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PAULA ZAHN NOW

New Details Revealed in Canada Terror Plot; Marine Atrocities?; Alleged Rape Survivor's Story of Justice; Father Launches Legal Attack Against Funeral Protesters

Aired June 6, 2006 - 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: And good evening, everyone. Glad to have you with us tonight.
Here's what's happening at this moment.

The Pentagon now says the I.D.s of millions of American soldiers are at risk, names, birthdays and Social Security numbers of 1.1 million active-duty troops and one million members of the National Guard and Reserves all stolen, along with data taken from a Veterans Affairs employee's home last month.

In Grand Rapids, Michigan, a heartbreaking story of victims mixed up after a terrible accident -- the body of Laura VanRyn is now on its way home, after being confused with her friend Whitney Cerak, who survived.

Laura VanRyn will now be buried closer to her family.

And, on the CNN "Security Watch" tonight, a new report card for national security in the wake of 9/11 -- the co-chairman of the 9/11 Commission, Tom Kean, said the U.S. remains dangerously behind in security, and said some funding decisions defy common sense. He said it was also very hard to give below an F grade, but he would have if he could have.

Continuing with our "Security Watch" tonight, we're finally seeing the outlines of a dramatic, almost unbelievable terrorism plot. If the allegations are true, it would have rivaled the horror of 9/11. Imagine a group of terrorists blowing up Canada's parliament, taking over a TV network, and beheading the country's prime minister. These astonishing details came out today in a Canadian courtroom, even as the suspects' attorneys argued that their clients are innocent and their legal rights are being thrown ow the window.

Our Homeland Security correspondent, Jeanne Meserve, has just filed this report from Toronto.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The scenario is chilling. The suspects allegedly plan to storm Canada's parliament in Ottawa and the headquarters of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation in downtown Toronto, taking hostages. Their demands would include freeing Muslim prisoners and pulling Canadian troops out of Afghanistan. And, if those conditions were not met, they would behead their hostages, including Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper. These are the Canadian government's allegations against Steven Chand, one of the 17 suspected terrorists, according to his lawyer.

His attorney says he's seen only a synopsis of the charges, but no evidence to support them.

GARY BATASAR, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: This is a two-year investigation that was going on. One would think that the two-year investigation would have brought forth a lot more evidence than eight pages and a one-page synopsis of Mr. Chand.

MESERVE: Despite intense media and public interest, members of the suspects' families had nothing to say at the courthouse.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: ... like everyone to know about the situation.

MESERVE: This is, for Canada, something like 9/11, a jolt, a realization that terror can hit you where you live.

In court, defense attorneys complained that security is so tight, they have been unable to meet with their clients privately, a violation, they said, of the suspects' rights.

ARIFA ZARA, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Regardless of the allegations and charges, everybody is entitled to be treated equally. And I think that unequal treatment just because of these allegations is improper.

BATASAR: This is not Guantanamo. This is Toronto, Canada.

MESERVE: Terror suspects Yasim Abdi Mohamed and Mohammed Dirie did not appear in court today. Last August, they were stopped crossing the Peace Bridge from Buffalo, New York, into Canada.

According to court documents, when Canadian customs frisked them, they found guns and ammunition hidden under their baggy pants. The men told authorities the guns were for their personal protection, the documents say. They pleaded guilty and are now in jail.

Canadian authorities believe the larger group of suspected terrorists were close to carrying out their plans. Some of them had allegedly been training at a remote camp, and authorities say they had acquired large quantities of chemicals to make explosives. And most worrisome to some experts, this alleged group of homegrown terrorists had managed to blend in to Canadian society.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MESERVE: The suspects appeared in the jammed courtroom in shackles. Some of them were quite somber, but a few were not. They waved at family and friends in the courtroom, apparently oblivious to the very grave charges filed against them -- Paula, back to you.

ZAHN: Jeanne Meserve, thanks so much for the update. Now, if the police are right, Canadian citizens, rather than outside terrorists, were planning an attack that would have been far worse than what we saw in Oklahoma City and much more shocking than a political assassination.

So, what can be done to head off this kind of frightening homegrown terrorism, both in Canada and right here at home?

Let's put these questions to CNN security analyst. He's also a senior fellow with the Brookings Institution.

Good to see you. Welcome.

