updated 3/1/2006 11:03:14 AM ET 2006-03-01T16:03:14

Guests: Carol D‘Auria, Joe Cardinale, Larry Kobilinsky, Maureen St. Guillen, Alejandra St. Guillen, Erin Runnion, Mark Lunsford, Marc Klaas, Len Leeds, Tim Vincent, Stan Planton, Steven Seagal

RITA COSBY, HOST:  Good evening, everybody.  Tonight, a killer is walking free after the brutal rape and murder of a young woman.  The bright graduate student was snatched in the middle of a fun night with friends in New York City.  Tonight, police want your help.  They say that this could be their biggest clue as to what happened to Imette St. Guillen.  They‘re releasing this photo of a patterned quilt.  Imette‘s body was found wrapped in the cloth Saturday night in Brooklyn, New York.

And joining me now is Carol D‘Auria.  She is with 1010 WINS radio New York.  Carol, what do we know about this comforter, this quilt?  Give us some more details.

CAROL D‘AURIA, 1010 WINS RADIO NEW YORK:  Well, this is a floral print, something like a Monet print.  And it‘s really important because this is what this young woman‘s body was wrapped in.  And it‘s distinctive because it‘s fitted at one end of the quilt.  And it‘s the type of quilt or comforter that you would find in an inexpensive motel or hotel.  It can be bought in budget department stores.  And it‘s significant because if the police can find where this quilt came from, then they can find, perhaps, the crime scene.  And then once they have that, they can get all kinds of evidence.

And so what they‘re hoping is that by showing this quilt and letting people see it, that perhaps there‘s a cleaning woman out there or a cleaning staff from a local motel, perhaps, that recognizes it and says, I cleaned a room, and it was missing, the quilt.  And that will really help police try to establish where this young woman was so viciously killed.

COSBY:  You know, Carol, I also understand there‘s some new information.  We thought that Imette said goodbye to her friends on the sidewalk in front of a bar, but now we understand they actually called her, what, half an hour later?

D‘AURIA:  They did.  One of her friends called.  She left her friend at this Pioneer bar.  The friend wanted to go home a little bit earlier.  She stayed.  And the friend apparently was concerned about her.  And so around 3:30-ish, she receives a phone call from the friend, and Imette tells her that she‘s fine and that she‘s at another bar.

My police sources say that the police know where the bar is, that it was in walking distance to the Pioneer bar, where she split from her girlfriend.  And on the tape recording from the telephone call, you can hear music in the background, you can hear people talking.  And so the police have been interviewing people who were at the second bar.  They interviewed people at the Pioneer bar.

It‘s unclear, at this point, if she went with anyone to the second bar.  But certainly, the police really have their work cut out for them, and they‘ve already interviewed lots and lots of people.

COSBY:  All right, Carol, thank you very much.

And just a few hours ago, I visited the exact area where Imette‘s body was found.  Former NYPD squad commander Joe Cardinale came with me, and he showed me how the cops have and how they‘re going to piece this case together.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COSBY:  Joe, tell us about the last time that Imette was seen in the wee hours of the night, Friday night into Saturday morning.

DET. JOE CARDINALE, FORMER NYPD SQUAD COMMANDER:  The last time she was seen was on the surveillance tape from the bar, the Pioneer bar.  She‘s seen having either an argument or a discussion with a friend, and the question is, whether she‘s going to leave or not.  But apparently, she waves good-bye to her friend, and that‘s the last she‘s seen on the tape.

COSBY:  Now, friends say she would never leave with a stranger.  That bar is in the Bowery.  It‘s six miles away from the crime scene in Brooklyn.  How do you think she could have gotten there?

CARDINALE:  Well, that‘s a big question, whether it‘s voluntarily by her or forcibly, you know?  And forcibly, that, you know, leads to a lot of questions whether she was taken into a cab, into a car, whatever it is.  That‘s why it‘s so important to canvas the areas.

COSBY:  The next thing we know, is Saturday night around 8:30, right in front of this diner, an anonymous call is made from this pay phone booth.  Why this area?  What does that mean?

CARDINALE:  Well, apparently, the caller is familiar with this area, knows that this is a working phone.  That diner gets crowded at that time.  You know, there‘s people waiting in the lobby.  The parking lot‘s full.  There‘s phones in the lobby, but he chooses to stay anonymous, so he comes outside and uses probably this side of the phone.

COSBY:  You can even see the—this is, what, the dusting right here. 

Is that (INAUDIBLE)

CARDINALE:  Yes, there‘s some dust still on there.

COSBY:  For fingerprints and (INAUDIBLE)

CARDINALE:  Fingerprints.  And what they‘re going to try to do is, even though it‘s a common area and there‘s going to be a lot of fingerprints, maybe one of the last fingerprints (INAUDIBLE) is still fresh on there, and they‘ll match it up with something either at the crime scene or some other place (INAUDIBLE) grab forensics from.

COSBY:  The other thing, over your shoulder here, I see a surveillance camera.  What could that have detected that night?

CARDINALE:  Those cameras are focusing on the parking lot.  They film the parking lot exclusively, so...

COSBY:  Maybe a car driving in or out?

CARDINALE:  Maybe a car.  But as I said, if it‘s crowded, and it‘s that crowded inside, the parking lot‘s going to be full.  And this is somebody who is familiar with the area.  Maybe he might even park across the street over there, use the phone, walk to his car over there, knowing about these cameras, and then took off from there.

