Return to Transcripts main page
Rep. William Jefferson Arraigned On Corruption Charges, Pleads Not Guilty; Immigration Bill Is Dead In Senate
Aired June 8, 2007 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR, CNN NEWSROOM: And at the top of this hour, Louisiana Congressman William Jefferson pleading not guilty to corruption charges. He was arraigned last hour in Alexandria, Virginia. Our Brianna Keilar is on the case at the courthouse.
Brianna, it sounds like a pretty routine first appearance. Any surprises?
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Not many surprises, but there were some definitely interesting moments. Of course, not a surprise that Congressman William Jefferson entered a not guilty plea on these 16 counts including racketeering and money laundering. Judge T. F. Ellis set a trial date for January 16, 2008.
And that may strike you as far in the future. So, why so far in the future? The prosecution, the government, said they were ready to get going mid-August, but the Jefferson's defense lawyer Robert Trout said given the complexity of the case, and how many documents there -- and granted the government did say they had about eight filing cabinets of documents and numerous recordings, Trout said he would need time to go over that. So this trial date was pushed into the new year, and jury selection will begin on January 16.
Sort of an interesting moment, initially, Judge Ellis, Tony, was asking if perhaps they could start the trial on January 8. And Robert Trout, Jefferson's defense attorney says the week of the 15th would be better. And Judge Ellis said, why? Are flights from the South of France not available? So that certainly gives you an idea of what we may be in for here. Judge Ellis is definitely a bit of a spitfire.
KEILAR: But some of the conditions: Jefferson will be released on his own recognizance. Right now, he's checking in with the Marshal's Office, getting fingerprinted. But he had to surrendered his passport, to his own attorney. So his attorney will be responsible for that. And because he is a congressman and has to travel, he will be able to travel unrestricted between Washington, or the Washington Metropolitan area, and Louisiana.
And then if he has to travel other places in the U.S., he just has to check in with the court. He did agree to, if he violates the conditions of his release, he will pay a $100,000 bond. But at this point, Tony, he didn't have to put up any money.
HARRIS: And Brianna, how did Jefferson react to all this? KEILAR: We did hear him speak. He had to go under oath a couple of times and answer some questions, but generally he was emotionless. Generally it was his attorney who was doing all of the talking. But it was interesting, if you were watching Jefferson in the court, you could see constantly the muscles in his jaw were flexing, just rippling up his face. So, of course, that makes you wonder if -- you know, he's sitting there watching that, there's some tension there.
HARRIS: Right. And Brianna, Jefferson wants to keep his firearms?
KEILAR: He didn't say he wants to keep them, but this is an interesting -- this was an interesting moment in court. He does have firearms. The judge asked him about this. He has rifles and guns that the says are for hunting. He says he's been hunting since he was 10 years old. What normally happens, if you come up on charges, you're not allowed to have possession of weapons, use weapons. So, he's going to have to figure out something. His attorney, and the prosecution, are going to have to figure out a way to take those guns out of his possession or lock them up in a way that he doesn't have access to them.
HARRIS: Gotcha. CNN's Brianna Keilar for us. Brianna, thank you.
HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR, CNN NEWSROOM: This hour, in a Tennessee courtroom, a sentencing hearing for Mary Winkler. You may remember, she shot her husband -- minister husband -- to death as he lay in bed. A jury rejected the charge of first-degree murder and instead found her guilty of manslaughter. You see live pictures from the courtroom now.
Winkler testified that her husband had physically and emotionally abused her. She faces up to six years in prison. We'll tell you just as soon as that sentence has been handed down.
And back to court for someone else, but will it be back to jail for celebutante -- is that a word? Celebutante? Paris Hilton, a hearing begins in about two hours to determine whether the hotel heiress returns to her home in Hollywood Hills, or to a 12 by 8 cell? Live to Los Angeles, now, and CNN's Kara Finnstrom.
Kara, Kara, the latest -- quickly.
KARA FINNSTROM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The big question this morning is, is this a gross miscarriage of justice? And in true Hollywood fashion, this has become a full-blown legal drama, with folks wanting to know who secured her early release and why?
