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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees

Tom DeLay Indicted in Texas; New Orleans Police Chief Retires; Charities And Churches Help Hurricane Victims; Mississippi's Gaming Community; Art Survives Hurricanes

Aired September 28, 2005 - 19:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Hey, Lou, thanks very much.
Good evening, everyone, from Biloxi, Mississippi, where a dozen floating casinos are in ruins. Meanwhile, a legal storm of sorts hits a top Republican on Capitol Hill. 360 starts now.

ANNOUNCER: Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco. Yesterday she was slammed by FEMA's former chief.


MICHAEL BROWN, FORMER FEMA DIRECTOR: For whatever reason, Mayor Nagin and Governor Blanco were reticent to order a mandatory evacuation.


ANNOUNCER: Today, her chance to fight back. What did she say? Was it a mea cupla, more blame or neither?

The top cop of New Orleans steps down as his city is in ruins and his forced dogged by reports of desertion. What kind of legacy does he leave behind? How big is the task for his successor?

The Katrina nightmare. Rapes, murder, violence all allegedly happening in the New Orleans Superdome and Convention Center. But was it exaggerated? Tonight, we look beyond the rumors to get the story you haven't heard before. What really happened inside the Superdome.

John Grisham, best-selling author from Mississippi.


JOHN GRISHAM, AUTHOR: This was the water level.


ANNOUNCER: Tonight, he speaks with Anderson about his home state, the mauling it took from Katrina, and why he honestly believes the Gulf will be back.

Turned around by two hurricanes. Animals find themselves in strange places, putting their lives at risk. Tonight, we track a lost dolphin as rescuers try desperately to bring it to safety.

This is a special edition of ANDERSON COOPER 360, "Hurricane Rita: The Aftermath."

COOPER: And good evening.

We come to you tonight from Biloxi, Mississippi, just a few blocks from the Gulf of Mexico. Nearly a month after Hurricane Katrina hit here, there are signs of improvement, no doubt about it, but devastation is still, literally, all around us.

We begin with a look at the top stories right now making news "At this Moment."

Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco is choosing not to fight former FEMA chief Michael Brown before Congress. When asked if she'd like to respond to Brown's accusations that Louisiana was "dysfunctional" after Hurricane Katrina, Governor Blanco said she wanted to use today's hearing to talk about job creation. Yesterday Blanco did respond through a written statement saying Brown is "either out of touch with the truth or reality."

Cleanup crews in New Orleans face a daunting task. The city says there's an estimated 50 million cubic yards of debris there. That is enough to fill seven Superdomes. So far, only a fraction of that -- 22,000 cubic yards -- have so far been removed.

The medical incident commander in Louisiana says only 32 bodies of Hurricane Katrina victims have been released to their families. Only 32. As of now, there are 896 confirmed deaths from Louisiana. Medical officials are taking a while to recover and identify those people to ensure, they say, that no mistakes are made.

Meanwhile, the confirmed death toll from Hurricane Katrina rose again today to 1,130 people. That's across the entire region. At least nine people were killed by Hurricane Rita.

There was other news out of Texas today as well. Not from the tattered coast, but from the state capital, Austin, where a grand jury handed down an indictment against one of the most powerful politicians in this country. So this is a story of the aftermath, too, of a different kind.

CNN's congressional correspondent, Joe Johns, investigates.


JOE JOHNS, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT, (voice over): On the grand jury's final day, Travis County's district attorney, Ronnie Earle, dropped the hammer on Tom DeLay.

RONNIE EARLE, TRAVIS COUNTY, TEXAS, DISTRICT ATTORNEY: Criminal conspiracy is a state jail felony punishable by six months to two years in the state jail and a fine of up to $10,000.

JOHNS: The immediate impact was pure politics. DeLay was forced to temporarily give up his position as House majority leader, his title, his suite of offices, his control over the House floor and he lashed out at the man who took it all away. REP. TOM DELAY (R), TEXAS: This act is the product of a coordinated, premeditated campaign of political retribution. The all- too predictable result of a vengeful investigation led by a partisan fanatic.

JOHNS: The one-count indictment related to an impressive bid of political choreography. A Texas two-step. First, the political action committee that DeLay founded helped take over the state house in 2002. Then the Texas legislature redrew congressional districts.

It paid off big. In 2004, Republicans picked up five extra Texas seats in Congress, adding to DeLay's power. But was it legal? Earle says DeLay broke Texas campaign laws by conspiring to funnel corporate money into state elections through the National Republican Party $190,000 in all.

EARLE: The law says that corporate contributions to political campaigns are illegal in Texas. The law makes such contributions a felony.

STEVE BRITTAIN, DELAY ATTORNEY: These corporate contributions were not illegal. They were made properly, they were made at a proper time and they were spent on proper things.

JOHNS: Behind the legal fight, a clash of two very different and powerful personalities. DeLay is known as the Hammer for his ability to impose discipline on House Republicans and his impressive legislative track record.

