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ISSUES WITH JANE VELEZ-MITCHELL

Sex Offenders Under Investigation in Nevaeh Buchanan Murder

Aired June 16, 2009 - 19:00:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JANE VELEZ-MITCHELL, HOST (voice-over): Tonight, jaw-dropping reports in the hunt for a killer. Adorable Nevaeh Buchanan, brutally murdered and dumped in a shallow grave. Her mom`s sex-offender friend, George Kennedy, a person of interest in the killing, back in prison for violating his parole. But shocking new reports claim Kennedy violated parole three times before little Nevaeh went missing. So why wasn`t he sent back to prison then? Were these warning signs? And were they ignored?

Then, it`s a sick milestone. One year ago today, Caylee Anthony went missing. Her grandparents, George and Cindy, kick off another media tour with an apparent attack on Ron Cummings, whose daughter has been missing for months. Are these two forlorn Florida families in a festering feud?

And a teenage boy is accused of going on a sick cat-killing spree. Tyler Weinman charged with mutilating and murdering 19 cats. Now he`s reportedly on suicide watch in his Miami jail cell. We`ll profile this kind of appalling violence against animals to show how it can escalate into violence against people.

Plus, it`s a heavyweight bout between David Letterman and Sarah Palin. Letterman apologized to Alaska`s governor for making what some say was an inappropriate joke about one of Palin`s daughters. We`ll give you the inside story of this new infamous feud of the famous.

ISSUES starts now.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Shocking new developments tonight in the brutal murder of little Michigan girl Nevaeh Buchanan. The 5-year-old`s body discovered by a fisherman, dumped in a shallow grave and covered with quick-dry cement.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GUY BICKEY, FOUND REMAINS: It`s evil. That`s not even mean. That`s not even rotten. It`s not even psycho. It`s literally pure evil. A little -- kid. A little kid.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Pure evil is right. Tonight, shocking new revelations about the Nevaeh`s mom`s sex-offender friend, George Kennedy.

Kennedy is a person of interest in the child`s gruesome murder. And now we`re learning he violated his parole three times since being released from prison two years ago for sexual misconduct. So why was he out on the streets able to befriend little Nevaeh and her mom?

Now -- now -- now he has been sent back to prison for violating his parole. But only after being questioned in connection with the hideous murder of a young child. Why is our justice system always doing too little too late?

Kennedy`s parole officer urged corrections officials three times to send this convicted sex offender back to prison for his parole violation, but he was continuously overruled. Could a different decision on any one of those three occasions have prevented the tragic killing of little Nevaeh Buchanan?

In the meantime, FBI agents are looking at another local sex offender, 33-year-old Vernon Davis. He was convicted two years ago of having sex with a minor, but never -- I repeat never -- spent time in prison.

So now we have several sex offenders being investigated in connection with little Nevaeh`s murder.

Straight to my fantastic expert panel: Mike Gaynor, retired NYPD detective and president of East Coast Detectives; Jeff Brown, criminal defense attorney; Tonya Acker, also an attorney; Terry Lyles, psychologist; Karen Mills-Francis, host of "Judge Karen" and retired Miami-Dade County court judge. And by phone, Dave Murray, special assignments editor at "The Toledo Blade."

Dave, you`ve been tracking this case. What is the very latest?

DAVE MURRAY, SPECIAL ASSIGNMENTS EDITOR, "THE TOLEDO BLADE" (via phone): Well, Jane, the latest is that "Blade" reporters have been told that the FBI is talking to multiple sex offenders living in the county. Can you believe it?

In the city of Monroe alone, there are 117 -- that`s 1-1-7 -- registered sex offenders, several of them living in the proximity of where little Nevaeh was taken. It`s hard to believe there`s this many sex offenders out in the area. But -- so the FBI is still combing the area, still talking to sex offenders, still talking to family members here today. No -- no suspect in custody.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: You know, it`s absolutely mind-boggling.

Judge Karen Mills-Francis, you have "The Judge Karen Show." The scariest part of all of this to me is that Michigan`s Department of Corrections says, "Hey, you know, it`s not unusual, the whole situation that happened with George Kennedy."

JUDGE KAREN MILLS-FRANCIS, HOST, "JUDGE KAREN SHOW": Yes.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: A quote: in two years for a parole officer to ask that an offender be sent back to prison isn`t out of the norm. Three times in two years he goofed up, allegedly.

MILLS-FRANCIS: Well, you know what it is, Jane?

VELEZ-MITCHELL: They didn`t send him back to prison. And the corrections department is saying, "Oh, la-di-dah. This happens all the time. No biggie."

MILLS-FRANCIS: Well, what happens with parole violations is they have what they call technical and substantive violations. Substantive violations are basically breaking the law. You`ve broken the law. And usually, parole boards will not revoke probation or parole for someone with just a technical violation you didn`t report in.

But in the case of George Kennedy, he was found in the company of a woman who had a minor child. He was also found to be -- to have drugs in his system.

But what we also have to remember...

