Return to Transcripts main page

CNN NEWSROOM

O.J. Simpson Charged With Armed Robbery; Attorney General Nominee; Thousands Expected to March in Jena 6 Case

Aired September 17, 2007 - 09:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Want to get you directly to the top story of the show today, O.J. Simpson and the very latest in this situation that's happening with a possible armed robbery.
We want to go ahead and straight to the audio that we have new in to us this morning. Again, some details for you first.

Police say that Simpson was actually among a group of armed men who burst into a hotel room and demanded the return of his sports memorabilia. Simpson has actually said that no guns were involved and the incident was not a robbery. We warn you, though, the language you're about to hear, pretty raw.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (EXPLETIVE DELETED) you. Mind your own business.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Look at this (EXPLETIVE DELETED).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get over there.

O.J. SIMPSON: You think you can steal my (EXPLETIVE DELETED)?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Backs to the wall.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was trying to get past you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Walk your ass over there.

SIMPSON: Think you can steal my (EXPLETIVE DELETED)?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mike took it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You, against the (EXPLETIVE DELETED) wall.

SIMPSON: I know (EXPLETIVE DELETED) Mike took it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Search him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And I know what Brian's trying to prove.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm cool. I am.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Stand up.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, so...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get your (EXPLETIVE DELETED) asses up.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Stand the (EXPLETIVE DELETED) up.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

COLLINS: Let's go ahead and get straight to Las Vegas now, where Simpson is actually in jail. We want to get to our correspondent, CNN's Chris Lawrence, with the very latest.

Chris, good morning to you.

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Heidi.

Well, O.J. Simpson is now facing two counts of robbery with a deadly weapon. And each one of those counts could send him to prison for 30 years.

You've got to remember, at this point, O.J. Simpson is a 60-year- old man. So, theoretically, these alleged crimes could put him in jail for the rest of his life.

Now, no one, not O.J. Simpson, the men he was with, or the alleged victim disputes the basic premise of this case, that Simpson and a few other men walked into that room in the Palace station Casino and demanded the return of certain pieces of sports memorabilia. Now, Simpson says the memorabilia belonged to him. Police say that doesn't matter.

They believe a gun was flashed inside the room, that it was pointed at some of the men who were in that room. And that constitutes a crime.

At this point, O.J. Simpson is being held without bail and he'll be that way until he goes to court within the next few days. He's being held in isolation in a cell about eight feet by three feet -- Heidi.

COLLINS: All right. CNN's Chris Lawrence for us in Las Vegas this morning with the very latest in the O.J. Simpson story.

Chris, thank you for that.

Meanwhile, lots of legal questions to ask and to try to get answered. We try to do that with CNN senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin, now joining us from New York this morning.

Holy cow, Jeff Toobin.

First of all...

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SR. LEGAL ANALYST: It looks like...

(CROSSTALK)

COLLINS: Yes, it is, actually.

That tape that we just heard from TMZ, any chance that that could even be used in court if we get to court in this whole case?

TOOBIN: Oh, I think it is possible it could be used in court. And it could be very important evidence.

I think it's important to emphasize, it doesn't establish O.J. Simpson guilt. He did say that there was a dispute in his various press comments to CNN and others. He has made clear that this was a dispute, but he said it was more in the nature of a business dispute than an armed robbery.

That tape doesn't show that an armed robbery took place...

COLLINS: Yes.

TOOBIN: ... but it certainly shows that it was possible. And it will probably be good evidence for the government.

COLLINS: OK. I have a lot more questions about that, too.

But first of all, back up just a minute. I mean, are you surprised about how this all went down? When you first heard about it, what did you think?

TOOBIN: Well, you know, of course, it's surprising that it's a bizarre series of circumstances. But what's not surprising is that O.J. Simpson is particularly obsessed with the memorabilia market, because this is how he makes his living.

He has a very large pension from the NFL, something like $400,000 a year. But other than that, his only real source of income is memorabilia. And this is something that he -- he cares a lot about, and he also has tremendous sense of grievance of people out to get him. So the fact that he thought a memorabilia dealer wasn't dealing fairly with him, had stolen stuff from him, the passion that he brought to this issue is not surprising.

COLLINS: How strong a case does the prosecution have at this very moment?

TOOBIN: I really don't know. There's too much we don't know.

