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Cops May Have Found Body of Missing Coed; Amber Alert Issued for Daughter of Murdered Mom

Aired January 26, 2010 - 19:00:00   ET



JANE VELEZ-MITCHELL, HOST (voice-over): Tonight, fast-breaking news in the war on women. Have cops found the body of beautiful coed Morgan Harrington? She vanished during a jam-packed Metallica concert at the University of Virginia. Now cops have found a body ten miles from campus. Is this the tragic ending to her parents` nightmare?

And the clock is ticking in the desperate search for Aja Johnson. Her mother found murdered. Now this beautiful little girl missing, and she needs her medication. Cops in four states are now hunting down this man. Cops say Lester Hobbs was the last person to see Aja`s mother alive. Did he have anything to do with the little girl`s disappearance?

Also, if you`ve got it, flaunt it? Octomom`s got a brand-new bod, and she`s showing it off to the world. Nadya Suleman has lost 150 pounds, but she insists she had no plastic surgery. How`s that possible? Where did all that skin go? And let`s not forget, she has 14 kids. How does she have any time to hit the gym?

Plus, a second chance for the young woman dubbed Foxy Knoxy. The American student, studying in Italy, was found guilty of murdering her roommate during a deadly drug-fueled sex game. Critics called the case anti-American. And now the prosecutor in her case has been convicted of abusing the power of his office. Could this be the break Amanda Knox needs?

ISSUES starts now.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Tonight, an apparent tragic ending to an horrific ordeal that began 101 days ago. Virginia State Police say they have found a body that they believe is missing 20-year-old coed Morgan Harrington.


COL. STEVEN FLAHERTY, VIRGINIA STATE POLICE: Based on the evidence that was there, that was recovered, we`re fairly confident this time that the remains were those of Morgan Dana Harrington, the 20-year-old Virginia tech student who went missing from the University of Virginia from their campus during the Metallica concert on October the 17th, 2009. The remains are being transported to the office of the chief medical examiner in Richmond for identification and autopsy.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Morgan vanished October 17 during a Metallica concert at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville.

This morning, a farm owner who lives about ten miles away from the concert arena said he came across what looked like a human skull in a very, very remote area of his property. The badly-decomposed remains were reportedly found, along with dark clothing and a bracelet. Morgan was wearing dark clothing and jewelry the night she went missing.

Hours ago, Morgan`s parents reportedly met with state police to identify the remains. How horrific must that experience be? Cops now vow to focus on the hunt for whoever is responsible.


LT. JOE RADER, VIRGINIA STATE POLICE: From day one, if you recall on some of our previous interviews, while this has been a missing persons case, we have always treated this as potentially as a homicide. The cause of death will be determined, hopefully, by the medical examiner. We still proceed as if this is a homicide and most likely will be a homicide.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: So many unanswered questions. Why did Morgan leave the arena alone when she arrived with friends? Was the woman seen hitchhiking and possibly getting into a car actually Morgan?

Tonight, we launch a new battle in the war on women, as the hunt for a killer or killers begins.

I am taking your calls on this gut-wrenching, sickening story. The number is 1-877-JVM-SAYS. That`s 1-877-586-7297. I want to hear from you on this and the war on women in general. This is a crisis.

Straight out to my expert panel. We begin with Marc Harrold, the veteran police officer and attorney; Dr. Gail Saltz, associate professor of psychiatry at New York Presbyterian Hospital and author of "Anatomy of a Secret Life"; Judge Michele Lowrance, author of "The Good Karma Divorce."

Boy, this is -- we have covered this story, you know, here on ISSUES since the very beginning, and I have often woken up in the middle of the night and thought about what are these parents going through? A hundred and one days not knowing what happened to their beautiful daughter.

And I kid you not. I woke up last night at 4 in the morning and started thinking about Dr. and Mrs. Harrington, and what it would be like to be walking around in their house not knowing what happened to their precious daughter that they raised so carefully and saw the night of the concert. Her mother even helping her pick out an outfit for what she thought would be a joyous occasion, a concert with friends.

Dr. Gail Saltz, I`m sorry, but the time has come to stop just doing the "who, what, when, where, why and how" and say we`ve got a deep sickness in our society, and it involves violence against women. And it has got to stop. We have got to stop having more and more Morgans and more and more Dr. and Mrs. Harringtons.

DR. GAIL SALTZ, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR OF PSYCHIATRY, NEW YORK PRESBYTERIAN HOSPITAL: Yes, we have to continue to educate our women to be incredibly wary. I mean, it`s really sad. You hate to teach girls to basically be paranoid.

