updated 9/14/2005 11:06:25 AM ET 2005-09-14T15:06:25

Guests: Yolanda Hubert, Burl Cain, Sheila Jackson Lee, Jack Stephens

RITA COSBY, HOST:  I‘m standing right now front of the famous Jackson Square Park, which is a central place here in New Orleans, as we report LIVE AND DIRECT.  But we‘ve got some big news tonight.  First, the death toll in Louisiana has risen in just the last two hours—the new numbers came in—risen to 423.  And now the owners of a nursing home are facing criminal charges for letting 34 of their patients drown.  Officials say the owners never contacted an ambulance company to help rescue these victims.

Also today, I went out with the U.S. Marshals in the last 24 hours as they try to secure New Orleans.  We‘re going to bring that you later on in the show.  They‘re doing an amazing job.  And for the first time, we‘re hearing frantic 911 calls from New Orleans residents as they try get help from the rising waters.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  We‘re in the attic and we‘re looking out our attic window.

911 OPERATOR:  OK, ma‘am.  And is there any way you can get to the roof, if need be?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  That‘s the problem.  We be looking out the window, and we need to get to the top, but I don‘t know if we can make it or not.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSBY:  And It‘s a big news day here in New Orleans, and again new numbers coming in on the death toll, and also, the new news out of the nursing home.  For all the very latest, MSNBC‘s David Shuster joins me now live—David.

DAVID SHUSTER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT:  Well, Rita, the nursing home is in Chalmette, Louisiana.  This is an area that was particularly hard hit.  It was called St. Rita‘s nursing home.  And today, Salvador and Mable Mangano, who were the owners of this home, they were charged with 34 counts of negligent homicide.  According to the indictment, they ignored warnings that the storm surge would essentially put this nursing home under water.  In addition, they were offered a bus to evacuate the occupants, but the offer was turned down.

So there you see the two that were indicted today.  According to the Louisiana attorney general today, the elderly and mostly low-income occupants of this nursing home all suffered a horrible death.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHARLES FOTI, JR., LOUISIANA ATTORNEY GENERAL:  I assume that they drowned.  Drowned.  Is that good enough for you?  They drowned.  They did not die of natural causes, they drowned.  Thirty-two people—thirty-four people drowned in a nursing home when they should have been evacuated.  Now, I cannot say it any much more plainer than that.  That is our contention.  That contention will be litigated in a court of law.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHUSTER:  Rita, it was just a horrifying story when it first came out and even more horrifying tonight.  And with the news that these were mostly low-income people, again, these were people who in all likelihood faced some very cruel circumstances in life and did again in death.

COSBY:  And again, involuntary homicide charges, at this point.  And again, he also said more charges to follow possibly against—they‘re doing, what, an investigation on the hospital, too.

SHUSTER:  That‘s right.  There‘s an hospital here, Memorial Hospital, thought right now, that seems to be a circumstance where, simply, there were patients who were in critical condition.  The power went out.  They lost their ventilators.  It was 111 degrees.  So the hospital right now, while there‘s an investigation, at least it appears that they didn‘t do anything wrong.

COSBY:  All right, David.  Thank you very much.

Well, needless to say, families of those who perished are outraged about how their loved ones spent their final moments.  Yolanda Hubert told us and actually talked to the local affiliate just about a few days ago and talked about her mother‘s final moments.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

YOLANDA HUBERT, MOTHER DIED IN NURSING HOME:  This conversation I had with my mom was on Sunday evening, which was August 28th, and it was about 10 after 7:00.

SUZIE EDWARDS, WAFF-TV (voice-over):  Yolanda Hubert‘s mom, 72-year-old Zarelda Delott (ph).  She lived at St. Rita‘s nursing home in St.  Bernard parish, Yolanda Hubert assured they had an evacuation plan.

HUBERT:  Everything seemed to be fine.

EDWARDS:  But hours after the storm hit, and Yolanda couldn‘t reach her mother by phone, desperation and panic set in.  A nurse who survived gave her the horrific account of what happened inside St. Rita‘s.

HUBERT:  The windows were blowing out, at that point, in the rooms. 

And the water was coming in so fast.

EDWARDS:  Chest high, then neck high.  Residents were told to grasp onto ceiling fans.  Twenty-four employees and some residents escaped with their lives.

HUBERT:  They tied mattresses that were obviously floatable together behind a boat.

EDWARDS:  They made it to higher ground.

HUBERT:  They closed the doors of the facility, and the rest of the residents perished.

EDWARDS:  Yolanda‘s mother, Zarelda Delott, and others were left wrapped in blankets with nametags in a single room.

HUBERT:  It was negligent homicide.  That‘s exactly what it was.

