Return to Transcripts main page


Dad`s Murder-for-Hire Plot?; Rape Survivor Speaks Out about Ordeal

Aired March 29, 2011 - 19:00:00   ET



JANE VELEZ-MITCHELL, HOST (voice-over): Tonight, wild west justice? Cops say a dad took out a bounty on his teenage daughter`s sex-offender boyfriend, allegedly posting wanted signs offering three grand for the boyfriend`s body, dead or alive. The dad`s supporters say he had to do something. The boyfriend`s a convicted child molester. With our justice system in shambles, is vigilante justice America`s new trend?



VELEZ-MITCHELL: A rape victim tells her incredible survival story. I`ll talk live to a woman who was abducted and used as a sex slave for five days, only to hear on the radio that her rapist had murdered her husband. Her horrifying story from her lips tonight.

Also, shock and outrage. Cops say another 11-year-old girl is sexually assaulted by at least six boys, this time in California. Investigators say an older girl lured the victim into a bathroom so the boys could assault her. What the hell is going on in this country?

Plus, is Facebook putting your kids in danger? Some doctors now warning obsession with the site can cause Facebook depression. When peer pressure and popularity contests go global, can keeping up with the in crowd make your kids despondent? I`m taking your calls.

ISSUES starts right now.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He allegedly was soliciting people for $3,000 to kill the boyfriend of his 19-year-old daughter.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Tonight, is he a desperado or just a desperate dad doing what he can to protect his precious daughter? Cops in La Mesa, California, say 50-year-old Domingos Oliviero, who was arraigned just moments ago, tried to hire a hit man to kill his teenage daughter`s 33- year-old boyfriend. The much older boyfriend just happens to be a convicted registered sex offender.

Take a look at our version of the poster the dad allegedly hung up around the college campus where his 19-year-old daughter and her much older boyfriend reportedly go to school: $3,000 reward for the body of a convicted sex offender, dead or alive. Dad also allegedly included the boyfriend`s name and photograph, but cops have blacked it out.

Tonight the dad is under arrest on suspicion of solicitation of murder, but some people are supporting him.


VERNE HOWE, NEIGHBOR OF DAUGHTER & ACCUSED DAD: If I had knowledge that my daughter was involved with a guy that was a sex offender, I wouldn`t be too comfortable about that.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Look, his daughter is dating a convicted child molester. Is Dad just desperately trying to protect her? Call me: 1-877- JVM-SAYS.

Straight out to Sergeant Angela Desarro from La Mesa, California, Police Department investigations unit.

Sergeant, walk us through what you say this furious father did. Tell us.

SERGEANT ANGELA DESARRO, LA MESA, CALIFORNIA, POLICE DEPARTMENT INVESTIGATIONS UNIT: This case came to our attention as a criminal threats case. Shortly thereafter flyers were posted at one of our local community colleges, offering a $3,000 bond -- or bounty on the victim`s head, dead or alive.

The investigation led to the identification of the suspect, Domingos Oliviero, the father of the victim`s girlfriend. Investigators served a search warrant at Mr. Oliviero`s residence last Friday and recovered evidence that linked him to the crime. And he was arrested for solicitation for murder and booked into county jail, where he is being held on $250,000 bail.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, this dad looks pretty unrepentant in the photographs. Is it true that the 33-year-old registered sex offender who was dating his daughter, his teenage daughter, is the one who called cops and said, "Hey, this guy has posted all these wanted posters involving me on the college campus. You better go find him"?

DESARRO: Yes. It was the victim. The registered sex offender was the victim, and the girlfriend came in to report the crime.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: I have a slight problem with that. And here is my problem or my big issue. Why was this sex-offender boyfriend out on the street to begin with?

In 2009, just two short years ago, he was convicted of molesting a 14- or 15-year-old girl. And now two years later, he is already roaming the streets of a college campus and dating a 19-year-old.

Contrast that to, for example, twin brothers we profiled right here on ISSUES the other day. Both were convicted of the nonviolent crime of selling crack. They were sentenced to almost two decades, two decades in prison.

