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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
Authorities Continue Search For Steve Fossett; Double Standard in Louisiana School Violence Case?
Aired September 4, 2007 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
RICK SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks, everybody, for being with us.
A bevy of stories to bring you.
First, I want you to look at these two young men. They play football. They are said to be all-American kids, great students, good citizens, grew up here, speak perfect English, bad Spanish, by the way, but they're going to be deported. It's about our immigration policy or some would say lack thereof.
Let's show you the loop. This thing is still a hurricane and look how far inland it's moved. Now, this is important, because that kind of storm can cause flash flooding, wipe out villages. That's why we're going to be following it for you. We will bring you the latest.
And then, of course, Larry Craig, there's some movement on this story. He's embarrassed both the U.S. Senate and the Republican Party. That seems to be on the table, right? But he's now hired a lawyer to defend himself against ethics charges. He is going to be joining us right here, that lawyer, on the show to talk about this case.
And then Craig has been hit with all kinds of accusations. They forced him his resignation. But there's another senator that seems to be getting a pass. Why is that?
SANCHEZ (voice-over): Two senators, two alleged sex scandals, but only one career is ruined, Larry Craig, and the bathroom stall allegations.
SEN. LARRY CRAIG (R), IDAHO: I am deeply sorry.
SANCHEZ: David Vitter and a visit to a prostitute allegations.
SEN. DAVID VITTER (R), LOUISIANA: And I'm so very, very sorry.
SANCHEZ: How is he different from him? Washington's double standard? Tonight, it's out in the open.
What is going on at this school? When white kids get into a fight, they get suspended. But when black kids fight a white kid, they're hit with attempted murder charges. Fair? We take you inside this story.
Listen to this.
JERRY LEWIS, COMEDIAN: You remember Bart (ph), your oldest son, and Jessie (ph), the illiterate (EXPLETIVE DELETED) No.
SANCHEZ: Jerry Lewis said that? It's hard to know what to make of it. So, we will let you decide.
And when this guy campaigns, he gets to speed, go through red lights, and a police escort, and it's not just him. Why don't we get that type of treatment? Are we treating our politicians like kings, even before they're elected? It's OUT IN THE OPEN tonight.
SANCHEZ: And hello again, everybody. Here we go. I'm Rick Sanchez.
And we are going to begin tonight with some breaking news that is both a disappearance and a mystery. Multimillionaire pilot and adventurer Steve Fossett, he is the first person to fly a plane around the world solo without refueling. He's also the very first person to circle the world solo in a balloon.
Tonight, Fossett and his plane are missing in the Nevada desert.
Ted Rowlands just got into the area. He's on the phone; he's been working the story.
Ted, we go to you. What can you tell us about this story?
TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Rick, we're getting a briefing right now and the headline from it is still no sign of 63- year-old Steve Fossett.
He left Monday at 9:00 from a private airfield here in Nevada. He was supposed to return about noon. He was reported missing at 6:00 p.m. According to Civil Air Patrol, they had 50-plus people up in the air throughout the day. They were battling heavy winds but they have been able to use a grid search. He did not file a flight plan.
So, it makes it more difficult. They have got about 600 square miles to look at. They're analyzing radar information as well. He had about four to five hours of fuel in his single engine plane. No sound from the emergency locator radio beacon, which is a good sign. It means there was no hard impact, so they are actively searching for him. It is still a mystery as to exactly where he is, but I tell you what. If some guy is going to go missing, he is the one that you could bet on to survive it.
He holds world records in aviation not only for airplane flight, but for ballooning and glider flights, also in sailing. He holds 11 world records. He has competed in the Iditarod, Iron Man competition. This guy has really done it all. He self-finances his adventures.
A fellow adventurer, Richard Branson, is a buddy of Fossett's. He released a statement today saying: "Steve is a tough old boot. I suspect he's waiting by his plane right now for someone to pick him up. Based on his track record, I feel confident we will get some good news soon."
They will fly until about 11:00 tonight, that according to officials here, but the headline again, Rick, no sign of Steve Fossett.
SANCHEZ: Yes. I would understand if this plane had gone down in the ocean or some huge lake, but to actually go down in a desert, it makes you wonder why they haven't been able to spot it yet. But we will stay on top of the story. Ted, thanks so much for bringing us the update. We will go back to Ted if anything warrants.
Meanwhile, another breaking story that we're following for you right now. This is Hurricane Felix, category 5. Now it's still packing tropical-storm-force winds. Will, go ahead and put the loop up so the folks can see it at home. And you are going to see exactly where the storm is. Look at that thing. It actually has gone inland. It actually remained a hurricane for quite some time, until just actually a few minutes ago. They say it now looks more like a tropical storm inland.
And see where it is? The problem with the storm at that point is, it can really cause some severe flooding, and not just any kind of flooding. In a mountainous area it will cause flash flooding. That's a problem.
We're now able to establish a link, I'm told, with Karl Penhaul. He is in Honduras; he's been following this storm that took a little turn for the north at the last minute there.
Set the scene for us if you would, Karl.
