updated 1/2/2006 10:17:39 AM ET 2006-01-02T15:17:39

Guest: Robin Holloway, Antonio Carlo, Ron Richards, Vito Colucci, Sharon Coolidge, Debbie Scott, Vernell Crittendon, Dominick Artuso, Mario Arena, Gildana Armitrano, Katrina Szish, Joe Wilcken, Tom O‘Neil

JANE VELEZ-MITCHELL, GUEST HOST:  Good evening, everybody.  Rita Cosby is off.  I‘m Jane Velez-Mitchell.

Tonight, a terrifying phone call for crime victims, that inmates are getting out of jail.  Who made this mistake?  And a big gift for 10 obese people—free gastric bypass surgery.  We‘re going to tell you who‘s doing it and why.

But first, there is some confusion in the Natalee Holloway investigation tonight.  Will the three suspects really be questioned again in connection with her disappearance?  An Aruban spokesman says yes, but now the prosecutor says, Not so fast.

Live on the phone right now is Natalee Holloway‘s stepmother, Robin Holloway.  Robin, thank you so much for joining us, especially during the holidays.

ROBIN HOLLOWAY, NATALEE HOLLOWAY‘S STEPMOTHER:  Thank you, Jane.

VELEZ-MITCHELL:  You heard us on this very show trying to nail down Aruban officials, who were giving us conflicting stories, and you decided to take action by picking up the phone and calling the prosecutor, Karin Janssen, yourself.  What did you learn?

HOLLOWAY:  Well, just—I—basically, it was out of frustration.  You know, we watch your show and we watched Steve Cohen on, you know, the - - several times.  And the last time we watched, we found out every other day, he‘s getting updates from Adolpho (ph) Richardson, and it‘s been weeks since we‘ve had an update (INAUDIBLE) our attorney, to the best of my knowledge.  So I—you know, a while back, Ms. Janssen had told Vinda that we could call her any time, so I took her at her word and I did.  And she was receptive to my phone call and talked to me, and you know, we had a very good conversation.

VELEZ-MITCHELL:  But what did she say about Joran Van Der Sloot being brought in for questioning?

HOLLOWAY:  Well, that was something I learned that—you know, we were so excited they would be in for re0questioning, and she said that that was misinformation, that the judge, when he released him, it was with no—it was unconditional and that they were unable to re-question them without them being brought in voluntarily because they were released by the judge and they were unable to interrogate them again.

VELEZ-MITCHELL:  So I just want to make sure I‘m hearing you correctly because this is a bombshell.  Joran Van Der Sloot has been back in Aruba from his college in Holland, on holiday vacation since December 21, about nine days now.  You—the Natalee Holloway extended family has been waiting for him to be re-interrogated, and now prosecutor says it‘s not going to happen.  Is that correct?

HOLLOWAY:  That‘s correct, according to Ms. Janssen.

VELEZ-MITCHELL:  Well, I have to tell you that that is a shocker because we had Steve Cohen, the Aruban government spokesperson, on our show on December 21 and last night, saying something very different.  Let‘s listen in.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEVE COHEN, ARUBAN GOVERNMENT SPOKESMAN:  It is expected he will be

re-questioned somewhere in the next 10-day period.  I doubt that they will

bring him back for questioning immediately, but it will be in that period.  And also, it is expected that the Kalpoes will also be brought in for questioning.

The when is, is when the investigators are ready to bring them in, when they‘re prepared to bring them in.  It also is not the case that they have been given preordained questions, any of them or their attorneys.  But it is true that the scope of the questions have been discussed with the attorneys.  You would expect that to be the case.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELEZ-MITCHELL:  You would expect that.  Really, Robin?  Would you expect that?  Was that something you were expecting?

HOLLOWAY:  Well, I hope Mr. Cohen‘s right, but it‘s straight from Ms.  Janssen.  She said that was not going to happen because of the judge‘s ruling, but...

VELEZ-MITCHELL:  Now, this is the holidays.  You and your husband, Dave, Natalee‘s father, have been waiting through the holidays.  How has this impacted you emotionally during this time?

HOLLOWAY:  Oh, it‘s frustrating.  And today is seven months exactly that she‘s been missing.  You know, Christmas, she should have been there with us.  And you know, we were hoping to get some information when they did re-question them, and it‘s—it‘s—yes, Ms. Janssen was very open with us, and she assured us they‘re working hard on the case.  And you know, they‘re still doing searches, but she did let us know that they were not able to re-question them unless it was voluntarily.

VELEZ-MITCHELL:  All right, Robin.  Thank you so much.  Please stand by.

So here‘s the question.  Should we expect these three suspects to be pulled for questioning or not?  We still don‘t have the definitive answer, we don‘t think.  Live on the phone tonight from the island of Aruba is Antonio Carlo.  He is Joran Van Der Sloot‘s attorney.  Sir, thank you so much for joining us.  What are you hearing?  Has your client declined to go in for questioning?  And is that, in your opinion, his privilege to do so?

ANTONIO CARLO, JORAN VAN DER SLOOT‘S ATTORNEY:  OK, the information that I can provide at this time is that my client, under the Aruban law, cannot be obligated to come before the (INAUDIBLE) prosecutor to answer questions because he has now—he has been released without any conditions.  So under Aruban—under Aruban law, he cannot be obligated to be brought forth to answer questions.

VELEZ-MITCHELL:  Well, I would assume that that would have to change, for example, if they got other evidence.  What if they found—and this is a morbid premise, but we have to talk about it—Natalee‘s body, with clear evidence that pointed to Joran?  Wouldn‘t that make him even more of a suspect, and wouldn‘t they then have to bring him in?

CARLO:  Again, I think you have—you need to pose that question to the public (ph) prosecutor.

VELEZ-MITCHELL:  All right.  Well, stand by.  We may have more questions for you.

What do we make of all this?  What does all this confusion possibly say about the state of the investigation?  LIVE AND DIRECT tonight are private investigator Vito Colucci and criminal defense attorney Ron Richards.  Ron, let‘s start with you.  Is there something we‘re not seeing here, or is the Holloway family right to be upset and outraged that Joran has not been brought in?  And he‘s been in Aruba since December 21.

