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More Details in Blagojevich Investigation

Aired December 10, 2008 - 19:00:00   ET


JANE VELEZ-MITCHELL, HOST (voice-over): Tonight, as the desperate search for 25-year-old Laura Garza continues, shocking new details come to light. Another victim of the prime suspect in the case bravely comes forward to tell her horrific story.

Plus, the disgraced Governor of Illinois, out on bail, but not out of the picture. Believe it or not, today Governor Blagojevich had the audacity to come to work. Could he still appoint someone to the Senate seat he`s accused of trying to sell? And will this tainted politician tarnish Obama`s image in the process?

And stunning accusations from "American Idol" judge Paula Abdul. Did show producers intentionally allow an emotionally unstable woman to audition? The obsessed fan later committed suicide outside Paula`s home. Could this have been prevented? We`ll take your calls.

Those ISSUES and more, tonight.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Breaking news tonight. A major bombshell in the stunning corruption case surrounding Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich. CNN has confirmed that the now infamous candidate No. 5 is Illinois Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr.

The corruption scandal gathered more steam today as reporters scrambled to uncover the identity of this contender for Barack Obama`s vacated Senate seat. It`s the same seat the Illinois governor is accused of trying to sell.

The 76-page affidavit, released yesterday after the governor`s arrest, revealed that the governor said on tape that he was approached by an associate of Senate candidate No. 5 for pay to play. Pay to play. But at a news conference late this afternoon, the congressman categorically denied any wrongdoing whatsoever.


REP. JESSE JACKSON JR. (D), ILLINOIS: I reject and denounce pay-to- play politics and have no involvement whatsoever in any wrongdoing. I did not initiate or authorize anyone at any time to promise anything to Governor Blagojevich on my behalf.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Pretty clear, huh? Well, here`s my issue. How do we know who to trust, as this scandal continues to implode? If Jesse Jackson Jr. has absolutely nothing to hide, why wouldn`t he answer any questions from reporters at the news conference? If you have done absolutely nothing wrong, then there wouldn`t appear to be any way you could get into trouble by being totally transparent.

This Illinois corruption sting is leaving us with more questions than answers. And I want to hear some of your questions and opinions. Give me a call right now: 1-877-JVM-SAYS. That`s 1-877-586-7297. Right now.

First, I want to introduce tonight`s fiery panel, Liz Chadderdon, Democratic strategist and president of the Chadderdon Group. And Greg Palast from "Rolling Stone." And Drew Findling, criminal defense attorney.

Greg, I`m going to start with you because you`re wearing a hat. Jesse Jackson Jr. gave an impassioned speech today. But did he tell us everything that we need to know to rest assured that he is correct in saying he had nothing to do with the governor`s schemes, vis-a-vis this Senate seat?

GREG PALAST, "ROLLING STONE": Yes, he told you everything. Look, I`m really getting angry at this stuff. Now we`re JUST throwing mud all over the place. There is nothing -- and I mean, I read that indictment now four times -- nothing which says that Jesse Jackson Jr., the congressman, did one thing wrong.

Blagojevich was trying to pressure him, was trying to play him, trying to victimize him. He was not corrupt. He was being -- there was an attempt to corrupt him. He wasn`t going for it. There`s no evidence of it. And I`d like Fitzgerald to clear that record right now.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, I got to tell you, I am a little more skeptical. Let me read something. And first of all, let me give you a sense of this affidavit. Seventy-six pages, all right? And I know I look like I`m hanging out the wash to dry here, but these are some of the quotes involving candidate No. 5.

Now, here`s the headline on it. We`ve got a graphic. This is what the governor is quoted as saying about Obama`s seat. And I kind of give it the accent: "Hey, we were approached, pay to play. That, you know, he`d raise me 500 grand. An emissary came. Then the other guy would raise a million if I made him," i.e., Senate candidate No. 5, "a senator."

I mean, Liz Chadderdon, you have to have some skepticism here, because either this man is totally delusional and he has fantasy friends and he`s making all of this up out of whole cloth, or there something funky`s going on with Senate candidate No. 5.

LIZ CHADDERDON, CHADDERDON GROUP: Well, I definitely think that, given that level of evidence that you just read, you`ve got to dig a little deeper to see if there`s anything else there.

You know, Greg has read this indictment four times, and he`s way ahead of me. I have only read it once. But at the same time, you know, I think you`re both right.

I think Greg is right in saying, "I don`t know. I`m not sure that there really is enough to really go after Senate candidate No. 5 here."

But what you just read, Jane, is also like, wait a minute. Come on.

