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Rich Teen Avoids Prison for Fatal Drunk Driving Accident; No Domestic Violence Charges to Be Filed Against George Zimmerman

Aired December 11, 2013 - 19:00:00   ET


JANE VELEZ-MITCHELL, HOST: Tonight public outrage and total disgust. A 16-year-old self-proclaimed spoiled little rich boy walks away from killing four people and leaving one of his own passengers in a coma during a drunk driving accident, and he gets a slap on the wrist. That`s right.

This kid, Ethan Couch, drove a red truck straight into four innocent people standing on the side of the road. Instead of getting 20 years behind bars, he`s getting ten years` probation. Our two-tiered system of justice has gone too far this time.

Good evening. I`m Jane Velez-Mitchell coming to you live. Thanks for joining me.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I apologize. It`s been an emotional day.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The first question: Was alcohol a factor in the accident? From the night we were there we said we believed alcohol was a factor in the accident.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The sentence that involved therapy here at his home in California that cost $450,000 a year, rather than years behind bars.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He`ll be feeling the hand of God definitely. He may think he`s gotten away with something, but he hasn`t gotten away with anything.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Here is my rant. I am outraged. I am sickened by this judge, Judge Jean Boyd, and her elitist decision. Coddling is not a strong enough word.

The defense lawyer even had the audacity to argue that Ethan suffers from "affluenza," as in affluent. It looks like this judge bought this load of B.S. and, in doing so, may well have given the bratty kid the chance to spin even more out of control.

In effect, the judge admitted, yes, there`s a two-tiered system of justice: one for the poor, who, let`s face it, are often minorities, and one for the rich, like this kid. How dare this judge buy this argument that this kid is just a victim of his wealth and bad parenting. It pollutes the criminal justice system, which is supposed to be blind, particularly to privilege, particularly to money and power.

This sentence is basically saying if you`re rich, you live in a no- consequence zone. You can kill with abandon. You won`t do any hard time. You won`t do any time at all.

A man whose wife and daughter were killed by this kid put it best. Listen to him.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Money always seems to keep Ethan out of trouble. This was one time I did ask the court that -- for justice and that for money not to prevail. And ultimately today, I felt like money did prevail.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Call me: 1-877-JVM-SAYS. What do you think of this kid getting not any time behind bars? 1-877-586-7297.

You know, I remember covering a story where a lawyer once sparked outrage by suggesting his client was too pretty for prison. His client was a hot blond. Well, now we have lawyers and a judge saying this young man is too rich for prison.

Jon Leiberman, investigative reporter, are you kidding me?

JON LEIBERMAN, HLN CONTRIBUTOR: Jane, and justice for some. I mean, you look at this case, and once again the victims get the short end of the stick.

And I`ll tell you what, Jane: The moment this 16-year-old was charged as a juvenile, that was his get-out-of-jail-free card, because prosecutors asked for 20 years of prison for this 16-year-old. But even if they got that sentence, he would have only served two or three years in jail. That was the first thing.

And the victims don`t even get the solace of that, because instead, he gets 10 years` probation, and the only way he`s going to end up behind bars is if he screws up and violates his probation.

One other thing, Jane. I went through the court documents, and this is what I found that probably upset me the most. He actually told another teenager at the scene that, quote, his family would get him out of anything.


LEIBERMAN: That`s what he said at the scene after killing four people.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Of course. Listen, his lawyers admitted he was drinking, he was driving, OK? Three times the legal limit, .24, but argued that his parents were partially to blame because they gave him everything he wanted and never disciplined him.

The defense argued that makes him a victim, so he belongs on probation and in high-priced therapy.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There`s nothing the judge could have done that`s going to lessen the suffering for any of those families. And if Ethan doesn`t do what he`s supposed to do, if he has one misstep at all, then this judge or an adult judge when he`s transferred can then incarcerate him.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: This rehab facility he`s going to ain`t any old rehab. The price tag is $450,000 a year. Plush. Newport Beach area, one of the richest areas in America. Yes, his parents offered to pay for it.

