updated 5/4/2006 11:21:34 AM ET 2006-05-04T15:21:34

Guests: David Blaine; Randall Hamud; Clifford Russell; Arlene Howard; Paula Pant; Murat Gunel; Beth Hundsdorfer; Diana Degarmo; Ken Baker

RITA COSBY, MSNBC ANCHOR, LIVE & DIRECT: Thanks so much, Joe, and good evening, everybody.  Scandal on another college campus tonight.  Could what some of these kids are doing in these pictures get them in hot water, not only with their parents, but with the cops? Plus, you‘re looking live at a life or death stunt.  This is illusionist David Blaine.  He‘s going to be joining me live from this human fish tank.  Why the heck is he spending seven days underwater and risking it all? We‘ll ask him.  But first, a stunning decision in the sentencing phase of admitted 9/11 conspirator, Zacarias Moussaoui. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The jury has found the defendant should be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of release. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSBY: And NBC‘s Kevin Corke joins us now live from Washington with the dramatic details. Kevin, how did it call come down? It was quite surprising. 

KEVIN CORKE, NBC CORRESPONDENT: It was quite surprising honestly Rita.  I think there were many people who were waiting today and expecting that after 40-plus hours of deliberation that Zacarias Moussaoui would find himself essentially put to death.  Instead, in a bit of a surprise, the jury came back with the life sentence.  Now, after we had a chance to review the paperwork that came back, the 42 pages, it really seemed to me that the jury was rather split on a number of these issues.  The panel of nine men and three women coming back with a life without the possibility of parole sentence for Moussaoui.  A lot of people weighing in on the sentencing today, including President Bush. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Mr.  Moussaoui got a fair trial.  The jury convicted him to life in prison where he‘ll spend the rest of his life.  In so doing, they spared his life, which is something that he evidently wasn‘t willing to do for innocent American citizens. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CORKE: Moussaoui saying as he left the courthouse today, “I won, America lost.” Well, of course, that depends on your perspective of winning.  Winning for him will likely mean a lifetime at super max in Florence, Colorado, the super maximum facility where he would likely spend 23 hours a day in confinement alone, Rita. 

COSBY: Ken, what was the reaction in the courtroom? A lot of us watching it on television were very surprised. 

CORKE: We were told, actually that the reaction in the courtroom was rather muted.  We were actually outside right around 3:30 when we received word that the verdict would be coming down in about an hour.  As the process works out, as you know, they‘ll tell you it‘s going to come. It happens an hour later and then everyone begins to scramble.  So the reaction that we received from people who were actually in the courtroom today was, well, frankly people were just sort of muted.  They were not gasping.  There was no shock and awe like you might have expected.  Instead I think a lot of people felt like given the long period of time that they deliberated, that this was a distinct  possibility Rita. 

COSBY: All right, Kevin, thank you very much.  Well, the decision to spare Moussaoui‘s life is drawing mixed reaction from those closest to the 9/11 attack, including former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUDY GIULIANI, FMR NYC MAYOR: I certainly believe that he should have been executed, that the verdict should have been death.  He knew about the plan to do this massive attack on America.  If he had told the truth about it, there‘s not much doubt that all those people that died would be alive today.  And it seems to me that in my judgment that would merit the death penalty. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSBY: And joining us now is Randall Hamud. He is former Moussaoui family attorney.   Mr. Hamud, are you surprised by the decision by the jury?

RANDALL HAMUD, FORMER ATTY FOR MOUSSAOUI‘S MOTHER: No, I‘m very proud of the jury.  I think the jury showed that this jurisprudence system in the United States is the number one system in the world. 

COSBY: How so? How so? Because Mr. Hamud, when he left, his outrageous statement, I thought was chilling.  He said, America, you lost.  I won.”  Do you think this guy wanted to live? Did he want to be a martyr?

HAMUD: No, America won because the system won, the system of law won.  The jury, probably the most pressure cooker jury in the history of our jurisprudence, focused on the facts and consistently through the verdict sheets, three jurors kept saying and signing to the effect that he did not know or have—he had minimal  knowledge, if any knowledge, of the 911 attacks.  And I think that‘s the message here.  I think the jury basically is to be very proud.  Because if we‘re going to take someone‘s life relative to those heinous crimes of 9/11, we have to be 110 percent correct that that person actually had a role in the 9/11 attacks. 

COSBY: Mr. Hamud, let me (INAUDIBLE) let me highlight what you were saying about the jury‘s decision, because three jurors said that he had a minor role in 9/11. Three other jurors said he had limited knowledge of the 9/11 plot.   Nine jurors said he had an unstable childhood and nine jurors said that his father physically abused his family.  But this guy had such horrible vitriol.  Was he an al Qaeda wannabe or do you think he actually did play a major role?

HAMUD: No, I think he admitted to membership in al Qaeda and receiving

money from it.  I think he talked himself into at least 20 years in prison,

just by his antics and his statement. And I think frankly, that -

COSBY: But don‘t you think he could have stopped one plane? We were hearing that today, that he could have stopped one plane. Isn‘t that enough to send this guy to the death chamber?

