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ISSUES WITH JANE VELEZ-MITCHELL
Lindsay Lohan Back Behind Bars; D.A. Accused of Sexual Harassment
Aired September 24, 2010 - 19:00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JANE VELEZ-MITCHELL, HOST (voice-over): Tonight, back to the clinker. Lindsay Lohan headed back to prison. That sure didn`t take long. She failed a drug test, and now she`s behind bars for 30 days. So will she actually do her time this time?
And fast breaking twists and turns in the desperate search for little Haleigh Cummings. Her father, Ronald, has just been sentenced to 15 years in prison for drug trafficking. Now Misty is isolated and alone. Tonight she awaits her fate. Are cops putting the squeeze on Ronald`s ex-wife?
And sick and twisted sext messages. A district attorney accused of settlement sexting an abuse victim during her boyfriend`s trial. Tonight, did he abuse his position of power? We`ll talk to a woman who says she was a victim.
Plus, horrifying family violence rips through Seattle. Cops say a woman killed three of her family members and then killed herself. Tonight, one daughter survived. Her only words? "Mom has gone crazy." What happened inside this house?
ISSUES starts now.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Tonight, bombshell developments. From party animal to jailbird, Lindsay Lohan is back behind bars for the next 30 days. We think.
Lohan showed no emotion as she was literally handcuffed and led out of court. It was a far cry from her last tearful court performance. Remember this?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LINDSAY LOHAN, ACTRESS: I know that I was ordered to go once a week, and it wasn`t -- you know, I wasn`t missing the class. It`s just -- I wouldn`t do anything like that. I was working mostly in Morocco, and I was working with children. It wasn`t a vacation. It wasn`t some sort of a joke. And I respect you. I`ve been taking you seriously.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELEZ-MITCHELL: But after that courtroom speech begging for mercy and after getting out of jail way early, Lindsay Lohan proceeded to flunk not one but two drug tests, coming up positive for cocaine and, says TMZ, amphetamines.
So her probation has now been revoked. So we`re all wondering: will this wild-child starlet get off easy yet again?
One person seems to think so. Lindsay Lohan. She showed up to her hearing this morning with a bail bondsman in tow. LiLo clearly hoping to post bail right then and there and saunter off without even setting foot in jail. But the judge said no way, Jose. He set a hearing for October 22 and ruled Lindsay will stay in jail until that day. She cannot post bail.
Well, at least LiLo will be the most stylish inmate in the big house. As she was handcuffed and carted out, she was wearing a pair of $1,200 sky- high designer high heels. Lindsay`s been gallivanting around Hollywood this week part, partying at nightclubs. She expected to be able to just open her wallet and leave the hearing this morning a free woman. Well, not this time, Linster.
But is the party really over for this troubled starlet? Or will she and her high-powered team of attorneys somehow, some way finagle a way to get her out of jail again?
Straight out to my fantastic panel. But first to CNN correspondent Kareen Wynter.
Kareen, you were right outside the courtroom this morning. What was the mob scene like, and what was Lindsay like as she arrived to face the music?
KAREEN WYNTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Jane, as for the scene, it was unlike anything I had ever experienced. I`ve covered quite a few of these hearings now for Lohan. Standing room only was not even the word, the correct way to describe it. There was so much press, spectators, also law enforcement officials.
And they really, really tried to create an entryway for the pop star who, by the way, you know, was able to walk in. And you saw Lindsay Lohan. She was wearing her shades, her hair pulled back. Didn`t seem, you know, the slight bit concerned. She was whisked into the courthouse.
But it`s what unfolded upstairs -- and by the way, there were no cameras allowed, Jane -- but she just seemed as if she really doesn`t know what`s going on around her.
One of our colleagues was in that courtroom said that Lohan just stood there matter-of-factly, as the four deputies surrounded her, put her in handcuffs and led her away. This is becoming routine for her. So it`s really, really interesting to see if this is even having an impact on her. Is she too far gone?
The good thing is, this judge is saying enough is enough. He`s laid down the law. There is no leniency that he displayed at all here by not giving her an option of bail. So she will be behind bars for 30 days. Is that enough time? We`ll all have to wait and see. But at least she`ll sit there until that next probation hearing October 22...
VELEZ-MITCHELL: I`ve got to say...
WYNTER: ... Jane.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: I have one thing to say to the judge who sentenced Lindsay back in jail: way to go, dude! And I don`t say that to be mean. I say, this is what`s needed to get this young woman`s attention.
