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David Letterman's Confession; Nuclear Talks With Iran Achieving Results?

Aired October 1, 2009 - 22:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Larry, we begin tonight with breaking news about David Letterman.

He's telling millions of Americans he was the victim of a blackmail attempt, and he's revealing exactly what the blackmailer had on him.

More breaking news tonight: word that nuclear talks with Iran may already be getting concrete results. The Iranians could be giving up a big chunk of their nuclear program, tons of enriched uranium. We will tell what you that means.

And "Keeping Them Honest": You have seen the video of a Chicago honor student beaten to death while dozens looked on and did nothing? Well, now compounding the outrage, nobody, not one single person, is helping police bring the killers to justice. All those eyewitnesses you see, none of them have come forward.

Joe Johns is on the streets where it happened searching for answers.

We begin, though, with the breaking news tonight: David Letterman, an alleged multimillion-dollar blackmail attempt, a sting operation, and a stunning confession on national television.

Randi Kaye is working our sources. She joins us now with this late-breaking news -- Randi.

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, I have this press release right here from Letterman's people.

We're all learning really just in the last few minutes, as you are as well, that David Letterman dropped a bombshell during the taping of his show earlier today. He told his audience, not only has he been the victim of extortion, but that he had sex with members of his staff.

In the press release issued late tonight by Worldwide Pants, which produced Letterman's show, the company said someone contacted the late-night host with a package, claimed to have information about Letterman's relationships with his female staff members.

Now, according to the release that we have, the individual -- quote -- "threatened to reveal them if Letterman did not pay the individual a large sum of money" -- that sum, $2 million. Letterman said today he turned over the matter to the district attorney's office in Manhattan. They conducted a sting operation, which apparently included Letterman giving this individual a phony $2 million check. That, of course, resulted in this person's arrest.

Now while taping his show, Letterman said -- quote -- "This morning, I did something I have never done in my life. I had to go downtown and testify before a grand jury."

During that testimony, the release says, Letterman acknowledged he had sexual relationships with members of his staff. Now, he told his audience today -- quote -- "My response to that is, yes, I have. Would it be embarrassing if it were made public? Perhaps it would. I feel like I need to protect these people. I need to certainly protect my family."

COOPER: We should also point out here David Letterman is married. We don't know about the timeline of anything or how this plays into anything, if it does at all.

KAYE: Right. He married his longtime girlfriend, as you know, in March of this year. They have been dating since 1986. They also have one child together.

And, as you said, it is important to -- to really point this out, because, really, this whole thing started apparently when he got this package about three weeks ago, Anderson. And whether or not these relationships with his staff members occurred while he was married, while he was dating his -- his girlfriend, now wife...

COOPER: Right.

KAYE: ... it's really unclear.

But you also may recall this isn't the first time that he's been the victim of extortion. Back in 2005, police revealed a plot to kidnap his son for $5 million. His house painter was later charged with that.

COOPER: All right. We're -- we're -- literally, this is a late- breaking story. I know you're going to be following up on it. We will have more on it later on in this hour.

But we turn now to a young man's murder and the killers who could be getting way with it. Chicago honor student -- student Derrion Albert was beaten to death. You have seen the tape. It happened in broad daylight, dozens of people watching, someone recording it on a camera cell phone, no one coming to his aid.

Now, the videotape has provoked anger and outrage, understandably, but what you might not know is even more chilling. As of tonight, right now, not a single person has come forward with evidence against the four teens now in custody or to help identify the other culprits police believe are still out there who contributed to this young man's death. No one is talking to authorities. One reason? They don't want to be labeled a snitch. Things are so bad in inner-city communities throughout this country, so upside-down in some young kids' minds, that giving evidence is a crime; telling what you have seen is viewed as wrong, as violating a code of the streets.

Well, tonight, who is spreading that message? And who is telling kids not to talk? And who is trying to save lives by stopping that message from being spread?

Joe Johns tonight is "Keeping Them Honest."


JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It would seem obvious, right? If you saw this happen, if you were a witness to this murderous beating of 16-year-old Derrion Albert, you would call the police and tell them what you saw and the names of the guys who did it.

Four teens identified from the video have been arrested, and three others are being sought. But, to this moment, cops tell us no one has called, no kids, no parents. Why? Call it a code of silence urban schoolchildren learn early, especially in tougher neighborhoods: Mind your own business. And that means don't talk to the police.

(on camera): The death of Derrion Albert brought an outpouring of sympathy here. It also brought quite a police presence. Take a look, one, two, three, four police vehicles near the community center where Derrion was beaten.

But the question really right now is not about police presence. It's about who's talking to the officers, why parents and children who may have seen something or heard something aren't coming forward.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People don't they don't want to get jumped.

JOHNS: What do you mean they don't want to get jumped?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because, if they snitch, they are just going to get beat up.

JOHNS (voice-over): And, yet, it is clear a message that it's OK not to get involved may send kids a message that crazy, senseless violence is OK. And it's not.




COOPER: (AUDIO GAP) hip-hop artist Common. He's also a children's author and created the Common Ground Foundation, which is dedicated to empowering urban youth.

