updated 1/11/2006 1:40:32 PM ET 2006-01-11T18:40:32

Guests: Ken Stethem, Marie Breheret, Sharon Rocha, Richard Fain, Judy Rivlin, Tim Biddle

JOE SCARBOROUGH, HOST:  And right now in SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY, another deadly mining accident today, just days after tragedy struck in West Virginia.  Is the federal government letting big coal companies get away with murder?  A new study suggests it may. 

Then, Royal Caribbean‘s CEO comes to SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY to tell us what he really thinks happens on the Smiths‘ honeymoon cruise.  Was it murder, a cover-up, or simply a tragic accident?

Welcome to SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY, no passport required, only common sense allowed. 

ANNOUNCER:  From the press room, to the courtroom, to the halls of Congress, Joe Scarborough has seen it all.  Welcome to SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.

SCARBOROUGH:  Hey, thanks so much for being with us tonight.  We are going to get to those stories in just a minute.

Also, Laci Peterson brutally murdered by her husband, Scott, and, of course, the story that became a part of American cultural history.  Now for the first time we‘re hearing the heartbreaking story from her mother, Sharon Rocha. 

And later, amazing video.  Good samaritans jump to the rescue to try to save a burning bus full of passengers, and we will show you what happened. 

But first, 12 coal miners buried in West Virginia.  And now a troubling report raises questions about whether the coal industry is given a free ride when it comes to miners‘ safety.  We are going to have that in a minute.

But, first, it was a sad day in West Virginian coal country, as that close-knit community said goodbye to two of the miners killed in last week‘s tragedies. 

MSNBC‘s Lisa Daniels is there live. 

And, Lisa, it‘s been a tough day.  Tell us about it. 

LISA DANIELS, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  Yes, Joe, it‘s actually been a tough week. 

You know how these coal mining towns are.  Everybody knows everybody.  In fact, most people know the coal miners, or, if they don‘t, they know somebody who does.  So, this town has been hit very hard.  In fact, the sister of Terry Helms—that‘s one of the men who was buried today—told me that the phone calls keep on coming in, the visitors keep on coming to her house, so much so that she had to excuse herself to go to bed.  But she said that is the only thing keeping her sane at this very tough time.

And she appreciates the town‘s support so very much.  Also today we do have some video from the other funeral service, 59-year-old Fred Ware‘s.  He was buried today at the Sago Baptist Church.  That was the church where people gathered as they waited for those agonizing hours for word to come whether their family members were alive or dead. 

Well, it‘s interesting, because he was due to be married, and his fiancee said that Fred always had this gut instinct, Joe, that he would die in the mines.  He had that premonition and of course sadly it turned out to be true.  And as I said he was to be married Valentine‘s Day, so here they were looking forward to a wedding in just about a month, and now they‘re burying him.  Such a sad day.

I can‘t even explain to you, Joe, how tight-knit this community is.  It‘s like most coal mining towns around the country, where people have the black bows hanging from their doors.  Most establishments have a sign praying for the miners‘ families, and it‘s sad, because those signs were changed to add the word families, because the signs of course were praying for the miners while those agonizing hours played through—Joe. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Lisa, more tragedy out of Kentucky in the mining community there.  Tell us about that. 

DANIELS:  Yes.  In fact, one of the coal miners was trapped inside the mine. 

And, Joe, within the last two hours, we did get confirmation that he was killed.  Apparently he was using some sort of a roof bolting machine when he was killed by falling rocks.  We‘re told that it happened about 900 feet inside the Maverick mine.  The Kentucky Office of Mine Safety just releasing his name, Cornelius Yates. 

But, as you said, Joe, another mining tragedy.  And we haven‘t heard the exact circumstances of what happened there, but just such a sad week for the mining industry. 

SCARBOROUGH:  So sad.  Thank you so much, MSNBC‘s Lisa Daniels.

And as Lisa‘s report really shows us, you look at the tragedy in West Virginia, and of course the one in Kentucky, well, it shows you that—I will tell you what, friends, that it continues.  I mean, we continue to have these problems, and yet these men that go into these mines are the very people that really do help fuel America, and bringing coal out of there.  It‘s such a dangerous, dangerous job. 

The question is, are they being protected by their government?  You know, the investigation into the West Virginia tragedy is stalled right now.  But this headline in “USA Today” this morning says since 1999 the coal mining industry has paid only 28 percent of over $9 million in fines resulting from safety violations following mine fatalities. 

With me now to talk about that shocking report and what it means for mine safety and you is attorney Tim Biddle.  He defends the mining companies.  And also Judy Rivlin, associate general counsel for the United Mine Workers of America. 

Judy, let me begin with you. 

You look at some of these numbers and look how these huge fines that are eventually levied are whittled down, some say to 25, 26, 27 percent on the dollar.  It leads some people to think that mine companies have nothing to worry about.  What do you say? 

