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ISSUES WITH JANE VELEZ-MITCHELL

Family Fears Cover-Up in Missing Woman`s Case

Aired September 30, 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, disturbing new questions in the missing in Malibu look mystery as family members desperately search for Mitrice Richardson. This young woman`s life turned upside down, simply because she couldn`t pay a $90 tab at a swanky seaside restaurant. She was arrested. Cops released her in the dead of night, and she hasn`t been seen since. Now her frantic family is demanding answers.

It`s been nearly two weeks since she vanished. So why hasn`t video been released from the restaurant or the police station? This is Malibu. There has to be a video camera somewhere. Tonight, the family asks, are cops trying to hide something? Meanwhile, we have to ask the terrifying question: is she dead or alive?

Plus, shocking claims rattling the NYPD. How did an allegedly drunken cop who reportedly ran over a woman trying to cross the street, killing her, register a blood alcohol content of 0.0? Meaning no alcohol. Maybe it`s because this guy was given seven hours to take a blood test. Were the boys in blue looking out for one of their own?

"The New York Post" says the NYPD is now looking into a possible cover-up. Did police on the scene give their fellow cop chewing gum and water to cover up the smell of alcohol?

ISSUES starts now.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Tonight, an escalating war of words in the mystery of the woman missing in Malibu. Los Angeles sheriff`s officials fire back at the missing woman`s angry family, saying, "Hey, don`t blame us."

The parents of 24-year-old Mitrice Richardson are desperate, naturally, to find their missing daughter. They say police are completely stone-walling them. Two weeks ago, Mitrice was arrested in Malibu and then released from a sheriff`s station on foot in the middle of the night, in the dead of night, with no phone, no purse and no ride.

Now, this all began when the college-educated executive assistant couldn`t pay her $90 tab at a very posh Malibu restaurant. Cops say they found a small amount of pot in her car, which they impounded. Witnesses say it was obvious this young woman was in emotional distress. Her family says cops totally dropped the ball.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL RICHARDSON, FATHER OF MITRICE: 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.

LITRICE SUTTON, MOTHER OF MITRICE: We want our daughter found. We feel that there`s not been enough effort to locate her. All we want is our daughter home.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Now, law enforcement says they`re doing everything they can to find Mitrice, and they`re defending their actions on the night she vanished.

Here is what the captain of the L.A. County Sheriff`s Department told a local blogger, quote, "The female jailer spent a long time trying to convince Mitrice Richardson to stay at the station, offering her a bunk, secluded from all the inmates. She told her it was better that she stay until the morning, even offered her breakfast and allowed her to make multiple phone calls. I know the family is distraught, and rightfully so, but the deputies and the jailer are not the villains in this situation."

The attorney for Mitrice`s family tells a totally different story. He says there`s a cover-up going on, and he claims to have audiotapes to prove it. We`re going to address those tapes in a moment.

But first, joining me on the phone, I`m delighted to have Steve Whitmore, senior media advisor for the L.A. County Sheriff`s Department.

Steve, I want to give you a chance to respond to all these accusations. Now, here`s a clip from Leo Terrell, the family`s attorney. This is what he said last night right here on our show, ISSUES.

Let`s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LEO TERRELL, ATTORNEY FOR MITRICE`S FAMILY: We were at the LAPD station last night, Jane. We asked to see the police report. After 15 days, they would not release it. We asked to get the phone messages from the calls she made. They refused to release it. There is a cover-up going on right now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. Steve Whitmore, those are pretty strong words. You represent the sheriff`s department. Has a police report been published? What about these tapes of phone calls that we hear could exist?

STEVE WHITMORE, L.A. COUNTY SHERIFF`S DEPARTMENT (via phone): Well, let me first deal with the police report. And the police report routinely, they are not released during an investigation.

However, because we have nothing to hide, we have worked in consort with the district attorney`s office, and that police report was released to the family`s representative today. If they have not picked it up already, it is waiting for them to pick it up. So routinely, police reports are...

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Will we be able to get a copy of it, Steve?

WHITMORE: Well, the attorney will have it. The family will have it.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: But will you release it to the public, to us, to look at?

WHITMORE: It`s up to them. It`s up to them to release it.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Really? I would think it would be up to the law enforcement to release their own report.

WHITMORE: Once they get it, they can do what they will with it. And we have nothing to hide. We`ve never had anything to hide.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Look, let me just say this.

WHITMORE: If I may say something.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: OK.

WHITMORE: The most important thing what we are interested in, the only thing we`re interested in, of course, I will try to answer any question that you ask...

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Right, right. OK.

WHITMORE: That is this. Is to find her.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: OK.

WHITMORE: Ever since...

VELEZ-MITCHELL: What about the mom who says there were reports that came in from neighbors saying hey, she`s sleeping on a porch, she`s sleeping here, she`s sleeping there, and the mom claims that law enforcement didn`t follow up on those quickly enough?

WHITMORE: Right. Well, we did get a report at 6:30 about in the morning on Thursday morning. In fact, I can tell you exactly when it was.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: OK, 6:30.