Howard Samuels, you`re an expert in recovery, the founder and CEO of the Hills Treatment Center in Los Angeles. This young lady has failed at rehab four times. I honestly believe this is what`s needed to get her attention, to save her life.
HOWARD SAMUELS, FOUNDER/CEO, HILLS TREATMENT CENTER: You know, Jane, without question. I mean, we`re dealing with a seriously hard-core addiction here.
And for somebody that, you know, fails two drug tests when the whole world is watching, for her to rationalize that is -- she`s on another planet. I mean, the denial is so heavy.
So for her to go to jail, without question, has to break through that denial that she has. So the 30 days, great.
But I`m more interested in what`s going to happen afterwards. She has to -- she has to go to jail -- I mean, to rehab for a year without any stops in between, from jail to rehab for a year. That`s what`s got to happen here.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, the judge never seems to sentence any of these starlets to rehab for a year. I know you were telling me the other day that, when you were faced with going to jail, the judge in your case, back in the `70s, when you got clean and sober, said, "Hey, dude, either go to jail for four years, or you go to rehab for a year," because a year is what it takes. It`s -- 22 days, which is just what she did, is not going to solve her problem.
SAMUELS: Oh, 23 days is a joke. I mean, this is where the courts, the lawyers -- I mean, they don`t really get the disease of alcohol and addiction. It is a hardcore thing to change. I mean, I`ve spent three years of my life locked up you in treatment centers, and I needed that. So for Lindsay, or anybody like her, it`s a minimum of a year. That`s what it it`s going to take here.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Mary, Pennsylvania, your question or thought, ma`am.
CALLER: I was just wondering, what about the doctors that are prescribing the drugs for Lindsay? Aren`t they part of the blame, too?
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, I think you raise an excellent question. Robin Sax, when she violated probation, she was sentenced to 90 and 90, 90 days in jail, 90 days in an inpatient rehab facility.
She did 14 days in jail. She did 22 days at a hospital in Los Angeles. And the doctors apparently decided, "OK, now you can leave early. You don`t have to stay because you`re OK."
Now, you know what they need to say today? "I was wr-wr-wr-wr-wr-wr- wrong," OK? It`s very hard for doctors to say that, wr-wr-wr-wrong. Robin Sax?
ROBIN SAX, FORMER PROSECUTOR: It`s even harder for lawyers and judges to say they`re wrong, too.
But you know, here we`ve got a situation where we`ve got this combination of dealing with an addiction and then also the part where the criminal justice system is involved. And for some reason there`s one group of people that thinks that we should treat the addiction, and then there`s another group that thinks that she should be punished.
Yet, when the people are there advocating for dealing with the addiction, they`re never really dealing with the addiction, like your guest just said, that this is not a 22-day or even a 90-day sentence.
And then the ability and the power just to release her willy-nilly is just wrong and never going to treat the issue.
In this case, what I see is a case that we just have to let the criminal justice system punish. We have tried to rehabilitate. We have tried to deter. We have tried to educate and deal with the addiction issues.
The fact of the matter is, until Lindsay Lohan is ready to deal with her program, no rehab is going to help her, and only punishment will.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Lindsay`s dad Michael cried out, "Oh, God" as bailiffs handcuffed his daughter. And he spoke out outside court, insisting Lindsay is an addict and needs help, not jail. Check this out.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL LOHAN, FATHER OF LINDSAY: She hasn`t gotten help for her addiction yet. She doesn`t make the right decisions. She doesn`t know better. When somebody is there and she -- first of all, leaving California to go to New York for Fashion Week is the biggest mistake in the world.
Let`s be serious. I mean, it`s all drugs there anyway. And then all of these old parts (ph) are there. She doesn`t stay with her mother when she`s home. She stays in a hotel unsupervised. Is that a good place for her? You know? It`s all people, places and things. And she`s around the wrong people, hanging out in the wrong places, and all the things in her life are misguided.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Kim Serafin, senior editor, "InTouch Weekly," when she got out of this inpatient treatment facility and then appeared on the VMA Awards, making fun of her own drug and alcohol problems, I said on this show ISSUES, this is a serious problem. This woman is headed for a slip, because she`s already mocking her disease. That`s not something that one should do in early sobriety. And well, I hate to say it, but I was right - - Kim.
