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Congressman Jefferson Arraigned; Hilton Back to Jail?
Aired June 8, 2007 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: And good morning, everyone. You're with CNN. You're informed.
I'm Tony Harris.
HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Hi, everybody. I'm Heidi Collins.
Developments keep coming into the CNN NEWSROOM on this Friday, June 8th.
Here's what's on the rundown.
Another court hearing. Is she headed back to jail? Well, Paris Hilton's legal date book is kind of filling up.
HARRIS: Prison or probation? A preacher's wife convicted for his killing. She's in court right now for sentencing.
COLLINS: A space shuttle mission tonight, and looking ahead to another lunar landing in the future.
Details in the NEWSROOM.
Louisiana Congressman William Jefferson in court this morning, pleading not guilty to a host of corruption charges. But it will be a while before he goes to trial.
Our Brianna Keilar is on the case outside the courthouse in Alexandria, Virginia.
Brianna, we just heard him speak before those microphones, had several points to make. Most of them were about his family and the accomplishments they had made in their lives.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's exactly right. He talked a lot about his family. He said that "I've been blessed with my family." He talked about the five daughters he has with his wife.
He talked about how they have -- a lot of them have pedigrees from Ivy League schools, that this is a very accomplished family. He said, "We're an American family," and this is yet the same family that the U.S. attorney's office believes is guilty of bribery and racketeering.
And, of course, government prosecutors say that Jefferson is guilty of taking more than $500,000 in bribes. And they say also that he sought millions more using a network of family companies to hide money. But today, at the mics here in front of the U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Congressman Jefferson urged people to give him the benefit of the doubt.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. WILLIAM JEFFERSON (D), LOUISIANA: I implore you, the press and the public, to keep an open mind until all the facts are on the table.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: The trial date for Jefferson has been set for January 16th. He waived his right to a speedy trial because his lawyer said that this is such a complex case, there are so many documents. And indeed, government prosecutors said they have been eight filing cabinets of documents and numerous reportings that they need to turn over the to defense so that they can look at. So this is being pushed very far into the future, mid-January 2008.
And sort of an interesting anecdote, Heidi. Robert Trout, Jefferson's attorney, was asking -- the judge asked him if they could proceed January 8th. And he asked for the following week, and judge T.S. Ellis said, "Why, are there no flights available from the south of France?"
So this judge is quite a spitfire. Perhaps a preview of some of the things that we're going to be seeing come January -- Heidi.
COLLINS: Ouch! Does he already have an opinion in the case?
KEILAR: You didn't get that sense so much. You -- he also gave the prosecution a bit of a hard time.
They said that they anticipated that presenting their side of the case would take four weeks, and he said that that was ludicrous, pretty much. He said that was going to take too long. And if they did take that long to present their side of the case, the jury would be ready to convict the lawyers and not necessarily a defendant.
So, this is a man who's a spitfire, and he's reserving some of that sort of comical venom for both sides of the table here.
COLLINS: Yes. I imagine once the proceedings begin, he won't be wasting any time.
Quickly, Brianna, I just want a reminder on this. What happened with the $90,000 that was found in Jefferson's freezer? That's being held on evidence? Or where is that now?
KEILAR: You know, I'm not exactly sure, Heidi. I imagine it's being held in evidence.
Now, when you're talking about -- there was, of course, another raid. That was on the Capitol Hill office. And that was, of course, the source of a lot of controversy, because on one side you had Jefferson and members of Congress saying that it was unconstitutional that the Department of Justice searched his office.
And at that point -- at this point, investigators don't have those documents. There's actually an appeals process going through right now to determine if they'll have access to that. But I imagine, yes, that the $90,000 is in evidence.
COLLINS: OK. And certainly lots of material to look over for the next six months.
All right. Brianna Keilar coming to us from Alexandria, Virginia, this morning.
HARRIS: And this hour in a Tennessee courtroom, a sentencing hearing for Mary Winkler. You may remember she shot to death her minister husband 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.
We will tell you as soon as the sentence is handed down.
Paris Hilton out for now, but for how long? A hearing begins next hour to determine whether the hotel heiress returns to a 12 by 8- foot cell.