WHITMORE: We got the report. We responded by 6:50. We were there, and the individual that was reported there had already left. We are 85 percent sure that this was Miss Richardson, so we responded as quickly as we could.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: How far could she get on foot? I mean, she`s just walking by herself on foot, apparently, and she`s...

WHITMORE: We started, as you know, when the missing person report did -- was filed with us at about 3 p.m. that Friday, we of course, started looking for her immediately. It is a Los Angeles Police Department lead, but that doesn`t mean that we aren`t looking every single day, because we don`t...

VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. Steve, let me just jump to this other part, because this is important and I want to give you a chance to respond. The Richardsons believe Mitrice may have suffered some kind of mental or emotional breakdown, and they think your guys should have done more to protect her. Listen to Mitrice`s dad on last night`s show talk about that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICHARDSON (via phone): What should have happened based on that is they should have did a behavioral health assessment or had someone from case management come out and evaluate the situation for a possible 5150.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You are ridiculous.

RICHARDSON: Eyewitnesses that said my daughter was acting behavioral health. Nine witnesses. The police refused to give us tapes. The restaurant refused to give us tapes. I had to record them to get the information that I need. They were well aware of what was going on with Mitrice Richardson. They failed to...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. Steve, what`s your response? They`re saying remember Britney Spears when she had her breakdown, they kept her on an involuntary hold? They`re sort of saying that you should have done the same thing.

WHITMORE: Well, we did try to convince her to stay, but it must be once again, instead of getting into a debate and I want...

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Oh, let`s.

WHITMORE: ... to answer the question. But I will say this, is that the deputies that responded did an extensive field sobriety test. What that includes is not only checking the pupils but the speech, and as well as checking the pulse and talking to her extensively.

Nobody came up to the deputies and told our deputies about this, about the behavior that was odd. They -- they decided that -- and it`s also important to note the reason why she was taken back to the station was that the restaurant exacted what is known as a private -- private person arrest, and there`s a form that they must fill out. And on that form, it demands that the individual be removed to the Lost Hills Station.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right.

WHITMORE: All of this, as you might imagine, is checked and double- checked and balanced and counter-balanced. But having said all of that, the one message that I want to keep saying is this.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: You`re looking for her. I understand that. I understand that. And Steve, I want to say one thing. I could never be a law enforcement officer in the world. I took a test once, and I shot at everybody. They told me you`re never going to be a police officer. You`re not temperamentally suited. So I have the utmost respect for law enforcement.

And I want you to know that I appreciate you coming on and talking about this. It`s a big controversy, because there`s this missing woman. And the last time she was seen was at a sheriff`s station when she walked out into the dead of night. So I`m sure you understand that that`s why it`s a controversy.

WHITMORE: By the way -- I understand the questions. Now, the police report has been made public to the family and to the attorney, and so that will -- they will have that. That will illuminate perhaps some of the checks and balances and some of the observations that occurred and to help fill that out.

The one thing that`s important to note is the L.A. County Sheriff`s Department doesn`t have anything to hide.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. OK.

WHITMORE: There`s to reason to hide.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Steve, I would love to chat with you. We have so many other people who want to weigh in on this. Again, thank you for being so forthcoming.

We have an incredible panel to get to. They have been quite patient. But I do believe we have Geoff Peterson, the owner of the restaurant, Geoffrey`s, on the phone?

GEOFF PETERSON, OWNER OF GEOFFREY`S (via phone): Yes, we do. Thank you for calling.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, Geoff, thanks for talking about this. Look, we don`t want to attack anybody. We want to find out what the heck happened. I mean, this girl didn`t have her $90 to pay the bill and then...

PETERSON: And that`s where it started. But you have to understand, you guys keep mentioning like it was the $90. That was part of it. That`s what started the ball rolling.

But when somebody`s talking about avenging Michael Jackson, somebody is saying they`re from Mars and speaking a different language, something was off with her. We didn`t know, on one hand she was talking to a table, and she was being kind of just fine, just a little bit off. But something was wrong with her.

And my responsibility as an innkeeper is not to put people on PCH that I think shouldn`t be driving a car.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: And that`s Pacific Coast Highway.

PETERSON: Correct. It`s a dangerous road.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Now, why do you think the cops found her to be totally fine and normal when people at the restaurant were saying she was cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs?

PETERSON: Well, no, they weren`t saying that. I was talking to them that night. I wasn`t there; I was with my family. But she would do times of oddness, and then she would be completely normal. And then she would be odd again. And she was very sweet. She was very kind, but then she would talk from Mars and make up languages. So...

VELEZ-MITCHELL: She was talking in gibberish.

PETERSON: In gibberish. She was saying, "I`m from Mars" and -- and talking in gibberish. So the problem is we didn`t know what to do. I didn`t want to give this girl her car keys.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Right. I can understand that. I respect that.

PETERSON: And I -- the only choice I had, is if I didn`t arrest her for the violation of not paying, she would have been able to get in her car and go away.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: What about putting her in a cab, just out of...

PETERSON: Well, I mean, I don`t know any cab drivers that want a person who`s possibly mentally ill with no credit cards, no cash, and to go on the road. And she`s still in danger. I don`t know what`s wrong with her.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, she`s missing right now.