But, you know, you have to let them know that there -- there are these dangers out there, and they have to be suspicious, highly suspicious of anybody that they don`t know, and even sometimes those they do.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: You know, I go through this every time we have a story like this, because the drum beat is always, well, women have to be careful. You know what? There was an anchorwoman in Tennessee who was in her own home in the middle of the night, and somebody burst in, raped her and beat her to death. She was being careful.

I think we have to go to the next level and take a look at the deep sickness in our society that is making women vulnerable to crime. And the crime generally involves male violence, often sexually-charged violence. And I believe that we have encouraged this in our society with the media, with movies and video games that are chock full of sexually-charged violence.

It is classical conditioning that is occurring here. We are licking up violence and sex. We are creating a hunter-prey mentality between men and women. And obviously, the vast majority of men are peaceful, and they have daughters, and they have wives, and they have sisters, and they are not violent.

But there`s that certain percentage out there that is terrorizing the rest of us. And it`s domestic terrorism. That`s what it is. I think this is domestic terrorism.

SALTZ: Well, I would certainly agree with you that we are sadly desensitizing young men, often, to the violence, which is committed against women but also other men by, as you brought up, you know, violent video games, what they`re seeing over and over again. That is often oversexualized, but it`s also, as you point out, conditioning them. It`s sort of like, you know, you keep scoring a point for blowing someone away or doing something horrible, over time it`s very desensitizing.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Exactly. We`re joined now by Matt Talhelm, reporter with WVIR in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Matt, I`m almost scared to ask, what is the very latest?

MATT TALHELM, REPORTER, WVIR: Well, we just heard from state police here. All of the investigators involved in this case, Jane, have been working now for three months and one week since Morgan Harrington disappeared from that Metallica concert here in Charlottesville.

They tell us, from finding this body on a remote farm, about ten miles south of the arena where she disappeared, they are fairly confident that this is, in fact, the body of 20-year-old Morgan Harrington.

The family, of course, was here to help identify any remains. State police are not exactly saying that what has led them to believe that this is the body, but we do have some sources at the actual site where this body was found and they say there was black clothing and blond hair on the skeletal remains still, as well as a bracelet that are very similar to the description of Morgan Harrington from when she disappeared.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Let`s listen to what police said about the area where these skeletal remains were found.


RADER: At the time that Ms. Harrington disappeared, the hay field would have been up to about your waist. And of course, you know, it has snowed since then. So a lot of environmental things have happened since October.

It is a farm land, and it does not have public access. And I think that describes itself fairly well.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Judge Michele Lowrance, this farm is ten miles from the arena where Morgan Harrington disappeared October 17 during that Metallica concert. Now, the farm owner says the specific location where the body was found is at least a mile and a half from the road. So clearly, we don`t know what happened to her. But we know that something untoward happened. She didn`t make it there herself. She didn`t walk there and collapse. She encountered somebody sinister or a group of sinister people who took advantage of her and killed her and left her there -- Judge.

MICHELE LOWRANCE, JUDGE: Well, I see every day, I see the escalation of violence. And yes, I love what you do on your show because you make sure that America does not become anesthetized. You live and breathe the life back into it.

We are all so used to violence that we say, well, that just happened down there in Virginia. But it really needs to breathe the life so that we can become responsible as a culture. Why should we be so surprised if that happened? I would be surprised if it didn`t happen, if we -- nobody is doing the research.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Judge, here`s my problem. We`re going to get into all the details of the forensics and what she was wearing and all of that, but the more you delve into that, it does give it a business-as-usual kind of patina. And that`s what I object to.

It`s like I want to know who did this. I want to bring this person or persons to justice. But we need to look at the underlying social sickness that is allowing this to happen all too often in America. This is not something that, oh, just this wild thing that happens once in a decade. It`s happening almost every day.

In fact, the police today refused to issue a warning to the community saying, "Oh, this could happen anywhere," and it does every single day. The police themselves said that. Isn`t that a tip-off that we have a spiritual sickness, I think, in our culture, that this is being accepted as something that happens and women better watch out? I don`t think so. I think everybody needs to just stop and say something is wrong.

OK, everybody stay right there. We`re following this fast-breaking news in the search for whoever killed Morgan Harrington. And we`re taking your calls on all of this: 1-877-JVM-SAY. I want to hear from you. We`ve got Rita from Virginia lined up. Stay there, Rita. 1-877-586-7297.

