updated 4/13/2005 12:43:46 PM ET 2005-04-13T16:43:46

Guest: Jayne Meyer, Savannah Guthrie, Nancy Argenziano, Richard Mineards

KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST:  Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?

The Republican leader who made his money exterminating critters being hunted by some in his own party.  Are they shooting themselves in the foot?

In Wisconsin, they shoot cats, don‘t they?  The vote tonight that could permit the extermination of 2 million strays, letting hunters shoot them.

Wish could you shoot a hole in gas prices?  Two-thirty-two a gallon, but that might be the worst it gets—for now.

And after you fill ‘er up and crash ‘er up, surprisingly good news from the Insurance Institute head-on tests.

And Camilla.  She nearly backed out of the royal wedding.  Why, because she was marrying this guy?  Or because one of her guests appeared to be wearing diapers?

All that and more now on COUNTDOWN.

Good evening.

Only in America.  Tonight, at public forums across Wisconsin, residents are saying whether or not they‘re in favor of exterminating stray cats by shooting them.

While also tonight, in public venues in Washington, two of the nation‘s top Republicans are being catty about House minority leader Tom DeLay, saying that the man who made his fortune as an exterminator has strayed too far from ethical conduct.

We begin with the brutal truth of overpopulation and going for the gun.

No, this would be the political story, not the thing about cats.

Minority leader DeLay, criticized both by his fellow arch-conservative, Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, and the much more moderate Republican, Congressman Chris Shays.  Santorum thinks DeLay has broken no law but needs to defend himself in detail.  Shays says he thinks DeLay should resign as minority leader, but he adds he is not calling for him to do so.

This is all about the latest ethics charges against the Sugarland bug killer, that he put his wife and daughter on the payroll of his own political action committee, that some of his foreign junkets were indirectly funded by foreign lobbyists in violation of House rules.

DeLay says he is a victim of the liberal media.  Shays tells the Associated Press, quote, “Tom‘s conduct is hurting the Republican Party, it is hurting the Republican majority, and it is hurting any Republican who is up for reelection.”  Earlier, he had told supporters in Greenwich, Connecticut, according to the newspaper there, “Greenwich Time,” quote, “He is an absolute embarrassment to me and to the Republican Party.”

Santorum provided more of a headline but less of a clear answer yesterday on “This Week” on ABC.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THIS WEEK,” ABC)

SEN. RICK SANTORUM ®, PENNSYLVANIA:  I think he has to come forward and lay out what did he and why he did it, and let the people then judge for themselves.  But from everything I‘ve heard, again, from his—from the comments, and responding to those, is, everything he‘s done was according to the law.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  A senior administration official, meanwhile, told “The Houston Chronicle” that there were rumbles in the jungle but, quote, “Nobody around here is saying that DeLay is a problem the way Trent Lott was.”

And, oh, the way, the Wisconsin cat-shooting story is for real, and we‘ll get to it in a moment.

First, more on Mr. DeLay.

I‘m joined by MSNBC analyst, the one and only Pat Buchanan.

Good evening, Pat.

PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  How you doing, Keith?  I‘m all for those cats.

OLBERMANN:  Well, we‘ll keep you around for that segment too.

But on this one, what is going on here?  Who‘s hunting who?  I mean, leave Shays out of this of a second.  That might be a different story altogether.  Focus for me on Santorum and his end of the spectrum.  Are they suddenly standing a little less close to Tom DeLay?

BUCHANAN:  Well, Santorum did put distance between himself and DeLay.  But I don‘t see any Republican, except for Shays, who‘s asking for DeLay to step down.  This is—if you saw Bob Novak‘s column today, Keith, he points out that 18 news organizations have reporters assigned to DeLay.  There‘s a little blood in the water.

And I think we‘re in one of those situations where they think it is sort of tally-ho.  You know, DeLay is the fox, let‘s see if we can run him down.  And when you got MoveOn.org and some of these others running attack ads against him, my guess is this is moving into a situation where Republicans will line up behind their embattled guy and the liberals will say, We got to get rid of him.

OLBERMANN:  But he did make himself somewhat the target in the—in his prominent role, his leadership role, his almost exclusive role relative to the Terri Schiavo thing.  Is there some element of blowback involved in here, at least in terms of the coverage?

BUCHANAN:  I don‘t think—well, it could be in terms of the coverage, since it‘s mainly the mainstream press that‘s going after him.

But on Terri Schiavo, I know there‘s—you know, the polls show that a majority thought Congress should not have intervened.  But I can tell you this, with Republican core voters and right-to-lifers, I think DeLay would be in trouble if they had done nothing and just let this go on.  I think they think Congress and DeLay did their best.

But look, you know, Tom DeLay‘s a tough customer.  He‘s one of the reasons the Republican have all those seats down there in the Texas delegation in Congress.  And so he‘s done a lot of hard work.  He‘s a tough guy, plays hardball, so to speak.  And that‘s one reason they‘re after him.

OLBERMANN:  That‘s somebody else‘s show.