RON RICHARDS, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY:  Well, what we‘re seeing here is that this investigation‘s going nowhere.  If they‘re hoping that they‘re going to receive voluntary interviews, my colleague over in Aruba would be committing legal malpractice to put his client back in front of the public prosecutor.  I think the judge made a finding that there‘s not enough evidence and has unconditionally released him, and I think investigation is in bad shape.

VELEZ-MITCHELL:  So this is some kind of limbo.  Vito Colucci, is he a suspect or not?  Because we‘ve been referring to him as a suspect.

VITO COLUCCI, PRIVATE INVESTIGATOR:  Well, you know, Jane, in our country, he‘s already arrested, OK?  In Aruba, to call him a suspect, we don‘t know.  You know what the sorry part of this, Jane, is it gets the family‘s hopes up, when they hear these guys are going to be brought in.  They‘ve had disappointment after disappointment for months and months and months on this case.  And it‘s horrible what they‘re doing to the family.

This is a simple case in the United States to solve, and they‘ve done everything wrong.  And I‘m so sorry, I wish I could be wrong on this case once, but this case has been horrible from day one.

VELEZ-MITCHELL:  Antonio Carlo, everybody, the whole world is wondering, what is Joran Van Der Sloot doing while he‘s there in Aruba?  Is he holed up in his parents‘ house, or is he out and about?  Could you give us sort of a description of his time there?

CARLO:  Yes, you know, he is just being himself.  He is with his family now, and that is what I can inform you at this time.

VELEZ-MITCHELL:  Well, has he stepped out of the house?  Has he—for example, the two other suspects...

CARLO:  Well, listen, Jane...

VELEZ-MITCHELL:  ... the Kalpoe brothers—has he visited the Kalpoe brothers?

CARLO:  I‘m his attorney, I‘m not his father or his mother or something like that, so I really cannot answer that question.

VELEZ-MITCHELL:  All right.  Have you had contact with him, as his attorney?

CARLO:  Yes.  Yes.  I have spoken with him.

VELEZ-MITCHELL:  Now, we had heard...

CARLO:  He‘s doing fine.

VELEZ-MITCHELL:  We had heard from through a reporter from “Diario” that he was going to get a list of questions from the prosecution.  That‘s yet another story.  Have you heard anything about a list of questions?

CARLO:  No.

VELEZ-MITCHELL:  Now, we heard from Robin just moments ago that they said they would have to discus the scope of the questions with the attorney, if he were to come in, albeit voluntarily.  You‘re his attorney.  Have they discussed the scope of the questioning with you?

CARLO:  No.

VELEZ-MITCHELL:  So even the explanation of why they haven‘t brought him in doesn‘t seem to track because you would think before they could say he‘s not going to come in, they would have to ask you, Would he like to come in for more questioning, here are the scope of the questions.  Have you had that conversation with the prosecution?

CARLO:  No, I haven‘t been in any contact with the prosecution.  What I can inform you is that the defense yesterday, we did receive a letter from the (INAUDIBLE) prosecutor.  My client has been invited to answer some questions.  We haven‘t responded to that letter as yet, so—and I‘m not able to provide you an answer.  I‘m not going to respond to that letter via your program.

VELEZ-MITCHELL:  All right.  So you have received a letter just yesterday, you said, inviting Joran to come in and answer questions.  How long is he going to be in Aruba before he returns to Holland to college?

CARLO:  I‘m not able to give you an answer to that question.

VELEZ-MITCHELL:  Vito Colucci, this is starting to sound a little bit like a capta (ph) novel.  They were supposed to question him, according to the Aruban spokesperson, and today, almost 10 days later, he‘s getting a letter—or yesterday.

COLUCCI:  Well, Jane, truthfully, we can‘t be surprised at the actions here, even your questioning of this counselor and the different things that have gone on.  What has happened to the whole thing of him having sex with Natalee while she went in and out of consciousness, OK?  I mean, come on!

VELEZ-MITCHELL:  Well, a reporter from “Diario” told us that—or Jossy Mansur said his reporter spoke to Joran and that Joran said that he did have sex with Natalee while she was going in and out of consciousness.  That was according to Jossy Mansur, who was quoting his reporter, who said he had a conversation with Joran recently.

COLUCCI:  Jane, if that‘s in this country and I read that in the newspaper, that guy is back in my office right away for questioning and probably an arrest, OK?  So I mean, you know, we can‘t be surprised at what‘s happening there.  I just feel horrible for the family, and I just—

I don‘t see any future in this case.  I hate to say it, and I want to be wrong on it.

VELEZ-MITCHELL:  Ron Richards, can you make sense of my any of this? 

Because it seems to be spiraling sort of out of control.

RICHARDS:  Well, it—it—I sort of disagree with my investigative colleague.  If it was in this country, he would have a right to remain silent.  But the case is spiraling out of control in the sense that they don‘t have enough evidence to make an arrest.  These ex parte or off-the-cuff admissions to a reporter isn‘t going to be enough.

One advantage they do have in Aruba, it seems they can, if they initiate new proceedings, interrogate the suspect, even against his assertion of a refusal not to testify or answer questions.  But my colleague in Aruba is going to do what I think he should do and just delay this until he gets out of the jurisdiction again and then come up with some excuse as to why his client doesn‘t want to cooperate.

VELEZ-MITCHELL:  Well, apparently, Holland is the jurisdiction because it‘s all part of the same government and they can call him at any time.  But of course, if you are half a world away, it does make it much more difficult, just logistically.

Vito, let me ask you, what should happen next?  I mean, let‘s say you were down there, you were in charge of the investigation.  What would you do, assuming that you cannot bring them in?  Let‘s accept that assumption for a second.

