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New Developments in Search for Haylee Donathan, 4; Savage Beating of Teen Caught on Tape

Aired June 23, 2009 - 19:00:00   ET



JANE VELEZ-MITCHELL, HOST (voice-over): Tonight, a glimmer of hope. Days after a horrifying claim that missing 4-year-old Haylee Donathan was spotted in bed with her mom and her mom`s sex-offender boyfriend, now cops unleash a new weapon in the hunt for little Haylee: a missing child alert sent to law enforcement agencies nationwide. But what about an Amber Alert, a proven tool? Why hasn`t one been issued in this case?

Then, just when you thought it couldn`t get any worse for Casey Anthony, prosecutors bring out a one-two punch. They want photos of a tattoo Casey got two weeks after little Caylee vanished, saying, "The Beautiful Life." Why was she getting inked up with that upbeat saying while her daughter was missing? Also, why do prosecutors want to move up her trial for stolen checks? How will her defense team bounce back?

Also, gut-wrenching new video shows a group of teenage girls ganging up on another girl, savagely beating her and cutting off her hair. Has child bullying reached a new low? I`ll show you the jaw-dropping footage. You be the judge.

Plus, it`s all over. Jon and Kate Gosselin announced last night they`re divorcing. So what does this mean for the hit show? And more important, will the fall-out damage their eight kids? New reports that daddy`s house hunting in New York City. Is he hoping to leave the kids behind in Pennsylvania?

ISSUES starts now.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: The worst-kept secret in reality TV is finally out. The rocky relationship with "Jon & Kate Plus Eight" Gosselin is over. Kaput. Finished. Reports seem to suggest it`s been over, kaput, finished, for two years. Is that just legal wrangling or have the fans been duped? More important, what about the eight? We will talk about that in a moment.

But first, breaking developments tonight in the frantic nationwide search for an adorable 4-year-old Ohio girl. Cops have finally issued a missing child alert for precious Haylee Donathan. What exactly is a missing child alert? How is it different from an Amber Alert? And why wasn`t it issued when this child first went missing almost a month ago?

This beautiful little angel is in danger. Little Haylee was taken by her mom and her mom`s Tier Three sex offender boyfriend, Robbie Potter. Potter`s previous victims were reportedly just 7 and 9 years old. All this made even more disturbing after new revelations that Potter has at least once shared the same bed with little Haylee.

An Amber Alert was not issued for Haylee because cops say Haylee`s mom, Candace Watson, voluntarily -- and that is the key word, people -- voluntarily left with this cretin.

Haylee`s distraught grandmother took legal action and was finally just granted emergency custody of the little girl. So why can`t an Amber Alert be issued right now? With each passing second, Haylee is in more and more danger. Why are we letting bureaucracy get in the way of bringing Haylee home?

Haylee`s grandmother spoke out on "NANCY GRACE."


MARY WATSON, GRANDMOTHER OF MISSING 4-YEAR-OLD: Haylee, if you can hear me and see me, have somebody call me and let me know you`re at least all right.

And Candace, please don`t be doing this. And turn yourself in so you guys are both safe. We`ll get help or whatever we need to do. Just please. We need you to call in so you`re safe.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: That poor grandma.

Meantime, U.S. marshals issue a stern warning to whoever may be harboring the sex offender, his girlfriend, and little Haylee. They should turn themselves in immediately or risk extensive prison time. Could this wording help bring the little girl home?

Straight to my fantastic panel: Curtis Sliwa, founder of the Guardian Angels; Remi Spencer, former prosecutor and criminal defense attorney; Mike Gaynor, retired NYPD detective and president of East Coast Detectives; Tanya Acker, attorney and blogger for the Huffington Post; and Linda Spagnoli, former director of communications for Code Amber. That lady you`re looking at right there is an Amber Alert expert. And by phone, Matt Bruning, a reporter with WTFN News Talk 610, Columbus, Ohio.

Matt, you`ve been tracking this case from the start. What is the very latest?

MATT BRUNING, REPORTER, WTFN NEWS TALK: Well, the latest, of course, is that the U.S. marshal`s office is putting Haylee Donathan on billboards. The last confirmed sighting came back as a gas station in Colorado. Again, they`re hoping the billboards will help them find Haylee, mother Candace Watson and Robbie Potter.

The other thing that you mentioned at the top of the show, on Friday Mary Watson, Candace`s mother and Haylee`s grandmother, awarded emergency custody, and the family hopes that will clear the way for an Amber Alert.

Unfortunately, though, only a missing child alert has been issued. That will get Haylee`s photo and information in the hands of law enforcement agencies nationwide to help out with this search.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Curtis Sliwa, I think you and I -- you`ll pull your hat off. I`d pull my hair out when I hear that they could issue an Amber Alert, but they can`t because it don`t fit the criteria. Yada, yada, yada. Bureaucracy.

There`s a missing child out there who could be being -- I don`t even want to think about what could be happening to her right now. And yet they`re not going to use the Amber Alert because it doesn`t meet the criteria, because this knucklehead mom went off originally on her own.