The eyewitness testimony of all of the people in the room will be crucial. And we are just learning their names now.

COLLINS: Yes.

TOOBIN: Now, given the people that O.J. Simpson has been associated with since his acquittal, chances are some of them are pretty seedy characters. It wasn't a particularly distinguished hotel. The memorabilia market does not attract the likes of IBM and General Electric.

I mean, these tend to be pretty -- sometimes sketchy operators. So the credibility of the witnesses will be something that both sides will need to examine. But, you know, it sounds like it's a big problem for O.J.

I mean, this is not a trivial case. Las Vegas moved very quickly. Armed robbery has a 30-year maximum in prison. That's one reason why he hasn't gotten out on bail yet because the charges are so serious.

COLLINS: OK.

TOOBIN: So this is -- he's in a world of trouble.

COLLINS: Yes. Real quickly before we let you go, just one sentence on if you were his attorney, his defense attorney. What are you telling him right now?

TOOBIN: Shut up. Stop talking to the press. That's for starters.

COLLINS: I so knew that you were going to say that.

All right, Jeff, we're going to talk to you about some other things this morning as well a little bit later on. Thanks so much.

TOOBIN: All right.

COLLINS: Jeff Toobin.

We do expect a big announcement, in fact, from the White House. In about a 90 minutes from now, a senior administration official tells CNN President Bush will nominate retired federal judge Michael Mukasey to be the new attorney general.

Want to go live now to CNN justice correspondent Kelli Arena this morning.

Kellery (sic), what -- Kellery. Pardon me.

KELLI ARENA, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: That's OK. That works, Heidi.

COLLINS: I'm so concerned about saying his name correctly because, quite frankly, I think a lot of people really just don't know him very well.

ARENA: You're absolutely right.

COLLINS: Tell us a little bit about him.

ARENA: You're absolutely right. A lot of people will wonder, who? Who's this guy?

Well, I'll tell you about him.

As you said, he is a retired federal judge from New York. He was actually appointed by Ronald Reagan. And he's considered somewhat of an authority on national security issues and has a long history of hearing terrorism cases.

Most notably, he said Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman, the so-called "Blind Sheikh," to prison for life. I mean, you remember that he was convicted of plotting against targets in New York City. He also handled the very early case against former enemy combatant Jose Padilla. So the cases he's worked on obviously very well known.

Now, after leaving the federal bench, he went back to private practice. Most recently, he's been advising the Giuliani campaign. But pretty solid reputation -- Heidi.

COLLINS: OK. So fast forward quite a bit, because we never really know how long these procedures will take. But how does it look for confirmation for Mukasey?

ARENA: Well, you know, a lot of liberals like this choice. New York Senator Chuck Schumer, for one, put out a statement saying that he believes Mukasey is independent, that he'll uphold the law.

You know, he's not someone from inside the president's inner circle. He seems less ideological than some of the other names that were out there. So, on that front, you know, liberals are happy. But some conservatives are disappointed in this pick.

It's not his terrorism record that they have a problem with, it's some other issues. Some are citing his record on abortion. Others say he just doesn't have sort of the national stature, the name recognition to do what needs to be done over at main Justice.

But at this stage in the game, political analysts say that, you know, it doesn't seem likely that Republican lawmakers are going to really go up against the President on this pick and say that -- you know, after a little bit of, you know, he said/she said, Mukasey is likely to be confirmed.

COLLINS: OK. Kelli Arena from the Justice Department this morning, our correspondent.

Thanks so much, Kelli.

ARENA: You're welcome.

COLLINS: We'll be watching this one. In fact, we do expect that announcement from the White House, as I said, in about 90 minutes.

A senior administration official tells CNN President Bush will nominate that man, federal judge Michael Mukasey, to be the new attorney general.

We will carry that for you. You see it on your screen at 10:30 a.m. this morning. We'll bring it to you live right here in the CNN NEWSROOM.

(NEWSBREAK)

(WEATHER REPORT) COLLINS: O.J. Simpson, lawyers, allegations of guns and memorabilia. Much more on our top story all morning, right here in the CNN NEWSROOM.

SEAN CALLEBS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Sean Callebs in Jena, Louisiana.

A racially-charged criminal case, a massive civil rights demonstration planned. The latest on the group known as the Jena 6 coming up in the NEWSROOM.