JUDY RIVLIN, ASSOCIATE GENERAL COUNSEL, UNITED MINE WORKERS OF

AMERICA:  I think that‘s true. 

The Mine Act has a lot of strong enforcement tools built into it, but the agency has got to be there to enforce it.  It‘s got to go into the mines and issue citations when they find violations.  And the support needs to come all the way up the chain. 

And that‘s where the problem is.  We have a lot of really good inspectors who go in and have been writing citations when they find violations.  But they end up getting compromised at conferences and through the process.  And that kind of settlement is not acceptable. 

We need to have real teeth, and the agency has the power and ability to issue meaningful citations and orders, and it needs to do that, needs to do that consistently.  When it writes citations, it needs to go back and make sure that they have been abated, to make sure that the mine is as safe as it can be.  And that just hasn‘t been happening. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  You know, Tim, these people that go into these mines, they have a terrible, difficult job.  You and I can‘t even begin to imagine what they go through day in and day out.  And yet it‘s just not safe down there in some of these mines.  And it seems that when people die down there, the government allows these fines to be whittled away, to be lawyered away.  Why is that? 

TIM BIDDLE, ATTORNEY FOR COAL COMPANIES:  Joe, the American coal mining industry is the most pervasively regulated industry in America, and has been for many, many years, in fact, 30 years. 

And during that 30 years, fatalities have dropped 90 percent, which is a very substantial reduction from where it was back in 1970 and in the early ‘70s. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, Tim—they may be regulate it, Tim, but they don‘t enforce it, if you have this “USA Today” study that says, yes, there were $9.1 million worth of fines levied over the past five, six years, but the government only made them pay about 25 percent.  What good are regulations if you don‘t enforce them? 

(CROSSTALK)

RIVLIN:  A lot of the decrease in the mining fatalities is also there are many, many fewer people working in the mines.  Productivity has stayed the same, but there are a lot fewer miners producing just as much coal. 

So, when you look at the reduction in the number of fatalities, you still have to look at the reduction in the percentage compared to the number of people mining. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Tim.

RIVLIN:  We do have the ability to mine safely, but only when everything is put into place and enforced properly.  And that‘s just not happening.

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Let Tim respond to what I asked him about the 25 percent. 

BIDDLE:  All right, Joe.

The reason for that is very simple.  The penalty assessment process under the Mine Act is a two-step process.  If a violation is issued, if an inspector believes a violation exists in the mine, there will be a civil penalty assessed by the Mine Safety and Health Administration based on six statutory factors. 

SCARBOROUGH:  OK, and we don‘t have time to go into those factors, but...

(CROSSTALK)

BIDDLE:  I know.  But what I‘m telling you is that that reduction you‘re talking about is, you‘re starting with a number that was at step one, and you‘re ending with a number at the end of step two. 

SCARBOROUGH:  But the number always seems to get whittled down. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Let‘s talk about the 2001 Alabama mine incident that you

you helped defend the company.  And I guess they were socked with like a $430,000 fine for these 12 miners that died -- 13 miners who died in Alabama.  You got that knocked down to what, $2,000, $3,000? 

BIDDLE:  Three thousand dollars, Joe. And you know why? 

SCARBOROUGH:  For 13 miners. 

BIDDLE:  That‘s right. 

And the difference between the starting number and that ending number is one simple word, evidence.  Evidence.

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, so, somebody just decided to throw a $435,000 figure at the beginning, without looking at evidence? 

BIDDLE:  That‘s exactly right. 

RIVLIN:  No, that‘s not the case.

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, that‘s your opinion.

But, Judy, why is it that it always seems to get whittled down?  In this case, Alabama, 2001, 13 miners died.  A $435,000 fine is assessed.  And it‘s cut all the way down to $3,000 for 13 dead miners. 

(CROSSTALK)

RIVLIN:  Frankly, we think the citation should have been and the penalty should have been higher to begin with. 

But, notwithstanding that, the judge didn‘t—this was thrown out by an administrative law judge.  And it is on appeal at this point.  But the...

BIDDLE:  The evidence was not there, and Judy knows that. 

RIVLIN:  No, it‘s not that the evidence was not there.

The judge found not that the company wasn‘t guilty.  He found that MSHA didn‘t prove its case.  And it‘s a problem with MSHA not having enough resources, enough support to do its job properly. 

(CROSSTALK)

RIVLIN:  But, Tim, we‘re talking about a bigger issue than just this case, where 13 miners die in Alabama and it‘s a $3,000 fine.  A lot of people, “USA Today,” “The Washington Post,” a lot of newspapers are looking closely at the mine industry, and they think they‘re getting away with murder. 

Tell me this.  Are these fines being cut because the Bush administration is allowing people that used to work in the mine industry to now regulate the mine industry? 

BIDDLE:  Well, I can tell you that that is just not correct.  In fact, the Bush administration is one of the only administrations in the last 30 years that has brought experienced safety professionals into the agency. 

SCARBOROUGH:  People who work in the industry? 

RIVLIN:  That‘s not true.