COSBY:  Now, this anonymous caller apparently said to authorities, There‘s a body on the side of the highway.  That‘s pretty clear.  The crime scene‘s about a mile away from here.  Could it be more than just a tipster, maybe somebody involved?

CARDINALE:  Well, they‘re saying that it‘s—you know, the papers have reported that it‘s somebody that‘s—they‘re not saying that it‘s a 911 caller, but I would definitely not rule that person out.  I would definitely focus on both that and somebody else, all right, because you don‘t want to rule that out.

COSBY:  Joe, we know after that anonymous call came in from the diner, authorities were led here.  This is where they found Imette‘s body.  Why do you think the killer placed her body here?

CARDINALE:  This, for the most part, is a secluded area.  Even though the highway is over there, nobody‘s really looking off the highway.  This is limited street lights here.  There‘s limited pedestrian traffic, limited vehicle traffic.  Somebody‘s familiar with the area, they know to come down here.

COSBY:  The crime scene here, where Imette was found, where her body was, was particularly brutal, Joe.  We understand she was not clothed.  And what else was on her?  She was bound, right?

CARDINALE:  She was bound with her hands and her feet behind her, tape around the entire face, which they refer to as like a mummy, sock in her mouth, all right, and wrapped in what they describe as a commercial grade blanket.

COSBY:  What does that say to you, when you hear commercial grade blanket?  What, used at a nearby hotel, it sounds like?

CARDINALE:  Possibly from a nearby hotel, all right?  And the fact that she was bound with a sock in her mouth, you know, is to keep her quiet.  Like I said, we don‘t know whether this body was found partially visible or completely wrapped in that blanket.  If that body was completely wrapped in the blanket, you have to question how somebody comes about finding that body on the other side over here, and sees it and knows that it is a body.

COSBY:  In other words, the anonymous tipster...

CARDINALE:  The anonymous tipster...

COSBY:  ... may have played a role.

CARDINALE:  ... may have played a role.  Or if the body was partially visible, but once again, you would actually have to be out of your car—whether it be this side or the other side, you would have to be out of your car to really see it, or possibly coming down in a truck, where you‘re high above this railing over here, or a mound of dirt on the other side.  You would have to, you know, see it from that angle.

COSBY:  Given the fact that we‘re hearing commercial grade blanket, the way that her body was found, the sock in the mouth, it doesn‘t sound like the crime itself occurred here.  It sounds like she was just dumped here.

CARDINALE:  She was just dumped here.  And possibly, there‘s another angle to this, and possibly, this perp wanted her to be found.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COSBY:  And let me now bring in forensic scientist Dr. Larry Kobilinsky.  He‘s a professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, the same school were Imette was studying for her master‘s degree.  Dr.  Kobilinsky, how are they going to solve this case?  One of the things we‘re hearing—there‘s one report we were seeing where they may have found some DNA from the killer maybe under her fingernails.  Maybe she was scratching, fighting for her life in her final moment?

LARRY KOBILINSKY, FORENSIC SCIENTIST:  Well, you know, we always say that the victim of a horrendous crime screams out and gives information that will help catch the person who did this.  They‘re very well may be DNA under her fingernails.  We know that she was sexually assaulted.  There may be evidence that has DNA.  We really aren‘t sure whether there are just—whether there‘s one or multiple perpetrators.  The DNA evidence will reveal that.

Now, the tape that was used to bind her is a medium that may contain fingerprint evidence.  It may contain DNA.  It may contain trace evidence.  And you know, there are multiple crime scenes here, not only the two bars that she was in, but you know, she apparently was abducted and then tortured, and whatever was done was done, and then transported in a vehicle, which was the third crime scene, and then dumped there.  So there are a lot of possibilities here, but there‘s a lot of evidence also that needs to be developed.

COSBY:  You know, she was studying, ironically, criminal justice at your school, John Jay College.  How are the students, how are the teachers handling this?

KOBILINSKY:  This is a great tragedy for every professor, for every administrator and for every student.  Nobody is left untouched by this.  It‘s heart-breaking.  And I‘m confident that this case will be broken fairly soon.

COSBY:  Let‘s hope so.  Dr. Kobilinsky, thank you very much.

KOBILINSKY:  A pleasure.

COSBY:  And tonight, Imette‘s family is making an emotional plea for your help and to talk about their heart-breaking loss.  Imette‘s mother and sister, Maureen and Alejandra, will join me for their first national interview.  That‘s coming up right after the break.  And that‘s not all, everybody.  Take a look.

Still ahead: Three children murdered.  Tonight, their parents make an emotional show of force on Capitol Hill to keep millions of children safe.  Did they succeed?  They‘ll tell me LIVE AND DIRECT.

And is the blockbuster book, “The Da Vinci Code,” plagiarized?  The explosive allegations could wreck the book and even the big-budget movie.  One of the author‘s top collaborators joins me live.

And a former Playmate, a $400 million lawsuit and the Supreme Court.  What did the highest court in the land think of Anna Nicole Smith?  The answer will surprise you, and it‘s coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COSBY:  Tonight, police want your help in a horrible crime, a beautiful, bright graduate student kidnapped, raped, her body abandoned along a highway in Brooklyn, New York.  And joining me is the victim‘s mother and sister, Maureen St. Guillen and also Alejandra St. Guillen, in their first national television interview.  And first of all, our prayers are with you.  This must be an extraordinarily difficult time, and we really want to thank you for being with us tonight.  And we hope that helps.