KIM SERAFIN, SENIOR EDITOR, "INTOUCH WEEKLY": Yes. You know, a lot of people were saying, is it too soon for her to be doing this, poking fun of herself on the MTV Awards? Is it too soon for her to rush right back into work?
Of course, while she was in rehab, while she was in jail, even, everyone was talking about the next film that she was doing. Can she revive her career? That was the question that so many people were asking. It seemed she was so gung-ho about this new movie that she was doing, questions about where she was shooting it.
And maybe that really was all too soon, especially since you just mentioned she served a fraction of the time that she was initially sentenced for in rehab. She was supposed to serve 90 days. She was let out after 23 days. So clearly, it wasn`t enough, and clearly, maybe there were steps that she was taking that she should have waited. She should have held back, taken some time to get herself straight before she focused on work again.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: What were those doctors thinking to let her out after 22, 23 days saying, "Oh, it`s not as bad as we thought it was?" Well, you were wrong, doctors!
Everybody, stay right where you are.
Coming up, a district attorney accused of sending raunchy messages to an abuse victim? We are going to talk to a woman who says she is victim No. 3 and ask the question, why does this guy still have a job?
But first, La Lohan locked up. How much time will this very troubled young woman get in jail this time around?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
M. LOHAN: The thing is, when you go and you`re on prescription medication, you go out and you do have a drink or you do do a line of cocaine, or whatever, you don`t know if that could be your last.
I think Dr. Drew`s right with regard to having a bottom. But my concern for so long, until that SCRAM bracelet on her ankle, was today going to be her last day? And that`s why I was reaching out.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
M. LOHAN: It`s a horrible situation. I just hope the judge remands Lindsay to a rehab for a longer period of time, and that people in Lindsay`s life that are destroying her life and leading her down the wrong path are weeded out.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELEZ-MITCHELL: That was Michael Lohan outside court today. What a wild day. Lindsay Lohan sent to jail for 30 days. Lohan`s probation revoked after she failed two court-ordered drug tests. A judge sent Lindsay to jail with no bond. That means she`s got to stay there until a hearing October 22, we think.
Lindsay was handcuffed and carted off to the slammer right then and there.
Going straight out to Kareen Wynter, CNN correspondent who`s been outside court all day long, watching the mayhem and the madness.
Now, Kareen, after she was cuffed in court and led away, she was obviously taken to jail where her mug shot was taken. Did anybody get that shot of her? Was she put in a private car? Was she put in a bus with other inmates? How did that go down you?
WYNTER: They did it in a very, very clever way. She was taken away in an undercover car so -- you`ve been around this madness before, Jane, in your reporting days where you know you have crews perched on one side and you`re here.
And for some reason, I think it was something arranged in advance that they would make sure that she was hauled off. And despite the choppers that were above, no one got a shot of her being led away in handcuffs, being led away in that car.
But at the end of the day, we know where she is. She`s at the L.A. County jail where she will remain for the next 30 days.
One quick thing I wanted to mention, and this is in no way to make excuse for this young woman`s actions, but people have to realize, sure, they see her, you know, appearing in a skit on the VMAs and partying late at night, but the judge was very serious in the orders that he laid down prior to what happened here. She had to undergo behavioral therapy as part of her probation. She had to attend drug and alcohol counseling sessions several times a week, random drug tests.
And all she had to do, Jane, was make it to November 1. And then she`d have been on unsupervised probation, meaning she would have been able to leave the state, head to Texas, begin shooting the movie "Inferno" that she`s been so excited to begin work on. And she just couldn`t make it.
And in the words of her dad, Michael Lohan, it`s because of the enablers. It`s because of all the temptations that are either around her here or, if she travels out of town by getting a special, you know, arrangement through the judge, which is what her attorney did, which allowed her to go to New York to attend Fashion Week, the temptations were there. So this young woman really has to get her life together.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, yes, temptations. She can`t be going out partying if she`s in early sobriety. And you`re just literally asking for a slip if you do that.
Lindsay has admitted she flunked her drug tests, even tweeting, "I did fail my most recent drug test," but "Us" magazine is reporting that Lindsay was giggling with her friends and sipping whiskey Cokes while she typed that remorseful tweet on her BlackBerry.
