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PAULA ZAHN NOW

Full-scale assault in Najaf, Kerry defends war record, Prisoners and profit. Convicted Criminal Climbing Charts; Children Risk Lives Crossing U.S. Border; Pastor Rescues American Children from Nigerian Orphanage.

Aired August 19, 2004 - 20:00   ET

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


(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
PAULA ZAHN, HOST: A city bristling with anger and gunfire as Shiite militants brace for a fullscale assault on holy ground. An ultimatum from Iraq's interim prime minister.

Tonight the new Iraq's trial by fire.

And a convicted killer's (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've been on death row for 17 years.

ZAHN: Making money selling his art online. And a rapper serving ten years hard time cashing in on a $3 million record deal. Tonight, prisoners and profit.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: Good evening. Thanks for joining us tonight. We're back in New York. Glad to have you with us. Final call to disarm. The words of Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi used today in his ultimatum to radical cleric Muqtada Al-Sadr. For two weeks al-Sadr's forces have been holed up in the Imam Ali Mosque in Najaf battling American and Iraqi forces. The stakes for all Allawi are huge. An assault on the mosque could spark uprising of Shiites throughout the country but doing nothing will only weaken the standing of the interim government. Late tonight as fighting continued in Najaf Al-Sadr made his next move and for that, joining us by way of video phone from Najaf, let's go straight to Matthew Chance. Good evening, Matthew. What's the latest?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good evening to you as well. This is a major challenge for the Iraqi interim Prime Minister Allawi. Fierce fighting on the streets of Najaf centered around the Imam Ali Mosque and the enormous ancient cemetry which has become an eerie battleground for U.S. forces and many army fighters loyal to Muqtada al-Sadr.

Most of that fighting focused about the mosque, the Imam Ali shrine. We have exclusive pictures of the mosque. One of our cameras has been allowed into the compound to film the Mehdi army as they celebrate their continued presence in that mosque and one of the first western media cameras to be allowed in that area since this latest fighting began. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CHANCE (voice-over): Die-hard supporters of Muqtada al-Sadr chanting for their leader and vowing to fight on in Najaf. A CNN crew gained access to the Imam Ali Mosque where these Mehdi army militia are holed up battling U.S. forces. Women and children are among those inside. Civilians, the U.S. military says are human shields that make any assault more difficult.

Two weeks of fierce fighting have taken their toll on the ancient mosque itself. Two mennoretts have been shot on and the Mehdi army is attacking them from inside so the damage can provoke a Shia backlash.

Around the mosque, though, fighting is fierce. U.S. forces are battling street-to-street, despite earlier talk of compromise from Muqtada al-Sadr, his militia continues to fight. Iraq's interim government says this is the final call for his rebels to disarm.

PRIME MINISTER IYAD ALLAWI, IRAQ (through translator): We have heard through the media that Mr. Muqtada al-Sadr will comply with the request of the government and national conference. We will (UNINTELLIGIBLE) an announcement and confirm our readiness to accept this initiative of his provided they crystallize it into a tangible and committed position through a document declaration from him personally.

CHANCE: There is growing U.S. and Iraqi inpatience, though. They say they still want a political solution to end this crisis peacefully, but it must come soon.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: And joining us now from Washington, Iraq's ambassador to the United States, Ren al-Rahim. Nice to see you.

REND AL-RAHIM, IRAQI AMBASSADOR TO U.S.: Nice to see you.

ZAHN: What do you expect cleric al-Sadr to do?

AL-RAHIM: I can't possibly know what Muqtada al-Sadr wants to do. He has flip-flopped. He says he expects the government's terms and then he has rejected them. He has left us all with very few options. I can't tell what he'll decide.

ZAHN: Is it your belief that he has backed Mr. Allawi into a corner and Mr. Allawi is making a demand he get out or military action might follow?

AL-RAHIM: I don't think is the way to characterize it. There is a very clear demand from the Iraqi government, as well as from the national assembly that just ended its meetings in Baghdad. The government is backed into a corner. No government can accept the presence of an eroding militia that holds a whole city hostage.

ZAHN: If al-Sadr, though, does not get out, how does that impact the credibility of not only Mr. Allawi, but the national assembly? AL-RAHIM: Well, first of all, the government, Mr. Allawi and everybody else in the government really has gone the extra mile to reach a political solution on this. This is not a fight that we chose. We made every single effort possible. But we mean business. Muqtada al-Sadr has to disarm, has to leave the shrine and has to go into a political process rather than a process of violence and arms. There are no other options. Either he accepts or he has to be made to accept.

