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Children Tortured, Starved, Police Say; Baby Dolphins Dying by the Dozens

Aired February 24, 2011 - 19:00:00   ET



JANE VELEZ-MITCHELL, HOST (voice-over): Tonight, an inconceivably twisted child abuse horror. Cops say three children were tortured by their adopted parents. Court documents allege John and Sandra Kluth kept their kids in cages, fed them dog and cat food, beat them with belt buckles, broom handles, and burned them with hot kitchen utensils. Who are these monsters and how could they get away with this for so long?

Plus, baby dolphins dying by the dozens. The deaths of about two dozen baby bottle-nosed dolphins in the Gulf of Mexico, unprecedented. Is there a link to the Gulf oil disaster? I`ll talk to the renowned Philippe Cousteau.

Then, does the punishment fit the crime? At 23 years of age, this man was sentenced to 20 years behind bars after cops found a tiny amount of crack in his home. Even the tough judge thought the sentence was too harsh, but it was the mandatory minimum. Tonight, we`re asking, does America have a two-tiered justice system? I`ll talk junk justice with this man`s devoted partner.

And Warren Jeffs takes control of his congregation from behind bars? What? The leader of the infamous polygamist sect is reportedly giving sermons and calling the shots while in jail. What the heck is going on? We`ll talk to a woman who escaped from a polygamist cult. And we`ll take your calls.

ISSUES starts now!



SHERIFF RANDALL EDWARDS, CANADIAN COUNTY: This is as serious a case of child abuse as I`ve ever had. Since I`ve been in law enforcement, 20 years, anyway, it`s as serious of a case as I`ve ever witnessed.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Tonight, a truly horrifying case of extremely sadistic child abuse. Three children beaten, starved, battered, tortured for almost two years, locked in metal dog crates in an Oklahoma basement, allegedly by their adoptive parents.

Police made this stomach-churning discovery after finding a terrified teen starving, shivering, hiding in a cardboard box behind this Oklahoma store. He had escaped his house or horrors. When they finally got to talk to him, his story shook them right to the core.

John and Sonja Kluth, allegedly, these people, terrorized their adopted children. We`re talking two boys, ages 15 and 11, and a 9-year-old girl. Now, the accusations are really sickening.

Look at these faces. Look at these faces for a second. Look at this woman. Look at this woman. She doesn`t look like she`s starving. But the allegation is that they starved these kids.

They also, Sonja Kluth and her husband, this guy, allegedly beat and strangled these kids, burned them with metal spoons on their bodies and tongues, hit their hands with mallets, starved them, and only fed them dog and cat food. Police say this woman in particular kept them locked up in cages in this storm shelter. The children said she would hit their fingers with a hammer and scream, "You know I want blood!" How sadistic is that?

The Kluths adopted these kids in Wisconsin, but after allegations of child abuse there, the family picked up and moved to Oklahoma. That`s a common pattern.

But now, tonight, this is what gets me. I`m hearing these people are free on bail. Why? They should be locked up there, where they kept the kids. Now, even their own biological son says they were only in it for the money.

And the son is now an adult and, in fact, says he tried to get these people arrested for abusing him as a child. So why on earth were they allowed to adopt three kids? How can we protect children from being adopted by monsters who just want money, which they get sometimes from adopting kids? These people got money.

Call me: 1-877-JVM-SAYS. That`s 1-877-586-7297.

Straight out, and I`m very honored to have with us tonight Dave Pelzer. He is a "New York Times" best-selling author of the haunting memoir, "A Child Called It." Everybody who has read this has been completely moved by it and also "The Lost Boy." He`s also written six other books.

Dave, thanks for joining us.

You suffered similar, unimaginable, systemic abuse at the hands of your own mother. When you hear this story, what are the details that you relate to? What`s similar between what these kids went through and what you went through?

DAVE PELZER, AUTHOR, "A CHILD CALLED IT" (via phone): Well, what`s amazing about the story is you have two perpetrators, and the only vernacular that comes to my mind is that they were gleefully deviant in their behavior.

The boys were only fed dog food. The child -- the girl, the 9-year- old girl was fed cat food. And whether they were beaten with mallets, the broomsticks, they both -- they both, from reading the reports that have come out now, they enjoyed doing this.

And my mother, the same way. One time my tongue was burned by swallowing ammonia, and I remember falling to the floor, and I couldn`t breathe, for obvious reasons. And I`m trying to do anything I can to pass a bubble through my trachea, and I couldn`t, and watching her just smile.

