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Michael Vick Surrenders to Authorities; Fourth Suspect Sought in Italy Murder

Aired November 19, 2007 - 15:00   ET

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


KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: And hello, everyone. I'm Kyra Phillips, live in the CNN world headquarters in Atlanta.
DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Don lemon.

Breaking news this hour.

PHILLIPS: And we're being told it has been confirmed that Michael Vick has turned himself in. It happened around noon. He had a court order in his hand where the judge said he could turn himself in.

He's being held at Northern Neck Regional Jail now in Richmond, Virginia, until his December 10 sentencing for the alleged dogfighting charges.

Let's bring in our Jeffrey Toobin, legal analyst, on the phone.

Why do you think he did it, Jeffrey? Why did he turn himself in?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: A couple of reasons, Kyra.

He is going to be sentenced to prison, so there's no doubt that he's going to go for some time. And he wants to get it over with sooner, rather than later. Also, it makes a good impression on the judge who has to decide what sentence he will receive that he's already turned himself in, that he's not quarreling, that he's not trying to put off the inevitable.

So, he thinks, by going in early, he might wind up staying there for less time.

PHILLIPS: Now, the maximum time for that crime is five years in federal prison, right? And the judge is not necessarily bound to that. The judge could give him a couple years?

TOOBIN: No, there are federal sentencing guidelines that are advisory, but almost always followed by a judge in a circumstance like this.

And the guideline range for this crime is 12 to 18 months. And I think that's very much more likely the range that he will get. I mean, the five years is a theoretical maximum. But he would never get five years. PHILLIPS: Now, Vick also faces state charges of animal cruelty in Surry County. So, would that go forward after -- how does that work, I guess, into this, both situations?

TOOBIN: Well, they are really unrelated.

He will face that case when a trial is scheduled. They might delay the trial until he's out of prison, although not necessarily. Many people who are in prison are also on trial at the same time. There will certainly be motions by his lawyers to try to have that state case dismissed on double jeopardy grounds among other reasons.

Chances are he will have to face trial on that case. And I think what he's doing by going to federal prison early is trying to get the whole thing done sooner, rather than later.

PHILLIPS: What do you think? Is his NFL career over?

TOOBIN: Boy, that's hard to say. I think it's going to be very tough for him to restart his career. He is over 30 now, which for a quarterback is not that old, but he's not a kid either, and there is not much history of NFL players being gone for as long as a year -- and it could be longer -- and making a comeback. That just doesn't happen very often.

And my guess is, he will try, but I think it's going to be very tough.

PHILLIPS: Jeffrey Toobin, thanks for weighing in.

TOOBIN: OK, Kyra.

LEMON: Well, there' foggy weather in Atlanta, radio communications problems at DFW. Air travelers have already had to face major delays today at some of the country's biggest airports.

(WEATHER UPDATE)

LEMON: SimpliFLY, that's the name of a new campaign aimed at getting you through the airport and on your flight as quickly as possible this holiday season. It's from the Transportation Security Administration. How does it work?

CNN's homeland security correspondent, Jeanne Meserve, tells us.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Travel is expected to be very heavy this holiday week. And the security lines could be long, so the Transportation Security Administration putting out some pointers in the form of a public service announcement that's being posted on their Web site and elsewhere.

One of the principal recommendations is that you pack your carry- on bag in layers, put in some clothes, and then place your electronics side by side on top of that, instead of all jumbling them together. That will make it easier for the screening personnel to take a look inside.

The TSA says it should save you time.

ELLEN HOWE, TSA SPOKESWOMAN: It takes three minutes to do a bag check if they have to dive into somebody's bag. So, what we're asking the public to do is partner with us, and think about how they can help us help you get through security faster.

MESERVE: The TSA is also recommending that you have your identification and your ticket out when you go through the security line. And they also say remember those rules on liquids. You have to bring things on in containers that are three ounces or less, put them in a one quart bag, one of these per person. Take them out of your bags. Put it in the bin at the security checkpoint.

If you do all these things, the hope is, it will shorten those lines at security.

Jeanne Meserve, CNN, Reagan National Airport.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

PHILLIPS: Well, if you're getting behind the wheel this Thanksgiving, you don't want to hear this.

The latest Lundberg survey shows that gas prices have climbed about 13 cents from two weeks ago. The national average for a gallon of unleaded regular is now $3.09. San Francisco drivers are hurting the most. The average price there, $3.48 a gallon. The nation's lowest average is in Tucson, Arizona, at $2.91 a gallon.

