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PAULA ZAHN NOW
Who Is Fred Thompson?; Pregnant Woman Missing in Ohio; Barack Obama's Father's Day Advice
Aired June 18, 2007 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everybody. Thanks so much for joining us.
The "Law & Order" candidate -- you probably know Fred Thompson TV show better than his record. Is he really as conservative as Ronald Reagan?
Will presidential candidate Barack Obama's Father's Day advice for black dads win him votes or alienate folks out there?
Plus: the heartbreaking results of the mortgage mess. See what really happens when you're a victim.
We start with the presidential campaign tonight. It's really picking up some momentum. And, tonight, something very unusual is going on in the Republican Party. Some brand-new polls out show that the hottest candidate is someone who isn't even in the race yet. And his record is a mystery to many voters.
One thing is for sure. Former U.S. Senator Fred Thompson -- that is the same Fred Thompson who is a star of the TV show "Law & Order" -- is creating a lot of political drama.
Look at this. Thompson is in second place in a brand-new national poll of Republicans. Even more impressive, he's number one in South Carolina. That is a critical early primary state where Republicans like their presidential candidates to be Ronald Reagan conservative.
Well, does Fred Thompson really fit that role?
We asked senior political correspondent Candy Crowley to find out.
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): He is as eagerly awaited as a summer blockbuster, Fred Thompson...
FRED THOMPSON, FORMER U.S. SENATOR: Thank you very much.
CROWLEY: ... lauded as Reaganesque, the answer to discontent within the Republican Party, running second in some polls, first in others. The previews alone could doom him.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thompson has a very high bar now, because of the expectations, especially from the conservative wing of the Republican Party. And it's a bar that he's going to have to meet very quickly. So, not only is the bar high, but the -- the curve is steep.
CROWLEY: But it is more than just great expectations. There is the great scrutiny that will follow Thompson into the race, putting his record under the klieg lights.
BILL BENNETT, FORMER EDUCATION SECRETARY: ... because he was here for 10 years as a senator. Does anybody remember that? And what did he do as a senator in 10 years? That, I think, will be examined pretty closely.
CROWLEY (on camera): And do you think the answer may come up, not much?
BENNETT: I think the answer will come up, probably not too much.
CROWLEY (voice-over): And some of the record that's there shows that he can be both with and against party orthodoxy. In questionnaires and newspaper interviews in the early '90s, Thompson said he opposed criminalization of abortion, opposed a constitutional amendment protecting the sanctity of life.
In a 1994 interview with a Tennessee newspaper, Thompson said he was pro-life, but "not willing to support laws that prohibit early- term abortions."
Nevertheless, his voting record in the Senate was solidly anti- abortion, giving comfort to conservatives.
TONY PERKINS, PRESIDENT, FAMILY RESEARCH COUNCIL: I think he's going to have to reassure people that his record is more reflective of where he stands on this issue than past statements.
CROWLEY: Thompson has already said that the sonogram of his now 3-year-old daughter has put the issue in his heart, as well as his head.
What appears to most trouble the right is the issue of McCain- Feingold, campaign reform conservatives hate, because they believe it infringes on their rights to free speech. Thompson was instrumental in getting it passed. But, here, too, he has shifted rightward.
PERKINS: I think, since that has passed, and he's looked at the impact that that's had on the ability of citizens to participate in the political process, I believe he has said that it's -- it goes too far, with the blackout periods preceding elections.
CROWLEY: As a whole, conservatives, the base of the Republican Party, seem ready to view Thompson as one of their own.
BENNETT: The conversations are very short with listeners about Fred. "That's Fred. I like Fred. Fred's my guy."
What about his position on campaign? What about the old position on -- "I like Fred. I think Fred's the guy." CROWLEY: The stage has been set, said one conservatives. Now let's see if he can sing the high notes.
Candy Crowley, CNN, Washington.
ZAHN: And, when Thompson started testing the waters and raising some money, there was talk he might make an official announcement around the Fourth of July holiday. That, of course, is getting closer, but there's still no definite word on when or how or if Thompson will join that race.
I'm sure you have noticed a consistent theme in the Republican presidential race. Conservatives are really looking for another Ronald Reagan, but almost no one seems nostalgic about the current occupant of the White House. In fact, they hardly mention George W. Bush at all.
And that raises some really provocative questions. Is the president of the United States running on empty? Does he have any clout left? And can he really get anything done?
ZAHN (voice-over): Some people, including the president, think that winning an election is like striking it rich.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, NOVEMBER 4, 2004)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I earned capital in the campaign, political capital. And now I intend to spend it. It is my style.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAHN: That was only two-and-a-half years ago, but all that political capital was spent very quickly, the war in Iraq, Hurricane Katrina, a losing fight over Social Security reform. By last year, even the president's nonstop campaigning couldn't stop the Democrats from taking over Congress.
These days, the best video of the president drawing adoring crowds is from Albania. What it all means is that getting meaningful legislation, like immigration reform, through Congress is a tough sell.
