updated 1/12/2006 9:20:11 AM ET 2006-01-12T14:20:11

Guests: Sheldon Sandler, Peggy Sandler, Susan Filan, Clint Van Zandt, Jim Dorcy, Sam Dealy, Frank Curreri, Juan Hernandez, Glenn Spencer, Joe McDonald, Maura James, Domenica Brancato, Mel Sachs

RITA COSBY, HOST:  Good evening, everybody.  Tonight, a bombshell in the case of missing honeymooner George Smith.  Tonight, For the first time, two new witnesses on the same ship give information that goes directly against Royal Caribbean‘s claims of how they handled the investigation.  We‘ll hear from them in just a moment.

But first, we‘re following up on these exclusive photos that we‘ve obtained of George and Jennifer Smith‘s cabin taken after George Smith went missing on July 5.  Here‘s what Royal Caribbean attorney Lanny Davis had to say about these photos on our show last night.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LANNY DAVIS, ROYAL CARIBBEAN ATTORNEY:  We had photographs taken by ship personnel before the Turkish authorities arrived, after Jennifer left the room.  And the—what you see as disarray in the room was reported, I think, on your program, you may forget, by Marie, who went into the room to pack up, and she reported that the room was in disarray after Jennifer left.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSBY:  Well, we‘ve asked Royal Caribbean to come on our show tonight, but they declined.  Joining me now is former FBI profiler Clint Van Zandt.  And also with us on the phone is former prosecutor Susan Filan.

Susan, real quick, what do these photos say to you about the crime scene and how well or well it wasn‘t preserved?

SUSAN FILAN, FORMER PROSECUTOR:  Well, Rita, I hate to say it, but this does not look like a well-preserved crime scene.  This is troublesome to a prosecutor to see these photographs.  From what I understand from your program last night, it looks like these original photographs were taken by other than law enforcement, which indicates that Royal Caribbean employees, staff, whoever, was in that crime scene before law enforcement could come in and properly preserve it.

This is very disturbing.  And I think, Rita, it does contradict what Royal Caribbean has been saying.  That is also disturbing and troublesome.

COSBY:  You know, Clint, what does it say to you, too, that it was a safety officer, a Royal Caribbean representative, who took the initial crime scene photos before the room was sort of trashed?

CLINT VAN ZANDT, FORMER FBI CRIMINAL PROFILER:  Well, you know, Rita, we‘ve been caught up in this “She says, they say.”  And it‘s hard—it‘s getting hard right now to keep your focus because you‘ve got Jennifer Hagel-Smith saying things that the cruise line absolutely dismiss and vice versa.  Neither side has come to an agreement.

As your photograph shows right here, there‘s his jacket hanging.  It seems to be agreed that they came in that night after dinner, he hung up his coat.  Then they went back and gambled again.  The issue is when Royal Caribbean came in that room, finally, after whatever happened in the middle of the night, did they come in and look out the balcony, say, Oh, my God, this is where someone went over the ledge, we better take some photographs and document what the room is and then get back out and preserve the crime scene?  If they did it in that manner, you know, I can live with that.  If they did anything to the room whatsoever to disrupt that crime scene, then I‘ve got a real problem with their being in there.

COSBY:  Let me show, if I could—this is a quote—this is from a press release that Royal Caribbean sent out just a few hours ago sort of explaining --  you know, they said that the first group was taken at 9:00 AM the day that George Smith went missing.  And they say—they admit that, obviously, it was Royal Caribbean who did that.  then the second group, they said all these photos were taken after.  And then again, after the fact that Turkish authorities completed forensic investigation July 5.  Guest relation manager entered Smith‘s cab to pack belongings.  She was also joined by a U.S. consulate official.  July 7, the FBI and U.S.  consulate official boarded the ship and entered the Smith cabin in Greece.

They seem to infer that these things happened after those photos were taken, or actually around the same time.  So we wonder, did they disrupt the room?  We don‘t know who disrupted the room.  Was it Turkish authorities?  And again, all the while, they have maintained that for six days, six straight days, this room was sealed.  Is this the way Turkish authorities go through a room?

VAN ZANDT:  Well, remember, now, Rita, we‘re down to a very critical -

about a 30-minute timeframe between the time that the banging, crashing, smashing was heard inside this room by the deputy police chief next door, and within 40 minutes, we have this passed-out Jennifer Hagel-Smith, who‘s found sleeping on the floor, who‘s brought back in and laid on top of the bed.  So we‘ve got this window of opportunity.

But Rita, I‘ll tell you, as somebody who goes cruise ships quite often, I know that most of the time, the janitorial staff will come in 8:00 o‘clock at night, they‘ll really clean the room.  They‘ll vacuum it.  They‘ll pick it up.  So it look to me perhaps part of that mess is related to this argument, fight, crashing that was heard in that room about 4:00 AM in the morning.  Then the question...

COSBY:  But Clint, quickly—I got to interrupt you because the first...

VAN ZANDT:  Yes?

COSBY:  The first photo they say was taken at 9:00 AM on July 5. 

That‘s after the fight took place.

VAN ZANDT:  Sure.

COSBY:  None of these things are on the floor in those photos.

VAN ZANDT:  Yes, but what I‘m saying then, is this the result of the fight that took place in that room the night before?

COSBY:  No, it could not have because they‘re saying it happened on July 5, after George Smith went missing.  They‘re saying the first photo—let‘s go back to the very first photo, Clint, where the coat is hanging over.  There‘s no disruption on the floor.  This photo that you‘re seeing here, Clint, where there‘s nothing on the floor, they said this took place after George Smith went missing.  And then the next photos were taken several days later.