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Can I jump in, Judge Karen?

MILLS-FRANCIS: Yes.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: What you`re saying is -- and let me get Jeff Brown on this. What you`re saying is, "Oh, technical violations and we won`t send you back to prison."

So what I`m hearing is "let`s wait until something really awful and terrible happens, and then let`s send him back to prison for violating parole," which is what happened in this case. We don`t know if he had anything to do with the child`s death, but certainly, he was only sent back after this horrific murder, Jeff Brown.

JEFF BROWN, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Yes. But, again, the whole premise is we don`t know whether he did this. Let`s assume that he didn`t do this. OK? And the first question that a judge is going to have is, listen, this guy just got released. He did five years. He`s out on parole. Let`s say he`s at a birthday party and there`s somebody there, a relative, that is a convicted felon. Are you going to send that person back to prison for that? That`s a violation.

And I think you have to look at these -- it`s a technical. You have to look at these at the time with the facts. We don`t know enough about these facts. Yes, he`s with a convicted felon, and he`s not supposed to be, but we don`t know where that occurred.

And the one time where he`s late coming back to his residence, we don`t know where he was. But he did get punished for these violations. He got 30 days in jail the first time and a GPS monitor. So it`s not like the system failed here. It didn`t fail.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Big whoop. What did it achieve? Let`s go over and...

BROWN: We don`t know that he did it.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: I want to get in a NYPD detective, a retired NYPD detective to weigh in on this. I need some help here, Mike Gaynor.

MIKE GAYNOR, RETIRED NYPD DETECTIVE: Well, Jane, look-- go ahead.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: OK. Sex-offender friend, George Kennedy, allegedly violated his parole three times. Let`s go down.

First time, allegedly consorting with felons. Second time, failed to be at home at the time ordered. No. 3, dated a woman who has a criminal record and a small child. Now, we do not know if that last violation pertained to little Nevaeh and her mom, who did do time.

But the bottom line is that he kept violating his parole, allegedly, and remained on the streets.

GAYNOR: Well, Jane, as the good judge says, there`s technical violations and sometimes these technical violations are not frowned upon too horribly because of the association. So many children out there. These guys are going to get girlfriends that are liable to have a child.

And so, as the judge says, they don`t want to put everybody back in. There`s problems with overcrowding and budgets.

BROWN: We can`t afford it.

TONYA ACKER, ATTORNEY: Can I get in on this, though?

GAYNOR: Sometimes they look on the side when something happens. Go ahead.

ACKER: I have to say, though, I have to say we`re talking about -- there`s a difference between different types of technical violations. And what we`re talking about now is someone who`s got a record of sexual abuse, a record of abusing young children.

And the fact that, you know, we`re not just saying we found him with a joint. Let`s lock him up. He was the third violation where he was found in the company of a small child. We`re supposed to be protecting kids.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: I agree with you. The first violation is consorting with felons. I don`t know about you, Karen, but unless you`re in court, I`ve got a feeling you`re not consorting with felons. It`s a bad sign.

MILLS-FRANCIS: Jane, he met -- he met the girl`s mother at the probation office, OK? He said she was the only friend he had at the time. But the problem with this discussion we`re having is that we have all presumed him guilty.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, we have not.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: I`m not presuming him guilty at all. We just talked about they`re looking at many, many sex offenders.

MILLS-FRANCIS: But these people live in a town where, for every 100 women, there`s one sex offender. So there`s a lot of registered sex offenders in this little town of 20,000 people.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: So police ignore it?

MILLS-FRANCIS: Yes. But suppose we find out tomorrow he is absolutely innocent. Do we still feel the same way about these technical parole violations?

GAYNOR: This guy should have been violated anyway, whether he`s guilty or not. The chances are going to be very good that somehow or other, he`s connected to this case. I don`t presume him guilty. I presume him a strong suspect because of his background.

And even if nothing else comes forward with this particular guy, he should have been violated a long time ago. It`s definitely a strong possibility in this particular case that that child would still be around if he was violated.

BROWN: How is that a possibility? Based on what?

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where is your...

GAYNOR: Based on...

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Judge Karen, this is your gavel. And one of your producers sent it to me. And so I thank you. And I`m going to use it right now.

Let`s bring Terry Lyles in. You`re the psychologist. I mean, what`s wrong with this country that in one tiny little town there`s 117 sex offenders?

TERRY LYLES, CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGIST: Well, I think that`s a whole other conversation that the Internet has helped produce and just make even a bigger problem worse over the past decade.

But I mean, the child is what I`m most concerned about. And unfortunately, we can`t help the child now.

And I think when a parole is violated, like everybody has said on the panel, that`s one thing. But when there`s a child involved at that age and there`s a sex offender, I think maybe you have to raise your eyebrows and say, "Wait. Let`s go the extra mile, just in case there`s something not right here. Let`s at least go the extra mile to make sure that there`s good accountability in this situation."

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Come on, Judge Francis. No. 3 -- violation No. 3, dated a woman who has a criminal record and a small child.

