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Molester to Walk Free?; Florida Woman Suspected of Stealing from In- Laws to Fuel Gambling

Aired April 7, 2011 - 19:00:00   ET



JANE VELEZ-MITCHELL, HOST (voice-over): Tonight, public outrage, a complete breakdown of the criminal justice system in Utah. Today, a judge decides if a registered sex offender accused of sexually abusing children will walk away scot-free without ever facing trial. We`re talking about a registered pedophile, possibly walking the streets tonight. How the hell could this happen?

And cops say a slot-machine addict cleaned out her in-laws to the tune of half a million dollars. Investigators say she poured almost $14 million into the slots, leaving a devastated family in her wake. Could this happen to your family?

Also, a road rage horror story. Cops say a road rager gets into an argument with a mom driving a van full of kids, and a toddler is suddenly shot. How can you protect yourself from the road ragers?

Plus, a jaw-dropping judgment day in Florida, as teenagers take over the court system and decide punishments for each other. It`s a wild experiment. We`ll tell you the shocking results, and I`m taking your calls.

ISSUES starts now.



CHRISTY DANNER, DAUGHTER ALLEGEDLY MOLESTED BY LONNIE JOHNSON: So we just wait for more victims and then he uses the same loophole? Is that what we`re being told? How many victims do we need before we close this loophole?


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Breaking news tonight: a child molester about to walk free on a technicality. You can thank our nation`s junk justice system for that one.

A judge has just given final approval to release 38-year-old Lonnie Johnson. He was convicted of raping a girl in Washington just five years ago. He is now accused of raping his own stepdaughter and her cousin repeatedly over several years, but Lonnie never even went on trial for these charges. Why, you ask? Well, let`s me tell you the story.

This creep was found incompetent to stand trial, because some shrinks decided he had some kind of, quote, "cognitive disorder."

I asked the suspect`s sister-in-law, who`s known him for years, what this so-called disorder could possibly be. Listen to this.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Is there anything that you can do to describe this so-called cognitive disorder that makes him incompetent to stand trial? Something, is he pulling his hair out in tufts, anything?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, I don`t believe he has any problem at all.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: No problem at all. So why this predator was spared a trial based on a scam or a lie, I don`t know.

Let`s say he is, for a second, for argument, genuinely incompetent. Well, then, stick him in a mental hospital, right? That`s what happened initially, but a psychiatrist recently declared he is no longer a threat to the public, meaning they legally have to let him walk out the door, which he`s scheduled to do any moment now. Does that make any sense? Too incompetent to stand trial but still not a danger to society?

Did I mention this guy was already convicted of raping a girl, and cops say he sexually assaulted two other girls? How could shrinks decide a convicted child rapist is not dangerous?

The prosecutor who wants to put Lonnie behind bars has simply thrown up his hands.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our hands are tied, and so we`ve relied on the media to get the word out, essentially that this guy is going to be on the loose.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: I want to hear from you. Call me: 1-877-JVM-SAYS. That`s 1-877-586-7297.

This story is breaking as we speak. Straight out to Annie Cutler, reporter for reporter KTVX.

Annie, you are right outside the mental hospital where Lonnie has been for three years. It`s breaking news. Tell us what is going on right now.

ANNIE CUTLER, REPORTER, KTVX: Well, hi to you, Jane. At this hour, I have made calls to the prosecutor. He tells me that he will not know or be told when Lonnie Johnson will walk out of here a free man.

I`ve called the Utah court`s PR, public relations person. She has not called me back. I have also called a PR person for the Utah State Hospital here, the human services. She has not called me back to confirm if, in fact, Lonnie Johnson has already walked out of here a free man.

But I can tell you, Jane, that when court let out this afternoon, that Lonnie was brought back here to the Utah State Hospital, where he`s been held for the last 130 weeks or so as doctors have tried to regain his competency so that he can stand trial. I`m told that he was going to be signing some paperwork and then be released to his family. So, that is the latest that`s going on here at the Utah State Hospital.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Are there protesters there? Are there any people who are saying, "Hey, this guy shouldn`t get out"?

CUTLER: Yes, no protesters here at the hospital, but before this court hearing at 1 p.m. Mountain Time started this afternoon, there were about a dozen or so friends and family members of Johnson`s alleged victims. They were holding signs, saying, "Don`t let this child sex abuser go," "If he is not deemed a substantial danger to society, who is?" Signs urging the doctors that have deemed him not a threat to society, "Hey, doctors, would you want him babysitting your kids?"