And 24 hours later, she did the same thing, in front of my father, who`s a firefighter, and they both just stood there, as if nothing was happening.

And I remember several times, being referred to as a dog, or I lived in the basement, as a dog.

And there`s one statement that one of the perpetrators, suspected perpetrators says, he says, you know, "Take this and take this like a slave." So what the perpetrators try to do, Jane, is elevate themselves. They feed off the control, they feed off the power and devalue -- they don`t look at it as a human life or a child`s life, but a sub-animal-type life.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, you wouldn`t treat -- I would certainly not want to treat an animal like this. This is horrific.

PELZER: It is beyond -- I mean, the coincidence -- I was just in L.A. working for the L.A. D.A.`s office, and we`re work on lots of things over there. And to come home and to see something like this and to see the fact that, again, you have two perpetrators willingly do this. And the fact that it went on so long, and I`m appalled.

How in heaven`s name, in this grand country of ours, do these people - - they are arrested, and they get out right after lunch. And that`s -- I mean, how do they come up with the money? They got $1,500 a month from the state per child, $4,500 a month of the state`s money, and I`m sure they used a portion of this so they can get out and be free.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, I want to ask you to stand by for one second. You are so fascinating to talk to, Dave. We`re going to get back to you in a second.

Dana Hertnecky -- I hope I`m pronouncing your name right -- with KWTV in Oklahoma City. First of all, how did cops discover this horror and why on earth are they out on bond tonight?

DANA HERTNECKY, KWTV: Well, Jane, really an amazing story. The oldest boy actually ran away in the frigid cold temperatures in November, and actually, he was discovered hiding in a box, sleeping in a box behind a Braun`s store, which is a fast food store. And one of the workers there discovered him, brought him in and he was like, "I don`t want to go home. Can you take me home with you?" And that`s how police -- they called police, and that`s how police discovered him, and that led them to his brothers and sisters.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Why are they out on bail and where are they?

HERTNECKY: Well, that`s what the sheriff would like to know, too. They`re actually out on a $9,000 -- they each have a $9,000 bond, so not a very high bond at all. The sheriff said he was hoping they would get like $250,000...

VELEZ-MITCHELL: This is outrageous, Mike Brooks! This is outrageous...

MIKE BROOKS, HLN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: What kind of a judge -- what kind of judge would give these two -- uh, God -- you know, I can`t even think of an adjective for these two people! Nine thousand dollars a piece! And they tortured, sadomasochistic torturing of these children, these two boys, this one girl. They, like, cut them. They beat them. They burned them. There wasn`t a part on their bodies that hadn`t been beaten or cut and they had been bruised, and they did it for the sheer -- for their sheer enjoyment of it.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Midwin Charles...

BROOKS: These are some of the worst stories we`ve heard of torture, Jane. You know, you think you`ve heard it all, but no, you haven`t.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Midwin Charles, criminal defense attorney, why on earth are they not charged with attempted murder?

MIDWIN CHARLES, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: You know, that boggles the mind, particularly when you figure out, when you think about how atrocious and how despicable, and how this sort of behavior against these kids was willful. It was willful. It was something that they were trying to do in order to cause harm.

I don`t know why they weren`t charged attempted murder. If I were the prosecutors here, I certainly would have. And at least the charges would be a lot more serious.


Melody, Ohio, your question or thought? And hopefully, we`ll get Dave to answer this, because he is the expert and an amazingly courageous man to have written about his torture at the hands of his mother -- Melody.

CALLER: Hi, Jane. It`s always a pleasure speaking with you, but this just -- this just makes me want to break down and cry. And I`m calling from Akron, and I was speaking with my niece one day, and she literally got a postcard in the mail that -- where they could go adopt these children, and you just had to meet a certain criteria, and that was basically a house and a couple other things. And you were able to get these foster children. Jane, let`s stop this, please.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes. Dave, in your case, this was your biological mother who tortured you. These people, they adopted these kids, and that`s what I don`t get. I do not understand, Mike Brooks, when you adopt a child and then go out of your way to torture the child. You`re getting money. You don`t have to torture the child. You`re still getting the money. Why not just let the kids live? And they do use the discipline excuse.

BROOKS: Well, the discipline excuse. I`m not buying the discipline excuse in this particular case, Jane. There`s discipline, and then there`s torture and sadomasochism, like they did with these children.