To Mr. Shays of Connecticut.  There was a lot more to what he said, certainly, to his constituency meeting there.  Here‘s another expert—excerpt.  Let me read this.

“If he ever runs for speaker,” meaning DeLay, “I get to vote on the House floor, and my no vote, combined with the Democrats, means he will never be speaker.  One of the things I want to say here is that Tom DeLay will never be speaker in Congress.”

Now, you can mark that up as playing to his crowd.  It‘s Greenwich, Connecticut.  It‘s still one of the toniest and thus most liberal of New York suburbs.  But does it speak to a divide within the Republican Party?  I mean, in 2010, will Chris Shays and people like him be Democrats, and the Republicans be an exclusively conservative party?

BUCHANAN:  No, I think Chris Shays is—I don‘t know anybody that thinks he ought to be expelled from the party, or—he‘s clearly a dissident liberal inside the party.

But I think Chris Shays got a point on the speaker.  I said the other night that clearly, with all the venial sins, if you will, that are out there, and the allegations, I think it would be unwise for Tom DeLay to try to become speaker of the House.  And my guess is that even his friends would try to talk him out of that.  I think majority leader is as high as he goes.

But you‘re right, I mean, Chris Shays is—he is up there.  He‘s in a liberal district.  He‘s got to move to the left a good deal in order to hold that Republican seat.  And most Republican respect that.

OLBERMANN:  MSNBC‘s Pat Buchanan, author of “Where the Right Went Wrong: How Neoconservatives Subverted the Reagan Revolution and Hijacked the Bush Presidency.”  Great thanks, Pat.

BUCHANAN:  Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Still in Washington, authorities there don‘t know who the guy was, why he was standing like that, what was in the suitcases.  They only knew that he looked like the cat had just dragged him in, and they did not like it.  This was at a fountain outside the Capitol.  Part of the West Side of the Capitol was evacuated.  It appears police wound up blowing up two bags full of the guy‘s clothes.

Not that they could have known that.  The unidentified suspect was standing next to the fountain, a suitcase at either side of him, his arms outstretched, looking somewhere between suspicious and statuelike.  They called to him, he wouldn‘t answer, so they went and got him.

They also detonated his Samsonite.  As we mentioned, nothing of danger found inside.

As for the suspect himself, law enforcement officials say he is well known to the Secret Service.  Seen several times outside the White House, he‘s described as a Chinese national with emotional problems and complaints about his immigration status.

Now, complaints about baggage handling too.

Fortunately, no such actions are contemplated to deal with the cat overpopulation problem in Wisconsin.  Depending on your grammatical preference, all politics is or are local.  And the Badger State is consumed tonight, not with badgers, but by cats, strays, a couple of million, who according to Question 62, being considered tonight at 72 different county meetings of that state‘s Conservation Congress, should be shot.

The voting tonight will only produce formal advice to the Wisconsin legislature.  Then it will be the politicians‘ problem.  And a big one.

Our correspondent is Kevin Tibbles.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KEVIN TIBBLES, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  The fur is flying in Wisconsin over a proposal that could legalize the shooting of stray cats.  It‘s estimated there are about 2 million wild or feral cats in the state, and some say they are wreaking havoc.

BURT BUSHKE, WINGS OVER WISCONSIN:  I‘ve read studies where one cat take out 1,000 wild animals in a year.  That‘s a lot of—if we have 2 million cats, and they‘re taking out 1,000 wild animals, that‘s both mammals and songbirds.

TIBBLES:  Still, the plan to declare open season on the Wisconsin‘s wild felines has resulted in a wave of protest, because how will any hunter know whether the cat in the crosshairs is wild or someone‘s pet?

TED O‘DONNELL, WISCONSIN CAT ACTION TEAM:  This is the most inhumane and archaic approach that could be applied to the problem of feral cat population control.

TIBBLES:  Others suggest there are more effective ways to bringing the feral cat population under control without having to pull the trigger.

VICTORIA WELLENS, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, WISCONSIN HUMANE SOCIETY: 

Making sure that they‘re—all of the cats are spayed and neutered is the only way to make sure that that population of wild cats is decreasing.

TIBBLES:  Cats are America‘s favorite pet, with an estimated 70 million in households across the country.

BUSHKE:  We‘re not shooting kitty-cats.

TIBBLES:  But in Wisconsin, those either abandoned or lost and living in the wild could soon wind up being fair game.

Kevin Tibbles, NBC News, Chicago.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  And no, I know that, especially in England, Tibbles is a name often given to cats.  That‘s not Kevin‘s fault.

I also know the image of people shooting cats is not funny at all.  Years ago, I did a piece on a totally imaginary sport I made up called cat flinging.  It didn‘t exist.  We didn‘t have video of it.  The only thing you saw was people protesting the idea.  And we still got complaints about it.

Jayne Meyer is the delegate to Wisconsin‘s Conservation Congress from Dane County.  She favors shooting the strays if necessary.  She joins us now from Madison.

Ms. Meyer, thanks for your time tonight.

JAYNE MEYER, CONSERVATION CONGRESS DELEGATE:  Thank you.