That was the message. Those were the signs held up again by family and friends of Johnson`s alleged victims outside of court this afternoon.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: I want to go to one of my heroes, Diena Thompson, who has become a national spokeswoman for victims` rights. Her precious daughter, Somer, was horrifically sexually assaulted, kidnapped and murdered, and the man who is going to be on trial for that horror had a history, cops say, of child molestation. So he was a ticking time bomb.

Diena, what is your reaction to the fact they`re going to let this predator, convicted predator and now accused of 21 more counts of sexually assaulting a stepdaughter and a cousin, let this guy walk out the door?

DIENA THOMPSON, MOTHER OF MURDER VICTIM: Well, hello, Jane, and thank you again for having me on and letting me -- letting me speak my opinion. And I am mortified by that thought.

You said earlier that he`d already been convicted once and he may not be competent or they`re saying that he`s not competent now. But how many times do you have -- does he have to hurt somebody before they`re going to realize that he has issues? And frankly, I think that it`s disgusting.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: I want to get to the bottom of this mystery cognitive disorder, whatever it is. His estranged wife said flat out, he`s faking it. Here`s what his sister-in-law told us here on ISSUES. Check this out.


KRISTY JOHNSON, LONNIE JOHNSON`S SISTER-IN-LAW: He`s convicted on rape charges up there, but then when he comes back, they have him play this card of "I`m incompetent." And I`m not -- again, I don`t understand how you can go from being this thriving person with the wonderful business, beautiful home. And all of a sudden, you`re in -- you can`t, you know, be competent to stand trial?


VELEZ-MITCHELL: OK. Dr. Dale Archer, he had a successful stone masonry business. His estranged wife says he`s dyslexic but otherwise OK. How can shrinks decide he has a cognitive disorder?

DR. DALE ARCHER, PSYCHIATRIST: Well, first of all, if you open up the psychiatric manual, there is no cognitive disorder that`s in there. That`s No. 1.

So I think that what we`re talking about here is probably a psychotic disorder. And one of the characteristics of that is what we call a thought disorder, and that means jumbled, illogical thinking. But here`s the deal.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: I`ve got jumbled and illogical thinking on many occasions.

ARCHER: I know, but Jane, the bottom line is every state in the country has three criteria, by and large, to commit someone against their will: danger to self, danger to others, and gravely disabled. However, in Utah, they don`t have the gravely disabled aspect of that.

But you know what? It doesn`t matter.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: I know what you`re trying to say. What you`re trying to say is that a danger to society, according to the law, you have to hurt somebody physically.

ARCHER: No, not...

VELEZ-MITCHELL: And when he is raping somebody -- well, that`s what they`re saying. The reason why he`s not a danger to society is he didn`t hurt anybody physically, even though he destroyed the life of this -- this child, these children, allegedly, that -- look at these counts. So OK, he didn`t leave a bruise and that makes it OK?

ARCHER: Well, no, no. My argument would be, though, that if you`re not competent, by definition, that means you are psychotic, and if you were psychotic, you meet criteria to be in a mental institution.

And so he needs to either be on trial, if they can make him competent, and if they can`t make him competent, he needs to spend the rest of his life in a mental institution until he can become competent tenth and face those charges.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, unfortunately, you aren`t the shrink who interviewed him and decided that he was cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs, and therefore, he`s incompetent to stand trial, but oops, not a danger to society, because he didn`t bruise anybody in the process of destroying their lives emotionally and psychologically.

Gwen, Alabama, your question or thought, ma`am.

CALLER: Yes. I would just like to say that I think this is going on too long. And they need to these guys and surgically remove their private parts and reroute their stuff so they can go to the bathroom. And I thank that would kind of stop this. Maybe not all of them, but these guys are not all crazy.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, that is a rather -- well, listen, here`s the thing. There is something called medical castration.

ARCHER: Chemical castration.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Chemical castration. I guess you`re going to have to take that one, too, Dr. Dale.

ARCHER: Yes. Chemical castration actually has been found to be very effective. What it does is it replaces the male hormones in the body with female hormones, and it takes away the sex drive. And it works. It does work. The only problem is, it has to be supervised, so you make sure the individual is actually taking those drugs.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes. And, quickly, you can`t just do that. That`s a whole other court case.