But what does it always usually come to with their -- just like their biological son said: all about money. But why torture these children? There`s no reason for it, Jane. No reason whatsoever.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: I think that psychologically, sometimes when you`re doing something evil like using kids for money, you have to dehumanize them further in order to justify your own behavior. And it becomes a vicious cycle, where it gets progressive.

More on this house of horrors in just a moment. And we`re taking your calls on this: 1-877-JVM-SAYS. That`s 1-877-586-7297,

Also, another sick story. A polygamist leader, Warren Jeffs, takes control of his church from behind bars. We`re going to speak to a woman who escaped from his cult.

And unbelievable details on all these stories, especially this story. Unimaginable child abuse. Why did an Oklahoma couple adopt three children just to torture them? We`re going to talk to a victim of torture by his own mother in a moment.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Been abused just about every way imaginable. They`ve been burned, cut, beat.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Been abused just about every way imaginable. They`ve been burned, cut, beat.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Child torture horror, unspeakable horror in Oklahoma. This woman, Sonja Kluth, told cops she was just trying to control her kids, but she had become a monster. She`s accused of beating her adopted daughter, age 9, with belts, brooms, mop handles, choking her, smashing her head against doors. This is her husband, who`s also involved in this. Smashing the kids against countertops. She allegedly ripped an earring off of her daughter`s ear, punching her in the face, hitting her in the face with a telephone, breaking her tooth. Look at that face. Look at this face.

Lady, you are sick! Sick, sick! You too, Mister.

She`s also accused of burning her kids with a heated metal spoon, whipping them, hitting her son in the face with a metal dog bowl, and squeezing her son`s genitals with pliers.

Really, it -- there`s no words, but we`re going to try to put words to it so that we can understand and prevent something like this from ever happening again.

An extraordinary guest tonight, Dave Pelzer, author of "A Child Called It."

You survived similar torture for apparently absolutely no reason while some of your siblings were treated a lot better. What made your mother treat you this way? Was there alcoholism, for example?

PELZER: Well, there was in the beginning; of course, it really took over. But as a child, you know, it started very slowly. I didn`t know what was right, what was wrong. And I found out quickly that somehow, I was either getting in trouble or making my mother most upset, and therefore, I deserved not to be fed for a week. I deserved to be stabbed below the heart. I deserved to swallow, ingest certain things, and be treated a certain way.

But then I kind of became aware of the situation after eight, nine years of this, or being 8, 9 years of age, and it started about age 4. Jane, it`s called target child selection, in which the perpetrator, usually one perpetrator, selects a child at random. Pedophiles do the same thing, too. But it`s very unusual, because there`s so much control involved, of controlling the secret, controlling the violence, and making sure that no one outside the relationship knows about it. Because, especially in these extreme abuse cases, the perpetrators are fearful of being exposed.

And that`s why, when I read the report, what Sonja said, she knew what she was doing. Maybe in the beginning, it might have been an isolated incident. She might have lost control, but again, she was a willing participant in this entire situation.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Now, they often use the discipline excuse.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: And this monster here said, "Oh, you know, we need to discipline our kids and, uh..."


VELEZ-MITCHELL: "... our home is discipline -- it`s walls of discipline." And so they use this discipline excuse, and they also use food as a weapon and sleeping arrangements as the weapon.

PELZER: Exactly, because like I said before, they try to dehumanize the children. Because this way, they don`t have to deal with the psychological aspects of it. And again, they feel superior. That`s why, again, the dog food for the boys, the cat food for the girl. How they would take the children and, basically, just throw them down the carpet, like you throw a Frisbee, because they both got enjoyment out of this.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Now, it occurs to me, you are a highly intelligent human being, and even as a child, you may have been more intelligent than the adults who were torturing you or the adult mom. Do you think she selected you because you posed the biggest threat, because your intelligence, clearly, outweighed her, even as a child?

PELZER: Jane, that is the billion-dollar deficit question. I mean, I don`t think -- I`m average intelligence. I mean, I studied, college. I mean, I`ve flown for the Air Force. I`ve done a lot of work in service and law enforcement and so forth. I`m very lucky.

But she -- I interviewed my mother before she died, and at the time, I was in the Air Force. I was working as a counselor of juvenile hall and studied psychology. And she kind of related that she could have picked on either my eldest -- Ron, my brother, Ron, myself, or Stan, a little bit younger than me, but she just happened to select me. And...

PELZER: Did she ever apologize?

