updated 4/11/2006 12:27:14 PM ET 2006-04-11T16:27:14

Guests: Daniel Spitz, Vito Colucci, Wendy Murphy, David Feige, Russ Ferguson, Robin Leach, Jeanne Wolf, John Hurst

RITA COSBY, HOST:  Good evening, everybody.  Late-breaking news tonight in the Duke University gang rape scandal at Duke.  The DNA results are in, and the defense attorneys for the young men say there‘s no link to the lacrosse players and the woman who says that she was gang raped at one of the parties.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  No DNA material from any young man tested was present on the body of this complaining woman—not present within her body, not present on the surface of her body and not present on any of her belongings.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSBY:  And joining me now is NBC‘s Martin Savidge, live from Durham, North Carolina—Martin.

MARTIN SAVIDGE, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  Good evening, Rita.  Well, you will know that it‘s been nearly three weeks since the 46 members of the men‘s lacrosse team of Duke turned over DNA samples to investigators.  And ever since then, it‘s been a very anxious period, not just for them but for an entire community and for a campus, as they awaited the results.  Late this afternoon, as you point out, they came in, and you knew right away what the problem was when the district attorney, Mike Nifong, had no comment.  But very quick comment for the defense attorneys.  And one of the things they pointed out was Mike Nifong‘s own words.  When he asked for the testing, he said, Look, it‘s going to be conclusive.  It‘ll tell us who is lying and who isn‘t.

Here‘s what the attorney said about that today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The DA said in his filing with the court that DNA evidence would conclusively prove who was guilty and would also clear the innocent.  I take him at his word.  I think that‘s a correct statement.  And I think this test clears these young men conclusively.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAVIDGE:  However, the district attorney has not really weighed in on what he is going to do now.  Even before the DNA test results came back, he started to do some backpedaling.  One of the things he insinuated was that, Hey, look, I don‘t need DNA to go ahead and continue prosecuting this case.  And he seems to be sticking by that tonight.  We will wait to hear what the final say may be, but so far, there is no comment coming from the district attorney‘s office.

You‘ll remember, though, that, of course, this all began about—well, it was four weeks ago tonight at a party in which this African-American woman had been hired to dance and then says that she was raped by three white team members.  It‘s the racism, as well as the horrible allegation of rape, that really raised tensions in this community.

Reactions?  Well, from the young woman‘s father, he says, Look, I still stand by my daughter.  I still believe in what she said, and I still believe the case has to go forward.  Across town, at the campus where the young lady went to school—that‘s North Carolina Central University—

Shock, anger, even some outrage.  They can‘t believe the DNA results coming back as they did.  They‘re skeptical.  They hope the case will continue to go forward.

As for Duke University, they issued a brief statement tonight, and it reads as this: “We have to have the confidence that the police investigation will ultimately reveal the truth.”

One final thing to be said.  Just because the defense attorneys come out and say, Hey, there is no DNA, thereby, there is no rape, does not necessarily mean that is what the investigators believe, and it will be the investigators that have the final say—Rita.

COSBY:  You know, also, they did say that there was some DNA in the bathroom.  Tell us about that.

SAVIDGE:  Well, you know, this is one of the issues that people have raised, you know, the DNA that was found in the bathroom.  Whose DNA is it?  How is it connected?  I mean, it‘s not uncommon that you would find DNA in a bathroom, especially in a bathroom that belongs to college students.  They‘re not exactly the most cleanest of cleaners.  So what was found and exactly what it means, we‘re not really sure at this particular point.  And again, you have to remember we‘re only hearing one interpretation of the DNA test results.  So there‘s still more to come, Rita.

COSBY:  And Martin, also, these photos that the defense attorneys say that they have, that show the girl was beaten and bruised when she arrived at the party, that she had bruises on her.  I know there was a lot of pressure by you and other folks.  Are they going to release these photos, or is it just talk?

SAVIDGE:  They—well, first of all, I can say that they aren‘t just talk.  I have seen the photos myself.  The only thing I cannot verify is the exact time when those photos were taken.  They do clearly show wounds and marks and cuts and bleeding on this young woman.  Is it before or just at the moment she arrived, or is it after maybe some assault did actually take place?  I cannot verify that.

But they believe they can show quite clearly with the time stamp, the imprint that a digital photograph has, that this was how she showed up at the party.  She was not injured as a result of fighting off a rape, which authorities say did happen.  The defense attorneys say no longer can be said happened.

COSBY:  All right, Martin.  Thank you very much.  We appreciate it.

And joining us now is forensic pathologist Dr. Daniel Spitz, Jr.  And also on the phone with us is private investigator Vito Colucci on the phone.  Dr. Spitz, no DNA link.  Let‘s go to that first.  Is it possible a rape occurred with no DNA on her body?

DR. DANIEL SPITZ, FORENSIC PATHOLOGIST:  Well, I‘d first like to say that DNA results are one piece of the puzzle.  And the fact that no DNA was recovered from any of the—that links any of these Duke students to this woman really tells us that—that—not necessarily that a rape didn‘t occur, but that it‘s very, very unlikely.  And I think that what needs to be understood is that DNA results are not the only piece of the puzzle.  They‘re just one piece of the puzzle.  But the fact that no DNA was recovered really lets the air out of this investigation.

COSBY:  Yes, Vito, what do you think?