Now, if you're hitting the road or flying the skies, make CNN.com your first destination. Check out our special report. Get an online travel kit with tips on where to go, how best to get there, that and more at CNN.com/holidaytravel.

LEMON: President Bush gave thanks today at a place that lays claim to the first Thanksgiving. Just a short time ago, he spoke at Virginia's Berkeley Plantation, where a group of British settlers gave thanks. That was back in 1619, two years before the pilgrims did it at Plymouth, Massachusetts.

The president says we have a lot to be thankful for centuries later.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This Thanksgiving, we pay tribute to all Americans who serve a cause larger than themselves.

We are thankful for the police officers who patrol our streets.

We're thankful for the firefighters who protect our homes and property. We're thankful for the leaders of our churches and synagogues and all faith-based organizations that call us to live lives of charity. We're thankful to the ordinary citizens who have become good samaritans in times of distress.

This Thanksgiving, we remember the many examples of the good heart of the American people that we have seen this past year.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Mr. Bush kicked off his Virginia visit with a trip to Richmond Food Bank that sends millions of pounds of groceries to the needy each year.

Well, she has been a familiar face over the past four years telling you what threats the U.S. faces. Now President Bush's go-to terrorism adviser, Fran Townsend, well, she is going. She is the latest in a series of top White House aides to step down as Mr. Bush's presidency winds down.

Townsend tells CNN she and her boss have been talking about the timing of her departure for months now, but she held off on leaving because she working on some sensitive projects. She says she's not resigning to spend more time with her family, a familiar cliche in Washington. Instead, she expects to get another job working 20 hours a day in the private sector.

You can hear more from Fran Townsend herself. She's Wolf Blitzer's special guest. That's happening on "THE SITUATION ROOM." Of course, it starts at 4:00 Eastern, only here on CNN.

PHILLIPS: A little 11-year-old girl says she was raped, heartbreaking, but not unheard of.

What makes this story out of suburban Atlanta is shocking. The alleged attackers were 8- and 9-year-old boys, their first court appearance taking place this afternoon.

Meanwhile, the circumstances of the case are surprising even to police.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL WILKIE, ACWORTH, GEORGIA, POLICE CHIEF: I have never experienced this. No one in our department has seen something of this nature, where the suspects involved are the same age as the victim.

It's not unusual at all to investigate child molestation, things of that nature, where the children are quite small. But this is the first time that we have see the suspects at relatively the same age as the victim.

PHILLIPS: Could these boys be charged as adults?

WILKIE: They're charged under Georgia law with grownup charges. It will be for the judicial court, for the juvenile court to decide if they proceed forward as adults or through the juvenile system.

I think our investigators are very clear that she understands what happened. She gave a good report. The investigators who are following up on this have a lot of specialized training in forensic interviews with children. We have sent them to a number of courses for this, and so we're confident that we have done that part of the investigation as best we can. We think that her story at this point is credible. That is why we went forward with the warrants.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PHILLIPS: Well, one of the boys' fathers has come forward. He says that any sexual activity was consensual and that the girl made up the rape story so she wouldn't get in trouble with her parents.

LEMON: Well, nearly a month after his wife disappeared, former cop Drew Peterson goes back on the air to defend himself. While his lawyer actually did most of the telling on NBC's "Today Show" this morning, it was Peterson's second time on the show in a week.

He's been named a suspect in his wife Stacy's disappearance. And the investigation into the death of his third wife has been reopened. Still, he says, he's surprised by the heavy media interest.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DREW PETERSON, HUSBAND OF MISSING WOMAN: It's mind-boggling. It's just like people are looking at me under a magnifying glass. And it's very upsetting. What I had for breakfast is big -- is newsworthy. So it's crazy.

Please go home. Thanksgiving is the next couple days. Please go home. Please leave me alone. Please don't get involved in my little world.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Peterson maintains that Stacy ran off with another man. Today, he called on her to show herself and -- quote -- "clear all of this up."

PHILLIPS: A new twist in a bizarre case of murder in Italy, three suspects in custody, including the victim's American roommate, but now a bloody fingerprint turns up that doesn't belong to any of them.

LEMON: A teen's online crush leads to suicide, the shocking twist that came to light after the girl's death.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: Fifteen past the hour. A couple stories we're working on for you here in the CNN NEWSROOM.