JANELL WEINSTEIN, TRIAL ATTORNEY: That`s absolutely right. In some states it`s voluntary. There are some offenders that do volunteer to get that done, but very few. So it`s such lunacy what`s going on here.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes, and one of the reasons why they volunteer is that they know that they cannot control their urges when they get an urge to do something like this. We all know that pedophiles are not capable of rehabilitation in 90 percent of the cases.

OK. Stay right there. More on this Utah pedophile being set free. It`s an outrage. The calls are lining up on the other side. We`re taking them: 1-877-JVM-SAYS.

Also, later, road rage out of control. You will not believe this.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The doctor who makes that call and is the gatekeeper within the hospital has decided that, while he has a mental illness, he is not a substantial danger to society.




MIKE BROOKS, HLN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Predators like this guy, like Lonnie Johnson, they don`t get better.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Of course not.

BROOKS: They get worse.

JOHNSON: If he`s let loose, there will be more victims.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Convicted child rapist Lonnie Johnson, he`s about to walk any second now. We`ve got a reporter standing by at the scene.

This guy, found unfit to stand trial, and yet, shrinks say he`s not a danger to the public. So the judge let him walk, even though he`s facing something like 21 felony counts, accused of repeatedly sexually assaulting his stepdaughter and a cousin.

Jim Dalrymple from "The Daily Herald," you`ve been studying this case. OK, we`ve got lawyers and psychiatrists who can`t figure out what this -- this bizarre cognitive disorder is. Do you have any clue?

JIM DALRYMPLE, "THE DAILY HERALD" (via phone): I do not, actually. People have a -- people have been pretty tight-lipped about that. Craig Johnson has said he can`t reveal a lot of information about the cognitive disorder. And...

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Hey, do you think -- Jim, let me ask you this question. Do you think it`s possible that this guy has something on the powers that be? Maybe he`s friends with somebody?

Because I don`t -- we got lawyers and doctors here who cannot understand why they`re letting this guy go, even though he`s facing almost two dozen felony counts of sexual assault against children for some mystery cognitive disorder that all his relatives say he doesn`t really have, except dyslexia which, I mean, come on. So, he can`t -- he can`t take notes in court. Well, maybe somebody could type for him.

DALRYMPLE: Yes, I don`t know. I mean, I know I`ve been told that the -- the evaluations that he underwent were based on relatively short conversations that the psychiatrists had with him. And so I don`t know necessarily how thorough they were, though I was told they took into account, again, this so-called cognitive disorder as well as his -- his past and his sexual convictions before. But -- but I really don`t know much more than that.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes, well, let me say this. I think the shrinks who decided that this guy is incompetent to stand trial, they need to go to shrinks.

Here`s my big issue.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Is Lonnie a ticking time bomb? We see these molesters fall through the court`s fingers before with horrific results. Remember John Gardner, who served five years for violent sexual assault on a teenaged girl? Then he got out. He violated parole repeatedly, and they could have tossed him back in prison for parole violations.

But no, this ticking time bomb was allowed to go off parole. They took off his GPS tracking device. And he went on to rape and murder two teenage girls.

Diena Thompson, you are a spokeswoman for victims` rights. You are the mother of a beautiful child who was horrifically murdered by someone who had a history of pornography, allegedly, and molestation. This has got to make your blood boil.

THOMPSON: It does. It makes me think that maybe, you know, if this were to happen to the powers that be, whoever has decided that this man is not competent, but since he`s not competent, let`s let him out of the -- the asylum, maybe if something happened to, like, that has happened to myself and many, many others, maybe if it happened to them, they would understand that this -- he has a record.

We can`t make deals with these kinds of people. And I read that the mother said that they`re not going to quit fighting. And I want to tell that mother I am so proud of her. And if she needs my help to fight this fight with her, I will be here, because this is an outrage.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: And you are a potent ally, Diena Thompson.

I want to go to Janell Weinstein, trial attorney. What can the victims and their family members, the estranged wife of this guy, what can they do?

WEINSTEIN: Well, they can try to go after them civilly, but it`s going to be very difficult. I mean, the issue that the offenders` family is saying, is that, "Look, these are baseless, because they`re going through a divorce." I mean, seriously? They even have the -- I can`t even come up with the right word to even put that out there.

So they can look at some civil action against them, but we all know that that`s not going to do anything to protect other children. This man is going to offend again. And everybody knows that.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: They`re not even going to put a GPS tracking device on this guy. Annie Cutler, you`re outside the Provo, Utah, mental hospital, where he is apparently packing his bags, ready to walk out right now. What`s going to happen next, because I understand that the battle continues? There`s going to be a hearing in a couple of weeks?