BIDDLE:  Well, they came from the industry.

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes. 

BIDDLE:  But they have also had—they have also had some United Mine Worker people and other people in the industry in the last, say, eight years—excuse me—in the—at the Mine Safety and Health Administration in the last eight years who are very experienced. 

And I‘m not saying that the inspectors who work for the Mine Safety and Health Administration aren‘t experienced.  They are.  But the management part of that agency has had a long history of having top people put in who are not experienced in mining. 

SCARBOROUGH:  All right.  All right. 

Thank you, Tim Biddle.  Thank you, Judy Rivlin. 

I have just got to say this, friends.  I have heard—and I have heard this from Republicans.  I‘m a Republican.  I‘m a conservative guy.  I‘m pro-business.  But I have heard that, in this industry, like many other industries, the Bush administration has put people in to regulate these energy industries, especially who actually worked in the industries. 

Now, that‘s not all bad.  Bring a little bit of business experience in.  But if you put too many of those type of people in there, then it‘s like foxes guarding the henhouse.  And I think as we see these mining tragedies continue to pile up one after another, there‘s going to be an outcry from Americans, especially in West Virginia, Kentucky, Alabama, and in mining communities, for our federal government to step up and do what‘s right and protect these miners. 

Now, coming up next, the honeymoon cruise that turned into a disaster.  For months, we have been looking for answers from the cruise line.  For months, we have been asking him to come on our show.  And, tonight, the man who runs Royal Caribbean is going to be here with us to answer questions about what he thinks happened that night on the cruise. 

And, later, Laci Peterson‘s mom breaks her silence. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SHARON ROCHA, MOTHER OF LACI PETERSON:  There was no reason for him to kill Laci, other than pure selfishness.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  Sharon Rocha‘s emotional words about Laci and when she first started to suspect Scott was a killer. 

Hey, it‘s a big night in SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.  Stay with us.  We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  George Smith IV, a newly married man on his honeymoon, vanished from his cruise ship six months ago. 

His family and many others believe he was murdered.  And they have accused Royal Caribbean cruise line of trying to cover up the crime to protect its image.  Tonight, Royal Caribbean is here to answer our questions. 

With me now, the chairman and CEO of Royal Caribbean, Richard Fain. 

And also with me is Marie Breheret.

Did I say that right?  Close enough?

She‘s the guest relations manager who actually accompanied Jennifer Hagel Smith the day her husband vanished. 

Richard, obviously, a lot of people talking about this right now.  A lot of questions about what happened the night George disappeared and about the investigation the next day, that‘s caused the biggest concerns. 

Do you think Royal Caribbean investigated this case properly as soon as George disappeared? 

RICHARD FAIN, CHAIRMAN & CEO, ROYAL CARIBBEAN:  I think the officers and crew did do all they knew how to do to make sure this was investigated. 

Royal Caribbean isn‘t the investigative authority here.  We called the Turkish authority.  We called the FBI.  We called the U.S. Consulate.  And we helped them in doing their investigation.  And, yes, I do believe that the officers did everything they could to make sure that investigation was conscientious, professional and compassionate. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Now, the—the investigation report that you all had—and, again, you all aren‘t the investigating authority.

But it says here that—that the investigators on the ship assumed that George was sitting on the rail of his balcony, cabin, probably lost his balance and fell overboard, probably under the influence of alcohol. 

Do you think—and, obviously, George‘s family believes that, because the cruise line assumed that George just fell overboard, that maybe there wasn‘t a sense of urgency.  Maybe that‘s why the bloodstain was wiped off early.  Maybe that‘s why the FBI was brought—was not brought on board in a timely manner.  What do you say to that? 

FAIN:  That‘s absolutely wrong. 

And some of those statements, actually, are wrong.  And part of the reason that we have come forward is because there have been so many false statements being made, and we wanted to correct the record. 

The—the captain did reach the conclusion, based on the evidence that he saw and based on his experience, that in—probably, it was an accident.  But—and maybe he shouldn‘t have made that assumption or that...

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Do you think it‘s an accident? 

FAIN:  I—you know something?  I really wish I knew.  And I don‘t know.  I do believe the FBI has the evidence to help reach that answer. 

But I do want to come back to your question.  And I want to point out that he didn‘t assume.  What he did was, he sealed the cabin.  He called the authorities.  He treated it as a potential crime scene, even though he believed, based on his experience and what he saw, that it was probably an accident. 

He didn‘t rule out the possibility that foul play was involved.  And he was careful to make sure...

SCARBOROUGH:  Right. 

FAIN:  ... that the investigation was carried forward...

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  You all—or he—he didn‘t call the FBI that day, though, did he? 

FAIN:  Oh, yes, he did. 

In fact, even before we knew that it was George Smith that we were talking about, even at a point in time when there were more than one people we were looking for, he had called the FBI, literally within minutes. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Did he tell them it was an accident? 