You know, I got to go to Jasmyne Cannick, race and politics critic and commentator out of L.A. If this had been a poor young minority who had done the exact same thing -- let`s say an African-American young man -- behind the wheel, do you think he would have the same outcome?

JASMYNE CANNICK, RACE AND POLITICS CRITIC AND COMMENTATOR: Absolutely not. He would be under the prison.

This is just another example of how, when it comes to white people, in particular wealthy people, the justice system seems to be more concerned with rehabilitation than punishment. If this had been someone who was poor, you know, as you said earlier, which often happens to be minorities, black and brown people, this would not have been the outcome. And Americans everywhere need to be outraged over this.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: I got to read a statement that just came in moments ago for the attorney for the juvenile respondent, is how they refer to him, and they say that this judge "fully understands the difference between adult and adolescent offenders" and that "we believe Judge Boyd listened closely to all of the evidence presented and made the courageous decision to render the appropriate disposition in this case."

Kelly Saindon, former prosecutor, do you agree with the defense attorneys?

KELLY SAINDON, FORMER PROSECUTOR: No. I think he`s so out of line. He said the judge made the right courageous decision, because the judge took his side. This kid is a punk. He took Valium. He stole beer. He killed people. He laughed about it. His parents did buy his way out of it, and he didn`t learn a lesson.

And now he blamed his parents, and they`re still footing the bill. It makes me sick to my stomach. There isn`t justice for any of the victims.

I disagree with your former guest that says it wouldn`t alleviate former suffering, because I think people want to believe in our system and think that there`s some retribution and that someone is paying for a crime they committed. And this kid is paying for a spa for a year at $450,000 a year.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: It`s absolutely outrageous. And I know the phone lines are lighting up. So let`s go to Lisa, Illinois. What have you got to say, Lisa, Illinois?

CALLER: Hi, Jane. Thanks for taking my call. I am just outraged. When do people start suffering consequences for their actions?

VELEZ-MITCHELL: I don`t know. I mean, it really depends on what people. We`ve had stories of a young man, a young African-American man standing at a bus stop gets arrested.

This guy plows in and creates this horrific car accident. Wendy Walsh, look at the wreckage of this accident. Four people are dead. One of the kids in his car is in a coma. Wreckage, wreckage, wreckage. Families destroyed, lives destroyed, and he is already allegedly, purportedly saying, "My parents will get me out of this." And they did.

WENDY WALSH, AUTHOR, "THE 30-DAY LOVE DETOX": Well, I am sure that at the scene of that, Jane, he would probably have been saying that because he was so terrified about what might happen to him.

But I want to explain, there are two distinct things we`re talking about here. One is the difference between trying a juvenile versus an adult. And I`m a big believer in the developing brain takes time. We have laws to protect juvies for a reason.

But the other piece of this is the social piece, because if this were a 16-year-old Latino or African-American young man, then we would probably have a difficult outcome.

So I think we should stick to the argument which is about social class and money and not the argument about juvie versus adult. Because, you know, they are children. It`s sad. This is a tragedy. It`s terrible. They`re doing adult-like things. But we have laws that say...

VELEZ-MITCHELL: He`s behind the wheel of a car. He killed people. He killed people.

You know what? He has to suffer, though, with living with himself. I know it sounds like a corny cliche, but ultimately, there are many prisons in this world, and the worst prison is right up here.

It`s disgusting. I don`t know what you were thinking, Judge, but you really made a mockery out of our criminal justice system.

George Zimmerman -- speaking of mockeries of our criminal justice system -- arrested, of course. We all covered that story after his girlfriend called 911 saying that he had a loaded gun pointed at her. Well, then she said, never mind. We covered that second after it broke.

Now a new development that will have you steaming on the other side. Just came in.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK. The officers can speak with you on the scene. Have you spoken within them?

ZIMMERMAN: No. But they`re pretty upset, I think.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The officers are upset?

ZIMMERMAN: Yes, they`re banging on the door and the window.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You`re not going to go speak with them?

ZIMMERMAN: I don`t have anything to say.




UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Scheibe called police and accused Zimmerman of threatening her with a gun and pushing her out of her Apopka, Florida home during an argument.