ZAHN: And when you say he has to be made to accept, what do you mean? What could happen?

AL-RAHIM: Whatever it takes, Paula. We cannot have a group of people -- and, by the way, they are holding some hostages in there and we are very unhappy about that. However, we cannot have a group of people taking refuge in the holiest shrine of the Shia and holding the entire city to ransom. These are criminal activities. We cannot allow it to continue. It will have to come to an end.

AL-RAHIM: If it comes to an end militarily, what would be the repercussions of of attacking, as you said, this holiest of all holiest sites in Iraq.

AL-RAHIM: By the way, when you say we are attacking, it is Muqtada al-Sadr and the Mehdi army who took over the shrine and began to shoot from the shrine. You would could look at it as self-defense by the Iraqi forces and you could also look at it as liberating the shrine of Ali and liberating the city of Najaf. This is the way that people see, the people of Najaf themselves are very fed up. They want to see an end of this occupation, of Najaf and of the shrine by the Mehdi army.

ZAHN: It is your belief they would support this liberation even if it involves heavily damaging this holy site?

AL-RAHIM: The Iraqi forces are going to do their best not to damage anything. It is not the intention to damage anything. Muqtada al-Sadr can right now accept the conditions, leave, make a statement publicly that he is disbanding the Mehdi army and not a shot needs to be fired. It is his decision.

ZAHN: Yet, you said he's gone back and forth, so we will...

AL-RAHIM: Absolutely. Very difficult.

ZAHN: Wait to see. We always appreciate your perspective, ambassador. Thanks for giving us your perspective this evening.

AL-RAHIM: Thank you, Paula.

ZAHN: Coming up next, the pitch battle over a past war. John Kerry's vietnam service and the campaign for the White House. The latest controversy right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) ZAHN: Even as battles rage in Iraq John Kerry and his critics spent another day arguing over the senator's Vietnam war record but a new poll indicates the voters aren't so much focused on the past as they are on the future. As Tom Foreman reports, voters want to know how either candidate will end the war in Iraq and win the war on terrorism.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): All day, every day, people from around the country come to Washington's Union Station and, here, just a stone's throw from the U.S. Capitol, everyone seems to have an opinion about the Iraqi conflict.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think the war is going very poorly. I think we ought not have been there from the onset and I think it was very poorly planned.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I really don't know what they're fighting for.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ultimately, it has an important purpose and I do support the efforts that the United States is making in the Middle East.

FOREMAN: The new survey from the Pew Research Center indicates what the campaigns already know. The war is producing passion among voters. For the first time since the vietnam war, people are more worried about international issues than about domestic economic problems. So the candidates are pouncing on the issue and...

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The other day, my opponent said if he's elected, the number of troops in Iraq would be significantly reduced within six months. I think it sends the wrong signal.

FOREMAN: Although slightly more than half the people in the Pew survey disapprove of the president's handling of Iraq, many polls have indicated that Republicans are seen as more decisive in how they want to take on terrorists. Attack ads are bolstering doubts about challenger John Kerry.

AD ANNOUNCER: When the chips were down, you could not count on John Kerry.

John Kerry is no war hero.

FOREMAN: The White House says it's not behind these ads, but kerry is furious.

JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE; The president keeps telling people he would never question my service to our country. Instead, he watches as a Republican-funded attack group does just that. Well, if he wants to have a debate about our service in Vietnam, here is my answer -- bring it on! FOREMAN: Kerry leads the president in polls about the economy and other domestic issues. Yet, his supporters have launched their own attack ads which engage the war.

GEORGW W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I believe we were right to go into Iraq. And America is safer today because we did.

FOREMAN: The survey indicates that the vast majority of Americans still believe stopping terrorism here is critically important. They just don't agree on how the war fits into that plan. Nor are some voters convinced that either candidate has clearly explained what is coming next.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think we had a great plan to invade, but is this now a political problem. It's not so much a military problem.

FOREMAN: Historically, Americans have not been inclined to vote presidents out of office during war.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ultimately, it is staying with the commander in chief. That's important.

FOREMAN: But this new study indicates this war may be taking voters into unexplored territory.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: And that was Tom Foreman, regular contributor and "TIME" magazine columnist Joe Klein joins me now to talk about war and politics.

We are going to start off by taking another poll that Tom mentioned in his piece. This one has to do with what voters determine or think is the -- are the most important issues facing the country. You see what is up on top. What impact will this have on the strategies of both campaigns?

