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CNN LARRY KING LIVE
Massive Floods Hit the Northeast; Interview with Judge Chuck Weller
Aired June 28, 2006 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LARRY KING, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight, massive floods bring death and destruction from upstate New York all the way down to Maryland and Virginia. With at least nine dead and others unaccounted for. With more storms heading east, how much worse is it going to get? We've got the latest with reporters, governors, and mayors up and down the disaster area.
And then, the first live primetime interview with the judge who was shot in his own courthouse while handling the divorce case of his alleged assailant, Darren Mack, who's also charged with killing his estranged wife. That's all next on LARRY KING LIVE.
One quick note. Star Jones will be our special guest exclusively tomorrow night. Star Jones will be with us. Tragedy in the weather department. Let's go to Plains, Pennsylvania. Standing by, Mayor Tom Leighton, he's the mayor of Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. We couldn't get cameras into Wilkes-Barre. And Joe Matteo, who was evacuated from downtown Wilkes-Barre he's in Plains as well. What happened in your city, mayor?
MAYOR TOM LEIGHTON, WILKES-BARRE, PENNSYLVANIA: What we had was a rash of torrential downpours over a five-day period and the river rose very quickly and we had several creeks that were overflowing as well. So we were forced yesterday afternoon we evacuated the lower section of south Wilkes-Barre and informed those residents they had to move to higher land. And then today, about 7:30 this morning we had a briefing through our emergency management agency and we were given updates on the river flow coming down from New York State and we made a decision that at 12:00 noon we would have a mandatory evacuation of the entire Wyoming Valley, which was affected by hurricane Agnes in 1972.
KING: Mayor, did you frankly see it coming?
LEIGHTON: Well, we've been monitoring it for the last five days. We knew we had a forecast of heavy rains over a four to five-day period. And whenever we get those kinds of forecasts we always monitor the river. So we knew that we could have potential problems. So we've been preparing for this since early this week.
KING: Joe Matteo, what happened to you?
JOE MATTEO, EVACUEE: Well, it was a complete surprise to us. We were told that we were going to evacuate today. So we had to move our entire operation. I own the (INAUDIBLE) Mansion in downtown Wilkes- Barre with my business partner Mary Hepner who runs Awesome Chocolates out of the business too. And she's my chef also. And we had three floors that we had to evacuate everything, move everything up to higher ground. And we're frazzled and we have a headache, and here we are.
KING: Ever seen anything like it, Joe?
MATTEO: Obviously, I've lived in the area all my life. We've seen hurricane Agnes with the flood back then, and I went to Wilkes University and there were a couple of scares, and then we just had hurricane Ivan and a few more scares recently. So we've seen this before.
KING: Mayor, when do you think Wilkes-Barre will be back to normal? Is it raining there now?
LEIGHTON: No. There's some scattered showers forecasted over this evening. We feel that we're going to be comfortable with the water flow right now. What we're concerned with is a breach in the dike where the water would come through the dike. But we have a $175 million dike project that was just completed approximately five years ago by the Army Corps of Engineers, and they did a fantastic job designing this dike along with our county engineers. So we feel very confident that the water will stay within the banks and that we will not have any further problems, but we'd rather err on the side of precaution. The safety of our residents are very important to us. So we wanted to make sure that our residents got out in a timely manner.
KING: Thank you, Mayor Tom Leighton and Joe Matteo, they're in Plains, Pennsylvania. They are of course the mayor of and evacuated from Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. Let's go to Philadelphia. Governor Ed Rendell is standing by. Earlier today he declared a state of emergency for 46 counties. How bad is it, governor?
GOV. ED RENDELL, PENNSYLVANIA: Well, actually, it was 12:30 last night that we declared it, Larry. It's very bad in the northern tier. Wilkes-Barre has yet to have the crest. But in a lot of places north of Wilkes-Barre in the northern part of Pennsylvania the crest has occurred. There's widespread flooding. The National Guard, we have 13 helicopters in place. The National Guard alone did 444 water rescues today in a scene that was very reminiscent of Katrina. There were people on houses. In fact, as the guard choppers were up in a little town called Conklin right across the Pennsylvania border in New York State, we saw people on the rooftops, and coordinating with the New York authorities, we went and got them too.
So it was -- it's real bad in about 13 counties in that northern tier. Wilkes-Barre, the crest hasn't occurred, and what we were all afraid of is that the crest was predicted at about 38 feet. The dikes are at 39 feet. That left very little margin for error. All the secondary roads in Wilkes-Barre are choked off. So had the dikes broken or had the dikes not -- the water gone over the dikes, you might have had a New Orleans type situation where people just couldn't get out of the downtown area. So I think it was a prudent decision to evacuate.