HAMUD: No, the jury had all that before them. You have to honor the jury system.  You have to honor the jury system.  And I think that jury did a heck of a job.  They came out with a decision that they feel is correct because they carried the conscience of America to the jury deliberations room.  They were representing all of us in there and they were representing the system. 

COSBY: Well, (INAUDIBLE) A lot of people are disgusted with this decision and outraged with this decision.  And with me now in our studio is Clifford Russell, who lost his brother Stephen.  He‘s a firefighter at the world Trade Center.  And also with us is Arlene Howard, whose son, George, was a Port Authority police officer who also died on 9/11.  First of all, you just heard the attorney saying that the justice system worked.  Clifford, you‘ve got a beautiful memento here of your brother.  What do you have with you?

CLIFFORD RUSSELL: Well, this is the headpiece of the helmet that my brother wore to work that morning, and this is all I have left of my brother. 

COSBY: When you hear the attorney, do you think justice was served?

RUSSELL: Well, the jury was subjected to a lot of emotional testimony by 9/11 victims.  But the one thing that the jury couldn‘t experience was the taste and the smell of death.  And that taste and smell of death is what I had to taste and smell when I couldn‘t go home and eat dinner after serving many days down at the World Trade Center.  And if that could have been injected above and beyond what you could imagine could be emotionally experienced, that physical stench and taste is what I had to put up with, not only myself, hundreds and hundreds of others.  And by the way, Mrs.  Howard, the Russell family extends its condolences to the loss of your son, George, a great police officer. 

ARLENE HOWARD: Same to you, too, my dear.  Thank you.

COSBY:  Both of your relatives are real heroes and America is very proud of what they did.  How do you feel when you hear about the verdict?  Do you feel like Clifford does?

HOWARD: They should have hung him.  In fact, they should burn him at the stake.  He burnt all those bodies.  I don‘t care whether they say he had a part in it or not.  And he‘s all alone.  No way, the others all burned up in those planes.  So how could they be there to stand trial and that‘s what they should do to him.

COSBY:  What do you make of the defense attorney who just said look, he was an al Qaeda wannabe, trying to inject himself, speaking—do you buy that at all?

HOWARD: No, I do not.  I do not buy what any of these attorneys say.  And to think that they stand there and defend these people who kill Americans is beyond my thoughts. 

COSBY: What was your reaction when you heard the verdict come down?

HOWARD: I said they should have hung him. 

COSBY: Were you angry? I‘m sure. 

HOWARD: Oh, yes, very angry, very angry about it. 

COSBY: Some of the family members and I want to play (ph) because some of the 9/11 family members feel that justice was served.  Let me play what some of them said right after the decision. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I know you expect me to come up here and say that I disagree with the verdict of the jurors, because I believe in the death penalty.  But I‘m not.  I totally and wholeheartedly agree with what the decision of the juror today. 

CARIE LEMACK, MOTHER DIED ON 9/11: There were a lot of family members who wanted to see Zacarias Moussaoui die.  But there are a lot of family members who did not.  And the jury looked at the evidence. They made their decisions, and I‘m proud of them today and I know my mom would be proud of them, too. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSBY: What do you say, Clifford, when you hear that from those families?

RUSSELL: Well, first of all, he should be put to death.  There‘s no question about it.  The other thing is, he would have said I won, America lost, whether he was put to death or whether he was not put to death, because they‘re all suicidal people.  They‘re all going in with the intention of killing themselves on behalf of whatever they‘ve been brainwashed to believe. 

COSBY: How disgusted were you? That line just to me is chilling and just one of the most vile things I‘ve ever heard.  For him to say, America, you lost, I won. Did that just cut you to the core?

RUSSELL: Definitely, definitely. 

COSBY: I mean it‘s outrageous. 

RUSSELL: He would have said it anyway. 

COSBY: He would have.  You know, you talked about going down to ground zero. 

RUSSELL: Well, I went to Iraq. 

COSBY: And you also went down to look for your brother. 

RUSSELL: Exactly. 

COSBY: How was that for you just emotionally? And reliving this trial, has that been tough? You brought the badge, actually. 

RUSSELL:  I have the pass they give you to go to the Moussaoui trial. 

COSBY:  You went in there?

RUSSELL: Yes, for a short period of time.  And I said to myself while I was there, I‘m just wasting more of my time.  What wasn‘t a waste of time was going down to the WTC after the massacre and help people help themselves or look for - who‘s going to look for your own better than yourself?    And luckily, as Mrs. Howard even states, the weight that‘s lifted off your shoulders when the loved one is recovered is another planet. Most of the people that have serious, serious issues right now are people who have not been recovered and it‘s a world of difference.  It has to be experienced.

COSBY: One of the things too, in the case of your son we all remember President Bush acknowledging your son, and that must have made you just so proud.  Let me play when everybody saw the world acknowledging your son. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:   I will carry this.  It is the police shield of a man named George Howard who died at the World Trade Center trying to save others. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSBY: How do you want people to remember your son?

