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O.J. Simpson Held Without Bail on Robbery Charges

Aired October 18, 2007 - 20:00   ET


RICK SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: We have got an exclusive tonight with the judge who denied O.J. Simpson bail.

SANCHEZ (voice-over): Here we go, busted again, but, this time, will it stick?

From the TMZ tape in the hotel room, to the Las Vegas jail, what was he really after? And was it worth risking his freedom?

Time was, most whites thought he was guilty. Most blacks thought he wasn't. What about now?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was his possessions, so I think I would have did the same thing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're not supposed to steal. So, don't steal, O.J.

SANCHEZ: In Iraq, incredible video, the intersection of life and death caught on tape.

Is this reporter taking his job just a little too seriously? This one's weird.

The highlight of the Emmys. Why was she bleeped? You're going to hear what the rest of the country missed, because we're here to bring it OUT IN THE OPEN.


SANCHEZ: And hello again, everybody. I'm Rick Sanchez.

What a story. Tonight, O.J. Simpson -- think about this -- is looking at spending the rest of his life behind bars. We're expecting a lot of important information, some developments during this newscast. We have got a lot of phone calls that we have been making through our staff, including an exclusive interview with the judge who decided that Simpson should remain in a jail cell and in isolation.

We have also got a shot at talking to one of the other suspects, Mr. Alexander in this case. Simpson's accused of, among other things, assaulting and robbing a man in a Las Vegas hotel room at gunpoint, even though he wasn't the one carrying the gun. Here's what I want you to listen to first, as we start this newscast, because we're going to take you through a whole bevy of stuff. This is a recording that was made in the actual hotel room that was posted on the Web site So what you're about to hear is the confrontation right at the moment that Simpson and his alleged accomplices entered the room.

Here it is. Go ahead, Ali (ph).


O.J. SIMPSON, DEFENDANT: Don't let nobody out this room. (EXPLETIVE DELETED)

Think you can steal my (EXPLETIVE DELETED) and sell it?


SIMPSON: Don't let nobody out of here.


Mother (EXPLETIVE DELETED) you think you can steal my (EXPLETIVE DELETED)?


SANCHEZ: All right. What's interesting about this -- and we're being joined by a couple of our correspondents.

Do your remember where he was saying right there, O.J. Simpson, don't let anybody out of this room? That's interesting. We are going to be talking a lot about that tonight.

Ted Rowlands, he is at the detention center where Simpson is locked up. Dan Simon, he is going to be joining us from the courthouse.

My thanks to both of you fellows.

Let's start with you, Ted. A lot of viewers are just catching up to this story. You have talked to O.J. Simpson. You have also spoken to the police and the prosecutors.

Reconcile both stories as best you can and tell us what O.J. is actually accused of doing, Ted.

TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Rick, it starts Thursday night at the Palace Station Hotel. It's sort of an offbeat casino hotel off the Strip.

There was an armed robbery, alleged, that took place there. From O.J. Simpson's standpoint, it wasn't an armed robbery at all. It was him going in to get his stolen stuff. He says that he got wind that people were selling his personal items that were stolen from him years ago on the black market, so he posed as a buyer with some buddies. They went in and you heard some of the audio of what happened in that hotel room. He admits, told CNN that he did raise his voice, that he was yelling and he was mad, and he took his stuff back, left the room, no incident, no guns, nothing to worry about.

The problem is the other side of the coin here. And that's the one that the police seem to be believing more than O.J. Simpson at this point. And that is from the alleged victims that O.J. Simpson, yes, posed as a buyer. He came barrelling in with five other guys. Two of the guys had guns drawn. They held these guys at gunpoint.

They were thinking they were going to meet a buyer to sell this O.J. Simpson memorabilia to someone interested in that kind of thing. And in fact, it was O.J. and his thugs, they called them, they put them at gunpoint, assaulted one of the men, took all the memorabilia out. They called the cops.

What's murky here is the guys that called the police, the guys that had their stuff stolen were associates of Simpson through the years. And one of them actually turned the next day and sort of reconciled with O.J., but the police have both of their statements. They have two guns. They have made one other arrest.

You mentioned we're going to hopefully talk to that other individual during the show. And they have got O.J. Simpson in jail here. He's facing multiple felony counts and he's being held without bail.

SANCHEZ: All right. Here's the things that I think I'm curious about, a lot of folks at home are probably wondering as well. What's the relationship between these other four or five guys that went into the room and O.J. Simpson? Second question, did O.J. Simpson know that there were two guns at the time they entered the room? Those seem to be extremely salient, don't they?

ROWLANDS: Well, according to O.J. Simpson, he knew these guys. They were associates of his. But he said he didn't know them well. In fact, he said he had never met one of the other guys that was involved in this. He did know the others throughout his life, but he didn't know them real well.

He was tipped off to this by a guy, according to Simpson, named Tom Riccio, about a month ago, saying, hey, they're trying to sell your stuff, O.J. And that's when he said he started to formulate this plan. He talked all about this and basically said that he saw an opportunity here in Vegas to get his stolen stuff back.

SANCHEZ: Dan Simon, let's bring you into the picture, because now we're talking apparently about six different felonies. We could be talking about a long time. And I understand that there's going to be a hearing on Wednesday. What do we expect is going to happen there?


Wednesday is when the court system kicks in this for this case. Wednesday morning, O.J. Simpson is going to be brought underneath a tunnel to the courthouse. So he's not going to be exposed to the public, if you will. Security is going to be beefed up, we are told though inside the courthouse.