CURTIS SLIWA, FOUNDER, GUARDIAN ANGELS: Jane Velez-Mitchell, you know they should be pulling out every stop. I mean, we have a governor of South Carolina who`s missing, Mark Sanford, and we keep hearing it every five seconds, although we`re reassured he`s safe and sound.

So you would think, with a child not being able to take care of themselves, in the hands of a mother who doesn`t seem to care that she`s given, literally, this child over to a sexual offender, a pedophile, you would think we`d be turning over every rock, we`d be shooting up all kinds of rockets and literally declaring to the nation that everything should cease and desist until we find this child.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: According to, and I tell you everybody at home, write down that Web site, You can learn all about Amber Alerts there. There are only four current Amber Alerts issued right now in all of the United States of America.

One of those is for the other missing Haleigh, Haleigh Cummings from Florida. That Haleigh went missing from her father`s trailer, as we all know, in the middle of the night. Amber Alerts, very, very successful. There have been 443 successful recoveries so far this year. And in 2007, more than 80 percent of all kids they issued alerts on were recovered.

Now, this current case of missing Haylee Donathan is highly unusual. And the cops say the mom voluntarily took her daughter on this sick journey with this sicko sex offender.

So, Linda Spagnoli, you`re the Amber Alert expert. Why can`t they make an exception in this case and issue Amber Alert for this child?

LISA SPAGNOLI, FORMER DIRECTOR OF COMMUNICATIONS, CODE AMBER: The reason they cannot make an exception us that it does not meet the criteria for an Amber Alert.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: So what? There`s a child out there.

SPAGNOLI: OK, but that being said, should the criteria be changed? Absolutely. But in this particular case, the child is with her mother. And even though her mother chooses to be with a sex offender, it does not meet the criteria.

Now, let me just continue. The other unfortunate incident is that there are other children in the country in the same situation that this little girl is in right now. And Amber Alerts have not been issued, not even missing child alerts have been issued for them, because they`re in the same situation. They`re with their mother, and they have not been abducted.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Tanya Acker, this makes me crazy. I mean, we`re talking about a life and death issue here. Amber Alerts, incredibly effective for a whole variety of reasons, which I`ll get into in a moment. But we can`t issue it because the mom went voluntarily, even though she might be cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs.

TANYA ACKER, ATTORNEY/BLOGGER: Well, Jane, I mean, as Linda pointed out, there`s clearly a big gap in the law here. The fact that we cannot really circle the wagons around this little girl, and -- and give her the benefit of all our law enforcement authority, simply because she has the misfortune to be in the custody of a parent who is endangering her by cavorting with a known sex offender. Indeed, really troubling.

And just as we want to make sure that we have the bureaucratic resources to deal with all cases of missing children, too many of which are -- unfortunately, fall through the cracks. We certainly want to make sure that we have a mechanism for protecting kids who are being endangered by parents, and we`re not doing a very good job of that right now.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Remi Spencer, here`s the thing. Now the grandmother has gotten emergency custody. So at this point, Grandma is saying, "Come home." And at this point, they`re not responding. Wouldn`t that constitute sort of a de facto abduction, if the person who has custody is saying, "You come home right now," and mom and the daughter are not responding?

REMI SPENCER, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Absolutely. And, you know, more than that, the mother went voluntarily, sure. But this man is not just a convicted sex offender. He is currently breaking the law. He was in custody. He was in a halfway house. He is immediately and currently violating the law by taking off on the run. She is aiding and abetting his continued criminal conduct by not being in that halfway house.

In fact, anybody who would be helping them, if they are helping them, could also be criminally responsible for harboring these criminals.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Now a friend and a roommate of Haylee`s mom, Candace Watson, unveiled really frightening, scary details about her encounters with the sex offender, Robbie Potter, on "NANCY GRACE." Listen to this one.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I had woke up at my -- at our house, at Candace and I -- and our bedrooms are right across from each other. And I had gotten up. And that was the first thing I seen, was Robbie, Candace and Haylee in her bedroom.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: In her bedroom. Mike Gaynor, not only did they say they were in the same bedroom, but she saw them in the same bed. Little Haylee has been gone almost a month now. They don`t have anywhere to stay, presumably. How likely is it that they`ve shared a bed in the past month?

MIKE GAYNOR, FORMER NYPD DETECTIVE: Well, it`s very likely that they did share a bed at some time during the last month. Who knows? There`s a lot to be learned yet. Relative to Candace Watson, the mother being charged with an abduction to put out this Amber Alert. At this particular point, we don`t know. We can`t say for sure what she knows. She may still be in the dark to a degree. She will be held accountable, if so, to other crime -- other crimes committed by Robbie Potter.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: If she -- if she can be found safe and sound. If she can be found safe and sound.

GAYNOR: If she can be found safe and sound, yes.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: I mean, her life is in danger. She had the misjudgment to go off with this guy, purportedly on a camping trip, and it`s certainly no camping trip at this moment in time.