PETERSON: No, I know.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: She`s lost in Lost Hills. Listen...

PETERSON: I hear you but I have a question. And this is -- I know it`s not the right time to say it, but, you know, I got Leo Terrell saying outrageous statements. I listened to the interview, saying that we`re making up, rewriting history. The man can call me and ask me what the history is. No news organizations are asking us what happened.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, we are.

PETERSON: I appreciate that. But I`m talking about a lot of people have written stories that -- and they haven`t asked us. And we`re the source. If somebody wants my videotape, they can have it. Nobody`s asking for it.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, we`d like it.

PETERSON: You come tomorrow. I will give you my...

VELEZ-MITCHELL: OK. Absolutely. We will get the tape tomorrow.

Now, we have to take a break, but Geoff, the owner of Geoffrey`s, thanks for hanging in there.

And thank you, panel. We`ve got a great panel. They`ve been very patient. But we`re getting all this breaking news coming in on this mystery in Malibu.

What do you think? Do you think cops handled the situation correctly? We`re taking your calls: 1-877-JVM-SAYS, 1-877-586-7297.

Plus, are the boys in blue covering up for a fellow cop? Blood- boiling new details in the alleged NYPD drunk-driving case that left a woman dead.

But first, what happened to Mitrice Richardson? It`s been 14 days since she simply vanished in Malibu. Cops have yet to release surveillance videos from the scene, but we just heard from the owner of the restaurant. He`s going to give us the video. Now her family`s demanding answers.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SUTTON: I 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.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: That was Mitrice Richardson`s mom, frantic to find her missing daughter, missing in Malibu, furious at law enforcement.

Now I want to welcome my fantastic and very patient panel: Steve Kardian, former criminal investigator; CNN legal analyst, Lisa Bloom; clinical psychiatrist, Dr. Dale Archer; and Darren Kavinoky, criminal defense attorney.

Lisa Bloom, you`ve been listening to all of this. And it`s funny. It is like that Rashomon, where everybody`s telling a completely different story. And when you talk to law enforcement and you talk to the restaurant, they seem quite reasonable. And actually, the owner of the restaurant seemed like very compassionate guy, just trying to do the right thing.

But what we`ve been hearing is this hellish story of this poor girl, abandoned because she didn`t have 90 bucks, and left to her own devices.

LISA BLOOM, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, here`s the problem, Jane. What are we going to do, come up with a rule that says that the police cannot release an adult young woman once she`s been charged, processed and is free to go? I mean, are we going to have a different rule for women than for men? Of course we can`t do that.

So the only question is did she appear to be mentally unstable at the time of her release? The police says that she didn`t appear that way. Even from the owner of Geoffrey`s, what we heard was it would go in and out, up and down. Sometimes she`d talk about being from Mars. Other times she seemed perfectly stable. If by the time of her release she was stable, she was an adult, she was free to go, and she chose to go, I don`t see how the sheriff`s department is responsible for God knows what happened to her. I hope she`s OK.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. Well, so many people want to weigh in on this.

Antonio, New York, your question or thought, sir?

CALLER: How you doing? I have a thought. And kind of a question. I watch your show every night, so I`ve been following this story. And I`m going to -- I`m going to use an analogy of an athlete. When an athlete is hurt, he wants to go back in.

So my comment is when she was in the jail, when she was with that jailer, when they asked does she want to leave, the jailer should have been able to notice that that lady was off, and she should never have been able to leave on her own. She was -- was she of able mind and body to say, "OK, I`m ready to leave"?

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Doctor -- good question. Dr. Dale Archer, what`s the threshold at which point you say, "We`re going to take this woman to the hospital, have her evaluated to see if she`s so crazy, we shouldn`t let her go"?

DR. DALE ARCHER, CLINICAL PSYCHIATRIST: It`s a very simple threshold. In California, the law is called a 5150 and allows either a clinician or a police officer to hold someone against their will if they meet one of three criteria.

No. 1, are you a danger to yourself? No. 2, are you a danger to others? And No. 3, as in this case, are you gravely disabled?

And it`s very important to understand that a psychotic condition can come and go, wax and wane, so you can appear normal some of the time but then be talking gibberish, saying you`re from Mars and saying you`re here to avenge Michael Jackson`s death other parts of the time.

And I think when you throw in the mug shot and then the fact that the next day, she`s wandering around and sleeping on a porch and then leaves when they find her, all points to the fact that this was a psychotic woman who needed help. And I don`t see how a trained law enforcement individual could not recognize that.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Now here`s another angle. Mitrice`s mom says she planned to pick up her daughter from the sheriff`s station at 4 in the morning, but when she called at 4:30 a.m., she says cops told her her daughter had already left. Police say Mitrice made several calls to the sheriff`s station.

So Darren Kavinoky, surely one was to her mom. We do know she called her great-grandma at the restaurant. So was this miscommunication? Did she fall between the cracks? I mean, she`s calling her family and yet, she ends up walking out into the night.

DARREN KAVINOKY, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Yes. It`s a great question. And ultimately, really what`s going on here turns on what her condition was at the time that she was being processed out by the jailers.

