updated 4/25/2005 8:50:20 AM ET 2005-04-25T12:50:20

Guest: Noelle Walker, Robert Edgar, Wendy Murphy, Sally Boysen

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

Finger-lickin‘-not-so-good.  The woman who claimed she found a fingertip in her bowl of Wendy‘s chili arrested, accused of grand theft, of stealing Wendy‘s reputation, of, presumably, making all this up.

A downed private helicopter in Iraq.  Today not one but two terrorist groups claiming responsibility.  Each has its own video of the attack.

As the judicial filibusters near, Senator Bill Frist is warned, Don‘t mix politics with religion, warned by one of the leading officials of his own church, and warned by the head of the National Council of Churches, who will join us.

And yes, it‘s a smoking chimp.  Ha, ha.  Until you realize, he‘s 38.  He‘s been smoking for 20 years.  And the best the nitwits at his zoo in South Africa can think to do is ask visitors, Please don‘t throw cigarettes at the chimps.

All that and more now on COUNTDOWN.

Good evening.

If you are eating, put the food down for a moment.  And if you‘re planning to scam a business with one of those gross out charges, sit back and take some notes.

The Wendy‘s story, the woman who claimed she had found a human fingertip in a bowl of their chili, turned dramatically today when that woman was arrested for attempted grand theft.

The fickle finger of fate indeed.

Police were vague about what Anna Ayala did or did not do, if she supplied the body part in question.  She claimed she found it after a meal at a Wendy‘s in San Jose a month ago today, bleeding out her story on “Good Morning America.”

Ayala planned a lawsuit, then suddenly backed out of it the other day.  Last night police in Las Vegas arrested her, charging her with grand theft in an unrelated real estate deal and with a unique case of attempted grand theft, stealing millions of dollars of Wendy‘s reputation.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

CHIEF BOB DAVIS, SAN JOSE POLICE DEPARTMENT:  The case became what could best described as a CSI type of investigation, which included both the forensic examination of fingertip tissue, as well as some excellent gumshoe detective work.

They conducted what we called an ingredient trace-back investigation to determine if the finger involved in this case may have actually been introduced into the chili somewhere in the production or preparation processes.

Dave Thomas would be very proud of his organization for the way that they worked with local law enforcement.

JOSEPH DESMOND, WENDY‘S FRANCHISE OWNER:  I should like to express my sincere and my heartfelt thanks to the professional San Jose Police Department.  Please come back to Wendy‘s, because we do serve wonderful hamburgers and sandwiches and everything else.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

OLBERMANN:  Well, investigators spent most of that afternoon‘s news conference thanking each other, and as you heard, recommending Wendy‘s so much that the only thing they did not do was hand out coupons.

The Associated Press was quoting an unnamed source familiar with the case who says the police have a witness who said Ms. Ayala described to them how she put the finger in the chili herself.

Odd to have a scam work out so well, only to see it slip through your fingertips.

Sorry.

Joining me now is the local NBC reporter who has been following this bizarre case for weeks, Noelle Walker at our station in San Jose, KNTV.

Noelle, good evening.

NOELLE WALKER, KNTV, SAN JOSE:  Good evening.

(INAUDIBLE).  Surprisingly, I have not been hungry all day today.

OLBERMANN:  I would think.

WALKER:  Go figure.

OLBERMANN:  Look, the (INAUDIBLE)...

WALKER:  The official line from  --  Go ahead.

OLBERMANN:  Yes, the cops aren‘t saying what they think she did.  Why are they keeping that to themselves?

WALKER:  Yes, the official line from police is that for them to say anything more than what little they‘ve already said would jeopardize the case.

What they have said is that they are pretty sure that this finger did not get into the chili in the way Ms. Ayala described it.  But if they know how the chili  -- how the finger got into the chili, they are not saying at this point.

So if you read between the lines, conceivably, they could have another crime on their hands, because if there is someone out there, dead or alive, who is missing a finger, and did not intend to be missing a finger, that‘s a crime.

So that‘s something for which she has not been charged, if she is going to be charged with it later.

Also keep in mind that Wendy‘s is still offering a $100,000 reward to anyone who can point the finger at where this offending finger might have come from.

OLBERMANN:  Right.  So it turns out that this woman, Ayala, has a history of lawsuits, and even against fast-food places previous to this one?

WALKER:  Correct.  As you pointed out, she did file a suit against Wendy‘s.  That was pretty short-lived, because she dropped that lawsuit from the outside.  It would appear she dropped it once the attention turned toward her.

She also filed a lawsuit against El Pollo Loco claiming that one of her children got sick after eating there, and a lawsuit against General Motors, who‘s a former employer.  There are conflicting reports as to whether or not she ever got any money out of El Pollo Loco or General Motors.

OLBERMANN:  Noelle, attempted grand theft, are they saying yet what kind of jail time that could earn her if that‘s the only charge that it winds up being?