RICHARD FALKENRATH, CNN SECURITY ANALYST: Hi, Paula.

ZAHN: So, how realistic was this plan? Could this group have pulled it off?

FALKENRATH: Well, we're not sure what the plan is. The story changed over the course of the day.

One plan was to use an ammonium nitrate bomb to blow up the parliament. That, I think, is a very realistic plan. I know the parliament building. It does not have a very large setback from the road. And if they actually had three tons of ammonium nitrate, they mix that with diesel fuel, they could, very conceivably, build a bomb that would take down a wing of the parliament.

The other plan, the raid, the assault on the parliament building, I find that a little less plausible. And it starts to, you know, question the credibility of these would-be terrorists. If they were really thinking they could charge in there, assault it, and capture senior politicians, like the prime minister, that is not easily done.

ZAHN: Since 9/11, we have heard about the occasional arrests of some suspects involved terrorist plots, nothing on the scale of the one that seems to be unfolding here. How danger would you -- dangerous would you consider this cell?

FALKENRATH: Very. You were absolutely right. This is the most significant terrorist network exposed in North America since 9/11. That's very clear. It's the largest one. It's the one that was furthest along in operational planning and in acquiring the means of carrying out an attack.

All the other cells and networks unraveled since 9/11 in North America have been more like facilitators or people who have gotten some training, had some extremist believes, had done some things that were illegal, but weren't necessarily terrorist operatives like the 9/11 hijackers were, for instance.

ZAHN: Were American authorities familiar with the cell, and did they have any contact?

FALKENRATH: It's a very -- it's a very good question. I have to believe that American authorities were aware of the surveillance operation under way inside Canada. I don't know how many details were shared with what parts of the U.S. government, but the Canadian government would have to tell the United States. That was routine when I was in office. I'm sure it continues.

The question was always level of detail and consultation when an operation actually began. And that varied from case to case.

ZAHN: Even if it turns out just half of this plot was something that they had planned to execute, it is a very ambitious plot.

FALKENRATH: Yes, it is. It's a very big...

(CROSSTALK)

ZAHN: Why Canada?

FALKENRATH: Well, it's a good question.

Canada actually has a history of some Islamic extremism, in some cases, more than the United States. And we're not exactly sure why that is. There's about 600,000 Muslims in Canada. Three hundred thousand are in southern Ontario. So, they're very geographically concentrated.

And, for whatever reason, it has been a somewhat more fertile ground than the United States for extremist views, militant views. And we have seen that. There's evidence of that even back into the '80s.

ZAHN: Well, we appreciate your helping us better understand this tonight, security analyst Richard Falkenrath. Thank you for your time.

FALKENRATH: Thanks, Paula.

ZAHN: Now, the arrests in Toronto are focusing a lot of attention on security, what little there is along the U.S. border with Canada. It is nearly 4,000 miles long. And it is usually pretty easy to move across. Show an I.D., answer a few cursory questions, and you're in. But, in some places, there isn't even that much security.

Gary Tuchman has one extreme example.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's late afternoon, rush hour in many places, but not here, on this desolate roadway.

In the Canadian province of Manitoba, where a monument separates Manitoba on the left from Minnesota on the right, a sign warns that you're about to arrive to the official U.S. border checkpoint. And then there it is -- the Jim's Corner Immigration Customs Reporting Station, which looks like a shack and operates on the honor system.

Two sheriffs on the American side are not happy about it. (On camera): What percentage of people in general do you believe check in there?

DALLAS BLOCK, SHERIFF, LAKE OF THE WOODS COUNTY: I believe it's less than 30 percent, maybe even far less than that.

TUCHMAN: When we entered Lake of the Woods County, Minnesota, from Canada, we went through the rather unorthodox process.

(On camera): Push the call, push the American flag.

(voice-over): Inside the shack, a videophone connected to a border agent 50 miles a way.

(on camera): Hello, U.S. Customs. I'm at the Jim's Corner. My name is Gary Tuchman. I think you'll find I have a clean record.

(voice-over): The agent looks at you through the camera, and you look at the agent.

(on camera): What is your name?

OFFICER JOHNSON, BORDER AGENT: Officer Johnson.

TUCHMAN: Hello, Officer Johnson.

(Voice-over): Officer Johnson would have no way of knowing if people were just driving by the shack without stopping, which, indeed, often happens, because many honorable people can't be bothered with the videophone that often doesn't work.