KARL PENHAUL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's been a very difficult one to track, Rick, because it was going a lot further north. We expected it to impact on the Honduran coast, but eventually it did come ashore; it impacted just south of the border with Honduras, in Nicaragua, in fact. And now we're in the interior, in the interior of Honduras, in a mountainous region, exactly where people expect that this heavy, heavy rain could cause flash flooding, could cause some of the rivers to overflow.
So, we're inland at a town called Juticalpa. But so far the news that we have from the Nicaraguan coast, from media sources at this stage is that possibly four people have been killed in the initial impact when that Category 5 hurricane made landfall there. But of course, authorities aren't venturing too far out until the rain has subsided, and then they will be able to get a full picture of the damage. What the Honduran authorities have said is there are very vulnerable indigenous communities on the so-called Mosquito Coast, up to 14,000 Indians.
And so as the rain subsides they really want to find out how those Indians have fared. There was just no time to evacuate them. These are very remote communities. There are no roads to get them out. This is some of the poorest areas of Central America -- Rick. SANCHEZ: Karl Penhaul following the story from there.
Karl is on the ground.
Now let's let you see what it looks like, the loop again, and this time, Chad Myers in front of it to tell us what this thing's done and what it might still do.
Chad, to you.
CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well, Rick, it's turning into a rainmaker. It's losing all of its windy characteristics, now down to a tropical storm, and so because it's lost the characteristics of an eye, and all that, the storm really is now going to be the flood maker.
And as you were saying, the storm did kind of make a turn to the south, as it came onshore and so did Mitch, and not one computer forecasted this little turn to the south. Now all the computers are saying it's going to go back to the west again. We will see. If it doesn't, then maybe we are going to get spared some of this very heavy rainfall but right now the winds are 60 miles per hour so that's why it is now just a tropical storm.
Here's another storm right over Cabo San Lucas. In fact, San Jose del Cabo, the town now to east of what you know as the resort there, Cabo San Lucas, really took most of the hit here. What we're worried about all this heavy rainfall through the Gulf of California, but also as the low moves farther to the north, it could cause flooding. Right now it is still a hurricane.
Now something else to worry about which could be Gabrielle by the weekend. This storm is out in the Atlantic, trying to gather some strength. And I want to show you one thing. I want to show you what we look at, Rick. This is the computer model. Now, this isn't exactly what's going to happen. Maybe none of this is going to happen, but this computer right here says the storm's going to move out to the sea, then all of the sudden it's going to stop and it's going to turn back toward North Carolina by the weekend.
One scenario of very, very many that are out there but you need to watch Gabrielle if you live along the coast of the East Coast this weekend.
SANCHEZ: Yes, what they have come to know as a Cape Hatteras storm, right?
SANCHEZ: They're used to it.
Chad, good job as usual. Thanks for the explanation.
(CROSSTALK) SANCHEZ: Tonight more on that report card that we have been telling you about on Iraq that is not exactly a passing effort. The president was doing his best to rally the troops yesterday in the Anbar Province. Today he's having to contend with 11 F's of 18 benchmarks that they had set out to try and accomplish. Not so good, right?
Congressional correspondent Jessica Yellin now, she's on Capitol Hill. She was there when the final report came out this afternoon. She joins us now live.
Jessica, is the administration really taking its lumps, taking its medicine on this thing, or trying its best to spin it as they often do in politics?
JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I would go with the spin position.
Right now, Rick, it seems that the administration finds this report certainly not what they would have wanted, but it's not devastating. Republicans up here on the Hill who support the surge remind us in the media over and over that this is just one of three reports coming out in the next 10 days and certainly in their view, not the most significant. The most significant they say is that make or break it Petraeus report from General Petraeus of Iraq's commanding unit there, and they say that's the one that everyone has to look to, because they expect it to be more thorough, in the White House's word, and, I will add, more positive.
SANCHEZ: Here's what has to not happen, I would imagine, right? The Dems have to be real careful not to gloat about this thing, because if they do they are going to appear unpatriotic and the American people aren't going to stand for that, right?
YELLIN: Right, and they are very careful to say, while we're critical of the progress in Iraq, we're certainly supportive of our troops.
And you're absolutely right; they go out of their way to make that point, and then the next message they say is but the report card is devastating and it shows in their view, in the Democrats' view, that this surge, the strategy has been a failure.
SANCHEZ: Jessica Yellin following the story for us, we thank you so much.
Here we go.
Tonight, terrorism is back in the headlines and in a big way. Authorities in Denmark are saying that they have broken up a bomb plot with the arrest of eight people linked to higher-ups in al Qaeda. Key word there being higher-ups.
Paula Newton is in Copenhagen. She's joining the story for us.
I guess first question has to be who are these guys? Why are they so significant?
PAULA NEWTON, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: The picture that we have of the suspects so far is the fact that they are what Michael Chertoff, the U.S. homeland secretary always says, homeland security secretary always says are clean skins, meaning just people who are carrying on with their lives here in Denmark.
