectly normal life.

BECKER: Right.

ZAHN: And when the remission is over, you can have real problems.

BECKER: Right. There's a difference between...

ZAHN: Nothing was hidden, you're saying.

BECKER: ... a possibility and a probability. Nothing was what?

ZAHN: You say nothing was hidden.

BECKER: Nothing was hidden, and no one says anything was hidden. His levels of potassium, which are a way of measuring how well his kidney's doing, were slightly abnormal but not really a particularly bad level over the summer, when he was working out extremely hard. Now, there's not that much of a difference, I don't think, between working out very hard and playing in what happens to be a 48-minute game. They had no reason to believe that suddenly, things would go bad. They signed the contract. Then after the contract's signed...

ZAHN: But that's what I don't get. Why would you sign for that amount of money?

BECKER: Because...

ZAHN: A lot of people are saying that's...

BECKER: ... you can't get this talent easily.

ZAHN: ... an irresponsible risk.

BECKER: Well, how could it be irresponsible...

ZAHN: Well, why not a $12 million contract?

BECKER: ... if you're trying to -- why would the Nets do something against their own interests? If you're willing to pay $23 million to get a guy to play center for you, he must bring something to the table. And that's 20 points...

ZAHN: Yes, but wouldn't he have paid for $12 million?

BECKER: Excuse me? Wouldn't he have what?

ZAHN: Wouldn't he have played for a whole lot less than that?

BECKER: Well, yes, but you're -- wait a minute. You have to negotiate against someone else. You've got the Mavericks. You've got the Grizzlies. You got to pay what the market will bear. If they're going to pay a certain amount, you got to beat them out. You're not going to so high that he's not worth it anymore. You're going to go high enough where you're paying half what he'd be worth if he were healthy, and that's what they did.

ZAHN: So you are completely sensitive to Alonzo Mourning's argument and not the owners'.

BECKER: I think the guy is a courageous man who wanted to play the game. And he may have liked having some extra money, but it didn't make any difference. He was a multi-millionaire. The reason he wanted to do this is he wanted to win a championship. And everyone should be admiring this man. I thought what Vecsey said was a disgrace.

ZAHN: OK, so what you're basically saying is these owners are stupid?

BECKER: No, I'm not saying they're stupid! Remember...

ZAHN: Well, what are you saying?

BECKER: No, no, no. This is the problem. You're viewing it after the fact. You're looking at what we know now. Anytime you judge a business decision, you have to view it from the point in time when it was made. At that point in time, they didn't know it was going to go bad.

ZAHN: But at that point in time, was that a good deal for them?

BECKER: I thought it was reasonable because...

ZAHN: All right. BECKER: ... you can't get a guy like Mourning, and they got him for $5.5 million per instead of $10 million per. Now we know it went bad, but hindsight is 20/20. You can't judge it that way. That's how Vecsey's doing it.

ZAHN: So meanwhile, you're really rooting for Alonzo, as a lot of people are out there.

BECKER: Who doesn't? Even though he's on an enemy team.

(LAUGHTER)

ZAHN: Oh, I knew you'd slip that in there! Rob Becker, thank you very much for joining us tonight.

Something to chew over -- with some guilt, of course, over Thanksgiving dinner. Can eating almost nothing make you live past 100? Oh, just wait until you see how few calories you get to eat to do that. I'll ask Dr. Nancy Snyderman about this extreme diet.

And Christopher Reeve, in his first full interview without a ventilator, tells me what it was like to breathe on his own for the first time in over eight years.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: Welcome back. Many Americans will give the diet a day off on Thanksgiving, but some will still by counting calories, and it has nothing to do with being thin. It's about growing old -- very old, indeed. The weight loss regimen is called calorie restriction, and advocates say it will help them live well past 100. Critics say they could be starving themselves to death.

For more, I'm joined from Corna Medera (ph), California, by Dr. Nancy Snyderman, a veteran medical journalists, vice president of Johnson & Johnson. Welcome back, Doctor.

DR. NANCY SNYDERMAN, VP, JOHNSON & JOHNSON: Hello, Paula.

ZAHN: So do you buy into this study?

SNYDERMAN: Yes. The science is really good. I mean, it's been shown on anything from worms to Rhesus monkeys. If you cut your calories by 30 percent or 40 percent, you can tack on that many more years to your life. So yes, the science is absolutely concrete. Yes, it increases your life. The question is, What does it do to the quality of your life? And do you want to live a life where you really can't...

ZAHN: Yes, well...

SNYDERMAN: ... eat very much?

ZAHN: ... let's talk about quality of life for a moment because as you and I continue to talk with each other, we'll scroll through some diets that you would have to stay on to live to 100 when you cut these calories. I mean, you're really talking about depriving your yourself.

SNYDERMAN: Well, you're talking about...

ZAHN: Of any kind of...

SNYDERMAN: ... a new mindset.

ZAHN: ... lifestyle, right?