MAUREEN ST. GUILLEN, IMETTE‘S MOTHER:  Thank you.

ALEJANDRA ST. GUILLEN, IMETTE‘S SISTER:  Thank you.

COSBY:  You know, Maureen, as a mother...

MAUREEN ST. GUILLEN:  Yes?

COSBY:  ... tell us about your beautiful daughter.  This story is just so heartbreaking, I just—it makes me so sad to see what happened.

MAUREEN ST. GUILLEN:  Well, how do you begin to talk about Imette?  Imette was a wonderful child.  She was very loving, very caring.  I don‘t want to focus on the brutality of her death, but I‘d just love for people to know the person that she was and how much she really cared for other people, how she loved her life.  She loved living in New York.

She just—just everything about her—I—actually, it‘s really—

I used to call her La Rena (ph), you know, the queen, because just the way she carried herself and she really had such a presence about her.  If you talk to anyone, they‘ll tell you that she was—she was just—she was like—when she walked into the room, the room just lit up.  And she just made things fun, and you just felt so much better in her presence.  She was a beautiful girl, but she was a bright girl and she was a good person, such a good person.

And I don‘t—you know, I really don‘t understand.  But if anyone—anyone knows anything, regardless if you think it‘s significant or not, you know, the least little thing, something you might have overheard someone else saying, you might have heard it from—you know, like, just in passing, anything.  I believe that there are phone numbers.  If you could just please call—anything, whether you think it‘s important or not, it might be very, very important.

And you know, when crimes like this happen, it‘s not just the person that dies, it‘s an entire—it‘s the family.  It‘s the neighborhood.  It‘s everyone‘s life, a little bit of everyone‘s life, because, you know, you have to let your children live their lives, but this makes you want to just hold them back that much more.

And I just—I just don‘t know.  I just—I know she loved New York, though, and she loved—she just loved life.  She loved to travel.  She lived so much in just a short period of time.  I mean, she would have been 25.  This Thursday is her birthday.  And it‘s just not—just wasn‘t enough time.  Everyone has lost something, not just us.

COSBY:  She‘s a beautiful girl, and Alejandra...

MAUREEN ST. GUILLEN:  She is beautiful.

COSBY:  As we look at—as, you know, we were looking at these pictures, and so many people, I‘ll just tell you, are just so stunned and so horrified.  What do you want to say to folks out there?  Because we talked about—you know, I was out there today, looking at the scene, and there was that anonymous call.  So someone clearly saw something, or maybe the person might be attached to the crime.  What do you want to say to someone—the monster who did this, or someone maybe who just saw something?

ALEJANDRA ST. GUILLEN:  I would just—you know, I just think that it‘s so important right now that people—anyone who heard anything, who saw anything, like my mom said, whether they feel like it‘s significant or not—this was our baby girl and someone took her and hurt her in a really, really bad way.

And you know, she lived a wonderful life.  She loved New York.  New York was her home.  She loved the people of New York.  And just, you know, she deserves to have her—she deserves to have this person or people brought to justice.

And I would just plead with anyone who knows anything.  Imette was so,

so loving.  And you know, her whole commitment to criminal justice and to -

you know, just her belief in what was right, and you know, I just ask that people honor that and honor her commitment to justice and, you know, know that if she had seen anything—if this had happened to somebody else and she had seen anything, she would call and she would come forward.

And you know, we don‘t want to focus on hate.  You know, hate breeds hate, and we‘re not, you know, here to curse anybody or anything like that, but the person who did this obviously, you know, needs to be brought to justice.  This could happen again.  You know, this could happen to someone else.  You know, Imette, if anything, you know, to bring her some peace that this person doesn‘t do it again, that, you know, they caught him after he did it, you know, or them, after they did it to her.

We just—we love her so much, and our lives are so completely changed.

MAUREEN ST. GUILLEN:  Forever.

ALEJANDRA ST. GUILLEN:  Forever.  But you know, we—you know, just -

you know, we just want to—we know that the police are working really, really hard.

MAUREEN ST. GUILLEN:  And we want to thank them.

ALEJANDRA ST. GUILLEN:  We want to thank them, and we want people to work with them because, like...

MAUREEN ST. GUILLEN:  They need help.

ALEJANDRA ST. GUILLEN:  ... like, you know, your criminologist, I forget his name, what he said is that, you know, this is—this is the time to call in.  You know, as each hour goes by, and each minute goes on, leads could be lost.  And I just—you know, we really—we support the New York police in their efforts, and we ask, you know, New Yorkers, you know, New Yorkers who Imette loved—Imette loved living there.  Imette loved being a New Yorker.  And you know, we just want—we just want, you know, justice to be done.

You know, we‘ll never get over this.  We‘ll forever have, you know, this ache in our heart.  But you know, no one else should have to go through this and...

MAUREEN ST. GUILLEN:  No one.

ALEJANDRA ST. GUILLEN:  ... I really, really just urge...

MAUREEN ST. GUILLEN:  Anyone.

ALEJANDRA ST. GUILLEN:  ... anyone with anything to please, please come forward.

MAUREEN ST. GUILLEN:  Please.

