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Taking a Post-Racial Look at Crime; Tom Arnold Stars in Film about Child Abuse
Aired December 02, 2008 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JANE VELEZ-MITCHELL (voice-over): Tonight, outrage over the Hudson and Pressly murders continues, even though cops have made arrests. America is entering a post-racial era. But I`ll show you the shocking role race is playing in these cases. And I`ll take your calls on race and crime in America.
Plus, now that we`re officially in a recession, will the Big Three get their bailouts? Spanked over using fancy jets the last time, the begging CEOs are now showing up to Congress in hybrids. But have they really learned their lessons?
And after shooting himself in the leg, NFL superstar Plaxico Burress went to a celebrity hospital to help him cover up the injury. I`ll look at this, and other outrageous cases of special celebrity treatment, to find out why they get away with it.
These issues, and more, tonight.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: The Big Three fat cats drop their private jets. So will Congress reward them with a bailout this time? I`m going to tell you whether Detroit deserves your tax dollars.
Plus, star NFL receiver Plaxico Burress shot himself in the leg at a nightclub, and then tried to cover it up. I will be taking your calls on celebrities getting special treatment for their stupidity.
But first, on this show, we`ve been bringing you the very latest developments in two separate and horrific murder cases that occurred within days of each other.
On October 20, Arkansas anchorwoman Anne Pressly was brutally beaten in her home by an intruder. Her parents say she was also sexually assaulted. She died without ever regaining consciousness. Twenty-eight- year-old Curtis Vance has been charged in this case.
Then, just four days after Pressly was attacked, three members of Oscar-winner Jennifer Hudson`s family were shot to death in Chicago. Twenty-seven-year-old William Balfour, the estranged husband of Jennifer`s sister, has just been charged with three counts of first-degree murder.
Both stories have been the subject of incredible media attention.
But you`ve got to wonder, would the Hudson murders be in the spotlight if Jennifer Hudson weren`t a big star? What if celebrity Jennifer was just an unknown African-American woman in Chicago? Would we be talking about it? Probably not.
Would the Pressly murder have gotten as much coverage had she not been a pretty white TV anchorwoman? Probably not. How much does celebrity and race determine coverage? How much does celebrity and race determine outrage?
Here is my issue tonight. We, as a society, should be outraged by all murders, regardless of the race of the victim, regardless of the race of the killer, regardless of the social status of those involved. A victim is a victim. A murderer is a murderer.
Both the Pressly and the Hudson cases are horrific murders, of innocent people who did not deserve to die. So let`s be outraged. But let`s be outraged for the right reasons: not because of the color of the victim`s skin or the perpetrator`s skin. America is entering a post-racial society, and we need to start taking a post-racial look at crime.
Joining me now, Mark Sawyer, associate professor of political science at UCLA and director of the Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity. And Judge Jeanine Pirro, former D.A. and host of "The Judge Jeanine Pirro Show." And Morris O`Kelly, author of the nationally-syndicated online column, "The Morris O`Kelly Report."
Morris, your latest column focuses on these two murders, and how race may have affected the coverage and outrage over each. Explain what you mean when you say they`re the big elephant in the room.
MORRIS O`KELLY, COLUMNIST: Well, there`s a fundamental misconception when we talk about these cases. You say that we`re entering a post-racial America, when in fact, if we look at the election of Barack Obama, the elevation of Barack Obama as an individual does not fundamentally change how black people generally and black men, specifically, are viewed.
There is a history in this country of a fear of the black man in terms of how black men and interracial crime is -- is conceived. Now, if we look at the history, where you can`t talk about interracial crime and not also acknowledge the baggage that`s attached.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, let me -- let me ask you this. I just want to ask you, are you possibly projecting your own stereotyping onto this situation? Because in the entire Pressly case, nobody to my knowledge has mentioned race whatsoever: not the parents, nobody. So you`re actually the one who`s bringing this issue to the surface.
O`KELLY: I don`t think you can honestly have an intellectually honest conversation with Anne Pressly and not acknowledge the history of this country. When you talk about Anne Pressly, you have to also talk about Emmett Till. You have to talk about Susan Smith. You have to acknowledge the campaign against Harold Ford in Tennessee. All these things impact the discussion of race and the perception of black men in America.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Look, I want to bring Mark Sawyer, associate professor of political science at UCLA. You are an expert in race. Do you feel that there is a racial component in terms of the discussion, or the outrage surrounding this murder?
I can tell you that I am outraged over the Pressly murder, outraged that this woman`s face was beaten in to the point where her bones were sticking out, that her mother had to find her that way. But it had nothing to do with the fact that the perpetrator, or the alleged perpetrator, is African-American.
MARK SAWYER, ASSOCIATED PROFESSOR OF POLITICAL SCIENCE, UCLA: Well, Jane, any thinking person is always outraged by these cases. But one of the things that we found when we do studies is you see that, when whites see coverage where there`s an African-American criminal, they`re more likely to support more punitive measures.