OLBERMANN:  You‘ve got an uphill fight here, at least on the surface.  I can‘t imagine too many people who are not there, who are not actually facing this problem in their own backyards, who could conceive of it being so bad that you‘d have to kill these stray cats.  Explain your position, if you‘d be so kind.

MEYER:  Well, I think that this is really not so much of a hunting issue, but it‘s an issue of an invasive species, or wild species, that has gotten out—completely uncontrolled.  Cats are nonnative to the state and to the wild.  They‘re very effective predators.

I don‘t imagine, as a sports person, ever wanting to go out and have a season on cats, feral or otherwise.  But I do think that we need to deal with this problem.  I support the question simply to get the issue to the legislature‘s doorstep, so that perhaps all kinds of people can come together to try to develop an answer for this problem.

OLBERMANN:  I guess, even at the point at which it gets thoroughly examined by the legislature, people looking from the outside would be wondering, as was raised in the report that we saw, if the law passes, how are people who are either collecting the stray cats or actually going out to, if necessary, shoot them, how are they telling the stray cats from the pet cats?

MEYER:  Pet cats belong in your house.  They should be collared or confined completely to your house, or under your control on a leash.  Cats should not be allowed to go free.  They kill a lot of wildlife.  And the difference, you can tell, is if they have their owner with them.

I don‘t think that people are going to be going around just shooting cats.  You know, and this resolution, if you look at it, it doesn‘t say anything about hunting or shooting.  It says—it changes their status to unprotected.  Like, I think you‘ll find most states in the country, or many states, cats are classified as unprotected.

OLBERMANN:  I know this is something of an unfair question, but I‘d like to you address that—the choice, because thinking about cats and their independence and their ability to get out of things, including collars, the prospect of a pet cat getting out of a house and even being lost --  Take a choice of these two bad scenarios.  I know you‘re a hunter, but you wouldn‘t be out there shooting cats yourself.  I also know you‘re a cat owner.

Which would be worse?  Which would be worse, letting this situation, 2 million stray cats in the state of Wisconsin, continue as it is, or allowing shooting, and by accident or whatever, a hunter shoots your cat, which is worse?

MEYER:  Well, I think, considering the decimation that‘s occurring in wildlife and the wild birds—for example, the meadowlark in this state is becoming threatened because of predation.  They‘re ground-nesting birds.  I think that, in some cases, you may have to make that choice.  Again, you need to make sure your cat is under your control.

There may be other ways to deal with this, other than allowing people to shoot them, such as the Department of Natural Resources now can shoot a dog, if necessary, or take a dog into custody if it‘s chasing another animal.  So perhaps allowing the Department of Natural Resources to have the tools to deal with this issue would be the more effective way to do it.

I don‘t know what the answer is.  I don‘t know if this is the answer.  I do know that something, in addition to spay, neuter, and release, which the state of Florida did a study in 2003, that isn‘t an effective way to deal with this, that wild cats—people are releasing cats faster than they can deal with them.  So those feral populations continue to grow.

OLBERMANN:  Jayne Meyer, a cat owner, hunter, Conservation Congress delegate in Wisconsin, who‘s supporting the collection, I guess, would be the best term of it, of stray cats there, if necessary.

Great thanks for your expressing your opinion, and for your time tonight.

MEYER:  Thank you very much.

OLBERMANN:  Also tonight, in the dumps at the pumps, gas prices out of control, like I‘m telling you something you don‘t know.  And it‘s only going to get worse.

And if you can survive the high prices, how about surviving a head-on collision?  The latest crash test results are in.  This is actually good news.

And the Michael Jackson trial.  Warning—they talked about adults licking the heads of boys today.  We will take you inside the courtroom nonetheless.

You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Gas prices are going through the roof.  Or more accurately, they are burning through your wallet.

But Trilby Lundberg, oddly named maven of the pump, says this may be the worst it gets, quote, “unless crude oil prices show another upsurge.”  Geez, that never happens.

The Lundberg Survey of more than 7,000 gas stations nationwide finding that the average price of a gallon of gas is up 19 cents, nearly.  That puts it at $2.32.  Break that down across the grades, you‘re looking at $2.29 per gallon at self-serve regular, $2.38 for midgrade, a whopping $2.48 per gallon of premium, and, of course, $3.99 for tartar control.

Of course, there‘s a silver lining.  When you crash head-on into another car, your chances of surviving now are better than ever.  All that overpriced gasoline will not simply blow you up.

And as our correspondent Peter Alexander reports from Rutgersville, Virginia, even the minivans are holding up in the latest round of safety tests.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PETER ALEXANDER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  They are among the deadliest collisions on the road, frontal crashes.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety tested several family-friendly minivans and popular extended-cap pickup trucks.  Their simulation, what happens when two cars collide, driver to driver, at 40 miles an hour?

First up, the redesigned 2005 Honda Odyssey.  A rough crash, but a real driver could have walked away.  It earned the top honor of best pick.

The Insurance Institute‘s Brian O‘Neill.