COSBY:  And Maureen, do you believe that this will be solved?  Do have a sense?  A lot of people I talked to, the good news is they have a sense that there are some pieces here.  Do you believe justice is going to be served for your daughter?

MAUREEN ST. GUILLEN:  You have to believe that because that‘s the one thing that keeps you going is that you have to believe that there‘s going to be justice for her.  Yes, I do believe that it will be solved.  I think they‘re working very hard to solve it.  I really do.

(CROSSTALK)

ALEJANDRA ST. GUILLEN:  I spent a lot of time...

COSBY:  Is there anybody who would have done anything like this towards her, anything troubling her or someone stalking or bothering her?

ALEJANDRA ST. GUILLEN:  No.

MAUREEN ST. GUILLEN:  Not to the best of my knowledge.  And I think—

I think that she was so open that she would have told us.

ALEJANDRA ST. GUILLEN:  Yes.  She was—you know, she had—she was

we were very close, a very close family.  You know, we lost our father when we were younger, and just—we grew up—you know, the three of us, just really strong, really close.  And anything—anything like that was happening...

MAUREEN ST. GUILLEN:  She would have told.

ALEJANDRA ST. GUILLEN:  ... she would have told us.  She would have come forward.  We just know that, you know, she would have said something. 

And we‘re just—we‘re just hoping that someone out there says something,

if they saw anything or know anything, just the smallest detail.  She just

you know, nobody deserves this.  And you know, she was obviously very beautiful, but she was also...

MAUREEN ST. GUILLEN:  Nice.

ALEJANDRA ST. GUILLEN:  She was very nice and sunshine, and just everything...

MAUREEN ST. GUILLEN:  Loving and...

ALEJANDRA ST. GUILLEN:  ... everything you ever would want...

MAUREEN ST. GUILLEN:  Kind.

ALEJANDRA ST. GUILLEN:  ... in a sister, in a friend...

MAUREEN ST. GUILLEN:  In a daughter.

COSBY:  Well, we will do whatever we can, both of you.  And put up the number.  And again, let‘s put it up again, if we could, everybody, because please help solve this case.

ALEJANDRA ST. GUILLEN:  Thank you.

COSBY:  Help this beautiful family and help get some justice for beautiful Imette.  Again, everybody, if you have any information, saw anything, call the number—again, whatever information you give is confidential -- 1-800-577-TIPS, 1-800-577-TIPS.  And our prayers are with both of you tonight.  Thank you so much.  And I hope you get some answers soon.

Well, three parents who are using the unspeakable crimes committed against their own children are now trying to make the world safer for all children.  Bonded together by horrific tragedy, the parents of Polly Klaas, Samantha Runnion and Jessica Lunsford went to Capitol Hill today, urging Congress to pass tougher laws against criminals who prey upon children.

Joining us now is Marc Klaas, the father of Polly Klaas, Erin Runnion, mother of Samantha Runnion, and also Mark Lunsford, father of Jessica Lunsford.  The three of you—first of all, remarkable for what you‘re doing now for other people.  I just applaud all three of you.

You know, Erin, it is so hard to hear that mother and daughter.  How is that for you to hear that?

ERIN RUNNION, SAMANTHA RUNNION‘S MOTHER:  Oh, it‘s heart-breaking.  My heart goes out to the Guillen family, and I hope that they find some justice for Imette and honor her and who she was and what she stood for as a person.

COSBY:  You know, Mark Lunsford, how tough is that for you to hear? 

It was heart-breaking for me.

MARK LUNSFORD, JESSICA LUNSFORD‘S FATHER:  It‘s pretty tough.  You know, I mean, you know, it brings back a lot of memories, and I don‘t want to remember the days that—when we found Jessie.  You know, it‘s not something a parent should have to go through.

RUNNION:  No.

COSBY:  You know, Marc Klaas, I‘m sure that it‘s been a number of years, but I bet it‘s still raw when you hear things like that, huh?

MARC KLAAS, POLLY KLAAS‘S FATHER:  Well, of course it is, Rita.  And the thing that binds all of these cases together is that these are absolutely beautiful and stunning young ladies who draw attention to themselves.  And as long as we allow perverts on the streets, these beautiful young ladies are at risk because oftentimes, you will draw the right people and you will have a wonderful life, but then other times, you will draw the attention of the wrong people and it will end tragically, as it has in our cases and in the case of this lovely young lady, Imette.

COSBY:  Yes, and it is so outrageous and just, you know, so shocking that this continues to happen, all of you.  You know, Mark Lunsford, you know, how did the three of you get together?  Because what an amazing group, the three of you.

LUNSFORD:  It actually started back in January, where me and Marc Klaas and Erin, we did a seminar for law enforcement in Pensacola.  And then, you know, a few weeks back, Marc called me and wanted to put something together to come to Washington, and you know, try to do some lobbying and get some tough laws passed here in D.C.

COSBY:  You know, Erin, your daughter, I know, was abducted by a guy who was acquitted, actually, of child molestation charges before that.  What are you—what are you trying to do on Capitol Hill to make sure these predators never get on the streets again to do things that they did to your daughter and others?