With me as well tonight, "Keeping Them Honest," is Steve Perry, CNN education contributor and principal and founder of the Capital Prep Magnet School in Hartford, Connecticut.

Appreciate both of you being us with.

Steve, we have -- we have talked about it on this program before. There's a code, a stop-snitching code. And it's something which, it's propagated by big music companies through rap, through some musical artists, through some rappers who appear in videos. You see people walking around in "Stop Snitching" T-shirts.

What -- what is going on? I mean, why has that so caught on?

STEVE PERRY, CNN EDUCATION CONTRIBUTOR: It begins in the fact that, when a child doesn't see a future, they have to connect to that which is now. And that which is now is making it home.

And, as we saw, when a child cannot make it home from school in their school uniform, I am -- I am amazed that we're not more enraged. If this had been a white police officer that split that kid's head open, then the blood would run through the streets. But because it was a young brother killed by other young brothers, we seem to just be sad about it. And that's not enough.

COOPER: Well -- well, also, to that point and to the racial point on it, we talked to the head of the -- the Chicago school system two years ago, when there was still this epidemic of violence. And he said, point blank, if these murders were happening to white kids in -- in white neighborhoods, people would be freaked out and -- and -- and protesting in the streets.

But it's become almost accepted that this is the norm, and it doesn't even make headlines anymore, except when it's on -- when there happens to be a videotape.

I mean, this should be making headlines every single night.

PERRY: It should be making headlines every single night.

And the sad thing about it is that, not just in Chicago, throughout the country, children are being sacrificed, one day after another, because we're not committed. And I say "we." It means everybody.

We often get on hip-hop. And who can't? I mean, when we listen to the lyrics, as much as we want to bob our head to it, a lot of times, what's said is grotesque, but, in many cases, attempting to tell a story of what is seen on the streets, sometimes. Sometimes, cats are just making up so they can make ends.

On the other side of it, if it was just hip-hop, then we would shut hip-hop off, and then -- and then all the problems would go away. When we have failed schools, we find that there is no such thing as a strong community with a weak school system or a weak community with a strong school system -- school system.

When you have an area in which we have children failing as a standard, we can only expect that the grown people are not handling their business.

COOPER: But, you know, Common, I do -- I don't want to -- I'm not bashing hip-hop, because it's the easiest thing in the world to do. And I listen to a whole variety of music. And there are a lot of artists I really like.

But when you have big music companies and -- and -- and rappers, and, you know, I have seen the "Stop Snitching" video. Tyson Beckford, this guy who is on -- on -- on a Bravo TV show, is out there telling -- you know, to try to build street cred, he is telling people, don't be a snitch.

I mean, what is Tyson Beckford -- why he is telling kids not to talk to the police if they see, you know, a one of their brothers or sisters being murdered?


COOPER: We will have Common's answer right after the break.

Let us know what you think. Join the live chat now under way at

And I apologize for the technical glitch earlier.

Also tonight, more on our breaking news: the late-night talk show host David Letterman confessing to have had an extortion plot against him. We will have details coming up.

Also tonight, Roman Polanski said he fled the country because the judge was backing away from a plea deal. But now a retired prosecutor whose comments threatened to derail the case against Polanski says he lied.


COOPER: You admit now it was stupid to lie?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You bet it was. It was a stupid thing to do. If I would have analyzed it and thought it out, I wouldn't have done it.




COOPER: Back now "Keeping Them Honest" in the wake of that horrible videotaped beating murder of a Chicago honor student. It happened outside a community center neighborhood refuge for kids who simply want to study and better themselves. That this happened to a good kid isn't unusual.

Neither, sadly, is the fact that the other kids, good, bad, and otherwise, stood by when it happened, and, as of last night, not a single one has come forward to tell authorities what they saw.

Back now with hip-hop artist community activist Common and CNN educator contributor Steve Perry.

I -- I do -- I don't want to -- I'm not bashing hip-hop, because it's the easiest thing in the world to do. And I listen to a whole variety of music. And there are a lot of artists I really like.

But when you have big music companies and -- and -- and rappers, and, you know, I have seen the "Stop Snitching" video. Tyson Beckford, this guy who is on -- on -- on a Bravo TV show, is out there telling -- you know, to try to build street cred, he is telling people, don't be a snitch.

I mean, what is Tyson Beckford -- why he is telling kids not to talk to the police if they see, you know, a one of their brothers or sisters being murdered? It's crazy to me.

COMMON, ACTOR/HIP-HOP ARTIST: Well -- well, unfortunately, you know, hip-hop -- hip-hop, first of all, had begun as -- with encouraging leadership and encouraging people to be themselves and love themselves. That was the initial message of hip-hop. And hip- hop was about getting off the streets.

Unfortunately, hip-hop evolved, and it dealt with all the ills of society. And some people have become followers. And we see, not only just hip-hop, but we know a lot of people don't take the initiative to be leaders.

So, the whole stop snitching and that whole mentality is -- is lack of saying, hey, I'm going to be a leader and step out and make the right choice.