Paris Hilton due to arrive here at about 9:00 a.m. Pacific Time, that is just about two hours from now to find out if she is going back to jail. That hearing will be taking place right here. She's expected to arrive by a sheriff's vehicle.
All this started to unfold yesterday, just hours after sheriff's deputies did release her early under house arrest. The original judge that had sentenced her on that earlier violation of a reckless driving -- violation, Michael Sauer, he's the one that has ordered this hearing. He called her back to consider whether this is a miscarriage of justice.
He originally sentenced her to 45 days, and said at that time specifically stipulated it wasn't to be served under house arrest. But what happened yesterday, nonetheless, sheriff deputies sent her home with an ankle bracelet to Hollywood Hills home to serve out the remainder of her term. And the only reason given was an unspecified medical condition.
In the midst of all of this, the city attorney is now calling -- actually for the sheriff, Lee Baca (ph) here, to be held possibly under contempt of court for a miscarriage of justice. So that is going to be considered here, as well. And while the legal wrangling is going on, there's quite a bit of public outcry here. It's all over the local radio and TV. Also there's talk there may be some demonstrations here today, and just a lot of concern about whether this really is a miscarriage of justice. Heidi?
COLLINS: I don't even know where to begin, Kara.
It's pretty amazing, I think, and unusual, we talked quite a bit yesterday about the special treatment for celebrities that has happened before -- not to say that has happened here, of course -- but it's pretty interesting that the sheriff may possibly come up on some type of charges.
FINNSTROM: Yeah, it's a petition that was filed by the city attorney. One of the things he pointed out is there are a lot of other inmates who have medical conditions that are treated in jail.
FINNSTROM: So why is Paris Hilton any different?
COLLINS: Very good point. We don't know the answer to that, do we?
FINNSTROM: Not yet.
COLLINS: We will continue to probe for the details, all of them. Kara Finnstrom, thanks so much, live from Los Angeles this morning.
HARRIS: To weather now, cleanup and recovery in Wisconsin this morning. At least five tornadoes were reported across the state yesterday, including one that tore apart a popular vacation resort. Some homes were also damaged, and at least four people were hurt. The severe storm system also brought a lot of rain to the upper Midwest, golf ball and baseball-sized hail.
Look at this shot. Boy, it was taken by 16-year-old iReporter Cody Alft. The tornadoes missed his home, but Cody says he did hear that notorious -- you hear it all the time from folks -- that freight train sound of a twister. And he got shots of the hail damaged, plenty of cars, like this one. Had their windows completely smashed in. Other cars suffered those dents that we always see with big hail storms.
And in Chicago, too, high winds were the problem, and a big headache for travelers. Hundreds of flights at Chicago's O'Hare Airport were canceled. Cots never a good sight inside an airport. Thousands of passengers stranded. There could be more trouble ahead. Severe weather is forecast for much of the Midwest and the East today.
COLLINS: President Bush slowed by a stomach bug, but bolstered by a sight of compromise. Russia shelves its threats over missiles. We'll explain coming up in the NEWSROOM.
HARRIS: And with a flip of a switch, a tornado is born.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Unlike other simulators that work from the ground up, this one moves the vortex entirely from above, just like a real tornado.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS: Twisters, technology, and saving lives, details straight ahead in the NEWSROOM.
ANDREA KOPPEL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And I'm Andrea Koppel on Capitol Hill, where the immigration bill is suddenly derailed and the blame game has been begun. I'll tell you who's saying what, coming out of break.
COLLINS: Hidden pains at the pump, why drivers are getting less bang for their buck. I'll tell you all about it, coming up in the NEWSROOM.
COLLINS: Good morning, everybody, once again. Heidi Collins and Tony Harris here. We want to show go ahead and show you this shot, quickly, because we are waiting for Congressman William Jefferson to come to the microphones that are there. And comment possibly on his plea, which was not guilty this morning, at his arraignment hearing inside that building. He has been released on his own personal recognizance.
