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Persons of Interest Changing in Nevaeh Buchanan Case; Mother Who Faked Kidnapping Getting Counseling

Aired June 1, 2009 - 19:00:00   ET



JANE VELEZ-MITCHELL, HOST (voice-over): Tonight, disturbing clues flood in as investigators race to find adorable 5-year-old Nevaeh Buchanan, missing eight days now. Her mom pals with convicted sex offenders. Michigan police sift through nearly a thousand tips. Now they`re on the hunt for the driver of a green minivan. Authorities continue to play close to the vest. Could they be building a case against someone who knew little Nevaeh?

Then, Billy Bob Thornton`s daughter charged in connection with the death of a 1-year-old girl she was babysitting. The famously eccentric actor has been estranged from his daughter for years. Will he show his support for her during this crisis?

And more drama for Drew Peterson, the ex-cop charged with murdering his third wife and suspected in the disappearance of wife No. 4. From behind bars, the accused killer has chatted with Matt Lauer, and even cracked jokes on a radio show. Now jail officials say they`re being bombarded with angry complaints that he`s getting special treatment. Whatever happened to one phone call?

Also, the kidnapping hoax mom goes home. Bonnie Sweeten claimed she was abducted with her daughter but was later found carousing at Disney World. She posted bail and will get mental health treatment. I`ll have the latest bizarre twists.

Plus, move over, "Jon and Kate Plus Eight." It`s Nadya Suleman plus 14. Octomom finally got her wish, reportedly making a TV deal. And wait until you see the latest "Jon & Kate" drama: bikinis, beer and babes, oh, my.

ISSUES starts now.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Startling twists and turns tonight in the search for 5-year-old Michigan girl, Nevaeh Buchanan. As the search for the missing child enters its second week, investigators are shifting their attention away from two persons of interest, who are both convicted sex offenders, and friends of little Nevaeh`s mom.

Forty-eight-year-old Roy Smith, currently in custody on suspicion that he violated his parole by allegedly having contact with little Nevaeh. Smith owns a van -- listen carefully -- which the other person of interest, George Kennedy, once drove.

Now, Kennedy is the alleged ex-boyfriend of the missing girl`s mom. But he has an alibi, and investigators are now saying -- this just in -- blood found on a knife in the van that he drove and on sheets in Kennedy`s motel room are not -- they are not a match to little Nevaeh. So the focus of the investigation seems to have gone elsewhere.

Then, just yesterday, investigators announced a third person of interest.


SHERIFF TILMAN CRUTCHFIELD, MONROE COUNTY SHERIFF`S DEPARTMENT: This person of interest was dropped off at his residence. Five minutes later he was found in back burning items. That raises red flags.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Sure does. But then, in a startling twist just today, when that man you`re looking at, James Easter, was arraigned on unrelated arson charges, the judge revealed -- guess what -- he is no longer a person of interest. Apparently, they have ruled him out.

Now, cops are after a fourth person of interest, the mystery driver of a green minivan. That van was seen parked at the playground right across from little Nevaeh`s apartment complex. It appears two -- count them -- two school-age boys questioned by cops this weekend may have provided vital information about this mystery man with a van.

Meanwhile, Nevaeh`s paternal grandmother is speaking out. You will not believe who she suspects knows a whole lot more than they`re saying.

All the latest in this really bizarre, bizarre case. But first to my fantastic expert panel: Tom Ruskin, former NYPD police detective, investigator and president of CNP Protective and Investigative Group; Drew Findling, criminal defense attorney; Bradford Cohen, criminal defense attorney; Mark Eiglarsh, former prosecutor and criminal defense attorney. And we`re delighted to have Michelle Sigona, national correspondent for "America`s Most Wanted."

Michelle, you are tracking this case closely. What is the very latest?

MICHELLE SIGONA, NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, "AMERICA`S MOST WANTED": The very latest at this point is just as you mentioned. There are two boys who may have come forward and that investigators are looking for, for more information from them.

In addition, as you did mention, the knife that was found in the possession of Mr. Kennedy, who allegedly had a relationship with Nevaeh`s mom. The blood on that knife did come back not belonging to anyone that they knew. So that`s actually a good sign that that may still mean that this little girl is still alive, and that is something that we still need to look forward to at this point, because there are many success stories within missing person cases.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Mark Eiglarsh, good news and bad news, in the sense it`s wonderful news that the blood doesn`t match little Nevaeh. That gives us hope she may be alive. But by the same token, with all the persons of interest, basically not panning out. It almost feels like this investigation is back to square one, despite something like 500 tips and hundreds upon hundreds of people searching for this child.

MARK EIGLARSH, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, that`s correct. But don`t despair. Next week we`ll have another few persons of interest. I mean, do you find it a little unusual that every week we have our hopes up, yet someone else: "No, not so fast."