MILLS-FRANCIS: You know how I feel about this case, Jane. I talked to you about this last week. The problem with America is that people don`t take responsibility. The responsibility of what happened to this child lies with her mother. She had three very close friends who were predators, sexual predators.

BROWN: I`m agreeing with the judge. I love this.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. More on the murder of Nevaeh Buchanan in just a moment. Hang in there.

Then, more Cindy and George drama. Casey Anthony`s parents do the media rounds on the one-year anniversary of little Caylee`s disappearance and pick a fight in the process.

But first, sex offender and person of interest George Kennedy violated parole three times before Nevaeh Buchanan was killed. But he was not sent back to prison. Here`s the dead child`s mom, describing Nevaeh`s contact with Kennedy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JENNIFER BUCHANAN, NEVAEH`S MOTHER: He had had contact with her before. But I`ve never left her alone with him. There was always another parent with her and him.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DIANE LAWSON, NEVAEH`S GREAT AUNT: I hope and pray to God that whoever did this will either turn theirself [SIC] in and -- or I hope and pray to God that they find whatever they need to look for.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: That was little Nevaeh`s great aunt, hoping they bring the killer to justice, whoever that killer might be.

Meantime, Nevaeh`s mom, Jennifer Buchanan, was at one point reportedly dating sex offender George Kennedy and even let him spend time with her young daughter.

Listen to Nevaeh`s mom talk about sex offenders with a radio host on 94.7, WCSX.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUCHANAN: It really doesn`t matter. Not all offenders re-offend. No one ever knows if a person is a sex offender or not unless they are labeled.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right.

BUCHANAN: Anybody could be a sex offender.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Dave Murray, this mom has been truly castigated for showing bad judgment. What do we know about her criminal history? And what`s her position today as this drags on without any word on who`s responsible for her daughter`s murder?

MURRAY: Well, we know she spent time in prison for home invasion. I`ve read the documents that said that she at one point had a boyfriend that was a, quote, "partier," which implies drugs, and that she was involved in breaking into people`s homes and was caught and sent to prison for, I believe, at least ten months.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Did she have a drug problem, as well, according to her own mother, who said that was the reason why she ended up involved in that home invasion?

MURRAY: She has never been convicted of drug use or drug abuse, but her family members and friends have said that`s what got her into trouble.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, Judge Karen, you`re -- that proves your point. You`re saying that all of this boils down to bad judgment on the mother`s part.

MILLS-FRANCIS: That`s my point. The day the child went missing, a neighbor came up and said, "Hey, little Nevaeh is out riding her bicycle next to the road with no shoes on, and it`s dark outside." Where was the mother?

George Kennedy wasn`t some dark alleyway pedophile, waiting for this little girl. If he had anything to do with this, this mother brought her child to him. So I have questions of -- I`m sorry.

ACKER: I just -- just to follow up on your point, judge, I think not only have we seen -- we`re hearing reports of a pattern of bad judgment. But listen to that interview. Anyone can be a sex offender? No, everyone cannot be a sex offender. Everyone is not compelled to abuse and sexually molest young girl and boys. Everybody doesn`t do that.

(CROSSTALK)

MILLS-FRANCIS: Absolutely, absolutely.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Terry Lyles, why do we see several cases in the news right now where moms of small children make this bad judgment and assume that they can judge the character of this man, even though society is saying this man is a sex offender and should not be in the company of young children, because it can trigger a sex offender. And yet these mothers seem to think that their -- their judgment is really better than society`s judgment.

LYLES: Well, and I -- back to the judge`s point, I think the mother is just as much at fault in this -- this particular situation. That`s why I tried to say earlier that, when you`ve got two offenders here -- he`s a sex offender. She`s out, did her time. That`s fine. You`ve got two people with bad judgment, in my attempt. And she may be learning from this, but as a result, the child is the one that`s the victim here.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes.

Lyles: I think that`s where the system has to go over and above when you`ve got two offenders and three paroles -- you know, violations. You`ve got -- somebody needs to be looking at this and saying, "Hello, there could be fire here if there`s this much smoke."

MILLS-FRANCIS: Jane, we as mothers and as women and -- this is how I feel very strongly. We are not protecting our girls.

The justice department says that 1 in 3 girls will be sexually abused as a child, either by a father or a mother`s boyfriend. And we have a responsibility to these girls.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes, but, you know, here`s what I think is so messed up about our society, Jeff Brown, is that this guy was twice -- because of these parole violations, he was sent to a reentry program, which gives intense therapy to those who need a period of adjustment on the way out of prison.

You know when people need therapy? When they`re young. When their problems are being formed. To take a guy who`s hardened, who`s been through the system, who`s been in prison and try to give him some quick therapy, it`s just a joke. That`s not how therapy works. It`s a long process that takes years.

BROWN: Well, I`m not an expert in therapy, but...

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, I am. I`ve been to therapy for years, and I can tell you it takes years.

(CROSSTALK)

LYLES: We all have, Jane.

