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ISSUES WITH JANE VELEZ-MITCHELL
More Revelations in Sandra Cantu Murder; Police Officer Videotaped Making Jokes about Murder Victim
Aired April 20, 2009 - 19:00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JANE VELEZ-MITCHELL, HOST (voice-over): Tonight, groundbreaking updates in the murder of 8-year-old Sandra Cantu. Three friends of suspected rapist and killer, Melissa Huckaby, say Huckaby told them she was raped ten years ago by a cop. The accused officer has reportedly been cleared. So was this a sick fantasy from a sick woman? Or did past abuse play a role in this horrifying crime?
Then, stunning developments in the Haleigh Cummings disappearance. Mom, Crystal, and dad, Ron, refuse to back down, butting heads yet again. This time Crystal`s attorney says Ron`s defense team is amateurish and unprofessional. While the family lawyers duke it out, why aren`t we hearing more about the official police investigation?
Then, a firestorm unleashed as a cop is caught on tape joking about a murder victim. Just how out of line was he? I will show you this shocking video.
Plus, Madonna takes a nasty spill in the Hamptons off a horse and blames a paparazzo. But the photographer denies it. He adds: "Trust me, if I was there, I`d have the pictures to prove it." The stalkarazzi wars heat up on both coasts, as a woman accused of trespassing on Britney Spears` California property says she`s just an aspiring paparazzi filmmaker. What? You won`t believe this one.
ISSUES starts now.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Tonight, a mind-blowing development in the Sandra Cantu murder investigation. Suspect Melissa Huckaby, charged with raping and murdering little Sandra -- you won`t believe this, people -- is now tied to a report about the abduction of a 7-year-old girl back in January.
According to The Tracy Press," the blue-eyed, dark-haired girl, who lived in the very same trailer park as Huckaby and little Sandra Cantu, was taken away from her home and brought to a park for four long hours. The woman who took her drove a purple Kia Sportage, the very same type of car registered to Melissa Huckaby.
When the little girl was returned to her family, they brought her to the hospital, where doctors found muscle relaxers in the child`s bloodstream. This is just astounding.
"The Tracy Press" says police dismissed the reports because the child`s mother smelled of alcohol, and allegedly had some kind of drug on her.
HLN tried to obtain independent confirmation of this stunning report, but Tracy police not commenting because it`s part of the ongoing murder investigation.
Meantime, another shocking new report reveals that Melissa Huckaby claimed to be the victim of rape herself. Three women who have known her at different times all tell the very same story to "The Tracy Press": that Huckaby told them shocking details of an alleged date rape ten years ago at the hands of a police officer. But the accused cop was reportedly cleared after an investigation.
So, the question tonight: was the rape claim just a sick fantasy made up by a very sick woman? I want to know what you think about all of this, all these shockers. Give me a call.
Straight to my fantastic expert panel: Jayne Weintraub, criminal defense attorney; Brenda Wade, clinical psychologist. And boy, do we need you tonight, Brenda. Thomas Ruskin, former NYPD detective; Darren Kavinoky, criminal defense attorney, a.k.a., the voice of reason. And we need you, too. Jim Roope, Los Angeles correspondent for CNN Radio Network; and Cheri Matthews, editor of "The Tracy Press," who joins me by phone.
Cheri, first of all, kudos to your newspaper for some major exclusives. Tell us more about this mind-boggling, astounding report -- I had to read it three times to believe what I was reading -- about another child victim in the very same complex could be tied to this woman, Melissa Huckaby?
CHERI MATTHEWS, EDITOR, "THE TRACY PRESS" (via telephone): Yes. Well, I`m looking at it in the police log. I mean, all it really took was to look back a few months in the incident report with the Tracy Police Department and see that, sure enough, on January 17, there was a 7-year-old girl who was reported missing from the very same trailer park.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: And here`s the thing. The important thing about this, Cheri, is that the police knew about it, and apparently did not take action?
MATTHEWS: Well, it looks like when it was first reported, there was no police report taken. But then a few hours later, the family called again, because they must have noticed that there was something wrong with the girl. And at that time she was taken to the hospital, and she was checked, and they found that she had tested positive for a muscle relaxer type of drug.
So at that time the police checked it out again, and with the report to follow. So the first time there was no report taken. And the second time there was a report.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: But I guess the bottom line here, Thomas Ruskin, is that according to this report in "The Tracy Press," the person who took this child, allegedly, drove a purple, which is not very common color for a car, Kia Sportage, and that is the car registered reportedly to Melissa Huckaby.
The implications are, Thomas, that if they had acted on this, they might have stopped something even more horrible from happening. And we all know what I`m talking about.