HOWARD: He was a hero.  He loved his job.  And he thought that he was doing the best that he possibly could.  (INAUDIBLE) We were very lucky. We had his body.  But I‘ve been to so many meetings with so many young wives and mothers and children do not have anything.  Some of them might even have a badge or maybe a memo book.  But that‘s nothing compared to what we were able to have.  We were lucky.  My heart goes out to them to this day, and how they could say they don‘t want this guy to die—I mean, I‘d burn him at the stake if I was in charge, believe me because they all burnt to death. 

COSBY: We‘re right there with you.  We thank you so much. Our prayers are with you both of you every today.  And thank you for being, I know it was a tough day for both of you.  I appreciate it. 

RUSSELL: Death to Moussaoui. 

HOWARD: Thank you.

COSBY: And stick with us, everybody.  There‘s a lot more coming up right here on “Live & Direct.” Everybody take a look. 

Still ahead, two college scandals.  The district attorney in the Duke rape investigation joins me after winning re-election.  And he comes out swinging.  Will there be any changes in the case?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE NIFONG: I‘m not somebody who has ever had much of a reputation for backing down. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSBY: And in Colorado, snitchers wanted.  Dozens of college students caught in the act, smoking pot at a massive marijuana party.  Find out what police are doing to encourage their friends to rat them out. 

And who has to leave “American Idol”? Tonight find out what it was like being there as cast members are whittled down to the final four.  Former idol contestant, Deanna Degarmo (ph) takes a night off Broadway to tell me who she thinks will win it all. 

And you are now looking at live pictures of a stunt so dangerous that the stunt man is literally risking life and limb.  David Blaine, the man inside that bubble is going to join me as he tries to set a world record underwater.  I‘m going to ask him why.  Believe it or not he‘s going to be able to talk to me from inside that bubble.  There he is and he is coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COSBY: Denver is called the mile high city because it‘s up in the mountains.  But it‘s the city of Boulder where people are in trouble for getting high, as in stoned.  Pictures of students celebrating and smoking pot have landed on the Internet all thanks to the police at the University of Colorado and some students are furious.  The school itself is offering a reward to students who are willing to identify some of the alleged culprits in those pictures, meaning their fellow students.  Reporter Chris Vanderveen (ph), from NBC affiliate KUSA has the very controversial story. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We‘re just up here celebrating 4/20.

CHRIS VANDERVEEN, KUSA: Police will tell them.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 4/20 is the time you‘re supposed to smoke pot, fourth month of the year, 20th day.

VANDERVEEN:  It‘s not as if we didn‘t warn you although you did have to read the relatively fine print. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yeah dude, come get high with us.

LT. TIM McGRAW: You know, yeah, I wouldn‘t break my heart if it went away. 

VANDERVEEN: Lieutenant Tim McGraw isn‘t about to apologize for this, or for this, or for this. 

McGRAW: Frankly, we‘re going to use any lawful means we can in order to help discourage this. 

VANDERVEEN: As far as he‘s concerned what he did or what she did was illegal.  And therefore, what CU did in return, placing photographers at the unsuspecting crowd is quite all right. 

McGRAW: It came from a variety of different sources. 

VANDERVEEN: Like who?

McGRAW: Not going to tell you. 

VANDERVEEN: Why not?

McGRAW: Because they‘ll be out there again next year if this occurred. 

MASON TVERT, MARIJUANA ADVOCATE: Why didn‘t they cite people there if they had a problem? Why is it that they waited until now? In our opinion, this is a very cowardly gesture by the police department. 

VANDERVEEN: Marijuana legalization advocate Mason Tvert says hold on a second. 

TVERT: It‘s gotten to the point where they‘re now treating them like child molesters by putting their pictures on the Internet and offering rewards for information about them. 

VANDERVEEN: Of course, we were there as well and we didn‘t have a hard time getting pictures either. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My parents are going to see me on TV smoking weed. 

VANDERVEEN: It‘s just that now those parents may also see them smoking weed on the Internet as well. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COSBY: And that was reporter Chris Vanderveen from the NBC affiliate KUSA.  So just what are students saying about these pot party pictures?  “Live & Direct” tonight from the Mile High City is reporter Paula Paint (ph). She‘s with the “Colorado Daily” newspaper.  Paula Pant, Paula, forgive me, I mispronounced your name, but Paula, tell us about these photos.  What are students saying?

PAULA PANT, REPORTER, THE COLORADO DAILY: Students I would not describe as outraged, as much as I would describe them as simply incredulous.  This event has happened for many years and there‘s a precedent that has been established in which students have gone to the field to smoke marijuana without repercussions being handed to them.  They‘re very surprised that this is happening this year. 

COSBY: And what could they face because remember, at this point, the students have not been convicted of anything.  What could they be facing and what kind of charges?

PANT: The police department is leaving open the possibility of criminally prosecuting them. 

COSBY: For what?

PANT: Although—possession of marijuana, which is a class two petty offense, punishable by a $100 fine. 

