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CNN Newsnight Aaron Brown

Modern-Day Bonnie and Clyde Due in Court Tomorrow

Aired August 11, 2005 - 22:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, HOST: It was a story that began in a hail of gunfire and might of vended the very same way. Instead, when cornered in a motel in Ohio, modern-day Bonnie and Clyde, they gave themselves up.
Tomorrow, George and Jennifer Hyatte are due in court. Tonight though, how they got there. Starting with the killing of a corrections officer in Tennessee, then a getaway car, a taxicab and this -- take a look. Surveillance video of the cab pulling up the motel and then -- look at this -- the cabby, helping Jennifer Hyatte into the office and checking her in under his own name.

In a moment, we're going to hear exactly why he did that. First though, the other thing he did: He dropped a dime on them.


COOPER (voice-over): Told him they'd been in a car crash and needed a cab ride to an Amway convention in Columbus.

MIKE WAGERS, CAB DRIVER: You know, I honestly can say I didn't really believe that, but I'd been paid for the trip. So, when I, you know, they gave me no cause for suspicion other than the Amway thing didn't stick, but there were no outward signs of anybody or anyone of them -- either one of them doing anything that made me feel nervous beyond a normal cab trip.

COOPER: Mike Wagers said they paid him $200 in cash for the 115- mile ride from northern Kentucky into Ohio. Only then did he notice something was wrong.

WAGERS: When the trip was completely done and they were getting out to go to the hotel room, she was favoring one side and I asked her, you know, "what happened?" She said she got banged around in a car wreck a little bit. So, that was -- I mean, without hesitating. So, I mean she pretty much had thought about what she'd say, I guess.

COOPER: Still, he drove all the way back to Kentucky and started playing a video game. That's when he got a phone call.

WAGERS: When a friend of mine, Rob, called me and said, "Hey, they found that van next to where you picked them people up -- from this escaped people in Tennessee. You need to call the police." And I mean, I immediately dropped the video game and called the police.

COOPER: In a little over two hours after that phone call, authorities converged on the motel to make certain that George and Jennifer Hyatte were, in fact, inside room 236-B. The cops used the phone as well.

JOHN BOLEN, U.S. MARSHAL: Yes, the call was strategic. We waited until we were actually right outside the door. We placed the telephone call to see if anybody would answer and that way, we would certainly have an indication that somebody was inside.

COOPER: Somebody was. Beds inside still mostly made. No gunshots, no trouble.

MARK GWYN, TN BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION: The SWAT team from the Columbus, Ohio, police department descended upon the room, where we had gathered intelligence that George and Jennifer Hyatte were staying. They entered that room. George and Jennifer Hyatte gave up without incident.

COOPER: A relief, especially to the man who took them for a ride.

WAGERS: To be honest, I mean, you have to understand, sitting in a driver's seat of a cab, you see your people maybe once or twice, you know, directly. The rest of the time, you're driving and you're kind of looking at them, you know, through a second glance in a mirror. And, you know, I didn't feel uncomfortable. I'd been paid, so I really, my guard was really down.


COOPER: Well, needless to say, he hasn't gotten much sleep lately. That memorable ride could have memorably been his last. We spoke at length about it with Mike Wagers earlier tonight on 360.


COOPER: So, you pick up these two. Was there anything unusual about them? I mean, did they seem anxious or agitated?

WAGERS: No, sir. They were ready to go when I showed up and we loaded up and left. I got gas immediately and he we hit the road.

COOPER: We have these two new mugshots, which we're showing right now of them -- of George and Jennifer. They look dramatically different: The black hair she has. You say she had something wrong with her side. What was it?

WAGERS: Yes, sir. I don't know what was wrong with her at the time. But when all that was said and done in Columbus and they were getting out of the cab to go to their hotel room, she was favoring one side as if there was something wrong and when I asked her about it, you know, there was an immediate response with, "it happened in a car wreck the day prior," which jived with what we'd had go on in the area. So, I didn't really think anything of it.

COOPER: They wanted to go about 115 miles to Columbus, Ohio. What exactly did they tell you? They said something about an am Amway convention?

WAGERS: Yes, sir. I'm kind of chit-chaty with my customers. And i just, you know, real casually asked them, you know, what they were traveling for, why would they be in the cab instead, you know, of on their own or with a rental car. And, you know, the accident was mentioned and that they were involved in Amway.

COOPER: Did you buy that?

WAGERS: Not really. From prior experiences, it didn't seem right, but nothing else really alerted my suspicion. So, I didn't get concerned.

COOPER: They didn't look like your typical Amway customers, I guess?

WAGERS: Not so much that, but usually, the folks in that type of business are usually very persistent about their product. They believe wholeheartedly in it.

COOPER: So, they weren't trying to sell you any Amway products?


COOPER: Let me just ask you: You get to Columbus, you go into the motel with her. We've got the surveillance video now.

WAGERS: Yes, sir.

