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ISSUES WITH JANE VELEZ-MITCHELL

Mexican Pirate Attack; Sex Tape Suicide; Child Prostitution Ring?

Aired October 6, 2010 - 19:00:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JANE VELEZ-MITCHELL (voice-over): Tonight, a devastated wife breaks down on live TV, screaming out, I would never hurt my husband.

Tonight, shocking new twists and turns in the Mexican jet ski mystery. Tiffany Hartley claims her husband was killed by Mexican pirates, but is she telling the truth? Tonight, I`ll talk live with people close to this case.

And a horrifying new attack in the war on women. A beautiful teenager abducted outside her home in Phoenix, Arizona. Now her kidnappers are demanding ransom. Tonight, ISSUES joins this race against time.

And blood-boiling new developments in the Rutgers suicide. A freshman killed himself after he was secretly videotaped having sex with another man.

Tonight, the woman accused is now playing the victim card. Claiming her reputation has been tarnished. Cry me a river. A young man is dead. Did anyone think about his reputation?

Plus, dozens of young girls kidnapped, raped, sold into prostitution. Cops say they were torn away from their families, literally branded by their pimp and forced into sex. Tonight, this monster is behind bars. How many of his young victims are still out there.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MITCHELL: ISSUES starts now. Tonight, escalating outrage over challenges to a grieving widow`s story of murder and mayhem in dangerous waters.

A wife confronted after she claims she and her husband were ambushed by Mexican pirates while they were jet skiing on a Texas border lake.

The eight-year marriage of high school sweethearts, David and Tiffany Hartley, met a tragic end in a jet skiing outing last Thursday, but in the last few days, Tiffany`s tale of terror.

Involving three boats of bandits who allegedly attacked them with guns is coming under fire. She says David was shot in the head, killed, and his body was taken away by the pirates.

She says she not only escaped a spray of bullets, but was staring down the barrel of a gun. Well, tonight Mexican authorities are saying, her story doesn`t add up.

But they insist they`re still committed to investigating David`s mysterious disappearance. In the meantime, Tiffany, the wife faced tough questions about her marriage this morning, day two of her national TV show appearances, this from ABC.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TIFFANY HARTLEY: I would never even think about hurting my husband. For what reason? What reason would I do anything? I loved him.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MITCHELL: And on NBC, Tiffany was asked if she had anything to do with the disappearance of her husband.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HARTLEY: No, not at all. I loved him very much and I went back for him to help him, and I did what I could.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MITCHELL: Wow. You know, if this woman is telling the truth, this is just double torture for her. So much ground to cover from today`s frantic search of Lake Falcon, where they were jet skiing, to what effect this deepening mystery is having on the entire extended Bartley family.

Are they being doubly victimized? What do you think? I`m taking your calls, 1-877-jvm-says. 1-877-586-7297. Straight out to my fabulous expert panel.

But first to Will Ripley, reporter with HLN affiliate KRGV. Will, what is the very latest?

WILL RIPLEY, REPORTER, KRGV-TV: Well, the Hartley family is getting ready right now to hold a press conference at Falcon Lake. They`re not expected to make any major announcements, but they`re going to be thanking the media for the attention they`re bringing to this very important issue, the search for David Hartley`s body.

Tiffany Hartley was actually out on the water today. She was in a boat with lawmakers from South Texas, as they toured the area to see the search efforts taking place, both in the United States and on the Mexican side of Falcon Lake.

As you mentioned, Mexican authorities were somewhat skeptical about Tiffany Hartley`s story, but today they were out in force starting at 8:00 this morning with helicopters. They had jet skis and boats on the water.

They were making sure they were leaving nothing left to guess. They want to make sure if David Hartley`s body is indeed in Falcon Lake that they will find it.

The same effort happening on the U.S. side and the Hartley family trying to stay involved in this process. A touching moment today, Jane, when Tiffany Hartley, she threw a rose into water in memory of her husband.

MITCHELL: Let me ask you this. Has anybody been able to talk to Tiffany about the events leading up to the jet ski incident?

I mean, look, these jet skis are big. He`s a big guy. They go to the lake to go jet skiing. They`ve got to go there in some kind of vehicle, haul the jet skis out of the vehicle, dragged them down to the lake.

Somebody`s got to have seen them. I mean, at least she can establish she was there with her husband.

RIPLEY: Yes, they were actually planning this trip, and they actually called David Hartley`s mother the morning of the trip saying they wanted to go to the lake to go sightseeing, to check out this partially submerged Mexican town, that`s actually underwater on the Mexican side of the lake. So they told people they were going to be making this trip.