COLUCCI:  Well, you know, the sorry part, Jane, is when they were first brought in, you‘re supposed to do the scrapings of their nails, full body searches.  You take their shoes, their sneakers, their clothing.  You take the shoes and sneakers to see the mud or dirt that‘s on it that would show different parts of the island.  See, all that time is gone.  All that time is gone.  If I‘m in charge of it now, I have to bring them in, have to bring them in to speak to them again.

VELEZ-MITCHELL:  All right.  So this is one of these...

RICHARDS:  The judge isn‘t going to let you.

VELEZ-MITCHELL:  Sort of the circle goes around and around and around. 

Final word, Ron Richards?

RICHARDS:  Yes, the judge isn‘t going to let that happen.  The due process has already unfolded in this case, and the judge has issued, basically, an order saying, I‘m not going to hold these two citizens on these charges anymore.  And I think that it‘s too late.

VELEZ-MITCHELL:  All right.  Thank you all.  Thank you, especially, also Antonio and Robin, for coming on the show.  Vito and Ron, all of your input is very much appreciated.

Coming up: A 4-year-old makes a life-saving call to 911.  You‘re going to hear this really amazing tape just ahead.  And that‘s not all.  Take a look.

Still ahead: A shock to the system for some victims of horrific crimes.  Find out why the state of Ohio told thousands of people that dangerous inmates were getting out of jail.  Was it for real?  And a big stroke of luck for some overweight people—free stomach-stapling surgery.  The doctor doing the work joins me live.  And ringing in the new year with the rich and famous.  We‘ve got the scoop on the celebrity celebrations, plus our own predictions for 2006.  It‘s coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  This offender has been released from custody.  The offender was released on December 30, 2005.  If you have any concerns about your immediate safety, contact your local law enforcement agency or call 911.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

VELEZ-MITCHELL:  Imagine finding a message like that waiting for you at home, news that a convicted criminal who hurt or even killed a loved one is back out on the street.  Well, it happened in 3,000 homes in Ohio after a computer glitch today.  The calls left some families nervous, others even fearing for their lives.

LIVE AND DIRECT tonight is Debbie Scott.  She got a message today saying her sister‘s killer was released from prison.  But first, let‘s start with Sharon Coolidge, a reporter with “The Cincinnati Enquirer.”  Sharon, take us through this really bizarre and strange story.  What went wrong?

SHARON COOLIDGE, “CINCINNATI ENQUIRER”:  Well, today, starting at noon, a lot of our local agencies, law enforcement agencies, started getting calls from victims saying, I got a call today where an inmate is being released, and that‘s not right.  And people were crying.  They were angry.  They wanted to correct something, if it had been wrong.

VELEZ-MITCHELL:  Well, I mean, was it a glitch?  I mean, 3,000 seems like more than a glitch.  What happened?  Was there a problem with the computer?

COOLIDGE:  There was a problem with the computer.  They were doing some routine maintenance last night in information technology, and they must have pushed a wrong button.  And it sent all the information to a call center, and the calls went out today.

VELEZ-MITCHELL:  You‘d think there would be a fail-safe, something that would stop this, because this is such a terrifying thing for people.  And now the question that I wonder about is, when the real thing happens, when people get this message, it could be like the boy who cried wolf.  They may not take action, thinking, Oh, it‘s another glitch, it‘s another mistake.

COOLIDGE:  Well, the system has been in place since 1998, and this is the first time they‘ve ever had a problem.  And I think any time somebody gets a call like this, I don‘t think that they would dismiss it.

VELEZ-MITCHELL:  All right.  Well, there was a very short statement that was released by the officials, and it basically said, This is an error.  There it is, “The Department of Rehabilitation and Correction has corrected the computer problem and apologizes for the erroneous error.”

(LAUGHTER)

VELEZ-MITCHELL:  That‘s saying it, and saying it again, the “erroneous error.”  I mean, is that enough, considering the trauma that people went through, to release a one-sentence statement and then say, you know, Never mind, go back to your business?

COOLIDGE:  Well, I know they worked very hard today.  They were extremely sorry, when I spoke to the officials, and they tried to get the word out to the media as quickly as possible.  They wanted it on the radio.  They wanted it on the television stations.  They wanted it in the newspaper.  And then tonight, after working with the company all day, they were able to send out a second call.  And while they weren‘t able to send out the correct information, they‘re asking people to call a specific number and verify the information because some of the calls today were correct, as they would normally go out every day, although the majority of them were erroneous.

VELEZ-MITCHELL:  All right.  Well, thank you so much.  We appreciate you giving us the insight.

Now we‘re going to talk to somebody who actually got one of these very, very scary calls.  Debbie Scott, you live in a suburb of Columbus, Ohio.  Your 23-year-old sister was murdered back in 1989.  What did you get on the phone today, and how did it impact you emotionally?

DEBBIE SCOTT, RECEIVED PRISON PHONE MESSAGE:  Well, the call came through my house about 25 after 12:00.  And you‘re in the safety of your home, the last thing that you expect to hear is that your sister‘s murderer, who has been serving a 30-year sentence since 1990, has been released as of 12/30.  My first thought was, 12/30, my God, that‘s today!  And you lose your thinking capacity.

You are immediately taken back to that very first day, when your heart feels like it‘s stomped on.  You can‘t get your breath at all, and all rational thinking goes outside the window.  You—I had to put in a PIN number.  I couldn‘t even remember what the PIN number was that I had.  It gives you a number.  I called that number.  It rang once and then hung up.  And I couldn‘t get anybody.

I tried to call the Department of Corrections.  I tried to call the Franklin County prosecutor.  I called the state attorney general‘s office.  I could not get anybody to tell me anything that had happened.  Nobody was aware of what was going on.  It was very frustrating.

VELEZ-MITCHELL:  It always seems to happen about government lines.  I can‘t tell you how many times I‘ve called a government line for something much more mundane, and there‘s a busy signal.  But in this case, I mean, people could have had heart attacks.  There was another report of another man who just went into an absolute panic.  He was supposed to leave town for the holidays.  It completely disrupted his holiday season.  Your sister apparently also got a similar call, is that correct?

SCOTT:  Yes, she did.