JOE KLEIN, "TIMES" MAGAZINE: This usually isn't the case in an American election and it's a tribute to the wisdom of the American public. You have a president who has made a really major decision, to go to war in Iraq preemptively and this election, whether either campaign wants it or not, is going to be about that decision. My feeling is that neither campaign wants it to be about that. And it's been very clearly indicated. John Kerry's campaign wants it to be about domestic issues and so he hasn't been saying very much about the war at all. George W. Bush would rather not go into the details of what's happening in Najaf tonight.

He would rather focus you on September 11. He would rather you have -- have you remember the fact that Saddam Hussein is in jail and not focus on the fact that the war on the ground has been a catastrophe for the last year.

ZAHN: Let's move on now to some of yesterday's criticism by John Kerry of the president when it comes to his plan to redeploy troops. Here is what he had to say. Let's listen to it together.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KERRY: And this hastily announced plan raises more doubts about our intentions and our commitment than it provides real answers. For example, why are we withdrawing unilaterally 12,000 troops from the Korean Peninsula at the very time that we are negotiating with North Korea, a country that really has nuclear weapons?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZAHN: But on August 1, Joe Klein, John Kerry seemed to be in favor of redeploying troops in the Korean Peninsula. Here is what he had to say for U.S. troops in Iraq and around the world. Did he just leave the door open...

KLEIN: Oh, yes. Is this a real embarrassment for the Kerry campaign and for John Kerry. I mean, he completely reversed his position in a two-week period. And it points out a larger flaw in the Kerry campaign. This is a consultant-driven tactical, by the numbers campaign. He is not addressing -- he's talking about relatively peripheral issues like the redeployment of troops which most of the military and diplomatic establishment agree on. He's not taking the president to task on the war in Iraq and the war on terror which are the central issues in this campaign. The reason for it -- and this was a decision made by his campaign -- was that he has to seem optimistic and to take Bush on for the way the war has been conducted would seem too negative. Well, I think that is what happens in a normal year when there aren't big issues at stake.

ZAHN: Do you think it's a mistake?

KLEIN: I think it's a terrible mistake.

ZAHN: The Swift Boat ads controversy, did you think it was a little bit too late to respond as he has just responded to that...

KLEIN: Is this another indication is this a by the numbers campaign. Obviously, their polling is beginning to show that these ads are hurting him in some of the crucial battleground states. I got to say this about these ads. You got to put them in context. This is the second national campaign that George W. Bush has run and, lo and behold in both campaigns, some group, funded by Republicans, has attacked the war record of his opponent, John McCain in 2000 and John Kerry in 2004. These ads would be off the air tomorrow if George W. Bush said they should be. And this kind of attack on the guy's past, many of the claims have no place in a very serious political year, I don't think.

ZAHN: But the spokesperson said, look, the continued distance themselves from the ads. They had nothing to do with those ads.

KLEIN: That's nonsense. This is too important a year. The American people know it's an important year and they really want to hear answers from both these candidates about what on earth we're doing in Iraq and how are we proceeding on the war on terrorism and there are diversions on both sides. This is bad for democracy and maybe -- it may work for either one of them in the campaign, but this is really a pretty disgusting turn of events.

ZAHN: Joe Klein, we got to leave it there tonight.

KLEIN: Thanks.

ZAHN: If you missed our program last night, you missed quite an exciting event. We asked a number of people in Ohio to grill representatives of both the Kerry and Bush campaigns. They asked questions about the issues they care about in a good old-fashioned town hall style meeting and this weekend, you'll have another chance to see it or see it again. Our special edition of PAULA ZAHN NOW will air again Saturday night at 8:00 and Sunday at 5:00 p.m. Eastern, we hope you'll join us here on CNN.

Coming up next, whoever said crime doesn't pay has not looked behind bars lately.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAMES ALLRIDGE, DEATH ROW INMATE: I didn't realize that I had any type of artistic talent or abilities before I was incarcerated.

ANDY KAHAN, HOUSTON VICTIMS ASSISTANCE CTR.: Shouldn't be able to rob, rape and murder and then turn around and make a buck off your ill-gotten notoriety that you achieved from murdering another human being.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZAHN: Incarcerated and making profit. That story when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: Tonight, we have two stories that raise the question of whether criminals should be allowed to profit from artistic work while behind bars. First, the case of James Vernon Allridge, sentenced to die in Texas for gunning down a convenience store clerk in a 1985 crime spree. Allridge is a talented painter, whose work has drawn a following among death penalty opponents such as Actress Susan Sarandon. But his victim's family says Allridge has profited from their heartbreak.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN (voice-over): It says a value of an artist's work increases after his death, but what if the artist is on death row?