Earle is a true believer in the cause of getting the big money out of politics. Some say he's a zealot. Earle is a Democrat, he's raised money for the party and he's also a classic Texas populist.

EARLE: And I think every American has a duty to run the money changers out of the temples of democracy.

JOHNS: Winning the indictment against DeLay was the easy part. Earle now has to make it stick.

DICK DEGUERIN, DELAY ATTORNEY: When we get to trial, any fair jury is going to find that Tom DeLay did nothing wrong.


JOHNS: But even if the legal case goes his way, Tom DeLay has suffered a political blow that could be difficult to recover from. Roy Blunt, the Republican whip, takes over as temporary majority leader.


COOPER: All right, Joe, we'll be watching.

This has been an awful month for the New Orleans Police Department. Life changing for many of the officers who have stayed on the job and the majority, of course, did. Life changing, too, for those, perhaps 15 percent of the force, who couldn't face what need to be done and now have to deal with dereliction of duty charges or even worse.

Then yesterday, the superintendent of the police force announced that he is stepping down. No one in New Orleans really believe Eddie Compass is taking early retirement because he's just plain exhausted after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. There is, everyone seems to know, more to the story than that. CNN's Chris Lawrence investigates.


CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT, (voice over): Howard Robertson spent 35 years on the New Orleans Police force and retired as a major. He says former Chief Eddie Compass did not voluntarily resign.

HOWARD ROBERTSON, RETIRED NEW ORLEANS POLICE MAJOR: I've never known Eddie to quit anything. Anything. I don't care how bad it got, I don't care what it was. If you were in a fight, you wanted him with you because he wasn't quitting.

LAWRENCE: Why would he walk away now?

ROBERTSON: Politics is a nasty game. Nasty, nasty game. And, you know, just my guess, I'm not going to say this is reality, but just my guess, politics played a role more than anything else because Eddie would not have left his troops during this time. He wouldn't have done it.

LAWRENCE: Other law enforcement sources tell CNN, Compass met with Mayor Ray Nagin earlier this week and was told to resign or be fired. The man who takes Compass' place is Warren Riley. In 1996, then Chief Richard Pennington, suspended Riley for neglect of duty following an independent investigation. Felix Loicano was Riley's commanding officer.

(on camera): At the time of this incident in 1995, did you agree with the official action that was taken in Warren Riley's case?

FELIX LOICANO, WARREN RILEY'S FMR. SUPERVISOR: If you're asking me, did I agree with the decisions that Chief Pennington made regarding discipline? Yes, I did. Or I did at that time. And I still do today based upon the knowledge I have with the information I have.

LAWRENCE: Riley only faced internal discipline and went on to become deputy chief during Hurricane Katrina.


LAWRENCE: Now, Warren Riley has very close ties to Mayor Ray Nagin going back to when Nagin heavily backed him during his run for office of sheriff. Some officers we spoke with say they feel like Warren Riley is getting a free pass. After all, he was the number two man during the aftermath while Compass has been taking the fall. Other officers say Compass hurt himself by making certain statements about the number of shootings, rapes and assaults that turned out to be not true.

Anderson. COOPER: Chris Lawrence, thanks for that.

We're still waiting to try to get answers on exactly what actions were taken before this storm to prepare for this storm, not only by the chief of police, but by the mayor of New Orleans, as well. We're hoping to get those answers in the weeks and months to come.

As we've said time and time again, the response by Americans to the hurricanes has been amazing, phenomenal. So far the total donation to charities is more than $1.3 billion. Despite all that generosity, the bills are still too high for many organizations and FEMA has offered to help.

As CNN's Tom Foreman now reports, that help may violate the separation of church and state. Take a look.


TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT, (voice over): Ever since Katrina, church groups have been pouring assistance into the South -- food, water, shelter, school and medical supplies. St. Vincent De Paul Society of Baton Rouge has helped 50,000 storm victims like Clifford White.

CLIFFORD WHITE, HURRICANE KATRINA VICTIM: I do appreciate it. Believe me, I do appreciate it.

FOREMAN: And the unprecedented effort has drained the church group's bank account.

MICHAEL J. ACALDO, SOCIETY OF ST. VINCENT DE PAUL: We just took a leap of faith that donations would be forthcoming, which they have been, but there's so much service that's needed.

FOREMAN: The Federal Emergency Management Agency is pressing for even more private assistance.

MICHAEL BROWN, FORMER FEMA DIRECTOR: In my opinion, the responsibility of faith-based organizations, of churches and charities of others, is to help those people.

FOREMAN: But now FEMA says it will reimburse some religious groups for the aid they're giving to storm victims. And since some spread their religious beliefs while helping, advocates of church/state separation are steaming.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It simply can't dump money into a church collection plate and say, well, you did some good work, we won't even ask the question whether you also use this money to try to convert people to your religious beliefs.

FOREMAN: The largest faith groups are wary of taking tax money and donations from taxpayers. The Southern Baptist Convention and the Salvation Army say they will not ask for government aid. But if charities must take over a significant share of rebuilding . . . MAJOR GEORGE HOOD, SALVATION ARMY: We will entertain, from the federal government, opportunities to be subcontractors to support them and to work with these families over an extended period of time.