COLLINS: And looking for Maddie. Her parents turning to the media in an effort to find their little girl and clear themselves as suspects.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COLLINS: A racially-charged case. Jena, Louisiana, in the national spotlight this week, a conviction thrown out.

What now for the young defendants?

Our Sean Callebs is covering the case of the so-called Jena 6.

Good morning to you, Sean.

CALLEBS: Good morning, Heidi.

Well, 17-year-old Mychal Bell remains in a LaSalle Parish jail where he has been since December, even though a Louisiana State appeals court threw out his conviction as an adult of aggravated battery. Now, this stems back to a high school beating that happened last fall with Bell and five others who became known as the Jena 6, African-American teenagers, pummeled a white student, beating Justin Barker so badly that he was taken to the hospital.

Now, even though Bell's conviction has been overturned, don't expect the jail doors to swing open anytime soon. The district attorney here, Reed Walters, has about two weeks to re-file charges in juvenile court.

Without question, the mood in this community remains tense. And this predominantly white town remains bitterly divided.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CAROL POWELL LEXING, MYCHAL BELL'S ATTORNEY: Sometimes people can't see race problems if they've been involved in and embedded in it for so long. You can't -- you can't see it. And you might think that nothing is wrong, but other people can see it. And I think within yourself, you know something is wrong.

JANICE DOSHER, JENA RESIDENT: I just think it's an untrue statement about Jena. I just don't believe, you know, that there's not that much racism. I know in every place there's probably some, but not to the extent that it's been, you know, portrayed over the media.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CALLEBS: Well, a massive civil rights demonstration is planned for this town this coming Thursday. That is the day that Mychal Bell was supposed to be sentenced after being convicted.

Now, even though this conviction has been overturned, civil rights leaders including Al Sharpton and the Reverend Jesse Jackson say the demonstration will go on as planned. Now, the crowd estimates vary wildly, but they could be anywhere from several thousand to as many as 40,000 people descending on this city. So many people that the sheriff has turned over law enforcement -- law enforcement of the crowd that day to the state police.

The D.A. has given no indication he is going to back down either. He does have this time to file charges in juvenile court.

And Heidi, there's a lot going on. There's going to be some court activity here within, say, an hour or so. The defense in Bell's case is trying to get the judge who has been hearing this case recused -- Heidi.

COLLINS: That's a big story. All right. We're going to be following it here.

All right. Sean Callebs, thank you.

Another big story this morning as well -- the next attorney general. President Bush this morning expected to nominate former federal judge Michael Mukasey to succeed Alberto Gonzales.

Here to talk more about that, CNN senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin.

We think you should just co-anchor the show, Jeffrey. We have so much stuff to talk with you about today.

First of all, a little bit more about who he is. We just heard from Kelli Arena this is someone who has certainly presided over many terrorism cases.

TOOBIN: Absolutely. And he really comes out of such a different tradition than President Bush's two previous attorney generals. John Ashcroft, a very conservative politician. Alberto Gonzales, one of President Bush's closest long-term aides from Texas.

Michael Mukasey, as far as I'm aware, doesn't know President Bush at all. He comes from this tradition of moderate Republican law enforcement officials in New York State. It's a line that goes all the way back to Thomas Dewey, the governor who ran for president in 1944 and 1948.

All of these officials have sort of lived mostly outside politics. They have not been especially ideological. And Mukasey is very much in that tradition. He is a law enforcement guy, he's a judge. He's never administered anything, which may raise questions about, you know, administering something as big as the Department of Justice. But in terms of the politics, he's known as tough on law and order. But he has no record on issues like abortion and affirmative action.

COLLINS: Well, that's what you want. Is it not?

TOOBIN: Well, not necessarily. I mean, President Bush is a strong conservative. He is someone who does not believe in abortion. He does not believe in the use of race -- preferential treatment for race.

His previous two attorney generals shared those beliefs. That's one approach to picking your cabinet.

Now he's going for a much more moderate choice, someone who could get through the Senate now that it's in Democratic hands. Washington is a very different place...

COLLINS: Yes.

TOOBIN: ... now that the Democrats control the Senate. And President Bush can't get what he wants as much as used to.

COLLINS: I guess I'm just saying ideally, it would be great to have someone who, you know, didn't care about the politics and just went with the judgments and their thoughts on things instead.

Hey, what happened to Ted Olson?

