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CNN LARRY KING LIVE

Interview with Lin Wood; Warren Jeffs is in Custody

Aired August 30, 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 HOST: Tonight, first JonBenet Ramsey's father heard someone half a world away seem to admit a role in his daughter's brutal death.
JOHN MARK KARR: I love JonBenet and she died accidentally.

KING: Then, the D.A. John Ramsey and his wife had cooperated with said there was no case against John Mark Karr.

MARY LACY, BOULDER COUNTY D.A.: He is not the killer, not the killer.

KING: How is John Ramsey dealing with the latest roller coaster twists in a criminal nightmare? It's lasted nearly ten years. Exclusive insights from Ramsey family attorney and friend Lin Wood in his first and only interview since the case against John Mark Karr collapsed.

And then, child brides, forced marriages, abusive husbands with multiple wives, terrifying stories from women who say they risked it all to escape the polygamist community whose fugitive leader was captured Monday night after a four month FBI manhunt.

It's all next on LARRY KING LIVE.

KING: Good evening.

Lin Wood joins us from Atlanta, the Ramsey family attorney and friend. Let's get right to it, Lin. Thanks very much for being with us. A tumultuous time for the Ramseys, how are John and Burke, his son, doing?

LIN WOOD, RAMSEY FAMILY ATTORNEY: Well they're doing well under the circumstances. I know that John, like many Americans, has obviously suffered disappointment with respect to the events over the last two weeks, while he cautioned, as you know, that the public give Mr. Karr the presumption of innocence and allow the administration of justice to proceed in an orderly fashion.

I think that he still was cautiously optimistic that this might solve the case. As it turns out, the system did proceed. The DNA did not match and Mr. Karr, who was a serious suspect, who deserved to be thoroughly investigated, is not going to be charged with a crime that he did not commit.

KING: Lin, there's a lot of speculation about where John is and what he's doing. Can you bring us up to date? WOOD: Well, John was with me yesterday in Atlanta and he left mid-afternoon, actually during the news conference held by District Attorney Lacy and he returned to his home in Charlevoix, Michigan.

The speculation about John Ramsey was based solely on a comment that he made to me when he was very upset about the media tracking his son to his college, literally going into his son's dorm room.

And, John called me that evening and said that he was so outraged at how the media was treating him and his son that he wondered at times whether he might have to leave the country.

Well, of course, that led to speculation and exaggeration but, in fact, John Ramsey is here and I believe he intends to remain in Michigan and hopefully will be in Atlanta on a periodic and regular basis.

KING: What was his and your reaction to the news conference by the D.A.?

WOOD: Well, obviously you got to go back two weeks ago literally today when I received a phone call from District Attorney Lacy to inform me that an arrest had been made in connection with the murder.

I'd be understating it to say that I was anything other than elated. I felt like that the case might finally be solved because I believe that certainly if an arrest was going to be made, it would be based on some very solid and strong evidence.

There were some caution flags that came out pretty early. John Ramsey was aware of those. John had looked at photographs of this individual prior to his arrest. He did not identify him. He had heard audio recordings of his voice, did not -- was not familiar with it.

And yet he was not overly pessimistic or skeptical because John, as he said many time, he doesn't believe that he knows anyone evil enough to have committed this brutal murder of his -- of his daughter.

But, after the arrest was made we learned that there had only been a few days of investigation since he was identified. We learned that there had not yet been a match or a test result on the DNA. And, obviously there were some real concerns about an alibi in terms of whether they could place him in Colorado at or near the time of the murder in December of 1996.

So, while there was cautious optimism I think there was a realization that this might not be the person but yet, as I said on your program last week, Larry, at the end of the day John Ramsey was confident and I was confident that if this did not result in the prosecution of Mr. Karr for the murder of JonBenet that we would find that the district attorney had legitimate law enforcement reasons for making the arrest at the time that she did.

And, in that press conference yesterday, I think that District Attorney Lacy and the members of her team acquitted themselves well in explaining why under the circumstances they had to move on Mr. Karr when they did.

KING: The Boulder district attorney was asked at that press conference if any involvement by either John or Patsy Ramsey has been completely ruled out or if she's committed to the intruder theory. Watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LACY: What we are committed to is solving the crime if we possibly can. You know there's this -- these terms out there, umbrella of suspicion. We don't use that. You know, no one is really cleared of a homicide until there's a conviction in court beyond a reasonable doubt.