Now Kim Serafin, you`re senior editor of "InTouch Weekly." Lindsay reportedly failed two drug tests, one allegedly for cocaine, another for amphetamines. Now, do we know if these amphetamines were illegal prescription drugs, like Adderall for attention deficit disorder or could this amphetamines also be something illegal? Some bloggers have speculated it might be meth.
SERAFIN: Well, it seems like this probation revocation really was about this one drug test, this cocaine drug test. There was these reports of the amphetamines, but this even goes back to those reports that we`ve heard that maybe she had just been misdiagnosed as an addict way back when, because she had gotten this prescription for Adderall, was taking it when she didn`t actually need it.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Hunter, Virginia, your question or thought, sir.
CALLER: My thought was, that I grew up watching Lindsay, you know, of course "The Parent Trap" and all those great movies. And basically, to me, she was like a role model. And she was saying, you know, if you believe, you can, of course, do whatever your dreams are.
But now what we`re getting is she`s teaching kids that drugs are OK. She`s going, "Oh, well, if I can do it, you know, we can do it." And stuff like that. She`s not proving to her fans that she wants to have a better life, even though she has said that.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes, you`re absolutely right. And Howard Samuels, I`ll give you the last word, 20 seconds, that`s why this is important, because this girl has an impact on kids.
SAMUELS: You know what, Jane? Absolutely.
But, see, what people really have to realize is that Lindsay is a mirror of what is happening throughout this whole country. We have an addiction issue among the young, and it is serious and it is a crisis. And Lindsay just mirrors the crisis that we`re all having to deal with that have kids and families. And we better get on this right away.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Got to leave it right there. Thank you, fabulous panel.
A horrifying family massacre. Four people dead. Cops say the mother is responsible. The grandmother is actually the one who`s responsible. The stomach-churning nightmare.
Plus, a district attorney accused of sexting three women. Did he use his position of power to take advantage of these women? We`re going to talk to an alleged victim, next, live.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Tonight, a firsthand account from a woman who says Wisconsin district attorney Ken Kratz sent her obscene text messages. Kratz accused of sending raunchy messages to three different women, one of them Stephanie Van Groll, a domestic violence victim, beaten up by her boyfriend, allegedly.
Kratz admits sending her text messages and calling her a tall, young, hot nymph.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KEN KRATZ, DISTRICT ATTORNEY: My behavior was inappropriate, and I`m embarrassed and ashamed for the choices that I made, and the fault was mine alone.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Kratz will not resign, however, which I think is outrageous. And now two more women have come forward. So could he be removed from office? For now he says he`s in psychotherapy. Well, congratulations on that.
Straight out to my very special guest, one of the D.A.`s alleged sexting victims, Maria Ruskiewicz.
Maria, thank you so much. You say Kratz sent you inappropriate, sexually-explicit text messages in 2008. Tell us your story. Why were you talking to him and what did he text you?
MARIA RUSKIEWICZ, ACCUSES D.A. OF HARASSMENT: Sure. The reason why I was talking to Ken Kratz is because I was seeking a pardon for a decade-old drug conviction, and there was a mandatory process.
And so I thanked him, and then I met him in his office to discuss advice for a soon-to-be law student. And then he wrote his name on a business card, and when I left I made the mistake of texting him saying, you know, "Thanks, Mr. Kratz for your support. Thinking of an internship, a future connection."
And that`s when he started to text his abusive, disgusting text messages that were sexually explicit.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Like what, without using any obscene language?
RUSKIEWICZ: Sure. What he would say was, "You know, I`m in Traverse City with my family. How can you please me in between the sheets? Let`s see what you do." I wouldn`t respond. And then he would say, "Why have you failed me? What have I done wrong?"
And that`s when I responded back, you know, "I have a boyfriend," which was a lie, just to make sure that it was another factor to say, "Hey, look, leave me alone." And I said, "Let`s -- you know, I thank you for your professional support. As you know, I`m busy."
And then he texted me a couple of months later, saying, "Now we need to meet in person." And that`s when I sought help.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: And first of all, how did that make you feel as somebody who was going to him as a person, taxpayer-funded authority figure for help?
RUSKIEWICZ: It made me feel violated. It made me feel abused and victimized by Ken Kratz, by his abuse of his power. It scared me. It made me nervous about the future, about how my clemency process was going to go through, if I was going to get it or not, because I didn`t sexually please him.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: So what did you do about it?
RUSKIEWICZ: So what I did was I decided to keep quiet and not rock the boat, but I did seek advice from the university council, as well as, you know, assistant district attorney...