THOMAS RUSKIN, FORMER NYPD DETECTIVE: Right. You know, that`s where the forensic examination of the body and the autopsy are going to be very, very important in this case. If this girl did have -- if Sandra Cantu did have the same type of barbiturates and drugs in her system, then the Tracy Police Department missed it the first time around and, you know, will be criticized for that.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Jayne Weintraub, I`ve got to -- I`ve got to ask you this question. When I read this, my blood ran cold. And I thought, oh, my God. If this is true -- and we cannot independently confirm it, but we are trying, and of course, the police aren`t commenting because it`s part of the murder investigation.
But if this is true, and they had acted, and investigated, and found the owner of this Kia Sportage, that would be allegedly her that we`re looking at right here, little Sandra could be alive today.
JAYNE WEINTRAUB, CRIMINAL WEINTRAUB: Well, that`s correct under the bare facts. Of course, that is the gleaning -- you know, the idea that you see, and that`s what they want you to see. A, it`s not part of a pending murder investigation. It was a closed investigation from January with a separate victim. And all the police have to do is a victim subject check, which we talked about on your show last week, and they would have seen this a long time ago.
But what`s really troubling to me is, this is a matter of the court of public opinion getting a free, you know, grab at the pot, throw everything in and see what sticks later. We have no idea what this is. The mother didn`t report it and finally reported it. Was alcohol on the breath, stoned out of her mind. And that`s why they didn`t take what she said seriously.
She was at the park also. And maybe she just saw the first car that came into her head and had no credibility. And that`s why she said the purple Kia. That`s what I think. And there`s got to be a lot more before it`s...
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Darren Kavinoky, I`m sorry. When a child tests positive for muscle relaxers in her system and she`s 7 years old, something is wrong and the police need to investigate it.
DARREN KAVINOKY, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Certainly, this could have been a major, major investigative failure on the part of this law enforcement agency. And as my able colleague just commented, yes, of course, more information is needed. And this is why we test cases in the court of law and not in the court of public opinion.
All of that said, though, the thing that just outrages me is the idea that, because the mother would have alcohol on her breath, or in possession of some kind of drugs, that, therefore, we can`t reliably investigate this case based on these facts that, as you point out, Jane, the purple color of the car is unusual. It`s highly unusual that you`re going to find that kind of cocktail of drugs in a child`s system. So...
WEINTRAUB: She was at the park for four hours.
KAVINOKY: It`s just like that old notion, that even a prostitute can be a rape victim.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, forget about prostitutes. If you go out to dinner and have a glass of wine, which I don`t do, because I`m a recovering alcoholic with 14 years of sobriety. But if you go out and have a glass of wine, you`re going to have alcohol on your breath.
And if this woman, this mother -- if this mother was out having dinner with friends and happened to have alcohol on her breath and maybe had prescription something or other in her purse, that -- so what?
WEINTRAUB: They said that she appeared to be stoned on some kind of drugs.
I think they didn`t think she had any credibility and she was stoned out of her mind.
KAVINOKY: Well, then maybe she -- honestly, maybe she should have gone to jail for abusing the child, or not caring for the child.
RUSKIN: No. But the real point is that the police really had an opportunity to do a more thorough investigation. They didn`t do it. And ultimately, had that been done, we`re talking about a child who may have -- may be alive today because we`re talking about kidnapping and a whole slew of other crimes.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Brenda Wade, I don`t want to beat up on the cops. They did an amazing job, very fast work apprehending this woman. I give them credit. I could never do their job in a million years. Nevertheless, when you read something like this, it does make your blood run cold, because the implications are enormous.
BRENDA WADE, CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGIST: It either makes your blood run cold or it makes it boil, Jane. Because, again, we`re looking through a filter. And you have to ask the question, what kind of filter were the police using that they would dismiss the mother coming to them, the child testing positive, just because they thought the mother may have been stoned?
The child is the one they should have been looking at. Her blood work told the story. And the fact that she was missing. And a car of that description, you just don`t make that up. There`s a lot here that makes me wonder.
WEINTRAUB: You forgot the biggest fact. The biggest fact was she was a 7-year-old child.
WEINTRAUB: And she could say whether or not she knew Melissa Huckaby. And she certainly, I`m sure, has cleared her by now.
And I hope that on April 24 when they go back to the court on the defense motion for a gag order, among other things, that this type of thing will stop coming out, unless it`s coming out in full so we have all the facts.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Panel, we`re never going to have all the facts until the trial. You know that.
More on these really stunning new reports that a 7-year-old girl was briefly abducted from the very same complex in January by a woman driving a car of the same make and color as Melissa Huckaby`s.
And more on Melissa Huckaby`s alleged rape claims in a moment. Do you think past abuse played a role in Huckaby`s alleged crime? Call 1-877-JVM- SAYS, 1-877-586-7297. Let me know what you think.
