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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Raw Politics; Survival Story; Internet Hoax
Aired December 20, 2007 - 23:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER: The family rescued after days in the snowy wilderness. Pictures they took as they struggled to find shelter, stay warm and survive.
And later, Interstate 35, was it actually preordained in the bible? What does that make Route 66?
We begin with signs that the Clinton campaign is digging deep and some say dark into the campaign playbook; playing rough, some even saying dirty. In fairness, this always happens when the voting gets closer and the race tightens, and it's happening all around.
Today we learned that the Clinton campaign has registered a pair of websites. Their names suggest that it would be used to highlight Barack Obama's record as a state senator in Illinois, a voting present on controversial legislation instead of voting a yes or no.
Now, the facts are what they are, but what about the tactics being used to bring those facts to life? Is it a pattern with the Clinton machine or simply something all candidates are doing?
Tonight we begin with the raw politics of rough politics. Here's CNN's Joe Johns.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hit and run politics, attack and retreat, throw the rock and hide your hand. It's practiced 365 days a year in this country, but when it gets this close to actually casting votes, people really start paying attention.
Example: Clinton supporter Bob Kerrey apologizing after using Senator Obama's full name, Barack Hussein Obama, to make a point. Kerrey said he did not mean to insult him or contribute to misinformation about Obama's heritage.
Another example, a Clinton campaign official in New Hampshire who raised questions about how Republicans exploit Obama's drug use when he was young. Hit and run. Clinton apologized, the official resigned.
But when it comes to Obama's voting record as a state senator in Illinois, no apologies from the Clinton camp. Clinton supporters didn't hesitate to talk about how often Obama voted present instead of taking a stand on things by voting yes or no.
REP. ANTHONY WEINER (D) NEW YORK: And you believe it's okay to look at what they're for. You believe it's okay to look at what they're against. Why can't you look at the votes they ducked?
JOHNS: That's not hit and run politics. It's a full-frontal, above-the-board attack. The Clinton team registered two domain names on the Internet to highlight the issue but decided not to put anything on a website.
What's significant about this is that it suggests the Clinton campaign is so worried about Obama, it's resorting to these kinds of tactics. Not lost here is that Barack Obama was the first campaign to go on the offensive. Sharpening his rhetoric, what they call contrasting himself with Senator Clinton before she started fighting back.
STEPHANIE CUTTER, FORMER KERRY COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: I think Barack Obama, you know, started to do a sharp contrast on Hillary Clinton about six weeks ago. And he didn't pay a price for that. I think Hillary Clinton started to do a sharp contrast against Barack Obama just about four weeks ago, and in the media, at least, she had paid a price for that.
You know, is that fair? You know, I guess if it's the front- runner mantel that you're carrying there, but in the end voters want a choice.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
JOHNS: So what we're really talking about here are opening salvos, but in this race stays very close for very long, you really could see a barrage. Anderson?
COOPER: All right, Joe johns, thanks.
With us also tonight, CNN's John King in Des Moines, in Manchester, Jennifer Donahue, the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at St. Anselm College; and in Boston, we'd like to welcome the newest member of CNN, our new senior political analyst, David Gergen who, of course, has advised presidents from Richard Nixon to Bill Clinton. Welcome.
David, let's start with you. Here we are two weeks until Iowa, virtual tie between Clinton, Obama and Edwards. Does it surprise you that attacks are getting sharper and sharper with the race this close?
DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Not at all. Because in both parties now, we have very, very close races and naturally you're going to go in this direction. I think with regard to Hillary Clinton, the complaints in the Clinton campaign are fair.
First of all, Barack did start the -- he fired first. Secondly, I think they've been arguing that the media has given Barack a more flattering portrait. That's also fair. What's surprising, Anderson, is the way -- there was a way they've gone about counterattacking.
First of all, it's been clumsy, as we just heard these various apologies of things going over the line. Secondly, today we just had two days of electability campaign. We thought we were going down that track with Hillary Clinton.
We've been talking about that. Suddenly you've got this reversal and these attacks from her campaign that's very, very surprising. I think finally where this may really rebound against her is it reminds people of the old politics.
And that's exactly what Barack Obama's been campaigning against, the old-style politics, the attack ads, the negative attacks and all the rest. And I think that's not where she wants to be at this point.
COOPER: John King, let me ask you, is this stuff just accidental? I mean, that, you know, high-level aides say something and then have to apologize or in one case even resign, or is there a pattern here?
JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF CORRESPONDENT: Well, critics would say there's a pattern, Anderson. This is one of the great mysteries of politics. The Clinton Campaign and I just checked back in with them again tonight, insists that what Billy Shaheen said in New Hampshire about Barack Obama, possible drug use during his youth, that was unauthorized.
What Bob Kerrey said, that was just Bob Kerrey speaking. And the Bob Kerrey I interviewed him the other day, he said he insists he meant that as a compliment.