VAN ZANDT:  Well, now the challenge comes, then, did Jennifer do something to the room?  Did the Turkish authorities do something to the room?  When the cruise line came in to pack the clothes and get into the safe, because as your photograph shows, the safe door is open—now we‘ve got anywhere from one, two, up to ten people who may have been in and out of that crime scene, plus the Turkish authorities.  I don‘t know how they‘re going to sort out whose hair, fibers, fingerprints and everything else really belonged in there.

COSBY:  Good point, Clint.  Stick in with us because in just a moment, we‘re going to have the first-ever interview with two passengers who were staying just a few doors away from the Smiths‘ cabin.

But first, we have some comments from Jennifer Hagel-Smith today. 

Let‘s take a listen to what she said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVIS:  All we know is the room was not in disarray at 5:00 o‘clock in the morning.  At 8:00 o‘clock in the morning, after Jennifer left, when we finally found the blood on the canopy at 8:30 -- that‘s a fact—and then when we went to Jennifer at 10:00 and she told us she didn‘t know where her husband was, before the Turkish authorities arrived, we took those early photographs, where the phone—where the room was in disarray.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSBY:  That was Lanny Davis with Royal Caribbean sort of explaining again.  That was last night‘s explanation with a different timeframe than we heard today from Royal Caribbean.

Let‘s—first, if I could, now, let me bring in for their very first interview are Peggy and Sheldon Sandler.  We‘re going to get to Jennifer Hagel-Smith‘s comments in a moment.  But the Sandlers are two passengers who sailed on that same Royal Caribbean ship at the same time as the Smiths.

How far away were you from the Smiths‘ cabin?

SHELDON SANDLER, CRUISE PASSENGER:  We were four doors down from where the Smiths were.

COSBY:  And the day that George Smith went missing, that he was reported missing on the 5th, you both got off the boat, and then you came back.  What did you see at that point?

SHELDON SANDLER:  The first time we realized something was wrong, we were coming down our hallway.  We were going to put our camera away and go have lunch.  And we saw this gentleman sitting in the middle of the hallway on a card chair with an open suitcase, and he was, like, reading a small book, might even—like a “Reader‘s Digest” book.  And as we came down the hallway, it‘s very unusual to just walk past somebody, so my wife said something to him, Hello, or something, and he kind of ignored us.  So we just went to our cabin, and we put our camera back.  Then we came back and passed him again on the way to lunch.

COSBY:  And Peggy, did you know anything about the blood on the canopy?  And when did you find out what may have happened to George Smith.

PEGGY SANDLER, CRUISE PASSENGER:  Well, the blood on the canopy—we

I had my videocamera, but I didn‘t take a picture of it at that point. 

And the blood on the canopy, we didn‘t—we—well, we didn‘t know about it until the next day, Rita.

COSBY:  I want to show a comment.  This is from the security officer from Royal Caribbean.  This is what they had to say to us.  And I want to get both of you to respond.  They said that that room was sealed off for six days right after July 5.  Let‘s take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GREG PURDY, ROYAL CARIBBEAN SAFETY DIRECTOR:  We kept the stateroom sealed for the following six days while we were in communication with the FBI.  So we really felt that we followed this by the book, correctly and responsibly throughout.

COSBY:  So you have the stateroom blocked off, you just said, for six days?  Is that what you just said?

PURDY:  Yes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSBY:  Now, Sheldon, let me go over to you.  On July 6, the next day, real briefly, what did you see at the cabin?

SHELDON SANDLER:  The very next day, the cabin was closed.  It was the third day that we saw somebody with a canister, with a vacuum cleaner.  The door was open, and he was in there with the vacuum cleaner, cleaning.  He was sweeping the floor and everything like that.

COSBY:  He was sweeping the floor when they said the room was sealed off?

SHELDON SANDLER:  Yes.  It was not sealed off.

COSBY:  What did you see the following day?

SHELDON SANDLER:  The following day, we saw somebody in there, like, dusting or cleaning with cleaning products maybe and, like, wiping down the TV and the—and the bed or whatever, the dresser, the dresser (INAUDIBLE)

PEGGY SANDLER:  I saw them down on their hand and knees, and they were cleaning.  And the door was open, and there were a few people in there cleaning.

COSBY:  Did it look like cleaning folks from the cruise ship, or could it have been investigators?

SHELDON SANDLER:  No, it was...

PEGGY SANDLER:  No.

SHELDON SANDLER:  ... cleaning people.

PEGGY SANDLER:  From the cruise ship.

COSBY:  You‘re sure of that?

SHELDON SANDLER:  Yes.

COSBY:  And you say that they were actually vacuuming and actually washing the floor off?

SHELDON SANDLER:  The third day, they had a canister that was out in the hallway, and I could see them pulling it in and out.  Yes, he was definitely sweeping.  I could hear it going.

COSBY:  What is your reaction when you hear that they say that they were preserving the crime scene for six days and sealing it off?

SHELDON SANDLER:  It was never sealed off.

PEGGY SANDLER:  No.

SHELDON SANDLER:  Like I say, the second day, the door was closed, but I did see somebody go in there from the cruise ship.  Who it was, I don‘t know.  But no, it was never sealed off.  It never had yellow tape on it.  It never had “Do not enter” signs, nothing like that.

COSBY:  And again, both of you are sure?  And how are you sure that these were cruise folks versus investigators on their knees?

SHELDON SANDLER:  Well, they have on the Royal Caribbean shirts.  Or you could just see they were people that worked on the ship.

COSBY:  And again, vacuuming and cleaning the floor?

SHELDON SANDLER:  Yes.

COSBY:  All right, both of you—let me bring back in, if I could, now—thank you very much.  We appreciate your perspective and love to have you both back on again.