COOPER: You helped her check in. You let her use your name to check in. Why did you do that?

WAGERS: As we were arriving at the hotel, there was a story about a license being lost and I.D.s being misplaced because of the car wreck from the day before. Would I mind doing this. And at the time, I was just pretty much you know, "sure, why not."

You know, I really hadn't had a reason to believe otherwise, that, you know, they were up to no good. I just, I was just trying to be helpful and get back home.

COOPER: You're a nice guy. They told you they'd lost their licenses in the accident. You go home. Later that night, you drive all the way back to Kentucky and then you're playing video games, I understand. A friend calls you, tells you to turn on the news. What did you think when you suddenly saw their picture?

WAGERS: Well, at first, I didn't react right away. But I mean, they were pretty sure -- I mean, my friend, Rob Cotton, called me and he said folks that you picked up and took to Columbus, that they had found a van right around the corner from there and I needed to call the police and you know, if I wasn't involved, to at least verify that it wasn't me.

But as I spoke with the police, everybody there got real interested. And it pretty much let me know almost instantly I'd been involved in something.

COOPER: And you told them the hotel where they were and that's how it all ended. Mike Wagers, I'm glad you got out safe and sound. It could of gone much worse. I'm glad things ended the way it did. Hope you get some sleep tonight, Mike. Thanks.

WAGERS: All right. Thank you, sir.


COOPER: Let's hope he's already asleep.

Not every good guy drives a cab in stories like these. Some of them wear a badge. Here's CNN's Alina Cho.


ALINA CHO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): John Bolen says there's a saying in the U.S. Marshall Service: "Pray for the best. Train for the worst."

BOLEN: You never know. You never know. That's why you treat every situation the same.

CHO: So, when Bolen got word that George and Jennifer Hyatte were in Columbus, Ohio, at a motel off the interstate, he mobilized his team.

(on camera): So, once you got the tip, it didn't take long for you to get here?

BOLEN: No. It didn't. We were here probably in a matter of about 15 minutes.

CHO (voice-over): Once Bolen's deputies confirmed the Hyattes were hiding on the second floor in room 236-B, they secured all escape routes, then Bolen told a female deputy to call the room.

BOLEN: She -- it was very brief. She called, a female voice answered the phone.

CHO: It was Jennifer Hyatte.

BOLEN: She explained to her that there was no possible route of escape and that basically, this had come to an end. The deputy was very specific, told her not to hang the phone up.

CHO: At that point, Bolen and his team were worried about a shootout.

BOLEN: And we did believe that they were going to be armed and dangerous.

CHO: Jennifer Hyatte was the first to come out.

BOLEN: Our instructions were for her to open the door, hands raised. We then ordered her to turn around. She complied with our instruction. She stepped --- she walked backwards to the sound of our voice.

CHO: Once she was handcuffed, husband, George Hyatte, was next.

BOLEN: Regardless of how severe the accusation or the charges against him, there was a sense of -- in my opinion, there was a sense of relief in both of them. Certainly, Jennifer was very concerned with the well-being, not of herself, but of the husband.

CHO (on camera): Even though she was the one who was injured?

BOLEN: Even though she was the one that was wounded and that also gave me pause and gave me great concern. He was still inside and she was with me. And she was telling him, "Baby, it's going to be OK. "Baby, it's going to be OK." Inferring: Don't give them any trouble.

CHO (voice-over): He didn't. Both surrendered peacefully. Then they entered the motel room to gather evidence.

(on camera): It's sort of eerie being here in this room.

BOLEN: It is, actually.

CHO (voice-over): Inside, the phone, still off the hook. Empty Hawaiian Punch cans, takeout food and a bloodied mattress, probably from the gunshot wound Jennifer Hyatte suffered during Tuesday's escape. Bolen said he had a sense the Hyattes were headed north and possibly to Columbus.

BOLEN: Every prisoner, whether they have four months to do, four years or 40, at some point in time, every prisoner thinks about escaping. It's a natural instinct. As human beings, we're not geared to losing our freedoms.

CHO: Yet Bolen says the odds are always stacked against escape. They probably would have been caught somewhere. He's just proud his team did it right.

BOLEN: Success would have been just: We've got them. Regardless of what the physical outcome would have been. To me, certainly, success was gauged by not only getting them, but no one getting hurt in the process.

CHO: Just another day at the office.

Alina Cho, CNN, Columbus, Ohio.


COOPER: Well, George Hyatte has a long prison record to go with a long history of violence, but Jennifer had a different kind of history as a wife and a mother half way across the country in Utah. Here's CNN's Adaora Udoji.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) ADAORA UDOJI, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is the question about Jennifer Hyatte: how in the world did she go from a mother and nurse in Utah to the center of a murderous jailbreak in Tennessee?

ELI GOURDIN, JENNIFER'S EX-HUSBAND: Obviously, something has happened to where she's changed, because she's not the person -- that's not the person I was married to.