But, Anderson, it starts before -- before, like, an incident like this can even happen. We need to get to the root of, like, what do our youth really need? I think some of that is just outlets of love, man. They need to be able to be expressed -- express themselves and to know that they are heard and -- and listened to and loved, man.

And -- and it has to come through many forms, whether it's coming through education or coming through programs or coming through Big Brother and Big Sisters, music. Every outlet we can, we let it -- we need to let them know that they're loved.

PERRY: When Common talks about love, children respond to love. Children will walk through fire. Children have the capacity to understand and love beyond reason. That is how children can love their parents who are locked up or abusive or just absent.

When our children go to schools in which they feel like they're loved and they're not anonymous and they're not just in there, then they -- then they begin to see the value in life. I don't believe these children who killed the other child wanted to kill the child because they didn't value his life. I believe they acted because they don't value their own.


COMMON: Yes. That's -- that's so much the truth. They don't value their own.

And, Anderson, I have been in the Englewood area of Chicago and just sat down and talked with -- with some kids. And -- and I was like, what do you all need? Because, you know, many of us set up foundations and programs. And I really wanted to know what -- from them, what do they need?

And they said, man, we want to be able to have some jobs to go out and work. We want to have things to do after school. We want to -- we don't want to walk around on the street and just be able to get sucked into trouble.

And -- I mean, and those are some of things that -- that came directly from them.

COOPER: What about the role of parents in this? I mean, I talked to, you know, the head of the -- the Chicago police last night and others, and they say, look, you know, there -- there are -- there are real problems at home. If there's a kid who is failing, it's often a parent who has been failing for a long time before that.

PERRY: There's no question about it, parents who are comfortable with a child who gets a C or D, parents who are comfortable dropping their child off at a school that they no is ragged -- they have watched that school undereducate a generation or two -- parents who are willing to go down and fuss and fight when their child doesn't play on the basketball team, but are unwilling to go down and fight the same way when that child is not being served in -- in the classroom.

COOPER: You look at Busta Rhymes. Busta Rhymes had a bodyguard shot in front of him. A guy who was, you know, willing to die for Busta Rhymes gets shot in front of him, in front of more than a dozen people, and not one of them, including Busta Rhymes, has come forward and said, yes, this person shot my friend, shot my bodyguard.

It -- it is stunning to me that just people are not willing to come forward and just say, you know what, I mean, I saw a crime being committed. I saw something terrible being done to someone who, you know, was my friend.

There were people watching this video. There was, you know, the -- the -- the person taped this video, the people who were standing around watching. I mean, they know who -- who killed this young man. And -- and, I, mean they need to step up.

What is your message, Steve, to them?

PERRY: Ignorance has no zip code. Ignorance has no area code. It lives everywhere and it lives in every socioeconomic strata.

Any time a brother will allow somebody to get away with murdering their friend, in the hopes, potentially, that they're going to get them later, it's an absurd notion. At some point, our community has to begin to man up and take responsibility for the circumstances that we're creating every single day.

COOPER: We have -- we have got to leave it there. It was a great discussion.

Common, I appreciate you being on.

And -- and, Principal Perry, thank you as well.

PERRY: Thank you.

COMMON: Yes, thank you for having us.


COOPER: Well, more on the scope of Chicago's problems at, where you will find a map of the killings and the stories of those who have lost their lives.

The latest on two breaking stories we're following: late word that U.S. and other negotiators may have persuaded Iran to give up a key piece of its nuclear program and appraise a lot of its nuclear material. How did that happen? Why? Who's going to be keeping the Iranians honest? We will have that coming up.

And more on David Letterman, the alleged extortion plot against him, and his confession of sex with staffers -- tonight.


COOPER: Just ahead, breaking news out of Geneva, where nuclear talks today between Iran and six nations, including the United States, word tonight that those talks may be producing results already.

Erica Hill joins us with a 360 bulletin.

ERICA HILL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, two major earthquakes in as many days have killed at least 1,100 people in Indonesia, hundreds more injured. And there are still thousands feared trapped in the rubble. A 6.6-magnitude quake struck Sumatra today in the very same region as yesterday's 7.6 quake.

Meantime, the Samoan Islands are also reeling from natural disaster -- convoys of military aid from the U.S., Australia and New Zealand arriving today across the Samoas, as the death toll from Tuesday's tsunamis rose to 160. An 8.0-magnitude quake triggered the four massive waves that engulfed the islands, leveling homes and entire villages.

A comfortable retirement for outgoing Bank of America president and CEO Ken Lewis. He will leave with $53 million in pension benefits, which works out to about, oh, $3.5 million a year for the rest of his life. Meantime, the company's stock sells for less than half its price a year ago and it remains below levels when Lewis came on board in 2001.

In Beijing, a two-and-a-half-hour celebration of six decades of communist rule and China's rise to a global economic superpower -- President Hu Jintao reviewing thousands of troops. Most citizens, however, watched the spectacle on TV -- the tight security keeping them away from the parade through Tiananmen Square -- Anderson.

COOPER: No surprise there, I guess.

