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Dog Fight Charges: Vick Pleads Not Guilty

Aired July 26, 2007 - 21:00   ET


LISA BLOOM, COURT TV, HOST: Tonight, NFL superstar Michael Vick pleads not guilty to federal dogfighting charges that could end his $130 million career and put him in jail.
Did he help organize bloody battles to the death on property he owns?

Were some pit bulls really killed by shooting, hanging, drowning and electrocution?

Now, investigators take us inside the savage secret big money world of illegal dogfights.

Plus, breaking news in the horrifying home invasion that shocked a quiet well-to-do Connecticut town, leaving a prominent doctor's wife and two daughters dead in their burning house. Prosecutors will seek the death penalty against the two ex-con suspects.

But why were those career criminals free on parole?

it's all next on "LARRY KING LIVE".

Good evening.

I'm Lisa Bloom of Court TV in for Larry King tonight.

A word of warning -- we're going to be showing you some graphic video of dogfighting -- the vicious underground sport that's been dragged aboveground by ugly allegations against Michael Vick, one of pro-football's highest paid superstars.

Vick pleaded not guilty today in a Richmond, Virginia courtroom to federal conspiracy charges -- he and three associates accused of running a dogfighting operation called Bad News Kennels on rural Virginia property that Vick owns -- and of conducting that enterprise across state lines.

With us tonight Randall Lockwood, Ph.D. of the ASPCA, senior vice president for anti-cruelty initiatives and legislative services. And he's an expert on interactions between people and animals.

And from Richmond, Virginia, John Goodwin, manager of animal fighting issues with the Humane Society of the United States. And he investigates dogfighting.

John, to you, what is dogfighting? JOHN GOODWIN, INVESTIGATES DOG FIGHTS FOR HUMANE SOCIETY OF U.S.: There are people that breed these dogs for high levels of aggression, for incredible strength and pit them against each other in these battles where they fight until one dog is either dead or so injured that it can no longer continue to fight. They do this for blood lust and they do this for gambling.

BLOOM: And how widespread is this so-called sport?

GOODWIN: Dogfighting is far more pervasive than many people realize. I think now there's a bit of a spotlight on this issue and people are learning a lot.

But animal control officers and people that run municipal animal shelters have been telling me for years that the number of pit bulls with the scars on their bodies indicating they've been the victims of these fights has been increasing every single year for the past five or 10 years.

BLOOM: And this is associated with gambling?

How big are the purses?

How much money is involved in these fights?

GOODWIN: There was a dogfight near Houston, Texas last year where two grand champion dogs, meaning two dogs who had each won at least five contracted fights, were going into each other. The purse was $100,000.

Now, this came to light because the man whose dog won that fight, Thomas Wegner, was later tracked down to his home and murdered in front of his family by other people that wanted to get that money he'd won at the dogfight. This is a very violent subculture and there is a lot of money involved at the highest level of dogfighting.

BLOOM: And, John, I read -- I read this 18-page indictment today. It's filled with absolutely sickening allegations -- allegations that these dogs, if they didn't live up to their owners' expectations, they were covered with water, electrocuted, slammed against walls until they were dead, otherwise beaten and tortured. One allegation even accuses them of raping a dog, holding her down, forcing her to breed.

How common is this kind of stuff?

GOODWIN: Well, unfortunately, it's quite common. Dogfighters will routinely kill any dog that they do not believe is going to be able to perform well enough in the fighting pit, that won't show enough aggression towards other dogs or that simply doesn't show the willingness to continue fighting when they're severely hurt. This is what dogfighting is. And now the American public is seeing it, front and center.

BLOOM: Well, we absolutely are.

And, Randall, of course, Michael Vick pleaded not guilty. He is innocent until proven guilty. These are only allegations at this point.

But what we're learning is that this goes on.

What kind of a human being would take a dog -- a loyal, trusting, loving animal that most of us enjoy spending time with -- and train it to fight?

RANDALL LOCKWOOD, PH.D. ASPCA, SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT FOR ANTI- CRUELTY INITIATIVES: Well, someone totally without empathy, without compassion. I think dogfighting, really, is the most egregious violation of that special bond that people have with dogs, in particular, that we can produce animals that are willing to suffer and die for our amusement. I mean that's just an incredibly horrific development in that relationship. And this has been going on for centuries. My own organization, the ASPCA, was largely founded back in 1866, partly to go after dogfighting proliferating in New York City at that time.

So this -- this has been a major operation for almost 150 years, perhaps even longer in this country.

BLOOM: And not withstanding the efforts of the ASPCA, is it getting worse in 2007?

LOCKWOOD: I think it is. Certainly the street fighting, the gang related activity, is on the rise. I agree with John that animal shelters are reporting more and more animals coming in with evidence of fighting.