WALKER:  There are two charges right now.  The attempted grand theft is for the Wendy‘s incident.  And that carries a maximum jail term of one-and-a-half years.

The other charge she faces is grand theft, and that is for a completely unrelated incident.  Police said that in investigating this Wendy‘s case, they went back to 2002, and found another alleged victim, who said she lost $11,000 trying to do a deal to buy a mobile home with Ms.  Ayala, and that she never recouped that money from her.  So that was what the grand theft charge came from.  That carries a maximum sentence of three years.

So we should point out, she‘s not been convicted of anything.  But were she to be convicted of these two charges, it would be four years, four-and-a-half years, excuse me, maximum sentence.

OLBERMANN:  So that other woman in the mobile home case burned her fingers by dealing with Ms.—I‘m sorry, that was another one we‘ve done.

All right, last question.  I watched that news conference live, and I know you did.  It was so pro-Wendy‘s, not just from the Wendy‘s people, but from the police and the investigators.  It almost sounded as if the police felt they had something to make up to the company.  Did you get that sense, too?  Do they?  By conducting this investigation, does somebody feel like the police harmed Wendy‘s as well?

WALKER:  Well, they didn‘t need any coupons from Wendy‘s, because this weekend, Wendy‘s is giving away free Frosties to anyone who comes into Wendy‘s in the Bay Area, so it can‘t be for free food.

I think from the outside, to people, it looks like this took a long time to get to this point.  It was 31 days.  And you‘d better believe, Wendy‘s is counting how many days it took to get to this arrest.

Police will point out that this started not as a police case, but as a public health investigation.  Between Wendy‘s and the health department, they determined that yes, in fact it was a finger in the bowl of chili.  But how did it get there?  Did it get there through anyone in the Wendy‘s chain?

And the determination was, no, it didn‘t.  That‘s when it turned to a criminal case, and the police stepped in.

OLBERMANN:  But in a month, it  -- they claim it cost them $2.5 million in business in the area.

Noelle Walker of KNTV...

WALKER:  Two-and-a-half million dollars, yes.

OLBERMANN:  Yes.  KNTV in San Jose.  She has had her finger on the pulse of this strange, strange story, and we have now exhausted them.

Great thanks, Noelle.

WALKER:  You‘re welcome.

OLBERMANN:  To the other side of the legal system now.  And had the actions of Ms. Ayala taken place inside the Beltway in instead of Northern California, the list of adjectives used to describe her behavior might have necessarily expanded from antifinger, or anti-fast food, to antifaith.

Almost anything that strays from the wishes of the Republican congressional majority these days painted somewhere as an attack against those who have moral values by those who do not.

In the Senate, they have gone so far as to threaten to do away with the time-honored filibuster, setting the stage for a major fight on the floor of the Senate by, step one, hand-picking judicial nominees that the Democrats have filibustered before, and step two, having their leader appear on a national religious telecast depicting Democrats as, quote, “against people of faith,” unquote.

First, the nominees are Janice Roger Brown of California, and Priscilla Richmond Owen of Texas, both defeated by filibuster during the president‘s first term.

Republicans hoping to put the Democrats on the defensive for denying two women, one of them an African-American, an up-or-down vote.

But race and gender aside, Democrats long arguing that Brown and Owen are conservative ideologues unfit to serve in lifetime positions.

It is against that backdrop that Senate majority leader Bill Frist will participate in a religious telecast over this weekend that will air on Christian radio and television networks.  The theme, as carefully chosen as anything else, the filibuster against people of faith.

But not everyone of faith believes invoking faith in the name of politics is a good idea.  Among those troubled by the tactics of Frist and others is the presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the senior official of Senator Frist‘s own Presbyterian Church, and the Reverend Dr. Robert Edgar, general secretary for the National Council of Churches, also a former congressman himself.

He joins us now.

Reverend Edgar, good evening.  Thank you for your time.

REV. DR. ROBERT EDGAR, GENERAL SECRETARY, NATIONAL COUNCIL OF

CHURCHES:  Good to be with you.

OLBERMANN:  What is it about the events Sunday, and these senators‘ participation in it in particular, that you find objectionable?

EDGAR:  Well, first, let me make it clear, we believe that Democrats, Republicans, House members, Senate members, ought to spend time in churches.

What is different here is that Senator Frist has aligned himself with a group of ultraconservative right-wing Christians who have said, We have a lock on what God believes, and everyone else is un-Christian, unfaithful, and un-American.

And we just think that‘s an outrage.  The head of the Lutheran Church, the head of the Presbyterian Church, one of the leaders of Reform Judaism, the leader of one of the historic black churches, all of us came out today in real moral outrage at what Senator Frist is doing.

OLBERMANN:  As you point out, part of this is some Christians taking advantage of a political platform to say, We‘re the real Christians and you‘re not.  But do you worry that it could get bigger than this, insomuch as that there are nine Senate Democrats, plus the Republican chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Mr. Specter, who happen to be Jewish?