Six are actually Danish citizens, and they are the kind of people that, in their own community, would not really be under suspicion, yet tonight, they are under suspicion. And intelligence officials say here that, after really months of undercover work and international cooperation, they are sure that these people had direct links with al Qaeda's leaders.
SANCHEZ: What do they mean by direct links to al Qaeda's leaders?
NEWTON: The way the cell structure usually works, Rick, is that they will have one, possibly as many as two, but usually just one be some kind of an emissary and that person will get direct, sometimes very direct instructions about when and how, and where to carry out these attacks. This is the kind of cell structure that they're starting to investigate here in Denmark.
SANCHEZ: We have been told all along that al Qaeda is very decentralized. What we're hearing from you in this report is that these guys were communicating with each other, and somehow, somebody there in Denmark has broken a code that maybe we in the United States need to be paying attention to, right?
NEWTON: As we have seen from the assessments, Rick, as the months wear on and still the al Qaeda leadership is still intact, their involvement really is much more serious, and at a much more detailed level in terms of these plots.
That's the theory authorities are going on. We're going to wait and see exactly what kind of evidence they uncover.
SANCHEZ: Well, I will tell you what. It's an impressive arrest. We're glad you brought it to us.
Paula Newton, thanks so much for bringing us some insight on that.
Now let's bring you this, another story that we're following, one of the pics that we like to bring to you, usually really good video stories because the FBI wants to know where they are. You may know what we're talking about. We think you should want to know as well. Who are these two men? Mystery men? Let's know if you recognize them in any way. Contact us or the FBI obviously.
This picture was taken on a Seattle ferry boat. Passengers say these guys were actually suspiciously, studying and taking pictures not only of this ferry but others as well over a period of months. They were seen at least six times, maybe up to 20 times, acting bizarre. All right. Here's the update tonight. We have been talking to the FBI throughout the day and they are now saying they have gotten 200 leads. Throughout the course of the day, as we talked to other officials they tell us that so far there's no positive I.D. We are, as we promised, going to stay on top of this story for you, though.
Coming up, what's going on in the U.S. Senate when we have to do a story comparing sex allegations of senators? Two senators, two sex scandals, but only one ruined career. What gives?
Also, Mr. Gomez (ph) goes to Washington. He and his brother are about to be kicked out of the country but they say they hardly speak Spanish and won't be able to do that.
And Jerry Lewis getting in trouble for using a slur out loud and on the air. Jerry Lewis?
Stay with us.
SANCHEZ: Tonight, Larry Craig could still face a Senate ethics investigation into his arrest in an airport bathroom sex sting. Saturday, the Republican senator from Idaho said that he would resign from the Senate at the end of the month and Craig has now hired lawyers to try and help him fight an investigation by the Senate.
One of those lawyers, Stanley Brand. He's one of the attorneys who is good enough to join us now.
Mr. Brand, thanks so much for being with us, sir.
STANLEY BRAND, ATTORNEY FOR SENATOR LARRY CRAIG: Good day.
SANCHEZ: Let's just cut to the chase here. Your client has a problem. It's a perception problem. Many of his senatorial colleagues are embarrassed by his behavior. How are you going to prove them wrong?
BRAND: Well, it's not my precedents. It's the precedents of the Senate that basically say the Senate won't discipline people for misdemeanor conduct that has nothing to do with their official duties and that's been the unbroken line of cases beginning with the very first case in 1797.
SANCHEZ: But you know as well as I know as well as the viewers sitting at home watching this know that it's not the conduct itself. It's the perception of the conduct. This is not the same as running a red light or having an argument with a police officer or even getting a DUI. This is something that seems to have a moral quality to it that makes people think of bathroom antics, and that's why this case is in the forefront. Do you understand that?
BRAND: Well, what I understand is what the law of the Senate of the United States has been for 200 unbroken years, and that is, whatever misdemeanor you want to call it, whether it's running red lights, vehicular homicide, petty offenses of any nature that do not implicate the official duties of somebody from the Senate, the Senate simply doesn't discipline that conduct, for good reason.
SANCHEZ: So you don't -- the sex angle here is really what brings it...
BRAND: He didn't plead guilty to a sex crime. He pled guilty to disorderly conduct.
SANCHEZ: But the officer was investigating lewd sexual acts of a gay nature in a bathroom and seems to intimate that that's what he was really after. That's your problem, sir.
BRAND: Well, that wouldn't matter, again. If you look at the precedents of the Senate, they have expelled or disciplined people for treason, bribery, high crimes and misdemeanors, misuse of office funds, abuse of office. They simply have not taken cognizance of automobile accidents or petty offenses or misdemeanors of any kind for the last 220 years.
SANCHEZ: Final question, only because I'm curious and so are a lot of other people. Have you told your client that it may have been stupid to go ahead and sign that guilty paper if he's going to argue later on that he wasn't guilty?
BRAND: I think the senator has admitted that he did this without counsel, and he made a terrible mistake when he did that.
SANCHEZ: Stanley Brand, good guy. Appreciate you coming on and talking to us.
BRAND: My pleasure.