RUNNION:  We are trying to make sure that the Children‘s Safety Act of 2005 gets passed.  It was introduced in July of 2005, and it‘s been seven months.  And what this bill will do is create a national registry for our nation to track sex offenders.  And it calls for notification among states, so that as these guys move around and try to avoid one state‘s tougher laws and go to another, that there will be state-to-state notification, public notification when sex offenders are there.  The Jessica Lunsford address verification law is a component.  It calls for every state to have civil commitment as an option for sexually violent predators and sex trafficking and soliciting children, and attempting to lure children via the Internet is also in this bill.

It‘s pretty comprehensive.  It‘s a great place for our nation to start.  You know, we‘ve known about sex offenders in this country.  Crimes against children are the most underreported crimes in our nation.  This is the least we can do, is just make sure that we keep the ones that we‘ve caught, don‘t lose track of them.  We have 100,000 sex offenders on the lam in this country, and we need to find them and keep track of them.

COSBY:  You know, Marc Klaas, what is it?  You know, in the case of Richard Allen Davis, you know, who killed your daughter, this guy had some run-ins with the law.  He was acting erratic.  Yet it didn‘t seem like police zeroed in on him right away.  What can we do to better equip law enforcement?

KLAAS:  Well, now, Richard Allen Davis didn‘t have run-ins with the law.  Richard Allen Davis was diagnosed as a sexually sadistic psychopath as far back as the 1970s, the late 1970s.

COSBY:  And why didn‘t they zero in on him, Marc?  I mean, remember, even some people saying he was acting suspicious.  I mean, that had to be so frustrating for you as a parent.

KLAAS:  Well, I mean, we went through 65 days of pure hell before Polly‘s case was solved, and I hope that the St. Guillens understand that it may take time before their case is solved.  But what you have to do is you have to put—you have to put mechanisms in place, as this bill would do, that will do a number of things.  First of all...

COSBY:  Will it mean more convictions or less convictions, Marc?  What do you think?

KLAAS:  Well, I think we need more convictions.  We need to put these guys behind bars, and we need civil commitment that will allow law enforcement and allow the system to maintain them behind bars after they‘ve served out their sentence, if they‘re still considered a risk—if they‘re still considered a risk to society.

We need to be able to track them once they get on the street, using electronic monitoring and giving law enforcement other tools, such as making it extremely difficult for these guys to abscond.  We need to give the public these—this national sex offender registry so that we can do one-stop-shop.

But Rita, we can‘t do it by ourselves.  We need the public to get behind us.  We need the public to contact their senators and let them know that they have to vote for the Child Safety Act.  Now, it‘s focused on the Senate right now, but certainly, the fault doesn‘t lie entirely with the Senate.  This is an institutional failure that can only be remedied by public pressure.

COSBY:  No, you bet, and I hope everybody gets behind this.  You know, Mark Lunsford, what message do you have for parents?  I mean, it‘s been, you know, a number of months, almost a year now.  How painful is it still for you?

LUNSFORD:  It‘s pretty painful.  But I mean, the only message I want to give to parents is, you know, we really need your support.  We need you to contact your U.S. senator here in Washington and really put pressure on them to pass the Child Safety Act.  I mean, if they‘ll pass this here on a federal level, with giving minimum sentencing guidelines, I‘ll take care of the maximum sentencing by passing Jessie‘s law in every state.

COSBY:  You bet.  And all of you, everyone is so proud of you.  You all really are incredible people, and I applaud all the efforts that you‘re doing for all the kids and parents out there.  Thank you so much for being with us, all of you.

RUNNION:  Thank you.

KLAAS:  Thank you, Rita.

LUNSFORD:  Thank you.

COSBY:  Keep up the great work.

And still ahead, everybody, “The Da Vinci Code”—is it a stolen story?  The author claims his book is an original, but can one of his chief collaborators back him up?  He‘s going to join me next LIVE AND DIRECT.

Plus, Anna Nicole Smith on the steps of the Supreme Court.  What happened inside?  Does the court think she deserves 400 million bucks?  Even better, what do they think of her?  That‘s coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KENT RICHLAND, ANNA NICOLE SMITH‘S ATTORNEY:  This was a woman who, at the time they married, was a world-famous model.  And the district court found that she gave up many of the best years of her modeling life in order to be with J. Howard Marshall and that there was a real affection. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSBY:  So just how much money does Anna Nicole Smith deserve from her late husband, Texas oil tycoon J. Howard Marshall?  Part of that decision is in the hands of the highest court in the land.  The former “Playboy” playmate took her arguments to the U.S. Supreme Court today. 

LIVE & DIRECT tonight is “Access Hollywood‘s” Tim Vincent.  He was there for Anna‘s big show. 

Tim, set the scene for us.  What was it like outside of the court? 

TIM VINCENT, “ACCESS HOLLYWOOD”:  I have to tell you, it was quite amazing.  There were over 22 camera crews there, dozens of journalists, and photographers, and onlookers.  I asked one of the political journalists who covers all the stories in the Supreme Court, was this a usual case?  And she said there was actually more media today than when a judge gets sworn in.  So it‘s big news. 

COSBY:  You know, how is she feeling?  And did she talk to reporters at all? 

VINCENT:  There was an expectation that she was going to talk afterwards, but she came—she arrived early.  She went in through a side entrance, and nobody really caught her.  And as the end of the hearing, she went through another side entrance and left again.  And we were told that she didn‘t want to speak to any of the journalists or the assembled media because that was out of respect for the court hearing. 