So I`m going to go to J. Wyndal Gordon, criminal defense attorney. Where is the justice in our criminal justice system, where a guy who molests a 14- to 15-year-old girl is out in a couple of years and dating a teenager, albeit a 19-year-old, leading the father to get so outraged that he does something stupid.

J. WYNDAL GORDON, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: You know, I know this sounds a little bit absurd, but I`m on the side of the father. I don`t think that what he was trying to do was solicit murder. In fact, I think what he was asking the public to do is bring that person to him. He wanted to confront that person. I`m taking this strictly from a criminal defense point of view. He didn`t say "Go out and kill the person."

STEVE MOORE, FORMER FBI AGENT: He did say murder. He did say dead.

GORDON: Not in the posters that he was putting out in the community. It said dead or alive. Now, if you choose to kill someone and bring him to him -- it said alive, too.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: One at a time, OK? You`ve made your point, J. Wyndal. Steve Moore, former FBI agent, weigh in, sir.

MOORE: The problem here is that, if America`s justice system worked, people would have confidence that they -- that there wouldn`t be 33-year- old sex offenders on the street.

When there is no confidence in the justice system, then you start saying, "I got to do it myself. " I have a 20-year-old daughter. I understand. I even understand what J. Wyndal is saying. And I agree with you a little bit. I understand the emotion of what the father was going through. But you cannot take the step of taking -- putting a contract out for murder. You just can`t do it.

GORDON: This is not a contract for murder. This is a contract to present a person to the father so he can talk to him.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: No, well, it does say body, dead or alive.

MOORE: Thank you, counselor.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: It says body, dead or alive. So murder is implicit in there. In other words, if somebody had killed this guy and delivered him to the father...

GORDON: That would be a crazy guy.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: ... presumably the father would be -- the whole thing is crazy. The whole thing is nuts.

I`m wonder is this guy even serious? I mean, a California man offers a reward for the body, dead or alive, of his daughter`s sex-offender boyfriend. I mean, this is happening in America today in the west, but it sounds like something out of an old western.

In fact, check this out from John Wayne`s "The War Wagon" on YouTube.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Whiskey. I said whiskey!


VELEZ-MITCHELL: So was this dad really serious? Did he really want this guy`s body dragged in? Or was this some kind of dramatic tough-love message to his daughter? And could, in fact, his attorney argue that, hey, he was just taking dramatic license and trying to send a message, J. Wyndal Gordon?

GORDON: I agree with that 100 percent. He was trying to humiliate the daughter`s boyfriend. He doesn`t -- he obviously doesn`t like the boyfriend. And all -- you know, all his poster is requesting is that you bring the person to him. Who knows what he`s going to do? We can`t take that leap in a criminal court of law. You have to show he`s something more than a poster being posted to convict this guy of solicitation for murder.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. Connie, South Carolina, your question or thought?

CALLER: Yes, Jane. I would like to say, "Go, Dad!" There is not enough being done through our justice system for sex offenders. I`m a mother of a 10-year-old daughter that I`m afraid to let out of my sight for a moment. And her name is Latoya (ph), and she would like to say hello, Jane.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Aww, well, hello right back, Connie and your wonderful daughter. And I understand your frustration.

Steve Moore -- well, let me go to Sergeant Angela Desarro. Is there any way that we can examine this convicted sex offender boyfriend and see, for example, if he`s meeting all the terms of his probation, if he`s even on probation? Do you have any idea why this father was so upset with him, even though I would say that just being a sex offender is enough to make him upset?

DESARRO: You`re absolutely right. He is a sex offender. He has done his time and he`s living within the conditions of his parole at this time. And in this case, he is the victim.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes. Technically, he is the victim, but let`s remember: this is a guy who two years ago molested a 14- or 15-year-old girl. So you can understand why the father somehow found out about that. And I don`t -- do you have any idea, Sergeant, how the father found out that his daughter was dating this convicted sex offender?

DESARRO: I don`t have the specifics of that.