Jane, listen, it`s great because it gives us time to talk about things. But what you`re doing in the process is, No. 1, you`re helping the future defense lawyer come up with people to blame. No. 2, year`s really giving a bad name to people who`ve had nothing to do with it. And third, I think you`re compromising the investigation. It`s great for Jane Velez- Mitchell`s show, but it`s bad, I think, bad policy for law enforcement.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, I agree that there`s -- it`s such a tough road to decide how much to say, Rebecca Rose Woodland. As an agency, sometimes they don`t say enough. And that leads to a lot of speculation.

And then sometimes they say too much. And here we have all these persons of interest. Now some of them have alibis. Now, some of them, it seems, had nothing to do with this. And their name has been splattered all over national news for days.

TOM RUSKIN, FORMER NYPD POLICE DETECTIVE: Jane, what I`d like to say is this. Law enforcement is following every single lead that they have. These two kids could bring forth two or three or four more leads which the police will follow up on.

And the police are holding this investigation very close to their vest. They`re not releasing very much information, other than the things that they have to release. This person`s of interest; this person isn`t of interest. And that will lead to, hopefully, finding this little girl and finding the person who kidnapped her.


EIGLARSH: Why did we have to know the last two suspects who had nothing to do with it? Why did we have to know that? And can`t you see how that compromises the investigation?

RUSKIN: I`m not disagreeing that, as a law enforcement person, I wouldn`t want that out there. But the fact of the matter is, we live in a media now that`s 24/7, and that`s going to get out. People do leak. Cops leak portions of their investigation, sometimes purposely. I don`t see the reason that these two people had to be leaked. But it didn`t hurt things.

FINDLING: Jane, let me make one comment. On this show before, involving some other cases, you have expressed frustration, as have your callers, about why it`s taken so long for a forensic test to come back that would either point to somebody or show somebody didn`t do it. It is amazing, as we think about the other cases, that George Kennedy`s multi-use tool, we got the blood test back so fast, comparing that to some of the other cases that we talked about.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Right. And I give kudos to law enforcement for getting that job done quickly. As you just mentioned, blood found in George Kennedy`s motel room, determined not to match little Nevaeh Buchanan`s DNA.

Kennedy is a convicted sex offender and, reportedly, one-time boyfriend of the little child`s mother, now said to be just a friend. This is what the mom said when she heard that the blood in Kennedy`s motel room was not a match to her missing child.


JENNIFER BUCHANAN, MOTHER OF NEVAEH: it`s a very good thing that, you know, the blood that was found in his room is not hers. And I`m not going to stop believing that she is not alive. Always in the bottom of my heart, I did not whatsoever feel like he had anything to do with it.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Brad Cohen, this mom has been harshly criticized for allowing two convicted sex offenders into her child`s life. But now the focus seems to be turning away from both Kennedy and Roy Smith. Should the cops come out and say, "Hey, these guys are no longer persons of interest? We are looking for someone else," so that these two, whatever they may have done in the past, can go on with their lives?

BRAD COHEN, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: I`m sure they`re not going to make a statement like that. Because just in case something comes back, something links them to something, it`s really troublesome to say these guys have absolutely nothing to do with it, unless they have a rock-solid alibi and absolutely they do have nothing to do with it.

Obviously, she`s been criticized, because as a parent, you really don`t want to be dating a sex offender when you have a young girl in your house. Probably not the smartest thing to do. And not only was she dating one, allegedly, then she was befriending other ones.

So she was kind of like a magnet for sex offenders. Not a good idea. But certainly not the reason why this happened to her. As so far, as all the evidence that comes back, doesn`t link anything to these two guys. So they should make a statement sooner or later that say these guys can go on with their lives. But not right now. Not until they completely eliminate them.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Now, in a startling revelation, Nevaeh`s paternal grandmother spoke out this weekend. This was a shocker. Listen to this.


CARLA ELLIOTTE, NEVAEH`S PATERNAL GRANDMOTHER: Jennifer, if you know anything, you know, please, come on. This has been long enough. We need Nevaeh home.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Mark, that is a thinly veiled accusation that Nevaeh`s own mom, Jennifer, knows something about this child`s disappearance.

EIGLARSH: That`s one inference that can be made. I have no idea. I can tell you that those last two faces that we just saw, again, we`re looking at these people, and police, according to Brad Cohen, and he`s probably right, they`re not going to come out and say these guys have nothing to do it. So we`ll keep looking at their faces, and maybe down the road it will just fizzle. But people are going to remember that they`re associated with this case.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes, but part of the reason is because they are convicted sex offenders. And maybe that`s the price that you pay down the road for that kind of history. Everybody, more analysis in just a moment. Who is the man with the green van? 1-877-JVM-SAYS. That`s 1-877-586-7297. Sound off on this race against the clock.

And then, Billy Bob Thornton`s daughter is charged in the death of a baby. I will tell you what the eccentric actor had to say about that.