BRIAN O‘NEILL, INSURANCE INSTITUTE FOR HIGHWAY SAFETY:  This is an extremely good performer.

ALEXANDER:  The 2005 Chevrolet Uplander, General Motors‘ new minivan design, gets a good rating, significantly better than the GM model it replaced, which the institute called one of the worst ever tested.

O‘NEILL:  Chevrolet now has a very good structural design.

ALEXANDER:  As for the small pickups, none had ever earned the institute‘s highest rating of good.  But this year, three did.  The Nissan Frontier, the Toyota Tacoma, also best pick.  And the Chevrolet Colorado, singled out as dramatically improved over the old Chevy S-10.

O‘NEILL:  Look at the compartment now.  Holds together extremely well.

ALEXANDER:  But other trucks didn‘t fare as well.  Take the Ford Ranger.  No structural overhaul since its last test, and no change in its rating—acceptable.

O‘NEILL:  You‘d limp away from this crash.

ALEXANDER:  And the Dodge Dakota sustained strong force against the dummy‘s legs.  Also rated acceptable.

Peter Alexander, NBC News.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  From crash tests to paternity tests, big doings at the San Diego Zoo.  Gao Gao goes gaga for Bai Yun.  This can mean only that Oddball is looming.  Sex tapes.

And speaking of mating rituals, it‘s royal honeymoon time.  All right, you and I will both spend the next few minutes getting that image out of our heads.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  We‘re back, and we pause tonight‘s COUNTDOWN of strange news and animal stories for a segment devoted to slightly stranger news and animal stories.

Let‘s play Oddball.

We begin in San Diego.  And yes, it‘s Rick Santorum‘s worst nightmare realized, pandas mating.

Gao Gao and Bai Yun have finally procreated, we hope, we hope.  Zoo officials are so excited, they have released the videotape of the affair, tastefully done, of course.  We put on the music.

There they are in the bushes.  Hey, what are you two doing over there? 

Cut that out!  It‘s prime time.

This is the first time in the zoo‘s history that pandas have naturally mated.  I don‘t want to think about the alternative to that.  But zookeepers won‘t know if Bai Yun is actually pregnant until a few days before she gives birth, if they are invited to the shower.

And if this tape begins to outsell the Paris Hilton video.

To Lake Minnetonka, Minnesota, where, in the 1800s, locomotives would stop on the bridge to let train passengers toss coins into the water for luck.  The coins are now rare.

Of course they are.  People threw them into the lake instead of spending them.

They have sat at the bottom of this lake for more than a century.  But now a group of divers called the Minnesota Frogmen are going down in search of the relics.

Our cameras were there exclusively to see what treasures from the deep were unearthed.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes, they did find a lot of old bottles, couple anchors, lot of other interesting things, but no coins today.  They remain out there for somebody else to find.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Well, the Frogmen say that next week, they‘ll begin searching the riverbed for any traces of the guy who told them there were rare coins in the riverbed.

To Vegas, Las Vegas, home of the famous Luxor Hotel, a 30-story glass pyramid topped by one of the brightest beams in the world, 40 billion candlepower.  And if they could just hook up a bug zapper to that bad boy, the whole state of Nevada might have a summer without mosquitoes.  Millions of bugs swarming to the light this spring, apparently a big annual disgusting event in Sin City.

Hotel officials say the bats will be arriving soon too.  Very nice.

The bug swarm has not only had no effect on Vegan tourism, because—well, Vegas tourism, perhaps—because frankly, most—or Vegan tourism in Vegas—because, frankly, most people still agree that this is better than a Celine Dion show.

Oh, the Michael Jackson trial, would this were a joke.  A mother takes the stand to testify that Jackson sobbed when she said her son could not sleep in the same bed with him.

And amid the new and terrifying details about the death of 9-year-old Jessica Lunsford, a real issue, what are politicians doing to close the gap in the sex-offender registration system, through which her killer walked?

Those stories ahead.

But now, here are COUNTDOWN‘s top three newsmakers of the day.

Number three, Gary Jackson, one of New York‘s most-wanted fugitives, caught when a girlfriend searching his belongings found a newspaper clipping describing his crime.  Moral?  Stop reading your own reviews.

Number two, Tim Brender of Madison, Wisconsin.  He was puttering in the basement when he moved a table.  A can of spray paint fell off the table, landed on a hammer on the floor.  The hammer punctured the can, the can started to spray paint wildly.  The spray paint ignited on the pilot light of the water heater, and the whole house burned down.

The good news is, Mr. Brender will receive a personalized edition of the kids‘ game Mousetrap.

Aw, gee, thanks a lot.

And number one, Susan Preacher of San Francisco.  She used to be a dominatrix called Mistress Celeste.  She quit, she went to work for the government.  I guess it was good training.  Anyway, she starts at the Treasury Department, and her manager turns out to be one of her former clients, who starts hitting on her.  So she files on him for sexual harassment, the former whip mistress.  And she has won a $50,000 settlement.