MITCHELL: But at this point, we haven`t talked to anybody who saw them. Let`s say literally the two of them dragging their jet skis down to the water. Those jet skis are heavy.

That little girl there, the wife, is very slim and petite. It`s going to be very hard for her to take a jet ski down to the water by herself. But she, of course, could have done that if she was with her husband who`s 250 pounds. Among the people, however, who are skeptical of Tiffany`s story, I`ve got to tell you, somebody who was on our show last night, former prosecutor Wendy Murphy. Here`s what she had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WENDY MURPHY, FORMER PROSECUTOR: I don`t buy any of this. Please, first of all, I want to know if she was having an affair and did she have a life insurance policy, before I even pass judgment. But my sense is that this is nonsense.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MITCHELL: All right. Here`s my big issue tonight. My big issue is, is Tiffany Hartley being victimized twice. First she says she witnesses the horrific shooting death of her husband. His body is still missing.

Now she`s being grilled and vilified on national television. Lisa Bloom, should we even be questioning this woman`s story?

LISA BLOOM, ATTORNEY, THEBLOOMFIRM.COM: Well, look, the police always have to rule a spouse out, when a spouse goes missing. That`s just standard operating procedure. She has to be ruled out.

I don`t think any of us should jump to conclusions, cast dispersions on this woman until we have more evidence. Right now she is a crime victim. If law enforcement gets more evidence against her, then fine. But at this point, I`m going to hold back and reserve judgment and not start to pile on this poor woman.

MITCHELL: Well, we`re delighted to have with us tonight by phone Jenny Mishler, a very good friend of both Dave and Tiffany Hartley. In fact, she went to high school apparently with both of them. Jenny, are you on the line?

JENNY MISHLER, HAS KNOWN HARTLEY`S SINCE HIGH SCHOOL (via telephone): I am.

MITCHELL: What can you tell us about the relationship between Tiffany and Dave?

MISHLER: Before I answer that question, I`m not sure who the woman was, I didn`t catch her name, who was questioning whether or not Tiffany had an affair, and if there was a life insurance policy. I just want to vocally say, shame on you. Shame on you. This woman just lost her husband.

MITCHELL: Here.

MISHLER: I know this couple personally. That is sickening. I don`t know how people who accused her of this is sleeping at night. This is disgusting.

This is a good, honest couple. They were a good, hard working couple, church-going couple. They should be focused on finding out who did this to Dave and where his body is, not on victimized his widow twice.

MITCHELL: Absolutely. That`s what our big issue was tonight, is she being victimized twice. As far as you know, Jenny, she and her husband had a good marriage. They had no financial troubles. In other words, there`s no motive for anything untoward.

MISHLER: No. There`s absolutely no motive. They had a marriage that all of us envied. They were the couple that all of us wished we were. That is absolutely absurd. Absurd.

MITCHELL: Yes. I mean, one of the reasons why I think this story is very genuine, quite probably, that she`s telling, I wasn`t there in the waters, so I can`t say 100 percent yes or no, but it makes sense to me, because look at her size. She is very petite.

So Jenny, if she`s suddenly jet skiing toward the shore, and this is her jet ski, is that my understanding, her jet ski and it was his jet ski he was shot -- when he was using that he was shot?

How the heck is she going to get a jet ski into the water, jet ski around this lake by herself and jet ski back to the shore, screaming about how her husband`s been shot and pull that off on her own. It doesn`t really make sense, Jenny.

MISHLER: No. Anybody who has half a brain logically, they would see there is no way she could pull this off. I know her story is the thing movies are made out of. I get that, but the media is conjuring up a story that does not make logical sense.

She is 4`11", 105 pounds. There is absolutely no way she west out there on the jet ski, drove around the lake, made up some story, convinced some bass fisherman to corroborate her story and go on national TV to cry about it. Come on, that is ridiculous.

MITCHELL: Well, now, one last thing. If she wanted to totally put that to rest, she could take a polygraph and just put everybody to shame. Would you think that that might be a good thing for her to do, Jenny?

MISHLER: At this point, I don`t think it`s necessary. If everybody wants to prove that tiffany did something to David, find his body.

MITCHELL: Yes. Absolutely.

MISHLER: If we find his body, we find out what happened to him.

MITCHELL: Absolutely.

MISHLER: So our efforts should be pushed into finding him, then we can quiet all the naysayers and make them look like fools.