VITO COLUCCI, PRIVATE INVESTIGATOR:  I agree with the doctor very

much, Rita.  I mean, the DNA—don‘t forget, the statement was, The DNA‘s

going to tell you who‘s lying and who is not.  And not only that, Rita, if

if she is found to be lying, I hope criminal charges are going to be brought against her.  You know, these boys‘ lives are ruined—or not ruined, forever changed with them, you know?  I know it‘s only part of the puzzle, but the other pieces are all missing.  All it is, is “He said, she said” right now, OK?  That‘s all you have on this.  You know, she‘s come in beaten and bruised.  There‘s no DNA at all.  Forget the DNA in the bathroom.  This is a boys‘ bathroom that they use all the time.

So if I‘m the lead investigator, I‘m starting to get very upset with her because I don‘t want to be embarrassed on this, and I‘m going to start really clamping down on her and asking her the hard questions.  I wonder if they ever did a polygraph with her, Rita.

COSBY:  Yes, no, that‘s a very good point.  And look, if these guys didn‘t do this, they absolutely should not be dragged through the mud.

You guys, hold on.  We‘ve got a whole different perspective now, guys, because just moments ago, right before the show, I spoke exclusively to the accuser‘s father, who just got off the phone from this breaking news—he just broke the news physically to his daughter right before we spoke.  And told me her reaction to the DNA results.  Let‘s listen.  This is the accuser‘s dad.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  She was stunned.  I mean, she was really shocked.  She couldn‘t believe it.  She couldn‘t believe it (INAUDIBLE) because she hadn‘t heard it.  And I told her the DA (INAUDIBLE) DNA came back like it did, and that‘s when she got kind of quiet.  In fact, she was crying.

COSBY:  Does she still maintain to you today that she was raped, despite the DNA evidence?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Well, from the tone of her voice (INAUDIBLE) appear that she still feel like, you know, she knew it happened, but she just couldn‘t understand why they can‘t prove it.

COSBY:  Is she worried the case is going to fall apart now?  Are you worried?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Well, I am, but I‘m not sure what she is because I couldn‘t—you know, she really didn‘t get into that part of it.

COSBY:  What would you say to the district attorney tonight?  Because the defense attorneys are calling on him to drop the case.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I don‘t think he will.  And I‘ve got a good reason to believe that he—you know, that he won‘t drop the case.

COSBY:  And why is that?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Well, I can‘t comment on it, but I‘ve got good reason to believe that he won‘t.

COSBY:  Do you believe that there‘s other evidence beyond your daughter‘s testimony that maintains what she says?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes.

COSBY:  The defense attorneys are saying that they have photos showing that your daughter was bruised on her legs and her face prior to getting to the party, the lacrosse party.  What do you say to that?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I think that‘s—I think that‘s a big—I think they told a big tale (ph).

COSBY:  But is there a possibility that maybe she was bruised prior to getting to the party?  They say they have photos that have time stamps on it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  No.  I don‘t know.  That‘s a possibility, but I don‘t—I don‘t feel like that happened.

COSBY:  Why do you think they‘re saying that?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Well, they‘re trying to protect those boys.  To be honest with you, I don‘t even think they have any pictures because I think if they had them, they would have told a long time ago.  I mean, them boys wouldn‘t need a lawyer if they could show pictures (INAUDIBLE) she was bruised before she went to the house and the state that she was in.  I don‘t even think they would even need a lawyer.

COSBY:  Do you think your daughter will continue to push her case, though, now that the DNA—there‘s going to be a lot of pressure on her from the other side.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes.  I don‘t know.  She probably—I know she‘s disgusted now.  I don‘t know whether she‘s going to push it any further or not.  I really don‘t.

COSBY:  When you say she‘s disgusted, is she frustrated with the system?  And how so?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I think she‘s more disgusted with the way people have been portraying her and things they‘ve been saying.

COSBY:  Would your daughter ever make up a story and say she was raped?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  No.  No.  No, I think she went there for one reason, and that‘s to dance.  And I think she went there for dancing, for them to pay her and she could get out of there.

COSBY:  Do you believe, in the end, the truth will prevail?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I believe it will, yes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSBY:  And again, that was the accuser‘s father speaking to us exclusively right before the show, as you‘re looking at some pictures there.

Let me bring back in, if I could, forensic pathologist Dr. Daniel Spitz and also private investigator Vito Colucci.

Dr. Spitz, you just heard from the father, and I thought it was pretty powerful.  He seemed pretty confident that the DA would still go forward with this case.  And he said, “I have good reason to believe that he won‘t drop the charges.”  What other kind of evidence could be out there if the DNA doesn‘t link?

SPITZ:  Well...

COSBY:  And forgive me (INAUDIBLE) been charged yet, but won‘t drop the case.

SPITZ:  Well, slowly but surely, all the evidence seems to be going by the wayside.  The DNA was a critical piece of evidence—not the only piece of evidence but a critical piece, and it‘s determined to be negative.

COSBY:  So Dr. Spitz, what else could be out there, if it‘s not—I mean, we do know that she went to a hospital.  And it looks like she was beaten and bruised.  The question is by whom, right?

SPITZ:  Well, that‘s what I‘m saying.  Without DNA results, you look for other things.  And if she has evidence that she was assaulted, whether sexually or not, without the presence of DNA, there still could be allegations that could hold some merit.  But the problem is, is that the idea that she had bruises as a result of an altercation seems to be refuted by the fact that these pictures have come out.  So the DNA being negative, the pictures coming out showing that she was potentially injured prior to this alleged assault—all the air on this case seems to be slowly dissipating.