SEN. JEFF SESSIONS (R-AL), ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE: I think the president is wrong to push this piece of legislation so hard, after we have demonstrated the flaws that are in it. He needs to back off.
ZAHN: Technically, a president isn't a lame duck until his successor has been elected. But recent two-term presidents also started limping well before Election Day.
The Iran-Contra scandal hobbled Ronald Reagan's presidency in 1987, about a year-and-a-half before his term ended; 1999's impeachment trial did the same thing to President Clinton. Now that it's mid-2007, is this president going lame right on schedule?
ZAHN: And here to talk presidential politics with me, Democratic strategist Julie Roginsky, longtime conservative activist Richard Viguerie, who is the author of "Conservatives Betrayed: How George W. Bush and Other Big Government Republicans Hijacked the Conservative Cause" -- also with us tonight Republican strategist Leslie Sanchez.
Glad to have all three of you with us.
ZAHN: I want to start off by having us all look at the some very strong comments being written in papers all over corner -- country -- including this one in "The Seattle Post-Intelligencer," where the writer said, "All Bush seems to do these days is embarrass us at the G8 Summit, with his backward-thinking on climate change, keep Attorney General Alberto Gonzales employed, and threaten to veto perfectly good bills. We're just killing time with him until the next president comes along."
Now, you think that's rough, check out what Rosa Brooks wrote in "The L.A. Times" about this president: "President Bush, a duck so lame, he's nearly quadriplegic. Six-and-a-half years into his interminable presidency, the whole world is sick of him."
Richard, is this president irrelevant?
RICHARD VIGUERIE, AUTHOR, "CONSERVATIVES BETRAYED: HOW GEORGE W. BUSH AND OTHER BIG GOVERNMENT REPUBLICANS HIJACKED THE CONSERVATIVE CAUSE": Well, he certainly is a seriously lame duck. And he's a lame duck that has no right wing.
The conservatives didn't so much abandon this president, Paula, as this president has abandoned -- as my book says, he has betrayed conservatives. And, if he strong-arms this amnesty -- bill for amnesty for illegal aliens, he's going to drive millions of more voters out of the Republican Party.
Grassroots conservative donors are abandoning the -- our national Republican committees in droves. And he could drive the final nail in the Republican coffin. And it could be decades before the Republican Party comes back.
ZAHN: And he certainly has hurt other fund-raising done by Republicans as well.
Leslie, just in 2006, at an event that he attended, in that year, he raised about -- if I get this math correctly -- about $11 million more than he did just last week at the same fund-raiser.
LESLIE SANCHEZ, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Right. ZAHN: How nervous should Republicans be, not only the conservatives Richard was just talking about, but -- but the rank-and- file in the middle of the party?
SANCHEZ: You know, Paula, that's probably the most important part. There's more than one branch of the Republican Party. The Republican Party is a big umbrella. The big tent, it was Ronald Reagan's vision. And there are many differing perspectives.
There are a couple things to think about with respect to President Bush. One, he -- historically, he faces the same challenges as any other president who is in the second term of their administration. Secondly, we have seen so many strong accomplishments, people forget, because of the cloud of the Iraq war.
ZAHN: All right, but you changed the subject. The money's not coming in the way it did just almost a year-and-a-half ago...
ZAHN: ... at the identical event.
ZAHN: Doesn't that show that people are nervous?
SANCHEZ: It shows that people are frustrated. It shows that people are -- are tired of the war. I mean, that was one thing Ronald Reagan did not have to deal with. We did deal with the Cold War, but this is a very different thing.
When people talk about the realignment of the party, I think that's something you're seeing here, Republicans and Democrats who are now calling -- you know, calling themselves progressives, and everybody really trying to adjust to what the marketplace is looking for.
That's why there is such a vacuum, I would say, in terms of candidates that are drawing appeal. With respect to fund-raising, Republicans are ready to give. Republicans are ready to engage. And the president is using his political capital to jump to that topic on third-rail politics.
He did it with Social Security reform, something nobody ever wanted to talk about. And he's doing it on immigration reform. And I would argue because he sees...
ZAHN: All right.
SANCHEZ: ... the long-term vision of the party, not the short- term.
ZAHN: Well, we see how little progress has been made on immigration reform. (LAUGHTER)
ZAHN: Look what happened just last week.
JULIE ROGINSKY, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Listen...
ZAHN: Julie Roginsky, with the poll approval numbers the president has, at, what, 29 percent in some polls...
ROGINSKY: If not worse, yes.
ZAHN: You have got to remember, Bill Clinton, even after this impeachment controversy, was at some 60 percent in the last year-and- a-half of his presidency. So, how does this president salvage any kind of legacy? Will he succeed, as -- what Leslie just said?
ROGINSKY: This president is doing something worse than acting like a lame duck. He's acting as an obstructionist.
Now, he can't get his own agenda passed. He can't get immigration passed. He can't get a war in Iraq that is successful. He really can't do much of anything positive. What he is doing, sadly, for me and a lot of other people, is, he's obstructing things. We don't have stem cell research, because he's got -- he doesn't have veto -- we don't have veto-proof majorities in the Congress.