But the Web site TMZ.com says Hilton will phone it in instead of appearing in court.
Let's go live now to Los Angeles and CNN's Kara Finnstrom.
Kara, what gives here?
KARA FINNSTROM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is no longer just a celebrity Hollywood story about Paris Hilton. This has become a story about a miscarriage of justice possibly.
You mentioned TMZ.com reporting that Paris Hilton may not be appearing here in person this morning. We've actually confirmed that on our own as well here.
A court spokesperson came out just about a half hour ago and said that it is most likely that she will be teleconferenced in, talking by phone this morning, and that her lawyers may also do the same. He did say, however, there still is a small chance she may come in a sheriff's vehicle. In that event, she'd be brought in underground so as to avoid the big spectacle out here.
Now, all of this started to unfold yesterday, just a couple of hours ago after the sheriff's department sent Paris home under house arrest. This was in -- kind of at odds with what the original judge in this case had intended for Paris Hilton. He sentenced her to 45 days in jail and stipulated that this could not be done under house arrest. The sheriff department then stepped in. We don't know exactly why. The reason given has been some unspecified medical condition -- and sent her home to her Hollywood Hills home with an ankle bracelet on.
After that, the original judge in this case, Michael Sauer (ph), stepped back in again and he called this hearing for this morning.
Now, as all of this is going on, also on the sides, the city attorney has petitioned the sheriff, Sheriff Lee Bocca here in Los Angeles, saying that there may some contemptive court here in that he kind of went against what the judge had intended for Paris Hilton.
So all of this unfolding here this morning, Tony. And we'll be here as this saga continues to develop.
HARRIS: Yes. So, Kara, as I ask you this question, I'm looking just past you here at the scene that's starting to develop there. Do we know -- and I'm sure you asked the question. I don't know how much of an answer you got.
But is Paris unwell? Is that why she can't make the appearance? Or was the court being smart here, trying to avoid a real spectacle outside of the court building?
FINNSTROM: You know, that's not clear. I'm sure they would like to avoid any kind of spectacle, or any more of a spectacle, we should say here.
One other interesting point in all of this, though, is what I heard from the court spokesperson is that he doesn't know if the judge, who is a little upset about how all this has developed, is aware of the fact that she is going to be teleconferencing in, that perhaps...
HARRIS: Oh, boy.
FINNSTROM: ... and this is not clear. This was set up by the sheriff's department. So, a lot of drama behind the scenes as this develops.
HARRIS: And you'll be following it for us out there in Los Angeles.
Kara, thank you.
COLLINS: Immigration reform hits a roadblock. A compromise bill stalled in the Senate. Its future in doubt.
The bill fell short of the votes needed to cut off debate and move it forward. Republicans and Democrats are at odds over what went wrong. But both sides say something needs to be done about illegal immigration. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. EDWARD KENNEDY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: It's a jungle on that border! A jungle on that border! And every day we have -- we continue without this legislation, we have these well-trained, well- disciplined, highly-motivated border guards out there chasing people across the desert that are landscapers, they ought to be out there looking for the terrorists!
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), MINORITY LEADER: This is no small matter. It's a big issue, a big problem. And it requires broad bipartisan cooperation to bring a bill like this to conclusion.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COLLINS: The bill was touted as a bipartisan compromise and was backed by the White House.
COLLINS: Want to get you some more information on a story that we had told you about in Sarasota, Florida. We had learned that there was a shooting at a doctor's office. And now getting some of this video in as well.
We have since learned, according to the fire department there, that one person is dead. A female victim.
Police are still looking for the shooter. That building has been searched and cleared now. We had had some reports earlier that there could have been people being held hostage inside. No longer the case, if it ever was.
Again, that building has been cleared. But, yes, according to the fire department, there is one woman who was killed in all of this. And they are still looking for the shooter in Sarasota, Florida.
HARRIS: And still to come in the NEWSROOM this morning, her celebrity status is her claim to fame. Critics say it got her out of jail early. Paris Hilton, there she is, and allegations of celebrity justice. We will talk with a legal expert in the NEWSROOM.
Soldier mom goes AWOL, friends say she had no choice.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She didn't want to go this direction. All right? She was forced into doing this.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COLLINS: For this woman, daughter duty trumped Iraq deployment.