Up next: David Letterman saying he's the victim of an extortion plot, his alleged blackmailer arrested today -- the breaking news coming up.

Plus: legal lies -- the bombshell from a former prosecutor with ties to the Roman Polanski case -- what he's now saying and why it could matter in the bid to bring the director back to the U.S. It may be bad news for Polanski.


COOPER: All right, let's do a quick recap of the late-breaking story that we're following.

Comedian David Letterman says he is the victims of a multimillion-dollar blackmail attempt by someone who threatened to reveal that he had sexual relationships with female employees. Letterman's say a sting operation led him today to testify in front of a grand jury that he had sex with members of his staff.

It's quite a bombshell.

Joining me now on the phone, CNN legal analyst Lisa Bloom.

Lisa, extortion, I mean, we all kind of know what it is, but how difficult is it to prove? Exactly what does it entail?

LISA BLOOM, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It is actually very simple, Anderson.

Extortion is threat to reveal publicly embarrassing private information in exchange for the payment of money. So, very simply here: "I'm going to disclose you had sexual relationships with members of your staff, unless you pay me $10 million."

If -- if Letterman can prove that that threat is made -- and, apparently, according to his statements, there was a sting operation with a phony $2 million check apparently delivered -- then it's a pretty open-and-shut case.

COOPER: Yes, I mean, it seems like, based on his statement, that he did the right thing in this case, or -- or acted pretty quickly. He contacted the prosecutors, the DA's office, here in New York. And they essentially set up this sting. BLOOM: Right, well, after apparently doing the very wrong thing of having sex with at least two female staff members. Then he did the right thing when he was the victim of the extortionist. I mean, that's correct.

He went right to the DA's office and they set up the sting operation. Letterman testified before the grand jury today. Presumably, he knew word was going to leak out very soon. So, he chose to, you know, take control of the -- of the P.R. situation himself.

COOPER: So, his -- his making a statement while on stage today at the theater in the taping of the program, was -- was -- basically, it's a P.R. move; it's not really legal move.

BLOOM: Right. I mean, it sounds like the legal case has already been wrapped up. If this phony $2 million check was delivered to the individual, the individual presumably has been arrested, and all the elements of the crime have been satisfied, now all he has to be concerned about is the P.R., and, as I said, especially the P.R. that he had sexual relationships with at least two female staffers.

COOPER: He -- he said that he testified before a grand jury today. Why? Why a grand jury?

BLOOM: Well, I take it that the Manhattan district attorney's office chose to go by way of a grand jury. That's a more secret way to proceed. Grand jurors are sworn to secrecy. All of the matters that are discussed in front of the grand jury are secret. And that is the typical way that they would go in a sensitive matter like this.

So, they went before the grand jury. It -- it was either concluded to day, or perhaps it was just a one-day grand jury to begin with. And, you know, as I said, apparently, they have the individual. And now all that's left for Letterman is dealing with the damage to his reputation.

COOPER: How common are -- are extortion attempts against people like David Letterman, or, you know, people that -- celebrities?

BLOOM: I think they're -- I think that they are very, very common, Anderson.

I mean, the John Travolta trial is the one that we were just talking about most recently, where two people threatened in the Bahamas to reveal a medical document about his son who just died. I mean, I think they are extremely common.

I think many celebrities probably choose simply to pay people off, if it's a small amount, rather than have to go through the embarrassment of having their reputation be damaged.


Howie Kurtz is also joining us on the phone, a media writer for "The Washington Post." Howie, what do you make of this?

HOWARD KURTZ, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, it's absolutely stunning, Anderson, to state the obvious.

But also, I would sat only thing more humiliating for David Letterman than having these multiple affairs come out would be if he had tried to cover it up. I mean, clearly, he did the right thing by going to authorities and blowing the whistle on this extortion attempt.

But, in doing so, he obviously knew that he would have to stand before his audience, the audience not just at the Ed Sullivan Theater, but the audience that he addresses every night, that he comes into people's living rooms, and admits that he had done something that he's, I'm -- certainly, I'm sure he's not proud of.

COOPER: Do you it had...

BLOOM: And, Anderson...

COOPER: Go ahead, Lisa.

BLOOM: ... can I just say there that there is also potentially civil implications for David Letterman.

And I'm talking about sexual harassment laws. I mean, not only is he potentially opening himself and his network up to being sued by these two -- at least two individuals that he had sexual relations with, and these are people who were subordinate to him in the workplace, and they would be entitled to sue -- but also people that he was not involved with in the workplace.

If there was a sexual atmosphere that permeated that environment, if it created a hostile work environment for other workers, well, now he's admitted that he's done this. He's really, I think, exposing himself to potential civil claims.

COOPER: Well, I mean, we shouldn't go down too -- the road of speculation. We, frankly, know nothing about what these -- the nature of these relationships were, the timeline of them, when they occurred, or -- or really anything about them.

But -- but, Howie, you say this is sort of hypocritical of Letterman. You have been tweeting. What -- what have -- what have you been saying?

KURTZ: Well, you -- I'm glad you follow Twitter so closely.


