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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees
Warren Jeffs Trial Heads to Jury; Jena Six Controversy Escalates; Details Emerge on Ted Stevens Investigation
Aired September 21, 2007 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening. I'm Soledad O'Brien, in for Anderson Cooper tonight.
The fate of polygamist leader Warren Jeffs is now in the hands of eight men and women -- tonight, late details from court and a CNN exclusive interview with the mayor of the town that Warren Jeffs once dominated and his sect still does.
Also, the star witness, the woman once known as Jane Doe. Well, the veil of secrecy was lifted today. We are going to hear more about how her testimony figured in the case.
Plus, sadly, ugly backlash today to yesterday's historic march for the so-called Jena Six. Also today, a new legal development that threatens more racial tension, not less.
But we begin with the trial of polygamist Warren Jeffs who reportedly ran his Fundamentalist Church of Latter-Day Saints like a modern-day Machiavelli. Tonight, you are going to hear from people who left the FLDS who tell stories of brainwashing and forced marriages and people living in terror.
First, though, what the jury heard and what the jury's now deliberating.
Warren Jeffs is on trial on charges of being an accomplice to rape for arranging and sanctioning the marriage of young girls.
CNN's Gary Tuchman been covering this saga from the very beginning. He's with us tonight in Saint George, Utah.
Hey, Gary. Good evening.
GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Soledad, hello to you.
The jury has gone home for the night. The five men and three women will be back Monday to deliberate the fate of Warren Jeffs. Warren Jeffs is considered to be a prophet of God by his followers, a descendant of Jesus Christ. But he's accused of being an accomplice to rape.
According to prosecutors, he ordered and then presided over the marriage of a 19-year-old follower named Allen Steed with a 14-year- old girl by the name of Elissa Wall. And we're able to say her name and show her picture because she and her lawyer have given us permission to do so. According to prosecutors, Jeffs married them, told them to multiply and replenish the Earth. And then they consummated their marriage. What jurors don't know is that Jeffs is on the FBI's 10- most-wanted list because he's accused of doing this with many other girls under the age of 18. But Elissa Wall is the only one who has come forward. And that's why she's the only witness in this particular case.
Defense attorneys, in their closing arguments, referred to Jeffs as a prophet a couple of times. They said he's completely innocent, that he has no responsibility over the sex this couple had.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WALTER BUGDEN, ATTORNEY FOR WARREN JEFFS: It happened because Elissa wanted it to happen. It happened because Elissa consented to sexual relations, no different and -- no reason to believe that the sexual relationship, that the sexual component to what happened in the bedroom was any different than any other aspect of their relationship, where Elissa did exactly what Elissa wanted to do.
BROCK BELNAP, PROSECUTOR: The evidence presented to you shows, beyond a reasonable doubt, that Elissa Wall would never have had sexual intercourse with Allen Steed. She never would have entered into that bedroom with him, if it were not for the acts of Warren Jeffs. And Warren Jeffs did it intentionally, knowingly, and recklessly.
BUGDEN: His church, his religious beliefs, his religion is what's on trial here, being dressed up as a crime called rape.
BELNAP: If anyone told a 14-year-old girl that she must get married and that she must (INAUDIBLE) replenish the Earth, and when she asked out, he said no, he would be here, too.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TUCHMAN: I sat next to Elissa Wall and her new husband in court today. She looked none too pleased when she was described by defense attorneys basically as an aggressive 14-year-old.
Warren Jeffs was very quiet in court today, very serene. So were his 15 or so followers who were sitting in the back of the courtroom. So, the jurors have to decide, is this an attack on religion, or is this the prosecution of a polygamist pervert? -- Soledad, back to you.
O'BRIEN: All right, Gary, thanks.
Gary, stick around for us, because Gary managed to get an exclusive interview with the mayor of Hildale, an FLDS member. He's going to have that interview shortly.
Court TV's Jami Floyd joins us now, along with Monica Lindstrom, former Phoenix prosecutor, currently a civil litigator.
Ladies, thanks for talk with us. Jami, we are going to start with you. You have said that this, to you, feels like religious persecution.
JAMI FLOYD, COURT TV ANCHOR: Yes.
FLOYD: It does, because I don't think they have a good case against Warren Jeffs, accomplice to rape. Incredibly difficult in our system to prove rape, let alone accomplice to rape. There's a long history of the authorities trying to bring Warren Jeffs down. And that's what I think this case is really about.
So, then Monica, what do you think? Do you think, in fact, that this was impossible now for the prosecution to prove this, or, at the very least, very, very difficult?
MONICA LINDSTROM, FORMER PROSECUTOR: Well, it's a difficult crime to have to try to prove, but they have a lot of proof in this case.
For example, she is 14 years old. He's 19 years old. And we have got Warren Jeffs, a man with incredible power and standing in his community, telling her that she had to do this. That's where the accomplice part comes in. So, although this type of crime is difficult to prove, the prosecution has enough evidence here to get a verdict.
FLOYD: Well, I have to say I disagree with that. I think that the closest they can come to a criminal act is him telling this couple to go forth and multiply. And he counseled them as a religious counselor.