Also, when they see crimes and murders and they didn`t even see a suspect, we did a study at UCLA. Forty percent of them remember seeing a black suspect. They strongly connect. It`s a nightmare for the African- American community, the way they connect African-American men and crimes together, even when the story isn`t -- doesn`t have that connected into it.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, Jeanine Pirro, former district attorney and judge, in this case, tragically, this is the suspect, the person arrested in the murder of Anne Pressly. What`s your take on whether there is a racial component or not? Is this something that`s being projected onto a story, or is it something that people just aren`t talking about publicly?
JEANINE PIRRO, FORMER D.A.: I`ve got to tell you, Jane, this is being projected. The truth is that the Pressly case was in our, you know, in the front of all the newspapers because she was an interesting woman, who was on television, and everyone was wondering, was she killed by a competitor? Was she killed by a stalker? Who was she killed by? It was really a question of whodunit, how does someone get killed in a situation like this.
And no one knew it was an African-American until five days after she died. So no one can assume that race had anything to do with it.
And by the way, the whole premise of this, that race is relevant, is belied by the fact that you`ve got African-American victims on -- in the Hudson family, and you`ve got Anne Pressly, who was a Caucasian. This is not about race. It has nothing to do with race.
The Hudson case is about domestic violence. And Anne Pressly is about a beautiful woman who was on television, and who was killed, and everyone wanted to know who did it.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, let me add this. And by the way, a reminder: we are taking your calls at 1-877-JVM-SAYS. That`s 1-877-586-7297. We want to know what you think about this entire issue.
Pressly`s parents were on "The Today Show" yesterday. Listen to what her mother told Matt Lauer.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PATTI CANNADY, ANNE PRESSLY`S MOTHER: Six weeks ago this morning, I found my daughter beyond recognition, with every bone in her face broken. Her nose broken, her jaw pulverized so badly that the bone had come out of it. I actually thought that her throat had possibly been cut. But that was possibly the first knockout punch. Her entire skull had numerous fractures from which she suffered a massive stroke.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Mark Sawyer, does the sheer brutality of this murder, combined with what the parents say was a sexual assault, suggest that this could be a hate crime?
SAWYER: I don`t think so. I mean, there`s no evidence of that. And these cases, these details are just absolutely shocking. I mean, it`s terrible. And as an African-American man, I always get upset. I mean, we see these crimes, and we say, we hope the perpetrator wasn`t black, because we understand that when these things happen, despite a lot of our success and the things that we do, a lot of people ascribe these kind of crimes to the community in general, rather than thinking of it as bad individuals.
I`m not responsible for this guy, and neither is anyone. So I don`t disagree with what Jane said.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Jeanine, ten seconds.
PIRRO: Yes, yes. Hate crimes are when someone, a victim is targeted because of the color of their skin, their religion, their ethnicity. If you`re saying she was targeted because she was white, then that`s a hate crime. But if she was targeted because she was beautiful and because she was a reporter and because he knew her and was obsessed with her...
VELEZ-MITCHELL: He didn`t know her. According to authorities, they described this as a random robbery. And a lot of people in this community say, "We just don`t buy it."
PIRRO: Now, the reason why I raise the question, Jane...
VELEZ-MITCHELL: The reason I raise the question is that there was such viciousness in the execution of this crime against an apparent stranger. That is the definition of hate, if I`ve ever heard it. I think sometimes rape can be a hate crime. It`s a crime against hate, vis-a-vis gender.
PIRRO: Yes. And gender is a category in many states. But the fact that she was so brutally murdered speaks to a personal rage and a personal somewhat obsession with a woman like this. It`s not just that -- you know, most murders are not as brutal as this was.
PIRRO: It suggests that maybe there was something.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: But what -- what is this man, and we have to take a break. But think about this question, what was this man so -- allegedly, so angry about that he would perpetrate this on a stranger knowing nothing about that person except their appearance?
Stay right there. I will have much more on the tragic Hudson and Pressly murders. Do you think race is playing a role in these cases? The outrage or the coverage? I will be back with your calls at 1-877-JVM-SAYS. That is 1-877-586-7297. It is time for you to sound off on race and crime in America.
Back after the break.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: NFL star Plaxico Burress shot himself in the leg and then tried to cover it up by going to a celebrity-friendly hospital. I`ll have the very latest on this and other outrageous cases of celebrities getting special treatment.
But first, we are back looking at crime in America through a post- racial lens, focusing on two horrific recent murders: first, the murder of Arkansas anchorwoman, Anne Pressly, and second, the tragic triple homicide of Jennifer Hudson`s family members. Is race a factor when it comes to how we react to these cases?
Back with me, my fabulous panel: Mark Sawyer, director of the Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity at UCLA; Judge Jeanine Pirro, former D.A. and host of "The Judge Jeanine Pirro Show"; and Morris O`Kelly, author of the nationally-syndicated online column, "The Mo Kelly Report."
And let me say that I am speaking and analyzing this case and discussing with you as a person of color myself, a woman of color. I`m Puerto Rican. I know what it`s like to be a minority. So we are all approaching this issue through our own glasses, as it were.
