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LA Archdiocese Settlement; Army Reservist Protesting Fifth Deployment

Aired July 15, 2007 - 17:00   ET


FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: And in a moment, we'll hear remarks from Archbishop Roger Mahony. As part of the agreement, the church is to hand over confidential files that might shed light on potential cover-ups involving church officials.
A short time ago, Archbishop Mahony attended a hastily scheduled briefing with reporters. CNN's Kara Finnstrom was there and she joins us now live with some of his remarks. Kara?

KARA FINNSTROM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the Cardinal Roger Mahony holding that press conference, he said, to express his personal feeling. As you've mentioned -- We've got some church bells going off in the background. Many of the legal details will be released tomorrow. But the cardinal is saying that he hopes that the record settlement will help some of the alleged victims find some closure.


ROGER CARDINAL MAHONY, ARCHDIOCESE OF LOS ANGELES: Once again, I apologize to anyone who has been offended, who has been abused in the Catholic Church by priests, by deacons, religious men and women or laypeople in the church. It should not have happened and should not ever happen again.


FINNSTROM: The cardinal was asked repeatedly if he felt he'd made mistakes, if he felt he should be held criminally responsible to all of this. To that, he answered that that would be up to the D.A. to decide. He also mentioned that he felt he had reached his spiritual bottom at numerous points in all of this, that nothing he did seemed to be right. The settlement today, at least the legal end of what's been a five-year-long saga for this church.


FINNSTROM (voice-over): Parishioners flocked to mass Sunday in Los Angeles as word spread of the archdiocese's record settlement, $660 million to 508 people who have accused priests of sexual abuse.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think that culprits need to be taken into justice just like anybody else, whether they are priest or not priest.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't believe that all these claims are legitimate, and those that are, they should forgive. FINNSTROM: The settlement, which attorneys tell CNN will be finalized Monday, is by far the biggest payout in a child molestation scandal that's rocked the Roman Catholic Church.

MARY GRANT, ALLEGED VICTIM: No resolution, guilty verdict or settlement magically takes away the pain of having been raped and molested by Catholic priests in this archdiocese.

FINNSTROM: Mary Grant is an alleged victim herself and heads up SNAP, the Survivors Network for those Abused by Priests. The group held a press conference late Saturday where alleged victims expressed mixed feelings about any settlement.

ESTHER MILLER, ALLEGED VICTIM: It means that Mahony decided, for a purely business decision, to settle this so that he wouldn't stand in front of God and colleagues and the media in a courtroom and tell what he knew and be culpable.

FINNSTROM: That's Cardinal Roger Mahony, head of the L.A. Archdiocese. Church attorneys had been scheduled to appear on Monday in the first of 15 civil trials brought by alleged victims, with the possibility Mahony would testify. Mahoney had long fought releasing the confidential files of accused priests, but church attorneys say under the agreement the archdiocese will no longer contest their release and a private judge will mediate any objections from individual priests.

Part of the reason the L.A. Archdiocese has seen so many lawsuits, in 2003, the state legislature responded to outrage over the national scandal by lifting the statute of limitations of filing child abuse lawsuits for one year. They could be filed regardless of when the alleged abuse occurred. By year's end, 500 suits had been filed.


FINNSTROM (on camera): And to give you an idea of how far reaching the scandal is in this city, a survey by "The L.A. Times" found that at least 75 percent of the parishes in the archdiocese at least at one point were served by one of the clerics accused of molestation. Fredricka?

WHITFIELD: Wow. Huge numbers. All right. Kara Finnstrom, thanks so much.

Let's talk a little bit more about this and what the settlement means. Joining us now from New York, John Allen of the "National Catholic Reporter," he is our CNN Vatican analyst. Good to see you.


WHITFIELD: All right. When you hear of these numbers, this being the largest settlement to date at least in this country involving the Roman Catholic Church, who pays for this? Is it that archdiocese alone, or does the Vatican kick in some money to help?

ALLEN: No, that would certainly be the fondest dream of the church in Los Angeles, but the Vatican simply does not have the kind of assets that would be required to address something like this.

Who will pay? That basically is - the money will come from three sources. First will be the insurance companies that insured the archdiocese for most of the period that these lawsuits cover. Secondly will be a number of religious orders, groups of priests and religious women who work in the archdiocese, who also had members accused of abuse. But the principle tab will be picked up by the Archdiocese of Los Angeles itself.