COSBY: You know, we know that there‘s a lot of students, obviously, in all these different pictures.  How many have been identified so far?

PANT: More than 60 as of this afternoon out of 150 that were posted on the Internet. 

COSBY: And what is happening in terms of with those 60? Do they expect it will go to charges?

PANT: No.  The police do not expect to charge anybody.  They‘re leaning towards handing off the identities of the people who were identified to the judicial affairs office of the university, such that judicial affairs would be able to deal with them at the university level, rather than at the criminal level.  What this will do -- 

COSBY: What I think is amazing—I‘m sorry to interrupt you Paula, because the university is offering a $50 reward.  Is this inspiring the students to rat on each other, and aren‘t there some students saying this is not fair?

PANT: There are definitely many students who are saying that this is not fair.  And there are many students who feel as though they‘re being backstabbed by some friends.  I‘ve heard it referred to as a snitching project. 

COSBY: I believe that.  I‘m sure that some are just livid.  The other thing, university police posted a sign saying that the field was closed and that the video and photographic surveillance was in use.  Did these students like not take that seriously? Did they not see the sign? What‘s the background here?

PANT: Actually what happened was the police closed the field in which this event takes place from noon until 5:00 p.m.  And they put up barricades and signs stating that the field was closed.  A crowd rushed on to the field at 4:05 p.m. that day and tore down the barricades, tore down signs.  So anybody who arrived on the field after 4:05 could reasonably argue that they did not see the signs.  Anybody who was there prior to 4:05 would state that—

COSBY: That they saw the signs at that point.  Paula, please keep us posted and let us know because I‘m sure a lot of students are very frustrated about their colleagues ratting on them.  Thank you very much. 

And now we turn to the other college scandal that‘s been gripping headlines across  the country and it‘s a case that we here on “Live & Direct” have been following extensively.  Tonight, the now re-elected Durham district attorney is coming out swinging.  Just one day after his big win, Mike Nifong says he won‘t be pressured to back down from the Duke gang rape case.  He told me what he really thinks about the defense tactics and the re-election and why he thinks he won the DA seat over his competitors. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MIKE NIFONG: I‘d like to think it was because the voters saw that I was the best candidate. 

COSBY: What message do you think this sends about the people of Durham, that they re-elected you? And, of course, there‘s so much focus on the Duke case.  Do you think it says that they backed the way that you‘ve been doing it?

NIFONG: I‘m not really sure that this was a referendum on the Duke case.  I think a lot of people wanted to make it that.  I think it was just as much a referendum on my 27 years with the office and whether or not the voters were wanting that to be continued. 

COSBY: I know the defense was asking to get you removed from the case. 

Is there any chance you would be removed?

NIFONG: No.  The short answer is no.  You have to understand that obviously, the defense attorneys would probably prefer to try the case against somebody who is less experienced than I am or against somebody who is less committed to the case than I am.  And you can certainly understand that.  I mean, if I were one of those attorneys, I wouldn‘t really want to try a case against me either. 

COSBY: You will continue forward. 

NIFONG: Yes. 

COSBY: Will you personally try the case?

NIFONG: Yes. 

COSBY: And when do you think it may go to trial?  

NIFONG: It‘s impossible to know right now.  My best guess is sometime next spring. 

COSBY: Do you think it will make it to trial?

NIFONG: Yes. 

COSBY: Some on the defense team have even suggested you‘ll be investigated for ethics violations.  Have you done anything ethically wrong?

NIFONG: I have not.  I understand that that‘s just another way of somebody trying to pressure someone to back down, and I‘m not somebody who has ever had much of a reputation for backing down. 

COSBY: The defense is also saying that you ignored exculpatory evidence, particularly in the case of Reade Seligmann a few days after the indictment came down.  What do you say?

NIFONG: Well, what is exculpatory or inculpatory evidence always depends on the context in which the evidence was offered.  If somebody, for instance, offers an alibi with respect to one time, that does not necessarily help much with respect to another time.  A lot of assumptions are made any time the defense team offers what they say is exculpatory evidence with respect to what the state‘s case actually is.  As of right now, I don‘t believe that the members of the defense team really understand what the state‘s case is or to the extent that they do, they don‘t want to talk about that. 

COSBY: They‘re saying that maybe the wrong guy has been pulled.  If he

had seen the ATM records, if he had seen the surveillance video, the cab

driver -

NIFONG: I‘ve seen all those.  I have seen all that, yes, ma‘am. 

COSBY: And has that changed your impression of who‘s been indicted?

NIFONG: No, ma‘am. 

COSBY: This woman has been criticized.  Is there something you want to say just about, you know, people who have come forward claiming rape? This woman has been severely under attack and her background, you know, the other rape accusation.  Are you surprised how much they‘re going after this woman‘s character?

COSBY:  Obviously, I am disappointed that things are being put out in the manner that they are.  Suggestions were made that things had happened 13 years ago, somehow shed doubt on the credibility of a witness today, when there‘s absolutely nothing that has been put forward that indicates that.  And what does happen, what is heard about any previous accounts is going to be something that a judge will have to rule on the admissibility of before trial. 