And -- and as far as I`m concerned, I believe that bigotry and prejudice isn`t about one particular race attacking another particular race, it is a very primitive mindset that we, as a human race, need to evolve beyond.
The phone lines lighting up.
Erica in Alabama, your thought or question, ma`am?
CALLER: Yes, my question is, do you honestly think -- let`s take O.J. Simpson, for instance...
CALLER: Can you hear me?
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes, I can. Go ahead.
CALLER: I have a question.
CALLER: Let`s take O.J. Simpson, for example. Do you honestly think, if Nicole Brown Simpson had not been white, would O.J. Simpson`s trial been on the TV the way that it was every day for months? I mean, it was ridiculous. I don`t think there`s any African-American woman that has been killed that has gotten that type of treatment.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Let`s talk about that, Jeanine Pirro. The larger issue, a very valid one, because the O.J. case is a vortex that we could get into. But the larger issue is, yes, there is something actually called the missing white woman syndrome, where focus on pretty white women in glamorous, exotic locales gets a lot of coverage. Do you think that that`s a fair criticism?
PIRRO: Well, you know, I think that the O.J. case in particular was on television, because if you`ll recall, Jane, in 1994, when that crime happened, and the trial, I believe, started in 1995, there was -- there were laws being passed in many states which allowed for the televising of criminal cases.
Now, O.J. Simpson was big enough that I don`t know that it mattered what the race of the victim was. But I think that there is some legitimacy, that it`s really more -- in terms of the caller`s question, I think it`s more about celebrity. I mean, you know, Jennifer Hudson is a celebrity. O.J. Simpson is a celebrity. This is really about...
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Morris, what do you think?
O`KELLY: Well, if you`re going to mention O.J. Simpson, you have to look at it in terms of there`s still an anger against O.J. Simpson now that is unprecedented. Why is he more of a social pariah in 2008 than Robert Blake, when ostensibly both of them are equally guilty as the day is long? But there`s still more concern with O.J. Simpson. Why is that?
PIRRO: Well, I`ll tell you why it is, because O.J. Simpson was so guilty, it wasn`t funny. There was more...
O`KELLY: And Robert Blake was not?
PIRRO: Wait a minute. We had DNA. We had footprints. We had everything in this case. Both men were acquitted of the criminal charges, and both men were found responsible in the civil cases.
PIRRO: But there are some cases that is overwhelming. And that was the case with O.J. And that`s the problem. It had to do with the evidence and not the race.
O`KELLY: That`s a failure of the prosecution.
PIRRO: I agree.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: I think, also, in the Robert Blake case, for better or for worse, the victim was far less sympathetic. She was a woman who had been described as a grifter, and who had been involved in various unsavory activities.
SAWYER: Her life is equally valuable, is it not?
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Absolutely. I`m not saying...
O`KELLY: He was guilty, was he not?
VELEZ-MITCHELL: I`m saying that`s part of the explanation for the coverage that some people have offered.
Clara from South Carolina, your thought or question, ma`am?
CALLER: Yes. I do not believe that this is racially motivated. I`ve been a victim. I`ve been listening to some of this war against women. I believe our problem is people don`t take it serious. The lawyers, law enforcement.
I mean, I`ve tried everything I can to bring it forth within my own state. And I`ve seen things that really shocked my conscience. We all have to realize, violence is violence, and when you go to law enforcement, they need to assert the truth, find the truth, and let`s get the situation resolved.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: You know, I could not agree with you more.
Mark Sawyer, in this case, I think perhaps the biggest outrage is that -- and I`m talking about the Anne Pressly murder -- the man who was charged with that is also a suspect in a rape that occurred back in April, and it took them seven months to get the DNA back on that first case.
And a lot of people, women feel, hey, that`s -- that`s a crime against women. In other words, that the segment of the population, the demographic that`s really suffering here isn`t one particular race; it`s a gender. And that`s women.
SAWYER: Yes. One in four women in America are victims of sexual assault. It`s a huge problem, and it`s one that we don`t talk about. And in fact, one of the things that`s true is that most women are victimized by people they know. Most violent crimes committed by someone they know.
So the rapist is as much likely to be someone who`s sitting in the cubicle next to you as it is a stranger, like the -- like the case in Arkansas. And so we have to do something about it. And in some ways these kinds of cases, where the details are very salacious and extraordinarily violent, hide the really silent, deadly thing that`s going on with one in four women being victimized.
PIRRO: And law enforcement`s failure, Jane, to prioritize and to move along the DNA of these rape kits is really a problem, because many of these rapists are career criminals. They`re serial rapists. And if we were able to identify them quicker, then there would be fewer victims down the road.
And make no mistake, the DNA data base, CODUS, that we have, which only recently has been enacted, which is what allows us to connect these rapes together, which is what happened in Anne Pressly`s case.
PIRRO: There was a teacher raped by the same person, the same DNA.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes. And let`s face it: that woman was living for seven months not knowing, waiting, trying to find out who did this to her. And that person, the man who was accused of it, lived in the same small town outside Little Rock. It`s awful.
