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Woman Vanishes after Being Released from Sheriff`s Office

Aired September 28, 2009 - 19:00:00   ET



JANE VELEZ-MITCHELL, HOST (voice-over): Tonight, a bizarre disappearance in Malibu. A young woman vanished just minutes after leaving a police station. "The L.A. Times" says this part-time teacher and executive assistant was taken in by police after she claimed to be from Mars and was going to avenge Michael Jackson`s death. Despite all this obvious crazy behavior, cops released her with no car, no phone and no purse. Now she`s missing in Malibu, and her family`s pointing the finger at police. But is there another side to this story? You won`t believe what some people are saying.

And boozed up and behind the wheel. An off-duty NYPD cop is accused of killing a pedestrian while driving drunk. This poor woman was just trying to hail a cab on the way home from a wedding. The "New York Post" reports the cop had been drinking for more than two hours, and his passenger and fellow cop allegedly fled the scene while this woman was bleeding to death. Some wonder how could cops allegedly be involved in something like this? Tonight`s big issue: alcoholism doesn`t recognize a uniform.

Plus, explosive new details in the John Travolta extortion trial. "People" magazine reports the alleged extortionist tried to set fire to key piece of the evidence and flush the ashes down the toilet.

Meantime, we`re learning more shockers about the secret video of the alleged extortion. You won`t believe this. One of the accused claims he wanted millions of dollars so he could play Robin Hood and give the money to the poor.

ISSUES starts now.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Tonight, missing in Malibu. What happened to Mitrice Richardson? The young woman walked out of a police station after a bizarre evening in one of the most exclusive areas in all America and indeed, the world, and then she simply vanished into thin air.

Her family claims Los Angeles police did not do their job. Why, oh, why did they let a 24-year-old woman walk out of a sheriff`s substation alone at 1:30 in the morning on September 17 with no car -- they`d impounded it -- no purse, and no cell phone, in an area where there is little, if any, public transportation.


MICHAEL RICHARDSON, MITRICE RICHARDSON`S FATHER: I`m upset. But I`m going to keep a level head because I`ve been asked to, but I don`t expect for these people to move, because they haven`t.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Richardson had been arrested at a swanky restaurant in Malibu earlier that night. A manager had called police when she couldn`t pay her $90 bill. That`s what all this is about?

Her mom says her daughter would never walk out on a bill, especially since she`s got two grand in the bank.


LATRICE SUTTON, MITRICE RICHARDSON`S MOTHER: I just specifically told the deputy this is uncharacteristic of my daughter. My daughter does not go places and not pay a tab. I continuously reiterated, something is wrong with my daughter.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Cops say they found a small amount of pot in Richardson`s car and they booked her for possession, and for allegedly not paying the check. Too bad she wasn`t a celebrity.

We`ve all heard stories about stars racking up huge, massive bills and assuming they don`t have to pay. Police say they offered to let this woman sleep in the station`s lobby but she refused. A short time later, she walked out of the station house alone and has not been heard from since.

I want to hear from you at home, however. What do you think about all this?

First, straight out to my outstanding expert panel: clinical psychiatrist, Dr. Dale Archer; Curtis Sliwa, founder of the Guardian Angels. And we are delighted to have the attorney for Mitrice`s family and WABC talk radio host and my buddy from back in L.A., Leo Terrell.

But first, "Los Angeles Times" reporter Carla Hall.

Carla, you have been tracking this case from the beginning. What is the very latest?

CARLA HALL, REPORTER, "LOS ANGELES TIMES": Well, the very latest is that she`s still missing. They covered 60 to 80 square miles of Malibu on Saturday in a search that took them through the air and on the ground, with dogs, with bloodhounds, with horses, and they couldn`t find her. So they still don`t know where she is.

They are still sifting through clues and sightings. There was a sighting yesterday that she was in Manhattan Beach, but that`s completely unconfirmed. There was a sighting that she was seen at a West Hollywood restaurant last Monday, and LAPD are trying to get footage, camera footage, from the restaurant to see if maybe she does show up on that.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes. This is just crazy.

Curtis Sliwa, I`ve got -- I`ve got to say, this is all over an $89.97 bill. And on top of that, according to the wire copy I read, this woman called her great grandmother and said, "Hey, give them your card," and they wouldn`t take her card, because she didn`t have a fax machine -- this is according to published reports -- to fax her signature, so they wouldn`t take the great-grandmother`s card for $89.97.

Instead, this woman is arrested. And this is Malibu, where you know the celebrities -- boy, Curtis, you know they rack up these huge bills with alcohol. They just march out, not of this restaurant, necessarily, but all over the place.

CURTIS SLIWA, FOUNDER, GUARDIAN ANGELS: Always. And you know, they say on the cuff, "Don`t you know who I am? Oh, please. You`re not going to burden me with a bill. Who do you think I am?"