As they say, that‘s the way the latex bounces.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  At the courthouse in Santa Maria, California, the “oogy” factor is officially pegging into the red tonight.  Two words for you: head licking.  It‘s your entertainment and tax dollars in action, day 511 of the Michael Jackson investigations.  Former Jackson publicist kicking off the day‘s proceedings, surprising prosecutors by saying he did not remember seeing the entertainer lick the head of his 1993 teenaged accuser during a transatlantic flight.  The surprise?  Well, that ex-publicist, Bob Jones, apparently described that incident in his forthcoming tell-all book, something he later acknowledged on the stand.

But the most unsettling testimony today came from the mother of the boy in that 1993 case.  She testified that she initially refused to let her son sleep in the same room and bed of Jackson, and then the pop star came to her sobbing, and saying, don‘t you trust me?  He allegedly told her, we‘re a family.  COURT TV‘s Savannah Guthrie was inside the courtroom today as she has been every day since the trial began.

Savannah, thanks again for your time, good evening. 

SAVANNAH GUTHRIE, COURT TV CORRESPONDENT:  Hi, Keith, nice to see you. 

OLBERMANN:  Let‘s start with this former publicist.  It sounds like the old Clarence Darrow joke about the fisherman being pulled into the water by the fish.  Did the prosecution not talk to this witness?  What happened here?

GUTHRIE:  Well, you know, the prosecutors were actually ready for this.  Bob Jones, they knew, had written in this book he wants to publish about this head-licking incident.  And obviously, it bears striking similarity to a story that‘s told about the accuser in this case.  But then Bob Jones started having a little bit of a fuzzy recollection.  And the prosecutors were ready for it.  So they introduced actually these passages from his book and also two e-mails that he wrote to his co-author, Stacy Brown, who is an MSNBC contributor. 

And in those e-mails, he said, you know, this is going to come—this stuff about the accuser, the 1993 accuser, is going to bite Michael Jackson big.  So at the end of the day, Bob Jones had to admit, oh, yes, I guess I do remember this head-licking incident after all.

OLBERMANN:  Well, what is the explanation for that?  We‘ve seen this before in this case, with the house manager who suddenly remembered that he didn‘t just bring alcohol to Jackson and the kids, it was also soft drinks, too.  As an attorney when you see this a couple times at a trial, does it mean sloppiness on the part of the preparation on the one side or the other, or, not to get too conspiracy-theory on everybody, could it mean planted witnesses who are deliberately making the prosecution look bad, or witnesses who have gone back on their testimony for some reason?

GUTHRIE:  Could be all of the above.  Unfortunately, trials aren‘t scripted.  It is not “Law & Order,” and sometimes a witness does go south on you and the prosecution just has to make the best of it.  But what is interesting about this witness today, Bob Jones, is it seems to me prosecution was trying to suggest something unseemly might be going on.  They noted that Bob Jones used to complain about all of his money woes and all of these problems, but then suddenly he didn‘t have those money problems anymore.  And that coincided with his fuzzy recollections. 

So the prosecution wanted to make it seem like what this witness has been paid off, or suddenly, as soon as his money problems go away, and suddenly his memory about this terrible head-licking incident gets real fuzzy.

OLBERMANN:  As it comes to the dubiousness of witnesses, let‘s get to the ‘93 accuser‘s mother.  As you have stayed before on the show, there are witnesses, and this may be one of them, with problems.  They‘re not squeaky clean necessarily.  How did this woman do today?

GUTHRIE:  You know, she did fine.  I don‘t think that anybody, either the prosecution or the defense, really hammered her with the moral indignation that a lot of people who know about this case have.  I mean, this is a woman who came in and testified today that she let her son sleep with Michael Jackson for at least 30 nights in his bed, many of them, in her own home, under her own roof. And this is a boy who claims he was molested.

It is terrible stuff.  But look, it is not the defense who is going to hammer her on that, saying that she‘s a bad mother, because the defense wants the jurors to believe that there was nothing unseemly going on and that it was OK that she did this.  And the prosecution isn‘t going to hammer her on it because it is their witness.  So at the end of the day, she sort of got away scot-free on that.  Although I don‘t think it was lost on the jurors that this was a mother who didn‘t exactly do right by her son, accepting gifts from Michael Jackson and letting him sleep with her son day after day, night after night.

OLBERMANN:  OK.  Quickly, the final question, the scoreboard question. 

Who is winning?

GUTHRIE:  I can‘t answer that, Keith.  That‘s the worst question.  I‘m an objective reporter.  I don‘t know. 

OLBERMANN:  That‘s why I asked it.  So there is no answer.  There‘s no real indication one way or the other?

GUTHRIE:  It‘s very hard.  Some witnesses are great for the prosecution.  Sometimes the prosecution has terrible days.  I think it is a draw right now.  And maybe that ultimately isn‘t good for the prosecution, because they‘re the one who to have prove this case beyond a reasonable doubt.  But I would have a hard time voting one way or the other right now if I were on the jury.

OLBERMANN:  That is a perfectly acceptable answer.  COURT TV‘s Savannah Guthrie, in Santa Maria tonight.  Thanks as always.

GUTHRIE:  Sure.