But first, cops have two sex offenders in custody connected to the disappearance of Nevaeh Buchanan. Both are reportedly friends with Nevaeh`s mom. Here is how one relative reacted to the news.


SHAUN LAWSON, COUSIN OF NEVAEH BUCHANAN: It very first took place, the child and mother are messing with this guy named George Kennedy. And he`s a registered sex offender. He molests children. And we told her to stay away from him. And as soon as this happened, the first thing we thought, was him.




BUCHANAN: I think they put her hand over her mouth. They got her in the back. Something I have no idea. And I really don`t want to think about that. I don`t want to think about the bad. I just want to think about the good.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: What a nightmare. Missing 5-year-old Nevaeh Buchanan`s mom, Jennifer, imaging the worst-case scenario for her precious child. This beautiful little girl we`re looking at, as we speak, cops on the hunt for a possible fourth person of interest. The driver of a green minivan seen parked near Nevaeh`s apartment around the time she went missing.

Give me a holler and weigh in with my expert panel. Phone lines jam packed.

Susan in Ohio, your question or thought, ma`am?

CALLER: Yes, Jane.


CALLER: I have a quick question. Does this little girl have a father in her life? There`s been no mention of a father anywhere.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, Michelle Sigona, apparently there is a dad who`s been camping out nearby. Tell us about it.

SIGONA: Yes, she does have a father. He is a very active within her case. Each evening they have a vigil out in the apartment complex where little Nevaeh did go missing, in fact. So he is out there, along with other residents.

In addition investigators as you mentioned, Jane, are looking for that green van that -- that is possibly missing at this point, allegedly seen behind the apartment complex.

And I also want to remind your viewers, to -- definitely to keep hope. I mean, we`ve had a couple of great success cases in the last couple of weeks. Briant Rodriguez case with the Amber Alert out of California. And also, the Leslie Perez case. She was abducted out of Texas and then returned the next day. So I still want to keep everyone positive and, hopefully, you know, looking for this little girl still.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes. But I agree with you. Let`s cross our fingers and pray that this child is found alive and OK. And this is what scares me. Cops are now looking for the driver of this green minivan that was seen parked at the playground across from the complex, around the time that this child disappeared.

Now, we know that minivans are a bad sign in a lot of cases. Let`s take the case in New York City of New York City accused killer Darryl Littlejohn. He allegedly abducted grad student Imette St. Guillen in a minivan before allegedly murdering her. That case under way as we speak.

There are experts, Tom Ruskin, who say minivans are the vehicle of choice for abductors. Does this signal something possibly sinister?

RUSKIN: It does. But that doesn`t mean that this is going to be the lead that`s going to break the case. It`s one of the leads that police are following up on, among the 400 or 500 others that have reportedly come in. All it takes is one lead to lead you down the avenue to solve this case.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. Cherry in Iowa, your question or thought, ma`am?

CALLER: I`m just wondering if, since the blood does not match Nevaeh, are they running it through a national database to see whose blood it -- does belong to?

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Excellent question. Michelle Sigona.

SIGONA: Absolutely. Investigators will definitely take that avenue. And like you mentioned, Jane, the fact that they have gotten the results back for this DNA so quickly is astounding. I mean, it`s been just a little over a week since she`s gone missing. So great job to law enforcement in that matter. And they will move forward with the national database. And any other, you know, way that they can -- are able to match up that blood.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. Now, police continue to search for any possible witnesses. Listen to what Nevaeh`s cousin said about that.


LAWSON: It`s like she just vanished in thin air. Nobody knows nothing. Hopefully, these two kids that they supposedly seen over here playing in this park, did see something. Because where they found the scooter right there, maybe they walked back in this area, and she was abducted back here in this area. And if there was anybody back here in this playground playing, they had to see something.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, Mark Eiglarsh, we have these two young boys, school-age boys who may have been the ones to tip cops of to the green minivan. They were apparently playing in this area at the time the little child disappeared.

And then you remember that there were two other playmates of little Nevaeh`s last week, who said -- one said that they saw something really awful, that they saw Nevaeh stabbed in the stomach. Another said she went into the woods with Daddy George.

How reliable are statements from kids? We`re hearing so many of them in this case.

EIGLARSH: Well, listen, we`re desperate. And so we`ll talk to anybody, anything. You`ve got 100 units in that apartment complex. So anyone who may have potentially seen something, including children, could become vital.

FINDLING: Jane -- Jane, let me tell you...

EIGLARSH: Very properly and very carefully so that they don`t necessarily suggest anything to the children, like we saw in one other high-profile case recently. They could be of value.

FINDLING: Jane, let me tell you why I think it is significant. You know, we live in the world of Jack Bauer now. I can`t tell you the last murder case in the last four or five years I`ve tried where law enforcement was not able to obtain nearby surveillance video.

And by getting descriptions, it could help them go down different paths, different roadways, and see if they can go to establishments, commercial establishments and start picking up surveillance cameras.