But also, this woman was showing that she was in disarray. She was acting like she was talking to Martians. You could see that mentally she was impaired. You would have thought the maitre d` or whoever was in charge would have said, "You know something? Let`s take the credit card number and hope for the best, and let`s just get her out of here." I mean, that`s generally what you do.


HALL: Jane, I actually talked to the restaurant owner, and they have a slightly different take on that. They say that they were concerned about her. They say that, as the evening went on, and it was clear she couldn`t pay, the question was less about the money that she couldn`t produce and more about her safety. This is what they say, that they were actually concerned that she was in no state of mind to be driving. And they believed that calling the sheriff`s deputies would actually be the safer thing for her. At least...

LEO TERRELL, ATTORNEY FOR MITRICE`S FAMILY: You know what -- you know what? I...

HALL: That`s what they say.

TERRELL: ... would have -- I would have to disagree with that.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: OK. Let`s let Leo Terrell jump in. He is the attorney for the family of this missing woman -- Leo.

TERRELL: Jane, everybody`s rewriting history. Geoffrey`s rewriting history because they didn`t expect this to happen, and the L.A. County Sheriff`s Department, who let this lady leave the jail at 12:30 at night, after they were informed that -- after they were informed that their mother said she was going to come pick them up. I`m telling you right now the reason why this woman is lost is because of the incompetence of L.A. County Sheriff`s Department.

If her name was Lohan or Spears, they never let her walk out of that sheriff`s department without a car, without a cell phone, without any form of communication.

Jane, she lives 60 miles away. And they could have held her because of her mental impairment. They could have put a 5150 hold on her. They failed to take this action. They are responsible why she is currently missing.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes, absolutely. I agree with you. I mean, the celebrities, you know what happens, Dr. Dale Archer, in Malibu. We had the high-speed chase with -- who was it? -- Lindsay Lohan, a high-speed chase down PCH, where they were pulling wheelies. And it ended up in -- they drove right into the Santa Monica police station.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: And you know, she wasn`t let go in some godforsaken forest at 1:30 in the morning.

ARCHER: No, Jane...

HALL: Jane, what the sheriff`s department...

ARCHER: I think that what concerns me is actually what took place, because when you talk -- when you hear her family talk, they say this is so out of character for her; she would never do anything like that. And she looked disheveled, and she was obviously impaired. So then the question is, what exactly was going on?

VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. Let me get to that right now. The restaurant manager said Mitrice Richardson was acting off the wall, possibly intoxicated. They claim that she said she was from Mars and was speaking gibberish.

Her cousin says she took one look at her Richardson`s mug shot -- maybe we can show it to you in a little bit and she knew -- there it is -- something was -- that`s not the mug shots. I think the mug shot`s on the left. But she knew, there it is. Take a look at her eyes right there. She knew something was very wrong. Listen to this.


CHERIE HOWARD, COUSIN OF MISSING WOMAN: We don`t know the person that`s in that booking report. Something happened. What? That`s why we`re here today. What and where is she? We want her home.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: OK. Police tell a very different story about Richardson`s behavior that night. They say she was lucid and she passed a field sobriety test at the restaurant.

So Leo Terrell, you`re the attorney for the family. I don`t get it. One minute she`s acting crazy, talking gibberish, saying she`s there to avenge Michael Jackson`s death, and the next minute the cops arrived and, oh, she`s fine and dandy?

TERRELL: And they`re rewriting history -- again, they`re rewriting history, Jane.


TERRELL: Because -- the L.A. County Sheriff`s Department. We cannot believe anything that comes out of the press spokesperson`s mouth. He`s not a lawyer. He`s not a police officer. And he`s trying to spin this.

They arrested her, and Jane, the reasons that they arrested her were the same reasons why they should have kept her there instead of letting her leave at 1:30 in the morning. It`s outrageous, because she had no means of finding her way back home. This is why...

VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right, know -- let me just say this. Lou Palumbo, in defense of law enforcement, they claim that they said to her, "You can wait in the lobby if you want. You can sleep here in the lobby." And she said, "No, I`m going to leave."

LOU PALUMBO, ELITE INTELLIGENCE & PROTECTION AGENCY: Yes, I understand that element of this, but I do have to say that once this young lady made a decision to leave the facility in Calabasas, which I am familiar with myself, that the police probably should have facilitated a safe passage for her home. I think there was a lapse in judgment. And there`s a little bit of gray...


PALUMBO: Thank you.


PALUMBO: There`s a little bit of gray area here, though, Jane. I mean, this young lady is 24 years old. She was released after probably being issued what they call a desk appearance ticket, and for whatever reason, the police I think maybe mis-assessed her condition or her state.

I would have contacted a parent and guardian. But I will tell you this, being a father myself, if these were circumstances I was living with, I`d be furious right now.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes, absolutely. And you know what? Here`s the other thing. Why did they impound her car? I mean, if the cops determined that she was lucid and fine, then why did they impound her car for a small amount of marijuana? Is that what it`s come to in this country, where a small amount of marijuana, they take away your car and then you walk away in the middle of the night and you disappear, nobody ever sees you again? I mean, that`s crazy.