SANCHEZ: And, tonight, there's another aspect to this Craig case. Craig was pummelled last week by his Republican colleagues in the Senate. It was fast and it was furious. We all watched it.
But what about Senator David Vitter of Louisiana, who admitted earlier this summer that he likely cheated on his wife by going to an escort service, you know, the Washington madam story that we have been talking about. Well, what's going on? Is this because one situation was about alleged gay sex, not that one you're looking at right there -- that's Vitter, by the way -- and the other wasn't?
Let's really be out in the open about this.
Republican strategist Cheri Jacobus joins us now. Melanie Sloan, executive director for Citizens For Responsibility and Ethics in Washington is joins us as well.
Cheri, I'm going to start with you. Let's be honest about this. Republicans were essentially embarrassed by this whole gay sex allegation thing, weren't they? CHERI JACOBUS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, I don't think there's any question that Republicans and the people of Idaho were, in fact, embarrassed.
But the difference between these two situations, while on its face when you look at it from the soap opera angle, as so many are, it looks like they're similar, but they aren't. As you had noted in the previous segment, Senator Craig was arrested and pled guilty.
But I think the real -- even though it was a misdemeanor which I think is sort of a minor point at this point, he sat on this for several months and did not tell his leadership, knowing that it would be explosive. And the fact of the matter is, if it were just like any other misdemeanor, perhaps it would be something different, but the fact that he sat on this, he didn't tell his leadership...
SANCHEZ: Hold on. Hold on. The question isn't what one guy did wrong. We know that it appears, at least according to what the police officer in the bathroom says, what Senator Craig was doing was wrong. The question is, is what Vitter did equally wrong? He didn't exactly come forward and admit to it either, did he?
JACOBUS: He wasn't arrested.
SANCHEZ: And he did appear to be cheating on his wife, just like Mr. Clinton did.
JACOBUS: Well, you know, if you were going to kick out every politician out of office who cheated on their spouse, we would all be very busy, I guess, with those news stories.
JACOBUS: Vitter was not arrested and did not plead guilty to anything. And that is the difference.
SANCHEZ: Melanie wants desperately to get in, and she now has her opportunity.
I apologize, Melanie. Go ahead.
MELANIE SLOAN, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, CITIZENS FOR RESPONSIBILITY AND ETHICS IN WASHINGTON: Look, David Vitter is guilty of the same sort of sexual misconduct that's a criminal charge that Larry Craig was guilty of.
And if you're concerned about David Vitter -- about Larry Craig not coming forward, well, the only reason that David Vitter came forward was his name was exposed on the D.C. madam's call list. He didn't tell his colleagues he would be found out.
He waited until it was found out and then he confessed. And he got an ovation from the Republican conference, as opposed to Larry Craig, who got booted out right away.
JACOBUS: The difference, again, the arrest and the guilty plea.
SANCHEZ: Which takes me back to my original question. Can we just be honest about the fact that the gay sex issue is really what we're talking about here, and that's what separates these two cases, and creates more of a yuck factor among Republicans?
JACOBUS: The fact of the matter is, I think there would be just as big of an outcry from all quarters and maybe especially Democrats had Larry Craig been accused of doing this, trying to solicit sex with women, at a women's bathroom.
JACOBUS: So, I don't think it's any different. This is not a good situation for anybody. And it is an embarrassment for the people of Idaho and for the Republicans. And I hope that what I wish is that Senator Craig, quite frankly, did not plead guilty and had decided to fight this, and I think then he would have probably had a little bit more support and we would be in an entirely different situation right now.
SANCHEZ: Go ahead, Melanie.
SLOAN: The real difference here is that there is a Republican governor who can appoint a Republican senator in the state of Idaho, and that's why they're so quick to have Larry Craig out. But there's a Democratic governor in Louisiana who would appoint a Democratic senator. So, they don't want to boot out David Vitter and lose that seat.
SANCHEZ: Not that the Democrats wouldn't do the same thing, by the way. Let's be honest about it.
JACOBUS: Larry Craig lost the trust of his party when he sat on this for several months. That's a big, big part of this.
SLOAN: You know, David Vitter sat on his conduct until it was released by the news media.
JACOBUS: He wasn't arrested. I don't know how many times we have to keep reminding...
SLOAN: Both of them committed misdemeanor crimes. And if your standard is you can't have senators committing crimes, both senators committed crimes.
SANCHEZ: That is the last word.
Melanie Sloan, Cheri Jacobus, both good sports, thanks so much for being with us and sharing your insight on this story.
JACOBUS: Thank you.
SLOAN: Thanks for having us.
SANCHEZ: One of the most perplexing video that we have been following today. Jerry Lewis raised more than $63 million for muscular dystrophy research on this year's Labor Day telethon.
But it's one comment caught on camera that is getting all the press all of a sudden. I want to warn you about something here. What you're about to hear it's somewhat offensive. A lot of people have been talking about it. We are going to let you see it for yourself. Here's what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LEWIS: We're into hour 18. Look at how good he moves that camera, son of a gun. Wherever I go, he goes. Let's see what you do with this over here.