UDOJI: That's Eli Gourdin, Hyatte's ex-husband, the father of her three children and a long, long way from where she is now.

GOURDIN: She's a loving mother. She was a loving wife. She did -- she did everything for me.

UDOJI: Gordon was her high school sweetheart. They married out of school and had two boys and a girl. The oldest, now 12. Five years ago, their marriage was crumbling and they divorced.

Hyatte moved on to nursing and this school in Tennessee with her kids. She graduated last year, passed the state boards and earned a nursing license.

What came next is the strange turn that led to where she is today. A nursing agency sent her to work at a prison, the Northwest Correctional Complex where she met and would eventually fall for George Hyatte, a violent and habitual criminal.

GOURDIN: I really think it's his influence.

UDOJI: In fact, she smuggled food into Hyatte and was caught and then fired last November. Then in May, just three months ago, they tied the knot in a prison visitor's room.

(on camera): Another strange twist? Officials in Tennessee now say it appears Jennifer was still married to her second husband, a truck driver, the day she married the convict. It turns out the divorce did not come through until several days later.

And that takes us to the next question: How could the couple plan the escape?

(voice-over): Remember, prison officials thought the couple was married. But because of the food incident, denied them visiting rights. Officially, they could only write letters or talk on the phone. All of it monitored.

But one of Jennifer's neighbors says somehow, the two spent marathon sessions on cell phones every night. And like all prisoners, Hyatte was prohibited from having a cell phone. Is that how they conceived the plan?

MICHAEL WINGERT, U.S. MARSHAL: This would be what I think what they would consider to be out of character. I mean, she has no criminal history no prior indication she was capable of an act such as this. You know, if, in fact, she committed it. UDOJI: So that is the question: How in the world did Jennifer Hyatte get to center stage in the bloody breakout?

Adaora Udoji, CNN, New York.


COOPER: A long, sad journey, indeed.

In a moment, how a young man can take part in a murder of five people and go free without a blemish on his record.

But first, at about quarter past the hour, time for other headlines today from Erica Hill in Atlanta. Good evening, Erica.


We start off tonight with another debate in another church on gays and rights. It's all happening at the national meeting for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Delegates are debating whether to approve gays, at least gays with partners, as pastors. Church conservatives fear that changes could damage the church, straining relations with other denominations and conservative Lutherans overseas.

Meantime, British authorities have detained ten foreigners and plan to deport them as threats to national security. One of ten marked for deportation, Abu Qatada. He's a Palestinian cleric with a Jordanian passport. He's suspected of having links with radical Islamist groups all across Europe.

A federal grand jury charging Jack Abraham, a high priced and well connected lobbyist, with wire fraud and conspiracy. He's been a long-time associate of several top Republican leaders, including House Majority Leader Tom DeLay. Those charges relate to the purchase of a Florida company running Casino boats. He's already surrendered to the FBI.

And Rafael Palmeiro back in a Baltimore Orioles uniform tonight. In fact, he just finished serving his ten-day suspension after testing positive for steroids. Palmeiro says he's hoping for cheers from the fans instead of boos, Anderson.

COOPER: Don't we all want cheers not boos, don't you think?

HILL: Absolutely.

COOPER: Erica, thanks.

We'll have much more to come on the program tonight, starting with a young killer coming soon, perhaps, to a neighborhood near you.

He's a young man with a history ridden in bullets and tears and blood.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) WHITNEY IRVING, SHOOTING SURVIVOR: When you think of getting shot, you think of dying. And that was my biggest fear.


COOPER: Now, they're setting him free and wiping the slate clean. How did that happen?

Also tonight, abortion and Judge Roberts.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: America can't afford a justice...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But with little to attack, and Roberts' superb record, liberals are taking the low road.


COOPER: Not the same old slugfest: wait till you see who the real heavy hitter is.

And speaking of heavy, is your favorite restaurant killing you?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One day, something's great for you. The next day, it's bad.


COOPER: How much should the wait very to tell you about transfat? Mm, transfat.


DAVEY ROTHBART, FOUND MAGAZINE CREATOR: I can't even explain why I love this one so much. I do. It says roach spray, batteries, watermelon.


COOPER: Also tonight, the words we leave behind and the stories they tell from cork boards to car windows and a lamp post or two, the truth is out there. And we'll find it, because this is NEWSNIGHT.


COOPER: And welcome back to NEWSNIGHT. I'm Anderson Cooper.

If I told you somebody who took the part in the murder of five people was going to be set free after only serving seven years and his record was going to be wiped clean, you probably would say it couldn't happen. Well, today it did.

The killings were back in march, 1998, a year before Columbine, four children and a teacher at Westside Middle School in Jonesboro, Arkansas, were killed when two classmates ambushed them with stolen weapons.

13-year-old Mitchell Johnson and 11-year-old Andrew Golden were convicted of murder and sent to prison. Today, seven years later, Mitchell Johnson became the first of the pair to walk free with no trace of a criminal record. He can buy guns if he wants to.