MITCHELL: Yes, well, I mean, I think the whole bottom line problem here is that they haven`t found his body and they haven`t found the jet ski. We`re going to talk about a very logical explanation for that on the other side of the break.

And it involves pirates in dangerous waters. Everybody, hang on. More on the Hartley family`s nightmare in a moment on the lake and off the lake in just a moment.

We`re also taking your calls on this. They`re lining up on the other side. 1-877-jvm-says.

Plus, a teenage girl kidnapped and held for ransom. Could this be linked to human trafficking? But first, a frantic search for the truth. Did Mexican pirates kill David Hartley and then make off with his body and take his jet ski, too?

OPERATOR: Are you sure that your husband got shot?

CALLER: Yes, he was hit in the head. Yes.

OPERATOR: Was he thrown off the jet ski and he`s in the water or something?

CALLER: Yes, he was thrown off the jet ski and I couldn`t pick him up to get him on mine. He`s just too big.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MARNI VINCENT, CHILDHOOD FRIEND OF DAVID HARTLEY (via telephone): We are Americans. Americans that are doubting her, it just breaks my heart that you`re not looking into the bigger issue here.

There have been other attacks on this lake. It`s been proven that there are pirates there. Look at her. She`s 4`10". What would she do? Start making a difference.

MITCHELL: Tonight, mystery swirling around the disappearance of presumed death of a jet skier on vacation with his wife of eight years.

David Hartley allegedly shot in the head by a band of marauding bandits last Thursday. His wife, Tiffany Hartley, says she barely escaped death herself.

Yet, in the wake of this harrowing nightmare, some are doubting her story. We`re looking at it and asking, is she being victimized twice? Maureen, Nevada, your question or thought, Ma`am?

CALLER: Good evening. I was just wondering if there`s any damage to the wife`s jet ski, considering she said there was a spray of gunfire.

MITCHELL: Will Ripley, what do you know? Will? All right, Joe Gomez, have you heard anything about that? You`re a radio reporter in the area.

JOE GOMEZ, REPORTER, KTRH NEWS RADIO: Right. Right now, I don`t know if the jet ski was damaged, but of course, Tiffany was reporting that there were bullets that apparently had managed to pelt the jet skis. Authorities aren`t revealing that information just yet.

MITCHELL: All right. Well, tiffany says the pirates sprayed bullets at her and that they also stuck a gun in her face. On NBC, she was asked if she remembers what these pirates looked like. Check this out.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was a nice day. This jet ski started to come my way towards the shore and I noticed that there`s a boat behind it, but it`s turned around as it got closer. The lady was like looking over her shoulder.

MITCHELL: Let`s take a look at some of the facts of this case, to try to understand it better. Now, there were no shots heard by witnesses. Tiffany did escape unscathed. She, as you just heard, cannot describe the pirates and there`s no jet ski and there`s no body of her husband. It has been six days. And david was 250 pounds, wearing a life vest.

So hypothetically, he would be boyant. However, here`s the other side of it. Drug cartels reportedly control this entire area. There have been four reported piracy incidents since this spring. This would make five.

And there were three boats -- there were apparently boats that were spotted trailing her as she made her way to the shore. Dr. Dale Archer, clinical psychiatrist, why do you think there is such skepticism here, and all this tough questioning of this poor woman who has gone through this terrible trauma, assuming she`s telling the truth?

DR. DALE ARCHER, CLINICAL PSYCHIATRIST: Yes, I find it shocking. You have to wonder whether perhaps some of this is coming from the power that the gangs have because they are very powerful in that part of the country.

But look, this woman definitely is being victimized twice. But the bottom line is, she cannot focus on that now. She does not have that luxury. She needs to use all of her power, all of her energy to help authorities find out who did this.

And she cannot take any time-out to think about what others are saying. Her best way to cope with this is to be to find who did it, and that will enable her maybe to save somebody else`s life along the way.

MITCHELL: Will Ripley, I understand you are back with us. One of our callers wanted to know if there was any damage to her jet ski considering she was saying she was sprayed with gunfire?

RIPLEY: Yes, the day of the incident, we took a very close look at the jet ski and we did not see any bullet holes. We actually didn`t see anything to indicate there had been any type of struggle.

MITCHELL: Last night, I spoke to a witness who says that he saw Tiffany right after the alleged pirate ambush. So I want to talk to you, Will, about where this is all happening.

Now, there`s a lake, right? Apparently it`s 25 miles in width and 3 miles long. So what is it -- what`s contended that they did that day?