(On camera): I'm going to hold you up my passport first. Can you see it?

JOHNSON: OK.

TUCHMAN: That's me.

(Voice-over): We were approved to enter the U.S. in a most unusual tourist town called Angle Inlet. It's actually an enclave not physically connected to the rest of the U.S. You have to drive 40 miles within Canada to the northern side of the Lake of the Woods to get there.

There are far more deer than people who live here. The town is the state's only remaining one-room public schoolhouse. But amid the charm of this tranquil town, the sheriff of Lake of the Woods County says drug dealers drive past Jim's Corner, and then take boats in the summer or snowmobiles in the winter into the heart of the U.S. And he says there's even more.

(On camera): It is your professional opinion that terrorists have gone through Angle Inlet into the mainland United States?

BLOCK: Yes, it is.

TUCHMAN: And that's through intelligence you have?

BLOCK: Yes. We have pretty accurate, pretty reliable intelligence that that has happened. I don't think Osama bin Laden's going to check in there, but -- so -- so, you're really on your honor system.

TUCHMAN: It's 6:00 p.m. on a chilly day. So most of the boaters have gone back to shore for the evening. This lake is very empty. But even in the summer, in the middle of the day, it is very uncrowded on this lake, which makes it easy for people who might be up to no good to go relatively unnoticed.

(Voice-over): Some of the year-round residents are concerned all this talk could scare away tourists. Jerry Stallock owns a restaurant.

JERRY STALLOCK, OWNER, JERRY'S RESTAURANT: I personally don't think this is as big a threat as some of the other people.

TUCHMAN: But the sheriff says, in this post-9/11 world, one cannot be too careful, although he does admit to a transgression.

(on camera): Do you stop at the border station?

BLOCK: I do, sometimes.

(LAUGHTER)

TUCHMAN (voice-over): U.S. Customs and Border Protection tell CNN its officers, who periodically visit this border area, will start making more frequent visits. And better technology will be added, including cameras providing surveillance over the area, not just inside the shack.

We did encounter one man from Manitoba who did stop at the videophone.

(on camera): Any luck?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No luck.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): But it didn't work, so he called on a pay phone...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. John Funk (ph), reporting in at Young's -- at Jim's Corner.

TUCHMAN: ... to report his arrival into the United States of America.

Gary Tuchman, CNN, Angle Inlet, Minnesota.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: Fascinating.

We are going to move on now. More than 17 million of you went to our dot-com site today.

Our countdown of the top 10 most popular stories starts with President Bush saying that Iran's initial response to a package of incentives to end the nuclear standoff sounds like a positive step. Iran is considering that offer right now.

Number nine, a huge explosion in China -- engineers blew up a temporary barrier used during construction of the Three Gorges Dam. The mile-and-a-half long dam is part of what will be the world's largest hydroelectric project -- numbers eight and seven just ahead, also some disturbing new tales about an alleged plot involving U.S. forces in Iraq.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN (voice-over): Allegations of premeditated murder in Iraq, and then a cover-up. And at the base where the suspects are in jail, their treatment is sparking anger and outrage.

And the "Eye Opener" -- this woman says a man shattered her life twice, once in college and more than 20 years later, when he tried to apologize. Was she right to have him arrested after that apology for rape?

All that and more just ahead.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: Still ahead tonight: a woman's very personal, very intimate struggle to cope with a terrible wrong. She claims a man raped her more than 20 years ago. When he finally contacted her to apologize, where did she draw the line between granting forgiveness and seeking justice?

Now here's what's happening at this moment: in South Carolina, an arrest warrant for a suspect in the case of the murder of a Clemson University coed who was strangled with her bikini. The prosecutor says DNA samples match a registered sex offender from Tennessee named Jerry Inman. He's considered extremely dangerous.

President Bush on the road today in New Mexico and his home state of Texas, touring the front lines of the U.S.' southern border and pushing his vision of immigration reform.

The president also says he's concerned about the situation in Somalia. Islamic militias are tightening their hold on the capital, pushing to establish an Islamic state. The president said it is necessary to make sure Somalia doesn't become a safe haven for al Qaeda.