And, when we asked in court -- not I, but when lawyers asked this young woman, now 21 years old, "Did Warren Jeffs ever tell you to have sex with your husband"? -- and 14 is the age of consent in Utah -- she said no. She had to admit that.
Now, of course, to be fair, they don't talk about sex in this community. But prosecutors have to prove the coercion. And...
FLOYD: And, if that's the underlying fact pattern, they don't have it.
O'BRIEN: Listen to a little clip of what Elissa said when she was on the stand.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ELISSA WALL, ALLEGED VICTIM: I was sobbing. And my whole entire body was just shaking, because I was so, so scared. And he didn't say anything. He just laid me on the bed. (END VIDEO CLIP)
O'BRIEN: OK, she's clearly distraught.
O'BRIEN: You have a young woman who's been taught to be submissive, taught she has to obey her husband...
O'BRIEN: ... and the religious leaders as well.
O'BRIEN: Doesn't that -- why doesn't that add up to rape, in your mind?
FLOYD: Well, for one thing, it's a classic he says/she says case. He has a completely different story he tells on the stand. They both have credibility problems.
They both come across as credible in other ways. So, when you have a classic he says/she says, the burden of proof is on the prosecution. And it almost always inures a benefit to the defense. You can't prove what happened in the bedroom.
O'BRIEN: Ironically, one of the he says is really not on trial here.
O'BRIEN: Monica, do you think the wrong person, I mean, truly is on -- on trial in this case?
LINDSTROM: Well, they definitely have...
O'BRIEN: The alleged rapist is not on trial here.
LINDSTROM: No, not at all.
But Warren Jeffs is, and that's what's important for this case. Do I think that they should have charged the husband? Absolutely, I do. But it's irrelevant for this case, because it's Warren Jeffs who's on trial, and the prosecution has the evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he counseled, aided and encouraged this 14-year- old and this 19-year-old to have sex. And he used his power to do it. And that's why he's on trial.
O'BRIEN: If they had gone ahead and actually charged and gone to trial with the husband first, wouldn't, though, that have helped this case?
FLOYD: It would have helped the case. And the reason they didn't do it is because I think they knew that they couldn't win it. We have seen this guy on the stand, and he's the anti-rapist.
You have a traditional stereotypical notion of what the rapist is, and then Forrest Gump shows up. So, they knew they had a problem with the...
LINDSTROM: It doesn't matter if he's nice or not. It doesn't matter if he's nice.
FLOYD: We understand -- we understand that rapists come in all shapes, forms, colors and creeds.
FLOYD: We understand that. But to try and prove a rape between these two young people, when they have diametrically opposed stories...
LINDSTROM: A 14-year-old and a 19-year-old.
FLOYD: There is a reason why they have not prosecuted that rape. There is a reason why. And the reason is because they want Warren Jeffs. They don't care about Mr. Steed and they don't care about the parents, who are, I think, most responsible here.
They care about Warren Jeffs. They're trying to bring him down. And that's what this case is all about.
O'BRIEN: OK. There was a little movement today.
There are 12 jurors who heard the case, five men, seven women. And then the judge dismissed four alternates, leaving five men, three women. Does that, in your mind, make any kind of difference?
FLOYD: The gender?
O'BRIEN: No, just the new numbers, a new arrangement here.
FLOYD: Oh, well, it's interesting. We always think of a jury of 12 and that classic unanimous jury of 12.
O'BRIEN: Right. Right.
FLOYD: But a lot of states don't have that. And I think, actually, the numbers could make a difference, because you do have a bit of a gender divide. But it's -- it's actually more typical than people think.
O'BRIEN: Yes, it sounded kind of odd to me.
All right, ladies, I thank you very much, Jami Floyd, of course, and Monica Lindstrom as well. Thanks.
LINDSTROM: Thank you.
O'BRIEN: Elissa Wall is also suing Warren Jeffs and the FLDS. There she is -- take a look -- in her wedding dress, 14 years old.
Well, tonight, her lawyer released a statement which reads in part like this: "All of this is particularly hard for Elissa Wall because of the deep feelings she has for her mother, her younger sisters and the FLDS people. Unfortunately," the statement goes on to say, "child abuse in this community had to be addressed, and that burden fell to her. It was important to her that Warren Jeffs get a fair trial. It was also important for her that the FLDS people see that Mr. Jeffs had a fair trial with every constitutional protection."
And the statement ends this way: "Elissa is ready for whatever result. It's now up to the jury. She's spoken the truth, and she is at peace."
Kathy Jo Nicholson has been watching the trial with a very special interest. She was one of 13 children raised by three mothers. Her school principal was Warren Jeffs. She left the FLDS when she was 18 years old and has traveled kind of a rocky road since then.
Kathy Jo Nicholson is in Charlotte, North Carolina, this evening.
Nice to see you, Kathy Jo.
I know you have been watching really every moment in this trial. What do you think so far?
KATHY JO NICHOLSON, FORMER FUNDAMENTALIST CHURCH OF JESUS CHRIST OF LATTER DAY SAINTS MEMBER: Well, I have. I have been, actually, glued to the screen.