EDGAR:  Yes, I think it can.  This smacks a lot of 1950s and McCarthyism, where Senator Frist and the Family Research Council is setting up to say, Anyone who doesn‘t agree with us on diluting the filibuster is somehow un-American, un-Christian.

And we just can‘t stand for that in this country.  Our founding fathers and mothers and the First Amendment really focused on the fact that justice is for all of us.  And I‘ve nicknamed this current Justice Sunday as Just Us Sunday.  Some of our conservative colleagues want to think only a small segment of the faith community has all the truth and all the answers.  And we just think that‘s wrong.

And I hope that Senator Frist will disassociate himself, back away from this, repudiate it, and move us in a better direction, where we respect the pluralism of America.

OLBERMANN:  That might be a short-term solution to it, if Senator Frist were to back away from it, as you suggest.  But is there a long-term solution at this point?  Is there some way to get back to a earlier, a relatively earlier time, when everybody seemed to be able to respect everybody else‘s right to exist as a religion and as a politician?

EDGAR:  Oh, absolutely.  And I think it‘s an imperative for us to do that.  If you look at all of the conflicts around the world, they have religious connotations.  We need to model good interfaith behavior here.  Jews, Muslims, Christians need to live in collaboration with each other, need to listen to each other, respect each other‘s differences as well as the things that we can agree on.

If we‘re going to work on issues of poverty and environment and justice, that cuts across a lot of our religious lines.  And we need to find ways to reach out to our brothers and sisters.  Even our conservative colleagues, I think, are embarrassed by going too far in this instance.

OLBERMANN:  I have to ask you one more question.  And I‘m short of time, but I must ask you this.  What would you think if somebody is watching at home and sees that little graphic underneath your face that says, “Former Democratic Congressman,” and says, Aha, no wonder he‘s saying that, he‘s a Democrat?

EDGAR:  Well, I would just say, I believe in the separation of church and state, but not of separation of people of faith and institutions of government.

I happened to get elected six times in the most Republican district in the nation to have a Democratic congressman.  I think most people aren‘t Democrats or Republicans first.  They‘re just average, ordinary citizens who want us to have a just nation that‘s justice for all.

OLBERMANN:  Well, if that‘s not true, sir, I certainly hope it becomes true immediately.

The Reverend Dr. Bob Edgar, general secretary of the National Council of churches.  Our great thanks for coming in tonight.

EDGAR:  Good to be here.

OLBERMANN:  Perhaps it should not be surprising that the justices of the highest court are themselves in disagreement about the rising tide of antijudicial behavior and rhetoric.  Our own Tim Russert sitting down last night for a rare conversation with Justices Sandra Day O‘Connor, Antonin Scalia, and Stephen Breyer.

The event planned for many months as a means of educating young Americans about the Constitution.  But current events and a judiciary under attack had a way of creeping into the conversation.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

JUSTICE SANDRA DAY O‘CONNOR, U.S. SUPREME COURT:  There have been other times in the history of the country when there have been some feelings, ill feelings, on the part of the president about the court or perhaps the legislative branch.  This isn‘t new.

JUSTICE STEPHEN M. BREYER, U.S. SUPREME COURT:  We‘ve overcome them.  We‘ve survived them.  We‘ve grown together on it being accepted widely in the country.  But I can criticize that court all I want.  But I will follow the rule of law.  And that‘s the treasure that I think this country has.

O‘CONNOR:  (INAUDIBLE)...

JUSTICE ANTONIN SCALIA, U.S. SUPREME COURT:  I dissent on this point, I have to tell you.  It‘s not a question of the country disobeying the decisions of the court.  That‘s not what‘s going on.  But I think what is going on is unprecedented, in the difficulty of getting judicial nominations confirmed.

I was confirmed unanimously by the Senate.  Now, something very fundamental has changed.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

OLBERMANN:  Also tonight, the first civilian helicopter shot down in the war in Iraq.  The attack and the grisly aftermath proved to have been videotaped.

As was an extraordinary scene in a kindergarten classroom.  You‘re watching a 5-year-old girl getting handcuffed by police.  Somebody seems to have gone a bit too far.  Now the question is, who?

You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Another day without the announcement of the makeup of the new government in Iraq, another day without peace.

One U.S. soldier killed by a roadside bomb, at least eight Iraqis dead in a car bombing at a mosque in Baghdad.

And the only new part of this equation was something so unthinkable as to be mind-numbing.  Two different terrorist groups, not only each claiming they and they alone brought down a Bulgarian commercial helicopter yesterday, but each has released its own videotape purporting to show the deed.

As our correspondent in Baghdad, Richard Engel, reports, one of those tapes seems to be legitimate.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RICHARD ENGEL, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  New video tonight that purports to show the downing Thursday of a civilian helicopter north of Baghdad, taped by insurgents, and hand-delivered to the Arabic TV network Al Jazeera.