GAYNOR: Terrible -- terrible judgment, but she didn`t abduct her own child at this point, and that`s the restriction on the Amber Alert. But every police department in the country and every missing persons squad detective is looking for that child as we speak.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. Hang on. More on this very frustrating case in a moment. Do you think cops should issue an Amber Alert? Call me: 1-877-JVM-SAYS, 1-877-586-7297. Let me know.

Then it`s a very bad day for Casey Anthony as prosecutors attack her on two fronts. Could she be on trial a whole lot sooner than we think?

But first, little Haylee Donathan in danger, on the run with her mom and her mom`s sex offender boyfriend. The grandma granted custody last week. Here she is, describing her nightmare.


WATSON: Everybody is very scared. Worried to death about them. Don`t know if they`re dead or alive. I`m scared that something has happened to them.




WATSON: I`m scared that something has happened to them. I don`t know what. I don`t know if he`s hurt my granddaughter or if he`s hurt them both or what. I`m scared.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Little Haylee`s devastated grandma, terrified her own child and granddaughter could be hurt by sex offender Robbie Potter. The three have been on the run for almost a month now. Tonight, cops issue a missing child alert for little Haylee. But will it help bring her home, or is it too late? We pray not.

The phone lines lighting up. Stephanie in Tennessee, your question or thought, ma`am?

CALLER: Yes. I just had a comment. I hear a lot of people making statements that the mother is involved in this somehow, but my question is do we know for sure that she knows he`s a threat to her child? Because he could have lied and said it was a statutory rape or something that wasn`t involving a young child.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, let`s go to Matt Bruning, the reporter at WTFN who`s been tracking the case.

BRUNING: Well, you know, the latest information we had was that, yes, she was aware of his past. In fact, her brother has a similar record of some sex offenses, and that is the connection to Robbie Potter, we understand. So, yes, the indication we`ve gotten from authorities is that there is some understanding as to his past, talking of Robbie Potter`s past.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: And that`s pretty crazy, given that he has served time for sexual battery on two young girls. And the reports I`ve read, although there`s been some discrepancy, is that they were ages 7 and 9.

BRUNING: Yes. We`ve heard 7 and 9. I`ve heard 10 and 11. There has been some discrepancy on the age. Either way...

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Either way. I mean, this is -- Curtis, this is -- this is sick stuff: a mother taking off.

And let me -- before I get to you, Curtis, let me add one other little element here. And the element is drugs. I talked to Candace`s mom, one on one, when I sat in for Nancy Grace. Listen to this.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Didn`t she have an addiction, though? Didn`t she have some drug problems?

WATSON: She was on crystal meth at one time. She had been doing real well. She was planning on going to school. She never knew at the beginning what this man was about.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: I certainly have sympathy for the grandmother and didn`t want to embarrass her, but the fact is we need to know what the situation is. She admits her daughter was a crystal meth user at one time. So, Curtis, that does contribute to the mindset, does it not?

SLIWA: Let me tell you something, Jane. This has given me a migraine headache, and I`m getting nauseous hearing, "Oh, there`s nothing we can do. We can`t call an Amber Alert."

You have told us, Jane, that these two, this mother who`s a tweaker, a meth-head, and this sexual assaulter, who`s a pedophile, have had this child for a month and we can`t put out on Amber Alert, because it doesn`t meet every definition of the law.

What, is this mom going to turn around and sue the Amber Alert group? Absolutely not. Let`s just do it and find this girl. And then if there are ramifications, which there won`t be, the entire population would applaud us using it.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: I would applaud, but Linda Spagnoli...


VELEZ-MITCHELL: ... you`re the Amber Alert expert.

SPAGNOLI: Yes. Let me -- let me just say -- OK. This is -- if an Amber Alert is issued, it activates the emergency alert system. That means broadcast is interrupted, and it goes up on the road signs.

In this particular case, that`s not going to happen. What I would like to see happen is, if there is a sighting of them in Colorado or in Arizona and it`s a -- a credible sighting, what I would like to see is the state of Arizona or the state of Colorado be able to issue an Amber Alert at that point, based on new information.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: But why do you say it`s not going to happen?

SPAGNOLI: ... at this juncture -- I don`t think it`s going to happen, and I`ll tell you why. Right now, an Amber Alert, it does not meet the criteria.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: We`ve been hearing that over and over.

ACKER: What about the fact -- what about the fact that the grandmother has now obtained custody. And the fact that the grandmother has custody, and she has demanded the return of the child over whom she has custody, and that child hasn`t been returned? Why can`t we now treat it as an abduction? The legal status has changed.

SPAGNOLI: Because when an Amber Alert is issued, it`s from where the child was last seen. In this case, we don`t know where the child was last seen. The child was last seen someplace...