That trial date has been set for January 16. If you remember, of course, 16 counts against him. We'll continue to follow that story and bring it to you should he come out that revolving door.
HARRIS: And Heidi, the sentencing hearing for Mary Winkler is underway as you can see here, in a McNeary (ph) County courtroom in Selma, Tennessee. In Tennessee the maximum sentence for voluntary manslaughter is 15 years if the judge finds aggravating circumstances. The standard sentence for this crime is three to six years. We'll follow this story for you right here in the CNN NEWSROOM.
COLLINS: Shootings and explosions across Iraq. At least 42 people dead, 15 of them killed when a minibus, packed with explosives, blew up at a bus terminal in Qurna. Another 13 dead in separate blasts targeting a Shiite mosque near Kirkuk. And gunmen killed 14 people at the home of a senior police official in Baklava (ph).
HARRIS: It is not dead, but a compromise immigration bill is in need of resuscitation this morning. The bill stalled on a procedural vote in the Senate and right now its future is uncertain. Congressional Correspondent Andrea Koppel joins us from Capitol Hill. Andrea, great to see you. Why did this bipartisan -- underlined -- compromise collapse?
KOPPEL: Good to you too, Tony.
It depends upon who you ask. Republicans say it collapsed because Majority Leader Harry Reid had said that he was going to basically cut off debate, and have a vote on that by last night. And they that if they had only been given a day or two more, they would have been able to resolve their differences within the Republican caucus, narrow down the number of amendments that they wanted to offer -- Republicans wanted to offer. And they would have been able to move forward.
But you ask the Democrats, and they say it's really because they had given it two weeks and Republicans couldn't get their act together.
Probably what's closer to the truth right now, Tony, is the fact that social conservatives just never bought the whole 12 million illegal immigrants not getting a free pass. They believed this bill was amnesty at its heart, and they couldn't support it the way it stood, as of last night.
HARRIS: So what are the chances of getting real immigration reform agreed to by both sides? Is that even possible now?
KOPPEL: Again, depends on who you ask. The Republican and Democratic leaders last night were still trying to hold out at least the smallest sliver of hope that they might be able to get something through before the end of the year. But at the same time you had Harry Reid saying they have a packed agenda, legislative agenda, between now and the end of the year.
You saw, with that bipartisan group came together, the gang of 14 as they're known, last month. And they announced they had reached this compromise, they said it was the last best chance to get something done for months upon months. We're going to be in an election year before too long. So the question really is, you know, nobody knows whether or not this is going to happen, or be able to happen before this Congress ends. HARRIS: Andrea, there's a news conference coming up, isn't there? Where we might get a better indication? I know Senator Kennedy is involved in that as to where all this might be headed, correct?
KOPPEL: I think what we'll see is more of the blame game. We'll see two of the key architects, one from the Left, Ted Kennedy, of Massachusetts, the other from the right, Jon Kyl of Arizona. Again, two ends of the political spectrum, who were involved in the grand bargain itself, last month. Who will be trying to put the best spin they can on why this deal collapsed.
HARRIS: Our Congressional Correspondent Andrea Koppel for us this morning. Andrea, thank you.
COLLINS: The Shuttle Atlantis on the launch pad. Countdown to liftoff, hopefully, ahead in the NEWSROOM.
GERRI WILLIS, CNN PERSONAL FINANCE EDITOR: I'm Gerri Willis, banking in cyberspace. Good idea or risky business? We'll answer your questions next on "Top Tips" in the NEWSROOM
COLLINS: Let's go ahead and check the Big Board now. This is better than yesterday, at least at the close.
COLLINS: We were down about 200 yesterday. Now we are up about 37 points or so, resting at 13,300. I know the S&P is up something like 3, and the Nasdaq, I believe, is also up, showing some positive -- about 12 points or so. So there you have it. We'll bring up Susan Lisovicz to talk business in just a moment.
HARRIS: Online checking, retirement, savings, gas rebates, just some of the topics from today's viewer e-mails. Here to answer those questions, Gerri Willis, CNN personal finance editor.