But I think another aspect of this is people are reporting it more. This is a very disturbing crime in the community, particularly when it's occurring at the street level, because, you know, you have people out in the open. Many of these fights are in back alleys or schoolyards. You have young men often poorly controlling potentially dangerous dogs. So not only is there the fear of the crime and the disgust of the dogfighting itself, but there are drugs, there are guns, there is gambling, there is alcohol.

And just the presence of dogfighting in a community, it's worse than the broken window type crimes. It's something that makes everybody feel ashamed and unsafe in a community.

BLOOM: Well, Michael Vick -- if, indeed, he is good for these crimes, as charged against him -- help me understand how somebody who's got a $130 million contract, is playing for the NFL, is the starting quarterback, has the world at his feet, why would he engage in this kind of an activity?

LOCKWOOD: I mean, that's the big question. Certainly he doesn't need the money. The interesting thing in the indictment is that the fights that are described there are $3,000, $6,000. One or two of the fights are on the order of $20,000. Even that is relatively small change compared to some of the fights that we've seen.

The other interesting thing about the indictment is a lot of the dogs that he allegedly was supporting were losing. BLOOM: Right.

LOCKWOOD: a lot of the reports of the fights there are fights that lost. That's why these animals allegedly were so brutally dispatched.

So you have to look to something else. Clearly, in this case, it wasn't about the money, although it often is for other dogfighters. So whether it is the -- living vicariously through an animal that, again, is fighting your battles, that's willing to -- to fight, that's a source of pride when your animal is a gladiator that you own, that you control. And...

BLOOM: And is it primarily pit bulls?

Is that the breed you see most often?

LOCKWOOD: In this country that's become the dog of choice. When dogfighting first got started in this country, actually, it was the English Bull Terrier -- the Spuds McKenzie dogs were more widely used.

But over the years, it's really become the American Pit Bull Terrier as the dog of choice, not only in this country, but we're exporting it to other countries, as well.

BLOOM: All right. Well, we invited Michael Vick or his representatives to join us on the program tonight.

Michael Vick and his representatives declined, but they have this statement today.


BILLY MARTIN, MICHAEL VICK'S ATTORNEY: This is Michael's words: "Today in court, I pleaded innocent to the allegations made against me. I take these charges very seriously and look forward to clearing my good name. I respectfully ask all of you to hold your judgment until all of the facts are shown. Above all, I would like to say to my mom, I'm sorry for what she has had to go through in this most trying of times. It has caused pain to my family and I apologize to my family. I also want to apologize to my Falcon teammates for not being with them at the beginning of spring training."



BLOOM: Pit Bull John Henry is joining us now with his human companion, Tamar Geller, co-author of "The Love Dog: The Playful, Non- Aggressive Way To Teach Your Dog Good Behavior;" as well as Barbara Eden, actress beloved by millions for her starring role in TV's "I Dream of Jeannie," looking gorgeous, as always.

Barbara and Tamar and John Henry, thanks for joining us.


BLOOM: Tamar, help us understand what's going on here.

You brought John Henry with us. You're obviously a lover of pit bulls.

Why do people take a dog like this and train it to fight and kill and revel in that suffering?

GELLER: You know, what?

I'm not a psychologist, but anyone who takes pleasure seeing someone suffering, in my mind, they have some level of -- they've got to be psychopaths because these breeds are so, so lovely. They're so devoted to people. They're so smart. They were never bred to be nasty. And it's like what they're doing is absolutely about their own sickness, not about the pit bulls.

Look at him.

Who's a good boy, John Henry?

BLOOM: Give him a scratch behind the ears for me.

Why do people, Tamara, why do they pick this breed for fighting?

What is it about pit bulls?

GELLER: Well, in the 1800s they were bred to -- they were pitting them against bulls. So they were -- they were bred to be very strong and to be pretty aggressive.

The issue when that was outlawed, then they started pitting them against each other. But what they are doing today with them is absolutely -- it's outlaw, it's terrible, it's barbaric, it's nasty. And if you leave a pit bull to its own, without breeding him for that and training him for that, the pit bull will just want to snuggle with you.

BLOOM: Under what circumstances are they dangerous, Tamara?

GELLER: Well, it goes case by case. I mean it's kind of like if you look at -- if you look at prison or jail and you look at what is the largest ethnic group and ethnic group that is in a prison, can you make a massive statement to say all that ethnic group are bad?

Absolutely not.

It's the same with pit bulls. You have phenomenal dogs, loving, like -- like John Henry here -- like John Stewart has a phenomenal pit bull named Monkey. Rachel Ray has a wonderful pit bull.

A lot of wonderful people who raise the dog to be loving. And then some of the dogs who find their way into the system who were bred to fight, who were encouraged, who have been conditioned to that's how to view life -- through fighting.