These peaceful scenes were painted by James Allridge, a Texas killer scheduled for execution next week.

ALLRIDGE: I didn't realize that I had any type of artistic talents or abilities before I was incarcerated. You don't do art because you expect for fame and fortune. You do it because it's within you to do. You know, self-satisfaction. And that's how -- that's why I created my art.

ZAHN: Allridge has spent 17 years on death row for the murder of Brian Clendennen during a convenient store robbery in Fort Worth. And it is from death row that he has been selling his art online. Greeting cards for a few dollars, and large prints for almost $500 each. He says the profits pay for the lawyers fighting to go overturn his death sentence.

KAHAN: Draw all you want, paint all you want, doodle all you want, but when it comes to making money off of it, that's where the buck stops.

ZAHN: Murder victims advocate, Andy Kahan calls such works of art murder-abilia and has filed a petitions to stop Allridge from making what he considers blood money.

KAHAN: You shouldn't be able to rob, rape and murder and then turn around buck of your ill gotten notoriety that you achieve for murdering another human being.

ZAHN: The debate over prisoner profits started in the '70s when Son of Sam killer, David Berkowitz (ph), was offered book deals for telling life stories. Laws were passed then to stop that kind of thing, but were overturned by Supreme Court in 1991 citing first amendment rights. And since then, notorious killers like John Wayne Gacy, have had their artworks bought and exhibited. As for, Allridge, although he claims to have 360 works in private collections in the U.S. and Europe, very few people had heard of him until Susan Sarandon and other celebrities started buying his paintings and supporting his cause.

CATHY KNEPPER, AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL USA: It's a way for him to be saying, I'm still here. I'm still a person. There is something good about me, even though I've done the most horrible thing a person can do.

ZAHN: Kathy Knepper, an anti-death penalty advocate, considers herself a friend of Allridges and buys his art to fight for clemency.

KNEPPER: It was so important to help somebody who is on death row, especially death row in Texas. I thought it was so wonderful that he wanted to try to do something useful in his situation, that any help I could give him as a friend, I was happy to do.

ALLRIDGE: Death is a reality we all have to face.

ZAHN: With Allridge's execution scheduled for next Thursday, the fight over his art sales might not be resolved until after he's dead, but Andy Kahan, says it doesn't matter.

KAHAN: This all could be a moot point, but the issue remains the same. There are other James Allridge's out there.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: And joining us from Dallas is Shane Clendennen. He is the brother of Brian Clendan, the man who was murdered by James Allridge.

Thank you so much for joining us tonight, Shane.

When did you first find out that Mr. Allridge was selling his artwork?

SHANE CLENDENNEN, BROTHER OF MURDER VICTIM: It was about five months -- five weeks ago. I got a call from the "Houston Chronicle" and they asked me a few questions. And knew if I knew that Susan Sarandon went and visited James. And knew if I knew of his Web site that he was selling his pictures and post cards from.

ZAHN: How did you react to that news?

CLENDENNEN: I didn't know how to react. You know, it was shocking to me. I thought it was wrong for someone to be able to be on death row and to make a profit off of it.

ZAHN: And, of course, what his supporters are arguing is he's taking that money and using it to support his legal defense, which they claim is, in effect, saving U.S. taxpayers money.

You don't buy that at all, do you?

CLENDENNEN: No, ma'am, I surely don't. No, it's -- if he's wanting to save taxpayers money, somebody had to pay for that Web site. You know, I don't think he's paying for it. Somebody had to pay for his college degree that he got. I don't think any of those are right for people that are on death row.

ZAHN: So, if, in fact, he has this money set off in someplace in an account or not, what do you think should be done with the money?

CLENDENNEN: I think it should be given to the victims groups, to support, you know, how victims are treated, you know. Going to help victims groups -- when they do try to get clemency to help support them. And getting petitions signed and getting letters out to them and letting them know what's going on, you know.

Like I said, I didn't know anything about what was going on with his artwork or anything about him being an artist. You know, my brother did artwork. He didn't have the chance to develop any talents that he had.

ZAHN: I know the timing of this is horrible for you because as everybody sits and awaits his potential execution, the memories of your brother are pretty much brought alive by this whole story.