Good Friday to you.
WILLIS: Happy Friday.
HARRIS: Are you ready to dive into the old e-mails here?
WILLIS: Let's do it. Yes, absolutely.
HARRIS: Erica in Kentucky, Miss Erica has this question for you, "What's your advice on online checking accounts? I feel like I would be sending my money out into cyberspace. And oh, by the way, Gerri, what were the top on-line banks?"
WILLIS: Well, you know, Erica, a lot of people are nervous about banking online, but just because you bank online that doesn't mean your money is in cyberspace. Banks handle account funds from online and real-world customers just the same. What's more, online customers sometimes get better rates of return for their savings. And you know, online account holders find it easier to track and monitor deposits, withdrawals, and savings, because, hey, you can get on the computer anytime, anywhere and check it out.
Now, almost every bank has an online presence these days. To find out which ones offer the highest rates to savers, check out bankrate.com.
HARRIS: I love it. All right, Gail in Ohio writes, "Gerri mentioned those gas rebates cards during her top tips."
Yeah, we talked about that. I think it was last week.
"How do I get one of those?"
WILLIS: All you have to do is apply, really. Get a list of the cards of the cards at cardratings.com, and look under cash back rewards. Or go to the web site that you're seeing at the bottom of the screen. That's a mouthful right there.
You can also go to creditcards.com. But before you apply make sure you know what you're getting into. Now, while gas rebate cards can save you a lot of money, you'll reap the benefits of that gas card only if you pay off your balance in full each month. You also shouldn't have to pay an annual fee if you're shopping around for a gas rebate card. And make sure you get the limits on how much rebate you can get back. In most cases it will be between $300 and $600. So lots of details there you really have to manage.
HARRIS: Yes, absolutely. You ready for another question?
WILLIS: Let's go.
HARRIS: Tony in Georgia writes, "I am interested in opening an IRA. I've been offered an opportunities in the past, both from my bank and my tax preparer. Should I go with one of their offers, or look somewhere else?
WILLIS: This is Tony in Georgia?
WILLIS: OK, All right. It's not really you, is it?
HARRIS: It's always a possibility.
WILLIS: All right. Well, here's my thoughts -- my best thoughts on IRAs. Where you invest should be driven by what you want to invest in. One, no sweat way of opening and IRA, easy peasy, go to one of the nation's low-cost mutual fund companies like Vanguard, Fidelity, T. Towe Price, and invest what they call life cycle funds. The beauty is you don't have to worry about rebalancing you're retirement fund each and every year. The funds managers do it for you.
WILLIS: And Tony, you have to hear this.
WILLIS: A tip from a viewer, I love these. This is from Philip in New Jersey, he says, Hey, if you are in the market for a hybrid, don't lease. If you do lease, the leasing company can claim the tax credit. Pretty good stuff.
WILLIS: Isn't that awesome?
HARRIS: Wow, that is outstanding. Philip, thank you. Gerri, because I love the show, I watch it every week and I want everyone to watch it and when they do they will love it. Talk to us about the big "Open House" show coming up tomorrow.
WILLIS: Well, the big "Open House". You have to get up early, 9:30 a.m. on Saturday morning, right here on CNN. "Open House," cutting your heating bills, hidden pet dangers, and fixing your driveway. We're going to fix those cracks in your driveway. So you don't have problems with that.
Now, if you can't get up that early, Tony, I don't know about you, but sometimes Saturday morning can be a test. At 5:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday on "Headline News."
HARRIS: Very good. Hey, have a great weekend, Gerri.
WILLIS: You have a great one, too, Tony.
COLLINS: Her get out of jail card could be revoked. Paris Hilton goes back to court today. Will she end up back behind bars? To me it was a pretty lengthy stay to begin with. The latest in the NEWSROOM.
HARRIS: Passport problems, summer vacation plans on the line here.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can't even reschedule, because you don't know when we'll get our passports.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS: There is help on the way. That story ahead for you in the NEWSROOM.
COLLINS: Welcome back, everybody. I'm Heidi Collins.