Presumably, the well-intentioned folks from Geoffrey`s reported, just as we heard tonight on your show, that she was behaving very erratically and making statements that suggested she was going in and out of this psychotic situation. So presumably, law enforcement is on notice about that.

The question is whether or not she`s lucid at the time of her release.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Darren, I`ve got so many other questions. I`ve got a question about is this another example of the war on women? Yes, it is. Mitrice`s disappearance, another grim example of the war on women.

KAVINOKY: Yes, but...

VELEZ-MITCHELL: This is a sick commentary on our society, that it is almost suicidal for a woman to be in a remote area of anywhere in America by herself at night. I mean, you know, this is Malibu but take a look.

Meredith Emerson hiking with her dog in Georgia. She was just hiking with her dog. She`s murdered. Her killer tied her to a tree, beat her to death, and beheaded her.

KAVINOKY: Yes, but look, Jane -- but...

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Then there was another case, a short drive from there, Kristi Cornwell was abducted, she was walking along leaving her mom`s house, and talking to her boyfriend on the cell phone.

This is absolutely an outrage that in America, a woman cannot even leave a law enforcement agency without literally almost behaving in a suicidal fashion. I want you all to think about that.

BLOOM: Absolutely right, Jane.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: And we`re going to talk about that when we come back in just a moment, because we`ve got to really appreciate the depths of this war on women.

An exciting week on HLN, the debut of "THE JOY BEHAR SHOW." Hot topic tonight, Joy`s guest, conservative commentator Ann Coulter. These two have faced off before when Joy guest-hosted on "LARRY KING." You can imagine, plenty of intense back and forth. Got to watch it tonight at 9 p.m. Eastern.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I ran upstairs and woke my husband up, and we came and looked over -- out the window and my husband said, "Are you OK?"

And she said, "I didn`t know anyone was here. I`m just resting."

We ran to another window to see if she had anyone else with her, and by then, she was gone.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: What happened to Mitrice Richardson? Disturbing new questions in the case of this young woman who simply went missing in Malibu two weeks ago. Her world turned upside down, because she couldn`t pay her bill, $90, at a swanky restaurant overlooking the Pacific Ocean.

She was arrested by police, later released by herself in the dead of night in some kind of -- it`s sort of like an office area, one of those industrial-type places, and it`s the frontage road of the 101 Freeway. That`s not a great place to be, on a frontage road at 1:30 in the morning.

No video has been released, but we have just learned right here on ISSUES tonight from the owner of Geoffrey`s restaurant that he is going to give us the videotape so we can examine it and show it to you tomorrow right here on ISSUES.

And again, the owner of Geoffrey`s restaurant was saying the only reason they called police is that they were concerned about her mental state. They didn`t want her driving.

Lisa Bloom, what could that video show us?

BLOOM: Well, it could show the erratic behavior, and that`s such a key issue in this case.

And by the way, Jane, hats off to you for covering this story. We in the media cover way too many missing white women stories and not enough of people of color. I`m so glad you`re covering this important story.

I was actually at that restaurant a few days ago. It`s a beautiful restaurant. I met the owner, Geoffrey, who was on your show. He`s a good guy. And if he wants to show that videotape, I`m sure it`s going to demonstrate what he just told you, that she was erratic, she was going around to different tables, acting bizarrely. It`s probably only video, not audio, so we won`t be able to hear what she`s saying.

But another key question is, did she look at Geoffrey`s, with that wild hair, the same way that she looked in that mug shot? Or did that happen in between the arrest? So I think that video is going to be very important.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, let me say this. Having lived in L.A. for 18 years, a lot of people walk around with that wild hair. It means absolutely nothing.

ARCHER: Yes. Look at me, Jane. Wild hair right here.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Steve Kardian, I want to show you the Google map to get an idea of the area that cops have to cover to try to find this woman, and let`s show it to you.

You`ve got the Pacific Ocean, OK, and then about 13 miles inland is the sheriff`s station. She`s -- home is down in South L.A. And then there was a possible sighting, and this is a hilly area. This is a nightmare to try to find somebody in that.

STEVE KARDIAN, FORMER CRIMINAL INVESTIGATOR: Yes, it is, Jane. It`s very possible that she was picked up and dropped off by someone. They have a wide scope to search.

And let me just make, as a supervisor, as a police officer for 30 years, I`ve done that mental health evaluation, that 5150. And you know, sometimes it`s a hard decision. Sometimes it`s an easy decision to make.

But law enforcement, if there were any pre-indicators, they would have detained her. There are many people that went through there. So let`s not be...

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Boy, how can you -- listen, I said that I`m a huge fan of law enforcement. But you`ve got to ask a question when a woman is released, a 24-year-old who`s been acting strangely, into the dead of night with no car, because they impounded her car.

ARCHER (?): Yes, but Jane...

KARDIAN: They also have restrictions. Law enforcement has guidelines and standard operating procedures that they have to follow. To deviate that could put them in great danger.