COSBY: Do you think this woman will be able to handle it and move forward and actually make it to trial?

NIFONG: I do. 

COSBY: You do.  You think she‘ll be able to testify?

NIFONG: I do. 

COSBY: May 15.  Do you believe that will be a critical day?

NIFONG: It‘s significant because it is the first time that the case has moved into our case management system.  But I really don‘t expect much of significance to happen with respect to the case on that day.  May 15 is also the day that we are expecting lab reports back on the second round of DNA testing.  And so that obviously also has the potential to be significant. 

COSBY: I believe you‘re someone who maybe has something more than the public knows. 

NIFONG: Well, one would hope that I would not be proceeding without some evidence.  And there is a lot more evidence in the hands of the defense attorneys right now than most of the public knows about.  And I expect that soon there will be more such evidence. 

COSBY: Is it safe to say just in general you have a lot more than we know about?

NIFONG: I think that‘s probably pretty safe to say. 

COSBY: Are you worried if this case gets dismissed or thrown out by the judge that you‘ll be labeled?

NIFONG: Well, the first response is I don‘t really expect that the case will be dismissed or thrown out by the judge, as you say.  So I don‘t really anticipate that‘s going to be something to worry about.  But there again, it‘s the difference between character and reputation.  Character is what you are and reputation is what people say about you.  I‘m not really worried about what people say about me, particularly people who don‘t know me. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COSBY: And, everybody, we‘re going to stay on this case, both sides of the story.  And still ahead, everybody, we‘ve told you about teachers accused of being inappropriate with their students.  But tonight, find out what one teacher did to get charged with attempted murder.  And next, we‘ll take you live to Lincoln Center in New York City where illusionist David Blaine, is attempting a stunt so dangerous it could cost him his life.  You‘re looking live at him now.  What an incredible sight and he‘s going to join me live. We‘re actually going to be talking to him inside the bubble next. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COSBY:  And right now you are looking at live pictures of illusionist, David Blaine, in the heart of Lincoln Square, Manhattan.  He is attempting yet another one of his incredible death-defying stunts.  And just two days ago David Blaine submerged himself in the life-size fish bowl.  He‘s planning to spend a week in there without solid food.  So far he‘s made it through three days.

And what‘s more unbelievable, after the stunt is over this coming Monday, David Blaine will attempt to break a world record by holding his breath for nine minutes.  David, first off, everyone wants to know—can you hear me, first of all?

DAVID BLAINE, MAGICIAN:  I can hear you perfectly.

COSBY:  How are you feeling right now?

BLAINE:  I feel pretty good, actually.

COSBY:  How are you spending your days in the bubble?

BLAINE:  Say that again.

COSBY:  How are you spending your time inside the bubble underwater?

BLAINE:  I‘ve had a lot of support from New York and the people have been coming by and bringing their kids and writing really nice messages and signs.  So I‘ve spent the days occupied with that.  And the nighttimes have been difficult, because it‘s hard to sleep here at the bottom.  The pressure is pretty strong.  It‘s like swimming at the bottom of an eight-foot deep pool.  That pressure that builds up in your head is continual.  And my hands and feet obviously are completely waterlogged, so they‘re pins and needles all over.

COSBY:  How do you sleep and how much sleep have you gotten?

BLAINE:  Probably total I‘ve slept about seven hours.  So not much.  But I‘ve taken little naps throughout the day now.

COSBY:  And I have to ask this.  How do you go to the bathroom?  How do you get food?

BLAINE:  Well, I fasted for a week before I came in here so I would have no solids inside of me.  So that worked for that part.  And then as far as the other thing, I have a tube that goes out into—this little tube that goes down into a filter at the bottom.  So it kind of connects into this little thing.  And the filter is really strong, so it pulls all the waste out.

COSBY:  Do you have a sense of do you know what day it is, what time it is, even?

BLAINE:  No.  I‘ve lost all sense of reality in here.  It‘s almost like being in outer space, I would imagine, because you have no—you know, you almost—you feel weightless in here.  And also, in the nighttime the lights are shining this way.  So I only see a weird iridescent glow in front of my eyes and I can‘t really see anything that‘s out beyond me in the night time.  And then in the daytime it‘s a different experience.

COSBY:  You know, here you are underwater.  Can you think clearly?  Do you feel like you have your capacities?  You‘ve been in there now a few days.

BLAINE:  Yeah.  I think your mind is active in any situation identical to any other situation, I think.  So maybe even clearer here because there‘s less distractions.

COSBY:  You know, your doctor advised you not to do this.  Why did you decide to go forward?  Why was this important to you?

BLAINE:  You know, when I was a little boy I always was obsessed with the idea of somebody living in a bubble.  I used to imagine this kind of thing.  So that, plus my interest in Houdini and the idea of being shackled up and held underwater for long periods of time.  I combined the two of them.  Because I‘m doing a week in here.  And that at the end of the week, no matter what condition I‘m in, they‘re going to pull my body up to the top.  They‘re going to chain me up with about 150 pounds of chains and then they‘re going to drop me back into the bottom of here.  And it will take me about nine minutes to get out or drown.  And I don‘t think I‘m going to drown.  I think I‘ll pull it off.