And of course, Cardinal Mahony has indicated plans to do things like selling off the headquarters of the archdiocese, which is a skyscraper on Wilshire Boulevard. It's a very expensive piece of real estate.

And he's indicated he's going to try to do as much as he can to make sure it doesn't affect the delivery of pastoral and humanitarian services.

That's a real question mark here, Fredricka, because the real tragedy of all this would be if the people of the archdiocese, including a rapidly growing number of recent immigrants and poor people, Hispanic and Asian backgrounds and so on, end up in some sense picking up the tab for a mess they had no role in creating.

WHITFIELD: Hmm. And let's talk about there was at least one parishioner in that piece, Kara's piece, as well as an abuse victim who says that this settlement means that Cardinal Roger Mahony is kind of off the hook. He was scheduled to be the first one to testify what he knew, how long he knew it, et cetera.

How much of a save-face kind of move was this for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles to avoid the embarrassing testimonies of whether it be the cardinal or anybody else involved in the Church?

ALLEN: Well, that's been the pattern in a lot of this litigation, that there's a kind of game of chicken that goes on up until the day when the trial begins and that's typically when settlements occur. The Church has been very reluctant to see bishops, whether it's Mahony or anybody else, sitting in the witness box in open court and having to answer these kinds of questions.

But I think there's another factor here, too, which is that Cardinal Mahony has aspired to a role as a national leader in immigration debates. You'll recall a few months ago during those massive protests in Los Angeles on behalf of immigrants, Mahony was very much in the forefront of all that activism. I think the calculation has been that it would be very difficult for him to wrap himself in the mantle of moral leadership. So I think that was a factor here as well.

WHITFIELD: We're talking about $2 billion in settlements involving a number of dioceses across the country, how close are we to seeing a bankrupt Roman Catholic Church? How hard of a hit are $2 billion in settlements?

ALLEN: Well, it's obviously an astronomic amount of money. There are already five dioceses in the United States that have filed for Chapter 11 protection. I don't think the Archdiocese of Los Angeles is likely to go that route. It's the largest, the fastest growing and one of the wealthiest dioceses in the country. It probably can weather this storm.

But whether or not there are other diocese that are going to have to look at this, you know, is an open question. On the other hand, you know, I think it has to be said that Catholics in the United Dtates typically are enormously resilient about this kind of thing, and, you know, in the long run, the Catholic Church is not going to put a "going out of business" sign on the front of its churches and simply close up shop. It will get through this but it will mean a significant financial hit and it will also mean probably reduced services to people who need it the most.

WHITFIELD: All right, John Allen of the "National Catholic Reporter," thanks so much, as well as an analyst for CNN.

ALLEN: You're welcome.

WHITFIELD: And now at the bottom of the hour, we will speak with a plaintiff in this case, Steven Sanchez. He is a member of a victims' support group. He is scheduled to testify at the trial which was to begin this week. All of that will not happen anymore now that there is a settlement, we want to get his reaction coming up.

Overseas now, a major turn of events in Pakistan. America's troubled ally in the war on terror, Islamic fighters in a lawless region have ended a truce with the government, a series of attacks this weekend have killed at least 70 people, including Pakistani troops and police.

Western officials have criticized the truce. Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf helped create it last year, and critics say his government has let the region become a base for al Qaeda.

Well, today a White House official said the Pakistani leader is taking steps to address that problem. National security adviser Stephen Hadley spoke with CNN's Suzanne Malveaux. He was also addressing reports that say al Qaeda is on the rise.


STEPHEN HADLEY, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: Al Qaeda is nowhere in the position today that it was before 9/11. And it's nowhere in the position that it would have been had we not been working hard on this problem for the last five or six years. But what we've been seen in the last year or so is a problem in the northwest territories in Pakistan where President Musharraf had a very aggressive strategy of using force against Taliban and al Qaeda in that area. And over a year ago, he reached an understanding with tribal leaders that they were going to police Taliban and al Qaeda.

And the truth is, it did not work. What we've seen pooling of the Taliban, training, operational planning. President Musharraf understands it has not worked. We understand it has not worked. And what you're beginning to see now is his taking steps to bring new troops in place to get control of that situation.


WHITFIELD: Hadley also said the new videotape that shows Osama bin Laden is a reminder that al Qaeda remains a threat.