LEWIS: Oh, your family has come to see you.
LEWIS: You remember Bart (ph), your oldest son, and Jessie (ph), the illiterate fag.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SANCHEZ: Well, that apparent joke infuriated gay rights advocates. And, today, Lewis has issued an apology. Here is the apology.
He called it a bad choice of words and says: "Everyone who knows me understands that I have no prejudices in this regard. I accept responsibility for what I said. There are no excuses. I am sorry."
Coming up, a conversation with a young man who seems like the perfect red-blooded American, except he may not be. He is a fabulous student. Every indication shows he's a good citizen. Plays football. He and his brother are about to get deported, though. Should they be kicked out of the country? And then what gives at this school? White students who fight get suspended. Some black students who are also facing charges of attempted murder for seemingly doing the same thing. Is it fair?
SANCHEZ: Welcome back to OUT IN THE OPEN. I'm Rick Sanchez.
Tonight, a look at the immigration dilemma in a very personal way. Juan Gomez has an SAT score of 1400. Great student, great athlete, great citizen, say most of the people who know it. Seems like one of the good guys, right? But he's about to get deported. So, he went to Congress today to try and stop that. That's where we catch up with him.
SANCHEZ: Here's the question. A lot of Americans would say, I get your situation, and I know you are probably a really good guy, but you're in this country illegally, and you got to go. What would you say to them?
JUAN GOMEZ, FIGHTING DEPORTATION: Well, the first thing I would like to say is, a lot of Americans don't get my situation. A lot of Americans don't realize we came here legally on a tourist visa. A lot of Americans don't realize we applied for political asylum.
And the fact is, it took eight years for our first court case. We applied. We got temporary visas every year. We were working legally. I was going to school legally. We were doing the legal route, which is, you know, still suggested and which Americans believe is the right way to handle the immigration situation. And, then, at the end of it, after 13 years -- it took 13 years, from 1990 to 2003, for them to give us our final order of deportation.
SANCHEZ: So, the final order of deportation means you are in this country right now illegally, correct?
GOMEZ: Yes, exactly.
SANCHEZ: There's something that you're trying to get passed, and that's the reason we're seeing the walls of Congress behind you there. It's going to be called the Dream Act, I understand.
If you arrived in the U.S. before you were 16 years of age, if you lived in the U.S. for five consecutive years, if you graduated from a U.S. high school, and if you're in good standing, you know, somebody who has got good moral character, then they should allow people like that to stay. And you fit that criteria, right?
GOMEZ: Yes. I have actually graduated from Killian in the top 2 percent of my class, got a 1410 SAT score, involved in community service projects. I went to homeless shelters. I have been here since I was a year and 10 months old. SANCHEZ: So, you're really as much an American kid as you are anything else?
SANCHEZ: Sending you to Colombia -- by the way, how is your Spanish? Not very good?
GOMEZ: No, not at all.
SANCHEZ: So, you would be, like, starting over if you had to go back.
GOMEZ: Exactly. It's just...
SANCHEZ: It would be like a foreign country to you.
GOMEZ: It's just -- I like -- I like to think of this way. I have never adjusted to an American lifestyle. I grew up in an American lifestyle, that's the difference. My oldest memories aren't even from New York when I first arrived here. They're from California.
SANCHEZ: We had Tom Tancredo on the show last week and we were talking about your case. I don't know if you saw that.
GOMEZ: Yes I did.
SANCHEZ: Here's what he had to say, because many viewers didn't see it and then I'll get your reaction on the other side. Go ahead, Will.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TOM TANCREDO (R),PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Here's the problem, how in the world do you tell everybody else who's waiting to come into this country the right way or all the ones that have done it the right way that it really doesn't matter?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SANCHEZ: Tom Tancredo's answer. What's yours?
GOMEZ: Well, the thing is, how are you going to tell those people the fact that they still have another 13 years to wait for potentially their case to be heard? How are you going to tell people that have been here for 20, 25 years that it's the end of the line for them and they have to go? It's really not an issue of immigration; it's more of a humanitarian issue, when you're dealing with the Dream Act.
SANCHEZ: Juan Gomez, thanks so much for being with us.
GOMEZ: Well, you're welcome. Thank you for having me again. SANCHEZ: Coming up, at a high school in the Deep South, allegations of racism are OUT IN THE OPEN.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MELISSA BELL, MOTHER: ...to think that my 16-year-old, well he's 17 now, might be in prison for 20, 25 years, it's devastating. It's awful.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SANCHEZ: Devastating because he's locked up for half his life for a high school fight? Is it because he's simply black? Why are white kids who fight just getting suspensions in this case? This is what many people are asking and so will we, as we bring it OUT IN THE OPEN.
Then, a controversial public school that specializes in Arabic culture. Will it turn kids into radicals is another question being asked.
And then take a look at this. Looks pretty (INAUDIBLE) doesn't it? A SWAT team shields, who are they going after and what happened to that officer? You'll have the answers. We're coming right back.
