updated 2/24/2010 2:56:54 PM ET 2010-02-24T19:56:54

Guests: Ed Miller, Timothy Fuhrman, Flora Jessop, John Llewellyn, Rowenna Erickson, David Feige, Lisa Pinto, William Hellerstein, Tanika Ray, Brandon Gray

RITA COSBY, HOST:  And good evening, everybody. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FERNANDO BERMUDEZ, SAYS HE‘S WRONGLY CONVICTED FOR MURDER:  One of my

greatest fears is that I may die in prison proclaiming my innocence. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSBY:  We‘re going to have a LIVE & DIRECT investigation.  Eyewitnesses helped send this man to prison for murder, but find out why they‘ve changed their story and why he is still behind bars tonight. 

And just moments ago, magician David Blaine was supposed to have finished his death-defying stunt.  Did he do it?  And did he make it out alive?  We will show you what happened. 

But first, tonight, one of the nation‘s most notorious polygamists is now the focus of an all-out manhunt by U.S. law enforcement.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  We‘re grateful to the FBI for including Warren Jeffs on the top 10 most wanted list.  It puts him in some extraordinary company, including people like Osama bin Laden.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSBY:  Warren Jeffs‘ has now been added to the list of the country‘s most dangerous criminals.  He‘s accused of forcing polygamist marriages and sexual acts between married men and underage girls.  As you just heard, Jeffs is now among the world‘s most wanted. 

And helping to track him down is reporter Ed Miller with “America‘s Most Wanted.” 

Ed, tell us how dangerous this guy is?  What‘s he charged with?

ED MILLER, REPORTER, “AMERICA‘S MOST WANTED”:  Well, you know, the real charges are, of course, as you said, not just, you know, the polygamy, but the child marriages.  That‘s where most of the criticism has been. 

And he is accused of literally hundreds of marriages, arranging hundreds of these child marriages with young girls as young as 13 to 17.  There are 8,000 to 10,000 followers, and the young girls do not go to school, since 2000.  He pulled them out of public schools. 

They are taught in their own special schools, which are really much more like indoctrination schools in which they are told:  This is what the prophet wants.  Do this, or you will go to Hell. 

COSBY:  You know, you talk about the prophet.  Let me show a little clip, Ed, from “America‘s Most Wanted.”  You talk about how this guy arranges these marriages.  Let me show it. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  He comes into your home.  He looks at your 14-year-old daughter, decides that it‘s time for her to marry. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Please!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Hush up, child.  You don‘t want to keep the prophet waiting.  God knows what he‘s doing. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSBY:  And, you know, that‘s a very powerful re-enactment, Ed.  How many people follow this guy? 

MILLER:  Well, about 8,000 to 10,000 real loyal followers, but there could be more.  There‘s a phrase that many of the followers use, which is called, “Keep sweet,” which means total and complete obedience.  Do exactly what he says, no matter what he says. 

Now, this includes financial support.  Many families have been told that they must give at least $1,000 each month to support his cause. 

Now, we‘re talking about somebody on the FBI‘s most wanted list.  It‘s kind of interesting.  Who else on the FBI‘s 10 most wanted list has millions of dollars at his disposal and has people willing to die for him?  Who do you think, Rita?

COSBY:  Well, that‘s my question.  Are these folks so fervent that they are willing to do whatever it takes to protect this guy?  And how scary is that?  Are we talking about a Waco ending possibly?  I mean, we all remembered, you know, David Koresh all going up in flames.  Are they worried about that scenario here? 

MILLER:  They are worried about that.  And there‘s also the situation that the FBI is trying to be more relevant.  These kinds of crimes are certainly much more, you know, common to the average Joe. 

In other words, the terrorist does not live next door, but the child abuser may very well.  And so this is part of the FBI‘s campaign to be more relevant to the average Joe, these crimes of forcing young girls into sex acts, is what this is really about. 

COSBY:  And let me play a little bit more from “America‘s Most Wanted,” because what you just—it was very powerful this weekend. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WARD JEFFS, WARREN JEFFS‘ HALF BROTHER:  He was the favorite son of my father and would undergo his game plan to satisfy his sexual indulgences and activities with boys, with girls, with young, young girls.  It didn‘t seem to matter. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSBY:  And again, you know, in this re-enactment, Ed, this is the half-brother.  There is a brother.  Is it the same one who has been arrested or is there a different one who‘s been arrested for helping this guy? 

MILLER:  The one that has been arrested has admitted to police and authorities that he did hide him for two years.  Now, that man has been arrested.  That‘s the one brother. 

There are other brothers.  There are other family members.  And authorities most likely feel that that is exactly what‘s happening here, that either family or these followers are hiding him, which is going to make their job very difficult. 

In response, I spoke to an investigator late this afternoon, in response to him being put on the 10 most wanted list, they have put the word out.  The followers have put the word out that the government is trying to kill our prophet.  And therefore, it is a matter of life and death to protect our prophet.  That‘s the word that they‘re spreading among the followers. 

COSBY:  Oh, that makes it very scary.  Ed, thank you.  Please keep us posted very much.

And so how or why did Warren Jeffs end up on the FBI‘s top 10 most wanted list?  LIVE & DIRECT tonight is FBI Special Agent Timothy Fuhrman.

Agent Fuhrman, let me get you to respond what we just heard from Ed Miller, that they put out the word through the followers that basically protect this guy at all costs.  The government‘s out to get you.  That puts it in a very adversarial position for your agents. 

TIMOTHY J. FUHRMAN, FBI SPECIAL AGENT:  Well, Rita, I would say the government is not out to get anybody in this case.  Mr. Jeffs... 

COSBY:  Absolutely.  But isn‘t that scary to you that they‘re actually putting out, you know, erroneous information?

FUHRMAN:  Well, I mean, I can‘t control what people put out and what their assessment of what the FBI‘s actions are.  We put him on the top 10 list because we felt he met the criteria and we were requested by local and state authorities in Arizona and Utah to assist in apprehending him. 