HARRIS: And I'm Tony Harris. Bottom of the hour, you're back in the CNN NEWSROOM.
Just a short time ago, Louisiana Congressman William Jefferson had his first court appearance, federal charges filed against him earlier this week. Representative Jefferson entering a not guilty plea; he is free on his own personal recognizance. Trial date set for January 16 of 2008.
We expect to hear from the representative soon. If he does come to a bank microphones outside the courthouse, we'll bring it you his statement live right here in the CNN NEWSROOM.
COLLINS: Also want to show you this live shot in a Tennessee courtroom, a sentencing hearing for Mary Winkler. You may remember she shot her minister husband to death as he lay in bed. A jury rejected the charge of first-degree murder and instead found her guilty of manslaughter. Winkler testified that her husband had physically and emotionally abused her. She faces up to six years in prison and is fighting with her husband's parents for custody of their three children.
We will tell you just as soon as that sentence is handed down.
And outrage over her release, but a hearing today could send Paris Hilton back to jail. The celebrity socialite is due in court in less than three hours. The countdown begins. The L.A. city attorney wants her back behind bars.
A sheriff's department released Hilton yesterday after just three days in jail. They say medical considerations played a part in the decision, but some call it a case of celebrity getting special treatment.
Hilton was released on 40 days of home confinement. She was ordered to wear an electronic monitoring device, and those can be cute, but she would be able to roam free in her 27 ...
HARRIS: You're going to get in trouble. You keep this up, you're going to get in trouble. You're going to get e-mails, I'm telling you.
COLLINS: Did I say her 2,700 square foot home, that's where she'll be confined? OK.
HARRIS: And in Connecticut, a story of rescue and a crossfire of allegations. Police in west Hartford say they found this 15-year-old girl in a locked, hidden room under a staircase. She had been missing for a year. Now more details. The detective who made the shocking discovery describes that experience.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) STEVE HINCKLEY, WEST HARTFORD POLICE: I said, I think there's a body in the crawlspace in there, kind of peeked in there, and she was kind of -- she was sitting down like in a fetal position, sitting down, and she made no noise, no nothing, and we kind of had to assure her that everything was safe and it was all right to come out. She began to cry. And we got the medical attention that we could provide her at that time, and we went from there.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS: Wow, the homeowners face a series of charges, but a defense attorney says they were actually protecting the girl. The lawyer says they were harboring the girl from abuse and she could freely come and go. Police and the girl's family are rejecting the claims.
COLLINS: A search this morning for dozens of missing people after a powerful cyclone slammed into Oman. Omanni news agencies say at least 32 people were killed in the storm. Look at these pictures. Iran also got hit hard. Three people were reportedly killed there, several others still missing. The cyclone has now pushed into the Strait of Hormuz, a major oil shipping route, but its winds have died down quite a bit.
HARRIS: It is one of the most powerful and destructive forces on earth, a tornado. Now, researchers are using technology to actually create twisters and try to save lives.
CNN's Chris Lawrence explains.
CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): They form within minutes, but leave behind months and years of destruction.
BILL GALLUS, METEOROLOGIST: I've chased tornadoes for about 20 years and I'm always in awe of the power.
LAWRENCE: Only now, Meteorologist Bill Gallus can turn a tornado on and off. He's with a team of Iowa State engineers who can create their own tornadoes, and test what it takes to withstand those winds. This machine is the only one in the world that produces moving tornadoes big enough to perform structural tests.
(on camera): Unlike other simulators that work from the ground up, this one moves the vortex entirely from above, just like a real tornado.
(voice-over): A family's home, the local shop, a typical town, and the swirling debris barrelling down on top of it. These models are being blown around and battered so that one day real towns might be saved.
PARTHA SARKAR, AEROSPACE ENGINEER: There will be damage, but not as much as it is happening now, because we are not fighting (ph) the tornadoes at all. So, everything is getting wiped off. LAWRENCE: Partha Sarkar says current building codes are designed to withstand straight-line winds. He created the simulator to help design buildings that can survive tornadoes, with wind speeds up to 135 miles per hour.