BLOOM: But they`re human beings. And human beings sometimes make mistakes.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. Guys, we`re going to blow it out. We`re going to come back with more because this is such a compelling subject. So many people care about it. We`re going to tell you what is going on with another case in a moment.

But hang in there, fantastic panel. We want to figure this one out. And we`re going to talk John Couey.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Shocking claims rattling the NYPD. How did an allegedly drunken cop who reportedly ran over a woman trying to cross a street killing her, register a blood alcohol content of 0.0? Meaning, no alcohol. Maybe it`s because this guy was given seven hours to take a blood test. Were the boys in blue looking out for one of their own?

"The New York Post" says the NYPD is now looking into a possible cover-up. Did police on the scene give their fellow cop chewing gum and water to cover up the smell of alcohol?

We are going to get to that controversy in a moment but first, we continue to dive into this issue of Mitrice Richardson (ph), the 24-year- old executive assistant who`s a college graduate, missing in Malibu nearly two weeks. She went to a swanky restaurant alone. She didn`t pay the $90 bill. She ended up getting arrested.

I think one of the reasons Lisa Bloom, that this story is touching such a nerve with people is because we have all done it. I did it, just this week. I went into a local grocery store where I get a salad, and you and I both know -- we`re both vegans, vegetarians -- we always get our salads. I filled up the salad in my little plastic container and then realized this is a cash only restaurant and I don`t have any cash.

All I have is credit cards. A guy standing next to me said, "I recognize you from ISSUES. I`m going to give you the $2 you need." He paid for me. I was embarrassed but I took the money and said thank you, if I ever run into you. But we have all been there.

LISA BLOOM, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Of course. You know, I`ll pay your dinner bill any time, that`s right, my fellow vegan sister. Listen, this is an important point of the story. She didn`t dine and ditch. She had her food and then she said oh, no, I can`t pay to the restaurant owners.

They allowed her to call her great-grandma, who offered to pay over the phone. But they said, "We don`t have any arrangements where you can pay over the phone."

So it`s important not to malign this poor woman who`s now missing. She didn`t intentionally do anything wrong. As you say, Jane, she did what many of us do; sometimes you come up short inadvertently. She tried to fix it in the moment and she just wasn`t able to.

DARREN KAVINOKY, ATTORNEY: But you know what, forgive me, Jane, I may be just agitating the hornet`s nest here, but you`ve labeled Mitrice as a casualty in the war on women and it may be premature to do so until we know more about exactly what happened to her. The fact of the matter is her being released by law enforcement and now God knows what kind of end she`s come to, it`s not a function of her sex or of her color. I hope we would be just as concerned if it was a man or regardless of the race.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Oh, please. If this was a celebrity, come on, Barbra Streisand, Cher, how many different celebrities live up there? Do you think if Cher -- and I`m a big fan of Cher`s -- walked into any restaurant and said you know what, I don`t have the $90 and let`s face it, celebrities can be kooky at times, do you think it would have ended up this way with somebody walking into the dead of night, the middle of the night, with no car? Of course not.

A limo would have been taking them back. That`s what I`m saying. The world`s a harsh place.

KAVINOKY: That`s a celebrity thing. That`s a Hollywood thing. What we`re focusing on is the activities, the actions of law enforcement officers in terms of releasing her into the night in what is a fairly affluent area. This isn`t downtown...

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Fairly. It`s one of the richest places in the world.

KAVINOKY: Exactly.

BLOOM: But it`s also remote. It`s also a mountainous, hilly area. I live not too far from there, by the way. It`s not that rich of an area over there by the 101. It`s more of a middle class community. It`s not Malibu. That`s a rich area.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: I always agree with you, Lisa, but come on.

BLOOM: Lost Hills?

VELEZ-MITCHELL: I spent -- well, not Lost Hills...

BLOOM: That`s where she was released.

(CROSS TALK)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: That`s 13 miles away.

You`re right. You`re right.

BLOOM: Ok, so that`s where she was released. That`s a middle class area; it`s not all that great. But it`s rural, it hilly and not all that populated. That`s what I`m concerned about.

(CROSS TALK)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: You know, let me say this. I want to see the panel.

Dr. Dale archer, the big picture here is that we`re talking about the fact that in life, bad things do happen, and there`s the law of unintended consequences and everything doesn`t always go according to script. And do we live in a world really where if somebody is suffering from depression and having a breakdown and they can`t pay their $90 check, their world turns upside down and they end up missing?

That`s what I`m saying. That`s a very cruel world. I think that`s one of the reasons why this case has touched such a nerve, because it wouldn`t happen to some other people; because some other people are always given the benefit of the doubt.

DALE ARCHER, CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGIST: It was the restaurant`s call. They could have handled the issue civilly instead of criminally. It was their call. Once they got law enforcement involved, law enforcement took their complaint, they took her in based upon their complaint.

They could have chosen to handle it civilly, taken that credit card information, held it until the next day. It was their call. Not law enforcement`s.

(CROSS TALK)

STEVE KARDIAN, FORMER CRIMINAL INVESTIGATOR: But that`s the reason they didn`t do that...

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Let me see the panel. Ok. Darren Kavinoky.

KAVINOKY: The concern on the part of the restaurant manager and I really appreciated hearing his point of view...