FOREMAN: And you're saying charity groups alone just can't do that.

HOOD: Can't do it by ourselves, nor can the donor public underwrite all of the expenses.

FOREMAN: The folks at St. Vincent De Paul's will take any help they can get right now because they are giving until it hurts.

Tom Foreman, CNN, Washington.


COOPER: Coming up next on 360, accusations of rape and murder at the New Orleans Convention Center and Superdome. Tonight, 360 fact check. What really happened inside both buildings and can we ever know for sure?

Also tonight, Mississippi resident and best-selling author John Grisham, on the pounding his state took from Katrina. He comes back here. We spend the day with him and we'll show you why he thinks the Gulf will rise again.

And a dolphin stranded near a Louisiana high school, miles from the Gulf. We'll show you the rescue effort.


COOPER: The scene of just a destroyed street here in Biloxi, Mississippi. One of the many we have found not too far from the Gulf waters.

If you look behind me, you see 216 Howard. Well, actually, this is 217 Howard; 216 is the house from across the street. In the storm it got ripped up and moved here -- 217 Howard, this lot got pushed to a home over there. It's like a jigsaw puzzle and all the pieces have just been thrown up in the air and they've landed all around.

Mississippi has been trying to get back on its feet after Hurricane Katrina. Its economy has been hit hard by the damage done to the floating casinos here along the Gulf Coast. They're within eyeshot of where I am right now. The government is now considering changing a law that forbids the casinos from being built on the land.

Earlier I spoke with Governor Haley Barbour of Mississippi about his state's recovery.


COOPER: Governor, I think a lot of people who aren't from Mississippi don't realize the importance of the casinos here. Talk, if you will, a little bit about the impact on your state for these casinos and also why you want them rebuilt now on land. Yesterday you made that proposal.

GOV. HALEY BARBOUR (R), MISSISSIPPI: Casinos are very large employers in our state. Just the 12 Coast casinos employ about 15,000 people. And by the time you take their ancillary workers and others involved, it's about 50,000 jobs.

And you can see from the many days you've been on our Gulf Coast, Anderson, that those casinos were totally devastated by the storm. Thrown up on land, in the highway, bounced off hotels, ran over museums, vehicles. We simply can't go back to that. So the question is, what is the best way going forward? And I believe the best way is to let them come onshore.

COOPER: As you know, the Mississippi Baptist Convention, the American Family Association oppose it. They say it's unnecessary, it's a taxpayer expense, and it's also a way of just sort of, you know, creeping encroaching more gambling in the state of Mississippi. You say, what, it's for safety?

BARBOUR: In this case, we're talking about allowing the casinos to move literally a few hundred feet. We're not talking about it -- we're not going to expand gaming beyond where it is now into any other county.

COOPER: Governor, in those dark, terrible days right after Katrina, you called the federal government's response and FEMA's response tremendously helpful. Given now what you know about Mike Brown, given some of the criticism that has been leveled at him and perhaps even you heard his own testimony, if you saw that yesterday, do you think he was the right man to run FEMA?

BARBOUR: Oh, look, I've got a full-time job down here. I will tell you the federal government has been a great partner here. They haven't been perfect, but they've done a whole lot more right than wrong. What I've had done hadn't been perfect and you talk to any of those mayors or county government officials down there and they'll tell you that they haven't been perfect either.

COOPER: In the future, moving forward as the governor of your state, do you want to see the next head of FEMA to be somebody just who doesn't have disaster experience or do want do you think that role is so important that it should be someone who has a long history of disaster relief?

BARBOUR: Well, I think the Congress is going to look back and decide, should FEMA be restructured in the way it was structured before 9/11, where it was a separate agency? I'm going to let Congress tend to that.

But I will tell you this. We, in Mississippi, do not need the federal government to take over when we have a disaster, as every state will have in the future. We need the federal government's help. And the federal government's being helpful. And we need them to do more in the future in terms of restoration of our infrastructure and helping us rebuild. But we don't need the federal government to take over and run Mississippi or run our disaster relief. We're able to do that.


COOPER: We're going to have more on the aftermath of Hurricane Rita and Katrina. But first, Erica Hill from HEADLINE NEWS has the day's other top headlines. Erica.


We start off tonight in Iraq where a female suicide bomber struck in the northern Iraqi city of Tel Afar. At least five people were killed in that attack. Thirty others wounded. Al Qaeda in Iraq is calling the female bomber one of its blessed sisters.

At the White House, President Bush warning today there will be an upsurge in violence in Iraq ahead of next month's vote on a new constitution. But Mr. Bush says U.S. troops are ready to meet the challenge and the terrorists will fail.

Back stateside in New York. The son of late mob boss John Gotti is out of prison. John Jr. Gotti posted $7 million bond and is under house arrest pending a retrial on racketeering charges. Now last week a federal judge declared a mistrial on most of the charges in the case. Gotti had been jailed since 1999.