TOOBIN: Ted Olson was too politically controversial. Ted is one of the most admired lawyers in the country, an extremely effective advocate. He did a very good job, I think most people agree, as solicitor general in President Bush's first term.

But he was very much identified with those conservative policies I talked about. And he was very active in the anti-Clinton movement in the 1990s. And Harry Reid said very explicitly, he's not going to get confirmed, and President Bush decided not to pick a fight.

COLLINS: All right. We will be talking a lot more about this today. That announcement expected at 10:30 this morning, about an hour or so from now.

Jeff Toobin, thank you.

TOOBIN: See you later, Heidi.

COLLINS: President Bush is expected, as we said, to announce Michael Mukasey as his attorney general pick this morning. It's going to happen in the Rose Garden at 10:30 Eastern and you can watch it right here on CNN.

Speed kills, but not this time -- whoa. A drag racer walks away after his car literally falls to pieces. We'll show you some more of this amazing tape.

ALI VELSHI, CNN SR. BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: And I'm Ali Velshi in New York, "Minding Your Business".

It's a big week for economics today, this week. The Fed is expected to cut rates tomorrow. But what does Alan Greenspan have to say about rates and the markets?

I'll tell you when we come back in the NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COLLINS: With attention focused on what the former Fed chairman Alan Greenspan has to say, let's not forget what current Fed chief Ben Bernanke could say this week as the Fed meets to consider a rate cut.

Here with a look ahead now, Ali Velshi, "Minding Your Business" this morning.

That's true. I mean, we were so focused on the book and what he's saying (ph), we kind of forget about the guy who is in charge right now.

VELSHI: Yes. Alan Greenspan, I mean, he's been out of the Fed for, what, a year and a half, almost two years now. He picked this week to decide to release his memoirs, when, in fact, eyes are focused on what the Fed is going to do tomorrow -- the interest rate cut that we're all expecting. So, you know, today, there has been all of this reporting on what Alan Greenspan has said about his history, his relationship with President Bush, what he thinks the government did right, what they did wrong, and whether he had anything to do with this subprime crisis that we're in.

But Andy Serwer, the managing editor of "Fortune" magazine, sat down for an interview with Alan Greenspan and he asked Alan Greenspan what we think about the stock market, what Alan Greenspan thinks is going to happen with the market right now. And here's what Greenspan had to say.

He said the Fed is going to have to be tighter, which means they're going to have to increase interest rates a little bit more. It means that stock prices are going to have some difficulty moving forward. Shorter term, clearly, it's got problems with very significant credit disruptions and turmoil.

Alan Greenspan goes on to say that at his time in the Fed, that a relatively easy time in lowering rates without triggering inflation, but that that doesn't happen anymore. That's not the case.

So, Alan Greenspan suggesting that stock markets might not just go in one direction. We are expecting tomorrow to have the Fed reduce interest rates by probably 25 basis points, Heidi. That's a quarter of a percent. Some people are calling for 50 basis points or a half a percent. We might see some response on the stock market. But Alan Greenspan saying that over the long term, we might see stock markets slow down a little bit.

When I say long term, I mean not tomorrow. Not over the long term. He's very bullish on the stock market in the long run. But we're talking about in the near term, more than a day.

COLLINS: More than a day.

What about consumers? I mean, are they going to feel some relief with that? Going to be pleased with this cut?

VELSHI: Yes, because many consumer loans -- that's a good question, Heidi. Many consumer loans are tied to what's called the prime rate.

The prime rate is tried to that Fed rate. So the Fed rate for much more than a year has been 5.25 percent. Three percent more than that, 8 percent, is what the prime rate is.

So you might have a credit card or a loan that's tied to prime. If the Fed cuts rates by 25 basis points, .25 percent tomorrow or more, your loan interest goes down along with that. So, in fact, you're going to feel tomorrow's interest rate cut, if there is one, across the board.

COLLINS: Yes, but twice (ph).

VELSHI: It may not affect your mortgage but it's definitely going to affect some of your consumer loans.

COLLINS: OK. Well, we look forward to that...

VELSHI: We'll be on that.

COLLINS: ... because we are all consumers.

VELSHI: Yes.

COLLINS: All right.

Ali "Minding Your Business" this morning.

Thank you.

VELSHI: OK.

COLLINS: You are in the CNN NEWSROOM, everybody.