PALUMBO: That`s the lapse -- that`s the lapse in judgment.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: That`s why I`m in favor of the legalization of marijuana, because all over California, people are eating medicinal marijuana. We all know that, anybody who`s been to California. So it`s absurd. It`s totally crazy, and this woman is missing as a result.

But there could be another aspect, and that is what law enforcement sources are insinuating about her sexual orientation. We`re going to discuss that when we come right back.

What do you think about this mysterious missing in Malibu case? We`re taking your calls: 1-877-JVM-SAYS, 1-877-586-7297.

Coming up, will a secret videotape clear John Travolta`s name in his son`s death? We`ll examine these shocking new details.

Then a missing girl`s dad begs for her safe return.


RICHARDSON: You can never do no wrong in my eyes so if you had a meltdown, come holler at me. We can always sit down and talk about it.




RICHARDSON: Geoffrey`s will not give me a tape. They will not give me a tape. Nobody will give me a report. Nobody`s doing nothing.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: That was Mitrice Richardson`s father. He is livid, furious over how his missing daughter`s case is being investigated.

We`re now hearing unconfirmed reports from law enforcement sources claiming that Mitrice could be having problems with her family over her sexual orientation and doesn`t want to be found. Again, we are not able to confirm those reports. We reached out to Mitrice`s parents but haven`t heard back.

However, if that is the case -- and I`m saying if -- it wouldn`t be the first time. It`s a scenario that happens every single day. Studies show, in fact, 50 percent of young gays and lesbians say their parents rejected them because of their homosexuality. Twenty-six percent said they have to leave home because of it.

Leo Terrell, you are the attorney for the Richardson family. Again, these are unconfirmed reports, but they are coming from law enforcement sources. What is your take on their...

TERRELL: I`ll -- I`ll tell you right now. It makes me furious. There is a loving relationship between Mitrice Richardson and her family, and this is a classic example of law enforcement trying to divert the attention away from their incompetence, because these stories have no bearing as to why the Los Angeles County Sheriff`s Department allowed this young lady, straight "A" student, to leave without any form of getting home.

So it`s a false statement about any type of split or animosity between the mother and father and their daughter. They love their daughter, and the daughter loves them, as well.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Curtis Sliwa, this seems very bizarre to me, and if in fact, there is no rift between the family and this young woman who`s missing, it seems odd that that story would be floated. Something -- something`s fishy in Denmark here or Malibu, as it were.

SLIWA: Oh, no doubt. But I would prefer to focus on what the former police officer called the desk appearance ticket. Jane, I have received many of those in my time. I`ve been arrested 76 times, so I know all about going through this...

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Congratulations.

SLIWA: Well, always because at that time, they didn`t like the Guardian Angels, the cops, so they`d harass me. But when they give you a desk appearance ticket, it means it`s not considered a very serious matter. They call it a disappearance ticket. They don`t assume the person is going to disappear. But she is an adult, and once they release her, they don`t necessarily have the responsibility to force her to stay...

VELEZ-MITCHELL: But they took her car, Curtis. They took her car.

SLIWA: They took her car. And she was mentally -- she had mental issues. She had mental issues.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Let me see the panel. Robin. Robin, Robin, Robin, Robin Bond?


PALUMBO: Jane, the...

BOND: It`s -- what is the duty that the organization had to this woman and was it unreasonable? Did they have a reason to believe that she was a danger to herself or others?

SLIWA: Yes. Yes.

BOND: It seems that they definitely did.


BOND: So what would a reasonably prudent person do under those circumstances? Would they call a cab for her? Would they hold her until her parents arrived? Would they monitor? Would they put her in a police car and take her home? I mean, there are a lot of different varieties here, and I think that`s the real question. Was there a duty that was breached here?


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Carla Hall. Carla Hall, you -- hold on a second. Carla Hall, you`ve talked -- you have been reporting on this case. Do the police, the law enforcement there, offer any explanation? How ironic, it`s called the Lost Hills Station. That that -- that they didn`t put her in a taxicab or they didn`t just simply drive her home. What the heck are they doing at 1:30 in the morning that they`re so -- they`re busy that they couldn`t drive this young lady home?

HALL: Actually, they said they weren`t busy that night.

TERRELL: OK, you`re back to our point.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Hold on. Let Carla talk.

HALL: Actually, they said that they weren`t busy that night. They said that there was a custody assistant who was essentially in charge of people in their cells, and that woman became very friendly with Mitrice and talked to her a lot.

And when Mitrice was finally released, the woman -- it was a woman -- said to Mitrice, "Would you like to just stay the night and stay in the cell. There`s a bed. There`s a bathroom. You`re still free to go, but at least there`s a place here where you can stay." And...

TERRELL: I want to take issue with that, Carla.

HALL: Well, that`s OK. Again, I`m not sure that this is what happened. I`m just telling you what the sheriff`s department says.