She‘d made sure that the residents there got to the dining room.  She made sure that they got their food.  She made sure that they got their night snack.  She made sure that they had what they needed.  And there was nobody to help her.  There was nobody there to help her.  And I—and I just want her back.  I just want to tell her I love her one more time!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSBY:  And that was Suzie Edwards from our local affiliate, WAFF.  And joining us now on the phone is Yolanda Hubert.  Yolanda, first of all, what is your reaction to the Louisiana attorney general saying charges are now being filed against these two nursing home owners?  I‘m sure you feel justice is finally being served.

HUBERT:  Well, Rita, I appreciate, you know, the interview and all the help and support that the media is giving us.  Honestly, we still have so many questions that we have ourselves.  You know, as of yet, we‘ve yet to be contacted by anyone from St. Rita‘s, whether it was before, during or after this horrific tragedy, to let us know what their—you know, what their plan was and that our loved ones didn‘t get out.

And we trusted them.  I trusted them with the two—two of the most important people in my life, and you know, they let me down.  And just like many others that are going through the same tragedy, you know, I have questions as to why they did not evacuate.  There was a mandatory evacuation.  We were assured by the nursing home owners on Saturday prior to the storm hitting that they would be gotten out, for us not to worry, they would be safe.  So 14 of my family members evacuated to Huntsville, thinking that they were OK.  And we found out after that they were not.

COSBY:  Now, Yolanda, let me just clarify.  What you‘re saying is that the nursing home has still yet to contact you?  They did not contact you before, and they did not contact you afterwards.  Have you heard also from the attorney general‘s office?

HUBERT:  No.  We‘ve not heard from anyone, Rita, anyone at all, and that‘s the truth.

COSBY:  Did you...

HUBERT:  I just can‘t believe this.

COSBY:  Oh, it must be just heart-breaking.  I cannot believe—you must just be so broken-hearted.  Did you believe right away something was clearly not done right?  You know, based on the interview that you did even prior to these charges coming down, sounds like you knew that something was not handled right.

HUBERT:  Well, I just felt like they should have called me.  And of course, you know, it was only hearsay, at that point, and no one had come forward.  But certainly, I had held so much hope out that at least the owners would come forward and that someone would say, you know, We got these people out, we got them here, we got them there.  But obviously, we know now that that‘s not the case.

And you know, by the grace of God, my aunt, who is 88 years old, was rescued and got to the UAB (ph) hospital in Birmingham.  And of course, we‘ve transferred her here to Huntsville.  But you know, my 72-year-old mother, who was recently bedridden with Parkinson‘s, had no chance of survival.  And these folks...

COSBY:  Oh, it must be just so heart-breaking when you hear this news and you hear her final moments.  I understand you had an aunt who did survive?

HUBERT:  That‘s exactly right.

COSBY:  And she was in the same nursing home?  Tell us about that.

HUBERT:  Well, she has very limited memory.  She‘s quite disoriented.  She, you know, doesn‘t really remember a lot, other than she fell three times in the water.  And when we asked her how did she get up, she said she had to get up on her own.  There was no one there to assist her.  And she had a large lump on her head.  And she remembers being transported by helicopter twice.  But other than that, you know, she has no recollection, and I don‘t know if she ever will.  She may be trying to suppress that, that horror of what she went through.

COSBY:  Well, again, Yolanda, our prayers are with you, and especially as you hear this horrible news today about your mom‘s final moments.  And at least the attorney general sounds like he is looking into this and also other cases.  And we very much thank you for being with us.

And everybody, stick with us, because later on in the show, we‘re also going to have the sheriff from that county.  This is St. Bernard‘s parish.  Remember that county here in Louisiana, not too far from where I‘m standing by.  He‘s going to talk about the owners of the nursing home, he knows them, and also if he believes that these are the right charges to be filed against them.

Now we want to move on to some good progress that‘s taking place in New Orleans, some major developments today taking place at the airport.  I was actually at the airport just over a week ago, and at the time, it was basically this huge triage center, this massive ER room.  Basically, all the planes were coming in.  They were separating the evacuees, and they were also treating those who desperately need medical care.  Well, today, as you can see, it is open for business, an incredible sight.  I think when I was there, I never imagined this happened.

And my colleague, Lester Holt, was actually there to see it in action. 

Lester, what‘d you see?  This is incredible progress.

LESTER HOLT, NBC ANCHOR:  Incredible progress.  I actually went the day before to watch them as the triage people were beginning to pull out a lot of the stretchers and the medical operation.  There is still a terminal dedicated to medical, to support military.  But they opened up I think it was terminal—concourse A and B, and they are bringing just a handful of flights today, more what you could almost call a psychological boost to New Orleans because, clearly, just a handful of flights won‘t make a difference.  But they obviously hope to start getting people coming back because people are going to be the key to rebuilding the city, obviously.