We'll tell you about it in the NEWSROOM.
HARRIS: The shuttle Atlantis on the launch pad. Countdown to liftoff ahead in the NEWSROOM.
COLLINS: Missing for nearly a year. Now reunited with her family.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JENNIFER HESSE, DANIELLE CRAMER'S MOTHER: She has said some things about what she has gone through. I'm not going to tell you those things at this point. But she is very happy to have been reunited with her mother.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COLLINS: The latest in the Connecticut missing girl case straight ahead in the NEWSROOM.
HARRIS: Legal trials of the rich and famous. Paris Hilton, the focus of a court hearing in less than an hour. At issue, whether her get out of jail card gets revoked.
Criminal defense attorney and former assistant district attorney B.J. Bernstein here to talk about it.
B.J., great to see you.
B.J. BERNSTEIN, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: And lots to talk about.
HARRIS: What is this -- what is this that she gets to phone it in? It's an appearance.
BERNSTEIN: Phone a friend.
HARRIS: She was ordered to show up in court.
HARRIS: The judge is not happy, and now she gets to phone it in. Another example of star treatment, celebrity justice.
BERNSTEIN: Celebrity justice a little bit, and also crowd control and trying to keep track of things.
HARRIS: You believe that? I mentioned that just a couple of minutes ago. But you think that's part of it?
BERNSTEIN: No, absolutely. I mean, quite candidly, it sends chaos into a courthouse when there's just a small high-profile case, when just local news reporters show up, much less not just the nation, but the world. I mean, the international papers have been filled with news of Paris Hilton. So...
(CROSSTALK) HARRIS: So we might look at this as a decent decision here to not have her come in, in the whole van, and the media going crazy and the pushing and shoving and that whole spectacle?
BERNSTEIN: Exactly, because her lawyers are going to be talking, definitely not Paris.
HARRIS: Was she over-sentenced to begin with?
BERNSTEIN: You know, you could really argue she was. I mean, it's a catch-22 for her. Her fame and fortune hurt her on the front end because...
HARRIS: How so?
BERNSTEIN: Well, she went in there, and all the lawyers who practice in Los Angeles had said, listen, it's bad what she did, but most people get slapped with just a couple of days in jail on a probation violation.
BERNSTEIN: Instead, she got 45 days.
Now, had I been her lawyer, I would have got her there on time. She was late to court. And I would have said, "Your honor, I'm sorry. I messed up." Not, I'm going to blame my publicist and I don't read my mail.
BERNSTEIN: I think there was really a lot of just, this judge got angry. Because judges don't like, you know, little stories, let's call them nicely.
BERNSTEIN: Well, so the release. Come on. Three days in Los Angeles, three days is five days. And the release has to represent -- come on.
This is the outrage of the day here. Star treatment.
BERNSTEIN: Exactly. And now we're seeing the other side of star treatment...
HARRIS: Oh, OK.
BERNSTEIN: ... which is where she definitely has taken advantage of star treatment. It was clear that this judge ordered that she shouldn't get out early, that she shouldn't have home confinement...
BERNSTEIN: ... and yet the sheriff has done otherwise. And now, actually, on a -- I mean, I know the skeptics of, why are we talking about Paris Hilton?
BERNSTEIN: But the real legal issue that's coming up today, and it's a real one, is the battle between the judge and the sheriff.
HARRIS: And the sheriff, exactly.
So that brings us to the next question. What do you expect to happen at this 12:00 p.m. Eastern, 9:00 a.m. Pacific hearing, where Paris is going to be on the phone?
BERNSTEIN: You know, I have a feeling it won't be good because this judge -- judges don't like their orders not to be done. You know, there's a reason why we put them in a robe and up -- sitting up high.
HARRIS: Yes. Yes.
BERNSTEIN: They get to issue an order. And just for a sheriff to change it on their own -- let's put it this way, in the real world, if she really is -- if the child is really having mental health problems, or whatever this medical problem is, then the proper thing to do is to file a motion with the judge and to present it to the judge and get the judge to order her release.
HARRIS: What happened here? What happened here? Do you have an idea of what happened here?