Then cops closing in on the Craisgslist killer. I will tell you about the new clues they`ve uncovered. And a major shocking development in this case to tell you about. It`s a bombshell.
But first, suspected killer and rapist Melissa Huckaby`s rape claims could shake up her defense case. Here she is in court, charged with the murder of Sandra Cantu.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The crime of murder in violation of section 187 of the penal code, a felony, was committed by Melissa Huckaby, who at the time and place last (UNINTELLIGIBLE) willfully and unlawfully and intentionally, with malice aforethought, murdered Sandra Cantu.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JUDY KURIANSKY, CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGIST: She possibly has been raped herself, and this was a re-enactment of that experience. The statistics have shown this is the case. Up to 80 percent of these situations happen when the woman has been raped herself.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELEZ-MITCHELL: That was noted therapist and sex expert, Dr. Judy Kuriansky, appearing here on ISSUES on the very day of Melissa Huckaby`s arrest. Now we`re hearing Melissa Huckaby claiming she was raped ten years ago by a cop. But police investigated and cleared the cop of any wrongdoing.
So was she lying? Was there an earlier abuse trauma that left her depressed troubled? And was Melissa Huckaby involved in the reported abduction of a 7-year-old girl in January who was reportedly returned with muscle relaxants in her system? We cannot confirm that story being reported by "The Tracy Press" tonight.
Phone lines lighting up over all these shocking developments.
Jenny in California, your question or thought, ma`am?
CALLER: Hi, Jane, how are you?
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Good, thank you.
CALLER: I watch your show. I love it. I do have a quick comment. I`m really sick and tired of hearing cases like this where somebody does the most horrific crime and then later it`s, "Oh, well, she was raped when she was a child" and that sort of thing. And I don`t think that that should play into it whatsoever.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, first of all, let`s go to Jim Roope, correspondent for CNN Radio Network, to bring us up to speed on these rape allegations. What do we know?
JIM ROOPE, CORRESPONDENT, CNN RADIO NETWORK: Well, we know that the - - and the police know a lot. They`re just not letting us know a lot right now. We do know that the rape charge is in there, that it was a rape with a foreign object. And so that`s the allegation there.
And that`s what could really put her over the top as far as prison time goes. If that was -- if the murder was a result of the rape of the foreign object.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, Jim, I`m actually really interested in her claims, Melissa Huckaby`s claims that she was raped ten years ago by a police officer.
ROOPE: You know, I don`t know. The police officer, that was happening in Orange County, I believe. And the police officer was cleared of that.
And I mean, that`s ten years ago. It`s not like she was raped as a 7- year-old with a foreign object. So I don`t know that you can really put the two together. I mean, if we do what we learn, or if we -- if we perpetrate crimes that happen to us, you know, I don`t know that you can put those two together.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Brenda Wade, let me ask you this question. OK, let`s assume that the police are right, and that that didn`t happen. Could there have been an earlier trauma from childhood...
VELEZ-MITCHELL: ... and that all of this, if in fact she is guilty, which we don`t know. She hasn`t even given a plea yet. But all of this is a re-enactment and is a sick acting out of the toxic secret of her abuse as a child?
WADE: That would make the most sense to me, Jane. And I have to tell you, it`s very unusual for somebody to go through a date rape at age 18, which is apparently what she said happened to her, with someone who`s a police officer, and at 18, be able to make these charges stick. That`s a tough thing to do: go up against the police department.
WEINTRAUB: ... in the back of a police car.
WADE: Exactly, exactly. So I do want to say something must have happened to this young woman. I read her history. She`s been troubled since she was about a 6th grader, saying she felt like...
VELEZ-MITCHELL: But Brenda -- Brenda, you`re saying -- you just said something significant. She`s troubled since she was a sixth grader.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: She claimed that she was raped at 18. But in fact she had suicidal thoughts, according to friends, going back to the sixth grade.
WADE: She did. That`s right. But that doesn`t mean she wasn`t raped at 18. You see, both things could be true.
And for somebody to be as unhinged as she seems to be, Jane, we have to look at the history, because what we`re doing is we`re creating what`s called a genogram. It explains why we do what we do, why we think what we think, and there is an explanation. It doesn`t excuse her behavior.
KAVINOKY: One second here, Jane. If -- if -- let`s assume just for a moment that she was raped when she was 18 years old, approximately ten years ago. That is not going to be relevant in this current criminal case where she`s charged with murder.