How tough has this been for you the last five, six weeks?

CLENDENNEN: It's been real tough. You know, it's like it's never-ending. You know, I'll never be the same, but, yet I think once this is all behind me, I'll be able to move forward. You know, it's hard for me and the rest of my family.

ZAHN: I don't think any of us can put ourselves in your position. Thank you, Shane, for joining us tonight. I know it isn't easy to talk about any of this. Appreciate your time.

CLENDENNEN: Thank you.

ZAHN: When we come back, the incredible story of another jailed artist who could make millions. Going behind bars and making a big splash on the music charts. That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PAULA ZAHN, HOST: The story of James Allridge in our last segment shows that it is possible for prison inmates, particularly artists, to do work and even earn money while behind bars.

It's a similar case for recording artists, only the potential for making money is much bigger and generating much more controversy.

Jason Carroll has a story of a rapper named Shyne who is behind bars tonight and also near the top of the charts.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): He has become an urban legend of sorts. Visionary artist...

ANGIE MARTINEZ, RADIO D.J., HOT 97: Hip-hop fans tend to really be drawn to somebody like him.

CARROLL: Profiteering criminal.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Some crime victims, they're going to be outraged.

CARROLL: Bankable rapper.

ERIK PARKER, MUSIC EDITOR, "VIBE": So many record labels came running after him, trying to sign him. There was a bidding war, for God's sake.

CARROLL: He's Brooklyn-bred Jamaal Barrow, better known as Shyne, a former friend and protege of Sean "P. Diddy" Combs, known for his music and for his much publicized role in the 1999 New York nightclub shooting involving Combs and then girlfriend Jennifer Lopez.

Three people were injured in the melee. Combs was charged but acquitted; Shyne got 10 years.

JAMAAL "SHYNE" BARROW, IN PRISON FOR SHOOTING: When I went to that club that night, somebody pulled out a gun that night, I had to respond the way I know how to.

CARROLL: It's that kind of hard-core image that appeals to fans and helped Shyne land a reported $15 million deal with Def Jam Records, most of the CD recorded before Shyne's incarceration, one track recorded over the telephone while in prison.

The label would not talk to us for this story. Shyne did speak to "Vibe" magazine about the lucrative deal and his music.

BARROW: I don't sit there and celebrate. I'm just not in the mood to celebrate right now, because all of these things that are happening are part of a bigger occurrence, and that's what I'm looking at.

CARROLL: There have been comparisons to the prolific rapper, the late Tupac Shakur, who served time in the same prison, signed a deal while behind bars and whose lyrics, much like Shyne's, reflect the thug life.

But some critics say Shyne's talent falls short of Shakur's. No matter to Shyne.

BARROW: I'm not making radio records. You understand, I'm making music for my soul and for the soul of my comrades.

CARROLL: But radio listeners are tuning in...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What is the name of the song?

CARROLL: ... wanting to hear more.

MARTINEZ: What do you want to hear?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want to hear the new Shyne.

MARTINEZ: People want to know what's happening. When I got the first song and I debuted it, people wanted to hear it. You know, they're interested in his story.

PARKER: America in general and the record-buying public at large is just a sucker for a good story. So whether the music is good can be secondary first to the story, but eventually it comes back around to the music.

CARROLL: And when it comes to hip-hop music, the fact Shyne is behind bars seems to make it more real.

(on camera) Does it help or does it hurt?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It helps.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because you get all the kids that, you know, they come from the street and like, oh, he's living that thug life that they want.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For a rapper to go to jail and do a album in jail, that, like, sets the tone on the street.

CARROLL (voice-over): But can a hard-core rapper outshine all the bling-bling dominating videos today? His new CD debuted at No. 1 on Billboard's R&B chart.

But Shyne can't do a video or promote on the road. He tried to promote over the phone, but the prison revoked his phone privileges after they say he abused them.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it will sell poorly, compared to what Def Jam's expectations are.

CARROLL: Whatever sales are, some say Shyne shouldn't profit. The New York State Crime Victims Board sent this letter to Def Jam, wanting details of his contract. State law allows income earned by felons to go to their victims.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Some victims are going to feel that he has the fame that he does, that he has the public audience that he does precisely because of the crime.

CARROLL: From the artistic side, another worry. Some say promoting Shyne simply on his hard-core image does him and his young listeners a disservice.

Rap impresario Russell Simmons wrote this open letter to his label, questioning whether Def Jam sees "Shyne for the potential he has to become a spiritual prophet as he defines himself or will he be reduced to the thug that the street is racing to define him as?"