BERNSTEIN: Well, a very clever lawyer, probably, a little wheeling and dealing, and a sheriff who probably can't stand all of this there.
HARRIS: OK. Look, I'm clearly more concerned about what's happening on Monday with your client's case, Genarlow Wilson.
When you -- when you see a story like this, when you see the kind of treatment that Paris Hilton is getting here, and yet your client is in jail, what, two-plus years now, what are you thinking? What are you thinking?
BERNSTEIN: This is absolutely -- and this is why the big controversy, the difference between notoriety, wealth and race in America and the justice system.
You have got Paris Hilton, who has everything, money, can hire the best lawyers. You know, a beautiful young woman the world's paying attention to, versus Genarlow Wilson, who is a good kid, had good grades in school, but, you know, he comes from a simple home.
You know, it's an African-American male. I'm working for free. His first lawyer, you know -- I mean, all these things go into play, and he's getting hammered for teenage consensual sex and a 10-year prison sentence.
And then I just watch -- you know, and I'm fighting like crazy to get him out. We'll know on noon on Monday what's going to happen.
But, you know, part of me says, this is why there's outrage. This is why Reverend Al Sharpton is going wild.
BERNSTEIN: You're watching the dichotomy of the American justice system.
HARRIS: How are you feeling about Monday?
BERNSTEIN: I'm afraid to say. You know, I felt like the judge really listened to us carefully. We said it was cruel and unusual punishment, because remember, this 10 years in prison, if this same party happened tonight, no more than 12 months in jail, no sex offender registry.
So we're not asking the judge to do anything that isn't the law now. So I was -- you know, he was listening carefully, and everyone please keep him in your prayers when you go to church or a synagogue this weekend. Think of Genarlow, I ask.
HARRIS: Well, let's talk on Monday.
BERNSTEIN: We'll talk on Monday.
HARRIS: OK. B.J., great to see you. Thank you.
And still to come in the NEWSROOM this morning, still together. An operation to separate those 3-year-old twins stopped. What went wrong?
Details coming up for you straight ahead in the NEWSROOM.
COLLINS: I want to quickly give you some information just in here at CNN regarding the cause of death of Kelsey Smith. You remember the young lady in Kansas who was killed.
We are learning from the district attorney, Phil Kline, that apparently that cause of death has now been determined to be asphyxia due to ligature strangulation. What that means is using some type of cord to strangle Kelsey Smith.
Once again, coming from the district attorney's office. The cause of death to Kelsey Smith, asphyxiation due to ligature strangulation. That's using some type of cord.
As you remember, her body was found in Missouri on Wednesday. And now Edwin Roy Hall, a 26-year-old, is being charged with first- degree murder and aggravated kidnapping in her death.
Smith's believed to have been abducted from that Target store parking lot that we have seen so much surveillance video of.
So that is the very latest now. The cause of death, once again, asphyxia, due to ligature strangulation, use some type of cord.
We will continue to follow this story as well.
In today's "Daily Dose," an update on conjoined twins, Tatiana and Anastasia. An operation to separate the 3-year-old sisters was stopped. After working 11 hours, doctors called it off because of brain swelling in the stronger of the two girls. They are now trying to find out what caused the swelling.
The doctors and the parents say they will try again if it's safe. The hospital says the girls have just a 10 percent chance of reaching their tenth birthday if they remain connected.
And to get your "Daily Dose" of health news online, log on to our Web site. There you will find the latest medical news, a health library, and information on diet and fitness.
The address for you, CNN.com/health.
COLLINS: A military mom caught between duty to her country and to her daughter. The Army listed her as AWOL. Hear her side of the story, coming up in the NEWSROOM.
HARRIS: Here we are, bottom of the hour. Good Friday to you. Minutes away from our weekend here in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Tony Harris.
COLLINS: And I'm Heidi Collins.
It just wouldn't be a Friday without more news on the Paris Hilton case that we have been covering for you. Getting scripts just in, kidding.
HARRIS: Hot off the press.
COLLINS: Here's the latest. We understand that she was supposed to be in court today, they were going to possibly reconsider sending her back to jail. But now we have learned that she will not be appearing in person. She will be phoning it in as we've been saying. However, it's possible that this might have been a good legal decision simply because of the incredible -- what's the word I could use - disruption, hustle and bustle, media frenzy?