Here's CNN's Ed Lavandera.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is the actual town that he's going to be living in.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And what if he comes here? You know, you could be in the Wal-Mart standing right next to him or go to the movies and sit next to him and not realize it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm sure one day in our life, we will come in contact.

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Whitney Irving and her friends are nervous. A classmate who tried to kill them is walking free and they're not sure if they can handle the answers to their questions.

WHITNEY IRVING, SURVIVOR: I want to ask him personally, have you changed? Do you feel sorry for what you did? Have you suffered like we have?

LAVANDERA: Irving was 11-years-old the day she and dozens of other students at Westside Middle School were ambushed by Mitchell Johnson and Andrew Golden.

IRVING: I mean, there's bullets going through the gym.

LAVANDERA: One of the bullets lodged in her back.

IRVING: I thought I was going to die. I mean, everybody -- when you think of getting shot, you think of dying. And that was my biggest fear.

LAVANDERA: Brandie George and two friends, Natalie Brooks and Paige Herring, thought they were being escorted out of the school for a fire drill. It was a trap. As the girls walked outside holding hands and singing, Natalie and Paige were shot dead.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'll never forget what he did to our school, our friends, our teachers. I mean, he's changed our lives completely. We don't even know when a normal life is, really.

LAVANDERA: That is what angers many people here, so many lives disrupted that the thought of Mitchell Johnson living a normal life seems unfair. Because Johnson was tried as a juvenile, authorities had to release him by his 21st birthday, his record wiped clean. The law that allowed that has now been changed.

TOBY EMERSON, JONESBORO CORONER: Try to get up there and talk to the chief.

LAVANDERA: Toby Emerson is the Jonesboro coroner. He examined the bodies of the four young students and a teacher. He says this town still struggles with what happened.

EMERSON: Through the whole process, there's very few answers. There's very little information that has been put out because of the juvenile status. And I think people are frustrated over that.

LAVANDERA (on camera): Mitchell Johnson's mother was quoted recently in an Arkansas newspaper as saying that her son wants to become a minister and promises never to live in Arkansas again. And that suits most people here in Jonesboro just fine. They'd prefer to never see Mitchell Johnson's face again.

(voice-over): Greg Slayton says there isn't a lot of sympathy here.

GREG SLAYTON, JONESBORO RESIDENT: Glad he's not coming back to Jonesboro. Too many people in this area would put a hole in him.

LAVANDERA: Many who survived the school shooting aren't convinced yet that Johnson has changed for the better.

IRVING: More power to him. But in my eyes, always going to be a killer. I mean, I don't see how you can go from being a killer to being a minister.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Especially in just seven years.

LAVANDERA: Whitney Irving and her friends found comfort talking with each other, but in the back of their minds, they know their fears will be repeated in two years, when the other shooter, Andrew Golden, is set free on his 21st birthday.

Ed Lavandera, CNN, Jonesboro, Arkansas.


COOPER: Larry Salinger is a criminologist and sociologist at Arkansas State University, located in Jonesboro. In fact, he's the father of a student at Westside Middle School. He joins us from Palm Beach, Florida, to talk about the implications of Mitchell Johnson's release.

Good to have you on the program. Can somebody go from being a killer to a preacher in seven years?

LARRY SALINGER, ARKANSAS STATE UNIVERSITY: I have no idea whether he can or can't. I guess that is between him and his supreme being.

COOPER: Do you have concerns if he did return to Jonesboro? SALINGER: I would have concerns. My son isn't a student at the school anymore, but I have concerns about what kind of life he could live in Jonesboro, as well as the wounds that would be reopened in Jonesboro, where he'd reappear.

COOPER: Should he be allowed to live a normal life? I mean, his record's going to be wiped clean. He could buy a gun if he wanted to in some states.

SALINGER: Personally, I kind of wish that he had not been released from prison. But that's what the law required. The law did wipe his slate clean, as it were. And I think that society should at least give him the chance to try to make amends, to lead an exemplary lifestyle. And if he screws up again, well, at least next time, he'll go to prison, and hopefully for a long time.

COOPER: Your perspective is interesting, because I mean, you're a criminologist, you're a sociologist...


COOPER: And yet, you're a member of this community, and your child went to this school. Are those conflict -- do you see this with different sides of your brain?

SALINGER: Sure, I can see numerous sides of it. Yes, he was a juvenile, but at the same time, he committed a very serious offense, the most serious offense that I can think of. And ideally, under the juvenile system, he's supposed to be rehabilitated now that he's been released. But at the same time, I think that a person who kills five people, that murders five people in cold blood, should not be released.

COOPER: And do you know, or does anyone know, really, whether or not he has been rehabilitated? Because of the laws, you really can't find out very much about the time he's served, what sort of treatment, if any, he received.