BROWN: Jane, wait a second here. So let`s look at this guy. What did you want to do with George? He got out after five years. You`re lucky you got him for two years probation. What did you want to do with him? Put him in for 15, 20? Who`s going to pay for that? You, me?

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, let me tell you something. The loss of a child -- and I`m not saying he`s responsible -- but the loss of a child is priceless.

And let`s take a look at the cost, Dave Murray, of all the prosecutions of these guys who get into trouble because they`re not sent back to prison.

BROWN: What do you want to do with them? What do you want to do with them?

GAYNOR: Sent them back to jail.

MILLS-FRANCIS: The reality is that...

BROWN: You`re going to sentence every one of these guys back to prison for life?

GAYNOR: I`m going to sentence guys like that back to prison for life.

(CROSSTALK)

GAYNOR: Wait a second. Wait a second.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Mike.

GAYNOR: Let me just have two -- he had three strikes. He went out there and he consorted with known felons. He`s associated with a woman with a child. He`s violating his parole on any number of different technical ways. He showed his true colors. So...

(CROSSTALK)

BROWN: So anybody that violates then?

ACKER: Jane...

BROWN: Everybody that violates? That`s going to be everybody.

GAYNOR: Not everybody.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. Judge Karen, you have to last word here.

MILLS-FRANCIS: Sexual predators have the highest recidivism rate among all offenders.

GAYNOR: Absolutely.

MILLS-FRANCIS: So maybe when they violate their parole and their probation, we need to look at what they`re doing a lot more intensely.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: So it sounds like at the end of the day, you`re agreeing with me at the end of the day.

(CROSSTALK)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. We`ve got to continue this again. Got to wrap it. OK. Thank you for a very passionate dialogue.

A teenager accused of going on a sick cat-killing spree. We`ll analyze how this disgusting, hideous behavior can escalate into violence against humans.

Then David Letterman, Sarah Palin. Knock-down, drag-out war of words, smack-down. Is it finally over? Perhaps not. I`ll have inside scoops on the feud, bubbling over.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: In the "Spotlight," the Florida teen charged with killing and mutilating 19 cats. He is reportedly on suicide watch tonight.

Eighteen-year-old Tyler Weinman, who claims he didn`t do it, is being held on 19 counts of animal cruelty linked to a month-long killing spree of pet cats in the Miami area.

One pet owner said her family cat was partially skinned. A judge has ordered his team to undergo a psychiatric evaluation, before any possible release on bond, saying she fears for the safety of the community. You think?

And at least one Miami official wants answers.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KATY SORENSON, MIAMI-DADE COUNTY COMMISSIONER: Depraved, demented, twisted. Who knows what went into this kid`s thought pattern when these crimes were committed?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: The accused teen maintains his innocence but could face a maximum of 158 years in state prison if convicted on all counts. At least many asking if this could have escalated beyond the killing of killing animals to killing people.

Straight to Pat Brown, criminal profiler.

Pat, what have you learned about the psychosis of those who torture animals?

PAT BROWN, CRIMINAL PROFILER: Well, Jane, unfortunately, somebody who was going to do that -- and we`re not talking about some -- some kid who pulls a few wings off of flies that nobody really cares about except, you know, people who really love all animals. You know, that`s something that you say, kids grow out of that.

But when they start killing other people`s prized possessions, you know, this is not just about killing. It`s about killing something of the community`s, something the community loves, where you`re going to harm. You`re showing your rage towards the whole society around you. So that is a lot more extreme.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: and my understanding is Jeffrey Dahmer, OK, 17 possible victims. Edmond Kemper, 10 possible victims. The Boston Strangler, 13 possible victims. Andrew Cunanen, five possible victims. All of them tortured animals?

BROWN: Exactly. Jeffrey Dahmer liked to stick animal heads on sticks in his yard. And Kemper, he was interesting. He cut the head off of his own cat and stuff it down the disposal. And that`s exactly what he did to his mother later on.

And then we have the Boston Strangler, Albert DeSalvo. He liked to get dogs and cats and stick them in cages and shoot them with arrows while they were in cages.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: I think we get the point. Is this sickness escalates into becoming a serial killer quite often. And one local Miami official expressed the community`s outrage over this massive killing spree.

(BEGIN VIDEO CIP)

SORENSON: I understand that pet owners feel very strongly about their little family members. And animals bring happiness and comfort to our lives. So to see them so violated and mutilated just defies all common sense, and it`s painful for everyone involved.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Pat, I was totally outraged to read to read in "The Miami Herald" that this suspect dissected animals last year at his high school, Palmetto High, as part of the curriculum where the anatomy teacher says 8,000 students have dissected cats over the years, which is totally outdated because there are computer models available.

Could this class project have whetted his appetite for cruelty?

BROWN: Well, I`m not so sure it was that. But I`ll tell you what might really have done it, is that if you actually go on the Internet these days, there`s a tremendous amount of gore and death sites.