OLBERMANN:  Putrid or not, the Jackson case at least remains within some kind of boundaries.  Sadly the death of the 9-year-old Florida girl Jessica Lunsford clearly does not.  John Couey allegedly confessing to holding this 9-year-old for at least two days after kidnapping her on February 23th.  He raped her repeatedly before he finally buried her alive. 

Almost as nightmarish, the fact that Couey, a registered sex offender, basically had not registered.  He had even been able to work on a building project at the little girl‘s school.  Local and national legislators now moving to tighten the laws in her memory.  The sponsor of Florida‘s Jessica Lunsford act is state senator Nancy Argenziano. 

Senator, good evening.  Thank you for your time.

STATE SEN. NANCY ARGENZIANO ®, FLORIDA:  Good evening.

OLBERMANN:  Your bill would stop the next John Couey in what way?

ARGENZIANO:  Well, several ways.  We have increased the penalty for lewd and lasciviousness behavior, or molestation of a child 12 and under now to a life sentence, and—up to a life sentence.  And lifetime monitoring of—an electronic monitoring, GPS-type units.  We‘ve also increased the penalty for those who lie about registered sex offenders, their whereabouts, to a third degree felony.  They go to prison.  And also, when you fail to register or you fail to live at the home that you are registered at, you go back to prison and pretty much stay there.

OLBERMANN:  Are these the loopholes that essentially allowed this man to not register?  To have his probation officer not know that he was an offender?  To have an employer take him into a school?  Are those the principal reasons that he was able to get away with this, in essence?

ARGENZIANO:  Yes, well, he was a registered sexual offender.  He wasn‘t living at the address that he had designated.  And we‘re changing that also.  Instead of them having to report by mail once a year, they have to report more often to their local sheriff‘s office.  We have to have our school boards and they‘re starting to make preparations now, not contract with anyone who does not do a background check on these people. 

And as far as the privatized probation officers are, the county level, we‘re mandating that they not only search the registry, which is a no-brainer, but also start accumulating information and plans on how to access criminal histories from the local law enforcement.

OLBERMANN:  Senator, ultimately, are we failing to protect kids by failing to acknowledge that there are a lot of addictions that people can overcome and there are a lot of criminal lifestyles that can be rehabilitated from, but pedophilia almost never is one of them?  Does the whole system need to be one strike and you‘re out?

ARGENZIANO:  Well, we‘ve taken great strides in the past, except that it is unfortunate that we have to learn where the cracks are through these horrendous situations.  But I can tell you that we have—in the senate, we have a comprehensive plan that even looks at probation.  I found out last week that there‘s one murder a week by somebody who is on probation.  We need to re-look at the whole thing.

And the State of Florida is sending a very large message, a very loud message to all those sexual offenders and predators, that if you think that this is going to continue in our state, and you‘re going to be able to get at our children easily, think again.

OLBERMANN:  Florida State Senator Nancy Argenziano, great thanks for your time tonight.

ARGENZIANO:  Thank you very much.

OLBERMANN:  To more happy topics, the wedding of Charles and Camilla.  Well, maybe it‘s not that much happier.  Forget all the grass in her hair, we have a diaper dress to show you.  That will cheer you up, I hope. 

Fifty thousand dollars or the bunny becomes a meal.  That is the threat.  More proof of what a great scientific advance the Internet really is. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Juxtaposition is everything.  Somewhere on the U.S. East Coast, two Web site operators claim to be planning to kill and eat a cuddly cute rabbit unless they‘re given $50,000.  While on Australia‘s North Coast, a leading politician is telling his constituents that they should kill all the cute, cuddly little frogs they can find, preferably using golf clubs, or cricket bats.  Cricket bats also work. 

These are actually Hawaiian cane toads.  They are poisonous to any animal that tries to attack them.  They can kill a crocodile, a death adder snake, or a dingo within 15 minutes.  So, says, local member of parliament, Dave Tollner, as the wave of cane toads approaches the city of Darwin, Australia, that‘s a toad, not Mr. Tollner, the official government line, which is to try to freeze the toads to death if you can, is nonsense.

Quote: “I think hitting them with a golf club or a cricket bat or just a great lump of wood is probably more humane than sticking something in a freezer that takes three days to die.” Get one of those big cans of beer.  That will work, too. 

All of which brings to us somehow to Toby.  This is the rabbit threatened on the Internet.  And as you watch George Lewis‘ report about Toby, remember two things.  One, it is estimated that last year in this country, we consumed 8 million to 10 million pounds of rabbit meat as food. 

And two, when on “The Simpsons,” Lisa feels guilty over eating lamb chops,

the same day she saw the cute sheep at the petting zoo, Homer reminds her,

“Lisa, this is lamb, not ‘a lamb.‘”

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GEORGE LEWIS, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  Because bunnies are such adorable little critters, people are hopping mad about this Web site, savetoby.com, filled with photos and even a video of a rabbit named Toby and a threat.

“Unfortunately, on June 30th, 2005, Toby will die.  I am going to eat him.  God as my witness, I will devour this little guy unless I receive $50,000 into my account.”