Getting a head start -- Michael Vick has three weeks before he's formally sentenced on a dogfighting charge in Virginia. But the Atlanta Falcons quarterback surrendered today, apparently to knock some time off whatever sentence he gets. Ready to start you holiday travel? Then brace yourself for very long lines. Snow, wind and fog causing delays at some of the nation's busiest airports and a communications glitch delayed flights at the Dallas Airport.

President Bush's top adviser on fighting terror on her way out. Today, we're hearing Fran Townsend is resigning, the latest in a series of high-profile aides to leave the White House.

PHILLIPS: Who killed Meredith Kercher? Italian police have jailed her American roommate, Amanda Knox, and two men in Kercher's sexual assault and murder. But now police are searching for someone else.

CNN's Jennifer Eccleston is in Rome with more on a bloody fingerprint that puts a fourth person at the scene of that crime.

Jennifer, what are police saying today?

JENNIFER ECCLESTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Kyra, well, an international, active manhunt is under way for a fourth suspect whom police identify as Rudy Hermann Guede. He's in his 20s and he's from there Ivory Coast.

A prosecution source says to CNN he's a prime suspect in the murder of British student Meredith Kercher. And that's because two samples of DNA found in an apartment where the murder took place are his, a fingerprint on a blood-soaked pillow in the bedroom of Meredith Kercher and feces found in the villa toilet.

Now, our source says he's an acquaintance of Amanda Knox. She's the 20-year-old American roommate of Kercher's. She, her boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, and a public owner, Patrick Lumumba, from the Congo are all in prison now on suspicion of murdering Kercher.

Our sources say the arrest warrant does not change of status of those three suspects. Guede has a criminal record here in Italy associated with drugs. Police do not know if he's still in this country, but they tell me that day by day they're putting the pieces together of this terribly complicated murder mystery -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: And, Jennifer, you and I talked a little bit about this last week, when you were getting more news and this story was developing. And explain to our viewers why this has sort of become kind of a fascination from London to Italy to here in the U.S.

ECCLESTON: Well, first and foremost, we mustn't forget that a murder was committed, and a heinous murder at that.

The police and prosecution say that the victim, Meredith Kercher, was -- her throat was slashed as she was fighting off a sexual attack. That in itself is horrible. And it was one of the first times a murder had taken place at this university town in Perugia regarding a student.

And then there's the international aspect of it. The suspects are from the United States, they're from Italy, and from the Congo. Two of the suspects are young, very good-looking students, as well as the victim. This has also added to the appeal.

And it's just not something that happens on a regular basis in this picture-perfect town in Umbria, Perugia. Many of the viewers may be familiar with this beautiful town. It's a stop on many tourist destinations. So, I think that adds to the intrigue surrounding this case.

And also again we must note it was a terrible murder, and one that took place to a very young woman -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: All right, Jennifer Eccleston, we will follow the story with you. Appreciate the update today.

LEMON: He went missing two weeks ago in Brazil. Now a former Washington State University basketball star has been found dead.

A police spokesman says an autopsy -- an anonymous tip, I should say, led them to the body of Tony Harris in a densely wooded area. Harris had been playing professional basketball for a team based in Brasilia, the nation's capital. Harris' body was reportedly found slumped against a tree with a sneaker shoelace wrapped around his neck. Suicide is suspected, but investigators haven't ruled out a homicide in that case.

Two teens were so infatuated with school shootings, German police say they were planning their own. Police say one of them had a Web page glorifying the 1999 Columbine massacre. Police questioned the teens and found weapons and bomb-making instructions. They say one of teens killed himself by stepping in front of a streetcar. Police believe the teens planned to carry out a school attack in Cologne tomorrow. That would have coincided with the first anniversary of another German shooting, school shooting.

PHILLIPS: Signs of progress in Iraq, but not without calls for caution. We're going to tell you why the military isn't getting carried away at the drop in civilian deaths.

LEMON: Showing divorce, happy royals, how it's done. Britain's queen and her prince mark a marriage milestone.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PHILLIPS: Well, the first splash of color after six years of war, that was Winston Churchill's take on the wedding of Britain's future queen; 60 years later -- yes, the big 6-0 -- Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip are celebrating tomorrow's anniversary with a series of events.

Today, they attended a service at Westminster Abbey, where they said their vows so long ago. In 1947, 2,000 guests watch as Elizabeth's father, King George VI, walked her down the aisle. The queen is the first British monarch to reach what's known as the diamond anniversary.