A couple things are going to happen when he goes into the courtroom. First, he's going to be advised of the various charges. After that, we are told there's going to be a bail hearing. Of course, O.J. Simpson was denied bail but this particular judge will have a hearing. And one of the salient issues here, Rick, is whether or not O.J. Simpson is considered a flight risk. That by and large will determine whether or not he is granted bail -- Rick.

SANCHEZ: Interesting question. And Leo Terrell is going to be talking to us in just a little bit. And his argument is that why would they give no bail to O.J. Simpson -- he didn't have the gun -- but they did give bail to Mr. Alexander, who apparently at least according to police was found with a couple of guns in his possession?

SIMON: That is a very good question. You know, one of the operating theories out there is that particular suspect gave a lengthy statement to police where he might have implicated O.J. Simpson. Of course, Simpson is the central character in this case. So, perhaps police were sympathetic to those statements.

We just don't know, of course. O.J. Simpson's defense is going to argue quite vigorously that he gets bail, Rick.

SANCHEZ: And by the way, as far as you know, is O.J. Simpson going to be in court on Wednesday?

SIMON: Yes, we are told that he will be in court. Here's how it works. There has to be a court hearing within 72 hours for a suspect in Las Vegas. It can be handled either by video or in person. This particular judge wants all of her suspects to appear before her in person.

SANCHEZ: Yes, we're going to be talking a lot about that judge, by the way.

All right, Ted Rowlands and Dan Simon both following the story for us there, different venues, they are going to stay hooked up, hopefully. As we have questions as we continue to go through this and flush this out, we will be going back to them to get some of those questions answered.

Well, O.J. Simpson without a doubt sucks up all the space in the room and in this case, he does the same thing, but there are also several other players that are involved in this incident. You just heard our correspondents mention a couple of them. You heard about Mr. Alexander, for example.

Let's break this down for you. Come on with me. I want to see if we can at least set the scene and let you know who some of these people are. All right, Walter Alexander, golf buddy apparently of O.J. Simpson. That's important. We just mentioned this. He was released on bail. Police say did he have a gun, possibly two; they have been confiscated. Police are also looking for four other guys, as you heard, who may have actually gone into the hotel room.

Keep that name in mind. That's going to be a big player in this case. Let's go across over here, Jeff, if we can. Thomas Riccio, former business associate of O.J. Simpson, he's the one who tipped off O.J. Simpson apparently that some of the collectors were selling some of his items. That ticked O.J. Simpson off.

He's also the one who made the audiotape you just heard us play for you a little while ago.

Jeff, come on back here. Let's talk about a couple of the other guys. All right, this is Alfred Beardsley. You will be hearing about him. He was going to auction some of the memorabilia. He collected Simpson items for several years. He's the one by the way who called police. A little murky about his story, because he's actually been quoted in some of the research that we have been reading as saying that he doesn't necessarily want to press charges against O.J. Simpson.

One more. Let's talk about now about -- oh, this is Mike Gilbert. That's right. We don't have a picture of him, by the way. Simpson is blaming this guy for taking all his memorabilia, for ending up with it, absconding it, as he says. He was Simpson's licensing agent at one time. He also admits taking Simpson's Heisman Trophy at one time, but then it was returned back to the Goldmans because of a lawsuit, as you might recall.

He says that Simpson owed him money and that's why he had some of his belongings.

Let's continue with this now. Good guest here.

Robert Rentzer is the attorney for Walter Alexander. He's one of the men that we just told you about. Interestingly enough, Alexander is the only guy other than Simpson who's been arrested so far.

Hey, Bob, thanks so much for joining us.


SANCHEZ: What is your client saying at this point? How was he involved in this thing?

RENTZER: Well, he's not saying at this point, at least not to the media. He has been debriefed by the district attorney, as you already indicated. I don't know where you got the information that he had guns. No guns were recovered from him or at his premises.


SANCHEZ: Where did the police get the story about having two guns on the scene and one report seeming to indicate that he may have had one of them? True or not?

RENTZER: I don't know what story the police got. I have not heard what my client told the police. I did agree, under a promise of confidentiality, not in terms of the statement, but in terms of the use, that whatever he told the police would not be used against him in any way, shape or form.

And you have asked how come one man is out and one man is in. The arrangement I made with the district attorney which was in good faith was that he would cooperate in terms of speaking with them, but not in terms of testifying. There's been no arrangement made for my client to testify for O.J. or even for himself.

I haven't made the decision whether my client would take the stand.


SANCHEZ: Then what's your offer? If he's not going to be testifying against O.J., what do you mean by cooperate? Cooperate means what?

RENTZER: All right. Well, we're talking about what has happened thus far. He has cooperated in terms of allowing himself to be debriefed on the basis that nothing he said would be used against him. Now, that in turn resulted in his being released on his own recognizance.

They did arrest him. They did file charges against him and for all intent and purposes, it's the same as his being on bail. If he failed to appear, it would be another crime. So, he is on a leash to the prosecution and to the court. In terms of whether he would take a witness stand, that is something that has to be determined long range. I haven't read the police reports.


SANCHEZ: What if the police came to you tomorrow and said, look, if you want your client to get some help from us, he's going to have to talk? Would you have him testify against O.J. Simpson in this case?