KING: Governor, this wasn't a hurricane. It wasn't Katrina. What was it? Just rain?
RENDELL: It was six days of the most steady downpour. Not just rain. Downpours. You had places in Pennsylvania that got seven, eight inches of rain a day and averaged five or six inches of rain throughout the entire six-day period. Plus you know Pennsylvania pretty well, Larry. The Delaware and the Susquehanna the eastern branch, flowed down from New York. So we get all of the excess water that comes down from New York into Pennsylvania. And that's why we're seeing crests tomorrow. All throughout the day tomorrow we're going to be challenged. And it remains to be seen whether we're out of the woods yet. Even in counties that are relatively dry right now.
KING: So you're in trouble tomorrow if it rains?
RENDELL: Well no, it's not even a question of rain. The forecast has no appreciable rain. But we just don't know exactly how much water is coming down from New York through the Susquehanna and the Delaware. For example, east in the flood crest and east in Pennsylvania the flood stage is 21 feet. They're predicting, the National Weather Service, a crest at 34 feet. Now if that happens, that's big trouble. So we've got to be on alert. We have almost 1,000 National Guardsmen activated, doing a great job. Again, 444 water rescues, it must have been quite a scene out there stretched out in the northern tier.
KING: Thanks. Governor Ed Rendell, the governor of Pennsylvania. Let's go back to Plains. Art Kaplan is director of Emergency Management for Schuylkill, Pennsylvania. And Andy Reno, whose house was washed out, he lives on Solomon Creek. What's the current condition there, Art?
ART KAPLAN, DIR. EMERGENCY MGMT., SCHUYLKILL CO., PA: Well, I heard the governor talk about the National Guard. We had three gentlemen rescued from a stream today from the National Guard. We had to hoist them up. They went out in their raft and that's the kind of situations we faced. Over the last 48 hours we've had numerous evacuations, situations with rescue operations going on. So we really were busy in the last 48 hours.
KING: Andy Reno, what happened to you?
ANDY RENO, WILKES-BARRE EVACUEE: Yeah, we had some flooding in south Wilkes-Barre. We live next to Solomon's Creek and we had about one foot in our basement. And it probably could have been a lot worse, but they are doing construction on a bridge and it's really helping the situation. There's four new bridges that are being constructed in a four-block radius. We're the second bridge being done. And I think probably, hopefully in about a month from now everything should be fine.
KING: What's the condition, Andy, of your house?
RENO: Yeah. We have a finished basement, and we had approximately 10 to 12 inches of water in there. We had no power today to pump it out. So we did have someone come down with a gas generator and pump the basement out. And we also had some shop vacs there and got all the water out. So right now we just have to dry it out, and with the evacuation of Wilkes-Barre we're going to have to wait till we can get back in to take care of that problem.
KING: Governor, where will you be tomorrow?
RENDELL: Be back in Harrisburg, Larry. I have not gone up in a chopper, and Senator Santorum and Senator Specter and I are going to do that. But we're not going to do that until it's clear that we don't need our choppers for a search and rescue. Right now you don't want a bunch of politicians taking a chopper that can be used to save lives. But I'm going to be in Harrisburg monitoring things.
KING: Thank you all very much. When we come back, we'll talk with two others involved in this. First Sergeant Russell Newell of public information for the Maryland State Police. Maryland got racked up. And Commander David McBride of the U.S. Coast Guard, coming to us from Norfolk, Virginia. What happened there? That's the Atlantic Ocean. You're watching LARRY KING LIVE. We'll be right back.
KING: Joining us now in Baltimore is First Sergeant Russell Newell, public information for the Maryland State Police. In Norfolk, Virginia Commander David McBride, U.S. Coast Guard, spokesman for the U.S. Coast Guard District 5 Incident Manager. And back in Plains, Pennsylvania we'll check in with CNN correspondent Jason Carroll. Let's start with First Sergeant Russell Newell in Baltimore. What do we know about those two Maryland teenage boys that are missing?
1ST SGT. RUSSELL NEWELL, MARYLAND STATE POLICE: Good evening, Larry. A very tragic incident began yesterday evening, shortly after 6:30. Two youths, one 14, one 16, went down to a rain-swollen creek, they went down to the banks, ostensibly to look at the swollen creek but may have attempted to go swimming or wading. The current was very, very strong. And the father who went looking for them became concerned shortly thereafter when they didn't return. Notified the state police, the state police began a very intensive, very massive search effort that culminated last evening. We were unable to conclude that last night. We had to suspend it because of the very rapidly water, rising water.
KING: They're still missing?