COSBY:  Yes, looks like a tough case.  Now, let me put up—this is what the defense attorney said about some DNA being found in the bathroom that the boys use.  Here‘s what they said just a few hours ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE CHESHIRE, ATTORNEY FOR DUKE LACROSSE PLAYERS:  There was DNA found of two of the boys on a towel and on the floor.  But you need to remember that none of that matches up with her in any way, shape or form, and that the bathroom where this DNA was found happened to be the bathroom of the two boys that the DNA was found.  And any expert and any person in the world will tell you that your DNA is in your bathroom.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSBY:  You know, Vito, what do you think that the DA‘s going to do now?  The father seemed to think that he‘s still going forward, that maybe there‘s something else.

COLUCCI:  Well, if it winds up being a pride issue and he wants to push the envelope on this, he may go forward.  But unless he has a statement from one of these ball players, Rita, or some smoking gun hidden someplace—and I doubt it.  I think he‘s all out of bullets right now, this guy.  And you know, not only that, Rita, I‘ve listened to some guests on the news shows the last couple weeks saying, I believe her.  Why would she lie?  Well, guess what?  It does happen sometimes.  Being a former cop and a PI, it does happens on occasion, OK?  And they better look into that aspect, too.

COSBY:  You know, and Daniel, real quick, we do know that there‘s a hospital report.  We know from the DA that there were severe tears to her, as we‘re looking at—at lacrosse team.  This is a practice not too long ago.  Actually, this is a game not too long ago.  Real quick, how do you prove it if you don‘t have anybody else, if somebody else may have done this?

COLUCCI:  Is that me, Rita?

COSBY:  Yes, actually, real quick to the doctor, Dr. Spitz.  Real quick.

SPITZ:  Well, you don‘t know who she may have been with prior to coming over to the party.  You just—you just have to look at the evidence that there is, and there‘s nothing to indicate that any of these boys were responsible for any wrong-doing, as far as the evidence that I‘ve looked at.

COSBY:  All right.  Well, both of you, thank you very much.  And there‘s a lot more coming up on the Duke University gang rape allegations.  Does this mean that nothing happened to the accuser, or could any part of her story be true?  And how do you prove that, if that‘s the case?  We‘ll get reaction from the Duke campus.  And that‘s not all coming up tonight.  Take a look.

Still ahead, the price of good press.  A celebrity gossip monger and a multi-millionaire in a racy blackmail scandal.  Did the writer demand cash to keep his tabloid page positive?  We‘ve got the inside scoop on the “Page 6” probe.

And the hunt for a missing medical student.  Find out why police were hoping Brian Shafer (ph) would just show up in class.  Plus, for the first time, his best friend tells us what happened the night Brian vanished.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Brian was never to be seen.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSBY:  It‘s an exclusive, and it‘s coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COSBY:  And late-breaking developments tonight in the Duke rape scandal.  Attorneys for the accused lacrosse players say DNA evidence clears their clients of gang rape allegations.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHESHIRE:  No rape or sexual assault happened in that house, and this DNA report shows it loud and clear.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSBY:  So is this case over, or can prosecutors still charge the boys?  Joining us now is former prosecutor Wendy Murphy and David Feige.  He‘s a former trial chief for the Bronx public defenders office.

Wendy, let me play—this is what the DA said on air a few days ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE NIFONG, DURHAM COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY:  The victim‘s demeanor, the fact that when she was examined by a nurse who was trained in sexual assault, there was swelling and pain in the areas that would have been affected by the rape.  The victim gave signs of having been through a traumatic situation.  She seemed to be absolutely honest about what had occurred to her.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSBY:  You know, Wendy, that was before the DNA results.  What do you think the DA‘s going to do now?

WENDY MURPHY, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR:  I don‘t think there‘s any question that he will probably continue because he also said the DNA is not dispositive of this case.  And look, a lot of rapists watch “CSI,” and you don‘t have to be a rocket scientist to know that it‘s a bad idea to ejaculate on or near your victim, if you want to get away with it.

And let‘s not forget—I realize the defense is spinning this into, It‘s not a match, the case should go away.  I‘m calling it a match, Rita.  I know that sounds a little silly.  But guess why?  The defense was deafeningly silent today about that so-called towel filled with DNA from two guys!

Let me suggest this.  There were 46 guys tested, right?  She identified in photographs, according to her father, three men who raped her in that bathroom.  Wouldn‘t it be a bit of bad luck for the two guys whose semen showed up on that towel if those just happened to be two out of the three gays she said were in that bathroom raping her?  You can‘t spin that away!  That‘s not a DNA mismatch!  That‘s a direct hit!  That is something that in particular corroborates this woman and suggests that she was telling the truth!

(CROSSTALK)

COSBY:  David, hang on one second.  Let me present also what—what they also said was pretty powerful.  And our reporter did say that he saw the photos, Martin Savidge.  These are the photos that they say of the girl bruised prior to the party.  Of course, we‘re not quite sure of the time of these allegations, if, indeed, it did happen prior to.  But let me just show at least the defense attorneys, what they had to say.  This is the comment from Bob Ekstrand.  He‘s one of the defense attorneys.  This is what he had to say about the bruises today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BOB EKSTRAND, DEFENSE ATTORNEY :  The pictures reveal that there a number of different types of wounds, but most importantly, there wounds of obvious recent origin—open lacerations, not bleeding, but not healed at all.  They would look to anybody to be quite recent at the time she arrived.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSBY:  You know, David, how do you read all this?

DAVID FEIGE, FORMER TRIAL CHIEF, BRONX DEFENDERS OFFICE:  How do I read all this?  This is the problem with prosecutors.  If they‘re wrong, they‘re right.  If they‘re right, they‘re right.  It makes no difference.  They prosecute, no matter what.

What we have here is credibility versus DNA.  And this is shameful. 