FAIN:  No, I think what he told them was, we have a potential here.  It could be an accident.  It could be foul play.  And we‘re notifying you, because that‘s our policy. 

And they treated it as a crime scene.  And...

SCARBOROUGH:  But, again, on this document, though, he‘s saying that it was an accident. 

FAIN:  Yes. 

The document actually is something that‘s filed several days later.  And it‘s filed with the Bahamian authorities.  And the only people that saw that document were ourselves and the Bahamian authorities. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes. 

FAIN:  It‘s a simple formality.  It had nothing to do with the investigation. 

In fact, the only reason you have it is because we supplied it voluntarily...

SCARBOROUGH:  Right. 

FAIN:  ... to the lawyers for Mrs. Hagel Smith and for the family. 

And they have made it public. 

SCARBOROUGH:  But it has nothing—you‘re saying it has nothing to do with the investigation; it doesn‘t matter what he wrote on there?

But—and, again, my only point is, it may go to how seriously this was treated as a possible homicide the day that George disappeared. 

FAIN:  I‘m glad I have a chance to answer that, because I think it‘s very important to understand, we‘re not investigators.  We do call—whenever there‘s something like this that happens, we call the FBI, we call the local authorities, and we help them make their investigations. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Right. 

The captain is human.  And our captains do speak their mind.  And, most of the time, I really like that. 

SCARBOROUGH:  OK.

FAIN:  And, in this case, he drew that conclusion.  But it had nothing to do with what the FBI did.  And they are used to making their own conclusions. 

SCARBOROUGH:  All right. 

And the FBI will—obviously, the FBI will make their own conclusions. 

(CROSSTALK)

FAIN:  They always do.

SCARBOROUGH:  Let‘s move on to the bloodstain. 

This is something that caused me a great deal of concern.  We had somebody on this summer that said, when the bloodstain was there, she went in.  And, when she came back, it had been cleaned off.  And, in fact, there were people painting across that spot. 

Tell—and, in fact, let me play you what this guest said for us on the show this summer.   

FAIN:  OK.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  You all woke up the next morning, went ashore, and when you came back, describe the flurry of activity that you saw. 

DENISE, CRUISE PASSENGER:  The boat was being thoroughly cleaned and painted, and the captain was walking up and down, looking at the ship. 

SCARBOROUGH:  So, they not only cleaned over this bloody spot.  They were also painting over it. 

DENISE:  Yes.  Yes. 

SCARBOROUGH:  What did you think at the time? 

DENISE:  I—I. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Did you know that somebody had fallen? 

DENISE:  I thought, wow, they really keep this ship clean.  That‘s the only thing I thought. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  So, she said she came back.  It had been cleaned up.  It had been painted over. 

True or false? 

FAIN:  Absolutely false.  And I—that‘s one of the kind of things that we think we need to set the record straight on. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Was Denise lying, or could she have just been confused? 

What do you think happened there? 

FAIN:  I think you had a ship with almost 3,000 guests on board. 

We do clean the ship a lot.  And many of them saw things and—she may not have understood what she had seen.  The ship is almost as long as the Empire State Building is tall.  And it‘s entirely possible she saw something entirely separately. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Now, why didn‘t—why didn‘t you wait for the FBI to come?  Regardless of when it was washed off, if it could have been a homicide, shouldn‘t you have waited for the FBI to come on board, instead of trusting the Turkish authorities?  Because, I mean, obviously, if you lost a loved one, or I lost a loved one, I wouldn‘t want the Turks investigating it.  I would want the FBI investigating it. 

FAIN:  Well, first of all, I do want to make it absolutely clear, if I could just come back to the last question...

SCARBOROUGH:  Sure.

FAIN:  ... to make it clear, the—there was no washing of that until after the investigation was finished. 

SCARBOROUGH:  What time?

FAIN:  And we were told—well, we were told at 2:30 or 3:00 that we were free to clear it off. 

Still, the captain didn‘t clean it off until 7:00 that evening—or -

sorry -- 6:00 that evening.

SCARBOROUGH:  OK.

FAIN:  Three or three-and-a-half-hours after it had been cleared.  And it still hasn‘t been painted.  You can go on today, and it‘s still not painted, six months later.  So, it certainly wasn‘t painted over the same day. 

SCARBOROUGH:  So—so, why didn‘t you, just in an abundance of caution—I know you had said you were concerned about tourists looking overboard.  You could have easily roped that out and stopped them from doing it.

Why didn‘t you wait until the FBI came on board, just so the families could have had the assurance that the crime scene wasn‘t contaminated before the FBI got on board? 

FAIN:  We have really established a very good working relationship with the FBI.  And we have established protocols.  And we call them.  And then they decide whether they want to do the initial forensics or the local government do the initial forensics.  In this case, they obviously chose—they wanted the Turkish to do the original forensics.

SCARBOROUGH:  So, the FBI told the captain or told you all that they wanted the Turkish authorities to do the original forensic investigations?