SARKAR: Even if the sirens go off, we don't have to worry about it, because homes are supposed to protect us.
LAWRENCE: Just outside the lab, real winds are already whipping up.
GALLUS: We're still right in the heart of tornado season in this part of the country.
LAWRENCE: And unlike the simulator, there's no simple switch to stop them.
Chris Lawrence, CNN, Ames, Iowa.
COLLINS: Ready to launch, NASA counting down to its first space shuttle mission of the year. "Atlantis" set to blast off from the Kennedy Space Center this evening with seven astronauts on board. It's an 11-day mission to deliver energy-producing solar panels to the International Space Station. This flight was scrubbed, if you remember in February, because a hail storm damaged the insulating foam on the shuttle's exterior tank. Forecasters today predict favorable weather.
We will bring you live coverage of the launch tonight at 7:00 p.m. Eastern in THE SITUATION ROOM.
HARRIS: CIA agents, more than two dozen of them on trial overseas for alleged counter-terrorism activity. The Rendition Trial, ahead in the NEWSROOM.
COLLINS: Something we want to tell you about quickly that we are learning about here at CNN. We want to take you to Sarasota, and apparently there has been a doctor's office shooting, not exactly clear on what happened, but you see the map there, and where we're talking about, Sarasota, Florida.
Apparently, one person is wounded and it is possible, according to the Sarasota County Sheriff's Office that the suspect and a hostage are still inside that building. So, we will continue to follow this and certainly try to get some more information.
Also understand from one of our affiliates there, WTBT, that the County Sheriff's Office of course and SWAT teams are responding to the scene and people are being asked to stay away from that area until they can clear it.
So once again, one person wounded, and the shooting took place at a Sarasota, Florida, doctor's office. We'll continue to watch it for you.
HARRIS: Twenty-five CIA agents on trial in absentia in Italy. They are accused of abducting a radical Islamic cleric and covertly flying him to Egypt. It is an unusual case of U.S. operatives being prosecuted overseas for an alleged counter-terrorism mission.
CNN's Jennifer Eccleston has details.
JENNIFER ECCLESTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): At Milan's stately courthouse, a post-9/11 judicial milestone. An alleged case of extraordinary rendition, and the first time anyone is on trial in connection with one of the most controversial aspects of President George W. Bush's war on terrorism. Thirty-three people, 26 Americans, most thought to be CIA, and seven Italian security officials.
Prosecutors charge all were involved in the abduction of a terror suspect, a Muslim cleric, Osama Nassan Mustafa Hassan (ph), or Abu Omar (ph).
MONTY RAPHAEL, INTL. BAR ASSOCIATION: The reason why it's significant now is because it's going to throw into sharp focus the alleged illegality of some of the U.S. counter-terrorist measures that they've taken.
ECCLESTON: During alleged rendition, terror suspects were taken for questioning from one country and flown to another, where many claim they were tortured. Washington acknowledges these secret transfers, but denies torturing suspects or handing them to countries that do.
Italian prosecutors say in February 2003, Abu Omar was snatched from a Milan street and bundled into a van, taken to a nearby U.S. air base, flown to Germany, and then to his native Egypt. There, Abu Omar was jailed and he says, tortured. He was freed in February, but remains wanted in Italy.
Abu Omar was suspected of recruiting men to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan and was under heavy surveillance by Italy's Intelligence Agency. Its chief at the time, Nicolo Polari (ph), denies any knowledge of CIA renditions, but he too is on trial, as well as other intelligence and police officers. And so are former CIA station chief in Milan, his superior in Rome, and a U.S. Air Force lieutenant colonel, but no Americans are standing before a Milan judge. All 26 have left Italy, and their case is presented in absentia.
The government of Romano Prodi has yet to ask Washington to extradite the Americans. And he's asked Italy's highest court to dismiss the trial outright, claiming prosecution evidence is a breach of state secrets. A verdict in that case is pending, and until one is issued, the Abu Omar trial goes on.