CUTLER: Right. The battle does continue, and we`re talking about family members of these alleged victims say they`re not going to -- they`re not going to let this die. They`re not going to lay down and just let this go away. They are here. They`re going to take this to the very end.

The judge himself today, Judge Taylor, made a motion on his own accord, saying that the 20 felony counts against him for child sex abuse have not been dismissed. He still faces those here in Utah.

And the judge has set a date for November 17 for Lonnie Johnson and his attorney and both sides to be back in court here in Provo. At that point, the judge is going to review Johnson`s competency, as well as his criminal case. If, by that time, he should have met with two new psychiatrists, two new doctors, which will evaluate him and assess again whether he will be competent to stand trial or not.

So in six months from now, at the very longest time, if he`s deemed competent to stand trial, those charges against him, again, 20 felony counts, will be tried in court.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Wow. Well, Janell Weinstein, I at least hope that, if they get let this guy go -- which I pray that they don`t, but apparently they are any second -- that they put a tail on him and have our tax dollars, of course, paying for watching him 24/7, around the clock, so that he doesn`t go out and attack another child. Ten seconds.

WEINSTEIN: Absolutely, Jane. I mean, the media has a hold of this, so everybody is aware. The police are going to be watching him. He does have his rights, but everybody is looking out for him now. We all know what he looks like.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes, but still, I worry.

WEINSTEIN: Six months is a long time.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Thank you, fantastic panel.

Top of the hour, Nancy Grace will go in depth on this outrageous story. That`s right here at 8 Eastern on HLN.

Come up later, a road-rage argument. Police say shocking violence, one toddler caught in the crossfire.

But first, alleged slot machine addict drains her in-laws` bank accounts of half a million clams.






VELEZ-MITCHELL: Tonight, was a 42-year-old Florida teacher so hooked on gambling that she bankrupted her elderly in-laws? Cops say Jennifer Dennison stole more than a half a million bucks from her 88-year-old father-in-law and her 73-year-old mother-in-law, who had advanced dementia, so she could support her gambling habit. Nice. Nice, lady.

Cop says Dennison was able to rack up and then spend a whopping total of 14 million bucks at the Hard Rock Casino in Tampa over a two-year period.

Unfortunately for her husband`s parents, her winnings were not exceeded by her losses. She ultimately ended up 700 grand in the red.

This is sick. These guys, these elderly folks had dementia.

By the way, ISSUES tried but was unable to contact Ms. Dennison, who was charged with exploitation of the elderly, fraud and forgery.

Straight out to Howard Samuels, addiction specialist, CEO and founder of the Hill Street Center in L.A.

Howard, I wrote a book, "Addict Nation." I talked about gambling addiction. It is sweeping the country. But this lady, wow, she did it in a criminal fashion that is despicable to two elderly people who couldn`t defend themselves.

HOWARD SAMUELS, ADDICTION SPECIALIST: Yes, Jane. I mean, I`ve got to say this case really takes the cake. I mean, so horrific.

You know, but gambling addiction is one of the worst addictions there is out there. In fact, I compare it to heroin addiction, to how devastating it can be. Because what the gambling addict does, they destroy families, just like in this case. The gambling addict, their drug of choice is money. And they need that money to get that high on the gambling table.

So, to me, it`s right up there with heroin as something that really, really needs to be looked at and educating people about.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes, and my book ISSUES [SIC] is all about this. And I have a whole chapter devoted to rampant addiction in this country. Gambling addiction. And the Internet has super-sized, super-sized gambling because when you`re on the Internet, you can be gambling 24/7, 364 or 365. Maybe you take one day off.

SAMUELS: Right. A lot of my clients, Jane, that I have that are gambling addicts, you know, their Internet is right in their home. So, it`s, like, very easy. They walk over to their computer, and they get on. And they start gambling, and 5, 10, $20,000 later, they are destroyed. It`s just unbelievable what happens.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: And guess what? There are estimates that most pathological gamblers end up committing crimes in order to support their gambling habit. And this woman basically, allegedly, ripped off her in- laws.

SAMUELS: Yes. Very, very -- very depressing, very sad.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Do you treat gamblers? Do you treat gamblers?

SAMUELS: Oh, absolutely, Jane. I treat a lot of gambling addicts, and it is such an insidious disease. And you`re going to find that a lot of gambling addicts have other addictions.