HARRIS: Carnival, circus.
COLLINS: when a celebrity goes to a courtroom. As you just heard with B.J. Bernstein, you talking with her Tony, even when there's a person who doesn't have as much celebrity status as this, that disrupts the whole courtroom as well. So possibly they were just trying to avoid that and she is going to phone it in.
The interesting thing to me however is that we don't know if the judge knows yet. He's the guy who's not real happy about the whole situation, that she won't be there in person. I'd like to see what happens when he finds out that she'll be calling it in and that's the latest. HARRIS: Heidi Collins. All right.
Paying at the pump, it is getting worse and you may not even realize it. A new congressional report estimates Americans will pay $1.5 billion in so-called hot fuel surcharges this summer. What's that you ask? Good question.
During the hotter summer months, gasoline as you know expands. So the energy it provides decreases. That is taken into account for sales at the wholesale level, but not when you have to pay for it at the retail level. A congressional committee is holding a hearing on that this morning.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. DENNIS KUCINICH (D) OHIO: We're talking about a tremendous amount of money when you take that down to the level of the individual consumer. It really does matter. It really does matter if people are paying a dollar more per tank or $3 more per tank for energy they're just not getting.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COLLINS: Shootings and explosions across Iraq. At least 42 people dead. 15 of them killed when a mini bus packed with explosives blew up at a bus terminal. 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 Baquba.
HARRIS: A military mom listed as AWOL by the Army turns herself in. The ordeal for specialist Lisa Hayes began when she took emergency leave from Iraq concerned about her daughter's safety. Kimberly Bookman of affiliate WMUR has details.
KIMBERLY BOOKMAN, WMUR CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The National Guard calls her a deserter. Army Specialist Lisa Hayes says she's quite the contrary. She hasn't deserted anyone, especially her seven- year-old daughter, Bristol.
JIM JEFFRIES, FAMILY FRIEND: Lisa's a soldier. OK? She's proven that over and over again. Decorated veteran, served two terms in Iraq. She didn't want to go this direction. She was forced into doing this.
BOOKMAN: While overseas, Hayes found out about domestic abuse charges in her ex-husband's home, the same place she left her only daughter to be cared for and kept safe. So Hayes asked for an emergency release from Iraq to deal with custody issues here. But while the civilian courts dragged their feet, the military's clock was ticking.
KAREN JEFFRIES, FAMILY FRIEND: And it has been awful. It's been an emotional roller coaster for her and for the whole family.
BOOKMAN: The army gave her extensions but the battle at home wasn't over when she was called back to the battle in Iraq. She never showed up. Hayes brought her story to the media saying quote I feel like I'm torn between doing what's right, which is being here for my daughter and what I have to do, which is being in the military.
K. JEFFRIES: Lisa went on to a flagged AWOL deserter list, which meant if a policeman pulled her over for having a headlight out, it would pop up to arrest her on the spot.
BOOKMAN: After months of living in fear, Hayes turned herself into the army at Ft. Dix in New Jersey. Her surrender was accompanied by a call for help from Congressman Paul Oats (ph). Today her AWOL charges are dismissed and the military that once denied her request is now helping her fill out paperwork for a hardship separation discharge. It's not over yet, but those that know Hayes say this is one fight she's not giving up on.
HARRIS: An attorney for Hayes says the issue now is whether she gets an honorable or dishonorable discharge.
COLLINS: New details about Vice President Dick Cheney and the administration's controversial wiretapping program. Justice correspondent Kelli Arena with the latest on the White House push for Justice Department approval.
KELLI ARENA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Democrats say his fingerprints are all over it.
SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER (D) JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: It hardly comes as a surprise that the vice president was involved when you look at the record of this administration.
ARENA: Following his dramatic testimony last month, former Deputy Attorney General James Comey is fueling speculation it may have been Vice President Cheney who turned the screws in 2004 on a very sick, then Attorney General John Ashcroft. That after Justice officials told the White House its classified terror program wasn't legal.
SCHUMER: The vice president ought to come clean and answer the questions. What did he do? How much effort did he take?