COSBY:  Yes, in fact, she was quite conservative, as we just saw some pictures of her, what, dressed all in black.  It looked like she was going to a funeral. 

VINCENT:  I think she‘s playing the part of being very demure.  And I think she‘s—one of the cases, like David Beckham, really.  If she doesn‘t talk or he doesn‘t talk, you think more of her.  And I think she‘s playing the game very well at the moment.

COSBY:  Yes, and I don‘t think the word demure and Anna Nicole, I don‘t think those two words would go together in some sentence, did you? 

(LAUGHTER)

VINCENT:  I wouldn‘t really put that at the top of my list.  She did have some good news.  Obviously, there was no decision made today, but she met her husband back in ‘91 at a strip club, Rick‘s Cabaret Bar.  And we were told today that the owner of Rick‘s Cabaret Bar said, if she doesn‘t win her $450-million settlement that she can have her old job back. 

COSBY:  So she has financial security there. 

VINCENT:  For the foreseeable future. 

COSBY:  Never a dull moment.  Tim Vincent, thank you very much. 

And now joining me tonight is Len Leeds.  He is Anna Nicole Smith‘s former attorney. 

You know, Len, all kidding aside, what we heard—the sense from people who were inside, that things sounded like they went pretty positive for her.  The buzz was sort of the sense that the justices seem interested, might even be asking questions in her favor.  Is that what you got? 

LEN LEEDS, FORMER ATTORNEY FOR ANNA NICOLE SMITH:  That‘s what I heard.  I heard that they seemed to be very sympathetic to her.  But, really, it comes down to the issue.  And the issue is:  Did the federal court properly exercise jurisdiction in California?  Or should they not have really become involved and have left it to the state court in Texas? 

COSBY:  Why do you think this case has gotten so much attention, just because it‘s Anna Nicole, right? 

LEEDS:  Well, it‘s Anna Nicole.  She was 26; he was 90.  Everyone thinks she‘s a gold digger.  And it‘s a very compelling story. 

I think also—you know, in court, it was very interesting.  Judge Breyer seemed to question the fact that she was denied access to her husband when he was in the hospital.  I was actually in the hospital with her at that time and there were guards surrounding his door.  We had to go into court to get a temporary restraining order to permit her to actually see her husband. 

COSBY:  You know, her attorney came out and said it really wasn‘t—it wasn‘t about the money, that she‘s not a gold digger.  Let me play a little comment.  This is what her attorney had to say after court. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICHLAND:  She was a Guess jeans model.  She had been a “Playboy” playmate of the year.  She was certainly a person who had a career, and was independent, and was not in need of having to marry someone in order to be successful in life. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSBY:  You know, Len, I mean, she was making some money, but it sounds like her financial background was a little shaky.  She did file for bankruptcy. 

LEEDS:  That‘s correct. 

COSBY:  Right?  I mean, so—and, look, this guy had so much money.  I mean, there was a huge difference.  It‘s a little silly to make—she was doing, you know, just as well without him kind of claim, right? 

LEEDS:  Well, that‘s absolutely true.  But his estate was $1.6 billion.

COSBY:  Yes, billion, right, billion?

LEEDS:  But he was, you know, terrific to her.  She was—as they said, she was a dancer, and he really groomed her.  But everyone doesn‘t know that, from the moment he met her, he asked her to marry him.  And she waited actually three years.  And there was an extended courtship. 

COSBY:  Were they in love?  You know, people look at him—he‘s 90, you know?  She was 27. 

LEEDS:  You know, the thing is that she really never had a father.  And this man really was wonderful to her.  He groomed her.  He provided her with love, devotion, commitment.  And, you know, I‘m not saying that it‘s a love between a 26-year-old and a 28-year-old, but I actually saw them together.  And there was something very, very deep about their relationship. 

COSBY:  Len Leeds, thank you very much.  And we‘ll see how the court decides.  Thank you.

LEEDS:  OK.

COSBY:  And still ahead, everybody, it‘s one of the best-selling books ever, but now “The Da Vinci Code” goes to court, as well.  Did author Dan Brown steal the work of another book?  Brown‘s friend and one of the actual researchers for the book is going to join us live, next. 

And actor Steven Seagal is helping out New Orleans get back on its feet during Mardi Gras.  He‘s coming up, and he‘s going to join us live with the details. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COSBY:  Well, “The Da Vinci Code” has been a bestseller for nearly three years.  And the release of the new feature film is just around the corner.  But could “The Da Vinci Code” be stolen? 

The authors of a 1982 book called “The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail” are now calling author Dan Brown a thief, claiming the idea for “The Da Vinci Code” was copied from their book.

NBC‘s Dawna Friesen has more.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

IAN MCKELLEN, ACTOR:  Witness the biggest cover-up in human history. 

DAWNA FRIESEN, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  It‘s a thriller with a plot line that goes back to the time of Christ, and Hollywood has spent millions making it into a soon-to-be released movie.  But now two authors claim much of what‘s in “The Da Vinci Code” was their idea, stolen, they say, from their book, “The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail,” a work of nonfiction, first published 24 years ago. 

They‘re suing the publisher, Random House, for breach of copyright. 

Dan Brown, who wrote “The Da Vinci Code,” will be a key witness.  He‘s made a fortune off the book, selling 40 million copies, but denies he stole anything. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I think that it‘s pure nonsense.  I think it‘s—it has to be literally envy. 