Tonight, we have word that it could be two more months before any Marines are charged in the killings of 24 Iraqi civilians last November in Haditha. That's where a small group of Marines allegedly went on a rampage after a bomb killed an American and then allegedly tried to cover it up. We also learned today the Senate plans to hold hearings soon into the killings. And we're getting some details on how the Marines may defend themselves.

The latest now from senior Pentagon correspondent Jamie McIntyre, who just filed this report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SENIOR PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Even before a decision is made whether to charge anyone with killing unarmed men, women and children at Haditha, defense lawyers are busy constructing an alternative version of events, aimed at countering the perception the deaths were the result of a murderous rampage by Marines bent on revenge.

If the cases come to trial, look for attorneys to question the idea Marines knew that only unarmed civilians were in the houses in a village believed to be a hotbed of insurgent activity. They may call witnesses like Corporal Scott Jepsen, who told CNN he was in Haditha, but not at the scene.

CORPORAL SCOTT JEPSEN, U.S. MARINE CORPS: I believe that insurgents did dwell inside those houses there, and they -- and they did live with their family members. And I think that's part of the reason why the insurgency is so strong in that area, that they do -- they -- they do live in those houses there in Haditha.

MCINTYRE: Defense attorneys will paint a picture of a confusing day of nearby firefights and daylong battles, in which unmanned spy planes tried to track insurgent movements and may have been used to direct Marines to clear the houses of suspected insurgents.

One attorney tells CNN he's been told that the members of Kilo Company didn't know that their fellow Marine Lance Corporal Miguel Terrazas died in the IED attack on their convoy until they returned to the base at the end of the day, undercutting the contention the Marines were seeking vengeance.

One problem for defense lawyers, how to explain the allegedly false report by Marines that the bomb blast also killed some of the civilians, which the evidence, gunshot wounds, clearly disputes.

But Pentagon sources confirm what experts have been saying. The long delay in beginning the investigation, along with the refusal, so far, of the families to allow the bodies of the victims to be exhumed, is making it hard to get the kind of evidence that can make a murder charge stick in court.

(on camera): Sources say, the investigation into Haditha could now drag now well into the summer, as investigators have decided they need to re-interview some witnesses and try again to get access to the bodies, in order to get the kind of forensic evidence they need to link individual Marines to the killings.

Jamie McIntyre, CNN, the Pentagon.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: And, at Camp Pendleton, California, seven Marines and a Navy medic remain in the brig tonight. And for more Marines are confined to the base in another alleged atrocity.

A source tells CNN that investigators have evidence that some of them may have been committed premeditated murder when they killed an Iraqi man in Hamandiyah in April. Military investigators believe the Marines went in to Hamandiyah looking for an insurgent, couldn't find him, and then grabbed an unarmed man from his home and shot him.

Then, investigators say, the Marines planted a rifle next to the body along with a shovel to make it look like he had been digging for a hole for a roadside bomb. Charges against them could be filed a week from tonight.

And, tonight, one of the Marines' defense attorneys is talking.

And Ted Rowlands takes us "Beyond the Headlines" with him tonight.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEREMIAH SULLIVAN III, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: On behalf of my client...

TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A lawyer representing one of eight men being held at the military jail at Camp Pendleton is blasting the Marine Corps for the way he says his client is being treated.

Jeremiah Sullivan represents a 20-year-old Navy sailor who is expected to be charged in connection with the death of an Iraqi man in the town of Hamandiyah. At a news conference in San Diego, Sullivan said his client is in solitary confinement. He also accused the Marine Corps of using threats of a death penalty during interrogations.

SULLIVAN: There are certain known terrorists who are being housed in military facilities around the world who enjoy a substantial more amount of freedom than our -- than our Marines and my sailor. It is -- it's cruel and unusual, and it's unnecessary.

ROWLANDS: Sullivan says, despite the treatment of his client and the seven Marines in jail, and the negative stories in the press, support is coming in from across the country.

SULLIVAN: My office phone hasn't stopped ringing. I have received calls from as far as Florida, Mississippi. Companies, organizations, they're already starting fund-raisers for these kids.

ROWLANDS: Support is also widespread for the Marines under the investigation in the completely separate incident that happened in November in the Iraqi town of Haditha.

A yellow ribbon on the front gate marks the California home of Marine Captain Lucas McConnell, who was relieved of his duty, the Marines say, because of a failure of leadership. That came after allegations of a massacre in the town of Haditha.