Plus, a woman also found dead. Here we go again. And this beautiful daughter missing. Police desperately searching for Aja Johnson. Who took this beautiful little girl?

But first, have cops found the body of Morgan Harrington? They believe they have. She vanished from a crowded rock concert three months ago. Her devastated, crushed parents have been desperately searching for her ever since.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is private property, where the remains were found. The land owner does not want media on the property. If you are found on the property, that is trespassing, and you will be charged with such.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They`re reacting as parents would react to this particular situation.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: That was Virginia State Police responding to a question about how are Morgan`s parents` doing. How do we think they`re doing? Of course, they`re completely devastated. Their lives are destroyed. They lost their precious daughter.

Remember this from October? Listen.


DAN HARRINGTON, MORGAN`S FATHER: I`d like to say if Morgan is out there and hears us, please come home. And if someone has Morgan, please let her come home safely.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: The suffering that these people are enduring is incomprehensible. We are talking about the horrific discovery of human remains on a farm near Charlottesville, Virginia. Police say they`re confident it is the daughter of those two wonderful people you saw there, 22-year-old coed Morgan Harrington.

Rita, you`re in Virginia. What are your questions or thoughts this horrible time?

CALLER: Of course, my condolences to the family. I just can`t imagine what they`re going through.

But I have -- I have a problem with this. I`ve -- I`ve been to John Paul Jones Arena. My granddaughter goes to UVA there. And my husband took real ill, and I had to take him wherever he went. He had cancer, and he died last June.

But last year we went to that arena, and I had to go out and get a pillow for him. They would not let me back in the building. And I think that is the No. 1 problem at these concerts and all. They are so afraid they`re going to lose a dollar that somebody is going to sneak in that door. If they had let that child back in there that night she`d be alive today.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Rita, you make such an excellent point.

Marc Harrold, she went out to use the lady`s room, somehow ended up outside whatever dividing line and didn`t have her ticket stub. They wouldn`t let her back in. And then she was seen with various people. There were various sightings. And the next thing you know, she`s telling her friends, "I`ll make my way home," and she`s hitchhiking and never seen again.

MARC HARROLD, VETERAN POLICE OFFICER/ATTORNEY: I don`t know what the actual policy is at that arena. Sometimes that does call into question, there could be safety issues. I don`t know exactly what happened here. Some of the problems they`re going to have is the police are going to have to start asking hard questions. It`s too soon to do that now.

And there`s sensitivities involved, but you have to start asking hard questions about her actions that night. And I`m not calling them into question. I`m just saying, as a police officer, that`s one of the things you hate to have to do, is turn the corner and turn it into an investigation.

And I can say from the earlier thing about not wanting women to be paranoid, I agree with that. But if somebody is after you, you`re not paranoid. So I think that it is a real balance there. You don`t want to be out there scared all the time, but you`ve really got to watch out. And also...


VELEZ-MITCHELL: I`M not saying that the shouldn`t -- I watch my shoulder. I look over my shoulder. I walk my dogs at night. I`m very careful. It`s not that. It`s that the entire culture`s response to this kind of obscenity is, watch yourselves, girls. As opposed to what the hay- ho is going on with our culture that we`re so sick, toxic that this kind of thing just happens every day and everybody just sort of accepts it as oh, another murder. That`s what I`m talking about. There is a spiritual sickness in our culture that is not being addressed.

Jane, you know...

VELEZ-MITCHELL: I think that`s true. Go ahead. Yes, go ahead.

SALTZ: You know, I don`t think it actually -- I think a lot of people are sickened and totally distressed about this and not like ho-hum, but they push it away because it`s so upsetting to do what you`re trying to do right now, which is identify with these parents, identify with this girl, imagine what it`s like to be murdered in the middle of the night or to have your daughter be murdered and maybe sexually assaulted.

And it`s so horrific and painful that it`s something that sometimes people say "I don`t want to look," and it just happens every day as a way of sort of defending against being pulled into these overwhelming feelings.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes, but I think we, as a culture, really have to address this. I think we`ve crossed the line.

Debbie, Indiana, your question or thought?

LOWRANCE: ... to do this.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: OK. But let me get to Debbie first, Indian, your question or thought?

CALLER: Jane, I`ve been watching your show for quite some time. And with all due respect, I believe that you and lots of guests that you have on your show have the power to do things to maybe change things to educate women that it just seems like to me all I`ve been hearing is lip service.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: OK, how -- how do we -- let`s go to Judge Lowrance, who said she had an idea of how we can make some kind of change and get into the solution here.