FRIESEN:  The two books do share common themes, that Jesus did not die on the cross, that he married Mary Magdalene, had a child, and that blood line continues to this day. 

(on-screen):  The lawsuit doesn‘t allege Brown copied “The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail” word-for-word, but that he stole themes and ideas to shape his thriller, and that, say experts, could be difficult to prove. 

DAVID HOOPER, COPYRIGHT LAW EXPERT:  In nonfiction, it‘s always been understood that there‘s no monopoly of ideas.  Once something‘s out in the public domain, you can use it, you can adapt it. 

FRIESEN (voice-over):  Both books are published by the same company, which issued this statement:  “Random House takes no pleasure in defending a legal action that it believes is without merit, and we are confident we will prevail.”

But when it comes to selling more books, al the publicity can‘t hurt. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  “The Da Vinci Code” was a good read, so I‘m looking forward to reading the other one, too. 

FRIESEN:  And it‘s good news for places like Rosslyn Chapel in Scotland, setting of the book‘s climax.  Visitor numbers have tripled.

There are millions at stake.  The movie‘s release in the U.K. could be delayed.  And if the case succeeds, it could send a chill through the world of fiction. 

MCKELLEN:  We are in the middle of a war. 

FRIESEN:  Dawna Friesen, NBC News, London. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COSBY:  Well, Stan Planton has worked with Dan Brown on some of his bestselling books, and he is the former head librarian at Ohio University‘s Chillicothe campus.  And, of course, Dan Brown is the author of “Da Vinci Code.”

Stan, how closely did you work with the author and for how long? 

STAN PLANTON, RESEARCHER FOR AUTHOR DAN BROWN:  Over a matter of years.  And in fact, the man who introduced Dan to me is in the room off-camera right now.  He‘s James Barrington (ph), a local attorney. 

COSBY:  Yes, and what kind of research did you do for the author, for Dan? 

PLANTON:  Basically, find information about the availability of facts.  He was interested in a large number of very odd and unusual kinds of things.  And I helped him find sources of information for those facts. 

COSBY:  So the big question is:  Did he get his ideas, did he steal his ideas from this book, “The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail,” as the lawsuit is alleging? 

PLANTON:  Well, there‘s no question but that Dan did use holy blood, holy grail to some extent.  It was one of his sources.  But as far as plagiarizing the book, no.  I can‘t see that a case could be made for Dan plagiarizing holy blood, holy grail.  The tradition...

(CROSSTALK)

COSBY:  How do you make the distinction, because you‘re saying, what, that he used the ideas but not verbatim? 

PLANTON:  Use the ideas, but not verbatim, and not even paraphrased. 

COSBY:  And you think, in this case, it‘s a tough case to prove? 

PLANTON:  I think it‘s a very tough case to prove.  I‘d almost put it in the case of a state of a nuisance suit, myself. 

COSBY:  You know, how surprised were you about the lawsuit?  Because “The Da Vinci Code”—I mean, this is stunning, the numbers that they‘ve sold.  Bestseller for three years, it sold over 36 million copies.  Why do you think the authors are filing suit now?  And do you think movie maybe has something to do with the upcoming movie, the money?  What do you think could be a motive here? 

PLANTON:  I think they‘re going to try to hold Tom Hanks‘ film at ransom. 

COSBY:  You do?  And you think it‘s just because of the movie, there‘s so much hype and they want to get, what, the publicity off of it?  Do you think they‘re trying to get money and publicity? 

PLANTON:  That‘s my assumption. 

COSBY:  How is Dan Brown doing?  You know, how—what‘s his reaction to the lawsuit? 

PLANTON:  I really can‘t say.  I don‘t speak for Dan Brown in any respect.  My role has only really been kind of minor.  His major researcher is his wife, Blythe Brown. 

COSBY:  What do you think at stake for him, though?  Do you think, you know, is his credibility, do you feel like, in question here? 

PLANTON:  I think that a vast amount of credibility is at question here.  He has a contract to write more books, and that might come into some question. 

COSBY:  And how do you think this is going to shake out, Stan, from your experience?  Just, you know, you‘ve been doing research with these kinds of things. 

PLANTON:  I think that Dan is going to win.  I have no doubt whatsoever that he‘ll emerge victorious; Random House will emerge victorious from this.  You can copyright specific wordings of ideas, but you can‘t copyright the ideas themselves. 

COSBY:  You know, this book was, you know, such a huge hit.  What do you think‘s in store for the movie?  And what do you think it is about the story that so many people are so intrigued about? 

PLANTON:  I think it‘s the feminine nature of God or the acceptance of a feminine nature of God that has sparked the interest. 

COSBY:  Well, clearly people...

PLANTON:  The book is very, very...

(CROSSTALK)

COSBY:  ... yes, well, and you said it‘s attractive to women, you said? 

PLANTON:  Yes, very—women seem to be particularly interested in “The Da Vinci Code.” 

COSBY:  Because of the feminine God.  Well, we are going to be looking forward to the movie, too, coming up.  And we thank you very much for your insight tonight, one of the collaborators for the book.  Thank you so much. 

And there‘s a lot more coming up here tonight on MSNBC.  Let‘s check in, if we could, with Joe Scarborough and now with a preview. 

Joe, what do you have ahead? 

JOE SCARBOROUGH, MSNBC HOST:  Thanks a lot, Rita. 