I'm Heidi Collins. Tony Harris is off today.

Among our top stories this hour, O.J. Simpson under arrest and apparently on tape. The former football star accused of armed robbery. An audiotape captures the confrontation inside a Las Vegas hotel room. The alleged victims, memorabilia dealers selling Simpson collectibles.

Here's some of that audiotape. We warn you now, some viewers may find this language offensive.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (EXPLETIVE DELETED) you. Mind your own business.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Look at this (EXPLETIVE DELETED).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get over there.

O.J. SIMPSON: You think you can steal my (EXPLETIVE DELETED)?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Backs to the wall.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was trying to get past you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Walk your ass over there.

SIMPSON: Think you can steal my (EXPLETIVE DELETED)?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mike took it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You, against the (EXPLETIVE DELETED) wall.

SIMPSON: I know (EXPLETIVE DELETED) Mike took it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Search him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And I know what Brian's trying to prove.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm cool. I am.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Stand up.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, so...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get your (EXPLETIVE DELETED) asses up.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Stand the (EXPLETIVE DELETED) up.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

COLLINS: Simpson is in jail this morning, held without bail, in fact. He's scheduled to go to court Thursday where he'll face a long list of charges.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CAPT. JAMES DILLON, LAS VEGAS METROPOLITAN POLICE: Robbery with a deadly weapon, two counts. Assault with a deadly weapon, two- counts. Conspiracy to commit burglary, and burglary with a firearm.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COLLINS: Simpson denies that guns were involved and he says the confrontation was not a robbery.

Looking for Maddy -- her parents turning to the media in an effort to find their little girl and clear themselves as suspects.

A badly burned Iraqi boy finding medicine for the soul right here in America.

ZAINEB, YOUSSIF'S MOTHER (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): We try and talk to him. He wouldn't talk to us. He was upset all the time, 24 hours a day. He would say it himself, "I'm upset."

Now he's happy.

Happy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COLLINS: Healing waters -- Youssif's wonderful adventure.

And the wild ride that comes to a sudden -- and I mean sudden -- 105 miles per hour back to zero in just a couple of seconds. And I survived. Stick around for my Tailhook travels. We'll you all about it, right after a quick break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(STOCK MARKET REPORT)

COLLINS: Meanwhile, we are waiting for a big announcement from President Bush this morning. Government sources say the president is expected to nominate Michael Mukasey to succeed Alberto Gonzales as attorney general.

Mukasey is a retired federal judge from New York with wide experience in terrorism cases. He presided over the terror trial of Sheikh Abdul Raman. He was also involved in the case of Jose Padilla, the man the government once called a dirty bomb suspect.

Again, President Bush expected to make that announcement, Michael Mukasey as his new attorney general, this morning in a Rose Garden ceremony. It will happen add 10:30 Eastern and you can watch right it here on CNN.

British billionaire Richard Branson has pledged $200,000 to help the parents of Madeleine McCann clear their names. The McCanns have been named suspects now in the disappearance of their little girl, missing in Portugal since May.

CNN's Emily Chang has more.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE) EMILY CHANG, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Kate and Gerry McCann walk to church hand in hand. The twins arriving with their grandparents. The outing was carefully choreographed by their new publicist, who notified the media beforehand and arranged for two of Kate's friends to talk to CNN.

NICKY GILL, MCCANN FRIEND: They are heartbroken. Their little girl is gone and we've still got no answers as to where she is.

CHANG: They also released cheerful wedding photos of Kate and Gerri. This a day after the family announced they will launch a massive ad campaign to remind the world that Madeleine is still missing.

(on camera): It seems the McCanns are trying to regain control of media speculation that has turned against them. It's a return to their media friendly approach that helped put the search for their daughter in the international spotlight.

ALLAND BIGGAR, PUBLIC RELATIONS EXPERT: The McCanns, I think, are doing what they have to do. They're kind of damned if they do and damned if they don't. They have to defend themselves. They have to keep promoting the campaign for Maddy's return.

CHANG: Indeed, today the headlines reflect more sympathy for the McCanns than they've had in recent days.

BIGGAR: They have no choice but actually to be involved in the -- in the media game, if that's the way of putting it, that's going on. They are parts of it. They are key characters in it.