SNYDERMAN: You're talking about a mindset. You're -- forget -- forget most meat. You can have fish. Forget alcohol. Forget a lot of the things that we consider the real treats in life. You're talking about fruits, vegetables, nuts and a little bit of bread, probably in the form of pita bread. Now, the people I have interviewed over the years who do this really almost make this diet the cornerstone of their existence. They say it's worth it because they feel better and they really want to be able to push 100 or plus.

ZAHN: Yes, but Nancy, they also have told you that they feel hungry all the time...

SNYDERMAN: They do.

ZAHN: ... that they sees a loss in libido. They complain of mood swings.

SNYDERMAN: This is not...

ZAHN: Is it worth it?

SNYDERMAN: This is not for the faint-hearted, Paula. You won't see me on this anytime soon, for all the obvious reasons. But if you want to just talk about the pure science, Does it work, I have to say the answer is, Yes, you can live longer by severely cutting your calories. And we should clarify. These are people who still eat a pretty broad range of stuff, as long as it's somewhat vegetarian. These are not people who believe in anorexia. They're not bingeing and purging. They're not making themselves throw up. They're not starving. But they're cutting back to the point that it's a semi- starvation diet. And I do think it is not for the faint-hearted.

ZAHN: Well, one of the guys that was interviewed in one of these profiles weighted what, 120 pounds, and he was six feet tall?

SNYDERMAN: Yes, these people are just downright skinny. To me, they look like they've just walked out of concentration camps. It's not a look I like. And if you talk to these people, they'll say, Oh, you know, the sex life isn't so great, but it comes back after a while. There's an old joke within this group of caloric restriction people. They say, You know what? If you follow this diet, you can live to be 30 years beyond the mean of anyone else, but after two weeks, you won't even care.

(LAUGHTER)

ZAHN: I could understand that! SNYDERMAN: And there's something to that.

ZAHN: But at what point does it become those other conditions you're talking about, where you are starving yourself, where you become anorexic? There's a fine line there, isn't there?

SNYDERMAN: Look, I may think this is a little kooky and I may think these people are somewhat, you know, out there, but I have to tell you, this is not a scientifically bogus thing. So I cannot punch holes in it. I wouldn't sign up to do it, but these people do have science on their side. And in their defense, look at the fat people in this country who are going to die of diabetes stroke, heart disease and cancer.

So if I have to say, You go, it's to the people who are doing the caloric restriction. It's not a fun diet. I think these people will never say, Oh, boy, it's -- it's fun every time, and I'm sure it really messes up holiday life around this time of year. But at the end of the day, these people will live longer. Whether they have fun doing it is anybody's guess. But Paula, you and I will be in the grave when most of...

ZAHN: Oh, we certainly will!

SNYDERMAN: ... them are still walking around.

ZAHN: And we always enjoy your consistent good cheer. So eat up on Thanksgiving for us, OK, Doctor?

SNYDERMAN: Hey, happy Thanksgiving, Paula. You bet.

ZAHN: We want you to hit that 2,500-calorie marker in one meal.

SNYDERMAN: You'll have to come around for my egg nog. It's already done...

(CROSSTALK)

ZAHN: ... have some company that day. Thanks so much.

SNYDERMAN: You bet.

ZAHN: More than eight years after breaking his neck, we're going to see Christopher Reeve in his first full interview without a ventilator.

And more on Michael Jackson from the private investigator who worked on the first molestation allegations against the king of pop 10 years ago.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: Welcome back. Tonight Christopher Reeve as you have not seen him since before the horse-riding accident that paralyzed him eight-and-a-half years ago. Reeve is determined to walk again. He can move a finger. He can move his legs. And now he can breathe on his own. And in his first full interview without the use of a respirator, he shared with me his extraordinary story of strength and hope.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CHRISTOPHER REEVE: We were totally quiet in the room, and all you could hear was me breathing through my nose, regular rhythmic breathing through my nose for the first time in nearly eight years. I haven't heard that sound since May of 1995. It meant a tremendous amount.

ZAHN (voice-over): It was a moment Christopher Reeve had been waiting for, being able to breathe on his own for the first time since his paralyzing horseback-riding accident in 1995. It's another milestone in Reeve's personal journey to walk again.

REEVE: You think, Well, what's the big deal? But to be able to breathe the way I used to breathe, even if it's a little feeble and my voice sounds -- doesn't have to be perfect, it just has to be going forward.

ZAHN: And this is. It's also an experimental procedure. In fact, Reeve is one of only two patients out of the three to successfully have the surgery. Doctors cut a small incision to implant electrodes on Reeve's diaphragm muscles. The wires were then attached to a small battery-powered device that, like a pacemaker, cases Reeve's diaphragm to retract without a respirator.

(on camera): What does that mean?

REEVE: It's freedom from the hose -- you know, that necktie I've been wearing for eight years. And you know, even though I'm not totally free because I still have to have a nurse with me all the time and it's an experimental procedure, but it really feels like a step forward. It really feels like progress.

ZAHN: Is it a form of liberation?

REEVE: If the nurses would go away. But they're all over me like the Secret Service. It's ridiculous. But that's part of the FDA protocol because the electrodes can fail, the batteries can fail. I've had a couple of fun times. I've choked a couple of times because breathing and eating -- I had to relearn how to do both. So I choked on tuna fish and lettuce. If I do bread next time, it'll be a sandwich.