Let me bring in now Susan Filan and also Clint Van Zandt.  Susan, as you hear this, this is pretty stunning, if, indeed, these people are correct that these were people from Royal Caribbean actually vacuuming, cleaning.  What do you make of that, Susan?

FILAN:  It‘s rotten, Rita!  It‘s rotten to the core.  And I‘m not happy, as a prosecutor, having to say that, basically, what they‘re telling us is a defense lawyer‘s dream.  This makes a tough case even tougher.  Now, I‘m sorry for law enforcement that they have to deal with this potentially deeply contaminated crime scene.  I still think they‘re going to be able do their job.  I know they‘ve got the absolute best people working on this case.

But what it does is it really calls into question the statements that Royal Caribbean is making.  And I think what‘s at issue here now is, as Clint pointed out earlier, we are getting into a “he said, she said,” and that‘s really not where we should be.  Everybody should have put their heads together from the first minute it became clear that he went missing, sealed off that cabin, treated it as a crime scene and preserved it properly, so that law enforcement could get to the bottom of this nightmare for the Smith family.  And it really pains me to hear Royal Caribbean say time after time after time, We did everything right, when what‘s coming out on your show, Rita, is certainly contradictory or certainly calls into question that kind of a statement.

COSBY:  Clint, is there any reason to why, if these people are correct, what they saw—and they seem certain in what they saw—but that there would be vacuuming, cleaning of the floors, those kind of things, two or three days, when the room was supposed to be sealed off?

VAN ZANDT:  Well, my challenge here, Rita, as your show is showing—

I mean, this is a hole big enough to drive a truck through right now in the statement that Royal Caribbean has made.  And you know, as an investigator, you can‘t get caught up in the noise from the either family or the cruise line.  You got to stay focused, just like Susan, saying you‘ve got to stay focused on the investigation.  But as an investigator, if somebody‘s telling me now that crime scene has had—you know, has been trampled by everybody and their brother and sister going back and forth through there, then it really makes the FBI rely on cameras, statements, key cards, and the forensic evidence really comes into challenge now.

FILAN:  And we need forensic evidence in this case, Rita, because this is a potential murder case without a body.  That‘s tough to begin with.

COSBY:  Right.  So is it—is the evidence—if there was anything in there, is it—is it potentially damaged?  You still think that there‘s a possibility there might be something there, right?

FILAN:  I do.  Yes, I do.  I really do think law enforcement has worked this case to the best they can.  But look at what they‘re dealing with now.  And I‘m very troubled by what I‘m seeing.  I‘m very disappointed, actually.

COSBY:  Clint, you get the last word.

VAN ZANDT:  Yes, very much so.  There—you know, we‘ve heard there‘s blood in there.  We don‘t know if the blood was from one person, multiple people.  But if you‘re in there scrubbing up everything like that, I mean, you know, even Henry Lee, bless his soul, when he gets in there this week to look around, for all we know—now, in fact, we do know that the carpet‘s been taken out, so whatever happened to that carpet, hopefully, it‘s in the hands of the FBI.  Otherwise, that evidence is history.

COSBY:  Both of you, thank you very much.

And still ahead tonight, we‘re going to switch gears.  Lillo Brancato had a starring part in a Robert De Niro film, but tonight he‘s accused of taking part in a cop killing.  And for the first time, his mother is taking up his case.  She‘s going to be right here on LIVE AND DIRECT.

And these two are famous in the world of bodybuilding, but tonight they are accused of a brutal killing.  The mother of their alleged victim is going to join me life.

And the shocking story behind these frightening pictures.  Find out what happened to the people on the hood of this vehicle and the person behind the wheel.  That‘s all coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COSBY:  A LIVE AND DIRECT interview tonight with the mother of an actor who went from having a big part in “The Sopranos” TV show to now accused cop killer.  Actor Lillo Brancato and Steven Armento (ph) were arraigned this week for allegedly being part of a robbery in the Bronx.  It ended with a shootout and the death of a New York City police officer, Daniel Enchautegui.  Hundreds of cops showed up at the arraignment, voicing support for the death penalty, needless to say, very passionate about this case.  Both suspects have pleaded not guilty.

And joining us now is Lillo Brancato‘s mother, Domenica Brancato, and also his attorney, Mel Sachs.  Both of you, thank you for being with us.  How tough has this been for you as a mother?  And tell us about your son.

DOMENICA BRANCATO, LILLO BRANCATO‘S MOTHER:  It‘s been very, very tough because my son is getting such a negative media attention and newspapers.  And he‘s a good son.  He‘s a good boy.  He did not commit the crimes he‘s been accused of.  He‘s being treated as really a cop killer, which he‘s not.  I feel sorry for the cop, for the family, everybody who was involved.  It‘s three families that are devastated right now.

COSBY:  How do you think he got in that situation?  You know, it sounds like they both admitted—he and the other man—that they broke into the house.  What would have led him even to that moment?

BRANCATO:  I have—well, from what I know—you know, to—for the last few months, he‘s been getting more involved with drugs, and the drugs must have led him to it.  At home, he never showed signs of drugs, that he brought it in the house or did them at home.  It was always when he was out.  The night in question, he was home sleeping.  He got a phone call and he went out.  I don‘t know who the phone call was from.  He just said, Mommy, I‘m going out to a Christmas party.  He never came home.