LEWIS:  Animal lovers like Sue Brennan (ph) who run a shelter called Rabbit Haven in Gig Harbor, Washington, are outraged.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I think it is purely emotional blackmail.  And it was all designed to get a reaction.  The reaction he is looking for is money.

LEWIS:  She and other animal rights activists are calling for the Web site to be taken down.  But the Arizona Internet company that provides technical facilities for the site says it will not pull the plug.

BOB PARSONS, PRESIDENT, GODADDY.COM:  There‘s nothing illegal about the Web site.  It is perfectly legal to eat a rabbit.

LEWIS:  The Save Toby people, two young men on the East Coast, didn‘t want to be identified or interviewed on camera, saying they‘ve received death threats.  But they agreed a phone interview.

(on camera):  This is a joke, right?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  No.  Not at all.  As a matter of fact, it is very serious.  If we don‘t get $50,000, we are going to eat the rabbit.

LEWIS (voice-over):  So how do you save Toby?  The Web site says you can either buy merchandise or donate.  But the donations link has been shut down because of pressure from animal lovers. 

(on camera):  Some animal rights advocates don‘t think that savetoby.com should be getting any publicity at all, fearing it will inspire others to do the same thing, causing these schemes to multiply around the Internet over and over again. 

(voice-over):  So far, the Web site claims it‘s collected more than $20,000.  And while rabbits are not exactly an endangered species, critics charge Save Toby is a pretty harebrained way to earn a buck.

George Lewis, NBC News, Los Angeles.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  “Kill da wabbit, kill da wabbit.” They want to come to your house and kill rabbit and cat.  A smooth segue this into tonight‘s round-up of the celebrity and entertainment news, “Keeping Tabs,” where Major League Baseball seems to be saying, get off our backs or we‘ll suspend this obscure player. 

For the second time in a week, a baseball outfielder you‘ve never heard of, hell, an outfielder I‘ve never heard of, Jorge Piedra, who spent one day with the Colorado Rockies last week, has been suspended after a positive test for steroids. 

Meanwhile, nobody ever accused steroid suspect No. 1, Barry Bonds, of being the sharpest tool in the shed, but this defies belief.  The San Francisco Chronicle reporting that while recuperating from knee surgery, Bonds is again working out with weight trainer Greg Anderson.  Anderson is awaiting trial on charges of distributing steroids to elite athletes.

Bonds‘ attorney said he tried to talk his client out of resuming his workouts with Anderson, but to no avail.  Last month Bonds said the media had finally forced to jump off a cliff, and he was retiring or going to miss the season or something, and look, here is my son standing next to me, and you guys stink.

Martha Stewart might observe that smell is a sufficiently nasty word, that you don‘t need stink just there.  Whatever she‘s mumbling under her breath tonight, we can only guess.  Today Judge Miriam Cedarbaum denied two motions from Ms. Stewart‘s attorneys.  She cannot remove that uncomfortable and clunky ankle bracelet tracking system, and she cannot have more than 48 hours a week from her New York estate to go work on her TV shows, and on selling more advertising for her magazines.  So there.

And also tonight, the royal wedding that almost wasn‘t.  Reportedly, the bride allegedly so stressed that there were fears she would not make it to the church, just another day and another episode of “Desperate Royal Housewives,” next. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN (voice-over):  Previously on “Desperate Royal Housewives”: 

The royal marriage, take two.  On the surface, it looked picture perfect, but underneath her designer gown, did Camilla have cold feet?  Did the queen forget the cardinal rule of Great Britain, the stiff upper lip?  And did the guests realize that short skirts plus shuttle buses equals diapers?  Next, on “Desperate Royal Housewives.”

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  It has been jokingly suggested on more than one occasion that given how fascinated we are with the British royal family, its members should quit that sceptered isle and all move to Brooklyn.  Saturday‘s TV ratings are in.  Their future king‘s wedding finished third in Britain behind a soap opera wedding and a horse race. 

Now let‘s not get carried away by the ratings, people watch Bill O‘Reilly God‘s sake. 

(LAUGHTER)

OLBERMANN:  You know what they say?   Eight hundred billion flies can‘t be wrong.  Speaking of which, there‘s Charles.  Reportedly, he so spooked the second bride-to-be that Camilla almost left him at the church on Saturday.  In a moment, more on that wedding.  First from London, our correspondent, Michael Okwu on the honeymoon, bet that‘s been a barrel of laughs.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MICHAEL OKWU, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  With little fanfare, the royal newlyweds emerged for a morning church service to greet well-wishers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  We‘re really pleased that they got married and we just wanted to wish them all of the best in the future.

OKWU:  Set against the Scottish highlands, Charles dressed up in traditional tartan kilt, his wife dressed down in a fuchsia coat and matching beret.  The couple is keeping things consistent, a decided low-key honeymoon. 

After Saturday‘s modest town hall civil service, blessing, and reception, featuring canapes by tray rather than caviar on the table, the house of Windsor got there by bus.