LOWRANCE: Well, talking about the solution means we have to address people`s ability or inability to manage their anger, since anger always feels very powerful. It has -- it masquerades as power. It`s a very false emotion. But in our culture, often, the one of choice. Right in the grammar schools and the high schools, children need to be taught how to reduce their anger and how to work with their anger. They have no idea how to do this. As a culture, most of us don`t even know how to do it. And as long as...

VELEZ-MITCHELL: And those kids who don`t know how to deal with their anger and don`t know nonviolent conflict resolution, they grow up to be angry young men, and then they become criminals. And that`s a big problem. You are so right.

We`re going to stay on top of the story. Thank you, panel.

New developments in the desperate search for Aja Johnson. Her mother was killed. She was kidnapped. Now cops are searching for this little girl`s stepfather. Another case.

And from Octomom to octo-abs. Nadya Suleman.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Tonight, time is of the essence as the desperate hunt continues for a 7-year-old girl in dire need of medication. Breaking news. Authorities have charged Aja Johnson`s stepfather, Lester Hobbs, with her kidnapping and the first-degree murder of her mother, Tonya Hobbs.

Prosecutors say Lester beat his estranged wife to death.

An Amber Alert issued Sunday night for little Aja after mom was found dead in Lester`s RV, parked outside a relative`s home in Geronimo, Oklahoma. Investigators believe the child is with him as we speak. Yesterday, someone reported seeing the two in Brady, Texas.

J.J. Johnson, Aja`s biological father, was awarded emergency custody in November. He says he did not know the mom would take the child to see Lester. According to the custody agreement, Aja, was to be kept away from Lester.

Yesterday, Mr. Johnson made a heart-breaking plea for his daughter`s return.


J.J. JOHNSON, FATHER OF AJA: Everybody who`s listening and every parent who`s out there, I need my little girl back. Anyone out there who know where she is, please return her. Take her to a safe spot. I`ll come and get her and see that she`s picked up with no questions asked.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Joining me now, Robert Medley, reporter for "The Oklahoman," and Marc Harrold, former police officer and attorney.

Robert, what is the very latest in the search for little Aja?

ROBERT MEDLEY, REPORTER, "THE OKLAHOMAN": Well, as you reported, the charge filed in Comanche County against Lester Hobbs, first-degree murder and kidnapping. And we learned that Tonya Hobbs died of blunt force trauma to her body. Violent manner of the death.

The district attorney in Comanche County, Fred Smith, said one of the reasons for getting this filed quickly today was to get assistance from the FBI and the U.S. Marshal Service.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: What about the sighting in Brady, Texas?

MEDLEY: We`ve heard that that`s false. The Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation said that that`s not a good sighting and that there`s nothing to that.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: That`s unfortunate.

MEDLEY: So that`s the last I heard.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Tonya Hobbs filed for a protective order against Lester in August.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: She claimed in that petition that "he threatened to hit my daughters in the head with a hammer and kill them. He also threatened to kill me if I left him," unquote.

However, when it came time for that hearing, neither of them showed up, so it was dismissed. They`d been together five years. They were separated. Reports indicate Tonya was visiting Lester in an attempt to reconcile. Here`s Tonya`s mom talking about the recent charges.


ALICE DUNKIN, GRANDDAUGHTER MISSING: I never thought that he would go that far, you know. He`d beat her up and slapped her and black eye and all this, but I didn`t think he would go as far as murder.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Marc Harrold, this guy is believed to be armed and dangerous. He`s got a rap sheet a mile long. Why should she ever try a reconciliation? This woman who`s now dead?

HARROLD: I don`t know. I never understood it. How many times you go on a domestic charge. They would show up together. Some people even got married so she didn`t have to testify against him. I have no idea.

This guy only got 20 months for assault for a deadly weapon. He shouldn`t even have been out of jail. But I can`t really read into why sometimes women stay in these relationships. I know there`s things about them I don`t understand. And I don`t want to talk about somebody in a different situation and say something in something I can`t understand. But I don`t know why they stay in these relationships.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Fantastic, guests. Thank you so much.

We`re going to continue, obviously, to follow this case and pray we find that child safe and found.

Octomom has a brand-new look. How did she do it? Nadya Suleman claims she lost more than 100 pounds with no plastic surgery. Are you buying it? How does a woman with 14 kids have time to work out?