PELZER: Never. And they never do. They never -- she knew -- she`s been interviewed, of course, before she passed away, and in one interview, a guy really pressed her, and says, "Did you know you were trying to kill your son?"

And my mom basically said, "Well, golly, I knew it was getting out of hand, but what am I going to do?" -- attitude.

They never apologize; they never submit. Because, again, they feel superior on this. And it`s sad, because my mother was abused as a child. She was raised that we don`t talk about certain things, that you just keep the cancer inside.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Secrets, toxic secrets.

PELZER: And she tried to drown her sorrow -- part of her sorrow with the alcohol -- and one thing leads to the other.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Last question. Was she -- I only have ten seconds. Was she herself abused as a child? Is this intergenerational?

PELZER: It can be, yes. My mother was, but then I`m lucky, because thank God, I got the proper help. I got good therapy. I had beautiful foster parents, and at the same time, blessing from God, and I wanted it more. I always worked hard to be a good person.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Dave, we want to have you back. You are a hero to us. Come back soon on camera. We want you.

Thank you, fantastic panel.

Junk justice, a 23-year-old gets 20 years behind bars after a tiny amount of crack. It`s not fair. We`re going to talk to the family.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are doing something about it with all the work that we`re doing on all these trips out here.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: It`s a horror story. And the big question tonight, is it more fallout from that disastrous BP oil spill?

We`re talking about baby dolphins washing up along the Gulf of Mexico shores by the dozens now. Fifty-three total, adult and baby dolphins, innocent creatures, dead since the start of this year.

The mysterious infant dolphin deaths this year are like nothing scientists have ever seen. These massive calf deaths are reportedly happening at a rate ten times greater than average. Why? Scientists are calling it an unusual mortality event. Yes, you think? It`s an anomaly.

The NOAA National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is going to make this an urgent investigation, top priority. I would hope.

Joining me now, the renowned environmental advocate, Philippe Cousteau.

A pleasure to have you here. You are also CEO at Earth Echo International. Philippe, how much of a tragedy is this? Because it breaks my heart to see these images of these dead dolphins?

PHILIPPE COUSTEAU, CEO, EARTH ECHO: Well, Jane, as you know, I spent a lot of the past summer, six or seven months covering the oil spill, and this is very alarming, although not completely surprising.

You know, the oil spill has been off the front pages for many months now, but the oil is still there in the Gulf. And I think what this demonstrates, while we -- it`s still too early to guarantee that these mortalities from the dolphins are directly related to the oil spill, they`re conducting animal autopsies or necropsies right now on the bodies.

So it`s premature until the scientific results come back to say it`s directly linked to the oil spill. But, of course, it`s fishy that it`s happening around now with such a terrible event that happened only a few months ago.

I think that the question, though, is what kind of research is going on? The oil is still going to be around for a very long time to come, as we`ve seen from Exxon Valdez in Alaska. There`s still oil there. As we`ve seen from the Ishtak (ph) oil spill in 1979. I was on expedition in November exploring that. There`s still oil there.

So, despite the fact that it`s been off the front pages for a long time, I think this is a reminder that this is still a very serious crisis.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Now, of course, the experts, some of the other experts, very calmly say, "Well, there`s a number of reasons these tragic dolphin deaths could be occurring." Listen to this.


MOBY SOLANGI, HEAD OF IMMS: It could be the environment, the cold weather. It could be their fisheries, some changes in their food habits. It could be a cyclical change. So who knows? But we`re going to do a forensic study. We`re going to do the necropsies, the pathology, the toxicology, and try to get to the bottom of it.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: That just blows my mind, Philippe. It`s like all the other things mentioned but the obvious one that first occurred to everybody, I`m sure, when they saw these dolphins dying in the Gulf of Mexico. Duh! Can we investigate whether it might be the BP oil spill fallout?

Why are there such blinders on when it comes to, you know, connecting obvious dots here? We can`t say for sure -- the autopsies aren`t done -- but why not mention that?

COUSTEAU: Well, you know, I don`t know why they`re not mentioning it. It`s certainly, you know, hanging out there. It`s the obvious potential culprit, the first one that comes to mind.

I do agree that we need to let the science -- and I`ve been in touch with scientists at the Ocean Conservatory regularly. We do need to let the science direct our decisions and our plans or what we think is the cause of these dolphin deaths. But indeed, it is -- there`s most likely a connection.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Got to leave it right there. It`s always great to have you on. You are one of my heroes. Come back soon.