And off the coast of Japan for the first time a giant squid photographed in the wild. Japanese scientists took 550 digital photographs of the 25 foot long squid. Until now, the only details on these creatures of the see have been based on dead or dying squid washed ashore or captured in fishing nets.

Makes you really want to eat a nice plate of calamari, doesn't it, Anderson?

COOPER: Oh, Erica, please. Goodness. It's nature.

HILL: No. No, I don't want to eat that one.

COOPER: Oh, OK. Good. Good for you.

HILL: I really don't ever want to eat calamari again after that, actually.

COOPER: All right. We'll see you again in about 30 minutes.

Coming up next on 360, let's get to the truth of what really happened inside that convention center and the Superdome. Were people murdered and raped? Tonight, we'll try to set the record straight.

Also ahead, preserving history. How the curator of the New Orleans Museum of Art stayed behind to protect the city's treasures.

And John Grisham coming up later on 360.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) COOPER: Well, over the last several weeks we've shown you many people in New Orleans who stood by their families, stood by their pets, stood by their property. Now this story is not about them, it's about some folks who stood by things that aren't theirs at all, but belong, instead, to the entire city -- to all of us, really.

CNN's Adaora Udoji reports.


VICTORIA COOKE, NEW ORLEANS MUSEUM OF ART: A 20th century gallery with Picassos in it.

ADAORA UDOJI, CNN CORRESPONDENT, (voice over): The crowds are gone and said men with 16 assault rifles patrol New Orleans historic museum of art. Under their watch, priceless Picassos, paintings by Degas, $10 million rare Faberge eggs.

I see all the art is still on the walls. Did it stay here in this hall?

COOKE: For the evac for our plan, we'd unhang all of the art around the balcony because these are all skylights.

UDOJI: They were scared but the city's treasured art collection, $250 million worth, survived Hurricane Katrina's wrath. During the storm and after, two guards, six employees and their families, 30 people held down the fort in this room for five days while flood waters raged into the city and looters ran freely. The deputy director watched in horror from outside the city, then rushed back in.

COOKE: So I knew that I needed to get here to find out that they were OK initially and that the collection was OK.

UDOJI: As tens of thousands of survivors fled the area, she went in with higher guns on a boat. The flood waters were so high and filled with debris, it took them nine hours to travel less than a mile.

GUY-MAX ORLOVITZ, SECURITY GUARD: I was just total disaster. Debris, trees, water. The water came up to the steps here. So this was essentially just an island.

UDOJI: They all expected the worst. So did others. Several miles west of downtown, private soldiers stand guard. At one point, at least a dozen patrolled 24 hours a day over luxury mansions in a gated community. Experts estimate people left tens of millions of dollars in cash and valuable behind in the scramble to get out. They left it in casinos, jewelry stores, many shut down like prisons, and banks with impenetrable vaults.

TIM HORNER, KROLL INC (ph): A lot of the companies didn't remove their property. They didn't have time. Whether that was poor planning or whether it was just the size of the storm, they weren't able to remove that property. UDOJI: Those who can afford to pay thousands of dollars have brought in their own guards, like the museum where remarkably 40,000 pieces of art made it through the storm.

COOKE: When people come through they're amazed that this is what they find.

UDOJI: A beacon of great pride in New Orleans for nearly 100 years.

COOKE: Somebody was looking out for us.

UDOJI: Adaora Udoji, CNN, New Orleans.


ANNOUNCER: The Katrina nightmare. Rapes, murder, violence. All allegedly happening in the New Orleans Superdome and convention center. But was it exaggerated? Tonight, we look beyond the rumors to get the story you haven't heard before. What really happened inside the Superdome.

John Grisham, best-selling author from Mississippi.


GRISHAM: This was the water level here.


ANNOUNCER: Tonight, he speaks with Anderson about his home state, the mauling it took from Katrina and why he honestly believes the Gulf will be back.

This special edition of 360 continues.


COOPER: And you're looking at an empty lot where a house once stood. Nothing left but rubble. And if you look behind me, the house that was in that empty lot is now over here. It actually crossed the street, 216 Howard. It used to be just over there.

Welcome back to this edition of 360. I'm coming to you tonight from Biloxi, Mississippi.

Here's a look at stories making news "At This Moment." Let's get you up-to-date.

New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin is frustrated, he says, with the slow pace of allowing residents to return to New Orleans. He says it's going faster in other parishes hit hard by the hurricanes. And Nagin says that permanent reentry into the city will begin tomorrow for some businesses, and on Friday, for some residents.

New Orleans is warning returning residents that driving can be hazardous, in part because some traffic lights are not working and a lot of street signs are turned around or gone. Traffic injuries in the city have been on the rise.

The people who once made New Orleans vibrant with music are now finding gigs elsewhere. Cities across the country have welcomed even some of the lesser known stars and back-up players from the Big Easy. Some are even performing as far away as Portland, Oregon.

It's been almost a month since Hurricane Katrina slammed into the Gulf Coast. And in that first week we all watched those wrenching images from the Superdome and the New Orleans Convention Center.