Did they cross over three miles onto the Mexican side and actually touch land and visit that abandoned town on the other side, on the Mexican side of the border, and then it`s contended they got back on their jet skis and headed back to Texas?

RIPLEY: As far as we know, they never actually got off of their jet skis because the town is actually partially submerged under water. When they filled that lake up with water decades ago, that town was abandoned. It`s a tourist attraction because the church steeple still sticks out of the water so a lot of people go there to take pictures.

MITCHELL: Go ahead, Lisa.

BLOOM: Jane, I have a question. If we knew these are pirate infested waters and this is the fifth incident in half the year, why aren`t there signs up all over the place warning people not to go in the lake? Even instructing people they just can`t go there? It`s too dangerous. I think people have the right to know.

MITCHELL: Joe Gomez, quickly address that.

GOMEZ: Well, Jane, the Texas Department of Public Safety has been releasing travel advisories intermittently about this lake because of the danger that`s present at this lake.

The two most foul and vicious drug cartels in all of Mexico and the Gulf carter are warring with each other for dominance over this lake.

I mean, these guys are capable of some of the most brutal mass murders, responsible for beheadings, strapping people`s bodies onto overpasses. Even the Mexican government is afraid to go into that lake.

MITCHELL: All right, more on Tiffany Hartley`s pirate nightmare on the other side taking your calls.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TIFFANY HARTLEY: You could hear him them and feel them passing by. I saw two hit next to me. That`s when I looked back and saw that David was shot.

MITCHELL: Tiffany Hartley, saying she was looking down the barrel of a gun. How did she escape with her life? Here`s what she said on NBC.

HARTLEY: I have no idea. All I can do is give God the glory. That`s all I can do, is that he had touched me to leave me and go figure out what the other two boats, what could happen. I had that time to get away.

MITCHELL: Christie, Virginia, your question or thought, ma`am?

CALLER: Yes, ma`am. This is Christie. I just think it`s disgusting the way they`re treating this poor girl. She`s been through enough. First of all, I do believe her. Has she done a polygraph test yet?

MITCHELL: Excellent question. Will Ripley, you spoke to Tiffany. What were your impressions, and did you talk about the possibility of her doing a polygraph to clear the air?

RIPLEY: Yes, you know what, she said she has not requested a polygraph. It has not been offered to her. She seemed a little offended when that notion was brought up to her. Because she insists she is innocent, that she had nothing to do with this. You can tell it really weighs on her when people ask her about it.

MITCHELL: Joe Gomez, tell us more about these turf wars between two organized crime groups, the Gulf cartel and Zetas. They have been apparently engaged in a violent turf war and that`s led Mexican authorities to pull out of this area where the lake is.

GOMEZ: That`s right, Jane. This area is South of Laredo, Nuevo Laredo as it`s called in Mexico, was a veritable killing field. These gulf gangsters will target anybody, innocent civilians -- they`re basically fighting for control over that part of the lake.

Because they use that lake to ship over their drugs and get their drugs into the U.S. so these pirates are actually enforcers for the drug cartels.

And they probably saw Tiffany and David crossing over, and they thought maybe this was going to be an easy mark, and they decided to shoot David in the back of the head.

MITCHELL: Lisa Bloom, these pirates have committed some brazen and bizarre crimes. Just this past August, they tried to pose as Texas game wardens, and stop a Texas fishing vessel.

But lucky for the fishermen, they misspelled warden with an "I." So the fishermen knew what was up and got the heck out of there.

BLOOM: Which shows that spelling is important and I`m glad that person paid attention in the third grade. Let`s get serious about this just for a moment. Thank goodness that guy is safe.

But this is very serious, this lake, with five incidents in just six months or less. I think the U.S. government needs to cordon it off on our side and say no Americans allowed in the lake. It`s just too dangerous. We can`t protect you.

I assume this couple went over there to look out the abandoned town. It was a just nice recreational outing. Look at the outcome. We can`t let this happen to any other American citizens.

MITCHELL: Yes, or at least if you`re going to be on the lake, be on the U.S. side of the shore and don`t cross over.

BLOOM: Is that clearly marked?

MITCHELL: That`s a good question. Will Ripley, or Joe, is there a clear demarcation that says you`re in the water now, now you`re in the U.S., now you`re in Mexico?

RIPLEY: No, there`s really not. There are buoys, but they`re spaced pretty far apart. It would be pretty easy if you were boating and not paying much attention to actually miss the border and find yourself on Mexican waters.