And, I don't think you will get any prosecutor, unless they were present with the person at the time of the crime, to clear someone where like in this case the facts are so strange. And, obviously the family was in the house at the time.

The DNA does not match. You know, so what we can say is, I think an expert said it's -- it's -- you have to look at stranger male DNA in the underwear of a dead victim.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Lin, of course, you know Detective Steve Thomas, who you successfully sued. It was settled out of court and we don't know the amount obtained. But Steve Thomas on this program accused Patsy of being the murder.

He issued a statement about the judge and he said, "This was not a faux pas. This was not a misstep. This was a blunder beyond anything I could ever imagine. Mary Lacy makes Alex Hunter look like Rudy Giuliani. She has lost all credibility in the police community and that poses a real and immediate problem that anybody can understand," overly harsh?

WOOD: Overly harsh and the words of a bitter, disgraced, former detective, who himself has absolutely zero credibility. Let me tell you if Steve Thomas understood blunders, he would well understand why in probability this case has not yet been solved because of the blunders that he and other inexperienced detectives made in the early days of this investigation.

Let me tell you that Mary Lacy made it clear, I believe, as best she can under the ethical rules of a prosecutor that John and Patsy Ramsey are not suspects that this is not a case where they are under suspicion any longer.

And, you have this fellow Steve Thomas coming back out from whatever hole he's been hiding in for the last several years. He published a book after he quit the investigation in 1998.

John and Patsy Ramsey sued him, as you know, successfully. He settled the case. A federal district court judge in 2003 looked at the evidence in this case and a libel suit against the Ramseys and she looked at the Thomas theory thoroughly and she soundly rejected it.

I took that man's testimony under oath. He could not present one fact or one piece of evidence to support his accusations against this family. He engaged in speculation. He engaged in accusation.

Steve Thomas has zero credibility. He is the best example of what was wrong with this investigation in the early days and I believe has some significant responsibility for the failure of the killer in this case to be brought to justice.

KING: We'll take a break and be back with Lin Wood. We'll also include some of your phone calls.

You're watching LARRY KING LIVE. Don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KARR: I just kept talking to her. I was...oh, God, JonBenet please sweetheart breathe. Please. Please. Somewhere in the back of my mind I thought someone's going to hear me. I know somebody's going to hear me because I wasn't talking softly. And so I just, I didn't care.

I just -- all I cared about was her. I just cared about her. I just knew that I -- I knew that I had gone too far. And I said, "Oh, JonBenet, please, please breathe for me. Please don't leave me. Please don't leave me. Please come back to me."

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: All of that irrelevant now but that was a conversation between John Karr and college professor Michael Tracey. I know that John Ramsey went to Boulder to review those exchanges. What did he make of all that?

WOOD: Well, John was impressed with the fact that in the e-mail communications there seemed to be a familiarity on the author's part with a lot of the members of his family, particularly members of Patsy's family, the Paugh family.

But, again, he did not recognize the voice on the tape recordings. When he was later e-mailed a photograph after the arrest he was -- for the arrest he, in fact, could not identify him.

But, John thought, and I think correctly, Mary Lacy and her investigative team thought that this was a serious suspect. Look, this was a person who had for several years demonstrated a clear obsession with the JonBenet Ramsey case and who had made a confidential confession.

And, contrary to a lot of the speculation that he wanted publicity, this individual had gone to extraordinary lengths to prevent anyone from learning his identity. He did not want to be discovered. He did not want to be arrested. So, I think that John felt then and I think we felt when the arrest was made that it was done for a legitimate reason. I think that has proven to be true. Unfortunately it's not in connection, as it turns out, with the person who killed his daughter.

KING: We have an e-mail question for you from Alheli in Calgary, Alberta. The question is "At what point, if at all, did members of the Ramsey family suspect that Karr might be a fraud?"

WOOD: I don't think there was ever any suspicion on John's part that this man might be a fraud. I think that John did what he cautioned others to do. He tried not to speculate. He tried not to rush to judgment. And he wanted the system to work in an orderly fashion.

And, he knew at the end of the day that, just as District Attorney Lacy made clear, this was going to be a DNA case. If the DNA matched, then the killer had been found and brought to justice. If the DNA did not match, then the charges would not be brought.