VELEZ-MITCHELL: OK. I hear you`re saying it doesn`t meet the criteria.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: But you know, when I wrote my book, "Secrets Can Be Murder," I interviewed you, and you told me all the ways that Amber Alerts help. And it`s not just the billboards. I remember you told me the truckers have it in their CB`s and it goes on the Internet. And it goes here and there and everywhere. And that`s why the Amber Alert is so effective. I mean, it`s not just the highway signs.

GAYNOR: Jane, if I can interrupt for a second, you have to have some criteria in these cases, because there are thousands of children that get missing. There`s custodial interference. There`s all kinds of reasons why kids are gone for a while. And before they set this process into motion, they have to be sure that there`s actually an abduction. In this particular case...

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Oh, come on. We knew that off the top.

GAYNOR: I didn`t make the rules. And perhaps it could be different. But you`ve got to stick with it the way it is, because there`s so much to do.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: I don`t see why. I don`t see why. I mean, we knew this was a unique situation.

GAYNOR: It`s not like they`re not looking for this child. You have the FBI out there looking.

ACKER: But even more importantly -- even more...

GAYNOR: You have missing persons squads looking.


GAYNOR: You have radio cars that are looking for this car.

ACKER: The facts on the ground...

GAYNOR: Everybody is looking for the child.

ACKER: The facts on the ground -- the facts on the ground were compelling enough to award custody to the grandmother.

GAYNOR: And so (ph) an abduction, counselor.

ACKER: If there was not some feeling that the child was being put in danger -- put in danger by her mother. Then -- then that award of custody would not have been made.

GAYNOR: We all agree she`s in danger. We agree with that.

ACKER: The grandmother has custody of the child. The grandmother has custody, and she (UNINTELLIGIBLE) -- asks that the child be returned.

GAYNOR: That`s great. But the child has not been abducted unless we show later that the mother was involved with this guy and knew that he was abducting the child.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: I guess the bottom line is -- Mike, I get your point, but Remi Spencer, isn`t there a way to structure this so that, in these weird situations, where the mom may not be a 100 percent -- and maybe she is. I don`t know if she`s doing drugs now. Her mother said she was doing drugs in the past. She may be totally sober.

But that if she`s obviously making a really bad decision like this, she`s not taking her kid to Disney World. She`s taking her on a cross- country horror show that somebody could step in.

SPENCER: I agree with you, Jane. I think we`re going to see this mother slapped with child endangerment charges when this is all over. Even if, and hopefully, she is, this little girl is going to be fine at the end of all of it.

GAYNOR: Unless she becomes a witness...

SPENCER: I think we`re going to see a lot of federal and state law enforcement authorities out, looking for this.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Whatever. Thank you, panel.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: In the "Spotlight" tonight, the savage beating of a teenage girl caught on tape. The 17-year-old, Mercedes Michaels kicked, beaten and burned with a cigarette lighter, and her hair viciously chopped off, all while a group of her so-called friends watched and videotaped the June 2 attack on their cell phone video.

Listen to the brutality that she endured.




VELEZ-MITCHELL: This is disgusting. Oh, my gosh. Look at that. She`s getting punched.

Three of these girls facing charges as adults. The hearing set for later this week. Why did they turn on her? Allegedly over a boy, of course. Mercedes` mom is outraged.


CATHY MENDEZ, DAUGHTER BEATEN: Where is the humanity in the world? You know? How could you just stand there and watch somebody go through that and not do anything except tape it?


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Other kids stood around and watched it, even capturing the horrifying beating on their cell-phone cameras. Nobody called the cops. Insane.

Straight out to Ines Ferre, correspondent for "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT."

Ines, delighted to have you on. You`ve been covering this case. I know you`re passionate about it. You`ve spoken to Mercedes and her mom. What the heck is going on here?

INES FERRE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, I`ll tell you. They`re just so outraged. I mean, nobody called the cops. These kids, Mercedes said that there were actually five or six kids that were actually watching. She didn`t know them. And they just stood there, everybody with their cell phones out.

And I spoke to the police. They said, "Look, we`re investigating who shot the video, but even if we knew, we can`t do anything about it, because there`s no law that says if you witness a crime you have to call the police."

VELEZ-MITCHELL: That seems to be the theme tonight. We can`t do anything about it. Bureaucracy, bureaucracy.

Three girls have been charged as adults in this case, two younger girls charged as juveniles. But nobody got charged for taping the beating while failing to call 911. Listen to what Mercedes` mom has to say about that.


MENDEZ: That was their intention: was to put it on TV, you know, or put it on, you know, YouTube and, you know, whatever else they do. It wasn`t to help her in any way. It wasn`t -- you know, I could see if they dialed 911 and then they recorded it to give to the police. But it wasn`t anything like that.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: You know, kids have always been mean in high school, but this takes it to a new level. And then they`ve got this high technology, which should make them more compassionate but seems to be just a tool for their cruelty.

FERRE: Yes. I mean, and they obviously want to post it on YouTube. I mean, the mother even said that after they had left the hospital, that it was already being circulated around, that this video was being passed around.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Is it getting -- are kids getting meaner, do you think?