COSBY:  Yes, why was this the best time, and why now? 

FUHRMAN:  Well, number one, we had a situation where there was a vacancy on the top 10.  We recently had an individual who was apprehended after just several days on the top 10 list. 

Secondly, there are—these requests are made all of the time to FBI headquarters.  They‘re evaluated in Washington by our public affairs officials, by our criminal investigative division back there.  They make an objective, neutral assessment of who the best person to put on the list when an vacancy occurs, and that‘s what happened in this particular case. 

COSBY:  And, Agent Fuhrman, let me put up some of the charges that he‘s facing, as you talked about, in a variety of states.  In Arizona, he is facing two counts of sexual conduct with a minor, one count of conspiracy to commit sexual conduct with a minor, and also unlawful flight to avoid prosecution.  Also, in Utah, he‘s faced with rape as an accomplice. 

When was the last time this guy was seen?  And can you be sure that he hasn‘t changed his appearance? 

FUHRMAN:  Well, we believe he was last seen approximately two years ago.  Of course, we‘ve been looking for him since approximately June of last year when he was indicted in Arizona and the federal unauthorized flight to avoid prosecution charges were filed.  Whether or not he‘s changed his appearance, Rita, that‘s speculative and we have no way of knowing that. 

COSBY:  And most important, Agent, I want to make sure that everybody knows there‘s $100,000 reward in connection with this case.  So anybody, of course, please call the FBI if you have any information at all on this man.

And, Agent, we wish you a lot of luck.  Thank you very much.

FUHRMAN:  Thank you.  Thank you, Rita.

COSBY:  And joining us now are two women who managed to escape from polygamist sects, Flora Jessop and also Rowenna Erickson.  Flora left Warren Jeffs‘ cult after being forced to marry at the age of 13.  Rowenna spent 54 years in a polygamist sect and also later founded an anti-polygamy group called Tapestry Against Polygamy.  And also with us is former polygamist John Llewellyn. 

Let me start, if I could—we do have Flora, I believe, here.  Flora, what is your reaction to Warren Jeffs being on the top 10 most wanted list now? 

FLORA JESSOP, ESCAPED POLYGAMIST SECT:  Real quick, I would just like to correct one thing.  I was married at 16.

COSBY:  Oh, thank you very much.  I‘m sorry for the information that we got the wrong information.

JESSOP:  That‘s OK.

COSBY:  Flora, what‘s your reaction?

JESSOP:  As for Warren Jeffs being on the 10 most wanted, my question is:  What are they going to give him when they catch him?  Because he doesn‘t have very serious charges leveled against him.  He‘s only facing the maximum of two years in Arizona. 

COSBY:  So what do you think—do you think—why do you think he even made the list then? 

JESSOP:  Because of his—I think it‘s because of the control he has over all of the people, and that makes him very dangerous, because he has 10,000 people that are willing to kill and die to protect him. 

COSBY:  You know, you know this man, Flora.  What is he capable of?  And what was very scary—we just heard from Ed Miller.  He said that there‘s this word put out amongst this sect that the government is sort of out to get all you followers.  You know, protect this guy at all costs.  How devout are his followers and what could they do?

JESSOP:  They‘re absolute.  He‘s had over 1,000 boys in training as God‘s army for the last four years, that I‘m aware of.  And their mission is to cleanse the North American continent of all the wicked people.  We‘ve been taught this since I was a child. 

COSBY:  When you say training, what are they doing?  What kind of training are they doing?

JESSOP:  They‘re training with weapons.  They are very well-armed.  We do know of serial numbers off of semi-truck loads of weapons that have gotten.  They‘re willing to kill, and they‘re willing to die to protect him.  And they‘ll—at all cost. 

COSBY:  You know, John, as a former polygamist, what drives people to do this?  What is it about the mindset of someone to become a polygamist?

JOHN LLEWELLYN, FORMER POLYGAMIST:  Well, a lot of it has to do with power and also sex.  Right now, we have several organized polygamist groups.  And in my opinion, they‘re nothing more than merchandising plural wives.  It‘s all about power, sex and money.  And they have become a political force here in Utah, as well. 

COSBY:  And let me play also, because it‘s also become, you know, the topic of a HBO show called “Big Love.”  Let me play a little clip, because it‘s actually been spoken about quite a bit lately. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Nicky slept with Bill in my bed yesterday. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Nicky, is that true? 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I don‘t know what she‘s talking about.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Oh, yes, you do, and you know it. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Well, I‘m sorry, OK?  It just happened. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSBY:  You know, Rowenna, in that scene, they‘re sort of arguing over the husband.  Why would women go for this?  Why would women want to be attached to a polygamist, Rowenna? 

ROWENNA ERICKSON, ESCAPED FROM POLYGAMIST SECT:  It‘s brain-washing.  It‘s all about their salvation, their eternal salvation, and being obedient, and marrying a man who can gain his celestial glory and become a God in the hereafter. 

COSBY:  And, now, what age did you get involved in and how did you fall into it? 

ERICKSON:  I was born and raised in the group.  And my mother more or less conditioned me for that role, because my father didn‘t want to live it, and she was of the LDS faith.  And she thought that was the ultimate way to live.  So, because my father didn‘t want to, she conditioned myself and my older sister to do this. 

COSBY:  So what do you think, Rowenna, should happen to, you know, Warren Jeffs if he gets caught?  And let‘s hope he does. 

ERICKSON:  Well, I‘d like to see him put away for the rest of his life, because he‘s not going to change. 

COSBY:  And, John, what do you think, as a former polygamist yourself? 

What do you think should happen to this man? 

LLEWELLYN:  Right.  Well, he should be made an example of, because he‘s not the only tyrant or oppressive polygamist leader in Utah; there are others.  And he should be put away for life. 

COSBY:  Are you worried how this is going to end, Flora, you know, because his folks are so devout and so protective of him? 