KING: John Karr spoke about you in one of those conversations with Professor Tracey. Let's listen to an excerpt and get your thoughts. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL TRACEY: He has no idea.

KARR: That makes me...I don't like him, Michael. I don't like him what he does.

TRACEY: (LAUGHS).

KARR: he makes this look like...you're not surprised?

TRACEY: No, I'm not. Lin Wood is very...how can I put it?

KARR: He's nothing to me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: How do you react to that?

WOOD: Well, I've read...

KING: Especially Tracey, does Tracey know you?

WOOD: I've met Mike Tracey two, maybe three times, the last time being at Patsy's funeral in June. We have corresponded on an infrequent basis. But the fact of the matter is what Karr was referring to were comments that I made on your program in June after Patsy's funeral.

And, my comments addressed the last thing that she said to me when I saw her before she died. And, apparently Karr found that my statements, accurate about her comments, seemed to be inconsistent with the communications he thought he was having with her in the ruse that was being played out by the e-mail exchanges.

And so, he obviously wanted to discredit me and I think Tracey had to do the same because he did not want this particular person to hit the panic button and stop the communications.

KING: Is one of the problems in all this, Lin, now that he's been cleared that there will eventually be those groups that bring it back to the Ramseys again?

WOOD: Well, there are people out there, Larry, I'm convinced that have had their minds poisoned for so many years early in the case by the false accusations made against the Ramseys and the inaccurate information that was conveyed to the public.

I'm convinced there are people out there that when there's a DNA match and a confession from a credible person and we find the killer, they're going to still believe that somehow John and Patsy Ramsey had something to do with this.

You know, one of my great concerns when this started up a couple of weeks ago was that it was going to be viewed, "Well, if it turns out not to be Karr, then it must be one of the Ramseys."

I don't think that's happened. I think that while you have some of these old people coming out, as I say, from holes in the ground or from under the rocks to make accusations again, I don't think the public is listening to them.

I think the public got some great information about this case over the last two weeks. The public now knows that there is a strong case of DNA evidence. It's not Ramsey DNA. It was found on the body of a young child, a murder victim.

And the DNA is of sufficient quality that it, in effect, freed John Karr as it pertains to this case and that the DNA is going to solve this case. I think that's been an important piece of information the public was not fully aware of until the last couple of weeks.

KING: Let's take a call for Lin Wood, Cheshire, Connecticut hello.

CALLER FROM CHESHIRE, CONNECTICUT: Hi, Larry, hi, Lin. My question is at the time of Patsy's death did she actually have like any type of peace or did she just have the guilt of always being a suspect in her daughter's death?

WOOD: Patsy Ramsey was not involved in the brutal murder of her daughter and Patsy Ramsey was a woman of deep faith and she I think clearly had the peace of mind during her life of knowing that she was confident in her innocence. So, it really wasn't a matter of Patsy having peace.

I think what Patsy wanted, and unfortunately did not live to see, is that she wanted the killer of her daughter to be brought to justice. And, it's unfortunate that she did not live long enough to see that day.

But I continue to hope, and I know that John Ramsey continues to hope that that day will come. He continues to have confidence in Mary Lacy. He continues to have confidence in the investigation and the direction it's going and he continues to have confidence, as I do, that DNA will undoubtedly one day solve this case.

KING: We'll be back with some more comments and some more calls for Lin Wood on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE. Don't go away.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KARR: It's so horrible, Michael. There's nothing more horrible than this. There's nothing more horrible. My God, you can't imagine. God damn me to hell. I swear to God. I don't even deserve to be alive. I don't. I don't deserve to be alive. I swear to God it's awful. It's so awful. I'm the worst person alive. I am such a horrible person.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: We're back with Lin Wood.

Lin, does the family have confidence that this case will ever be solved?

WOOD: Well, yes, they do and, again, as I've said, it goes back to the fact that there is strong DNA evidence and, as you know, I believe the public recognizes sometimes it takes years but DNA frees innocent people from prison and DNA evidence puts guilty people behind bars. So, yes, they have that confidence.

KING: But DNA, everything has some DNA in it. You got to find the match.

WOOD: Got to find the...

KING: And if the match is a guy that's living in Alaska or may have passed away you're never going to find it.