RENTZER: The question that you're asking is would I have my client testify at all. And it's premature. I would tell the police, as I'm going to tell you, I can't make that decision because I haven't read the police reports. I haven't heard what my client has told the district attorney. They're supposed to be sending me the recording. I haven't received that yet.


SANCHEZ: Robert Rentzer, thanks so much for joining us. We certainly appreciate it.

And, by the way, if your client is comfortable, we will certainly give him a fair shake here and we would love to have him on. Is that all right?

RENTZER: I have to congratulate you for being able to cut an attorney off.



SANCHEZ: Appreciate it, Bob. Robert Rentzer, thanks.

So, how much time can Simpson actually spend behind bars? I want to break it down for you now. Let's go back to the wall, if we can. I'm going to show it to you there.

Talking six felonies now, folks, two counts of robbery with a deadly weapon. Two counts of assault with a deadly weapon. One count of armed burglary. One count of conspiracy to commit burglary. Each robbery count carries two to 30 years. All right. Let's do the math. You ready? Add it all up, that's a possibility of 30 years in prison. Let's do the math on his age. He's 60 years old. He could be in prison until he's 90 years old. Think about that.

Joining us now, criminal defense attorney Jeffrey W. Steinberger. He's in Los Angeles. Former prosecutor Mickey Sherman is here, Court TV anchor Lisa Bloom, both here to talk about this.

Wow. What a turn of events.

Mickey Sherman, let's begin with you. How much trouble is O.J. Simpson possibly in?

MICKEY SHERMAN, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: He's in trouble, but I don't think he's in as much trouble as everyone makes out to be.

SANCHEZ: Really?

SHERMAN: I really don't.

Don't forget, he stole or ripped off or victimized a bunch of dirtbags, if you will, who had come into possession of his property. These guys either stole it or knew that the property was stolen.

SANCHEZ: Lisa, does that matter? If you think something is yours, do you have the right to -- quote -- "bust into the room" -- I'm quoting one of the guys who was inside the room -- apparently with two guns?

LISA BLOOM, COURT TV ANCHOR: Well, first of all, we're assuming facts not in evidence. I don't know how we already know that these guys are dirtbags, as opposed to having bought the memorabilia legally. O.J. has been selling this stuff for years. It's something he's been very interested in.

SANCHEZ: Do you know the answer to that, Mickey? Do you know that these guys stole it?


SHERMAN: No, but we know that O.J. didn't give it to them. It's his wedding -- it's first wedding video. It's his personal property.

BLOOM: Celebrities sell this kind of stuff all the time. And O.J. doesn't have a lot of ways of making a living. He has bought and sold a lot of memorabilia.

And, by the way, to answer your question, no, you cannot of course just bust in. You can engage in self-help. If that's my pad, I can take from you and take it back in a lawful manner. I can't draw a gun and threaten you and tell you you can't leave of course until you do what I say.

SHERMAN: But you're not going to get 30 years for doing it.

BLOOM: That's absurd.

SANCHEZ: Jeffrey Steinberger, how big is the gun issue? Apparently two guns in the room. Simpson is going to say, I didn't know there were guns there. Is that defensible?

JEFFREY W. STEINBERGER, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Rick, it doesn't matter whether he has the gun or he didn't have the gun, whether he was in possession of the gun, or whether the other guy had the gun. He's held to have constructive possession of that firearm if he's involved in a conspiracy.

And that's what the prosecutor in Vegas is going to charge him with,. They're going to charge him with conspiracy.

SANCHEZ: So, bottom line is what?


STEINBERGER: And that everybody's as bad as everybody else.

SANCHEZ: And here's what's interesting about the conspiracy, and I was reading an article last night. Marcia Clark of all people brought this out. She said the fact that he's talked to our Ted Rowlands and other reporters is incriminating. He's basically saying, yes, I was there. Yes, I went to get my stuff.


BLOOM: Absolutely.


STEINBERGER: That's correct. That's exactly what he's doing.

SHERMAN: He totally agrees that he entered in the conspiracy. He gave that away in the media.

But the question is did he conspire to commit a crime or to right his wrong and get his stuff back? Because I think, whoever the lawyer that represents him is going to give away that issue. He absolutely planned it.

SANCHEZ: By the way, here's an interesting question about all this.


SANCHEZ: And, yes, I will go to you, Mr. Steinberger. In fact, I will start you with this. How much does O.J. Simpson's past have to do with what he's no going through right now? Do you think that the judges in this case considered this? And, by the way, we're going to be talking to one of the judges who didn't give him bail in just a little bit.

STEINBERGER: Everything. Absolutely everything.

SANCHEZ: Really?

STEINBERGER: Look at this media circus you're already starting already.


SANCHEZ: Yes, but that's us.


STEINBERGER: I know, but it plays into the courtroom. It plays into the jury. It plays into the panel.

SANCHEZ: Really?

STEINBERGER: It plays into who gets impaneled.

Listen, on this planet, you cannot get an unbiased jury that's going to sit on his case.


BLOOM: That's just absolutely wrong. And I will tell you why. That's wrong.


BLOOM: And I will tell you why. In 2001, there was a road rage case in Florida.


SANCHEZ: Hold on, Mr. Steinberger.

BLOOM: Hold on.

There was a road rage case in Florida. O.J. was accused of multiple felonies. It went to a jury. And guess what? He was acquitted, because a jury looked at the facts. They didn't look at the murder allegations that were at that time about seven years old.

SHERMAN: And it wasn't an all-black jury.