The reports were horrific. There were stories of murder and violence, even babies being raped. But now the questions are being raised. We know it was bad, but were those accounts of anarchy and violence grossly inflated? And if they were, why? Tonight we think it's important to separate fact from fiction.


COOPER: It was Monday, August 29. There was much warning, of course. Most assumed there would be extensive damage, but it's safe to say, no one even began to imagine the extraordinary devastation.

No one imagined how Katrina would so efficiently and thoroughly vaporize all the very basic things we count on: food, water, shelter, electricity, phones, communications and safety.

So in the four days after Katrina hit, these are the words that come to mind: chaos, bedlam, rumors and terror -- a lot of terror.

(voice-over): Look at the headlines from the day the storm hit. In no sense at all about how or when or even if things could ever return to normal.

It was all just that awful. Telvis Sam had run to the Convention Center for shelter, and says as soon as he walked in the door he heard a frightening story about a little girl.

TELVIS SAM, EVACUATED TO THE CONVENTION CENTER: Maybe three or four people that were looking for her and they never found her and when they did finally find her she was cut by the throat underneath a blanket at the end of the -- like, at one of the ends of the Convention Center.

COOPER (on camera): Did Telvis Sam see all that? Or did he just hear about it and believe it? When CNN producer Jim Spellman entered the Convention Center he described a scene of massive darkness, stench and fear. Everyone, he says, was afraid. The rumors fueled the fears even more.

JIM SPELLMAN, CNN PRODUCER: There was a dead body in the median right in front. Nobody seemed clear on how this person died. And all these people had lost their homes, their lives. And there was no food there, no water, no authorities telling them when. I think that a big factor was that, if you knew that you had to make it until 6:00 that evening, 8:00 that evening, dawn the next day and help would arrive, maybe you could find some hope.

COOPER: Just last week we found a woman by the name of Kate Millosovich, who had also found shelter against the storm in the Convention Center.

KATE MILLOSOVICH, EVACUATED TO THE CONVENTION CENTER: I didn't see any violence, per se. You could feel the tension. We saw people with guns. That was scary and alarming. And you could just feel the despair and the tension rising.

COOPER: Patti Melton was in that dark and terrifying place, as well.

PATTI MELTON, EVACUATED TO THE CONVENTION CENTER: What we did see at the Convention Center was there were armed, young men roaming in packs at the Convention Center. The tension and the -- combined with all the despair was so volatile that we knew that at any moment anything was liable to happen.

SPELLMAN: There was a lot of speculation built on a few things like a dead body. I mean a dead body -- face it -- is not something any of us are used to seeing sitting out in the middle of the street unattended. So I think it was definitely a little bit of violence, a little bit of -- I think it was definitely a little bit of violence mixed with a lot of rumoring.

But everything compounded by the fact that there was no television, no radio. The images that people were seeing at home were completely foreign to the people there. They had no idea the bigger picture. All they knew is what was right in front of them. And they were hungry, they were thirsty, they were tired. They were worried about their loved ones.

COOPER (voice-over): Producer Jim Spellman describes the scene like being in the eye of a growing hurricane. No one knew anything but it was getting worse and worse. It was a perfect environment for terrible rumors to grow.

SPELLMAN: When we spoke with police officers, they actually told us worse stories. Police officers told us of home invasions in the Garden District and the Uptown District. They told us of women being raped in the -- there were people staying in houses and women were being raped in those districts.

Gangs following the sounds of generators and doing home invasions, taking over their homes and robbing them. They were not really able to respond to very much of this. Their police cars didn't have gas. The police cars couldn't drive through the standing water from the flood and they had very crippled radio systems.

COOPER (on camera): Remember, that's what the police were telling our reporters. Of course, now, we know there was no real way the police could have been certain of any of that. Reporters always go to government and local authorities to find out what's going on. Listen to what the just-retired chief of police, Eddie Compass, told Oprah.

EDDIE COMPASS, RETIRED CHIEF OF POLICE, NEW ORLEANS: We had babies in there. Little babies getting raped.

OPRAH WINFREY, TALK SHOW HOST: No, no, no. I had not heard that.

COMPASS: You know how frustrated it is being the chief of police.

WINFREY: Oh my God. I hadn't heard that.

COMPASS: And you know inside these things are being done. And you don't have enough manpower to go in there.

COOPER: Then, there was Mayor Ray Nagin. Listen to what he told Oprah.

MAYOR RAY RAGIN, NEW ORLEANS: About three days we were basically rationing, fighting, people were -- that's why the people, in my opinion, they got to this almost animalistic state because they didn't have the resources. They were trapped.

You get ready to see something that I'm not sure you're ready to see. We have people standing out there, that have been in that frickin Superdome for five days watching dead bodies, watching hooligans killing people, raping people. That's the tragedy. People were trying to give us babies that were dying.

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we have not been able to independently confirm that women were raped.