COSBY:  Who are the people who were on the flights?  I‘m curious. 

Were they folks coming back in?  Were they folks doing other business?

HOLT:  It was a little mix—a mix of both.  It was some folks coming back who were stranded.  They were out in another part of the country on vacation, coming back, who don‘t necessarily live in the badly affected areas because, you know, there are some areas where people can return to their homes.  You know, one person said, you know, straining to look out the window—everybody wants to when you come here, whether on the ground or in the air—you want to see and see where the damage is.

And in fact, I went out—I should mention, a little while ago into one of the neighborhoods that is still flooded, the Lakeview neighborhood, I think it‘s called, and still water up to the porches.  It‘s coming down every day.  You can certainly see—like, it‘s five feet less than it was...

COSBY:  You can see the marcations on the wall.

HOLT:  You can see the marcations, you can see progress.  But at the same time, you see these houses—just a ghost town.

COSBY:  How many flights actually came in today?  And is this sort of just—it‘s going to be sort of a trickling as we get...

HOLT:  It‘ll be a trickling.  They got—I think northwest got two in, two out.  There was a Delta plane some people who saw land.  That was actually what they call a ferry flight, Delta bring in some of the technicians, people to get their operation going.  Southwest had brought one in the day before.  They‘ve got to come make sure their computers are working and figure out the capacity and what the restrictions are and fuel, that sort of thing, to make sure they could get in.

COSBY:  Also, have officials been astounded at the progress, too?

HOLT:  Well, at that level, I think, it was just kind of a—you know...

(CROSSTALK)

COSBY:  Because when I was there...

HOLT:  ... like an airport...

COSBY:  ... they didn‘t expect it to be this soon.

HOLT:  No, they didn‘t because, you know, it was military flights coming in and out of there, taking people, I mean, looking like from a war zone, on stretchers, and the Medevac flights.  So I think—yes, I think people are surprised that this quickly, there‘s some sense of something new, something—some progress happening.  Again, it‘s a tiny step, but you‘ve got to get people coming back in the city in some form or fashion, if for no other reason, just to get rescue workers in.

COSBY:  All right, thank you very much, Lester.  And I know you‘re going to be on the “TODAY” show, talking about this tomorrow, right?

HOLT:  Be on the “TODAY” show, yes, and we‘ll show some of the pictures from our tour of the neighborhood on one of those airboats today to kind of show you where the water stands right now and also a little bit about the whole controversy of collecting bodies.  There‘s a little bit of controversy between the city and FEMA, the city and the state and FEMA, as to whose responsibility and how quickly that process is going.

COSBY:  Lots of questions still on that.

And everybody, you can hear a chopper going above.  I‘m not sure. 

It‘s probably a military chopper, based on...

HOLT:  That‘s a good bet!

COSBY:  Another flight coming into New Orleans airport, but the only thing here are reporters and the military, so we‘ve got a chopper hovering above.

And coming up, some folks who know the choppers well, the U.S.

Marshals.  We went out with the U.S. Marshals.  These guys are incredible.  You can see some of the night-vision material that we used.  These guys go under the cloak of darkness.  They are doing a great job getting this city under control.  We went with them.  We‘re going to profile them.  That‘s coming up next.

And where do you keep the criminals that you find?  Would you believe they are at a Greyhound bus station?  The warden of New Orleans‘s new makeshift prison joins me live.

And we are also watching Hurricane Ophelia.  Boy, after Katrina, now we‘re looking at another one!  It is about to make landfall on the Carolina coast in a matter of hours.  We‘re going to take you to the coast.  That‘s coming up next on LIVE AND DIRECT.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I cannot stand by while this vital operation is not being handled appropriately.  In death, as in life, our people deserve more respect than they have received.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COSBY:  And we‘re here now live in basically the heart of the French Quarter in New Orleans.  Over my shoulder, you can see the lights on just a little bit over there.  This is actually a shopping mall, so business is slowly coming back to normal.  It‘s not functioning, but at least there‘s a few lights on, which is a lot more than we can say what was taking place about 24, 48 hours ago.

So what do you do with a city that‘s basically deserted?  Well, there are some criminals that we‘ve been reporting about.  Later on in the show, we‘re going to show you what the U.S. Marshals are doing to get those prisoners.  But keeping those guys from looting, where do you put them?  You basically put them in a makeshift prison when the city is completely deserted.  And who‘s running it?  Probably the perfect guy for it, the guy who‘s guy running the prison in Angola, Louisiana.

BURL CAIN, LOUISIANA PENITENTIARY WARDEN:  That‘s right.  That‘s right.

COSBY:  This prison warden, Burl Cain.  First of all, how—this is in a—the prison here is basically, what, in a Greyhound bus station.

CAIN:  Right.  I changed the name to Camp Amtrak now.