Alan in Florida, your thought or question, sir?
CALLER: Well, I just have a comment. This conversation, the debate between whether race or celebrity is the bigger issue. I think without question, in comparing O.J. Simpson to Robert Blake, it`s all about celebrity.
Robert Blake was an actor and a celebrity. But let`s face it, a famous football player and an actor, O.J. Simpson, was a million times more famous and well known. That`s why the outcry with his case received a lot more attention than Robert Blake.
Well, I would just say this, as we wrap up. Thank you so much for that, I would like to say -- and our panel is absolutely fabulous. I hope you come back. We need to continue this dialog. We need to really look at a new way of dealing with crime.
Let`s get to the underlying causes. Let`s talk about education. Let`s talk about prevention. Let`s talk about peaceful conflict resolution for kids in the schools. That`s what we need to be talking about.
Morris, Mark, Judge Pirro, thank you.
Up next, Tom Arnold joins me for a brutally honest discussion of his childhood trauma as a victim of sexual abuse and how it shaped his role in his shocking new movie, "Gardens of the Night."
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Tom Arnold is known for making us laugh. But in his new movie he takes a much more serious turn. Arnold, who has openly discussed his childhood abuse at the hands of a babysitter, is now playing the role of a molester in the film "Gardens of the Night." Take a look.
TOM ARNOLD, ACTOR: Your Daddy asked us to take you. There`s been a problem at the water company.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I`m going home.
ARNOLD: They ain`t there, honey.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Where are they?
ARNOLD: Get in, and I`ll explain.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Come on, Leslie, get in the car.
ARNOLD: Your Daddy`s in some trouble. He had to leave Wilmington right away.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Where`s my mom?
ARNOLD: She went with him. She went straight from work.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why didn`t they take me?
ARNOLD: Because he asked to, because it was urgent. We`re going to take you to him, so come on, let`s go.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: That gives me the chills, just watching that. I am joined now by Tom Arnold, comedian, actor and star of the new movie "Gardens of the Night."
Tom, first of all, I want to applaud you for having the courage to confront this issue. You recently opened up to "People" magazine and spoke about being abused as a child. So how does the trauma you endured as a little boy affect your approach to this very disturbing role?
ARNOLD: Well, it was the reason I opened up and discussed it, even. People -- you know, Daniel Day-Lewis, a great actor, he plays a carpenter, he becomes a carpenter and then he plays a carpenter. And some guys, I talked to Kevin Spacey about this, say if they play a cop, they`ll ride around with a cop. And you can`t really do a ride-around with a potential pedophile.
So the director, Damian Harris, has been trying for 20 years to write this film. Everybody from Leonardo DiCaprio to Christian Bale has been attached to it. And finally got a chance to get it made. But the one piece they needed is the real bad guy.
And John Malkovich is the good guy. And so I asked him for tips. I said, "You know," before I agreed, I said, "tell me the guy`s back story. Tell me something so I can," you know -- they had nothing.
And so I realized that I`ll just play the guy that molested me, you know. Play him to a "T." I`ll show how nice he was, how manipulative he was. And that`s the final piece of my puzzle.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Just to understand, you actually hired a private investigator...
VELEZ-MITCHELL: ... and tracked this guy down who molested you and confronted him. He was an adult, obviously, at that time. What was that like? What happened?
ARNOLD: Well, the first thing I did is go back to Center Avenue in Ottumwa, Iowa, and found some of the kids I grew up with and confirmed some things.
And then I found out that he lived in another town. He was a big leader in his church. He and his wife had adopted several boys. And he also ran a big company.
So with my therapist, you know, you don`t want to -- I don`t recommend just going -- you know, just going to confront somebody, because my therapist was afraid I`d beat him up and I`d be arrested. And the statute of limitations was gone. I tried to get him arrested. They couldn`t do it. He was about to adopt another boy. It was -- it was -- so finally I was ready.
I flew into Des Moines. I found him, went to where he works. They recognized me when I came in the door. I said, I want to surprise him. He came down the hall. The second he saw me, he knew why I was there. And I start my spiel, you know, about "giving you back the pain and shame you caused me as a kid. And if you tried to do that to me now" -- but anyway, he kept coming.
And he got right up to me, and he stuck his finger in my chest, and I swear, I felt like I was 4. And I could smell the room he took me into. And I could, you know, the fear that I had of him at that time. And then I snapped out of it, and grabbed his arm and said, "You know, I`ll break your `F-ing` neck if you ever touch me again."
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Tom, I know that this took incredible courage to do this movie. And again, hats off to you for confronting your demons and doing it in such a creative way that can hopefully help other people, and show parents, this is what to watch for, because they`re everywhere.
The movie is called "Gardens of the Night." It`s in theaters right now. Make sure to go and see it.
Tom Arnold, thank you very much.