He's not -- we're not pulling our troops out of Iraq in a responsible manner because of the fact that this president keeps vetoing legislation that's responsible...
ZAHN: All right.
ROGINSKY: ... and goes along with what the people want. And that, to me, is what is so sad.
ZAHN: Richard, you get the last word -- you can only take 10 seconds -- of what...
ZAHN: ... what the last year-and-a-half holds for this president.
VIGUERIE: That's kind of a laugh -- that's a laughable idea, that the president is not passing the Democratic agenda.
ROGINSKY: He's obstructing it, what the people want. It's not what the people want.
(CROSSTALK) ZAHN: There are a fair number of Republicans that want that bill passed, too.
ROGINSKY: Richard, it's not -- it's not what the Democrats want. It's what the American people want, over 70 percent.
VIGUERIE: That's a strange idea: Pass the Democratic agenda.
ZAHN: OK, Richard -- Richard, you have got to wrap this up here. And I have got to move on. Final word from you.
VIGUERIE: Oh, well, this president has betrayed his base. He's abandoned the voters. And, if 29 percent looks low now, it's going to look like the high watermark if he strong-arms this amnesty bill for illegal aliens.
I mean, the Washington politicians, Republicans and Democrats, are out of touch with the American people. The American people are angry. And Democrats and Republicans are ignoring the grassroots Americans.
ZAHN: We have got to leave it there, Richard Viguerie, Julie Roginsky, Leslie Sanchez.
See, he was giving your party some blame there, too, Julie.
ZAHN: And, right now, we are going to turn to the Democrats. Did you catch what president -- presidential candidate Barack Obama, that is, had to say about Father's Day and black kids?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There are a lot of men out there who need to stop acting like boys...
OBAMA: ... who need to realize the responsibility doesn't end at conception.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAHN: We will have more on that in a minute. Will the voters, especially black men, sit up and take notice, or will this drive some of them away?
And a little bit later on: an urgent search. She is nine months pregnant. Has she been kidnapped? And is the 2-year-old who was left behind the only person who knows what happened to his mom? Plus, we're going to take you back to the hospital where a woman was left to die on the emergency room floor without getting any treatment at all. Should someone go to jail for that?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: So, it's about to be Father's Day. Let's admit to ourselves...
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAHN: Tonight, Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama is campaigning in Iowa, but it is something that he said in South Carolina that is still echoing around the country.
On Friday, two days before Father's Day, Obama spoke out at an African-American church in Spartanburg. And he ripped into black men who walk away from the duty of raising their children.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: There are a lot of men out there who need to stop acting like boys...
OBAMA: ... who need to realize the responsibility doesn't end at conception, who need to know that what makes you a man is not the ability to have a child, but the courage to raise a child.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAHN: Tough talk for sure.
And the latest Mason-Dixon poll has Obama leading the Democratic race in South Carolina.
So, let's put his comments to an "Out in the Open" panel right now, attorney and "USA Today" contributor Raul Reyes, CNN contributor Roland Martin, who spoke with Obama about this very issue just last week, and Republican political strategist Amy Holmes.
Welcome back, all of you.
So, let's start off this panel by listening to another section of Obama's speech.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Many black men simply can't afford to raise a family, and too many have made the sad choice not to.
A fatherless household takes its toll. Children grow up without a father. And, if they grow up without a father, they are five times more likely to live in poverty and nine times more likely to drop out of school.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAHN: So, Roland Martin, you interviewed Obama just last week. Is he being fair to black fathers?
ROLAND MARTIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, he is being fair.
I mean, the bottom line is, 68 percent of black children are being born out of wedlock. And part of the problem is the fact that you don't have men who are assuming responsibilities.
Look, I don't have any children, but I'm taking care of four of my own nieces, primarily because they have sorry dads, you know, and so he's right on it. And he should be speaking truth.
"The Chicago Sun-Times" just yesterday -- today had a story of 130 deadbeat fathers, white, black, Hispanic, who were all arrested owing $1.5 million in child support. Nationally, $100 billion is owed by men in child support. Men should man up. He's absolutely right.
ZAHN: So, Amy, is the solution what he has proposed in the Fatherhood and Healthy Families Act? And we are going to put up some key parts of that on the screen right now as we speak.
Is he leaning too much on the government to solve these problems, and not putting enough pressure on the individual responsibility of fathers and men?
AMY HOLMES, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, I think, Paula, what we saw among -- one of the first good steps was welfare reform.
But, with welfare reform, we haven't seen fathers get more involved. And that's something that needs to be discussed culturally. And President Bush, he put in place an African-Americans healthy families initiative to try to encourage marriage.
We know, as Roland was talking about, that children do best in two-parent households. And the collapse of the African-American family has been one of the great tragedies of the African-American community. Back in 1960, 75 percent of kids were born to two-parent families.