Shyne sees his future in comparison to an unlikely artist.

BARROW: Just like, you know, Ray Charles. That's how I try to look at myself. I'm not saying that I'm as great, but that's what I aspire to do. I aspire to make history.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: That was Jason Carroll.

Joining me now is "Vibe" magazine editor-in-chief, Mimi Valdes.

Good to see you. Welcome.

MIMI VALDES, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, "VIBE" MAGAZINE: Good to see you.

ZAHN: All right. You've got to clear something up here. Shyne had a million dollar contract even before he was arrested, right?

VALDES: Yes, definitely. He was the first rapper to have a million dollar record deal. There was a bidding war. Every major label wanted him. He was huge, a big star. The first time anything like that had happened.

ZAHN: But there was also a bidding war once he was in prison.

VALDES: There was a bidding war afterwards as well, yes. Part two.

ZAHN: So is Def Jam taking a risk here or not?

VALDES: I don't think they're taking a risk. Because like I said, the first time there was a bidding war, everybody wanted him. Once he became a free agent, once Bad Boy released him, all those folks that bid the first time, they just were like, "All right. We're going to come in here and bid even higher and try to get this artist."

ZAHN: And they are not concerned about the fact that this guy is in prison?

VALDES: No, I don't think they're concerned about that at all. I think what is important for all these labels is they want an artist who has the appeal to sell records.

ZAHN: They want to make money.

VALDES: That's the bottom line. And what Shyne has is that he's not only a talented artist, but he has a great story. And that, you know, always will sell records.

ZAHN: And people might dispute, you know, that word, "great story," but the fact is some of the kids were saying they would buy his CD because of that.

You have interviewed him extensively, talked with him a bunch of times while he was in prison. Did he have any remorse for what he did?

VALDES: I think -- I think for him, that night, obviously, it was a difficult night for him. He reacted in self-defense.

I think he's moved on. What's happened, you know, he definitely doesn't like the fact that he's looking at ten years. I think it's definitely an unfairly long sentence for someone who had no prior convictions. And no one knows exactly what happening that night, but I don't think we're getting the full story.

I think he's moved on and just is more concerned about becoming a great artist. He was already on that path before, and now he's just trying to get back on it.

ZAHN: Do you personally have a problem with what he's doing?

VALDES: No, because he was a big star already. He was someone that the hip-hop industry was anticipating. Like I said, he was a big bidding war. Everybody wanted to know...

ZAHN: Quite clear that Jason said it is legal for him to make money, but with this court order, the money has to go to these victims' groups.

VALDES: And that's the thing I don't understand, because to me, he's not profiting off of his crime. He was already a rapper before. He's not making records about his crime. He's just continuing the life that he had before all this. I don't think there's anything wrong with that. I think...

ZAHN: Of course, the victims' families feel different.

VALDES: Yes. And I think that's unfair. I think that's not correct at all.

ZAHN: What about the public perception that these hip-hop labels are too closely connected with crime and violence?

VALDES: What about their...

ZAHN: The public has this perception.

VALDES: You know what, though? I think in this case, I think it's unfair to kind of make that comparison, because I think what attracted all these labels to him in the first place was his talent. They missed out the first time around. They want to get him the second time...

ZAHN: Yes, but the guy was convicted.

VALDES: He was convicted but, again, I think what has made him more appealing is how he handles himself at the trial.

He easily could have, you know, gave up some names and said a whole bunch of stories to get himself off. And he didn't. And that's why he's more appealing, more.

Yes, there's going to be some people might be interested in his because of this, because of that. But why he is so anticipated is how he handles himself at the trial. That's very admirable. You know, he could have snitched, and that means a lot.

ZAHN: These record labels won't have a bidding war much longer if this stuff doesn't sell. That's the bottom line, too.

VALDES: But it will. It will sell.

ZAHN: Thank you.

Coming up next, what they do for love. Children willing to risk death, yearning to find their parents, when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: Tonight, we bring you a story of a teenager's desperate journey to find her mother, but this is much more than just a story of a child's search for a parent. As you're about to see, it is part of a disturbing trend.

Every year, close to 100,000 children are caught trying to enter the U.S. illegally, and they come alone with harrowing tales of how they got here.

Thelma Gutierrez has more.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

THELMA GUTIERREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): They come on foot.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I had no food. I had no water. I had no strength.