So this is really critical. I`m telling you, every case now, you get surveillance videos from five miles away, two miles away. It`s an amazing law enforcement tool.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, Tom Ruskin, why didn`t we hear about this green minivan before? It couldn`t have been that hard to find two neighborhood kids who were playing across the street from where this happened. I mean, wouldn`t it have been better to have this eight days ago when she first went missing, to put into an Amber alert?

RUSKIN: At a certain point in time you come up with these leads and you come up with these kids. They may have disappeared off that lot that day and didn`t come back to the play yard until the cops came up with them, like canvassing the whole area. The canvas will expand further and further and further to get anyone who may have seen anything.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. Brad, how do we find this green minivan? What should cops do next?

CONWAY: I mean, obviously you look for anybody you can speak with. These two kids obviously saw something, they think. Then what you do is you start expanding the parameters of where that minivan could have or could have not gone.

Now, like the other guest stated, about the surveillance cameras, local surveillance cameras, gas stations, things of that nature that we`ve seen in other cases just recently in terms of where that minivan would go next, or where it was parked in terms of any other cameras that are around. And that`s where you really have to go with it.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Let`s find this beautiful child. It makes me sick to my stomach. Another child snatched. What`s going on in this country?

I want to thank my excellent panel.

Bonnie Sweeten, who pretended she was kidnapped before fleeing with her daughter to Disney World, of all places, is now out on bail. The alleged kidnapping host mastermind is now getting psychiatric help. You think?

Billy Bob Thornton famous for his eccentricities reacts to a story about his daughter.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: In the "Spotlight" tonight, Bonnie Sweeten, the 38- year-old mom who pretended she and her daughter were violently abducted by two black men and shoved into the trunk of a Cadillac. But there was a stunning twist. In reality, she allegedly took a co-worker`s I.D., bought plane tickets using that co-worker`s name, and then went to Disney World. That`s where she was finally captured.

Today, Bonnie Sweeten is free on bail. She posted 100 grand in cash, leaving some to wonder, "Hmm, where did she get that money?"

Her young daughter, Julia, who she took along for the escapade, spoke out for the first time on this morning`s ABC`s "Good Morning America."


MEREDITH VIEIRA, CO-HOST, NBC`S "GOOD MORNING AMERICA": Do you remember much about the trip? Do you remember the trip to Florida?


VIEIRA: What do you remember about it?

RAKOCZY: It was just like on a normal trip, and it was fun.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Aw. But things got scary for little Julia when she saw her picture on TV.

Her mom now faces charges of filing a false report and identity theft. But her family hopes authorities will give mom a break, because they say that kooky con artist is not who Bonnie Sweeten really is. Oh, really?

Well, straight to Brenda Wade, noted clinical psychologist. We need you desperately, Brenda.

Here`s the problem with that "good mom just snapped" theory. Published reports also say she`s being investigated for possible financial swindling that some claim could go as high as $1 million. Wouldn`t that mean premeditation and planning, not just, "I snapped"?


And you asked the question at the end of the last segment, what is going on in this country? We see all these cases of moms going of the rails, little children disappearing. And Jane, I want to say that I believe parents are under pressure. Moms are under pressure. As the economy goes down, this bizarre behavior is going up, whether the moms are single, married, widowed, divorced. We`re seeing more of this.

And I think there`s a correlation between love and money. And it`s something most people don`t recognize. This little girl did not have a loving, protective mother who prevented her from being in a situation that was potentially dangerous. And I`ll tell you, my skin is crawling, because I am tired of people doing things and then saying, "and those black men did it."


WADE: I just had to put that out there. I`m sorry.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Oh, yes. Any empathy I have -- I agree with you. Any empathy I have for this woman went away when I heard that, because she is raising the possibility that an innocent person, or two innocent people...

WADE: Yes.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: ... or even more could get arrested. All they had to do is find somebody matching that description in the neighborhood, with a van that matched the story she made up. And those people could have been in big trouble.

Listen to Bonnie Sweeten`s young daughter, Julia, and her biological dad talking to ABC`s "Good Morning America" about this ordeal.


VIEIRA: Were you ever scared, Julia, during the whole trip to Florida?


VIEIRA: You were? Of what?

J. RAKOCZY: When I saw my picture on TV.

VIEIRA: What`s the hardest part?

ANTHONY RAKOCZY, EX-HUSBAND OF BONNIE SWEETEN: Just the whole thing. The whole thing. And the fact, you know, what these kids have got to go through. You know, their mother doing what she did. And just hard. It`s hard.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Brenda, she put her family through hell. We have five seconds.

WADE: Yes. You know, again, I want people to look at what is happening around all of these moms under pressure. And Jane, you know, I always have a free love lesson up on my Web site, dot --, if people want to learn more.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: We will check it out.

