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ISSUES WITH JANE VELEZ-MITCHELL

Deadly Tornadoes Ravage South, Midwest; Surprise Witness Testifies in Web Spying Trial

Aired March 2, 2012 - 19:00   ET

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


JANE VELEZ-MITCHELL, HOST: Jane Velez-Mitchell coming to you live from New York City.

The south and Midwest under attack as we speak from Mother Nature as an army of massive fast-moving tornadoes wipe entire towns almost off the map. You`re going to hear live from a storm chaser in the middle of it all. The latest live, right now.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Millions and millions of Americans are under tornado watches right now, tornado warnings, as well. Professional storm chasers have been following these twisters for us all afternoon, providing dramatic images of an unfolding disaster.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Severe weather hitting with a ferocity. What we`re seeing here or hearing about total devastation in certain areas. Specifically what you`re looking at there, just north of Louisville there`s a town called Henryville. We`re hearing that that place was basically destroyed, devastated. One call from a storm chaser. This town has been wiped out.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The size of these tornadoes, they`re hundreds of yards wide. These are large tornadoes.

BLITZER: The destruction could go on for hours.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We`re at a home right now of a state trooper that we cannot find. An Indiana state trooper. We can`t locate him. We`re also -- power lines have been snapped off and driven into the ground like rockets.

ROB MARCIANO, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Forty to 50 homes damaged. In some cases like the one behind me, completely destroyed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think there`s an estimated 30 people missing right now from the last EMS person that I talked. To you know, people are going around on four wheels.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: The sound and fury of Mother Nature in full-scale assault as homes, schools, and even prisons are sucked into the vortex of deadly tornadoes ravaging states across America South and Midwest as we speak. Tornado warnings stretching from Alabama to Ohio have left people desperately scrambling for any kind of shelter from what`s outside.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We still have now one, two, three, four active tornado warnings. Let`s start with the one up in the Taylorsville area here, Ben. We`re now looking at just to the south of Taylorsville. We have that rotation. So Taylorsville, you need to be in your storm shelter right now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Thousands of people seeking shelter and searching for missing loved ones as homes and schools literally disappear. Entire towns almost wiped off the map.

Ground zero: Henryville, Indiana, and the sister city Marysville. In Henryville, known as the little town with the big heart, the only description we have heard today is total devastation.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: This was the most significant tornado of the day so far. That`s not saying that a bigger tornado won`t happen. But this was the tornado that 20 minutes later would run over the town of Marysville, Indiana. And your quote from -- from the mayor from Jeffersonville, Indiana, said Marysville is no longer there. It is gone.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Unbelievable. And I ask tonight what is causing this weather that even the National Weather Service meteorologist calls crazy and nuts.

Everybody, please stay safe. Seek shelter if you`re in an area affected by these terrible storms. And you are safe, and only if you are safe, please call me and tell me what`s happening right where you are, what you see. Call me: 1-877-JVM-SAYS, 1-877-586-7297.

Straight out to CNN weather correspondent Rob Marciano. He has been in the thick of it in Chattanooga, Tennessee. In fact, Rob, we were supposed to have a live picture from you. But we were told, as I was reading this, that it`s too dangerous for you to be on camera, that you have to be on the phone because a storm is hitting. Tell us what you know and what you see, Rob.

MARCIANO (via phone): Well, just in the last 20 to 30 minutes, we had a storm come up on us while we were doing the John King show that immediately dumped hail up to an inch in diameter on us. We had to seek shelter with winds whipping around, as well.

It turns out there was a tornado about two or three miles to our south reported. And luckily, that circulation missed us.

But this -- this came right over, Jane, an area that got hit hard by a tornado around 1 p.m. this afternoon. That area seeing significant damage, 40 or 50 homes at least damaged, if not destroyed. Those people having to seek shelter tonight.

Significant injuries, as well. Nine or ten people hospitalized; 15 or so people treated and released on the scene. So far, thankfully, no fatalities.

But they`ve had to halt search-and-rescue operations to let this storm pass. The hail core came through. The rain has stopped, Jane. We`re about to get...

(DIAL TONE)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Oh, my gosh. Well, I hope Rob is OK. I think -- I think he is. But I got to tell you, this is an out-of-control situation. Again, the National Weather Service calling it crazy and nuts.