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes.

KAVINOKY: His concern was turning her loose on Pacific Coast highway given her mental state at the time. So yes, they could have handled it civilly. They could have taken a credit card number but that wouldn`t have protected her. That would have turned her out in a dangerous place. So...

KARDIAN: But once they contacted law enforcement...

(CROSS TALK)

KAVINOKY: One step at a time. Then they did the right thing.

KARDIAN: Once they contacted law enforcement...

(CROSS TALK)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Hold it. Lisa, go ahead.

BLOOM: How did she get to the restaurant? Did she drive herself there? If so, why couldn`t she get a ride back to her car? I mean, nobody can walk to Geoffrey`s.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: They impounded her car because they found pot in it. They found a small amount of pot in her car so they impounded her car.

I`m wondering why didn`t she have a cell phone. Why didn`t she have a purse with her? I mean, anybody walking around without a purse or cell phone at all, and going on an extended journey, that`s a sign to me that you`re off. That something`s wrong.

BLOOM: Bottom line is if she seemed lucid at the time of her release, what are police supposed to do, you`re female, we can`t release you at 1:30 a.m.? We would release a male but not a female. That`s not something we can get behind.

ARCHER: The point here is very simply that it is more work for an officer to fill out that 5150, then they have to watch them, then they have to transport them. That`s a lot of trouble.

KARDIAN: That`s ridiculous. Ridiculous.

ARCHER: I will tell you -- I work for a program in Louisiana called Crisis Intervention Training. We train officers. The number one thing that they learn through that is that it is going to take more effort to take care of a mentally ill person than it is a common criminal.

We had to get the entire community involved from emergency room to the hospital to the psychiatrist to the psych ward to be able to get a complete program in place to take care of these folks.

BLOOM: Yes, but that`s what we have to do if someone is mentally ill. We have to look out for them. We can`t just release them out in the middle of the night.

(CROSS TALK)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: And get this. There`s another factor here, people. There`s another factor. There are some major unsolved cases in the Malibu area right now that make her disappearance terrifying.

Brock and Davina Husted were stabbed to death in their beach home last May. Police say their killer wore a motorcycle helmet and snuck in through a back door. The couple`s 9-year-old son witnessed the horrific attack.

Just two weeks later, nine miles away, 61-year-old Wendy Di Rodio was stabbed to death in her bed. Investigators have not said whether those two cases are linked but they are not solved.

So this is a scary question. This woman walks off into the night, but there`s also these unsolved killings in this very same area.

And you can take that one, Steve Kardian, because you`re the investigator.

KARDIAN: Yes, well, I`ve read about those cases, Jane, and it doesn`t appear that any of them might be tied. There are dangerous people all over the Los Angeles area, a lot of gang bangers, there`s a lot of crime in that city. So anything could have happened to her.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: You know what, I don`t think we should blame it on gang bangers. We don`t see a lot of gang bangers in Malibu, ok? Let`s give them a break.

KAVINOKY: In Malibu or out in (AUDIBLE) or out near the Lost Hills sheriff`s station.

I think this is why this story has struck such a nerve with people, because law enforcement is charged with protecting and serving. And here, this woman is in the custody of law enforcement officers who have that obligation and it appears that they breached that obligation by turning her out...

(CROSS TALK)

BLOOM: They can`t just keep somebody for their own good. They can only keep them if they`re a danger to themselves or others or are gravely disabled.

ARCHER: Exactly.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Wait a second. Let me see the panel.

ARCHER: The woman was gravely disabled. Come on how can you not say she was gravely disabled with all of the things that you`ve heard? Of course she was.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: That`s exactly what the cops are saying, that she seemed fine.

BLOOM: But at the time of her release, she might have seemed ok. She might have put on a good front.

KARDIAN: Odd behavior, strange behavior doesn`t constitute 5150.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: I want to talk about the big issue. The big issue is Darren Kavinoky challenged me when I said this is an example of the war on women that we live in a world where a woman walking out into the dark of night is literally almost attempting suicide. And it`s a sad commentary on our society that whether it`s me going to walk my dogs in the park or this woman walking out into a semi-residential business area, if we walk alone at night, there is a war on women. And that`s why everybody`s so worried that she left and that sadly could be the reason that she`s not -- that she`s vanished.

KARDIAN: You know Jane, I`ll give you the war on women but I will also...

(CROSS TALK)

KAVINOKY: For the record, Jane, and I just want clarify this for the record. It`s not that I object to any notion that a war on women is a bad thing. Of course it`s a horrible thing. I`m just saying that criminals are equal opportunity predators and that it applies just as equally to men.

BLOOM: Well, that`s absolutely not true.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: You`re wrong.

BLOOM: Men are not raped at the rate at which women are raped. Men are not attacked sexually at the rate women are attacked sexually.

And let`s be realistic about what probably happened to her.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Of course.

BLOOM: Of course, we all pray that she`s ok but there was probably some kind of predator who got her. That is an unequal opportunity kind of crime.

(CROSS TALK)

KAVINOKY: That`s pure speculation. It`s pure speculation.