BLOOM: And Barbara Eden, I know you had a pit bull named Rudy who died of old age.

Why did you pick that breed?

EDEN: My son picked him. I came home one day from location and he had this little orange ball in his hand. And he says mom, mom, you promised I could have a dog if I took care of it. And then a year later he moved out. He went to school.



EDEN: but I'm so happy he did. That was one of the most wonderful companions. And he was such a gentleman, little Rudy. Such a good dog.

BLOOM: Well, it sounds like your son was about as good at taking care of the dog as most kids are.

EDEN: Yes.

BLOOM: But you were glad to have him.

Did you ever have any problems with him?

EDEN: None.

BLOOM: The dog, not the son.

EDEN: No, none. Absolutely none. He was -- he was well behaved. Of course, he was trained. He was great with people. He loved people. He liked to cuddle. He -- a sweet face. A big bark.


EDEN: A huge bark.

BLOOM: A good watchdog?

EDEN: But I can't imagine anyone hurting him. I just -- that -- that breaks my heart when I hear of this.

And you know something else that really bothers me?

BLOOM: What?

EDEN: Is that -- I know it's -- these -- all these, it's alleged, this behavior. We don't know that Michael Vick did this.

But if he did, what a shame.

What's wrong with our athletes?

All the young people in this world who look up to athletes, they expect fair play and honesty. And one after another, they're just toppling off the top...

BLOOM: Yes, well, it is...

EDEN: It makes me sad.

BLOOM: You're right. It is sad, you know?

Barbara -- this -- I mean this is a cute dog. Look at him. I mean he's -- he's adorable. He's absolutely adorable.

But you probably experienced, Barbara, walking down the street with your pit bull, Rudy. People recoiled a little bit. They pulled back a little bit.

There's some fear of this breed, right?

EDEN: Yes, people are afraid of this breed and -- but I think that most people have respect for dogs they don't know.

But the pit bulls, yes. I think the minute they see one they think it's going to be aggressive and they're not.

BLOOM: Yes...

EDEN: I can't say all of them aren't. But most of them aren't. And if you see someone with one on a leash who is heeling, you know that they're well behaved and socialized.

BLOOM: Yes, that leads to a great e-mail question from one of our viewers.

And, Tamara, let me address this to you. John in Glendale, California says: "Can a dog that has been trained to fight be rehabilitated to live a normal family life?"

GELLER: No. The answer is no. A complete normal life, absolutely not. There are degrees -- there are degrees of how much you can rehabilitate a dog like that, which obviously, you want to teach him qualities that he should have learned as a puppy, of love and trust and connecting and being socialized, like Barbara said.

And if he never learned that as a puppy, it's going to be very, very difficult. Sometimes you can. Often, it's just too far. (INAUDIBLE).

BLOOM: So what happens to dogs that have been bred and trained for these vicious dogfights if, by some miracle, they survive this horrendous so-called sport?

What are their lives like?

GELLER: Well, miserable lives. They cannot be around people. They cannot be around dogs. They are -- they used to live on very high energy, because they were bred to always be on edge. And they're not suitable. So they keep them for a little bit in the shelter, trying to rehabilitate them. But then, oftentimes, they're put to sleep. And we have millions of them, sweet dogs, who did nothing wrong, who did not choose -- did not choose that lifestyle -- who are being put to sleep.

BLOOM: When we come back, Michael Vick faces some serious federal charges -- conspiracy for dogfighting.

We're going to pull apart those legal problems and analyze them.

Don't go away.


DREW GRIFFIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In all, 40 people have come to watch, which in Ohio is a felony.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You really run the spectrum. There is -- there's actual businesspeople who will frequent these; street people; and everyone in between. One of the fighters brought his grandkids.



BLOOM: Michael Vick facing some serious federal charges -- conspiracy for dogfighting.

What are the legal issues?

Well, let's take a close look now.

Joining us from Los Angeles, Lisa Lang, senior vice president of communications for PETA, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

With us from New York, Roland Martin, radio talk show host and nationally syndicated columnist and CNN contributor.

From San Francisco, Michael Cardoza, a defense attorney who was involved in that high profile San Francisco dog mauling case.

And in Miami, Stacey Honowitz, Florida assistant state attorney.

Welcome to you all.

Lisa, let me begin with you, because protesters were outside the courthouse in Richmond, Virginia, today.

Was PETA satisfied with that protest?

LISA LANCE, SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT, COMMUNICATIONS, PEOPLE FOR THE ETHICAL TREATMENT OF ANIMALS: Yes. We were satisfied with the protest. We won't be satisfied until Michael Vick gets suspended from the NFL. We think the NFL should move swiftly -- or at least swiftly now. And we'd like Nike to drop and pull all the Vick merchandise.