Of course, every parent wants to protect their child. That`s only natural. However, our country is ruled by laws, and we can`t have citizens going out and taking the law into their own hands. That is what the criminal justice system is for, what the police department is for. And it`s up to a judge and the jury to find someone guilty and hand out that punishment.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes. Now, is there more than meets the eye when it comes to the relationship between this particular father and his daughter?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He allegedly was soliciting people, for $3,000, to kill the boyfriend of his 19-year-old daughter.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He has had some problems with his daughter, I believe.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. So a father his problems with his 19- year-old daughter. That`s classic. I mean, that`s what happens when you`re a teenager. It sounds to me, Steve Moore, that maybe the dad was trying to convince his daughter, in other ways, to stay away from this guy and was ineffective and then went to this dramatic place of putting up these wanted posters. Will any of this help him in a court of law?

MOORE: Well, it depends on how good his attorney is. And that`s -- you know, what`s happened here is the justice system has failed by letting a 33-year-old sex offender become a problem so that a father decides that he`s going to kill him. And so the problem is how good a defense attorney is he going to get? Will he get off on this, just the way that the sex offender got off on his conviction on short time? You don`t know.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes. I just think that this is an indictment of the criminal justice system, but I also think that Sergeant Desarro and her investigations unit at La Mesa did exactly what they were supposed to do. And they were required to arrest this man, and they did. So no reflection on you, Sergeant, or your team.

Thank you, fantastic panel.

Shock and horror. Cops say another 11-year-old girl is sexually assaulted by a group of males. This time it happened in California. In a jaw-dropping twist, cops say she was lured into the attack by another girl.

And we`re also taking your calls on this: 1-877-JVM-SAYS. That`s 1- 877-586-7927. What is going on?

But first, I`m going to talk live with a woman who endured the unthinkable. She was held as a sex slave for five days, abducted and repeatedly violated before making a heroic escape, even as her husband had been murdered. She`s going to tell you her story. It`s unbelievable. This story live next. You got to check it out.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He said he saw me in the yard and he wanted me and he waited in my house for me. And then my husband came in, and he shot him.



LARRY FOWLER, PARKER COUNTY SHERIFF: All of a sudden the door burst open, and she came rushing out screaming, "I`m here! I`m here!"

I hope I never see it again. To me, it was a house of horrors.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: The war on women rages on. That`s right: the war on women. A 62-year-old woman rescued after 12 days of being raped inside a dungeon. The suspect, Jeffrey Maxwell, behind bars tonight as police investigate him in the disappearances of three other women. That includes his ex-wife, who vanished 20 years ago. They are testing, as we speak, blood-soaked evidence from inside Maxwell`s home to see if anyone else`s DNA turns up.

Tonight I`m going to talk with a woman who survived an eerily similar nightmare back in 1998. Debra Puglisi Sharp was abducted from her home, bludgeoned and raped by her husband`s killer. After five long days of torture, she managed heroically to call 911 from her captor`s home. Listen to this.


DEBRA PUGLISI SHARP, VICTIM: He killed my husband.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you know who this guy is?

SHARP: Help me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you know who this guy is?

SHARP: No, I don`t know him. Help me. Help me, please.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Debra`s rapist, Donald Flagg, a coke-addicted factory worker, is now serving multiple life sentences. More from her chilling 911 call in just a moment.

But first, straight out to one of my heroes, Debra Puglisi Sharp, author of "Shattered: Reclaiming a Life Torn Apart by Violence."

Debra, it is such an honor to have you on our show. You are a true inspiration. Thank you for speaking out.

SHARP: Thank you.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Take us back to those horrific five days. You were gardening. You were planting rose bushes.

SHARP: Yes, I was.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: And then your husband, then-husband came home. He goes inside the house. What happened next? Give us a recap.

SHARP: Well, in a nutshell, because of course, this occurred over 101 hours, I entered the house thinking my husband was still alive inside, and I was immediately bludgeoned and attacked. I was raped in my own home, and then I was bound and gagged.

Before that, I was dragged to the basement and raped by my husband`s murderer. At the time, I did not know that my husband had been murdered.

I was then placed in the trunk of my husband`s murderer`s car, taken to his home, where I remained four or five days. And it wasn`t until the second day of captivity that I learned that this man had murdered my husband.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: How did you learn that?