STEINBERGER: It had nothing to do with a conspiracy. It had nothing to do -- when the DA's case...


SANCHEZ: Wait a minute. Let me get in on this.

September 14, under investigation, alleged armed robbery. July 4, report of a fight by a neighbor. March 8 -- I'll tell you what. I will just count them, because we don't have enough time. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven incidents that he's been involved in involving law enforcement since his famous acquittal.

SHERMAN: That is not so unusual.


SHERMAN: I represent a million people who have a lot more than that.

STEINBERGER: You don't have seven incidents, but you don't have...


SANCHEZ: I haven't called police to my house in the last 10 years.


SHERMAN: You're the exception. Neither have I.

But I'm telling you, there's a lot of people. The problem is that this is the guy who slipped through the net. And you're right. Everyone in the Western speaking -- English speaking world is ticked off that this guy got through and it is impacting this case enormously.

SANCHEZ: Last word goes to Jeffrey Steinberger, because I hear you out there and we don't want to ignore you.

Go ahead.

STEINBERGER: Rick, this case is like -- this is an impaneled jury. This guy thought he was bulletproof. This guy thought he was invincible. This guy thought he could walk on water. Last night in prison was his wakeup call to a new reality. This is a different O.J. Simpson that's going to walk out tomorrow.


BLOOM: We will see.

SANCHEZ: Jeffrey Steinberger, Mickey Sherman, none other than, and of course Lisa Bloom, we thank you all. We appreciate it. BLOOM: Thank you.


SANCHEZ: In a moment, we're going to be talking to the judge who actually denied Simpson's bail. He's going to be talking to us exclusively, we should say. Is that bragging? I suppose.

Also, does he think that Simpson is a flight risk right now? Remember Al Cowlings? We will be talking about that.

By the way, every night on this newscast, we highlight some of the best videos of the day. Time to do just that. So, let's take a look at this drag race.

This is Brisbane, Australia.

Take a look at this, Mickey.

A driver named Phil Lamattina, he's at the wheel. He is going about 300 miles an hour. Suddenly, his car snaps in two, just flies into the air, bursts into flames. You're not going to believe this, though.

Lisa, you ready for this?

BLOOM: Ready.

SANCHEZ: He walks away from the crash with nothing more than a cut finger. Can you believe that?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: ... are sending him to jail.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I really feel that they're still trying to pick on him.


SANCHEZ: So, do you think O.J. Simpson did it? If you're white, polls tend to suggest you would say absolutely. If you're black, polls tend to suggest you say no. This is one of those gutsy issues that we're going to tackle head on. Does it still hold? We will be looking at that.

Also, we're going to be looking into what was in the hotel room? What was north? What was actually worth risking his freedom for? Dan Lothian has got the answers. He has looked into this whole memorabilia stuff and he will break it down for us.

And then nobody on TV ever defended Simpson more ardently than Leo Terrell. You remember Leo Terrell? Leo Terrell is going to be here live with us talking O.J. Simpson again.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) SANCHEZ: What a story. Welcome back to OUT IN THE OPEN. I'm Rick Sanchez.

With us now exclusively, the judge who denied O.J. Simpson bail. Judge Douglas E. Smith is the chief judge of Las Vegas Township Justice Court. And he's good enough to join us.

Let's just shoot right from the hip here, Judge. Why did you deny him?


Well, the information I got -- I called our office when I flew into Saint Louis, because we had heard that O.J. was being arrested. He hadn't been. And I told my office to call me as soon as he is. When they called me, there was a scheduled power outage at the jail. But it was planned by the county. And when they called me, they couldn't tell me any information about him. They couldn't give me any information about the judge that was presiding.

So, as chief judge, I made a determination that he was a threat to society and a flight risk.

SANCHEZ: Why do you think he's a flight risk? And, maybe more importantly, why do you think he's a threat to society?

SMITH: Well, just the nature of the crime. All I had were the charges, two counts of assault with a deadly weapon, two counts of robbery with the use of a deadly weapon, burglary, and conspiracy to commit robbery.


STEINBERGER: And I felt...


SANCHEZ: I just wanted to get this in. And pardon me for interrupting.

If his name were not O.J. Simpson, if he had not been acquitted of a heinous double murder in the past, if he had not been involved in seven or eight other incidents in the last five or six years, would you have made this same ruling?

SMITH: Yes, I did not consider those factors.

I considered the fact that, in Las Vegas, against a -- we have a strong tourist attraction coming into Las Vegas. So, I determined that the fact that a weapon was used in a crime, or alleged, that it was a serious enough crime that I would hold him without bail if he met the other criteria. That is, is he a flight risk? And I had no information that he had any contacts with Las Vegas.

SANCHEZ: What happens Wednesday? Does his hearing Wednesday -- can your ruling be changed by the other judge? SMITH: Absolutely.

SANCHEZ: And could it happen with your blessing? Would you be OK with that?

SMITH: Absolutely.

What I do is a temporary determination. And then what the judge can do then is have a judicial hearing and make a judicial determination. That's what the judiciary is for in the separation of powers is we have to make that call, whether we feel as a judge in our community, is he a flight risk?

SANCHEZ: Judge Doug Smith, talking to us here exclusively, Your Honor, thanks, sir, for coming up and clearing that up for us.

SMITH: You bet.