Time and time again, this woman has been—her story has been discredited.  And nonetheless, I think Wendy might be right.  The prosecutor may go forward.  And shame on him for doing it.  Really!  Where do you go to get your reputation back?  Where do you go to wash the stench of guilt off?  These boys are wrongly accused.  This case should go away.  And this is shameful!

COSBY:  Let me—Wendy, let me play—this is what one of the defense attorneys had to say.  When somebody said at the press conference just a short bit ago, was this girl making it up, this is what he had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHESHIRE:  I think that it is a false accusation that has been made for some reason against these boys, and I think that it has been used to hurt their lives forever and to tear this community apart.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSBY:  You know, Wendy, is it possible she made it up?  On the other hand, the father just told us in that exclusive interview we did with the dad—he said that he believes the case is going to go forward, and he said there‘s something else out there.  Wouldn‘t say what.

MURPHY:  Yes, I mean, it‘s very likely that one or more of the other guys is cooperating.  Lookit, Rita, it‘s not -- 90 percent of rape cases involve no DNA at all.  Imette St. Guillen‘s rapist-killer didn‘t leave any DNA on or in her body.  It was...

FEIGE:  You know what, Wendy?

MURPHY:  It was on the cuffs behind her.  But lookit—lookit, let‘s forget—let‘s not forget some very important evidence, OK?  Her fingernails are ripped off.  She had to...

COSBY:  But there was no DNA on the fingernails, Wendy...

(CROSSTALK)

MURPHY:  ... to the vagina!  She had strangulation injuries!

FEIGE:  And why do you think these boys did it, Wendy?

MURPHY:  Are you also going to suggest that (INAUDIBLE) self-mutilation?  Oh, that‘s...

(CROSSTALK)

FEIGE:  Why do you think these boys did it?  She‘s a stripper with a criminal record.  Why do you think that these...

MURPHY:  So she tears...

FEIGE:  ... boys did it?

MURPHY:  ... her own vagina?  What is that?

FEIGE:  She went on three—as I understand it, she went on three one-on-one dates that week.  How do you know...

MURPHY:  Fresh injuries!

FEIGE:  ... they came from these boys?

MURPHY:  Strangulation!  Nails ripped off!  Dude, common sense!  What are you doing?

FEIGE:  Let me ask you something.  Why do you even think this is semen?  What basis do you have for suggesting that the DNA...

MURPHY:  It was—it was...

FEIGE:  ... came from semen from these kids?

MURPHY:  ... the deafening silence from the defense attorneys exactly in response to that question that tells me it‘s semen!  Why not answer it, if it was spit?

FEIGE:  Why not?  I don‘t know.  Do you know, or are you just jumping to another conclusion...

(CROSSTALK)

MURPHY:  ... hide that damning piece of evidence!

FEIGE:  The question is, have—look...

MURPHY:  Turn over the whole record!

(CROSSTALK)

FEIGE:  It‘s the prosecutor‘s burden!  He‘s been running from the

DNA...

MURPHY:  No way!

(CROSSTALK)

MURPHY:  ... were handed a copy of the DNA evidence!  They hid it, spun it and kept it secret from you and me!

COSBY:  And both of you, that‘s going to have to be the last word.  We hope to hear from the DA very soon to hear what his version is.  And also, we do have to get those photos, which apparently, they‘re showing to some reporters, but we‘d like to see them publicly, and I think then the public can judge for themselves, too, if, indeed, those are accurate pictures.

Everybody, thank you very much.

So how are students and faculty at Duke reacting to the blockbuster news about the DNA results?  Joining me now live is Duke student government chief of staff Russ Ferguson.  Russ, what‘s the mood there on campus?  What‘s the reaction?

RUSS FERGUSON, CHIEF OF STAFF, DUKE STUDENT GOVERNMENT:  I think it‘s a rise of skepticism, Ms. Cosby.  More and more, as more evidence comes out, more and more people take a step back and say, There‘s a lot of information in this case we don‘t have.  We don‘t know what happened that night.  We haven‘t heard the side of the story from the lacrosse players.  And as this DNA evidence proves, we don‘t know what happened that night, whether there was a rape or not.

COSBY:  Are they taking everything the defense team—Wendy just brought up a point.  Look, this could just be part of a defense team spin.  On the other hand, this could be fact, and the DA may be folding his case.

FERGUSON:  I‘m sorry.  You cut out for a second there.

COSBY:  Yes, what‘s the buzz there?  Do they—are they taking as defense spin?  Are they taking it as fact?  Do they think the DA‘s going to drop the case?

FERGUSON:  I don‘t know.  The way the district attorney has been handling this case so far, he‘s gotten a lot of criticism and people don‘t know what he‘s going to do.  He‘s already said he‘s going to go ahead with charges, no matter what happens.  So I think people think he‘s probably going to be true to his word, but on the way he‘s acted so far.  But all this did was raise more skepticism on the whole case.  Like, the DNA evidence doesn‘t match.  People aren‘t saying, Oh, the victim made all this up, but people aren‘t saying the lacrosse players definitely did this anymore.  There‘s just an air of skepticism everywhere.

COSBY:  What‘s the buzz also on the coach?  I know that he suddenly, you know, resigned.  A lot of people think that he was clearly forced out.  What are you hearing privately, and what do people think on campus about this?

FERGUSON:  Well, when this first came out, people thought that the coach should definitely resign because there were very, very serious allegations, and he even didn‘t think to cancel a game or a practice.  The administration stepped in and said, Let‘s go ahead and cancel a couple games, see what happens.  (INAUDIBLE) that e-mail came out, which is obviously very disgusting, and he resigned.  At the time, people thought that was a fairly good idea.  Now people are saying they really hope that he didn‘t lose this job for no reason at all.