CHANG: After the church service, Jerry spoke through his publicist, saying it was comfortable to be among friends and family praying for Madeleine and that he and Kate hoped life would soon go back to normal. But for now, they certainly can't escape the ever watching eyes of the world.

Emily Chang, CNN, in Rothley, England.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

COLLINS: Raging wildfires have hundreds of people out of their homes this morning in California. The largest blaze burning more than 15,000 acres in the San Bernardino National Forest. Hundreds of people evacuated. Two main roadways closed. The schools canceled classes. Cooler weather, though, is helping firefighters fight this morning. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has declared a state of energy for San Bernardino County.

A smaller, 1300-acre fire in San Diego County is said to be 60 percent contained.

Now, Rob Marciano joining us with the very latest on this. Obviously very dry out there, I would imagine.

ROB MARCIANO, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Dry. This is the time of year now when we get the fire season for Southern California, especially you get those Santa Ana blowing, although that's not necessarily the case today.

You mentioned there is improving conditions. The critical fire danger area has shifted toward northwestern Arizona.

We want to add to some of that video we showed you one of our I- Reporters, Rick Halterbrick (ph). This is the fire that he shot, the Big Bear Fire there in the San Bernardino National Forest. As you mentioned, they had to evacuate a whole bunch of people. You can see the plume of smoke, a little bit of activity there as the helicopters dip into those pre-set up pools of water that get -- and fire retardant -- to get what they need to get to do their job.

Good pictures there. Obviously, good visibility. And he was pretty far away from that fire to give us those pictures.

CNN.com/ireport -- and send us your stuff. Ooh, wow! Yes. And, yes, there's a phone right there. Cool. I didn't -- I've never seen that, so that kind of scared me.

COLLINS: That's a very big phone, isn't it?

It's as big as the United States of America.

(WEATHER REPORT)

COLLINS: Speaking of high surf.

MARCIANO: You were showing me some pictures earlier.

COLLINS: Yes, I want to show you this, and the folks at home, too. A pretty unbelievable opportunity this weekend that you would have loved. We had an opportunity to go out and do a Tailhook landing on the USS Eisenhower. This is us coming in in a C-2, otherwise known as a COD -- a carrier on board delivery aircraft. And there we are meeting Captain Dan Cloyd, the captain of the USS Eisenhower. We're inside there where you can look down and watch all the flight op. Now we're on the flight deck.

These guys launch every 60 seconds, F-18s, the Super Hornets and the Rhino version, every 60 seconds.

Can you believe that?

The flight ops go on for about 18 hours or so. You can see one in the background there, getting ready to take off.

And these guys in these jerseys, you know, the crew on a flight deck...

MARCIANO: I feel I'm watching "Top Gun" right now.

COLLINS: I k. And it is.

MARCIANO: This is just getting me all fired up. COLLINS: Look at this. Look at this. And off they go. It was amazing. But they don't talk, Rob, on that flight deck because, obviously, it's so loud. They all have hand signals and different colored jerseys. And depending upon the jersey that they're wearing, then you know what their job is specifically. And Captain Cloyd there, who you see, talks about it as an industrial ballet that's going on -- very, very precise.

Now you see Bill White there with the Intrepid Sea Air and Space Museum, a couple of other people who went on board with us. They take businesspeople and influential folks out to the Eisenhower to just learn a little more about what's going on and what the Navy is doing.

This is the catapult system where they -- this is us taking off, actually.

I didn't know we had this.

MARCIANO: What did that -- what did that feel like when you had those Gs and that thing was yanking...

COLLINS: Oh. Well, here's what happens. You go from 0 to 128 miles per hour in three seconds when you take off.

MARCIANO: Gosh. Umm. Awesome.

COLLINS: So it's a bit of a jolt, as you might imagine. But I started to say, they take a group of people out every now and then -- I mean quite frequently. Business leaders -- we had Josette Massbacher (ph) on there, another business person from the New York area, to just learn about what the Navy is doing and how the taxpayer dollars are being used. So it's a pretty, pretty, pretty, as they would say on "Curb Your Enthusiasm," amazing experience.

MARCIANO: What is -- how about the people that wear white, which I noticed you were wearing.

What does that mean?

COLLINS: That means we don't know what we're doing and watch out because we could we could be hazardous. And it's fascinating because if you stand, you know, here, that's OK. But just right over here, maybe just two feet away, that's not OK. I mean, I'm telling you, it's very precise, as you would imagine.