JESSOP:  I am a little worried about the way it would end.  I think that there are steps they can take to stop a lot of the violence, but I think, in the end, there is going to be bloodshed, one way are on the other.  The question is:  How much?

COSBY:  And do you see this ending?  Do you see them finally catching this guy, Flora? 

JESSOP:  I think that he‘s going to die before they let him catch him. 

COSBY:  John, do you agree? 

LLEWELLYN:  Yes, I think he‘s on a suicide course.  He hasn‘t made any provisions for a successor, and he‘s going to be the last prophet, and he‘s already predicted the end of the world two or three times, and that...

COSBY:  John, are you talking about sort of a Waco scenario?  I mean, we all remember the whole David Koresh—are we talking about, you know, protecting him at all costs? 

LLEWELLYN:  Yes, as you know, I‘m a retired Salt Lake County deputy sheriff, and I used to specialize in sex crimes and investigating the polygamist complaints, and so I think I‘m pretty well familiar with the mindset here.  And, like Flora said, he‘s not going to give up, and he‘ll die first, and he‘ll take all of them with him. 

JESSOP:  Yes, he will.

LLEWELLYN:  What happens to him happens to the whole zealot group. 

COSBY:  What a scary, scary prospect.  Let‘s hope they catch this guy before anything like that happens.

LLEWELLYN:  We could very well have another Waco or Guyana.  I hope not, but the potential is certainly there. 

JESSOP:  It has the potential of being a Waco, Jonestown, and 9/11 all combined into one nasty package. 

COSBY:  And, Joe, what do you mean by Diana?

LLEWELLYN:  Well, it was in Guyana in the south...

(CROSSTALK)

COSBY:  Guyana.  Forgive me.  I thought you said Diana.  Of course, Jim Jones. 

LLEWELLYN:  Oh, you‘re right, Jim Jones.

COSBY:  Of course, all the fanatics who went down there, which was a scary prospect.  Thank you very much.  All of you, we really appreciate it.  And, of course, let‘s pray that nothing happens and they get this guy safe and sound.  Thank you, everybody.

And still ahead, we‘ve got the latest on the breathtaking stunt from magician David Blaine.  Many said he would not survive.  A live report is coming up, and that‘s not all we‘ve got in tonight‘s show.  Take a look, everybody. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COSBY (voice-over):  Still ahead, is this man behind bars for a murder he did not commit?  You‘ll be surprised to hear how he ended up in prison and why the eyewitnesses who put him away now say they made a big mistake.  So is anyone listening to their story?

And talk about a royal rip-off.  You could call this guy a lying lord.  His web of deceit had him living like a king.  But lucky for his friends, it didn‘t last. 

And speaking of being dethroned, has Tom Cruise lost his place as king of the blockbuster movie?  Find out why some say Cruise‘s out-of-control behavior buried him at the box office this weekend.  That‘s coming up on LIVE & DIRECT.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COSBY:  And, tonight, a scathing new report in the Duke University rape scandal.  A new Duke University report says the accuser first claimed 20 players raped her and later changed her story, saying she was attacked by three individuals in a bathroom. 

Police are also stating in this report that they did not find her credible at first.

And there is also more legal trouble for one of the team‘s captains.  Today, a judge ruled against co-captain David Evans and reinstated a prior alcohol charge, which was deferred a few months ago, which he agreed to community service, probation, and vowed to stay out of trouble. 

Joining us now is defense attorney David Feige and also former prosecutor Lisa Pinto. 

First of all, David, let‘s talk about this new report.  How bad does it look for the woman?  She first said 20 people raped her and then changed it to three. 

DAVID FEIGE, DEFENSE ATTORNEY:  I don‘t know.  I mean, I got to tell you, Rita.  I don‘t know how many more people can come out, and basically disagree, and disbelieve her story.  When it comes down to the police officers, I think all that‘s left are a couple of zealous prosecutors, one of which is the district attorney of Durham. 

COSBY:  Lisa, is it possible, because she was on drugs—remember, there was this allegation that she may have been on drugs, may have been slipped something, that that‘s why her accounts are all over the place, or is this going to really hurt her? 

LISA PINTO, FORMER PROSECUTOR:  Rita, if she was a little intox, it wouldn‘t surprise me that she said words to the effect that she was overwhelmed by 20 white men in a fraternity house, and maybe she meant that she was assaulted, that she felt that the group was behind the attack. 

I don‘t think this damages her.  I don‘t think it‘s a prior inconsistent statement.  I think, when you consider the fact that at the hospital she was shaking and crying uncontrollably, said one policewoman, I think that‘s much more important.

(CROSSTALK)

COSBY:  Let me put up the report, David.  It says, “The alleged victim told Durham police that she was raped and sexually assaulted by 20 white members of a Duke team, a charge later modified to allege an attack by three individuals in a bathroom,” saying that she was assaulted by 20 and then changed to three.

FEIGE:  Yes, I mean, look, this is huge.  And it‘s right then at the time.  The reality here is, you know, people like—it seems to me—

Lisa, are clinging to anything.  If you don‘t question her credibility after this, there is nothing that will make you question her credibility. 

PINTO:  David, I need to know much more about the circumstances under which this alleged statement was made.  Is this secondhand transcribed into a report that was then given to a university?  Did she say this to the female police officer...

FEIGE:  What if she did?

PINTO:  ... who was holding her while she crying in the hospital?  We don‘t know, David.

FEIGE:  Lisa, let me just ask you...

PINTO:  We don‘t know, David.  Let‘s not impeach her. 

FEIGE:  Let me just ask you, under what circumstances will you finally say, “You know what?  This is it.  I don‘t believe this woman,” or are there no circumstances under which you can‘t find an excuse for her?

PINTO:  David, if she were to say to me that I lied, I was never assaulted, I was never at that house, I was never called racial names, I was never bruised, I was never torn up, then I would maybe stand up here in front of you and say mea culpa...