An America behind bars in Australia, next.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: More drama for Drew Peterson, the ex-cop charged with murdering his third wife. From behind bars the accused killer has chatted with Matt Lauer and even cracked sick jokes on a radio show. Now the jail officials say they`re being bombarded with angry complaints that he`s getting special treatment.

Plus, move over "Jon & Kate plus 8" it`s "Nadya Suleman plus 14." Octo-mom reportedly makes a TV deal. And just wait until you see the latest Jon and Kate drama: bikinis, beer and babes. Oh, my.

More on "Jon & Kate plus 8" plus "Octo-mom plus 14" -- Can you believe it -- in just moments.

But first, a real honeymoon horror: 32-year-old David Watson, a.k.a. Gabe, to be charged this Friday with killing his new wife of 11 days, Tina, while scuba diving in Australia. Literally, we`re talking 11 days after they tied the knot and said "I do until death do us part."

This really, really frightening sinister picture shows Tina`s lifeless body floating in the water after Watson allegedly turned off her air supply and held her down, preventing her from getting to the surface. There she is right in the corner there for air.

Take a look; I was waiting to see it. That`s her lifeless body down there.

Watson denies the charges and says he wants to clear his name. But Tina`s family insists that he murdered her, possibly in an attempt to get her modest life insurance policy.

Straight to Mark Eiglarsh, former prosecutor and criminal defense attorney -- you know, what`s so sick about this case is that he allegedly asked his wife to change her policy, and she never did. So he went and allegedly killed her for this modest policy, and she had never even changed the policy at all.

MARK EIGLARSH, FORMER PROSECUTOR: Well, let`s use that word allegedly, because Jane, you and I have no idea what happened. For what it`s worth, his defense lawyer is suggesting that they vehemently deny the allegations and don`t think that there`s much to this case.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Originally the death of Tina Watson was ruled an accident. It was almost five years later when a warrant was issued for Tina`s husband`s arrest. And now he will likely be charged for her death this week, mostly due to the persistence of the dead woman`s family.

Mark Eiglarsh, we see this time and time again, it does pay off for a family to keep the story in the news, even though sometimes you`re critical of the news media`s coverage of these cases...


VELEZ-MITCHELL: ...whether it`s Drew Peterson, the Savio family. This case, keeping the story alive can change the outcome.

EIGLARSH: A hundred percent. No question politics play a role in our criminal justice system. What also might have helped is maybe they got a crack in the case. Someone else got arrested for a serious offense. He said, "Look, I`ll help myself by helping you on this other case. He mentioned to me X, Y and Z, or maybe I helped him in some way," or it`s just plain politics.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Look at that terrifying picture of somebody lying on the ocean floor.

EIGLARSH: Horrible.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Oh, my gosh. Mark, stay right there.

Seismic developments tonight in the case against accused killer Drew Peterson as yet another new judge is appointed to hear his case. The ex- cop in court today to score a small victory as the chief judge granted Peterson`s lawyer`s request to have the standing judge tossed off the case for alleged bias.

This comes just weeks after the prosecution had the original judge tossed off the case also for alleged bias. But wait, wasn`t it Peterson`s lawyers who claimed no fair when prosecutors tried to remove that first judge?


JOEL BRODSKY, DREW PETERSON`S ATTORNEY: It`s nothing but gamesmanship. I think it shows that the state does not want to try this case on the merits.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: What the heck is going on here? If they are fighting this much over a judge, how much bickering, sniping and in-fighting can we expect during the actual trial? Peterson charged with murdering his third wife, Kathleen Savio and he has pleaded not guilty.

Meantime, jail officials say they are being bombarded -- bombarded with furious complaints from the public that dodgy Drew is getting special treatment. That`s because the accused killer is making phone calls, chatting to the media. Chatting up with Matt Lauer, cracking jokes on morning radio shows, all from behind bars.

Listen to this.


WLS RADIO: Ladies and gentlemen, live from the Will County Jail, it`s Drew Peterson. Give it up. Yay. Nobody`s clapping.



PETERSON: I know we can`t do the Date with Drew anymore.


PETERSON: But I`m thinking what we should do is like, "Win a conjugal visit with Drew." Let`s do that.


VELEZ-MITCHEL: Is this sick or what? Jail officials insist there`s no special treatment for Peterson. But they admit his bizarre media celebrity is a real pain in the neck for them.

They`ve actually considered getting a court order to end Peterson`s call-in interviews. His lawyer says he calls TV and radio out of boredom. It`s a relief of stress. Whatever happened to lifting weights in the prison yard?

Back with me, my expert panel: Drew Findling, Atlanta criminal defense attorney; Bradford Cohen, criminal defense attorney; and Mark Eiglarsh, former prosecutor and criminal defense attorney.

Bradford Cohen, should the jail take steps to stop him from making these phone calls? Legally can they do that?