And it -- it's painful. I see these individuals up on the stand, and I see them, the attorneys, pointing to Warren. You know, I feel like Warren is -- he's a terrorist. And these individuals on the stand are -- they're all victims. I feel for -- I really want to commend Elissa Wall.
O'BRIEN: Do you think she's coming across as a credible witness?
NICHOLSON: I think that she is, to me, yes, because I can feel her -- I can empathize with her. I can feel her pain. I remember going through the motions, going through the movements.
I remember the ups and downs. And, you know, it is a he said/she said trial. And the question of, was there rape, you know, Warren is the dictator in that community, and of thousands of those people. He planted his seed and his tentacles are far-reaching.
I even question the jury from Washington County. They -- they are mind-controlled. This individual, this Elissa Wall, I really do commend her, because it takes such strength. And you do go back and forth. And -- and I did that.
O'BRIEN: What kind of punishment do you think Warren Jeffs deserves, then? You clearly think that he -- he should be considered guilty of the crime, but what kind of punishment?
NICHOLSON: I think he's definitely guilty of the crime and many, many more. I think that he -- my hope and prayer is that he will never see the light of day again. I think he's dangerous.
He -- people forget -- I know the jury doesn't know, but people in the public forget that he's been on the America's top-10-most- wanted list. And he's -- he's a criminal. He's...
O'BRIEN: But you raise an interesting point, which is, but the jury doesn't know. What do you think's going to really happen?
Outside of what you believe should happen, what do you think is going to happen? You heard the debate between our two lawyers just a moment ago. Do you think he actually will be convicted? What do you think of the case?
NICHOLSON: I think it's dependent on -- on that jury, obviously.
And the jury, unfortunately, in my opinion, was selected from Washington County. I have personally visited Washington County and tried to get answers in a personal matter on the death of my brother in Colorado City. And no one speaks there.
So, I don't know. Like I stated before, Warren, he reaches far and wide. And I don't -- I have very little hope for this case, unfortunately. I know Warren has got other charges pressed against him. And my hope and prayer is that he will, you know, people will continue to come forward; the truth will come out.
I really do commend the bravery of -- of Elissa Wall. I -- I know her mother and her sisters personally, and I feel for them. I feel for her ex-husband.
O'BRIEN: It must -- it must be tough for you to watch all this.
Kathy Jo Nicholson, thank you. We're -- we're out of time, but your insight is -- is truly fascinating. We appreciate it.
NICHOLSON: Thank you.
O'BRIEN: Let's get right back to Gary Tuchman.
He probably knows the FLDS territory better than any other reporter. He's certainly a familiar face out there by now. Today, it certainly paid off, got an exclusive interview.
Tell us about that, Gary.
TUCHMAN: Well, that's right. Kathy Jo Nicholson is right. People do not talk there. Forty-five minutes from where I'm standing in Saint George are the twin communities of Hildale, Utah; Colorado City, Arizona. That's where most of Warren Jeffs' followers are.
They don't talk. They either don't want to or they're scared to talk to us. We try to get both sides of the story. That's why we keep experiencing this.
But we did yesterday have someone consent to sit down with us for the first time on camera. But, before that, we had the same old rejections.
TUCHMAN: Sir, I just want to ask you a question, what you think about the Warren Jeffs trial.
TUCHMAN: I will help you with the door.
TUCHMAN: Well, right after we had those rejections, Mayor David Zitting -- he's the mayor of Hildale, Utah. He's been the mayor for 22 years. He is a devoted member of the FLDS Church, a devotee of Warren Jeffs.
There were a lot of things he wouldn't talk about, but he did tell us the feelings, and we got some insights about how people in his town and the FLDS feel about the situation.
O'BRIEN: If you will, in a nutshell, tell me what he told you, outside of the fact that he said he didn't want to talk about a lot -- we're clearly having some audio problems there.
TUCHMAN: Yes. We apologize for having those audio problems, because, obviously, we wanted you to listen to him, instead of me. But I will summarize what he said.
He basically said their main problem is people like me, the outsiders, the news media, who tries to get them to talk. And we explained we're trying to get both sides of the story. They think they're getting an unfair image, because we only do one side of the story. But we explained we do one side of the story because you won't talk to us.
So, he said, we're building big fences. We want to keep the outsiders out. We want you to leave.
And I asked him, why did you agree to talk to me?
And he says, well, I didn't agree to talk to you. I have consented to talk to you on camera because I want to get rid of you.
And that was the extent of our conversation, Soledad.
O'BRIEN: All right. Well, Gary, it looks like we're going to be able to fix those audio problems. So, will have the chance to hear straight from the horse's mouth, so to speak, and hear the full interview straight ahead.
Thanks, Gary, for us.
And, as Kathy Jo Nicholson mentioned just a moment ago, dissidents say the FLDS indoctrination starts young. Leaving the sect is very tough.
O'BRIEN (voice-over): Imagine never seeing your parents again.