SANCHEZ: Here's the story that we were telling you about at the beginning of the newscast. Six black students charged with everything from conspiracy to attempted murder for allegedly beating up a white student one night last winter. However, that same white student was well enough to attend a school function that very same evening, prompting many to ask how bad could they have actually beaten him up? Bad enough that one black student has been convicted by an all white jury, that's important, and is now facing more than 20 years behind bars for it.
Also, why did a similar attack by whites on a black student just the week before result in only a suspension? That's the setup for this story, that has a community divided and many across the country screaming racism about this. Susan Roesgen has been following this stories. Tonight she files this from Jena, Louisiana.
SUSAN ROESGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): New out of town attorneys came to court saying they think Mychal Bell should get a second chance at justice, a sliver of hope for the former Jena High School Football star how now faces the possibility of two decades in prison.
MELISSA BELL, MOTHER: It's devastating. He was only 16, and they locked him up and to think that my 16-year-old, well he's 17 now, might be in prison for 20, 25 years, it's devastating. It's awful.
ROESGEN: Last September, black students at Jena High School were outraged, when white students hung nooses from this tree in a school courtyard, a perceived racial threat. Then in December, six black students were accused of knocking a white student unconscious and then kicking him. Justin Barker was taken to the hospital for injuries, but was well enough to be released and back at school that same night.
KELLI BARKER, JENA RESIDENT: I wished to goodness it wouldn't have happened. I mean, they have parents, and you know, me and David are parents of Justin and I hate it for them parents. I mean, I can only imagine, but I also have to think about my child.
ROESGEN: The "Jena Six," as they came to be called, were arrested and sent to jail. Mychal Bell was the first to go on trial, convicted of aggravated battery by an all white jury.
The conviction touched off racial protests in this town of 3,000, where just 12 percent of the population is black. Today, Bell's new lawyers argued that his defense was inadequate, his trial unfair, and that, at 16, he never should have been tried as an adult.
When the teenagers were arrested last year, District Attorney Reed Walters released a statement saying he has never charged anyone based on who they are. He's had no comment since then.
But others say this case has exposed an unwritten rule, that white makes right, and blacks beware.
CASEPTLA BAILEY, MOTHER: The D.A. had come up with these horrendous charges, outrageous charges or whatever and he just felt that since this is the way he has been doing things for years to the black people, this is just something that we will allow him to roll over us and let it happen.
ROESGEN: But in at least one visible way, this case has brought change. The infamous tree in the school courtyard has been cut down, a symbol of a town trying to cut away an ugly part of itself.
SANCHEZ: It's amazing. In Bell's case, 16 years old, tried as an adult, apparently no witnesses, all white jury in this case, does he have a shot or is he done?
ROESGEN: No, actually he does have a shot. The judge did not overturn the conviction today but he did, Rick, open the door slightly to a new trial for Mychal Bell that would be in juvenile court, not an adult court which would be much better for him if the Appellate Court agrees.
SANCHEZ: Sounds like something we should follow. Susan Roesgen thanks for bringing us up-to-date on the story.
Well, you've never seen a school like the one that we're about to visit, it specializes in everything Arabic, the culture, Islam, that is scaring a lot of folks in New York.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) PAMELA HALL, ORGANIZER "STOP THE MADRASSA": What we are discussing is that they are being taught a propaganda and a ideology that is a narrow view.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SANCHEZ: Is it a narrow view? Will the school turn out radicals or kids that are destined for high-paying jobs? Would you put your tax dollars into something like this? We asked. Stick around.
SANCHEZ: All right, we've got some political breaking news to share with you now, information that's just been coming into us. This is according to the "Associated Press" they're quoting a spokesperson for Senator Larry Craig of Idaho as saying that the senator -- remember, this is the story we were bringing you a little while ago, we were talking to his lawyer who said he wanted to defend it in the Senate, now maybe now we know exactly what he meant. The senator is now reconsidering his decision to resign. Again, reconsidering his decision to resign. He says, "We're still preparing," I'm reading from a text just given to me, "we're still preparing as to Senator Craig will resign, but the outcome of the legal case in Minnesota and the ethics investigation will have an impact no whether we're able to stay in the fight and stay in the Senate."
It was only last Saturday, you'll recall, that Craig announced that he's going to be quitting his job in the Senate as of September 30. Maybe a change of heart, now. He was arrested last June during a sex sting at the Minneapolis Airport, pleaded guilty to disorderly contact all the long Craig denied any wrongdoing.
But this information just now handed to me, seems to create doubt as to whether or not he'll actually leave the Senate as he seemed to intimate he would this past Saturday.
Well, this was the first day of school for thousands of kids all over the country. It was also the first day of school at the nation's first Arabic school. That's right, a public school in New York where the kids are going to learn the Arabic culture, among other things, and it sparked some bitter debate. Already critics are demanding that the school be closed, shut down because they think this is a religious school in disguise that'll teach Islamic extremism, for example. CNN's Dan Lothian went to find out.