When I got up on Sunday morning, there were policemen at my house, FBI.  I mean, it was incredible.  All they told me, that there was a shootout and my son was involved somehow and that a cop was shot down—you know, shot.  And I didn‘t know what happened.  They wouldn‘t tell me if my son was alive, dead.  For four days, not medically, not policemen, anybody at the—you know, the—word I‘m looking for—had the courtesy to call me and let me know if my son was dead or alive.  I know he was a part of something bad, and the policeman‘s dead.  I feel sorry.  The mother is suffering just as much as me.

COSBY:  We know that the prosecutors have said that the other man fired the fatal shot.  And you believe your son didn‘t fire a round at all, didn‘t have anything...

BRANCATO:  No!  He didn‘t have any guns.  None.  Never.  He was shot first, from what my son said.  He was shot first by the policeman.  So he had no guns.  He couldn‘t defend himself.

COSBY:  You understand why the cops are so passionate, of course?

BRANCATO:  Yes.

COSBY:  This is one of their own.

BRANCATO:  Of course.  I understand it.  But again, it needs to be proven that my son did something wrong before he‘s being judged and convicted already without any, you know, legally—the truth coming out.

COSBY:  How tough has this been?  You were telling me before the show, you‘ve been visiting him at Rikers Island.

BRANCATO:  At Rikers Island, of all places.  I‘ve never been to any of those places.  When my son sees me, we can‘t even touch him.  He‘s being treated different from other inmates because he‘s been denied medical attention.  He‘s been denied, really, you know, to have conversation with him one on one.  We go see him.  He says, Don‘t touch, Don‘t do—you know, it‘s like—it‘s like he‘s really—he‘s in prison.  I understand that.  But when a mother goes to visit, they treat me like I‘m a criminal, too, like, you know, they give you patting.  They touch—you know, I mean, there‘s no need for that.  I‘m a mother.  I‘m hurting.  I want to see my son.  I want to embrace him, hold him, make him feel better.

COSBY:  How tough has this been for you personally?  I would imagine (INAUDIBLE) you were crying.  This is tough.

BRANCATO:  It‘s tough.  It‘s been tough because I can‘t see him being there.  I can see him calling for help.  He calls me on the phone, Mommy, I don‘t feel good.  What I can do?  I can‘t go there and hold his hand.  It was four days before I was able to visit my son for 10 minutes.  If it wasn‘t for Mr. Sachs, there was no way that I could go near my son.  We used to called the hospitals, and they used to say there was nobody there.  It was alias.  Nobody knew anything.  I mean, they came to tell me my son is involved in a shootout, but won‘t tell me the status of his—you know, what happened to him.

COSBY:  I‘m sure it‘s got to be hard.

BRANCATO:  He had to have surgery.  He had to have removed—he had to have his spleen removed, part of his colon.  He doesn‘t get the medical attention that he needs or deserves.

COSBY:  Mel, also, he‘s facing some serious charges.  And you‘re representing him.  What do you believe happened that night?

MEL SACHS, BRANCATO‘S ATTORNEY:  Well, let me first say this...

COSBY:  Why should he get off?

SACHS:  Rita.  This is a double tragedy.  It‘s a tragedy for the family of the police officer.  It‘s also a tragedy for the Brancato family.  And we can‘t compound this double tragedy by having him pre-judged.  The fact is he did not have a gun, and he didn‘t know the person he was with had a gun.  And then the matter...

(CROSSTALK)

COSBY:  ... is pointing the finger at him?  What do you make of the fact the guy is sort of trying to point the finger at him and say he knew more?  Is that trying to save his own skin?

SACHS:  Rita, the facts are the facts.  When a person is being charged with a felony, and during the course of that felony there‘s a homicide, if a person doesn‘t have a weapon or doesn‘t know the other person has a weapon, as a matter of law, he‘s not criminally responsible.  Lillo Brancato is innocent of the crime of murder.  The other person is responsible.  The other person had the gun.  The other person shot the gun.

Lillo Brancato doesn‘t have any propensity for violence.  He is not a person who should be or will be convicted of murder.  Any jury hearing this case will certainly find him innocent.  What‘s so sad about this, this is a police officer, so because of that, there‘s been really a cloud of passion in this case.  And he‘s been treated the same as Armento, who he‘s being charged with.  And he can‘t be held responsible for the acts of someone else, especially when he didn‘t have any reason to believe that the other person would do this.  He didn‘t have any knowledge that he had a gun.  So the law is clear on this.  He is innocent!

COSBY:  Well, we‘re going to be watching this case closely.  And we appreciate you both being here.  And heart goes out to you, certainly, with this case.  And you got a good attorney on your hands here.

BRANCATO:  Thank you.

SACHS:  Thank you, Rita.

COSBY:  Now to a LIVE AND DIRECT exclusive, actually, another story that we‘ve been covering quite a bit, the shocking case of a woman allegedly killed by her own employers, professional bodybuilders.  Twenty-eight-year-old Melissa James was found dead in the trunk of a burning car last month in Las Vegas.  World-renowned body builders Craig Titus and Kelly Ryan are facing murder charges.

The victim‘s mother, Maura James, joins me now.  Also with us is Frank Curreri.  He‘s with “The Las Vegas Review-Journal” newspaper.  Frank, bring us up to speed.  Do we know what the motive was behind this horrible crime?

FRANK CURRERI, “LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL”:  No, Rita.  The motive is still outstanding.  I guess one of the things that makes the case interesting is that, you know, Kelly and Craig had said and alleged that Melissa had embezzled from them.  They—Craig told police about a secret affair.  And then, of course, Maura James has said that her daughter had ongoing tensions with Kelly and that Kelly had been flipping out and acting crazy lately and that Melissa then moved out of the house.

COSBY:  What we know about this third person, Frank?  Because I understand he, what, just got house arrest, which is sort of surprising, the third ones that are involved in the case.