GUTIERREZ: They come by boat.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I tried from China. It takes 20 days.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The toughest thing I experienced was trying to jump on a moving train.

GUTIERREZ: And they travel by rail, children desperate to come to the United States.

ASTRID BERNAL SANCHEZ, LOOKING FOR MOTHER (through translator): I came here to be with my mother.

GUTIERREZ: Fifteen-year-old Astrid can't remember the last time she saw her mother. Her mother left for the United States when she was only 1. Astrid risked it all to come here, starvation and near suffocation, to find her mother.

SANCHEZ (through translator): I hid under blankets in a compartment of a bus, and sometimes it was hard to breathe and sometimes we only had water.

GUTIERREZ: Astrid's journey begins in El Salvador. Her goal: to reach Boston, where her mother is a factory worker. Astrid has no idea where Boston is. Even so, she sets out on her own with just a backpack and a Boston address.

It takes her 23 days, through two countries and more than 2,800 miles to finally reach the international border at Tijuana. Just one step away from U.S. soil, Astrid's dreams come to an abrupt end. Astrid is arrested by the border patrol.

SANCHEZ (through translator): I felt at that moment that I was returned to El Salvador. I would never come back here again, because it was so difficult to get here.

GUTIERREZ: Astrid's broken dreams are shared by every child in this shelter. They, too, were arrested while trying to cross the border.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I felt like taking my own life in that desert.

GUTIERREZ: For three days and three nights, Jorge walked through the Arizona desert without food or water. He's 15, from Guatemala, here to work to support his aging mother.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think of all of those who will follow me. Kids. It's sad when you see pants of little children in the desert and socks and ribs, skulls, bones of persons.

GUTIERREZ: We were granted rare access into the Southwest Key Children's Shelter in San Diego and its sister facility in Phoenix.

Here, you see little children as young as 3 and 4 years old who made the journey. One 4-year-old came with his 12-year-old sister.

OLGA TORRES, SOUTHWEST KEY, PHOENIX: It is emotionally draining and as a professional, the only thing that I know that kid needs, I want to give them a hug. I want to take them home and give them a mom and a dad.

GUTIERREZ: We can't you the youngsters' faces or tell you their real names for their safety. Many here still owe smugglers.

ISMAEL AVILEZ, SOUTHWEST KEY, EL CAJON: They're dealing with people who robbed them, people who might have tried to take advantage of them or possibly sexual exploitation.

GUTIERREZ: Ismael Avilez runs the center near San Diego. He has 15 beds. They're always full.

AVILEZ: At this time, we have 36 different flags represented, and that would be from every continent in this world.

GUTIERREZ: Seventeen-year-old Shao-Fin (ph) is from southeastern China. Fleeing religious and political persecution, Shao-Fin (ph) traveled more than 7000 miles from China to Paris to Cuba, then Mexico before he was caught here.

AVILEZ: Yes.

GUTIERREZ: Daniella is 16. She's from Honduras. She escaped a life of abuse. Daniella says she will never forget the day she hopped the train north.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I saw one boy who was trying to catch the train. He couldn't get up on time. It took his leg, his arm. This part of his head was taken off.

GUTIERREZ: Each of the teenagers I spoke with told me what they experienced and saw was so horrible, they'd never make the journey again.

For now, they wait in this shelter until their parents or a sponsor can be found.

For Astrid, the journey is about to pay off.

SANCHEZ (through translator): I'm nervous because I'll be seeing her for the first time.

GUTIERREZ: This is Blanca, Astrid's mother. She was tracked down in Boston. Blanca flies to San Diego, where she prepares to reunite with a daughter she has supported, but hasn't seen in 14 years.

BLANCA BERNAL, ASTRID'S MOTHER (through translator): I felt horrible when I left her. But I did it for her. In El Salvador, there isn't much work. I always planned on sending for her once I had my immigration papers, but it's taken years. SANCHEZ (through translator): I never understood why my mother went to the United States. I always felt sad for not having grown up with a mother.

GUTIERREZ: Moments from now, they will reunite, but it's not certain whether they'll be allowed to remain in the United States. For now, it doesn't matter: a mother and child are together once again.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: That was Thelma Gutierrez.

Another question you have to ask yourself is how well aware any of these children were aware of the risks and who encouraged them to make these trips.

Coming up next, the flip side of the story you just saw. Stranded in a foreign land, American kids and the strangers who save them when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: Seven Texas children who went through a nightmarish ordeal are back to the U.S. thanks to a Texas pastor.