TERRELL: This is the same lady -- the custody assistant is the same lady who told Mr. Richardson, quote, "We don`t run a babysitting operation here." And that shows you the state of mind of that department, because they didn`t understand the magnitude of the issue involving Mitrice. She had issues.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: What issues did she have, Leo?

TERRELL: She had mental -- she had mental issues which were demonstrated at Geoffrey`s. It was demonstrated by her request to sit with strangers, about her coming from a different planet.

SLIWA: Jane -- Jane...

TERRELL: Those were the issues.


BOND: Jane, to protect against corporate liability here, you would really think that any organization would say, well, you know, "We are the ones who removed her from the street, not before we put her back onto the street." What are we looking at doing here in terms of our danger to protect and serve?

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Hold on. I don`t understand something. Lou?


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Richardson is not a criminal. She`s a Cal State Fullerton graduate. She passed the test to be a substitute teacher. She works as an executive assistant for a freight company. She lives with her great-grandmother, who says she`s responsible and does volunteer work.

So how can she be loony-tunes at the same time?

PALUMBO: First of all, no one truly understands the circumstances that went on in Geoffrey`s, No. 1. For all you know -- and this is just pure conjecture -- this young lady may have ingested a controlled substance, unbeknownst to her. Just to put it out there.

But the whole issue here, the whole issue focuses around the handling by the police department. And -- may I finish, sir? One of the things that is disturbing -- one of the things that is disturbing is the fact that the Lost Hills Sheriff`s Station -- Station in Calabasas is in a fairly rural area, and I would think...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Of course it is.

PALUMBO: Just as human beings, we would have taken a little more interest instead of just doing the boilerplate...

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, you know...

SLIWA: Jane...

VELEZ-MITCHELL: You know if she was a celebrity they wouldn`t have let her walk out. If it was Lindsay Lohan, she wouldn`t be walking out on the street.

PALUMBO: We`re all too well aware -- we`re all too well aware of the double standards here.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Hold on a second.

TERRELL: It`s called gross negligence.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: More on the missing woman in Malibu in a moment. And a New York cop charged with drunken manslaughter. Is his fellow cop buddy in trouble?



SUTTON: We want our daughter found. We feel that there`s not been enough efforts to locate her. All we want is our daughter home.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: That`s Mitrice Richardson`s mom, desperate for any news about her daughter. She left a sheriff`s station near Malibu September 17; hasn`t been seen or heard from since. Why are we just finding out about this now?

Misty, Oregon, your question or thought?

CALLER: Yes, I just have a comment. I don`t think the police did anything wrong. It`s not their job to baby-sit once an inmate`s released.

PALUMBO: Excuse me?

CALLER: If they -- if they felt that she had a mental problem, they could get her on a 72-hour hold, couldn`t they?

TERRELL: Yes. And they didn`t do that. That`s what...

PALUMBO: Can I speak to that very quickly? This is not about the law. No, this is not about the law.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Wait, wait. This is what I don`t understand, Leo Terrell. Does she have a mental problem, because her family sort of seems to be saying, "Well, wait, she`s a responsible person. She`s a college graduate; she`s passed all these tests." What is it?

TERRELL: Jane, we`re saying and it`s the words of the innkeeper at Geoffrey`s and the patrons. She was exhibiting bizarre behavior. Those were red signs. Those were flags that she exhibited. She sat with strangers. She`s from another planet. She wasn`t drunk, so there was something of a mental crisis. At the very least...

VELEZ-MITCHELL: What`s behind a mental crisis? I mean...

TERRELL: It was enough to justify not letting her -- let me finish. It was enough to justify not letting her walk out of there at 12:30 at night.

PALUMBO: Jane...

TERRELL: Put her on a watch, command (ph) a hold.

ARCHER: Jane, there are a lot of things that would explain what was going on here. It could have been a small stroke. It could have been a brief reactive psychosis. It could have been drugs in that marijuana she had in the car could have been dusted with, say, PCP, which we know causes bizarre behavior.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: She also could have been sarcastic. She could have been hassled about the check, and she could have said sarcastically, "Oh, yes, I`m here to avenge Michael Jackson`s death."

SLIWA: No. No. NO.

HALL: It didn`t sound to me like, based on talking to the people at Geoffrey`s that it was sarcastic. They truly thought something was wrong. Not something hugely crazy about her, but there was something that was off. There was something disturbing about her. There was something going on with her psychologically. Whether it was drug-induced or whether she`d had some kind of episode, something was going on with her.

BOND: Right.

SLIWA: Jane, Jane...

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Hold it. Let me see the panel. Let me see the panel.

HALL: I kind of wonder if, when she got to the sheriff`s station and she was there for several hours, you know, what they -- what they claim is that they have -- they have to release people in a certain time frame.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, look, Curtis Sliwa...

TERRELL: Not true.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: ... is shaking his beret. Curtis, go for it. Curtis. Curtis.

BOND: They released...

VELEZ-MITCHELL: You`re not Curtis, Robin. I -- there`s a guy with a red beret over there.