And a lot of our young teenagers who are -- some of them who are bordering on psychopaths, as they are growing up, will get involved in that. And they`ll start obsessing on it. They`ll go from one site to another and get -- get a big thrill out of looking at the torture of people and the death of people and the gore. And they want to then go and act that out in society. They want their own thrills.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: It`s sick, it`s sick, it`s sick. We`re going to stay on top of this story. We`re not going to let it go, unless this guy -- if in fact he did it -- we don`t know. He hasn`t been convicted. He`s accused.

George and Cindy Anthony on a media tour to mark the heartbreaking one-year anniversary of Caylee`s disappearance, but another feud brewing.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VELEZ-MITCHELL,: One year ago today, Caylee Anthony went missing. But her grandparents, George and Cindy, kick-off another media tour with an apparent attack on Ron Cummings, whose daughter is missing. Are these two Florida families butting heads?

Plus, it`s a heavyweight battle between David Letterman and Sarah Palin. Letterman apologized to Alaska`s governor for making what some say was an inappropriate joke about one of Palin`s daughters. We`ll give you the inside story of this now infamous feud of the famous.

Tonight, on the solemn one-year anniversary of the last time Caylee Anthony`s grandfather, George, saw her alive, little Caylee`s grandmother, Cindy, ignites a feud on national television.

The Anthonys appeared on the CBS "Early Show" to publicly grieve the loss of their granddaughter and offered advice and comfort to families of missing children. But Cindy got visibly miffed when asked about the case of Haleigh Cummings, a child who went missing just 70 miles away from her Orlando, Florida home.

Back in February, right after adorable 5-year-old Haleigh was abducted from her home in Satsuma, Florida Cindy and George offered to help bring attention to finding little Haleigh. But then last month Haleigh`s dad, Ron Cummings, issued a statement through his lawyer telling the Anthony`s basically butt out.

Today, Cindy had choice words for Ron Cummings. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CINDY ANTHONY, CAYLEE ANTHONY`S GRANDMOTHER: To him, I say he made a mistake. You know, we`re the ones that got national attention for their daughter the first night because I was on the phone with national media. You know and that was the day of Caylee`s memorial. You know, February the 10th.

You know, we can`t -- just had gotten home from her memorial and heard about Haleigh. So we hurried up and made phone calls. Desperate phone calls to people, you know, in the national media to say, "Hey, start covering this story." And that was a day that I should have been home just worrying about myself.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: So did Cindy get the last word or will Ron now fire back? And does George, who traveled from Orlando Satsuma after little Haleigh went missing, have a different take than his wife Cindy?

The answer to that is yes, we`ll tell you about that in a second.

Meantime, are there signs of another battle brewing? In an interview with ABC`s "Good Morning America" George and Cindy`s attorney, Brad Conway, was asked about Casey`s lawyer, Jose Baez. Get this. Conway says Baez made the decision not to let the Anthonys visit their daughter, Casey, in jail because every time they do, those dramatic videos are released to the public of Casey screaming on the phone or whatever.

Conway does not agree with that decision.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you approve of this?

BRAD CONWAY, ANTHONY FAMILY ATTORNEY: No, I don`t. No. I think that my clients should be seeing her every opportunity they get. They would like to see her every opportunity they can.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: As for Jose Baez, he is also at war, still fighting to keep that video of Casey`s so-called jailhouse meltdown under seal. While prosecutors are also lashing-out at Baez for his way of doing business.

Wow, so much drama, so many feuds.

Straight out to my expert panel: back with me, Jeff Brown, criminal defense attorney; Tanya Acker, attorney; Terry Lyles, psychologist and crisis expert. I think we need a crisis expert right now. And joining me now, I`m so delighted to have Jean Casarez, correspondent for "In Session."

Jean, you really are the expert of all experts. You have covered so many cases over the years. What is really behind this feud between the Anthonys and Ron Cummings?

JEAN CASAREZ, CORRESPONDENT, "IN SESSION": You know, I think it`s very plain and it`s very simple. I think its emotions. I think Ron Cummings has had so many issues to tackle with. And you know Cindy is right. This case has gotten a lot of national attention, but Ron Cummings, his daughter went missing, Misty was focused on. He married Misty.

And George and Cindy Anthony, if you just take yourself out of the equation for a minute, this has been a case that is unlike any that we have seen in so long as far as the input from the media. And I think that it`s just emotions on Ron Cummings to initially issue that statement that he didn`t want George and Cindy involved.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, one reason Ron Cummings might want the Anthonys to back-off and butt-out is that these two cases are easily confused. Even George Anthony was tongue-tied and confused.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE ANTHONY, CAYLEE ANTHONY GRANDFATHER: I`m here in support of them. I`m here to bring Haleigh home. Haleigh Marie Cummings. Haleigh Ann Marie. I`m sorry. I apologize for that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: That was too bad and we certainly feel for him, but the point is that Ron Cummings doesn`t want there to be any confusion or enmeshment. Because it`s clear that the Anthony case is a parent accused of killing a child. Ron at this point is just the parent of a missing child.