We`ll be back in a moment.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: NFL superstar Plaxico Burress shoots himself in the leg, and then finds a celebrity hospital to help him cover it up; just the latest example of celebrities getting special treatment for their stupidity. From Lindsay Lohan to Robert Blake, I`ll take a look at the most outrageous cases of special celebrity treatment.
Got an opinion on celebrity in America? Call 1-877-JVM-SAYS, that`s 1-877-586-7297. And tell me why you think these celebs always seem to get away with it.
Your calls and your outrage about celebrity double standards in just minutes.
But first, $34 billion; that`s how much the big three automakers now say they need to help them survive this bleeding economy. That is $9 billion more than they were looking for just a week and a half ago. What the heck is going on here?
General Motors, Ford and Chrysler are giving their restructuring plans to Congress, hoping to win the political support for the bailout they need. But this time some of the CEOs will make the eight-hour trip from Detroit in hybrid cars, instead of private jets.
Joining me now, Ali Velshi, CNN`s chief business correspondent. Ali, I guess it took a little while for that message to sink in to those tin ears in the Detroit`s executive suites. But apparently, after their really embarrassing refusal to lower their salaries during their last jet-fueled bailout visit, all three CEOs have now agreed to work for $1 a year and they cut other luxuries.
My question to you is, is this deathbed conversion to humility too little, too late, or could these symbolic gestures actually soften hearts in Congress?
ALI VELSHI, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: It may soften hearts in Congress. You`re exactly right, that what it may do, might be overkill actually, because the point is, what they`ve got to fix is much bigger than that. Ford has actually said it`s going to sell all five of its corporate jets.
Fundamentally though, the plans that are put forth, particularly by GM and Chrysler, don`t seem to go far enough to actually changing the auto industry as you have many times said it needs to be changed. It`s not the auto industry of the future.
The fact that the American auto industry might start to copy what Honda and Toyota have done in terms of fuel efficiency isn`t going to be enough. Because really, Jane, why would that cause you to buy an American company when they`re late to the game, an American car? They need some wholesale changes.
Now, some of them are wholesale. GM is talking about the possible layoffs of 31,500 people. But fundamentally, what is going to be the difference in what they produce and are we going to -- is the world going to want to buy it. That`s the question that hasn`t been sufficiently answered.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, you know, Ali, I think that we all have to think outside the box on this one.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: When you look at the debt, GM reportedly owes creditors $45 billion.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Ford owes more than $26 billion. So that`s far exceeding even what they`re asking for. Has anybody suggested, A, either bailing out, one, the strongest --
VELEZ-MITCHELL: And focusing on that and putting all the money in a concentrated area, --
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Or perhaps merging all three?
VELSHI: Yes, I mean, Ford is the strongest of the three, there`s no question about that. Because several years ago, when this started to hit, Ford took the decision that they are going to downsize, they`re going to become a more efficient company. They`re the closest to, in fact, of that $34 billion, Ford is asking for a provision for $9 billion but they`re actually saying that their targets are such that they don`t even think they need to access the $9 billion. So Ford is probably in the best position to do that.
The problem here, Jane, is that what do we do to change this industry? What do we do to make the American auto industry a leader? Is it about fuel efficiency? Ford`s going to invest $14 billion in it.
GM really needs the money just to stay afloat. And Chrysler is not a public company, so we don`t get to dig into those books as clearly as we would like to. What is going to change? What is going to make you want to go out there and buy an American car over a Toyota?
I mean, let me tell you about a Toyota. You don`t buy those just because they make the Prius. You buy it because it`s reliable.
And if they make a hybrid car, you probably think that`s going to be reliable, too. There`s some cache in driving a hybrid car made by Toyota, but what are the American companies going to represent in 2009 and beyond? That question hasn`t fully been answered yet.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Absolutely. And I have to full disclosure, I`m on my second Prius. I had the first the version and I have a more recent version. And it is a fantastic --
VELSHI: But you have to have a premium for having it, and particularly under $2 a gallon gas, you`re doing it because it`s good for the earth. And you think maybe that`s the future. We don`t know whether that`s the future or electric cars are the future, or hydrogen cars are the future. But the bottom line is shouldn`t Americans lead that future as opposed to playing catch-up by their automakers.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: But here`s my question to you, can they catch up because the technology in that car is very advanced.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: And let`s face it, the big three, have been dragging their heels on hybrid technology.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: I mean, I think it`s kind of insulting to our intelligence that they`re now showing up in their hybrid vehicles at Congress after they resisted doing anything to reduce global warming for years.
VELSHI: Right, I think the message may have been heard loud and clear. Ford has very legitimate hybrid cars that work very well. I drive them when I`m in New York and I take a cab, we get into the Escape. It`s a hybrid and it does very well.
GM is working on getting this Volt out by 2010. That`s a fully electric car. I don`t actually care whether the end result is a hybrid or electric car or hydrogen car, I just like America to be at the cutting-edge and the front edge of that thing, and not playing catch-up.