Rob, I understand that you are back with us again. This is not normal. You are a meteorologist. You are there in the thick of it. When the National Weather Service calls something crazy, that is a really, really something that is -- we should take note of. And let`s face it. The world is experiencing much more extreme weather than ever before. What`s your take on it? What`s causing this epidemic of freakish weather?

MARCIANO: Well, one thing that stands out is the time of year and the location that these storms are occurring. If you want to point the finger at global warming for seeing more intense tornadoes or hurricanes, we can`t really do that just yet.

But what we can do is we can say well, we`ve got a tornado in Nebraska in the month of February. We`ve never seen that. Last year we had a tornado in Wisconsin early in the season. And this year we`re having this epic outbreak on the first and second day of the month of March.

So, excuse me, while I get out of this. Can you turn that down?

Anyway, the -- the situation happening where it is and when it is, is what has people kind of scratching their heads and a little bit alarmed, for sure.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Absolutely. And Rob, stay safe. You`re doing incredible work out there. I`ve seen you there in the thick of this. And again, these storms, it`s like an army of tornadoes. And they are ripping houses out by the foundation. They`re ripping the roofs off schools and prisons. It`s brought widespread destruction to at least six states. We`re talking Alabama, Mississippi, Kentucky, Tennessee, Indiana, Ohio hit very hard.

Now a short time ago there were 22 active tornado warnings and tornado watches over 12 states. At one point a little while ago, there were 66 tornado warnings.

And I want to go to Matt Fornino (ph). Because obviously you`ve got people out there tonight who are looking for their loved ones, who are seeking shelter. They`ve lost everything: their homes; gosh, who knows where their pets are? But for those who have survived, there is no shame in saying, "I want to make sure I have somewhere to live, and I protect my property from anything," whether it be looting, whether it be a bulldozer coming in. And sometimes we can rely on FEMA, but a lot of times we can`t.

I was researching today, and I found out that FEMA will not cover anything that is privately insured. In other words, if your insurance is supposed to cover it, don`t wait for the government.

MATT FORNINO (PH): It`s true, Jane. Obviously, the human toll here is devastating. There`s tremendous human loss. There`s loss to infrastructure.

But the most important thing that people don`t want to say, as you mentioned, is what happened to my property? How can I recover my property? And they should look to try to recover their property. They should contact their insurance agents. They should try to find out how they can survive not only their life, but also their financial survival. And that`s very, very important, Jane, like you just pointed out. And there`s no shame in admitting that.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Absolutely. And I want to hold up my cell phone. If you`ve got a smartphone, double box me, please. If you`ve got a smartphone with a camera, start videotaping your property damage immediately, because you`re going to need evidence. And you don`t want to lose that evidence if there`s another tornado, if there`s a bulldozer that moves your stuff. You need, if you have insurance, to show your insurance carrier what your damage is. Document it. Document it now, and get your claim in immediately, because it`s first come, first serve.

OK. We have one of the Michaels. Is it Michael Clark? Mike Moore. You are the mayor of Jeffersonville, Indiana, which is right near Henryville. And I`ve heard Maryville and Marysville. But these two small towns that people were saying were completely wiped out as we show footage from that area. What do you know, Mayor Moore?

MIKE MOORE, MAYOR OF JEFFERSONVILLE, INDIANA (via phone): Complete devastation is pretty much the way -- probably the best way to describe it.

I`m en route to Henryville now. Actually tried to come up here about an hour ago. Access into and around the area was pretty much cut off. Ambulances and police cars and firefighters were pretty much the only vehicles being able to get to the scene. I`ve actually got the police chief of Jeffersonville taking me up there right now.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Oh, could you give us -- can you hand the phone to the police chief?

MOORE: I`m sorry? What`s that?

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Could you hand the phone to the police chief?

MOORE: Yes. Here he is right here. Chief Chris Graham.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Thank you, sir. Chief -- Chief.

CHIEF CHRIS GRAHAM, HENRYVILLE, INDIANA (via phone): Hello?

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Hello, sir. Thank you. I know you`re in the middle of terrible devastation. I thank you for talking to us. You`re on HLN live.

We want to ask you, what are some of the major institutions that have been hit? We`ve heard schools. We`ve heard, obviously, homes. But how can you describe the devastation?

GRAHAM: I haven`t seen the devastation firsthand other than what`s on the local news channels. I know that Henryville High School was hit very hard.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Were the kids in there?

GRAHAM: As far as -- as far as anything more, I can`t comment. I`m on my way there now. So...

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Chief, were the kids in the school or not?