DAN LOTHIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Here in Brooklyn it was the first day of classes for 55 children enrolled in a controversial new school, dedicated to the study of Arabic language and culture. It's called the Khalil Gibran International Academy, a public middle school and the first of its kind in New York City.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In the back yard of 9/11, we will not allow a madrassa... LOTHIAN: Today, opponents took their protest to city hall in a bid to stop the madrassa, as they called the school. Madrassas, as you might know, are strict Islamic religious schools. One speaker called it "a cancer that will spread across the country."
(on camera): Your concern then is that young people are going to be indoctrinated and that this school may be training terrorists?
PAMELA HALL, ORGANIZER "STOP THE MADRASSA": No, we don't use the word terrorist. What we are discussing is that they are being taught a propaganda and a ideology that is a narrow view.
GARTH HARRIES, NYC EDUCATION DEPT: It's absolutely inaccurate. It's a public education and it's going to be measured on that.
LOTHIAN: Supporters of this school say the attacks have been hateful and racist. So much of the information going around, they argue, is just false.
Officials here say this is not a religious school, but rather a place where young people will be able to learn Arabic and about Middle Eastern culture.
(on camera): That's what attracted Najat Handou to enroll her young son.
NAJAT HANDOU, PARENT: They're going to learn the Arabic, which is our language, (INAUDIBLE) people (INAUDIBLE) translate like I did, the interpreter in my job.
LOTHIAN (voice-over): But the controversy proved too much for Carmen Colone, who enrolled her son in the hope that knowing Arabic would help him make a lot of money. She changed her mind.
CARMEN COLON, PARENT: He needs to go to school to learn not to be in the middle of a war on words.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: ...a religious problems...
LOTHIAN: And it's not over. Opponents now want the city to shut the school down.
Dan Lothian, CNN, New York.
SANCHEZ: All right, you know this is going to be controversial. Let's bring in some of the people now who have raised some questions about the Arabic school. None other than William Donohue, president of the Catholic League.
You know what I like about Bill Donohue? What I like about Bill Donohue is when people try and talk bad about my religion, as a Catholic, when someone tries to pour urine on the Virgin Mother, on the Holy Mother you fight for us. But, here you're in a situation where you're criticizing somebody else's religion. Should you be doing that?
WILLIAM DONOHUE, PRES, CATHOLIC LEAGUE: Oh obviously, no question about it. Look, I got involved with this because Beth Galinsky is a Jewish activist and good friend of mine in New York asked me to look into this situation.
When we looked into it, we made some phone calls to the Department of Education. What do we want to know? The curriculum, the textbook, the handouts, things of that nature. Guess what? We were stonewalled. As recently as last Friday, August the 31st, stonewalled, they were telling us nothing. I spent 20 years in education, I taught everything from second grade through graduate school. You can't get a course passed never mind a program or a school without having everything laid out there in the first place.
SANCHEZ: Well, let's be fair. They do this kind of thing in New York. I know it's different for somebody watching us in Kansas City. They've got a couple of French schools, they've got a humanity school where they pluck students out and put them in certain specialized interests.
DONOHUE: Do they have clergy as the advisors? Do they have imams associated with extremist versions (ph)? Look, the multicultural argument is pernicious. You know, there's a big difference. A year ago the pope made speech that some Muslim didn't like. What did they do? They shot a nun and they killed her. Jews don't act that way when they're not happy with the pope.
SANCHEZ: Let's not go there. Let's stick with the subject. Essentially what they're saying they're going to do, Bill, they're going to create a school that's going to be cultural. They're going to try and bridge that gap between that society and us so we don't have to kill each other any more and go to wars. Maybe we can work out our problems by understanding each other. Isn't' that a great thing?
DONOHUE: It is a great thing. It's too bad, then, they appointed a principal who defended or refused to condemn, at least, initially, a pro-terrorist t-shirt, and said we didn't give us any logical decision about the real word and Intifada didn't mean that, didn't mean terrorism.
Look, we know what the word Intifada means, Jews know it and I am fed up with the double standard. We got Islamic crescent star in the schools, I can't put a nativity scene in the schools. What's going on here?
SANCHEZ: Let's stop here. OK, fine. But do you have one shred of evidence that you could bring to the table right now that would show that they're going to be sharing or teaching nefarious things, that they're going to teach the kids to hate the West or be involved in terrorism?
DONOHUE: I can tell you this much, the burden is on the Department of Education. How come when we called them all summer long they stonewall us. How come the Association of Muslim-American Lawyers, we find out almost none of them? Could you imagine a Latin school staffed by Catholic nuns and priests who were orthodox? People would raise holy hell in church and state.
SANCHEZ: You're saying until they tell us what they're going to bring we'll continue to criticize?
DONOHUE: I'm trying to say is this an Arab school or Muslim school and what kind of Muslims? I want to know.
SANCHEZ: We're out of time. Bill, thanks for coming.
DONOHUE: Thank you.
SANCHEZ: Always a pleasure. Appreciate it. William Donohue with the Catholic League.
Now, coming up, fasten your seatbelts, this racer is burning up the track. Is he OK? Stay tuned.