I think at the heart of this, you have to question where is the governor? I mean, he can`t be trusted at all. Can we really trust any word that comes out of his mouth? He was really embroiled in a scandal long before this one even started. I think at this point you have to wonder, is anything that comes out of his mouth ever real?

VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. Drew Findling, Jesse Jackson Jr. told reporters he spoke with the U.S. attorney`s office -- that`s the investigating office -- and they said, quote, "They shared with me that I am not a target of the investigation, and that I am not accused of any misconduct," end quote.

The U.S. attorney`s office, however, had no comment. Now, yesterday U.S. attorney Patrick Fitzgerald in his news conference said that, according to the law, if, for example, the governor says something incriminating on a tape about himself, he can -- they can go after him. But if he says that somebody else did something wrong, they can`t go after that person. Explain the law.

DREW FINDLING, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, let`s go over this. And that is, right now, this is an investigation. Remember that they had this arrest. They effectuated this arrest because they were worried about what the governor was going to do next regarding appointing a senator.

This is an ongoing grand jury investigation. That means that Jesse Jackson`s lawyer approached the government and said, "Is my client a target, a subject or a witness?" And I guarantee you, they got their response in writing, or he confirmed it in writing that he`s only a witness. The last thing he needed to do was to ask -- answer questions of the press.


FINDLING: Then he`d get...

VELEZ-MITCHELL: If he has nothing to hide, why not answer the questions?

FINDLING: Because, Jane, he is not here to impress you, me, or the American public. He`s here to make sure right now that he does not get charged or indicted. He wants to stay on the good side of the government. The way to do that...

VELEZ-MITCHELL: If he did absolutely nothing wrong, why can`t you say yes, I guess that -- his attorney said he was candidate No. 5.

FINDLING: Because he needs to answer questions presented to him by the FBI and the Justice Department first. I assure you, once he does that, we`ll be hearing a lot from him and especially his attorneys. But he hasn`t had the chance yet to sit down with his attorney and meet with the government and the FBI. After that, I`m sure he`ll be half -- fair game, although he`ll probably be supervised by his attorney.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, this is such a fascinating story. And it really -- the scope of it is extraordinary. President-elect Obama today called for the Illinois governor to resign. And yesterday he commented on the scandal on camera. But very, very briefly. This is what President- elect Obama said.


SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENT-ELECT: I had no contact with the governor or his office, and so we were not -- I was not aware of what was happening. And as I said, it`s a sad day for Illinois. Beyond that, I don`t think it`s appropriate to comment.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Liz Chadderdon, there were some who were real disappointed in his initial comments, saying, "Hey, you could have had a little more oomph in it. There could have been more outrage."

And some even dissected it because he`s the president-elect. Why did he say, "I was not aware." You know, does that mean that somebody else in his staff might have had an awareness of this?

CHADDERDON: Well, I certainly don`t have a clue whether or not anyone on his staff has really had any direct involvement in this. However, Barack Obama has a huge staff. I think what he was doing in that instance is simply saying, "I`m going to take myself out of this. I didn`t have anything to do with it."

You know, now that he`s president-elect, if he comes in and blows it up and gets all angry about it and really throws a fit about it, first of all, I think there would be plenty of people who would read into that. And secondly, that just takes it to a whole new level.

I think President-elect Obama was saying, "I`m not going to comment about this. It`s a sad day for Illinois. I`m not going to have anything to do with it. I`ve never had anything to do with it."

But I also think if he`d said, "I nor my staff have never had anything to do with it," then three days later some reporter is going to find that some deputy of a deputy of a deputy actually had a meeting with some deputy. You get my point. So I think he was covering himself by saying, "Look, I don`t know anything about this, and I`ve got better and other things to do."

VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. Well, the phone lines are lighting up on this one. And from Illinois. No shock there.

Stacey from Illinois, your thought or question?

CALLER: Well, I just wanted to say that, I mean, we keep hearing this is all Illinois, Illinois politics. But this is Chicago, Illinois, politics. I mean, Governor Blagojevich is from Chicago. The down state of Illinois did not want him in.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, I think you make a good point. Greg Palast, what is it about the culture of politics in Illinois in general? And perhaps Chicago in specific? The previous governor, George Ryan, was convicted of 18 counts, including steering state business to cronies in return for bribes and misusing state resources for political gain. That guy is in the slammer.

PALAST: And so is downstate Governor Dan Walker of Illinois was convicted. So upstate, downstate, they all end up in pinstripes as governors. I mean, there`s more governors that go to jail out there. And by the way, that may indicate that they`re better at catching them than anywhere else.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Oh, I don`t know. I think that`s a stretch, Greg.