COSBY:  All right.  Well, Russ, please keep us posted, whatever you hear there on campus.  And everybody at home, we‘re going to continue to bring you all the latest developments in this rape investigation involving the Duke lacrosse team.  As soon as we learn more about where the case goes from here, we‘ll keep you posted.  And also, we‘re waiting to hear from the district attorney himself to see what he‘s going to do now.

But still ahead tonight, gossip, lies and also videotape.  Did a gossip page writer try to black mail a multi-millionaire to write good things about him in one of America‘s most famous gossip columns?  The FBI apparently thinks he did.  And we take you LIVE AND DIRECT to the scene where hundreds of thousands are protesting, demanding changes in what the U.S. does with illegal immigrants.  Massive marches, some big news coming out on that coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

COSBY:  Well, gossip is big business, and probably one of the best known gossip columns in the world is “The New York Post” “Page 6.”  It is a “must read” for many on the East and West Coasts, but now “Page 6” is front page news involving a possible crime.  Live and also videotaped, NBC‘s Janet Shamlian has the very latest.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JANET SHAMLIAN, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  In a country that can‘t get enough of the rich and famous, gossip sells.  Every move of the red carpet royalty follows.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Teri Hatcher in tears!

SHAMLIAN:  Bold-face names are the stock and trade of “The New York Post” gossip spread, “Page 6,” famous in its own right, its name dropped in the HBO series “Sex and the City.”

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  You‘re on “Page 6.”

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Oh, my God!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Now “Page 6” is playing out on page 1, and it‘s not gossip anymore, it‘s a possible federal crime—extortion.

RAY RICHMOND, “THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER”:  There is a culture of payola, if you will, in the gossip industry.  This is obviously extortion and not payola.

SHAMLIAN:  The FBI is probing whether Jared Paul Stern, a longtime freelancer for the “Post,” demanded more than $200,000 from billionaire businessman Ron Burkle in exchange for favorable coverage. The meeting was videotaped and a reporter at the “Post” arch nemesis, the “New York Daily News” says he‘s seen it.

WILLIAM SHERMAN, NEW YORK DAILY NEWS: He said, it‘s kind of like the Mafia. A friend of mine is a friend of yours, saying to Burkle if you are with me, you are part of the family. 

SHAMLIAN: Stern denies the claims.  The “Post” has suspended him and says it‘s cooperating with the investigation.  And now hard questions and perhaps harder truths about the business of gossip.  Is it rigged or real?

MIKE WALKER I mean there‘s no question it goes on.  I do think this is an extreme example.  I do not think this goes on every day. I do not think every journalist is out there on the take. 

SHAMLIAN: But they are all after a story and this one is now everywhere. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COSBY: And that was NBC‘s Janet Shamlian reporting for us.  So just what does this scandal say about the lengths that some people might go to to keep their names in or out of the headlines? Live and direct tonight are David Patrick Columbia with newyorksocialdiary.com. Also Robin Leach is the editor of aol.comvegas and also here with us Jeanne Wolf of Jeanne Wolf Hollywood.  Let me start with you Robin real quick. What do you think the real story is here?

ROBIN LEACH, AOL.COM VEGAS EDITOR: I think the story is going to get bigger than what it is at the moment because what we have now is editors all across the country asking their very own columnists if they have been ever been on the take.  I disagree that this is a wide scale practice. I think this is a highly isolated example even if it‘s true.  Let‘s all bear in mind before we rush to judgment, let‘s hear both sides of the story.  If it‘s true, then the line of professional ethics was absolutely crossed and I don‘t know of any journalist who has ever been on the take to suppress stories or to put favorable stories in.  And I bet Jeannie will say the same thing. 

COSBY: And Jeanne, (INAUDIBLE) I also talked to Jared last night on the phone.  And I want to put up a quote because he is adamant that he is being set up.  In fact, let me put a quote he said. I‘m being railroaded and targeted. This was all a big set up. In the end, the truth will prevail and he says that these people you know, Burkle the billionaire, thought that maybe it was an enemy of his and was setting him up and this was pay back.  Is it possible that this is just this guy is being railroaded for something else? Jeanne.

JEANNE WOLF, JEANNE WOLF‘S HOLLYWOOD:  It doesn‘t sound like it to me.  It doesn‘t like it to me. As Robin says, we have to be careful to get in all the facts.  But the facts as we have seen them so far is that originally Jared apologized. Then he changed lawyers and said oh, he is being set up.  The transcripts if they are accurate in the “Daily News” are embarrassing, not only because they are unethical, but because they are so stupid.  If you were sitting there in any conversation and someone asked you pointed questions, oh, you people regularly take gifts.  Can you give me your banking information? Wouldn‘t you be just a little bit suspicious about this friendly conversation? I totally agree with Robin that this is an unusual occurrence and I hate the fact that it‘s being connected with arrangements that are made every day in every business in the world.  And I don‘t want to feel like a criminal if someone sends me a bottle of wine across the room who‘s been a long-time friend of mine.  Yes, this is a business of associations and relationships.  That‘s just how it works.  But I personally have never heard of an instance like this before and people are well, they‘re more embarrassed than they are shocked. 

COSBY: Let me bring in David.  David, let me show - this is just a little clip from that FBI tape because we haven‘t played it.  Just a couple journalists have been able to hear it.  And here‘s a line that says, this is about Jared Stern saying I wouldn‘t be asking you for this kind of money if I didn‘t think I could help you when it is needed.  Let me further put another quote too. It also says, do you want to take the chance that someone says to me hey, should we use that story? You know you want someone there saying no.  What do you think happened here David?