VELEZ-MITCHELL:  And how did she react?

SCOTT:  She did.  Her statement to me, when I picked up the phone—because I had just put it down after making my telephone call.  The phone rang.  I picked it up.  It was my sister, Marsha (ph).  And she said, Did you just get that telephone call?  And I said, Yes, I did.  And she goes, What in the world is going on?  I said, I don‘t know, but I‘m making telephone calls.

And our immediate concern was my mother.  She‘s 76 years old.  She cannot—she would not be able to handle something like this.

VELEZ-MITCHELL:  Are you going to stay with this system, or are you going to—apparently, you can opt to say, No, thanks, I don‘t want to get this anymore.

SCOTT:  You know, I guess—when the system came out in 1998, there was a big hoop-de-la.  And it was a voluntary basis.  I, as a victim, registered with the thought that if he ever got out, I wanted to know about it.  But will I stay in it?  Yes, I will, because it‘s the only way that you can keep your finger on what is going on in the system.

VELEZ-MITCHELL:  All right.  Well, thank you so much, Debbie Scott. 

We hope you have a good holiday, despite the trauma that you endured.

SCOTT:  Thank you.

VELEZ-MITCHELL:  And let‘s hope they fix the system so that if there is another glitch, it won‘t terrify people.  Thank you so much.

SCOTT:  Well, and it‘s...

VELEZ-MITCHELL:  All right.  Another death row inmate is seeking clemency from California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, but the man next in line for execution is not the usual suspect.  Clarence Ray Allen is 75 years old, the oldest man on death row.  He‘s reportedly blind, crippled.  Despite the fact you see him walking here, he is unable to walk apparently now.  He is now scheduled to die by lethal injection on January 17.  Allen was already behind bars, serving a life sentence, when he sent orders to murder three people way back in 1980.  Punishment for that crime sent him to San Quentin‘s death row.

Joining us now live is Vernell Crittendon, spokesman for San Quentin prison.  Thank you so much for joining us, Vernell.  You actually...

LT. VERNELL CRITTENDON, SAN QUENTIN STATE PRISON:  Good evening, Jane.

VELEZ-MITCHELL:  ... spend time with these death row inmates.  Is Clarence Ray Allen as sick as he claims to be, or is he kind of exaggerating his illness in the hope of being spared?

CRITTENDON:  Well, he is a 76-year-old man, and at this time, he does have some deteriorating health issues.  He‘s not legally blind, but his vision is poor.  He also has bad hearing.  He has also been identified with diabetes, and he a few months ago did suffer a heart attack while on death row, and is coming up for execution on January the 17th.

VELEZ-MITCHELL:  That‘s kind of morbid and bizarre that he just had a heart attack, and now he‘s going to be executed, if he doesn‘t get clemency, of course.  Now, could this execution sort of backfire?  I mean, here‘s this man who‘s elderly and he‘s frail, and he says he‘s legally blind.  He says he‘s confined to a wheelchair.  Could this actually backfire on proponents of the death penalty and create a sense of sympathy?  For people who are on the fence, could they decide, You know, this just isn‘t right?

CRITTENDON:  You know, the purpose for him being issued this execution warrant wasn‘t based on his age, it was based on the horrific act that he had carried out in the community of Fresno and the families that were suffering.  And that act is what he is being issued this execution warrant for.  And I don‘t believe his age is something that is really going to be a deciding factor.

VELEZ-MITCHELL:  I have to say, we see video of him and he‘s walking, but we had heard many reports that he was in a wheelchair.

CRITTENDON:  No, that‘s not really accurate.  We do utilize a wheelchair at San Quentin because he has poor ankles and he moves very slowly when he walks.  So in order to move him from one point to another for medical appointments, for visits with legal counsel, it‘s easier for us at the institution to send him in a wheelchair, and then we can quickly move him through the facility to his desired location.

VELEZ-MITCHELL:  One last question.  What about the families of the victims?  Will they be will there for the execution, if it occurs?

CRITTENDON:  We have had a great deal of interest from the community there in Fresno regarding this upcoming execution.  Not only the surviving family members but loved ones and supporters of those family members, as well as the local media in that community have expressed a real interest in attending this execution.

VELEZ-MITCHELL:  All right.  Well, thank you so much for joining us and sharing your knowledge on this subject.  We appreciate it.  Thank you.

CRITTENDON:  Thank you, Jane.  It was very nice talking with you.

VELEZ-MITCHELL:  All right.  Good talking to you, too.

Tonight, a belated Christmas present for John Hinckley, Jr., the man who shot President Reagan.  A federal judge has loosened the restrictions on Hinckley, allowing him to spend seven overnight visits with his parents in Williamsburg, Virginia, but he is not permitted to leave one or both parents‘ supervision at any time.  Hinckley, of course, shot President Ronald Reagan in 1981.

Still ahead: What are you doing on New Year‘s Eve?  We‘ve got the scoop on how some big celebrities are ringing in the new year.  And next:

Ten overweight people are about to get a big, huge gift—free gastric bypass surgery.  Find out who they are, up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VELEZ-MITCHELL:  The new year is just around the corner, and that means it‘s time to start thinking about those new year‘s resolutions.  And at the very top of the list, once again this year, of course, losing weight, and that is followed by stopping smoking and sticking to a budget. 

One New York doctor is helping some people realize their dream of losing weight by offering 10 -- count ‘em, 10 -- tummy-shrinking operations for free.  The procedures will go to some of the most obese people who weigh in at Times Square on Sunday. 

Now, joining me live in studio tonight—I‘m very excited—Dr.  Dominick Artuso, the surgeon who will perform these procedures, and also here is Mario Arena, a gastric-surgery patient, and Gildana Armitrano, a gastric-surgery candidate. 

Doctor, why have you decided to give away 10 of these very expensive surgeries, plus apparently lifetime post-op treatment, $250,000 each, the value is, for free?  Why have you decided to do that? 