(on camera):  Fewer than 8 million British watched the event on television.  Fewer than sporting events and even a popular science fiction spoof here called “Dr. Who.”

(voice-over):  It was never billed as the wedding of the century.  That title for the 1981 wedding of Charles and Diana, under the spiraling arches of St. Paul‘s Cathedral.  More than 28 million marveled that train before Charles and Di spent a glitzy honeymoon that began in the Mediterranean on the royal yacht Britannia.  At the end of that trip, Diana strolled along Scotland‘s highlands too, but most agree, it‘s more of Camilla‘s cup of tea. 

CAROLINE GRAHAM, AUTHOR, “CHARLES & CAMILLA: THE LOVE STORY”:  Camilla is a traditional English country lady.  She loves hunting, shooting, fishing.  She‘s never happier than when she‘s in a pair of Wellington boots walking across a muddy field with a couple of smelly dogs.  Very different from Diana.

OKWU:  While Charles and Di spent six weeks honeymooning, Charles and Camilla will enjoy 10 days her at Birkhall Mansion on the royal Balmoral estate, fishing, walking, and no doubt, wearing tweed. 

Michael Okwu, NBC News, London.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  Now what about the actual wedding?  I‘m joined by royals expert, Richard Mineards, formerly of The London Daily Express, who is currently in Los Angeles. 

Thank you for joining us again tonight sir.

RICHARD MINEARDS, ROYALS EXPERT:  Good evening, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  First off.  She almost left him at the altar, that is a report from a British newspaper called People, so stressed out that she was nearly hospitalized on Thursday.  Is this true or wishful thinking on the part of royal watcher snipers?

MINEARDS:  Probably wishful thinking.  I do know that Camilla, like many people in Britain at the moment, are having little bouts of the flu.  I‘m sure she was under a great deal of stress and was breathing a great sigh of relief after the wedding was over. 

But she had certainly every intention after 35 years of canoodling with Charles of turning up to make the whole affair official and getting her status of HRH, and of course, being Duchess of Cornwall.

OLBERMANN:  For all that went wrong beforehand, and we‘ve talked about all of this, and Camilla‘s supposed stress out, whatever that was, and all of the universal snarkiness about this wedding in 20 different languages, by all accounts the wedding reception was warm and loving, with the bride dissolving into affectionate tears at the warmth of the speech by the groom and even the queen managing to crack up the princes, William and Harry, with her speech.  It sounds like, despite every effort to make it otherwise, it was pretty nice. 

MINEARDS:  It was.  It was what—you might not call it an intimate family occasion with 800 guests, but I love the idea of the queen stopping everyone to announce the winner of the Grand National Horse Race as being the important part of the moment.  And even Camilla‘s ex-husband, Andrew Parker Bowles, interrupting Prince Charles‘ toast to say what a wonderful woman his ex-wife was.  It was quite an extraordinary occasion. 

OLBERMANN:  Having said all of that, you mentioned one of the people on the other side of the table, the non-royal side of this table, I‘m afraid there‘s the issue of Sara Buys, she‘s the fiancee of Camilla‘s son Tom, who is now step-grandson to the queen.  And as all of my lady friends told me today, not only did she commit fashion suicide right here, the polka dots clashing violently with these leopard print shoes, but the skirt was a disaster waiting to happen.  And it happened.  She boards this minibus and all of a sudden the skirt wraps around her like a diaper. 

So I have two questions for you.  What‘s with the diaper?  And why were there minibuses at a royal wedding?  It just doesn‘t sound right. 

MINEARDS:  Well, as for the diaper, I think it was Mahatma Gandhi meets Dolce & Gabbana, a very bad fashion choice.  And those legs, you might see better ones on a Steinway.  As to the couchettes, if I might call them by Windsorian, by royal appointment, obviously it would have been a logistical nightmare to actually have cars when you can transport 20 people at a time.  It was just a tiara‘s toss from St. George‘s Chapel to the castle.  So I think it was better to have that with these little buses rather than myriad cars and Rolls-Royces around.

OLBERMANN:  Lastly, then there was some supposed dispute, or an inference that perhaps the queen did not spend a lot of time with Charles during the event or after the event—and that part, obviously she didn‘t show up for wedding, but was there a dispute between the two of them? 

MINEARDS:  No.  It was nothing to do with a dispute.  The queen actually only stayed about a minute after the service and then dashed off back to her apartment at Windsor Castle to watch the Grand National, which is the British version of the Kentucky Derby.  So all in all, the horses were the winners on this one, not only with viewers on the BBC, but certainly with his mother and Camilla‘s mother-in-law. 

OLBERMANN:  Well, I can understand that, the whole TV ratings thing, because if I had my choice of a wedding or watching “Dr. Who,” I‘d watch “Dr. Who” every time. 

Richard Mineards, royals watcher who had quite a bit to watch over the weekend, thank you again for your time, sir.

MINEARDS:  My pleasure.

OLBERMANN:  And that‘s COUNTDOWN.  Thank you for being part of it.  Looks like a diaper, what can I tell you?  I‘m Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck.

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

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