SHARP: And lured me (ph) did remain -- well, I -- on the second day - - again I`m bound and gagged. And he had on the radio or the television. To this day I still don`t know. But he had the radio on, and a radio announcer said that Anthony Puglisi had been shot and killed, and his wife was missing. They had no idea where I was.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Oh, my gosh. Now, after five days of torture you were finally able to free yourself and call 911. Heroic action. Let`s listen to what you told the 911 dispatcher.


SHARP: He said he had to go to work. And I took a chance. He had a tie cord from my handcuffs to my feet, and I worked and I worked, and I got the knot undone.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Describe the level of fear you fought through as you courageously made that risky leap to freedom by wiggling to that phone. What was going through you?

SHARP: Well, initially, Jane, I have to say, I -- the five days that I was held hostage, I wouldn`t allow myself to feel emotion. I really believed this man was going to kill me.

However, I did befriend him, and when he went to work that final night, the thing that saved my life was he replaced the ropes with handcuffs. I had greater flexibility. So when I removed the hogtie, I was able to get to a phone, which thank the Lord, it was a land line, and his address appeared on the emergency screen.


SHARP: But the emotion was just unbelievable. Unbelievable.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Unbelievable story. We`re just getting started. Stay right there. We`re going to hear more from this heroic woman`s lips in just a moment.

And later, Facebook, is it causing kids to get depressed? A new study you need to hear about could be of concern.

But first, I`m going to talk more with this brave rape survivor. More of her bone-chilling story on the other side of the break.



SHARP: Help me! Help me! Help me! Help me! Help me!


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Rape victim Debra Puglisi erupted in terror and relief as police rescued her from five days of torture. Her husband had already been murdered. She thought she might be next.

Debra, here sharing her extraordinary story. Debra, your attacker has been described as a cocaine addict. Drug abuse is at the heart of so many problems in the war on women. But do you think that was a factor in his violent behavior?

SHARP: It definitely was, Jane. Definitely.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: You said you befriended him during your abduction.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: During the five days you were held. And were you attacked during those five days? And how did you befriend him?

SHARP: I certainly was attacked during the five days. And on the third day, I did notice a difference in his behavior where he told me he was stopping the drugs.

However, I decided at that point do I have a chance? And so I decided, OK, you need to like him. You need to get him to like you. I befriended him. I tried to gain his trust. I believed that I was smarter than he was, so he did actually start not to treat me nicely but differently. And he -- he thought he had a relationship with me. And I did what I needed to do to survive.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: You have shared your amazing story on "Oprah" and on the A&E biography series, "I Survived." Here`s a clip of that series.


SHARP: When I pleaded with him to stop, he laughed. And he just continued. So I learned early on that this is an evil man and that I had to just take it.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: You have now turned into a crusader who helps victimized women reclaim their lives. Bravo to you for turning that around.

How did you suffer psychologically and emotionally after you were freed? What happened to you emotionally?

SHARP: Well, if you can just imagine. But, you know, the whole motivation for me to reclaim my life was I had -- I have two beautiful children. And I just needed to get back my life, reclaim my life.

So I actually had a wonderful counselor, diagnosed with post-traumatic stress syndrome but I had cognitive behavioral therapy. And I was able to overcome a lot of my fears. I was able to become a woman again. Because most women who have been raped repeatedly, as I have, have not been able to move on with intimate relationships. So I had intense mental health counseling.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Now in the 62-year-old woman`s case we covered recently, it turned out when they got into this Jeffrey Maxwell`s house, they found all sorts of violent porn, including "Brutal Women`s Prison 3" and "How to Punish." Do you think the violence in the porn that we have today in our culture is impacting these mentally unstable, drug-addicted, perhaps, men?

SHARP: I do. I do feel that, Jane. I really do.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: We`ve got to do something about this porn.

SHARP: Definitely. We do. We do. There is so much. But you know, the thing of it -- the one thing I`m very proud of is there`s more awareness today, and that`s what I`m all about is awareness. Education and prevention.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: You are my hero. I want to thank you. You are inspiring to so many women who have been attacked...