BRADFORD COHEN, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: I don`t think legally they can do that. I mean, they can administer some sort -- they would have to do it across the board. They couldn`t just do it for him. I actually think it helps them.

Let them keep talking and let them keep going to the press. Let him keep doing these moronic things because sooner or later, he might slip and he might say something that they can be used against him in a court of law.

All of a sudden, now they`ve got something better than what they had originally. So the more he talks, the more he gives himself rope to hang himself. So I`d let him keep on talking.

DREW FINDLING, ATLANTA CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: I agree. I don`t think he`s doing anything but making a fool of himself. Yes, unfortunately, I agree, I think the prosecution will probably file a motion to give him more telephone time.


FINDLING: I mean, sometimes you want your client to talk to the media. Not very often. In fact, you probably should never do. But some attorneys choose to do it, to humanize their client.

But here, I mean, I`ve listened to this on the Internet over and over again and he doesn`t humanize himself, he demonizes himself because he`s joking when he`s in jail for having -- for being charged with killing his children`s mother.

Now, even if he says he`s innocent, his children`s mother is dead. And he`s using this opportunity to try to get laughs.


FINDLING: The public is just not going to be happy in front of his jurors.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right, let`s let our viewers decide. Let`s listen to more of Peterson`s bad jokes during a collect call he made into a morning radio show from behind bars. Listen to this one.


WLS RADIO: And how`s your love life?

PETERSON: My love life? Well, I got a lot of buddies here that are real anxious to, you know, wash my back in the shower. But what`s that all about, you know, hey I got it, you know leave me alone, you know.

WLS RADIO: Are you enjoying the showers?

PETERSON: No, not at all they`re cold.

WLS RADIO: How`s your bling? Do you get to wear a bling every one in a while?

PETERSON: I get my -- I get my bling coming and going out of the courthouse.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: This is just such bad taste, it almost blows my mind. What I worry, if it`s legal, why aren`t other megalomaniacs who are behind bars like O.J. Simpson and Drew Peterson trying the same thing? Why aren`t they -- why aren`t we hearing all the prisoners making these calls?

EIGLARSH: Well, Jane...

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Is it only for the accused, and not the convicted?

EIGLARSH: He takes it to a whole another level. He`s unbelievably insensitive. But I agree with Brad and Drew, the Constitution gives him the right to be an ass if he wants to.

You can`t have a Drew Peterson law and say for Drew you can`t use the telephone. But for the other people, you can. He has a right to do it. It doesn`t matter how insensitive he`s being, as long as he is not committing an offense. He has the right to blab away.

FINDLING: But you know what, it`s like the past Governor of Illinois, all right what happened to him is -- when he started to talking to media, what did his first lawyer do? He said, "You`re gone. You`re fired as my client."

Client control is huge when you`re an attorney. A lot of lawyers would ditch him right now.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Brad Cohen, what I don`t understand is that many, many members of the media fought to get interviews with, let`s say, Robert Blake behind bars. Is it different that they`re trying to go in behind bars to interview a defendant on camera?

COHEN: I think -- there`s definitely a difference. The sheriff of whatever locale either permits or doesn`t permit cameras into his own location. So they have control over certain things.

On phone calls, to call in to a radio show, I don`t know how they`re going to control whether or not he can call into a radio show and make comments.

It`s like whether or not he can call his lawyer or whether or not he can call his mom. I mean, I don`t know where you stop it. Where does that end, if you did do some sort of administrative law that would prevent him from doing that.

It just works for the prosecution.


EIGLARSH: And where they shouldn`t stop it is if they deem it offensive. I don`t want anyone from the jail deciding what my client can say, as long as they`re being lawful.

They can criticize jail personnel. They can criticize law enforcement and they can be insensitive. That`s what makes this country great. It bothers me personally because nobody wants to hear Drew say those things, but that`s the first amendment.

COHEN: Well, what bothers me is Mancow would actually put him on.


EIGLARSH: Don`t be surprised. It`s all about ratings, baby, we`re talking about Mancow, whoever the heck that is.

FINDLING: I think the happiest people are Casey Anthony`s lawyers because now we don`t get to hear her talking from the jail. And in fact, maybe Casey Anthony and Drew Peterson should start their own radio show.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, I`ve got to say...

EIGLARSH: Well, he`s in a different league than her. Oh he is in a completely different league.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: This case I see has a certain tinge already that I think is going to be sheer insanity. Look at the battles over just the judge. Who knows what we have in store.

Thank you, gentlemen, for the amazing insight.

For more on this story, be sure to tune in to "NANCY GRACE" tonight at 8:00 Eastern. She will have an exclusive interview with Drew Peterson`s attorney, Joel Brodsky. You do not want to miss that.

Next, right here on ISSUES, Billy Bob Thornton`s daughter charged in the death of a baby. I will tell you why the strange actor is keeping strangely quiet.

And step aside Jon and Kate, octo-mom has a reality TV deal in the works. Octo-mom says, her show -- the other show the "Kate and Jon" show is boring.