ARENA: In new written testimony, Comey says he told Cheney on a Tuesday that he was refusing to certifying the program. Then on Wednesday, then White House counsel Alberto Gonzales and chief of staff Andy Card were sent to lean on Ashcroft as he lay in a hospital bed.
JAMES COMEY, FMR. DEP. ATTORNEY GENERAL: I was very upset. I was angry. I thought I'd just witnessed an effort to take advantage of a very sick man.
ARENA: The vice president won't comment. Andrew Card won't comment, neither will Gonzalez.
ALBERTO GONZALEZ, ATTORNEY GENERAL: I'm not going to comment on Mr. Comey's testimony or talk about the program.
ARENA: Apparently the vice president just couldn't let it rest. Comey says that Cheney later opposed a promotion for one of his deputies, Patrick Philbin, who was involved in the dispute. Congressional leaders have asked the Justice Department for more details on that controversial surveillance program. Justice already missed one deadline imposed by Congress and has yet to respond. Kelli Arena, CNN, Washington.
HARRIS: In Connecticut, a story of rescue and a cross fire of allegations. Police in West Hartford say they found this 15-year-old girl in a locked, hidden room under a staircase. She'd 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 crawl space in there, kind of peeked in there. She was kind of - she was sitting down like in the fetal position sitting down. She made no noise, no nothing. 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: The home owners 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.
MILES O'BRIEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So riddle me this. What's the world's largest pencil? Every kid knows the answer to that, Pennsylvania. But the world's largest pencil sharpener? It's right here at the Kennedy space center. We'll tell you how it' made it possible for the shuttle to be in the middle of a countdown right now. That's coming up.
SUSAN LISOVICZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Susan Lisovicz at the New York Stock Exchange where we're seeing a bit of a bounce back. That's a good thing given the last three days. The numbers when NEWSROOM returns. You're watching CNN, the most trust name in news.
HARRIS: We are just learning here at CNN just literally moments ago that Defense Secretary Robert Gates has called a news conference for 1:00 p.m. Eastern time. We will of course have that for you here in the NEWSROOM. At that time, we're being told that Secretary Gates will make a personnel announcement, obviously a personnel announcement of some consequence. So once again, Defense Secretary Robert Gates holding a news conference at 1:00 p.m. Eastern time. We will of course have that for you right here in the CNN NEWSROOM.
COLLINS: Countdown time, the shuttle "Atlantis" prepping for this evening's liftoff. Let's go straight now live to CNN space correspondent Miles O'Brien at the Kennedy space center in Florida. Nice to see you, Miles. How we looking weather-wise? We OK?
MILES O'BRIEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So far, so good on the weather, Heidi, 80 percent chance that the weather is going to be OK for launch tonight. If for some reason they can't launch, if there's some technical issue or that 20 percent comes to bear, same weather forecast for tomorrow. Take a look at launch pad 39-A newly refurbished. It's been down for a couple of years.
This is the first launch there in quite some time. You see the top of the external fuel tank of the space shuttle "Atlantis." You can't really see in this picture, but the top of this tank and really all throughout it, kind of has what appears to be bondo patches in it.
You will recall, perhaps, back in February they had a freak hail storm here, inch and a half in diameter hail. That's bigger than a golf ball. There you see the top there, just pock marked that external fuel tank and that required a tremendous amount of work on the part of NASA engineers and technicians to get this tank ready, including creating the world's largest pencil sharpener. That's what we're calling it anyhow. Sure, there's a much more technical term for it.
Essentially, what they wanted to do was smooth down the top of that tank, which, of course, looks like a giant pencil, get rid of a bunch of those divots and then re-apply a whole layer of foam to make sure it's nice and smooth. You don't want foam falling off the external fuel tank.
Remember what happened with "Columbia" back in January of 2003 when a big piece of foam hit the heat shield, ultimately causing the loss of the vehicle and crew when it returned 16 days later. Take a look at what they did as far as the patching. It's been laborious effort. They spent three months of work go through, sanding down, filling in. These guys could obviously handle any auto body job shop that you want. But this is, obviously to much greater specifications. The shuttle ended up rolling out a lot better than expected.