Look on the blog, clearly it's not taken that way. They say these are isolated incidents, they were not authorized. They were accidents, if you will. Critics look at it and say come on, "These people have been in politics, they're way too smart, some of them have been in dirty campaigns in the past, they say there's no way it could be a coincidence." That's where we are in the campaign.
COOPER: Jennifer, in New Hampshire is there the perception Hillary is being singled out unfairly? I want to read you something that Time Magazine's editor-at-large mention to the Washington Post, Mark Halperin.
He said, "She just held to a different standard in every respect. The press rooted for Obama to go negative. When he did he was applauded. When she does it, it's treated as this huge violation of propriety. It's not a level playing field."
JENNIFER DONAHUE, N.H. INSTITUTE OF POLITICS, ST. ANSELM COLLEGE: Well, they're doing it in an entirely different way. When Barack Obama went negative on Hillary, he did it after Edwards did first of all. He grilled it and got it ready, and then Obama flipped it and he basically did it in a way that was policy-based, issue-based.
What Kerrey did the other day and what happened last week on the drug issue with Shaheen and moreover with Mark Penn who then kept repeating it over and over and over, they're playing the race card. I mean, this is not some small thing where they're saying, like, Gore did about Bradley in 2000, he wanted to raise the retirement age when, in fact, he didn't.
This is the race card. They're attacking his race. And I think it's really above the pail. Voters here don't like it.
COOPER: David Gergen, do you agree with that?
DAVID GERGEN, FORMER POLITICAL ADVISER: No, I don't. I don't think they're playing the race card at all. He happens to be black. He also happens to be a very major dramatic candidate.
DONAHUE: You don't think that saying that selling drugs and that did he buy it? Did he use them? Did he sell them has anything to do with race?
GERGEN: Wait a minute. We went through a whole campaign back in 2000 in New Hampshire about George W. Bush and drugs, and he happened to be white. We've had various other candidates who happened to have been white, there have been questions raised about their drug usage.
I do think when you start using the word "cocaine," as Mark Penn did, it does suggest and I think that's going to have reverberations. But I think it's unfair to say that they're playing the race card.
I do think they've been clumsy. But I think their playing the race card suggests it's racially motivated and in effect it's racist, I think that's unfair to them.
COOPER: John King?
DONAHUE: Well, I guess --
KING: Anderson, I'm getting e-mails as we're having this discussion, Anderson. As we're having this discussion, I'm getting e- mails from Democrats. One of them suggests go to the website HillaryattacksObama.com. They say that's an Obama website. I can't tell you if that's true or not.
But this is the kind of thing that happens at this point of the campaign. The Clinton campaign would also point out very early in the campaign an Obama press release said Hillary Clinton d-punjab, making fun of the money she was raising from Indian sources that the Obama campaign was questioning.
Senator Obama had to apologize for that. There is a lot of this from all camps in the campaign, some of it authorized, some of it not, some by kids who go overboard in their first campaign especially their first presidential campaign.
Does it matter in electing a president? I don't really know. It's not much about the economy. It's not much about what you do in Iraq, but it does set the tone of the campaign.
DONAHUE: Anderson, can I just jump in because I want to hear David's perspective. Would you also say, then, that Huckabee is not playing the religion card against Romney?
GERGEN: No, I think he is playing the religion card. But that is -- that's said in a positive way but I think when you say somebody playing the race card, you suggest they have racist motives and they have a racist quality to it. I think that's unfair to the people.
DONAHUE: They're trying to -- but don't you think -- I don't mean that Hillary Clinton is trying to play a race card, but I think they're bringing up the issue of fear of African-Americans in a way that is either intentional or not but is real.
COOPER: I want David to respond and then we've got to go.
GERGEN: I just don't happen to agree. I think that's unfair. I think they've been clumsy. I think this is going to rebound against them. But I think it goes too far to say they're playing the race card.
COOPER: John King, David Gergen, Jennifer Donahue, appreciate your comments. Thank you. John king, stick around. We're going to get back to the campaign story you've been working on after the break.
First, while candidates are on the attack or digging for dirt, whatever you want to call it, they're also spending a ton of money.
Here's the raw data. Editor publisher says $3 billion to $5 billion will likely be spent on campaign ads and national local races for '08. Roughly 75 percent of the cash will go to spots on TV. The rest is being used for print advertisements, radio commercials and new media.
One other campaign note, Republican Tom Tancredo dropped out of the race today. He faced long odds from the start, never caught on, and bowing out, the Colorado congressman has thrown his support to Mitt Romney.
In a moment, we'll talk about Mitt Romney's hazy memory. He says he watched his dad Michigan Governor George Romney march with Martin Luther King, but did he? Tonight we're "keeping them honest."
Also tonight, why Mitt Romney's having trouble attracting Iowa women. We'll have that and more plus these stories.
Pretty as a picture. That's how it began.