Holding firm on Iraq, the Senate is set to resume debate on the war in Iraq tomorrow. And despite a flurry of course-correcting proposals, President Bush insists he is still calling the shots. CNN White House correspondent Ed Henry joins us now from Washington.


ED HENRY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello, Fred, you're right. With that Senate debate restarting this week, the White House is lobbying furiously against a new Republican plan that would put pressure on the president.


HENRY (voice-over): The president is on the defensive over a plan by two senior Republicans, John Warner and Richard Lugar to limit the mission of U.S. troops in Iraq. So national security adviser Stephen Hadley tried to shift the focus to what the plan does not do.

HADLEY: If you listen to Senator Warner and Senator Lugar, things they're not calling for, they're not calling for an arbitrary withdrawal schedule.

HENRY: Yes, but the Republican duo is demanding that the president come up with a new plan in October that would begin redeploying U.S. troops by the end of the year, a serious intra-party challenge to the commander in chief.

SEN. JOHN WARNER, (R) ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE: We're co-equal branches, the president and the Congress, and we just have to sometimes slug things out.

HENRY: Trying to stave off that slugfest, the White House is pleading for patience until September, when General David Petraeus submits a progress report on the military surge.

HADLEY: Congress in May set out a schedule and a structure for that process of consideration. And it begins in September.

HENRY: But Democrats insist that process actually began last week with a preliminary report showing some progress on security but few gains from the Iraqi government.

SEN. JACK REED, (D) ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE: Without a political solution, our military efforts will buy time but not success.

HENRY: And veteran Republicans like Senator George Voinovich are telling the president's inner circle time is running out. CNN has learned that in a phone conversation last week, Voinovich told top aide Karl Rove the president's plan is on the line and the way to save it is to come up with a workable plan to pull out troops as soon as possible.

SEN. GEORGE VOINOVICH, (R) FOREIGN RELATIOSN COMMITTEE: I do want to put the pressure on that the sooner we can exit there in a sensible way, that we ought to be doing that.


HENRY (on camera): Now, in private, Senator Voinovich is a little more blunt, using a profanity to describe the White House's handling of Iraq, charging the administration, quote, "blanked up the war."

And while Voinovich is giving the White House until September, he is privately warning if there is not a dramatic strategy then, he will endorse a democratic plan mandating a timeline for withdrawing U.S. troops. Fred?

WHITFIELD: All right, Ed, another heated week in Washington over the war in Iraq.

HENRY: That's right.

WHITFIELD: All right.

Well, imagine being deployed to Iraq again and again and again. Coming up in a few minutes, we'll have the story of an Army reservist who is fighting his fifth deployment overseas. He filed a petition this week in federal court against the Pentagon, but he's packing up just in case.

And final farewells. Lady Bird Johnson was laid to rest today in her beloved Texas Hill Country. Relatives and friends were on hand this afternoon as the former first lady was buried next to her husband at the LBJ ranch. Earlier thousands of admirers lined the streets of Austin, Texas. Some people waved wild flowers as the funeral procession passed by. Lady Bird Johnson leaves a rich legacy as a political wife, businesswoman and environmental activist. She died Wednesday at the age of 94.

And there are no words to describe one woman's frustration. Coming up in the NEWSROOM, she says she was raped, but she wasn't allowed to use that term in court.

Also ahead, how to junk a nuclear reactor. A look at what must be done to take North Korea's main facility offline.

And Christmas in July in sizzling Phoenix. Man and beast get a cool treat. You're with CNN, the most trusted name in news.


WHITFIELD: Other news across American now, in Wyoming police are searching for a man who may be a trained sniper. David Munis is a member of the Wyoming National Guard. Authorities believe he shot and killed his estranged wife as she sang at a local bar and then he fled.

A Texas zookeeper is recovering today after a very close encounter with a tiger. Dozens of visitors to the San Antonio Zoo watched in horror yesterday as a tiger mauled the zookeeper inside the cage. The zoo was evacuated as a precaution but zoo officials say the public was never in any danger.

And a woman fell to her death last night at a Christian music festival in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. Witnesses say the victim plunged 50 feet from a bungee-like ride called Air Glory. The unidentified woman died a few hours later at a local hospital.

And in Washington State, the new Tacoma Narrows Bridge is open for business. The mile long span was five years in the making. Its predecessor was nicknamed Galloping Gerty but is better remembered for its spectacular 1940 collapse. Often called the most dramatic failure in bridge engineering history.