Now, this statement was issued by his lawyer last month. "The Anthonys have their own agenda. The facts relating to the death of Caylee Anthony which resulted in the first-degree murder charges against Casey Anthony are in no way similar to Haleigh`s disappearance."

Jeff Brown, it seems clear to me that Ron Cummings does not want his case associated with the case of Casey Anthony who was accused of killing - - murdering her daughter, Caylee.

JEFF BROWN, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Yes, it`s clear he doesn`t want to have any cross-over between them. And they maybe a lot of reasons for that, one maybe that -- maybe he knows Misty is involved in this. I mean, we don`t know. But he clearly doesn`t want a case that involves a mother killing her child or potentially killing her child being cross- referenced with his case.

So there has been a lot of reasons why. And if I`m his defense lawyer, I`m telling him the same thing. Let`s not get these two cases confused. We need to keep them separate.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well Tanya Acker, there`s also this sense that perhaps -- according to some critics and I don`t know this for sure, obviously, I can`t read anybody`s mind -- that the Anthonys might be trying to use the disappearance of little Haleigh Cummings to kind of further their notion that their case is not a murder case.

That their daughter, Casey, did not murder her daughter, that in fact it is a missing child`s case because Zanny the nanny took the child.

BROWN: Wow.

TANYA ACKER, ATTORNEY: Right and I think that there are a couple of issues here. One, you know, not only is there a problem with the potential confusing these two cases, but the Anthonys really do come with their own set of baggage. And I know that I -- my heart goes out to anyone who loses a child. I don`t doubt their good intentions in perhaps trying to help with the Cummings investigation, but not only is there a risk of confusion, but these people have lived amongst a circus, a soap opera.

And frankly, I can see that in the Cummings case, they don`t want that sort of drama. They want to try to find their kid. They don`t want that kid and they don`t want that case confused at all with this big soap opera that`s become the Anthony case.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well Terry Lyles, in fact there are missing persons and missing children`s organizations that have declined offers for the Anthonys to get involved saying, "No, we really don`t need your help."

In other words, missing persons organizations feel that they could be hurting the whole issue of missing children by confusing what cops say is a plain old murder case with the issue of missing children.

TERRY LYLES, CRISIS EXPERT & PSYCHOLOGIST: Well, I think there`s two things.

One, I think emotions are involved here on both sides. And this is classic transference. I mean, you`ve got one case that`s similar to another. And as the legal side just said a while ago, I mean, to get those mixed up could be tragic for either side. Either as an alibi or the other one as, you know, this is potentially what happened on a hypothesis.

I think in their best state, the Anthonys are maybe trying to just do a good thing but I think you`ve got to keep things very separate. And transference to something it gets us all in trouble. It`s that underlying emotional tension and energy that feeds crisis. And Jane, at the end of the day some people love crisis. If they don`t have it, they create more.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes. And there are some people who say that the Anthonys are sort of magnets for drama.

This morning, on the CBS "Early Show," George Anthony had a much different take from his wife, Cindy, about Ron Cummings refusing their help in finding little Haleigh. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

G. ANTHONY: We`re just here to help in any way we can, just a little of support. I`ll stand in the background. I`m not going to be there in the forefront. I never was at the beginning. If he calls me saying, "George, I need your help." I`d still be there to help him. I`m not going to stop unless he tells me to stop.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: So we called Ron`s attorney, who did not respond in time to air a comment, but Ron, as always, you are invited on this program. Same thing with Misty, to address any issues related to Haleigh`s disappearance. We`d love to talk to you.

But what do you make Jeff Brown, of the fact that Cindy and George are not on message together? They seem to have a little bit of a conflict here.

BROWN: They`ve kind of had a conflict through a lot of different issues in this case. It`s been interesting to watch this. But it`s hard for me to understand what they`re going through. Because, A, I don`t have a child and, B, I can`t imagine what that`s like to have your daughter being the prime suspect for your grandchild.

So I can kind of understand that there may be some conflicts as to how they want to address this and where the loyalties lay. I think that`s probably part of it.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Now, let`s talk about the other feud.

Jean Casarez, what do you make of the attorney for the Anthonys, Brad Conway, saying he doesn`t agree with Casey Anthony`s defense attorney, Jose Baez, who says, "Parents, don`t come to the jail because every time you do and you have a conversation with your daughter, it ends up on the news shows."

Brad Conway says he doesn`t agree with that.

CASAREZ: Well, it`s interesting that he came out publicly and said that. He obviously wanted to send a message that the parents want to see their daughter and that may be important for potential jury pool to hear.

But Casey calls the shots. She is the one that determines. And the fact is everything is public. And everyone is watching it. And that can hurt a potential trial.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: But if they kept their act together, Terry Lyles and just had a normal conversation...

LYLES: Yes.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: ...couldn`t that actually help Casey in the public`s eye?

LYLES: Absolutely, Jane.

We`ve talked about this off and on for a year. And you know the -- the relationship between this mother/daughter is so tumultuous I mean, every time they get together something happens. So they have to try to protect this.