That's when the pictures turned grim. A family lost in the wild, caught in the snow, struggling to survive. See how they did it only on "360."
Also, a racially charged confrontation, a deadly shooting.
I saw the shot, the hole in his cheek. I got to tell him that I loved him. I saw his eyes blank, straight open, staring at the ceiling.
COOPER: That's how it ended, but it all started with a hoax, a hoax created online. A new Internet danger you and your kids should know about in "Crime and Punishment" tonight.
COOPER: Sooner or later every candidate faces it, something they have said comes back to bite them. It could be telling or trivial or just plain silly. That's really for you to decide. Here's what Mitt Romney said in his speech on faith and politics earlier this month.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MITT ROMNEY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I was taught in my home to honor God and love my neighbor. I saw my father march with Martin Luther King.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: He's talking about Michigan Governor George Romney, a strong voice for civil rights. He said it again this weekend on "Meet the Press."
There is one problem, however, it never happened. George Romney supported Dr. King, but he did not march with him. So Mr. Romney could not have actually seen it because it didn't happen. So here's what Mitt Romney said today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROMNEY: I'm trying to be as accurate as I can be, and the -- if you look at the literature or look at the dictionary, the term "saw" includes being aware of in the sense I've described. It's a figure of speech and very familiar, and it's very common.
And I saw my dad march with Martin Luther King. I did not see it with my own eyes, but I saw him in the sense of being aware of his participation in that great effort.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Kind of reminds you of someone, doesn't it?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It depends upon what the meaning of the word "is." if is means is and never has been, that's one thing. If it means there is none that was a completely true statement.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Now, we're not saying, we're just saying. Governor Romney's having a tough time in Iowa for reasons beyond his Mormon faith. Up close tonight, his problem winning support with women. Here's CNN's John King again with who's benefiting from Mitt Romney's gender gap.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
KING: The new look of the Republican race was born here in places like Martinsdale, Iowa, because of unhappy Christian conservatives, people like Richard and Doris Nation finally found a home.
RICHARD NATION, IOWA REPUBLICAN: He comes from a biblical perspective regarding marriage and abortion; the things that are important to us.
KING: He is Mike Huckabee, and his growing support among conservatives is changing the race in Iowa and across the country.
BRENDA CARNAHAN, HUCKABEE SUPPORTER: He supports, I guess, with the home schoolers, being able to educate my own children and our values as Christians.
KING: Huckabee is an evangelical favorite.
CARNAHAN: The abortion issue and I think just at a whole, all of his issues put together.
KING: And at the moment, the beneficiary of a giant gender gap favored by a 2-1 margin over Mitt Romney among Iowa women who intend to vote in the Republican caucuses.
ANITA NEEHOUSE, HUCKABEE SUPPORTER: Christian values. We're a Christian family. With our children and grandchildren.
KING: The question for Huckabee, is that enough? Why? Abortion ranks not first, but third, when Iowa Republicans are asked to rate the issue.
MITT ROMNEY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Any income should be taxed at a new rate, and the new rate should be zero.
KING: The economy ranks first. And so more and more governor Romney stresses his business record.
ROMNEY: I know how the economy works. I know why jobs come. I know why they go away.
KING: In New Hampshire, pocketbook issues are responsible for Romney's double-digit lead. There Huckabee runs a distant fourth.
ANDREW SMITH, UNIVERSITY OF NEW HAMPSHIRE: So trying to run as a social conservative in the state with very few social conservatives is a difficult thing to do. This is largely a pro-choice Republican state, moderate to liberal Republican state.
KING: But pollster Andrew Smith says a Romney loss in Iowa would call a major ripple in New Hampshire.
SMITH: He'll probably lose 10 to 15 points in New Hampshire right away.
KING: That's why Romney is looking to close the gender gap and narrow Huckabee's lead in Iowa by highlighting other issues with proven power among women. Education. ROMNEY: Our states now rank number one of all 50 states in education.
KING: -- and crime.
ROMNEY: And Mike Huckabee, he granted 133 pardons and commutations including 12 convicted murderers.
KING: Romney denies all pardon applications, Huckabee calls that a play it safe political calculation.
HUCKABEE: That could be your kid. It could be you. Would you give him a second chance?
KING: His position was that you don't have a heart. That of course some people must have deserved one. So he says it's a judgment issue.
ROMNEY: So he thinks 1,033 pardons shows a heart? He thinks giving 12 murderers pardons shows a heart? He thinks giving a repeat drunk driver a pardon to get him out of jail shows heart? I think it shows a softness.
KING: On the surface, a dustup over crime and punishment. But it has just as much to do with the gender gap.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
COOPER: So how important is the gender gap? I mean, can Romney win Iowa if he doesn't close this gap?
KING: He needs to close it some, Anderson. He doesn't need to close it all the way. If you look back at 2000 and 2004, about 54 percent, 55 percent of the Republicans voting in the Iowa caucuses were men. So if Romney could have a big lead among men, he can offset some of his deficit among women.