PALAST: But, you know, let`s be very careful here. I just don`t like the idea of throwing Jesse Jackson`s name into -- into a lineup of vipers. There`s just no evidence there. And his saying nothing doesn`t mean anything, because Obama wouldn`t say anything. He wasn`t guilty either, even though clearly he`d gotten across to Blagojevich his choice of Valerie Jarrett for the post.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, you know, I have to say that Jesse Jackson Jr. was very articulate and actually gave a great speech. So maybe in some weird way he could end up improving his chances of becoming a senator. We`ll talk about that in a second.

OK. Gentlemen, ladies, stay right there. The Blagojevich scandal. Boy, is that a mouthful. Just the beginning. I`m going to have more details in just a minute. When will politicians learn they are under a microscope?

I want to hear from you at home: 1-877-JVM-SAYS. That`s 1-877-586- 7297. Let`s sound out off on the arrogance in American politics.



JACKSON: On yesterday`s criminal indictment, I believe that the governor, with the best interests of our state, should resign and forfeit his authority to make the Senate appointment. The fact is, anyone appointed by the governor at this point would be too severely tainted to serve the state effectively and without suspicion in the United States Senate.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: That was Jesse Jackson Jr., or candidate No. 5, earlier today at his news conference, distancing himself from the Illinois corruption scandal.

We want to hear what you think about this case. Does it shock you? Or even surprise you? Or is it behavior we have come to expect from our politicians? Call 1-877-JVM-SAYS, 1-877-586-7297, with your comments and questions.

I`m back with my fabulous panel: Liz Chadderdon, Democratic strategist, president, Chadderdon Group; Greg Palast from the "Rolling Stone"; and Drew Findling, criminal defense attorney. The lines lighting up.

Michelle in New York, your thought or comment, ma`am?

CALLER: Yes. I would like to say that I think this is ridiculous. All these governors getting away with it. I`m from New York. Eliot Spitzer gets away with it. He resigns. And he sleeps with these -- excuse me -- prostitutes and gets all this money away that our tax dollars pay. And he doesn`t have to pay a dollar back or doesn`t get arrested for it.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: I agree. Liz Chadderdon, corrupt politicians are treated like royalty. Nevertheless, I am so upset that the other senator from Illinois, Durbin, is asking -- has asked President Bush to pardon the former governor, George Ryan, who is in jail on corruption charges. He`s asked for a commutation.

CHADDERDON: Well, and I find that a little surprising, actually, for a number of reasons, that -- that Senator Durbin would do that. You know, going back to the corrupt politicians, look, yes, there are some politicians who give every politician a bad name. But there are also a lot of really good hard-working politicians out there. They just never end up on CNN Headline News, you know, under the headline of scandal.

So it`s really a shame that so many of these guys are giving everybody else a bad name. But I will tell you this: they`re not really getting away with it. You know, the thing about being a politician and in the public life, your persona and how people see you is your entire life.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: If you had a child in that -- if you had a child in that children`s hospital where, allegedly, this governor wanted $50,000 in kickbacks to give millions of dollars in funding, if you had a child hanging on between life and death in that hospital, you would say, "Hey, something is really wrong here."

CHADDERDON: Absolutely.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: I mean, I think that this is horrifying, and just because it doesn`t involve murder doesn`t mean we can make light of it.

Fonda in California, your thought or question? Fonda?

CALLER: Yes. This is Sandra.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: How are you doing?

CALLER: I`m doing fine. I`m calling, because I think that all the government, almost all, is crooked one way or another. They either take bribes, or they take gifts.

Our president-elect now is going to stop a lot of this. He is honest. And you can see it in his face, that he`s honest. Where, if you look at these governors that you`ve had on television the last few days, they`re all looking away from the cameras. They don`t want to look direct into the lens. They don`t want to look you in the face. They look away.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, I think, you know, again, fabulous point from the caller.

Drew Findling, when does it become criminal? Obviously, politicians have to do glad-handing. And they`ve got to -- you`ve got to tell the guy is going to make an appointment, "Hey, please, I`d like to be -- I`d like to be the senator." Where do they cross the line into illegality?

FINDLING: Well, when you start seeing overt acts of criminal behavior. And that`s why what the -- what the governor says is going to affect him but not others.

Remember that this -- this investigation is a living organism. Right now, it`s just a guy with a potty mouth. OK? And it may be egregious, but they`re going to look for more and more overt acts, and they`re going to go back years. Trust me, this is far from over.

Going back to what the caller said, you know, we have to remember that just the criminal element doesn`t lend itself to just people that are poor, that rob, that steal, that do white-collar crimes. You have a prosecutor in North Carolina in Durham that knowingly prosecutes innocent young men for his personal gain. You have detectives that falsely accuse and convict people. They`re criminals just like this governor.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: You know, I agree with you, Drew. I think that this whole stereotyping of criminals as being poor people and people from a certain part of town, or people of a certain color, is absolutely nonsense.