DAVID PATRICK COLUMBIA, NEWYORKSOCIALDIARY.COM: The thing that is sort

of mysterious to me is they‘re making it a page six scandal, but Jared Paul

Stern is not a page six full time staffer.   He‘s a stringer.  And actually

COSBY: He does write. 

COLUMBIA: . has the authority to speak for Richard Johnson or the “Post,” or Paul Allen or Rupert Murdoch and he absolutely does not have that authority. 

COSBY: Do you know him David, by the way? Do you know him?

COLUMBIA: I met him, I don‘t know him no. 

COSBY: Do you think, because it opens this whole other can of worms too. That‘s why it‘s become so big. 

COLUMBIA: The thing about it is, they‘re making it out to be the page six scandal, but all we know is that Ron Burkle sat down at the table with Jared Paul Stern who evidently represented himself or appeared to represent himself as somebody who could speak for page six of the “Post.”  But there‘s no evidence that he could ever speak for page six of the “Post.” Richard Johnson knows a lot about a lot of people in town.  Richard Johnson does take care of his business. He would never send somebody like Jared Stern out to negotiate with somebody for him.  It makes no sense whatsoever, so in a way to me, it sounds like there‘s something very fishy about the whole story. 

COSBY: Well, when you say fishy, what do you mean? Because again, Jared Paul Stern said to me he believes this is all a set up.  Do you believe it‘s possible it is a set up?

COLUMBIA:  I think anything is possible, but why did Ron Burkle call on a Jared Paul Stern to make some sort of an arrangement or write a deal with Jared Paul Stern when he in fact knows who Richard Johnson is. He knows Rupert Murdoch. He knows these people who are way, way above Jared Stern.  So why would he call on them in the first place?  The only reason he possibly might call him on the first place to deal with him in the first place, is because maybe he is the weakest link in the chain. 

COSBY: What do you make of that Robin? That‘s an interesting allegation. 

LEACH: I bet you that it goes much larger than what we are even speculating.  I mean you can get into a conspiracy theory here about Mr.  Burkle has had an ax to grind with the “New York Post” for a long, long time, never got any satisfaction in dealing with the editor of the “Post” or the owners of the “Post” and who would not be surprised in this day and age of trickery and deception as if this isn‘t one gigantic thing, scandal, whatever it is to totally discredit the “New York Post” in its entirety, not just discrediting page six. 

COSBY:  And Jeanne, this guy, Ron Burkle, the billionaire, the super market magnate knows a lot of powerful people. We‘ve heard his name linked to Leonardo DiCaprio, Clinton.  When you talk about DiCaprio and those kind of folks, it could open a can of worms, right. 

WOLF: Well, here‘s the can of worms that it could open up. It‘s that people can go crazy in the presence of fame and of parties with those names.  David has seen it and Robin has seen it and I‘ve seen it, not necessarily connected with extortion.  You get invited to these parties as a stringer like Jared was.  You look around. You begin to think you are one of these people. You begin to think that money is nothing to them.  You begin to think that you could live in that fantasy world too.  Now of course I‘m imagining what this could be, but it‘s so insane that a conspiracy or just a guy gone a little wacky because he smelled too much of the spotlight. All of that could be true or all of it could be, I don‘t know, just a crazy made up story. 

COSBY:  And David, have you ever had anybody approach you and say look, if you give me something positive, social diary is well known in this community.

COLUMBIA: People love publicity.  They like very often, they like it for business reasons, but I‘ve never have had anybody approach me and offer me any money for it.  I‘ve had people approached me and offer me different gifts or trips to places and things like that, but that‘s not the issue here.  The issue here is when you look at what happened in this situation.  The damage that has been done has been done yes to Jared Paul Stern. But it‘s also been done to page six, to Richard Johnson, to Rupert Murdoch, to Paul Allen.  Even though there is no proof that they had anything whatsoever to do with this arrangement.  So the implications are much graver than we are allowed to believe because actually Jared Paul Stern is the little guy on the totem pole here.  The big guys are the guys that are really kind of in trouble.  It‘s their reputations that are at stake and there is no proof whatsoever that Jared Stern had any influence at all with Richard Johnson and believe me, I know Richard Johnson well enough to know that he makes his decisions for himself. 

COSBY: He mentioned (INAUDIBLE) the editor there of the “New York Post.” Robin, going to end with you.  Where do you see this headed and do you agree with David that a lot is at stake now?

LEACH: Let me just say that Richard Johnson actually in all fair disclosure actually worked for me at such a point and in time. 

COSBY: Did he offer you big bucks to spin it his way Robin?

LEACH: No and I also agree with David.  I have been in this business of gossip journalism for over 40 years.  Not once and I can look at you right in the eye, not once have I ever been offered anything to keep somebody in the paper or out of the paper.  It‘s just never happened.  So this whole thing is so weird.  The only thing that has gone on in the gossip journalism business is that newspapers like the “Inquirer” and the “Globe” did made deals with people like Bop Hope, Tom Arnold, Marty Ingols (ph) that they would protect them with nice stories in order to get bad stories from other people.  And I think that was the extent of where nasty business went on.  But this whole thing, if this is true, the professional ethics of the whole business is being jeopardized by somebody because we‘ve already got as I said at the top of the piece, gossip columnists across the country are being grilled by their editors.  Does this go on in our town?  Does this go on in our city?