ZIMMERMAN: She`s pregnant. I`m not going to put her through that kind of stress.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The victim has disclosed to us that she is not pregnant.

ZIMMERMAN: I kept yelling "Help, help, help."


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Breaking news just in. Teflon George does it again. Florida prosecutors announcing moments ago they will not -- they will not charge George Zimmerman in that domestic dispute with his girlfriend last month that we were all talking about.

You remember: Samantha Scheibe called 911 saying George Zimmerman had broken a table with his gun and had also pointed it at her? He was arrested on suspicion of aggravated assault, battery and criminal mischief.

The girlfriend has had a big change of heart. She told investigators, "Never mind. Forget about it. I don`t want to charge him." And without her cooperation, they`ve concluded there is no case.

Wow. What a difference a month makes. Listen to her 911 call on that fateful day.



OK. I`m doing this again? You just broke my glass table. you JUST broke my sunglasses, and you put your gun in my freakin` face and told me to get (EXPLETIVE DELETED) out. This is not your house. No, get out of here.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, now she says she was misinterpreted and may have misspoken. She even accused investigators of pressuring her, something the sheriff`s department denies.

Now, George Zimmerman`s arrest, as we all know, just four months after being found not guilty in the death of Trayvon Martin, the unarmed teen who was coming home with Skittles and a soft drink when he was gunned down by George Zimmerman, the former Neighborhood Watchman.

Since then, George has had a slew of run-ins with cops. you remember, of course, the nasty fight he had with his estranged wife Shellie. How, Jasmyne Cannick, race and politics critic, does he keep avoiding legal consequences?

CANNICK: I don`t know. It`s almost like he has a friend somewhere looking out for him, isn`t it? But I think that we will see him get in some more trouble, and hopefully, when that happens, he will suffer some consequences.

I`m clear: I don`t believe the girlfriend. I think the girlfriend is just trying to backtrack right now. We`ve seen that before in other domestic violence situations. And like we`ve seen in other domestic violence situations, it might happen again. It probably happen again, and we`ll see what happens, if they`ll be able to ignore it again.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, during his arraignment last month, the prosecutor had some really shocking revelations. Listen to what the prosecutor said about George Zimmerman, his mental state and his relationship with his girlfriend.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The victim had indicated that there was a prior domestic violence incident that occurred approximately a week and a half ago, that involved a choking that she did not report to the police. She is in fear for her safety on the day of this incident. She had indicated that they had been discussing breaking up. He also has mentioned suicide in the recent past. Due to those factors and the defendant indicating at the time he was threatening to commit suicide, he had nothing to lose.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Wow, Wendy Walsh, psychologist, nothing to lose. Suicidal. That`s what I call a real catch. What the heck?

WALSH: OK. So I want to talk a little bit about this relationship and what can happen in domestic violence cases like this. It`s very common for the police to try to get victims of domestic violence to testify and be involved in the trial.

But honestly, once you`re cooled down and you`re feeling safe, Jane, a lot of those women just want to be as far away from that guy as possible. And to go through what they would have to go through in court would be another injury to them. As...

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Let me jump in. Let me jump in for once second.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Because she has said, according to an affidavit, she wants to get back together with him.

WALSH: Exactly.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: She`s asked for the restraining order to be thrown out.


WALSH: This is an awful cycle.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Just finish your thought, Wendy. You`re saying that`s part of the cycle?

WALSH: Domestic violence -- domestic violence is a very complicated thing, and it`s really important that we not blame the victim here but do talk about how the two work part and parcel. It starts off with violence. It often ends after the violence in an amazing honeymoon phase. It`s sort of warm fuzzies and cold pricklies, and it`s very hard to distance yourself, especially if you`re wired to be attracted to that type of thing.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Jon Leiberman.

LEIBERMAN: But Jane, one thing -- one thing we haven`t addressed is this. The moment the charges were dropped, George Zimmerman can now possess guns again. He now doesn`t have a GPS tracker on him, and of course, he doesn`t have a stay-away order from this woman.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Oh, my gosh, the idea of him possessing guns again, Mark Starling, radio reporter, News 96.5 out of Orlando, I mean, this has mesmerized the nation, but it has just consumed Orlando. Any sense of the reaction? Have you been able to get any sense of the reaction to the fact that she`s saying forget about it?