GRAHAM: Yes, there were.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, well -- so the school`s hit very hard. I think we`re looking at footage of the devastation right now. I mean, what about those kids?

GRAHAM: The kids were all -- from what I`m hearing from the county police department, the kids were all -- were all held inside. Possibly just some minor injuries. But other than that, the students were fine inside the school.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Wow. That is a miracle. And we are so happy to hear that. Thank you, chief. And can you hand it back over to Mayor Moore of Jeffersonville, Indiana?

GRAHAM: Certainly. Hang on.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Thank you.

MOORE: Hello.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: This is -- sir, thank you. We wanted to hear from, obviously, law enforcement.

I have to ask you, was there any warning? Was there any sense of hey, this is coming down the pike, get the heck out of here? Or was this something that just hit you from the blue?

MOORE: There was warnings, probably -- I think probably came in maybe 30 minutes prior that it was -- that it was a good chance it was coming into the area. I think some national news were around Jeffersonville earlier. Fortunately, Jeffersonville was spared. But the outlying areas around it, you know, were hit extremely hard.

And Jeffersonville has responded. We`ve got about 17 or 18 police up here now, and I can at least four or five firefighter vehicles with the ambulances coming and going out of Henryville was pretty dramatic. The ambulances were thick en route and coming out of. So don`t know any exact numbers yet on fatalities. I think it`s stretched up to possibly at least four in Clark County. But none of that is for sure confirmed.

But, you know, it`s very heart-wrenching. And fortunately, the community is reaching out to the Henryville and Marysville area. And we`re going to do whatever it takes to -- to...

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Mayor...

MOORE: ... get the people help and rebuild this community.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Mayor, our hearts are with you, and thank you so much for talking to us as you actually race with the police chief to the scene. Thank you, sir.

Unbelievable storms, including dozens of tornadoes tearing through the south and Midwest. We`re on the ground, bringing you the very latest as it happens, and we`re taking your calls. Alice, Joplin, Missouri, on the other side. We`re going to get to you. We know you`ve been through this. 1-877-586-7297. Call us.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And it just seemed like IT JUST -- the house lifted up and then just dropped.

The roof fell in, and the glass was every place. And while I was under the table, I said, "Lord, make this pass." And it did.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And then all of the sudden, I was just absolutely out flying around.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sucked out through the roof?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don`t know where, I guess the roof, yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And you ended up over here by the dishwasher?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Henryville, Indiana. A school bus thrown straight into a building, crashing through a wall. We`re going to show you that. We`re also going to show you a school in Henryville, pretty much flattened. We are hearing now, there is the school bus. As far as the school, we`re hearing the kids, thankfully, had been dismissed before the tornado hit.

And wow, Louisville, Kentucky, the roof ripped off homes. Unbelievable.

Gary Tuchman, CNN correspondent in Nashville, Tennessee. What`s the story there?

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Jane, it was a very anxious few moments here in Nashville about an hour ago. And that`s because tornado warnings in a big city are a whole different animal.

There`s 700,000 people who live here in Music City; 1.7 million people in the metropolitan area. And they had a tornado warning. A tornado was spotted just to the west. And then all of the sudden, the winds started whistling. Hail balls the size of Ping-Pong balls started falling. The hail was up to our ankles. We were near our hotel at the time, taking pictures of this. And in the hotel, employees were telling everyone, "Get down in the basement. We`re afraid these windows are going to break."

It only lasted ten minutes. And the fear was the tornado was going to come right through the middle of this busy city. It did not. It ended up going to the south of here. So the damage here in Nashville very limited. The people of Nashville, Music City, USA, are feeling very relieved tonight.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, we`re happy that you`re bringing us some good news. That`s the first good news we`ve really heard.

Bonnie Schneider, meteorologist, give us a very quick update on where these storms are headed.

BONNIE SCHNEIDER, CNN METEOROLOGIST: As Gary mentioned, Tennessee still under the threat of tornadoes. The tornado warnings are south and east of Nashville at this hour. But a tornado watch is extended far to the east, including the city of Atlanta. Tornado watches for Georgia, the Carolinas, and into West Virginia. That will extend until 1 a.m. in the morning.

So before you go to bed tonight, turn on your NOAA weather radio. It will alert you if there`s a tornado warning in your area. And of course, take cover. Notice, some of the most intense rain working its way from Tennessee into North Carolina at this hour.

Jane, this storm system is not over by any means.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. We`re going to Michael Clark, storm chaser, who was in the thick of it.