CURRERI:  Thirteen thousand dollars bail.  He‘s posted bail.  He‘s a free man.  And of course, defense attorneys are assuming that he‘s cooperating with the prosecution.  They expect him to testify against Craig and Kelly.

COSBY:  Have police found any witness?  What sort of tied everything together?

CURRERI:  Well, right now, the case against Craig and Kelly is largely a circumstantial case.  They have Anthony Gross, this third defendant, who can place dreg Craig at the scene in that remote desert with the Jaguar an hour or an hour and 10 before police get there and notice this car on fire.

And also, they have some inconsistencies in what Craig and Kelly have said.  And I guess in the day after Melissa‘s body was discovered, Kelly had allegedly went to a friend and confided, Hey, my life is ruined.  I bought seven bottles of lighter fluid.  And Craig is—you know, Melissa overdosed.  Craig told me he‘s going to get someone to rid of the body.  And he said, No body no crime.

COSBY:  Let me bring in Maura James, if I could, of course, the mother of Melissa.  Maura, first of all, our deepest, you know, just prayers go out to you.  What did you hear about sort of the relationship between Melissa and the others prior to this?  Did you know it was contentious?

MAURA JAMES, VICTIM‘S MOTHER:  Not really.  I knew that she told me there were problems between Kelly and Craig, but she had really no problems with either one of them.  As far as I knew, they were good friends.

COSBY:  Did she ever any express fear or concern or...

JAMES:  Never.

COSBY:  ... erratic behavior with Kelly?

JAMES:  Never.

COSBY:  Not at all?  What do you...

CURRERI:  Rita, I‘m going to have to take issue.

COSBY:  Yes, go ahead.

CURRERI:  My deepest condolences to Maura James, but I interviewed Maura James, and I have in my transcripts and I‘m very confident that she did say that, in fact, Melissa had had ongoing tensions with Kelly.  And I quoted her saying that Kelly had recently been flipping out and acting crazy, and in fact, that was what preceded Melissa moving out.

COSBY:  Let me bring Maura back.  Maura, is there a reason you don‘t want to...

JAMES:  No, Melissa...

COSBY:  ... tell us that now?

JAMES:  Melissa never moved out of the house.  Melissa never moved out of the house, and she had...

CURRERI:  Ms. James, did you not tell me that she moved out of the house?

JAMES:  No, she never moved out of house.

COSBY:  Did you not tell me that, though?

JAMES:  No, she did not move out of the house.  She was leaving to fly to New Jersey for Christmas.

CURRERI:  Right.

JAMES:  But she did not actually move out of the house.

COSBY:  Did you know, Maura, that there was a romantic relationship going on?

JAMES:  No, she never told me there was a relationship.

COSBY:  What do you think led to this, Maura?  What do you think led to this?

JAMES:  I have no idea.

COSBY:  Ms. James, can you explain—you had told me about a hotel that Craig—a hotel room that Craig purchased for two days.  The police have confirmed that.  You also told me that...

JAMES:  No.

CURRERI:  ... and you told me that that was because she had been kicked out.

JAMES:  No, she told me that he got her a room the night—that Monday night, because they were fighting.

CURRERI:  Right.  Who had been fighting?

JAMES:  Craig and Kelly had been fighting, and it was best if she was out of the way and not in the house with them.  So she got a room on Monday night.  Tuesday night, she was to get on the plane and fly to Newark.

COSBY:  But she did not see anything coming towards her, Maura, is what you‘re saying.

JAMES:  Right.

COSBY:  All right, both of you, thank you very much.  And Frank, and I‘m going to have you on a little bit later on the show.  I do appreciate you stepping in there, too.  And Maura, thank you very much.  Love to have you back on again.  Thank you.

And still ahead, everybody, a shocking accident caught on tape, a grandmother behind the wheel of your car.  How could anyone survive what you‘re seeing is going to happen right here?  That‘s coming up.

And next, U.S. border agents caught in the crosshairs.  Word tonight of a hit list naming names of men and women protecting our U.S. border.  Who has it out for the border‘s first responders?  Stay tuned.  We got a lot more coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANNOUNCER:  From MSNBC world headquarters, here is Rita Cosby.

COSBY:  Tonight, a potentially frightening and disturbing development in the battle to protect America‘s borders.  The federal government is now warning Border Patrol agents that they could become the targets of hired assassins. 

The confidential memo from the Department of Homeland Security says, quote, “Unidentified Mexican alien smugglers have agreed that the best way to deal with U.S. Border Patrol agents is to hire a group of contract killers.” 

Joining us to talk more about the threat is former Border Patrol agent Jim Dorcy.  And also with us is Sam Dealy of “Reader‘s Digest,” who recently wrote about the deadly gang, MS-13. 

Jim, let me start with you.  How serious is this threat? 

JIM DORCY, FORMER BORDER CONTROL AGENT:  I think it‘s a real serious threat.  The Border Patrol is a real problem for the professional smugglers.  They‘re cutting into their incomes.  And I think it‘s something that they have to believe in and they have to take steps to protect themselves against. 

COSBY:  You know, Sam, the group that they‘re sort of talking about, these contract killers, is a group called MS-13.  Tell us about this group.  How dangerous is this group? 

SAM DEALY, “READER‘S DIGEST”:  Well, MS-13, they‘re not a bunch of pleasant guys, that‘s for certain.  There‘s really three things that really stand out about them.  One is that they‘re extraordinarily violent.  They tend to use things like machetes and really carve people up. 

The second is that they‘ve—in recent years, they‘ve really moved from the urban centers along the southern border and have been following the Latino immigrant community throughout the United States.  So they‘re really growing in places like Durham, North Carolina, Des Moines, Iowa, and, of course, Boston, New York, Washington, D.C., et cetera. 