UN nuclear inspectors are on site today at North Korea's main nuclear reactor. Their mission, find out if it really is offline, as Pyongyang told the world yesterday. But you don't just shut off a reactor with the flip of a switch. CNN State Department correspondent Zain Verjee has some answers on how that's done and a few questions as well.


ZAIN VERJEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is ground zero, the focus of the standoff with North Korea. The Yongbyon nuclear reactor, old and unsophisticated, but the source of plutonium used in North Korea's nuclear bomb keeping. John Wolfsthal has been to Yongbyon and knows how to shut it down.

JON WOLFSTAHL, CENTER FOR STRATEGIC AND INTERNATIONAL STUDIES: They have to do it careful, obviously, but there's nothing technically holding up the shutdown of the reactor.

VERJEE (on camera): But it's not as easy as flipping a switch. Here's how you do it. Say this mug is a reactor. And these red markers are fuel rods that contain radioactive material.

Now, to stop the nuclear reaction, you've got to put in what are known as control rods. It's kind of like you're pouring water on to a fire. Then you remove these fuel rods and place them in a nearby pool. And what that does is it cools the fuel rods down, as well as provides a place of storage.

(voice-over): The question is, what happens to the fuel rods, which can be reprocessed to produce plutonium. It's not clear what North Korea plans to do with them. Once the reactor is empty, the U.S. hopes it will be disabled.

WOLFSTHAL: Some people want to pour cement into the reactor so that it can't operate. Others want it taken apart down to the studs. We still don't know what the North Koreans are prepared to do to go and disable that facility. VERJEE: A team of nuclear inspectors are on the ground to begin monitoring the Yongbyon complex shut down. It's the first time they've been there in four and a half years. But one question still nags weapons experts. When push comes to shove, will North Korea really be willing to give up its plutonium? Zain Verjee, CNN, Washington.


WHITFIELD: With more than 500 cases of clergy sex abuse cases pending, a settlement, Catholic officials in Los Angeles settle on a settlement, the dollar amount a historic sum. More on the payout and what the recipients are saying, straight ahead in the NEWSROOM.

JACQUI JERAS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: I'm meteorologist Jacqui Jeras in the CNN severe storm center. Stormy nights across the Northeast and some major airport delays as a result of that. We'll tell you who's all being affected along with a new tropical storm in the eastern Pacific. It's coming up.


WHITFIELD: All right, so this didn't exactly fall out of the sky. It more likely came out of a truck. But it's still cold and it's cool. The Phoenix Zoo brought in 50 tons of shaved ice yesterday for their annual winter in July celebration. We understand the African wild dogs loved it. The rhino, however, didn't think it was all that cool. Jacqui Jeras in the weather center, I think everybody would love that.

JERAS: I love that! I want that here.

WHITFIELD: I'm sure someone can arrange that for you.

JERAS: I bet it was the brain child of one of those Midwestern transplants. They're all over the place there in Phoenix missing that snow. They don't get much in the winter.

WHITFIELD: That was cute. I liked it and the kids liked it too, of course.

JERAS: I'm sure they had a lot of fun but it didn't last very long though, either, 102 ...

WHITFIELD: It's hot.

JERAS: Yeah, 102. Check it out, right there.


WHITFIELD: Love those reminders. We want to know. Thanks a lot, Jacqui.

JERAS: Sure.

WHITFIELD: Well, facing years and years of litigation, Catholic officials in Los Angeles decide to pay millions and millions of dollars instead. The latest on the clergy abuse settlement coming up.

And a Nebraska judge bans the word "rape" in a rape trial. An assault on plain language or an effort to ensure the defendants get a fair trial as well? We take the case straight ahead in the NEWSROOM.


WHITFIELD: Half past the hour, here's what's happening. Near Baghdad's Green Zone today, a car bomb went off, killing 10 people and wounding 25 more.

The truce between militants and the Pakistani government appears over with two more bomb attacks today, killing at least 31 people. This follows yesterday's suicide car bomb assault which killed 24 Pakistani soldiers.

And a final good-bye for a former first lady. Lady Bird Johnson was laid to rest today in her native Texas right next to her late husband, President Lyndon Baines Johnson. Lady Bird passed away Wednesday from natural causes, she was 94.