VELEZ-MITCHELL: If you`ve got it, flaunt it? Octomom has a new bod and she`s showing it off to the world. Nadya Suleman has lost 150 pounds. But she insists she had no plastic surgery. How is that possible? Where did all that skin go?

Plus a second chance for the young lady dubbed Foxy Knoxy? The American student studying in Italy was found guilty of murdering her roommate during a deadly drug-fueled sex game. Critics called the case anti-American. And now the prosecutor in her case has been convicted of abusing the power of his office. Could this be the very break Amanda Knox needs?

The latest skinny on octomom. Nadya Suleman`s eight babies turned one today and octomom is debuting a brand-new hot bod. Take a look- see at Nadya in this TMZ photo. This was one week before she gave birth. Yikes.

Now she`s gone from that to -- voila -- look at that. Wow. Nadya tells "STAR" magazine, no plastic surgery here. I lost all my baby weight naturally. Really? Seriously? Where did all the skin go? Just wondering.

Nadya claims, "I`m a rubber band." She says she lost 150 pounds, down from 270, all by hitting the gym. We have seen the TMZ video of Nadya sweating and burning calories in the gym. Did Nadya`s late night work outs really pay off or did she have some secret surgery? Nadya has always denied going under the knife.

Listen to this from Radar Online.


NADYA SULEMAN, MOTHER OF OCTUPLETS: Are you serious? First of all, that would be the last thing -- I know I heard of that -- hold on, hold on. I`m talking about in general when people insinuate something and it`s not true, I just thought it was a joke. I seriously thought it was just -- I was just kidding.

Let me point out something really important. I gained 130 pounds during this pregnancy, people didn`t know that. It`s on the record in Kaiser. I`m still 80 pounds heavier than normal and I have never in my life been so big and swollen.

However, that is the last of my priorities. Number one -- my head is filled with priorities of taking care of the kids. How am I going to do this? How am I going to do this? How am I going to take care of them? That would be the last thing I would ever even have room in my brain for.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: So you`re telling me those lips of yours are natural, Nadya? Is octomom telling the truth? Did she really just do a gazillion sit-ups? How does she have the time to work out three hours a day with 14 kids?

So many questions. Straight out to my fantastic expert panel: plastic surgeon and star of E`s "Dr. 90210" Dr. Linda Lee -- great to have you here doctor.

DR. LINDA LEE, PLASTIC SURGEON: Thank you for having me.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Psychiatrist Dr. Gail Saltz and from Russell Wetanson.

Russell, dare I ask, what`s the latest with octomom?

RUSSELL WETANSON, POPSQUARE.COM: Well, the latest is basically, I`m disappointed in her because if she had gotten eight packs...


WETANSON: Well, if she doesn`t have 8-pack of abs to go with the 8-pack of kids. She has a flat stomach but not that 8-pack.

The latest really is it`s one year from the birth. These kids are turning 1 year old and we have not heard a lot from Octomom in the recent months or weeks. And now she`s on the cover of this magazine and she said, "Look at my flat stomach. All natural."

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Now, I have to go to Dr. Linda Lee, plastic surgeon from E`s "Dr. 90210". Let`s see the before and after. Pregnant mom is from TMZ and then we have the "Star" magazine photo. We`ll show you both of them. Ok. Look at that.

I mean, where did all that skin go? Is it possible to lose something like 150 pounds by just working out after you`ve popped out that many children -- I don`t mean to be (INAUDIBLE) but you know using casual language -- and there`s no skin leftover. Wouldn`t there be skin? Like a flap of skin?

LEE: There should be a giant flap of skin. And when you take a look from her pictures when she`s pregnant, she has a huge number of stretch marks. I don`t know where those stretch marks went except for into the garbage can.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Ok, you said it, doctor, and you`re the plastic surgeon. You`re the expert. When Octomom says she lost it all naturally, do we believe her, especially after hearing from the doctor there?

Remember the Brangelina octolina (ph) controversy? "Life and Style" magazine claimed Nadya was obsessed with Angelina Jolie and was getting tons of plastic surgery to look more like Angelina Jolie. There you see, you can compare for yourself. Ok?

Octomom denied it however on NBC`s "Dateline".


SULEMAN: I have never even thought of Angelina Jolie except the last time I saw a movie.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: So she`s never even thought of Angelina Jolie, right? I do think we all agree she has an oddly Angelina-like look although not as beautiful.

Then the "Chicago Sun Times" reported Nadya had sent fan mail to Angelina Jolie. So Dr. Gail Saltz, she seems to have a huge credibility issue.