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Let me ask you another question.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: What do you think should happen -- what do you think should happen to Ken Kratz?
RUSKIEWICZ: Ken Kratz should be permanently removed from public office, as well as permanently disbarred from the state of Wisconsin or any other state from practicing as an attorney.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Thank you so much, Maria. Appreciate your honesty.
Coming up, terror in Seattle. Four family members shot to death inside their home. Tonight, did a grandma open fire on her own family?
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Tonight -- violence erupts inside a Seattle home and rips through three generations of the same family. Four people are dead tonight. What could have pushed an otherwise normally decent grandmother to open fire all of a sudden on her own flesh and blood and then turn the gun on herself?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JIM PUGEL, ASSISTANT CHIEF, SEATTLE POLICE: Once we got a perimeter around the house, we could still hear a few shots being fired. A man who was later determined to be a relative, possibly the suspect`s husband, broke through the police line and then got into the house. We heard two more shots being fired. He ran from the house, told us there were several people shot inside and that she apparently had shot herself.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELEZ-MITCHELL: The Seattle times obtained this photo of the shooter Saroeun Phan (ph). Look at her. She looks like anybody`s grandma, there with the kids who are blurred out. She`s in the orange shirt obviously.
Police say she killed her two teenage granddaughters. She also shot her own daughter and son-in-law, the parents of the two teen victims. Now, the shooter`s daughter somehow survived and managed to race outside.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PUGEL: All she said was, "My mom has gone crazy."
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELEZ-MITCHELL: What on earth was going on inside this home? And inside the shooter`s mind that pushed her over the edge?
Out to my fantastic panel, but first to Travis Mayfield, of komonews.com. Travis, what is the very latest?
TRAVIS MAYFIELD, KOMONEWS.COM: Well, we`re trying to piece together the same things you are, Jane, here in Seattle. And the big question is, why did this otherwise seemingly normal grandma go on this shooting rampage, killing her grandkids, her son-in-law, and herself?
And at this point, neighbors and friends are saying she may have a history of mental illness, perhaps schizophrenia and she may have gone off her medication. Those are some of the big questions we`re waiting to get answers to. And Seattle police have scheduled a news conference in just the next hour or so to hopefully answer those questions for us.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, when I studied this case, the first thing I saw that popped out at me was 11 people living in the same small home. That`s stressful.
"The Seattle Times" reporting that the shooter told one relative to lock herself in the room. She then went downstairs and shot her son-in-law next to her daughter`s room where she then shot her two granddaughters. As the shooter`s daughter fled, she shot her in the back. This is absolutely astounding to me.
Kim Picazio, you`re an attorney and you cover a lot of family violence. But when you see something like this coming out of the blue where an otherwise really wonderful grandmother, doting grandmother, suddenly pulls out a gun and starts mowing down her entire family, what occurs to you?
KIM PICAZIO, FAMILY LAW ATTORNEY: Well, it occurs to me that we didn`t have an otherwise wonderful, doting grandmother. I think that what we need to do is first wait for the facts. If this person did have some history of mental illness or psych history, then you`re going to see her instantly do a plea of not guilty and the defense attorney will raise her competency.
And in most states you really have to know what you`re doing is right or wrong. That`s really the pivotal issue. At the time she was doing the shooting, shooting up her entire family, was she aware of what she was doing? Was it right or wrong? If she did not have that level of stability at that moment, you may see her end up in a psychiatric hospital for quite some years and then get off on the crime.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Here`s my big issue: crazy and overcrowded. Could this woman`s reported mental problems be intensified by this highly stressful home environment?
A relative said there were 11 people living in this three-bedroom home. They had actually partitioned the room into seven separate sleeping areas. So imagine the frustration and the chaos inside that home.
Got to go back to Travis Mayfield on this; I mean, what -- what is this area like that 11 people would be packing themselves into one three- bedroom home partitioning off the bedrooms? What do you know?
MAYFIELD: Well, Jane, this is a lower income section of Seattle. We also know that, from family members and friends, this was a large group of recent immigrants. They only lived in this house for the last three weeks perhaps a month. So this is not necessarily uncommon.
We believe the family is of Cambodian descent so we`re not exactly sure when she came into the country and perhaps her history in a region that has a history of troubles over the last several decades. There may be years of building mental stress in her life.