Despite what appears to be significant legal hurdles, journalist Carlo Bonini says the trial is deeply symbolic. CARLO BONINI, LA REPUBBLICA: The message to the U.S. administration is that Europeans are not bound to cross again the line of the human rights, of the fundamental liberties in order to fight a war on terror.
ECCLESTON (on camera): Although Italy is the scene of the first trial for the extraordinary rendition program, there are investigations in several other Europeans countries over the alleged disappearance of suspects tied to the U.S. war on terror.
Jennifer Eccleston, CNN, Rome.
COLLINS: Gas prices, they are actually even more painful than you think. A new Congressional report estimates Americans will pay 1.5 billion dollars in so-called hot fuel surcharges this summer. So what's that?
Well, during the hotter summer months, gasoline expands, so the energy it provides decreases. That's taken into account for sales at the wholesale level, but not when you have to pay at the retail level. A Congressional committee is holding a hearing on that this morning.
HARRIS: And let's take you to Washington, D.C., and outside of the courthouse there, Representative Jefferson as you see, about to make a statement, we believe, in just moments. Earlier this morning, he entered a not guilty plea to a 16-count federal indictment.
ROBERT TROUT, REP. JEFFERSON'S ATTORNEY: Good morning.
Today, Congressman Jefferson was arraigned, he pled guilty -- not guilty, to all of the charges.
I've known Jeff now for almost a couple of years. We've spent time together, probably more time than he would prefer. I've gotten to know him. He is a good man, he is a fine man, and we intend to fight these charges.
My colleagues and I, my partners, Amy Jackson (ph) and Gloria Solomon (ph) feel privileged to represent him in this, and we look forward to fighting on his behalf.
Congressman Jefferson will have a few comments, there will be no questions.
REP. WILLIAM JEFFERSON, (D-LA): Good afternoon.
This is the first time since the indictment was announced that I have had an opportunity to speak on this matter, and I want to make four points here today, four very important points.
First one is that I am absolutely innocent of the charges that have been leveled against me, and we're going to fight -- I'm going to fight my heart out to clear my name. Second, I have been blessed with a loving and accomplished family, and I want to tell you something about them today, because they are not what the prosecution has made them out to be.
In the third place, I've represented the people of the 2nd western district of Louisiana for 17 years now honestly and effectively, and I'm committed to continuing in that representation.
And finally, I implore you, the press and the public, to keep an open mind until all the facts are on the table.
My wife Andrea and I, in a few days, will celebrate or 37th wedding anniversary. We have five children, five daughters, who are pursuing careers in law and film production and in medicine. Each of our first three daughters holds degrees from Harvard College and Harvard Law School. Our fourth daughter holds degrees from Boston University and Emerson College, and our fifth daughter holds degrees from Brown University, Georgetown University, and we hope soon from Tulane Medical School.
The two who are married also have very accomplished husbands. One holds a doctor's degree in environmental chemistry, and one holds an MBA in finance. Andrea has a doctorate degree in higher education. We have three grandchildren, two boys and a girl, and one on the way.
We are truly a blessed family. We believe in public service. We believe in obeying the law, and we believe fervently in almighty God. We have been members of the Greater St. Stephen's Baptist Church now for almost 30 years and I've served on its Board of Trustees there for the last 20 years. My wife has served as president of its scholarship fund and president of its learning academy.
We also believe in our great country, we believe in America. We are an American family, and through God's grace, we have been blessed to prepare ourselves for public service and to qualify ourselves for added value to whatever life endeavors may bring our way.
Incredibly, this is the same family that the U.S. attorney and the FBI and I guess some in justice, want you to believe is a family of bribers, racketeers and conspirators. And they want you to believe too that I, who have until these things came up, never had an ethics complaint lodged against me or a bar complaint in 35 years, or even a traffic ticket to defend that I can remember, and the architect, the leader of this family band of supposed robbers and racketeers.
But, this is not who we are. This is not who I am. This is not what I have done. I am innocent of all of the charges that have been leveled against us, and we are going to fight, my friends, my lawyers, my allies, and my family to clear our name and to see that justice is done.