SLIWA: Jane, I`ve been in lockup. Most of the people in lockup have mental issues or are stoned on alcohol or drugs. They get released all through the night, all through the day, depending on when the paperwork is processed.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: You`re talking about Manhattan, where you can grab a subway.

SLIWA: No, no, no.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Robin Bond, this is the country. I`ve been there. Malibu, my gosh, you don`t walk in California for a reason. Because...

BOND: That`s right. It`s not what a reasonably prudent person would do.

SLIWA: If you don`t insist on being released...

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Hold on, hold on. I don`t want to be accused of losing control of my panel. I`m going to give the last word to the shrink, Dr. Dale Archer. Ten seconds.

ARCHER: I just think that it`s horrible that they do a sobriety test and they say, "OK, she`s fine. She can go," when mental illness does not cause you to fail a sobriety test.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. Listen, we`re going to stay on top of this. You`re all invited back. We`re not going to rest until this poor young woman is found.

Coming up, shock and disgust. A New York cop allegedly responsible for getting behind the wheel drunk and killing an incident woman. Next.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Boozed up and behind the wheel: an off duty NYPD cop accused of killing a pedestrian while driving drunk. This poor woman was just trying to hail a cab on the way home from a wedding. Tonight`s big issue: does booze recognize a uniform?

Plus, explosive new details in the John Travolta extortion trial: "People" magazine reports the alleged extortionist tried to set fire to the key piece of evidence and flush the ashes down the toilet.

A woman dies a horrifying death, apparently hit by a car driven by an off-duty cop. So no, this was not just a traffic accident. NYPD officer Andrew Kelly was allegedly drunk when he smashed his jeep into Veronique Valnor (ph).


RAY KELLY, NYPD COMMISSIONER: The officers who responded to that accident detected the smell of alcohol on the driver`s breath.



Cops say she was hailing a taxicab -- hello, taxi, taxi -- when he allegedly drove his SUV right into her, flipping her body into the air. It gets worse. As she`s lying in the street dying, the cops apparently have passengers in the car; they allegedly flee the scene and guess what? One of those passengers was also a police officer himself.

The cop behind the wheel did stay and try to help his victim. The "New York Post" reports he gave her CPR and got her breathing but she died at the hospital. Her friends and family are understandably devastated.


REGINE MAZILE, FRIEND OF VICTIM: He took somebody`s sister, you took somebody`s daughter, you took somebody`s sister or somebody`s friend. You leave us with the hurt and pain. You leave us mourning.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: The victim was a pastor`s daughter and reportedly and ironically, a non-drinker herself. She was leaving a wedding at her church. Officer Andrew Kelly has been charged with vehicular manslaughter and driving while intoxicated. It`s infuriating that the person whose job it is to protect us from drunk drivers is allegedly wasted behind the wheel.

But guess what? Alcoholism does not discriminate. A uniform cannot protect you against having a problem with booze.

Straight out to my expert panel: criminal defense attorney, Michael Cardoza; Curtis Sliwa, founder of Guardian Angels; and also joining us, Dr. Reef Karim, addiction specialist and psychiatrist as well as former cop, Lou Palumbo.

Dr. Reef Karim, you`re the addiction specialist, we have to start with you. What is going through someone`s mind when they decide to get behind the wheel after hours of alleged drinking?

DR. REEF KARIM, ADDICTION SPECIALIST: Well, obviously, they don`t have a concern for their safety or other people`s safety at that moment in time.

What`s tragic here is that police officers` job and many good police officers will tell you, serve and protect. Serve and protect. Alcohol does not help you serve and protect. Alcohol messes up your reaction time, your impairment in regards to driving, memory, all sorts of other stuff.

And you`re impulsive. The fact that they would flee the scene, that just shows the impulsivity. And the big take home message here is that alcohol does not discriminate and alcohol should be nowhere near anybody whose job is to serve and protect.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: And guess what, you can`t say well, this one individual might have been in a blackout because there were other people in the car with him who could have said you shouldn`t be driving. So that`s another big problem.

KARIM: Yes. The accountability`s not just on him. It`s on everyone in the car.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Cops say when they found this fellow officer at the scene he allegedly reeked of alcohol, was slurring his speech and had bloodshot eyes. A friend who witnessed the crash described the horrific scene.


MAZILE: The car was coming and they`re like Veronica, come back across the street. I guess as she turned around -- well, she tried to turn around -- the car hit her on the right side.

They said that the car hit her so hard that she almost hit the traffic light.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Now, Michael Cardoza, cops found alcoholic drinks in the car, they say, and here`s the interesting part. The cop who was driving allegedly refused a breathalyzer at the scene so detectives had to get a subpoena in order to do a test on his blood alcohol level at the hospital but of course, it takes time to get a subpoena, and go to the hospital during which time, your blood alcohol level drops. So...

MICHAEL CARDOZA, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, that`s not necessarily true. You could be on the way up, too.

KARIM: That`s true.