SALINGER: I don't know anything about whether he's rehabilitated or not. I have never met Mr. Johnson. Don't want to. And I would hope that at least the time he spent in the Arkansas system, he would have gone to school, received a GED, and worked towards becoming a good citizen, a person that we can look up to and say, hey, here's a man who's changed.

COOPER: Well, today, he...

SALINGER: But I don't know.

COOPER: And no one knows. And that's certainly what is concerning a lot of people in your community. Today, he was released. Andrew Golden will be released in about two years' time.

Larry, appreciate you being on the program tonight. Thank you.

SALINGER: Thank you very much. COOPER: Coming up on NEWSNIGHT tonight, a controversial ad about Supreme Court nominee John Roberts brings criticism from a pretty unlikely quarter.

And 40 years ago, a city burned. But were the Watts riots a political statement or just a looting free-for-all? We'll always take the complicated questions over the easy ones, well, because this is NEWSNIGHT.


COOPER: Well, when it comes to abortion and the Supreme Court, nobody spends a lot of time looking for middle ground. Most of the time, in fact, neither side budges an inch. Tonight, though, one side is backing down a bit. Not on a matter of principle, but on the not- so-small question of a television spot. The ad commissioned was by a group called NARAL, Pro-Choice America. Jeff Greenfield has more.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Supreme Court nominee John Roberts filed court briefs supporting violent fringe groups and a convicted clinic bomber. America can't afford a justice whose ideology leads him to excuse violence against other Americans.

JEFF GREENFIELD, CNN SR. ANALYST (voice-over): It was no surprise that when NARAL Pro-Choice America, a group that exists to promote abortion rights, unleashed this very tough ad on John Roberts, another group, formed to promote President Bush's judicial choices, would fire back.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: With little to attack in Roberts' superb record, liberals are taking the low road. What newspapers call a witch-hunt.

GREENFIELD: What was unusual was that, a nonpartisan Web site associated with University of Pennsylvania's Annenberg School of Communications, came down particularly hard on the ad.

Brooks Jackson, a veteran political reporter for "The Wall Street Journal" and CNN, is the director.

BROOKS JACKSON, DIRECTOR, ANNENBERG POLITICAL FACT CHECK: False is strong language, and we use it very seldom. Usually ads are misleading, twisted, distorted. But this one is just downright wrong in the total impression it tries to create.

EMILY LYONS: I almost lost my life.

GREENFIELD: Jackson's case against the ad includes the fact that the spokeswoman, the victim of an abortion clinic bombing, never mentions that the bombing occurred seven years after Roberts wrote his brief, or that the issue was a legal one, whether an 1871 law aimed at the Ku Klux Klan could be stretched to make the case that these protests amounted to sex discrimination. NARAL Pro-Choice America argued that by making the same legal argument that the abortion protesters did, Roberts was, in fact, quote, "supporting violent fringe groups. If the solicitor general's office did not intend to support the protesters," NARAL said, "the office could have chosen to intervene on the side of the reproductive health clinics, or not to intervene in the case at all." Unquote.


GREENFIELD: Anderson, there are a lot of ironies here. In the first place, traditionally, over history, it's been groups on the right that have attacked groups like the American Civil Liberties Union when they defend the constitutional rights of convicted killers or pedophiles. They say, see, you're siding with the criminal element. Here, you have a liberal group making the argument that because Justice Roberts made a legal argument about the applicability of a law, he was siding with convicted clinic bombers.

COOPER: And there were late developments today.

GREENFIELD: Yeah, well, there's one other point that is important to make, which is that as it happens, six of the Supreme Court justices agreed with Roberts. And I asked NARAL Pro-Choice America today, well, if David Souter were ever nominated for chief justice and a conservative group said Souter sided with these bad guys, would you say that was an accurate ad? And they said yes.

Now, these late developments, Arlen Specter, Republican from Pennsylvania, chairman of the Judiciary Committee and a staunch pro- choice Republican, issued a demand that NARAL Pro-Choice America pull this ad. He said it was blatantly untrue and unfair, and he condemned the notion of using Supreme Court nomination fights, as he called it, for fund-raising.

And later tonight, NARAL Pro-Choice America, in a letter to Specter, among other things, said that they're changing their current advertisement to one that examines Mr. Roberts' record on several points. They said "the debate over the advertisement has become a distraction from the serious discussion," which is an organization's way of saying they want to spend more time with their children.

I mean, they really got clobbered on this one, and I think that they realized that there was no way that they could continue making this particular argument, because it flies in the face of what so many of their allies have argued for so long, that you can't condemn somebody in the legal world for making a legal argument. You can't equate that with the bad guys who are -- who are in the arena.

COOPER: And a response ad from another group starts to run tomorrow.

GREENFIELD: But I wonder whether -- that, see, up to now, surprisingly, the expected nuclear war over this nomination has not emerged, because Roberts has not seemed to be as polarizing a figure. We may find out later, based on his record.