Captain McConnell, who lives here with his wife and son, isn't talking publicly about the incident or the ongoing investigation. But his friend and neighbor Jim Gatacre echoes the opinion of many people we talked to in this area, that McConnell and the other Marines caught up in the two investigations should be supported, not interrogated.

JIM GATACRE, FRIEND OF CAPTAIN LUCAS MCCONNELL: Take care of it. Take care of what -- what we need to take care of, not accuse them of being murderers. Even if something like that did happen, obviously, it's a -- it's a psychological break. It's like a psychotic break that somebody goes through. They should be treated, not in prison.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROWLANDS: Now, the Marines say they relieved McConnell of his duties independent of the ongoing investigation in to what happened in Haditha.

Late today, the Marines released a very lengthy statement to refute the allegations that those in confinement here at Camp Pendleton are being mistreated.

In part, the statement says, "Given the preliminary findings of the ongoing investigation, these service members have been given the maximum level of restraint." The e-mail goes on to say that they do get three square meals a day. But, because of that determination made early on in this investigation, they are given this maximum level, which means solitary confinement and shackles whenever they're out of their cells -- Paula.

ZAHN: Ted Rowlands, appreciate the update for us tonight.

We're very soon going to be taking the time to share a woman's disturbing and provocative story. More than 20 years after a trauma that she says changed her life forever, a man sent her a letter seeking forgiveness. She then had him charged with rape. Is it justice at last? Hear her story.

And, a little bit later on, new developments in a series of protests at military funerals that have provoked nationwide anger. How is a grieving father trying to stop those demonstrators?

Before that, let's move on to number eight on our CNN.com countdown. Tonight, police in West Virginia are hunting for the suspect in a deadly shooting rampage. It happened at a home near Charleston. Three people were killed, two others wounded.

Number seven -- in China doctors at a Shanghai hospital have successfully removed a baby boy's third arm. The operation took three hours. And doctors say he will now need long-term physical therapy to build up his strength.

Aww, what a cutie -- numbers six and five just ahead. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: Welcome back.

I want you to hear a story that just stunned me when I heard it for the first time. What would you do if you opened your mailbox one day and found a letter from a man who allegedly raped you 20 years before, a man who was never even prosecuted, who now says he's sorry? Could you forgive? Should you? Or would you go to the police?

Now meet a woman who says all of that happened to her. Her story is tonight's "Eye Opener."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN (voice-over): In October 1984, then-17-year-old Liz Seccuro was a few weeks into her freshman year at the University of Virginia, a sheltered young girl from suburb of New York City, away from home for the very first time. Fraternity and sorority parties were a big part of the social scene.

LIZ SECCURO, ALLEGED RAPE VICTIM: We felt safe. You know, we went with friends. And we felt safe. And there was never any sort of -- you know, we got dressed up. It was just one of those things. It was the culture. It was very Southern. It was very genteel. It was very charming, in a way.

ZAHN: One night began like many others that fall, when a male friend asked Liz to go to a fraternity rush party.

SECCURO: I was in sweats. I was studying. I didn't want to go out that night. And he said: Please. You know, if you bring a girl, you know, it just looks better for you.

I understand that completely. I remember having one-and-a-half beers. I mean, I remember the color of the cup. I remember how big they were. I was playing fooseball.

ZAHN (voice-over): Liz says she got separated from her friend, that she wanted to leave but was afraid to walk home alone. Then she was given a drink that she says made her feel numb. And she met a young man who she says read poetry to her and tried to kiss her.

She says, she rejected him, and that's when things turned ugly. She was forced into an empty room, she says. The young man was fellow UVA student William Beebe. Liz says what happened next forever changed her life.

SECCURO: The door closed. He shut the lights, ripped my clothes off, threw me on the bed. It was that fast. It was just so -- it was like it was planned.

ZAHN (on camera): What is the last thing you remember happening at this frat house party?

SECCURO: I was in the middle of the rape itself and my brain -- I think the brain protect you from things that are too horrible to possibly absorb. And I remember saying to myself, you know, it's OK to go to sleep now. Well, you know, I can't even put a time on it. A few minutes into it.

And I looked out the window and I saw a street light. And I remember thinking that I was going to die and that my mom and dad weren't going to find me that I'd be in this room, and I just said, it's OK to just go to sleep. And that's what I did. That's the last thing I remember.