CARDOZA: You start drinking, you`re at 00 and then you go up and then you come down so you don`t know which way it`s going. But that`s why the experts will be important here, Jane.

And keep in mind that pass, that`s what we call it in California, the pre-alcohol screening, people don`t have to take that one in the street. You have to take the one back at the station. Police officers oftentimes forget to tell people when they stop them for a DUI, they do not by law have to take the one in the street.


CARDOZA: It may be the same in Brooklyn. He had every right to refuse it. You can`t criticize that. You can`t.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Curtis Sliwa, as a cop he knows how to play the game. He knows that he doesn`t have to take that breathalyzer test at the scene, which a lot of other people don`t because they do take the breathalyzer test and are determined to be drunk. And so it`s possible that if time passes, your alcohol level can go down, because I`ve done stories on it.

I`ve done stories on people who have hemmed and hawed and all of a sudden, they drop right below. It`s interesting that we do not have anywhere in published reports today his blood alcohol level, which we usually would have the day after in a story like this.

CURTIS SLIWA, FOUNDER, GUARDIAN ANGELS: Right, but Jane, he had been binge drinking that day. He went to the gin mill near the precinct in Brooklyn where he worked. Then he went to a friend`s house to watch the Notre Dame football game, continued to drink, then came back to the same bar, gin mill, the cop bar to drink. And you would have thought some of his colleagues, whether they were coming on duty, off duty, and saw him and said "Hey, Kelly, yo, slow it down, man. You got a snout on you. You been drinking way too much."

Unfortunately, as part of the culture, they have gin mills. Whenever you leave a cop shop or precinct, notice how close the bars are and how they reduce their drinks for the cops who are off duty which just fuels this problem more and more.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, again, allegedly, he hasn`t been convicted of anything.

Lou Palumbo, here`s the interesting part. You`re a former cop. And I know you`re a very good one because I see you in action as a private detective and you really know your stuff.

The officer who allegedly left the car, okay, what could he face? He wasn`t driving, but he is a cop. He claims investigators at the scene told him that he was cleared to leave and then he shows up later at a station house but apparently, NYPD brass were furious that he left the scene. What kind of trouble is he in?

LOU PALUMBO, FORMER POLICE OFFICER: Well, they could clearly charge him with conduct unbecoming, malfeasance of duty.

But the thing you have to understand here, Jane, is that this is going to go through a thorough investigation, and both of these gentlemen are going to be properly addressed. It`s important not to paint an entire police department of 38,000 young men and women with the same brush.

There again was a mistake made here but you have to let this run its course. I think Commissioner Kelly will do what`s appropriate here. I can`t imagine for the life of me what this officer was thinking when he left the other police officer.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: When you`re drinking, you aren`t thinking. We all know that. I`m a recovering alcoholic. When you`re drinking, you aren`t thinking about anything.

That brings us to tonight`s big issue. Alcohol doesn`t recognize a uniform. Andrew Kelly is reportedly a seven-year NYPD veteran, father of two, but alcohol can affect anyone, even police officers.

Take a look at this photo from "The New York Post." they say that this is allegedly the other cop who was a passenger and fled the scene allegedly. He is posing with a bottle of beer. The "Post" also reporting -- this is "The New York Post" -- that this guy`s Facebook says, "Drink up, life is too short," and lists his favorite music as "any music that makes me drink, lol."

HLN has not been able to confirm that that photo is in fact the other officer involved, and cops have not named him. But Dr. Reef Karim, if you`re posing with a bottle of alcohol, posting these comments, what does that indicate, if anything?

KARIM: Well, I mean, in my mind, the power of addiction is really the point of this case. The limbic system of a police officer is the same as a homeless person or celebrity or anybody else.

In regards to the binge drinking, the other guests are right, it really depends. If he was bingeing the whole day, his blood alcohol level was probably high to start with. If he acutely binged right before he got in the car, it would only go up as his liver detoxified the alcohol. Either way, it`s interesting to see about the blood alcohol level not being there at this point in time. But again, the take-home message, alcohol doesn`t work for somebody acutely getting in a car, whether you`re a police officer or you`re not.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Michael Cardoza, I don`t want to paint a broad brush here. I live in New York City, love the police. They keep me safe, they`re great. This is not to attack all police officers. But it`s simply to say that alcoholism or drinking problems do not discriminate and it doesn`t matter whether you`re wearing a fancy suit or...

CARDOZA: Of course not. You know that Jane.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: I`m the face of alcoholism, too.

CARDOZA: Right. Well, Jane, number one, let`s go back to what you said earlier. Usually a day after an incident, you have the blood alcohol. That`s if it`s a breathalyzer test.

Remember, they took his blood. They have to do the forensic on the blood. That`s going to take a week or two before we get that.

What`s of more importance to me is that police officer leaving the scene. How cooperative were these officers during the investigation? We don`t know what his blood alcohol will turn out to be and that will be this positive in this case because if it`s below 0.8, that`s legal.

So where is he on that scale? He was the one that stayed behind to help. The other officer left. He should be punished for that. But if someone told him to leave that`s of higher authority, he had every right to leave then.