SAMUELS: They`ll have drug addictions. They`ll have -- they`ll be alcoholic. They`ll have food addictions. So it usually goes hand-in-hand with another addiction.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Absolutely. Well, if you`re going to treat this lady, you may do it behind bars, because she may be convicted.

SAMUELS: I know.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: But we`re not going to convict her yet, just an accusation.

Catch Dr. Drew`s new show at 9 p.m. Eastern. He`s talking all about addiction.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: A road rage horror story. Cops say a road rager gets into an argument with a mom driving a van full of kids and a toddler is suddenly shot. How can you protect yourself from the road ragers?

Plus, a jaw-dropping judgment day in Florida as teenagers take over the court system and decide punishments for each other. It is a wild experiment; we will tell you the shocking results. And I`m taking your calls.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What happened yesterday was God intervened and that`s why he only got shot in his butt, that was it. We are truly blessed that everything turned out the way it did because it could have been a whole lot worse.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Breaking news tonight, Georgia cops on the hunt for the road raging monster who shot at a car full of kids and actually hit a 4-year-old boy in his backside and his leg. Apparently, this raging maniac didn`t think mom stepped on the gas pedal fast enough for his liking when the light turned green. After they both honked back and forth, mom says he started tailgating her and then opened fire on her minivan, which had four of her kids in the back seat. Cops say a couple of inches in any direction, the bullet have landed in this little boy`s spine. Any higher, this could be a murder case right now. But guess what? We are happy to report the little boy is doing just fine tonight. Check this out.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You feel better now?


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Oh, this is one adorable little child. Thank goodness, some good news. But sadly, rage, especially road rage, is rampant in America. AAA says at least 1,500 men, women and children are injured or killed every year in this country from road rage. I`m taking your call, 1-877-JVM-SAYS.

Straight out to Sergeant Stephen Kenny from the DeKalb County, Georgia police department. Sarge, what is the latest on this manhunt for this mystery road rager?

SGT. STEPHEN KENNY, DEKALB COUNTY POLICE (on phone): Oh, right now, we are working on several things. Right now, what we are focusing on is looking at video from any of the businesses and residences that were in the area. We are hoping to get a better look at the vehicle, the suspect vehicle and we are also taking -- taking calls, tips from the public. Right now we don`t have any strong suspect right now and we have received several tips that haven`t panned out.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: I understand, we got it right here. It says a white Chevy SUV is the driver, that`s what he was in and there was a female passenger. Is that true or not?

KENNY: Yes, that`s correct. It is an unknown type white SUV or I should say unknown model. We believe it is a Chevy and it is going to be - -

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Did this happen to a freeway, sir, or did this happen -- I`m looking it he bullet hole now, did this happen on a residential street or a freeway?

KENNY: This happened on a residential street.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: That makes me even more outraged. It`s always outrageous, but who is supposed to be putting the pedal to the metal on a residential street? How bizarre. Well, I hope you find him. And what will he be charged with when you find him?

KENNY: When we find the suspect and I`m very confident that we will make an arrest, the suspect will be charged with aggravated assault and that -- that charge could receive a sentence of up to one to 20 years and due to the egregious nature of this case, I would say that that would fall in the latter, closer to the 20 years.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Thank you so much, sergeant. Now we`re very lucky to be joined by a very special guest tonight. Ron Peterson was the victim of a horrific road rage attack. Get this, Ron was biking, bicycle, a regular old bicycle, with a friend, when a driver in front of him deliberately slammed on the brakes and sent him careening. You see him here. He had major injuries. It landed him in the emergency room, broken teeth, lacerations to his face, severed nose. Ron, give us a play by play and since when is riding a bicycle, which I do, but I do so fearfully -- we pay taxes, us bicyclists, how dare somebody attack you because you`re a bicycle, actually being transported in an environmentally correct fashion? Ron?

RON PETERSON, VICTIM OF ROAD RAGE (on phone): Yes, sorry, you were breaking up there for just one second.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: What happened?

PETERSON: We were -- it was actually on Fourth of July, 2008 and some friends and I had ridden up a lovely canyon just on the outskirts of Los Angeles and on the way back, we were riding along -- it was the descent, it was going down the canyon, so we were literally doing the speed limit riding next to each other on a -- this is a dead end road, so there`s not much traffic.