DR. DOMINICK ARTUSO, BARIATRIC SURGEON:  Well, the reason is we know that overweight and obesity is a huge problem here in the United States and around the world, especially in our country.  And what we‘ve found is for that segment of the population, about 4 to 5 percent, who‘s massively or severely overweight, the usual diet and exercise is just not effective. 

You‘ll hear the stories of Marion Gildano (ph), but their weight has caused many health problems for them.  So what I‘d like to do is—we perform the surgeries so that a patient can start getting healthy and they can start to lead a more healthy, and productive, and happy lifestyle.  But we have some patients that are not candidates for surgery, maybe because their insurance doesn‘t cover it or doesn‘t cover the particular procedure.

VELEZ-MITCHELL:  All right.  So that brings us to this Sunday.  This Sunday, if you are obese and you want this surgery, you‘re supposed to go to Times Square, to the Times Square Brewery, and you have an actual scale there.  And what are you going to do, and how are you going to choose 10 people to get this surgery? 

ARTUSO:  We‘re going to interview the patients or the candidates who come that day.  I want to weigh them.  I want to take down their demographics, which means their contact information, their names, their numbers, their addresses.  Starting after the holiday, my office personnel will call them... 

VELEZ-MITCHELL:  They have to be at least 300 pounds?  Just so we don‘t have people showing up who won‘t be eligible, you have to be, apparently, at least 300 pounds to participate?

ARTUSO:  Yes. 

VELEZ-MITCHELL:  And then you go to Times Square, the brewery, this Sunday, and you can be possibly selected.  What time, 11:30 I understand? 

ARTUSO:  We‘re starting about 11:30, yes.

VELEZ-MITCHELL:  Wow. 

Now, Mario, you had gastric-bypass surgery, correct? 

MARIO ARENA, GASTRIC BYPASS PATIENT:  I sure did.  Absolutely. 

VELEZ-MITCHELL:  What did you used to weigh?  How much did you lose? 

ARENA:  Four hundred and twenty pounds.  I weigh about 215 pounds right now. 

VELEZ-MITCHELL:  All right.  So you lost a lot of weight.  You do not look overweight.  How has it changed your life? 

ARENA:  It has changed my life dramatically, Jane.  It‘s just hard to describe.  Dr. Artuso and his team has given me my life back.  When you are overweight and obese, like I was, you‘re a prisoner in your own body.  And this surgery is a way to free yourself and give you the life that you deserve. 

VELEZ-MITCHELL:  Now, I know there are a couple of different types of surgery and it‘s rather complicated, but the bottom line is your stomach gets a lot smaller and is apparently the size of, what, an egg or something?  So how does it change your lifestyle, when, after you‘ve recuperated, you go out to eat, how much do you eat, before you just say, “I‘ve had enough?”

ARENA:  About approximately three ounces of food, which really isn‘t a lot, when you think about what we eat normally.  Three ounces of food, and you‘re pretty much done, and that‘s it. 

VELEZ-MITCHELL:  All right, I‘m going to get to Gildana in a second.  But I want to ask you about the risk, because it is important to talk a little bit about what you might face, the downsides.  I know you‘ve done 500 of these, and doctor‘s experience is a key that you‘re supposed to look at when considering these surgeries, but what is the risk? 

ARTUSO:  OK.  We have two main procedures out there.  One is the gastric bypass, which has excellent weight loss, but does have a risk.  The risk is one in 200 that someone may die from the operation.  Now, they usually happen in the first few days to a week after surgery.  The risk after that is small.  There could be minor things like infections, or maybe a hernia, or something along that line. 

VELEZ-MITCHELL:  But it‘s not risk-free, then?

ARTUSO:  Not risk-free.  No. 

VELEZ-MITCHELL:  This is serious surgery.

ARTUSO:  We select patients very carefully and make sure that they‘re in the best shape before they go through this surgery and the anesthesia that‘s involved.  The other procedure is the gastric band, or the lap band, which is less invasive and less risky, and it‘s probably a wise choice for many patients, especially those who are more high-risk. 

VELEZ-MITCHELL:  Gildana, you just heard it.  This is really serious surgery, a risk.  Why are you doing this, as opposed to trying to just change your lifestyle, eat more fruits and vegetables, cut down on the fat, that kind of thing? 

GILDANA ARMITRANO, GASTRIC BYPASS CANDIDATE:  It‘s easy to say that.  I want a better quality life.  I want to live healthier, be around a long time.  I‘d like a family.  At the weight I am, that‘s not possible.  Things that, you know, normal people take for granted, walking, putting on clothes, you know... 

VELEZ-MITCHELL:  Well, have you tried other methods? 

ARMITRANO:  I have.

VELEZ-MITCHELL:  I mean, I‘ll just say, in the interest of full disclosure, I‘ve always battled with my weight, always, since I was a kid.  And I‘ve become a strict vegetarian, which puts me in a universe of healthy choices, in terms of fruits, vegetables, nuts and grains.  If I want ice cream, I have sorbet, which is fruit-based.  I mean, have you tried some of those methods that are out there? 

ARMITRANO:  I have.  I‘ve gone to my doctor.  And I‘ve tried weight-loss medications, diet programs, exercise programs... 

VELEZ-MITCHELL:  Is it a food addiction?  Because, you know, it‘s not about will power for some people.  Addiction is reel. 

ARMITRANO:  Yes.  I think for me it‘s an addiction, yes.  Yes, it‘s a drug for me, yes.

VELEZ-MITCHELL:  Have you tried overeaters anonymous, for example? 

ARMITRANO:  I‘ve tried everything, support, yes.  I need something that‘s very drastic like this. 

VELEZ-MITCHELL:  Do you mind—would it be rude—and I didn‘t ask you this before—but would you mind if you told us how much you weigh? 

ARMITRANO:  Not at all, 450 pounds. 

VELEZ-MITCHELL:  Four hundred and fifty pounds.  Doctor, how much weight could she lose with the gastric bypass? 

ARTUSO:  With the gastric bypass, the average person will lose about 70 percent of the amount they‘re overweight.  So Gildana could probably lose about 200 to 235 pounds. 