KAVINOKY: Unless prosecutors seek the death penalty, then that kind of emotional history may have some relevance to the punishment.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Here`s something that could be relevant. SFGate.com, the Web site of "The San Francisco Chronicle" reports some investigators believe Huckaby did not act alone in Sandra`s murder. And they`ve hinted that they`re not dismissing the possibility that somebody else was involved. Officially, police say they have their only suspect in Sandra`s murder. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SGT. TONY SHENEMAN, TRACY POLICE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: If we had been aware of any person that was actively involved, either before, during or after the commission of this crime, we would have been remiss in our duties in not taking them into custody. We did not have any indication that anyone else was involved. So there were no other arrests made.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Bloggers on the Internet speculating if Huckaby did do it, there`s no way she could have done it herself. And one person they`re focusing in on is Christian Sinclair. He had a relationship with Huckaby, according to cops. And he had a troubled past. Although police insist he`s not a suspect.
Thomas Ruskin, your thoughts on a man, not necessarily this man, but a man being involved.
RUSKIN: I think the police are telling you in so many words that they have the person responsible, that they have no other evidence to indicate that anyone else is involved. And we still don`t know what DNA, what forensic evidence they have from the suitcase from which the body was found, that Sandra`s body was found.
WEINTRAUB: We don`t even know what the cause of death is. We don`t even know how she died.
RUSKIN: Right. Well, they`re not going to talk about that yet.
WEINTRAUB: We don`t even know how they`re connecting it to Huckaby except her confession, which was that it was an accident which is second- degree murder or manslaughter. So we don`t know how the evidence, if the evidence really supports first-degree murder to begin with.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: We don`t even know if she confessed. We`ve heard other reports that said she gave four different accounts of what happened. And she hasn`t even issued a plea. And the big court date comes up on Friday.
I want to thank my excellent panel. More on the case against Melissa Huckaby later in the program.
Madonna, meantime, takes on the paparazzi after falling off a horse in the Hamptons? My expert panel will analyze these stalkarazzis` war on privacy.
Plus, an inebriated cop caught on tape making sick jokes about a murder victim. You do not want to miss the next shocking video.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: In the spotlight tonight, a disturbing rant caught on tape. A Pennsylvania cop now under heavy scrutiny for a disgusting, insensitive tirade about a murder victim.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAMES COUSINS, ERIE POLICE OFFICER: I swear to God, it looked like (EXPLETIVE DELETED) out of a movie. It was (EXPLETIVE DELETED) perfect. Right in the middle of the (EXPLETIVE DELETED) forehead. Right in between the (EXPLETIVE DELETED) eye. He`s (EXPLETIVE DELETED) bleeding. Not really so much from the (EXPLETIVE DELETED) end. Not really out of the back. He`s laying on the ground and his (EXPLETIVE DELETED) leg is doing one of these.
Did you see it? Let me show you again. He`s twitching like a (EXPLETIVE DELETED) chicken.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELEZ-MITCHELL: The guy is dying, and this cop finds that funny? Apparently, the whole barroom did. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COUSINS: The guy`s shot to the head. There`s a sign above him that says St. Ides 40 ounce bottles, $4.50 a box. Anybody want to take a (EXPLETIVE DELETED) wild guess of what St. Ides (EXPLETIVE DELETED) slogan is?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, dear God, no.
COUSINS: Swear to God, "Take it to the head."
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Ha, ha, ha! Sick! Officer James Cousins suspended with pay from his full-time job Wednesday. But is that enough?
I`m joined now by Thomas Ruskin, a former NYPD detective and president of CMP Protective and Investigative Group.
Tom, this guy has finally -- finally -- been suspended, but with pay. But first, this is unbelievable. He was reportedly allowed to help with the internal investigation into his own conduct. What in God`s name is going on here?
RUSKIN: That`s -- that`s the disturbing part of this. And that -- and that really tests the integrity of this internal investigation. Internal investigation is supposed to be conducted by a superior officer looking into an officer`s conduct and then make the determination to the chief of what action, if any, should be taken, if there is any misconduct by an officer.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: He`s driving the guy around, according to reports. This guy is driving around the investigating officer who`s investigating this YouTube video.
RUSKIN: Right. Which is really the fault of the chief and the inspector who was conducting the investigation. This officer should really have had nothing to do with the investigation.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: That`s an understatement.
Now, the ranting cop continued, even making fun of when the victim`s mom identified her murdered son. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COUSINS: The mom arrives on the scene. They (EXPLETIVE DELETED) lift the (EXPLETIVE DELETED) bag off the face and she says, "Yes, that`s him, that`s my son!"
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELEZ-MITCHELL: The murdered man`s mother expressed her outrage on CNN Sunday. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
YVETTE JENNINGS, VICTIM`S MOTHER: I was sad and disturbed. I was distraught, you know. This added a whole lot more pain on top of what I was already feeling. He needs to be held accountable, gravely accountable. And he`s not someone who I feel confident to be able to protect and serve me or my family.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Does she have a lawsuit? Shouldn`t this guy be fired?
RUSKIN: Listen, everyone -- we know we live in a very litigious society, and we know that police like suing the police and the cities. Does she have a lawsuit? No, I don`t think she has a lawsuit.