If you go into it with the 2-1 deficit he has right now, unlikely he could win. But if he can narrow it some, and they think they can with these questioning the crime records, focusing on Romney's education record, narrowing it some, it might be enough.
COOPER: Interesting, John King thanks for reporting.
Anger and arrest in New Orleans today, Erica Hill has that and more in our "360 Bulletin."
ERICA HILL: Anderson a protest in New Orleans City Hall gets rough. Police using stun guns and pepper spray on residents protesting a plan to demolish more than 4,000 public housing units. Fifteen people ended up being arrested. Despite the outrage, though, the demolition plan was approved by the city council.
There is an alleged confession in the murder of four people on a Florida charter boat. A prison inmate claims one of the suspects in that case told him he didn't pull the trigger but did clean up the crime scene aboard the "Joe Cool."
The boat's captain, his wife and two crew members are still missing, they are presumed dead. The suspects say they are innocent and claim Cuban pirates attacked the boat.
Aruba's top prosecutor says one of the suspects in the disappearance of Natalee Holloway wrote in an Internet chat room that she was dead. Investigators though won't say who wrote that.
They will say the message was a reason why those three suspects were re-arrested last month. Those three young men, by the way, are now free again.
And Nickelodeon thinking about airing a special on sex and love. That move comes after Jamie Lynn Spears revealed she is pregnant. The star of the network's "Zoey 101" show is 16. She is also, of course, Anderson, the younger sister of Britney Spears.
COOPER: Yeah. I have nothing to say.
ERICA HILL: It's better we don't.
COOPER: I think so.
Coming up, he dressed as Santa and took a nasty beating. Take a look at this guy's black eyes. We want to know who did that and what were they thinking?
Plus a family of four who survived three days in the California woods. Last night they shared their story of survival only on "360".
Tonight more from them and the amazing photos from their ordeal when "360" continues.
COOPER: Erica, in our segment "What Were They Thinking?" we're a bit upset, a lot of cable pundits say there's a war on Christmas. Tonight we dare to what others are too scared to say. There's not just a war on Christmas, Erica Hill. There's a war on Santa. A war on Santa we've uncovered.
Exhibit number one, Kevin Smith, a Grinch broke his nose, causing two black eyes. He's a Washington -- Spokane, Washington firefighter. He was dressed as Santa trying to spread holiday cheer in a float. Someone threw something at him, hitting him at the top of his nose, knocking him unconscious.
HILL: That's awful. He's Santa.
COOPER: Two other firefighters on the float realized Santa was assaulted, they looked in the rearview mirror, they saw him bleeding and slumped over. He was taken to the hospital. Doctors discovered Santa also had a concussion.
HILL: Did they catch the grinches? COOPER: No, the attackers are still out there. Investigators are asking for anyone with information to contact the police or the fire department, especially green looking Grinch-like people
There's more. The war on Santa continues. Earlier this week, we have the other disturbing attack. A Santa at a Danbury, Connecticut, mall allegedly molested. He was apparently groped by an adult woman while she sat on his lap.
HILL: This is one I'd like to forget personally.
COOPER: I know, the 65-year-old Santa as you can imagine, was shocked. He's not talking on camera, we're blurring that image of Santa because that's not the actual Santa who was attacked.
And check out this naughty t-shirt, exhibit number 3 in the war on Santa, sold by urban outfitters. I like the store, but it says "Santa Claus hates you."
HILL: Oh, no, not true.
COOPER: I know it's not true. And it shows him being naughty not nice at all with a hand gesture that I'm not even going to deign to discuss.
HILL: A hand gesture that I think Santa would never use.
COOPER: He doesn't even know it exists.
HILL: Santa's too kind for that.
COOPER: Mrs. Claus clearly did not approve. I've heard some of the elves are speaking out and they say they are talking about legal action, but I don't know what they can do.
HILL: Really? Maybe they should call Jeffrey Toobin, he could help them out.
COOPER: The war on Santa must stop.
HILL: It's going to stop right here on "AC 360."
COOPER: Thank you Erica, I appreciate it.
HILL: I'm with you.
COOPER: Up next on the program, the family trapped three days in the California wilderness. Last night you heard their story in an exclusive interview. Tonight see what they went through.
We have the photos they took from the ordeal they'll never forget. They also ended up back at the hospital today. We'll tell you why.
And ahead, it started as a sick online joke; it led to racial tensions and death. Another lesson on the dangers that can await your kids online coming up at "360."
KEVIN: And live from CNN's Time Warner Center, New york.
COOPER: We begin tonight with the world of politics --
KEVIN: This is "Anderson Cooper 360."
COOPER: There's a lot to talk about tonight in the political realm --
KEVIN: For Thursday, December 20th, 2007, here he is, the silver fox of cable news --
KEVIN: -- Anderson Cooper.