MITCHELL: What a terrifying story. We here at ISSUES will stay on top of this story and get to the bottom of it. Coming up, a gay Rutgers student commits suicide after his roommate broadcast a sexual encounter.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

JANE VELEZ-MITCHELL, HLN HOST: Blood-boiling developments in the Rutgers suicide. A freshman killed himself after he was secretly videotaped having sex with another man. Tonight, the woman accused is now playing the victim card, claiming her reputation has been tarnished. Cry me a river. A young man is dead. Did anyone think about his reputation?

Plus, dozens of young girls kidnapped, raped and sold into prostitution. Cops say they were torn away from their families, literally branded by their pimp, and forced into sex. Tonight, this monster is behind bars. How many of his young victims are still out there?

Tonight, the woman allegedly involved in a secret web cast of a Rutgers student in a sexual encounter with another man allegedly causing him to commit suicide says her reputation has been unjustly tarnished. After finding out his sexual encounter had been broadcast live online, Tyler Clementi committed suicide. That`s right. He jumped right off the George Washington Bridge.

The attorney for Molly Wei, one of two students charged with invasion of privacy says she is innocent and committed no crime. But the attorney even suggests there could be some sort of hidden agenda in the discussion of this tragedy. Say what?

There`s a famous saying, all that`s required for evil to prevail is for good men -- women too, I`ll include them -- to do nothing. If this woman said this is wrong, you`re not doing this in my room, then she would be innocent. But the cops claim she was in on this joke. And now this young man is dead.

She may not have been the one to physically set up the web cam, but cops believe she sat by and allowed this to happen. How would Molly Wei feel if someone taped her having sex and post it on the Internet? Will she feel violated, disgusted, humiliated?

Did these two think the same rules didn`t apply, because this was an intimate moment between two men? That`s a question. Should this be a lesson for all young people? Do we all need to think about the consequences of our actions, and the feelings of others before we go for a cheap laugh?

Wei and the other suspect, Ravi, could face as many as ten years in jail for this crime. And both could be kicked out of Rutgers University. What do you think should happen to these two students? Call me, 1-877-JVM- SAYS.

Straight out to my fantastic expert panel, I want to begin with attorney Lisa Bloom of the Bloom Firm. Lisa, what`s your reaction to the statement by this lawyer that the woman`s reputation is being threatened by some hidden agenda?

LISA BLOOM, ATTORNEY, BLOOM FIRM: Well, Jane, we should not jump to conclusions. Look, the first lesson that you give is the most important one. We have to all talk to our kids about bullying and specifically never using the word gay as a putdown and never bullying someone because you perceive that they`re gay. And I did that with my 11-year-old just the other night. That`s the most important lesson here.

I think what the attorney is saying with regard to Miss Wei is that she`s innocent, or at least she`s presumed innocent and let`s give her the benefit of the doubt. She`s not the one that put the web cam in the student`s room. She`s not the one that broadcast it on the Internet. She may have been sitting next to the guy who did that, and she may have failed to stop him, but that`s not a crime.

Morally it`s a terrible thing, but criminally, it`s not a crime. That`s what the attorney`s saying.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, you know, I have to wonder and I want to bring in Robert O`Brien, professor at Rutgers University, and gay rights activist and faculty liaison for the Rutgers LGBT student group.

Here`s my big issue tonight. What hidden agenda? Molly Wei`s attorney released this statement saying, quote, "Neither Molly nor anyone else should be used to further the agenda of others. What does that mean - - further the agenda of others? Whose agenda could he be talking about? The gay community?

Well, certainly the gay community has a right to speak up when a gay person is humiliated and attacked and then proceeds to commit suicide. I mean isn`t that what America`s all about, people being able to have a discussion, dialectic, argument and counter-argument to reach a higher understanding of the subject matter?

ROBERT O`BRIEN, PROFESSOR, RUTGERS UNIVERSITY: That`s absolutely right, Jane. Even here at Rutgers, our editorial board of our student paper has questioned whether or not we dealt with the situation as it existed of Tyler`s death and mourned in a proper manner.

And what people need to realize is that LGBTQ youth and adults are everyday faced with harassment and stigma and violence, and that we experience this in a way that not everyone else does. We experience it in a way that`s very similar to racism and ableism and sexism.

And I agree with the last caller that we absolutely need to call other people on their inappropriate behavior. Because what we`re doing is creating a culture of intolerance by not acting when someone else speaks out.