VELEZ-MITCHELL:  And some major stars have done this and very successfully.  Al Roker and Carnie Wilson have both gone through this procedure, and they look incredible now. 

ARTUSO:  Correct.

VELEZ-MITCHELL:  So what is going on in this country that this is skyrocketing?  Apparently 500 percent these surgeries have skyrocketed in the past few years, up to 170,000 in 2005 alone, I understand.  Are we a nation in the throes of food addiction?  We‘ve battled alcohol, drugs, cigarettes. 

Gildana, maybe you should answer that question.  Are we in the throes of a food addiction in this country?

ARMITRANO:  I think so.  We‘re surrounded, yes, by...

VELEZ-MITCHELL:  Food.  We‘re surrounded by food.  Let‘s face it. 

ARMITRANO:  Yes, by food.  We‘re surrounded by food.  Every angle we turn to, yes, it‘s there.  And I‘ve lost weight in the past.  But, for me, it‘s a yo-yo.  I‘ve been up and down.  And that‘s no good for your body. 

VELEZ-MITCHELL:  Are you going—you‘re going to be in Times Square, or you already got the all-clear?  You‘re going to have it? 

ARMITRANO:  I‘m waiting.  I‘m still waiting for the OK, yes.  Yes, I‘m on my way.

VELEZ-MITCHELL:  Well, we hope you‘re on the list. 

What‘s your big picture of this?  Are we in the midst of a food addiction?  I mean, the surgeon general of the United States says, “Change your diet.  Eat more fruits and vegetables.  Lose weight.”  But yet, everywhere we turn, on the billboards and every newspaper, it‘s just this enticing food staring us in the face.  These are mixed signals for Americans.

ARTUSO:  It‘s true.  And, you know, everything is supersized.  And being Americans, we look for the best value.  And if, for 25 to 50 cents more, we get 30 or 50 percent more food, that‘s added. 

And just going back to Gildana, what we see is very common.  Since I met her in June, we‘ve been trying to get her surgery approved, I asked her to lose weight to be more successful.  She‘s lost close to 100 pounds already. 

VELEZ-MITCHELL:  You‘re—oh, my gosh.  So what was your top weight? 

ARMITRANO:  Over 500 -- about 550 pounds. 

VELEZ-MITCHELL:  Five hundred and fifty pounds.  Wow.

ARMITRANO:  And it‘s no guarantee that doing this on my own I‘ll lose more weight and keep it off.  And I can‘t keep on going—you know, I lose weight and then I put it on. 

VELEZ-MITCHELL:  We wish you the very best. 

ARMITRANO:  Thank you.

VELEZ-MITCHELL:  Absolutely.  Hopefully, you‘ll come back here, all svelte and show off, just like Mario.

ARMITRANO:  I would love to.

ARENA:  Thank you.  Thank you.

VELEZ-MITCHELL:  Totally, totally fabulous.  Good luck, Doctor.

ARTUSO:  Thank you. 

VELEZ-MITCHELL:  All right, thank you both, all of you.

ARTUSO:  Thank you.

VELEZ-MITCHELL:  Still ahead, an amazing story.  A very brave little girl makes a heroic effort that saves her mother‘s life.  You‘ve got to hear this story, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

Just ahead on “live and direct,” a 4-year-old in a brave act that saves her mother‘s life. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JESSICA HOLDEN, FOUR-YEAR-OLD CALLS 911 TO SAVE MOM:  She‘s not talking right now.

DISPATCHER:  She‘s not talking right now?

HOLDEN:  No. 

DISPATCHER:  Are you talking to mommy?

HOLDEN:  She‘s asleep.

DISPATCHER:  She‘s asleep?

HOLDEN:  Yes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VELEZ-MITCHELL:  In Utah, a little girl saves her mommy‘s life, and it only took one very smart phone call.  Four-year-old Jessica Holden saw her mother fall to the ground while taking down Christmas decorations.  The little girl ran to the phone and called 911.  She spoke with a dispatcher for 15 minutes while help was on the way.  This is a little hero.

LIVE & DIRECT tonight, firefighter-paramedic Joe Wilcken.  Joe, take us through this amazing, life-saving phone call by this amazing four-year-old girl. 

JOE WILCKEN, FIREFIGHTER-PARAMEDIC:  Well, yesterday morning, about 11:40, the call came that a woman had fallen.  And the dispatch information came in that the little girl was on the phone giving the information to the 911 dispatcher.  And she gave information that her mom had fallen from the roof and was asleep. 

And so the crews decided that probably meant that she was unconscious.  And when they got there, Mom was unconscious.  They treated her and flew her up to University of Utah medical center to get treated up there. 

VELEZ-MITCHELL:  Now, how did they get the address?  Did she give you the address or did you trace the phone call and that‘s why you kept her on the line?

WILCKEN:  The phone call was traced through—we believe it was a cell phone that the little girl was on.  So it took a little while to get the phone call traced.  But that‘s how the dispatchers traced the call. 

VELEZ-MITCHELL:  Now, I read that her grandfather was a police officer and gave safety tips to his daughters, who in turn passed those safety tips on to her, and one of them was knowing how to call 911.  I mean, children can be trained to do this, obviously.  But she‘s a very bright girl. 

WILCKEN:  Very bright girl.  She handled herself very well on the phone.  Her voice was very even-keeled, very easy to understand, talked really well for a four-year-old, and give all the right information that the dispatchers need to get the help there that they needed. 

VELEZ-MITCHELL:  I know there‘s got to be a lot of parents watching right now saying, “I want my child to do that, as well, if anything were to happen to me.”  How do you teach a kid to call 911?  Is it just simple, “Here‘s the phone?  Call 911 if there‘s a problem.”  Or, obviously, you have to paint a more colorful picture for a kid. 

WILCKEN:  Right.  I‘m still trying to figure that out myself.  I have twin girls at about that age, so I hope I figure it out.  But I think, if you just teach them from the beginning, you know, as early as you can that 911 is a phone number that you use when there‘s an emergency, kind of talk through them, kind of what the dispatchers are going to ask.