The children, ages 8 to 16, were allegedly taken to Nigeria by their adoptive mother and dropped off to a boarding school. Well, when no one paid the tuition, they were left to fend for themselves in an insect-infested shack, then put in a squalid orphanage before the Reverend Warren Beemer discovered them.

Reverend Beemer, who is the youth pastor of Cornerstone Church in San Antonio, is with me here now to pick up the story.

Welcome. So good to meet you.

REV. WARREN BEEMER, CORNERSTONE CHURCH, SAN ANTONIO: It's good to meet you.

ZAHN: What an incredible story.

BEEMER: Yes, ma'am, it's a good story.

ZAHN: Describe to us how you came upon these kids.

BEEMER: We were doing some missions work there in an orphanage, bringing some food, bringing some clothes and we were interacting with the children.

As we started to interact with them, we noticed one of them was speaking in a very distinct Texas drawl accent. And so we just asked her, "Where are you from?"

And she, in a very spirited American way, just looked up and said, "Houston." And we were all taken back on our heels and we said, "Houston? What are you doing here?"

And she said, "Well, me and my brothers and sisters, we're all here."

We said, "Where?"

And she led us around the side of the building to a dark room where her brothers and sisters were sitting against a wall inside of a dark room. We were Americans and we walked in, they didn't cry out for help. They didn't say, "Hey, we're here."

Literally, from what I heard from them, they had told so many people and nobody did anything. They were resigned to the fact that this was their fate, and this is where they were at.

ZAHN: They were very weak, too? Right.

BEEMER: Yes, ma'am. They were all very skinny. They were very dirty. They'd been bathing out of buckets, because there was no running water in the place they were at.

Three of them had malaria. One of them had infitigo (ph), black bruises and sores from some the sicknesses they had were all over one of the young ladies. And they looked like they had been through hell, they really did.

ZAHN: And as you're sitting there, seeing these children, hearing these stories, what's going through your mind? "I've got to get them back to the United States? I've got to figure out what happened to these kids."

BEEMER: "These are our kids" is what kept going through my mind. Americans take care of their own, and that rose up in that building.

As the -- as the orphanage workers even tried to stop us to say, "You know, there's a system to go through here," we all looked at them and said, "No, there is no system. These are American kids, and they're coming home."

And we promised those young people that before they left, "You're coming home."

ZAHN: Was there a part of that was worried you might not be able to deliver on that promise?

BEEMER: Yes, ma'am.

ZAHN: Given how complicated this whole story is.

BEEMER: Initially, I really did. I gulped as I said it, but I know my pastor, Pastor John Higgin (ph) in San Antonio, Texas. God has given him so many connections, such as Senator Cornyn and Congressman Tom DeLay, who jumped on this story and literally beat it down to where these kids were home within eight days of when we found them.

ZAHN: One of the most amazing parts of the story to me is what happened as you were leaving after having talked with a bunch of these members of one family, and they started spontaneously singing. What did they sing?

BEEMER: They sang the national anthem. They started off -- the kids started off so sad and down, and finally started getting happy and joyous. And as we were leaving the building, I was stepping towards the car and I just turned around and just started singing. I just started off the national anthem, "Oh say, can you see."

And they chimed in and they jumped on every note. The whole place went silent. Fifty to 60 people just stood around in awe and watched these children sing their national anthem with hands over their hearts. And people were crying around the place. They knew these were American kids that needed to go home.

ZAHN: That's going to stay with you forever.

BEEMER: Yes, ma'am. Leaving the property as we left that day, knowing we had something to do, and the children chased is as far as they could run and stood there as one of them was JROTC and saluted us as we drove by and until we were out of sight, will always stay with me.

ZAHN: What a story. Warren Beemer, thank you for bringing it to us this evening.

We should say for the pastor, as for the children, child protection workers in Houston spent time with them today. They are still being treated for malaria and malnutrition, but they are said to be in good spirits.

A custody hearing is scheduled a week from today. Houston police are investigating the case, and the children's adoptive mother could face fraud charges for state payments she received to support the children.

We're going to take a short break here. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: And that wraps it up for all of us this evening. Thanks so much for being with us tonight.

Tomorrow thousands of cars and SUVs, maybe even yours, are fitted with a device that records a driver's every action. Traffic safety versus your privacy. That's tomorrow night.

"LARRY KING LIVE" is next. Friends and family of Elvis share their intimate memories with Larry tonight.

Again, thanks for dropping by here. Have a great night.

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