Could octo-mom give Jon and Kate a run for their money? Should all of these shows be canceled? 1-877-JVM-SAYS, 1-877-586-7297. Sound off on both of these reality dramaramas. Give me a call.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Octo-mom gets her wish. I will have the latest on Nadya Suleman`s spanking new reality TV deal.

But first, "Top of the Block" tonight.

A sad and bizarre story, famous actor Billy Bob Thornton`s daughter is charged in connection with the death of a child in Florida. 29-year-old Amanda Brumfield, Thornton`s daughter by his first wife, is charged with child neglect.

Back in October, a 1-year-old girl that she was babysitting died after allegedly falling out of her playpen. Cops say Brumfield did not call 911 until two and a half hours after the fall, which is a key reason they brought the charges.

Thornton, famous for his very odd behavior, has been estranged from this daughter you see there for years. His spokesman said the two haven`t had contact for quote, "quite some time." In a statement, Thornton would only say his heart goes out to the baby`s family and no mention of his own flesh and blood.

That is tonight`s "Top of the Block."

Tonight, a double dose of reality show shockers: octo-mom has inked a deal with a big-time production company. Meantime, Jon and Kate Gosselin, on the brink of marital meltdown, face an investigation into their hit show -- that`s right -- an investigation.

Nadya Suleman, meantime, mother of 14, has gone and done what she once said she would never do. Here`s one of her reality show denials back in March on Dr. Phil.


NADYA SULEMAN, MOTHER OF OCTUPETS: I don`t want anything (INAUDIBLE). A reality show? No way. No way. That`s another misconception.

DR. PHIL MCGRAW, HOST, "DR. PHIL": So you`re not interested in doing a reality show?

SULEMAN: It depends how it`s done. But I -- when they`re much older -- that`s not up to me, it`s up to the kids. I would not choose that for them.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: No way has become way. Here`s what the octo-mom told TMZ back in February.


MIKE WALTERS, TMZ: Do you think you`re going to start a reality show?


WALTERS: When your kids are all grown up?

SULEMAN: No, I think that`s exploitation of my kids.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: No, no. Can you say never mind? She now has a reality show deal. But Suleman`s camp insists octo-mom does not want her show to imitate Jon & Kate Gosselin`s show which she calls boring. Whoa -- that`s fighting words.

The Gosselin has bigger battles on their hands. The state of Pennsylvania has launched an investigation into whether that show, "Jon & Kate plus 8" violates child labor laws.

Meantime, a bikini-clad Kate -- and she looks pretty good there, you`ve got to admit, she looks darn good there -- showed off her tummy- tucked torso during a, quote, "working vacation at the beach with the kids." There they are right in the surf and a bodyguard -- we don`t see him -- but no Jon.

Now, Jon was spotted by TMZ out drinking and shopping with two women who are just, quote, "friends." What a mess this all is. We`re going to sort it out, though. Or try if we can.

There are now a total of 22 kids. Are those 22 kids in crisis? I want to hear what you have to say. Give me a holler.

Straight out to my fantastic panel: still here, Brenda Wade, clinical psychologist; and joining me now, Rachel Zalis, contributing editor to "Life and Style Weekly;" and Mike Walters, assignment manager for TMZ.

Mike, octo-mom`s back on the front burner. But the Gosselins are really in the crosshairs right now. That`s sort of mixed metaphors. Just tell us, what is the very latest?

WALTERS: Let`s start with octo-mom, my favorite one. It`s -- the deal`s inked, Jane. She`s got the show. Here`s what I know so far. Basically, the reason she went with this European company, you know, she said she wasn`t going to do, there was speculation, whatever.

The point is, I heard today that basically what`s going on is this company -- it`s kind of weird connected to the Gosselins -- this company has decided to go ahead produce it. They haven`t sold it yet. But are allowing her to have a lot of time to do it, where it`s not in your face, 50 episodes, in the kids` bedroom. Which is weird -- I can`t believe I`m like backing up octo-mom on this one.

But basically it sounds like she made a pretty good decision whether or not she`s going to do a show, but she`s going to do this show where it`s going to be spread out. She`s going to be able to shoot some of it herself. It`s not going to be as hard as "Jon & Kate plus 8" where the cameras are in the kids` rooms 24 hours a day. They`re shooting massive amounts of episodes.

That`s what I`ve heard so far about what the show will be. But they`re still trying to sell it.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, Brenda Wade, she obviously learned something from the unfolding disaster of the "Jon & Kate plus 8" saga. However, I was talking to a young girl who has grown up in front of the camera just this weekend, and she said, you know what, the real problem happens when the cameras are turned off and all of a sudden all the attention goes away. That`s when the depression kicks in.

We`re all so worried about what`s happening with these kids while they`re on the show, and this woman told me, "hey, it`s when they`re no longer on the show that their life falls apart."