COOPER: So why were the authorities, the first people we rely on to confirm or deny rumors often the sources of this speculation? The "New Orleans Times-Picayune" newspaper published an in-depth investigation of just what went wrong in sorting fact from fiction at the Convention Center and the Superdome, and found the main problem was the complete lack of communication.

Phone lines were down. Police radios didn't work. There was simply no contact with the world outside of New Orleans. So, today, 30 days after Katrina struck, what is true and what is false? Jim Spellman says we may never really know.

SPELLMAN: I see a lot of people trying to maybe cover their tracks. Body count of dead bodies is not the same as fear, intimidation and the panic that came from just one or two people that are armed shooting, I think creates a significant amount of fear and a significant amount of panic.


COOPER: I want to try to set the record straight on what exactly happened that Convention Center and Superdome. Joining us now are CNN's Chris Lawrence and David Meeks, an editor from the "Times- Picayune" newspaper.

Both were on the scene at times during the darkest days and they join us now from New Orleans. Guys, appreciate you being with us. David, when you did you first start having your doubts about the accuracy of what you were hearing?

DAVID MEEKS, TIMES-PUCAYUNE: Well, Anderson, we'd been down there from the very first day. You know, we were among that small group of people who never did leave town and our reporters are walking along and reporting extensively down at the dome and the Convention Center and I was down there myself actually distributing newspapers at one point.

And we started hearing all these things and reading this coverage and then seeing what we were seeing and it wasn't matching up. We knew the conditions were terrible. We knew people were suffering, they were irritable, they'd been out in the heat, but for the most part, it was fear of violence more than violence that we were seeing.

COOPER: Did you ever go up onto the second floor? Because that's where everyone said there were all these bodies and we've seen even photographs of a couple of bodies, I believe, that were on the second floor. Did you go up there?

MEEKS: I did not go up there myself. We did send reporters up there. I have seen that photo. And there was one murder victim at the Convention Center, we need to be clear about that. Our story mentions that individual.

That photo you see has two people under a shroud. And one of them has obviously died a violent death. And the blood from that victim has seeped to the shroud of the other. And I think your producer put it well when he said sights like that can create a great deal of fear, particularly in a place that has become a complete news vacuum like the Convention Center.

COOPER: Chris, you were also at the Convention Center for a time. You also heard all those rumors. But what did you actually see in terms of the conditions people were living in. Because I don't want to -- while some of these reports were clearly rumors and speculation and they built on one another, it was -- I mean, it was horrific there for the conditions people were living in, yes?

LAWRENCE: It was more than horrific. I mean, some of those people were being forced to live like animals. I saw a man go into seizure right in front of us on the ground, people crying and screaming and trying to comfort him with absolutely no medicine to help him. We saw little girls sitting in sewage. We saw piles of feces, urine on the ground. Horrible conditions.

And again, I want to say something about the rape. Even though I said, yes I couldn't independently confirm anyone had been raped, rape is a notoriously underreported crime in normal circumstances. A lot of the police officers here in New Orleans have told me today, just even, that women will not report a crime, but they will call the rape crisis hotline.

In this case, the rape crisis hotline was not working and then a lot of these people got scattered to other states. So I think it's dangerous to say just because I wasn't able to confirm it and speak with an actual rape victim, that doesn't mean it didn't happen.

COOPER: David, Chris raises a good point which I was thinking about while reading your article. I mean, the people who were there have now been spread out across the United States, same with the people from the Superdome. Do we really know what they saw and what they experienced? I mean, people could've been raped. People could have been -- had violence acted upon them and just not reported it and they're spread out across the United States, yes?

MEEKS: No doubt about that. If you notice, in our story we say just what you were saying, that rape is notoriously underreported. In fact, we say that we may never know the truth about what kind of sexual assaults occurred.

We had to focus our reporting very narrowly on the number of violent deaths and bodies recovered because we were hearing numbers of 200 dead at the Superdome and 30 or 40 dead at the Convention Center. And we acknowledge completely that the sexual assaults are something that can be very hard to pinpoint and we may never actually know who suffered a sexual assault or at least an attempted assault.

COOPER: David -- you also have indicated, David, that you think race played a role in how this story was reported. How so?

MEEKS: Well, I think our editor, Jim Amoss, put it best when he raised the question of if this had been thousands of middle class white people gathered down at the Convention Center do we believe these stories would have been so quickly grasped and reported without being substantiated or checked further. And I think that's an interesting question for the media to ponder.

COOPER: Well, what about the mayor and the chief of police who are African-American, who were certainly putting these stories forward day after day?

MEEKS: You know, I've heard these stories all over the city. I heard these stories in our newsroom. And I think what happened with the mayor and the chief of police is that they fell victim to the same thing a lot of human beings do, is there's no communication. There's no news going around. And stories are getting passed one to another, getting worse and worse every time they change hands and they just participated in that.

COOPER: It's a fascinating article in the "Times-Picayune." If you haven't read it, I recommend people go to your Web site and read it. David, appreciate you joining us. All of the people at the "Times- Picayune" have been doing just extraordinary work in these tough times and, Chris Lawrence, as well, remarkable work. Thank you, Chris.