The criminal mentality crosses all boundaries: all social boundaries, all economic boundaries, all racial boundaries. It`s something that is, basically, a character defect in human beings, and we all have to deal with.

We`ve got another caller. Mika (ph) from Ohio.

CALLER: Hi. I`m from Ohio. I`ve had a horrible governor, Governor Taft, which, of course, did some things. But what I`m most upset about today is the permanent campaign. It`s like the Republicans (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and different ones are coming out like, "What does Barack Obama have to do with this, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah." It`s like, we need to stop this permanent campaign.

I think you`ve done a really good job, compared to other shows. I just see a lot of people reaching for stuff. Let`s just focus on what we know. I just think the permanent campaign mentality is hurting this country.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Great comment. Thank you for that.

Greg Palast, she raises a good question. I mean, this is a distraction right now for the Obama administration, coming into office. This is a crucial time. We have an economic meltdown. There are so many problems. We have to deal with the Iraq war, health care, everything. And we`re talking about this -- this slime bucket in Illinois.

PALAST: Well, you know, Obama stuck his finger into it. Through either personally or through others, he made it clear that he wanted this woman, Valerie Jarrett, who, by the way, was his early and big fundraiser.

What we`re seeing is not only endless campaigning, but endless fundraising. And you`re seeing, with Blagojevich, he`s playing on this. Everyone`s trying to raise tons and tons of money. The money has poisoned the entire system. We`ve got to pull the cash out of this system. We are totally money-poisoned in politics in America.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, you know, all of you have made tremendous points. I want to end with -- we`re not ending this, but I want to end this little segment before we come back and take more calls, with a quote. What an idiot this governor is. Listen to this.

He told fund-raiser A, according to the affidavit, "You`ve got to be careful how you express that and assume everybody`s listening. Assume the whole world is listening. You hear me?"

All right. The Blagojevich scandal brings up many age-old questions. Does political power attracts slime buckets? We`re going to take your calls in a second. Give me a holler and tell me what you think about this scandal.



JACKSON: I reject and denounce pay-to-play politics and have no involvement whatsoever in any wrongdoing. I did not initiate or authorize anyone at any time to promise anything to Governor Blagojevich on my behalf.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: We`re back taking your phone calls on the imploding corruption scandal in Illinois. Back with my fabulous panel, and the calls flooding in.

Vanessa in Michigan, your thought or comment?

CALLER: Hi. Can you tell me more about the governor`s wife and what does she think about this?

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes, yes. We`ve got a quote here. This is such -- there`s so much foul language. My big fear is that I`m accidentally going to say something on television, because it`s chock full of curse words, this affidavit.

Listen to what the affidavit claims the wife said. During a call, the governor`s wife could be heard in the background, telling her husband to tell deputy governor A, quote, to "hold up that `F`-ing Cubs bleep. `F` them."


PALAST: Well, what she`s talking about is holding up a bailout for the Tribune company. Which is really serious, because basically they`re saying, "If the `Tribune` newspaper doesn`t give me good coverage, then I`m going to hang them."

And in fact, I`m very concerned about the fact that the "Tribune" went into bankruptcy within 48 hours of the indictment. One question I have is that someone in Fitzgerald`s office leaked to the "Tribune" that they were about to cuff the governor.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Wow. Fascinating stuff. Again, I think this is the tip of the iceberg.

Laurie in Illinois, your question or thoughts?

CALLER: My question exactly. Pinpoint on there, Jane. My question, I guess, is with Blagojevich and his wife, patty, in this indictment, both were facing the "Tribune" editorialist and targeting them directly.

Do they have any, those editorialists have the right to face civil charges against Patty and Blagojevich, both -- on both counts?

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Excellent question. And we`ve got a criminal defense attorney, Drew Findling, here to answer that one.

FINDLING: Well, in order for there to be a civil case, there has to be damages. That`s yet to be determined, what influence they actually had.

Regarding the wife, we have to remember, she`s not a public official. She didn`t take an oath to serve the people of Illinois. So just because, again, she`s got a filthy, vulgar mouth on the other end of the phone, right now does not subject her to any criminal case.

But I will say this, again, they`re going to be digging deep. If you have anything to do with this governor, whether you be his wife, his brother, his best friend, or whoever keeps his hair that pretty brown color...

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Alaska -- well, maybe not Alaska. All right. Wiley in Florida, your thought or question?

CALLER: Hi, Jane.


CALLER: I was just telling you, I was born and lived in Chicago for 40 years. And this kind of politics goes on in Chicago all the time. It`s a Democratic machine there. And Obama, Jesse Jackson Jr., they`ve all been together. They all came up in the ranks together.