DR. GAIL SALTZ, PSYCHIATRIST: Yes, there seems to be a fair amount of denial of reality in general. I mean, when you have multiple kids who have issues and then you decide to have 8 babies I think we can already establish that there`s been a denial of reality in general.

So, you know, when you have a mind that allows you to fudge what is real versus what is not real, it can extend into all kinds of areas. I don`t think it`s surprising.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: You know, the other day, we were talking about Heidi Montag`s surgery. And I mentioned I had a facelift about 9 years ago. I just had one procedure, pull back. Oh my God, the e-mails I got from people, "How could you admit that on television." You know why, it happened, it`s true. I`m not shame-based about it and I don`t have a problem.

By the way, I also don`t have a problem with callers who disagree with me. We have a caller who disagrees with me. I love that, I love to be challenged.

And I think the truth is always healthy. But there are some people who are so obsessed with image that they want us to believe the unbelievable.

TMZ reports that although Nadya has been hitting the gym, she has not been paying for it. Nadya reportedly swiped three different credit cards and they were all declined. So reports are an anonymous person paid her gym bill.

Now, Russell, if she can`t even afford gym, how is she supporting her 14 kids?

WETANSON: That`s the big question, Jane. From the beginning of time since we knew she was pregnant, we kept asking, how is she going to support these kids? Now over the past year, she says she has not been on any public assistance, but she also is a stay-at-home mom with three live-in nannies and lots of help.

So it`s a huge mystery. And that`s something that we`d like to see her reveal other than her flat stomach. Where is she getting the money from? How is she doing this?

VELEZ-MITCHELL: And Dr. Lee, if she is getting plastic surgery, that`s got to cost a pretty penny.

LEE: It is definitely an expensive thing to do. And if she`s getting it pro bono from her plastic surgeon, then she should really own up to it because she has a fantastic looking body right now.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: She does look great. I`m not going to take that away from her, but she`s just so strange. It really -- final thoughts? Final thoughts on this?

SALTZ: You know Jane, the thing that`s disturbing about it is it`s not really fair to tell women, you know, who had babies, who might be struggling with their own body image. And, you know -- and struggling with taking care of babies yet they`re supposed to look good and all this. This just perpetuates that myth for them which is not so hot.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: It`s called cheating. It`s like all the stars who drop ...

WETANSON: Work out DVDs.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: ... all the weight in Hollywood after having their babies, a lot of them take pills.

SALTZ: And it`s not an image you can live up to as a real person.

WETANSON: Come on, we know that.

LEE: Right.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes. All right.

WETANSON: She needs a workout DVD series, Jane.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Thank you so much fabulous guests.

Up next, does the young lady who got the nickname Foxy Knoxy have another shot at justice? She was convicted of murder by an Italian court. Critics call the case anti-American. Now her prosecutor -- her prosecutor has been thrown in jail for abusing his powers. Can Amanda Knox use that to her advantage?

We`re taking your calls on this. 1-877-JVM-SAYS, 1-877-586-7297; give me a holler.


AMANDA KNOX, ACCUSED MURDERER (through translator): I`m scared of having the mask of an assassin forced upon me.



VELEZ-MITCHELL: Now to a crazy turn of events in Italy. The prosecutor in the Amanda Knox murder case could go to prison for -- get this -- abuse of office. He was given a 16-month prison sentence.

Amanda Knox is the beautiful American student studying in Italy who was convicted of slashing her roommate`s throat in an alleged ritualistic sex game gone wrong.

During the entire trial, the Knox`s family insisted Amanda was being railroaded by the prosecutor. So could this latest turn of events -- the conviction of the prosecutor -- help overturn her conviction?

It was a grisly murder scheme as you can see in this ABC video. Prosecutor Giuliano Mignini convinced the jury to convict Amanda of murder.

Amanda talked to CBS about her 41-hour interrogation.


KNOX: They said that I was going to go in prison for 30 years because I was hiding something. And they said that I was lying. I was terrified because I didn`t know -- I didn`t know what to do anymore.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Some critics say -- wow some critics say prosecutor Mignini has a wild imagination, breaks the rules, abuses his power -- that`s him right there -- and basically the critics say he makes stuff up, like wild sex games with no proof to back it up.

Back now to my fantastic panel: psychiatrist Gail Saltz and we`re also joined again by Judge Michelle Lowrance. And we`re delighted to have author, Douglas Preston via Skype. He is very familiar with this prosecutor Giuliano Mignini, I hope I`m saying it right, it`s a mouthful. And we have Travis Mayfield, a reporter with KOMO NEWS radio. He co-wrote a book -- well, actually it was Doug Preston who co-wrote the book "The Monster of Florence" and knows the Mignini`s tactics very well.