How far were you from the tornado? Describe what you saw, Michael, and kudos to your bravery for getting that close.

MICHAEL CLARK, STORM CHASER (via phone): I tell you what, we were within hundreds of yards, maybe less as that thing came across the -- the overpass there at 65.

The tornado formed and moved through the city within a matter of 15 to 20 minutes. You know, we got there. The city was normal. We left, and the city was demolished. And when I say demolished, I mean homes scraped off foundations, you know, people missing, and, you know, phone poles driven into the ground like rockets. You know, just a very large, powerful tornado devastated the town in a very quick period of time.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Did you see people, like, running for their lives?

CLARK: We did, you know. And we were running -- running around, you know, yelling and screaming at people, telling them to take shelter as we drove through the town. You know, the tornado was literally seconds away. You know, people are standing out in the parking lot. And it`s like, you know -- you know, you just wonder if people are getting the warnings and the information.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Unbelievable. More next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: We are talking about this tornado outbreak that is slamming the Midwest and the south. Dozens and dozens of homes, their foundations ripped off the ground. There is a death toll, but it changes by the minute. We do not want to say anything definitively on that.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The courtroom in the Rutgers roommate spying trial packed today for one of the prosecution`s main witnesses.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He is known as M.B. He testified about a sexual encounter with Tyler Clementi that was recorded by the defendant.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He is adorable, and he`s young, very well kept. He reminds me of a young Gene Kelly.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Clementi`s suicide brought national attention to a campaign against bullying.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Rutgers student Dharun Ravi is accused of using a Web cam to broadcast his roommate`s encounter with another man.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: A secret witness in the Rutgers cyber spying trial finally takes the stand. Was it enough to land a conviction?

Tyler Clementi, 18 years old, starting college when he jumped to his death after his roommate allegedly secretly recorded his sexual encounter with another man. That man, M.B., testified today under a cloud of secrecy cameras. Only showed his hands, and no audio was made public as the dead student`s mother, father, and two brothers sat in the front row.

M.B. described how he watched the defendant possibly position the Web cam. Here are his words as read by "In Session`s" Ryan Smith.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RYAN SMITH, "IN SESSION": "He walked in, walked to his desk, shuffled around a bit, and then walked out. I just happened to glance over, and it just caught my eye that there was a camera lens aimed at the bed. It was on top of the computer."

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: "In Session`s" Michael Christian, you were in court. What was your sense of this effectiveness of this witness?

MICHAEL CHRISTIAN, TRUTV`S "IN SESSION": I think he was a very effective witness, Jane. And I`ll tell you why.

First of all, he`s very nice looking. He`s got a baby face. You know, he said he was 32. He was 30 at the time. I would have guessed he was younger than that.

And basically, his appearance countered what we`ve heard earlier in this trial from some of the college witnesses who called him scruffy and said he had a goatee, looked like he was kind of shabbily dressed. He was a very nice-looking guy, presented himself very well.

And he also talked very tenderly about Tyler Clementi. I think a lot of people thought this was just kind of an anonymous hookup, and it really didn`t mean anything. But he seemed to really like Tyler Clementi, seemed to think that they did have a relationship. They communicated all the time via text messages and instant messages. And I think that helped very well with the prosecution`s case, because it showed the jurors a nice Tyler Clementi through this guy`s eyes.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: One of today`s key moments: when M.B. described being watched as he left Tyler`s dorm room. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SMITH: "When I exited the room and made a left, I saw a group of people standing there, and they were looking at me. Had I been in the street, I probably would have asked why they were looking at me. But since I was a guest in the building, I wasn`t going to ask about it. But it seemed kind of unsettling."

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Criminal defense attorney Holly Hughes, will that prove this was a hate crime?

HOLLY HUGHES, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, it certainly guess to intent. And what we see here is M.B. is telling this jury, looking them in the eye and saying, "yes, the defendant came in while I was there and adjusted that camera."

For what purpose, Jane? You`ve got to use common sense here. Though it gets them a heck of a lot closer to No. 1, the invasion of privacy charge, I`m not sure it necessarily gets them closer to hate crime. That`s going to go more to his attitude, the defendant`s attitude, things he would have said. We know he invaded Tyler`s privacy and M.B.`s privacy. What we`re looking for when we look for bias is words he would have said, actions he would have taken against other people who he knew was gay.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, didn`t he say, "Oh, he`s making out with a dude. Yay," and encourage people to look? Very quickly, could that do the trick, just those texts?