COOPER: Kevin, we went through this a couple nights ago. I know that since NBC news hired Michael Douglas, we're all a little upset and I know you wanted to audition to be the announcer. But as I told you a couple days ago, it's just not going to work out.
KEVIN: I thought you told me if I changed my voice kind of something like our own Michael Ware you'd give me another shot.
COOPER: No. You sound like a chimney sweep. I don't think it's the right kind of voice. I appreciate the effort and you're a great stage manager, though.
KEVIN: With that being said, then back to you, gunmetal gray.
COOPER: All right. Please stop talking like that. Just stop.
We're all here hurting since Brian Williams got all the attention for hiring a big celebrity announcer like Michael Douglas. For months, you know, we've been secretly discussing hiring a big name announcer. I blogged about it. And a lot of you continue to send in some great suggestions.
Here are three new candidates from you the American people to be the voice of "360." Bart Simpson, a very good suggestion, smart- alecky though with a heart of gold. I like it. Oscar the Grouch was a another suggestion; could be a conflict of interest. Some of you know I spent time in Oscar's can. So that maybe a little too close to home.
Finally, my new favorite suggestion to be our celebrity announcer Celine Dion. Who could be better? And if not her, Then I'd like to try to get her husband, Rene. We'll let you know when we make a decision. You can check out more about our search at cnn.com/360.
Well, this time last night we were bringing you the first live interviews with the Dominguez family just hours after their dramatic rescue. They survived three terrifying days in California's wilderness in a snowstorm after getting lost. That was them on the couch last night all bundled up.
Tonight, 15-year-old Alexis is back in the hospital because of pain from minor frostbite, but her brothers and their father are doing well. Their survival is amazing and now we have the pictures to show it. Here's CNN's Dan Simon.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Three smiling children, the youngest, middle and oldest looking for a Christmas tree and spending some quality time with dad.
FREDERICK DOMINGUEZ, SURVIVOR: All in good spirits, still playing, joking, like I was going to cut down this little tree.
SIMON: Not before long they settle on this tall spruce.
F. DOMINGUEZ: We found the tree, we all agreed upon it.
SIMON: each wants their picture with the prize. The time stamp on these photos shows it is just after 4:00 on Sunday afternoon. From here they plan on hauling the tree back to their truck.
But darkness approaches. The family gets lost, and the snowstorm moves in.
F. DOMINGUEZ: This is the first picture I took when it just started snowing. And that was directly ahead of us. And you couldn't see your face in front of -- your hand in front of your face.
SIMON: It's clear they're not going to make it out tonight. So they find shelter under a rock and some branches. The next morning they look surprisingly content perhaps because the fresh snowfall has made for breathtaking scenery. But reality sets in.
F. DOMINGUEZ: If you look at that there, that was what we were walking through. Forward.
SIMON: They're not going to make it out on their own, so they look for some new shelter and find this tunnel underneath a bridge.
F. DOMINGUEZ: You know what? That tunnel saved our lives completely. That tunnel completely saved our lives because it was the shelter from the storm.
SIMON: But the kids' feet are frozen. They would later say it was these makeshift socks cut from their father's t-shirt that made things a bit tolerable.
CHRISTOPHER DOMINGUEZ: We just all huddled up together and tried to stay as warm and out of the snow as we possibly could.
F. DOMINGUEZ: This is when my daughter had frostbite, and we noticed it. And I told my son, rub her feet. Rub her feet. Rub her feet. SIMON: From here there's a long gap in the photos until this. What they say is the greatest picture of all; the helicopter that brings them home.
C. DOMINGUEZ: We were all just happy, happy to be rescued.
SIMON: the family was found about two or three miles away from here. This gives you some idea in terms of the elements they were facing. Within a few hours, they were buried in several feet of snow, and that's why they had to be rescued.
Dan Simon, CNN, Inskip, California.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
COOPER: Let's hope they all bet getter soon.
Straight ahead tonight, it started as an online joke, before it all ended someone was dead.
A racially charged confrontation. A deadly shooting.
I saw the shot, the hole in his cheek. I got to tell him that I loved him. I saw his eyes blink straight open, staring at the ceiling.
COOPER: That's how it ended, but it all started with a hoax, a hoax created online, a new Internet danger you and your kids should know about. "Crime and Punishment" tonight.
Later, they're calling it the Holy Highway.
We were reading Isaiah 35. We have this highway that's behind us called I-35.
COOPER: Meet the people who call a strip of concrete sacred and see the lengths they're going to to make it pure on "360" tonight.
COOPER: Jury deliberations resume tomorrow here in New York in another case where a hoax on MySpace led to death. You may remember the tragedy of Megan Meier who committed suicide after becoming the target of an online attack. Police say it was done by an adult neighbor pretending to be a teenage boy. That neighbors' lawyer says his client is innocent and rejects any responsibility.