The U.S. military today sent a team to investigate the crash site and to recover wreckage for further examination.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Stand up.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Give me a hand.

ENGEL:  Yesterday, the insurgents released video of what appeared to be the execution of the crash‘s lone survivor.  Colleagues today identified the man as Lubamir Kostof (ph), a Bulgarian pilot and father of a 15-year-old boy.

And insurgents delivered another tape to Al Jazeera today.  They say they will kill these Romanian journalists and their Iraqi-American translator in the next four days if Romania doesn‘t withdraw its troops from Iraq.

Analysts say one reason these tapes are made is to sway American public opinion.

COL. JACK JOCOBS (RET.), MSNBC ANALYST:  To withdraw support from the American effort there, to withdraw support from the Iraqi effort there at democracy.  It‘s basically a very bizarre and ogreish public relations effort.

ENGEL:  In Baghdad today, TV news cameras captured what has become a daily story here, car bombings.  This one, at a Shi‘ite mosque, killed nine people.

So what‘s the Iraqi government doing about this upsurge in violence?  Hard to tell.  For weeks now, they have been locked in a power struggle over which group gets cabinet posts and control over reconstruction money.

GHASSAN AL-ATTIVAS, IRAQ FOUNDATION FOR DEVELOPMENT AND DEMOCRACY: 

Election process failed, failed because it created highly perilous situation.  And now, how we get back, step back from the brink of disaster?

ENGEL (on camera):  Today, a U.S. official said the political infighting is handcuffing the Iraqi security forces, which can‘t take new initiatives until they know who‘s in charge.

Richard Engel, NBC News, Baghdad.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  There was no connection between Iraq and 9/11, but both that country and this one now share the blight of terror.  Two developments tonight in what we have faced here.

As expected, Zacarias Moussaoui, the so-called 20th hijacker, has pleaded guilty to the charges that he helped al Qaeda carry out the attacks.  He did so in district court in Alexandria, Virginia, even though the plea still leaves him liable to the death penalty.

In court, he claimed he was being trained for a later plot in which he would have flown a 727 into the White House if the U.S. refused to release Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman, himself convicted in the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center.  Otherwise, Moussaoui said, just 14 words, six “guilty”s to each of the charges, and, about his later sentencing, “I don‘t expect any leniency from the Americans.”

Meantime, in Madrid, the trial began of 24 Muslim men accused by the Spanish government of constituting the al Qaeda cell where 9/11 was planned.  The Spanish began their investigation of these suspects eight years ago, principally of a man named Imad Yarkas (ph), a used-car salesman who supposedly hosted the July 2001 meeting in Spain between Mohammed Atta and the former number three man in al Qaeda, Ramzi Binalshibh (ph).

Twenty-one of the 24 defendants are accused only of crimes unrelated to 9/11.

Also tonight, our comic relief from the serious stuff.  We tell all of you criminal viewers time and time again, do not break into the house through the chimney.  But do you listen?  No, you do not.

And from a chump in a chimney to a chimp smoking like a chimney.  Yes, this looks funny, but the story behind it may in fact make you very, very angry.

Stand by.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Proving once again that we at COUNTDOWN here are experts at resisting everything but temptation, let‘s play Oddball.

And we begin with more evidence still that criminals rarely learn from the mistakes of their peers.  Another would-be burglar is stuck up another chimney.  Jose Francisco Martinez first tried to get in through the doors, then the windows of the empty home in Lake Tahoe.

When he failed to open them, he climbed in the chimney, got stuck halfway down, and had to yell for help.  Neighbors heard the ruckus, called the fire department.  They kindly filmed Mr. Martinez‘s ignominious rescue to help give the rest of us an enjoyable start to the weekend.

And now, we‘re not really sure what this is nor why, nor if it‘s strangely comforting or strangely disturbing.  So when in doubt, show it anyway.

There are two Bengal tiger cubs having trouble feeding at the Yangon Zoo in Mianmar, the nation formerly known as Burma.  The zoo guy in this report is speaking English, the woman trying to help is speaking Burmese, and the reporter is in Japanese.  You figure it out.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  (speaking in Japanese)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  (speaking in Burmese)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  (speaking in Japanese)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  They find some difficulty in sucking the nipple from the bottle.  But when we take the cubs suck the lady‘s (INAUDIBLE), it was all right.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Now, is she an employee of the zoo, or a visitor?  Does she at least get free admission?

Speaking of odd relationships, there‘s Kobe and Vanessa Bryant.  What do you say after you say you‘re sorry?  You say it again and again and again, at increasing prices.

And then there‘s a dreadful story from Florida.  A convicted sex offender kills himself, and it turns out he did not commit the crime for which the neighbors there were harassing him.

These stories ahead.