And as we were going down, we heard a honk from behind us, and so my friend and I went single file to allow the car room so he could get by us. And when he came by, he yelled something, not quite sure what it was, out of his car, out of the passenger window and I yelled back or said something back, didn`t actually yell.

He pulled in front of us, he was maybe five feet in front of my front wheel, slammed on his brakes and I literally went through the rear windshield. My friend clipped the back of the car. He flew into the other lane of traffic, separating his shoulder. It was, yeah, basically from there a mess.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Unbelievable. Incidents of road rage are all over YouTube. Check out this jaw dropper. It is a wild one.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Got road rage like that man? Got road rage? Huh?


VELEZ-MITCHELL: That is not really a jaw dropper but I got to say, there it is, there`s a jaw dropper. He punches him right in the face. Sometimes it`s a real trivial trigger, which is my big issue, a tiny thing can trigger crazy, disproportionate rage.

And Jon Leiberman, host of "True Facts with Jon Leiberman," the studies say that these are people who are angry about something else. They have lost a relationship, they have lost a job, these are ticking time bombs, essentially and if you happen to get in their way, good luck.

JON LEIBERMAN, HOST, TRUE FACTS: Well and the real scary part, Jane is this. Recent statistics show that in 37 percent of these road rage cases, a gun is used as a weapon. Almost 40 percent of road rage cases, a gun, another almost 40 percent, the vehicle is used. So luckily in this case of the little 4-year-old that we just talked about, the bullet was recovered. But that bullet, think about it for a second, that bullet went through the door of the minivan, went through the toddler`s seat, went into the toddler`s buttocks and exited through his upper leg and police were then able to get that shell casing for ballistics. But think of that, people just willy-nilly are now pulling out guns and firing on residential streets. It`s absolutely outrageous.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: I think it should be a special circumstance and he should be charged with attempted murder. Here is another example of terrifying road rage from 2006, a man repeatedly rams the car of two pregnant women. Listen to the 911 call on this one.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh my god, oh my god.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ma`am, what`s going on?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He`s pushing our car.



VELEZ-MITCHELL: Mary Lou, Florida, your thought or question, ma`am?

CALLER: Hello, I`m sorry.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Hi, Mary Lou. What is your question or thought?

CALLER: My thought is the road rage and my fear is that so many state legislators -- legislatures, including Florida, now wants to have open carry all over the place. Everybody can walk around with a gun. No wonder we are having these problems. I mean, it`s not even vigilante justice, it`s just utter stupidity.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: I think you raise a very important point. Dr. Dell Archer, a lot of these people are high on drugs or drunk and they are also potentially criminals if they`ve got guns that they are wielding in an illegal fashion.

DR. DALE ARCHER, CLINICAL PSYCHIATRIST: That`s it, Jane. But I think the big problem here is that we need to understand there is a difference between anger and violence. In today`s world, the two have merged together. Anger is a good emotion if you express it appropriately, but the problem with TV, movies, Internet, song lyrics, video games today, they are linked. So, in these folks` minds, they get mad and they act out in a violent fashion. We didn`t start in our schools teaching kids how to express anger in an appropriate manner.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes, it is called nonviolent conflict resolution which they don`t teach in schools, which should be a course required. Now, a lot of people make light of road rage. In fact, comedian Amy Poehler joked about road rage on "The Late Show with David Letterman." Check out this clip from YouTube.


AMY POEHLER, COMEDIAN: When someone does this when you have an altercation or someone doesn`t like the way you`re driving or something happens and someone goes like this --


POEHLER: I go so Boston. I get crazy.

LETTERMAN: You go Boston?

POEHLER: I go really Boston. And I go crazy. And I have thrown the double finger with my children in the car.

LETTERMAN: The kids in the car?

POEHLER: I`m not proud of it.

LETTERMAN: There you go.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: She is funny but Jon Leiberman, we shouldn`t joke about it. Remember Jack Nicholson and he admits apparently that he got out of his car one time at a red light and used a golf club to smash the windshield of a Mercedes that he felt had cut him off.

So it is not always, we got wrap it there unfortunately, but it is not always some person who may be out of work. Sometimes it`s very privileged people who feel extremely entitled, so we don`t know who this mystery person is but I know, Jon, you`re on top of it and you will bring us an update if we find this guy. Thank you so much, fabulous panel.