Out on the north shore of Long Island, New York, the deception also unfolded on MySpace. The victim was shot dead by a man who's now on trial for manslaughter. Before the jury reaches a verdict, we'll let you decide who's telling the truth.
CNN's Jason Carroll has the exclusive report in tonight's "Crime and Punishment."
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE) JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It started with a sick joke. It came from Aaron White's MySpace account a threat sent to a teenage girl at his high school. White testified he didn't write it. Another friend did using his screen name.
JOANNE CICCIARO, VICTIM'S MOTHER: All of those kids believed that this was real.
CARROLL: Even White's friend, Daniel Cicciaro believed it was real.
CICCIARO: The thing is that night Daniel believed that Aaron threatened to rape a girl who was like his little sister.
CARROLL: Cicciaro's parents say Daniel just wanted to protect the girl when she spotted Aaron at a party last year. The defense says racial slurs were used after White was kicked out. White testified a group of teenaged boys called him on his cell saying, "Get back to this party, you [bleep]."
FRED BREWINGTON, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: We had this group of young white young men who felt they were going to defend this young white woman from the black man who said these things about her and that they felt justified to do so because of his race.
CARROLL: Cicciaro rallied a group of his friends and headed to White's home in Long Island, New york. Aaron White said they called him again saying they were coming to his house to kill him.
That's when Aaron's father, John White got involved. Known as a quiet, dedicated man, he grabbed his handgun, a .32 caliber Beretta and waited for the teens.
DANIEL CICCIARO, SR: He had 20 minutes to find out why they were coming over. To defuse the situation, to find out why they were coming over, and he didn't take any of those precautionary steps.
CARROLL: The defense says White was thinking of his family's past in the south where the Ku Klux Klan attacked them at his home one night. Once Cicciaro and the teens arrived in his driveway, there was an argument.
White says his gun accidentally went off and Cicciaro was shot in the face. "I didn't mean to shoot this young man," White told the court, "this young man was another child of God." Cicero's parents don't believe him.
J. CICCIARO: They never called the Whites, none of them, never called 911 even after they shot Daniel but they did call their attorney.
CARROLL: White's attorney pointed to a 911 call Daniel's friend made moments after the shooting.
DANIEL'S FRIEND: [bleep] I'll get them out, Dano.
CARROLL: Daniel died that night.
J. CICCIARO: I saw the shot, the hole in his cheek. I got to tell him that I loved him. I saw his eyes blink straight open staring at the ceiling.
CARROLL: white is charged with manslaughter, a jury is deciding whether he will lose his freedom. The Cicciaro family says regardless of the verdict, they've already lost what was most important to them.
Jason Carroll, CNN, Riverhead, New York.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
COOPER: It's a tragic story all around. Should the father be convicted of manslaughter? With us now, CNN's senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin.
Both sides frankly could have called police. These white young men who were heading over there could have called police if they really thought a girl was in danger and so could the father.
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: I mean, there are so many steps in this story where if it had gone another way, this just would have been a silly, ugly, but meaningless dispute. Instead, everything conspired for tragedy here. The mistaken identity, it really is like Shakespeare.
COOPER: He's -- manslaughter is what he's being considered for. The judge though also said that the jury could suggest reckless endangerment?
TOOBIN: Right. This is a big victory for the defense in this case. The jury has a lesser option than reckless manslaughter. They can find him guilty of this reckless endangerment which is a misdemeanor. And juries, in a difficult case like this, this is certainly a difficult case, often look for a compromise, and a misdemeanor would be a good defense.
COOPER: What sort of penalty is there for that?
TOOBIN: A misdemeanor is almost never prison time. I mean, theoretically, you can go to prison for a misdemeanor. The key issue in this case is recklessness. Was his behavior reckless?
COOPER: The father?
TOOBIN: The father, the defendant and boy, I'm glad I don't have to decide this because on the one hand, you can see how scared he was with these people converging on his house. But on the other, 20 minutes to call 911, get the cops there, you know -- you would certainly think that --
COOPER: Obviously race is an issue, it's been brought up on all sides of this, how is it playing out in the courtroom?
TOOBIN: It's a big issue in the case. Because it is not just a, you know, a bunch of kids fighting. This has a racial dimension and I think the White family, the African-American family has this history apparently of Ku Klux Klan violence against them in the south.
And this is such a deep, ugly part of American history, a group of whites going to a black guy's house to protect the honor of a white woman. That has resonance in American history that I don't think the jury can nor should they ignore it.
COOPER: Interesting. We'll be watching. Jeffrey Toobin, thanks.
TOOBIN: Tough one.
COOPER: Yeah, very tough.
Up next, is an American highway prophesied in the bible. We'll show you the interstate some believers say literally is a highway to heaven and why they're staging purity sieges against local businesses along the road when "360" continues after the break.