And what gives the presidential candidate like him the right to ignore traffic laws? Would the cops let you run stop signs, whether you were running for office or not?
SANCHEZ: You know we like to share video with it, as we get it throughout the day, so here we go. NASCAR, Sunday's race in Fontana, California. This is Michael Walter behind the wheel of his Toyota Camry when a tire blows, it sparks a fire that engulfs the bottom of his car. Flames everywhere. Walter manages to steer onto the infield and after a scary couple of minutes got out safely.
More great pics coming up in a bit.
Imagine if someone made this promise to your child, just graduate from high school and I'm going to pay your way through college. Wouldn't that be great? Well, that's exactly what one woman from Oakland, California, did and no, she's not a millionaire. That's tonight's "Hero" segment for you.
ORAL LEE BROWN, CNN HERO: These are our kids. We should at least take them to a position in their life that they can lead their way. And they can't do it without an education.
36 percent of public school students in Oakland, California never make it to graduation.
An education can get you everything you want. You can go wherever you want to go.
Oral Lee Brown.
It's the way out of the ghettos, bottom line.
UNIDENTIFIED CHILDREN: Good morning, Mrs. Oral Brown.
YOLANDA PEEK, FMR. SCHOOL PRINCIPAL: She says, Give me your first graders who are really struggling and who are most needy. I want to adopt the class. And I want to follow the class until they graduate from high school.
And she says that she was going to pay their college tuitions.
BROWN: How many are going to college?
At the time, I was making I think $45,000, $46,000 a year. So I committed $10,000 to the kids.
A realtor, she raised additional money through fundraising events and donations.
I grew up in Mississippi. I lived off of $2 a day. That's what we got, $2 a day, that's what we got, $2 a day for picking cotton.
And so I really feel that I was blessed from God. And so I cannot pay him back, but these kids are his kids. These kids are -- some of them are poor like I was.
LAQUITA WHITE, FMR. STUDENT: When you have that mentor like Miss Brown, a very strong person, you can't go wrong, because she's on you constantly every day. "What are you doing? How are you doing?"
BROWN: The world doubted us. I was told that, "Lady, you cannot do it." And I would say, "You know what? These kids are just like any other kid. The only thing that they don't have the love and they don't have the support."
Nineteen of the 23 original students were sent to college.
Oral Lee Brown's program continues today.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They called me yesterday and told me I was accepted. Yay! Good news.
BROWN: You're looking at doctors and lawyers and one president of the United States.
When you give a kid an education and they get it up here, nobody or nothing can take it away.
Do you know a hero?
SANCHEZ: By the way, I need to tell you there's a lot more about Oral Lee Brown on our Website, cnn.com/Heroes, always one of our favorite segments.
What made Senator John McCain say this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN JOHN MCCAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thanks for the question you little jerk.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SANCHEZ: Said that like he wants to, right? Whoa! Who's he talking to anyway? That is the question. Says what he thinks.
And this guy isn't an elected official, he's only a candidate, so why is he already getting the royal treatment? We'll ask. Stay with us.
SANCHEZ: Welcome back. I'm Rick Sanchez. From the world of turnarounds we have some breaking news to share with you now on the Larry Craig scandal. It appears there may be reconsideration in the works, here. Let's go to Dana Bash. She's been following this story and joins us now with this update.
Shed some light on this, if you would, Dana.
DANA BASH, CNN NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, Rick. Well, according to Senator Craig's spokesman, they're now making clear that Senator Craig may, but they emphasize may, this is very conditional, may not resign.
Now, let me just read you the quote from Senator Craig's spokesman, Dan Whiting. He says that, "As Senator Craig stated on Saturday, he does intend to resign on September 30. However, he is fighting these charges and should he be cleared before then, he may," and this is from his spokesman, says "I emphasize may not resign."
Now this, Rick, certainly is another bizarre twist in what is already a bizarre story, especially given the fact that not only did senator Craig go before the cameras in Boise, Idaho on Saturday, go before the world and make it pretty clear that he simply does not think he can effectively serve the people of Idaho.
In Washington, of course, the Senate is back in session and the leadership that pushed him out so aggressively is making clear they think this episode is over. In fact, Rick, the Senate Republican leader, today, said to reporters, "I think this episode is over." And he also said that he thinks that they will have a new senator form Idaho in the next month or so and they're going to move on, so...
SANCHEZ: Dana, here's the problem, though. It seems to me, and you know better, you talk to these guys all the time -- we're down to 30 seconds -- it's not about the charges, it was about the intent that the officer said he was in for there, in that stall. Right? Isn't' that what's going to be a problem for him?
BASH: Yeah, I mean, and -- look, the big issue -- what his office is -- and his spokesman is making clear now, Rick, is that -- is that the senator is...
SANCHEZ: Down to 10 seconds, Dana.
BASH: ...going to continue to try to clear his name. So, if he clears his name and it's a big if, then they will try to -- then they might reconsider resigning.
SANCHEZ: Dana Bash, we thank you for bringing us up to date on that. We'll be all over it as we have been. In the meantime, LARRY KING LIVE, next.
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