SHARP: Thank you.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: ... and who don`t have the wherewithal to come forward. Come back, please, tomorrow.

SHARP: Thank you.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: A photo of a murder victim posted on Facebook by a paramedic. You won`t...


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Shock and outrage. Cops say another 11-year-old girl is sexually assaulted by at least six boys, this time in California. Investigators say an older girl lured the victim into the bathroom so the boys could assault her. What the hell is going on in this country?

Plus, is Facebook putting your kids in danger? Some doctors now warning obsession with the site can cause "Facebook depression". When peer pressure and popularity contests go global, can keeping up with the "in" crowd make your kids despondent? I`m taking your calls.


EDWARD LAWRENCE, KCAL REPORTER: The 11 year old was already inside the bathroom when, police say, the seven teenage boys cornered her inside.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Tonight, cops reporting there`s been yet another depraved and demented attack on an innocent 11-year-old girl. This time it`s California. Cops say seven -- yes, count them -- seven reputed gang members allegedly cornered a little girl in a park bathroom and took turns sexually assaulting her. The attack comes on the heels of the alleged gang rape of a different 11-year-old girl in Texas.

What the hell is going on in America that we would see two of these horrific cases in such a short span?

We can only show the mug shot of one of the California suspects, 19- year-old Michael Sykes, because he`s the only adult charged; the rest are teenagers. That`s right. Underage. Minors. Kids, for lack of a better word. But cops say they are all gang members. And neighbors say they have seen other problems at that very park.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Even during the day there`s people having sex here, smoking weed, selling stuff.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There`s this bunch of nonsense around here. That`s just one of these deals on this side of town.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Also under arrest, a girl who cops say lured the 11- year-old child into the bathroom where the suspects were waiting and that female suspect also a minor.

We were shocked and outraged when we heard about the 11-year-old girl allegedly gang raped in Texas near Houston. But now I`m really totally speechless. Something is seriously wrong with our society that this keeps on happening.

And I want to hear from you. Call me 1-877-JVM-SAYS; that`s 1-877- 586-7297. Call me, seriously.

Straight out to reporter Joe Gomez with KTRH News Radio; now, Joe you are in Texas. You have been covering the Texas case. Is there any talk in Texas about the fact that cops say this has happened again except in California, the same type of horrific sexual assault involving an 11-year- old girl.

JOE GOMEZ, REPORTER, KTRH NEWS RADIO: There has Jane and I can boil it down to two words for you: shock and horror. Nobody could have expected that a tragedy like that struck Cleveland, Texas, could happen somewhere else especially in California. As long as I`ve been a reporter I would never have guessed that two 11-year-old little girls could be the victims of a gang rape within the span of a few months of each other.

I mean both of these cases bear striking similarities. One of the major ones is that in both of these cases the 11-year-old victims were lured away from a safe zone by somebody who is either near their age or they trusted who acted as some sort of a go-between.

In the California case, the 11-year-old girl was lured out of a shopping mall to a dark and dank men`s room in a park by another girl who was a minor. Now, in Texas the little 11-year-old victim was lured away from home by boys that she apparently know to an abandoned trailer home.

However, in this case her attackers had filmed the assault. We don`t know if that`s the case in California, Jane.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, when you hear some of the charges against adult charged in the California attack, it`s so horrifying. We cannot give you the details on television about what cops say was done to this 11-year-old California girl.

We can tell that you 19-year-old Michael Sykes, who is a known member of the South Side Mafia Street Gang, is charged with raping the 11-year-old girl in the park bathroom and also aggravated assault among other things.

Let`s remember that six other minor boys were also arrested which brings me to my big issue: minor madness. What is it with young boys allegedly taking part in sexual sadism? Why are these underage kids throwing away their lives?

There are also four minors arrested in the Texas case. One boy in the Texas was only 14 years old. Now this is absolutely frightening. I had been a reporter -- I don`t even want to admit it -- for 33 years. I have not covered these kinds of stories in my career involving minor boys accused of sexually assaulting 11-year-old girls, over the course of 33 years having working all across the country.