HUGHES: No. Not for the hate crime. Yes for the invasion of privacy.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. Sorry to cut you off. Tornadoes next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We`ve got tornadoes on the ground, rain-wrapped (PH).

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh my goodness.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There has been a house that had part of its roof sheared off and at least another (INAUDIBLE) to another house up the road.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What they`re doing, they`re going out and they`re going to be marking, putting who -- if there is anybody trapped in the building. If it`s been cleared, therefore other people that come in to assess know where to go first.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In the middle of that big wall cloud back there behind me. We`re going to go north, it`s been coming at us. It`s on the ground. It`s very large.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That looks like a mobile home right there that has been destroyed by this tornado that moved through.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mother Nature is so, so impressive.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Breaking news tonight: Mother Nature it seems has declared war. It looks like a bomb has dropped over several states; a series of deadly storms ravaging the South and Midwest. Utter devastation in Indiana; entire towns destroyed. Henryville and sister city, Marysville, Indiana, totally devastated. And now the warnings are moving further east; Kentucky, Tennessee bracing for more potentially deadly tornadoes.

CNN meteorologist Rob Marciano, you are now live on camera in Tennessee. Moments ago it was too dangerous for you to go on camera. What is the scene?

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Well, I don`t know how long we`re going to be on camera, to tell you the truth. We had a (AUDIO GAP) -- from the phone from the last go around because we had an (AUDIO GAP) storm come through. A tornado reported just to our south. That storm cleared. 20 minutes of calm, and we`ve got another severe storm cell approaching from our south.

This is all after the tornado that came through this area earlier today, around 1:00 p.m. (INAUDIBLE) Tennessee which is north and east of Chattanooga, about a 200 yard or wider path of this tornado down for at least a mile, tearing up several subdivisions. 40 to 50 at least homes damaged or destroyed with this; those people having to seek shelter quickly tonight, because obviously we`re not done yet until this entire storm passes.

So very frustrating for the folks trying to clean things up; obviously frustrating for the victims and --

(CROSSTALK)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Do you see, Rob, if I may ask you, do you see people walking around going, "Where is my brother, where is my sister, where is my daughter?" Is it like that?

MARCIANO: When we first got on the scene, it was like that. There were people being pulled. There was a triage unit set up for injured. But the more time we spend here, people started to digest what happened. They started becoming more thankful for their lives. People started becoming more accountable and accounted for.

But since then, we have been asked to leave that community. Everyone had to evacuate because of the incoming storm and all the debris. Right now we`re at a staging area that also is acting as a command post and a shelter. And obviously some emergency vehicles passed behind us. But tensions are high here after a frustrating day, as you can imagine.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Rob, excellent work out there, and stay safe because I know the danger is not over.

I want to go to Alice in Joplin, Missouri; you and this community that you live in, you were hit with horrific tornadoes less than a year ago. What are these folks in store for, Alice?

ALICE, MISSOURI (via telephone): Well, they`re in store for a lot. FEMA is going to be on the ground there as soon as they can get there. And the more time -- as time goes by, they`ll help them find shelter from, you know, because they can`t be in their homes. They have to go somewhere.

(CROSSTALK)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: And I want to say one thing. You`re looking at what Joplin looked like less than a year ago. I`ve been researching what FEMA tells you to do. They say do not go into a house where you smell gas.

ALICE: Yes.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Do not touch a wire. I mean some of the worst danger is after the tornado when people are walking around.

I want to go to Jeff Piotrowski (ph) who is in Henryville, Indiana, on the ground, a storm chaser. I understand that you helped, Jeff, pull some of the kids or get some of the kids away from danger when this town was literally demolished and devastated, literally almost doesn`t exist anymore? Is that -- describe what you`re seeing.

JEFF PIOTROWSKI, STORM CHASER (via telephone): No, it`s not quite that bad in Henryville. Henryville did take a direct hit from a major tornado. The school was hit with kids inside the school. Most of the kids were not at the school and they were trapped in part of the building. And so the fire department and local officials helped get the kids through the navigation.

I went in the school with the firemen. And there is collapsed walls, roofs collapsed, I-beam structures, stairwells are blocked. So basically the kids had to get led out of the school because of all the wires and things are thrown on the school.

There`s around 21 kids that were taken out of the school. We had to wait for the second storm to pass that produced baseball and softball hail that broke all the windows out in town. You know, injury to insult from the first tornado.