COSBY:  Why are you doing that at your weakest point after you‘re spending a week underwater?  And how do you train for something like this?

BLAINE:  I spent about seven months training all day and all night, pretty much, besides working on my next show, making all the magic for.  But I‘ve spent countless hours working on breath-holding.  What I would do is I would put the treadmill up on an incline of 15.  And first, I would run it for about an hour with it at a speed five, and then we would turn the treadmill off and I would run it manually.  And as I was running it manually on a 15 incline, which is a real nightmare, I would be doing breath holds.  So I would hold my breath for about 10 to 20 seconds and then I would breathe for either 10 to 20 seconds and then I would hold.  And then do it continuously, and then do lots of breathing exercises to increase my lung capacity and everything else that‘s necessary.

COSBY:  You‘re amazing.  Let me bring in your doctor real quick who‘s right next to you, right outside your bubble.  Dr. Gunel, this is the doctor at Yale University‘s head of neurology, Murat Gunel.  Are you worried about this guy?  What is he experiencing?

DR. MURAT GUNEL, NEUROVASCULAR SURGERY, YALE UNIVERSITY:  First, a couple of things.  I‘m actually the chief of neurovascular surgery, so I‘m a neurosurgeon.  And the second thing is that this actually has nothing to do with an illusion.  And he is really pushing himself to the limit.  And as he mentioned before, he is doing this against the best advice.  And he‘s under tremendous stress just because of the hard training that he has put himself through.  And not only he has pushed his limits with that, but he has not fed himself and been into this sphere underwater, under significant stress.  And after this he‘s going to now live in there, underwater, which is basically living in space, in a weightless environment, which has significant side effects and after that going to try to break the world breath-holding record and on top of that come out at the last minute saying that he‘s going to be changed.  So all of these are very real and he‘s in significant danger, but he understands all of those.  And, of course, this is how he is and how he expresses himself.

COSBY:  It‘s amazing, doctor.

GUNEL:  It is amazing.

COSBY:  You know, David Blaine, let me go to you, as we‘re looking at you.  This is just—it‘s incredible to see you and awe-striking that you‘re actually able to sustain yourself there.  Are you worried about dying in there?

BLAINE:  Say that again, Rita.

COSBY:  Do you fear death?  We just heard from the doctor about some of the dangers.  Are you worried you could die in there?

BLAINE:  No, I don‘t think that that‘s a possibility.  I mean, I‘m sure it is a possibility, but I don‘t think about it that way.  I just focus on how to get through this the best and most efficient way, to conserve my energy for the end part, which is the really dangerous part.

COSBY:  You know, David, one of the things—we can‘t see too much now, but we know—I have seen 10,000 people have already come through to visit you.  And we‘re lucky we can talk to you through a microphone.  But you‘re able to communicate with them, what, through a little message board?  Can you show us how you‘re able to communicate with all your fans?

BLAINE:  Yes.  I‘ll show you my little message board.

COSBY:  Oh, lots of suspense.

BLAINE:  Can you see that?

COSBY:  Let‘s see if we can see.  “Oh, love to Rita MSNBC.”  David, thank you so much.  Our love to you and our prayers to you as you sit there a few more days, stand there a few more days, and you truly are an incredible human being.  We wish you lots of luck and thank you for being with us underwater.  And doctor, thank you, keeping a good eye on him.  Thank you very much.

And everybody, what an incredible thing.  I think it‘s the most incredible interview I‘ve ever done.  Good luck to David Blaine and we‘re going to have some “American Idol” right after the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BRITTANY OLDHAM, FRIEND OF ASHLEY REEVES:  I‘m just trying to like think in the positive way, that at least she‘s still alive.  At least she‘s with her family.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSBY:  The 17-year-old Illinois girl is lucky to be alive tonight after, get this, a high schoolteacher allegedly broke her neck and left her to die in the woods.  She was found clinging to life 30 hours after she first went missing.  And we‘re joined now by Beth Hundsdorfer, she is covering the story for the “Belleville News-Democrat” newspaper.  Beth, what do investigators say happened to Ashley?

BETH HUNDSDORFER, REPORTER, “BELLEVILLE NEWS-DEMOCRAT”:  She left about 3:30 a week ago and she was going to a job interview.  She told her family she was going to a job interview.  And police say at that point me met Sam Shelton at a park and left with him.  They found her in another park after her 30 hours and her neck had been broken and she had been strangled.

COSBY:  You know, Beth, we‘re looking at a picture of the accused teacher. 

What do we know about him and his background?

HUNDSDORFER:  He‘s been a teacher at a local high school for a couple of years.  He also taught in St. Louis for a year.  He hasn‘t been a teacher very long.  Physical education and drivers‘ education teacher.

COSBY:  And also, doesn‘t he have a wrestling background?

HUNDSDORFER:  Yes, he‘s a professional wrestler that goes under the name of “The Teacher” or “Mr. Discipline.”