One of the things to point out, she did turn the gun on herself so she is deceased as well. So there will be no prosecution of her in this case.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: The shooter`s 42-year-old daughter is expected to survive her gunshot wounds. It`s impossible to imagine what this woman is facing. I mean, let`s recap and review this horror. Her husband and two daughters are dead, and they were killed by her mother. It`s the ultimate betrayal. This woman, this survivor, also has to live with the fact that her mom wanted her dead as well.
Brenda Wade, clinical psychologist, how does an individual process something like this?
BRENDA WADE, CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGIST: You know, Jane, the important thing is to remember that, without a doubt, this woman who committed this terrible atrocity is someone who herself had probably crossed over an edge. It looks, as I look at the case, as if there was a lot of stress that built up over a long period of time.
Remember as an emigrant there are tremendous losses. Now, this doesn`t condone the behavior. But we always seek to understand so maybe, in the future, we could prevent something like this.
This woman needed help. She needed support before she went over the edge. Once a person goes over the edge, we don`t have a lot to work with. Now, the daughter is going to have a lot of work to do to be able to forgive and accept what has happened in her family.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, you know, Travis, very briefly, I`d like to know why they were allowed to live, this many people to a house, why they were allowed to partition off the bedrooms. That strikes me as zoning violations and all sorts of building violations. Is that going to become an issue, Travis?
MAYFIELD: You know, Jane, as I pointed out, they really have only been in this house for three weeks so I`m sure that if there were any sort of violations, the city or any sort of enforcement hadn`t even become aware of it yet.
But I will tell you that in some of the lower income section immigrant neighborhoods in Seattle this is not necessarily uncommon.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. Fantastic panel thank you so much. What a horror.
All right. Putting the squeeze on Misty Croslin again; now she`s alone and isolated. You won`t believe the sentence given to the missing child`s dad, Haleigh`s dad, Ron. We`re going to talk about this coming up next. Taking your calls.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
RON CUMMINGS, FATHER OF HALEIGH CUMMINGS: Hello?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sir, let me talk to your wife. Let me get some information from her.
CUMMINGS: (INAUDIBLE) (EXPLETIVE DELETED)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can I talk to her?
CUMMINGS: How the (EXPLETIVE DELETED) do you let my daughter get stolen (EXPLETIVE DELETED)?
(END AUDIO CLIP)
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Tonight will we ever unlock the mystery of what happened to precious little Haleigh Cummings or is that secret eternally locked behind bars?
Big breaking news tonight: Haleigh`s desperate dad Ron who pleaded no contest to drug trafficking back in August has been sentenced to 15 years in the slammer and fined $200,000 bucks. Whoa. Now, where is he going to get that kind of money?
Ron could have faced 70 years, but he agreed to testify at any future criminal trial involving Haleigh`s disappearance. Here is what Ron said back in January.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RON CUMMINGS, HALEIGH CUMMING`S FATHER: They just told me that their main focus is not on putting me in jail but finding Haleigh. And they already know that I don`t know nothing about Haleigh`s disappearance or nothing else otherwise I`d already been in DOC.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELEZ-MITCHELL: So what does this mean for the mysterious Misty who was babysitting little Haleigh the night the child vanished? Misty claims that her cousin stormed the trailer looking for a semi-automatic gun, couldn`t find it, snatched Haleigh as a substitute, and then ditched her in the river.
Does anyone including prosecutors buy that story? Or will they continue to squeeze this tight-lipped teen until the very day of her sentence which is October 8th, so it`s coming up. Misty faces anywhere from six to 240 years.
Straight out to my fantastic -- and I mean fantastic expert panel. We begin with the one and only Art Harris, where does this leave Misty tonight?
ART HARRIS, INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALIST: Misty is out on the ledge, Jane. She is the only one now awaiting the verdict of how long she will be in prison. Ronald and all the others, Tommy, looks like all got 15 years.
Now, both sides of the family, it`s interesting, think this was not enough. The Croslins think this was a sweet deal, and so does the mother`s family.
Now, Ron`s family is upset about it, but this leaves Misty as the one wildcard. Is she going to go away for so long that she will feel she has to give up something to cut a deal? Or will somebody else come forward?
But now it`s a waiting game, and this was always plan B for prosecutors to send them away.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Kim -- Kim Picazio, you`re the former attorney for Haleigh Cummings` mother -- biological mother, how does this sentence of Ron to 15 years put the squeeze on Misty to tell anything that she might be holding back? Explain it to our viewers, really simply.