And the only reason why this is coming up to a big heat is because it`s Obama running -- being the president. And if it wasn`t, he would just get thrown in jail and they`d go through. It happens all the time there with the...

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, I`ve got -- I`ve got to jump in. We`re out of time. But I want to certainly defend our president-elect. And the U.S. attorney said very, very clearly, repeatedly, that there was absolutely no evidence that the president-elect had anything to do with any of this. So let`s keep him out of it.

My thanks to Greg, Liz and Drew. I`m sure there`s a lot more to come on this one.

In just minutes, Paula Abdul lashes out at "American Idol." You won`t believe this story.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Paula Abdul blames "American Idol`s" producers for allowing an obsessed fan to get dangerously close to her. They let the deeply disturbed woman audition. She later took her own life. Which begs the question, should she have been prevented from appearing on the show? For both Paula`s safety and her own?

What do you think? Give us a call at 1-877-JVM-SAYS, that`s 1-877- 586-7297.

Your calls on Paula Abdul`s accusations that "American Idol" producers put her directly in the path of obsessed fan in just moments; call 1-877- JVM-SAYS, that`s 1-877-586-7297.

But first, at the top of the block tonight, the desperate search for beautiful 25-year-old Texas native Laura Garza. She went missing one week ago today.

Now, disturbing new details emerge about the man last seen with her. He is convicted sex offender Michael Mele; victims now coming out of the woodwork. This morning a woman told the story of her encounter with this sicko to NBC`s "Today" show.


ADRIANA MCCLEAN, SEX OFFENDER`S VICTIM: I think he saw me, like, "That`s it. I choose her." And yes, he was like a predator. He ran after me. He didn`t try to do it subtly at all.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Another pretty girl. Mele left a Manhattan nightclub with the now missing Laura Garza. She was later spotted in Mele`s SUV in upstate New York.

Another shocker? A man who briefly rode with them said Mele later called him to say quote, "That girl was reported missing." the problem? Laura Garza was not reported missing for another eight hours.

Mele is a level one sex offender who is now being held on a probation violation. But he shouldn`t have been out on the street. He pleaded guilty to masturbating on women and got zero jail time.

With me now to discuss this case, Mike Jacquelino (ph), a reporter with the New York Daily news, who has been following this story. Mike, what is the very latest?

MIKE JACQUELINO, REPORTER, NEW YORK DAILY NEWS: The very latest is the police are still combing through the woods, up in Newburg, New York. Still looking for any kind of sign of a body; they`re at an impasse at this point. We ran a story today talking about how trying to use this cell phone, the cell phone, the --


JACQUELINO: The ping, that comes off the cell phone today, to triangulate where he went in the hours following his encounter with Miss Garza.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Tell us about this suspect, this person of interest`s history. Because there are so many incidents that I`ve read. It is mind- boggling. New Jersey, Connecticut, upstate New York. What`s going on with this guy?

JACQUELINO: He`s had numerous run-ins with the law. And people, as you say, just coming out of the woodwork. He would, I mean, as you said, he would have auto erotic fantasies in his car and mall parking lots, and at the moment of climax, he would run out and pin down a girl, and then the rest is -- you can imagine.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Tell us what we know about what he was doing during the crucial hours after this young woman disappeared.

JACQUELINO: It`s speculation at this point, ok? Neighbors have said that said that they saw him exiting the home and dumping things in a dumpster near his home.

His girlfriend unwittingly helped him remove a swath of carpeting in his house. It`s big enough to roll the body in. A machete has been recovered from a dumpster nearby the house. And woman`s clothing, but anything is conjecture at this point about what exactly he did as police still comb through the woods looking for a body.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: And apparently he had scratch marks and bite marks on him, right?

JACQUELINO: Yes, he did, yes.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, thanks, Mike. This is -- I`m sure you`re going to be back with more updates. Thanks for that great work as well.

This disturbing crime begs the question, how does a man who sexually assaults multiple women still walks the streets? I want to bring my panel in for answers.

Wendy Murphy, former prosecutor, author of "And Justice for Some" and professor at the New England School of Law, and Jack Levin, criminologist and professor at Northeastern University.

Wendy, ten, count them, ten women have now reportedly come forward saying they were followed or threatened by this Mele, or that he rubbed against them or he exposed himself. He has pleaded guilty to a series of masturbation attacks. He got a misdemeanor charge and was put on probation, zero jail time. What is wrong with our criminal justice system?