STEVEN BATEMAN, FORMER FUNDAMENTALIST CHURCH OF JESUS CHRIST OF LATTER DAY SAINTS MEMBER: My name is Steven Bateman.
O'BRIEN: Imagine having to learn to live in a you had never been prepared for.
FAWN BROADBENT, FORMER FUNDAMENTALIST CHURCH OF JESUS CHRIST OF LATTER DAY SAINTS MEMBER: My name is Fawn Broadbent.
O'BRIEN: Imagine having this for a memory of your mother.
BROADBENT: One day, my mom came into my room, and she sat on my bed. And she said, sometimes, I wish I could just open your brain and brainwash you, like I have been brainwashed.
O'BRIEN: Next, meet the children of Warren Jeffs' sect. They don't have to imagine.
Later: Thousands demanded justice. Here's what they got today, more hatred, more nooses, and that's not all. We're in Louisiana, where new developments in court and on the ground are ratcheting up tension over the Jena Six -- tonight on 360.
O'BRIEN: Warren Jeffs, his fate now in the hands of a jury.
He controlled every aspect of the lives of thousands, many of them young adults, some banished from the FLDS and their families for minor infractions like kissing a girl or watching a movie.
Samantha Grant is an aspiring journalist who spent three weeks this summer with some of those kicked out of the church, the so-called lost children of the FLDS. She documented them as they try to start over on their own in Salt Lake City.
Tonight, we bring you part of Samantha's moving documentary. It's called "Leaving Colorado City: Life After Polygamy."
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE, "LEAVING COLORADO CITY: LIFE AFTER POLYGAMY")
STEVEN BATEMAN, FORMER FUNDAMENTALIST CHURCH OF JESUS CHRIST OF LATTER DAY SAINTS MEMBER: My name is Steven Bateman. I am the son of David Bateman, who has been convicted of sexual abuse of a minor.
I was raised in the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, the FLDS. In 2004, I left the FLDS Church and relocated in Salt Lake City, Utah.
This is one of the few pictures I have got from of my family from down there in Colorado City. It's an old picture, but it's the only one I have as a family.
I definitely miss him, for sure.
Well, my dad was a public schoolteacher, and I went to school up to eighth grade. And, once I got done with eighth grade -- and that's the last year that they said -- that's the year that they cut off public schools down there in Colorado City.
I'm an engineering technician, which we design and create robotic automated systems. I also have a handyman's business, where I do part-time after work and on weekends that I do handyman services. And it's nice to have a little bit of extra money to help get by.
FAWN BROADBENT, FORMER FUNDAMENTALIST CHURCH OF JESUS CHRIST OF LATTER DAY SAINTS MEMBER: My name is Fawn Broadbent. I'm 20 years old. I was a member of the FLDS Church. And I left when I was 16 years old.
One day, my mom came into my room, and she sat on my bed. And she said, sometimes, I wish I could just open your brain and brainwash you, like I have been brainwashed. And that really surprised me, that she would admit to it.
If I hadn't left Colorado City, I would imagine I would be married with at least three or four kids. I would be unhappy. I would be miserable. You know, I wouldn't have a life of my own. I wouldn't have an identity of my own.
Mainly, I just want to be happy and have a big family -- you know, not a big family, but have a family.
I work at the Castle Creek Inn. It's a bed and breakfast here in Utah. My background suits me for this job, because I was taught how to cook and clean. And, so, it's something that I'm used to doing, and I don't mind doing.
I stopped going to public school after I finished fourth grade. I hated the culling. I hated the hair. You know, I mean, it took me a long time to be comfortable in a bathing suit. And I'm trying to get used to wearing shorts. I'm not yet.
I mean, even though, you know, you may not look it, like you came from a polygamist background, you feel like it. And you feel that people are staring at you and they know, and -- just trying to learn the social skills out here.
The way things have changed for me since I left is, I have a boyfriend. I was scared to death of guys. Steve is my boyfriend. We have been together for a little -- like, seven or eight months.
BATEMAN: I went -- and we're renting an apartment. And I have real estate people looking for a house. I want to buy a house within the next year.
I just hope to be able to come out here and just try to be an average American, have a -- have a very good, positive life, raise a family in a very good and positive way. You know, maybe it seems like I'm not setting my goals very high, you know, wanting to be a CEO or something of some company. But that would be a very happy, fulfilling life to me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'BRIEN: A remarkable documentary there.
A little earlier, we had some audio trouble with Gary Tuchman's exclusive interview with the mayor of the town that Warren Jeffs' sect dominates.
And they tell me we have fixed it all, Gary, so let's get right back to you.
TUCHMAN: Thanks, Soledad.
It's the first time since we have been covering this story, over a year-and a-half, that we have been able to spend a considerable amount of time with an FLDS member. That member is the 22-year veteran mayor of Hildale, Utah, David Zitting.
TUCHMAN: We have come to Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Arizona, the home of the FLDS. A lot people don't want to talk to us, ever. They slam the door in our faces. They don't want to talk.
And you're talking to us, which we're grateful about. But how come people don't want to talk to journalists?