Does she have a gripe? Yes, and I feel sorry for Ms. Jennings (ph). And I feel bad for her loss of her son. This is a cop who must have seen this and should be traumatized by this to the point where he got drunk...
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Oh, please.
RUSKIN: ... and he let it out. Should...
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Shouldn`t people who carry guns -- I love the police.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: But when you have the power of the gun, there`s responsibility that comes with that.
RUSKIN: And really he should go through sensitivity training at that point.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Haleigh Cummings case, next.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Stunning developments in the Haleigh Cummings disappearance: mom, Crystal and dad, Ron, butting heads. This time, Crystal`s attorney calls out Ron`s defense team, saying they`re amateurish and unprofessional.
I`ll have an update.
Plus, Madonna takes a nasty spill in the Hamptons off a horse and blames the paparazzi. The stalker-azzi wars heat up on both coasts, as the woman accused of trespassing on Britney Spears` California property claimed, she`s just an aspiring paparazzi film maker. What? You won`t believe this one.
Truly astounding developments in the Sandra Cantu murder case tonight. A new report ties Huckaby to an apparent abduction of a 7-year-old girl who lived in the very same mobile home park as Huckaby and Sandra Cantu. The girl was taken away in January by a woman driving a purple Kia Sportage, the very same type of car registered to Melissa Huckaby.
The "Tracy Press" said that little girl was brought to a park and reportedly kept there for four hours. When she was returned, doctors at the hospital found muscle-relaxers in her blood stream.
Astounding, astounding reports that we cannot independently confirm, but being reported by the "Tracy Press."
Plus, Melissa Huckaby, rape victim? Three women say that she told them at separate times she was raped by a police officer ten years ago, but the cop was cleared by authorities.
Joining me now: Mark Eiglarsh, criminal defense attorney; and Darren Kavinoky, criminal defense attorney, a.k.a. "The Voice of Reason."
And the phone lines are lighting up; Ruth, you have been very patient. Ruth from Pennsylvania, what`s your question or thought, ma`am?
RUTH, PENNSYLVANIA (via telephone): Well, since Huckaby had a criminal record, I was wondering how she was permitted to teach Sunday school. In Pennsylvania, to work with any capacity with children, including Sunday school, you have to have a background check by the State Police.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Mark Eiglarsh?
MARK EIGLARSH, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Yes, I`m not aware of any background check required in that jurisdiction. Apparently she had a relationship with the person who hired her. Her grandfather, I think. So it`s very easy to get a job when you know the players involved.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Mark, I`ve got to ask you about these really stunning developments that the "Tracy Press" is reporting that a little girl, 7- years-old, one year younger than Sandra Cantu, was allegedly taken from the same mobile home park in January, kept for four hours, comes back and has muscle-relaxant in her system. And the police did not pursue it, reportedly because the mother who reported this had alcohol on her breath and may have had drugs in her purse.
But nevertheless, I mean, the implications of this, if this is true, and we cannot independently confirm it, astounding.
EIGLARSH: Without question.
Let me just say this, everybody is watching this case, they`re going to go back, number one, and review it. And let me also just say this, most of the time you can`t summarize things in one little sound bite. There`s a lot more to it.
I give great deference to law enforcement officers. When they choose not to arrest someone they don`t get promoted based on how many people they let go. Typically they want to arrest someone if they`ve done something wrong.
I think they probably have their reasons beyond what you`re suggesting or what were hearing as to why they didn`t make an arrest in the case.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: But Darren Kavinoky, the purple Kia Sportage, the very same vehicle registered to Melissa Huckaby that was towed away after little Sandra`s body was found stuffed into a suitcase and dumped into an irrigation pond.
DARREN KAVINOKY, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Yes, it doesn`t take a Sherlock Holmes style of investigation if the little girl in question comes home and says, you know, the lady that lives in the same mobile home park, the one that drives the purple Kia, is the one that took me away.
So there`s got to be more to this story.
And in California, unlike some other jurisdictions that we hear so much about, like Florida, where all the police reports and all the investigation, it all comes out to the media and we don`t get that here.
So we`re not going to learn until this case ultimately goes to trial what really was going on, and what kind of investigations they had.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right, well, we might learn more on Friday, Mark because that`s the big day when Melissa Huckaby`s back in court to issue a plea.
EIGLARSH: Yes. But that`s not going to reveal all that much. She`ll enter a not guilty plea or not guilty by reason of insanity. We`re not going to know what we really want to know until the probable cause hearing which will be put off for some time to give both sides time to prepare.
VELEZ-MITHCLEL: All right. Well, Darren and Mark, stay right there.
Turning now to seismic developments in the Haleigh Cummings disappearance; the war of words reaches fever pitch as the missing child`s mom, Crystal and her dad, Ron, lock horns yet again.