WOOD: I believe if you get a match on the DNA, you better find somebody that has one heck of an alibi in terms of where they were in December of 1996. I don't think it's 100 percent foolproof, Larry, but I think that just as in this case we've learned that the DNA is thought to be clearly the DNA of the killer. It is of sufficient quality that we're going to find that it does one day solve this case and prevent innocent individuals from being unfairly and falsely charged with it.

KING: An e-mail question from Carl in Duvall, Washington. "Can John Mark Karr be charged with obstruction of justice in this case?"

WOOD: Well, the speculation on that issue, I've seen it on TV and most people have speculated that he could not be, at least based on the statements that he made to a person that was not a law enforcement officer.

I've heard other people speculate on whether John Karr could sue members of the media for libel. Of course that's just foolishness and, of course, he cannot. He's what we call in the law libel proof.

I mean he's a man that by his own admission is a pedophile. He interjected himself into this case by falsely confessing to the murder. I think he needs to focus on the charges that are brought against him out in California in terms of child pornography.

KING: And those charges are misdemeanors. They're not -- he hasn't been charged with criminal actions against a child, merely in possession, right?

WOOD: Yes.

KING: What can he do one year?

WOOD: I don't know what the -- I don't know what the potential punishment for John Karr will be but he is obviously we know from these communications and from his, as I said, disturbing display in Thailand when they put him in front of the cameras, we know that clearly this is a disturbed man and the system of justice needs to deal with him. And, I think ultimately our system of mental health needs to deal with Mr. Karr.

KING: Oshawa, Ontario hello. Hello, Oshawa, Ontario. I guess they're not -- they dropped off.

All right, how is the frame of mind of John?

WOOD: Well, you know, sitting with him yesterday, Larry, it was tough. I mean you're sitting there and you're watching what was one of the few serious news events in his case over the last two weeks where you have the investigators and the district attorney explaining why he was -- Karr was arrested and why he was not charged.

And yet, you know, the way the business works these days it's eye candy, B-roll. I mean you have Mary Lacy on the left side of the screen and you have images of JonBenet in beauty pageants and Karr being paraded around in Thailand. And all the while they're talking about this man's 6-year-old daughter.

And I watched him a couple of times where he just literally would put his head down and listen. And then finally about halfway through he turned and said, "I think I'm heading back to Charlevoix."

But, John Ramsey, like his wife, lives his life knowing what we know and what the public needs to understand John Ramsey was not involved in the murder of his daughter or cover up of the murder.

John Ramsey has that confidence from his innocence too. He has a real burden to deal with right now, the loss of his wife, and to go out now and to be the parent for his son Burke, who has just lost his mother. So, John I think puts one foot ahead of the other and goes at it one day at a time. And I have great respect for the ability that he has demonstrated over the years to deal with some tragedies that most of us would find unfathomable.

KING: And finally, Lin, should we, the collective we, not have covered it the way we did?

WOOD: The collective we being the media should not have covered it the way that it was covered. It was clearly over the line. There was excesses almost from day one and misinformation communicated from day one, sensationalized coverage from day one.

I mean I recognize that there is an interest in this case. Some people are obsessed with the case. But the fact of the matter is we still have war, literally almost two wars, Iraq and the problem between Israel and Hezbollah, and yet this all of a sudden became almost the 24/7 domination of the news cycle.

And, in the final analysis most of the coverage was more entertainment than it was news. No one was willing in the media to wait until the facts came out as they finally did from Mary Lacy. There was this idea that somehow we need to have the media become our system of justice.

We need to learn from this case that we don't want to change the way we do business. We want the court system to determine guilt or innocence. We don't want that to be the news media.

KING: Not a bad idea. Thanks, Lin.

WOOD: Thank you, Larry.

KING: Lin Wood.

Coming up, inside the strange world of polygamist Warren Jeffs from two women who say they escaped their lives as one of his many wives.

And, from an investigative journalist who spent years investigating the crazy cult-like society of Colorado City.

That's next on LARRY KING LIVE.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Warren Jeffs is in custody. Joining us from West Jordan, Utah is Carolyn Jessop. At age 18 she was forced to wed 50-year-old Meryl Jessop, a follower of Warren Jeffs. At age 35 under the cover of darkness she took her eight children and fled her abusive marriage and the FLDS. In Phoenix, Arizona is Pennie Petersen, she fled her family and the FLDS at age 14 after learning she was about to be forced into a polygamous marriage with a 48-year-old man who'd molested her. Her father had multiple wives. She has 38 brothers and sisters. She was on this program last night. And in Phoenix as well, Michael Watkiss, investigative reporter for KTVK in Phoenix, producer of "Colorado City and the Underground Railroad." You'll be seeing clips from this award-winning documentary during our discussion. He was raised as a mainstream Mormon. Mike says he has polygamists in his own ancestral tree. Michael, we'll begin with you. What do you make of this whole Jeffs story?