And that tornado continued to track toward Maryville. We understand Maryville from what I hear, I have not been there yet, is gone -- a town of 2,000 people. I understand it does not exist anymore. I have not been able to get up there. I don`t know about fatalities or injuries. As I understand -- extreme catastrophic damage at Maryville just today north of --

(CROSSTALK)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Jeff, you are a hero for helping those kids get out of that school. We`ve been getting conflicting information about that school all day long, if the kids were in or out. But you`re establishing that you helped them get out of the school. So, kudos to you. And we`re going to stay on top of that.

Now for something completely different.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hollywood has hardly ever seen anything like it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you have anything to say? Do you ever regret --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Nicollette is suing Marc Cherry who created "Desperate Housewives" for $4 million. She claims he fired her back in 2009 after she accused him of hitting her after they had a fight over a script.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Very serious matter.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The big question is this. Does Nicollette have a chance of winning?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: It`s getting ugly -- Uglier than the nastiest episode of "Desperate Housewives" in a Hollywood courtroom. Unbelievable fireworks today as the former sex pot of the show, Nicollette Sheridan, gets very emotional and testy on the stand and makes some very personal attack against producer, Marc Cherry. Quote, "I was terminated because I complained. Marc Cherry, a gay man slapped me, a heterosexual woman," end quote. What?

Here is what we know. Nicollette says she was wrongly terminated when the bigwig producer hit her. And when she complained to the boss as he killed her character off the show in retaliation, she claims. Let`s take a look at Nicollette`s acting chops.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Got to be kidding. She washed her car yesterday.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Will mentioning Marc`s sexual orientation kill her case? I want to go out to Selin Darkalstanian, HLN producer, was there for this really these fireworks in court. What the heck went on?

SELIN DARKALSTANIAN, HLN PRODUCER: She was so emotional because she was -- I don`t think she was prepared for the cross-examine, it was so intense in the courtroom, Jane. And what really, really was the best part of the court hearing today was that they played the defense had edited clips of "Desperate Housewives". We watched about seven minutes of the "Desperate Housewives" where they showed Marc Cherry has killed off over 40 characters in his show.

So they were saying look, Nicollette is just one of 40 characters he has killed off. This is not that big of a deal. And then they went on to kind of grill her on the stand and say you won a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress, right? And Terri Hatcher and Marcia Cross, the other women on the show, they won a Golden Globe and Emmy award for Best Actor.

And they were trying to basically prove that Nicollette isn`t a main character on the show. She was a supporting actor. She wasn`t one of the other main four women on the show. So it was really heated and they attacked her pretty much.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes. We`re going to get analysis now from Ken Baker from E! on this stunning statement that she made. Marc Cherry says Nicollette`s character`s death, as you just heard, was nothing unusual. They kill people off all the time and in court they showed a montage of all 40 death scenes.

Let`s take another look at how Nicollette does on "Desperate Housewives". We`ll show you some clips while we talk to Ken Baker, E! chief news correspondent. This has gotten serious. It has gotten serious because it started out as something that was kind of funny, ha-ha-ha.

But then this lady right here said something very, very controversial talking about the producer that she is at war with legally, and his sexual orientation, like that has something to do with it. Let`s check this out from "Desperate Housewives".

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TERRI HATCHER, ACTRESS: It`s a little awkward, and I apologize in advance for how this is going to sound. But by any chance, did you burn down my house?

NICOLLETTE SHERIDAN, ACTRESS: Yes.

HATCHER: What?

SHERIDAN: Yes I burned down your house, you sleazy little (EXPLETIVE DELETED).

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: So Nicollette`s character Edie was known as a husband-stealing, vindictive temptress. And I have to ask you Selin Darkalstanian, what was the response in court and outside court to Nicollette`s very controversial comments that she made referring to this guy that she is fighting with, Marc Cherry`s sexual orientation and the fact that she is a heterosexual. Boy -- that seems unnecessary.

DARKALSTANIAN: That`s what the defense started with, asking her about well, one time you said that he slapped you because he was a gay man, you were a heterosexual woman. And then in your second statement, you changed it and you said he violently hit you because he was a gay man, you were a heterosexual woman.

And she got -- Nicollette got really, really angry on the stand. And she didn`t want to answer these questions. And she said that she -- that they were misunderstanding what she meant to say. And she ended up and she was like, "This is ridiculous," on the stand. And the judge said to her, "Mrs. Sheridan, calm down."