On the other side of the break, teenagers take over in a Florida court. This is wild stuff. They are literally sending other teenagers, well, they`re giving them punishments that`s for sure. You are going to meet these teenaged lawyers and the defendants.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I said I wanted to head home but Steve asked me to wait.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What happened when he asked you to wait?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He pulled out marijuana joint and asked me if I wanted to smoke it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, would it be fair to say that had he never pulled it out, you would have never been in this all together, correct?



VELEZ-MITCHELL: Tonight, jaw-dropping developments, teenagers have just seized control of the criminal justice system. Just kidding. Actually, this is a new way of cracking down on teenaged crime because locking kids up is just not working, people. This is about catching those troubled teenagers at the very earliest stage so they don`t end up in those criminal-making factories we call prison. Teen court is for first-time juvenile offenders who have committed minor crimes. These kids get to feel like they are in court without actually getting that criminal record that will hurt them. Check this out.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Defense also brought up the point that John didn`t have the marijuana, he didn`t sell the marijuana and all of that doesn`t matter because the crime he is here today for is possession and it was in his possession when he was caught.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Pot possession is a biggie at teen court, as you might imagine. Teens are the prosecutors, they are the defense attorneys. Guess what? They are even the jurors. So teens are holding other teens accountable for their actions and troubled teenagers get just enough of a taste of the criminal justice system that hopefully, they realize, hey, I don`t want to taste this again.

Straight out to Lawrence Hills and he is the guy who runs teen court. First of all, I want to say, bravo, sir, because we need to expand this all over the country. We are really locking up tens of thousands, maybe even millions of teenagers, turning them into handed criminals when something like this, an imaginative approach is really the solution to acknowledge their humanity. They are teenagers, they are going to make mistakes. Lawrence, how does this work? Tell us, buddy.

LAWRENCE HILLS, TEEN COURT: OK. Thanks, Jane, for having us on, first and foremost. This program is two-fold. It is a program where the kids decide that they are going to come and they are going to allow other kids to provide the sentencing for them in these criminal offenses. First, I must say that we take minor offenses in this type of program.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Like what? Like what? Tell me. OK, we have already covered pot. What else do they do?

HILLS: Absolutely. Normally, you`re going to have offenses in here like the kid that stole something from school, a petty theft. You`re going to have offenses in here like assault and battery, just simple fights that occurred in school, things of that sort, trespassing on school grounds, those are the typical offenses that we take in. But I must say that marijuana has increased tremendously over the course of the last two years. It is our number one offense at this time.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Now, you`re next to a very handsome young man by the name of Trey Jones. He was a participant. And I believe, Trey, I was researching your file, you were smoking pot?


VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. But I congratulate you for jumping into this alternative program. What did you have to do when the teen jurors sentenced you, what do they sentence to you and tell us what did you have to do?

JONES: Well they sentenced me to -- well they sentenced me actually to do a two-page essay. I had to do an open-court apology to my mother. I actually --

VELEZ-MITCHELL: What did you say to mom? What did you say to mom?

JONES: Actually, I was a little nervous, kind of I was a little nervous to apologize because she had an evil look in her eyes, but I really felt that you know, I had to just, you know, lay it all out and tell her I`m sorry and you know, I really was sorry. I really wanted her to give me a second chance.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Do you think this has changed you, Trey, do you think it has made you a person who has decided I don`t want anything to do with crime or bad acts, I`m just really got straight and narrow from now on?

JONES: Yes, actually it has changed me, and the reason I say that is because I`m an artist, you know, I draw a lot. So I tried to do things that will keep my mind off of it and actually, you know, keep my mind more focused on my future instead of my past and the things that, you know, that kind of kept me back from going to my future and reaching my goals.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, you look darn sharp in that tie and I think you have a good future ahead of you. Now, these alternative arrest program, it takes kids who commit minor crimes while they are in school and then the school officials and the cops get together and say, hmm, should the student be arrested or should he or she be sent to teen court? Check this out.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was assigned to a wildlife rescue and in doing this, I nurtured injured animals and I also helped baby animals be ready for the wilderness and in doing this process, it really helped me realize that this is pretty much what I want to do with the rest of my life.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Isn`t that wonderful? That young man discovered a love of animals because he was sentenced to work with animals. I think that`s fantastic.

Adiam Miller, you are a volunteer teen attorney, you look like you`re ready to argue before the Supreme Court right now, I will tell you that. What did you get out of it?

ADIAM MILLER, VOLUNTEER TEEN ATTORNEY: Well, I certainly got out of it I just learned how to speak publicly, I learned how to debate well. I just learned how to get on my feet and go critical thinking skills, just everything you need to become a lawyer.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: And did you get an adrenaline rush when you had to make your presentation?