MICHAEL WATKISS, KTVK INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER: Well, I think my first impression Larry, is I'm very grateful that this arrest went down without any violence. The big concern was that Mr. Jeffs travels with bodyguards, they're often armed, and there was the real concern, in this culture there are a lot of women and children. We've been crusading for action for many years, and the big concern was that one of the truly innocent would be hurt. This was the perfect case scenario for police officers. They wanted to pick Warren Jeffs on the road. They did that. This heads-up trooper -- I'm actually in Las Vegas, Nevada standing in front of the facility where Warren Jeffs is now locked up, Larry. This heads-up trooper put Warren Jeffs behind bars, and now he can go to a court and answer the charges.

KING: So you're not in Phoenix, you're in Las Vegas.

WATKISS: Actually, we -- yeah, we started in Phoenix but we came over to Vegas soon as we heard the news, and we have been standing outside the jail awaiting the extradition hearing tomorrow to determine whether Mr. Jeffs will go to the state of Utah or the state of Arizona because both states now have charges pending.

KING: Carolyn Jessop, at age 18 you were forced to wed a 50- year-old man who you did not love, a follower of Warren Jeffs. What was your situation at age 18? Were you a member of that group? Were you in a Mormon family? What was happening in your life?

CAROLYN JESSOP, FLED POLYGAMOUS COMMUNITY LED BY WARREN JEFFS: Well, I was actually born into the fundamentalist church, which is not a part of the Mormon church and it goes back many generations. And the marriage was actually more of a situation where I was coerced into the marriage. Women are born into this, we're not allowed a lot of exposure. We're not allowed to date. We don't have a lot of options other than the options that we are given when it comes to marriage.

KING: What about your parents?

JESSOP: My parents were also an arranged marriage. Their marriage was not based on love or courtship or that they decided to marry each other. They were assigned to each other.

KING: Because of that shouldn't they have even more so objected to your marrying someone you didn't know?

JESSOP: No. This actually was more of a reason why they supported it and believed in it. It was something that they had done in their own lives and they believed that is it was right and that there was -- that a woman could have a good life by being obedient to the prophet and doing what he assigned her to do.

KING: What was it like to live in that setting? Warren Jeffs was the prophet for that group, right? JESSOP: At the time that I was married, actually, Leroy Johnson was the prophet. He was the prophet for around six months and then died, and then Warren's father became the prophet. So during the course of my marriage for nearly 17 years then Warren's father was actually the prophet. Warren was only his son. And the last six years of Roland's life then Warren took over and actually began controlling the community and stepped into the leadership position.

KING: Do you know Warren well?

JESSOP: I know Warren very well. In fact, around nine of my stepdaughters are married to Warren. And Naomi, who was with him at the time they took him is my stepdaughter.

KING: What is his appeal?

JESSOP: Well, he actually doesn't have a lot of appeal. It's more of a position he inherited from his father. And when his father was in control, then he -- after his father's stroke, then Warren stepped in and did all the public speeches for his father, basically took over. And then after his father died he just pronounced that he was now the prophet and the community accepted that.

KING: Did his father have more appeal?

JESSOP: Some. It's more of a position that is inherited by title. His father was the last living apostle for the FLDS church. And so he was in our minds the only man that could become the prophet.

KING: Before we get to Pennie, Michael, a man without charisma can have this kind of following?

WATKISS: Yeah. I think the mistake that a lot of the public makes in trying to understand this story, they want to look for some sort of charismatic figure, the David Koresh or somebody along that -- this guy didn't just come out of the woodwork and build himself his own little Waco, unlike Mr. Koresh. Basically, he inherited a mantle of power that dates back generations. His father assumed it from a man before him, and then as Carolyn is saying, that his father became very feeble in his old age and Warren basically sort of insinuated himself into the leadership role after his father's death, he claimed the power. But people say it's a self-proclaimed prophet. Thousands of people proclaimed this man a prophet of God, and so again, he's not some charismatic svengali kind of figure. He inherited this long line, long tradition of power, and that's I think the strength of all of this. People are raised in this for generations. They've been around for 100 years. And my guess is they'll be here 100 years from now no matter what happens to Warren Jeffs.