COSBY: You bet. Well, all of you guys, three of the best in the business.  Thank you very much. We appreciate it and again Jared Paul Stern telling us that it was a set up. He is being railroaded.  We‘ll try to get to the bottom of this for everybody. And still ahead, the mystery surrounding a medical student who simply vanished into thin air, 100 security cameras and not one of them caught him leaving.  How did that happen?

And we are live and direct at the scene of immigration rallies, massive ones.  What are they protesting? Are they peaceful? We‘re going to have the details next. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COSBY:  And right now, thousands of people are flooding the streets in dozens of cities across the country.  They are protesting how the United States handles illegal immigrants and they‘re asking whose America is this?  Many are angry that action has been stalled on immigrant‘s rights while Congress takes a two-week recess without any action.  We have seen the dramatic pictures all day and joining us now live, we‘ve got this covered coast to coast.  NBC‘s Stephanie Stanton is in Los Angeles where the protests are in full force.  Also NBC‘s Michael Okwu is in Phoenix and are own Tucker Carlson is in the nation‘s capital.  Stephanie, let‘s begin with you. Tell us what‘s been happening there in California?

STEPHANIE STANTON, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Well, Rita, we are outside the Federal building in downtown Los Angeles.  This is the second part of the rally.  The demonstrators are a few blocks away from where I‘m standing right now. They‘ll be making their way down here to the Federal building.  Meantime, right now, they are outside a local church.  Many people flooding the streets.  We heard about 1500 people in fact are outside, many are carrying American flags as well as some Mexican flags. Several local officials are also in attendance, including Cardinal Roger Mahony from the Los Angeles diocese.  He in fact led an opening prayer.  The cardinal you may recall has been an outspoken advocate of immigrant rights and last week he generated a controversy by asking Catholics to pray for and help illegal immigrants.  Also in attendance, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. 

So far these protests have been peaceful and there have been no reports of violence.  We can tell you that there is a heavy police presence keeping these crowds under control.  And as I said, the turn out about 1500 people.  Some folks had expected a lot more, although the weather has been cold, a little bit cloudy and a little bit rainy.  And this is an issue that of course is very passionate to many people here in California.  I can tell you that 25 percent of undocumented workers live in Los Angeles.  That‘s about three to four million people.  Rita?

COSBY: All right Stephanie, thank you. Now let‘s go to Michael Okwu in Phoenix.   Michael, tell us what‘s going on there today.

MICHAEL OKWU, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Well, Rita, I can tell you that according to the mayor‘s office, more than 120,000 demonstrators marched through Phoenix today. That is well above the numbers that organizers were originally hoping for and those demonstrators were wearing the same color, white, as a show of unity and also enthusiastically waiving American flags.  This is in sharp contrast to what we saw just about a month ago, last month when demonstrators were waiving flags from their native countries.  This is clearly gotten to be a highly coordinated campaign.  All of this part of the grass roots campaign to basically try to change laws in Congress to make sure that those estimated 11 to 12 million undocumented workers can become fully fledged American citizens. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ELIAS BERNUDEZ, MARCH ORGANIZER: We say to them accept this as contributors to the greatness of this country, not as detractors and we are here to serve. We are here to do something for our country, which is now the United States of America. 

OKWU: Not everyone we talked to today was supportive. 

MICHELLE DELLACROCE, OPPOSES ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION: To allow them to come here illegally, what you are saying to the legal American people is that we don‘t care about you.  We care more about the people that come from other countries, more specifically the mass numbers coming for example Mexico and that 90 percent of America is saying we don‘t want you to do this.  Put up a wall. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OKWU:  Demonstrators marched through central Phoenix and staged a rally at the capital.  Rita, as you know, Arizona is a major gateway for illegal immigration and so therefore the demonstrators here were expecting to hear from the opposition today, but there were no confrontations reported.  This was a highly coordinated peaceful demonstration Rita. 

COSBY: I‘m glad to hear that, Michael, thank you very much.  Now let‘s go to Tucker in Washington.  Tucker, what‘s going on there today?

TUCKER CARLSON, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT:  A big march today on the mall, Rita, but really one of the tamest in many ways I‘ve seen.  I have been to a lot of these over the years in Washington and they can get pretty far out.  This was not, mostly families, a lot of young people, a lot of people who clearly had just come from work, in fact a lot of people wearing work clothes, a lot people in white shirts as Michael said, but if you look below the waist, there were a lot work trousers splattered with paint, in other words, from my point of view anyway, decent, hardworking people, hardly bomb-throwers. 

They also have a pretty good PR consultant as again Michael pointed out. Virtually everyone there had an American flag. I think people were handed them as they arrived. So there was not a sea of Mexican flags, although there were quite a few if you looked carefully. I think though the ideology behind it was a little less mainstream, some of the organizers consisted of for instance, Answer, a pretty far out left wing group and if you talk to people there about the ideology again behind the march, you heard a lot of talk about borders and why we shouldn‘t have any and why the Americas, south, central and north are really one big land mass and why should we pay attention to the borders between them? Over all, a pretty good show though. 