Now, in 19 -- in -- in 1995, that's only -- that's down to 33 percent. So, I applaud Barack Obama for being willing to address this in a candid and forthright way about personal responsibility, because -- let's face it -- that's where it's going to start.
ZAHN: But does he have the right solution, when it comes to what you look to your government to do, Raul?
RAUL REYES, "USA TODAY" BOARD OF CONTRIBUTORS MEMBER: You know, I think, in this case, he actually does, because this is problem that is so out of hand. I think you could safely describe it as an epidemic. And I also think, just as a candidate, he has a personal connection to this issue. It's making him more viable, because I think it's helping me -- it's humanizing himself to the voters. And I do think -- I do think it's -- his solutions are very viable.
And I think it's -- it's good that he's bringing this up, because he's not just criticizing, the way Bill Cosby did a few years back, and -- which raised some controversy. He's also offering some concrete solutions. And I think that's very constructive for the community.
MARTIN: Now, Paula...
ZAHN: Roland, before you go on, I just want to put up another latest poll showing who blacks would vote for, Clinton with 46 percent of that vote, Obama with 37 percent, Edwards with 3 percent.
And we just mentioned, in South Carolina, this issue has helped Obama pick up some points there. Is he being courageous, or is he pandering to get more of the black vote?
MARTIN: No. First -- no. First of all, I don't see it as pandering.
I mean, again, a person who is president, even those who run for president, understand the bully pulpit. Governors do this. Mayors do this. This happens all the time. And, so, you have the ability, by virtue of speaking out on issues, because cameras are going to bee here. The media's going to talk it. And, so, you should be able to use that bully pulpit.
The other piece, Paula, is that, remember, he also didn't grow -- he grew up without his father. And, so, he takes it very personal. When we talked, he really talked about, you know, missing his children and his wife by being on the campaign trail.
And, so, this is not a guy who, all of a sudden, just woke up and realized, you know, black men are not taking care of their children, but also, you know, other men. He has talked about this beforehand. And I will hope John Edwards, Hillary Clinton, John McCain, all the candidates will...
ZAHN: All right.
MARTIN: ... begin to speak about issues...
MARTIN: ... beyond Iraq, and focus on some of these personal issues.
ZAHN: All right, Amy, you get a quick 10 seconds here.
But doesn't he risk alienating some folks out there? You remember what happened when Bill Cosby said essentially the same thing. A lot of blacks turned on him.
HOLMES: Sure. And there is that risk, that there's a feeling that it's unfair to be airing dirty laundry in public. But, you know, Paula, we need to get that laundry clean.
And, actually, if you poll African-Americans, privately, they are very conservative and very concerned about this trend in African- American families. I think, for Barack Obama, politically, it was smart for him to send this message, not only to African-Americans, but to the broader voters, who want to know that he is going to be an honest broker when it comes to racial issues.
ZAHN: Amy Holmes, Raul Reyes, Roland Martin, thank you, all.
Next, I want to focus in on a chilling mystery. Listen to this frantic mother's 911 call. She had just discovered that her pregnant daughter is missing.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
PATTY PORTER, MOTHER OF MISSING PREGNANT WOMAN: My God, something's wrong. She's -- she's due in two weeks. And she's just missing. Her car is here, her purse. The house is trashed. And she's not here.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
ZAHN: Coming up next: a disturbing disappearance, mysterious clues. Was her 2-year-old the only witness to a kidnapping?
Plus, what should happen to a hospital where a dying woman was ignored to death on the emergency room floor? Should someone go to jail for that?
ZAHN: Tonight, a desperate search continues in Ohio for a missing mother who is nine months pregnant -- left behind, her 2-year- old son, found home alone with a dirty diaper in a house that had been trashed.
CNN's Jim Acosta joins me now with the latest on a frightening 911 call and the search for this 26-year-old single mom.
Jim, I understand there was a big development in this case today.
Share that with us now.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Paula.
The big development today was the release of that 911 call from Patty Porter. She is the mother of 26-year-old Jessie Davis, the woman who is nine months pregnant, two weeks from delivering her second child. And the call basically involves Porter calling police, saying she had just gotten to her daughter's home, found her daughter missing, her 2-year-old grandson home alone. Patty Porter believes that someone, a stranger, abducted her daughter. And it all started with this call to police.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
PORTER: My daughter's gone. She's due in two weeks, and my grandson is here alone. And this whole house has been ransacked.
911 OPERATOR: How old is your...
PORTER: My grandson's 2.
911 OPERATOR: And he's gone?
PORTER: He's here alone.
911 OPERATOR: OK. You need to calm down, so I can understand you.
PORTER: I'm trying.
911 OPERATOR: OK.
PORTER: He's here alone, and she's gone. Her car's here.
911 OPERATOR: Who's gone?
PORTER: My daughter.
911 OPERATOR: OK. How old is she?
PORTER: She's 27 years old.