MARCIANO: Yes. Now could you did you guys -- did you ask the pilot if he could do like a fly by, kind of like "Maverick" and (INAUDIBLE) and "Ghost Rider?"

COLLINS: Actually, you know, we did do what's called the carrier break. You can come in real nice and gentle, sort of in a circular path, or you can just go straight down -- and they pull about 2 Gs -- and land. And we asked -- we asked for that. I'm not sure why we asked for that, but it was fun.

(LAUGHTER) MARCIANO: I'm so jealous. You get all the...

COLLINS: They...

MARCIANO: You get all the cool (INAUDIBLE).

COLLINS: It was amazing. I tell you, the 5,000 men and women out on the USS Eisenhower have some stories to tell, that's for sure.

MARCIANO: Very cool. That's a cool job and, of course, we thank them for their service.

COLLINS: We do thank them for their service.

MARCIANO: Thanks a lot.

Thanks, Heidi.

COLLINS: All right.

Thank you, Rob.

And we also want to show you some of those pictures that we have -- an amazing just fiery crash on the track, where the driver launched into the air. Look at this. But here's why it's so amazing -- he walked away. We're going to tell you what happened coming up in just a few minutes.

And another horrifying crash. Dozens were able to escape, and some not. Investigators are looking for answers in a Thailand plane crash, after the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COLLINS: Investigators sifting through the debris this morning of that deadly plane crash in Thailand looking for clues to what may have caused the crash.

CNN's Andrew Stevens has the very latest now from Phuket, Thailand.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

ANDREW STEVENS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Identification of the dead continues here at Phuket more than 24 hours after the One-Two-Go Budget jet crashed here on Sunday afternoon. There's a makeshift morgue that's been set up at the airport and relatives and friends are still identifying their loved ones. At last count, close to 90 people have been confirmed dead and some 40 others did escape.

Horror stories coming from those survivors. Many talking about people being engulfed by flames and leaving through any exit they could find.

Let's listen to the story of one survivor in the minutes that followed impact. ANNE FURLONG, CANADIAN SURVIVOR: It was very quick, very quick. There is just -- when we actually -- we hit, before, when we first missed landing, everything -- nobody was screaming and no announcement from the captain. Everybody was calm.

And when we hit, then there's noise from the, you know, from the plane. And everything was falling down from the oxygen. And everything from the top stuff flying around. And then -- and then it was just dark right away. And then right away you could feel the smoke in your -- in your throat and your lungs. And it was like so thick, like you couldn't even see. And then you look up and there's flames coming from where the cabin used to be, like flames came shooting down. And then I saw some people in front of us burning.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STEVENS: Those stories being repeated around Phuket today. Some survivors said that they were sitting close to emergency exits and got away easily, but returned to help others get out.

Most of the dead are foreign nationals, many from Europe, looking for the sun Phuket a very, very popular place among European holiday makers.

The two black boxes which contain the flight information have now been found, but it's going to be at least several weeks before any results of the black boxes are known. Andrew Stevens, CNN, Phuket, Thailand.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

COLLINS: An incredible accident caught on tape. It's from the national drag racing championships in Australia. Yikes! Absolutely unbelievable. But, yes, the driver is OK in all of this. Look at that. It just lifted right up on him. He was cruising along at more than 300 miles an hour when the dragster blew apart. It launched him in the air and down the track. He tumbled end over end, as you saw. There he is. Amazingly, he walked away. He spent the night in the hospital. His only injury -- a little more than a bit of pain in his finger.

Can you believe it?

Coming up, rebuilding lives in Afghanistan -- the award winning author of the best-seller, "The Kite Runner," his homeland and what life is like now.

Attacked by an alligator and living to tell the tale -- one man's story of survival.

And she's not chasing grandkids. She's pursuing justice -- and she caught it, in the form of a slow-footed bad guy.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COLLINS: Swimming in dangerous waters -- attacked by an alligator. Surviving thanks to some nearby nurses. A lucky guy. We get the story now from Nicole Johnson of affiliate WCSC in Charleston, South Carolina.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

NICOLE JOHNSON, WCSC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):

People picnicking at Short Stay (ph) say they saw the man snorkeling in Lake Moultrie before the alligator attacked.