COSBY:  And now he‘s accused of a lot more than disciplining a student.  One of her friends talked about—you know, everyone is wondering what is a possible motive.  Let me play, this is a comment from one of Ashley‘s friends.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OLDHAM:  Some people are saying she had a relationship-relationship with him, and that‘s not her, you know.  She had a boyfriend.  She asked me, she‘s like do you remember—you know, do you remember our teacher, our student teacher, and I was just like, yeah, I know who you‘re talking about.  And she‘s like—well, I saw him last night, you know.  And that‘s all she ever said.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSBY:  Do we know if there was some sort of relationship between the two or what the motive could have been?

HUNDSDORFER:  Well, it‘s pretty clear that she denied a romantic relationship with him.  The police haven‘t characterized it as a romantic relationship, although there are some doubts and it does appear that they were dating.

COSBY:  Most importantly, how is she doing right now?

HUNDSDORFER:  She‘s still in serious condition at Children‘s Hospital in St. Louis.  She was in a shock-like state after, you know, being out in the weather.  It was very rainy and cold that night and she was exposed to a lot of insect bites.  So they‘re dealing with a lot of things right now.

COSBY:  And she‘s lucky to be alive.  Beth, thank you very much.  And everybody, we‘ll continue to follow this story.  Plus, everyone, there‘s a lot more coming up right here on MSNBC tonight.  Let‘s check in with Tucker Carlson now with a preview.  Tucker, what do you have on THE SITUATION?  I see you have a haircut it looks like.

TUCKER CARLSON, MSNBC HOST:  I do.  I don‘t typically admit that.  But I‘ll admit that to you.

COSBY:  I see it.

CARLSON:  You‘re bringing the truth out of me.  I don‘t know what it is.  We‘re going to have a follow-up on the remarkable and really upsetting story you‘ve just been talking about.  We‘ll give you the top five survivor stories of all-time.  Plus, stay-at-home moms often point out that they‘re underappreciated.  That is true.  Tonight we have evidence that it‘s numerically true.  A new study assigns a dollar value to the work women do at home.  It‘s very high.  We‘ll tell you what it is.  We‘ll be right back.

COSBY:  And we‘ll be watching, Tucker.  Thank you very much.  And still ahead, everybody, it‘s down to the final four on “American Idol.”  But is the real story of what went on with the judges tonight?  Did Paula get out of control?  And did Simon control his tongue?  The inside details from folks who were there coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SIMON COWELL, TV PERSONALITY:  You know, like randy and Paula said, some good performances, some not so good performances.  Advice next week, if you‘re in the competition, choose good songs.

RYAN SEACREST, TV PERSONALITY:  And how would you judge yourself tonight?

COWELL:  Me?  I was absolutely 9 ½ out of 10.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSBY:  Well, Judge Simon Cowell has spoken, and so have the voters.  Paris Bennett is the latest “American Idol” hopeful sent home, and it happened just a few minutes ago.  Now we are down to the final four and one step closer to finding out who‘s the next “American Idol.”

And we‘re joined now by former “American Idol” contestant.  Only 19 (ph), this is amazing, Diana DeGarmo who‘s now performing in the musical “Hairspray” and doing awesome and on the phone us “US Magazine Ken Baker who was just sitting in in the audience of tonight‘s “American Idol” show.  Diana, first, your reaction to Paris getting kicked off.  What do you think?

DIANA DEGARMO, FORMER “IDOL” CONTESTANT:  You know, when it comes down to so many, with just five and everybody is so good, it‘s so hard to see somebody good.  I was in there nail-biting as I‘m watching the show, feeling like I was there again all over.

But it‘s so hard.  Somebody has to go, like they say.  But the great thing is is that “American Idol” gives you so many open doors and opportunities, that she‘s going to go so far.  She‘s got a fantastic future ahead of her.

COSBY:  Were you surprised she was the one kicked off this time?

BENNETT:  It‘s hard, because I‘m afraid - it‘s kind of like saying which kid do you like the best.  I‘m such a fan of all of them.  Being a former person on “American Idol,” I feel what they‘re feeling and I know what they‘re going through.  They all want to keep going and they all want make it down to the number one or the number two.  But like I say, great doors of opportunity are going to open for her.  She‘s going to have no problems with her future.

COSBY:  Ken Baker, what was the mood inside there?  Did they think that this was her time to leave?

KEN BAKER, “US MAGAZINE”:  Well, the mood on the set—I was in the audience tonight and the mood was somewhat of a surprise.  I wouldn‘t say shock.  I think everyone sort of realized that Paris didn‘t have a good night last night, and Simon was very harsh on her.  But honestly, if you talk to people, you polled them in the audience before and they thought Katharine McPhee (ph) was going to go.  McPhee (ph) had a really poor performance last night, so a lot of people were surprised.  But I think that what‘s happened is what always happens at “Idol” is at the end of the day, when all contestants are gone, it‘s down to the top two or three, and the best person usually wins.  And I think what it‘s going to come down to, it‘s going to either be Chris or it‘s going to be Taylor, and that‘s what everyone thinks.  And it certainly is looking like that, at least in the final few weeks here.