DAVID K. ZITTING, MAYOR OF HILDALE, UTAH: The reason I'm talking to you is, I ran right into you, and I don't have a lot of choice. And I don't prefer it. And I don't talk to -- I don't talk to journalists. I don't talk to media.
TUCHMAN: But why don't you talk, and why don't other people here talk? It creates the image that you're afraid of something.
ZITTING: Well, it -- it goes over a long period of time, many years, dealing with the media. And it's been all negative. So...
TUCHMAN: Towards the church?
ZITTING: Mm-hmm. So, they -- they have chosen not to even talk to the media.
TUCHMAN: Do you feel the media has...
TUCHMAN: Do you feel the media has been unfair? Is that what you're saying?
ZITTING: I think they have been exploitive. And that's what the media is. That's the nature of the media. And I understand that.
TUCHMAN: Well, I would disagree with you about that. Our job is to inform.
ZITTING: Well, to inform, but in a way to draw in interest. The media of selling something, like everybody else. And they're -- they're doing it in a way to -- to draw the interest of the public.
TUCHMAN: Well, I respect your opinion. I differ with it, but I respect your opinion.
TUCHMAN: But one of the issues is, because this community's a lot different than other communities in the United States, the polygamist nature of it, the closed nature of it, we look for responses from you folks, because you have all these allegations out there, and no one ever responds to them.
TUCHMAN: So, that's what I'm going to ask you right now, as far as the way things are going on right now with this trial, what do you think of what is going on at the courthouse and what is going on with the church?
And I'm not even going to respond to that, because it's -- it's not an area that -- that I have any jurisdiction or right to respond to.
TUCHMAN: Well, just how do you feel about it, as a -- as a -- as the mayor of the city and as a member of the church?
ZITTING: I -- I just try to carry on in the city and do the best we can, and -- and let it go at that.
TUCHMAN: And how do your people feel right now? Do they feel under siege, with their leader in a courthouse and possibly facing jail for the rest of his life? ZITTING: Yes, I'm not going to get in that area. (OFF-MIKE)
TUCHMAN: But you don't want -- how come you don't want to talk about that?
ZITTING: I think I have answered that.
You have probably noticed, throughout the community, there's a lot of people that have put fences, high fences, up around their places, because the media and the public were just so obnoxious. They would go try to look into people's windows. They would go into their backyards. They would wander all over.
And nobody in America would put up with that type of thing.
TUCHMAN: What do your constituents say to you, as the mayor? What do they want you to do?
ZITTING: Get rid of the media.
TUCHMAN: As I said to you earlier, he claims he didn't agree to talk to us. He said he consented to talk to us because he wanted to get rid of us and so we wouldn't bother him again.
I really thought he was kidding. He was serious, Soledad.
O'BRIEN: Yes. That sounds like a lot of his interview.
All right, Gary Tuchman, the first chance to really get some details. Very interesting. Thanks, Gary.
Details also on the sting involving one of the most powerful men in the U.S. Senate. That's next.
Also, these stories:
O'BRIEN (voice-over): The NRA meets Dial-R-for-Rudy.
RUDOLPH GIULIANI (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Hello, dear.
O'BRIEN: Didn't she know where she was? These guys have guns. See what he said when love called right in the middle of his speech.
Later: Thousands demanded justice. Here's what they got today: more hatred, more nooses. And that's not all. We're in Louisiana, where new developments in court and on the ground are ratcheting up tension over the Jena Six -- ahead on 360.
O'BRIEN: Ted Stevens, he's the longest-serving Republican in Senate history. He's also been the target of an FBI sting and a federal corruption investigation.
And last night we told you about secretly taped phone calls between Stevens and an Alaska oil contractor who recently pleaded guilty to bribing state lawmakers.
Tonight we're "Keeping Them Honest", learning more about the man on the other end of the line and other ways he and the senator were linked. Here's Joe Johns.
JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's getting rough in the halls of the U.S. Senate.
SEN. TED STEVENS (R), ALASKA: Get out of the way. Thank you.
JOHNS: Ted Stevens is an Alaska icon. He built this state by funneling in billions of federal dollars during his four decades in power.
Stevens is a take-no-prisoners powerhouse, famous for wearing the Incredible Hulk ties into legislative battle. But now the hulk has a new adversary. A source tells CNN and the Associated Press reported the FBI has been eavesdropping on Stevens' conversations.
Stevens confirms the FBI searched his house, and now a tough- talking senator doesn't have much to say.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you going fishing?
STEVENS: Yes. I think the FBI's going fishing, sir.
JOHNS: The fishing metaphor works here because, in a sprawling federal investigation into Alaska political corruption that has been reeling in state legislators and businessmen who allegedly bribed them, a United States senator of Ted Stevens' stature would be the biggest fish of all.
PROF. ADAM WINKLER, UCLA LAW SCHOOL: I think it's clear that in a situation like this, a prosecutor would be very hesitant to open up an investigation into Ted Stevens that would involve wiretapping, that would involve raiding his house, without being extremely cautious and having the kind of evidence that they think is very reliable.