KING: We'll take a break, come back, get Pennie Petersen's story, continue with Michael Watkiss and Carolyn Jessop, might include some of your phone calls too. Don't go away.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: According to polygamist doctrine a man must have at least three wives if he is to make it into the highest realm of heaven, the celestial kingdom. And for a woman, the one and only way to get to heaven's highest realm to be the obedient wife of a righteous polygamous man.

(END OF VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Now let's get Pennie Petersen's story, she's in Phoenix. She fled her family and the FLDS at age 14. What happened? What caused you to flee, Pennie?

PENNIE PETERSEN, FLED HER FAMILY & POLYGAMOUS COMMUNITY AT 14: I was to be married off to a 48-year-old man and to become his fifth wife.

KING: And who determined this? Who said you will marry him?

PETERSEN: Leroy Johnson. He was the prophet at the time.

KING: And that's the -- you were a member of that church?

PETERSEN: Yeah. Born and raised in Colorado City.

KING: That's in the FLDS?

PETERSEN: Yes, FLDS church.

KING: Is everybody in Colorado City in that church?

PETERSEN: Used to be. You know, every time there's a new prophet or a prophet dies, then you have a little split. And that's been going on for a hundred years. I mean, you have a prophet die, half the people leave, half of them stay. Just like with Warren. He lost followers when his father died and he took the reins. Some people believed that Fred Jessop should have been prophet. So you have a split sometimes and you have followers leave. But he remained with the most followers.

KING: And this church split off from the Mormons because it believes it's the true church because of polygamy, right?

PETERSEN: It was actually created because it stayed with the polygamy in their doctrine. And it was -- they were part of the Mormon church, and they went down to Colorado City and built this because it was in a remote area where they wouldn't be bothered.

KING: What did your parents say about forcing you to marry someone at age 14?

PETERSEN: They thought it was definitely something I should do, it was God's will.

KING: And how at age 14 were you able to get away, did you even think straight? PETERSEN: I don't think I was thinking straight, but I knew enough to sneak out in the middle of the night, and I'd called friends and they came in from Vegas and whisked me off in the middle of the night and took me to safety.

KING: And how were you raised?

PETERSEN: I would go in, I'd clean your house, I'd walk your dog, I'd scrub your cars. You just couldn't live without me.

KING: Did you see your mother and father?

PETERSEN: No. I stayed out for quite a while. And then I got a job and my dad found me and he agreed to let me stay out if I gave him half of my paycheck. So I gave him half my paycheck, and I stayed out.

KING: Did you eventually marry?

PETERSEN: I did.

KING: Are you still married?

PETERSEN: Yes.

KING: Are you Mormon?

PETERSEN: No, I'm not.

KING: Well, because you could have been. I mean, you were originally a Mormon, right? Or this bastardized version of same.

PETERSEN: Yeah, well, you know, being raised in FLDS, you know, it kind of shies you away from any religion. So I just, you know -- I take care of myself and pray to God myself. I do well on my own.

KING: Michael, you've studied this. What is FLDS?

WATKISS: Well, it's the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. And it is a split-off a long time ago from the Mormon church. As you know, Larry, the bottom line is the Mormon church disavowed the practice of polygamy in about 1890, and the church has gone in that direction. The fundamentalists will look you in the eye and tell you they are the real keepers of the faith. That's an issue for theologians. The issue that we've focused on certainly in our work is not talking about people's beliefs but talking about people's behaviors. You can believe whatever you want. But when people break the law they need to be held accountable. And this culture in Colorado City under the leadership of Warren Jeffs has taken a very sinister turn during the last 10 years, pulling all of the kids out of public school, marrying the girls younger and younger, casting the boys out. All the things you've reported on. And the focus now needs to be on crimes committed, not beliefs. And that I think is what prosecutors are doing in both Utah and Arizona.

KING: Isn't it true Michael that a lot of the law in Colorado City are members of that faith?