God bless her -- Don.

LEMON: All right, Kyra.

(LAUGHTER)

PHILLIPS: I know you were so amazed by that, that you were...

LEMON: I was actually looking at -- yes, that video and had some other stuff that I was checking out. Thank you for the cue.

(LAUGHTER)

LEMON: "Don."

(BUSINESS REPORT)

PHILLIPS: Well, your big, bad bird may be marinating or thawing in the fridge right now, right? But these are out for a little pre- holiday stroll. So we think. You won't believe where, but we will tell you -- in the NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PHILLIPS: New video just in to CNN. This started about 45 minutes ago or so. You recognize these two men -- the former New Jersey Governor Tom Kean. He also chaired the 9/11 Commission.

He's endorsing Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, for president. It's part of a high stakes new push by the campaign to sort of focus voters on national security. Kean is going to help make that case, actually, to voters in New Hampshire. It's a must-win state for him. He's going to talk about strengthening national security and how it encompasses a lot more than just that divisive -- all the divisive going on in Iraq right now.

Tom Kean endorsing John McCain for president.

LEMON: We also have another bit of breaking news, Kyra, to report.

This is just in. This is according to the Associated Press. Our Betty Nguyen reported this earlier from the breaking news desk, about an autistic boy missing after going hiking. Apparently, he has been found. According to the Associated Press, he was missing about a day ago in Morrow Mountain State Park.

He has been located, according to officials, and he is safe. According to the state park spokesman, this is a 13-year-old, his name is Kyle Whittman of Oakboro, was found about 3:00 p.m. -- just about 30, 32 minutes ago. There is not more information any further than that.

But just so you know a little bit of background here more than 100 searchers looked for the boy along horse trails in a section of 5,000-acre park about 50 miles northeast of Charlotte. And, again, they say he has been found. He's 13 years old. He is autistic and apparently all is safe.

We'll continue to check our sources on this and try to get you some more information.

Again, found and safe.

Meantime, untold suffering after the storm -- coastal Bangladesh is awash in misery days after a massive cyclone slammed ashore. The death toll is more than 3,000 -- and it is climbing. Many villages remain isolated -- no power, no phones, no roads. Thousands of people are homeless and desperately seeking help there.

Name the risk and you'll probably find it in Bangladesh -- a country born out of civil war, where daily life often is a struggle for survival.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LEMON (voice-over): Devastating natural disasters are just part of the problem. Also, on the list abject poverty, a volatile political arena that, in recent years, has been dominated by two former prime ministers who are bitter rivals, growing Islamic extremism and a military with a history of seizing power. One of the world's most densely populated countries, Bangladesh's more than 150 million people are crammed into a delta of rivers that empties into the Bay of Bengal. Almost half of the population lives on less than a dollar a day. Slightly smaller than Iowa, much of the country is low lying and vulnerable to flooding and cyclones.

Just as volatile the climate, Bangladesh's politics. Formerly East Pakistan, Bangladesh gained independence in 1971, when two parts of Pakistan split after a civil war. At one point, the country spent 15 years under military rule.

The current military-backed interim government took power in January, after months of violent clashes between rival political parties. Those parties are headed by two bitter foes and former prime ministers, Sheikh Hasina and Khaleda Zia. Scheduled elections were canceled and are now slated for the end of 2008.

Despite its extraordinary problems, Bangladesh is making strides in reducing population growth and improving education and health care. Also, natural gas reserves hold a glimmer of hope for a future of prosperity.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

LEMON: Here's your chance to take action. Go to CNN.com to find out how you can help the people in Bangladesh devastated by the monster cyclone. Log on and add your name to the growing number of CNN viewers grabbing the opportunity to impact your world.

PHILLIPS: Deaths are down in Iraq since the U.S. military buildup. A military spokesperson says Iraqi civilian casualties dropped 60 percent since June. They're down 75 percent in Baghdad.

CNN's Michael Ware says the numbers are good, but not conclusive.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The question is will this last?

Now, as I've said, the admirals and the generals are very careful to warn that these are early signs. They're good. They pose well. But we cannot say for sure. Let's just see how it develops. They're cautiously optimistic -- and so they should be.

Nonetheless, privately, they do admit that things could easily revert back. You hear them publicly talk about we have a window of time to maximize this, because they know that this might not last forever.

But the biggest thing is, strategically, what does this mean?