COUSTEAU: Always a pleasure, Jane. Thank you.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Up next, a family torn apart.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Does the punishment fit the crime? At 23 years of age, this man was sentenced to 20 years behind bars, after cops found a tiny amount of crack in his home. Even the tough judge thought the sentence was too harsh, but it was the mandatory minimum.

Tonight, we`re asking, does America have a two-tiered justice system? I`ll talk junk justice with this man`s devoted partner.

And Warren Jeffs takes controls of his congregation from behind bars? What? The leader of the infamous polygamist sect is reportedly giving sermons and calling the shots while in jail. What the heck is going on?

We`ll talk to a woman who escaped from a polygamist cult. And we`ll take your calls.


LAWRENCE GARRISON, IMPRISONED FOR CRACK COCAINE POSSESSION: We were both sentenced to a mandatory 15 years for 500 grams of crack cocaine.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Tonight, a twisted case of junk justice. Now, this case has torn a loving father away from his two young daughters, making them victims of our completely broken court system. Dejarion Echols was 23 years old -- think about what you were like when you were 23 -- when police found a small amount of crack, an unloaded rifle, and $5,700 at his home.

Now, Dejarion says it was his first offense, he pleaded guilty, but because the judge`s hands were tied by mandatory minimum sentencing laws -- mandatory -- the judge was forced to send Dejarion to prison for two decades. We`re talking 20 years.

When he gets out, he will be in his 40s. By then, his two young daughters will be young adults. Even the tough judge thought it was far too harsh.

According to the court record, the judge himself said, "This is one of those situations where I`d like to see a congressman sitting before me," end quote. That`s because only Congress can change these outrageously unfair mandatory minimums.

Ok, these laws are the reason that non-violent drug offenders, like Dejarion, are clogging up our prison systems, and it`s so bad there`s often no room for the actually violent criminals, the ones who actually need to be locked up.

I want to begin with Crystal Garcia, who is Dejarion`s devoted partner, who is raising his two daughters alone. Crystal, thank you so much for joining us tonight.

Will you tell us, from your heart, what Dejarion, your partner, being locked up for two decades, has done to you and your family?

CRYSTAL GARCIA, DEJARION ECHOLS` PARTNER: It`s -- it`s just really -- it`s really just hurt us. I didn`t realize -- we didn`t realize the effects that the -- the laws that were in place. The mandatory minimum, DJ made one bad mistake, and he`s serving his whole life for it. The girls, our kids, they`re growing up without their father --

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Now, I understand that what happened is that he had gotten a scholarship, he was an athlete, and he had gotten a scholarship to college, but it was only a partial scholarship and he tried to get a job to get the rest of the money for college. And that`s when he made the decision, a bad decision, admittedly, a bad decision, to deal crack. And he admits to that. Is that correct?

GARCIA: Yes, ma`am. He admits that he made a bad decision. He takes responsibility for it.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes. But he tried to get a job, but he couldn`t get a job, right?

GARCIA: Yes. He tried to get a job, but he wasn`t able to. He was working with children.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: He had this looming scholarship that he wanted to take advantage of, but it was a partial scholarship, so he decided to do something really dumb and try to sell drugs for a short amount of time to get the money to go to college.

Now, here`s my big issue: mandatory madness. For 25 years, we`ve had a very screwed up federal sentencing structure that gives far harsher punishments for crack than for powder cocaine, and it`s called the 100 to 1 ratio.

In the eyes of the law, the crack is 100 times the weight of powder cocaine, and this has resulted in our prison system becoming packed with a disproportionate amount of African-Americans. 7 percent of all African- American children have a parent in prison compared to fewer than one percent of white children.

Now, there`s been some changes recently, but it doesn`t do anything to help the people who are already locked up. And it doesn`t help the people in state prison.

So I want to bring in Julie Stewart, who is the president of Families against Mandatory Minimums. And I want to ask you why do critics call the harsher sentencing in general for crack than for cocaine institutionalized racism?

JULIE STEWART, PRESIDENT FAMILIES AGAINST MANDATORY MINIMUMS: Well, I think it`s because it mostly applies for African-Americans. It`s very easy to go to an inner city and see a couple of kids shuffling on the street corner and stop them and pick them up and find out they have crack cocaine on them. And when crack cocaine is sentenced to severely, it ends up disproportionately affecting the African-American community.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Now, I want to do a little demonstration here, so come back to me on camera. I am holding on my hands -- he was found with 44 grams. So my question to my producers was, what`s 44 grams? They said, 10 teaspoons. Let me tell you, I`m going to do a little demonstration here. That`s how much he had, 10 teaspoons. 20 years for that -- first offense, 20 years, ok?