But what's happened here is in both -- traditionally, these interest groups use a fight like this, indeed, as a way to build their base, draw attention to themselves, and raise money. And in the case of NARAL Pro-Choice America, they made a very incendiary ad, certainly a very memorable ad, but one that people like, the most nonpartisan group you can find, just, very unusual, they said this isn't misleading, this is false. And I think they felt the heat.

COOPER: Jeff Greenfield, thanks.


COOPER: We should also note that CNN is airing ads on both sides of the spectrum. The NARAL ad aired earlier today. Beginning tomorrow, the response ad in support of Roberts by the Progress for America group will also air here on this network.

Moving on to Iraq now and some numbers. Three days left for writing a new constitution. The American death toll now 44 for this month. And in a recent poll, the president's support on Iraq hovering at 38 percent.

That said, at the ranch today in Crawford, Mr. Bush vowed not to bring American troops home prematurely. To do that, he said, would send a terrible signal to the enemy. And on that, at least, the man who had the job before President Bush agreed.


BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I thought that we should not have gone in there until we let the U.N. inspectors finish their job. That was, after all, the understanding the Senate had when it was asked to vote, the Congress, to give the president authority to go in.

But that's really not relevant anymore. We did what we did. We are where we are. Fifty-eight percent of the Iraqis showed up to vote; 1,800-plus brave Americans have given their lives there. Thousands and thousands of Iraqis have died in fighting the insurgency and trying to give their country a future.

So I think where we are now, it's important to try to continue this effort to train the security forces and the military forces, which the administration and our military have undertaken. They're good people. They're trying to do a good job, and there will come a time when the Iraqis will want us to go, and where we should go. But we've got to try to make this work. I still think there's a chance it can work. And it's the only strategy that will work.


COOPER: That was former President Clinton today on THE SITUATION ROOM with Wolf Blitzer.

It has been said that there is no absolute truth for everyone, or that there is absolute truth for everyone, some believe. Forty years ago today, a slice of Los Angeles erupted in violence. Whether you saw what happened as a riot, pure and simple, a justified reaction to a bitter past, or as a step to a better future really depended on where you found yourself in the story, where you found yourself in history. Here's CNN's Candy Crowley.


CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In a place of high unemployment and low hope, a black driver is pulled over by a white highway patrolman in a city seething along a racial divide. Alcohol is involved. It is very hot.

DARYL GATES, FORMER LAPD CHIEF OF POLICE: The call came out to what we call a Major 415. That's major disturbance of the peace. Usually, it's crowd of people who are a little bit out of control, not a riot.

CROWLEY: A small crowd gathers. Rumors of police brutality fly. Then rocks and bottles. Then fire.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everything is burning. There are fires, little clouds of smoke. I can count, offhand, two, four, six...

CROWLEY: It was 1965. Watts, a South Central Los Angeles neighborhood, exploded.

YVONNE B. BURKE, LA COUNTY BOARD OF SUPERVISORS: It was like a war. All you saw were buildings on fire. And people going, just scurrying in different places.

CROWLEY: Watts was the site of the first major racially fueled disturbance of what would be a turbulent decade in America's cities. What caused it and what came of it depends on who writes history and who lived it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We, the Negro people down here have gotten completely fed up.

CROWLEY: Yvonne Burke was a hearing officer for the police commission.

BURKE: It was a rebellion against circumstance, the fact that there was tremendous poverty. There were, as far as African-American males, there was high unemployment.

GATES: Oh, that's baloney. That's absolute total baloney. A riot is a riot is a riot.

CROWLEY: Police Inspector Daryl Gates headed up the command post in Watts.

GATES: It was an opportunity to go in and help yourself in any store you wanted to. If you wanted a new TV, go in, grab the new TV.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As the fear (INAUDIBLE), here are two kids running away from the fire.

CROWLEY: Fourteen thousand National Guardsmen were on their way by day three, overwhelming the streets.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is quite a show of strength here on Central Avenue.

CROWLEY: Enforcing an 8:00 p.m. curfew.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Anyone found in the streets in the curfew areas will be subject to immediate arrest by police.

CROWLEY: Seated on his front porch in Watts, watching the smoke curl into the sky, Joe Hicks didn't move the first time he was ordered to go into his house. Then the Guardsmen returned.

JOE HICKS, COMMUNITY ADVOCATES, INC.: And he kind of takes his M-1 and he kind of raised it a bit and said, "Nigger, I said get off the porch."

CROWLEY: No one had ever called him that. Now what had seemed to meaningless took new form.

HICKS: The riot for me got -- got abolished and/or removed, and I am seeing it as a rebellion that has political connotations. It was an uprising. It was revolution of sort.

CROWLEY: Before it was over, there were 4,000 arrests, 1,000 injuries, 34 deaths, $200 million in property damage. And Joe Hicks was a self-described black radical.

Watts spawned the Black Panthers and other militant urban groups. And with the Voting Rights Act, which passed just days before Watts exploded, more traditional doorways to power began to crack open.