But if we`re going to finance them through a bailout with taxpayer money, I`d like to have a better plan to say, what is the future going to look like and how are you going to represent that. Toyota and Honda took a real lead in saying this is what we are going to represent as the future.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Absolutely. And I have to say, thank you so much to your analysis it`s always brilliant. And it breaks my heart, because I spent years in California. I`m in New York right now.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: But everywhere you go, you see those pumps for the electric cars that they killed back in the `90s. And if they hadn`t done that boy where could we be?
VELSHI: We have to be proactive. Americans have to be proactive, it will cost a little more. It always does to be green and to be in the cutting edge. But in the end it could be the right decision for us.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right, thank you so much, Ali. And I hope to see you again soon.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: From a bailout to a cover-up, it turns out Plaxico Burress, the superstar New York Giants receiver who caught that touchdown pass to win the Super Bowl, may have received some special treatment. That, after he accidentally shot himself in the thigh with an illegal handgun at a Manhattan nightclub. The hospital staff at New York Presbyterian where Burress was treated allegedly failed to notify police of the gun-related injury. Bad, bad, bad. Because state law requires that they do so.
The Giants also reportedly did not tell the cops about the incident. The Giants didn`t tell them. Police first learned of this shooting, want to take a guess how they learned about it? Watching TV. Ouch!
New York Mayor, Michael Bloomberg, is furious. He says Burress should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. He is currently out on $100,000 bail after being arraigned on two separate weapons counts on Monday. The Giants superstar due back in court on March 31st. His team isn`t waiting. The Giants just fined and suspended Burress for the rest of the season.
But short of firing him outright and putting him in jail, which would happen to any of us, is he getting special star treatment?
My guests tonight, Drew Findling criminal defense attorney, and Vicki Roberts, celebrity attorney and talent agent.
Vicki, you and I have worked many celebrity cases together. You`ve represented many stars in trouble. And full disclosure, I`ve chased you outside the L.A. courthouse, up and down the street with a microphone. From your experience, do you think Burress will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law, which could mean, oh, many, many years in prison, 3 to 15 on each of the two counts? Or will he get a slap on his $35 million Super Bowl wrist?
VICKI ROBERTS, CELEBRITY ATTORNEY: Let`s remember, he`s got a really good attorney with him, and that counts for a lot. So I think that he`s going to be prosecuted properly and appropriately. As to whether or not he ultimately ends up doing a plea deal that we have to wait and see.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Oh, please.
Come on, Drew. What do you think is going to happen to this guy?
DREW FINDLING, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, I think they`re going to prosecute him. But remember that the concealed weapon violation is usually a tag-along violation. It usually comes with an armed robbery and assault. It`s not very often you have an imbecile like Plaxico Burress that shoots himself in the leg while his gun is in his pocket. So that makes this case unique.
Whether or not he`s going to get to any time in jail, I really don`t think that`s going to happen. But I do think with the watchful eye of the nation on this case, they`ll seriously prosecute it.
VELE-MITCHELL: Well, I mean, you have to wonder, is this career suicide? This guy just signed a $35 million, five-year contract.
ROBERTS: Ok. Not the brightest bulb in the chandelier. We all know that.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Going out with a loaded gun after signing a $35 million contract? It`s just astoundingly self-destructive behavior.
But you know what, the hospital is also quite self-destructive. New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg really lashed out at the hospital that treated Burress for failing to notify police about the gun wound. Take a listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL BLOOMBERG, NEW YORK CITY MAYOR: I think also it is just an outrage that the hospital didn`t do what they are legally required to do. It`s a misdemeanor. It`s a chargeable offense. And I think that the district attorney should certainly go after the management of this hospital.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. The hospital has admitted this failing. But since it is state law to report gunshot injuries to the authorities, my question to you, Vicki, should the hospital be prosecuted, and if so, how do you prosecute a hospital?
ROBERTS: Well, you can prosecute the person that was responsible for it. And you can also prosecute a hospital; as to what will be the punishment, that`s a different story. They`ll probably be fined.
But the question that really comes to my mind is, this is such an outrage. Was somebody paid off not to make that phone call? And I think that`s going to be part of the investigation.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes, and you know what another crazy thing, some estimates say that most NFL players, and I hope this is not true, carry handguns with them. It`s kind of a thing to do.
They say reportedly these people who claim that that`s the case, and I have no independent confirmation, obviously, that this is something they do because they feel threatened and they`re in the public eye.
But you know, that`s not the way to handle it.
Hang tight, panel. I`m going to be back with your calls from home on the Burress case; another outrageous celebrity behavior.
Call 1-877-JVM-SAYS; that`s 1-877-586-7297 and tell me what you think? Do you think celebrities are getting away with way too much? Tell me about it. Next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL BLOOMBERG, MAYOR, NEW YORK CITY: I think it would be an outrage if we didn`t prosecute to the fullest extent of the law particularly people who live in the public domain, make their living because of their visibility. They are the role models for our kids.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELEZ-MITCHELL: That is New York City`s mayor, blasting NFL star Plaxico Burress for this weekend`s shooting incident. Celebrities are supposed to be role models to our kids but are often the exact opposite. They seem to live in a separate reality of red carpets, caviar and no consequences.