JEROME BIEN, WITNESS: We saw that we had a commotion and we found -- we saw a guy right here. He's bleeding profusely. And we thought he was just kidding.

JOHNSON: But what happened to Bill Hedden was no joke. A 12-foot- long, 600-pound gator bit his left arm off, ripping it from the shoulder socket.

CAPT. BILL SALISBURY, BERKELEY COUNTY RESCUE: He was able to come to bank and ran up to a picnic area where a lot of people were picnicking. And they saw what was happening and they called 911.

JOHNSON: Luckily, at least five registered nurses were part of the group nearby. They knew exactly what to do to stop the bleeding.

JO MASAUDING, NURSE: One of the members kept on encouraging him to breathe and -- because he was turning blue.

JOHNSON: The nurses took care of Hedden until EMS arrived and MediVaced him to the hospital.

MASAUDING: He was very conscious and he was just asking for his wife -- call his wife and -- to make sure that she knew what happened to him.

JOHNSON: DNR agents killed the gator and they say they removed the arm from the animal's stomach. The arm was placed in the ice cooler and taken to the hospital, where doctors will determine whether it could be reattached.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

COLLINS: Holy cow.

Can you believe it?

Singer Jim Croce warned you don't tug on Superman's cape, remember?

Apparently you also don't snatch this grandma's purse. The 85- year-old Miami woman bolted after a man when she snatched her purse. Police nabbed him and returned her purse. The bad guy apparently didn't know who he was messing with. She was on the track team in Cuba in the 1930s. There she is. She was fast, too.

O.J. Simpson in jail. There's no bail, but there is a tape. You'll hear Simpson, his own words, in just a moment.

A small Louisiana town on edge and a huge victory for a defendant in the so-called Jena 6 case. We'll talk with his adviser in just a moment.

A badly burned Iraqi boy finding medicine for the soul here in America.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ZAINEB (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): We try and talk to him. He wouldn't talk to us. He was upset all the time -- 24 hours a day. He would say it himself, "I'm upset."

Now, he's happy.

Happy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COLLINS: Healing waters -- Youssif's wonderful adventure.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COLLINS: A little Iraqi boy burned by masked men now getting to do what lots of little boys like to do.

CNN's Arwa Damon reports on Youssif's American adventure.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

ARWA DAMON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Even Youssif's favorite superhero thinks he's the real hero -- a 5-year-old boy fighting to ward off his demons -- emotional and physical.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): I'm so happy for him. He's been deprived and now he's seeing things for real.

DAMON: And there is plenty for Youssif to see at Universal Studios, Hollywood.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can you stick your tongue out?

DAMON: A special audience with Archie the Orangutan, who took a special liking to Youssif. And though not part of the show, Youssif made sure his sister was part of the act. Here the little boy, once doused with gasoline and set on fire by masked men in Baghdad, isn't afraid of anything.

"I'm not scared," Youssif pipes up. "I'm not even scared of fire."

But he is a little scared of water at first. It's the first time he's seen the ocean. His parents say it's the first time they've seen him laugh like this since the attack.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ZAINEB (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): We try and talk to him. He wouldn't talk to us. He was upset all the time -- 24 hours a day. He would say it himself, "I'm upset."

Now, he's happy.

Happy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DAMON: He's put the past aside, at least for now. The little boy who was once silent can't stop chatting -- so comfortable, he's even ordering us around.

Back in Baghdad, he had trouble interacting with other kids.

"The other kids would tell me to stop when I wanted to play with them," he says.

But today, even the wildlife was coming to play. People can't seem to get enough, either. A church group spots Youssif and asks if they can pray for him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And take care of Youssif and his mom and dad and everybody.

DAMON: The spontaneous act by the Rocky Peak church group was too much for his mother.

ZAINEB (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): I was overcome with emotion. Here in America, people are more moved by him than in Iraq.

DAMON: And Youssif's parents can use all the support they can get as they see their son through multiple surgeries in the coming months, all in an effort to try and restore what was taken from him.

Arwa Damon, CNN, Los Angeles.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

COLLINS: Thousands of people, including you, the viewer, have responded to Youssif's story through CNN's Impact Your World initiative.

If you are looking for a way to make a difference for Youssif, you can log onto CNN.com/impact. Click on "Iraq burn victim" and learn how you can become part of the solution. Impacting your world, just a click away at CNN.com/impact.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.voxant.com