ZAHN (voice-over): Liz says she woke up the next morning naked and bruised wrapped in a bloody sheet. She reported the rape to the university and says she was told that the local police didn't have authority on campus.

The University of Virginia says they at the time offered to help Liz navigate the legal system. They also say that they explained the incident could also be handled internally by campus authorities. But before anything official could be done, William Beebe dropped out of school and Liz didn't pursue the matter.

She graduated from UVA, but struggled in her adulthood with constant fear, self-doubt and bad relationships. To this day, she says, the nightmare plays over and over again in her head.

SECCURO: I'm seeing my hands in front of my face. I'm seeing, I'm seeing so many different -- I'm just seeing the house that night. I'm seeing the friend that I went with. I'm seeing the person's face. You know?

And that's the other thing. The thing that also happens, which is really quite frightening now that this is back in the forefront, five times a day I see someone on the street who I am convinced is that guy.

ZAHN: But Liz did go on. Two decades later she's happily married with a successful career as an event planner.

(on camera): So some 21 years later, Liz, you have moved on as much as you could.

SECCURO: Right.

ZAHN: You got married. You started a successful career.

SECCURO: Right.

ZAHN: You had a beautiful child.

SECCURO: Right.

ZAHN: Then one day you go to the mailbox.

SECCURO: Yes.

ZAHN: And you receive an odd looking envelope with a vanilla scent on it.

SECCURO: Who writes letters anymore. You know? And I put it in my lap and I saw the postmark first. It says Las Vegas. And I honestly don't know anyone who lives there. I thought this is odd. Then I saw the return address sticker.

ZAHN: And you knew immediately.

SECCURO: I knew immediately what was -- my planet, my whole world just cracked in half. I didn't even have to open it. I knew what it was.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: So what exactly was in that letter? The man's name on the return address, William Beebe. The man Liz says raped her. What could he have to say to her after all those years? You won't believe it. The story continues in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: We're back. Here's what's happening at this moment. An incredible dust storm tonight covering Arizona farm fields just south of Phoenix. The National Weather Service says the dust storm warning is in effect for the area until the top of the hour.

In our "Crude Awakening" segment tonight, a look at gas prices all over the country. The states with today's highest prices are in red, the lowest in green. The average today for unleaded regular, $2.90. That's up two cents. And our graph shows the trend over the last month or so.

Now, back to the story of his Liz Seccuro. She was a 17 year old college freshman when she claims she was raped at a party. Her attacker was never prosecuted. She says it has devastated her life. After two decades she managed to build a good life. Then one day she says she got a letter from the man who attacked her.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN (voice-over): A simple trip to the mailbox, a seemingly innocuous letter. It dramatically changed Liz Seccuro's life. It was a letter from the man she says had raped her when she was just 17 and still a virgin.

After 21 years, it was a letter of apology from William Beebe.

(on camera): I'm going to read an excerpt from that letter. Quote, "In October, 1984, I harmed you. My prayer is that you be free and happy in your life." When you saw those written words what was your reaction?

SECCURO: On the one hand, it was validating, and on the other hand, I have been anything but free and happy in my life. And how dare you? How dare you write to me? I just felt like I was grieving at that time. ZAHN: Are you sorry you ever opened up that letter and read it?

SECCURO: The personal me, there are days. But no, I'm not. Because I know that no matter what the outcome, I mean, this torture has to end at some point.

ZAHN (voice-over): But why after so long would this man reach out? William Beebe would reveal later that after struggling with alcohol for years, he had turned to A.A.'s 12-step program. Step number eight, make a list of all the persons we had harmed. And step number nine, make direct amends to such people. Beebe also invited Liz to contact him anywhere, any time with anyone and so began a very unusual correspondence.

(on camera): So Liz, as tormented as you were by the phrases in this first letter, you decided to start e-mail communication with William Beebe?

SECCURO: I had to.

ZAHN: Why?

SECCURO: I wanted to know why. I wanted to know who he was, what led him to this behavior. What led him to that night to be that person.

ZAHN (voice-over): Beebe wrote about his tumultuous life after leaving UVA. An excerpt from one of his e-mails dated September 22nd, 2005. "I always felt a tremendous guilt for the way in which I imagined my conduct had damaged you. I did not know how I was going to set about repairing the wrongs I believed I could never fully right, most especially in the situation with you, which haunted me most of all."