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

Number three, Julie Anderson of Richland, Washington.  If you‘re a woman who‘s ever been dissatisfied with your trip to the hair salon, you will understand.  Days after her last cut at Stage One, she returned to the place, pulled out a gun, and held up her stylist and the salon.  She got $100.  Police arrested her 45 minutes later at another shop, where she had just paid for a trim, allegedly with the money she had just stolen.

Number two, Jorge Bustamante, a candidate in next year‘s presidential elections in Peru.  Well, maybe not anymore.  Arrested in Florida for campaign fundraising violations, namely, running a credit card fraud ring.

And number one, Dr. Glenn Wilson, psychologist at the University of London.  His research of 1,100 workers indicates that while smoking marijuana in the office will lower your I.Q. by 5 points, being continually interrupted by e-mails and text messages in the office will lower your I.Q.

by 10 points.

Now, I know I wanted to use this story to make a point to my colleagues here at COUNTDOWN, who send me e-mails and text messages all the live-long day, but I‘ll be damned if I can remember what it was.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  This is a reminder that whatever is wrong, panic and blind anger never make it better, almost always make it worse.  After 9-year-old Jessica Lunsford and 13-year-old Sarah Lunde were killed by registered sex offenders who admitted their crimes, public response, especially in the areas where the girls lived, had been intense.  As legislators moved to tighten regulation of offenders, a county commissioner in Florida took matters into his own hands and propose that signs be posted in neighborhoods where registered offenders lived.

This is where the bad went to worse.  On Monday of this week, a Ocala, Florida, man named Clovis Claxton saw signs all over the block where he lived.  They had his name and address, and at the bottom in bold letters were the words, “Child rapist.”  But Claxton wasn‘t a child rapist.  He was mentally challenged, in a wheelchair, and 18 years ago, when he was 20, he had pleaded guilty to sexual assault in Washington state.  His parents say he and a 9-year-old girl exposed themselves to each other.

He had never been in trouble with the law again, but the signs caused Claxton to phone the sheriff‘s department and say he was afraid his neighbors were going to harm him.  They took him into protective custody and briefly to a mental health facility for evaluation.  The signs were illegal.  They had been altered by somebody to include those words, “Child rapist,” but they stayed up, and one would be found beside the body of Clovis Claxton when his parents, with whom he lived, discovered him dead of an overdose of alcohol and pills, an apparent suicide, Wednesday morning.  His mother said people are still coming by their house, looking and pointing and yelling names, not realizing that her son is dead.  Thanks to them, she added.

The county commission who proposed putting up signs like Clovis Claxton is named Randy Harris.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RANDY HARRIS, MARION COUNTY COMMISSIONER:  They could have said, “Child molester” instead of “Child rapist,” and very possibly, there wouldn‘t have been a breach in the law at all.  I think it‘s kind of petty to suggest that they‘ve broken the law.  He branded himself.  The general public did not brand him.  So I‘m not buying into the argument that it‘s the fault of the general public or the fault of the county commission for having a discussion on informing the general public on potential threats in the neighborhoods where these sex offenders live.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Marion County police are now checking those sings for fingerprints.  And if that leads to whoever altered them, they‘ve asked the state‘s attorney‘s office to prosecute.

I‘m joined now by Paul Pfingst, former district attorney for San Diego County.  Paul, thanks for your time.  Good evening.

PAUL PFINGST, FORMER PROSECUTOR, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST:  Good evening.

OLBERMANN:  Was this a vigilante murder by proxy?

PFINGST:  No, not legally.  Not—you could never make a criminal case that the person who altered the signs and called this now dead man a child rapist committed a manslaughter or any other type of criminally negligent homicide, no.  In a civil court, could this person be sued for slandering, for defamation?  Yes, if the deceased were still living.  But now that he‘s dead, that case dies with him.

So it‘s likely that the person who altered these signs can only be guilty, possibly, of some minor vandalism for changing the signs, even if that.

OLBERMANN:  Do the survivors, do the parents have any recourse?  Would there be a suit for wrongful death, perhaps?  Or is there a case against the county commissioner for inciting something like this?

PFINGST:  Well, against the county commissioner, probably not, depending upon the sign that was put up.  The person who altered the signs, however, may be civilly liable for contributing to the wrongful death and the suicide of this person because it could be argued that it was foreseeable that someone under these circumstances who was accused of this horrendous child rape might do extraordinary things and might become depressed, and so on.

So yes.  Could there be a civil suit?  Yes.  And could that be fought out in the courts?  Yes.  And would a jury be pretty sympathetic to the parents in this case?  Well, darn yes.  Is it likely that the damages would be very big?  That‘s hard to tell at this point because we just don‘t know enough information.

OLBERMANN:  Obviously, there are degrees of sexual offenses and degrees of sexual offenders.  Especially in the aftermath of the child killings recently in these cases, is it not vital that every public official from the policeman on the beat to the county commissioners make those distinctions clear, so you don‘t get fringe offenders described as child rapists to people who don‘t have the time or the inclination to separate the fact from the fiction in their own minds?