SANCHEZ: I was curious, and I'm sure many of you have been curious about this, too. What in the world could possibly be so important to O.J. Simpson in that room? What is all this Simpson memorabilia that everyone's been talking about, important enough to maybe risk his own freedom?

Our own Dan Lothian is joining us now with more. He's been looking into this.

Let me start by showing you something because everyone's talking about something that may have been in the room, the suit that he was wearing the day of his acquittal.

Ali, can you put that? Can you put that video up real quick? All right. There's O.J. Simpson. That's the acquittal coming back. He looks like he's about to be as surprised as everybody else.

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN BOSTON BUREAU CHIEF: And he had the white shirt.


SANCHEZ: Apparently, the guy's had this suit in the room. Is that true?

LOTHIAN: Well, O.J. Simpson tells CNN did that he go to the room and one of the items that he wanted to recover was that suit.


LOTHIAN: He tells CNN the suit was not in the room, but certainly that was something that he's trying to get his hands on again.

SANCHEZ: What is the value of this kind of stuff? Is there a market for this stuff?

LOTHIAN: Well, there is a market for any celebrity's material, whether it's clothing or pictures or autographs, whatever it might be.

But we do know that at least one dealer was out there trying to pedal this suit, looking for anywhere from $25,000 to $35,000. That's according to, which first reported that. We heard from one dealer who apparently was saying it could go for even as high as $100,000. You have to throw it out there and start getting people to bid on it before you can get a price.

SANCHEZ: And can I guarantee you something? The value goes up after we do this report and others like it, right?

LOTHIAN: You're right. But what the experts tell us is that the value does go up whenever something bad happens, when someone gets in trouble, but then it will level off again.


LOTHIAN: So, commit a crime, alleged to have committed a crime, you get a spike. Then it goes back down again.

SANCHEZ: Good stuff.

Dan, thanks for following up on that.

Now this:


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If he stole, then he has got to pay the piper.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Since it's O.J., they're really happy that they got him.


SANCHEZ: We are taking it to the streets, as you might imagine. This is a curious question, gutsy issue to really look into. Do you think he did it? See, that used to be very much a black and white question in this nation. How about now? Has it changed?

Then, what about longtime Simpson defender Leo Terrell? Remember him? What a spitball he is, right? Well, he still hasn't wavered. Or has he? He's going to join us right here live.

Then the intersection of life and death in Iraq, tough to watch. We are bringing it OUT IN THE OPEN.


SANCHEZ: Welcome back. There's a new term I want you to know because you are going to be hearing a lot about this term. It's self- deportation. It means illegal immigrants, or just immigrants in some cases, leaving the United States because there is just too much heat on them and they're feeling that heat. Tonight, another county is sending a very clear message. After 12 hours of emotional public testimony, leaders in Prince William County, Virginia have voted to deny services to illegal immigrants. So let's take at a look at the big picture now if we possibly can. I'll take you through it.

Let's put up a map of the United States. We start up there. That's in Virginia. As we told you, county services are now being cut off for a lot of people there. They're also going to be detained and deported if they're caught.

You see, they're going back to Mexico. Irving, you remember we were in Irving doing that special for you just last week. Police say anybody picked up and taken in will be checked. They call INS or ICE now, and it's causing a huge controversy there.

Tulsa, it's even worse. As a matter of fact, there they're saying even people who help immigrants like, for example, if you just give them a ride in your car, you could be arrested and spend up to a year in jail. And then there's housing measures, by the way, that are taking place in Pennsylvania and also some that are being enacted now in the states of Arizona.

With that as a backdrop, many illegal immigrants are packing up and going home. This is a phenomenon we've been tracking exclusively here at OUT IN THE OPEN. So tonight, we want to take you directly to Mexico. That's where things are really going on because people are arriving there now.

CNN'S Harris Whitbeck has been following the story. What are you seeing there, Harris?

HARRIS WHITBECK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Rick, as you say, as the heat is turning up in the clampdown on illegal immigration in several parts of the U.S., many Mexicans, particularly those in Texas, have decided to return home. And as they return home, they leave behind dreams that are broken across the border.


WHITBECK (voice-over): Noe Bermuedez does not want to be hanging out here in his grandmother's kitchen in the small Mexican town where he was born. He loves her, but Noe has a wife and four children back in the U.S. They are legal, he is not, and he was scared.

NOE BERMUEDEZ, ILLEGAL IMMIGRANT WHO FLED U.S.: At night, I couldn't sleep. It was 2:00, 3:00 in the morning, I couldn't sleep because I would, you know, hear like little noise -- any little noise I hear, I would think there they are. You know, they're here for me. You know that, the ICE police. And I'm like, I'm not willing to put my family through this, you know.

WHITBECK: Noe says he left his family back near Irving, Texas, where there has been a major crackdown on illegal immigrants. A week ago, Noe broke the news to his family. He could not take the uncertainty any longer. BERMUEDEZ: I said, you know what, I can't do this anymore. Even though if I am going to have to struggle in Mexico, whatever, it has been 20 years I haven't been over there, I'd rather do that, you know. And when they told me that I could face jail time, you know, I will be certain I'm like -- I told my wife and she - you know, she when I left she was crying, and my kids, but I'm like, I'd rather for me to be over there than for you guys to see me behind bars.

WHITBECK: Noe says when he was 9 years old, he was taken to the United States as an illegal immigrant by his mother. He grew up in California, went to high school, got a job and started a family. But he was never able to obtain U.S. citizenship.