FERRE: I think that there`s definitely a culture of, wow, this is going to go on YouTube. The mother says in one of the clips, in fact, you hear the boy that`s taping this saying, "This is -- this is going to YouTube."

So I think that when they see this and they see this on the Web, there`s definitely a culture of, "Wow, this possibly could make us famous." I mean, definitely it`s horrible what you`re watching there. I mean, this girl, they`re cutting her hair off. And in fact, Mercedes had told me that one of her friends knew how precious her hair was to her. And they asked for scissors, and they`re cutting her hair off there.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Once again, it just makes me so sad that high technology, which should be a force for good, is a force for evil in this case and the glorification of cruelty.

FERRE: Well, the cops hope that it will be used as evidence here.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Let`s hope. Ines, thank you so much. Come back soon.

Prosecutors in the Casey Anthony case want a photo of a tattoo the accused murderer got two weeks after her daughter went missing. A tattoo?


VELEZ-MITCHELL: A very bad day for Casey Anthony. Prosecutors want photos of a tattoo she got two weeks after Caylee vanished. Why was she getting inked-up while her daughter was missing?

Also, prosecutors want to move up her stolen checks trial. Can her defense bounce back?

Plus, it`s all over. Jon and Kate Gosselin announced last night they`re divorcing. So what does this mean for their hit show? And more important will the fall-out damage their eight kids?

Tonight, double trouble for Casey Anthony as prosecutors deliver a shocking one-two-punch to the defense team. Prosecutors want to put Casey on trial within the next two months, but not for the murder of little Caylee. They want Casey to stand trial for check-stealing. The charges, over a dozen of them, stem from accusations made by a former friend who claims Casey spent more than $1,300 using her stolen checks.

What did she buy? Among the purchases made with those ill-gotten gains, allegedly, the infamous white sunglasses. Casey also bought beer and lingerie in a local Target. And apparently her friend wasn`t the only alleged victim. Remember this bizarre 911 call made by Cindy Anthony back in July?


911 OPERATOR: Ok, what did the person do that you need arrested?


OPERATOR: For what?

ANTHONY: For stealing an auto and stealing money.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: So are prosecutors using the check case to checkmate the defense? Is this just a tactic to throw them off their game as they furiously prepare for the death penalty case, the big case?

Does Jose Baez, there by Casey`s side in her check fraud arraignment last August, now need to gear-up for this case, too?

Meantime, do prosecutors have an ink-link about a tattoo left on Casey`s left shoulder? They have asked for permission to take a picture of that tattoo that Casey reportedly had done just two weeks after little Caylee went missing.

It says "beautiful life." Huh? While your daughter is missing? It`s a beautiful life? I don`t think so.

Last night, Nancy Grace asks the owner of the tattoo parlor about Casey`s demeanor back in July.


NANCY GRACE, HLN HOST "NANCY GRACE": At any time, did she seem upset or distraught that her daughter was gone? And did she ever mention to you that she was looking desperately for her daughter?

DANNY KNIGHT, TATTOO PARLOR OWNER: No, not at all. You know, I guess it is irregular; she had had the baby in here quite a few times. When I seen her, I asked her where the baby was. And she had told me she was with the nanny and would bring her with her for her appointment on the following Saturday.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Bella vita, what was she thinking? Does an agonized or a frantic mom really stop down for ink that reads "beautiful life" while she`s supposedly searching for her missing daughter? It`s totally twisted.

Straight out to my fabulous expert panel: Tonya Acker, attorney; Mike Gaynor, retired NYPD detective and president of East Coast Detectives; and joining us Terry Lyles, psychologist and crisis expert -- we need you Terry -- and David Schwartz, criminal defense attorney and former New York prosecutor.

David, you`re a former prosecutor, is this a very shrewd strategic move on their part to put Casey on trial for check fraud ASAP in two months and distract the defense from the big case, the capital murder case?

DAVID SCHWARTZ, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Yes, Jane, I think strategy is the operative word. They are looking to gain a strategic advantage. They are looking to dirty-up Casey Anthony before the big murder trial.

I think it`s a -- I think it`s a dirty tactic. I don`t think the judge should allow this to happen. The check -- the check forgery case is part and parcel with the murder case. It should take place after the murder case. You shouldn`t be getting a strategic advantage in a death penalty murder case.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Tonya Acker, they`re also saying hey, they don`t want to wait 12 months because that`s what the estimates are -- that it`s going to take a year, a full year, before the capital murder case actually goes to trial.

TONYA ACKER, ATTORNEY: Jane, I think it will take at least that. And frankly, I don`t think it`s a dirty tactic at all and when you`re talking about two different cases, different charges. The victims in this check- kiting case certainly deserve to have justice. They shouldn`t have to await a long death penalty trial with a long preparation process.

I don`t think there`s any reason that should wait at all. I understand why the defense wouldn`t want it to wait, I mean, I do get their concern about it, but the notion that the prosecution has to wait simply because that`s more convenient for Casey or doesn`t make Casey look bad, it`s simply not...