Crystal`s lawyer Kim Picazio fumes that Ron`s defense team is amateurish and unprofessional. Then she makes a shocking claim. And I repeat, this is a claim, that Ron has turned his back on a child he reportedly fathered with a local woman. Quote, "He financially, emotionally and physically abandoned his disabled infant child less than one year ago, a child born to but another of his teen girlfriends."
Now, I want to state very clearly that we here at HLN have no independent verification of this claim at all. We have reached out to Ronald Cummings and his attorneys again today to get his side of the story, but have not heard back.
Ron, or your attorneys, you are invited on this show at any time to tell your side of the story.
But how does the shocking claim of another child dovetail with the bombshell claim from bounty hunter "Cobra" that Ron Cummings just last night allegedly tried to get a child back from a local woman? Listen to this stunner.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAM `COBRA` STOUBS, BOUNTY HUNTER: There was allegations that Ronald had tried to get the child back from Amber Brooks, that`s his child as well. And there was a BOLO out, as we understand it, for Ronald Cummings and this purple car.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELEZ-MITCHELL: By the way, BOLO means "Be On the Lookout" for, in case you need to get up-to-date on your crime shows. BOLO is used frequently.
In the meantime, that woman and another woman who was reportedly partying with Misty, the weekend before little Haleigh disappeared, were both arrested last night reportedly on drug charges.
Is there a connection or a lead in any of the soap opera material to little Haleigh`s disappearance?
Straight back to my panel. Back with me, Darren Kavinoky, criminal defense attorney and Mark Eiglarsh, criminal defense attorney. And joining us by phone, T.J. Hart, program and news director for WSKY 97.3 FM.
T.J., please, sort out these truly bizarre developments. You need a scorecard at this point.
T.J. HART, PROGRAM AND NEWS DIRECTOR WSKY 97.3 FM (via telephone): Yes, you do. I mean, it`s just been crazy, after having not a whole lot to go on, suddenly the last 36 hours in Putnam County, it`s been turning upside down not only with this case but several others.
But I will tell you, I got the call in the middle of the night, shortly before midnight last night from my informants telling me that there was the BOLO out for Ronald Cummings. I`ve not been able to get any kind of verification or authentication from police on that matter.
But first thing this morning when I called the Putnam County sheriff`s office to Lt. Johnny Greenwood, I got a very agreeable and "let`s talk about these charges" Lieutenant Greenwood. And he was very open...
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Ok, talking about the charges of the two women who were arrested?
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Ok, so these women apparently one of them who has a nickname that I won`t repeat was hanging out with Misty. Of course, Misty is the child bride of -- or the teenage bride of Ron Cummings, who the child Haleigh disappeared on Misty`s watch.
And three days before the child went missing, according to allegations, Misty was partying. And one of the women Misty was reportedly partying with was arrested last night. Is that correct? T.J.?
HART: That is absolutely correct. It`s a Christina Renee...
EIGLARSH: Jane, can I make a point, Jane?
EIGLARSH: Hey, there`s a child missing here. Can I interrupt this soap opera just for just one moment here? And I don`t blame you, darling. That`s your job. You bring it out. You`re feeding off what the lawyers are bringing out.
But they`re fighting. They`re squabbling. Their petty animosity is getting in the way of why this is a national story to begin with. There is a child missing. Hey, lawyers, step back for a second.
Argue in court over who should have custody of this and that. You deal with that later. We`re dealing with a child who is missing, and that`s what we should be talking about.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well Mark, great speech. But the fact is, that police don`t seem to be doing anything or saying anything. I shouldn`t say doing anything, but they don`t seem to be saying anything about what they are doing.
And so all of the information is coming out from bounty hunters and to investigative journalists. And so we`re finding out about all this stuff, and you know, the authorities are contacted, but then they don`t say anything.
Meanwhile, this child is missing. Well, if there`s drugs involved, maybe the authorities need to come out and do something or say something.
EIGLARSH: My point is, valuable media time is being wasted because these two are squabbling over family law matters, that`s what I`m talking about.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Darren, listen...
KAVINOKY: It`s not being wasted at all. And Mark, I think your point is well taken that, of course, there`s a missing child that`s at the centerpiece of this whole thing.
But the real silver lining in this incredible family dysfunction and by the way, I think if any of these folks ever have aspirations of...
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Can I jump in here? I`ve got to jump in, because I know what you`re going to say about it. Keep the child`s name out there. But the fact is, that as we saw with the Casey Anthony case, dysfunction in the family can be extremely relevant to the case.
EIGLARSH: Well, it could be. Yes, it could be.
KAVINOKY: Sure, yes.
EIGLARSH: I don`t know that that`s why anyone is bringing this out. They`re bringing this out because these family lawyers are bickering back and forth both personally and it has become ugly. I don`t think that their purpose is to keep this story going and find the child...