And in an e-mail dated November 30th, 2005, what appears to be an admission. "I want to make clear that I'm not intentionally minimizing the fact of having raped you. I did."

Liz says the e-mail relationship began to frighten her. There is no statute of limitations on rape in Virginia. And she says there was no other choice. It was time to come forward and finally tell her story to the police.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Beebe...

ZAHN: The result, on January 4th, 2006, William Beebe was arrested at his home in Las Vegas.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our most recent arrest for a serious sexual assault that occurred some 22 years ago.

ZAHN: This is William Beebe today.

SECCURO: He's had 20 years of freedom and I've had 20 years of being imprisoned in my mind. I've had 20 years of bad relationships, bad decisions, lack of self esteem. I've had 20 years of questioning who I am.

ZAHN: But this tale with all of its twists and turns still isn't over. William Beebe now denies that he raped Liz. We tried to contact Mr. Beebe through his attorney to get his side of the story and received this statement.

"Regrettably Mr. Beebe cannot provide details about a pending case. At the appropriate time, Mr. Beebe's innocence will be established in a court of law and my misunderstanding about the events in question will be put to rest. Mr. Beebe did not rape Ms. Seccuro. He treated her thoughtlessly in a college sex encounter, for which he is sorry."

But remember the e-mail in which William Beebe admitted to the rape? Why would he confess to a crime he didn't commit?

More from his attorney. "In their e-mail correspondence when Ms. Seccuro first described the encounter as a rape, Mr. Beebe did not challenge her recollection. Under the circumstances he considered that response inappropriate. In his reply to Ms. Seccuro's e-mails, Mr. Beebe sought only to avoid conflict, not to answer for a crime he didn't commit."

(on camera): Your reaction?

SECCURO: My reaction is that is the most ludicrous thing I've ever heard.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Beebe, can we get a comment from you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Keep walking.

ZAHN (voice-over): Last March, Liz faced William Beebe at a preliminary hearing in a Charlottesville court. He will be tried in November on rape charges. William Beebe could spend the rest of his life in prison. Liz Seccuro says this is about justice, not revenge.

(on camera): So even if this trial ends in acquittal, you will have thought you accomplished a great deal?

SECCURO: Yes.

ZAHN (voice-over): Liz knows what a jury trial might mean. She says that testifying at the preliminary hearing was devastating. She fears a trial will be even worse.

(on camera): Is there just a little part of yourself that ever says to yourself, "You know what, Liz, it was enough that he admitted to me in an e-mail that he raped me?"

SECCURO: You know what? The trauma of what I will face in the courtroom is nothing compared to the trauma of that night. I'm fine with it. You know? Bring it. You can't break me because he already did.

So whatever they try and do to me on the stand, I've already lived through 10 times worse. So no, in answer to your question, no. There's no little piece of me. The only part of me that's left is the part that fights for this. And I have to honor that part. I have a responsibility to that 17-year-old who didn't get justice to take it through. And it's not stubbornness or anger or resentment, it's just who I am. It is what I have to do.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: And when William Beebe goes to trial in November, Liz Seccuro will be representing herself. And in the meantime, she has started an organization called STARS, Sisters Together Assisting Rape Survivors, to support and encourage other young women to come forward with their stories and seek justice.

Moving on to a completely different topic now, some protesters have sparked national outrage. Next, how is a dead marine's father fighting back against their hateful words.

Right now, No. 6 on our CNN.com countdown. Singer/songwriter Billy Preston died in Arizona today. He was best known for his hit "Nothing From Nothing." Preston was suffering from kidney failure. He was just 59-years-old.

No. 5 in Indonesia, tens of thousands of people are being evacuated from the area around Mount Merapi. The volcano hasn't erupted yet, but it has begun spitting ash and hot gases.

Numbers four and three right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: The outrage and opposition is growing tonight to a small religious group that has been staging loud, angry protests at the funerals of Americans killed in Iraq. And today, they showed up outside Arlington National Cemetery just before the burial of a marine who died last month on patrol in Iraq. The protesters stayed far enough away the avoid breaking a new federal law designed to discourage them.