BURKE: But there is no question, after 1965, there was tremendous political awakening. I was a beneficiary.

CROWLEY: Within seven years, Yvonne Burke became the first black woman from California to be elected to the U.S. Congress. In the decade after Watts, Daryl Gates went on to become LAPD's chief of police.

GATES: I think it was totally meaningless, and what it did is destroy what really was a pretty nice area.

CROWLEY: Gates, who became the embodiment of law and order, faced even deadlier, more destructive riots in 1992. He resigned later that year. And somewhere in there, Joe Hicks deradicalized.

HICKS: I think I'm, you know, a sot of pragmatic conservative in certain ways. Weighing every possible kind of angle that comes along that might provide some kind of solution. But you know, I'm through with the anger.

CROWLEY: Those six days in August changed careers, race relations, and politics. But the old neighborhood still struggles with poverty, joblessness and gangs. Over 40 years, what may have changed the least is Watts. Candy Crowley, CNN, Los Angeles.


COOPER: Well, still to come on the program tonight, New York City has already banned smoking in bars and in restaurants. Find out what is the next target for the health police. There's a little clue right there.

Also, if you haven't booked your last-minute summer getaway, take a deep breath, because airfares, they are on the rise. We're going to tell you why. From New York, this is NEWSNIGHT.


COOPER: We can safely say this would never happen in Paris, and may not work here either, in the interest of your health a city agency in New York is telling chefs to change ingredients they use. Never in Paris for two reasons. First, try telling a French chef anything. And two, it involves margarine, not butter.

Here's CNN's Mary Snow.


MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: From cupcakes to knish's, New York City's Health Department is urging an estimated 20,000 restaurants cut out the fat. Transfat, that is. Fat produced when liquid oils are turned into solid fats. It's commonly used in deep frying, and has been linked to an increase in heart disease. The city's health commissioner compares it to public health threats of the past.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Things like asbestos or lead or problems with the water. Things that are in our environment that initially we didn't realize were harmful.

SNOW: Margarine, once touted as a healthy alternative to butter, is now thought to be potentially harmful.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One day something's great for you. The next day it's bad. A few weeks later, it's the best thing for you.

SNOW: Alan Dell is thankful his deli uses beef oil and not transfat for their French fries.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's nice to be on the right side of fat at the moment.

SNOW: But not everybody is, or can afford to be, as some alternatives for transfat are more expensive. For example, many baked goods come under scrutiny for having transfat. Madge Rosenberg doesn't want the city interfering with her recipes. She thinks ingredient labels are a better often.

MADGE ROSENBURG, SOUTINE BAKERY OWNER: If people want thinks identified, I go with that. That's a good idea. Label things that are low fat, label things that are high fat as well.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Labeling is fine for grocery stores. But in the restaurants, you're not going to know.

SNOW: The city's health commissioner says at least 30 percent of restaurants use transfats. It's unclear just how many will deliver on changed menus.

Mary Snow, CNN, New York.


COOPER: Mm, transfat.

Still ahead on this program, a kiss in time, now a timeless kiss. From New York, home of that kiss and around the world, this is NEWSNIGHT.


COOPER: In a moment, a paper chase and what it says about our lives. But first, at a quarter till the hour, time for other headlines from Erica Hill at Headline News. Hey, Erica.

HILL: Hey, Anderson. Unfortunately, we're starting off with some rather unwelcome news. Oil prices. Crude oil futures reaching a new high today of $66 a barrel before closing just under $60 -- $66 that is. And they'll say high demand and shrinking U.S. inventories are fueling the surge.

Meantime, those rising fuel costs are causing some other price hikes, not just at your gas pump, but Continental Airlines saying today it's following the lead of Delta and United, raising its fares on most U.S. routes because of, you guessed it, the higher cost of fuel. Other air carriers say they're considering fare increases as well.

Well, he may not have been the first into the wild blue yonder, but he sure did make it look easy. Roy Butch Morris was the very first Navy Blue Angel, though, all the way back in 1946. He died yesterday at the age of 86.

And Edith Shane still doesn't know who gave her the famous kiss. We're going to show it to you in a moment. It was 60-years-ago in Times Square. There we go. On the day America declared victory over Japan at the end of World War II.

Well today, she helped unveil a sculpture of the smooch immortalized by "Life" magazine photographer Alfred Eisenstadt. Miss Shane now 87 said whoever the American sailor is, he fought for her and she was happy to oblige with a kiss. That's statue will be on display through Monday.

COOPER: I wonder if there was like -- they spent time together afterwards or if it was a one-shot deal. HILL: Well, you would think if they'd spent time together, she would have gotten a name at least. I mean, you should think. But you never know, in the heat of the moment, there's a lot of excitement.

COOPER: Really, Erica? Hm. All right.

HILL: I don't know from personal experience, Anderson, OK? I'm speculating.

COOPER: All right. I'll let you speculate away, dig the hole deeper and deeper. Erica, thanks.