KIM PICAZIO, FORMER ATTORNEY FOR HALEIGH`S MOM CRYSTAL: I think that what we see here is a negotiated plea by Ronald Cummings. I think that this was written in stone before he ever walked into the courtroom, that he was going to get 15 years as opposed to Hope and Tommy`s plea, which were open pleas.
So that is different. That means that he`s probably had his proffer agreement with the state; that he`s already told something that he knows that he had not told thus far, and that Misty is in big trouble. Obviously there was something he told the state that was still -- that was still looming out there, that the state needed to know.
And if I was Misty, I believe that the only thing they`ve offered her is a reduction of ten years on a 240-year sentence -- they`ve offered her 230 years? That tells me that she is in trouble. It tells me that the story that she and Tommy have told up until now is false. That`s what it tells me.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: I recently asked Misty`s grandma, Flora, who is joining us right now in a moment, about a shocking report by Art Harris, the investigative reporter who just started out talking. Art said, on the night little Haleigh vanished but before she was reported missing, Ron, her dad, made more than 90 calls from his workplace to Misty.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FLORA HOLLARS, MISTY CROSLIN`S GRANDMOTHER: I think he had something to do with it. I think he knew what was going down.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Flora, you`ve never said that before.
HOLLARS: I`ve never been asked that before, 90 phone calls? What`s the sense in it? And why not just go home?
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, but, I mean, do you have anything but your gut -- is this just your gut telling you this?
HOLLARS: Yes, this is just my gut feeling.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Art Harris, now reporting tonight that his sources are telling him cops cannot shake Ron`s alibi -- that Ron was at work. It`s backed up by cell phone tower pings, it`s backed up by co-workers, it`s backed up by thumb print scan check-ins.
So grandma Flo you`re joining us on the phone tonight. Thanks for calling in. Do you still have that gut feeling that Ron some -- somehow had something to do with little Haleigh`s disappearance?
HOLLARS (via telephone): Yes, ma`am, I do.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Why? Speak up, ma`am.
HOLLARS: I -- the reason -- well, I guess the main reason that I`ve got it is simply for the fact that he had told Tommy and Hank that he could buy her back for $35,000.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: What? I -- you got to -- Ma`am, Grandma Flo, I love having you on, but I need you to just speak real clear and tell me that again.
HOLLARS: He told Tommy and Hank sitting at the table at Tommy`s house that if he had $35,000 he could buy Haleigh back.
HARRIS: Jane, I`ve also heard that from other family members, that --
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Ok. Art, explain what Grandma Flo just said and tell me about this.
HARRIS: This is -- yes this is the alternate drug theory, a drug deal gone wrong. That Ronald Cummings owed a Mexican drug gang thousands of dollars and had to pay by that night or they were going to come over and kill Misty and take his child. That is a story that Chelsea Croslin has told me and she believes Misty is holding that tight inside because she`s afraid that if she let something like that out, she`s dead.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: She`s in -- she behind bars.
HARRIS: Well you know what?
VELEZ-MITCHELL: -- and she could be behind bars for 240 years. So why is she worried about some hypothetical Mexican gang coming in and getting her behind bars?
HARRIS: I`m just saying that she has not said that. Her family members believe that is the reason that she is -- is hanging tight because Ron has threatened to kill her -- no evidence of that. And that is why she is not saying anything other than what she said so far, that cousin Joe came, took this machine gun, which I`m reporting on ArtHarris.com has been found by police.
And that gives her and Tommy`s stories their lawyer say a little more credibility now. But his lawyer, Ron`s lawyer, does not buy that this was a reason, any reason, to take Haleigh.
PICAZIO: And Art --
VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. Go ahead, Kim.
PICAZIO: I can tell you that law enforcement have looked thoroughly into the issue of the Mexican drug gangs. They`re very aware of the areas that they are -- they are very aware of the main players there. Those particular gangs of Mexicans or whoever it is, the drug gangs, they don`t take little kids. They kill you. They`ll kill your family. They will kill you and they will make it known.
So law enforcement is very well aware of all the -- the drug gangs, et cetera, and the elements in their own towns. They had thoroughly investigated that. There`s absolutely zero credibility to that theory.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: And Levi Page, host of "Levi Page Show" blogging on this for a long time, you know what this reminds me of? This reminds me of the O.J. Simpson case when he tried to blame his ex-wife`s murder, vicious murder, on some Colombian drug cartel, which had everybody rolling their eyes. What do you think, Levi?