911 OPERATOR: OK. And how old is the child that was left alone?
PORTER: She didn't leave him alone. My God, something's wrong. She's -- she's due in two weeks. And she's just missing. Her car is here, her purse. The house is trashed. And she's not here.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
ACOSTA: And, Paula, as you can hear in that tape, Patty Porter very emotional, and also emotional about what is happening with her 2- year-old son in all of this. He has been saying ever since his mother disappeared basically the same thing over and over again: "Mommy's in the rug. Mommy's in the rug."
Every time a reporter goes to the house and talks to Patty Porter, the grandson will chime in with that very statement.
We have a little bit of sound that will let you hear some of what that little boy has said about this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And, as we were interviewing Porter, Jessie's son blurts out...
PORTER: The smell was really strong in the house.
BLAKE, SON OF JESSIE DAVIS: Mommy in the rug.
PORTER: Mommy's in the rug, he keeps saying.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ACOSTA: And what -- and what basically is going on there is that, as I said, every time Patty Porter is asked about this, the grandson chimes in, "Mommy's in the rug."
And what Patty Porter, the grandmother of that boy, believes is that he's really talking about this comforter which police say is missing from Jessie Davis' home. They have not located that comforter. And it basically looks like an oriental rug, which is why the little boy, who is only 2 years old -- doesn't even know what comforter mean -- means -- keeps saying: "Mommy's in the rug. Mommy's in the rug" -- Paula.
ZAHN: Oh, that is -- that is so scary.
Do police have any suspects in mind at this hour?
ACOSTA: No, they don't. And they have been repeating that ever since day one in this case,, that they have no suspects.
Now, a lot of questions have come up about Jessie Davis' ex- boyfriend, a man by the name of Bobby Cutts. He's a local police officer in Canton, Ohio, and is also the father of Blake, that 2-year- old boy, and believed to be the father of Jessie's unborn child.
And, at this point, police are saying he is not a suspect. And, tonight, we're told by Canton police that he's on administrative leave. But that is for his reasons, that he is just so devastated by what has happened -- Paula.
ZAHN: Jim Acosta, thanks so much for the update. We will stay in touch with you and report any new developments as they happen.
We move on now. Tonight, a hospital scandal continues to unfold. People are absolutely outraged. One woman was ignored until she died on the emergency room floor.
Next: Is the scandal bad enough to send some people to jail and close the hospital down altogether?
ZAHN: Tonight we have some new information to bring "out in the open" about that shocking case of a woman who was virtually ignored to death in a Los Angeles hospital emergency room. There's some new calls tonight for a criminal investigation and we're getting some new details on the woman's condition and treatment in the ER leading up to her death. Ted Rowlands have been following this story for us and has this report for us tonight.
DISPATCHER: OK, what do you mean she's dying? What's wrong with her?
CALLER: She's vomiting blood.
TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The desperate 911 calls came during the final minutes of a shocking breakdown in emergency care at MLK Harbor Hospital in Los Angeles. Before she died, 43-year-old Edith Rodriguez was ignored by hospital staff as she tried to get help.
According to a hospital report, obtained by CNN, Rodriguez showed up showing up of stomach pain every day for three days before she died. Each time she was given pain medication and sent home. The third day, she was given an appointment to come back.
Nobody knew it, but Rodriguez, who was described in a coroner's report as having a, "quasi-transient lifestyle with a history of narcotic abuse," was going to die from an undetected perforated bowel. What follows are the details of the report showing how she was treated in the hours before her death.
At 12:34 a.m., the morning of March 9, death Rodriguez was found by patrol officers at the hospital who helped her to the emergency room. But instead of giving her an exam, the report says the nurse at the ER window "eyeballed" the patient and said, "thanks a lot, officers, she's a regular here, this is her third time here. She has already been seen and been discharged."
The nurse then told Rodriguez, according to the report, "You have already been seen and there is nothing we can do. You already have an appointment."
Rodriguez then, according to the report, fell to the ground screaming in the fetal position. As the nurse told her, "get off the floor, and onto a chair."
For the next 30 minutes, according to the report, surveillance tape shows Rodriguez on the floor, with staff members cleaning up around her, but doing nothing to help her.
"Patient #1 was on the floor in the ER lobby kicking with her feet," the report reads. Her boyfriend was so upset, the staff wouldn't help her, he went to police who were stationed at the hospital. The report reads, "He then went to the police window next to the ER And asked them to help the patient because the ER Staff would not."
A few minutes later, at 1:43 a.m., the boyfriend, was so desperate, he called 911.
CALLER: I'm in the emergency room. My wife is dying, and the nurses don't want to help her out. ROWLANDS: At 1:50 the police finally show up, not to help her, but to arrest her. They had learned she had an outstanding warrant. According to the report, "Police officers arrived and wheeled patient #1 out of the ER lobby."
Edith Rodriguez was pronounced dead 27 minutes later.
CARMAN RODRIGUEZ, SISTER DIED IN EMERGENCY ROOM: We're just devastated the way she was treated and the way she was left there like an animal.
GLORIA MOLINA, L.A. COUNTY SUPERVISOR: Why didn't they help Miss Rodriguez?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I wish I knew the answer to that question.