WENDY MURPHY, FORMER PROSECUTOR: You know, read my book, you`ll get the answer to that question. But let me say with regard to this guy, he also attacked children and he`s been suspected in three states -- not just one state -- this guy is a predator, a serial predator of the worst type.

The problem is, of course, he looks like the guy next door. And you know what? He`s a sex offender, actually registered. This is the problem with sex offender registries. Instead of putting them on the registry, because women who are out dating, they don`t go to the registry before they go out.

We need to put neon, green, skull and crossbones right here on their foreheads in tattoo form. That`s the only way you`re going to know whether a guy who looks so nice could actually be capable of such hideous things. That and let`s change our legal system, too; oh I don`t know, care about women.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes, exactly. I mean, why should a masturbation on someone be a misdemeanor. I suspect that if the powers that be, being mostly male, had that experience, they would find a way to make this a felony, Jack Levin.

JACK LEVIN, NORTHEASTERN UNIVERSITY CRIMINOLOGIST: Well, it should have been a felony. Because let me tell you, when you`re a level one sex offender, in this case, you`ve committed lewdness. And there`s a big difference between lewdness and raping and killing and abducting an innocent victim. The truth is, that if we were to lock away every offender, sex offender who`s at level one, we`d be locking away hundreds of thousands of people.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: That would be good.

LEVIN: Well, it might be good, but the problem is, we already have 2.5 million people locked away.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, I think you make a good point. But I think we`ve locked up the wrong people in some cases.

LEVIN: You`re right, you`re absolutely right.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: We have more people in prison in the United States of America than any other country.

LEVIN: Drug offenders.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Including China and you know what? It`s drug offenders.

LEVIN: That`s right.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: And we`re not winning the war on drugs in any case. So why are we doing this? Why not go after these people, these men who are violent criminals who attack women? Our priorities are completely messed up.

LEVIN: Jane, Jane, I agree with you. But if there`s a guy on the streets, and he`s a dangerous sex offender, he shouldn`t be living in anybody`s neighborhood. He should be behind bars.

We have to get rid of this idea that we`re all going to be protected by making these guys register, the level two and the level three. If we call them dangerous, then they shouldn`t be in the community at all.

MURPHY: That`s right. That`s why they should be locked up even if you`re going to refer to them as a level one, which is a dopey thing to do for a guy like this.

LEVIN: That`s right.

MURPHY: He has so many victims under his belt, so to speak. And this is the sort of guy where everybody knew he was dangerous, and he refused to go to the treatment that we all know usually doesn`t work.

He refused to go to treatment. And he wasn`t surrendered on probation. Had he been surrendered for failing to go to treatment, he wouldn`t have been out there killing this -- I think probably killing this poor woman.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Oh yes and you talked about, we have to ask, why was he out on the street to begin with. But then he had, as you mentioned, Wendy, so many probation violations.

He committed numerous violations. He moved from his parents` house to another town without notifying authorities, that`s one. He missed an appointment with his probation officer, he missed three sex offender therapy sessions. That should have been an alarm bell. And he was drinking at a Manhattan nightclub, where he met Garza.

Jack Levin, what is wrong with our procedures for probation and parole? Because every time somebody`s caught, almost every time we cover any of these cases, they have either a long record, they`ve got parole violations, they`ve got probation violations. It`s like nobody is checking up on them.

LEVIN: Well, it really begins much earlier in the life of one of these criminals. The truth is that if you look at sex offenders, they have one of the lowest recidivism rates.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: That`s not true.

LEVIN: Believe it or not.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: That`s not true. No, they actually cannot be --

MURPHY: That`s not true.

LEVIN: Hold it. Let me finish. They do have one of the lowest -- sex offenders in general have the second lowest recidivism rate. The first -- murderers, they have the lowest.

Now, that doesn`t mean that they`re not recidivists. I`m talking about official statistics. Also these young sex offenders who are in their teens and early 20s get away with it. They get away with it for a long period of time. They actually never get a record.

So we don`t know that they`re that dangerous. And that`s why their recidivism rate is so low.

MURPHY: That`s right. I agree with Jack. Jack`s a great guy and he understands it so well. It`s not that they`re not offending, it`s that we`re not aware of how many offenders.

LEVIN: That`s right.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Because women are ashamed to come forward because they don`t think it will be taken seriously, because it`s not taken seriously.

MURPHY: Exhibit "A," this case.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: This is vicious cycle. It boggles my mind. We have to have fundamental change in this society.

Wendy, thanks. Jack, stick around.

It was just one month ago when an obsessed fan apparently committed suicide outside of Paula Abdul`s home. Now, Abdul is blaming, get this, her producers at "American Idol." I`m going to be taking your calls in this very disturbing case; dial 1-877-JVM-SAYS, 1-877-586-7297. Back in a moment.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: I want to hear what you have to say about Paula Abdul`s recent accusations against the producers of "American Idol." Just one month after an obsessed fan committed suicide outside her home, the "American Idol" judge opened up to Barbara Walters with some shocking allegations.