This is a relatively new phenomenon at least being reported. But I have to wonder, could it be because of the sexually-charged violence kids are exposed to these days on TV, in the movies and video games? It`s always some girl getting attacked, getting raped, getting chased and it`s often glamorized and highly sexualized.

J. Wyndal Gordon, criminal defense attorney, do I -- am I onto something here?

J. WYNDAL GORDON, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, you know, every time I hear about a gang rape case, I`m going to be honest with you, Jane, I become very suspicious. I become suspicious for any number of reasons. But one of the reasons I become suspicious is because, you know, the mere presence at the scene of a crime right or wrong does not make one guilty of an offense. If this girl was raped by seven people, she`s going to have to tell that story seven times if these individuals are charged separately and --

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Excuse me J. Wyndal that I have to tell you that in the Texas case, there is videotape of these alleged rapes occurring. And in both cases there is going to be DNA if the child was sexually assaulted, DNA of the suspects. So if you`re saying that this is in the imagination of the child, I have to say that I think that`s a very dangerous road to go down, J. Wyndal.

GORDON: What I am saying is none of the evidence has been presented; if there is videotape I`m sure that certain of those individuals will be exonerated. Just because you`re charged with a crime doesn`t make you guilty of a crime.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Are you -- you`re telling me -- wait a second. You`re saying that if there`s videotape of someone having sex with an 11- year-old girl they`re going to get acquitted. That`s not going to happen.

GORDON: No, I`m not saying that but I`m saying if there`s videotape of someone having sex with an 11-year-old girl and there`s other people just standing around not doing anything, perhaps not even interested or disinterested in what`s going on, I don`t think that they should be charged with the same offense.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Debra Puglisi Sharp, you were kidnapped and raped for five days. What are your thoughts as you listen to all this?

DEBRA PUGLISI SHARP, KIDNAPPED AND RAPED FOR FIVE DAYS: First of all, I`m just taken aback because I agree with you, Jane. This gang rape of this 11-year-old just really upsets me. But I think though this has been happening, but I think because of our talk, we`re actually talking about rape now and I think that it`s something that`s become more aware of and it just really upsets me that -- I think what`s coming into play here, too is some victim blaming, ok.

And, you know, I`m really worried about our young women and the fact that we have these young women out here and they have to worry about the consequences and worry about, you know, just what`s going to happen legally. This young woman certainly, certainly has to have many of us on her side.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Look, Debra she`s not even a young woman. We`re talking about two 11-year-old girls, one in California and one in Texas.

I want to go to a caller. Ken, Illinois, your question or thought, sir?

KEN, ILLINOIS (via telephone): I`m just so outrageously mad at all of this. Why these boys think they can get away with doing this stuff to young girls and things. I know for a fact because my daughter was molested and the guy is just going to get away scot-free.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: I have to say, going back J. Wyndal Gordon I think it`s a very dangerous path to go down to say, well, it didn`t happen. Or blame the victim.

GORDON: That`s not what I`m saying.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: However, however -- let me finish -- I do feel that the youngsters, the males, the young boys who are lured into this by older adult boys are victims themselves. These are -- a 14-year-old boy, how would he even know what the word rape means?

I feel that these young kids who are somehow drawn into this and then there`s intense peer pressure perhaps exerted on them -- if what the cops are saying is true -- to go through this as some kind of rite of passage is what is terrifying to me. And I feel those youngsters are victims as well of an entire societal breakdown that has somehow put them in that situation.

I would like to get your thought on that, J. Wyndal.

GORDON: Well, I`m not quick to jump on the bandwagon that all of these guys are guilty just because they`ve been paraded in front of our televisions and with their mug shots displayed. I need to know more.

I have represented people personally who have been charged with these types of crimes and I`ve had them acquitted and they`ve been exonerated because the evidence was not there.

Now these charges are very nasty, nasty charges. You have to defend yourself not only in the court of law but also in the court of public opinion. That makes our job as defense attorneys very difficult and makes my job particularly difficult to defend the rights of these young men.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: But there have been people who have tried to blame the victim. And I think as Wendy Murphy put it and I`ll quote her, you could be 11 years old and running down the street naked screaming rape me and to attack or sexually assault --

GORDON: I agree with that statement.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: a child of that age is unconscionable. It doesn`t matter what the child did or said.