COOPER: It's impossible to know exactly how conservative Christians will shape the Republican presidential nomination in 2008. What is absolutely certain is that all the candidates would love to get their votes. That's one reason this story grabbed our attention.
It's not about politics but it's about a group of evangelicals and their latest crusade. Spurred on by Pat Robertson, the crusade focuses on an American interstate highway; a highway they believe is spoken of in the bible.
Here's CNN's Gary Tuchman.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Interstate 35 which runs through six states from Texas to Minnesota has existed for about a half century. But did God know about I-35 many, many centuries before that? This Texas minister says she had a revelation about it.
CINDY JACOBS, MINISTER, LIGHT THE HIGHWAY ORGANIZER: We were reading Isaiah 35, which is a passage in the bible and we live in Dallas and we have this highway that's behind us called I-35.
TUCHMAN: Part of Isaiah 35, verse 8, declares a highway shall be there and a road and it shall be a highway of holiness. The unclean shall not pass over it. So Isaiah 35 has become a biblical partner of Interstate-35 for some Christians.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Millions live up and down the highway, Lamb of God, touch, Oklahoma, Lord Jesus, touch Texas Lamb of God, oh, Lord touch Minnesota sweet Jesus.
TUCHMAN: To fulfill the prophecy of I-35 being a holy highway, many of the faithful think it will take intensive prayer first. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Move in the hearts our generation, Jesus. Move in their hearts, God!
TUCHMAN: Churches in all six states have organized prayer vigils on this side of the interstate. They pray for safer neighborhoods, more godliness. And want the, "unclean" to take note.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I pray for purity within the businesses, God. We pray for holiness within the businesses, Father God.
TUCHMAN: The businesses are the kind you often see driving up and down America's interstates. Some of them have been visited by the prayerful participants in so-called purity sieges.
PASTOR STEVE HILL, HEARTLAND SCHOOL OF MINISTRY: It would absolutely please me, yes, if some of these businesses would go out of business.
TUCHMAN: No thank you, says the owner of Dallas's Diamond Cabaret.
RODNEY WILLIAMS, DIAMOND'S CABARET OWNER: For them to want to impose their views on others, it makes me angry. You have to come to that a lot. In some cases more than other church groups, fund- raisers, food drives.
TUCHMAN: Not everyone here literally thinks I-35 is the highway of holiness. But it is pointed out that tragedies ranging from the assassination of John F. Kennedy in Dallas, to the recent bridge collapse in Minneapolis happened on or near I-35.
JACOBS: We just want to say why would this happen on one highway. Let's pray that there be safety for everybody on these highways.
TUCHMAN: On YouTube you can see Pat Robertson publicizing the campaign on his Christian broadcasting network.
PAT ROBERTSON, EVANGELIST: An amazing story but wouldn't that be one of (inaudible), cut a line right down the middle of America and let it spread to both coasts.
TUCHMAN: Isaiah 35:8 is not the only part of the bible that mentions a highway. In Isaiah 40:03 it says, prepare the way of the lord. Make straight in the desert a highway for our God. But there have been no national prayer vigils on Interstate-40 yet.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
COOPER: Gary, there are a lot of passages in the bible that some believe speak of modern day events.
TUCHMAN: Well, the faithful site many different examples, Anderson. For example, they talk about science. Let's go back to Isaiah chapter 40:22 which says it is he who sits on the circle of the earth. Some believers say that refers to the earth being round centuries before that was known.
Then there is revelation 16:2 which states it became a loathsome and malignant sore on the people who had the mark of the beast. That, some say, refers to controversial implantable microchip identification.
And then there's Jeremiah 50. I am going to arouse and bring up against Babylon a hoard of great nations from the land of the north. Could that be a reference to the coalition invasion of Iraq? We need to point out, that Iraq has been invaded many times before in history which brings us to the point skeptics make that a lot of bible verses are vague and ambiguous and therefore can be interpreted very widely. Anderson?
COOPER: Gary, interesting story. Thanks.
On the "360" blog, Gary shares what it was like covering the prayers along I-35. For a behind the scenes report, go to cnn.com/360 and link to the blog. That's cnn.com/360.
Up next, is a video game on many kids' Christmas list to blame for the death of a 6-year-old girl?
And his murder conviction was overturned but he is still being held in a Nicaraguan prison. New demands for the release of American Eric Volz, next.
COOPER: Just ahead, a little holiday gift from us to you. It's also start of a gift to ourselves if we're being totally honest. That's right, coming up, our favorite shots of 2007. Can you guess which ones made the cut? Maybe some bears.
First Erica hill joins us for the "360 Bulletin." Erica?
HILL: Anderson, Nicaraguan authorities still have not released Eric Volz. He's the 28-year-old American whose murder conviction was overturned by an appeals court three days ago. Today prosecutors said they are now appealing that decision. This is what secretary of state Condoleezza Rice had to say about the delay.