We`re going to get to Doug in a second but we have to begin and we`re delighted to begin with Amanda`s aunt Janet Huff. Janet, thank you so much for joining us. What is your reaction to the news, the stunning news? When did this happen?


VELEZ-MITCHELL: That the prosecutor who is involved in your niece`s case who helped convict her, who tried to convince the jury that she was involved in this wild sex game has now been convicted himself of abuse of office in connection with another case where he came up with wild schemes?

HUFF: Yes. You know, it`s not surprising to say the least. We knew this was going on all throughout Amanda`s trial. He had been able to push back his own verdict since last summer so that he could finish Amanda`s trial.

What`s amazing to me in this particular instance is that the prosecutor in his case had asked for only nine months and they had given him almost double that. So that says a lot.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: And is this -- is your family, is Amanda`s family sort of filled with new sense of optimism that wow, this could be the light at the end of the tunnel?

HUFF: Yes, it`s great to have small victories like this. It really is. You hate to feel joy at someone else`s misfortune, but he brought this on himself and it`s deserved.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: But your niece is currently serving, I think, 26 years behind bars.

HUFF: Right.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: And she`s going to appeal. How`s it going with the appeal?

HUFF: We`re still waiting for the motivation paperwork to come out from the judge`s -- from the verdict. And until that is finished, which could be next month, we can`t file any paperwork.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, I hear it`s a slow system in Italy and it could be even years before the appeal is heard.

I want to move on to prosecutor Mignini`s troubles, which stem from his handling of a very, very infamous serial murder case, known as "The Monster of Florence." Decades ago, more than a dozen young people in Florence were hacked or shot to death. And this prosecutor, Mignini did not like it when two men decided well, "We`re going to write a book about that case."

Of course they did -- every serial killing has books written about them. Well, one of the authors we have here tonight. Author Douglas Preston and he is very familiar with this particular prosecutor.

Thank you for joining us sir via Skype. I hear that this book almost landed you in prison. Did this same prosecutor try to railroad you?

DOUGLAS PRESTON, AUTHOR, "THE MONSTER OF FLORENCE" (via Skype): He certainly did and what happened to me was very similar to what happened to Amanda. The police called me on my cell phone when I was in Florence and they said where are you? We are coming to get you.

And they hauled me in for an interrogation in front of Mignini who accused me of being an accessory to a murder and demanded that I confess. And when I refuse to confess he said, "I`m going to indict you for perjury for not confessing." And he did and then basically suggested I leave the country.

And then to my writing partner Mario Spezi (ph), they arrested him, charged him with murder, put him in prison in the same prison that Amanda is in. And he was there for three weeks, accused of being "The Monster of Florence" himself by this crazy prosecutor. And finally was released but only after an international uproar because Spezi was a very well known journalist.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, this makes my head want to explode. This guy, this prosecutor accuses the authors of a book about a serial killer of being the serial killer? That sounds really crazy to me.

PRESTON: Well, it is crazy. You know what`s interesting is what the prosecutor in Mignini`s trial said about him. Luca Turco was the public minister of Florence and he said Mignini is a man in prey to a sort of delirium.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Ok, let me -- let me jump in there. Because I think the commonality with your case and Amanda`s case is that there were wild stories in "The Monster of Florence". This prosecutor you`re looking at said that it was satanic and in Amanda`s case, he created this -- a sex game.

Now, Amanda`s family says the prosecution`s case just doesn`t add up. That the evidence shows Amanda was actually with her boyfriend, co- defendant Raffaele at his house, not at the crime scene for much of the night.

So let`s listen to this.


EDDA MELLAS, AMANDA KNOX`S MOTHER: Amanda and Raffaele were seen at Raffaele`s house. It shows computer activity at his house. They were there, they cooked dinner, they watched the movie, they hung out. All of that is proven through a computer record, all the way up until at least I think 9:15.

Now, they believe that Meredith was killed about 9:30 and somehow the prosecution claims that in 15 minutes, Amanda and Raffaele, got totally wasted, ran off, found a guy that they didn`t know, committed this murder in about 15 minutes. It`s ludicrous. Amanda was at Raffaele`s house. They stayed there all evening. That`s what we know for sure.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: So if you believe in the prosecution, they staged an elaborate sex game before the murder and it just seems like they don`t really have any evidence to back up the elaborate sex game.