WATKISS: Listen, I've been having run-ins with the cops in Colorado City for a lot of years Larry. And many of us think that they sort of have been the Gestapo for Warren Jeffs and his thugs up there. They're the guys who run the young boys out of town. They're the guys who go out and drag the young girls back when they run away. They're the men who take women who get out of line, adult women, and toss them into mental institutions. The cops up there are a bunch of bad guys. Some of them have been decertified, had their badges taken away. I think the rest, the rest of the polygamist cops are on the verge of having their badges taken away. That'll be a huge step.

KING: We'll take a break and when we come back we'll have some e-mails and calls as well. Let's check in with Anderson Cooper, the host of "AC 360." Anderson, what's up tonight?

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Larry, coming up, we're going to go in depth on the arrest of polygamist leader Warren Jeffs, including an exclusive interview with his sister. We'll talk about what may happen to Jeffs' sect with the so-called prophet now in jail. We're also going to get a live report from Baghdad about the nearly 50 people killed in Iraq today, a bloodbath even by Iraqi standards. The war there of course a sticky issue for President Bush. We'll tell you the new Iraq talking points from the administration. No surprise, they're not sitting well with democrats. We'll explain all that and more Larry, at the top of the hour.

KING: That's another interesting edition of "AC 360" at 10:00 eastern, 7:00 pacific. And we'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Did you know that Winston Blackmore was here today? Winston Blackmore is a man who says he has at least 10 wives and as many as 100 children. He was once a leader in Jeffs' church but was ex-communicated and now lives in British Columbia. He's believed to be detested by Jeffs and therefore, persona non grata among Jeffs' supporters.

WINSTON BLACKMORE, POLYGAMIST: I'm going to give you a little preamble of our history in this place.

TUCHMAN: But amid a tense atmosphere, he came back to Colorado City, Arizona to dedicate a monument to families separated during a polygamy raid by police.

(END OF VIDEO CLIP)

KING: That's from a report by our own Gary Tuchman. Michael Watkiss, what do you know about this guy?

WATKISS: Well, I should give you a confession up front. Winston Blackmore and I have sort of a long history together. He apparently has a website, or had a website where he identifies good reporters and bad reporters, and I'm happy to tell you that he identified me, I'm told, as the worst reporter of them all. Clearly, Winston Blackmore does not like me very much because we have been a thorn in the side of polygamist men who insist on taking underage girls. Winston Blackmore has taken underage brides. He clearly in this whole drama has positioned himself to be the anti-Warren. He's showing up a lot down in Colorado City. He leads a large community up in British Columbia. He's clearly one of the players with this drama swirling around Warren Jeffs, he's on the periphery, and I would say that he is certainly a likely candidate to be a new prophet in his own right. Only time will tell. But you know, Winston Blackmore has a lot of skeletons in his own closet. The bottom line is these guys insist on taking young girls as brides, and I think that's because if they let women get an education and get mature most of them wouldn't want to marry one of these characters. But the bottom line is Winston Blackmore's a player in all this.

KING: Carolyn Jessop, we have an e-mail from Palwasha in Phoenix. Question, "The kids that are being married to adults, do they know what is happening to them is wrong?"

JESSOP: Absolutely not. They are not aware that this is illegal in many cases. They have no idea that they have those kinds of rights. They're basically told that this is what the prophet wants them to do and if anybody objects to it then they are persecuting the prophet and they are persecuting religious beliefs that they have no right to persecute. So the children basically believe that if somebody objects to it that they're breaking the laws of the constitution to object.

KING: Salt Lake City as we go to calls. Hello.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi Larry. First of all, I'd like to say I really like your show.

KING: Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You know, I think it's great these girls that have been able to run from the polygamists. But you know, what is wrong with our authorities? I am so angry that they are not protecting these girls.

KING: Pennie?

PETERSEN: Well, I was -- I started running away when I was 9 years old, and I would be brought back. I'd get to Fredonia or Kanab. I got to Flagstaff once. And police there would drag me back kicking and screaming. And at 14 I finally made it out. So, you know, this is something that nobody wanted to touch. It was Arizona -- nobody's wanted to touch it because of the political issues around it.

KING: Carolyn, why do you think?

JESSOP: Well, it's just been historical since 1953, when the authorities got into polygamy, it went so badly for them that they've just basically wanted to ignore it, and they have been pretty successful in ignoring it for the last 50 years. It's just been recently that there's been enough people and victims come forward that they're not in a position to continue ignoring it.