MARK STARLING, RADIO REPORTER, NEWS 96.5: No, I think people here are literally going, "Are you kidding me?" because it happened again. This guy is like the Teflon Don. He can dodge pretty much anything that gets thrown at him, and somehow or another, he comes out smelling like a rose every time.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, I`m concerned about him having guns. I mean, his estranged wife, Shellie, says that he`s a ticking time bomb. Quickly, Mark.

STARLING: You know, Jane, the last time we heard from George Zimmerman, the plans were that he was moving to Texas. So as far as central Florida is concerned, we can only hope that he moves to Texas with his guns at this point.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, from your mouth to God`s ear, but I don`t know if I`m happy for Texas. Why should Texas have to deal with it? I mean, oy.

On the other said, this is a story that, honestly, just when you think you`ve heard everything, no. A six-year-old boy -- and when I tell you why he was suspended from school, you`re going to -- your jaw is going to drop. You`re going to fall off your chair. Strap that seat belt on we`ll be back in a second.


HUNTER YELTON, STUDENT: I did something wrong. They sent me to the office. I feel sorry.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Have you been trying to be good at school?

YELTON: Yes, but I just have a lot of energy.




UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This six-year-old is being called a sexual harasser.

YELTON: I kissed her on the hand. That`s what happened.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Suspended from school for kissing his girlfriend on the hand.

YELTON: She sent me to the office, fair and square.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is not a joke. The school says it`s sexual harassment. Are you kidding me?

YELTON: I just have a lot of energy.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Turn an innocent classroom smooch into a criminal offense.

JENNIFER SAUNDERS, HUNTER`S MOM: Now my son is asking questions: "What is sex, Mommy."

He`s six years old.

YELTON: Us six-year-olds, we have a lot of energy.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: In the Lion`s Den tonight, a first grader accused of -- fasten that seat belt -- sexual harassment. No, I`m not making this up. He doesn`t even know what sex is. She`s six years old, this little guy, Hunter Yelton. He`s adorable, isn`t he? Well, he`s suspended from his Colorado school for kissing a classmate on the hand. Here, Hunter is going to explain exactly what happened.


YELTON: We were doing reading group and I leaned over and kissed her on the hand. That`s what happened.

JENNIFER SAUNDERS: This is taking it to an extreme that doesn`t need to be met with a six-year-old. Now my son`s asking questions: "What is sex, Mommy?" It should ever be said sex, in a sentence with a six-year- old.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: This is nuts. Nuts. The school has now cursed this little boy with a virtual scarlet letter "H" for harasser. It`s damaging label that will stick with him as long as he`s in that school district.

This isn`t Hunter`s first time in trouble. He`s been suspended for roughhousing and for kissing the same girl on the cheek. Oh, my god.

You know, look, a kiss from a six-year-old, it`s innocent affection. Wake up, you moronic adults. Yes, OK, teach kids about boundaries. Teach them what`s appropriate at school, but jeez, don`t give them a disgraceful label that should be reserved for creepy, predatory adults.

We repeatedly reached out to Hunter`s school for comment; haven`t heard back. But boy, please, I`d love you to come on our show and discuss it.

And I want to hear from you at home: 1-877-JVM-SAYS.

We have an exclusive guest and we`re delighted to have Jeff Saunders, the grandfather of six-year-old Hunter.

Jeff, if I may call you Jeff...


VELEZ-MITCHELL: ... what was your reaction when you first heard that your adorable grandson, who is clearly precocious and adorable and smart and adorable, was given this horrific label for kissing a little girl on the hand?

JEFF SAUNDERS: Yes, it was when my daughter sent this to us through the e-mail. I said, no way. No way. Got to fix it. And that was Sunday morning. My wife, she was on the phone or on the Internet all day, just getting that information out there that this is wrong. We can`t have this. Can`t have it. It`s wrong.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Did you think it was a joke? I mean, let me pause for a second. Because I went out on the streets of New York and I asked people, and people were like, "You`ve got to be kidding, right?" They`re like, "You`re joking." Listen.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So sad. He`s a sweet little boy. They take things too far.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: No, I`m not kidding.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: I`m not kidding.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Now he`s asking his mom, "What is sex, Mommy?"