Lastly is that they do have extensive cross-border contacts.  And, obviously, that is an issue of concern now, with respect to the border guards. 

COSBY:  You bet.  Is it likely that they would be hired as sort of contract killers to target specifically border guards?  Would they think twice about doing something like this? 

DEALY:  I don‘t think they‘d think twice.  I mean, if there‘s money involved, I‘m sure that they‘d be pleased to do it.  And they can—you know, they certainly come and go as they wish.  We haven‘t had a very tight border in a long time, so...

COSBY:  You know, Jim, I was out there covering the border, right there on the U.S.-Mexican border, just not too long ago, I think in October.  And, you know, these guys, even back then, were telling me they‘re outmanned, they‘re outgunned.  Can these border agents withstand, you know, the violent group that we were just hearing about from Sam, MS-13? 

DORCY:  Well, the MS-13, you know, they‘re ambush killers.  I think they have a real reason to take precautions against them.  I‘m not saying they‘re afraid of them, by any means, but they need to change their tactics and follow tactics that will take on the MS-13, if they do become active down there. 

COSBY:  You know, Sam, how active is MS-13 on the border and elsewhere in the country? 

DEALY:  Well, they‘re very active.  In fact, this is a problem that the federal government actually created.  Our default policy throughout much of the past decade has been simply to, when you simply catch these guys, deport them.  And they head back to Guatemala or El Salvador or Honduras.  And weak states back there can‘t control them. 

So we only consolidate the networks.  And, you know, that‘s—of course, they‘re back over the border very quickly.  So, in a way, it‘s a bed we‘ve made for ourselves. 

COSBY:  Absolutely.  Well, both of you, thank you very much.  Very frightening to hear this about this memo.

And joining us now to give us a Mexican government‘s perspective on this latest threat on the border is former Mexican migration minister Juan Hernandez.  He‘s also a close confidante of Mexican President Vicente Fox. 

Mr. Hernandez, how seriously are you taking this threat?  Is this something we should be concerned about, in your opinion?

JUAN HERNANDEZ, FORMER MEXICAN MIGRATION MINISTER:  First of all, I think that it‘s very important to say that—well, and I don‘t work anymore from President Fox.  I‘m a U.S. citizen, but I love Mexico and yet love the United States.  I‘m a Latino. 

But we must remember, as we‘re trying to secure our borders—and that‘s OK; the United States has a right to do that—but we‘re not talking about an enemy south of us.  We‘re talking about our friends.  We‘re talking about our second most important partner. 

And by the way, 42 million Hispanics in the United States, like yours truly, have families south of the border.  So I think, if we don‘t want another Cuba, if we don‘t want one of these communist countries south of us, I think that we need to work with Mexico to solve the problems of immigration.  And we can do it.  It‘s not that difficult. 

COSBY:  Absolutely.  And, look, there are a lot of good folks over there.

You know, I was on the border.  And I want to show a comment.  This was from one of the sheriffs.  I believe he was from Zapata County, Sigi Gonzalez.  And I want to show him and then get your reaction, basically saying that, you know, yes, we are friends with the Mexicans, but he feels that the Mexican government‘s working against him.  Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SHERIFF SIGIFREDO GONZALEZ, JR., ZAPATA COUNTY, TEXAS:  It is dangerous on the border.  There are things that we are always watching out for.  You have a deputy sheriff working out in the street or out on the highway, 20 miles or, you know, 30 miles from backup by himself or by herself.  And if you make a traffic stop with one of those people, who knows what‘ll happen?  It‘s dangerous. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSBY:  And, Mr. Hernandez, we were in night vision, because they were worried that they were going to take a potshot at us, these smugglers.  Is the Mexican government cracking down enough?  And when they hear a threat like this, are they trying to round up MS-13 folks? 

HERNANDEZ:  Mexico is doing a lot.  Mexico has a president who—

Vicente Fox—who is a good friend of the United States.  We have a country that has a democracy after 71 years.  I think that we need to work with Mexico. 

And let me put it this way also.  The other individuals that you‘ve had on the show—and there‘s so many people causing fear in the United States on different shows.  And I understand that, after September 11th, there is some fear.  And we need to deal with that.

But there are also studies that show that I‘m not alone.  Seventy-two percent of U.S. Americans that would even like for the undocumented to be legalized, if they are not criminals, of course.  If we can do a criminal background on them and they show that they‘re good people, if they have jobs, if they‘re not taking away from U.S. Americans, if they are paying Social Security and taxes—and, you know, the majority of them are—if they work a little bit on their English, and if they pay a fine for having come in as undocumented, 72 percent would like for these people to go ahead and be documented.  Let‘s reform our immigration laws and we won‘t have to build a wall. 

COSBY:  All right, Mr. Hernandez.  Thank you very much for being with us.  We appreciate your perspective from the Mexican side. 

And we‘re now joined by someone who has taken border patrolling into his own hands, Glenn Spencer of the American Border Control.  Glenn, I was hearing—what, you actually go up in planes with a sniper watching you?  How dangerous is it, from what you see? 

GLENN SPENCER, AMERICAN BORDER CONTROL:  No, it is very dangerous.  I was flying today.  There was a lot of activity on the border.  The Border Patrol was chasing people all over the border.  We can see people trying to get across the border.  Our airplane frightened them off.

You know, we have—“Time” magazine reported that three million people cross the border illegally each year.  They pay about $2,000.  That‘s $6 billion a year.  That‘s over $2 million a day being wired into Mexico. 