(CROSS TALK)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: You`re absolutely right, Lisa.

A man could have left that sheriff`s station and the chances of something happening horrible are much smaller than something horrible happening to a woman. Thank you, fantastic panel.

We are going to stay on top of this story. We want to find this woman. Maybe she`s somewhere alive in L.A. And for some reason, hasn`t come forward.

A possible cover-up inside the NYPD: a cop accused of killing a woman while driving drunk. So why did it take so long, seven hours plus, to give him a sobriety test? I want to hear from you on this one. Give me a call. 1-877-JVM-SAYS, 1-877-586-7297.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Did the first cops who arrived at the scene of a fatal hit and run try to cover up an allegedly drunk fellow officer? That is next.

But first, "Top of the Block" tonight: convicted child killer John Couey died in jail today from natural causes. Couey had been on death row for abducting and murdering 9-year-old Jessica Lunsford four years ago, one of the most revolting cases in memory. He didn`t just murder her. He buried this beautiful, innocent little child alive.

He was on death row but he died before he could be executed. You could call that nature`s version of justice. That`s tonight`s "Top of the block."

Explosive new developments: an NYPD cop allegedly drives drunk and smashes his car into a woman, knocking her high into the air and killing her. It is a big story on the cover of "The New York Post" and the "New York Daily News." Take a look at the headlines.

Now, the "Post" says "Cop DUI Plot." "The Daily News says "No Booze in Blood." And they are right. Tonight, the stunning results of Officer Andrew Kelly`s blood alcohol test. It was a big, fat zero. In fact, it was triple zeros. He had no alcohol in his system, zip, nada.

Why? Could it have anything to do with the fact that cops waited more than seven hours after the crash to test their fellow cop`s blood? You think? Could there perhaps be a connection? Authorities say he definitely seemed wasted at the scene.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Now, shocking new accusations. Will more cops go down for how they handled this allegedly wasted fellow cop? "The New York Post" reports "Detectives are investigating whether or not cops who responded to the scene gave Officer Kelly some chewing gum and some water to mask his boozy breath."

Officer Kelly refused a breathalyzer and reportedly yelled, "I tried my best, I gave her CPR," as the victim lay dying. The victim`s mother says the blood from my daughter is on Andrew Kelly`s hands. They left my daughter dead on the ground like she was garbage.

A horrifying new witness account says Veronique Valnor died a painful death, quote, "She was breathing slowly, she was hit on the right side. Her right leg was broken. She was still alive," end quote.

Authorities have new video evidence that shows allegedly Officer Kelly guzzling drinks at a bar and then driving away. Will that be enough to override those zero-zero-zero results?

Straight out to my expert panel: Steve Kardian, you`re a former police officer. Again, these are just two stories we happen to be covering today. We`re not trying to beat up on law enforcement but we have to ask the question. Could this be a giant cover-up?

KARDIAN: Jane, there`s always that possibility, but take a look at this. When I came on early on as a police officer and apparently, he gave her CPR, mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. When the officers got on the scene, anybody that`s done CPR on a person that`s dying, it`s the taste of death. It`s possible.

And if he was intoxicated and he hit her, then he should go down for it. But there is a possibility the officers arriving gave him gum, gave him water to rinse out his mouth.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Oh, ok. I didn`t think of that. But I think the bigger question, Lisa Bloom, is the fact that they waited more than seven hours -- seven hours and 20 minutes -- before they took the blood and it came up zero.

BLOOM: There is no excuse for that. There`s absolutely -- Jane, do you think that if you or I were involved in a DWI they would wait seven hours to test us?

VELEZ-MITCHELL: No.

BLOOM: Come on, especially an accident causing injury or death. There is absolutely no way. That`s inexcusable. I have yet to hear any excuse from law enforcement as to that seven-hour delay. Half an hour, one hour, ok, maybe -- seven hours, absolutely no excuse whatsoever. That is shameful.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: And I think tonight`s big issue is, is this a pattern. Is there a blue wall of silence where cops help out fellow cops?

An eerily similar case out of Chicago this past May. Take a look at this, this Chicago police officer was allegedly drunk when he killed a 13- year-old kid on a bike, then left the scene. Four hours passed before Chicago police administered -- four hours -- their fellow officer a breathalyzer test. He came up just a hair below the legal limit.

Now, this one is a 17-year veteran of the police department. He was reportedly hanging out at a bar before the crash.

Darren Kavinoky, do you see a pattern here?

KAVINOKY: Well, it`s certainly possible, and it`s certainly not beyond law enforcement officers to try and help out their brother officer by engaging in this horrible cover-up behavior. And if it is cover-up behavior, it`s absolutely horrible.

They may not get away with it, though. Because in these driving under the influence cases, there are multiple factors that prosecutors usually point to, to convict somebody of driving under the influence. Driving pattern, field sobriety test performance, the way that they appear and certainly, refusing to take that roadside breathalyzer can be introduced as consciousness of guilt.