NEWELL: Yes, sir, unfortunately, they are. We're still looking for them. It's a very active, ongoing search. The governor has ordered the superintendent of the Maryland State Police, Colonel Tim Hutchins, to have every available asset there. We have dive teams. We have troopers in the air. We have rescue teams from many counties who have joined in the search for these two young men.
KING: Commander McBride, what's the situation vis-a-vis the Coast Guard and the coast of Virginia?
CMDR. DAVID MCBRIDE, U.S. COAST GUARD: Well, sir, most of the coast of Virginia's doing quite well. Most of our efforts right now have been concentrated up assisting Pennsylvania. We got called late last night for assistance, for helicopter assistance with the people stuck on the roofs. So we moved a 60 and a couple crews via C-130 up into that region and they've been doing some of your hoisting evolutions out of there. And we've also got planes ready to go out of Atlantic City should they be needed to be pulled in. And we're closely monitoring the situation down there in Maryland should any of those places escalate.
KING: So Virginia's okay?
MCBRIDE: Most of the area down here in the Norfolk area is pretty good. We're dealing with a lot of stuff up in northern Virginia. They're having some difficulties. But the majority of our rescue efforts right now have been concentrated up in the northern Pennsylvania area.
KING: You did so well in Katrina. Did you learn a lot from Katrina?
MCBRIDE: I think we did. And we've been looking over a lot of lessons and preparing a lot. I think you're seeing a lot of the preparation that the Coast Guard has done with the different state agencies and with FEMA. We've been practicing a lot of the drills and exercises. In fact, just a couple weeks ago we were up in Philadelphia with region 3, FEMA region 3, conducting our hurricane drill up in there. So I think a lot of those partnerships have been put into place. So I think you're seeing a lot of that effort coming to fruition now in these types of efforts that you're seeing today.
KING: Jason Carroll of CNN, our correspondent, he's in Plains, where we talked to other folks a little while ago. In Plains, Pennsylvania. Jason, does this look like the aftermath of a hurricane?
JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, I've been in several hurricanes, and it does in some ways. It really depends upon where you go. We've driven through this entire area. There are pockets of it, Larry, that look just fine. But then you come to this section right here where the Susquehanna River is really beginning to crest, and things look much differently. Although I can tell you just within the past few hours or so we've seen the Susquehanna River recede just a little bit. So some people are looking at that and saying perhaps it will continue to recede. But we've spoken to some old-timers out here and they tell us we could be seeing a double crest. That's when the water crests at one point, recedes, and then crests again. So we're just going to be out here all night just watching, waiting to see what happens.
KING: Sergeant Newell, what's your biggest worry now?
NEWELL: In regards to these two young men. We would certainly like the families to know that our thoughts and prayers are with them in this very trying time. We certainly hope that we can locate these two young men for the families.
KING: We add those wishes. Commander McBride, what's your biggest concern? MCBRIDE: Our biggest concern is that some of these dams, if they were to break or, like some of these rivers that are getting ready to crest, some of the folks that are not heeding warnings from the local officials to get out of the way should these events occur, then we're going to have to be doing some more rooftop rescues and those things tomorrow. But we're hoping that people heed the official warnings and get out of the way.
KING: Jason, the biggest worry where you are?
CARROLL: Well, I think for these people here it's definitely the rising water. These people are looking at the water, they're watching it every hour to see how it inches forward, how it inches back. They've seen it inch forward and rise in the past. They're just hoping it doesn't happen again this time.
KING: Thank you all very much. When we come back, more, this time from New York and New Jersey on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE. Don't forget, Star Jones Reynolds exclusively tomorrow night. And still to come tonight, the judge, Judge Chuck Weller, who was shot in his courtroom in his office. Supposedly by someone involved in a divorce case. All that ahead. Don't go away.
KING: Welcome back. New York and Trenton, New Jersey got whacked. Before we talk to the mayors of Binghamton and Trenton and check with Allan Chernoff our CNN correspondent, let's get on the phone with Governor George Pataki, the governor of New York. What's your assessment tonight, George?
GOV. GEORGE PATAKI, NEW YORK: Well, Larry, this is the real deal. Today I was up in Binghamton and looked at the Schoharie River Valley and the Shningle (ph) and the Delaware Valley and I've never seen a natural disaster as bad as this in New York State. We have 13 counties that have been declared a disaster area. We're still concerned because we know that the Mohawk and the Schoharie and some other rivers have not crested yet and that there still are people at risk.
KING: Have you spoken to the president about it?
PATAKI: I've spoken to the federal officials. I haven't spoken directly to the president. But they're aware, we have requested that the feds as well declare this a disaster, and we're confident that they're going to. It's obvious that everyone needs to pull together, and so far we've had that support.