FAIN:  The FBI doesn‘t actually tell us very much, unfortunately.  I think that is something that is a little unfortunate for us and for the family, because there‘s a lot we would like to know.

But the FBI was aware of what was going on.  Their procedures are that they defer to the local authorities.  And they have said that in congressional testimony just as recently as last month. 

And, then, afterwards, they use that evidence.  And the Turks appear to have been very thorough.  They did fingerprints.  They did blood samples.  They did photographs.  They did all the sorts of things that I, as a layman, assume they should be doing.  The FBI seemed satisfied with that. 

They don‘t actually say officially yes and no, but they knew what was going on.  They supported what we were doing.  And it‘s consistent with our working relationship with them over many years. 

SCARBOROUGH:  OK.  All right. 

And we have so much that we could talk about on these—so many things that I have concerns about, again, regarding the FBI versus the Turks.  But, again, it‘s about protocols.  I was at the hearings.  They were talking about it there.  I have a feeling we are going to be talking about these protocols into the future. 

But I want to turn to what happened when Jen Hagel Smith went off the ship.  Now, she told us before that she got off the ship and she was by herself the whole day.  You, though, actually say you were with her. 

(CROSSTALK)

MARIE BREHERET, ROYAL CARIBBEAN GUEST RELATIONS MANAGER:  Yes, I was with her all day long.  I met her in my office at around 10:00 a.m., 10:15, and I was with her until 6:00 p.m.

SCARBOROUGH:  With her until 6:00 p.m.

OK.  And tell me the state that she was in while you were walking around with her. 

BREHERET:  She was crying.  She was quite confused and disoriented.  I think she didn‘t know what was going on. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes.  Were you the only person with her at the time? 

BREHERET:  No. 

When I was on board, I was with her, yes.  We went in an empty cabin, where she was able to shower, to change.  We then went to see the doctor.  We just want to make sure she was fine.  And then we went in the boardroom, where she spoke with the captain, the staff captain.  And we all escorted her to the terminal. 

SCARBOROUGH:  OK. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  And, Richard, I wanted to follow up with that question, because there is a conflict, in Jennifer saying she was alone, and now you saying you were with her all day. 

But, also, she said, when she came back to the ship, her bags were outside on the dock and was not—she was not allowed to get back on the cruise line.  True or false? 

FAIN:  You know, absolutely false. 

And, you know, this is—if there was one thing that really hurt more than anything else, when our people were maligned for doing everything they could to be compassionate, to be constructive, to make sure that this was done professionally, and to be maligned for doing that really hurt. 

And it was one of the reasons—and if it was one defining moment, that was one of the reasons that we felt we couldn‘t allow their—against them to be not treated properly.  And from the very beginning, she was looked after.  When she first went ashore, she went with Marie. 

I remember in her letter to Congress, she said, you know, I was left with no food, no money, no nothing, and alone. 

And I‘m looking.  And I‘m saying, Marie, this is not alone. 

She also went with the safety officer, another of our senior officers on board.  And then she went from there.  And they told us that they had the American consular official there and the FBI agent.  So, she was never alone. 

SCARBOROUGH:  OK.

FAIN:  And it really hurts at the suggestion, because that—if I was told that, I would be upset, too. 

SCARBOROUGH:  All right. 

FAIN:  But that—but it isn‘t true. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Richard, a lot of conflicts here.  Obviously, it is going to be all sorted out.  I want to thank you for coming on, telling your side of the story. 

Obviously, you have been hearing the other side now for the past six months.  Thank you so much for being with us and telling your side, too.  We greatly appreciate it.  And, obviously, this will—obviously, to be continued. 

FAIN:  Thank you for giving us a chance, because there has been so much misinformation.  We appreciate the chance to try and start setting the record straight. 

SCARBOROUGH:  All right.  Thanks so much.

FAIN:  Thank you. 

SCARBOROUGH:  And we will be right back in a minute with Laci Peterson‘s mother, Sharon Rocha, telling her story, heartbreaking details of betrayal, loss and anger. 

And a story you have got to hear, 15 Cuban refugees shipped back home simply because they landed on the wrong American bridge.  Anybody in Florida knows, it is a crazy law. 

We will explain it when SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY returns. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Disturbing video from a California family who was mowed down.  We will tell you what happened at the end of that story when SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY returns. 

But, first, here‘s the latest news you and your family need to know. 

(NEWS BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  New developments tonight in our fight to bring a terrorist to justice.  You‘re going to see how we‘re starting to get results, but how there is still so much more that you can help us do. 

And dramatic video, a bus up in flames, passengers scrambling for their lives.  And we will tell you what happened.  Look at that.  My gosh.  We will tell you what happened.  That‘s later on in the show. 

Welcome back to SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.  Those stories minutes away. 

But first, Laci Peterson, you know, the all-American girl next door, pregnant with a son she planned to name Conner when her husband, Scott Peterson, murdered her on Christmas Eve 2002. 