But the protests are going well. Americans love football, but they love dogs more. And when you read that indictment, which you can read at, you read about dogs being slammed into the ground, being wetted down and electrocuted, hung and shot when they're tested in fights and don't do well.

It's the stuff of nightmares. It's very sad. The pit bull is the most abused dog in this country, but they're very sweet animals, as you heard in the earlier segment. Many of these dogs...

BLOOM: Well, sickening allegations, no question about it.

But isn't he innocent until proven guilty?

LANCE: Yes, in a court of law. Whether or not he was directly involved with slamming those dogs to the ground and hanging them and shooting them, that's a question that will be determined in court.

But what we do know now is that 70 dogs, some of whom were malnourished, many of them who were scarred and wounded in ways that are consistent with dogfighting, rape racks -- treadmills were confiscated, trucks of them, from his property, and many dead dogs were unearthed.

Now, if you and I were away from home for any amount of time, we would know if this type of activity was taking place. And in the indictment, the complaints date back to 2001...

BLOOM: Well, we certainly think that we...

LANCE: ...all the way through April of this year.

BLOOM: Yes. You'd think we would know, at a minimum, if we had 60 dogs 6-0 dogs...

LANCE: Exactly.

BLOOM: our home.

LANCE: Exactly.

BLOOM: Well, Roland Martin, what should happen to Michael Vick at this point?


Before you even get to the whole point of what should happen, it's very interesting when you say well, if I owned the home, I would know what's going on.

I know a number of professional athletes who own several homes, who own the homes that family members and friends stay in, who don't even visit those homes.

That's first and foremost.

Now, I do not believe that Michael Vick should be suspended by the NFL. I certainly believe that Michael Vick is innocent until proven guilty, not the other way around. In 1994, Darryl Henley played for the Rams, was indicted on federal cocaine charges. A girlfriend was carrying 12 kilos of cocaine. He played that season with armed guards on the sidelines, allowed to play.

Kobe Bryant was indicted for rape, was on trial -- rape of a woman -- and he also was not suspended.

And you know...

BLOOM: Well, what about the merchandising deals?

What about Nike?

MARTIN: Well, first of all...

BLOOM: You know, aren't the corporate sponsors...

MARTIN: ...first of all...

BLOOM: ...going to want to pull back just to be careful with this thing?

MARTIN: Well, first of all, Nike has already pulled back. What Nike said was they were not going to release a particular shoe, as opposed to dropping him.

And, so, again, I have a problem with folks saying, well, he shouldn't play. Not only that, when you say that he should not play until the legal -- this whole thing runs its course -- Art Kelly (ph) was indicted five years ago on sex charges and hasn't gone to trial yet.

We don't know when this is going to trial.

So he should sit out until the trial starts?

I'm sorry. I'm not going to convict him now, when the trial hasn't even started yet. And we haven't heard the defense's response to the allegations.

BLOOM: All right, Stacey Honowitz, we've four cooperating witnesses, three co-conspirators.

What's the prosecution's best move here?

STACEY HONOWITZ, FLORIDA ASSISTANT STATE ATTORNEY: Well, as you know, Lisa, in prosecution -- everybody knows this -- when there's co- defendants involved in the case, you never know what's going to happen.

In other words, these co-defendants that might -- at one time get a nice deal in order to testify against Michael Vick if, in fact, the prosecutors, the Feds, think that he is the ringleader in all of this, because he did purchase the house. It's stated in the indictment. And if they come to find out he was more involved than we know right now. So I think that's what's going on right now. You know, when the Feds indict, their case is pretty much there. So I think they know exactly what their evidence is. And there could be a move later on down the line where one of these co-defendants does slip against Michael Vick.

BLOOM: Well, and, Stacey he's the celebrity. I mean, plain and simple, he's the one they want. He wants -- they want the others to flip against Michael Vick.

Michael Vick is the one they want, right?


BLOOM: Yes, plain and simple.

BLOOM: All right, Michael Cardoza, you're defending this case.


BLOOM: You've got your work cut out for you, don't you?

CARDOZA: I'll tell you, this one is easy for the prosecution. Certainly these allegations are repugnant. Good that we're talking about this. Good that it's being covered, this (INAUDIBLE).

I mean this dog fighting has been going on for a long time.


CARDOZA: Let's take this case and make something out of it.

Let's stop dog fighting.

Let's not convict Vick quite yet.

Now, let's look at Michael Vick. He comes from a tough background socioeconomically, raised poorly, he's finally...

BLOOM: Oh, you're not going to go there, are you?

CARDOZA: Now, wait a minute.

No, listen.

BLOOM: We're not going to hear about his...

CARDOZA: He's raised...

BLOOM: ...childhood.

CARDOZA: Wait. No.

Can I finish?

Let me finish. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, Lisa. He's...


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, Lisa, this is critical.