But from the perspective of the LGBTQ community, speaking for myself, I grew up in the 1980s when I was just beginning to deal with my own identity and desires, and was faced with the gay related immune deficiency, the so-called gay plague. And went right back into the closet. And went to the university of Florida shortly thereafter, and dormed with three -- with two perfectly wonderful young men. But because I didn`t have a safe space to be who I was and to explore that, I left the university after about two years.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: So in other words, you dropped out because you felt that you were being scrutinized because of your sexual orientation? Yes or no?

O`BRIEN: Yes.

(CROSSTALK)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: I hear you. I want to get to so many important issues. You made some very good points.

The attorney for Dharun Ravi says this was not a hate crime. However, Ravi left a trail of tweets that seem to indicate otherwise. He tweeted, "Just found out my roommate is gay" a month before all this went down. And he then tweeted, "My roommate asked for the room till midnight. I went into Molly`s room and turned on my web cam. I saw him making out with a dude. Yay." End quote. These are alleged tweets.

Again, these people have not been convicted of anything. They`ve been charged with invasion of privacy.

Jayne Weintraub, is this a hate crime? If those tweets are accurate, he made it clear that he had an issue and was very obsessed with the fact that his roommate was gay a month before the videotaping.

JAYNE WEINTRAUB, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, I have to see the specific statute in New Jersey. In Florida, that would not be a hate crime because although it`s absolutely targeted at somebody that is gay, in the tweet itself, there`s nothing hateful. It is informative or gossip or rumor.

A hate crime is targeted at somebody specifically to hurt them, because of their predilection. This is not designed -- this is a gay guy, we have to bash him, this is, hey, take a look. Just like --

(CROSSTALK)

BLOOM: Well, isn`t that "yay" sarcastic?

WEINTRAUB: You know, I think that these were kids in a culture that`s -- first of all let me say deplorable conduct. Everybody here knows that I feel that way. I have a kid in college. It`s part of the pop culture. It`s part of our culture every day.

But we all have to be more vigilant and vigilant about what we post and what we say so easily on the Internet. This is a wake-up call for all of us. I don`t think it was foreseeable that he would go and kill himself. So I don`t think they should consider --

(CROSSTALK)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Every action has an equal and opposite reaction. We don`t know what the reactions to our callous behavior can be.

(CROSSTALK)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Let me go to this caller because I`ve got a fantastic caller on the line. Jeanine, California, you have a very personal story. What is your story, ma`am?

JEANINE, CALIFORNIA (via telephone): my daughter is actually a 15- year-old gender confused girl and tried to commit suicide last week and was very touched by Trevor also because there`s so much intolerance. And it`s scary that you can`t even send your children to school, because there`s so much intolerance.

And my daughter, thank God she`s still here. And I pray that she`ll continue to be here. But we need to really, really address -- these two individuals at that school didn`t think of the repercussions. Because they were just trying for that, you know, ha, ha, ha. And I feel it`s a lot in schools and colleges. You cannot play with someone`s feelings like that.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: I want to go to this comment by Tim Gunn. A string of celebrities making videos to let gay young people know it does get better. This famous fashion guru, Tim Gunn, posted this very revealing and personal post on YouTube. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TIM GUNN, FASHION CONSULTANT, "PROJECT RUNWAY": You may be thinking, what does Tim Gunn understand about my anguish, about my despair, about how I`m feeling, about my particular time and place in the world right now?

I`ll share with you, as a 17-year-old youth who was in quite a bit of despair, I attempted to kill myself. And I`m very happy today that that attempt was unsuccessful. And at the time, it`s all that I could contemplate.

You have a lot of -- I get very emotional -- people really care about you and I`m included in that group. So reach out, get help. You`re not alone. It will get better. I promise.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Lisa Bloom, we`re in the 21st century, and still people are talking about being harshly judged, ridiculed and taunted for their sexual orientation. What do we need to do to break through this to the other side?

BLOOM: Wow God bless Tim Gunn for doing that. That was -- that really got meat shows. Here`s what we have to do, we have to talk to our kids no matter who they are -- gay, straight, male, female. And tell them, you may never use the word gay as a putdown, or God forbid the "f" word even worse. Never ever, ever you can`t make fun of gay people.

If you`re around other people who are doing that, you have to tell them to stop. Because you don`t know who might have gender confusion. You don`t know who might be gay, who might be thinking about it. It`s approximately one in ten.