Now, because Congress passed HR-4437, a bill that‘s going to crack down—at least the House did—crack down on illegal immigration, the Mexican government has come out opposing these measures.  They have said that they‘re stupid and shameful. 

But the Mexican government advocates the illegal immigration into the United States.  They even hand out comic books on how to do it. 

COSBY:  Now, what about the threat?  What about this new threat that some believe is real, MS-13 basically being hired as contract killers to go after Border Patrol agents?  I mean, to me, that‘s outrageous. 

SPENCER:  Well, I wouldn‘t be—of course it‘s outrageous.  I live right on the border, 1,000 feet north of the border, in the heaviest smuggling corridor.  I know a lot of Border Patrol agents.  They are very concerned about this.

But the United States should be concerned that, when we have three million people crossing our border, some of those people are not very nice.  We‘ve smuggled weapons of mass destruction simulated across the border three times in the last year, documenting it, showing how easy it could be done.  We moved them right into shopping malls and right into Tucson.  Our borders are wide open.  And we have to crack down. 

But when we do, the American people had better understand there‘s some very powerful forces—and that includes the Mexican government—who are going to try to stop that effort. 

COSBY:  Mr. Spencer, thank you very much.  We appreciate you being with us and showing us that video, too.  Thank you very much. 

SPENCER:  Thank you. 

COSBY:  Thank you.

And up next, some shocking moments caught on tape.  Find out what led a person start shooting inside a casino and why the suspect is still on the loose.  There‘s an all-points bulletin out tonight.  We‘ll explain. 

And then, hear the shocking story behind this accident.  What happened to the people on the outside?  And who was on the inside behind the wheel?  That‘s all coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COSBY:  Well, there‘s an all-points bulletin out tonight for a suspect wanted in connection with an armed robbery at a Las Vegas casino that ended in a shootout.  After leaving the Gold Coast Casino, the suspect, wearing a crude disguise, started firing shots at security guard, injuring one of them. 

The dramatic escape was all caught on tape.  You can see the flashes there from the gun. 

Here with us is Frank Curreri.  He‘s also with the “Las Vegas Review-Journal,” back with us again tonight. 

Frank, where does the investigation stand?  And do we have any idea who this guy was doing the firing? 

FRANK CURRERI, “LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL”:  Well, the guy is still at large.  And I think they‘re going to have their hands full getting him.  They‘re probably going to need a tip, given that he‘s pretty well-concealed in the jerry curl wig and the baseball cap. 

COSBY:  How did he approach the casino cashier?  What did he say to the person behind the counter, that we see sort of—that happens before this?

CURRERI:  Well, the videotape is silent, so you can‘t really make out, but there‘s a lot of jabber as she‘s handing him what appear to be some big bills. 

COSBY:  What do we know with his demeanor?  Any idea if he was—is there anything to gauge from what you‘ve heard?  Was he nervous?  Was he demanding?  Was there anything sort of signaling who this may be?

CURRERI:  He just had a gun pointed at her and just kind of talked her through the whole way through.  I don‘t know what he was saying.  Maybe he was saying, “Hey, I want more.”  I don‘t know what he was saying. 

COSBY:  You know, as we see here, we don‘t see him brandishing a weapon or anything at this point.  He may have done it sooner.  But he runs out, right?  Then he, you know, fires this shot.  Do we know why he went after authorities, like why he was firing around? 

CURRERI:  Well, they approached him.  The truck approached him.  And the security guard apparently tried to cut him off.  And so he‘s running.  And then, as he‘s clasping a bag in one hand, he‘s firing with the other. 

I think he got off five shots. 

COSBY:  And we understand a security guard was injured, right?  How is that security guard doing tonight? 

CURRERI:  He had emergency surgery.  It was considered non-life-threatening.  So he‘s expected to recover.  I don‘t know if he‘ll have any compromised ability in that leg or not.  I haven‘t been able to speak with him. 

COSBY:  Do we have any idea how much money he took with him in the robbery?  How much did he get away with? 

CURRERI:  You know, authorities typically don‘t like to say that.  I think maybe they think it‘s an incentive for future robbers. 

COSBY:  Are they confident that they‘re going to catch this guy?  Do they have a sense that they will track this guy down? 

CURRERI:  Well, again, I think, at this point, there‘s no update on the case.  They haven‘t been able to identify that suspect yet. 

There was a separate, unrelated shooting a couple hours later at another off-strip casino.  There was a guy who had approached his former roommate.  He‘d alleged that his roommate had shown some lewd behavior toward his daughter.  And he wanted to arrest his roommate there on the spot.  His roommate didn‘t get on the ground when he told him to, so he shot him in the leg, and then that guy was arrested. 

COSBY:  So no connection between the two, is what you‘re saying, Frank? 

CURRERI:  No connection. 

COSBY:  All right.  Frank, thank you very much for being on here with us, two big stories tonight.  Always great to have you on.  We appreciate it.

And there‘s a lot coming up here on MSNBC tonight.  Let‘s check in with, first of all, Tucker Carlson.  Tucker, what‘s ahead on THE SITUATION?

TUCKER CARLSON, MSNBC HOST:  Well, you know, Rita, I like Larry King enormously personally.  He‘s a great guy.  But I don‘t know how he can sit across from James Frey, the proved liar whose book, “A Million Little Pieces,” now a bestseller, and listen as Frey evades question after question about the things he made up in that book.  It‘s outrageous.  And it‘s not going to happen on our show.  Frey won‘t come on our show. 

But we have the police officer who arrested him in 1992.  Frey said he called him names and was beaten with a nightstick and all this tough-guy description.  Turns out none of it is true.  And we‘ve got the cop tonight who is going to explain why it‘s all a lie.  It‘s going to be a great show. 