PAULA ABDUL, "AMERICAN IDOL" JUDGE: First of all, I said this girl is a stalker of mine, and please do not let her in. And there were people, everyone knew, I mean, I was shaking. And they thought it would -- for entertainment value that this --


ABDUL: Producers.

WALTERS: You mean they put you in peril because it would be fun?

ABDUL: Funny. Fun. Fun for them to cause me stress.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: And maybe it would get ratings, huh? Paula claims the obsessed fan knew where she lived and followed her home after her audition for the show.

When Walters asked her why she still works for "American Idol," Abdul responded, by saying she`s under contract. Let`s see how long she`s under contract for.

Do you think Paula Abdul is right to criticize her employers over the obsessed fan`s alleged suicide? Call 1-877-JVM-SAYS, that`s 1-877-586- 7297. I`m going to take your questions and comments.

But first, let`s check in with Jen Garcia, staff editor from "People" magazine; Jack Levin, criminologist at Northeastern University and Rhonda Saunders, author of "Whisper of Fear" and L.A. deputy DA.

Jen, I`ve got to start with you, have you ever seen anything like this in TV history? The suicide of an obsessed fan and then the star blaming the very people she works for?

JEN GARCIA, "PEOPLE" MAGAZINE STAFF EDITOR: I mean, you know, it hasn`t happened a lot. But this is big news. I mean, Paula Abdul is blaming the producers of "American Idol," the show that she`s under contract working for.

You know, the show that brought her back. But she`s taking a stance and really blaming them for this whole incident which has really caused her a lot of pain.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: But Jen, from what you know about television, would they do it for ratings? I mean, we know that there are a lot of shows, reality shows that put people sort of on the edge. Would they be?

GARCIA: Right. Well, I mean, that seems to be the case. You know, Paula objected immediately, once she heard that Goodspeed, Paula Goodspeed would be auditioning.

I mean, she made it very clear that she did not want this woman to audition, to be in the room with her and to be close to her. But producers went against that which is kind of shocking. And they let her audition anyway. And fast forward, look where we are today.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes and everybody criticizes Paula Abdul for being so emotional and kind of on the edge. Maybe we know now why because apparently she was stalked for 17 years.

GARCIA: Exactly.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: By this woman. That`s enough to make anybody completely frantic.

Listen, people are calling about this. Cheryl in Ohio, your thought or question?

CHERYL IN OHIO: I feel it is absolutely inappropriate for them to let the stalker anywhere near Paula Abdul, much less audition.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: I agree with you.

Rhonda Saunders, author of "Whisper of Fear." You`re an L.A. Deputy D.A. Do you think there could be some criminality here?

RHONDA SAUNDERS, "WHISPER OF FEAR" AUTHOR: I don`t know about criminality. But it`s outrageous conduct. Because if Paula Abdul actually told them that she had a stalker, one who was according to her dangerous who has been sending her threatening letters, and they allowed her onto the set to get that close to her, there could have been an absolute catastrophe. Somebody could have gotten hurt.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Absolutely. I mean, stalkers are serious. I always find that people do not take them seriously. And I want to talk about that in a moment.

But first, Derrel in Ohio, your thought or question?

DERREL IN OHIO: My point is, I think it`s totally unfounded what Paula is saying. I know she needs the new publicity. They have security there. There`s hundreds of people trying out for "American Idol." They go through a gun -- a magnetic stuff, and people have caused that Simon and other people, and I don`t think they could not read the mindset, predict what people will do two or three months, four months from now.

It`s tragic. But it`s another publicity stunt. She should just move on, and thousands of people go through this every day.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, you know, I respect your opinion. But I disagree 100 percent. I think this is very serious. I think there`s a lot of cynicism about stalking -- and listen we`re calling this an obsessed fan. Paula Abdul is the one calling this person a stalker.

Jack Levin, a criminologist, is there a sense where we don`t take this issue seriously until it becomes tragic?

LEVIN: I don`t think we see it in perspective. For example, the last caller talked about the security on the set. Well, this is much broader than that. And there was somebody hurt. Somebody committed suicide.

Look, Paula Abdul had every right and reason to be concerned. When you talk about celebrity stalkers, as opposed to those who stalk their partners, you`re usually talking about psychotics who engage in delusional thinking. You put them in contact with the celebrity they`re stalking and they may incorrectly perceive it as though it`s a sign of affection.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Of course. Of course and you`d almost be correct, or at least have some credence to think that, well, if they`re letting me on the show, maybe she said something.