VELEZ-MITHCELL: Yes.

BROWN: They shouldn`t be airing this in the public. It doesn`t help her.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Wow.

LYLES: Exactly.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: So many feuds, so many battles. It`s definitely not over, it has just begun. I want to thank my excellent panel.

Lindsay Lohan wears $400,000 worth of jewelry for a photo shoot and guess what? Now it`s all missing. I`ll have the latest on this truly unbelievable story.

Also, David Letterman apologizes to Sarah Palin after their bitter feud. So is Letterman in the wrong or does Palin need to get a sense of humor? We`ll debate it next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: David Letterman and Sarah Palin go toe-to-toe. I`ll have the latest on their feud.

But first, "Top of the Block" tonight.

Another troubling tale of thievery claimed Lindsay Lohan; $400,000 worth of jewelry missing after the starlet wore them for a photo shoot -- 400 grand were talking about here.

Her spokesman says Lindsay will happily cooperate with the authorities and their investigation. Of course, this isn`t the first time she`s been connected to stolen goods.

Back in April 2007, a source claims Lohan snatched $10,000 worth of clothing from a friend`s home while that friend was out of town. Later that summer, Lohan reportedly snagged, allegedly, a few Louie Vuitton samples after a photo shoot. Then last year, Lohan was accused of wearing an $11,000 mink coat, which is gross in itself which a Columbia student claimed to have lost at a posh New York nightclub at party Lohan attended.

Maybe it`s all just a case of wrong place, wrong time because the troubled celeb has never been charged.

That`s tonight`s "Top of the Block."

Turning now to the blistering media feud between the late night comedian David Letterman and Alaska Governor Sarah Palin; are they finally burying the hatchet or are things just heating up over this joke?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVID LETTERMAN, HOST, "THE LATE SHOW": One awkward moment for Sarah Palin at the Yankee game, during the seventh inning, her daughter was knocked up by Alex Rodriguez.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Some took that to be about Palin`s 14-year-old daughter, Willow, who was actually the one at the game. Letterman apologized last night.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LETTERMAN: So I -- I would like to apologize, especially to the two daughters involved, Bristol and Willow, and also to the governor and her family and everybody else who was outraged by the joke. I`m sorry about it and I`ll try to do better in the future.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Letterman insisted the jokes were aimed at Bristol Palin, the governor`s oldest daughter, who is 18. Bristol became a public figure as a pregnant unmarried teen during her mother`s campaign as the Republican vice presidential candidate. But Sarah Palin seemed to think the joke was aimed at her 14-year-old daughter and expressed her anger on "The Today Show."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. SARAH PALIN (R), ALASKA: You and anybody else are extremely naive to believe that very convenient excuse of David Letterman`s the other day. It took a couple of days for him to think of that excuse. No, he wasn`t talking about my daughter that was there with at the game, the 14- year-old. He was talking about some other daughter. I think it`s a weak excuse.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: And today, Palin officially accepted Letterman`s apology on behalf of all young women. But one sponsor has already pulled ads from the CBS Web site. And Letterman`s joke also set off plans for protests outside his famous Manhattan studio on Broadway.

Palin and her daughter have been late-night fodder in the past, so why did these particular jokes set off such a frenzy now?

Straight to my truly fabulous, expert panel: Kim Serafin, senior editor, "In Touch Weekly;" Ben Widdicombe, celebrity editor of Stylelist.com; and Michael Musto, entertainment columnist for the "Village Voice."

Michael, do you think this feud is finally over or do we have to keep on talking about this? Is Sarah Palin going to take this ball and continue to run with it? And if so, why?

MICHAEL MUSTO, ENTERTAINMENT COLUMNIST, "VILLAGE VOICE": I hope it is over, Jane because it is so very boring. Bring back octo-mom or Carrie Prejean doing something stupid. But in any case, we got so excited by this because all the Republicans who were so embarrassed by Sarah Palin who were so embarrassed by Sarah Palin when she lost the election for them suddenly rallied around them and decided, "Oh, she`s our triumph of family values. We need to back her up in this."

It`s insane. Her whole argument against Letterman was, "Hey, it was my 17-year-old." And Bristol was 17 when she got pregnant. "It was the 17-year-old that got knocked up, not the 14-year-old. How dare you?"

VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. I get your point. Sarah Palin isn`t a stranger, obviously, to being fodder for late-night comedians. She`s poked fun at herself on "Saturday Night Live" back when she was running for vice president.

But it was this particular joke that sent her and her many supporters spinning. Let`s listen once again to the offending jokes.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LETTERMAN: The toughest part of her visit was keeping Elliot Spitzer away from her daughter. That was the hard part.

One awkward moment for Sarah Palin at the Yankee game; during the seventh inning, her daughter was knocked up by Alex Rodriguez.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Ok. Kim Serafin, clear this up for me. Because my perception of this entire thing is that there`s a comedy writer who really screwed up, and basically didn`t do his or her homework when creating that joke, which has to be based on some reality saying that, "Hey, this girl got knocked up when she was at the game" when it was the 14-year-old at the game but he probably thought, oh, it was Bristol who was at the game.