(CROSSTALK)

COSBY:  ... the D.A. may have something else here, too, you guys. 

Remember, he was on my show and said he‘s got something else. 

Let me move on, because we only have a little bit of time here, just real quick.  Also, we know that one of the players today, his attorney was in court.  And it‘s interesting, because the D.A. is using an interesting strategy.  He‘s going after players that had other charges, sort of re-instating these charges.

FEIGE:  Of course.

COSBY:  Fair game, Lisa?  Or, you know, this is the prior offense.  We have an open container of beer in a car, a non-criminal infraction, a noise violation, a misdemeanor.  What is the point, to get this guy to crack, if there is anything, or is this overzealous?

PINTO:  Not such a minor infraction if you live next door to this house and you have to listen to this every night. 

But if this man—we don‘t know who the third person in the bathroom was.  But, hypothetically, if there were a third person in the bathroom and that third person were to come forward and tell what happened in the bathroom, that would prove the prosecution‘s case...

(CROSSTALK)  

COSBY:  ... the third, David?  What do you think?

FEIGE:  I don‘t have the foggiest idea.  What I do know is:  This is the classic heavy-handed prosecutorial tactic that we have seen from this district attorney throughout.  Remember, he‘s the guy who dispatched his police officers to interview represented defendants in the dorm, something he knows he shouldn‘t have done, something nobody should have done.  This guy is looking for any excuse. 

(CROSSTALK)

COSBY:  Let me give Lisa five seconds.  Literally, Lisa, five seconds. 

Literally.

PINTO:  Wouldn‘t you like the truth to come out here, David?  And if someone can testify firsthand whether he was outside and he knows the three who did it, let him come forward.  And if he has to do give up 20 days of community service, that‘s fine with me.  Let the truth come out. 

COSBY:  And, you guys, I got to move on.  I‘m going to have you both on soon.  Thank you very much.

Now we‘re going to switch gears to another story.  Now to a royal mess in the United Kingdom.  Is it possible for an American to pretend to be a British lord?  My studio guys do that all the time. 

Well, tonight the fake blue blood is revealed.  NBC‘s Dawna Friesen has the story of the lying lord. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAWNA FRIESEN, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  For years, he lived as a British aristocrat, his family crest proudly embossed on his stationery, Lord Buckingham.  Educated at Cambridge, his British accent was flawless. 

Then, in January 2005, while taking a ferry from France to Dover, British immigration officers ran a check on his passport.  They were shocked.  His details matched those of a baby with the same name who died in 1963.  It had all been a lie. 

As in the movie “The Day of the Jackal,” he was an imposter who had stolen a dead child‘s identity.  He was convicted of passport fraud and jailed in this Kent prison.  The man who claimed to be Christopher Buckingham had fooled everybody, including his British wife and children. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I never, ever thought that he wasn‘t who he said he was. 

FRIESEN:  They began searching his belongings, found a replica James Bond gun, and more alter egos.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Hans Peter Schmidt. 

FRIESEN:  Then, last week, a breakthrough.  An American family recognized him.  And today, police matched his DNA with an American, Charlie Stopford, a former Navy intelligence officer who disappeared from Orlando in 1983 after he was convicted for trying to blow up his boss‘s car. 

CHARLIE STOPFORD, FATHER:  We didn‘t know where he was gone.  It‘s been 23 years of worrying, and concerning, and deeply hoping that someday we could find him. 

FRIESEN:  He was, his father says, fascinated by things British, especially the Beatles, and was a perfect mimic of the British accent. 

(on camera):  All along, Stopford has remained silent, refusing to reveal how and why he assumed a dead child‘s identity.  And since his arrest, he‘s refused to speak to his own children, returning their letters unopened. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  It‘s just a big letdown when you find out that your dad has been lying to you all your life. 

FRIESEN (voice-over):  But why he did it, only he knows.  He‘ll take his secret back to the U.S., where it‘s expected he‘ll be sent soon. 

Dawna Friesen, NBC News, London. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COSBY:  Lying to his own kids. 

Well, still ahead, a LIVE & DIRECT exclusive investigation.  The eyewitnesses who helped send this man to prison for murder has changed their story.  So why is he still behind bars?  Find out. 

And later, we‘ll tell you if David Blaine managed to pull off his amazing underwater stunt that many said would kill him.  That‘s coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COSBY:  And tonight, a Cosby investigation.  New questions in a murder case that many thought was solved a long time ago. 

Fifteen years ago in New York City, a man, Raymond Blount, was gunned down in the street.  Now, multiple witnesses say the man they originally claimed was the killer, Fernando Bermudez, is actually innocent.  In an investigation for LIVE & DIRECT, Bermudez spoke to MSNBC‘s Contessa Brewer in an exclusive jailhouse interview. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

FERNANDO BERMUDEZ, SAYS HE‘S WRONGLY CONVICTED FOR MURDER:  My life is just one of waiting, waiting and trying to survive, trying to stay sane.  I have to try to stay sane, because prison is an abnormal place. 

CONTESSA BREWER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  Thirty-seven-year-old Fernando Bermudez saw his entire life change on a summer night 15 years ago. 

BERMUDEZ:  That was actually one of the happiest nights of my life.  The night of August 3rd into the 4th of 1991, I was actually celebrating my enrollment in college.

BREWER:  But Bermudez never had a chance to attend.  Instead of sitting in class that fall, he sat in a courtroom and then a prison cell, convicted of a killing he claimed he did not commit.

Mike Gaynor spent years tracking down killers as a homicide detective with the NYPD.  As a private investigator, he spent years looking into the murder that landed Bermudez behind bars.  He took me back to a night in August in 1991 to a fight at a rap concert inside what used to be the Marc Ballroom. 