Lisa, this is critical.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Go ahead, Michael finish.


BLOOM: Michael, go ahead.

CARDOZA: Let me finish, please.

He's raised -- he is a great success. He's got family. He's got friends.


CARDOZA: He feels an obligation to them. He may have made a mistake in this, but we don't know if he's actively involved in this yet.

BLOOM: Right.

CARDOZA: If we want to stop athletes from acting like this, let's start treating them. Let's start educating them...

BLOOM: Well, that's the only defense.

The only defense is he didn't do it.

CARDOZA: What else can you do?

So you go in...

BLOOM: He didn't do it.

CARDOZA: ...and you resolve -- no.

BLOOM: That's the only possible defense here.

CARDOZA: No. He may have done this. But you take it and you don't just throw the key away. You don't throw him out of pro-football. You say, Michael, help us stop this. You could be a great spokesman for us.

BLOOM: Can I...

CARDOZA: We will give you some punishment, but let's deal with it rationally.

This is too emotional.

BLOOM: Well, I don't know about that.


BLOOM: Lisa Lang, let me ask you this. He's facing six years -- six years for these allegations, which, as you say, include wetting down dogs, electrocuting them until they're dead, slamming them against the wall until they're dead, engaging in an enterprise that caused the suffering and death of many, many animals.

Do people get serious jail time for animal abuse in the United States?

LANCE: They're starting to. And he can get a maximum of six years. And if he is found guilty of this -- we hope he does and we hope he never steps foot on a football field again.

But I wanted to add, too, that we also know he's co-owner of the Bad News Kennels. He owned that property. He has some involvement, whether or not he was directly involved with the deaths of these animals. And when we're talking about his upbringing and what might have motivated him -- and, I, too, think that's important to look at. And we wrote him a letter this week. We asked him to meet with us. We asked him to look at the dogfighting footage, although he may have seen it, of course, himself. We asked him to talk to us.

We have not heard back yet.

But remember this...

MARTIN: But, Lisa, he's under a federal indictment.

LANCE: While we're talking -- no, wait a minute.

MARTIN: He's not going to talk to you.

LANCE: Right?

We wrote to his people. His people can talk to us.

When we -- when you were talking about his upbringing and how he has had it hard -- and I don't doubt that -- remember the pit bulls right now who are sitting in kennels on death row. They're not going to be rehabilitated. They will stay in cages until the end of this case, which could drag on.

MARTIN: But...

LANCE: and they will be euthanize euthanized. And all the animals used in dogfighting as bait...

CARDOZA: But do you punish Michael Vick?

MARTIN: No, Lisa...


BLOOM: We're going to leave it like that.

We've this break in.

But we're going to get more on the other side.

For now, Lisa Lang from the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, thank you so much for joining us. The rest of the panel stays with us.

More on the Michael Vick dogfighting charges when we come back.

Don't go away.


DREW GRIFFIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Left out in all of this are the dogs themselves. This pit bull, dropped off for adoption may have a chance. It has not been used for fighting. But authorities have little choice when it comes to dogs trained and raised for sport. Usually vicious, they must be put to death. They are the final victims, whose owners have bred them to fight, and sometimes die, in a growing ring of violence.



LISA BLOOM, GUEST HOST: That Pit Bull, John Henry and we are back with more on the Michael Vick dog fighting case. The indictment came down today. And the response to it from Michael Vick, the plea of not guilty entered today in Richmond, Virginia.

Randall Lockwood is still with us from the ASPCA.

Is there a cultural context to this? I understand some that hip- hop artists seem to be promoting dog fighting.

RANDALL LOCKWOOD, PH.D. ASPCA: There have been a few. But I think it is a mistake to indict a whole subculture for a few people just as it would be, I think, a mistake to indict the NFL with 2,100 players for the alleged actions of one or two people.

BLOOM: Yes, Russell Simmons, for example, has come out and said...

LOCKWOOD: That's right.

BLOOM: ...cruelty is not cool.

LOCKWOOD: Russell Simmons has done PSAs for the ASPCA, speaking out to try to, you know, counter a lot of the other stuff that's out there. One of the other things I think that's been a factor in this is as communities try to control their dangerous dog problems, often the knee jerk simplistic reaction is a Pit Bull banner, breed specific legislation.

BLOOM: Is that a good idea?

LOCKWOOD: No, not at all. And when you outlaw Pit Bulls then only outlaws own Pit Bulls. And it becomes, you know, again, an attractive part to a culture that would like to view itself as outlaws. So I think actually those kind of breed specific laws and that kind of action almost feeds the dogfight culture because it builds and reinforces that outlaw image that some people want to portray.

BLOOM: And John Goodwin from the Humane Society, are we really seeing any changes in the law? I know that this is illegal in 50 states. Nobody allows dog fighting. But do we have tough enough laws to prevent it?