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Kids kiss all the time. I mean, my daughter, she hugs all of her friends and says good-bye, gives a kiss. I automatically say, "Give them a kiss and a hug."

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Do you kiss your friends?




VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes. You know, kids kiss. I mean, one more question to Jeff, grandpa of the six-year-old: has he been traumatized? Is he asking, you know, "Mommy, what is sex?" Does he feel like he`s -- does he feel shame based?

Well, let me throw that to Wendy Walsh, psychologist. I`ve really got to ask you about this.

WALSH: OK. I want people to understand, Jane, that developing sexuality happens in peer to peer in children and teenagers, but it`s not genital. It`s affection; it`s love. It comes from the kind of affection we give our babies. We touch them; we kiss them. We give them love. They want to extend that to their friends.

Eventually, when they`re past puberty, it becomes something else. But this idea that the school is going to label this child and potentially traumatize him and make him feel so bad about himself is the wrong way to deal with it.

This is an important teaching moment where, if this was an unwanted kiss on the hand, which I believe was very gentlemanly, by the way, that he could have learned about what the experience was like for the girl. Think of us parents out there, Jane, whose kids might be biting. What is that now? Criminal assault because a three-year-old has been biting at a preschool? Come on.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right. Let me go to Shannon Carroll, our associate producer. Because when we were discussing this story this morning, I was quite shocked that Shannon agreed with the school and made an argument during our morning meeting. So hit it, Shannon.

SHANNON CARROLL, ASSOCIATE PRODUCER: Jane, as a former teacher and as a person who will have kids in the future. If I have a daughter and some boy decides to kiss her on the hand and she doesn`t want it, that`s harassment.

Now, for a young boy, he`s six years old, yes, he`s showing some affection, but if it`s unwanted, it`s harassment. Let`s call a spade a spade. And as a teacher, what do you do in that situation? Do you just slap him on the hand and say, "Don`t do that"? He did that before. He`s been suspended for kissing the same girl on the cheek. So how do we draw the line from...

WALSH: Well, if that`s true, then we see some behavioral shaping. This is a positive move, Jane.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: It`s a label.

WALSH: He was kissing her on the cheek, and it`s a move to the hand. This is called positive behavioral shaping. Eventually, the next step is he`s going to learn to say, "May I kiss you on the hand" and get an answer.

CARROLL: What about the little girl? Does she just have to go by this boy kissed me and nobody is doing anything about it? She needs to learn boundaries, too.


WALSH: They`re friends. There`s plenty of other things that can be done. The other things that can be done is sit her down and let her talk about it to him. Let her use her words -- use her words like we`re doing here.


CARROLL: But if we never discipline our offenders...

LEIBERMAN: ... gone awry.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: It is. Kelly Saindon, former prosecutor.

SAINDON: This is the most ridiculous debate I`ve probably ever heard and I don`t mean to be disrespectful to your panelists, but are you kidding me? They`re six. He likes her; it`s his friend. He kissed her on the hand.

Now sexual harassment, it`s an improper usage. He can be taught not to touch other children. But come on: now it`s on his record and he`s suspended? I`m not for it. I think this is obscene.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: I agree with you. I can`t even believe we`re debating it. But there were some people who thought the school made the right decision. Go figure.

Time for "Me, My Pet and I." Yes, I`m excited about our new segment. Tweet us your pet selfies at #jvmpetselfies. And look at these selfies.

Jamie and Missy, rock on. Oh Kelly, that`s a beauty. And take a look at Yolanda and Murray. These are fabulous; they`re just coming in. We want to see yours. Chelsea, which one is Chelsea? Send them in.



REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: The American people expect their leaders to sit down and try to resolve their differences.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get your act together and don`t increase these prices.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The least productive Congress ever.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If they`re going to get twice the price, they`re going to sell it to USDA.



VELEZ-MITCHELL: Tonight`s big story, the big mess in Washington. The seconds tick away as our less than zero Congress packs up for yet another vacation -- they have so many -- starting this Friday morning. That brings us to the latest media fomented faux crisis, the so-called dairy cliff.