VELEZ-MITCHELL:  All right.  How is the mother tonight, and how is the little girl? 

WILCKEN:  As far as I know, mom is still in the hospital, still up at the University of Utah medical center.  And the little girl is staying with family members and is in good spirits, as far as we know, and really did a great job in helping her mom, getting her mom the help that she needed. 

VELEZ-MITCHELL:  She sure did.  And I understand the dispatcher did a great job, as well.  Congratulations to all of you.  Thank you for joining us.  Happy holidays. 

WILCKEN:  Thank you. 

VELEZ-MITCHELL:  Still ahead, we‘ve got the inside scoop on how some of the rich and famous are ringing in the new year.  And what do you think will happen in 2006?  How about world peace?  How about goodwill towards men?  How about total world domination by Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie?  The LIVE & DIRECT team unleashes their wild predictions for the new year. 

Stay tuned.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VELEZ-MITCHELL:  2005 is coming to an end.  And while the average American will probably spend about $200 on a new year‘s celebration, you can be assured Hollywood‘s biggest stars will be dishing out thousands to ring in the new year, from Miami to Vegas.  Celebrities like Lindsay Lohan, Mariah Carey, and, of course, the party king himself, Sean “P. Diddy” Combs, are providing the bling for the midnight bang. 

And joining me now live for the scoop on who‘s hosting the hottest New Year‘s Eve bash, Katrina Szish from “US Weekly” and Tom O‘Neil from “In Touch” magazine. 

Now, of all the celebrity parties out there, I want to get each of your take on which is going to be the hottest—I‘m talking the hottest of them all.  I mean, if I could go, which one would I want to go to?

KATRINA SZISH, “US WEEKLY”:  Well, I would just say, if I was going to one—which I am not—I would have to say...

(LAUGHTER)

SZISH:  I‘ll just lay that out right there.  I would have to say the Paris and Nikki Hilton party in Vegas, because what‘s a party without the Hiltons? 

VELEZ-MITCHELL:  Yes, that‘s true.

SZISH:  And I think—and in Vegas.  I mean, you have everything there, the ultimate adult playground.  I think that‘s going to be it. 

VELEZ-MITCHELL:  And you know what‘s really funny, is that I remember when Vegas wasn‘t that hot.  I mean, it would have been strange to go to Vegas maybe 10 years ago.  And suddenly, I guess when Hard Rock opened, it just totally changed.  And now it‘s the it place. 

Tom, what do you think?

SZISH:  It‘s Disneyland for grown-ups.

VELEZ-MITCHELL:  It is Disneyland for grown-ups.

TOM O‘NEIL, “IN TOUCH” MAGAZINE:  Well, we are co-hosting a party...

(LAUGHTER)

It‘s really the hot party, too.  Here in New York, at Cipriani, it‘s Mariah Carey, and Ryan Seacrest, and, of course...

VELEZ-MITCHELL:  Ooh.  So you‘re going to be there, huh?  Ooh.

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

O‘NEIL:  And that should be a lot of fun, of course.  But that‘s really an ABC kind of specific party.

VELEZ-MITCHELL:  Now, I was looking at all of these.  And the one that really gave me the biggest laugh is Lindsay Lohan.  She‘s going to do an MTV New Year‘s Eve thing in New York.  She‘s also hosting a party in Miami the same night. 

SZISH:  Yes, she has an exclusive party.  Yes.

VELEZ-MITCHELL:  So how does that happen? 

O‘NEIL:  She hops a plane fast, is what she does, yes. 

SZISH:  In theory—and I believe it was Paris Hilton last year—who was supposedly the kind of headlining host for a party in Miami.  And I don‘t think she made it until maybe the wee hours, when the party might have been over.  But Lindsay is supposedly going to be at this party in Miami from 9:00 p.m. to 5 a.m.

VELEZ-MITCHELL:  And, Tom...

(CROSSTALK)

SZISH:  So she might be, you know, using the “Parent Trap” playbook to double herself.  I‘m not sure.

VELEZ-MITCHELL:  Maybe she has like—I don‘t know—some kind of super...

SZISH:  She needs a clone.

VELEZ-MITCHELL:  ... super time force to get there. 

Nikki Hilton, she‘s another one.  She is mentioned at being at several parties.  Not only Nikki Hilton, Nicole Ritchie.  That‘s who I‘m thinking of. 

O‘NEIL:  Right, right, right, right.

VELEZ-MITCHELL:  I get my celebrities sometimes...

O‘NEIL:  And one of the parties that she‘s going to do is really the big one in Miami.  Almost all these hot parties are down in Miami.  And she‘s with her ex, who‘s now her present, DJ AM, and Wilmer Valderrama—

I‘ve got his name out right...

VELEZ-MITCHELL:  You got it.

O‘NEIL:  ... are all doing a party at Mansion.  And that‘s a pretty hot one to go to.

VELEZ-MITCHELL:  I‘m glad you‘re having trouble with some of these, too, because...

(CROSSTALK)

O‘NEIL:  ... is that these are people who are famous for going to parties.  And now they‘re going to be paid tomorrow night to host parties. 

VELEZ-MITCHELL:  What‘s in it for them, Katrina?  I mean, they have so much money.  They have so much exposure.  What do they get out of it?  

SZISH:  I would say cash and cache, is probably what they get for them. 

O‘NEIL:  Good answer.  Yes, yes, yes.

SZISH:  Thank you very much.  I mean, I really think it‘s the kind of thing where, hey, you know what?  You get paid to party, invite whoever you want.  I‘m sure there are great perks, in terms of hotels, a little bit of luxury, and you get your name, you know, on the front page of all the papers for being at the hot party. 

VELEZ-MITCHELL:  So they‘re throwing a party, but somebody‘s paying them to throw this party.  Who‘s paying them, Tom? 