If there's no reconciliation, then it's going to account for nothing. And right now, at the political level, there is no movement. It's all at the grassroots.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

PHILLIPS: Even as the drop in deaths was announced, at least 60 people were killed in violence across Iraq and the military announced the deaths of three more U.S. troops.

LEMON: In Missouri, a teenaged girl kills herself after a dispute with an online boyfriend -- but the boyfriend didn't exist.

Here's CNN's Gary Tuchman.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN REPORTER: What happened here is horrifying. Why it might have happened will leave you incredulous.

TINA MEIER, MEGAN'S MOTHER: She was just a good girl.

TUCHMAN: Tina Meier of suburban St. Louis is the mother of Megan Meier -- who had lived a challenging childhood.

RON MEIER, MEGAN'S FATHER: She got bullied in school and she had big self esteem issues. She had struggled with depression since she was in the third grade.

TUCHMAN: Megan's mother and father allowed her to set up a MySpace account under their supervision and said their 13-year-old swooned when she got her first affectionate note ever -- from a boy named Josh Evans.

T. MEIER: He thought she was really pretty, posted on her comments, on her pictures, you know, "This is beautiful. Your eyes are beautiful."

TUCHMAN: For about a month, Josh sent her instant messages, saying things like, "Lucky me and lucky you...because you are my number one."

But Megan's mother and father started getting suspicious because although the notes were not explicit, their parental instinct told them something wasn't right.

T. MEIER: I did contact the police department. And I called and went and asked to be transferred to the cyber crimes division to see how can I check to see if this MySpace account is real. There's nothing you can do.

TUCHMAN: And then one day....

T. MEIER: It was a whirlwind. It was Josh saying horrible things to Megan, Megan saying things back to him.

TUCHMAN: Nasty messages from a boy who just a day before meant everything to this lonely girl. One in particular cut deep.

R. MEIER: The world would be better off place without you and have a (EXPLETIVE LANGUAGE) rest of your life.

TUCHMAN: Megan was distraught beyond words.

T. MEIER: This is the part I'll never forgive myself for, because she was looking for me to help calm her down like I always did and be there for her. And I was upset with her because I didn't like the language that she was using. And I was upset that she didn't listen to me sign off when I told her to. And so I was aggravated with her about that and told her that she knew better. And she just said to me, "You're supposed to be my mom. You're supposed to be on my side."

And she took off running upstairs.

TUCHMAN: It was too quiet for too long in that upstairs bedroom.

Megan was pronounced dead the next day.

When Ron Meier came home from the hospital, he wanted to find Josh Evans -- let him know what he had done to his little girl. The first place he tried to look was Josh's MySpace page.

R. MEIER: It was deleted. The whole Josh Evans no longer existed.

TUCHMAN: A month passed as the Meiers struggled with their grief -- searching for answers why their daughter went to such extremes and who was the boy that drove her there. Then a neighbor told them something stunning -- Josh Evans was actually the creation of a mother who lived on the same block as the Meiers -- a mother who actually went to Megan's funeral. According to an official police report, that mother acknowledged it, the report saying: "In the months leading up to Meier's daughter's suicide, she instigated and monitored a MySpace account which was created for the sole purpose of communicating with Meier's daughter."

The Meiers were told the other family wanted to find out from Megan why she was having a dispute with their own 13-year-old daughter.

R. MEIER: It's as if my daughter would have killed herself with a gun. They loaded the gun for her.

TUCHMAN: We are not reporting the name of that other family to protect the identity of their daughter, but did go to their home to try and get their side of the story.

(on camera): Hi.

Is anybody home?

(voice-over): The woman's father answered the door. In a soft voice, the grandfather said it was sad, but then would not say if he thought the police report was wrong.

(on camera): Have you talked to these people since then?

T. MEIER: Yes, I have.

TUCHMAN: What have you said to them?

T. MEIER: Probably things that I can't say on camera.

TUCHMAN: And what did they say back to you?

R. MEIER: Give it a rest.

T. MEIER: Give it a rest.

TUCHMAN: Now at this point, if you're waiting to hear what law enforcement is doing in an effort to get Megan and her family some justice, well, you may be waiting forever. County prosecutors, the county sheriff's office and the FBI say there is no indication whatsoever a crime has been committed. So there are no plans to do anything legally.