I`m going to take that out to Travis Mayfield with KOMO News, what is it that this prosecutor said Amanda did?

TRAVIS MAYFIELD, REPORTER, KOMO NEWS RADIO: Basically he said that Amanda was involved and as you say the sex game. It was-- I mean, he went through multiple theories as the trial went along and basically sort of trying them out as which of them might fit the evidence that he was presenting which is part of the criticism here.

But I wanted to bring up another point Jane that`s very interesting. The question though, we`re asking as we`re covering this story is how will this conviction play in Amanda`s appeal process? It`s unclear whether that could be introduced at all, could help her actually in the legal system at all.

But it is important to remember that you know, the appeal system is very different in that country than our country. No sequestering of juries and judges. So they`re very aware of this. Even if it`s not introduced into evidence in the appeals process, it`s certainly something that will be on the minds of the people who will be making the decisions in the appeal process.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Judge Lowrance, briefly, do you come across prosecutors who kind of let their imaginations run wild? Oh, yes, they were having a sex game. Oh yes, it was satanic. Without really any proof.

JUDGE MICHELLE LOWRANCE: Well, there`s a lot of theatrical aspects to trying a case. You can`t do -- in the United States -- without proof, you can`t really add elaborate commenting and invective prejudicial language like that.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Apparently in Italy you can.

We`ll be right back with more.



KNOX: And I also have to thank the prosecution because for sure, they`re trying to do their job even though they don`t understand. They don`t understand.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: My big issue is justice a joke in Italy? Trials go on for months and months, recess for vacations. And they have closing arguments on the weekends. Judges and jurors take naps during the testimony.


MADISON PAXTON, FRIEND OF AMANDA KNOX: Amanda`s being judged based on her character. It didn`t seem to have almost anything to do with the evidence. When I was there, I saw -- every single day I was in court I saw jury members sleeping through Amanda`s defense. It seems like they had already convicted her and that means they felt like they...

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: You actually saw jurors sleeping?

PAXTON: Yes, literally every single day I was in court. The prosecutor sleeps, the jury sleeps. I`ve seen people on the stand -- the president (ph) even answering his cellphone while the trial is going on. But every time the prosecutor spoke the jury was wide awake.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: I`m sorry. I was napping. No, it`s not funny. It`s serious, but can you imagine if you napped on a show? Can you imagine napping in court? The prosecution and the jurors? Isn`t that grounds for a mistrial, judge?

LOWRANCE: It`s not necessarily grounds for a mistrial. But I don`t nap. I just want to tell you that, but however they...

VELEZ-MITCHELL: I`ve never heard of such a thing. It`s crazy.

LOWRANCE: Well, yes and no. There`s a lot of things that go on in the different courts that are completely different. We have a very unique system in the United States. And there`s a lot...

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, we can`t go into the entire system but suffice it to say, napping -- I think if jurors are napping, it`s up to the judge to bang that gavel and say, wake up.

LOWRANCE: And the judge will.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Because otherwise they`re not -- well apparently in this they didn`t, they were all napping. This is according to a friend of Amanda`s who was in court. They were just all snoring.

LOWRANCE: Well, by any stretch of the imagination, there cannot be justice if the information is not heard by the jurors.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Dan, Wyoming, your question or thought.

DAN WYOMING (via telephone): Yes first off, I just want to say I love your show. I just was wondering, Mr. Preston has stated in his book earlier years ago that the worldwide press had gotten involved in his situation. I was kind of wondering if they were still doing the same thing with this one.


PRESTON: Well, yes. As a matter of fact, a lot of the freedom of press organizations have condemned Mignini publicly. In fact, the committee to protect journalists wrote a letter to the premier of Italy, the prime minister, complaining about Mignini. And this is even before Amanda`s trial began.

So, yes, there have been a lot of -- but the problem here is that it`s a criminal trial. It`s a murder and it`s more complicated than just a journalist being put in jail.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Let me ask you this question -- we`re running out of time. I have to ask you this question. Do you think he just makes this stuff up? And why is it that he would be allowed, let`s say, to make up a sex game -- if he has no evidence to back up a sex game. 15 seconds.

PRESTON: In my book, "The Master of Florence" we present a lot of evidence that he gets his information from a blogger and a mystic who speaks in visions to the Virgin of Fatima and to a dead priest, Father Gabriele who died in 1984.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: I`m speechless.

PRESTON: We present excellent information that this...

VELEZ-MITCHELL: You`re watching ISSUES on HLN.