MIKE GAYNOR, FORMER NYPD HOMICIDE DETECTIVE:  Among the people that were at the concert was a young man by the name of Raymond Dred Blount and another young man by the name of Efram Shorty Lopez (ph).  They bump into each other.  Literally, those famous last words, “What are you looking at?”  Raymond Blount punched Shorty Lopez (ph) in the nose, and he knocked him down. 

BREWER:  Lopez‘s (ph) friends promised payback when the concert was over. 

GAYNOR:  When everybody came out, about 2:30 in the morning, the crowd started walking and fighting and scuffling. 

BREWER:  They headed south, a couple blocks. 

GAYNOR:  At this point, Efram Shorty Lopez (ph) points out Raymond Blount to his friend, Wulu (ph).  And shots fly.  And the crowd scatters in 100 different directions.  And Raymond Blount himself runs down this block, bleeding, shot in the stomach one time. 

He was transported to the local hospital and he died in a hospital a couple of hours later. 

BREWER (on camera):  Shortly after the shooting happened, police arrived on the scene, and they were able to find several eyewitnesses, gathered them up, took them to the precinct, to a catch unit, a place where the eyewitnesses are supposed to look through photographs and see if they can identify the shooter. 

(voice-over):  Investigators are supposed to separate witnesses making identifications.  But, in this case, the witnesses were in the same room, without police presence, able to compare notes and agree on a story. 

MARY ANN DI BARI, FORMER ATTORNEY OF FERNANDO BERMUDEZ:  And the police said:  You are not going home, you are not getting out of here until you guys get together.  We know that you know who the shooter is. 

BREWER:  Attorney Mary Ann Di Bari knows this case backwards and forwards.  She says one witness, a girl, picked out a photo of a guy she thought was cute who looked like somebody else at the Marc Ballroom that night.  That photo belonged to Fernando Bermudez, his mug shot from a prior marijuana arrest.  And Di Bari says investigators pounced on that picture. 

DI BARI:  It not only gave the police fodder to follow through on this photograph.  It also gave the other witnesses in the catch unit the opportunity to be freed. 

BREWER:  Di Bari believes police pressured those witnesses to identify Bermudez as the shooter and that prosecutors offered deals if they would testify. 

DI BARI:  They had open cases pending against—felony cases pending against them, and the cases were dropped. 

BREWER:  And then prosecutors they found their star witness, Efram Lopez (ph), the teen who was punched in the ballroom, the teen who pointed out the victim to the killer.  Police interrogated Lopez (ph) for hours on end, and, finally, he cracked. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  He hangs around my grandmother‘s block.  I know him.

BREWER:  Lopez (ph) even gave police an address and a name. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Last name was Lu (ph), and...  

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Lu (ph)?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes.  They used to call him Wulu (ph).  

BERMUDEZ:  That‘s not my name. 

BREWER (on camera):  Did you have a street name? 

BERMUDEZ:  Yes, ma‘am.

BREWER:  What was your street name?

BERMUDEZ:  My nickname since 1982 has been Most (ph). 

BREWER (voice-over):  And police knew that, because they asked Lopez (ph) about Most (ph). 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Does the name—street name Most (ph) sound familiar? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Most (ph)? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Most (ph). 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  OK.

BREWER (on camera):  Are you telling me that you have never been called Wulu (ph)?  

BERMUDEZ:  That‘s what I am telling you, ma‘am.

BREWER (voice-over):  And, yet, when police show Lopez (ph) a police lineup, Lopez (ph) picks number two, Fernando Bermudez. 

GAYNOR:  Who was not involved in this murder.  He was not involved in the party.  He was not here.  He was not with any of these people.  He was a convenient scapegoat in this particular case.  He looked very similar, at least facially, to Wulu (ph). 

BREWER:  Similar, except for his size. 

The witnesses said the shooter was 5‘9“, 150 pounds.  Bermudez was much bigger, 6‘2“, 230.  You can‘t tell that from a photo.  And the lineup was done with suspects sitting down. 

(on camera):  Investigators never found any physical evidence in this case, no weapon, no DNA, no fingerprints.  The whole case relied on eyewitness testimony. 

How many witnesses did it take to testify and put Fernando Bermudez behind bars? 

DI BARI:  Five. 

BREWER:  And how many of them came back later and recanted their testimony?

DI BARI:  All five. 

BREWER:  Did you or your family or anybody you know threaten these witnesses? 

BERMUDEZ:  No, ma‘am. 

BREWER:  Did you buy them off? 

BERMUDEZ:  No, we didn‘t. 

BREWER:  So, where was Fernando Bermudez the night of the killing?  He admits he was in this area, had stopped in a nearby restaurant to eat.  But he and his alibis all say they were never in the Marc Ballroom and were together all night. 

BERMUDEZ:  I just thought that it‘s as simple as basic arithmetic. 

You tell the truth, and you get exonerated.  I really believed that. 

BREWER:  If you are innocent, and you have spent 15 years of your prime here...

BERMUDEZ:  Yes.  Yes. 

BREWER:  ... how do you not let bitterness invade every bit of you? 

BERMUDEZ:  It‘s there.  It‘s there. 

BREWER:  When your first opportunity for parole comes up in—in 2014...

BERMUDEZ:  Yes. 

BREWER:  ... will you be paroled? 

BERMUDEZ:  It‘s one of my greatest fears, because one of the requirements, oftentimes, is for a person to express remorse or to say that they are guilty of the crime, so they could have their own record.  How can I do that?  One of my greatest fears is that I may die in prison, proclaiming my innocence.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COSBY:  What an incredible report. 

And Contessa Brewer joins us now live. 

Contessa, let me just be clear.  Bermudez and the investigator, who is, what, a former homicide detective...

BREWER:  Right. 

COSBY:  ... all—they say he was not even there. 

BREWER:  He was not there. 

And he was with three other people all night long.  Those alibis testified in court.  And—and they say they were never in the Marc Ballroom. 

COSBY:  That‘s incredible.

Now, what‘s the DA‘s office, what are the prosecutors saying about this case? 