Six hundred sixty million dollars, that's what the Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles has agreed to pay 508 people who, as children, were sexually abused by priests. Here's what we know right now. The payout is the biggest by far in the church's sex abuse scandal. It means the cases won't be tried in court. The first of the trials was to be scheduled this week. Some of the abuse allegations date as far back as the 1940s.

The settlement calls for the release of priests' confidential files as well. The archdiocese says Cardinal Roger Mahony will be in court tomorrow morning to seek a judge's approval of the settlement. Some victims have accused Mahony of not properly dealing with abuse complaints. The cardinal gave a press conference just about an hour ago, and here's what he had to say.


CARDINAL ROGER MAHONY, L.A. ARCHDIOCESE: So many of the victims told me in various ways that even though the cases are resolved, even though they're receiving some compensation, there really is no way to go back and give them that innocence which was taken from them. It is the one part of the settlement process that I find the most frustrating because the one thing I wish I could give the victims, I cannot, and that is a restoration to where they were originally.


WHITFIELD: And while the settlement is large, some victims will say it will never buy back their childhood, just as the cardinal was underscoring. Steve Sanchez was a plaintiff whose case was set to go to trial tomorrow. He joins us now from Los Angeles.

Good to see you, Steve.

STEVE SANCHEZ, FACILITATOR, SNAP: Nice to see you. Thank you. WHITFIELD: So Cardinal Mahony said this settlement marks the end of one journey and perhaps a new chapter beginning. Is that how it feels to you?

S. SANCHEZ: Well, I wouldn't say it's a new chapter. I mean, just because you have a settlement and give the abuse victims, including myself, some compensation, that doesn't erase the emotional scars and damage that has happened to all of us. Like he said, you know, whether you give me a check for $10 or $10,000, where can I take that check and cash it in someplace to make me 10 years old again?

I just don't think that can happen. And these are tragic things that happen to all these victims in the archdiocese. And no amount of money can compensate any of us for what happened.

WHITFIELD: So that recovery can never happen. So what does this settlement do for victims like yourself?

S. SANCHEZ: Well, it hopefully provides some part of the closure. Unfortunately, the cardinal has dragged this on for a good five or six years now. And should -- where we are at today or tomorrow with the settlement, could we have been here four, five, six years ago? Yes, we could have, had the cardinal wanted to come -- been outright and come forward and settle all these claims or do what he needed to do to get the process. He has dragged all along.

WHITFIELD: And had this gone to trial, the cardinal would have been among the first to testify. Do you believe the timing of this settlement on the eve of when jury selection was to begin was, I guess, a pre-emptive move to make sure Cardinal Mahony and, perhaps, others high up in the clergy would be able to avoid that kind of embarrassing testimony?

S. SANCHEZ: Absolutely. It was -- our case, me and the other plaintiffs whose trial was supposed to start tomorrow morning at 9:30, of course, we were going to go through the process of picking a jury, but the first witness to take the stand in our case was scheduled to be Cardinal Mahony.

WHITFIELD: And then you, too, were scheduled to testify. Were you, in part, kind of looking forward to sharing your story?

S. SANCHEZ: Yes, absolutely. I've spent the last couple of months emotionally getting ready to take on this case and go forward and fight the church to expose both the cardinal and all the hierarchy in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.

I've gone through the deposition process with the church attorneys, with the expert witnesses that we've had to go through. It has been a -- I feel like a fighter that's ready to go on to a prize fight. And I've been training. And I'm sitting in the room ready to go take the battle on, and the door got shut.

WHITFIELD: So you're almost disappointed.

S. SANCHEZ: Pardon me? WHITFIELD: You're almost disappointed?

S. SANCHEZ: I'm sorry...

WHITFIELD: You're also disappointed in actually not testifying because of all this training, as you put it, the preparation that you had put yourself through?

S. SANCHEZ: Yes, I'm disappointed that I wasn't allowed to get my day in court. You know, at the same time, it's better for all the -- there's a strong group of victims who have been active, you know, a dozen, two dozen victims that are really out there who want to take on the church and have their case heard among a jury of their peers and take on...


WHITFIELD: So how helpful will it be in part, or satisfying that as part of the settlement, also these documents which might reveal a little bit more about who knew what and when would be made public along with this settlement?

S. SANCHEZ: Well, we have to really play it all out and see what happens with the documents. If we go back to the Orange County settlement that happened a year-and-a-half or so ago, part of that agreement was the settlement of the monetary issue and also they were going to allow all the documents to be released.