JOHN GOODWIN, INVESTIGATES DOG FIGHTS FOR HUMANE SOCIETY IF U.S.: Well, on May 3, President Bush signed into law the Animal Fighting Prohibition Enforcement Act that made it a federal felony to transport any animal across state lines for an animal fighting venture.

Now this was actually signed into law eight days after the initial search warrant was executed on Michael Vick's property. So as a result, the component of what Michael Vick is charged, it pertains to the interstate transport of animals for fighting purposes is the old law which is a misdemeanor.

Now this law would have been upgraded to felony level and Michael Vick and his co-defendants would have been charged with felonies last -- because last year the Congress was trying to pass the same legislation and three-fourths of the Congress was co-sponsoring the bill. But Congressman James Sensenbrenner from Milwaukee blocked passage of this legislation to strengthen penalties for animal fighting. And so as a result that component of what Michael Vick is being charged with is a misdemeanor.

BLOOM: But you've got conspiracy charges and crossing state lines. So we've got federal charges and he's looking at up to six years, right?

LOCKWOOD: And he's...

GOODWIN: Right. The conspiracy element is a felony.

BLOOM: Right.

GOODWIN: The conspiracy element is a felony. But there are two other parts of the count that pertain to the interstate transport of dogs for animal fighting purposes. And because the offenses happened before May 3 when President Bush signed the law that made those acts a felony, those two parts of what Michael Vick is charged with is a misdemeanor. It shouldn't have been that way.

Last year the Congress should have passed the Animal Fighting Prohibition Enforcement Act and made this a felony. Three hundred twenty-four members of the House of Representatives co-sponsored legislation to do just that. But we were blocked in passing that law by Congressman James Sensenbrenner who at the time was chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.

BLOOM: All right. And Tamar Geller, I've never seen a dog that loved the camera so much as John Henry. I mean this guy...


BLOOM: ... this guy is terrific.


BLOOM: If people at home have a Pit Bull or another breed that could be aggressive, what's the best way for them to train it, to keep it calm?

GELLER: The thing of it is any dog can be aggressive, any dog. The issue is not even about the dog, the Pit Bull, it's about how you raise your dog, how you don't use aggression or intimidation or fear because these kinds of methods encourage for the dog to feel defensive and therefore to protect themselves.

You know I was on vacation in St. John and I saw a sweet 1-year- old Pit Bull that did not want to do anything bad. But his owner last week was pushing him to be aggressive towards people who just wanted to come and pet him.

So we need to be aware not to give any attention, not to promote this kind of behavior. So teach your dog to play nice, to teach them to have a soft mouth, to teach them what we expect from them the same way we raise children.

BLOOM: Yes, exactly, be a good example.

Randall Lockwood, we're almost out of time but anything good coming out of this?

LOCKWOOD: I think the public awareness of the extensiveness of dog fighting, the brutality of dog fighting. And it's going on in their neighborhoods. And if you see something, say something. We are getting police responding. We do have stronger laws at both the state and federal level. We can drive it away. It's not just deeper underground.

BLOOM: All right, Randall Lockwood from the ASPCA, John Goodwin from the Humane Society and author Tamar Geller and especially John Henry. He's a good boy. Thank you all for joining us.

Up next, if you thought you were safe inside the walls of your own home, think again. Just ahead the story that's rocking one well- to-do Connecticut town. Parolees burst into a house and allegedly kill three of four family members. The story when LARRY KING LIVE continues.


BLOOM: Welcome back. Prosecutors say they will seek the death penalty for two men charged in that hideously brutal home invasion in the picturesque town of Cheshire, Connecticut. Three members of a doctor's family, his wife and their two daughters, were murdered on Monday. The doctor himself was badly beaten. The two suspects, a 44-year-old Steve Hays and 26-year-old Joshua Komisarjevsky have long criminal records.

Joining us from Stanford, Connecticut: Vito Colucci, private investigator and former member of the Stanford Police Department; and back with us from Miami, Stacey Honowitz, Florida assistant state attorney; from San Francisco, Michael Cardoza, defense attorney; and from Cheshire, Connecticut, Dave Altimari, a staff write for "The Hartford Courant."

Thank you all for joining us.

Dave, what is the latest?

DAVE ALTIMARI, "HARTFORD COURANT" STAFF WRITER: Hi, Lisa, how are you doing? Well, today the chief state's attorney charged both men with six counts of capital felony murder which means they face the death penalty now. And also the governor announced that she was setting up a special panel to review not only how these two guys got parole but also take a look at the whole system.

BLOOM: Have we determined yet -- has law enforcement gotten a theory about why these two suspects chose this home? Was there a connection between them and this family?