GORDON: I agree.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: So we`re going to have to see this play out. And I think we`ve had a healthy debate on this subject.

But boy, is it a hot button issue.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Thank you fantastic panel.

Coming up next, can Facebook put your kids at risk? Can keeping up with the global "in" crowd push kids who might not have that many friends into total depression? I`m taking your calls.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was a whirlwind. It was Josh saying horrible things to Megan. Megan saying things back to him.




RON MEIER, MEGAN`S FATHER: The world would be a better off place without you and have (EXPLETIVE DELETED) rest of your life.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: That was the father of Megan Meier who hanged herself after she got some very nasty messages, like that one, over the social networking site MySpace. She was relentlessly tormented online and her case put cyber bullying in the nation`s spotlight. Tonight we ask, can Facebook lead kids into depression? Check out "The Social Network" from Columbia Pictures.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People want to go on the Internet and check out their friends. So why not build a Web site that offers that, friends` pictures and profiles and talking about taking the entire social experience of college and putting it online.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Sure, people want to check out their friends. But a new study claims social networking can lead to depression in some cases. Now, it warns parents need to be on the lookout for "Facebook depression", a condition that may affect teenagers who obsess over the Web site.

Let`s face it. If the kid`s lonely and then they go online to connect and then they see, look at that one she has so many more friends and this one has so many more friends and this one has a cool status update or look at those exciting photos; it could cause them to feel even lonelier and even causing a panic, compare themselves. It`s the "keeping up with the Joneses" mentality in an intense digital world.

I want to go out to Ryan Van Cleave, author of "Unplugged: my journey into the dark world of video game addiction". And I know Ryan from having read your fantastic book that you considered suicide because you got so hooked on Internet gaming. But it`s possibly a parallel situation. Do you think that a social networking site like Facebook could cause some teenagers who have problems to get into a depression?

RYAN VAN CLEAVE, AUTHOR "UNPLUGGED" (via telephone): Yes. I think you are right there. It`s parents who allow their kids unsupervised access to social networking, Internet, video games. They are essentially buying bullets for a gun they didn`t even know that their kids had. And what we`re starting to find out now more than ever is the sort of damage that they can do to themselves and to each other if they don`t know how to handle things there.

One of the biggest problems you see is that the kids don`t realize what they say is permanent. You can`t take it back. I just tell them don`t say anything in social networking that you wouldn`t want tattooed on your forehead for an entire week.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, of course. And it`s a lot easier to be mean. I talk about this in my book, "Addict Nation" about Internet addiction, addiction to social networking sites and how addictions causes people to get nasty. We just saw addiction caused somebody to rape and torture a woman and murder her husband.

But even on the Internet if you`re addicted can cause your behavior to spew into some very toxic stuff. Here`s my big issue: is the so-called Facebook depression as some claim could happen a symptom or cause? Is Facebook or only -- any social networking site just going to trigger an underlying depression or could it actually cause depression in an otherwise healthy person?

Let`s listen to Megan Meier`s dad once again.


MEIER: She got bullied in school. She had big self-esteem issues. She struggled with depression since she was in the third grade.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: so, as we told you earlier, Megan tragically committed suicide after she was cyber bullied over MySpace.

I want to go out to Jamison Monroe, who is an addiction specialist and he is the founder and CEO of the Newport Academy. You deal with teens, who are addicted every day of the week; that`s your entire career. Do you see teens, who are already perhaps lonely becoming depressed when they go on Facebook and becoming obsessed with comparing their lives with another teenager`s life?

JAMISON MONROE, ADDICTION SPECIALIST: Absolutely, Jane. What a lot of people don`t realize is there has been a mass exodus of teenagers from real life to virtual and online worlds. The average kid in America today will play 10,000 hours of video games before the age of 21. That`s equal to the number of hours that they will be in school from kindergarten through 12th grade if they go to school every day.

So what`s happening here is that virtual world is really just becoming an extension of real life and that`s only going to be -- continue to become more so.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: By the way, we reached out to Facebook for a response. And they focused on the positive findings from the study saying Facebook can enhance communication and social interaction, develop technical skills and even help young people discover opportunities to get involved in their community.