KING: Mayor Matthew Ryan, mayor of Binghamton, what's the situation there?
MAYOR MATHEW RYAN, BINGHAMTON, NEW YORK: Well, we feel somewhat fortunate tonight, Larry, because when I woke up early this morning the flood waters had risen tremendously over a few hours, they were projecting 30-foot floods and we topped out at just a little over 25. If we had had 30-foot floods we would have been in real trouble. The corps of engineers built flood walls around the city back in the '40s after some big floods in the '30s, and it really saved our city. And we're very fortunate. Tonight we had some substantial flooding but nothing like it could have been. We're hoping that that double crest doesn't happen.
KING: Mayor Douglas Palmer is the mayor of Trenton, New Jersey. What's situation there, mayor?
MAYOR DOUGLAS PALMER, TRENTON, NEW JERSEY: Well, Larry, today we evacuated 15 people off the island in Glenaston section, which are the sections that are prone to flooding. Right now we're waiting for the river to crest, and that won't be until Friday, 2:00 a.m., where it's going to crest at about 28 feet, which would make this the fourth worst flood in the city's history. Not since 1955, when it was over 30 feet. So we're prepared.
We're working very, very hard. And I'm looking at what's going on on the screen. And you know I guess we can anticipate this flooding happening in this area. And it will be the third time in a year and a half that this neighborhood has gone through this. So we're prepared. We're just waiting for the flood to come and for it to recede. And I'm very glad that Governor Corzine let the state workers that were at state capitol -- there's no state workers tomorrow and Friday because we do have a motor situation as well.
KING: Allan Chernoff, CNN correspondent. Governor Pataki says this is one of the worst disasters he's ever seen in New York. What's it from your viewpoint?
ALLAN CHERNOFF, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, certainly pretty dramatic. I mean, watching a river flow over 25 feet up at that flood wall and just flowing right over into the street, an incredible scene. And right behind me, of course, you'll see one of the homes that Mother Nature essentially has taken, the entire first floor of that house is flooded out. So it's pretty much gone. It's just an incredible illustration on the power of Mother Nature and also, especially considering the fact that we had no rain here most of the day. This is from rain that we had over the prior three days.
KING: Governor Pataki, can you say that the state has done everything it could?
PATAKI: No question about it. We have everything from hundreds of National Guard troops to probably a dozen helicopters in the air that were out today taking people from flooded areas and doing everything we could to save every life. But it's not over. We do know that parts of the state the rivers still haven't crested. So we have to continue to respond and work with the local officials. And most importantly, people have to listen to their emergency response teams. If they've been ordered to evacuate they shouldn't take it for granted that because the rain has stopped they can go back.
And we also want to make sure people are very cautious in traveling the roads because we now have at this point 48 different state roads that are closed all or in part. The thruway's closed for almost 120 miles and will be for another day. So people have to listen to their local officials, avoid any unnecessary driving that isn't absolutely essential in those 13 counties, and understand that despite the fact the rain has stopped the crisis is not over.
KING: Mayor Ryan, any loss of life in Binghamton?
RYAN: Just north of here on route 88, unfortunately, two truck drivers lost their lives when a bridge was washed out. Besides that we have been very lucky. And we're very thankful for that obviously.
KING: What about in Trenton, Mayor Palmer?
PALMER: No, no loss of life. And we've been very prepared and -- we're prepared for the worst, but we'll be okay. No loss of life, and people are out and cooperating very well in Trenton.
KING: Speaking of the people, Allan Chernoff, how have the people in Binghamton handled this?
CHERNOFF: Larry, that's a really good question. You may not be able to hear on my microphone, but behind me in the house next to that blue house there are a bunch of people having a great party in a house where the basement is entirely flooded. Seven feet of water there but they're out on the porch, playing guitar, singing songs, singing the blues as well. But nonetheless, they're having a good time, and the beer is flowing, I can tell you.
KING: Governor Pataki, it never ceases to amaze how people can react to disaster, right
PATAKI: You know, it's just been great to see how people have stood shoulder to shoulder, helped each other out. In Binghamton there was a hospital that had to be evacuated where yesterday they built a temporary berm around the hospital to keep the Susquehanna back. And unfortunately, it didn't work, but I can tell you that everybody just gave the utmost effort to try to prevent needing to evacuate that hospital. And this afternoon I was at the Red Cross center at the Binghamton University and there's probably more than 2,000 people there. And the Red Cross volunteers are doing a tremendous job. Everybody's helping each other out, neighbor helping neighbor. That's how you get through a crisis like this. For all the suffering, for all the emergency that still is going on, I'm confident we're going to get through it well.