Critics claim, for example, that Lindsay Lohan could have faced many years in prison for her now infamous high-speed chase. At the time witnesses claim she commandeered a car with two people inside, ran over someone`s foot and went on a high-speed chase before being caught with drugs in her purse. She served zero jail time.
Nicole Richie was sentenced to four days after driving the wrong way on the freeway, under the influence of drugs in 2007. She served 82 minutes; 82 minutes behind bars. Ooh, that hurts.
Enough with the star treatment for these so-called stars. I want to hear your outrage on this issue. Call 1-877-JVM-SAYS; that`s 1-877-586- 7297 with your questions and comments. Do celebrities get the red carpet treatment when it comes to their criminal activity? Call me now.
Back with me, Drew Findling, criminal defense attorney and Vicki Roberts, celebrity attorney and talent agent. The phone lines, boy, a lot of people have something to say on this.
Dionne in Texas, your thought or question, ma`am?
DIONNE, CALLER FROM TEXAS: I think it`s the same type of treatment that the rich white kids get from your local hometown. She`s on drugs, you know, the parents cover it up. You know, the mayor, or whatever they do for the city, they cover it up.
It`s no different from being in high school. It`s no different from being in college. You have money, that`s how you take care of it. If you had money, your child was in trouble, what would you do? If you had money and you were in this type of trouble, you would get a good lawyer to get out of it. The Lindsay Lohan case and this case is two totally different cases though.
Lindsay Lohan, Nicole Richie, Paris Hilton, they`re ridiculously out of control. They should be in prison somewhere. But Michael Jackson --
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Dionne, I have to say, you are a very wise person. You took the words out of my mouth.
Drew Findling, she makes an extraordinary point. Let`s face it, a lot of rich people do drugs, they never get caught, because they`re not doing them on the streets.
DREW FINDLING, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: She brings up a great point. I think we have to look at it differently. That is, these folks that have money, whether they`re stars or regular people, what they do is they set a standard.
Let`s look at the individuals in Duke Lacrosse. Thank God their families had money, because they were innocent and wrongly prosecuted for political gain by Mr. Nifong. And thank God they had the money to defend.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: What about all the poor people who don`t have those lawyers who are falsely accused?
FINDLING: Jane, we`re setting a standard.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: That`s the problem with our system.
FINDLING: We set a standard. And that standard needs to be met, so that public defenders and appointed counsel around this country can just give as much --
VELEZ-MITCHELL: It doesn`t happen.
VICKI ROBERTS, CELEBRITY ATTORNEY AND TALENT AGENT: It doesn`t happen.
FINDLING: Hey, they`re going against the state and federal government who always have the money. Nobody has more money than state prosecutors and federal prosecutors, because you and I --
VELEZ-MITCHELL: You`re proving my point. The federal prosecutors and state prosecutors have a lot of money. The poor defendants who don`t have any money, boy, they really don`t get a break in the courtroom.
FINDLING: That`s right.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Hakim in Texas, what`s your thought or question?
HAKIM, CALLER FROM TEXAS: This Plaxico Burress thing is taken way too much time. He was wrong with the gun, granted. But he didn`t do a criminal act on anybody. So Bloomberg saying he should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law is outrageous because there are normal citizens who have done crimes with guns who have not served time in New York.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes, but Hakim, he had a gun illegally. He didn`t have a permit for the gun. Mayor Bloomberg has made gun control a huge issue in New York City, which is why it`s one of the safest cities in the United States.
All right. So why don`t you take that on, Vicki Roberts.
ROBERTS: A crime is a crime is a crime. And I don`t think we`re saying that there`s selective prosecution here. But certainly there`s going to be people that get away with crimes and people that are prosecuted. And there may appear to be inequity in it, and in some cases there is.
Each case has to be taken individually and separately. In this case, if proven, he did break the law.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Judy, from Pennsylvania, your thought or question, ma`am?
JUDY, CALLER FROM PENNSYLVANIA: Well, I just want to tell you, hats off to Mayor Bloomberg, and hats off to you, Jane because it`s the same thing. If poor people did things like that, too bad for us. But because they`ve got money, once again, he will get away with things. And there are role models for our children.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, I thank you for your comments.
Now, Drew, we do know cases that involve celebrities, that once the attention of the world is focused on it, and everybody knows what`s going on, the powers that be can`t give them a free ride because everybody`s watching.
If you take a look at the Paris Hilton case, that was a perfect example where, you know, she was sent to jail, and then Sheriff Lee Baca said, oh, you can go home sick. And the entire world erupted in a frenzy. And the judge said basically, no, you`re going back to jail.
FINDLING: Well, I think that`s right. I think it does bring that type of checks and balances. And I`ll take it a step further. That is, there are times when prosecutors get too zealous, because they realize in this lotto mentality, they look at O.J., and look at two mediocre prosecutors that are multimillionaires because of their faulty prosecution.