We have to wait.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: We have to wait and see. We got to leave it right there.

We have to leave it right there. We need to realize the face of alcoholism isn`t just that bum on the corner with the brown paper bag. It could be a cop. It was me.

This is national recovery month, a great time to get sober. In "I Want" you will learn so much about my struggle with alcohol addiction and how I overcame it. You can order my recovery memoir out now in book stores or just click on Look for the order section.

If you`re an addict or relative of alcoholic or addict, I assure you this book can help you. Thank you, outstanding panel, once again.

Coming up, evidence destroyed in the Casey Anthony case. We`re going to tell you how it happened and what it means to the case.

Speaking of evidence, jurors in the John Travolta extortion trial watching a 44-minute brand new videotape today. What`s on it? We`re going to tell you about it.

Also taking your calls, 1-877-JVM SAYS, 1-877-586-7297. Weigh in on John Travolta.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: A new videotape in John Travolta`s extortion trial surfaces. What it shows about his role in the aftermath of his son`s death. We`ll explore.

But first, "Top of the Block" tonight: Breaking news in the murder case against Casey Anthony. Remember that case, we were talking about all the time for awhile. A key piece of evidence now obsolete; and the worst part of it, it`s the FBI`s fault. Remember that duct tape found stretched across Caylee mouth? How horrific.

It had heart-shaped residue on it, possibly from a sticker. Any shape on the duct tape has reportedly vanished during a fingerprint testing process at an FBI lab. A mistake like that leaves the door wide open for Casey`s defense team to start asking what else did investigators mess up.

We are anticipating a huge document dump tomorrow and ISSUES will air a special report on that. Be sure to tune in tomorrow and that is tonight`s "Top of the Block."

Also tonight, jaw-dropping evidence in the trial of two alleged extortionists accused of trying to squeeze John Travolta out of millions. An ex-senator from the Bahamas and the ambulance driver who scrambled Jett Travolta and his terrified parents to the hospital the very day Jett died.

Prosecutors in the Bahamas say they have proof positive that the pair threatened to go public with a refusal to transport documents unless John Travolta paid big bucks to keep it under wraps. Now that document is nowhere to be found.

According to a police report, a copy of the document went up in smoke and down the toilet when former senator Pleasant Bridgewater burned it with a candle and then flushed the ashes down the toilet. Lovely. As for the original, police can`t seem to find it.

Meantime, "People" magazine confirms the existence of two, count them, two secretly recorded videotapes, negotiations between the alleged extortionists and John Travolta`s lawyer.

Quote, "Where the hell did you get the number if $25 million?" demands the lawyer.

"I was poor all my life, me and my family. We were struggling all our life. I wanted to do things for charity all my life," Pleads ambulance driver, Lightbourn.

"You`re a Bahamian Robin Hood, man," says the lawyer who reportedly laughed.

But it was no joke and according to the "People" reporter who watched the tape, they eventually settled for $15 million. At least until the cops came in and arrested the alleged extortionist.

Tonight, big issue: what is up with these alleged criminals who rationalize their behavior? "Oh, I`m a Robin Hood. I`m going to give my money to the poor after I steal it." I want to know what you think. Give me a call.

Straight out to my fantastic expert panel: joining me now, Ken Baker, executive news editor at E!

Ken, what is going on with the trial itself? Where is John Travolta and is he going to testify again?

KEN BAKER, EXECUTIVE NEWS EDITOR, E!: Well, Travolta as you said did testify last week. It was a very emotional day-long time when he was on the stand and it was really interesting, because he did reveal some very interesting things, not only that he believes he was extorted, but he admitted for the first time publicly that his son Jett, who was 16 at the time of his death, did have autism, which was never confirmed before and really showed that he did have a very serious condition in which he was having 5 -- every five to ten days, he would have a seizure.

And when they were in the Bahamas in January and he did suffer the seizure; that was the one that did prove fatal. Now, an interesting aspect here is that he is going to be testifying once again in this trial. He`s expected sometime in October to return to the stand to face more questioning.

Right now, Travolta is believed to be back in Florida, which is his home state, awaiting the call from the court to come back.

An interesting thing here to recognize is this has got to be one of the lowest forms of humanity if this proves true. Here was this family, grieving the loss of their 16-year-old child and just, you know, them having to basically die in their arms -- they had their son die in their arms -- to have them allegedly extorted like this is just absolutely horrible. They`re grieving as it is.

And if there`s any smoking gun that I`ve ever seen, this tape would be a smoking gun. They outline, the paramedic outlines what his motive was. "I`m poor and I need money." He outlines what he wants, $15 million. He outlines how he wants it, in an envelope as soon as possible. It was very clear.

And he said if he gets it, what would happen. They said it would be buried like the Titanic, that he would get rid of that document if he paid him. That`s certainly to me would seem like a clear case. I don`t know besides pure greed what these people could have been thinking.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: You raise tonight`s big issue: when criminal activity is rationalized by the perpetrators or their enablers. Tarino Lightbourn allegedly declared that he wanted to give Travolta`s hush money to charity. Isn`t that lovely?