ROWLANDS: Last week hospital officials were grilled by county supervisors about what's being done to correct problems found by federal investigators.
MOLINA: We are jeopardizing the lives. We are playing Russian roulette with everybody who is right now waiting in that emergency room.
ROWLANDS: Next month federal officials are expected to decide to keep funding the hospital. Many people are concerned that MLK Harbor may close. Others, however, because of what happened to Edith Rodriguez are concerned about keeping it open.
Ted Rowland, CNN, Los Angeles.
ZAHN: The Rodriguez children are about to file a lawsuit against Los Angeles County, over Edith's death, and right now I want to turn to her youngest, her daughter, Kimberly Rodriguez, who joins me now with her attorney, representing Edith's children, Frank Casco.
Good to have both of you with us tonight. Kimberly, I am so sorry about your loss. And we just heard your aunt describe how devastating it was to learn how your mom could have been left there with -- for a half-hour period, basically with people walking by and not even seeing how much trouble she was in. If you are successful and you are allowed to see the videotape, also showing us what happened at that period of time, what might that tell you that you don't already know?
KIMBERLY RODRIGUEZ, MOTHER DIED IN EMERGENCY ROOM: It would tell me a lot about -- it will give us a lot of understanding about what happened. It would let us know how the hospitals are being run. It would let us know if they have any compassion for these patients that are still coming in asking for help, looking for help. For the fact that their lives could be jeopardized, things could be prevented, yet they don't want to help, so they just sit there, so this two give us a lot of answers that we need to clarify a lot of things that are going on.
ZAHN: Would you like to see this hospital shut down altogether or just those that were involved in negligence, fired?
K. RODRIGUEZ: At the moment, I would like to have no comment on that, because I'm not quite sure what's going to happen.
ZAHN: And, Frank...
K. RODRIGUEZ: But I know that there will be justice.
ZAHN: You know you say there will be justice. Frank, in your judgment, what would be justice for this family? It was so chilling to hear these 911 calls and the repeated attempts that were made to get Miss Rodriguez help. Everybody ignored her.
FRANK CASCO, ATTY FOR RODRIGUEZ CHILDREN: That's correct, Paula. First of all, thank you very much for having us on your show.
ZAHN: My pleasure.
CASCO: And the most important thing right now is for us to get a copy of that tape. My clients want to see the tape now. They shouldn't have to wait. And in order for me to get the tape, I need to file a lawsuit as soon as possible...
ZAHN: So, is that the main purpose of the lawsuit, then, that you're not going after any financial settlement, right now, you simply just want to see this videotape that will give you clues as to how this death happened?
CASCO: That's correct. We -- we need to see the videotape. The public needs to see the videotape. I believe my clients need to see the videotape, today. Why should they have to wait? Everyone else has seen it. I hear this issue of confidentiality, but how many people have seen the tape?
We even have people talking on national TV of the facts on the tape. What confidentiality is there? I don't see the issue of confidentiality. The only issue the tape is not released is because they're investigating for criminal charges. And I understand the reason behind that. But in order for me to have power of -- subpoena power, I need to file a lawsuit. And I've been instructed by my clients to do what it takes for them to get a copy of that tape as soon as possible.
ZAHN: Well, I know if it comes to pass, it'll be difficult for all of you to watch. But Kimberly Rodriguez, Frank Casco, thank you for your time tonight. And...
K. RODRIGUEZ: Thank you.
CASCO: Thank you very much, Paula.
ZAHN: ...to follow this with you. When the authorities broke off the alleged terror plot to bomb New York's Kennedy's Airport, it brought a dark side of law enforcement "out in the open." That case and thousands of other hinges on the testimony of snitches -- people who turn in others to get a break for themselves.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS BROWN, WHOSARAT.COM: They're given a reductions or complete walks on crimes they've committed as well as a virtual license to commit more and more heinous crime.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
Coming up next, the controversial world of informants, snitches, and tattletales. Can you really trust them?
We also have an amazing story. One woman's desperate fight to keep her home in the face of the nightmare of foreclosure. Be back with more.
ZAHN: We're bringing "out in the open" tonight, a shocking revelation about the alleged terrorist plot to blow up Kennedy Airport. The Smoking Gun Web site says a key police source in the case is a convicted crack dealer with a history of working for police as an informer. And you can bet the defense will try to turn that to its advantage in court. And it puts a spotlight on the issue of informants in criminal cases.
What if I told you there's a Web site you can visit devoted to revealing the identities of informers? It's called Whosarat.com and it offers t-shirts that say "stops snitching." Justice correspondent Kelli Arena brings this controversy "out in the open."
KELLI ARENA, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The slur is as old as crime itself.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "TAXI")
JAMES CAGNEY, ACTOR: Come out and take it, you dirty, yellow- bellied rat, or I will give it you through the door.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ARENA: And, in some neighborhoods, being tagged a rat, a snitch, or whatever you want to call it could get you into big trouble. That's why the government, which relies on informants to make many cases, is so mad at this guy, Chris Brown...