COOPER: Sorry. I don't. I was just told you have been tweeting. But...


KURTZ: Oh, you were told. OK. At least somebody there is following it closely.


KURTZ: Look, for one thing, how long it is going to be before a lot of other shows play back every joke that Letterman has ever made about Bill Clinton or any other philandering politician? Now he is going to get a taste of his own medicine.

And even if the -- even if -- in the most benign interpretation -- let's say these were totally consensual affairs, and nobody felt pressured or any of that -- I mean, Letterman got married a few months ago. He talks about his son on the air.

COOPER: But, again, we don't know -- but, again, we don't know the timeline of any of this, and...

KURTZ: That's true.

COOPER: ... nor do we know the relationship -- the nature of his relationship with the woman he's now married to, but he wasn't -- you know, he was involved with, perhaps on and off. And we really know nothing about it.

Isn't it a little unfair to kind of jump to conclusions?

KURTZ: It is entirely possible that this happened five years ago, when he wasn't in had relationship, sure.

But I take that whoever was trying to perpetrate this extortion felt confident that this would be sufficiently embarrassing to a huge public figure like David Letterman, that they would make the attempt to get him to cough up, I guess, $2 million, according to the complaint.

COOPER: All right.

KURTZ: I mean, I didn't get the impression from the remarks that Letterman made at taping, which I guess we will later tonight on CBS, that he was proud of this behavior. I think it was more the nature of coming clean.

But you're absolutely right. We should not leap to judgment because there are so many holes right now in what we don't know.

COOPER: Yes. We have got to leave it there.

BLOOM: But we do know that they were employees. That's a problem.

COOPER: All right. We have got to leave it there.

Lisa Bloom, appreciate you calling in, and Howie Kurtz as well.

We will keep -- I will -- I will try to follow your tweets more -- more closely, Howie. Up next, the breaking news: nuclear talks with Iran apparently getting results. We will tell you what the Iranians reportedly agreed to and why, if it pans out, could diffuse a very tense global standoff.

And, later, was Michael Jackson sick before he died? Tonight, results of the autopsy have been made public. The findings may surprise you.

We will be right back.


COOPER: Breaking news on Iran. U.S. negotiators sitting across the table from Iranian diplomats today in Geneva, hammering out a deal that will allow inspection of a newly-suspected nuclear site.

Now, under the agreement, Iran would also ship all those non- weapons-grade uranium to other countries for further enrichment. But only enough enrichment to use in reactors, not in bombs.

Joining me now is Reza Aslan, author of "How to Win a Cosmic War" and a contributor to Daily Beast. Also Abbas Milani, director of Iranian studies at Stanford. And on the phone, Candy Crowley.

Reza, how big a deal is this?

REZA ASLAN, AUTHOR, "HOW TO WIN A COSMIC WAR": Well, it's actually quite significant. I mean, one of the major issues that we had with Iran was its stockpile of low enriched uranium. And, frankly, eight years of an administration that refused to talk to Iran unless it stopped its enrichment process resulted in eight years of uninterrupted enrichment.

And in an afternoon, we managed to make some sort of agreement for Iran to reduce its nuclear stockpile, its enriched uranium stockpile by about 75 percent. So that's a fairly significant deal.

COOPER: Abbas, is there reason to be cautious about, A, their willingness to follow-through with this and, perhaps, the real significance of it?

ABBAS MILANI, DIRECTOR OF IRANIAN STUDIES, STANFORD: I think there is. I don't think we should over blow this. I think this is a first step. I think it's a baby step in the right direction.

But there are many loopholes. And the way they have worded it leaves a great deal of ambiguity. There is always the danger that the regime has other sites. There is always the danger that the regime will renege.

But this is a regime that was pretty much in a corner and was trying to get out of a jam. And what it does, when it is in a jam, and what it will later do when it is out of the current jam, fighting three wars essentially, are two different things.

COOPER: Interesting point.

Candy, beyond the enrichment news, Iran said it's going to cooperate fully, their word, and immediately with the U.N. nuclear agency and will invite inspection of its newly-revealed uranium enrichment facility soon. Also their word. I'm not sure "immediately" and "soon" necessarily are the same things.

But for the Obama administration, is this a political win? Or is it -- or are they not going to, sort of claim that so early?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They're not going to claim that early. If others want to claim it for them, obviously, they'll allow it.

But I think we just have to go back to what the president said earlier today, when he said talk is no substitute for action. Because what we have now is talk. Any time you hear the words "agreement in principle" to do this or that and that something will happen soon, there's an awful lot that can happen between now and soon. And an agreement in principle is not action.

So I think the president chose his words very carefully when he said that. Because he knows some of what he is dealing with here. This is not a country that has had a great track record of revealing things. I mean they only fess up to this plan when they were found out. So transparency has not been their number one watch word.

So we'll see. It may be, I mean I think we're somewhere in between nothing happened and great things happened. Because so far, nothing's happened but they have sat down together. They have seemed to have agreed to something. Let's see if it actually pans out, which is what I think the president was saying.