They're supposed to launch in March and we're headed now for a countdown in the midst of the countdown today for a June 8th, 7:38 p.m. Eastern time launch. So far, no technical issues to tell you about. Right now, the weather looks good. We still got several hours though Heidi and it's Florida and it's June. We're bound to get -- we're bound to get some thunderstorms. The question is, could we possibly get another hail storm? That would be bad luck.
COLLINS: That would be awful luck. Seriously though, when you look at those guys working so meticulously, I'd like them to (INAUDIBLE)
O'BRIEN: Heidi, Heidi, Heidi.
COLLINS: Seriously though Miles, assuming the launch does happen tonight, fingers crossed, tell us a little bit about the mission and the moon. What's up with this lunar landing?
O'BRIEN: Let's talk first of all about what's going on with the space shuttle. We're talking about a mission that it's all about the international space station, putting some huge solar panels on one side. The first time they've gotten them on the right side of the vehicle. In addition, there's going to be a crew swap up.
They're bringing one crew member up and returning another crew member who has been on board the international space station. They've got a full mission ahead of them. We'll be watching every step of the way. At least three space walks, maybe four if they have some trouble retracting one of those solar arrays that needs to be moved.
COLLINS: All right. Miles, thanks so much.
We have more news we need to get to, of course, lovely seeing you. We know that we'll be covering it tonight when it happens. Thank you.
HARRIS: Heidi, this is not for me to do. You do this.
COLLINS: I have done my share.
HARRIS: No! OK. Here's where we stand with Paris Hilton. Check me if I'm incorrect on this, Heidi. Paris was to show up, ordered by the judge.
HARRIS: Show up in court this morning. We're going to talk about this problem that you're having that keeps you from serving out your sentence in jail.
HARRIS: We later get word from the sheriff's department, arrangements have been made, Paris is going to phone it in. She's not going to appear. She will be on the phone. OK?
HARRIS: Thoughts of maybe a spectacle, carnival-like atmosphere.
COLLINS: Media frenzy.
HARRIS: Media frenzy, outstanding, Heidi. Now the judge not happy, judge not happy.
COLLINS: I didn't think he would be. HARRIS: Judge Sauer (ph) has ordered the L.A. Sheriff's department to pick up young Miss Paris and bring her to the L.A. superior court this morning so we can surmise that a vehicle from the sheriff's department is on its way to that location right there to scoop up Paris. She'll be looking great or maybe not. She's not feeling well.
COLLINS: She's not feeling well, right.
HARRIS: She's a little unwell right now. She will be brought to court to face the judge and talk through this situation with her attorneys.
COLLINS: Yes. You know, she was supposed to be on this monitoring device for the rest of the sentence. Which we've been saying, her home is 2,700 square feet. When you look at that thing, part of what we thought was interesting was that she won't be in a confined space. It has to be 27,000.
HARRIS: Maybe her portion.
COLLINS: Maybe she can only be in 2,700 square feet of the larger home. I'm kidding. Anyway, a lot of details, very complex story. We're trying to stay up with it as usual. She is going to be in court.
HARRIS: (INAUDIBLE) as it happen. I'm sure our friends at "Your World Today" will be covering this at the top of the hour.
COLLINS: She's already laughing, I can hear.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Tony and Heidi, I have been standing here enjoying this. In fact, I was going to ask you, do you think we should cover this?
COLLINS: CNN International (INAUDIBLE) at the close of the G- 8. Maybe there could be some link made.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're getting e-mail on this story. I got an e-mail from Afghanistan on this story. I got an e-mail from South Korea. I got one from Bolivia and I got one from Belgium as well. This is definitely an international story. We'll be definitely covering it bringing you all the latest. It looks now like she's going to have to show up, but we'll definitely tell what you happens, when it happens.
Also today, our insight segment is going to be on the G-8 summit. We're going to get away from the leaders walking in and out of meetings and stuff like that. We're going to take a close look at Africa and how it is affected by global warming. That and much more ahead, we'll see you at noon for all Paris all the time.
COLLINS: Got to stay on your toes, Colleen. It's happening fast, in fact CNN correspondent Kara Finnstrom is standing in line getting ready to go into the courthouse where Paris will now appear. We want to get straight to her and find out the very latest. Kara.