JOHNS: So why is Senator Stevens being investigated? It boils down to this man, Bill Allen, the disgraced former CEO of an Alaska oil field services company called Veco and whether Stevens may have gotten improper gifts from Allen, and whether he reported those gifts on tax returns. MELANIE SLOAN, CREW: That's why the IRS as well as the Justice Department was involved in the search of Senator Stevens' house. They were looking at how much the value added was to Senator Stevens' house and did he pay taxes on all of that?
JOHNS: Bill Allen has pleaded guilty to bribing state officials but not Senator Stevens, who hasn't been charged with anything. But Allen has been cooperating with the FBI and allowed his phone conversations with politicians, including Stevens, to be recorded. It's not clear what, if anything, Stevens was recorded saying.
So what did Allen do for Stevens? Allen testified last week that he paid for part of the renovation of Stevens' Alaska home seven years ago, providing Veco staff to work on it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So there wasn't a lot of material, but you paid some labor bills that went into remodeling Senator Stevens' house?
BILL ALLEN, FORMER HEAD OF VECO: Yes.
JOHNS: Stevens says he hasn't done anything wrong and paid all the home renovation bills that he got. But UCLA law professor Adam Winkler says, even if Stevens did pay those bills, there will be other questions.
WINKLER: It's not an absolute defense. It's really going to turn on what he knew and how careless he was in overseeing his expenses. You can't willfully blind yourself to gifts being given to you and to remodeling efforts being done on your house. I think the facts remain to be seen.
JOHNS: But why would Veco help Stevens renovate his home anyway? That hasn't come out, and no evidence has been made public suggesting Stevens performed any official acts in exchange for work being done on the house. Stevens' attorney did not return our calls or e-mails.
Joe Johns, CNN, Washington.
O'BRIEN: One footnote: a pet project of Senator Stevens is officially going nowhere. That's the infamous "bridge to nowhere" that became a nationwide symbol of federal pork barrel spending. Alaska's governor today ordered state transportation officials to abandon the project.
Now, think back to your dating days and all those prearranged phone calls. Come on, you know you did it. You tell your friend to call you at a certain restaurant at such and such time, and that way if the date's going really badly, you say, "Oh, it's an emergency. Got to go." I know, bad matters, but it works.
So take a look carefully. It also might be a case of "Raw Politics", served up with relish by CNN's Tom Foreman.
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A showdown at the NRA corral. Each and every Republican contender would just love to have the support of the National Rifle Association. So they're trading shots at a meeting here in D.C.
(voice-over) All the GOP candidates and one Democratic hopeful are courting the gun crowd. But the biggest bull's-eye may be on Rudy Giuliani. He once called NRA members extremists. John McCain, happy to return that fire.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: My friends, gun owners are not extremists.
FOREMAN: Rudy says hey, I'm your best hope to win. Let's work something out. But first, he had to work out his cell phone, which started ringing right in the middle of his speech.
RUDY GIULIANI (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's my wife calling, I think.
FOREMAN (on camera): No, no, it's not your wife. It's me. It's Tom. Hello? Hello?
(voice-over) Hillary Clinton answering a persistent question. No, she tells the advocate, I am not lesbian. Not that there's anything wrong with that.
For the record, she opposes gay marriage but likes civil unions and tells the magazine she's going to keep thinking about the issue, whatever that means.
New policy in the state of New York. Illegal immigrants can now get driver's licenses, no need to prove residency. State officials say if the feds can't control immigration, they're not taking on the job either.
And researchers who don't have enough to do have determined that Fred Thompson is remotely related to Elvis, the king. What do they have in common? Well, both had Tennessee homes, both acted in a fair number of bad movies, both knew Nixon.
(on camera) And, according to a bit in "The Washington Post", the two men share some great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great grandparents. That's a hunka hunka burning "Raw Politics" -- Soledad.
O'BRIEN: Thank you, Tom. A little more on that Giuliani phone call. We'll hear the whole thing a little bit later in our program.
If you want more "Raw Politics", download the 360 daily podcast. Go to CNN.com/AC360 podcast or you can get it from the iTunes store.
Up next on 360, thousands marched through Jena, Louisiana, chanting "free Mychal Bell". Well, today a judge had a chance to do just that. We'll tell you what he did instead.
Also new signs of hate in the community and online. Are they symptoms of a bigger problem in the south? Some answers when 360 continues.
BECK: One of the so-called Jena 6, Mychal Bell, still behind bars tonight. Word from a relative of one of the teens is that a judge denied Bell bail.
That coming a day after a massive show of support for the 17- year-old from family, friends, plus thousands of others. Meantime, the racial tension still hangs heavily over the little town of Jena, Louisiana. And beyond.
CNN's David Mattingly reports.
DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The web site proudly displays a swastika on its home page. Inside, one posting reveals the addresses of the Jena 6, saying, quote, "in case anyone wants to deliver justice."
The site is edited by a white supremacist whose own words can be heard in this streaming audio.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'd like to go down there and put a bullet in each one of those little black kids. That they've acquitted or they've let off on these convictions for beating this white child.
MATTINGLY: Asked if he brought any harm to the Jena 6 with his postings, the editor told CNN, "I don't know that doing justice can be considered doing harm."