COSBY:  Oh, good.  I can‘t wait to watch, Tucker. 

CARLSON:  Thanks.

COSBY:  Thank you very much, at 11:00. 

And before Tucker, we‘ve got “SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY” with Joe Scarborough.  Joe, what‘s ahead?

JOE SCARBOROUGH, MSNBC HOST:  I‘ll tell you what, Rita.  Here in Washington, D.C., a lot of people are talking about the Alito hearings.  We‘re focusing on Friday.  That‘s when the German chancellor, new German chancellor, is coming to town, going to be talking to the president of the United States about a lot of things.  She‘s coming here to lecture us on how we treat terrorists. 

We‘re here tonight with a senator who agrees with the “SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY” campaign that this president needs to tell the Germans they were dead wrong to let a killer terrorist go, a guy who killed—back in 1985, killed an American serviceman.  That family wants answers.  And they want the president to start fighting for them.  And we‘re going to be talking to the senator and carrying that battle tonight and throughout the week in Washington. 

COSBY:  Good for you.  We‘ll be watching.  Thanks so much, Joe.  And again, Joe comes up just 11 minutes from now.  Be sure to watch him and Tucker later on tonight. 

And still ahead, everybody, we have the story behind these frightening pictures.  Find out who‘s behind the wheel.  That‘s coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COSBY:  Well, some very dramatic video, after a driver mows down three people in California.  We do have to warn you that some of these images are quite graphic. 

The women, ages 4, 12 and 30, were walking toward a California store when a 61-year-old woman, unlicensed driver, lost control of her car and hit them, as you can see there.  LIVE & DIRECT tonight is Sergeant Joe McDonald with the Kern County Sheriff‘s Department.

Sergeant McDonald, how did this accident happen?  How did the woman lose control of her car? 

SGT. JOE MCDONALD, KERN COUNTY SHERIFF‘S DEPARTMENT:  Well, Rita, the elderly lady was driving her car turning into the parking lot.  She turned too sharply.  Her front right tire hit the curb of the driveway and caused her foot to depress the accelerator.  The car jumped the curb.  She lost control of the vehicle.  And, as you can see in the video, she ran into those people trying to get into the store. 

COSBY:  Where were the people thrown, and how far, and what kind of condition are they in? 

MCDONALD:  Well, the impact right there—you can also see that the car crashed into the store there on the corner, and that was one of the saving graces for those people, because it didn‘t pin them up against the building.  It caused a gap on each side of the front of the car.  And they fell away from the car, right there at that impact area.  

COSBY:  The driver, Guadalupe Lopez, I believe, 61 years old, she initially left the scene.  But her daughter stayed on.  Why? 

MCDONALD:  Well, they became frightened.  And the daughter wanted to take the blame for driving the car to protect her mother. 

COSBY:  How long did it take until the mom turned herself in finally? 

MCDONALD:  It was approximately half-an-hour, once she found out that we knew.  And then she came down to the substation and turned herself in. 

COSBY:  Now, we know she doesn‘t have a license.  That‘s why she was trying to replace the daughter for her.  What type of charges could she face? 

MCDONALD:  Well, the grandmother, or the elderly lady, will be facing a felony hit-and-run, because she left the scene of an accident involving an injury, and, of course, unlicensed driver. 

COSBY:  Sgt. McDonald, thank you very much. 

MCDONALD:  You‘re welcome.

COSBY:  And I‘m glad that some of those folks are at least doing much better tonight, those ones who were...

MCDONALD:  They are.

COSBY:  Thank you very much, Sergeant.  And still ahead on LIVE & DIRECT, another dramatic incident caught on tape.  But you won‘t believe the age of the driver in this tape.  That‘s next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COSBY:  And now, another wild story caught on tape tonight.  Tennessee police thought that they were tracking a possible DWI.  Well, it turns out it was a case of DWY, driving while young.  Forget about the sobriety test.  The 7-year-old driver of this pickup—yes, 7 years old—could barely reach the gas pedal.  Darian Trotter, from NBC affiliate WSMV, has more.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  This could have been very, very serious. 

DARIAN TROTTER, REPORTER, WSMV-TV (voice-over):  When Shelbyville police first started their pursuit, they thought they were after a drunk driver out of control. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  He is weaving.  He‘s all over the road.  He can‘t stay in his lane. 

TROTTER:  Watch as he makes a left on Highway 82, off the road, and nearly into a telephone pole. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  It could have been very serious. 

TROTTER (on-screen):  The chase with a driver who would not stop quickly gained momentum, causing a scene for neighbors, as more patrolmen joined in. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  There were, like, probably five city cars and then three county cars and the state troopers. 

TROTTER (voice-over):  Things got even more dangerous when the pickup almost slammed into a car waiting at a red light.  Officers would later learn the driver was a second-grader, barely standing four feet tall. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  He was so short that he had to sit up close to the steering wheel.  And whenever he would brake, as you see in the video, he would pick himself up with his left foot and stomp on the brake with his right. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  It just blew my mind, because we actually watched him put on his turn signal and turn, and could see when he went past that he had his seat belt on. 

TROTTER:  This 7-year-old was on the fast track to trouble and this was no video game, rather the real deal.  According to police, he narrowly avoided five head-on collisions before parking his parents‘ pickup back at their home. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  When we had come to found out he was a child, I was really shocked. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Well, he said the reason why he took the vehicle was because he wanted to get his license. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COSBY:  What an incredible story.  That was Darian Trotter from WSMV reporting.

And that does it for me tonight on LIVE & DIRECT.  A lot of interesting pictures tonight.  Joe Scarborough with “SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY” starts right now—Joe?

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