He says confusion led him to make mistakes in the application process. Now, Noe says this Mexican town where he spent his early childhood no longer feels like home.

BERMUEDEZ: Right here, I feel like, you know, kind of dumb when I have to pay with, you know, with money. I have to take somebody so they can tell me how to pay, you know, that way they won't rip me off.

WHITBECK: But this, he says, is better than the threat of jail back in the States, even if it means being separated from his family.


WHITBECK: Now for the last several years, a bilateral agency has been helping those who want to leave the United States and go back to Mexico in their repatriation. That agency, Rick, tells us that in the last three months alone, it has helped 14,000 people fly from the U.S. back to their communities in Mexico. Rick?

SANCHEZ: That's some real perspective. Thanks so much. Harris Whitbeck following that story for us from Mexico City.

Let's do this. I'm going to take you to this monitor now, because I understood we got a chance to hook up now with Noe's wife. The woman you are seeing right there is Leandy. Take us back if you could to the day that he told you, "I've had enough. I am leaving the country. What was that like?"

LEANDY GARCIA, WIFE OF ILLEGAL IMMIGRANT WHO FLED U.S.: Shocking. It's like he may be a Mexican, but he doesn't know what it's like to live in Mexico, or like he said, money? He doesn't know how to do anything like that. I was worried. I was like, you're going to give up. You're going to hate it, and there's nothing that we are going to be able to do.

SANCHEZ: A lot of people would wonder, how can he be in this country for 20 years and never actually become legal? I mean, why? Why is that?

GARCIA: Well, like he said, you know, he may have made some mistakes or whatever. But his mother, I mean, his brothers, his sister, they all had their citizenship. They came across a lawyer, and supposedly his file got lost, and excuse after excuse. And I guess his mother is, you know, naive or whatever. She's just like, "Oh, OK. And I have to start all over." It just went from there. You know, you put something off.

SANCHEZ: You know what is tough about this, whether you are on one side of this argument or the other of this argument, the idea that a family has been separated, torn apart. How are you and your kids dealing with the fact that your husband is gone and you may not see him for a long time?

GARCIA: It's tough. It's -- I have a 2-year-old and a 5-month- old from him. And my 2-year-old never calls us mommy or daddy. He calls us Noe and Leandy. And you hear Noe, Noe, Noe, and he is looking for his dad.

SANCHEZ: It's got to be difficult. I think we've got -- yes, do we have him?

Let's go over here. I want to take you over here now to this monitor. Noe is standing by now. He is joining us as well. We hope we can come out a little bit on him.

OK, Noe, can you hear us? Are you there in Mexico?

BERMUEDEZ: Yes, I could hear you. Yes, I could hear you.

SANCHEZ: Why did you make this decision? What finally was the straw that broke the camel's back, and why didn't you just decide to stay like millions of others in this country?

BERMUEDEZ: The reason that made me make the decision because of the fact that, you know, I don't want to go to jail, because they told me I could go to jail for this, for not leaving the country. So I decided to, you know, instead of being in jail, you know, I will just go through this. You know, what I am going through right now instead of, you know -

SANCHEZ: Yes, tell us what you are going through right now. What's life like in Mexico by yourself in a country you don't know, without your wife that I'm looking at right now on camera, and the children I'm sure you miss?

BERMUEDEZ: Well, it's pretty tough, because of the fact that, you know, I've got my family over there and you know, I miss them, you know. And you know, it's not that good over here, the way I thought it was going to be. You know, the customs here, I mean, the way they live here, it's tough.

SANCHEZ: I want to ask you something. We did a poll here at CNN today to find out what America thinks. And what we found out is that most people here in the United States, in fact, I think we've got that poll. It's like 69 percent of Americans are saying there are just too many illegal immigrants, and that seems to be what's pushing people like you out.

Do you understand? Do you get why Americans feel that it's almost an invasion that's taking place in their country?


SANCHEZ: You get that?

BERMUEDEZ: Yes, I understand. Yes.

SANCHEZ: Does it make you angry?

BERMUEDEZ: Yes, but I mean, it's not fair what they're doing. But you know, what can you do? You know, that's their decision. You can't change their decisions.

SANCHEZ: Yes, it's interesting because we've been having a lot of conversations about whether you're really a good candidate for removal, or maybe there's a lot of other people in this country who are not as perhaps as decent as you.

You're just saying, you know what, I'm not going to break the law. I'm just going to leave. Maybe there are some people in this country who really should go.

I want you guys to do something. I know you guys don't get a chance. You're probably watching yourself on television right now. So, Leandy, what do you have to say to your husband who's been gone from you now?

GARCIA: I love you, and just fight. Don't give up and soon one way or another, you're going to be back. We have -- I believe in an almighty powerful God, and I know, I know that justice needs to be happen.

I am totally for it. Go after the felons, the sexual offenders, but not decent people like my husband, who are here to just make a living and live for their families.

SANCHEZ: She obviously misses you an awful lot, Noe. What would you say to her now that we have her on TV and she is listening?

BERMUEDEZ: Well, I could say the same thing that, you know, we feel the same thing, you know, about both of us and my kids. You know -- you know, I love her. I miss her. But you know, this is the way that things have to be. You know, we have to obey the laws. You know, this is the decision they made. You know, we have to go through this, and you know...

SANCHEZ: All right.

BERMUEDEZ: ... we can't do nothing about it.

SANCHEZ: Noe, Leandy, we thank you for sharing your story with the rest of America. Appreciate it.