COOPER: Reza, are there plans for more talks?

ASLAN: Yes, in fact, that was the first words out of both the U.S. diplomatic team and the Iranian diplomatic team. This is essentially the first round of what will be, I think, a long series of talks throughout the year. Right up until the end of December, it looks like.

So we're just seeing the beginning of this. But Candy is right. I mean, you know, we've got a long way to go. But at the very least, we have something that's historic, which is the first time in which we have any kind of bilateral talks, referring here to Undersecretary of State William Burns and Saeed Jalili, Iran's nuclear negotiator.

The first time we had bilateral talks between the U.S. and Iran in 30 years. So at least we've begun a process. Now, where that process goes remains to be seen. But it's always better to talk than not.

COOPER: Abbas, what other concessions would the U.S. push for now?

MILANI: I think the big issue is whether Iran is going to continue enrichment, at what level they will continue enrichment, how rigorous they will allow IAEA to inspect this enrichment sites. And I think that is the big issue. That's the big test. And that's where I think we're going to face the biggest difficulties.

It's hard to imagine that, if the regime is more at peace at home, in other words, once it has solved some of its domestic problems with the people of Iran, within the regime, with some of the angry revolutionary guard commanders, whether they will agree to the kind of inspection or level of enrichment activity that will keep the world satisfied. That, to me, is extremely doubtful.

But it is a good beginning. And I think Mr. Aslan is right. It's always better to talk than to not talk.

COOPER: I appreciate you all putting it in perspective for us tonight. Reza Aslan, Abbas Milani, always good to have you on. And Candy Crowley, as well. Thank you.

A program note for you: tomorrow, "Keeping Them Honest" on a controversial death penalty case in Texas. In 1994, Todd Willingham was executed by lethal injection after he was found guilty of arson homicide. Now all three of his young daughters died in that fire.

And since then, at least four arson experts say that investigators used bad science, and the fire was not arson at all. Including one expert just recently hired by the state.


RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Based on your scientific findings, was Todd Willingham innocent?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. He did not light that fire.


COOPER: So did the state of Texas -- did the state of Texas execute an innocent man? What's really going on here? 360's Randi Kaye is "Keeping Them Honest" tomorrow.

We have new details on Roman Polanski's alleged plea deal with prosecutors and a stunning about-face for a man he said pushed the judge to send the filmmaker to prison.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, yes, but it's like, you know, if you're at a cocktail party and you embellish or lie about a case or something. It's not going to get back to me but it's not going to really hurt anybody.


COOPER: Well, it has gotten back. He lied.

Also tonight, a man pulled a child from a burning apartment. We'll talk to the hero about the rescue and the televised question he had for his girlfriend. This video is just unbelievable. We'll show it you to coming up.


COOPER: Tonight, a surprising confession from a former prosecutor connected to the 1977 statutory rape conviction against Roman Polanski. And some believe what he is saying now could have an impact on whether the director is brought back to the U.S. to face justice.

His name is David Wells. While he wasn't part of the Polanski prosecution team, he did work in the L.A. district attorney's office in the '70s. And in a documentary focusing on the plea deal, Well said he counseled the judge to give a harsher sentence than the one worked out between prosecutors and the defense.



DAVID WELLS, FORMER PROSECUTOR: My feeling was the guy should go to state prison. He wrote me and asked me about it. I said, "Judge, you're going to give this guy probation."

He said, "No, I want to send him to jail."

"You'll never do it, because the first thing that's going to happen when you sentence him, he's going to appeal it."


COOPER: That's what he said then. Tonight, Wells is telling a very different story, basically saying he lied and that he never coached the judge to be tough on Polanski.

David Wells joins us now along with senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin.

So David, in this documentary, you said that in 1977 you advised the judge to send Polanski to prison. Now you say that you lied in that documentary. Why?

WELLS: Well, I never thought the documentary would be shown here in the United States. I got the impression -- excuse me, from talking to the director/producer on it that it was being made by a French company, that they hoped to sell it in France, and that -- and based on that, I never thought it would be -- it would be shown here in the United States.

COOPER: Why would that make any difference, though, whether it was showing here in the United States? I mean, a lie is a lie whether it's here or elsewhere in the world.

WELLS: Well, yes. But it's like, you know, if you're at a cocktail party and you embellish or lie about a case or something. It's not going to get back to anybody. It's not going to really hurt anybody.

COOPER: You admit now it was stupid to lie.

WELLS: You bet it was. You bet it was. It was a stupid thing to do. If I'd analyzed it and thought it out, I wouldn't have done it.

COOPER: So, Jeff, I mean, why does it matter whether Mr. Wells lied or not? You know, in this documentary?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, why it might matter is in his old version, in the apparently lying version, he says there was -- there was a back-room deal that was inappropriate and a corrupt practice in the D.A.'s -- between the D.A. and the judge. And that could be grounds for setting aside the original guilty plea.

COOPER: Mr. Wells...

TOOBIN: The fact that you're saying a lie now, that's helpful to the D.A.'s office, isn't it?