BREWER:  You know, it‘s incredible. 

They say:  We‘re not talking about this because it‘s an ongoing litigation.  It‘s still—it‘s still in the appeals process.  So, we‘re not going to get into the nitty-gritty details. 

But they pointed me back to the court records.  And they said, look, after 15 years of court hearings at the state level and now at the federal level...

COSBY:  He‘s had numerous appeals, right?

BREWER:  Yes, numerous.  And, at this point, every judge has sided with the prosecution. 

COSBY:  And the question is, why?  We have got all these witnesses now who have turned.  What‘s been happening to him in prison? 

BREWER:  He has an associate‘s degree in science.  He got married.  After a—a story about him aired on television, a woman started corresponding with him.  And he married her.  They have three children together. 

And he is now attempting his bachelor‘s degree.  So, there have been some upsides and a silver lining.  But he says, still, freedom is what he wants. 

COSBY:  And he says also that, apparently, this woman also said, I believe you are innocent, too.  Isn‘t that why...

BREWER:  Yes.  Yes. 

COSBY:  ... she started corresponding?

BREWER:  Yes. 

She believes he‘s innocent.  She saw a story about him.  And she wanted to pray for him and let him know that there were people out there who supported him. 

COSBY:  Please keep us posted on this story, and let us know if you get a—a further answer from the DA‘s office on this.

BREWER:  Yes, definitely.

COSBY:  ... case as to what—what is going on, and why this guy has not gotten a new trial, based on all this new information.  Thank you very much.  Great report. 

BREWER:  Thank you. 

COSBY:  Thank you. 

COSBY:  And still ahead, everybody, with all the eyewitnesses that we just heard about from Contessa, all the folks who have told Bermudez—said that they saw Bermudez not commit the crime—remember, at first, they said it.  Now they are changing their story.  Why is this man still behind bars?  Was he framed?  Again, the witnesses are now saying they got the wrong guy.  The attorney for Bermudez is going to join me next. 

And, speaking of wrongly accused, is Tom Cruise still the king of the blockbuster movie?  That‘s coming up.  You will be surprised. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COSBY:  And, still ahead, Tom Cruise big-budget blockbuster “Mission:

Impossible III” made millions this weekend.  So, why are people calling it a big-time bust?  That‘s coming up next. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BERMUDEZ:  When I was arrested, about two days after the incident—it was about two days after the incident—I didn‘t know why I was being arrested. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSBY:  Well, we just showed you how a man named Fernando Bermudez, the man you just saw there, says he has spent the past 15 years in prison for a murder he did not commit. 

And many legal experts and now some of the eyewitnesses who fingered him agree that he may have been framed. 

Joining us now live in our studio is Professor William Hellerstein. 

He‘s the attorney for that man you saw, Bermudez.

Why do you think he has not gotten a new trial?  You know, all the stuff that Contessa was just laying out, I‘m astounded that he‘s not gotten a new trial. 

WILLIAM HELLERSTEIN, ATTORNEY FOR FERNANDO BERMUDEZ:  This case is a great tragedy.  It‘s an ongoing tragedy. 

COSBY:  But why?  What is the reason?  One of the things she was saying is that—that innocence is not the issue.  Did he get a fair trial or not?  And it sounds like the DA is maintaining that he got a fair trial. 

HELLERSTEIN:  They have maintained that all along.  We have argued a number of issues, including the late delivery of information that would have allowed Mike Gaynor to conduct an investigation into Wulu‘s (ph) location.  We didn‘t have the...

COSBY:  Who is one of the other guys that they‘re looking at.

HELLERSTEIN:  That‘s right.  

But think of trying to put toothpaste back into a tube.  These kids came in.  They identified him at trial.  They were mistaken.  And once the trial, considered the main event in our system, occurs, it‘s very hard, without DNA, to undo it. 

And the prosecution has been unwilling to take a second look at this case.  But it‘s an ongoing tragedy.  This is not something new.  These kids knew from—momentarily, that they had made a mistake. 

COSBY:  And, in fact, let me play—this is a clip from the key witness.  This is the key eyewitness, who now has changed his story.  But this is from the interrogation. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Just look.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  This is the picture right here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Is Wulu (ph) number two?

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  ... number two there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  (INAUDIBLE) ... his face.  He didn‘t have none of that hair on his face.  I mean, he probably could have (INAUDIBLE) I wasn‘t really looking at his face to see... 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Right.  Right. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSBY:  One of the things he‘s talking about I find interesting, Professor, he talks about facial hair.  The guy—your guy had no facial hair. 

HELLERSTEIN:  Right. 

COSBY:  So, right away, he‘s saying, there‘s something wrong. 

HELLERSTEIN:  That‘s correct. 

COSBY:  And they proceeded?

HELLERSTEIN:  That‘s right. 

COSBY:  What do you—why do you believe, you know, as some of these witnesses are alleging, of course—the DA may have another story—that there was this pressure to make an arrest and wrap this up? 

HELLERSTEIN:  That‘s always a pressure.  When the police think they have the suspect that they want, then life becomes easy.  They can do it. 

This is a cardinal case of what we call tunnel vision.  When Efram Lopez (ph) was picking out photographs and he mentions Wulu (ph), Mr.  Bermudez is not Wulu (ph). 

COSBY:  Yes.  And then that‘s the nickname of another guy in fact on the street. 

HELLERSTEIN:  Who—who Lopez (ph) knows.   

COSBY:  Who was apparently there at the time as well. 

HELLERSTEIN:  That‘s right. 

When the prosecutor and Detective Mazanova (ph) hear the name Wulu (ph), they don‘t even bat an eyelash.  They don‘t want to know from that.  It doesn‘t fit into their profile at all.  They know that my—Mr.

Bermudez‘s nickname is Most (ph). 

(CROSSTALK)

COSBY:  And that—this is shameful, if that is the case. 