I was in the courtroom the day after the settlement announced. About a month later they had another hearing where they were going to release all the priest personnel files and air everything out in the public.

And really, if I remember correctly, any priest who objected to his individual file -- in other words, the archdiocese was allowing -- made an agreement that they were going to release all the files, but on the actual date of release in the files, if any individual priest who had an attorney there objected to the releasing of his file, the judge honored that request. So...

WHITFIELD: All right.

S. SANCHEZ: ... you know, I don't know if all these files are really going to be released.

WHITFIELD: I understand. All right. Steve Sanchez, thanks so much for your time and thanks for the courage to tell your story.

S. SANCHEZ: Thank you. Have a great day.

WHITFIELD: Well, innocent until proven guilty? The words are the very bedrock of our legal system. But in Nebraska, one woman says a judge has taken that to an offensive extreme, by banning the word "rape" from her rape trial.

More now from CNN's Carol Costello. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Pamir Safi is on trial for the second time, accused of raping Tory Bowen. His first trial ended with a hung jury after a war of words. Safi's attorney had convinced Nebraska Judge Jeffre Cheuvront to ban words like "rape," "sexual assault," "victim," and "assailant," arguing they might influence the jury.

And that ruling applied even to Safi's alleged victim, Tory Bowen.

TORY BOWEN, ALLEGED VICTIM: I was mortified. I didn't know what to do. My first question to Pat (ph) was, can I say this in a different language? I didn't think that the judges had that authority to ban what happened from me in the courtroom.

COSTELLO: At the first trial, Bowen testified for 13 hours without violating the judge's ban, but this time around she wanted to be able to speak freely, so she went public and women's rights groups backed her up with a public protest.

ANGELA ROSE, VICTIMS' RIGHTS ADVOCATE: We're just not going to stand for it. So they have got the scarves over their mouths to show that victims should be given free speech.

COSTELLO: Banning words isn't unheard of. The judge in Kobe Bryant's rape trial banned the word "victim" to describe the woman accusing Bryant of rape.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: The use of the label "victim" assumes that a crime took place. And it's the jury's job to decide whether a crime takes place, not the witnesses.

COSTELLO: But the Nebraska judge's order went a lot farther. His ruling not only applied to witnesses, but to the alleged victim's testimony. Bowen says the ruling left her with few words to adequately describe what happened to her, so she refused to sign a court order forbidding her to utter words like "rape," even though disobeying such an order could bring a contempt charge with jail time, a fine or both.

BOWEN: What happened was rape. Sex means consent. And what happened was not consent.

COSTELLO: Safi's attorney is frustrated, too, he was eager to prove his client's innocence, and says the judge's ruling was correct.

CLARENCE MOCK, DEFENDANT'S ATTORNEY: Trials should be deliberations based upon reason and the facts and the law, not about who can think up the most juicy terms to apply.

COSTELLO: As for where Bowen's case goes now, her lawyers are going to try to move the case out of the Nebraska.

Carol Costello, CNN, New York. (END VIDEOTAPE)

WHITFIELD: A horrific accident and a horrifying possibility. Five teens killed in an instant, five families shattered. And police say text messaging may be to blame. You're with CNN, the most trusted name in news.


WHITFIELD: We've all heard about the dangers of talking on a cell phone while driving. Well, now police in New York say text messaging on a cell may have played a role in a horrific car crash that left five teenagers dead.

CNN's Jim Acosta reports.


JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Bailey Goodman and her four teenage friends were on a late-night drive to her parents' vacation home in western New York when their SUV suddenly swerved into a tractor-trailer head-on. In an instant they were all gone. The accident late last month came just five days after they graduated from high school, where they had won a national cheerleading championship.

SARA DASTIN, FRIEND OF CAR CRASH VICTIMS: There's no words to describe what -- the feelings and emotions that you go through when you're told that your best friends aren't coming back.

ACOSTA: How could so much promise be lost so suddenly? Investigators say Bailey, who was technically breaking the law by driving at night on a junior permit, was attempting to pass another car on a two-lane road, all while her cell phone was in use.

SHERIFF PHILIP POVERO, ONTARIO COUNTY, NEW YORK: Cell phones are a distraction and could be a contributing factor in this accident.