So he may not be getting a pass here.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Let me tell you this. The defense is trying to take this ball and run with it, Dr. Dale Archer. This is the lawyer for the officer who was accused of vehicular manslaughter and DUI. Quote, "We embrace the results and believe when the evidence comes out and all the witnesses give their statements, it`s going to come out that this was an accident," end quote. That this was an accident; they`re taking this zero- zero-zero and they`re running with it.

ARCHER: Well, here`s the thing. Most people a blood alcohol of 1.0 will be zero after seven hours.

So he would have had to have had a level of well above 2.0 to still be above the legal limit of .08 when the test was given after seven hours. So I mean, it`s just -- it`s reprehensible, to quote the mayor. And the other thing I think in terms of the blue wall of silence that the officers have to realize...

VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right...

ARCHER: ... this gives all police a bad name.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Of course. And most of them are law-abiding and do a great job and I love them. We`re not trying to beat up on the police.

We need to realize the face of alcoholism isn`t just the bum on the corner with a brown paper bag. It could be a law enforcement officer. Or a news anchor.

This is national recovery month, a great time to get sober. In "I Want" you`ll learn a lot about my struggle with alcoholism and how I finally overcame it 14 years ago. You can order my recovery memoir. It`s out now in bookstores or click on CNN.com/Jane look for the order section. If you`re an addict or you`re living with an addict or a relative of an addict this book can help you.

Stay right there. More on the alleged boozy cop in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REGINE MAZILE, FRIEND OF VICTIM: The car was coming and they`re like, Veronica, come back across the street and 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.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: And as a result of that Officer Andrew Kelly has pleaded not guilty to vehicular manslaughter and DUI. You know, every time something like this happens people want to say it`s just an accident.

Cops say Diane Schuler killed seven people, including her nieces and daughter -- and if you count her eight -- driving drunk the wrong way down a highway. Listen to the excuses her husband and his attorney threw out there.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DANIEL SCHULER, HUSBAND OF DIANE SCHULER: My heart is clear. She did not drink. She`s not an alcoholic.

DOMINIC BARBARA, LAWYER FOR DANIEL SCHULER: She was diabetic.

SCHULER: Something medically had to have happened.

BARBARA: She had a bump on her leg which was traveling towards her brain.

SCHULER: She is not an alcoholic.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Dr. Dale Archer, denial, enabling, and co-dependency come in many different forms.

ARCHER: Yes. That`s -- it`s classic, Jane, as you well know.

And the family members will support oftentimes the alcoholic until the day they die. And I`ve had patients in my office where the individual is saying, "I`m an alcoholic, I need help." And their spouse will be sitting right next to them saying, "No, you`re not an alcoholic, you don`t need any help."

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Oh yes.

ARCHER: You`re fine. So it`s a problem.

BLOOM: And here`s the rule Jane, I mean, here`s the bottom line. We`ve covered too many of these cases. We`re seeing too many deaths. If you have any alcohol in you, if you`ve had one drink, a half of a drink, don`t get behind the wheel of a car. It`s as simple as that.

We don`t want to be arguing about .08 or 1.0 -- if you have any alcohol in your system...

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Exactly.

BLOOM: ...don`t drive. And that`s especially easy in New York when you have so many alternatives: a bus, a cab, a subway, on foot. Just don`t get behind the wheel of a car.

ARCHER: But the practical problem though...

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Absolutely. You know, I write about this in my book and I talk about this Russian roulette nature of alcoholism, quote, "I would go out on the town with a friend determined to just have a couple of drinks. I would get plastered. I would have a conversation with somebody I hardly knew. I would wake up the next morning with a horrible hangover and call my friend for a damage assessment meeting."

That`s what I would call it. "We would laugh about all the silly things that happened the night before and then I would experience a rush of euphoria. I wasn`t in trouble. I`d gotten away with it."

The problem is eventually, Steve Kardian, you don`t get away with it. Something bad, really bad happens.

KARDIAN: Yes, Jane, with mad and sad and all the DWI enforcement that law enforcement is engaging in over the years there`s just no reason that a person can`t spend $20 bucks or $10 bucks for a cab. You`re absolutely right.

BLOOM: So just don`t drink.

KARDIAN: And Lisa`s correct, yes.

ARCHER: But the practical problem is that once people drink the alcohol, the judgment goes out the window. And so that`s ultimately what happens in the case of many people who engage in that drinking and driving behavior is they`ll go out and not intending to do anything wrong...

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Of course not.

ARCHER: ...or not intending to engage in criminal behavior. But one you have a head-full of alcohol, it`s a whole different thing.

KARDIAN: Have a plan and leave the keys at home.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: We`ve got to leave it right there, but let me just say that this cop said allegedly he drank six to eight beers. The cops say he smelled of booze. There`s supposedly a video of him drinking.

But I still don`t know without the blood alcohol level if they`re going to get a conviction on this case because the cops dropped the ball.

Let`s call it what it is. Not doing a test sooner.

An exciting week on HLN: the debut of "THE JOY BEHAR SHOW." And it`s a good one tonight; Joy`s guest -- conservative commentator Ann Coulter; that`s a potent mix of opinions. Watch the fireworks tonight when Ann Coulter appears on "THE JOY BEHAR SHOW" 9:00 Eastern.

You`re watching HLN.

END

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