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Darren, I think -- I think the reason is that there`s a lot of allegations of dysfunctional behavior, partying. There`s allegations of drug use, which have been denied. But that`s troubling, if a child is missing.
KAVINOKY: Well, it certainly is troubling and none of these folks are ever going to make a successful bid for PTA presidency. That`s not going to happen. But all of these things are, to Mark`s point, in a sense really collateral issues.
And of course, we wish that the police had more information. And we hope that they`re doing their job, obviously. But at the centerpiece of this, we`ve got a missing kid. We`ve got a lot of arguing that only serves, the only benefit, is as you`ve pointed out to keep it in the news.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: We`re out of time but we will learn one day whether this is irrelevant or not, that`s all I can say. Thank you, excellent panel, as always.
Huge news, as cops believe they have arrested the Craigslist killer. I`ll have an update on that case.
Then, Madonna falls off the horse and blames the paparazzi. So, was it an invasion of Madge`s privacy, or is she just looking for somebody to take the fall for her?
Give me a holler; let me know what you think.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Madonna falls off a horse in the Hamptons. I`ll tell you how it`s sparking an all-out war on the paparazzi.
But first, "Top of the Block" tonight.
Breaking news: it could be very good news in the manhunt for the Craigslist killer. Police in Boston have reportedly arrested a man -- yes -- who they believe is the Craigslist killer. Cops say the suspect murdered a masseuse and robbed an escort in Boston, and also tried to rob a woman in Rhode Island.
Thanks to surveillance video and hundreds of tips, cops were able to identify the suspect as 6`3" with blonde hair, there he is. Investigators have been closing in on this sicko after they discovered matching plastic restraints were used to bind the women in all three attacks.
Here on ISSUES, I will be sure to update you with any and all developments that come out of this arrest.
That is tonight`s "Top of the Block."
Stars duking it out with the paparazzi on both coasts tonight. A- listers like Britney Spears, Lindsay Lohan and Paris Hilton, no strangers to paparazzi. Cameras in their face, flashing away for that perfect shot every hour of the day.
When do these swarms go too far? Are paparazzi becoming a danger to not only stars but civilians who could be caught in the frantic frenzy?
On the East Coast this weekend, Madonna in the Hamptons claims that she was tossed from her horse when she was riding, and paparazzi jumped out of the bushes and startled the animal. She`s recovering from minor injuries. But the paparazzi she`s accused said that`s horse manure, Madonna. If he had been there he would have snapped pictures of the incident and the cops agree with him.
Meanwhile in Hollywood, Britney Spears` alleged trespasser spoke out. The young woman who was arrested last week and charged with trespassing and disorderly conduct claims she was making a paparazzi documentary, whatever that is, and not stalking the pop princess.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIRANDA TOZIER-ROBBINS, CHARGED WITH TRESPASSING: At the moment when the bodyguards saw me, I was faced towards the window. I was walking around the perimeter of the house with the camera. And so, at the time he came out I was at a window with the camera, trying to get in, trying to peer, trying to see what I could get.
I`m not a stalker. You know what I`m saying? Obviously what I was doing was paparazzi work preparation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Paparazzi work preparation. That one goes into the record books. With more and more fans picking up their cameras, is the line between stalker and paparazzi becoming a little blurred? Just where do we start to draw the line?
What do you think? Give me a holler 1-877-JVM-SAYS; 1-877-586-7297.
But first, my expert panel: Mike Walters, assignment manager, TMZ; Albert Lee, deputy editor "US Weekly;" and Rhonda Saunders, L.A. prosecutor and author of "Whisper of Fear: the true story of the prosecutor who stalks the stalkers."
Mike Walters, first of all, bring us up to date on the latest Madonna kookiness.
MIKE WALTERS, ASSIGNMENT MANAGER, TMZ: Well, the latest news is, I want to start with, Jane, there`s a very clear line here with being illegal and legal with paparazzi and with camera work. Right now, we were able to get a hold of the field (ph) police report, the Southampton Police Department, the village police department that actually went to the call, the emergency call that came in from Madonna.
Now, if a photographer was breaking the law, trespassing, stalking, or caused an accident, any sort of criminal activity, they had all the opportunity to tell the police department and the on scene officer what happened. None of that was said at all. The only time that we got that information is when we asked what happened to Madonna. And her reps claim that paparazzi jumped out of the bushes and caused the accident.
If that were true, why would no one on scene tell the police if there was any sort of actual criminal activity happening.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, Rhonda Saunders, I know you`re not a fan of the paparazzi or the stalker-azzi or stalkers, but there is a difference. There are legitimate news people who are considered paparazzi, and then there are just sort of crazy people who run around with a camera and pretend to be journalists.