KARA FINNSTROM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi. We're up on the sixth floor of the county courthouse here waiting to go into the courtroom. What we've just learned, a little earlier we reported that it was possible Paris Hilton may do this from home, via teleconference on her phone. But we have learned that the judge overseeing this case, Superior Court Judge Michael Sauer has ordered her to come in for this hearing and has actually sent the sheriff's department to pick her up.
Now we have a little bit of background. What we learned is that perhaps it was the sheriff's department this morning that initiated that teleconference (INAUDIBLE) and that once the judge arrived, he didn't think that was going to work for him this morning.
COLLINS: I bet not.
FINNSTROM: He sent the sheriff's department to go pick up Paris Hilton. In just about a half hour here, this hearing is set to begin. The city attorney actually started all of this just hours after Hilton was sent home under house arrest early yesterday morning.
He's asked the judge to consider two things, one, whether justice has been served here, allowing Hilton to serve out the remainder of her sentence under house arrest because part of judge Michael Sauer's original sentence was stipulating that she not serve her time in that manner and second, to consider whether the sheriff here, Sheriff Levanca (ph) should be held in contempt of court for sending Hilton home. All of that will be considered here.
We're in line with a lot of other media people. This story continuing to attract a lot of attention. It's all over the local media, all over the radio here. And a lot of folks kind of considering the question here that this is no longer just a Hollywood celebrity trial but whether there's been a miscarriage of justice.
COLLINS: Hollywood movie in the making possibly is what I'm thinking, Kara.
COLLINS: Quickly I want to ask you something. Let me make sure I understand this correctly. Sheriff's department decided that she should get out of jail without judge's permission, I believe and then sheriff's department says oh sure, you can just call in. It's no problem.
HARRIS: Who's running that town?
COLLINS: I imagine the judge, Judge Sauer by now, he's very sour on these proceedings.
FINNSTROM: I think that is probably a fair assessment. It does seem that a lot of the drama in this story is taking place within the legal system. There seems to be a little bit of struggle here between what the sheriff's department wants to happen and what the judge believes should be happening. COLLINS: All right. Also, Kara, we're trying to find out here, we are looking at a live shot of the front door of the court. I imagine she's probably not going to walk through those front doors. Is that right, Kara?
FINNSTROM: We've heard so many different stories. I believe -- the word was if she did come, she'd be coming in a sheriff's vehicle and that he would be going underground.
FINNSTROM: So probably not going in through those front doors, probably going in through an underground entrance.
COLLINS: S secure entrance. In fact we are confirming that now here at CNN, that she will be going in a secured entrance. Kara Finnstrom, we know you're in line, headed on into these interesting proceedings. We can't wait to hear your reporting as it take place. Thanks, Kara.
FINNSTROM: Thank you.
HARRIS: She's turned that system on its head, Paris Hilton, how old is she? 19?
COLLINS: I don't know.
HARRIS: You've got a sheriff and a judge at odds over this young woman. What is going here? (INAUDIBLE)
COLLINS: I don't know.
HARRIS: We need to take a break. (INAUDIBLE) Let's do that.
COLLINS: Here we are. We're just all abuzz because of the situation with Paris Hilton. We are now, just in case you missed it a moment ago. Judge Sauer, the judge in the case who originally sentenced her to 45 days and in that sentencing said by the way, you will not be serving any of this time confined to your home with one of those electronic monitoring devices. Then, as you all know, they said oh yeah, later on, sure you will, that's fine. But now we have learned for a moment she was going to phone it in for her appearance today.
HARRIS: Heidi, how does she turn the entire L.A. legal system -- she's 15-years-old, isn't she? She just looks 15.
COLLINS: She's 26. You know what the good thing is. You can continue following this story Tony and the rest of the viewers with Steve Frazier (ph) coming up "Your World Today" is next.
COLLINS: We want to remind you quick that CNN NEWSROOM will be coming up at 1:00 just as Secretary Robert Gates will be making an announcement of a personnel change, a press conference he has called for 1:00 so they'll have that.
HARRIS: Now, "Your World Today" is next. Have a great weekend everyone. I'm Tony Harris.
COLLINS: And I'm Heidi Collins.
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