Here is the essence of our question tonight. Should any illegal immigrants be allowed to stay in the United States? Any of them worth keeping? We want to know what you think about this. Separating the wheat from the chaff, we call it. Go to CNN.COM/US and let us know.


SANCHEZ: We welcome you back, I'm Rick Sanchez, to OUT IN THE OPEN. A wave of stricter laws hitting illegal immigrants has forced more and more of them to move on to other towns or back to their countries, in Mexico, as you just saw with that segment we did moments ago.

We are going to debate this now. Joining us now, Juan Hernandez, author of "New American Pioneers." Why are we afraid of Mexican immigrants? He writes.

Also with us is a regular here on OUT IN THE OPEN, our buddy, Dan Stein. He is the president of the Federation for American Immigration or -- Reform -- orFAIR.

Dan, get us started. What's your take on this situation, with a lot of people leaving the country like the couple we just saw there?

DAN STEIN, PRESIDENT, FED. FOR AMERICAN IMMIGRATION REFORM: Well, you know, our take is that a lot of single men, for example, who work in construction, who haven't been here very long, may be leaving the country because those jobs have been drying up, and that's really what we want to happen.

Self-deportation is an idea that we're liberating people from our jurisdiction to go back home and actually try to improve the political and economic situation in their home countries. So it's basically a good thing both for them and for the taxpayers of this country, because it saves us the cost of actually having to formally deport people.

SANCHEZ: It sounds like a pretty good argument, Mr. Hernandez. How would you argue with that?

JUAN HERNANDEZ, AUTHOR, "THE NEW AMERICAN PIONEERS": Oh, I'm sorry. Not very many people are going to leave. Yes, you have some individuals, and it's very unfortunate that the main cause of people leaving this nation is based on fear. We have a nation that on the one hand, we have after September 11th, the nation that is trying to decide what she wants to be.

But we are basing many of our new laws in cities like Irving, where I live very close, based on fear and then passing on this fear to these wonderful people who are working in our nation and doing great things for this nation. But it's not going to be like the movie "A Day Without a Mexican." You're not going to have millions leaving this great nation. They need to be here. We want them here, and hopefully very soon, we'll pass some legislation...

SANCHEZ: He makes a good point.

HERNANDEZ: ... that will allow them to stay here legally. SANCHEZ: Hey, Dan, he makes a good point. Are too many of the decisions that we're seeing made all over the country being made on political pressure and just fear, in some cases, fear that is not really well-founded?

STEIN: Well, Rick, please, a lot of people have been saying you can't get people to leave who break our laws. And what we are saying here is yes, you can. That deterrents and self-deportation are very promising and actually have been proven empirically to be an effective way to deter illegal immigration.

SANCHEZ: Yes, but the argument -

STEIN: Interior enforcement is part of the process.

SANCHEZ: You know my take on this. But why is it that -- why is it, Dan, that the federal government coming up with a system to be able to do this rather than have a bunch --

STEIN: But that's not the solution.

SANCHEZ: No, but I do want to know what your take is on this, Mr. Hernandez. I mean, here you have different counties and different cities and different towns, nilly-willy making up their own rules on this.

HERNANDEZ: That's right.

SANCHEZ: I bet that neither one of you guys agree that that's the best way to do this, right?

HERNANDEZ: No. Of course, it's not. And now, we have all three powers debating. We have both the judicial system now telling the executive power that they cannot send out the letter related to the Social Security.


HERNANDEZ: And we also have the legislative dropping the bomb. You know, this is ridiculous. The federal government needs to solve this problem. You know, and there are very few of the politicians out there that are really offering any solutions.


HERNANDEZ: That's one of the reasons -- I like for example, John McCain. I mean, as a legislator, he tried to solve it. But on the other hand, he has showed this nation that he cares and that he cares about security for this nation. And by the way, John McCain was with Hispanics before immigration and is still with Hispanics today.

SANCHEZ: Dan, go ahead and get in there if you would. I want to get your take.

STEIN: Look, I mean, --

HERNANDEZ: Sure, we need your politics too.

STEIN: If you really want to help Hispanic-Americans succeed in this country, we will deter and stop illegal immigration. We will increase wages and improve incentives for employers.

HERNANDEZ: Yes, but how do we do it, sir?

STEIN: We'll add benefits and opportunities. We know how to do it. We have employer sanctions. We're doing it now! We're making tremendous progress.

SANCHEZ: No, we're not.

STEIN: Every time you and I talk, Rick, you are trying to shoot down our effort by a local community, to couple with the federal government to start doing the job. And you know, it's a human -- this is a human, human story.

HERNANDEZ: We don't have a program. We don't have a program to secure this nation, and we don't have a program to bring in about 300,000 people.


STEIN: Why? Your program is mass amnesty, sir. We're not going to go down. If you want to see fear, Juan, create a system of total lawlessness in this country and you will see fear like you've never seen.


HERNANDEZ: You know what you should be afraid of, sir? You know what you should be afraid of --


HERNANDEZ: ... growing at 1 percent in this nation.

SANCHEZ: Hey, Juan?

HERNANDEZ: We need immigrants. We don't need less, we need more.

STEIN: Juan, you won't convince anybody by talking over me. What we need is to reassert the rule of law and assert credibility to a system that collapsed, and the only way you're going to do that is...

HERNANDEZ: I agree with you the system has collapsed.