BRENDA WADE, CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGIST: And Jane, we should be worried about what happens when the cameras are turned off. We all know octo-mom is weird. We all know she`s a train wreck that people can`t stop watching. That`s why she has a TV show.

Now, here`s the other side of it. We heard a lot of people criticize her because she was getting taxpayers` money to pay for the kids. Well, now she`s earning her own freight. We can`t be mad that she`s earning a living. But I am very concerned about those children because this woman clearly has severe emotional issues, from my perspective.


WADE: And I don`t think those children are getting a stable home, or a stable life. And cameras are not going to help the children.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: There`s so many commonalities between these two shows, these two individuals, Kate Gosselin and Nadya Suleman, really have more in common than their multiples.

Listen to Kate on "Larry King Live" and then octo-mom on TMZ.


KATE GOSSELIN, "JON & KATE PLUS 8": Cameras come in and film us. And that, to the world, to the public, makes us celebrities.


GOSSELIN: I do not like that word. I am not a celebrity. I am a mom and a wife.



SULEMAN: I`m not a celebrity. Thank you.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Rachel Zalis, "I`m not a celebrity," both of these women screaming that. Yet of course they are celebrities. What kind of a persona gets involved in this?

RACHEL ZALIS, CONTRIBUTING EDITOR, "LIFE & STYLE WEEKLY": You know, it`s just so ironic that she goes around saying that. She has invited these camera crews into her home to film her children, and at the same time she`s yelling at the paparazzi to stop following her around.

And you know, I think it`s true, what we were saying before, is that at least the octo-mom, you know, has thought this through in the sense that she`s only going to expose the children in certain times in their lives, as opposed to Jon and Kate.

And the truth is their controversy off camera has what`s made that show the most successful show right now; 10 million people tuned in to see that. Double of last season. So there`s definitely something about this scandal that`s selling these shows. And I think that`s what`s particularly detrimental to the kids that are part of these shows.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: And Mike, when we come back, I want to talk a little bit about the fact that they haven`t sold the octo-mom show to an American network yet. Will they be able to do that, or is there too much b backlash from the "Jon & Kate plus 8?"

All right, everybody. Sit tight, more celebrity reality dramarama in a moment.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: "Big Tease:" searching for Nevaeh Buchanan; we`ll have the very latest from the ground in the desperate search for this adorable 5-year-old. Full team coverage tomorrow on ISSUES.

Now we`re back talking about the scandal that continues to swirl around Jon and Kate and eight and the octo-mom and the 14 kids and the new reality show and the book deal.

All right, the phone lines are lighting up. Annette, Arizona, your question or thought, ma`am.

ANNETTE, ARIZONA (via telephone): Hi, Jane. I was just wondering, it seems like the public backlash is all directed at the media instead of the parents who ultimately hold their children`s fate in their hands. How is it that the media can come out and defend themselves against that?

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, I think that you have a point. But actually, they`re really -- let`s say "Jon & Kate plus 8," Mike Walters, under the gun. Investigation is under way by the Pennsylvania Department of Labor. And there are some who feel that what these kids are doing is temporary employment, which is, according to some published reports, not legal in Pennsylvania for kids their age.

WALTERS: Yes, I think they`re looking into it, Jane. Obviously, the investigation will go forth. But to answer your question, let me tell you something about the media.

"Jon & Kate plus 8," Kate Gosselin in those photos, you know what I see when I see that? I see the girl like, oh, there`s no paparazzi out here. Oh, I`m in my hot orange bikini. She knows everybody`s there.

That reminds me of my girlfriend in high school that I broke up with that comes into school the next day looking really hot with the hottest outfit she can find. I mean, she knows. This is what you do when you want to sell your show or keep it on the air. And when your husband and you are having problems you go out looking hot in an orange bikini and act like you don`t know what`s going on, you don`t know why you`re out there.

Yes, right. There`s cameras all over that beach. She knows what`s going on. That`s your answer from the media. We know exactly. That`s why we all posted it today because there`s hot pictures of her.

And octo-mom the same thing. It`s fun to watch. People love it on CNN, on TMZ, "Life and Style" -- whatever. Everybody loves both these people.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: And here`s the irony. Jon was with two other women who he says are friends. They are the wife and daughter of the plastic surgeon who did Kate`s tummy tuck.

ZALIS: It`s so funny because she absolutely relishes the press. It`s unbelievable. And octo-mom is saying she thinks their show is boring. What is she going to do to step it up more than them to get better ratings?

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Vanessa in Michigan, couple of seconds. What`s your thought?

VANESSA, MICHIGAN (via telephone): I don`t understand where and why these TV shows ever came about, and where would these families be without the backing of this money?

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, that`s the whole point. When you decide to have this many kids, you`ve got to do something then even more inappropriate to support them. The fish stinks from the head. It`s a bad idea.

Thanks to my fabulous panel.

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