(voice-over): After initially telling us they weren't even investigating the case any more, the prosecutor is now telling CNN his office will review the situation. But more than a year has gone by since Megan hanged herself. Tina and Ron Meiers, who have separated, partly because of the stress, were told by lawyers it was best to stay quiet. But they no longer are. They are angry and feel they owe it to Megan to speak out.

(on camera): Maybe your story could help the welfare of another child.

R. MEIER: Absolutely.

T. MEIER: That's what we hope.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): Gary Tuchman, CNN, O'Fallon, Missouri.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

PHILLIPS: Going undercover D. -- way undercover -- to shut down gang activity.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know, what we were trying to do is get -- put the idea in their head that there's no way these guys are in any way affiliated with law enforcement.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PHILLIPS: How a Georgia sheriff used a tattoo parlor to shut down gang activity.

Our Rusty Dornin brings you the story.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: This just into the CNN NEWSROOM from the Pacific Northwest.

Chad Myers working the story.

An earthquake -- Chad.

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: You never know what you've got to put on during the day there, Don.

A 5.8 just off the Oregon coast at about a depth of nine miles. Now, that's a pretty deep earthquake for a tsunami, so the Tsunami Warning Center says a tsunami was not generated, although local waves can be generated by underwater landslides. There will be no other issues and no other warnings on this. And there is no warning on it right now.

But off the Oregon coast, a fairly large shake -- 5.8 magnitude. That was about 11 minutes ago, probably felt along the Oregon coast, maybe as far north as Seattle; probably as far south as North California.

But for right now, no tsunami warning and none expected -- Don.

LEMON: All right, Chad Myers.

Thank you.

MYERS: You're welcome.

PHILLIPS: When crime started getting out of hand in Augusta, Georgia, the sheriff got creative. He set up a sting to turn gang members into marked men.

CNN's Rusty Dornin reports they showed up in droves.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

SHERIFF RONALD STRENGTH, RICHMOND COUNTY, GEORGIA: We're going to get gang activity from this area east. RUSTY DORNIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The crime in Augusta, Georgia, just isn't what it used to be. Sheriff Ron Strength grew up here.

STRENGTH: They was going from stealing lawn mowers to burglarizing homes, burglarizing gun shops, drive-by shootings, homicides. And we...

DORNIN (on camera): Lots of guns involved.

STRENGTH: ...we saw that.

And everything -- weapons were involved.

DORNIN (voice-over): Life in this Southern river town now means more and more gang life. So though Sheriff Strength -- yes, that's his real name -- decided it was time to go undercover. But he didn't just plant an officer in a business. He invented a whole new business and it took off. Colur Tyme Tattoo Parlor on Tobacco Road -- created and staffed 100 by percent by undercover agents recording every move.

Lieutenant Scott Peebles made sure gang members felt welcome.

LT. SCOTT PEEBLES, RICHMOND COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE: You know, what we were trying to do, you know, get -- put the idea in their head that there's no way these guys are in any way affiliated with law enforcement. They've got bombs there, you know, packaging instruments, scales -- all of the things that, if you're into drug use, you would need.

DORNIN: The cops even gave them markers to scrawl their graffiti. In return, agents got to record their names and faces.

Colur Tyme Tattoo was so successful that four months into it, the sheriff called in the ATF for money and expertise. Then ATF agents helped cover the store counters and learned local ways from the sheriff's deputies.

VANESSA MCLEMORE, ATF: We had some very well trained and skilled undercover agents and officers. They spent a lot of time together learning each other's mannerisms, learning each other's...

DORNIN (on camera): They had to be sort of a brotherhood working at the tattoo store?

MCLEMORE: Right. Right. They have to be able to relate with each other very well.

DORNIN: Agents discovered that often after a crime was committed, the gang members would come in here, get a tattoo, smoke dope and sell the very guns that had been stolen just hours before.

(voice-over): In this undercover video, agents say suspects are selling guns stolen only hours earlier.

PEEBLES: We had one case that two guys went and robbed a convenience store and shot the clerk. And the next day they sold us the gun that they shot clerk with.

DORNIN: Agents trafficked guns at the tattoo shop for 16 months. They even their own spot on MySpace that blares music, screams tattoos and promises "we buy things others don't."

Then the bust -- 68 arrested. Dozens more illegal guns confiscated on search warrants. Plus, 54 pounds of marijuana and more than 1,000 grams of cocaine.

Across town, Sheriff Strength showed us one gang stronghold hit in the bust.