ALTIMARI: There doesn't seem to be one right, Lisa. They're still -- that's the mystery of this case. At this point, they think it was literally a random thing where they saw Jennifer Hawke-Petit and her youngest daughter, Michaela at the Super Stop and Shop up the road here Sunday night and they literally followed them home, and waited several hours, and then broke into the house.

Joshua Komisarjevsky has a history of burglaries in this town. He had been arrested four or five years ago for a rash of burglaries where he broke in using a knife through screen doors.

BLOOM: And how did this incident start? I've read it was about 3:00 a.m., the father hears a noise. He goes down to investigate. Is that right?

ALTIMARI: They believe that they went in through the bulkhead in the back around 3:00 a.m. At some point, I'm not quite sure what the time frame was, the father did confront them. They beat him pretty badly with a baseball bat, tied him up and put him in the basement and left him for dead, and then went up and tied the two girls to their beds and basically terrorized them for the next six hours.

BLOOM: And I understand that at one point the mother went to the bank to withdraw funds. Tell us what happened.

ALTIMARI: At around 9:00, which is about six hours after they had entered the house, one of the guys drives Jennifer Hawke-Petit to the Bank of America branch here in Cheshire to take out money. He stays in the car. She goes into the bank to withdraw $15,000. The bank teller -- because it's a joint account, the bank teller questions the amount of money. And she tells them that, "Please give me the money, they're holding my family hostage. I need to get the money."

BLOOM: And the police are alerted at that point?

ALTIMARI: And that's -- the question there is what did the bank -- at that point, what did the bank do other than give her the money. They obviously at some point called the police department and started the 911 emergency.

In the meantime, the guy and Jennifer Hawke-Petit drove back to their house which is about a 10-minute drive tops, probably a little less than that. And in a short period of time, they strangle her on the first floor and lit the bedrooms on fire where the two girls were tied up.

BLOOM: And how did the father escape?

ALTIMARI: The father apparently was in and out of consciousness most of the night in the basement tied up. I believe what he's told the police is that he awoke to hear his wife screaming probably just before she was killed and managed to literally hop while he was tied up out the back to a neighbor's and told them to call 911.

But by the time that happened -- it literally happened all at once. He's hopping out the back, the police are arriving at the front of the house, the guys had lit the house on fire and they're running out the front door getting into the family's Pacifica trying to take off. They run -- try to run down the officer in the driveway, eventually get stopped about 100 yards away when they crash into the two cruisers.

BLOOM: All right, let's break...

ALTIMARI: ... and in the meantime...

BLOOM: Let's hold that thought right there because we're going to break away for just a moment. On the other side of this break, more on the latest on that Connecticut home invasion massacre. Don't go away.


RICHARD HAWKE, FATHER OF JENNIFER HAWKE-PETIT: We were just shocked to hear there could be such a tragic, evil thing that could be done to human beings. I think God is crying with us today over this disaster.


BLOOM: It's a crime that has shocked the country this week: a doctor, his wife, and two teenaged daughters asleep in their home. Home invaders come in, rape the wife and the daughters, set the house on fire, beat the husband. Three of the four family members now dead.

To prosecutor Stacey Honowitz, in 2002 in a sentencing hearing on some prior crimes, a judge called one of these suspects "a cold, calculating predator." Why are these guys with rap sheets longer than my arm out on parole?

STACEY HONOWITZ, FLORIDA ASSISTANT STATE ATTORNEY: Well, I think everybody in the nation wants to know the answer to that question tonight. And nobody knows. And that's why the governor is going to conduct an investigation into this parole board to try to figure out what it was that allowed both of these men to be out and parole. They're career criminals.

We don't know if Connecticut has the Career Criminal Statute which allows a criminal to do double the time that he would normally do. And we're going to have to wait and see just what they rested their laurels on in letting these two out. We don't know right now.

BLOOM: I guess they don't have strike three laws in Connecticut. And one of these guys -- and they can say it's only burglary, it's only larceny in the past, and the guy's wearing night vision goggles, brings a knife to commit these earlier burglaries. It sounds like a pretty violent home invasion type of crime in the past.

Vito Colucci, private investigator, you have some new information for us from the Connecticut police?

VITO COLUCCI, PRIVATE INVESTIGATOR: Yes, I received a call, Lisa, about two hours ago from a good police contact up that way that told me that these same two individuals, that night after this robbery, had planned to hit a home or homes in what's called the Knob Hill section of Cheshire after this. It came from a pretty reliable source. We'll have to see if that comes out anytime soon from the police.

BLOOM: Michael Cardoza, defense attorney, what are you going to argue on behalf of these two?

MICHAEL CARDOZA, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: You know Lisa, I got you tell you on this one -- I don't believe in the death penalty but this case pushes me closer to thinking that we should have it. The best you can do in a case like this is to keep them from getting the death penalty but addressing why are these guys out. From what I've read and from what I understand so far, neither one of them had any violence in their past.