What is going to happen now?  We have just got a few seconds left, because—what is going to happen?  How are you going to save this guy?

HELLERSTEIN:  We‘re trying to get to the 2nd Circuit—United States Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit, and present to them the issues that we have presented, have been fighting—that I have been fighting for five years. 

COSBY:  What kind of time frame are you looking at?  When do you think you might get a chance to go?

HELLERSTEIN:  Well, we have got an application for leave to appeal pending at this moment with the judge that has denied Fernando‘s petition just last week. 

COSBY:  So, what happens now? 

HELLERSTEIN:  We‘re waiting on her ruling.  If she denies it, we will go to the 2nd Circuit and ask them to consider it. 

COSBY:  Well, please keep us posted on this case (INAUDIBLE) Please keep us posted.

HELLERSTEIN:  Will do.

COSBY:  Wish you luck.

And, indeed, if he‘s innocent, this man should absolutely be set free. 

And there‘s a lot more coming up right here on MSNBC tonight.  Let‘s check in with Tucker Carlson with a preview. 

Tucker, what do you have? 

TUCKER CARLSON, HOST, “THE SITUATION WITH TUCKER CARLSON”:  Well, Rita, if you or I text-messaged explicit sex advice to kids on their cell phones, we would be in jail.  We would actually probably be profiled on your show.

But when the government does it, apparently, it‘s OK.  It‘s happening in San Francisco.  We will talk to the man behind it.

Plus, eBay, it‘s not just for baseball cards anymore -- $28,000 for a grilled cheese sandwich in the shape of the Virgin Mary.  We will tell you of the weird, weird, weird stuff you can buy online. 

(LAUGHTER)

COSBY:  Definitely, we will tune in for that, Tucker.

(LAUGHTER)

COSBY:  Thank you...

CARLSON:  Thanks, Rita.

COSBY:  ... very much. 

And, still ahead, David Blaine‘s doctors apparently tried to keep him from attempting this underwater breath-holding stunt.  Did he make it?  We will show you. 

And are movie executives behind Tom Cruise‘s latest movie still holding their breath for higher profits?  Details on the lackluster blockbuster and why that may have been, that‘s coming up. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE III”)

TOM CRUISE, ACTOR:  And you are going to tell us everything, every buyer you have worked with, every organization. 

PHILIP SEYMOUR HOFFMAN, ACTOR:  What the hell is your name?

CRUISE:  Names, contacts, inventory lists. 

HOFFMAN:  Do you have a—a wife, girlfriend?

CRUISE:  It‘s up to you how this goes. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSBY:  Well, it looks like moviegoers found two hours of Tom Cruise on the big screen to be an impossible mission. 

The third installment of “Mission: Impossible,” starring Cruise as agent Ethan Hunt, raked in a dismal $48 million its opening weekend.  That‘s because industry analysts expected well over $70 million. 

Now some say the actor‘s out-of-control and very public behavior this past year may be to blame for the poor box office turnout. 

Joining me now live is “Extra”‘s Tanika Ray and also Brandon Gray from BoxOfficeMojo.com.

Tanika, first, let me show you guys.  This is another quick peek at Tom Cruise.  And I will get you to react about why maybe people aren‘t turning out. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE III”)

VING RHAMES, ACTOR:  Ethan, get out of the truck!

Ethan, move!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSBY:  Now, Tanika, I haven‘t seen it yet, but there‘s lots of action, lots of flames.  Why the low turnout? 

TANIKA RAY, NEW YORK CITY CORRESPONDENT, “EXTRA”:  Lots of fireworks going on.

(LAUGHTER)

RAY:  You know what?  Tom is such an interesting actor.  He‘s been totally consistent, with making so much money for so many years.  Nobody can compete with him. 

Well, you know what?  The only thing that‘s guaranteed with the ascent of fame is the fall.  And I think this is the beginning of the end.  He‘s annoyed so many people over the last year that people aren‘t interested, basically.  We have seen enough of Tom Cruise. 

I think one of the most important mistakes that they made is that Paramount, in their promotion strategy, decided that the last people they would promote to were women.  That is his core fan base.  And they figured, oh, we have got them covered.  They are locked in.  Let‘s deal with everybody else. 

Well, in this last year, he has done enough to annoy so many women, they didn‘t come out with all their loved ones.  And, therefore, they have a low box office. 

COSBY:  You know, and, in fact, Brandon, let me show a little clip.  This is that famous clip of him arguing with Matt Lauer on “The Today Show.”  And it just...

RAY:  Exactly. 

COSBY:  It really got a lot of parents and a lot of folks mad.  Let me play just a little clip of it. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THE TODAY SHOW”) 

MATT LAUER, CO-HOST, “THE TODAY SHOW”:  Maybe there are too many kids on Ritalin.  Maybe electric shock is...

CRUISE:  Too many kids on Ritalin?  Matt...

LAUER:  I‘m just saying, but aren‘t there examples where it works? 

CRUISE:  Matt, Matt, Matt, Matt, you don‘t even—you‘re glib.  You don‘t even know what Ritalin is.

LAUER:  It‘s very impressive to listen to you, because, clearly, you‘ve done the homework and you know the subject. 

CRUISE:  And you should.  And you should do that, also, because just knowing people who are Ritalin isn‘t enough.  You should be a little bit more responsible.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSBY:  Ouch.

You know, Brandon, did he just anger a lot of people and say, I know too much?

BRANDON GRAY, BOXOFFICEMOJO.COM:  Perhaps his style was off-putting, but I think a lot of people agree with the point he made in that interview about Ritalin and people over-drugging their children. 

COSBY:  Yes, but that‘s not the point I‘m talking about.

(CROSSTALK)

COSBY:  Is he overexposed?  Is he sort of Mr. Know-It-All, Brandon? 

RAY:  Yes.

GRAY:  What—the problem with last summer—it starting last summer

was, you once—what once was a mysterious, well-groomed star suddenly became overexposed, and—and, to many people, unhinged, and ruined his movie star mystique to an extent. 