ACOSTA: As Bailey was driving, police say, her cell phone had sent and received a text message just 38 seconds before the first call came in to 911 reporting the teens had been in an accident. Because there were no survivors in the SUV, investigators will never know if it was Bailey doing the text-messaging.

POVERO: The records indicate her phone was in use. We will never be able to, you know, clearly state that she was the one that was doing any text-messaging.

ACOSTA: Driving while texting is a relatively new danger on the roads. Only one state, Washington, will ban the behavior outright beginning in January.

ROBERT SINCLAIR, AAA, NEW YORK: Well, imagine what you have to do when you're texting. You need two hands to operate the device. So, automatically, one hand is not going to be on the steering wheel.

ACOSTA: For the sheriff investigating the crash that killed Bailey Goodman and her friends, it's just common sense.

POVERO: As we drive a motor vehicle, we need to constantly remind ourselves that this is our -- this is our main and only responsibility.

ACOSTA: A responsibility that's too often forgotten with tragic consequences.

Jim Acosta, CNN, New York.


WHITFIELD: So, so sad and, of course...


WHITFIELD: Have you?

R. SANCHEZ: Oh yes.

WHITFIELD: Don't do it anymore.

R. SANCHEZ: Well, who hasn't? I mean, you've never spoken on the phone while you're driving?

WHITFIELD: Text messaging.

R. SANCHEZ: And have you ever like returned a BlackBerry message, like a yes or no?


R. SANCHEZ: I have.

WHITFIELD: Have you?

R. SANCHEZ: Yes. I'm not saying I'm proud of it.


WHITFIELD: Cut it out. Don't do it anymore. It's not good.

R. SANCHEZ: You're right. You're right. It's crazy. But we're all doing this. We're like technology-crazed in this world.

WHITFIELD: I know. What's going on?

R. SANCHEZ: Cindy Sheehan. You ready? I knew you were going to ask that. There's a reason...

WHITFIELD: So we can gab about other stuff.

R. SANCHEZ: There's a reason we're still like the kids. Cindy Sheehan is going to come on tonight at 7:00. And there are two questions, one, is she really going to go after Nancy Pelosi? I mean, is this just something that just gets quoted or is it the truth? And is she going to have a definitive answer to that question when I ask her? Interestingly enough, she does.

And then there's a question of her telling me during our interview, she says I'm going to Iraq. I'm thinking, you're going to Iraq? Cindy, this is not something that you will probably come away winning like. Because you remember "Hanoi Jane," the whole Jane Fonda, courting the enemy. So we get into that whole discussion and she...


WHITFIELD: So she describes in what capacity she would be going to Iraq.

R. SANCHEZ: She says she's going to Iraq to help the refugees who have lost their homes as a result. And she goes on to explain. But you know, it's a fine line. It's a fine line.

WHITFIELD: Well, she likes to be on the edge a little bit. You stir things up.

R. SANCHEZ: Well, you've noticed. And then we're also going to talk Ed Koch. Is the Bush administration too beholden to the pro- Israel faction within the administration? Is that part of the reason that they're in some of the trouble they're in with al Qaeda, with Iraq? And who better to talk to about that than Ed Koch? He has got a new book out, it's called "The Buzz." And he addresses that very topic very personally.

WHITFIELD: Oh, OK. Good. Well, we haven't heard from him in a while.

R. SANCHEZ: Oh, he's a fun guy.

WHITFIELD: So it's nice to -- yes. It will be good to hear from him, because he'll say whatever he wants. That you can expect.

R. SANCHEZ: Right. What a personality.

WHITFIELD: Agree or disagree, he will say whatever he wants. All right. Thanks a lot, Rick.

R. SANCHEZ: Thanks, Fred.

WHITFIELD: As will you on occasion, I must say.

R. SANCHEZ: I hear.

WHITFIELD: All right. Thanks a lot.

All right. Well, an Army Reservist taking on the Pentagon now in court. Why? Because this will be his fifth deployment overseas, and he says his family needs him more than Uncle Sam does. A soldier's fight Stateside, coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) WHITFIELD: An Army Reservist is fighting to stay out of the fight overseas. Eric Botta has already been deployed to Iraq three times and Afghanistan once. But the prospect of a fifth deployment has sent him to federal court.

Here with the story, Marci Gonzalez from our Florida affiliate WPTV.