LEVI PAGE, INTERNET RADIO HOST & CRIME BLOGGER: I absolutely agree with you, Jane. I mean, police have ruled out an intruder coming into that home from day one. It was someone in this element of drug dealing criminals that murdered this child. This is a homicide investigation.
I`ve got to tell you, I don`t buy it that Ron is totally clean in this because this is a guy, when Donna Brock, formerly with EquuSearch, went undercover with law enforcement to get information out of Misty, what did Ronald Cummings do? He warned Misty Croslin not to talk.
Why would Ron do that if he didn`t have anything to hide? Because he`s involved, common sense tells you that.
HARRIS: And to back up Levi --
VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right -- on the other side of the break, we`re going to continue to try to unravel this perplexing mystery. Are cops any closer to cracking this case? We`ll try to find out.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
CUMMINGS: I just got home from work. My 5-year-old daughter is gone. I need somebody to be here now.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Listen to me. Listen to me. We`ve got two officers --
CUMMINGS: If I find whoever has my daughter before you all, I`m killing him, I don`t care. I`ll spend the rest of my life in prison.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ok.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Explosive anger in the voice of frantic father Ron Cummings on that 911 call from back in February 2009. Almost a year later, Ron would basically make the same chilling threat.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CUMMINGS: Kill them. Same thing I said on the 911 call.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ok. I just wanted to make sure --
CUMMINGS: I`m telling you I haven`t changed my mind, not a bit. I don`t care if they get me with unjustifiable homicide. I don`t care. If I find out what happened to my daughter, it doesn`t matter to me. It`ll be worth life without parole or the death penalty or whatever.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VELEZ-MITCHELL: So Art Harris, the last complete story we`ve heard from various sources pieced together is this claim that Cousin Joe Overstreet from Tennessee who denies having anything to do with little Haleigh`s disappearance. But the claim is from Misty and her brother that he came in looking for a gun and took the child instead and the child ended up dead in the river.
Have you talked to your law enforcement sources about that story? Are they now discounting that?
HARRIS: Jane, they are very tight-lipped about how they feel about it. But it is the latest and greatest. And their lawyers are pushing the fact that Tommy Croslin took them down to the river, shows them where this body supposedly went, but they were angry because they didn`t find anything.
So at this point, they say they`re not buying it and they better come up with something better than they`ve given law enforcement, Jane.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Phyllis, Florida, your question or thought, ma`am?
PHYLLIS, FLORIDA (via telephone): Well, the way I feel about it. I feel like Ron is giving way too much time for what he did. I feel sorry for Ron and Misty Cummings --
PAGE: I disagree.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, let me just say Kim Picazio -- go ahead.
PAGE: Jane, what`s interesting is the reason that I think that Ronald got a deal in this is because he was very uncooperative with the police. And according to the "Florida Times Union" in a quote by one of the authorities, they said that Ronald was refusing to be questioned for them. And he didn`t say anything other than the fact that he was not involved.
Now, if you`re innocent, you cooperate with the police. We know that Ronald also has sheltered Misty from police. And I think they gave him the deal to get him to talk to get a story out of him.
And now, I think, they`re trying to put a wedge between Misty and Ronald Cummings because they`re the two main focus in this case -- they`re the main focus.
PICAZIO: I agree.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, Kim Picazio, you`re the former attorney for Haleigh Cummings` mother. I feel sorry for the little boy, Ron Jr., who was in that trailer the night his older sister was kidnapped or whatever happened to her. And now this poor little boy loses his big sister and his dad ends up in the slammer for 15 years?
PICAZIO: Yes. Unfortunately there`s been a lot of tragedies in this little boy`s life. However, usually Florida court judges can allow for visitation in the jail. It`s not the best-case scenario. But if both parties want to, you know, make it work and to continue on to encourage a bond between the father and the child, even due to incarceration, a judge will order some sort of time-sharing with a parent who is incarcerated if they feel it is in the best interest of the child.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: My heart goes out to that little Ron Jr.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: And I`ve got to say, we are two weeks and counting from Misty`s sentencing. What is going to happen in the next two weeks? The clock is ticking. Will she crack?
We`ll stay on top of it here on ISSUES.
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