O‘NEIL:  In some cases, like ABC, with their party.  In some cases, they‘re actually picking up the bill themselves.  You know, Diddy‘s party down at his house on Star Island down in Miami is a real power trip for him, because he names his Fabulous 50.  And if you want to be on his list, you want to be at that party. 

VELEZ-MITCHELL:  See, I knew he was inviting 50 people, but I didn‘t know they would become the Fabulous 50. 

(CROSSTALK)

(LAUGHTER)

VELEZ-MITCHELL:  What thanks them so fabulous, Katrina?  Who are these people?

SZISH:  Well, just the fact that they‘re on P. Diddy‘s guest list I think makes them fabulous. 

O‘NEIL:  His drinking buddies. 

SZISH:  Exactly right.  Anyone who he deems worthy of being one of these, you know, members of this select group makes you fabulous.  P. Diddy has that power.

VELEZ-MITCHELL:  We cannot have this conversation without talking about party girl Tara Reid.  What‘s the 411 on her? 

SZISH:  Yes, where is Tara, by the way?

O‘NEIL:  I don‘t know.

SZISH:  I bet think she‘s going to be at every party there is. 

(CROSSTALK)

O‘NEIL:  ... really cleaned up a little bit.  So maybe she won‘t be partying. 

SZISH:  Yes, exactly right.

O‘NEIL:  And that‘s what some of the party people are not going to be on the scene, like Colin Farrell, who normally can lift a well-filled glass.  He‘s going to be home with his little boy and his family, just kicking back, he says. 

VELEZ-MITCHELL:  Now, for us commoners, how do we get into—can we ever hope to get into any of these parties?

SZISH:  Well, I think Lindsay‘s party, for example, down in Miami, I mean, that is a $200-a-plate party, the kind of things where...

VELEZ-MITCHELL:  The plate‘s $200, though, but the rest of it‘s a lot more expensive.

SZISH:  Just the plate, the paper plate, and you can take it.  For the actual dinner, you can buy tickets.  A lot of these things, you can order tickets online.  You can buy tickets.  And really, the celebrity is there as the headliner as a way to pull people into this event.  But others, you know, unless you‘re fabulous, you don‘t get invited. 

(CROSSTALK)

O‘NEIL:  The biggest party of all is free.  It‘s in Times Square.

SZISH:  There you go.

O‘NEIL:  You can see these music acts.  You can see Lindsay perform. 

SZISH:  Mariah Carey.

O‘NEIL:  You can see Mariah Carey perform.  And that‘s fun, you know? 

I think back, of all...

VELEZ-MITCHELL:  And you can see all the other people performing on the street. 

(CROSSTALK)

VELEZ-MITCHELL:  And I‘ve been there, and I‘ve seen that.  You don‘t want to...

(CROSSTALK)

O‘NEIL:  Do you know that, in his memoirs, Richard Nixon said the single most traumatic event of this life—and this man suffered many traumatic events—said it was being in Times Square, with Pat, his new wife, and his pocket was picked. 

(LAUGHTER)

His wallet was gone.

SZISH:  I‘m not surprised. 

VELEZ-MITCHELL:  We could talk about this for hours.  We have to go.  I hope you both have a fabulous, fabulous new year.  And I‘m sure you‘re going to be at totally the it party. 

SZISH:  We‘ll see about that.

VELEZ-MITCHELL:  Still ahead—maybe at Paris Hilton‘s—will Paris Hilton win the Nobel Peace Prize?  Hmm.  Will NBC ask Madam Heidi Fleiss to host a new version of the show, “The Apprentice”?  Such important questions.  The LIVE & DIRECT staff unleashes their outlandish predictions for the new year, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VELEZ-MITCHELL:  We are just hours away from a new year.  And LIVE & DIRECT wants to take this opportunity to thank all of our loyal viewers for making LIVE & DIRECT the number-one show on MSNBC.  It has been quite an incredible year. 

But we now want to look ahead to 2006.  And here are our predictions for what we can expect in the coming year courtesy of the LIVE & DIRECT staff.  From booker, producer, Tomomi Arikawa, “In 2006, I will predict that I will be able to meet my role model, Connie Chung, when she begins her new show on MSNBC.”  You go, girl.

And producer Adrienne Wheeler says, “Actress Angelina Jolie will give birth to a boy, and Jennifer Aniston will get engaged.”

Now, from producer Jenn Carinci, “The runaway bride will take another trip cross-country.”  I love that one.

Producer Andy Dallos predicts, “Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt will get married in 2006, after adopting 18 more children.  And they will be divorced before the end of the year.”  Very Hollywood, Andy.

Tape producer Nanda Persaud says, “Kevin Federline‘s new rap album will not win a Grammy.”  Going out on a limb, girl.

Production assistant Isabel Lopez predicts, “J-Lo will meet and marry husband number four.”  You‘ve got history on your side, there.

Producer David Foster has this animal prediction.  “The puggle is officially in the doghouse in 2006.  The latest and greatest breed will be the chipoodle, half-Chihuahua, half-poodle.”

Senior producer John Nichols says, “Of politics, fashion and the Oscars, cowboys will rule two out of three.”  And he‘s referring, of course, to that movie, “Brokeback Mountain.”

Senior producer Eric Spinato has this sports prediction.  “The New York Yankees will win their first World Series since 2000.”

And senior producer Nina Bradley predicts, “The Dow will hit 11,000, and more people will go to the polls to vote in the 2006 midterm elections.”

And finally tonight, my prediction?  Americans are going to go healthy in their consumer choices.  We can always hope. 

And just a quick word:  What a great staff we have at this show.  They were very patient with me as I filled in this week for Rita.  A very professional bunch, very smart bunch.  Thank you.

From all of us, we wish you a very happy and healthy new year.  Rita will be back on Monday.  And we go now to Joe Scarborough.  See you.

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

Copy: Content and programming copyright 2005 NBC.  ALL RIGHTS  RESERVED. Transcription Copyright 2005 Voxant, Inc.  ALL RIGHTS  RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material other than for research. User may not reproduce or redistribute the material except for user‘s personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon NBC and Voxant, Inc.‘s copyright or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.

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