VELEZ-MITCHELL: There are the white sunglasses, by the way.

ACKER: Yes, I mean, that`s just simply -- that I don`t understand any basis for that.

SCHWARTZ: Jane, Jane, Jane, a check -- justice in a check-kiting-case -- we are talking about taking someone`s life potentially in a criminal trial...

ACKER: Yes and that`s why those are separate cases...

SCHWARTZ: ...a death penalty case. Forget about separate case or any case.

When you have the death penalty here, that takes precedence over any case. There`s no justice for a check-kiting case. That comes after the death penalty.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, wait a second...

SCHWARTZ: The ultimate punishment in our society is the death penalty and you cannot put a check-kiting case on first. I am very sorry.

ACKER: We`re not going to kill her for kiting checks. They`re not giving her the death penalty for kiting checks.

SCHWARTZ: You took advantage and you should not be getting a strategic advantage when the death penalty is on the line, when the ultimate punishment is on the line.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, hold on a second.

Casey Anthony allegedly has a history of stealing from not just her family, from her friends. Her own grandmother told cops Casey dipped into her purse and helped herself to a check which she didn`t forge. Listen to this.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I started checking out my checks and one check was gone. So I went to the police station. And the officer found the license on the back of my check, you know, because I have the canceled the check or a copy of the canceled check.

And she ran it and she says, "Do you know anybody in Orlando?" And I said, yes. She said, "Do you know a Casey Anthony? I said, "My God, that`s my granddaughter. That`s the first thing I know, the first chance I knew that she stole."


VELEZ-MITCHELL: And then there`s Casey`s former friend, Amy Huizenga who said Casey spend $1,300 using checks she stole from her in July of last year, during the time that Caylee was missing.

Casey allegedly spent Amy`s money on many different purchases that -- you call it Target -- I call it Target for fun including those infamous white sunglasses we saw her in, the "hoody-sweatshirt" she was arrested in, beer, lingerie.

So here`s my question. I don`t really understand this. If Casey is convicted on these charges, could this actually be good for her murder defense by portraying her as a thief and a liar and saying, well...

GAYNOR: Not at all.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: ...she`s a thief and a liar but she`s not a killer?

GAYNOR: No, it`s not going to help her one way or the other.

And in fact I agree that it`s a waste of time to try her on these charges. There`s no justice in it for the victims. They`re not going to get reimbursed for any of the losses. There`s a murder trial in the death penalty phase that she may be facing.

The state is wasting the taxpayers` money by holding her on trial for a fraud case. It`s not going to go anywhere.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: So they should just dismiss it?

GAYNOR: The murder case gets priority.


GAYNOR: Well, they don`t have to dismiss it. They can hold it in abeyance for another year or two...

SCHWARTZ: Exactly.

GAYNOR: ...if they want to. If for some strange reason rather, she beats the murder trial, they can bring her up on the fraud charges later.

But to spend the taxpayers` money for a trial and she has no reason not to go to trial. If you want her to go to trial, it`ll be entertaining for her. You`ll spend weeks if not months and thousands or hundreds of thousands of taxpayers` dollars to hold her on trial for something that she`s not going to be able to make restitution for anyway.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, I think it`s all to distract the defense so that they have time to prepare the murder case that they`re so busy. Because a check-kiting case is not a simple case, it`s still a complex financial case.

Now, let`s go to another big controversy. It`s not just the "beautiful life" tattoo that Casey got in July of last year. Two weeks after her daughter went missing that paints Casey as an uncaring mother. That`s one thing.

We got the wild party pictures like these taken just days after Caylee was last seen. They don`t do her image very much justice as a panicked parent.

Her defense team has tried to explain away that she suffered from something called "ugly coping." A lot of Casey`s friends also told the cops that she wanted to go out and party. She called them over and over again.

And then there`s the mother of all bad mother moves, the tall tale about Zanny the nanny who supposedly watched Caylee and then kidnapped her.

Terry Lyles, what do you make of a mom who has lost her child and is supposedly telling everybody she`s looking for it when she doesn`t say that, "Oh, it`s with the nanny." Getting a tattoo that says in translation "beautiful life?"

TERRY LYLES, PSYCHOLGIST: Well, I think the attorneys will probably say it, it shows some type of motive that there`s something going on here. And I think from -- when you look at the personality, you see something like this character that we talked about.

I mean, what is she thinking that she`s out doing this and her child is missing or worse even knows more if she does. It shows a character and a pattern there that is not rational. And I think that`s the biggest issue is, we`re not dealing with rational.

And we`ve talked about this before Jane, with her parents. She was with her mother, there`s a lot of crisis in this family that`s ongoing and continuous and now it`s being played-out in the world courts for all of us to watch.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: But she also lied -- ten seconds -- David she also told the people of the tattoo parlor that oh, her daughter was with the nanny.