PFINGST:  You‘re absolutely right because the variety of sexual offenses go from ones that are serious but not life-threatening or very, very serious, to things that are both life-threatening and life-changing for the victims.  There‘s a broad spectrum of sexual offenses.  And what‘s happened, as the legislatures seek to increase the types of offenses that we notify people of, we become somewhat less discriminating in describing those offenses so that people can have a good idea of the true risk and risk assessment that the offender may pose in the neighborhood.

This case presents probably the most compelling example of something that causes everybody to rethink what‘s going on because this person, this deceased‘s offense, was over 20 years ago, with no subsequent criminal record.  He was a young man.  He‘s done nothing for 20 years.  And one would probably in that neighborhood not feel threatened by his existence.  Whereas, there are other people who could have been recently released from prison, who could pose an immediate and grave threat to the neighborhood.

So how do we make distinctions between these?  Well, clearly, we‘re a long ways from making those distinctions and setting out the information, much like we used to be a very long ways from tracking people because what happened in the past was someone would live in a certain address and move, and then someone else would move into the sexual offender‘s old apartment, and that person would be the subject of hate mail and ridicule and anger, and so on.  And we had to start making changes in law enforcement to adapt to that.

OLBERMANN:  Paul Pfingst, former prosecutor, on this terrible case in all respects in Ocala, Florida.  Great.  Thanks for your insight, sir.

PFINGST:  You‘re welcome.

OLBERMANN:  Another tale of crime and kids.  This time it is the child treated like a criminal, the police actually handcuffing her in her school.  There‘s much more to this story, as well.  And a crime against nature of sorts in South Africa.  Twenty years he has been smoking.  All of a sudden, now, the zoo thinks it is time he stopped.  Funny video, not so funny story.  Stand by.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  At first blush, it is inconceivable, police called to a school in St. Petersburg, Florida, and three officers wind up handcuffing a student—a 5-year-old student.  Handcuffs on a 5-year-old.

Well, there‘s more to it, of course, and it‘s all on videotape, evidently because the Fairmount Park  Elementary School felt it needed to preserve a record of how things went wrong when this little girl so disrupted her own classroom that the teacher pulled all the other kids out of it.  Later she was sent to the assistant principal‘s office and proceeded to redecorate it, pulling things off the wall, beginning to punch the assistant principal, to which Nicole Dibenedetto carefully avoided touching the girl, except to take her back down from the tables and chairs onto which she has climbed.

Then somebody calls the cops.  In the interim, the girl has seemingly calmed down.  She‘s just seated there.  But it will not last.  Book‘ em, Dano!

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You need to calm down.  You need to do it now.  OK?  Do you remember me?  I‘m the one who told your mom I‘d put handcuffs on you.

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD:  Mom!  Mom!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN REVENA, FAMILY ATTORNEY:  The police action to me is indefensible, three police officers arresting a 5-year-old, who at the time when they approach, was sitting calmly at a table, doing nothing but sitting there.  And to forcibly handcuff that little girl in that manner, that‘s indefensible.

DR. RON STONE, PINELLAS CO. SCHOOL DISTRICT:  You have to understand that this is a fairly new assistant principal.  The principal was out of the office at the time, and she was trying to do what she thought was best under the circumstances.  It wasn‘t until they got to the point where they realized they couldn‘t de-escalate the child that they called for support from law enforcement.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  One Adam 12, we have a 5-year-old out of control.  Wow!  And no, they did not charge her.  No report as to where they took her after they handcuffed her.

Joining me now for some perspective here is former prosecutor, now victims‘ rights advocate, Wendy Murphy.  Good evening, Wendy.

WENDY MURPHY, FORMER PROSECUTOR:  Good to see you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  This looks like everything went pretty well until the police got there.  Did the police screw it up, or was it the mistake of the school for calling them?

MURPHY:  Can I answer both?

OLBERMANN:  OK.

MURPHY:  You know, what school official calls the police on a 5-year-old?  What police department sends three—count ‘em, three! -- cops to respond to a 5-year-old having a tantrum?  And I‘m sure that‘s the kind of call they got.

You know, Keith, this is why the police can‘t protect 13-year-old girls from being raped and murdered by sex offenders because they‘re sending three cops to restrain 5-year-olds having a tantrum.  What is in the water in Florida?  They just don‘t have it down.  If you ask me—I mean, I don‘t even understand the nature of the debate.  If there‘s a controversy here, I don‘t have my head around it yet because there is no excuse, period, and the school and the cops are both responsible.  And I do hope that lawyer we just heard from brings a very quick lawsuit.

OLBERMANN:  What about the history we don‘t know here?  I mean, we heard one of the officers asking the girl, do you remember me?  And then saying something about, I‘m the one who told your mother about handcuffs. 