You know what I say to that? I say, that`s not fair.

Kim, Montana, your question or thought?

KIM, MONTANA (via telephone): Yes, I don`t think it`s very fair that people who murder people can get out within five, ten years, and yet he had a little bit of meth, and he`s sitting there for 23 years. It`s not fair. People who are there for drugs should get counseling and not get prison.

I think murderers, child molesters should be the people who are in jail, not people who have drug problems.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes, Kim, I couldn`t agree with you more. And thanks to mandatory minimums, we do not have room in our prisons for actually violent criminals.

Here`s a perfect example, John Gardner, he served a measly five years in prison for a violent sexual assault on a 13-year-old girl. He proceeded to violate parole repeatedly and he was allowed to remain free. Gardner then proceeded to rape and murder two beautiful California teenagers, Amber Dubois and Chelsea King.

And when asked why he wasn`t put in jail for the parole violations before he murdered those two girls, the system said, well, we would overwhelm the system if we put everybody back in prison for violating small paroles like letting their GPS device run out, et cetera, et cetera.

So Midwin Charles, criminal defense attorney, we`re letting murderers run free because we`ve clogged our prison system with nonviolent drug offenders.

MIDWIN CHARLES, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: That`s right, Jane. Murders, rapists, pedophiles, child abusers; to name a few, and what makes this so atrocious is that it removes the discretion that judges usually like to have when sentencing someone because they then get to factor in their background.

Do they have a criminal history? What sort of home did they come from? Is this their first offense, or third offense, or even 15th offense? And that`s what makes this so atrocious. He`s facing 20 years, and the gentleman you just profiled only served five years for molesting a 13-year- old child.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: And beating her.

CHARLES: Where is the fairness in that?


VELEZ-MITCHELL: And beating her in the process.

CHARLES: Where is the fairness in that? Exactly, exactly.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: There`s no better and more current example than our two-tiered justice system than Lindsay Lohan. Ok, after multiple DUIs, a drug bust, and repeated parole violations, she has spent a total of less than two weeks in jail.

In 2007, she was charged with cocaine possession and drunk driving, following a bizarre high-speed chase in southern California. Her assistant`s panicked frightened mother called police after being chased by her. Listen to this.


911 OPERATOR: Ok, what`s going on there?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don`t -- we were just about to park her car. We were coming home, and out of nowhere, a huge white GMC came up and -- ok, that`s ok. We`re coming -- 4th and Wilshire we`re coming down right now, we`re being followed by a GMC. The gentleman jumped out of the car -- oh, my god, sir, they`re following us. We need help.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: And allegedly on that drive, that high-speed chase, Lindsay said, I can do anything, I`m a celebrity. And you know what, so far, she`s right, Julie Stewart.

STEWART: But I don`t think the point is that she should get more punishment. I think the point is that people who are serving long sentences that are forced on the judges by legislators, those judges should have the ability to fashion sentences that fit the crime. And unfortunately, they can`t, because the laws are mandatory.

I don`t think we would be better off as a society if Lindsay Lohan were in prison. I think the point is that Dejarion Echols does not need 20 years in prison. Would five have been sufficient? Would four have been enough?

Sure, he broke a law, he needs to be punished, but what`s the punishment that fits the crime and his role in the offense?

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, I have to ask this question and I agree with you 100 percent. I`m just saying there`s a two-tiered system; there`s disparity. Justice is not blind, she`s had Lasik surgery, lady justice had.

STEWART: Well justice is also dished out by the prosecutors.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes. Ok. They`ve had laser surgery too.

Has locking up Americans become a big business? This is an issue I raise in my new book, "Addict Nation", and I have a whole chapter on addicted to incarceration. Right now as you watch this show, more than two million Americans are living behind bars. In fact, we have more citizens in prison in the U.S. than any other country in the world. America has as many inmates as the entire population of Macedonia, ok?

This is a big business. The total tab for U.S. prisons is $60 billion a year. Inmate phone calls alone are a $1 billion market. There is a prison products convention, and all of this is paid for by you and me, the taxpayers. Ok.

Now, Imagine if we spent $60 billion on, oh, let`s see, early childhood education, gang intervention, how about vocational training so a young man like Dejarion would have the practical skills to get a job when he needed money and he didn`t have to go to sell drugs.

Crystal Garcia, he tried to get a job, you`re saying?