KING: Thanks. Thank you all, Mayor Ryan, Governor Pataki, Allan Chernoff, and Mayor Palmer. When we come back, Dr. Paul Epstein. Dr. Epstein is associate director of the Center for Health and Global Environment at Harvard. He's an expert in the field of climate change and the future. Joe Vistardi is an expert senior meteorologist for Accuweather. And Reynolds Wolf is CNN's worldwide meteorologist. They're all next. And then we'll meet a bad luck judge. Judge Chuck Weller, the family court judge, shot in his courtroom office. Don't go away.
KING: Joining us now for our continuing coverage of the weather situation in the east and Boston is Dr. Paul Epstein, associate director of the Center for Health and Global Environment at Harvard Medical School. He was the lead author of "Climate Change Futures: Health, Ecological, and Economic Dimensions."
In State College, Pennsylvania is Joe Bastardi, expert senior meteorologist for AccuWeather.com. And at the CNN Weather Center in Atlanta is Reynolds Wolf, CNN's worldwide meteorologist and weather anchor.
Let's start with Joe Bastardi. How do you explain all this from a meteorological standpoint? Joe, do you hear me? I don't hear Joe. Dr. Epstein, we'll start with you. Is this part of what is supposedly a trend in climate getting worse?
PAUL EPSTEIN, HARVARD MEDICAL SCHOOL: Exactly, Larry. We're seeing a trend in extreme weather events. The fundamental issue is that the oceans have warmed. Over this past half century, the oceans have warmed 22 times more than the atmosphere.
So what we see is not what we get. And this is where more water is evaporating, we're seeing ice melting, water vapor rising, and these kinds of events are becoming more common as the atmosphere fills up with water and then when it condenses, it comes down in these buckets.
KING: So it's not just hurricanes?
EPSTEIN: It's hurricanes, it's floods, it's droughts, it's wildfires in the West. It's freak storms in the Pacific right now hitting the coast of Chile all the way up to California. This is a pattern of multiple types of events. And the fundamental issue is that the oceans have warmed, ice is melting, water vapor is rising. The whole earth's water cycle is speeding up. And this is changing our weather patterns and our seasons.
KING: Reynolds Wolf at CNN's Weather Center, how do you view it?
REYNOLDS WOLF, CNN METEOROLOGIST: The way I view it is I will defer to my colleague in that regard, but I can tell you that for the here and now, we've definitely seen an incredible event. The entire scenario there, Larry -- earlier you were talking about is there a similarity between this and a tropical system like a hurricane? Well, very similar. We had a stationary front that was sitting right across the Appalachians, that's upstate New York. We had a system that was forming right off the eastern seaboard, which very, very closely became a tropical depression. That combination gave us this incredible rain event.
KING: Do you expect this to be a bad summer, Reynolds? Is this a foreteller?
WOLF: Well, all signs point to that. I mean, there's no question that things are very, very active in the inner tropical convergence zone, right along the equator where these storms often form and intensify. There's plenty of warm water out there to sustain these storms. If you happen to have a storm again in the tropics move into an area where there's a minimal shear environment, I would say yes, it's very possible for a very active season. But to see more activity like this, definitely it's possible.
KING: We can check with Joe Bastardi now, the expert senior meteorologist at AccuWeather.com. Do you share the views of Dr. Epstein, Joe?
JOE BASTARDI, ACCUWEATHER.COM: Well I'd say it's a time of climatic hardship in this country, similar to the '30s, '40s, and '50s. If you do your research on what happened in this country, in the 1930s, the 1940s, the 1950s, this is straight out of that book there, where the Atlantic warm, the Pacific was in a cooling cycle.
Let's take a look at what the ocean water temperatures looked like last year at this time. Notice all the warmth up in the Arctic regions and the Atlantic is cooler, except in the tropics.
Now, we go to this year and we see a cooling in the Arctic regions, but we also see a very warm off eastern seaboard of the United States and into the Gulf of Mexico, closer to the United States. If you go back and do the research, 1930s, '40s, and '50s summers of heat and drought in the Plains and attacks on our coastline by tropical systems and non-tropical systems. So we're right back into that cycle there we had in the 1890s and early part of the century also.
KING: So Dr. Epstein, Joe is saying, what's new?
EPSTEIN: What's new is that the deep oceans have warmed. It's not just the sea surface temperatures. And what we're seeing in weather is a combination of natural cycles and this long-term warming of the oceans.
What we've seen over the last three decades is that rain has increased over the U.S. about seven percent. Heavy rain events, more than two inches a day, have increased 14 percent, and very heavy events have increased 20 percent, over four inches a day.