BROWN: Nobody likes a tattletale.
ARENA: ...and the Web site he runs, Whosarat.com. The site claims to be the largest database of police informants.
Brown claims he won't allow the posting of innocent witnesses to crimes, but only accused criminals trying to cut a deal.
BROWN: They're given reduction or complete walks on crimes that they have committed, as well as a virtual license to commit more and more heinous crime.
ARENA: There are names, faces, plea deals, all posted by paid members. Many of those members, Brown says, are relatives of people locked up with the help of informants.
But he admits there's no process to make sure the people featured on the site are actual informants.
Justice Department official Ron Tenpas says, what Brown is doing is incredibly damaging, not just to the justice system, but it's also dangerous to the informants themselves.
(on camera): Do you have any evidence of -- of any real threats or harm that has come to somebody as a result of this Web site or others like it?
RON TENPAS, JUSTICE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Well, for example, we had one case in which the witness' name was posted on the Web site, and then they essentially woke up one morning to find flyers posted on telephone poles in the neighborhood identifying them as somebody who was helping the government. And we ended up having to relocate that witness.
ARENA (voice-over): The Justice Department acknowledges it can't shut the site down. So, it's trying to make it harder for people to get information about informants online.
The judge aiming to settle the dispute says he's trying to balance the right to privacy with the public's right to know.
JUDGE JOHN TUNHEIM, U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE: One option would be to take plea agreements off the electronic case files, and have them still available to anyone, including the news media or any member of the public in the clerk's office, by a paper copy.
ARENA: OK, so, if he's all for openness, why did our Web site administrator ask us to hide his face?
BROWN: I don't need to be harassed because some cop who knows another cop who was involved in an investigation whose snitch doesn't want to talk anymore because of the Web site.
ARENA: A concern he apparently doesn't have about the people he's calling rats.
Kelli Arena, CNN, Washington.
ZAHN: So is it wrong to expose snitches? Are informers really the best weapons to use in the fight against crime and terror, are they just trying to get a get out of jail free card? Joining me tonight, defense attorney Bob Clark and former prosecutor and deputy homicide chief in New York, Paul Callan. Welcome to you both.
So, Bob, we heard that the center of this case in the JFK terror plot, you've got an informant who was a crack dealer and a serial snitch who's been used repeatedly in cases. As a defense attorney, do you have a problem with that?
BOB CLARK, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Oh, I think it's a very big problem. I'm -- not just in that case, but in millions of cases where they go out and a snitch creates a crime. That's what they're in the business of doing, a snitch set these people up. How do we know whether or not they were inclined to go blow up JFK or not? What if the snitch called them up and said: Look, I got this -- I got this deal, can you help me with it? I don't know. I mean, you don't know, but let me ask you this -- would you buy a used car from a snitch?
ZAHN: Well, I wouldn't, Paul Callan, but you've had to.
PAUL CALLAN, NY DPTY HOMICIDE CHIEF: Well, yeah.
ZAHN: As a prosecutor, you have to admit you've been burned before.
CALLAN: Well and, you know, if the price is right on the car and it's a good quality car, you would buy it from a snitch and the truth of the matter is, you know, when prosecutors do a deal like this, they're making a deal with the devil, but they're making a deal to advance a social good.
The story I was telling you off the air, I had a case as a prosecutor, a small grocery store had been robbed, the owner had been brutally killed. We caught the lookout in the case. We didn't get the shooter, there were no eyewitness. We made a deal with the lookout to come in and testify against the shooter.
Now, is that wrong to do that? The lookout got a lesser sentence. He's a snitch. He's a rat. But, you know, something, we put the shooter behind bars. So I say that was the right thing to do under the circumstances.
ZAHN: And, you know, there are a lot of circumstances like this, Bob. Are you saying that you should -- that the use of a rat is never justified?
CLARK: No, no. I didn't mean to imply that it was never justified. But I'm just saying, that anything that is -- that is exclusive purview of the government, that where's the oversight? When can you use a snitch and when can you not use a snitch? To what extent can you do it? And what circumstances can't you? There's nobody watching the gatekeeper. Those people can do -- they can make any deal they want to. They can do anything. And it's buying evidence is what -- is what it boils down to.
CLARK: If you say -- the guy makes $40,000 a year, and I say, well look, you're going away to prison for 10 years, how about here's $400,000, tell the story my way. That gets him locked up.
ZAHN: Doesn't he raise an interesting question, though, about how you police this?
ZAHN: But you said, you got to pick your poison in these cases.
CALLAN: It's tough to police. And you know, you need ethical prosecutors who do the right thing and this is a time...
CLARK: Oh, yeah.
ZAHN: Oh yeah.
CALLAN: And this is a time to talk about that with Nifong. Yeah, I know, well, that's what I was thing about.
ZAHN: Yeah, that guy's disbarred.
CALLAN: But, the bottom line is we have a system. We have a jury of 12 people. They hear all of the evidence. They know what deal the snitch made. They know what his -- what he's going to get for the plea. They get cross-examined by somebody like Bob Clark. So the jury hears the entire story and we think that the jury can make the right decision.