But with “Mission: Impossible III,” it was not just Cruise.  It was a

a tired premise for a sequel.  It has been six years since “Mission:

Impossible 2.”

COSBY:  Oh, that‘s an interesting point.

(CROSSTALK)

COSBY:  Tanika, is it possible that it‘s just, you know, here, it‘s the third installment?

GRAY:  That could very well could be.

RAY:  Yes. 

You know what it is?  The last year, with—with the Matt Lauer situation, he‘s a guy, and he‘s sitting out there telling the women of the world, you know, postpartum depression, just deal with it.  You don‘t need antidepressants. 

Hey, ladies don‘t want to hear a guy who has never had a child say that.  And it really annoyed people.  Then, when he ranted towards Brooke Shields, it‘s just not attractive.

You know, the Katie Holmes relationship, great.  We—we got it.  You are in love with her.  Doth thou protest too much?  He kept talking about her over and over.

(CROSSTALK)

COSBY:  Let me talk about the money.  Tanika, you hit it on the head. 

Let me show it.  This is the prenup, too, which we just got some details. 

Apparently, they signed...

RAY:  Yes. 

COSBY:  ... a $40 million prenup, you guys; $15 million trust goes to the baby, whether or not they get married.  And, also, Katie, receives an extra $18 million if they get divorced. 

Real quick, Tanika, what do you think? 

And then I will go to you, Brandon.

RAY:  Well, I think it‘s very interesting. 

I think, also, to quote “The New York Daily News,” he‘s micromanaging Katie‘s pregnancy, when she was pregnant.

(LAUGHTER)

RAY:  And that‘s annoying a lot of women as well. 

COSBY:  Brandon...

RAY:  So, I mean, OK, great, she has a great settlement, but...

COSBY:  Brandon, what do you think, as a guy?  Represent the men here. 

Come on. 

(LAUGHTER)

GRAY:  Well, if you look at the demographics, both men and women turned out to a lesser degree.  And, actually, the breakdown, the demographic breakdown, was identical to the first two “Mission:

Impossible”s.  So, I think he has alienated—if he has alienated anyone, he‘s alienated both genders.  So...

(CROSSTALK)

COSBY:  An equal-opportunity alienator, huh?

(LAUGHTER)

RAY:  Exactly. 

GRAY:  But he‘s still the biggest star in the world.  And this—and “Mission: Impossible III” will be seventh $100 million movie in a row. 

COSBY:  Wow.

GRAY:  So, that‘s still pretty good.

COSBY:  Yes, not bad, you guys.  That‘s going to be have to be the last word, both of you.  Thank you very much.  We will have you both on back on soon. 

And, still ahead, everybody, it was supposed to be stunt of all stunts.   But did David Blaine follow through?  Spoiler alert.  We are going to tell you what happened, everybody.  You have got to see it.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COSBY:  And, tonight, magician David Blaine—you can see him there -

attempting a record-breaking, life-threatening stunt.  And now we are going to give you the full update of what happened just a few minutes ago.

Anyone who does not want to hear the death-defying results—on the West Coast, you may not have seen it—briefly turn down your audio. We don‘t want to give away the mystery to you. 

MSNBC‘s Monica Novotny is now live in Manhattan. 

Monica, what happened? 

MONICA NOVOTNY, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  Rita, you know, A disappointing tonight for his fans. 

Tonight, David Blaine‘s bubble burst.  After seven days of being submerged in his custom-built 8-foot acrylic 2,000-gallon tank, Blaine was attempting to break the world breath-holding record.  He was attempting to do that while he was also escaping from being locked in 150 pounds of chains.  He did not succeed. 

Now, he did break out of the chains.  In fact, that only took him a

couple of minutes.  He spent the first four minutes in what seemed to be a

just a deep meditative state, getting used to not breathing. 

And, then, at about four minutes, he had a—his trainer, who was taping on the globe and coaching him through—at about four minutes, he started moving around, and started getting the chains off, removed all of the chains, but, at about six minutes, 30 seconds, we saw his body go into convulsions and bubbles started coming out of his nose and mouth. 

And we knew immediately that that meant trouble.  We had been told ahead of time, if there are bubbles, that‘s a problem.  Divers were sent into the globe immediately.  They slowly pulled him up.  And David almost seemed to shake his head, no, as if he didn‘t want to stop, as if he thought he could still make it to the nine minutes. 

But, obviously, they paid no attention.  They brought him up, got him on oxygen.

And, just moments later, a very emotional David Blaine spoke to the crowd. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVID BLAINE, MAGICIAN:  This was a very difficult week, but you all made it fly by with your strong spirit and your energy.  Thank you so much, everybody. 

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NOVOTNY:  Now, Rita, perhaps this was no surprise.

Blaine himself assessed his medical condition, saying he was in pretty bad shape.  We heard tonight his doctors announce that, in fact, he was suffering from liver failure at this point.

They also said he had lost 20 percent of his body fluids, which they said was a serious concern, because that could lead to blood thickening, which could have led to a clot, which could have led to a stroke.  He‘s currently at a hospital.  And they believe he will be fine. 

COSBY:  All right, Monica, thank you very much.  Incredible stuff.

And, of course, we have been following this, all of you here, on LIVE & DIRECT.

And coming up, everybody, tomorrow, “American Idol” is going to Graceland.  You have got to watch this.  Find out why the hit show that America loves is all about Elvis Presley this week. 

Plus, who‘s leading the pack of the final four contestants behind the scenes?  We‘re bringing back, by popular demand, Simon Cowell‘s girlfriend.  That‘s tomorrow night, right here on LIVE & DIRECT. 

And that does it for me tonight, everybody.  I‘m Rita Cosby.

“THE SITUATION” with Tucker starts right now—Tucker.

CARLSON:  Thank you, Rita.  I appreciate it.

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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