RHONDA SAUNDERS, L.A. PROSECUTOR: Well, there`s a big difference between someone who is a legitimate photographer, because let`s face it, that`s what makes the celebrity a celebrity. And then there`s the stalker- azzi, who are trying to get the actions shots because they know they`re going to make so much more money if they get the celebrity falling off a horse, or they get the celebrity in a state of fear, because they`re jumping out of bushes at them.
In fact, this photographer had told the police, according to an article that I read today, that he actually had left the area because the bushes were getting in his way. Well, as a prosecutor, that means to me he`s hiding behind the bushes. So it`s very possible this happened.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes, but if those bushes are on -- Albert Lee, if those bushes are on public property, then is there anything wrong with that? Where do we draw the line?
ALBERT LEE, DEPUTY EDITOR, "US WEEKLY": We have laws on the books that clearly state, you know, we have trespassing laws. If he was trespassing, like the young woman who took the photograph of Britney Spears, you know, she was clearly trespassing on private property. She will be subject to the law just like anyone else.
From what I understand, from the police report, this photographer in the Hamptons who was trying to take a photograph of Madonna was on a public road. I guess the bushes were in his way so that`s why he left and he says he wasn`t there when it happened.
I think that there are laws that already govern this. And...
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, but let me jump in, Albert. If there are laws that are already governing this, apparently they`re not doing a great job because we, every couple of days, see a paparazzi swarm that, like the one with octo-mom, that is clearly out of control, where they do cross the line and they go even into her garage. And, you know, I`m not a huge fan of octo-mom, but when somebody just charges into the garage and even damages the garage, that`s a problem.
LEE: That is absolutely a problem. I mean, I think that most legitimate news organizations and most reputable outlets, including TMZ and "Us Weekly" have rules governing that sort of thing. We don`t publish any photographs where photographs are taken on private property, where they are revealing any sort of undress or anything like that.
But the interesting thing is that we do have this thing called first amendment press rights. And you know, the thing is a lot of people roll their eyes when they hear that. It`s such a cliched phrase. But let`s remember...
VELEZ-MITCHELL: It`s true. We`ll get into that more after the break.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: This is America and you wouldn`t have paparazzi in China or in some other repressive country. But you know, would you want to be there?
We`ll be right back.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: You`re looking at the octo-swarm. The paparazzi swarming octo-mom Nadya Suleman`s house the night she brought the first octuplets home. These are scary images, especially when you consider there were little babies in that car.
Back taking your calls. First to my expert panel, and let`s hear what the folks at home have to say.
Angela, Minnesota; your question or thought, ma`am.
ANGELA, MINNESOTA (via telephone): Yes, my thought is this isn`t the first time that Madonna`s fallen off a horse. Maybe she just needs riding lessons. She did that in England a while back.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes, Mike Walters, didn`t Billy Joel say something like that, like hey, Madonna, this isn`t the Wild West, get off the horse already.
WALTERS: That`s a funny point. You might be right about that. I`m not sure about how good her skills are with riding.
But I will tell you one thing, Jane, that you brought up that`s very important here. We spoke to the photographer. And you were right about the fact that -- believe me, the shots of her falling off the horse are worth way more money. And remember, for some of these guys it`s a business, but it`s a slippery slope to lump those kind of photographers who incite celebrities and cause the problem with everybody else.
And believe me, if that photographer had the photos of her falling off of a horse, they`re worth way more money. He would have tried to sell them. So that`s the judgment you have to make.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes, I agree with you.
Rhonda Saunders, here`s the problem. Let`s take a look at the Britney -- actually, it`s the Paris Hilton swarm. Because I`ve been in the middle of these things. And the problem is that when one photographer goes for something and the others don`t follow and you see there, this is an aerial shot, actually, of people chasing down the street. There were actually photographers who were injured on this day.
When one goes for a shot and gets a great shot and the others don`t follow, the others can get in trouble with their bosses. Not necessarily with the law, but you don`t want to miss the shot. So what happens is one irresponsible person crosses a line and it inspires the others to follow suit.
SAUNDERS: Absolutely. And we`ve seen things such as Princess Di`s death. I mean, what`s going to happen? Do we have to wait for someone to get seriously hurt or die before we do something about this mob mentality?
And innocent people walking along the street could get killed by a car during one of these high-speed chases. Or as you pointed out, something possibly could have happened to those babies if that mob had descended on them.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Albert Lee, I`ll give you the last word, though, Albert, because you raise a good point, this is America and there`s a lot of countries where this couldn`t happen and you open a Pandora`s box when you eliminate it.
LEE: I just want to say that Paris Hilton footage just reminded me of the White House Press Corps jostling for the first shot of Bo Obama. You want to talk about crazy.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: We are out of time. Thank you.
I`m Jane Velez-Mitchell, ISSUES.