SCWARTZ: Yes, these are all things that make her look bad after the fact. But certainly attests to her character. But is this hard evidence - - is it hard evidence that a murder took place? And I`m not so sure. Certainly the prosecution is going to want to bring this all for sure.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: They want it for a reason. Thank you, everyone, for your excellent insight and analysis.

SCHWARTZ: Thank you.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Outrage over Chris Brown`s plea deal head to fever- pitch. I`ll tell you why the ruling hurts women everywhere.

Plus, Jon & Kate Gosselin, divorcing, will the show go on. And will it damage their kids? We`ve got some new information. It`s a breaking story. Jon & Kate style, 1-877-JVM-SAYS, 1-877-586-7297. Sound-off on this reality show stunner.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: It is official. Jon and Kate -- Splitsville, kaput, over. What is next? We`ll find out.

First, "Top of the block" tonight.

I have been saying for years our justice system doesn`t take violence against women seriously enough. The stunning Chris Brown ruling yesterday proved it. Cops say Brown viciously beat, bit, and threatened to kill Rihanna back in February. He also tried to choke her, allegedly, according to the police report.

But after a cushy plea deal, the star got no time behind bars, just probation and 180 days` labor. Outrage over the slap on the wrist has just begun. The National Organization for Women released a statement saying, quote, "Young girls and boys watching this unfold on TV will see that men who commit violence against women practically go scot-free," end quote.

The plea deal was a win apparently for the stars involved but it was a lose for those fighting to stop violence against women.

Joining me by phone, Rita Smith, executive director for the National Coalition against Domestic Violence.

Rita, you spoke out against the Brown ruling. What do you say to the district attorney`s office who says, "Hey, this is par for the course for somebody who has no prior offenses? This is what they get every time."

RITA SMITH, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, NATIONAL COALITION AGAINST DOMESTIC VIOLENCE: Well, I think that it -- with this particular case, it`s very similar to other cases. My concern is that we just don`t have serious consequences from the start. And we wait until something horrible has happened before we actually get serious about consequences. It`s too late if she`s dead.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: What about Rihanna`s participation in all of this? The fact that she appeared initially very reluctant and even up to the end, seemed to want the whole thing to go away even though she was technically willing to testify. She even asked the judge not to put a stay-away order on the situation and the judge said, "Sorry, I`m going to make you two stay away."

SMITH: Well, I think that it`s not uncommon for women to feel that way about the person that had abused them because they probably still love him. But I do think that it`s important that we, as a system, use the tools we have to try to stop the repeat offenses.

And I just don`t think we`re using a strong enough consequence at the beginning when we could actually do something to save both parties.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, at least women are speaking out. Quite often you never hear anything from women`s groups when something like this happens. And this time, at least, they were issuing statements.

Thank you, Rita. Come back soon.

SMITH: Thank you.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Shocking new information tonight in Jon and Kate`s Gosselin`s divorce: in papers filed yesterday, Kate claimed they have lived separate and apart for at least two years. Could the couple, seemingly happy until a few months ago, have been lying to viewers for two years? Or is this just a legal loophole to get things moving faster?

It is a startling development on the heels of last night`s very special -- yes special is one way of putting it -- episode of "Jon & Kate plus 8" which proved to be ratings gold; 10.6 million viewers tuned in to watch the embattled couple tell the world it is over.


JON GOSSELIN, "JON & KATE PLUS 8": Kate and I have decided to separate.

KATE GOSSELIN, "JON & KATE PLUS 8": Yes, we have decided that we will separate.

J. GOSSELIN: I tried to contemplate it and think about it and would it be better for us? It`s just not good for our kids for us to be arguing in front of our kids. And it`s just -- we can`t be cordial with one another. We decided to separate.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: While TLC has halted production on the rest of this season, the show in the grand tradition of show business will go on.

Next week, they`re airing a retrospective of the Gosselins` ten-year marriage now in shambles and a new season will start in August. But will viewers tune back in? Is it time to pull the plug altogether?

Kate`s brother, Kevin, sounded off to RadarOnline.

KEVIN KREIDER, KATE GOSSELIN`S BROTHER: We`re just so heart-broken and sad about the announcement that they made; an announcement that could be so life-shattering to a young child. And it was used as a teaser. It was used as, you know, to gain ratings.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Plus, you won`t believe what else Kate`s brother and sister-in-law have to say.

Straight to my fabulous -- and I mean, fabulous -- expert panel: Terry Lyles, psychologist and crisis expert; Jim Moret, chief correspondent for "Inside Edition" and attorney; and Ant, pop culture expert and comedian.

Ant, I have to start with you because I know you and I both watched that show last night. The ratings were...

ANT, POP CULTURE EXPERT: Last night we were texting each other.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: That`s right. We were texting each other during the show. Of course, you hear the relatives now, even the relatives of this couple saying, "Oh, they used their divorce as teasers to get the numbers up." Of course, it was ratings gold.

Is this the height of cynicism or is it just a marriage that went bad?