We've been following this story closely because it has aroused such passion. Imagine the anguish of losing a loved one at war, then facing demonstrators at the funeral. And now, one man who lost his son in Iraq is taking on the protesters in court. Here's Allan Chernoff.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ALLAN CHERNOFF, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The pain is still raw for Al Snyder. Just 12 weeks ago two marines arrived at his door step with news that his son Matt had been killed in Iraq.

AL SNYDER, SON KILLED IN IRAQ: I knew as soon as I saw them, what they were there for. The worst night of my life. It just -- you can't describe how it is to lose a child. You can't even explain to anybody what it's like. You know, I just felt like somebody had taken a piece of my heart, and I still feel that way. CHERNOFF: What could possibly bring more pain?

CROWD: God showed his wrath to thee.

CHERNOFF: Having a group of strangers protesting outside the funeral claiming Matt died because Snyder raised him with evil values.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Each one of them are going to hell.

CHERNOFF: These followers of Fred Phelps, all family members, claim American servicemen are being killed because the country provokes homosexuality and abortion. They run the Westborough Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas.

SNYDER: But I did go to the funeral hoping to get closure. Instead I got hatred from this group of people. My son didn't deserve that. No one deserved what they do.

CHERNOFF: So Al Snyder decided to sue the Westborough Church and its members for falsely claiming his son was gay and a sinner.

(on camera): Did you ever know Matt Snyder? Did you ever meet him?

SHIRLEY PHELPS-ROPER, PROTESTER: I know him by some facts.

CHERNOFF: You never met him, did you? How did you actually have the nerve to make these claims against these people? You don't know these people.

PHELPS-ROPER: I know them by their deeds.

CHERNOFF: The first amendment gives powerful protection to freedom of speech, even to people like the Phelps. But it doesn't give the right to intentionally spread lies about someone. So Snyder's attorneys are suing on the grounds of defamation.

(voice-over): Prosecuting attorney Craig Trebilcock himself served in Iraq.

CRAIG TREBILCOCK, ATTORNEY FOR AL SNYDER: They've gone on for years stating their message in what I think they believe is some sort of protected either religious or political speech. They cross the line this time.

CHERNOFF: One lawsuit may not stop the Phelps from future protests, but constitutional law expert Peter Rubin argues it's the right way to begin a legal assault.

PETER RUBIN, PROFESSOR, GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY LAW CENTER: I think that the Snyder family has quite a strong case here. The Supreme Court has held that a defamation action, an action in which someone says this speech is false and has damaged my reputation, an action like that may go forward.

CHERNOFF: The Phelps say they plan to countersue. (on camera): They are charging you with defamation.

PHELPS-ROPER: I don't care what they're charging. What they want to do is is they want to -- what they want to do is they want to litigate our religious doctrine. Well, you don't do that in America.

CHERNOFF (voice-over): Though he's still mourning, Al Snyder is ready to fight for his son's honor. And he wants other families of fallen soldiers to follow his lead.

SNYDER: This will be the last thing I do for my son. I'm doing it for my son. And not just for my son, but I'm doing it for all his brothers.

CHERNOFF: Allan Chernoff, CNN, York, Pennsylvania.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: And there's more information about Snyder's suit. It is available at matthewsnyder.org. His lawyers are donating their services working pro bono.

Right now we're going to take a quick "Biz Break."

(MARKET REPORT)

ZAHN: Coming up at the top of the hour on "LARRY KING LIVE," inside California's notorious San Quentin prison with inmates who will never see the outside world again.

First, No. 4 in our CNN.com countdown, a story we told you about earlier, allegations that U.S. marines now being held at Camp Pendleton may have committed premeditated murder in Iraq. And three, today's date may be 6-6, but not everyone is worried about the possibility of satanic influences. In fact, residents of Hell, Michigan, spent the day celebrating. Take that. Numbers two and one on our list next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: We're told it's a beautiful night on Columbus Circle out there tonight. How would we know? We're inside. But we believe what they tell us. Right now, No. 2 on our CNN.com countdown. Indianapolis prosecutors say they will seek the death penalty for two men accused of murdering seven members of the same family. Top story, in Lubbock, Texas, a young mother has been reunited with her newborn daughter, two days after the baby was abducted. Police found her late Monday night. One suspect has already been charged with the kidnapping.

That wraps it up for all of us here tonight. Thanks so much for spending sometime with us. We'll be back same time, same place tomorrow night. Until then, 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

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