Now, for the very first time since the trial, Laci‘s mom, Sharon Rocha, is sharing her heartbreaking story.  She‘s written a book called “For Laci.”  And she sat down with Katie Couric on “Dateline NBC.” 

The first topic, Scott‘s bizarre reaction to Laci‘s pregnancy.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ROCHA:  I remember Laci and I were standing at one end of the dining room table and Scott was sitting at the other.  And she said oh, Scott‘s having a midlife crisis.  And I looked over at Scott and I said, a midlife crisis?  I said why are you having a midlife crisis?

And as usual Laci answered, she said that, oh, he‘s feeling that way because he‘s turning 30 and becoming a father all in the same year.  And I looked over at him and, you know, I said oh, get over it.

KATIE COURIC, CO-HOST:  Around that time you write, I just feel like there‘s a dark cloud hanging over me.

ROCHA:  What I was feeling was I had this concern that Laci wasn‘t going to survive her pregnancy, and I don‘t know why I felt that.  I just...

COURIC:  Like a very frightening premonition.

ROCHA:  Yes.

COURIC (voice-over):  The final events that made that premonition come true came as Christmas approached.  Scott Peterson was dating Amber Frey two and a half weeks before Laci‘s disappearance.  He was confronted by a friend of Frey‘s who had heard he was married.  Two days later he searched the classified ads for a small boat.  On Christmas Eve 2002, having no idea what was happening with her son-in-law, Sharon Rocha received the call that would change her life forever.

(on camera):  And around 5:15 the phone rang, and it was Scott, and what he said frightened you immediately, didn‘t it?

ROCHA:  He said that when he had gotten home, that the car was in the driveway and McKenzie was in the back yard with his leash on and Laci‘s missing.  And I can remember thinking, missing?  You know, that‘s not something you say.  You know, looking back on it, I was the very first person he called, and he used the word missing.  He didn‘t call her doctor.  He didn‘t call the hospital.  He hadn‘t called anybody else, yet he told me she was missing.  It‘s because he knew she was.  He knew she was gone.

COURIC (voice-over):  She first noticed Scott acting strangely that very night in this Modesto park where the search for Laci began.

ROCHA:  I remember when we got down into the park I jumped out of the car and I was running everywhere, just screaming her name, and I remember watching him walk near the creek.  He never opened his mouth.  He never called out her name.  And I was screaming his name.  And I remember thinking, I know you can hear me.  Why aren‘t you turning around and acknowledging me?

COURIC:  The day after this candlelight vigil, eight days after Laci‘s disappearance, Sharon Rocha met with Peterson.

ROCHA:  I described to him what I was going to do to the person who took Laci when we get Laci back.  I was making like I had a knife in my hand and I said I‘m just going to, you know, take chunks out of his body and go up one side and down the other side.  I mean that‘s just how I felt about this, and he just smiled.  And I remember thinking afterwards, you know, there was no, well, I get him first, or you‘re going to have to get in line, or I‘m going to help you or—it was just a smile.

COURIC (on camera):  And he was actually grinning, like full-out grinning?

ROCHA:  I never once heard him say, mom, where‘s Laci?  Who would have done this?  Why can‘t we find Laci?  Never, ever, ever did I hear him say anything to that effect.  Not only to me, I never heard anybody else say that he said it to them.

COURIC:  Scott at one point wanted to hire a dog psychic to interview Laci‘s dog, McKenzie? 

ROCHA:  Yes. 

COURIC:  And did you think...

ROCHA:  Why aren‘t we getting the people psychic, you know, if you‘re going to hire a psychic?  At that time, I was just, what are you talking about?  It was—to me, it was just absolutely ridiculous. 

COURIC (voice-over):  She was mystified as to how Scott Peterson seemed to keep his composure while his wife and unborn son were missing.    

ROCHA:  And I remember him holding his head back, you know, and telling me that, somebody asked me today how am I.  And I said I‘m fine.  And I was looking at him.  And he said and that really surprised me, because I really am fine.  I mean, I felt like somebody had just hit me in the stomach.   It just took my breath away.  Laci‘s been gone three weeks.  How can you say you‘re fine?

COURIC:  You write that you fantasized about kidnapping, drugging or torturing Scott Peterson.

ROCHA:  I didn‘t fantasize that.  I talked about it.  I actually had friends I had to actually kind of hold back, because they were ready to do this.  But I know I really couldn‘t do that.

COURIC:  But you were so desperate for the truth.

ROCHA:  I wanted him to tell me where Laci was, because I knew he knew where Laci was. 

COURIC:  You write about, and this just breaks my heart, I mean many things do, but about being obsessed with what happened to Laci and how her life was ended.  Can you stop thinking about that?

ROCHA:  I mean I was just beside myself thinking about what he had done to her, and did she know that it was happening and...

COURIC:  Was she afraid?

ROCHA:  And how could he have done anything to Laci?  There was no reason.  There was no reason for him to kill Laci, other than pure selfishness.