Yes, so scary. You see politicians have been haggling over the farm bill. Without a deal in sight, a drum beat of fear has begun that milk prices could skyrocket to $7 a gallon or more. You know what I say? Good -- let milk prices skyrocket. Americans are drinking way, way, way too much cow`s milk.

May I remind you that cow`s milk in nature is designed to rapidly fatten up baby calves to hundreds of pounds. Instead humans are wildly over-consuming cow`s milk in the form of milk, butter, cheese, milk shakes, ice cream, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. Isn`t that appetizing?

The result is two-thirds of Americans are overweight or obese -- two- thirds. Health costs are skyrocketing. Taxpayers are paying. The farm bill is a health fiasco for Americans. Taxpayers subsidize the production of corn that turns into high fructose corn syrup in processed food, in junk food, in fast food -- ok. Just like dairy, that`s exhibiting to the obesity crisis. And to add insult to injury, U.S. taxpayers are already subsidizing people who are already rich -- rich farmers, ok, get even richer through obscenely generous subsidies and crop insurance.

People, it`s a racket and the dupes are you and me, the taxpayers. We`re paying on both ends. American taxpayers are subsidizing our own health crisis. The U.S. government has created the obesity crisis and nobody talks about it even though all the talking heads talk endlessly about national health care and Obamacare, they`re missing the big point.

The U.S. government spending billions but do they subsidize organic fruits and vegetables like spinach and broccoli? A drop in the bucket. And I`ll go over the facts and the stats in a second.

But first out to Jeanne Zaino, professor of political science, HuffPo contributor -- I made my case. I think it`s a mess and I think we miss the points when we do the same old tired arguments about the Republicans and the Democrats. They`re both, both responsible for this mess.

JEANNE ZAINO, HUFFPO CONTRIBUTOR: They are. I mean there is an obesity crisis in this country without no question. But there`s also other crises in terms of 49 million people living in insecure homes when it comes to food -- they don`t have enough to eat. That`s 48 million who are on food stamps. And that is also a crisis in this country.

I mean we`ve seen the President talking about the inequality issues. Here in New York City we`ve seen the new in-coming mayor talking about it. And that is part of this as well. I absolutely agree with you about the obesity crisis. But you also have to take into consideration the 48 million people who don`t have enough food to eat.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, let me say this Jeanne.

ZAINO: And without the food stamps --

VELEZ-MITCHELL: I would like to see the food stamps restricted to healthy food because when people are given money to go out and buy food that`s going to make them sick and it`s going to shorten their lives -- that`s not a good thing. I got to go to something else.

There`s another aspect of this food bill and farm bill and that is they`re trying to slide in things, like the King Amendment. That would have a huge effect on not only food safety but the cruelty that is exhibited and inflicted on 9 billion cows, pigs, chickens and animals raised and killed for food in the U.S. every year. This King Amendment, critics say is going to rip away the tiny little protections that we have for farm animals and threaten our food safety in the process.

John Goodwin of the Humane Society -- make your case.

JOHN GOODWIN, HUMANE SOCIETY: The King Amendment is an all out assaults on a state`s right to set any standard for agriculture products. This is an attack on state standards for farm animal welfare, for food safety, for environmental standards. Not only would this strike down laws in California to give hens more room in the cages. It would even strike down laws like Maryland has that prohibit the use of arsenic in poultry feed. This is an overly broad amendment and it is going to be dangerous that it`s enacted.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Jeanne Zaino -- just 10 or 15 second to wrap up your point.

ZAINO: The King Amendment I absolutely agree with, John, is a disaster. It`s not going to pass. If it did it would be struck down as unconstitutional. The states have a right to protect their health safety and well-being and the King Amendment tries to restrict that. It`s also hypocritical on the part of Representative King who claims to be a Tea Party member supporting the 10th amendment so it`s a little bit bizarre.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: I know that this was a short conversation. I love both of you. I want to bring you both back to continue it. So thank you.

On the next subject, it`s unbelievable. We`re talking about a Disney star going on cocaine binges and the secrets that she is revealing are unbelievable.