If you`re standing around in a group, somebody`s feelings are hurt. And adolescents and teenagers are so sensitive. All it takes is something like this for somebody to jump off a bridge, God forbid.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: And I -- and I think that --

BLOOM: I think we need to tell this particular story to our kids. Let them know it`s a horrible story, but tell them, this is what happens.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: I think we should be talking about it right now with our kids.

O`BRIEN: Jane, I got say something.

WEINTRAUB: I think that education and talking about it is --

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, let`s all talk about it. This is a wakeup call. We`ve got to go. But thank you, fabulous panel.

Tonight, an Arizona teenager kidnapped and held for ransom. Why do cops think this was not a random attack?

And an alleged pimp who cops say kidnapped teenagers off the streets turns them into prostitutes and then brands them as his property.

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VELEZ-MITCHELL: Coming up, we`re going to go inside the hell of human sex trafficking, including branding. That is next.

But first "Top of the Block" tonight.

A horrifying race against time in the war on women: a beautiful teen abducted outside her home in Phoenix, Arizona. Now her kidnappers are demanding hundreds of thousands of dollars in ransom money. Cops say the kidnappers are threatening to kill this young woman if they don`t get their money.

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SGT. TRENT CRUMP, PHOENIX POLICE DEPARTMENT: We had a 17-year-old who was loading some belongings into her family vehicle in front of the home. In the recent days, the family has begun to receive phone calls from individuals that have told us that they are holding her captive.

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VELEZ-MITCHELL: Tonight a bizarre twist. Reports now say Karla Sanchez`s parents have fled the country and returned to Mexico. We still don`t know why they left. But cops said this family was specifically targeted.

That`s all the details we have right now. We`re going to stay on top of the story and get you any new information as it comes in.

That is tonight`s "Top of the Block."

Also tonight, a desperate search for victims of a pimp who cops say is preying on young girls. Cops say he kidnaps them and then brands them with his street name, in order to identify them as his property and then he forces them into a life of prostitution.

This is human trafficking in California. We`re not talking overseas in some faraway distant land. It`s happening right here in the U.S. of A.

Thirty four year old Leroy Bragg is sitting in jail on $1.3 million bail. He pleaded not guilty to trafficking of a minor, solicitation in connection with the abduction of a 13-year-old girl. He is also suspected of kidnapping a 14-year-old girl.

Cops say Bragg and his associates are brainwashing these girls, promising them a life full of money and nice clothes. Instead, the girls end up in seedy hotels, some for days, loaded up on drugs, and branded with this sicko`s street name.

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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The girls out of fear will often do that, thinking that they`re possibly protecting their family members from harm.

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VELEZ-MITCHELL: The scariest part of this, cops believe there could be many, many, many other girls out there. Girls too scared to come forward, because Bragg allegedly threatens to hurt their families if the girls leave him. This monster needs to be off the streets permanently. Call me, 1-877-JVM-SAYS.

Straight out to my fantastic expert panel; we begin with my good buddy, Pete Demetriou, with KNX 1070 News Radio. Great to see you, Pete. What is the very latest?

PETE DEMETRIOU, REPORTER, KNX 1070 NEWS RADIO: Basically on this, they`re continuing the investigation to try to find out how many other victims that Leroy Bragg may have picked up over the last several weeks, months, or even who knows how long. Again, he`s 34, this man is not the first time at the rodeo, he has been convicted three times of residential burglary.

Now, as to how many times and how many girls he`s actually put on the streets, we have the 13-year-old and a 14-year-old, one from Hawthorne, California, one from up land, California. One of them is a runaway. We`re not certain about the second one at this time.

And right now you have the LAPD, you have the FBI, the California Department of Justice all running checks on various runaways and various girls who may have been seen in the area where these girls were operating, or being forced to operate by Bragg, in an area roughly around 41st and Western up and through South Los Angeles.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Now, it`s a lot easier to recruit young girls into prostitution than you might think, even here in America.

You are about to hear from the mother of a 14-year-old girl who went missing, allegedly at the hands of Leroy Bragg. The girl was ultimately found, thankfully. But her family was terrified because Bragg allegedly threatened to rape the girl`s mother if the 14-year-old left him.

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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think she`s overwhelmed with everything that`s happened. At 14, she doesn`t know how to handle everything going on. Again, we just want to bring her home. We want her safe return.

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VELEZ-MITCHELL: You know, experts are saying the use of the Internet and social media sites by pimps is increasing. They promise them nice clothes and money. They -- they even have some of these other prostitutes say, oh you know, he`s a great guy.