So how are the people that are in power, the parole boards, the parole officer supposed to know that these two guys who do have, you know, the larcenies and the burglaries in their past, are going to go out and do something like this. So they should look...

BLOOM: Well, wait a second, when a guy commits a...

CARDOZA: Go ahead.

BLOOM: ...when a guy commits a burglary...


BLOOM: ...that's breaking and entering.

CARDOZA: Agreed.

BLOOM: He brings a knife. He brings night goggles.

CARDOZA: No, not necessarily. In this case, they did.

BLOOM: That's not considered a serious felony?

CARDOZA: Of course it is, Lisa, but what do you do? Do we then put every burglar in jail for the rest of their life?

BLOOM: If they've got 20 convictions.

CARDOZA: It depends what those 20 convictions are. And keep in mind, none of these convictions, is my understanding, are for violence. So how do you prognosticate these two guys are going to step into this type of violent crime? Nobody can do that.

BLOOM: Well, Dave Altimari, let me bring you back in from "The Hartford Courant." What about drugs? Is that what made the difference between these prior crimes where no humans were harmed and this horrific incident?

ALTIMARI: They have done drug tests on the two men. They have not come back yet. So they don't know whether they were on drugs that night or not.

BLOOM: These guys met in drug rehab, right?

ALTIMARI: They met at a halfway house in Hartford. They were together for about five months and then Mr. Hays violated -- he didn't pass a drug test. And he was sent back to prison for about five months and then he got paroled.

To jump into the discussion about the parole for a second if you don't mind...

BLOOM: Sure.

ALTIMARI: ...both of these guys were labeled as nonviolent offenders by the state, by the board of parole. They had what is called Administrative Reviews not full parole board hearings. So it was a little different process than what -- well, the full parole board hearing, victims are allowed to attend, the inmate has to be present. In this particular case, that was not done.


ALTIMARI: The problem with -- the question with -- certainly with Mr. Hays, he was in a halfway house which is another basically out-treatment plan.

BLOOM: Yes. That's where these guys met. They met in drug rehab. Twenty priors each. Hold that thought. We've got to get this break in. We'll be right back with more. Don't go away. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The suspects tried to flee in the family's SUV just as police arrived and were arrested after colliding with police cars. Both suspects appeared in court on charges of assault, first-degree aggravated sexual assault, kidnapping, burglary, robbery and arson. They did not enter a plea and are each being held on $15 million bonds.



BLOOM: Prosecutors announced today they will seek the death penalty against those two Connecticut suspects.

To Michael Cardoza, defense attorney, they got a good case for the death penalty, don't they? They've got sexual assault of minors. They've got an arson in the commission of these homicides. They've got a lot to work with, the prosecutors.

CARDOZA: They've got an awful lot to work with. I mean if you believe in the death penalty, what better case than this case for the death penalty. I personally don't believe in it. I can guarantee you that the district attorney will take this one to trial and will push it all the way to a death penalty verdict by the jury. The best you can do as a defense attorney is go back to the old thinking; we kill people who kill people to show people not to kill people. And what kind of logic does that make?

BLOOM: Well, Stacey Honowitz, one key fact I see in this case is the gasoline that was poured on the floor of the house to set the fire. If these guys brought the gasoline with them, it doesn't sound like they entered that house just for the purpose of committing a burglary.

HONOWITZ: No. And certainly that's the argument the prosecutors are making, that this was not for a burglary. This was to commit murder, to cover up their tracks.

And I have to agree wholeheartedly with Michael. I think people that don't believe in the death penalty are going to take a good look at this case and start changing their mind and thinking, you know what, the death penalty is something that we need to have. There is no perfect case. There will never be any kind of plea offer in this case. This case is going to go all the way.

BLOOM: Dave, how is the father doing?

ALTIMARI: He's expected to get out of the hospital in the next couple of days. His family -- they had a large extended family, both him and his wife -- has been by his side since he's been in the hospital. He was beaten pretty badly, to the point that the neighbor that he ran to didn't even recognize who he was.

BLOOM: I imagine the... ALTIMARI: A couple of points...

BLOOM: ... I imagine the family is rallying around him at this point?

ALTIMARI: Yes. They had a candlelight vigil out at the house tonight. They've been by his side the whole time. He has a pretty big family that live in Plainville, the next town over.

A couple of quick points...

BLOOM: I've got to interrupt you right there, I'm sorry, because we are out of time.


BLOOM: But Vito Colucci...

ALTIMARI: All right.

BLOOM: ...Stacey Honowitz, Michael Cardoza and Dave Altimari, thank you so much.

What an honor it has been to fill in for Larry King tonight, an absolute pleasure. Please stay tuned for Anderson Cooper coming up now.