(on camera): Now this is still gang area right here?

STRENGTH: Yes, absolutely. This is the territory of the East Boundary Boys.

DORNIN: And they were involved in drugs, guns?

STRENGTH: They were involved in both. We've -- we've purchased stolen weapons, as well as narcotics, from this group.

DORNIN (voice-over): One sheriff who took on the gangs and won.

Rusty Dornin, CNN, Augusta, Georgia.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

LEMON: Well, your bird may be marinating or thawing in the fridge. But these are out for a pre-holiday stroll, we think. You won't believe where. But we'll tell you, in THE NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PHILLIPS: An endorsement today for John McCain. His run for the White House won the backing of Tom Kean, co-chair of the 9/11 Commission. The former New Jersey governor praised McCain's leadership in the war on terror. And here he is at an event with McCain in Boston just moments ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

THOMAS KEAN, 9/11 COMMISSION CO-CHAIR: I have been privileged to work with him. Senator McCain has been in the forefront of every effort that's been taken in the aftermath of September 11th to make the American people safe. Senator McCain sponsored legislation, establishing the 9/11 Commission. He worked tirelessly to see that it had the resources necessary to do its job. And even more important than that, Senator McCain was the one who spearheaded the efforts in Congress to produce the most significant reform of the nation's intelligence gathering and defense capabilities since 1947. That's when Harry Truman was president.

To the extent that we've been less vulnerable attacks like we suffered on 9/11, it's in a large part due to the extraordinary leadership of John McCain. (END VIDEO CLIP)

PHILLIPS: Kean said the Arizona senator understands the terrorist threat better than anyone else who's running.

LEMON: Time to see what's clicking with all you CNN.comers today. One of our top stories this hour, Mr. Whipple sadly is dead. Character actor Dick Wilson passed away today at age 91. He's best known for that toilet paper add, you know, "please don't squeeze the Charmin."

And talking turkey and tension. It's not all gravy when college students head home for the holidays. We've got tips on avoiding dinnertime drama.

And actress Nicole Kidman describes a dramatic car ride to an Australian court. Kidman talked about being chased through Sydney by a paparazzo. Her testimony in the photographer's defamation trial against a newspaper.

PHILLIPS: Record bonuses -- even the shareholders are having a lousy year.

Susan Lisovicz has the details straight ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: You know what?

I was in Washington this weekend. And the trees are amazing. We should -- the color?

Let's go to Wolf Blitzer.

PHILLIPS: I think he's amazing.

LEMON: I think he'll set the (INAUDIBLE).

PHILLIPS: I think Wolf Blitzer is amazing.

Forget the trees -- hi, Wolf.

WOLF BLITZER, HOST, "THE SITUATION ROOM": It's a beautiful time to be in the nation's capital right now.

LEMON: It is, yes.

BLITZER: I must say.

Thanks, guys, very much.

Just ahead -- who's afraid of Rudy Giuliani?

Not -- repeat, not -- Mike Huckabee. The Republican presidential candidate is surging right now in the polls in Iowa.

Should his rivals be worried he could steal the show? Also, some are calling them the axis of oil -- Venezuela and Iran. Their presidents are making fresh threats against America's economic interests. Hugo Chavez even saying if the U.S. attacks Iran, all of us would pay dearly at the pump.

And at this very moment, many people could be sitting in jail for no good reason. For more than 30 years, law officials used a certain FBI-approved technique that's now considered unreliable.

Might that mean a countless number of inmates could be set free?

I'll ask renowned criminal defense attorney, Barry Sheck.

All that guys, and a lot more, right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

PHILLIPS: It sounds good, Wolf.

LEMON: Well, it's not often that we talk turkey about Taco Bell.

But then when was the last time you saw turkeys hanging around the drive-thru?

This was the scene that greeted customers yesterday. Five turkeys were roaming around a Taco Bell in Bakersfield, California. It's unclear or uncertain -- listen to that, I like to hear them -- if it was a prank. But no one was laughing about one bird -- the one bird that was injured. They pecked and paraded around for at least half an hour before they were picked up by animal control.

PHILLIPS: The closing Bell is about to ring on Wall Street.

LEMON: Susan Lisovicz is standing by with a final look at the trading day -- Susan, you're not talking turkey today, are you?

SUSAN LISOVICZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm not talking turkey. Not yet. But I think we've had a turkey of a day on Wall Street.

(STOCK MARKET REPORT)

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