So a lot of times you`ll see a prosecutor like Mr. Sneed in the Michael Jackson case who was laughing and giggling when he announced the Michael Jackson indictment, that`s the way certain prosecutors are going to be.
Look at what happened, again, with Kobe Bryant, some prosecutors are excited about their opportunity for fame and fortune.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: I could talk about Michael Jackson for an hour. Let`s go to Ron in North Carolina. Your question or thoughts, sir?
RON, CALLER FROM NORTH CAROLINA: Basically I just find it amazing whenever a young black athlete, entertainer or someone of status does something as a mistake; we want to prosecute them to the full extent. It`s just overwhelming.
And we laugh because of the fact we don`t look at the fact of Paris Hilton and all the other celebrities, we say give them the minimum amount of punishment. So it`s not fair.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: So you`re saying essentially -- and respond to this, Vicki -- this caller is saying it`s celebrities who are white get off easy, but the celebrities who are African-American don`t get off easy. Do you see that?
ROBERTS: Well, I think some people would argue about that concerning O.J. Simpson trial number one. I mean, that sort of belies that argument. No, I think every case has to be taken individually, and I don`t think that we can really assess one situation on one case to another case. In this particular case, I don`t see it as a race-based prosecution.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. Well, I have to say that everything aside, guns can kill. So that`s the moral lesson there. Thank God they didn`t.
Back with your calls on celebrities getting special treatment. Call me next.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: We`re back taking your calls in the wake of the Plaxico Burress shooting incident and asking do celebrities get the five- star treatment that you and I don`t get?
With me, again, Drew Findling, criminal defense attorney and Vicki Roberts, celebrity attorney and talent agent.
Chris from Pennsylvania, your thought or comment, ma`am.
CHRIS, CALLER FROM PENNSYLVANIA: Hi, this is about Plaxico Burress. I believe that these high-profile, young millionaires should probably carry a gun for protection, but do it legally. A lot of them have bodyguards to protect them. But they are a target, pulling into a club in New York, Miami or L.A. in $100,000, $150,000 vehicles.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, I don`t know that I buy that, Drew Findling. Because let`s face it, the way you would deal with an out-of-control fan isn`t by shooting them anyway.
FINDLING: You know, I`ve got to tell you, Plaxico Burress is hiding behind his football helmet. And other than his little look at me beard, nobody knows who this guy is and nobody cares about him.
No offense, but he`s not Michael Jordan, he`s not Tiger Woods. And the fact that he is -- let`s say he had a permit, Jane. He went to a nightclub with a loaded gun? That just scares the heck out of me.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes, because somebody else -- I mean, he accidentally shot himself. But he could have accidentally shot somebody else.
Heather from Canada, your thought or question, ma`am.
HEATHER, CALLER FROM CANADA: Hi, Jane. I love your show.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Thank you. I hope you keep coming back.
HEATHER: Yes, I think celebrities get away with so much. I just -- I don`t agree with the woman that called that said he should be allowed to carry a gun. They make so much money, and if he`s worried about anything, he can have people protecting him. And if he feels the need to have a gun, he shouldn`t be going out.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes, Vicki Roberts, it`s true. They usually come with an entourage of people. You and I have both seen them. Have we ever seen a celebrity walking by themselves anywhere, even to pick up the paper in front of their house? No.
ROBERTS: No. I don`t even do that myself. But, again, I think the issue here is the legality of it. Really all he needed to do was make himself legal. Go ahead and apply for a permit. And if he was entitled to receive one, he would have received one.
It`s really offensive arrogance when you can just walk into a place and think, well, the law doesn`t apply to me. Well, it does and it should.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: And I want to thank both of you, you`re fabulous guests. I hope you come back.
The final word is guns are dangerous. That`s why New York City has these very stringent laws, and they are working. Gun violence is down in New York because of them, so we have to enforce those laws. It`s really important.
Vicki, Drew, come back soon. I`m Jane Velez-Mitchell, and you are watching "ISSUES."
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Thanks for joining me. Tomorrow, "bailout burnout." The big three automakers hit the road to D.C. Do they deserve your tax dollar? That`s tomorrow.
Right now it`s time to check in with Nancy Grace. Hey, Nancy, what`s coming up?
NANCY GRACE, HEADLINE NEWS ANCHOR: A boy stumbles into a California gym, a chain and shackles on his swollen seat, barely dressed, covered in bruises, cuts, soot over his entire body, emaciated. Jane, the boy has been held captive over a year by a Tracy, California couple. Two confirmed arrests; another suspect on the run now.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: That is horrific. And I hear there are also some stunning new developments in the Caylee Anthony investigation. What`s the latest on that?
GRACE: Yes, there`s a bombshell announcement from the team searching by land, air and water for Caylee. They say the 3-year-old will never be found.
And tonight, we find out about a secretly recorded confrontation between the tot mom and her parents where they pepper her with questions about Caylee`s disappearance. Jane, her answers, shocking.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right, Nancy. Thank you so much.
That is all coming up next. "Nancy Grace" starts right now.