ANT: I don`t know if it`s the height of cynicism, but I will say this. I didn`t see a lot of remorse from either one of them last night when I was watching. I was like, you guys shared a life. You have eight children together. And you`re -- you`re -- you don`t seem to be like you`re about to throw something away.

I just wish whatever judge they go before says, "You know what, I`m going to lock you two in a room and you`re going to watch video of yourself from early on in the show and then tell me there`s nothing to salvage here."

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, I`m really glad Jim Moret is here because he`s also an attorney on top of being chief correspondent for "Inside Edition." We`re getting some breaking news just in, Jim.

People who have looked at the divorce documents, including TMZ and the Associated Press, say they she actually put in that they`ve lived separate and apart for two years.

JIM MORET, CHIEF CORRESPONDENT, "INSIDE EDITION": I want to make a point. Actually TMZ got this correct. That`s not really what it says.

There are two bases for no-fault divorce in Pennsylvania which is where they live. One, if both parties agree that the marriage is broken and can`t be fixed, you have to wait 90 days and then proceed. But if you don`t have the agreement of both parties, you have to live separate and apart for two years.

I think what Kate did in this situation, she checked off both boxes. Just to hedge against her bets in case she feels the marriage is broken and Jon doesn`t so it starts the clock running. She`s not saying they`ve lived separate and apart for two years.

But I also want to go back to this ratings gold and whether this is the height of cynicism. You have to look at the network, TLC. The network decided even though they`re only 6 weeks into a 40-week season -- the network pulled the plug on the show and said, "We`re going to hold off on new production. Come back in August and then resume." But basically give the family some time to decompress and not be in the public eye.

I think that`s a very respectful thing to do.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, Terry Lyles, is a one-month hiatus enough for this family? Or do they need to take a permanent hiatus from reality TV and sort of join plain old-fashioned reality?

TERRY LYLES, PSYCHOLOGIST: Well, first of all, last night seemed like a cliffhanger to me. I`ve watched a lot of TV in my time and I don`t know. At the end of the season that seemed like something that could get some attention, first.

And then secondly, I guess, when you look at Jon plus Kate plus eight times TV, what did you think would happen? We have destroyed lives here. I mean, this is the way this goes. I`m not sure what the motives are on both parts but again we`ve got eight kids.

ANT: The bad part though is that we do, we have destroyed lives here; these poor kids. These kids have to -- they have -- they are the ones...

VELEZ-MITCHELL: I also feel sorry for Jon and Kate. They seemed miserable. I have never seen unhappier looking people. We`ll be back with more on this reality show (INAUDIBLE).



K. GOSSELIN: Our goals are different now but I don`t hate him. Never have. Never will. He`s the father of my children. They are great kids.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Kate Gosselin doesn`t look very happy.

Her sister-in-law known as Aunt Jodi on the show made a shocking announcement to RadarOnline today.


JODI KREIDER, KATE GOSSELIN`S SISTER-IN-LAW: We have hope that if enough people become aware of this, that everyone will do their part and that is turn off the TV and turn the channel and do it.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: My gosh, the relatives calling for them to not watch the show.

The phone lines are lighting up. It was a ratings grabber. Nancy, New Hampshire, your question and thought?

NANCY, NEW HAMPSHIRE (via telephone): my thought was just that I think a lot of people are really being cruel to Kate these days.

Last night I watched the airing. I thought she was very sincere. And I thought that it took an awful lot for her not to break down. I give her a lot of credit. They had to put something out there to tell viewers that, you know, the show may or may not go on.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: You know what struck me more than anything else, Jim, is just how sad these two seem. The kids seem happy. They are sort of oblivious and running around having a good time at their houses and everything. I have never seen two people that looked like wow, I made a pact with the devil and it`s not paying off.

MORET: Well, I mean, Kate definitely seems sad. This isn`t a reality show in a traditional sense. It is more like a documentary. I talked to somebody from TLC.

When the show is in production, the cameras on average are in the home two hours a day twice a week. It is not like cameras are there 24/7. It looks like Jon just said, "Look, I want my own life. I`m living in your shadow. I want out."

There was a report that he was looking for apartments in New York last week. If that`s true, that`s 130 miles away from the kids. There are eight reasons to stay married and those are the children.


ANT: I think it`s kind of phony. I think they are phony. I don`t -- I don`t believe her. I think she emasculates him. I think it is an act for the camera.

Last night`s entire episode was draped around these crooked houses being installed. There`s no more crooked house than what`s going on there, I think. With her, the contract she wanted him to sign about making appearances and stuff -- I don`t like her. I don`t trust her.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: I just think that, you know, this is a situation where if you commoditize your kids -- ten seconds, Terry Lyles...

LYLES: Well, you know what we have here? It`s the same thing. Did anybody offer counseling? Why not try to help these people instead of saying it`s over

ANT: Right.

LYLES: Somebody throw a towel here and try to help the rest...

VELEZ-MITCHELL: You know, the counselor is the producer from TLC asking the questions.

Thank you. You are watching HLN.