Coming up tonight on 260, best selling author and Mississippi resident John Grisham on the Hurricane Katrina. We spent the day with him here in Biloxi, he and his lovely wife, Renee. Hear how they think this area will rebuild and how they want to help.

Also tonight, a dolphin in Louisiana pushed miles inland during Hurricane Rita. We'll show you the rescue effort. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: In Louisiana today, in Cameron Parish, an area decimated by Hurricane Rita, a search and rescue team went on a life and death mission to save an animal. There are thousands of them, far too many to help, but luckily this story is about a dolphin stuck in a watery ditch and it does have a happy ending.

CNN's Randi Kaye takes a look.


RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: For five days this watery ditch has been home to an animal that doesn't belong here, a seven-foot long dolphin that usually calls the Gulf of Mexico home. Marine biologists have been searching for this dolphin for days after someone reported it stranded near South Cameron High School.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We got a report of a dolphin that's stuck in a ditch-like area by where the Cameron High School used to be.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Where are we at? Right here.

KAYE: On Tuesday, Heidi Watts and her team from the Dolphin Rescue Network searched for hours by boat. No luck.

HEIDI WATTS, MARINE BIOLOGIST: It's disappointing that we haven't found it, but we're going to do everything we can as soon as we get back to land and we're not going to give up on it certainly.

KAYE: Twenty-four hours later, we spot the dolphin from our helicopter during a flight with the 82nd Airborne. We land and find Watts on the ground.

(on camera): What is the condition of the dolphin?

WATTS: Seems to be doing really well. We've been monitoring it, monitoring its behavior, its respiration. And it seems to be doing good.

KAYE (voice-over): The 300-pound dolphin is trapped, confined to a shallow ditch. The dolphin is running out of time and Watts is running out of ideas.

(on camera): Could you airlift him out on a helicopter?

WATTS: Yes. It's a possibility.

KAYE (voice-over): That possibility turns into a plan. We watch as rescuers slowly make their way into the water, then form a straight line to corral the dolphin. And then trouble -- the dolphin starts swimming down the canal created by the storm.

The dolphin is about to get tang tangled in the weeds when they grab him. Struggling and scared, they load him on to a stretcher in the water. It takes 10 people to lift him out and into the back of a pickup truck.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On three. One, two, three.

KAYE: Another problem. The dolphin is too long for the truck, but Watts won't turn back now.

(on camera): Now that they got him out of the water they're loading him on a Coast Guard helicopter. It will be a two to four-mile flight before they can safely land on the beach.

(voice-over): A quick trip, but the dolphin must be kept cool and kept in place.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm holding down its fluke because it is very powerful and if it gets loose it can break bones.

KAYE: In just minutes they're off to the Gulf in search of a beach. The sponge baths continue on board and the dolphin is named Egor (ph) after the helicopter transporting it. Safely on the ground, Egor is unloaded and released into the waters where he belongs. It doesn't take long for Egor to find a friend, just what his friends back on dry land were hoping for.


KAYE: And that dolphin was one of the lucky ones, just like this seven-month-old kitten here. At least we think she's seven months old. She was found by the search and rescue team with the Air Force. They were in Abbeville and she started following them around.

I want to show you this goose here which was actually found in the courthouse in Cameron today. Rescued walking around, no food, no water, and can't even fly. The poor goose is so stressed out. You guys have been doing great work helping the animals, helping lots of other folks.

And you're going to turn the goose into wildlife and this little kitten is going to be adopted actually, by one of the guys with the Air Force here. So we're finding them homes one by one and saving dolphins while we're at it. Back to you, Anderson.

COOPER: Adopting a goose. Wow, what's pretty cool. Randi, thanks.

Coming up next on 360, Mississippi resident and best-selling author John Grisham and his wife Renee talk about the damage they've seen with Katrina and how they want to help here in Biloxi and all along the Gulf Coast.

Plus, a look around here in Biloxi and all the work that still lies ahead after Katrina. We'll be right back.


COOPER: Well, John Grisham was born in Arkansas but he's built his life in here Mississippi. The best-selling author went to Ole Miss, practiced law in Southaven and now resides with his family in Oxford.

And when Katrina devastated the state, Grisham was there to help. He and his wife, Renee, have set up a fund to rebuild the shattered coastline, and they've started by putting in $5 million of their own money. John Grisham and his wife joined me earlier to talk about his deep, personal connection to this state.


J. GRISHAM: Is it open?

COOPER: When John Grisham walked into Biloxi's library today ...

J. GRISHAM: Oh my goodness.

COOPER: ... the best-selling author was at a loss for words.

J. GRISHAM: What a mess.

COOPER: The clock remains frozen, a silent reminder of the moment Katrina came ashore here one month ago. The floor is littered by books and debris brought in by the storm. The shelves that once held John Grisham's many best-selling books are empty. Only a few mildewed copies of his work remain.

J. GRISHAM: I'm in bad shape. I was on the bottom shelf.

COOPER: Grisham first came to this library in 1989. He was a lawyer and a struggling author then trying to sell his first book, "A Time To Kill."