COURIC (voice-over):  As unbearable as it seemed to her at the time, she attended almost every day of Scott Peterson‘s trial.

ROCHA:  I was there because I wanted to know what happened to Laci.  There were so many times I would look over at Scott and he was just in another world, which is what he did the day that I was testifying.  I‘m waiting for him to acknowledge that I‘m sitting here, and he never once looked at me, and that just infuriated me.

Because he leaned over to Geragos, and they were laughing, and I‘m thinking just how disrespectful all the way around.  I‘m sitting here talking about Laci and how this has affected me, how much I miss her, what he‘s done to her, and he‘s laughing about it.

COURIC (on camera):  Did you believe that Scott should get the death penalty?

ROCHA:  You know, as far as I was concerned if he was convicted, it was the death penalty because he was going to die in prison.  I mean the life—life in prison is the same as a death penalty as far as I‘m concerned.  He‘s not going anywhere. 

All I needed to hear was that the jury had found him guilty, and the trial was over for me.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCARBOROUGH:  I will tell you what.  Scott Peterson, what a deranged, crazy guy.  I‘ll tell you what. 

Hey, I‘m joined now by Tucker Carlson.  He‘s host of course of “THE

SITUATION WITH TUCKER CARLSON.” 

Hey, Tucker, what is the situation tonight?

TUCKER CARLSON, HOST, “THE SITUATION WITH TUCKER CARLSON”:  Well, speaking, Joe, of deranged and crazy, we...

SCARBOROUGH:  I wasn‘t going to make that segue to you.  I bit my tongue. 

(LAUGHTER)

CARLSON:  You know I can‘t resist.

SCARBOROUGH:  I sort of smiled, looked over to the side.  But, anyway, go ahead.  You take the segue for me.

CARLSON:  Well, we have got a story.  I‘m not sure if it‘s deranged or crazy or both, but it‘s business remarkable.  It‘s the literary hoax of the century, or at least it appears to be tonight. 

“A Million Little Pieces,” the second best-selling book of the year, after “Harry Potter,” pushed relentlessly on “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” turns out likely a hoax in large part.  Thanks to the reporting done by TheSmokingGun.com, we know that.  We are going to have one of the investigative reporters who uncovered this.  We are going to get to the bottom of what exactly this book is about.  Is it true at all?  We will tell you. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Very good.  Hey, thanks a lot, Tucker.

CARLSON:  Thanks, Joe.

SCARBOROUGH:  And make sure you turn to “THE SITUATION” at 11:00, coming up right after we end up our show. 

Now, when we come back, new details into our campaign to put a killer terrorist back behind bars.  I‘m going to show you what needs to happen this week.

And chilling surveillance video.  A family survives after an out-of-control driver plows into them.  We will show you what happened. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  This was a horrifying scene yesterday in Brazil; 30 people suffered major burns as the bus they were in suddenly burst into flames. 

Good samaritans who saw what was happening shattered the bus‘ windows to pull out the passengers who were trapped inside.  Incredibly, nobody was killed in the fire, and Brazilian authorities say they still don‘t know what caused it. 

And now it‘s time for another flyover of SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY, some stories that may have fallen under the mainstream media‘s radar, but not ours.

We begin in Marathon, Florida, where the difference between freedom and a return to Cuba for 15 political refugees was landing on the wrong bridge.  The group made the treacherous journey from Cuba to Florida on Sunday, landed on this bridge that they thought was considered to be dry U.S. land. 

It turns out, though, the pilings they landed on was part of an old seven-mile bridge that isn‘t connected to land.  S,  under Florida‘s crazy law, it‘s not considered dry land.  So, U.S. authorities shipped all of them back to Cuba today. 

Our next stop tonight, Wasco, California, for this car accident caught on tape.  An out-of-control car slammed into this family of three as they were walking through a parking lot.  All three of them, including two children, were sent to the hospital with moderate to major injuries.  The driver of that car was a 79-year-old woman who didn‘t even have a driver‘s license.  She fled the scene, but later turned herself in to the police. 

And coming up next, the terrorist who killed a Navy diver in Beirut and is now a free man—we have been demanding answers, and now some politicians in Washington are starting to listen. 

And his mouth just won‘t quit.  And that‘s one reason why tonight‘s “Joe‘s Schmoe” has to go.  We will tell you who it is and why when we return. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Tonight, we have new developments in the case of a convicted terrorist who was set free by our so-called allies, Germany. 

He‘s responsible for the brutal murder of U.S. Navy diver Robert Stethem during a hijacking of that TWA plane 20 years ago.  Tonight, we‘re demanding that our government push Lebanon to turn this killer over to U.S.  custody.

And that‘s exactly what two U.S. senators are asking Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to demand as well. 

With me, Ken Stethem.  He‘s the brother of that murdered Navy diver. 

Ken, thanks for coming back. 

It looks like we‘re starting to make progress.  You finally have senators who are paying attention to you.  Will the Bush administration listen? 