So I don`t think we can certainly condemn Facebook. To me it`s a brilliant invention. I really feel that it`s about moderation and balance.

Addiction is about extremes.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: If you`re going to focus addictively on Facebook and I know people who are addicted to Facebook and they can`t stop themselves. Every photograph they take goes up on Facebook. They are constantly, constantly contacting me with their latest updates and I think they are addicted. That`s when the problem occurs because it`s not real life or else.

We`ll be back in a moment with more analysis.



VELEZ-MITCHELL: You know how many people are registered users of Farmville? 61 million -- equivalent to the entire population of the United Kingdom. Howard.

HOWARD SAMUELS, ADDICTION SPECIALIST: You know, Jane, I mean, this is such an example of addiction. Talk about self obsession, OCD.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Farmville is a popular Facebook game. And now some doctors are warning that social media obsession may causing teenagers to suffer from Facebook depression.

And we`re taking your calls. Helen, New Mexico, your question or though ma`am.

HELEN, NEW MEXICO (via telephone): I think this goes back -- I`m 48 years -- back to before even they had Facebook. You know, being in school and getting picked on and now I just think it is even worse because you have every kid putting anything about anybody on there.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Absolutely. I agree with you.

Jamison Monroe, it is easier to be nasty on a social networking site than it is in person. If I say to you, you know what; you are a bleep. In person, first of all, I have to suffer the consequences from dealing with you face-to-face. But if I do it on a social networking site, I don`t have to really suffer those consequences of having to see you, your reaction when I say that.

MONROE: Yes, Jane, you are exactly right. It takes away the personal relationship completely out of it. And it allows kids to be more bullying than they probably would in real life.

I want to point out that Facebook also, like you talked about, lends itself to being able to click through to other games that are on Facebook, social media, social games, like Farmville.

You know, at Newport Academy, we actually do treat kids for Internet and game addiction. And we see the withdrawal is very similar to alcohol and drug withdrawal. The thing is that things that make you feel good are good in moderation but anything in excess can be detrimental.

And if you take one of the definitions of addiction, being continued use despite negative consequences, we have kids that play games for 24 hours, 36 hours straight without sleep. They drink Red Bull. They just stay in front of their computer for hours on end and that can be damaging.

Now, research always shows that games can be positive because they do create a sense of community. They create a sense purpose. They create a sense of engagement which combats boredom. They`re also good for education purposes. There is a company called Good Life Learning that`s using social games to combat substance abuse prevention, which I`m sure you`ll like.

So there can be -- there`s positives and negatives --


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes. But you`re right. If it is an addiction -- it is not just kids. Let`s talk about some addictions to Facebook. Certainly people can get wrapped up in this online world and it can become an actual obsession. I have two cases to tell you about.

Remember the mom whose one -year-old son drowned because she left him alone in the tub while she went on Facebook or how about the other woman who admitted to shaking her three-month-old baby to death because his crying distracted her from the popular Facebook game Farmville?

Ryan Van Cleave, you think this is just not believable, but it actually -- these are two real cases.

VAN CLEAVE: (INAUDIBLE) days of the hands on parenting and expecting to work to watch out for your kids.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Ok. Well, we cannot really hear you. Guess what, Ryan? Stay with us. We`re going to have more after this.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Here is my take. Facebook is an image makeover, a tool to improve your image. It is easy to portray yourself as cool online because you are filtering out all of the bad stuff. People almost become their own publicist. They show the world what they want you to see.

And you know, there is a phrase in recovery that says never compare your insides with somebody else`s outsides because they are portraying themselves as much better than they may be feeling.

And there is another saying. All comparison leads to sorrow. So I think if you look at Facebook and start comparing yourself to people who have 2,000 friends, you`re doing yourself a disservice. This is supposed to be a tool for communication, not for comparison.

And this is what parents have to be on the lookout. The self esteem comes from the inside. Not from presenting this fabulous view of yourself to the world that may or may not be real. Check it out.

Nancy Grace up next.