STEIN: ... to make the rule of law matter.

HERNANDEZ: I agree the system is collapsed, and we need to fix it.

SANCHEZ: You know what's interesting as I listen, as I listen... STEIN: Amnesty isn't going to get us there. Not another one of your amnesties. We've done that, didn't work, not going to do it again. We're on the right track.

SANCHEZ: Dan, we thank you. Juan, we thank you.

It's interesting as I listen to both of you. Great points made on both sides. Somewhere, it seems the truth seems to lie in the middle as some much wiser guy than me once said. Thank you again.

By the way, we want to know what you think about tonight's "quick vote question" on this.

"Should we find a way to let illegal immigrants stay in the United States if they're hard working and otherwise law-abiding?"

That's the question. Vote at: CNN.COM/US. Can't wait to hear what you have to say. The result, we'll share it with you soon.

Here is an important question that cuts right to the heart of what is really an important part of this argument. Do illegal immigrants pay taxes? Are they ripping off our services or not? We check the facts.


SANCHEZ: All right. Let's talk turkey about this immigration situation. The argument that comes up every time there is a debate on illegal immigration heats up, a lot of people talk about the money, the cost to people living in the United States. And they live here. They send their kids to our schools, and they don't pay taxes. That's the argument you hear about a lot of people when they say, that's the problem with illegal immigrants.

Now, let's stop and take a look at this as best we can. Come on. We've prepared a couple of things for you.

First of all, let's start off with sales taxes. Do illegal immigrants pay sales taxes? Well, of course, they do. If they go to a store and they buy something, unless they're in this place where there is no sales tax, they got to pay sales tax, unless they're stealing it.

Property taxes -- yes, they have to pay property taxes because if they live in a building, whether they're renting or living there - if they are renting, it's going to get passed onto them by the landlord -- they're going to have to pay a property tax in this country. So those two are easy. That's a slam dunk.

Payroll, that's a very -- a little more difficult. Is money taken from their payroll checks? Well, according to the government -- this is according to Washington and we spent hours checking on this today.

What we found out is that roughly 75 percent of illegal aliens are actually hit with a payroll tax. Why? Because they've got this thing called the federal tax I.D. that the employer gets, and then that employer has to send the money he takes from their paycheck to the government, to Uncle Sam. Of course, that obviously doesn't include a whole lot of people, and there's still another 25 percent.

And by the way, those figures, really hard to nail down, by the way.

So what have we got? We got $7 billion added to Social Security by people who have money taken out of their checks. They're never going to see that money. They're never going to see that money. It's just important to know that, because that's what the government is finding out. They pay into it, but they're never going to be able to do it, because they really have no sure identification.

Let's talk to somebody from the state of Texas now, who knows a little about this, because she has just done a study. Her name is Carole Keeton Strayhorn, former Texas comptroller. And you know there's a lot of problems with this in Texas. You did a study and you found what?

CAROLE KEETON STRAYHORN, FORMER TEXAS COMPTROLLER: Rick, I'll tell you. I'm a tell-it-like-it-is person, and I think that public policy ought to be based on reality, not rhetoric, and that's why I did a comprehensive financial analysis last December.

The first time a state has done this, looking at the impact of undocumented immigrants on our economy. We looked at taxes paid. We looked at costs. We looked at gross state product.

Bottom line, undocumented immigrants in the state of Texas are adding $17.7 billion to our gross state product. And breaking that down at the state level on the cost, the services that are paid for -- I'm talking incarceration, education, health care -- we net $428 million at the state level because of the taxes that they're paying in.

Of course, Texas is a sales tax state.


STRAYHORN: We have no income tax. I want to make that clear.

SANCHEZ: So you're saying -- you're saying they pay into the system more than they take out?

STRAYHORN: At the state level, that is absolutely correct, in addition to the $17.7 billion impact on the economy. Now, let me put a very clear point in here, though.


STRAYHORN: At the local level, at the local level -- I did a study as Texas comptroller at the state level, but I noted that at the local level, it is -- the local entities are losing almost $1 billion. The taxes are paid at that level, but the services, particularly hospitals -- hospitals is the big one. Hospitals, and then of course incarceration.

SANCHEZ: Amazing. That's an amazing report, and I'm sure a lot of people feel edified after hearing your explanation of it. Thanks so much. We're going to keep in touch and we'll have you on a lot more to talk about these things, because it sounds like you've done your homework. We thank you once again.

STRAYHORN: Thank you.

SANCHEZ: Carole Keeton Strayhorn.

Next, what made Ellen Degeneres break down in tears on her TV show? Also, the results of tonight's "quick vote." Should we find a way to let law-abiding illegal immigrants stay in this country?

Stay with us. We're going to be right back.



ELLEN DEGENERES, TV HOST: I was trying to do a good thing, and because I did it wrong, those people went and took that dog out of their home and took it away from those kids, and I feel totally responsible for it. And I'm so sorry. And I'm begging them to give that dog back to that family.


SANCHEZ: Rick's picks. Number one, that was Ellen yesterday. She got a beef with the animal rescue agency. She adopted a dog from them, and then she let the dog go to her hairdresser because the dog didn't get along with Ellen's cats. Apparently, that was against the rules. The adoption agency is asking the dog be sent back.

Almost 9,000 went to our quick vote tonight. Forty-three percent of you say we should find a way to let illegal immigrants stay here if they're hard working.

Here's Larry King. Good night, everybody. Hasta manana.