KIM SERAFIN, SENIOR EDITOR, "IN TOUCH WEEKLY": Right. But I think it goes beyond that. I think what Sarah Palin did, which was kind of politically savvy, which love her or hate her, she did capitalize on something. She found this issue that appealed to her base, put her Facebook page statement out about it.

But then she also found an issue of feminism that got her these unlikely allies. You have the National Organization of Women coming to her defense. You had Joy Behar on her side. She found this issue that really played to both sides.

And I think even in that statement that she put out today accepting David Letterman`s apology, she was able to kind of trumpet free speech, trumpet feminism, give a shout out to the military and then also look like she wasn`t holding a grudge. So it does leave the door open that she could go potentially one day go on the show. I really think it was a very politically savvy move.

Whether it was about the 14-year-old or the 18-year-old, she did seem to have people on her side people saying, "Kids of politicians should be off limits." And that`s why she got a lot of support.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: But Ben Widdicombe, let me ask you this. Isn`t she the one who essentially introduced the world to her children? Isn`t she the one who trotted her children on stage when she was in the campaign? And then made Bristol a public figure who was then, the world learned, pregnant, and then Bristol continues to be a public figure by joining this abstinence campaign, even though she failed at abstinence?

BEN WIDDICOMBE, STYLELIST.COM: Well, listen, Sarah did not hesitate to use her own children as political tools during the campaign. There`s no question of that. But in this specific instance, she was with her daughter, Willow, at the ball game and on this specific joke, she was right, the joke was out of order.

So I think Palin reluctantly was in the right on this one. And David Letterman should have apologized fully last week. He gave a total non- apology, which gave her another five days in the news cycle to keep on talking about it.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, would you at least admit, Ben, that perhaps she is benefiting from this, yes or no?

WIDDICOMBE: I think she`s making hay out of it, yes. There`s no question that using the controversy to further her own agenda.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right everyone.

More on this heavyweight battle when we come right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PALIN: It goes beyond though David Letterman`s crude, sexist, perverted joke about a 14-year-old girl being quote-unquote "knocked up" by Alex Rodriguez. I think he`s like 30-something years old. I think that that`s pretty perverted.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Alaska Governor Sarah Palin sounding off to CNN`s Wolf Blitzer about her disgust at David Letterman`s jokes at her daughter`s expense.

Back to my expert panel; I`ve got to read you this quote, Michael Musto. As she is accepting the apology, she said, "Letterman certainly has the right to joke about whatever he wants to and thankfully we have the right to express our reaction. And this is all thanks to our U.S. military women and men, putting their lives on the line for us to secure America`s right to free speech. In this case, may that right be used to promote equality and respect."

Why is she bringing, Michael, U.S. troops into this discussion?

MUSTO: Jane, this is more B.S. for her to trumpet her Republican conservative values and celebrate the war in Iraq, where we`re murdering innocent people.

Here`s a shout-out to the Armed Forces out there. Thank you for allowing me to talk about Carrie Prejean. That`s what you`re doing out there. Sorry if you`re wasting your time.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Look, I`m a big supporter of the U.S. troops and I applaud the U.S. troops, but it`s just a question, Kim Serafin, of does this have anything to do with the David Letterman/Sarah Palin feud?

MUSTO: It had nothing whatsoever to do -- talking about pervert.

SERAFIN: No. It didn`t have anything to do with that obviously. But she was -- while she was upset about him joking about her daughter, she also obviously saw an opportunity to bring this back into the political realm.

She hadn`t been in the news for a long time, and then suddenly this issue came up last week where it was an issue that was focused on CNN. That people who read "In Touch" care about it. People who read "The Wall Street Journal" care about it. People who read "National Review" care about it.

I mean it became an issue for everyone to talk about. It became everyone`s hot-button issue. And she saw an opportunity.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Ben, and a lot of people are saying that she hadn`t been in the news lately and she`d kind of dropped off the radar screen and this put her back on the map.

WIDDICOMBE: Sure, she`s trying to keep her brand alive. That stuff about the military was just a total red state red herring to get people to keep talking about her.

I think that in six months` time, we`re going to see her when she`s out of the headlines again, say to David Letterman, "Maybe now is the time that I`ll take you up on your offer to have me on the show." She`s definitely campaigning for 2012. And she wants to keep herself in the headlines as much as possible.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Michael Musto, 10 seconds; is all news good news. Is all publicity good publicity?

MUSTO: It actually has helped both sides because now David Letterman shows a more human side in apologizing and she`s waving her victim flag which she did. Remember when she had $100,000 worth of clothing and she didn`t remember where it came from? This is what Sarah Palin loves to do. "I am a victim, but I look fabulous."

SERAFIN: Win-win situation for both.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Married to her martyrdom.

Thank you, fabulous panel, for joining me. You are watching ISSUES on HLN.

END

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