Make no mistake about it, we are at a great disadvantage in this fight. The government has unlimited resources and can choose -- make all sorts of choices that can make our life very difficult, as it already has. And they can attempt to break one psychologically and financially, and of course, that's gone on as well. And we are all too aware that this Justice Department can engineer circumstances, leak information, and even violate the Constitution in pursuit of its goals. But I have no doubt that in the most important sense, we have the advantage, the advantage of having right and truth on our side. We have the advantage of knowing that no matter what plots are laid against us, the truth will always come to light.
My family and I have determined that I will not sacrifice my honor or cave to political pressure, and that we will sell every stick of furniture in our home and anything else we own or that we may possess to clear our name and to see that justice is done.
I've been fighting against the odds all of my life, and through the grace of God, I've been winning these battles against the odds. And especially here, it's no time to give up when there's more at stake, really than just what may happen or what is happening to my family and to me.
The people of the 2nd congressional district in Louisiana already know this. That's why they voted overwhelmingly for me in this last re-election effort. I believe that during that whole period of time, I was subject to a virtual indictment, because I was tried in the press day in and day out. And the idea was to make me to appear to be someone who was so unsympathetic and so caricatured, as to be undeserving of the rights that one normally has to observe in this sort of investigation.
The people of my district, however, rejected this characterization of me, because they know me better and they know that for the last 27 years in the state Senate and in the Congress, I have performed for them honestly and effectively, and today I renew my pledge to them. I will not be deterred in my duties to serve the people of Aldees (ph) Parish, and of Jefferson Parish, who have so faithfully -- faithfully elected me for the past 27 years.
HARRIS: And very quickly, you've been listening to Representative Jefferson there, declaring his innocence. He said it a couple times, I am innocent. He declared his absolute innocence, saying that "I will fight my heart out to clear my name."
Much more on this, this statement as well, coming up next hour in the CNN NEWSROOM, but first, a quick break.
COLLINS: All right, we have been following the Paris Hilton story, of course, and first started reporting, I believe it was last night, that she possibly would not be going -- excuse me -- that she would be ordered back to court, possibly considering her return to jail.
Well, now, TMZ is reporting, and CNN of course is working to confirm this, that Paris will only appear at her hearing today to discuss this matter via telephone, not going to be in the courtroom in person. So, that's how it's going to go. She will phone in, again, according to TMZ, and as you may remember, Judge Michael Sauer (ph), who is the judge that originally sentenced her to 45 days, there was even some discussion according to our reporting, that he had specifically mentioned that she would not be allowed to be confined to her home.
It's all very interesting, but at this point, we will only hear her on the telephone. That's the latest.
HARRIS: How will we know that it is Paris on the telephone?
COLLINS: Well, you know, these are the questions.
HARRIS: These are the questions.
COLLINS: These are the questions.
HARRIS: To come, answers hopefully next hour.
A musician -- how about this -- turned cyclist and a man-made reef that didn't exactly go as planned.
COLLINS: Let's check in with T.J. Holmes and Betty Nguyen now for a sneak peek at what they're working on for CNN "SATURDAY" and "SUNDAY MORNING."
BETTY NGUYEN, CNN ANCHOR: From platinum-selling record artist to cross-country cyclist, musician Mark Shultz tells us why he launched a two-wheeled mission from California to New Hampshire in our Faces of Faith series.
T.J. HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: Also, do you remember this guy? Morgan Spurlock gained fame for his very personal look at the nation's fast- food diet in "Supersize Me." Now, the filmmaker is taking on the nation's education system. See if you agree with what he discovered when we talk with him live on Sunday.
NGUYEN: And tomorrow, trouble off the coast of Florida, check it out. We're going to show you how a 1970s plan to get rid of used tires, and to create a man-made reef, but is it creating an environmental nightmare?
HOLMES: CNN "SATURDAY" and "SUNDAY MORNING," beginning tomorrow at 7:00 a.m. Eastern.
TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.voxant.com.