We don‘t know that there might have been past incidents.  There might have

·         I mean, is it conceivable that they tried to discipline this girl, and the mother threatened to do something, so they thought, Well, we should not really do anything about this girl unless we have some sort of independent witnesses or independent people involved in this?

I mean, I‘m not justifying the handcuffs, which I think would be limited to a situation where the 5-year-old takes hostages.  But in the interim, I mean, can you see calling the police if there‘s some sort of long history of this girl just being out of control?

MURPHY:  You mean she‘s got a long history of starting her tantrums at age 3?  No, I don‘t care what her history is.  If she has a history of ripping papers off the wall, you still don‘t call the cops.  You know, she can‘t be prosecuted because of her age anyway, so what are the police doing there?

I think the interesting point about what the cop said—you know, You know me, remember when I told your mom I was going to put the handcuffs on you—raises a couple of interesting questions.  Does he know the family, and is he friendly?  And so was this some kind of joke, or was he doing this as a kind of “scared straight” approach to childhood tantrums?  Or was this a kid who had her own mother calling the police on her because the mother can‘t handle her?  And if so, that‘s a kid who needs treatment, help, perhaps parental intervention in the form of social services.  Take the child out of the home if the mother‘s calling the cops on her own 5-year-old.  There‘s no such thing as an escalation of violence from age 3 to 5.

OLBERMANN:  So does the—what correctly does the school do in the situation, as we could determine it from that videotape?

MURPHY:  This is so clearly wrong that I can‘t believe this is even on their list of things they should ever do.  But how about, oh, I don‘t know, sending the kid home?  I mean, if it‘s really that wild a situation and they‘re completely at their wits‘ end, which I can understand, although we didn‘t see it on the videotape—if that‘s the kind of kid this is, send her home.  And if it‘s the kind of kid who just can‘t be mainstreamed because she‘s so out of control, there are alternative school settings.  This is not news to the school system.  There‘s nothing in the manual about locking a kid up, handcuffs or otherwise.  This is not funny.  This is obscene.

OLBERMANN:  The former prosecutor, Wendy Murphy.  Thanks greatly for your time tonight.

MURPHY:  You bet.

OLBERMANN:  We had a Wendy and we had a Pfingst on the show tonight, and neither of them were talking about the Wendy‘s finger case.

From a former prosecutor to the formerly prosecuted, we segue into our nightly round-up of celebrity and entertainment news, “Keeping Tabs.”  And the apology continues.  Nearly two years after he cheated on his wife in a Colorado hotel room and got himself arrest and indicted and then cleared on sexual assault charges, Kobe Bryant has renewed his wedding vows.  He apparently surprised his wife, Vanessa, with a $50,000 ceremony on a beach in California.  No truth to rumors that she replied, Not yet, buster!

But the time has apparently come to confirm decades of suspicions that one of the three known portraits of William Shakespeare is a fake.  This one, the so-called “flower portrait,” is inscribed 1609.  Forensic examination by the British National Portrait Gallery has just proved it was, in fact, painted between 1818 and 1840.  So this is actually a picture of a guy named Stan.

Just made that up.  Too bad for those of you who wrote Shakespeare books and put this picture on the cover.  Still ongoing, the investigation into whether or not Shakespeare really wrote his plays or if he was just the business manager for a theater company whose members didn‘t want to run the risk of being prosecuted for writing controversial works.

I‘ve lost you, right?

Whoever he was, he did not write “To smoke or not to smoke,” and none of his plays had chimpanzees in them.  Then again, he or they never saw Charlie.  Funny pictures, not so funny story next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Most smokers start far younger than Charlie did, but now, 20 years later, he still looks like any pre-teen who‘s picked up the addiction.  When his friends try to convince him to quit, he nods and agrees, then when they leave him, out comes the pack.  When the authorities show up, Charlie tries to hide the smokes.  And though at age 38, his hair is already going gray, Charlie still manages the “I‘m too cool” swagger of the kid who struts down the street puffing with impunity.

The wild card in this equation, of course: Charlie is not just a 38-year-old smoker being urged to quit, he‘s a 38-year-old chimpanzee smoker.  To the Bloemfontein Zoo in South Africa.

Hey, what are you looking at!  Damned liberal media!

He experiments with the occasional cigar, but he finds that cigarettes are a much more effective delivery mechanism for the nicotine his body now craves.  Besides which, zoo visitors are carrying them more frequently than they are cigars, and that‘s where he gets them.  He bums them off passers-by.  The zoo will not say what measures it is taking to get the monkey off the monkey‘s back, although it is considering posting a sign reading, “Do not give the chimps cigarettes.”  Gee, thanks.  Then perhaps it can address Charlie‘s other human-like addiction, Coca-Cola.  Kicking a habit is a difficult thing, but it sounds like this zoo may not be doing enough to help Charlie, that his best hope now is that someone out there throws him some nicotine gum or patches.