So this is what we're seeing throughout the world. And it's not just the sea surfaces. They feed these kinds of storms. They feed Katrina. But it's the warm water that wells that up feeds Rita and the warm water that continues to well up that feeds Wilma. So it's the sequences of storms.
KING: And what can be done about it?
EPSTEIN: What can be done? This is the good question. Because here we're seeing the insurance industry affected. We're seeing them begin to discuss new policies and the need for enabling incentives and regulations that can help us move towards healthy solutions that are profitable that can help stabilize the climate.
KING: Would you say, Joe -- Joe, would you say that's not necessary?
BASTARDI: Well, I'm not going to say that. But what explains the down tick in the Pacific cycle since the Atlantic has come up? We're going through a month of June that ties 1954, 1969 for least activity in the Pacific basin.
So we have to look at the total picture as far as that type of thing goes. I have no doubt this may be some value to human-induced global warming, but there are a lot of things that are happening now that have happened before.
For instance, how were we measuring deep ocean water temperatures back in the '30s, '40s, and '50s when we saw similar cycles? We've got new instruments now to look at these things. So we're measuring the same variable with two different set of instruments and sort of looking at things a different way.
KING: We're going to have to do a whole show on this because it's too important to just relegate to one segment. I'll close with Reynolds Wolf. Mark Twain said, "Everyone talks about the weather, but no one does anything about it." Do you think somebody will?
WOLF: That is a great question. I have no answers for you. Let me tell you, if I had a good answer for that I think we'd all be doing a lot better, no question about it. We just have to deal with what Mother Nature gives us. You know, we don't have requests. We just have to take what she brings along to us.
KING: Thank you all very much, Dr. Epstein, Joe Bastardi, and Reynolds Wolf. We'll take a break, and when we come back, Judge Chuck Weller. What a story, don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The water came up and everything was just flooded in.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This was the worst I've ever seen and I've been here 35 years.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Standing by the window of his courthouse office in Reno, the suspect Darren Roy Mack, whose divorce Judge Weller was handling. Mack is also accused of fatally stabbing his estranged wife. Her body was found the same day the judge was shot. Mack went missing after those violent incidents, sparking a huge manhunt. He finally turned himself in to authorities in Mexico late last week. Mack is charged with murder, attempted murder, and battery with a deadly weapon. He made his first court appearance back in Reno on Monday.
We now welcome to LARRY KING LIVE judge Chuck Weller. What a story. He was shot on June 12th. How are you doing? JUDGE CHUCK WELLER, SHOT AT COURTHOUSE: I'm a little sore. I'm probably pushing it to be on your program tonight, but there are some things that need to be said, and I wanted to come to say them, and thank you for giving me the opportunity.
KING: You've been shot before, right?
WELLER: I was shot in a robbery a long time ago, just after I got out of law school, yes.
KING: You ever get used to it?
WELLER: No, I'm not used to it. But I'm tired of it.
KING: Yours occurred, first tell us what happened on June 12th.
WELLER: I was in my chambers talking to my administrative assistant, and the shot or shots came through the window and struck me. I got out of that room as quickly as I could, scurried to safety.
KING: Where were you hit?
WELLER: I was hit in the area of my heart, right here.
KING: In other words, a couple inches one way or the other and you're in bigger trouble?
WELLER: I suppose.
KING: The shooter was outside the window?
WELLER: You know, I didn't get to investigate it, but I take it, I believe that that's true. The window's gone, and, yes.
KING: But he didn't come bursting into your office?
WELLER: No one came bursting into my office.
KING: What did you think it was? What did you surmise at that moment?
WELLER: I believed that I was shot. I dropped to the floor.
KING: I mean, did you think about who did this, why would someone do this? Did those things?
WELLER: Well, sure. But not instantly. But of course I did. I think anybody that's a judge, anybody that's a family court judge particularly, could come up with a list of people that they're concerned about.
KING: I've had over the years of interviewing people involved in your business, and most would tell me that the least, the most troublesome case, the least thing they like to do is divorce.
WELLER: Well, sure. Most divorces, of course, are easy, but contested divorces involve people who haven't been able to work out their problems between themselves, and people are sometimes very angry, and they're dealing with the most fundamental things that they have in their lives, their spouse, their children, their assets.
KING: Now, I know that we're still calling Darren Mack, who fled and was, eventually gave himself up, as a suspect in this. But what can you tell us about that case?
WELLER: Well, what I can tell you about that case is what you've just said. He's a suspect. And I work in the justice system and I believe in it completely. We have a system of government that says that people who are accused of crimes have a presumption of innocence and they're entitled to procedural due process and substantive due process. And this suspect deserves all of that.