MILLER: Oh yeah, you definitely get an adrenaline rush. You can feel your heart beating in your chest, your palms kind of get sweaty but you definitely get used to it when you do it a couple of times.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: I got to say you look -- how old are you? Tell me.

MILLER: I`m going to be 15 next month actually.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Wait a second, you`re 14-years-old?

MILLER: Yes, ma`am.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: That is shocking. Wow. OK. Our future is in the right hands, I think, everybody. Stay right where you are, we are going to have more on this second chance teen court. It`s not "Judge Judy," but it`s very, very interesting.



MONICA WILLIAMS, PARENT OF TEEN PARTICIPANT: I thought he was going to go down the life of crime just like his dad. We had to go through the teen court program, but I counted my blessings, accepted it for what it was. Now his attitude is better. He`s more cooperative. His outlook on life. He really feels like he has a good life ahead of him.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: That woman`s son got caught with pot. Instead of getting arrested, he went to teen court. He got a second chance at a positive, productive life.

I`m going to talk to the boss of teen courts, Lawrence Hills. But what happens if a kid gets a chance at teen court and unlike the young man sitting next to you, Trey, who is doing well, they slip up and they get caught smoking pot again. Then what happens to them?

HILLS: Absolutely. We have a little bit of flexibility with that program. Most of the time, kids are going to complete the program, and I say that to say that our success rate is 92 percent. So 92 percent of the kids that come into the program are completing successful. If a kid does not complete or they have a slip-up, we have a mechanism in place where we might give them a second chance and we might increase. They may have to go to outpatient treatment.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: I get the idea. But the main thing is that -- more than 90 percent of the kids don`t get into trouble again. That`s an astounding -- astounding success rate. Well you want to know just how successful this program is? Check this out.


UNIDENTIFIED MAKE: Our study of juvenile crime indicates that of all juveniles who are arrested, 71 percent seldom ever reoffend. Twenty-one percent will come into the criminal justice system two or three times. And eight percent become your serious habitual juvenile offenders.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Here is my take. This needs to happen all over the country. Real prisons are criminal-making factories. Put kids in with hardened criminals, they will learn those bad habits. The teen court program really diverts teens away from being pulled like a tractor into this life of going into prison all the time, in and out, in and out. We all know the story. We all know what happens and it`s usually inner city kids, kids from underprivileged backgrounds. Their lives are ruined and it ruins the lives of their families.

This gives kids and their families by extension a second chance so that a minor crime doesn`t give them the scarlet letter of essentially being a criminal and they can never get rid of that. It haunts them their whole life. Adiam Miller, you are a teen attorney. You are just 14-years- old but you have the voice of somebody far older and wiser. What would you say to convince other powers that be around the country to start using a teen court?

MILLER: Well, I think it`s a great program. It`s another way of getting kids to stop doing what they are doing, to better their lives instead of sending them to jail where they could actually get worse.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: And if you have the chance to argue this, would you argue it? What would your closing statement be, Adiam?

MILLER: Well, I would say to everyone that if you want to make a difference, make a difference with a positive action. Do not end it suddenly. Send them somewhere else. By sending them somewhere else, you`re not benefiting their life. You are making it worse. You`re making them associate with criminals. They`re not going to learn anything from that.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: This lady is 14-years-old. I`m about to fall off my chair. And, Trey, you are sitting next to the boss of Teen Court. I really hope that you stay on the right track because I can tell you are a very sharp young man, and you are going to go places. Thank you, fabulous panel.

Stay with me because coming up next, I`m going to give you the very latest on the Long Island serial killer. It may be connected with the Atlantic City serial killer.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Nobody should deserve to just be sitting in a ditch somewhere. That was our sister.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: New developments. Shockers in the Long Island serial killer case. This case could become a killing spree all up and down the East Coast of the United States. Now cops are saying there could be a link between the Long Island murders and the Atlantic City hooker murders from 2006. Yes, I`m talking about Long Island to Atlantic City. This week, the body count in Long Island skyrocketed to eight victims. Cops say today they are ready to wrap up this round of beach searches but they`re not ready to throw in the towel.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We`re going to be back here again with our canines and our missing persons detectives and our homicide task force detectives.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. We`re all over this case tomorrow here on "Issues." We will have the very latest on any possible connection between these two cases. "Nancy Grace" is up next.