I‘m joined now by Dr. Sally Boysen, director of Ohio State University‘s Chimpanzee Center in Columbus.  She‘s joined by Emma.  Dr.  Boysen, good evening.

DR. SALLY BOYSEN, OHIO STATE UNIV. CHIMPANZEE CENTER:  Hello.

OLBERMANN:  Everybody laughs when they see this video at first, but how many things are wrong with that picture?  I mean, how could they let him start smoking in the first place?  And how could they let him keep smoking for 20 years?

BOYSEN:  I completely agree.  I imagine it started when zoo visitors threw some food or something, and Charlie began to beg with an outstretched hand, which is a natural chimp gesture, and then people complied.

OLBERMANN:  Is it standard zoo procedure, though, around the world to let visitors get close enough to throw food or cans of Coca-Cola or lighted cigarettes at the chimps?

BOYSEN:  Absolutely not.  Most zoos have a very strict nutritional program for each of their animals.  And no, people are actively discouraged from doing that.  And one of the things that‘s really difficult about a chimpanzee in terms of cigarettes, I don‘t imagine that he‘s really exhaling because they don‘t handle expired air the way we do.  So that smoke is staying down in his lungs.

OLBERMANN:  So he‘s 38, and at this point, what would his life expectancy be?  I mean, I‘m not advocating letting him develop lung cancer, but is the withdrawal because of that for him likely to be worse than it would be for a human, considering you can‘t explain to him the health issue?  I mean, is forcing him to quit the best thing for him at this advanced age?

BOYSEN:  Oh, absolutely.  I mean, what kind of message does that send to the public that your family and your parents are all laughing and think it‘s humorous to see this animal being exploited this way, when he has really no choice?  I mean, I can‘t imagine any zoo that would permit that to go on for any period of time.

OLBERMANN:  Well, clearly, this zoo is different than what you and I would think of as a zoo.  I mean, I‘m not convinced that this is not run by some guy in his backyard.  I mean, the other gem from the story is the zoo people have also appealed to the public not to smoke in front of the chimp.  And what we learned from that, obviously, is it‘s OK to smoke at this zoo.  I mean, what—what kind of—I mean, this must be your worst nightmare come true, a place like this.

BOYSEN:  Well, you know, the U.S. is also full of similar such facilities, so it‘s a problem not just there, evidently.  But the real issue is why are they not doing something to stop people from, you know, throwing things in?  You know, I‘m sure he doesn‘t have his own vending no to buy cigarettes every day so...

OLBERMANN:  Although you never know on that point, given what we‘re hearing so far about this zoo.  But seriously, just the geography—does the geography bother you?  I mean, should the chimpanzees and the people visiting the zoo be close enough for that—for even a really strong-armed person to throw him a cigarette?

BOYSEN:  Well, apparently, there they have an outdoor enclosure.  And there—it looks from the footage I saw that there‘s some kind of a moat and a barrier.  But you know, you can easily—particularly if they‘re lower than where the public viewing area is, then they just toss them in.

OLBERMANN:  Yes, that‘s exactly what we‘re seeing here.  But—so what would you do?  How would you break a chimpanzee‘s nicotine addiction after 20 years?

BOYSEN:  Well, I‘m afraid—oh, he‘s been smoking that long?

OLBERMANN:  Yes.

BOYSEN:  I didn‘t really know how long.

OLBERMANN:  Yes, it‘s 20 years.

BOYSEN:  Well, I‘d say cold turkey because the patch isn‘t going to work.

OLBERMANN:  And when he fights back, what do you do then?

BOYSEN:  He‘ll get over it, you know?

OLBERMANN:  Well...

BOYSEN:  But it‘s going to shorten his life.  And again, it‘s really demeaning and offensive for me to see a chimp being exploited that way.  It would never, ever happen in an American zoo.  Never.

OLBERMANN:  Yes.  It‘s amazing to look at it and not—you know, the first 15 seconds, it looks hilarious, and then you start to think, Oh boy, that‘s not good at all.  I‘m out of time...

BOYSEN:  Keith, can I correct you, though, before we leave?

OLBERMANN:  Yes.

BOYSEN:  Because chimps aren‘t monkeys.

OLBERMANN:  OK.

BOYSEN:  They‘re members of the great ape family.  So you must call them apes or chimpanzees, OK?

OLBERMANN:  All right.

BOYSEN:  So keep that in mind.

OLBERMANN:  I apologize.

BOYSEN:  Thank you.

OLBERMANN:  I apologize, Dr. Boysen, and I especially apologize...

BOYSEN:  I‘ll explain to Emma.

OLBERMANN:  ... to Emma.  Please.

BOYSEN:  Yes.

OLBERMANN:  That‘s COUNTDOWN.  Thanks for being part of it.  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.

Content and programming copyright 2005 MSNBC.  ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.  Transcription Copyright 2005 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 MSNBC and Voxant, Inc.‘s copyright or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript forpurposes of litigation.

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,