KING: I wasn't asking about the case of him being accused of shooting you. I wanted to ask about the case he had in court with you.
KING: What are the circumstances there? That would be public record.
WELLER: Well, there are some things that are public record, but the canons of judicial ethics require that I not speak about any pending or impending matter. And I can't, and I'm sorry, but I can't discuss the action that was before me.
KING: Have you had people get mad at you before?
WELLER: I don't think there's any judge who hasn't had people be upset about rulings. So yes.
KING: There have been reports, judge, that there were warnings to you about the possibility of violence against you. Is that true?
WELLER: There are things that were suspicious. My dogs were barking in the night. And there was actually a newspaper ad placed that suggested there was going to be an auction at my home that wasn't true. There were things that caused me concern, that caused me to contact the police prior to this shooting.
KING: So there was harassment?
WELLER: I don't know what it was. There were things that were unusual.
KING: Does it make you a little apprehensive about going back on the bench?
WELLER: It sure makes me apprehensive about standing in front of that window. Of course, it does. And I think that's a really important point. We have three parts to our government. One part is the judiciary. We can't be killing our judges. We can't even be intimidating our judges, or our democracy has a really serious problem. And I think it's my obligation to go back to the bench, and I'm eager to do that.
KING: How soon?
WELLER: As soon as I'm able. I don't know what that means exactly right now.
KING: We'll be right back with Judge Chuck Weller, the family court judge, who's with us from our studios in New York. Let's check in now with Anderson Cooper, the host of "AC 360," coming up at the top of the hour. What's up tonight, Anderson?
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Larry, a lot to cover tonight. More on the flooding in the northeast that has led to a mandatory evacuation of some 200,000 people, where flood walls are threatening to burst. We're also going to head out west where wildfires are burning tens of thousands of acres right now, nearing the grand canyon. And we'll have the latest on the hunt for fugitive polygamist leader Warren Jeffs. New subpoenas have been issued for some suspected polygamists in Utah. The question is are authorities getting closer to actually catching Warren Jeffs, who is now on the FBI's ten most wanted list? All that and more, Larry, at the top of the hour.
KING: Any late clues, Anderson, on where he is?
COOPER: No, I mean, he hasn't been seen in more than a year, and people say possibly Texas, that's where his newest compound is, but it's a pretty isolated compound.
KING: Thanks, Anderson. Anderson Cooper, "AC 360" at the top of the hour. That's 10:00 Eastern, 7:00 Pacific. We'll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JIM JOHNS, RENO DEPUTY POLICE CHIEF: We received several citizen reports of a shot being fired in the area of First and Sierra street. The ensuing investigation led the officers to a location. Investigators at that location did find a deceased female.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They didn't discover her body until late afternoon. I called police and I said I think they're related.
JOHNS: That victim is now identified as Charla Mack, the estranged wife of Darren.
RICHARD GAMMICK, WASHOE COUNTY D.A.: We now have a warrant of arrest outstanding for Darren Mack for the crime of open murder with the use of a deadly weapon.
CHRISTOPHER BROUGHTON, CHARLA MACK'S BROTHER: We had heard media accounts that there were sightings in Mexico.
CHIEF MICHAEL POEHLMAN, RENO POLICE DEPARTMENT: Darren Roy Mack was apprehended in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico overnight.
(END VIDEO CLIP) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHNS: At least one round fired from a northerly direction entered Judge Weller's office through a window on the north facing of the family court building.
The SWAT team officers focused on the priority areas, those areas where the suspect could still be, where there might be continued danger from gun shots.
Judge Chuck Weller is in good condition and is currently being treated at a local hospital. He did suffer at least one injury from a projectile, which is believed to have come from a high-velocity weapon, most probably a rifle.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Our guest is Judge Chuck Weller. Judge, we have an e-mail question from Barbara Young in Miamisburg, Ohio, who asks: "What if anything can judges do in the future to prevent what you just endured?"
WELLER: Bulletproof glass is a good idea. The courts provide very good security, but there have been three judicial shootings that I know of in the last year. And I don't think that many localities, many small towns and cities can afford the kind of security that we need to provide to judges if we want to keep them safe, if we want to stop this.
KING: You said that you hope family courts will work on resolution opportunities in the future. What do you mean?
WELLER: Well, we do that in my court very much now. Over 70 percent of the people that come to my court come without lawyers and we try to move them through the system as quickly and as easily and as painlessly as we can to reduce their conflict, to get them down the road.