MARCI GONZALEZ, WPTV REPORTER (voice-over): This home, this marriage, this comfortable life are what Eric Botta has worked for in the three years since ending his active duty in the Army.

ERIC BOTTA, ARMY RESERVIST: Imagine if all the sacrificing you've put forth and what you've trying to do for the last three years are just taken.

GONZALEZ: Nearly taken by a letter telling him he'd be redeployed overseas for the fifth time.

BOTTA: My heart dropped down to the floor.

GONZALEZ: After one deployment to Afghanistan and three to Iraq, Botta says he has done his part. He filed three appeals to the military, asking permission to stay home to continue his job and finish school. The appeals were denied.

(on camera): So Botta filed a petition at this U.S. district court on Thursday against the Pentagon, hoping a federal judge will stop his deployment.

(voice-over): Since the Pentagon hasn't responded, Botta is packing up his SUV. He will check in at Ft. Jackson, South Carolina, late Sunday afternoon where he will begin training

BOTTA: We have to do it the right way. I could have gone AWOL. That's not the right choice. The right choice is to follow proper channels and follow proper litigations.

GONZALEZ: But some argued Botta knew he could be deployed even in inactive duty.

BOTTA: There's a lot of people that are angry and that are upset about this, saying, suck it up.

GONZALEZ: Botta says he is not afraid of battle, but instead of guns, his lawyers are now his weapons to defend his personal freedom to stay here at home.


WHITFIELD: Well, how about this prospect. Say an armed robber barges into your home and threatens you. So what do you do? So you pull the cork, tip the bottle and pour. Maybe even throw in a little cheese? It actually worked on one guy. Fighting crime one sip at a time, straight ahead in the NEWSROOM.


WHITFIELD: And now, a would-be robber with a taste for fine wine, great food and good company. It's a story right out of a screenplay, but it's not. This tale is true, and here to tell it, CNN's Zain Verjee.


ZAIN VERJEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Xavier Cervera took his dog out for a walk as his guests were winding down a dinner party last month on his patio, sipping French wine and nibbling cheese. Almost as soon as Xavier left, his party was crashed by an armed, hooded gunman who had burst through an opened patio door.

XAVIER CERVERA, HOMEOWNER: I usually latch it when I leave. That evening, I did not. And so they were all sitting, spread out in the courtyard, and he just kicked the gate in.

VERJEE: The intruder pressed his gun against a 14-year-old's head, saying, give me your money or I'll start shooting. Then Xavier's guests did something extraordinary.

CERVERA: They offered him some food and wine, which he accepted, which I assume really helped.

VERJEE (on camera): The wine or the cheese?

CERVERA: Probably both. But maybe the wine more so.

VERJEE (voice-over): Then someone hits a sore spot.

CERVERA: One of them said to him, your mother would be ashamed of you. And apparently, that really toned him down. He became a little morose upon hearing that, and he said his mother was no longer alive.

VERJEE (on camera): The attacker took down his hood, had a little bit more wine, helped himself to some cheese. Then he tucked away his gun and looked around and said, maybe I've come to the wrong place.

(voice-over): William Chambliss is a professor of sociology at George Washington University, and says that comment by the gunman was revealing.

WILLIAM CHAMBLISS, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY: "I think I came to the wrong place." He came to the wrong place because these people were so nice and because they treated him like a human being. He couldn't really go through with the robbery.

VERJEE: Chambliss says treating the gunman with dignity was the key. And for the intruder, getting hugs was important, too. First, he wanted individual hugs. Then, a group hug.

(on camera): And after the group hug, he just turned around and left. Just the same way that he came.

CERVERA: Yes, thanked them again and apologized again. And went on his way.

VERJEE (voice-over): Police told The Washington Post it was strange but true. A suspect still hasn't been found. Only the crystal glass he left with.

Zain Verjee, CNN, Washington.


WHITFIELD: So we will actually hear more from the family saved by the wine, they will recount their story live tomorrow on CNN's "AMERICAN MORNING," starting at 6:00 a.m.

Still much more ahead on CNN. Next on "LOU DOBBS THIS WEEK," the perplexing case of two Border Patrol agents who go stiff prison sentences for trying to stop a drug smuggler.

And at 8:00 Eastern, "CNN'S SPECIAL INVESTIGATIONS UNIT" goes inside the murderous mind of the "Criminally Insane."

I'm Fredricka Whitfield, "LOU DOBBS THIS WEEK" starts right now.