Sonia Ossorio, you`re the president of NOW in New York City. And I know you are one of the nation`s leading experts on this kind of trafficking. I understand that when a girl runs away, it`s really literally within like 45 minutes and she is approached by a pimp on the streets.

SONIA OSSORIO, PRESIDENT NOW NYC: You know, it is a tremendous network that is out there to really lure these women and these young girls into prostitution. Right now, there`s probably 100,000 girls that are in the sex industry and at -- at risk, 300,000.

These pimps, which are human traffickers, know exactly what they`re doing. And we have had laws across the country pass at the state level, and before that at the federal level, to put an end to this.

And what we need to start seeing is police departments making it a priority as we`re seeing right now in L.A., and D.A.`s offices making this a priority to prosecute these pimps as criminals.

This is actually the most invisible form of child abuse taking place in our country right now. And it`s happening from suburbia to big cities across the country.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Everybody talks about the war on women. Well, this is the war on women. It`s the war on women and the war on teenage girls. Ok? This is the war on women. And it needs to become a top priority for law enforcement which some critics say it is not.

Everyone stay right where you are. On the other side of the break, we`re going to talk about this branding, how he brands these young women with his moniker. Are they branded for life?

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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s actually nothing new, unfortunately in Los Angeles. We deal with these cases many times a year. I investigate many of these cases each year, regarding underage girls in similar situations.

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VELEZ-MITCHELL: An L.A. cop talking about how many times they discover teens in the sex trade, kidnapped off the streets, turned into prostitutes.

Leroy Bragg, accused of kidnapping a 13-year-old and possibly a 14- year-old. Cops believe there could be many more victims out there.

John Roger of Texas, your question or thought, sir?

JOHN ROGER, TEXAS (via telephone): Hey, how are you doing?

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Good, thanks.

JOHN ROGER: I`m in Austin, Texas. I just walked into my hotel room and turned on the TV and saw your show. And I had to call you. I am the illegitimate child of a prostitute. My mother was murdered when she was very young. And by the grace of God, you know, life`s been good to me. And really, I think we are not really addressing the issue. The issue is, who is paying for these girls?

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Excellent question. Excellent point. Michelle Golland, psychologist, it`s about the supply and demand.

MICHELLE GOLLAND, PSYCHOLOGIST: It is. It`s about the supply and demand. And these are children, Jane. These are men who are having sex with children. Now we`re dealing with child sexual abuse and pedophile. That`s the people who we have to go after. And we all know we need to be, you know, stronger and more diligent about how that is treated in our society as well.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Absolutely.

GOLLAND: But Jane, these women, these girls are dealing with such trauma, so much -- the branding that has gone on, the dehumanization. They have been terrorized and tortured, basically tortured into submission for sex.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: I want to talk about this branding. This creep is accused of branding, literally, branding these girls, tattooing them with his street name so everyone knows they are his property which brings me to my big issue. Branded for life? This guy brands them with a tattoo that says, "King Snipe`s b-word", and you know what the b word stands for.

The father of the 14-year-old girl who was lucky enough to make it back home says his daughter now has this tattoo emblazoned on her breast.

Sonia Ossorio, is this standard operating procedure in the sex trafficking world?

OSSORIO: I know that it`s shocking to so many people listening to this program. But it is. You see it all the time. It`s also very popular to put somebody`s initials across somebody`s neck, where it`s going to be visible to everybody, every day that they walk out on the street.

And I think it`s really important the point about demand. We are not going to make inroads into this very serious problem until each and every one of us out there actually takes a look around us at the men in our lives and starts putting them on notice. It`s got to start at home, and in our communities. It`s got to be stigmatized.

Smoking was real popular not that long ago. And it`s really stigmatized now. We can do the same thing with prostitution.

GOLLAND: Yes.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Pete Demetriou --

(CROSSTALK)

OSSORIO: And also, just like you were talking about --

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Last word.

DEMETRIOU: Yes, Jane. Go ahead.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Is law enforcement taking this seriously enough as an issue?

DEMETRIOU: Yes, they do take it very seriously as an issue. When it comes to minors, it somehow ratchets the intensity up, that police officers do and going after a particular case.

What they also recognize, though, is with the advent of social networking groups on the Internet, basically, it has turned into, at least for the pimps and the procurers, it`s a supermarket out there. You can look at as many kids as you want and you can try to do what you can to try to get that next -- if you will -- girl in your stable (ph).

VELEZ-MITCHELL: We`re out of time. Excellent point.

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