KEN STETHEM, BROTHER OF MURDERED NAVY DIVER:  We are going to see, Joe.  We are going to see. 

I want to thank Senator Mikulski and Senator DeMint for sending that letter to Secretary of State Rice today. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Secretary of State Rice, has she contacted you yet? 

STETHEM:  No, she has not. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Why not? 

STETHEM:  We would have to ask her. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, have you talked to anybody from the State Department? 

STETHEM:  The State Department has—the only person from the State Department that‘s contacted us is the ambassador for coordination of counterterrorism, Ambassador Crumpton.  And that was all.  He forwarded our concerns to Condoleezza Rice, but we have not heard from her. 

SCARBOROUGH:  You know, Ken, Lebanon is a safe hiding place for terrorists.  That‘s just the bottom line.

Get this.  Out of the 18 terrorists on the FBI‘s most wanted terrorist list, seven are thought to be hiding in Lebanon.  That‘s 40 percent of this country‘s most wanted terrorist. 

Now I want you to take a listen to what President Bush said right after 9/11 about nations that harbor terrorists. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  We will pursue nations that provide aid or safe haven to terrorism.  Every nation, in every region, now has a decision to make.  Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  Ken, what do you have to say to the president? 

STETHEM:  You know, I hope that he and this administration can demonstrate the same courage and devotion to duty in enforcing the policy and their own words that they expect of our men and women in uniform.  I want them to bring Hamadi back. 

SCARBOROUGH:  And what do you think about the fact, again, that Hamadi is hiding out in a country that now offers safe harbor to 40 percent of the terrorists on our most wanted terror list? 

STETHEM:  It‘s unbelievable.  It‘s unbelievable, Joe. 

In fact, Hezbollah is probably the most active terrorist group in the world today.  Al Qaeda‘s been destroyed.  Al Qaeda‘s heir leadership has run and just scattered, and a lot of them went to Iran.  If we want to really focus on terrorism right now, today, we go to Lebanon.  We demand, through a formal diplomatic request, they turn over Hamadi and every Hezbollah leader in that country.

In fact, that—Bush needs to demand the same thing of Lebanon he demanded of the Taliban in that speech. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Ken I want to ask you what the president needs to say to the new German chancellor that is coming to America on Friday.

Of course, the Germans are the ones who started this process by letting the killer of your brother go.  What‘s the president to say to the new chancellor of Germany? 

STETHEM:  Joe, I don‘t know what he can say.  I don‘t know if the president directly knew or not that Hamadi was about to be released. 

But our State Department knew.  So, I don‘t really—and our State Department, my understanding, they gave them a pass.  They gave Germany a pass to let it happen.  And, so, I don‘t know what the president can say.  But I hope, at the end of their meeting, when they stand up, they don‘t talk about how committed Germany is as an ally against—in the war against terrorists. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, it sure—it doesn‘t look that way, Ken, not to us, and certainly not to your family. 

Thank you, Ken Stethem, as always.  Greatly appreciate it.

STETHEM:  Thank you, Joe.

SCARBOROUGH:  And I have got to tell you, and, Ken, and your family, be assured that SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY is staying on top of this story.  We‘re launching our own campaign to get actions done for the Stethem family. 

First, the president has to address Hamadi‘s release with Germany‘s Chancellor Merkel when she visits the White House on Friday, or else he‘s just not being consistent in the war on terror. 

Second, Condoleezza Rice must meet with the Stethem family and tell them what‘s being done to bring Hamadi to justice.  This is an outrage, for anybody that lived through that TWA ordeal in 1985, the fact that we have got a government that claims it is committed to ending terror across the globe.

When the Stethem family calls, this administration needs to pick up the phone, explain what happened, and explain how they‘re going to make a difference moving forward.

And third and, finally, the administration has to file a formal diplomatic request to Lebanon to turn Hamadi over to the United States. 

Again, Mr. President, if you‘re serious about this war on terror, you‘re going to take these steps.  It‘s that simple.

We will be right back in a second. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Americans don‘t trust Congress.  And why should they? 

The money scandal involving uber-lobbyist Jack Abramoff makes Capitol Hill smell like a sewer.  Republicans have a reason to be very nervous about the upcoming elections, because Abramoff is closely tied to their leaders. 

But Democratic head Howard Dean proved once again that, when it comes to saving, the GOP has no better friend than their political enemies.  This week, Dean claimed that Republicans were the only ones touched by this scandal and that Democrats were pure as the driven snow.  But “The Washington Post” and other news outlets proved that it‘s Dean guilty of the snow job.  Nobody is clean here, and both parties are going to pay for it in the fall. 

That‘s all the time we have for tonight. 

Now let‘s go to Tucker Carlson to get “THE SITUATION.” 

Tucker, what is the situation tonight?

CARLSON:  Well, the situation is, Joe, we‘re saying thanks to God for Howard Dean, as always. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Amen.

CARLSON:  And for you.  Thanks a lot, Joe.

SCARBOROUGH:  Thanks a lot.

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