GARCIA: Yes, ma`am, he did.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: And he couldn`t get one.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Nicole, Ohio, your question or thought, ma`am?

NICOLE, OHIO (via telephone): Yes. I was just wondering what state he was from, because I live in Ohio and people here are selling crack left and right and they`re only getting like 15 months.

So I just didn`t understand why they gave him 20 years? That`s ruining his whole life. Now, when he gets out of prison, he`s not going to be able to get a job, nothing. You know?

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes, it`s a screwed up, messed up system. He`s in Texas, I believe.

Now, polygamist leader Warren Jeffs returns to power. He claims he`s the head of his church even though he`s sitting in jail. What? And what about all those kids that were seized? Remember that? What happened with them.



CAROLYN JESSOP, FORMER FLDS MEMBER: This is the man that this community worships as a god. I mean, he is their prophet. And he`s being allowed full access to children to injure them. And if that doesn`t put every child that he has, you know, or the parents believe he`s the prophet, if that doesn`t put every one of them at risk, I`d like to know what does.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Tonight, shocking revelations that jailed polygamist leader Warren Jeffs is taking over his church again, this time from behind bars. Jeffs is known for promoting plural marriages -- that`s a nice way of saying you know what -- between adult men and underage girls, allegedly forcing these minor girls to have sex with these older men. And get this, court documents recently revealed that two 12-year-old girls were taken from Canada to marry him, allegedly, in 2005.

Jeffs is 55 years old. He would have been 49 in 2005. Can you say "yuck"? This man could have from anywhere -- they say 50 to 70 wives. Ok? 50 to 70 wives. He`s sitting in jail, but he`s charged with sexual assault and bigamy.

Many of Jeffs` FLDS followers live on a secluded ranch in El Dorado, Texas. That`s the same ranch where back in 2006 more than 400 children were seized because of allegations of child abuse. However, a court ordered them to be returned to their parents. That`s right, all those kids, remember that raid, that big raid, all those kids taken away? Court ordered them all to be returned to their parents. Now, Jeffs` followers said the state had no right to remove those children.

In addition to declaring himself leader of his church, or cult, whatever you want to call it, Jeffs also ousted about 45 other church leaders that he considered a threat to his leadership. What an ego this you know what has -- all from behind bars.

What do you think about this? Give me a holler, 1-877-JVM-SAYS.

Straight out to my very special guest, Carolyn Jessop, a woman forced into marriage, who escaped the polygamist cult after bearing eight children. You are my hero for having the courage to speak up. What is your reaction to the fact that this guy appears to be running the whole show from behind bars? Does that make you crazy?

JESSOP: I`m not at all surprised. He`s been having some control from behind bars, but he really depended on his messengers, because that was his only way to get word out to what he wanted. So they could interpret it the way they wanted and translate that to, you know, the FLDS community.

But now because he has access to a phone and a certain amount of time that he can call out, then he has direct access to the FLDS people. He`s been talking in church. So he can basically get rid of all the messengers now and take full-blown power. He doesn`t have to go through them anymore.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Now, one woman who put it all on the line to help convict Warren Jeffs was a child bride, Alyssa Wall. Wall testified against Jeffs in a 2007 rape trial. She told the court that Warren Jeffs performed a wedding ceremony between her when she was 14 and a male church member who was older.

She told the court that she pleaded with Jeffs, begged him, don`t make me marry this man, because I despise him and that Warren Jeffs ignored her pleas. Jeffs was convicted, but ultimately, Jeffs` conviction was overturned which brings me to my big issue tonight.

This is like a one-two punch. First Jeffs` conviction is overturned, and now we hear he`s running the entire show from behind bars. I mean, imagine all the women who took risks to expose this guy, and thinking tonight, was it for nothing?

I want to go out to Gary Tuchman, CNN correspondent, who`s been all over this story. Why is it that the government seems to have such a hard time nailing this guy when apparently when his father died, he married like almost all of his father`s wives. He`s been marrying child brides, allegedly. This would seem to be an open and shut case. Why is he still awaiting trial?

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Right. The case in Utah, he was convicted. The conviction was overturned because of irregularities with prosecution witnesses. It was kind of close to a technicality, to be honest with you. Most people feel if he has another trial in Utah, he`ll be found guilty. But Texas has more serious charges, and that`s why he`s awaiting trial right now in Texas.