ZAHN: You do believe that the jury can make those kinds of judgments, don't you -- Bob.
CLARK: Absolutely not. First of all, first of all, the prosecutor, federal prosecutors, especially in the southern district of Alabama and every district I've ever appeared in, the prosecutor never tells you what they're giving the snitch. What they prompt the snitch to say, what they tell them what to say is, now, when you go in there and the defense attorney starts saying, well, you were looking at 50 years, don't say, yeah, just say, I don't know what I'm going to get. I made a deal with the government, but the judge is making the decision of what I get. That's not true. And prosecutors never tell you, we're going to recommend a 50 percent downward departures in the plea agreement. So you don't know what's going on.
CALLAN: Every time the snitch can be cross-examined on that very issue.
ZAHN: OK, gentlemen.
CLARK: Absolutely and they always say... ZAHN: I got to cut off the cross-examination of both of you. I got to move on to a commercial. Paul Callan, Bob Clark. Thank you, both. Appreciate it.
Moving on to the issue of the mortgage mess is one of this year's most heartbreaking stories. We have found one woman who's American dream just ended up scattered all over the yard.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
QUINCY ALEXANDER, EVICTED HOMEOWNER: I'm hurting like hell -- inside. But there's nothing I can do about it. I can't do nothing about it. I got to go on.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAHN: She owned her home for 17 years. Coming up next -- what went wrong?
ZAHN: "Out in the open" tonight, foreclosures are skyrocketing nationwide. In May, they were up a stunning 90 percent from just a year ago, but the numbers are even more frightening in Atlanta, where foreclosures are running at an incredible four times the national average. And for some families, foreclosures turn into a heartbreak.
A month ago we introduced you to an Atlanta woman who was praying it wouldn't happen to her. Tonight, as we continue to track the mortgage mess, Deborah Feyerick has the rest of the woman's story in tonight's "Biz Break."
DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Quincy Alexander dreamed about this house. Long before she bought it 17 years ago, she saw it in a vision. The porch, the wooden swing, just high enough to dangle her feet. Last week, destiny took a turn, she was evicted.
ALEXANDER: I work hard to stay here and try to make this house what it is. And they wouldn't even me. They throw me on the street like I was an old shoe.
FEYERICK: Every memory, every detail of her life, dragged outside, for all to see.
(on camera): Do you feel a little lost, at loose ends?
ALEXANDER: Yeah. Yeah. I'm hurting like hell -- inside. But there's nothing I can do about it. I can't do nothing about it. I got to go on.
FEYERICK (voice-over): The Atlanta home is the only one her daughter Robin, a high school honor student, has ever known.
ROBIN WIMBISH, QUINCY ALEXANDER'S DAUGHTER: We didn't do nothing to nobody, so we really didn't deserve this.
FEYERICK: And yet, across the country, a record number of people like Alexander are losing their homes. Some 2.4 million foreclosures expected in the next few years.
(on camera): But not every eviction looks like this one, with belongings scattered across the lawn. A short walk from Quincy Alexander's on the very same road, houses like this one padlocked. Real estate agents say it's a sure sign of foreclosure that whoever once lived here was evicted and the bank now owns the property.
(voice-over): Georgia had 80,000 foreclosures last year, up 70 percent from the year before.
BILL BRENNAN, ATLANTA LEGAL AID: The subprime mortgage industry has basically decided we'll just make loans to anybody. We'll make loans whether they can pay or not.
FEYERICK: Which, in many respects, is what happened to Quincy Alexander. She's an unemployed nurse's aide and she says her income was zero when she refinanced to cash in on some of the equity in her home.
(ON CAMERA): Whoever appraises this property appraised it at $360,000 back in December of 2005. What do you think about this?
DAVID SCHENCK, REAL ESTATE, REMAX EXECUTIVE: I think they were dreaming. I don't -- I don't think this is anywhere close to reality.
FEYERICK: The reality on this property right now, how much would you appraise it for?
SCHENCK: Like I said, I have not seen the inside, but 110,000. 115,000.
FEYERICK: What does that suggest to you?
SCHENCK: It suggests there's some fraud at one or more levels of the transaction.
FEYERICK (voice-over): Washington Mutual, the primary lender, tells CNN a third party qualified Alexander for the loan based on specific criteria, including an income listed as $85,000 on the loan document.
The company says it tracks fraud and takes legal action when necessary. Though a spokesman wouldn't say whether that would happen in this case.
But, for Quincy Alexander and her daughter, it's already too late. They're staying with relatives, figuring out what to do next.
Deborah Feyerick, CNN, Atlanta, Georgia.
ZAHN: Just a few more minutes. We are going to change our attention to LARRY KING LIVE. Here comes the judge. Judge Judy joins Larry King to talk about Paris, as in Paris Hilton, Scooter Libby and more, coming up at the top of the hour. We'll be right back.
ZAHN: That's it from us. Good night everyone, thanks for joining us.
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