I mean she got really, really emotional on the stand. So I don`t think she knew this was coming into play today in court. But it was definitely something that is going to come up again.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, I got to tell you, because people have said before this that she is never going to work in Hollywood again. She is definitely -- I mean some would say never going to work in Hollywood again because she sort of crossed a whole bunch of lines here, which are not good to cross in Hollywood. But we shall see. I could be wrong.

Ok. Another huge trial. Deliberations. The jury deliberated all day today in the murder trial of Jason Young, accused of butchering his pregnant wife to death. No verdict yet. We remain on verdict watch with you. And we will bring you the very latest on Monday when there could be a verdict.

Now, up next, again, something completely different. But if you love animals, you want to hear it.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Gut-wrenching footage from an undercover investigation sending shockwaves through the U.S.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We`re talking about standard industry practices that are so inhumane. In addition to these cruelties, we found malicious and sadistic abuse by workers.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What are these people trying to hide? Why are they so desperate to keep cameras out of these factory farms?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Hens locked in cages and allegedly left to starve to debt for two agonizing weeks. This is what it looked like when they went. I want to warn you, you may find this video disturbing. But it`s crucial that we as Americans bear witness to what is really happening on America`s factory farms. You need to know. So watch.

Nearly 50,000 hens reportedly abandoned and left to starve to death in a central California factory farm. When rescuers finally got in, less than 3,000 of the animals could be saved. That`s right, 47,000 hens died. And the rescuers want the farmer who allegedly abandoned them brought up on charges.

But where was the Agriculture Department? Where were the USDA inspectors? Why were these animals allegedly left without food or water for two weeks to die? We called the local district attorney and got no response.

This is why animal lovers say they need to be able to see for themselves what is going on in these modern factory farms. But tonight on the governor`s desk in Iowa, what critics call the AG Gag bill, saying it`s designed to stop undercover investigations like these from exposing animal abuse on America`s factory farms. The bill would essentially make it illegal for anyone applying for a job at a farm to conceal that they`re members of an animal rights group. Critics are calling this bill un- American.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GRAPHICS: Iowa is about to enact the nation`s first AG Gag Law. It aims to outlaw investigations exposing animal cruelty on factory farms. What are factory farms in Iowa trying to hide?

See for yourself.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Those are chicks going to their deaths. Sadly, the rest of the video shows such disturbing abuse of farm animals, we cannot show it to you. So what do you think about this? Call me, 1-877-JVM-SAYS.

Straight out to Nathan Runkle, head of Mercy for Animals which has done numerous undercover investigations that have exposed horrific cruelty on factory farms; Nathan, why do you feel this Iowa bill that is on the governor`s desk in Iowa is bad for America?

NATHAN RUNKLE, EXEC. DIRECTOR, MERCY FOR ANIMALS: The intent of this bill is simple. It`s to shield animal abusers from public scrutiny. And not only would this bill create a safe haven of factory farm abuse, but it also threatens consumer health, food safety, our civil liberties, and it creates a criminal environment where all sorts of unethical behavior can flourish. And that has to stop. This bill is un-American, and it`s dangerous for the American consumers.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: The governor of Iowa says he has received the legislation late yesterday and is in the process of reviewing it prior to deciding whether to sign or veto the bill. The governor`s decision will come within three days as required by code. The governor says he was impressed by the broad bipartisan support the bill received in both the House and the Senate.

But the Des Moines register has printed two editorials against this bill, saying it essentially makes it criminal for an employee to expose the truth. And the American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa says, "We all know it`s a thinly veiled attempt to eliminate investigating reporting and whistle blowing regarding abuses in our food production chain."

Some say it`s unconstitutional and offends (ph) free speech rights. Kay Johnson Smith, you are the CEO and president of Animal Agriculture Alliance which represents the farmers and producers. What is your response to the criticism?

KAY JOHNSON SMITH, CEO/PRESIDENT, ANIMAL AGRICULTURE ALLIANCE: Jane, actually the bill is specifically an accountability bill. And it requires that any sorts of signs of mistreatment or abuse are reported immediately and reported to appropriate authorities.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: But how can people report it if they can`t see it. And it`s not being reported by the government and there is no inherent interest in the people who run the farm to report it themselves? They would be reporting on themselves.