Another glaring example of this behavior: Anna Nicole Smith`s doctors. They`re charged with funneling Anna Nicole, a known addict, thousands of pills and she ultimately overdosed. The doctors they say, "Oh, we`re just trying to help her get through her son`s death."

Daniel Schuler, husband of the so-called wrong-way driver, says Diane, his wife won`t drunk on vodka and high on pot as the cops say when she smashed her mini van into an oncoming SUV, killing eight people, including herself. A whole bunch of kids in that eight people, four kids, I believe. She said, well, the husband said she had a traveling lump on her leg and might have been suffering a reaction to Anbesol.

Curtis Sliwa, it`s hard to even say this stuff because It`s so ridiculous. And yet people manage to rationalize their behavior.

SLIWA: And then Saturday night, what a piece of work. Victoria Gotti on "48 Hours" on CBS saying her father John Gotti Sr., as you know, my enemy, would steal from people and play Robin Hood and give it to the poor people. And I say, you`ve got to be nuts.

And apparently these people have it in their minds that that`s going to be their defense when all it`s about is greed and taking advantage of the poor Travolta family. You know, the Bahamas used to lash you with the cat o` nine tails and used to have the death penalty. I think maybe for the ex-senator and for EMT, maybe a little death penalty or at least cat o` nine tails might satisfy somebody`s need to seek revenge against these two.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: You know, this is truly the gang who couldn`t shoot straight. This whole conspiracy makes absolutely no sense. That document doesn`t even mean anything. There`s no reason to pay a nickel for it.

We have an exciting addition to our prime-time lineup coming your way. "The Joy Behar Show" will air every night at 9:00 Eastern...



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You wanted John and Kelly to travel in the unit behind you, right.



GARVEY: He didn`t want to travel there. He wanted to be with his son.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And at one point he reached over you and touched Jett`s hand.

GARVEY: Yes, he was holding his hand and said, "Jett, come on, Jett. Come around."


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Just days after Jett Travolta`s tragic death, RadarOnline was on the ground in the Bahamas rounding up eyewitnesses and key players. On that very same day, January 5th, "Inside Edition" caught up with the defendant.

This clip aired on the CBS "Early Show" today.


TARINO LIGHTBOURN, ACCUSED OF EXTORTING TRAVOLTA: Went behind the curtain, tears in his eyes. I can see the love in his eyes for his son.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: That was actually back in January, before we knew about this whole conspiracy. It`s quite a can of worms.

And, of course, the phone lines lighting up on this. James, Florida, your question or thought. James?

JAMES, FLORIDA (via telephone): Yes.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Hi. It`s your turn to talk. Your question or thought?

JAMES: My question is, why do these people think that they can just take advantage of a man in the situation that he is, and then like everybody`s saying, rationalize about it? He obviously has criminal intent behind it and it`s a felony anywhere in the world to extort money from somebody, no matter what the cause is that he`s saying his cause to be. Whether he`s giving it to charity or spending it on himself. It`s illegal.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Dr. Dale Archer, this is a good point. How do people think they`re going to get away with this nonsense? This is something that you have to know, you`re going to get caught.

DR. DALE ARCHER, CLINICAL PSYCHIATRIST: These two folks are like dumb and dumber. Basically, they`re extorting him with a document that means absolutely nothing.


ARCHER: And I think the reason that they chose him was, a, he was rich, he was a celebrity, and b, he was vulnerable at that time after losing his son. So really, what they did is the lowest form of criminal behavior.

And I think they should throw the book at them. I hope they go to jail for a long, long time.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: You may remember that at first there were three people in the crosshairs of investigators. One of them was this guy named Obie Wilchcombe listen to him.


OBIE WILCHCOMBE, TRAVOLTA FAMILY FRIEND: John Travolta knew his son was a special child. He nurtured the relationship, he gave him love, demonstrated publicly at all times.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Was he ever one of the bad guys? He`s the former minister of tourism in the Bahamas and has been described as a Travolta family friend. Now he`s become a prosecution witness.

On Friday he told the jury what he said to ex-senator Bridgewater when she supposedly approached him, claiming to represent a client with a damaging document, quote, "This is bull, your client should jump off a roof and kill himself."

Michael Cardoza, with these celebrities, it`s hard to tell whether the person is a friend or a foe. This is a shape shifter here.

CARDOZA: Well, no question about it. Isn`t that why a lot of people of fame are stand-offish to people? You really don`t know if they`re your friends, because of your money, your stardom, or if they really care to, you know, be around you.

But in this case, you talk about people, you know, making up reasons. What they`re looking for is mitigation. That`s human nature.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Got to leave it right there. Thank you, fabulous panel for joining me tonight. Tomorrow, the debut of "The Joy Behar Show" 9:00 Eastern right here on HLN.

You are watching ISSUES on HLN.