COSBY:  What was the crowd like there, Ken, tonight, inside?

BAKER:  Well, you know, it was interesting.  Because it‘s really become such a phenomenon that the judges and Ryan Seacrest, the host, they‘re (inaudible) the contestants themselves.  It‘s funny, but what you don‘t see off-camera is Paula Abdul and Simon Cowell and Randy Jackson and Ryan Seacrest walk in, the crowd goes bananas.  They‘ve become stars in their own right.  But, of course, it really is ultimately about the contestants, it‘s about the idols, it‘s about them singing.  And it‘s just a rabid fan base and you see nothing like it like you see on the set of “American Idol.”  It‘s really special.

COSBY:  Diana knows that all to well.  Diana, talk about pressure, too.  What is it like when you‘re up there?  You made it to the whole deal, right.  You were one away.

DEGARMO:  Yes, one away.

COSBY:  That was a biggie when you were that close.

DEGARMO:  It was very big.

COSBY:  Talk about the pressure, as we‘re looking at some shots of you. 

What was going through the minds of these people tonight?

DEGARMO:  Well, it‘s funny, because compared to when you‘re in the top 32, there‘s maybe like 100 people.  For some people that never performed before, that‘s a big audience.  When you move into the top 12, then you have easily almost 500 to 600 people standing in front of you, all faces, people just screaming.  And then you have to think about the people on the other side of those cameras, all 30 million viewers who might be watching.  And sometimes it gets a little nail-biting, but you have to remember that the people that are judging first and foremost are those three judges, those three faces right down in front.  So you just have to go out there and have a good time.

COSBY:  This is one tough thing because this is what Simon Cowell said last night about Paris Bennett.  This is a precursor.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COWELL:  Screechy and annoying.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DEGARMO:  Well, sometimes Simon can lead what the judges .

COSBY:  He just said screeching and annoying.  You could sort of hear it faintly.  Does that sort of say, here‘s what‘s coming up, everybody.

DEGARMO:  You know, I had many nights where he didn‘t exactly agree with what I—everything from the way I dressed to the way I did my hair to finally what the song might have been.  But I think it does come down to what the people at home, who they‘re voting for.  Of course, the judges can sort of of course give their opinion, but it‘s all who gets the most votes.

COSBY:  Well, you‘ve got a great smile.  Stick with us.  Diana, Ken, stick with us.  More “Idol” worship, everybody, when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COSBY:  And we‘re back now with more of “American Idol” and its big craze.  Our guest Diana DeGarmo from “American Idol” season three and also Ken Baker from “US Magazine.”

Diana, you know, this year it is huge.  What is it about this season?  Does it just keep building or are the folks just really good?

DEGARMO:  I think the one thing is, going into the fifth season, like you said, the fifth show collectively gets more and more viewers, but I think Kelly Clarkson really helped out, she went to the Grammies and went home with three or four Grammies, which I was ecstatic and so proud of her, they saw that good talent came out of “American Idol.”

COSBY:  Speaking of good talent, Ken, this is what the viewers vote for “Idol.”  Thirty-five percent great voice, 20 percent star quality, 19 percent say they like a specific person, 10 percent say song choice.  Do you think the viewers are the best judges?

BAKER:  They are.  But you know what‘s missing in those statistics are how many people vote as Simon tells them to vote.  Because I really do think that Simon Cowell has a talent of saying what‘s on everyone‘s mind, and when he says something, people say, I was thinking the exact same thing.  And a lot of people will vote as Simon wants them to vote.  And if you look, he was pretty critical of Paris this week, look what happened.

COSBY:  Diana is shaking her head, Ken, if you can see.  Do you agree and what has “Idol” done for you?  You‘re on Broadway.

DEGARMO:  “Idol” has done so much for me - since I didn‘t win, that‘s OK.  I‘m on Broadway doing “Hairspray,” I‘m going to be doing the Brooklyn First National Tour this summer .

COSBY:  You have an album.

DEGARMO:  And I have an album out.  “Blue Skies” which I am very proud of and I and working on another one.  Great things have been happening for me.

COSBY:  And who do you predict the best thing is going to happen for this season.  Stand on the forefront (ph).  Ken said Chris or Taylor.  So who do you .

DEGARMO:  I agree.  You can kind of see the show has been kind of leaning towards Chris and Taylor.  I do think out of all it‘s going to be a male, but I think it‘s going to be hard to see—you don‘t know what‘s going to happen in the end.

COSBY:  Well, we wish you lots of luck.

DEGARMO:  Thank you.

COSBY:  It‘s so great having you here.  Look for her album and look for her on Broadway and Ken, thank you very much for taking us inside and everybody that does it for us on LIVE & DIRECT.  I‘m Rita Cosby.  THE SITUATION with Tucker starts right now.  Tucker?

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.

transcripts

Watch Rita Cosby Live & Direct each weeknight at 10 p.m. ET

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,