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Free Mychal Bell! Free Mychal Bell!
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Free Mychal Bell! Free Mychal Bell!
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Free Mychal Bell! Free Mychal Bell!
MATTINGLY: Just 24 hours after a massive violence-free rally in the Louisiana town of Jena, the FBI is looking into a racist backlash, seemingly menacing acts online and on the streets.
Forty-five minutes south of Jena, two teens were caught on tape in this exclusive CNN I-Report in Alexandria. They had nooses tied to the back of their pickup and driving past crowds of people who had attended the marches and rallies.
Alexandria resident and I-Report contributor Casanova Love couldn't believe his eyes.
(on camera) Do you think the chance was there that somebody could have gotten hurt? CASANOVA LOVE, I-REPORTER: Possibly. Possibly. You never know. It's 50/50. It's a 50/50 chance.
MATTINGLY: It happened right here on Main Street. A large crowd had gathered at this bus station after the rally, people wanting to catch a bus and go home that night. That's when someone in the crowd noticed the pickup truck driving by with the nooses attached.
There was a police officer on duty right here. He was alerted, and that truck was stopped in just a matter of blocks.
(voice-over) Another exclusive I-Report shows the police taking one of the two into custody. Eighteen-year-old Jeremiah Munson was booked on misdemeanor charges of inciting a riot, driving while intoxicated and contributing to the delinquency of a minor. He's out on bail.
His 16-year-old companion remains in juvenile custody, accused of underage drinking and a probation violation. In the arrest report, the teen tells police he has a KKK tattoo, and his parents were active in the Klan.
Alexandria police say there is no indication any group was involved.
(on camera) Was it a prank?
CHIEF DAREN COUTEE, ALEXANDRIA POLICE DEPARTMENT: Obviously, more of a prank than anything else. We think so, anyway. But during this kind of an atmosphere, of course, pranks like that don't go over very well.
MATTINGLY (voice-over): The crowd applauded as police took them away. Officers found an unloaded rifle and brass knuckles in the car. But investigators do not believe the two suspects intended to use them.
Police and the mayor say felony charges are being explored, as well as charges of hate crimes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (SINGING): Na na na na, na na na na...
O'BRIEN: So David, let me ask you a question. What did the Jena 6 families think about all this?
MATTINGLY: The families have already been through a lot. I spoke to one family member today who says that they're not exactly hiding. Having their addresses out there on the Internet, they don't believe, is going to cause any more problems than they've already had.
We spoke to the sheriff's office here in this parish, and we're told that there will not be any added security. So another day in the lives of the families of the Jena 6.
O'BRIEN: All right, David Mattingly covering the story for us. Thanks, David.
Going to have more on this up next.
Also, a million cribs with a potentially fatal flaw being recalled. We'll tell you what you can look for. That's coming up.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The gentleman who was driving the truck, and this is the noose. There's another one on the other side. They pulled a rifle out of his car, and then they gave it back to him.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'BRIEN: Nooses dangling from the back of a pickup truck, unmistakable symbols of hatred and racism in the old south. Two men arrested in Alexandria, Louisiana, after repeatedly driving past groups of demonstrators who are in nearby Jena earlier in the day in support of the so-called Jena 6.
Earlier today, I spoke with Richard Cohen. He's the CEO of the Southern Poverty Law Center.
O'BRIEN: Mr. Cohen, let's talk about those two people who were arrested today in Alexandria, which is a town that's close to Jena, two nooses hanging off the back of their pickup truck. That's clearly threatening, but do you think that qualifies as a hate crime?
RICHARD COHEN, CEO, SOUTHERN POVERTY LAW CENTER: You know, it all depends upon the circumstances, Soledad. You have a right to, you know, free speech in this country, but you don't have a right to threaten people. And sometimes what that line is, is not no clear.
As I understand it, they were circling a bus. I think that's clearly threatening activity. It's like stalking.
On the other hand, if they were standing on the street corner just holding a noose, you know, kind of silently as people went by or even yelling at folk, I think that probably would be protected by the First Amendment. It just depends on the circumstances.
O'BRIEN: OK, the nooses that were hung in that so-called white tree in Jena at the school, that seems targeted, I think. Do you think that's a hate crime clearly?
COHEN: I think that's a likely violation of federal civil rights statutes. You know, you can't intimidate people on the basis of race in their exercise of their rights to an education, for example. Federal law prohibits that.
O'BRIEN: OK, but when we talked to the U.S. attorney, he said yesterday when they were investigating this for their own purposes, that it didn't meet the federal standards to be a hate crime. They -- they were under 18, no prior records. No group like the Ku Klux Klan had been involved. And so that's why he did not pursue charges against the young men who hung nooses at the school as a hate crime.
COHEN: Well, you know, in some sense that makes sense. He's not saying it's not a hate crime. He's saying that, in his prosecutorial discretion he's not going to throw the book at them.
And of course, that's the problem here. We have prosecutorial discretion exercised in kind of unequal ways in the Jena situation.