KING: We'll take a break and be back with some more moments and a couple more phone calls as well. Don't go away.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And when he pulls these girls out of school, that's when he's married to them and he's afraid they're going to go to school and the teachers are going to see the girls pregnant.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Pennie Petersen is also a guide helping escapees along their always difficult and sometimes dangerous trek to freedom, a perilous path that Pennie herself traveled when she was only a teen.

PETERSEN: I was 14 years old and they come, told me I was going to marry a man 48 years old, I was going to be his fifth wife. I didn't want to do it. I ran. Fast and as hard as I can go.

(END OF VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: We're back. Portsmouth, Ohio. Hello.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hi Mr. King, how are you?

KING: Fine.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just had a couple questions for the lady there, Ms. Petersen. Looking back on everything, do you feel like you were brainwashed in any way?

KING: Do you Pennie?

PETERSEN: Yeah, I was definitely brainwashed. I believed I was -- when I left that I was going straight to hell. But it was worth it to me because I figured if I was going to live eternity in hell it was worth it to at least have some kind of life here. So it was worth it to leave, you know. And I really honestly believed that. And then thank God, you know, I don't now.

KING: Montreal, hello.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, do we have access to their public records of births so that these children that are born of these illegal polygamous marriages are able to obtain child support rights and follow through with the delivery of the moneys or are these people all on public welfare?

KING: Carolyn, what is the story on that?

JESSOP: Well, the birth control records are public, as far as I'm aware, but most of the people claim that they're single mothers, and they are on welfare. They're welfare circumstances since Warren took over that community has become extreme. The community has been plummeted into an unnatural level of poverty. And so it's either as a mother your option is to go on welfare or your children starve. So that's one of the reasons that so many of these people are on welfare.

KING: Michael Watkiss, how many are there? How many people in America do we know are polygamists?

WATKISS: Well, I've heard estimates from 40,000 to 60,000 to 100,000. You know, the thing about the polygamist community, communities, Larry, I should say is they've been hiding in plain sight, again, as CNN has liked to say. And that's the truth. There are a lot of them. The bottom line is they don't keep good records because they're hiding and they have been for generations. They're great at hiding.

KING: Doesn't sound like a lot. 40,000?

WATKISS: I don't know. 40,000, it covers all of North America, really, Larry. I don't know if it's a big deal or not a big deal. But I think if you're a young girl born in essence into slavery or you're a teenage boy cast out, a woman who is brutalized because she dares to speak her mind, you know, one, 20, 100,000, it's significant. Law officers have ignored this for far too long and it's high time they're doing something about it.

KING: And Michael, it's not going away, is it?

WATKISS: I had polygamist ancestors, Larry. They were practicing plural lifestyles 100 years ago. My guess is there will be polygamists in the United States 100 years from now. The bottom line is a message has been sent, if you break the law within the confines of that lifestyle -- they're now going to go after you. And that's a very important message.

KING: Carolyn, do you think it's going to change?

JESSOP: I think it is changing. I think that this arrest of Warren is sending a message to all polygamist communities that child abuse is not going to be tolerated. These charges against Warren from these different states are actually in regard to child abuse, not polygamy. And I think that until the crimes in polygamy are prosecuted they're not going to stop. And it's just going to escalate.

KING: Pennie, do you think it's going to change?

PETERSEN: I hope it changes. It needs to change. I think that they've been sheltered long enough. I think we -- the authorities and this country has ignored it long enough. It's time that we are -- that all the kids out there and the women are protected. It's due.

KING: And Michael, quickly, are you optimistic?

WATKISS: Well, things are changing. And the two women you have on this broadcast are some of the real heroes. When this story's written, handful of women, brave, courageous, revolutionary women got out, Pennie has really led the charge in the state of Arizona with a couple of other very brave women who got away from Colorado City. The story will be told that this is insurgency. Women got out and they said we're not going to allow what happened to us, happen to our little brothers and sisters. It's a very (INAUDIBLE) story.

KING: Thank you very much as always. Carolyn Jessop, Pennie Petersen and Michael Watkiss, we really appreciate it. (INAUDIBLE) in Utah, Pennie in Phoenix and Michael Watkiss in Las Vegas. Right now we head to New York, Anderson Cooper will host "AC 360" with lots of tidbits tonight. Lots of interesting stuff, Anderson?

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