Stay around. We`ll hit that next.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Time for #hilarious. Everybody needs a workout partner and this gym in Washington says come, bring your dogs and you can work out right next to the fellow working out with four legs. Wow. This I got to tell you, these are what I call, well, thick pups. A massage? Oh my God, the spa?



DEMI LOVATO, ACTRESS: I think as a teenager you have temptation.

It`s not a matter of keeping up an image for everyone else.

There we go.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Tonight`s buzz: beautiful Disney superstar had a descent into the hellish world of cocaine addiction and she`s climbed back out -- I`m happy for her. Super talented singer, Demi Lovato, makes a shocking revelation. She couldn`t go more than half an hour to an hour without having cocaine. She even admits to smuggling the dangerous drug on planes despite having a sober coach with her 24/7.

Listen to this from "Access: Hollywood".


LOVATO: I could hide it to where I would sneak drugs. I couldn`t go without probably like 30 minutes to an hour without cocaine. And I would bring it on airplanes.


LOVATO: I would just, I don`t know. I would smuggle it basically. And just wait until everyone in first class went to sleep and I would do it right there or I would sneak to the bathroom and I would do it.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Three years ago Demi was about to go on tour with the Jonas Brothers until she abruptly canceled after freaking out and punching one of her own backup dancers. Demi entered a treatment facility for addiction, eating disorders and cutting.

Now she undoubtedly has come a long way since leaving rehab in 2011 -- that`s two years ago. Demi even lived in a sober house during her first stint as a judge on the "X Factor". That`s amazing -- living this incredibly glamorous Hollywood life and then she goes back to sober living house every night.

Listen to what she told "The Late, Late Show with Craig Ferguson".


LOVATO: There`s a lot of young people that look up to me and I just - - there needs to be someone that stands out and says it`s not about, you know, malling and partying and all of that stuff.


LOVATO: You know.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Melanie Bromley, senior correspondent "E! News", this is shocking but it`s also extremely courageous for her now that he is sober to talk about what she was like.

MELANIE BROMLEY, SENIOR CORRESPONDENT "E! NEWS": That`s right. You know, she has just released a book as well which has kind of motivational words for every day of the year. But for her to come out at the age of 21 and show such courage and be so honest about the struggles that she`s been through; it`s very, very rare in today`s Hollywood society where most of the times celebrities are trying to cover up the problems that they`re going through.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Oh yes. I mean listen, you would never know it from her innocent appearance during her Disney years. She was so innocent.

BROMLEY: You know, we are seeing this actually where young child stars have gone through terrible kind of personal struggles. But the reason she wants to speak out about this is really about kind of -- she knows -- she`s very smart. She knows the average age of her fan base. She knows that she can help people.

You know, by being in the public eye, she is in a unique position whereby speaking out she can help people. That`s what she wants to do. But the revelations honestly, smuggling cocaine on to an airplane, doing cocaine in first class -- this isn`t something that you hear about every day.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Now, listen, I got a story for you. And she described -- she actually described the moment that she hit bottom two years ago when she went to the airport in the morning with a Sprite bottle secretly filled with vodka. Listen to this from "Access: Hollywood".


LOVATO: It was 9:00 in the morning and I was like throwing up in the car and this was just to get on a plane and go back to L.A. to the sober living house that I was staying at. And, you know, I had all the help in the world but I didn`t want it. And when I hit that moment, I was like, it`s no longer fun when you`re doing it alone.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Jennifer Gimenez, actress and owner of magazine. She is describing hitting bottom.

JENNIFER GIMENEZ, OWNER, SOBERBOOK.COM MAGAZINE: Oh, yes. You know, just listening to her say that right now, you know, it`s a spiritual malady we`re suffering from. And I do applaud her for doing what she`s doing now. And speaking and finding other -- you know, speaking on behalf of people who are now in recovery and that you can make it whatever you want to look like. She`s on top of her game right now.

Hitting that bottom, my god, you know, it just happens when it happens. And I love that saying that she said -- like she had all the help in the world but yet she didn`t want it. This is a wanting program. I lot of people say to me a lot of times, why can`t you save this person or save that person. You know, if I could I would. And if people, you know, could have saved me but that`s not the thing. This is about wanting it not needing it but really wanting it.