WELLS: I suspect it very well might be, yes. But -- and that's why I told the D.A.'s office about it last year when -- when the judge ruled that Polanski had no standing to challenge it because he was a fugitive. I told them and I told them they ought to get a statement from me, because I lied about that. And I think we need to memorialize this statement.

I went public with it when he was arrested and in custody in Switzerland, because I wanted to do it right now, so you guys could question me and they wouldn't say that at the last minute I decided to make this story up.

TOOBIN: You know, I can't speak to the psychodrama that Mr. Wells is going through, either then or now, but I think based on the transcript of the guilty plea I read it, this whole side show is just that: a side show. That he pled guilty knowing that he could go to prison. And the fact that he got nervous about it and fled, I don't think that stands him in good stead at all.

COOPER: Jeff, what about all those people who are defending him who are saying, "Look, there was a plea agreement between the parties in this case, and the judge reneged on the plea -- plea agreement."

TOOBIN: Well, first of all, if there is a plea agreement, in any legal proceeding I'm familiar with, it's on the record. It's in court. It's said. And as I read the transcript, it was not said.

COOPER: Was this judge on the up and up? This Judge Rittenband? I mean, a lot of people have been very negative on him, saying he's a publicity hound. He sought out celebrity clients.

WELLS: It's easy to kick a dead lion. He's dead now. But I'll tell you this about Whitman: yes, he sought out publicity cases. He was the senior judge in L.A. County. He could ask these cases be steered into his court. He did that. TOOBIN: But be that as it may, that doesn't make this plea bargain corrupt. The fact that this judge liked publicity, which, by the way, a lot of judges like publicity, that's not corruption.

COOPER: At this point, Jeff, do we even know if there was a plea deal?

TOOBIN: Well, I think that's one of the many things that is up for debate. And I think we need to keep an eye. You know, the HBO documentary and the defense in this case has been saying for the past year that the judge violated the plea deal. The judge, you know, was engaged in this corrupt investigation. And, based on my reading of the record, it's not at all clear that there was a deal.

COOPER: Mr. Wells, I appreciate your time and coming on and Jeff Toobin, as well. Thank you.

There's been a backlash to Hollywood's push to free Polanski. Go to to read about that.

Coming up, our 360 special. We're going to meet the top ten "CNN Heroes" for 2009. And you can start voting for your favorite hero. That's about 14 minutes from now.

But first, a former "CNN Hero" describes how the award changed his life and his work in Kenya dramatically, beyond his biggest dreams.

And a little news quiz. Can you tell which of these three covers is the actual cover of Sarah Palin's new book "Going Rogue"? It's not that easy, is it? The answer is ahead.


COOPER: All day on CNN, we've been revealing our top ten heroes for 2009. In just a few minutes from now, 11 minutes from now, starting at 11 p.m. Eastern, voting begins to choose the "CNN Hero of the Year." We need your help to decide which hero is going to receive the top award and $100,000 for their cause.

Now in the next hour, you'll meet all ten contenders and hear more about their amazing work.

Right now, though, we want to introduce you to Peter Kithene, a "CNN Hero" nominated in 2007 for the clinic he founded in Kenya. The night he accepted his award, he had no way of knowing it would be a crucial turning point for his country and his cause.

Erica Hill has the story.


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I just marveled at Peter Kithene, a man who gave his village not just an outstretched hand but his entire heart. PETER KITHENE, CNN "HERO OF THE YEAR" FOR 2007: I said wow. It is mind blowing. It was just a fantastic thing at the right time. Remember two weeks after that, my country went into flames.

ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): In late December 2007, Kenya erupted in ethnic violence, following an election marred by vote-rigging accusations. In just two months, 1,300 people were killed, hundreds of thousands misplaced. Yet in the face of this incredible humanitarian tragedy, Peter Kithene's clinic, Mama Maria Kenya, thrived.

KITHENE: Going through that is just like, wow. I can do something. I can show some kind of leadership. While 40 percent of clinics are closing across the country, I didn't close. Nobody was turned away.

HILL: Today, there are two Mama Maria clinics with a third on the way, and the care was far beyond basic medical needs.

KITHENE: We are very excited about this place. We never had it like this three years ago. We offer maternal child health. Post delivery room.

HILL: Work Peter credits to the overwhelming support he's received since becoming a CNN hero.

KITHENE: The life of Mama Maria and the clinic is completely changed. The doors are opened. People listen.

HILL: The clinics treat more than 14,000 people each year for some 40 different diseases. With some patients trekking as much as 100 miles for care.

But for this native son, it is just the beginning of a pledge he made when he was orphaned at the age of 12. A pledge and a dream to make the difference.

KITHENE: The goal is to reach as many communities as possible. And there's still a lot of work to do.

HILL: Though already Peter Kithene has come so far.

KITHENE: Thank you.


COOPER: A remarkable man.

Just ahead tonight, you're going to meet perhaps the newest hero, the man behind this incredible rescue right here in New York City. Of course, Erica Hill is back with a "360 Bulletin" -- Erica.