Some people need more than that. There are innovative ideas that we need to try in my court that they do in some other courts, but we've had funding problems frankly in my court. We need to make some videos to make things understandable to people. We need to be able to communicate in more than one language. We do a lot of that. We need to do more.
KING: Federal legislation to provide funding for court security is pending in Congress. Judges face more threats than in the past. Do you favor that legislation?
WELLER: Absolutely. I understand that my senator, Senator Harry Reid, introduced it, a Democrat, and Senator Ensign, another senator from my state, a Republican, supported it. It's a very good idea. I'm not aware that there's any inventory of the security needs of all of the courts in the United States. I think that needs to be done too.
KING: You said there were some things you wanted to say.
WELLER: I've said some of them. One thing I want to say is the coverage that this incident received is spectacular, and the only way that I can thank all of the people that helped is to come back on. I want to thank the media. I want to thank law enforcement, the Reno police department, the Washoe County sheriff's office the SWAT team, the dirt team. All the people, the EMTs, all the people that made this possible to bring this to the resolution that we have right now.
I also want to say that I've never been involved in a media story like this and I appreciate all the media that it's received, but I intend that this be my last interview for a long time. And again, I thank you for this opportunity.
WELLER: Because this is a criminal justice matter and it needs to proceed in a criminal justice setting and there's really very little I can add. I'm interested in speaking on matters of court security, for example, but this case moves into the courtroom, where it belongs.
KING: Let's take a call for Judge Weller in his last appearance for a long time. Arlington, Massachusetts, hello.
CALLER: Yes, hello, how are you?
CALLER: Good. Judge Weller, I'm glad you're alive.
WELLER: Thank you.
CALLER: But I just wanted to say quickly to you, I wanted to ask, why is it that they cannot provide at least, at the very least, bulletproof vests for the judges today considering what's going on?
And also the people who work in the courtrooms, where as there was that shooting -- when was it? Last year? Also with the judge there and the court stenographer and everyone like that. Why can't they provide that when money is wasted?
KING: Have we come to that, your honor?
WELLER: Well, it might be a good idea to let judges decide optionally to wear bulletproof vests. Like everything else, it comes to a question of money. How much money we're willing to spend, how much protection we think is necessary.
There are some courthouses that the only thing to do to make them safe is to tear them down and rebuild them. My courthouse is relatively minor. The fixes necessary there are probably less expensive. But they're still tremendously expensive. I don't know that my city can afford them. It might be something that we need federal funding to address. KING: We'll take a break and be back with our remaining moments with Judge Chuck Weller. One reminder, tomorrow night Star Jones Reynolds will be our guest. That's an exclusive appearance. She'll be with us for the full hour. She'll be at our studios here in Los Angeles, and we'll get into why she chose to quit on a Tuesday when apparently the program had planned a major farewell salute to her to take place tomorrow. That and other things with Star Jones Reynolds tomorrow night. Back after this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BROUGHTON: Our family as it was has been forever destroyed by the barbaric and heinous acts of June the 12th. Nothing will bring my sister back. So we are still in mourning and we are still in great sadness. However, we don't have to look over our shoulders for the rest of our lives.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Judge Weller, are you concerned about the increased rhetoric lately against judges?
WELLER: I am. You know, we have three branches of government -- our executive, the president of course is protected by the civil service. Those in the legislature are protected somewhat by the fact that they act collectively and nobody's responsible particularly for what goes on.
In a court session, it's one individual that stands before people and makes a decision that's usually unpopular on one side or the other. And people that are responsible need to be circumspect about the fact that judges are vulnerable.
You know, it's almost low-hanging fruit. There are lots of judges in the United States, more than 1,500. I'm sure there's somebody, some judge somewhere that does something idiotic every day or something at least that's perceived idiotic.
If we want better judges, we have judicial education available. I live in Reno, Nevada, which is the home of the National Judicial College where I'm working on a master's program in judicial studies. We also can remove judges. We can pay more attention when we add them. We can appeal what they decide. That's the way to address the quality of judges.
KING: Judge, I wish you good health. I wish you godspeed back to the courtroom.
WELLER: Thanks very much, Mr. King.
KING: And stay away from windows.
WELLER: Thanks. KING: Judge Chuck Weller, family court judge. The accused, Darren Mack, of course, is innocent until proven guilty. He is in custody.
Tomorrow night, Star Jones Reynolds will be our special guest. She has left "The View" under kind of unusual circumstances, saying on one hand that she quit, telling "People" magazine that she was fired. We'll get the story from her right here tomorrow night with your phone calls, live.
Speaking of live, let's go live to New York, a little segue there. Anderson Cooper, the host of "A.C. 360." Lots of business tonight, Anderson.
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