And I just think that she has a great understanding about recovery right now and learning to find herself. I`m very, very proud of her.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: I`m proud of her too. The book she wrote is a memoir called "Staying Strong 365 Days a Year". And you know, some people say well, that`s self promotion. But I`ll tell you something, it takes guts to reveal all those secrets. And Wendy Walsh, 10 seconds, what would you say to Demi Lovato?

WENDY WALSH, PSYCHOLOGIST: Well, I think coming out with the book is a wonderful way to publicly come out and also stay sober because we`re all here with you supporting you. And I think you can get through this -- Demi.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: There`s no cure. All there is, is a daily reprieve and I say that as a recovering alcoholic with 18 years of sobriety. One day at a time.

Stay right there.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Time for Pet of the Day. Send your pet pics to Coco, you are -- Jackson, what do you want for Christmas. Have you been good Reesee? Naughty or nice -- honey. Riley those antlers make me want to sing a Christmas carol.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Hey, little Rico. Tonight, our "Animals Investigations Unit" asks are you a person? I know you are but how do we convince the rest of the world that nonhuman animals should have rights under the laws? The right of being a person.

Animal lovers have gone to court to get personhood rights for chimpanzees. Chimps share about 99 percent of our DNA. They`re so much like us, yet many are kept in cages, behind bars as if they had committed some crime with no voice. They have no rights, but now, they have lawyers fighting for them.

Attorneys for the Nonhuman Rights Project sued on behalf of four chimps saying they have a right to basic freedom -- bodily liberty. In other words, by law, they should not be kept in cages like prisoners against their will.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We intend to file a wide variety of cases in which we argue again and again that certain nonhuman animals are so cognitively complex or so autonomous that they should no longer be seen as legal things without any rights.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Straight out to criminal defense attorney Danny Cevallos. You wrote an incredible piece on making comparisons to humans in comas and as well to babies. Take it away.

DANNY CEVALLOS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I mean, the question of whether or not animals can be entitled to personhood is not only a scientific question, but really is a philosophical question. And when it comes to people, the analogy I made was this. Was that when it comes to newborn babies, there`s no question that chimpanzees exhibit more cognitive abilities than newborns and people in comas, but we would never ever say that newborns and someone who`s in a persistent vegetative state is somehow not a human, is not a person. So our definition of personhood must be something more than that.

In fact, even some of the affidavits attached to this petition by primatologists assert that chimpanzees when it comes to numbers and sequencing can beat adult humans, even college students. I`m just relieved I wasn`t a part of that test because I have no doubt that a chimpanzee would have wiped up the floor with me in any math test. But when it comes to personhood and defining personhood, we have to ask ourselves philosophically what and how do we define it.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, I think this is one of the most important questions of our time because true as Gandhi said, the level of a civilization can be judged by how we treat our most voiceless. And animals are the most voiceless. They may be intelligent, but they can`t speak our language and say, help me, get me out of here that`s why making this leap would be a leap for human evolution. Your thoughts quickly Danny.

CEVALLOS: I think it`s also -- I think it`s an interesting point. It`s important to note, too, that people, no one expects that chimpanzees should be given briefcases and asked to get a job. Even the petitioners themselves recognize that. They`re not looking for equal footing with humans but yet they`re just looking for some basic rights and essentially that of liberty, that they can appreciate liberty, they desire liberty and they should be granted liberty.

And it really is -- if you can find a petition online, it`s a compelling argument.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes. And they lost, but they`re appealing. I hope they win for everyone`s sake -- Little Rico, all the other animals and humans because humans need to evolve to this.


VELEZ-MITCHELL: Hey Rico, tonight`s slice of happiness. A California family gets their own holiday miracle just when they need it most. A year and a half ago, the O`Briens` dog, Mico, disappeared. Shortly after that, their daughter Maddie was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Well now, the O`Briens have something to smile about. Mico was found and returned and she`s going to get all the love she needs -- Maddie to recover and get well.

Nancy`s next.