J. GRISHAM: I went to 35 libraries all over the state of Mississippi and we'd have little punch and cookie parties and a good day was like, you know, nine or ten books would sell.

COOPER: Charlene Longino (ph) remembers it well. She's been the librarian here for more than 20 years.

CHARLENE LONGINO, LIBRARIAN: Well, this was a collection of about 45 to 47,000 just regular books and we probably lost more than half of it. You can see at least the first two or three shelves are wet and just not fixable. And we're hoping the top two and possibly three shelves we can salvage.

COOPER: Charlene is optimistic but says it will be years before this library can reopen.

J. GRISHAM: You know, the sad part, Anderson, when it comes to rebuilding, you know, your libraries and museums and places like this, you know, homes and schools will get a priority to get people, you know, back in decent housing but libraries and museums are always kind of on the tail end of the funding.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Shot this from the third floor.

J. GRISHAM: I heard about that. Someone told me you were the wild man up there.

COOPER: A city official stops by to show Grisham the video he made when the storm came ashore. Grisham and his wife, Renee, live in Mississippi and have started a campaign to raise money to help rebuild the Gulf.

RENEE GRISHAM, DONATED FUNDS: You know, we realize that there would be people who would come in early and do things, but we want to be here after those folks are gone because I know with hurricanes in Florida, there's still people trying to get roofs on their house and we want to make sure those people get their roof on their house.

COOPER: The Grishams have donated $5 million of their own money and have already saved many million more. Walking around Biloxi, it's easy to see the needs are enormous.

J. GRISHAM: Every law firm has the Southern Report and Federal Report. This is south report. All Mississippi cases are in the Southern Reporter from the Supreme Court, Mississippi, Louisiana, and this is what's left of the guys -- the guy's law office.

COOPER: Just down the block we meet the Grishams' friend, Bob Mahoney. He's determined to rebuild his family's restaurant.

BOB MAHONEY, RESTAURANT OWNER: This is the bar right here.

COOPER: Bob's restaurant, Mary Mahoney's, has been serving southern delicacies for 41 years now. When I was just eight in 1976 I came here with my dad, a Mississippi native. Bob Mahoney was here then.

MAHONEY: I still remember you walking up here. You just came from the water park and you had your bathing suit on and your towel around you.

COOPER: I remember that.

MAHONEY: And your daddy was sitting in here having dinner.

COOPER: This is the room we ate in.

MAHONEY: This is the room you ate in, yes back in 19, I guess, 76. I want to say when Wyatt Cooper came in the establishment, especially down in Biloxi, Mississippi, in the '70s, it kind of got your attention.

COOPER: John Grisham has been eating at Mahoney's for the past 15 years. Grisham even wrote about Mahoney's in his book, "The Runaway Jury." Bob has memorized every passage.

MAHONEY: They snacked on crab cake, grilled snapper, fresh oysters, and Mahoney's famous gumbo, and all went back to tell about the lovely lunch.

J. GRISHAM: That was brilliant. That was good.


MAHONEY: That's good writing.


COOPER: Bob Mahoney says he will rebuild the restaurant. He hopes to be reopened by Thanksgiving. Coming up tonight at 11, we are going to have more on my interview on John Grisham. We're going to meet his friend, Lucy Denton (ph), and her house has been completely destroyed.

If you'd like to contribute to the Grishams' Rebuild the Coast Fund, please go online to, or send donations to Rebuild the Coast Fund, Inc., P.O. Box 4500, Tupelo, Mississippi, 38803. We'll put that address and Web site on our Web site, as well.

Let's find out what's coming up at the top of the hour on PAULA ZAHN NOW. Hey, Paula.

PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: Hi, Anderson. Some nice memories there for you. At the top of the hour, some startling new developments in a story the CNN investigative unit has been looking into for some time.

Well, today, Louisiana's lieutenant general now confirmed that he is now investigating whether New Orleans police officers were involved in any of that looting after Hurricane Katrina.

Well our Drew Griffin is working on that story. He has some new developments for you as well. We'll have that report for you straight away in about, I guess that would be three minutes from now. Anderson?

COOPER: Paula, thanks.

Next tonight on 360 I'll give you a look here at the damage in Biloxi, everywhere nearly a month after Katrina.


COOPER: While the country has probably moved on from this story, but the people here in Biloxi have certainly not moved on. Their homes are still as they were more than a month ago. This house, 216 Howard, doesn't belong here, 216 Howard is actually across the street from where I am.

What should be here is a house 217 Howard. That's over there, 217 Howard owned by a woman named Alma Broussard (ph). She's 77 years old. She had 11 children. She raised them right here on this plot of land. She hopes one day to be able to come back here. Let's hope that happens one day real soon.

Our primetime coverage continues tonight. NEWSNIGHT at 10:00, a two-hour special from 10 to midnight Eastern time. Aaron Brown, myself.

Right now, primetime coverage continues with Paula Zahn. Hey Paula.