CONDOLEEZZA RICE, SECRETARY OF STATE: Whenever there is an American citizen involved, we are very much involved in following the case and in advocating on behalf of American citizens. And so we have had those conversations with the Nicaraguan government, and the court has spoken. We expect him to be released.
HILL: Volz whose trial last year triggered a riot received a 30- year sentence even though no physical evidence linked him to the crime scene and ten witnesses swore he was two hours away when that murder happened. Colorado authorities have charged two teenagerss as adults in the death of a 7-year-old girl they were baby-sitting. The child died after the suspects allegedly beat, kicked and body slammed her. They say they were imitating moves from the "Mortal Kombat" video game. The little girl was the half sister of one of the teens. If they are convicted, both could face 48 years in prison.
Stocks inching higher today fuelled by strength in the technology sector. The Dow rose more than 38 points at 13,245, the Nasdaq tacked on nearly 40 while the S&P edged up 7 points.
And two more late-night hosts say they will return to the air despite the Hollywood writers' strike. "The Daily Show" with Jon Stewart and "The Colbert Report" will resume production January 7th without their striking writers.
COOPER: All right, Erica stick around. Up next, we're going to count down our favorite shots of the year, of course, our best list wouldn't be complete without our favorite dancing prisoners. See what else made the cut after this short break.
COOPER: Erica, time for "The Shot" tonight. It's kind of a trip down "Shot" memory lane, if you will. We're taking a look back at the moments we'll never forget in '07, the smiles, the tears, the bears on the trampoline. We call it the "360 First Annual Shot Highlight Reel." I think it just rolls off the tongue like that.
Let's start with the treasured national icon, Britney Spears, ding dang, y'all, what a year it's been for her and the chasing paps. we've spent many a night devoting our "Shot" to Britney; here partying, her head-shaving, who can forget that, the car wrecking. The no underwearing shenanigans.
You name it, she's also had a fan, a big fan who famously came to her defense on the Internet. Get out your hanky, folks.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All you people want is more, more, more, more, more! Leave her alone! You're lucky she even performed for you bastards! Leave Britney alone!
HILL: That moved me to tears, too, but for a different reason.
COOPER: It's an oldie but a goody, doesn't get tired. Something tells me her sister, Jamie Lynn, will have a big year of her own in '08.
Our next shot moment, who could forget the world according to Miss South Carolina? The Miss Teen USA contestant mesmerized us with her knowledge of geography and intelligence when she was asked why Americans can't locate the U.S. on a map. (BEGIN VIDEOCLIP)
I personally believe that U.S. Americans are unable to do so because some people out there in our nation don't have that. And I believe that our education, like such as in South Africa and Iraq, everywhere such as, and I believe that they should -- our education over here in the U.S. Should help the U.S. -- or should help South Africa and should help Iraq and the Asian countries so we will be able to build up our future.
HILL: You think she should enter the race for president? I know she's a few years shy of the 35-year cutoff.
COOPER: Maria Lopez kept it together during all that.
HILL: How is the question?
COOPER: As a jeopardy champion I know for a fact, that such as that most U.S. Americans in Iraq and nation of America such as like do have maps including one of our beloved countries such as, like, U.S. America.
COOPER: Another famous shot from this year, inmates dancing in unison.
HILL: Ooh, love it.
COOPER: Michael Jackson's "Thriller." I love it, I love it, I love it. 1500 jailed rockers went through the routine at a Philippines detention center. We hear they may be touring with Riverdance soon.
HILL: If Michael Flatley could be so lucky. I like it.
COOPER: One of the most downloaded clips on the web; 9 million hits. They never show the guy dressed as a woman who was running around at the beginning that video.
HILL: Which is one of the best parts of it; maybe we should bring it back in our next "360" highlight clip reel. I bet we'll have one next week.
COOPER: Yes. And finally, what would the shots this year have been without bears? We had three bears looking for some rest in a hammock in New Jersey. Never gets old. Our favorite bear antic, though, in '07 was the bear on the trampoline and then off it. Boom, and --
HILL: And baboom. No bears were harmed in the making of this video, correct?
COOPER: So we keep saying. I think it was originally shot back in 1973.
HILL: Was it '73 or '74, I can't remember.
COOPER: Might have been '74, right before the big bicentennial. Erica and I will be in Times Square New Year's Eve. We'll tell you how you can join the party along with Kathy Griffin next.
COOPER: What are you doing on New Year's Eve, huh? I'm going to be in Times Square and hoping to share the moment with all of you. Like Chris and Kenny who watched us last year from Japan. Just one of more than 200 countries to get to watch the Times Square party with us on CNN.
We need more photos like that and videos. Go to cnn.com/iparty and start uploading. Frankly, we'll take anything we can get. This should be interesting.
For our international viewers, "CNN TODAY" is next. Here in America, "LARRY KING" is coming up. Thanks for watching.
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