It isn't often that a story gets a million or so people to drop everything because they want to know more. What you're about to see is one of the most widely requested items on our Web site, More than a million hits in just a few days. Tonight, we are trying for two million. Pretty big stuff for a story about, well, about the smallest of things. Here's NEWSNIGHT Beth Nissen.


BETH NISSEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Davey Rothbart went out to his car one morning a few years ago to find this angry note on his windshield written to some guy named Mario.

DAVEY ROTHBART, FOUND MAGAZINE CREATOR: It said, Mario, I hate you. You said you had to work. Then why is your car here at your place. You're a liar. I hate you, I hate you, signed Amber. P.S., page me later.

She's so upset with him, and yet she's still hopeful and in love with him.

I'd showed it to everybody I met, because I thought it was striking. But I wished there was a way to share it with more people.

NISSEN: There was. Rothbart created "Found" magazine, an annually published collection and regularly updated Web site of lost notes, tossed notes, post-its, misplaced doodles and discarded photos that he and a small staff edit together with Scotch tape and merriment in his Ann Arbor, Michigan, basement.

ROTHBART: There are so many other people who share my fascination with these little scraps of other people lives.

NISSEN: Scraps like shopping lists found on supermarket floors and in shopping carts.

ROTHBART: I can't even explain why I love this one so much, but I do. It just says roach spray, batteries, watermelon.

What these found notes capture is just the smallest moments of everyday life. There might be a list, Dennis' list, what I have to do today. You know, and you'll see all these small things. Take clothes to the dry cleaner. Return videos. And learn to live free. NISSEN: There are a lot of flyers. For rent signs, for three- bad rooms on Montrose, for-sale signs, his an hers gold wedding bands, never used.

ROTHBART: People, they still use that kind of old-school tactic, of taping up flyers all around town. And then the flyers inevitably end up blowing around the streets. People pick them up and send them into us.

NISSEN: Flyers about pets, lost and found. Lost, a cobra that answers to Psycho. This cat and this cat. Found, a pet bunny who looks like this from the front and this from behind.

ROTHBART: One of my favorite kinds of flyers are the "do you want to join my band?" type of flyer.

NISSEN: A band looking for a bass player, a band looking for a guitarist and a bass player, and a drummer and a lead singer.

ROTHBART: The kid who made the flyer, what was he going to do?

NISSEN: Another common category, notes found on windshields.

ROTHBART: The whole genre of notes is angry parking notes.

NISSEN: This was on a car illegally parked in a church parking lot. "If this persists, we'll have your towed in Jesus' name." This Yoda-like note was on a car taking up two spaces. "Inconsiderate must come to the minds of all that think of you."

Rothbart depends on a broad range and a growing number of volunteer finders across the U.S. and outside it. Ground gazers, he calls them.

ROTHBART: Kids as young as 6 years old have found stuff and sent it in. People as old as 96. Teachers. Kids are great at losing things, and the stuff that teachers have found and sent it to us are priceless.

One of my favorite kinds of notes are the ones that seventh graders might write in class back and forth to each other.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Omg, I'm in science and it's so retarded. Sexual reproduction. Ew!

NISSEN: Many found notes are written by those clearly out of that ew stage.

ROTHBART: So many of these notes seem to revolve around love and relationships.

NISSEN: Expressing perfect and imperfect love.

ROTHBART: I'm always struck by just how short a note can be, and still give you such a powerful sense of somebody and what's going on with them. NISSEN: Like this pro and con list, apparently written by a woman trying to decide between Andrew and Paul.

ROTHBART: Bad things, Andrew, crazy. Paul, crazier. And then the good things, Andrew, sex; Paul, money.

A lot of the times, I think a lot of the notes that you find are someone just kind of sorting out their thoughts about something.

NISSEN: There are found letters from 1928. Photos from 1952. E-mails from 1999. There are warnings, hints, and a flyer that just advertises "Steve."

ROTHBART: Some of these found notes are hilarious. They're crazy. Some of them are really sad. Some of them is someone apologizing. Any emotion that's ever been felt in this universe has been expressed in a note that's probably been lost and is blowing down the street right now.

NISSEN: Waiting to be found.

Beth Nissen, CNN, Ann Arbor, Michigan.


COOPER: That's a great piece by Nissen.

Still ahead, the picture of the day. What is that? Goodness.



RICHARD NIXON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Sometimes I have succeeded, sometimes I failed.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This week in history, the political scandal known as Watergate resulted in President Nixon's resignation, effective August 9th, 1974.

NIXON: I shall resign the presidency effective at noon tomorrow.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: On August 13th, 1995, baseball legend Mickey Mantle lost his life to cancer.

And in 1998, the twin bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania claimed more than 200 lives.

And that is "This Week in History."



COOPER: Picture of the day, what is it? What is it? It's an orangutan, celebrating the 100 days before the APEC meeting, of course. What better way to celebrate. That's NEWSNIGHT. Good night.