We have HBO‘s controversial funnyman Bill Maher.  He‘s going to be in “SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY” tonight, and he‘s talking about everything from George W. Bush, to Jesus Christ, to why Hillary Rodham Clinton will never be elected president of the United States. 

It‘s a good interview, a good half-hour interview, and we cover a lot of topics.  That‘s coming up straight ahead in “SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.”

Rita, back to you. 

COSBY:  And we‘ll be watching, just a few minutes from now.  Joe, thank you very much. 

And still ahead, everybody, right here actor Steven Seagal is going to join me live from New Orleans on Mardi Gras.  Find out why the action star is now playing a big role in the Big Easy.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEVEN SEAGAL, SPOKESPERSON, REBUILDING TOGETHER:  I‘ve been in war zones before and terrible situations, and this is, you know, just more terrible than anything I could have imagined. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSBY:  And that was actor star Steven Seagal reacting to the utter devastation that he witnessed in New Orleans just two weeks after Hurricane Katrina hit.  We interviewed him back then. 

Now, six months later, the blockbuster star is joining thousands of people in New Orleans to celebrate Mardi Gras in hopes of putting the nightmare of Katrina behind them for now.  Steven has also become the celebrity spokesperson for Rebuilding Together.  It‘s an organization that has promised to rebuild 1,000 homes destroyed by Hurricanes Katrina and also Hurricane Rita. 

Joining me now LIVE & DIRECT from the heart of New Orleans is Steven Seagal. 

Steven, how is Mardi Gras this year?  How is it going?

SEAGAL:  Thank you for having me.  Well, I was king of Orpheus and got to play the ball, got to ride in the parade and play the ball, and also was lucky enough to play Bacchus.  So we—sorry about that. 

COSBY:  No, we can hear you.  Go ahead.  I hear a lot of activity behind you, Steven. 

SEAGAL:  Yes, so we were able to, like, try to contribute to the ceremonies and the pomp and circumstance to see if we can bring the eyes of the world onto New Orleans, to have them be able to examine and support the suffering and devastation that‘s still here. 

And, as you know, Bacchus, all the proceeds that went to that ball would be used to rebuilding the children‘s hospital, which Harry Lee and I have been doing for—supporting that hospital for almost 20 years, 15 years, I guess. 

And, you know, the Orpheus ball, we set up a situation where those funds are being donated to rebuilding 1,000 homes. 

COSBY:  Yes, tell us about this project, you know, Steven.  This is amazing, 1,000 homes.  Why did you get involved in that?  And how is the group deciding who gets it?  There‘s so much need out there, as you know. 

SEAGAL:  Well, I mean, I think that, in this kind of situation, you know, anybody who cares about the suffering of others, they‘re kind of trying to come in and do the best they can in their own individual way. 

I myself can play a little music.  I‘ve been playing music all my life.  And so I‘ve used that, along with personal appearances, to see if we can generate awareness and sometimes raise money to contribute to any of the organizations that have an infrastructure in place to be able to take that money and do something with it. 

COSBY:  You know, tell us about your love of New Orleans.  You talked about—a lot of people don‘t know this about you, that you are a blues singer, that you love the blues.  Why attracted you to New Orleans?  And why is it still hold a special place in your heart? 

SEAGAL:  Well, I mean, I think, you know, you have the influence of Africa and the French going back 300 years.  That‘s made a sort of a melting pot of very unique culture, particularly the music, and the food, and the architecture, that, you know, doesn‘t really exist anywhere in the world. 

It‘s really hard to explain, other than it‘s something that you feel in your heart and your bones when you come down here.  And I came down here as a young boy and have loved it ever since.  And I have been intimately involved here for a long time. 

I worked with Harry Lee, who‘s, you know, the sheriff of Mederline (ph).  And him and I have done a lot of charities together and worked as hard as we can with a lot of different organizations to see, you know, how we can kind of make the world down here a better place. 

And we all, you know, sort of have the same feeling that New Orleans will never be the same.  But conversely we think that, you know, that the new New Orleans will still have all the same flavor, but just be a little bit different. 

COSBY:  Well, Steven Seagal, we applaud your efforts.  It‘s great to see you again.  And please give the sheriff my best, too.  Thank you so much for doing your part there.  We appreciate you being with us.

And, everybody, stick with us.  Still ahead, whoever said bigger was better when it comes to a better police force may be forced to eat those words and then some.  It‘s coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COSBY:  Tonight, it is “Caught by Cosby” double take.

First up, check this out.  Firefighters in California swing into action to rescue a man trapped in the middle of the Santa Ana River.  Rushing waters from heavy rains caused a flash flood.  No one knows what the man was doing on the river bed in the first place, but he is reportedly OK.

And then there is this, probably the littlest police dog in the world.  Midge is a Chihuahua-rat terrier mix and—get this—weighing in at just about two pounds.  She will soon begin training to be a drug sniffer in a sheriff‘s department just outside of Cleveland, Ohio.  The sheriff says he has little doubt that this tiny puppy—there she is—will be just as talented as bigger dogs. 

So far, no comment from Brutus, who‘s the big German shepherd that currently sniffs out drugs for the county.  Some competition there.

And that does it for me tonight on LIVE & DIRECT.  I‘m Rita Cosby. 

“SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY” with Joe starts now—Joe?

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

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