O'BRIEN: The beating of the white student, Justin Barker, who was briefly hospitalized but made it to a school event later that evening.
O'BRIEN: Was that a hate crime in your mind?
COHEN: Well, I mean, it seems like that whoever did this, that they selected Mr. Barker because of his race. And so that's kind of the classic definition of a hate crime.
The real question, though, is, I think in this case, is whether it was wildly overcharged and whether these kids were treated, you know, kind of unfairly. And so I think that it's a complicated question, but the victim was selected, it sounds like, on the basis of his race, and so one could argue that that's a hate crime.
O'BRIEN: A lot of white people saying this is all overblown, and a lot of black people saying no, it's always been this way. How could both things be true?
COHEN: Well, I mean, I think that it's true, quite frankly, around the country if you look at the statistics. If you look at something like drug charges, white youth are much more likely to engage in drug use, much more likely. On the other hand, black youth are about two and a half times more likely to be arrested for it.
So you see that unequal kind of police presence? Kind of an unequal prosecution and really kind of -- kind of a hidden bias, so to speak, throughout the criminal justice process that cuts against marginalized people in this country.
O'BRIEN: OK. So at the end of the day, how is it going to end for the young black man who still sits in today, Mychal Bell? Do you think he's going to get prison, do you think, and how long?
COHEN: Well, you know, given that he's being tried as a juvenile, he can't be sentenced to 15 years in Louisiana. Hopefully he won't have to spend very much time -- more time in prison.
You know, unfortunately, it seems like the criminal justice system in Jena is stacked against kind of the black defendants. So you know, I have my fingers crossed because they've had some success recently, but I'm still quite scared for him.
O'BRIEN: Richard Cohen joining us this evening. Thanks for talking with us. We appreciate it. COHEN: Thank you, Soledad.
O'BRIEN: My pleasure.
COHEN: Thank you.
O'BRIEN: Got a lot more to cover tonight. Erica Hill has some of it in our "360 Bulletin".
ERICA HILL, HEADLINE NEWS ANCHOR: Soledad, a sixth defendant in the armed robbery case against O.J. Simpson has surrendered. Charles Ehrlich of Miami faces ten criminal charges. The judge in the case set bail at $32,000. His lawyers say their client is not guilty.
At Delaware State University classes cancelled after two students were shot near a campus cafe. Both victims are hospitalized. One of them is facing potentially life-threatening injuries. Police have spoken to one student who is a person of interest and say they're looking for another one.
On Cuban state TV this evening, new video of Fidel Castro looking healthier, the first images of him in more than three months. Castro spoke slowly and softly on variety of subjects, including the price of oil and global warming.
He has not been seen in public, though, since July 31, 2006, which is of course when he announced emergency intestinal surgery was forcing him to hand over his presidential powers to his brother, Raul.
Going to bring us now to our segment "What Were They Thinking?" And a lot of people wonder what this young lady was thinking tonight.
An MIT student who showed up at Boston's Logan Airport today wearing a circuit board with flashing lights and a battery attached to her sweatshirt. Police say it looked like a bomb. She was also reportedly even holding Play-Do in her hand. Star Simpson was arrested at gunpoint.
The cops say she told them it's a piece of art. Police, though, say she's lucky she followed their instructions or, in their words, she could have ended up in the morgue.
Tonight, she's out on bail on charges of disturbing the peace and possessing a hoax device. Probably not the best thing to wear to an airport, Soledad.
O'BRIEN: Girl is described as a genius? She's an MIT student, right? She's described as a genius.
HILL: She is, yes, but maybe not when it comes to fashion choices.
O'BRIEN: But not so practically smart, if you know what I mean.
HILL: Not so much. A lot of book smart there.
All right, Erica, thanks a lot.
O'BRIEN: Coming up next, a lesson in cell phone etiquette on the campaign trail. You'll hear the entire call up next when we come back.
O'BRIEN: It's now time for our "Shot of the Day". Earlier in the program Tom Foreman played a snippet. Mr. and Mrs. Giuliani on the phone in front of hundreds of NRA members because they were listening to him give a speech.
We've sort of had this running argument in the newsroom about whether that phone call was staged. Now, there's no evidence that it was. But here's a longer clip, and you can judge for yourselves.
It's our "Shot" tonight. Get it, NRA shot? Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GIULIANI: This is my wife calling, I think. Hello, dear. I'm talking -- I'm talking to the members of the NRA right now. Would you like to say hello? I love you, and I'll give you a call as soon as I'm finished, OK? OK. Have a safe trip. Bye-bye. Talk to you later, dear. I love you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'BRIEN: OK. Did you think that was faked? I thought it was staged. I thought that was fake. It came across as faked. I'm sure he loves her dearly, but it came across as fake.
Anyway, if you want to send us your "Shot" ideas, if you see a politician on a cell phone during a speech or anything else you think is amazing, you can tell us about it at CNN.com/360. We'll put your best clips on the air.
Coming up next on 360, the latest in the case against polygamist Warren Jeffs. And our first look at the woman he allegedly forced into marriage when she was just 14 years old. That's all when 360 continues.
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