But it`s really interesting; he`s running the church very openly. This county jail in Texas, Reagan County, Texas, he`s allowed to use the telephone like most county jails. He has a telephone near his cell. As long as he has money on his calling card or people accept collect calls, Warren Jeffs can make as many calls as he wants. He`s actually preaching at services for FLDS followers over the telephone.

Now, one thing you may want to wonder about, if he talks about anything illegal, is there anything people can do? And according to the sheriff`s officials in Reagan County, they do record the phone calls, but unless he`s talking about something illegal, which he`s not --


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Another big example of our messed up criminal justice system.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Tonight polygamist leader Warren Jeffs claims to be back in power at the FLDS church, reportedly giving sermons by phone from his jail cell. How can this be allowed?

This man has -- he was on the ten most wanted list at one point. He`s charged with sexual assault and bigamy. He`s got 50 to 70 wives. And yet somehow he`s able to run his entire church from a jail cell.

We`re going to go to Ricardo in Georgia, your question or thought, sir?

RICARDO, GEORGIA (via telephone): How are you doing -- hello?

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Hey, how are you doing? Your question or thought, Ricardo.

RICARDO: How are you doing Jane Velez? I love you very much. I`m Puerto Rican also, like you.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Ok. What`s your question?

RICARDO: I want to say something about this guy. I follow his case. It`s a travesty. It`s against our morals, against -- I don`t know how they allow anything like this in the states of this United States to go on like this.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: They don`t, that`s the whole point, they don`t. He`s breaking a whole bunch of laws and he was charged with a slew of things. They convicted him on a couple of things. That got overturned. And now he`s facing trial again.

But they can`t seem to nail this guy once and for all. And that`s frustrating.

Kathy Jo Nicholson, you were a former FLDS member. We`re hearing these allegations with the 70 wives that he has, approximately. A lot of them may have allegedly been underage. What do you know?

KATHY JO NICHOLSON, FORMER FLDS MEMBER: Well, I know that that`s at least accurate, that many, if not more. He seems to be inheriting wives as he kicks male members out. That`s disturbing, and a little reminiscent of the David Koresh situation.

Nobody seems to be good enough for him these days. He feels a threat and gets rid of the men. I do know personally that he has taken underage wives. I`ve seen photographs and seen it actually in person and have some friends who have left that I`ve talked to. And I can verify that he does have underage wives. I don`t know why he`s above the law. I don`t know what kind of celebrity status he has.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Now, in terms of this very innocuous phrase, plural marriages, what it really means is that these men can be assigned wives by Warren Jeffs, allegedly, and he can assign -- reassign the women to other husbands. Is this true?

NICHOLSON: Oh, absolutely. The only way that a man in the work, in the FLDS can procure a wife, or many wives, is through the prophet, which is Warren Jeffs. He`s the mouthpiece of god on earth. I think he`s pretty much taken the mouthpiece part out and he is god on earth.

That is the only way that they can have a wife. And he giveth and he taketh away. And it happens often. It makes me very worried, because I have a lot of family members, sisters left inside. You know, they have children with a man that they weren`t in love with to begin with, that they cultivate the relationship. They`re a third, fourth wife, they have children and then they`re often yanked out of that situation and married to another man. The children have to adjust. It`s very cruel.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: And it`s sick, and it`s against the law. I certainly hope that this man ultimately goes to trial and receives justice once and for all. And his conviction, if he`s convicted, which I hope he is, is not overturned and that he doesn`t slip through the cracks.

Thank you fabulous panel, for joining me tonight.

Everyone stay right there. We`ll be right back.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: I`m Jane Velez-Mitchell, and here`s my issue.

Sea World back to its old tricks one year after we`ve witnessed the dangers of keeping killer whales in tanks for the death of a veteran Sea World trainer by one of its orcas.

Sea World is preparing to put trainers back in the water with its captive killer whales. We called Sea World, they have nothing to say.

I do. These trainers shouldn`t be confused, just because they`re working with animals doesn`t mean they`re helping animals. Follow the money, trainers. Sea World is a for-profit organization getting very rich off the exploitation of these animals. Some animal advocates believe, certainly I do, keeping these whales in tanks is equivalent to us living out our lives in a bathtub.

Trainers if you love these animals, stay out of the water. Ok. Don`t participate in this cruelty. For your safety, and for the good of whales, fight for their freedom instead. You`ve got the knowledge and the power to do it. Stay out of the water, trainers. I`m telling you.

I`m Jane Velez-Mitchell, that`s my issue.

And Nancy Grace is up next.