HILL: We begin with a CNN exclusive. A Tennessee man arrested in Japan for allegedly abducting his two children speaking to CNN from prison today, saying he didn't do anything wrong. According to U.S. court documents, Christopher Savoie's ex-wife kidnapped the children and took them to Japan without his approval. U.S. courts then gave him full custody. Japanese authorities, however, don't see it that way. Part of the problem: under Japanese law, the couple is still married. And she is seen as the primary custodian.

In a Salt Lake City courtroom, kidnapping victim Elizabeth Smart testified today she was raped repeatedly every day by her alleged captor. She also said she was told she'd be killed if she yelled or tried to escape. Ms. Smart was just 14 when she was abducted from her bedroom. Now 21, she spoke at a competency hearing for Brian Mitchell, who's charged in her 2002 kidnapping.

According to the Associated Press, the autopsy report on Michael Jackson shows he was fairly healthy for a 50-year-old when he died in June. The A.P. says Jackson weighed 136 pounds and wasn't super thin as mentioned in the tabloids. His heart was strong and his other organs were normal.

And for the first time, a look today at the cover of Sarah Palin's new book, "Going Rogue." So because we quizzed you on the title, we thought let's quiz you on the book cover. Anderson, which one do you think is the official photo?

COOPER: I will say B. I don't know.

HILL: Fine work.

COOPER: Really?

HILL: Duffy on camera two also guessing B. You're both correct.

COOPER: There you go.

HILL: How about that?

COOPER: There you go.

All right. Coming up next, this is such an amazing story. Incredible rescue caught on tape. One man risked his own life to save a boy from a burning fire. We're going to talk to the man who helped save this little boy. We'll show you the video. It's incredible.

And at the top of the hour, a lot of remarkable people, ten remarkable people. CNN's top heroes for 2009.


COOPER: If you haven't seen this video of the New York rescue, you're in for something incredible. It happened in the Bronx, where a store owner risked his own life to save a boy trapped in a smoky, burning apartment. So the story. Wait until you hear what the hero did after the fire was put out.

Erica Hill joins us with "The Shot" -- Erica. HILL: It's tough to ignore those pictures, Anderson. We've all been watching them all day. Horia Cretan heard screams coming from above his store he has in the Bronx. And that's when he sprang into action.

You can see the smoke coming out of the windows there. He grabbed the ladder, climbed up the fire escape to a fourth floor apartment, where he saw the smoke coming out but says he couldn't get in. He tried. Turns out he was perfectly positioned to help. As you saw there, a fire fighter was inside the burning apartment, handed Cretan a 4-year-old boy. The boy, as can you see, appeared to be completely limp.

So he actually stopped on the way down. You can see him there. He took that curtain to cover the two of them from any falling debris or glass. He was trying to make sure the boy was OK and could breathe. As you saw, he gave the "he's OK" sign right there. There he placed the boy in the hands of firefighters who were waiting for him.

Just a great story and is really making a lot of people proud in New York.

COOPER: Let's talk to him now. Horia Cretan is on the phone with us.

How did you realize the little boy was trapped in the fire?

HORIA CRETAN, SAVED BOY FROM FIRE: At the time I didn't know that there was a boy inside the apartment. I found out when I asked the grandfather, you know, what's the reason for him that he's not coming out or he's not even trying to rescue himself? And he was in a state of shock. And that's when he let me know, there's somebody else in the building, in the apartment, which was a little boy.

COOPER: And we're looking at the picture of you carrying him down the steps. And then you place him down. What's going through your mind at that point?

CRETAN: I was overwhelmed because I -- he had the little boy in my hands. And that's what we were all looking for to make sure he come out to safety. There was nobody else in the apartment was not anybody else's concern at the time.

COOPER: Do you have paramedic experience? I mean, how did you know what to do?

CRETAN: No I didn't. I didn't have no paramedic experience. I just -- I believe from watching shows, watching TV, it just gets pretty much imprinted into your brain. And I just -- it came natural to me, I believe.

COOPER: Well, thank God for that. Do you know how the little boy is doing? Have you had any medical updates on him?

CRETAN: As far as I heard today, I was supposed to meet with the parents and the boy in the hospital. But later during the day I was told that he was back in ICU. So then we postponed it until tomorrow. I believe the reunion will take place tomorrow. And...

COOPER: And you decided to propose to your fiancee today. Congratulations. Had you always planned to propose to her today?

CRETAN: No. It just came to me that very same night. I mean it seemed like the perfect moment. Because I've been thinking for a while, and I just couldn't find that opportunity. And what was better opportunity than what I've had on TV?

COOPER: Well, she's -- she's a beautiful lady and you -- what you've done is just remarkable. Thank you and thanks for being with us.

CRETAN: Thank you for having me. Thank you very much.

COOPER: Horia Cretan. Just ahead at the top of the hour, voting begins for the 2009 "Hero of the Year." Go to to cast your vote. We're going to introduce you in the next hour for all the 10 contenders. You'll hear about how they're changing the world, and we'll take you inside the year-long process that brought us to this point.

Again, is the address for you to vote for these ten remarkable heroes. We'll be right back.