LEVIN: That`s right.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: In fact, what she said was, don`t let her on the show. But obviously this person wasn`t aware of that. And they read into anything. I consider this kind of behavior, like if you take a regular crush, and I think we`ve all had those, and magnify it a million times --

LEVIN: Exactly.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: -- that`s what you get when you`re dealing with an obsessed fan. Would that be an accurate assessment?

LEVIN: Yes and in fact that there are celebrity stalkers who have had absolutely no contact with the stars and yet they think they`re married to them.


LEVIN: They sincerely believe that they`re having a long-term relationship. So it was a big mistake, in my view, to have this young woman appear on "American Idol" and be in proximity to the celebrity she was stalking.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Connie in Ohio, your thought or question?

CONNIE IN ALABAMA: Oh it`s Alabama.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, go for it.

CONNIE: Anyway, I am appalled. I`m absolutely appalled. I cannot imagine the producers of this show, after she basically begged them not to allow her to come on, letting her come on. I can`t imagine that if Simon Cowell had a stalker out there waiting to come in, and he knew about it, and he told someone, I can`t imagine that person being allowed to come on and audition.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, Jen Garcia, let me ask you about how things work in Hollywood, because we always assume the stars have a certain clout, and she is a very important part of this very, very successful show.

GARCIA: Of course.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: I would think that if she said, this is a deal- breaker, you cannot do this, that somebody would have to listen, or she could call an executive?

GARCIA: Well, I mean, you would have to think so. But in the end, you know, producers do have the upper hand. It`s just surprising when in a show like this, where she means so much to it, she is one of essentially the three stars, now four, that they wouldn`t take her seriously.

And because they let Paula Goodspeed audition, it`s resulted in her following Abdul home, and then finally finding out where she lives and eventually committing suicide.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: You know and I have to wonder if Paula`s other behavior may have reduced her credibility, so that when she did say this, people didn`t take her seriously.

I`m going to talk about that in just a second.

Stay right there, back with more of your calls on this issue. 1-877- JVM-SAYS, that`s 1-877-586-7297. Next.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: We`re talking about Paula Abdul`s obsessed fan who committed suicide after auditioning on "American Idol." Phone lines lighting up.

Ty in Arizona, your thought or question?

TY IN ARIZONA: Yes, I just want to make a comment. You know, this show has a history of people being on this show who seem to be unstable and it`s not surprising that this has happened. That`s just something that they do, and these people seem to be -- a lot of them seem to be unstable, and I think they enjoy having those types of folks on television. So this in itself is not surprising at all.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, I think you make an excellent point. Rhonda Saunders, anybody who`s watched this show knows that the worst it is, the better it is.

The worst the performances, the kookier the contestant, the more we laugh, the more we enjoy it, so inherently it encourages this kind of dynamic that can result in these tragic outcomes.

SAUNDERS: But this is not about "American Idol." This woman had been stalking or Paula Abdul claimed she had been stalking her way before "American Idol" even went on TV.

This was a woman who had some serious issues, who was threatening Paula Abdul. And the point that I see is that why didn`t the people around Paula Abdul do something about it, such as getting a restraining order against this woman? Why didn`t the police follow through, if she was indeed making threats against her and take her into custody?

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Do restraining orders work, though, Rhonda? I have found so many cases that I`ve covered where the person who gets killed or there is a tragedy, there is always a restraining order somewhere involved. I find them almost like a contrarian indicator.

SAUNDERS: Actually, a restraining order is a tool for law enforcement and for prosecutors, because without that restraining order, the stalker can come and sit in her car in front of Paula Abdul`s house, she is on a public street. She can walk into "American Idol," and audition to be on the show because there`s nothing keeping her from being within 500 yards of Paula Abdul.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: I hear your point.

SAUNDERS: Will it stop them? No.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: We`ve got about ten seconds left. And I want to ask Jen, what`s the future for Paula Abdul on "American Idol"?

GARCIA: I mean, hopefully it`s a bright one. She is selling her home; she has no desire to be living there anymore. It`s just too many bad memories for her. So she`ll be moving on. Whether she`ll be staying on "American Idol," I mean, you know, that`s for anyone to say.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, you know, that show is always filled with so much discomfort that I guess this will just be more par for the course.

Thank you, Jen. Thank you, Rhonda. Thank you, Jack.

GARCIA: Thank you, so much.

SAUNDERS: Thank you.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: If I didn`t get to your call tonight, remember you can email me with your questions or comments to

Thanks so much for joining me tonight. Remember to come back tomorrow at 7:00 p.m. Eastern for some more real "ISSUES."

We`ve got to shuffle.