(LAUGHTER)

ZAHN (voice-over): When we talked to Christopher at his New York country home, it was the first time he did an entire interview off his respirator, a warm-up for last night, his first public speech breathing on his own.

REEVE: I'd like you to notice I'm not wearing it tonight.

(APPLAUSE) BECKER: It's been extraordinary how, over the years, more and more people have turned to us and reached out and...

ZAHN (on camera): You've received standing ovations all over the world for what you've had to say. How much does that mean to you?

REEVE: When I'm here in the house and working the phones, working in the trenches, and then I go someplace and thousands of people stand up, I figure it's because they need to stretch.

ZAHN: I don't think so!

REEVE: So it must be the bottom of the seventh, right? It means a lot. You know, it's a real sign of respect.

ZAHN: Have you ever been emotionally overwhelmed by any reaction you've gotten in public?

REEVE: Yes. The first big appearance in public was at the Oscars in 1996. And the curtain came up and I was revealed on stage, and the whole audience got up and applauded. And that got to me. I tried to keep it together. But then I ad libbed a line. I said -- you know, because the Oscars take place in March, right? I said, What you probably don't know is that I left New York last September and I just got here today. And I'm really glad because I wouldn't have missed this welcome for anything in the world. So what actually happens to me is that is I kind of deflect it with humor.

ZAHN: I see that.

REEVE: Or feeble attempts at humor, because I don't want to be built up into too much of a -- too much of a larger-than-life figure. I mean, my standing joke about Superman -- my running joke about Superman is that he's only a big deal because he's in a different solar system. If he had grown up on Krypton, he might have been a plumber.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: And on Friday night, please join me for a special hour with Reeve and find out what else he is doing to turn his dream of walking again into a reality.

When we come back, we'll return to the Michael Jackson case, as I talk with a private detective who investigated the first molestation allegations against Jackson 10 years ago.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: The first time Michael Jackson faced allegations of child molestation, they were settled out of court. No charges were ever riled. A private investigator named Ernie Rizzo remembers that case vividly back in 1993. He was hired by the accuser's father. Rizzo remains a private eye, and he says he has sources close to the current investigation. He joins us now from Chicago.

Welcome, sir. What were the specific allegations by Michael Jackson's former accuser?

ERNIE RIZZO, PRIVATE INVESTIGATOR: Well, basically, the same allegations you have now, the same kind of profile. He found a boy he liked. He started working him, started grooming him, as the psychiatrists say. It went from, Come over to the ranch, spend the evening, and then sooner or later, it became into kissing, touching, nude showers, and it went on and on and on. Jackson falls in love with these kids. There was love notes. There was phone calls all hours of the night for hours, just talking to him. He even went to the father's house and sat there at 3:00 o'clock, waiting for the kid to come home from school.

ZAHN: So let me ask you this...

RIZZO: So what he does...

ZAHN: ... Mr. Rizzo...

RIZZO: ... he falls in love with these kids.

ZAHN: Why is it this father didn't follow through with pressing formal charges?

RIZZO: Let me tell you...

ZAHN: Against Michael Jackson, if everything you're saying is true?

RIZZO: Paula, here's the real story. He wanted to prosecute, but then acting district attorney Gil Garcetti kept telling him, We're going to do it, we're going to do it. And then weeks turned into months, months turned into a year. The father kept calling the state's attorney -- or district attorney out there, saying, When is this going to happen? They kept passing. In the meantime, he was being thrown out of LA by Jackson's fan base. He was harassed. The kid was thrown out of school. Jackson kept waving a $20 million cashier's check. And after a while -- and I really can't blame him -- when the DA didn't do anything and it looked like nothing was going to happen, he took the $20 million and ran.

ZAHN: Well, let me ask you this, Ernie. Certainly, the perception by some out there is this father was a gold digger, that he got bought.

RIZZO: Absolutely not. That's -- that's what Jackson's people would like to have you say. But come on. There's nobody going to pay $20 million to keep a kid quiet for something that wasn't true. Please.

ZAHN: So do you think these next formal charges we're now told will be filed mid-December will go anywhere?

RIZZO: I think they'll go somewhere. And one of the things I think -- and I think Geragos is making a mistake. You know, this is a kid against Michael Jackson. He's -- the kid is going to be testifying. So all of this fighting with parents and having the husband come out and talk about his ex-wife really doesn't go anywhere. This is the kid testifying against Michael Jackson. And that's -- that's going to be a problem. It's going to be a double- edged sword for Michael Jackson because his lawyer's going to have to eat this kid up alive to try and save Jackson, and I don't see that happening.

ZAHN: Ernie Rizzo, thank you for spending some time with us this evening. I appreciate it.

RIZZO: Any time, Paula.

ZAHN: And we want to thank all of you for spending time with us, as well. Very much appreciate your dropping by and hope you'll be with us Friday for that special with Christopher Reeve. "LARRY KING LIVE" is next. In the meantime, have a good night.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com

Thompson; Charges Delayed in Michael Jackson Case>


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