COSBY: It certainly was.  Tucker, thank you very much and interesting turn out across the country.  And still ahead everybody, a medical student with his whole life ahead of him vanishes without a trace.  Cops originally thought he may have run away.  Do they still believe it‘s possible?  We went to the scene. We‘ve got a lot of new details and they‘re coming up. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DEREK SHAFFER:  I talked to him the Friday that he disappeared.  Me and my girlfriend were going to Houston.  We had plans and I talked to him, come on out to our place, 8:30 we‘re going out to a bar—and of course (INAUDIBLE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSBY: And that‘s the brother of the medical student who vanished without a trace leaving no clue as to what happened to him. It‘s a story that “Live and Direct” has been following as you know.  27-year old Brian Shaffer, a med student at Ohio State University disappeared from a bar while he was out with his friends.  “Live and Direct” went back to the bar in Columbus, Ohio where Brian was last seen.  And in this first TV interview, Brian‘s friend explains what happened the night he vanished. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CLINT FLORENCE, BRIAN SHAFFER‘S FRIEND: It was around 9:15, 9:30, I drove over to his apartment (INAUDIBLE) his father was and he was having a beer.  And then came up to High Street (INAUDIBLE) I got around here about 9:30, started having drinks with the usual. Me and Brian always went out.  There‘s nothing new.  Sat down, opened a tab.  And then, you know had three, four, five shots of liquor.  He talked to his girlfriend about 10:30, decided we should leave. We‘re going to go, still in the bar. And at the time I was kind of hazy because I was drinking, too.  So, I would say we got to the shore north around 11:45, 12:00. We stayed long enough at shore north to get a shot which was probably 15 minutes and then Brothers.  I would say we stayed there 30 minutes at the next. 

And then walked to the Red Star and got picked up within the next half hour, the security cameras picking us straight up, walking the bar.  And we see some students of mine. We sat down next to them.  It was Meredith to my right, then me, and then the two girls and then Brian was doing his usual thing.  And he was talking to those two girls.  And I go, yeah, Brian stick around. He has a tendency to walk away.  And probably 10 minutes later, 15 minutes later, I turned to say, Meredith let‘s go, it was closing time, 2:10, 2:00 and Brian was nowhere to be seen. 

COSBY:  And let‘s now bring in the lead investigator in this search, Sergeant John Hurst from the Columbus, Ohio police department.  Sergeant, we just heard, this is the first time we‘ve heard (INAUDIBLE) that he was with two girls.  Have you looked into these two girls?  Have you been able to track them down?

SGT. JOHN HURST, COLUMBUS, OHIO, POLICE DEPARTMENT: Yes, we have spoken to the two females in question and they were unable to provide any additional information for us. 

COSBY: What do you make of the fact that he was not seen, 100, what, different surveillance cameras in that area. T hey see him going in, but they don‘t see him going out?

HURST: Well, the area does have a significant amount of cameras.  There are some dead spots and there is the possibility with the security officer there operating the equipment manually that it would not pan at a certain time if somebody was exiting the building. 

COSBY: Are you still looking at surveillance videos and have you ruled out that maybe you went to meet one of these girls?  His friends were describing us as sort of he was a lady‘s man.

HURST: Well, we haven‘t ruled out—everything is still on the table and we‘ve spoken with the girls. They‘ve indicated that he did not meet with them after he had left.  And there‘s no indication at this time not to believe them. 

COSBY:  Did they have any idea who he may have left with? Was he talking to anyone else that they saw? 

HURST: No, and that‘s the odd thing about this.  Nobody is able to give us any information about Brian and who he was speaking with at the time that they left. 

COSBY: We‘ve heard right before the show, about this homeless guy.  There was apparently a guy who said that he saw somebody looking like Brian going into a store, like a 7-Eleven type sort of convenience store right.  Have you checked out his story?  And this is a picture of the guy actually. 

HURST: Yes, we have checked out the story of the homeless man and the officer. One of the detectives went up and viewed the video footage and has ruled out that that was not Brian. 

COSBY:  So they ruled it out at this point that it definitely was not him?

HURST: That‘s correct. 

COSBY:   What I found so interesting, this guy Brian suddenly disappeared, it was about two years ago and he took off for about a week.  He did call his family during that time. Do you look into maybe something in his background though and say, this guy may have a propensity for suddenly taking off?

HURST: Well, we‘ve looked at his background extensively and he does have the opportunity at times where he does leave the bars and leaves his friends in the bars but he‘s never left a situation like this where he hasn‘t contacted anybody or his friends were not able to locate him. 

COSBY: What are you thinking of at this point? Are you leading more towards foul play or that maybe this is just an extended departure for him?

HURST: Well, everything that indicates that we‘ve looked at, it doesn‘t really look that he would just walk away. He‘s making good grades.  He‘s got a lot going on in his life.  Obviously, we haven‘t been able to rule out anything.  And foul play could be a significant part of this investigation. 

COSBY:  Where are you looking right now? Where do you search if you don‘t have anything on videotape?

HURST: Well, we‘re still looking, canvassing the area, interviewing the individuals who live in the area.  We‘ve interviewed the employees at the Ugly Tuna. 

COSBY: That‘s the bar he was that night?

HURST: That‘s correct.  And we‘re just trying to find the one item that will point us in the direction. 

COSBY: Really quickly, do you believe at this point he‘ll be found alive?

HURST: Again, we can‘t rule out anything.  We‘re hoping for the best.  We hope that we do find him alive.  But we also cannot rule out the possibility of foul play. 

COSBY:  Well, we certainly hope he is found safe and sound. Sergeant, thank you very much and we‘re going to continue to follow this case.  Everybody, we‘re going to put up the tip line. If you have any information about Brian Shaffer, be sure to call the tip line, 1-877-645-TIPS. And that does it for me everybody on “Live and Direct.” We‘ll see you tomorrow night.

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

END   

Copy: Content and programming copyright 2006 NBC.  ALL RIGHTS  RESERVED. Transcription Copyright 2006 Voxant, Inc.  ALL RIGHTS  RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material other than for research. User may not reproduce or redistribute the material except for user‘s personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon NBC and Voxant, Inc.‘s copyright or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.

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