SMITH: Jane, excuse me, but that is absolutely ridiculous. The people who work and own the farms, it is their livelihood to care for their animals. And the people who work there are absolutely charged with the responsibility and the requirement that they report any signs of animal abuse. Most employees now are required to sign agreements saying that they will report abuse immediately upon witnessing anything that they -- that is of concern.

So this bill absolutely requires them to report it immediately, and again, to appropriate authorities rather than sitting -- rather than sitting on this videotape that maybe have been shot weeks or months before. And if there is alleged abuse, that abuse has allowed to continue under the activists.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Ok. You`ve said your piece, and I appreciate that. That`s why we have you on. We want to get all sides.

Bruce Friedrich, it`s always the animal rights undercover investigators who report abuse.

BRUCE FRIEDRICH, FARM SANCTUARY: that`s absolutely true and it`s happened dozens of times. There are no instances in which anybody has been convicted to animals other than when it happened because of these undercover investigations.

In Iowa, there was an undercover investigation of a massive slaughterhouse where they were literally ripping the tracheas out of fully conscious cattle and it had been happening for years. And yet it required undercover investigations to stop it. It is disingenuous --

(CROSSTALK)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: More on the other side. Stay right there.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: A slew of tornadoes threatening Indiana, Kentucky, Mississippi, Tennessee, Alabama, Ohio. Small towns, some of them have been almost entirely destroyed. There are fatalities. We do not have complete numbers because this devastation is under way.

We will keep you updated.

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(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The torture that they put these animals through.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do you mean?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They get mad and they just whack them with (EXPLETIVE DELETED).

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Critics say this is bill is about blocking undercover investigations like this one. That was an investigation at an egg farm with one location in Iowa. So Iowa`s trying to pass this bill. It`s on the governor`s desk. I`m holding it right here.

And the "Des Moines Register" has done editorials against it. You have 26 organizations including the Humane Society of the United States and various other organizations, Mercy for Animals, Farm Sanctuary. Dozens of groups have come out against this bill saying that it`s supposed to be a template for the entire country.

And so Nathan, if it passes, who is going to find out and speak for the animals inside these farms?

RUNKLE: Well, that`s the problem. There`s not a single federal law that provides protection to farmed animals, which is why this abuse runs rampant inside of factory farms.

These animals live almost their entire lives crammed in cages where they can`t turn around. Many of them are mutilated without pain killers. They`re beaten by workers, some of them have their throats slit while they`re fully conscious. And others are thrown into grinding machines while they`re still alive.

This is the type of abuse that the factory farm industry is fighting so desperately to keep hidden from the American people.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. Kay Johnson Smith, you`re shaking your head. Tell us.

SMITH: Well, ok. So Mercy for Animals has been quoted as saying that these undercover investigations against animal agriculture are the lifeblood of their organization. It`s no surprise that they would be opposed to this type of bill.

But I would go back to the point to say that all of the animal groups have animal care guidelines. They follow these guidelines. And this bill again does nothing but strengthen the law to protect animals to ensure that if there is abuse that that abuse is being reported immediately and again back to appropriate authorities and not being used as a fund-raising videotape.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, Bruce Friedrich, Farm Sanctuary, senior director of strategic initiatives, remember the slaughterhouse investigated three years ago that resulted in the largest meat recall in U.S. history at the time. USDA inspectors were there at that -- we`re going to show you that video in a second. USDA inspectors were right there.

They didn`t see that video. It was blatant, obvious abuse. So there is an unholy alliance according to a lot of critics between the U.S. government, USDA and the meat producers and the other animal agriculture industries that you`re not going to get the inspectors to report on this.

FRIEDRICH: That`s absolutely true, Jane. 97 percent of Americans want to see animals protected from abuse. And it`s just true that chickens and pigs, it`s no different to torment a chicken or torment a pig than it would be to do the same thing to a dog or a cat.

And yes as Nathan was talking about on these modern farms, as just one example they cram five hens into an 18x20 inch wire-mesh cage for her entire life. They chop off her beak and cram hundreds of thousands of these into sheds.

The take home message for people who are horrified by the idea that rather than improving conditions the industry is going to take away our right to know, the take-home message is if you don`t support cruelty to animals withdraw your support for this abuse by stopping eating these poor animals who are being gratuitously abused by the industry that Kay is defending.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, I will say this. We`ve had an open and honest discussion about this issue. It`s on the governor`s desk. And all I can say to you, Governor of Iowa is, as Jiminy Cricket says, "Let your conscience be your guide." The world is watching.

"NANCY GRACE" is next.

END