COSBY:  Is it an Amtrak or a Greyhound?

CAIN:  It‘s both, and Amtrak is providing a diesel locomotive that is providing the power, so that we have lights.

COSBY:  How many inmates do you have there?

CAIN:  I‘ve had 283 inmates pass through.  But I‘d like to really say that this was the brainchild of Attorney General Charles Foti and Secretary of Corrections Richard Stalder.  And when we evacuated all the inmates, the 6,000 inmates, they knew we had no jail.  So Secretary Stalder sent Warden Deblau (ph) from DCI and Gay Shotwell (ph) to scout for an area, and they found the bus station, the Greyhound station.  It was being looted.  We ran the looters off, and we recovered $23,000 for Amtrak that the looter didn‘t get.  So they‘re real happy to accommodate us, so that‘s how we have our jail.

COSBY:  Now, you talked about these 6,000 inmates.  We all saw those pictures of all the inmates on the bridge.

CAIN:  That‘s right.

COSBY:  What happened to those inmates?

CAIN:  OK.  All the inmates—we were evacuating the inmates out of the jail by boat, put them on the bridge, brought them down the scaffold (ph), some of them by boat that couldn‘t climb the scaffold.  These inmates were dispersed throughout the state of Louisiana, some to Florida, in the parish prisons and the jails.

COSBY:  And were some—most of them captured, I would hope?

CAIN:  They were all—we didn‘t lose any.  There were three escaped, and we caught them.  So all these rumors about these escaped prisoners is not true.

COSBY:  But they‘re all in.

CAIN:  They‘re all in jail.

COSBY:  And tell me about the first prisoner you put in there.

CAIN:  The first prisoner drove up to the bus station in a stolen car to buy a ticket to get out of New Orleans.  And we saw it was an Enterprise rental car, so we decided we better check him out.  And sure enough, it was a stolen car.  He was a fugitive.  So he got a ticket into our jail.

(LAUGHTER)

CAIN:  So he‘s our first prisoner.

COSBY:  What happens to all these looters?  You talked about how a lot of looters got run off.  Is there a way to really keep track of it?  There‘s so many things you‘re dealing with.

CAIN:  Well...

COSBY:  A lot of guys are not being put behind bars.

CAIN:  No, they are, though.  But the vision of Secretary Stalder and Attorney General Foti was that we can‘t have order without a jail.  So the police were arresting the looters.  They had nowhere to put them but the back of their car, so they had no choice but to release them.  Now, with the jail, there‘s 283 people have been through this jail that are not on the streets of New Orleans, that was looting.  And the Red Cross truck would came.  They would—they would loot the Red Cross truck.  So we couldn‘t have order until we had control and security.

COSBY:  What does...

CAIN:  This jail provided security.

COSBY:  What does it look like, in terms of—you talk about security inside.  Does it look like a real jail, or does it look still like a combo Amtrak/Greyhound...

CAIN:  It looks like that, too, but it‘s got a big, long fence, where you disembark the passengers, and that‘s all chain-link and razor wire and divided up so that we can hold 700 inmates.  And that‘s a real jail, real nice.

COSBY:  Is it just one big holding pen, or do you have individual...

CAIN:  No, no.  Divided up because we have misdemeanors, felonies, juveniles, females.  Whatever comes in, we have a place for them.  Then the next day, we transport them to Hunt Correctional Center, where they have court, and we appoint them an attorney so that we, you know, give them due process.  So it‘s a legal jail.

COSBY:  Who‘s the worst type of person that you‘ve seen there?  Have you got murderers and rapists?

CAIN:  I had a murderer.  The rapist—one of the rapists at the Superdome was getting on an airplane.  A little girl was there, too.  She said, That man raped me.  We have that rapist who raped a child (INAUDIBLE) a helicopter, the shoot-out with the police the other morning.  One of the those were not shot, we had him.  So we keep all kind that come through.

COSBY:  How do you keep the peace in a makeshift jail in this sort of environment?

CAIN:  I could say magic.

COSBY:  Yes!

(LAUGHTER)

COSBY:  I guess there is some magic involved.

CAIN:  That‘s right.  No, we really keep the peace because we don‘t have it any other way.  You know, it‘s Burger King‘s our way.

COSBY:  Yes.  Absolutely.  And how many can you hold?

CAIN:  I can hold 700.

COSBY:  Terrific.  Well, we‘re...

CAIN:  There‘s no problem.  Everyone‘s been really good.  No problem. 

Once they get there, you know, we have complete control.

COSBY:  Warden, thank you very much.

CAIN:  Well, thank you.

COSBY:  I hear you‘re doing a great job.  We plan on going over there at some point and taking a look.

CAIN:  Yes, come see us.  We look forward to seeing you.

COSBY:  You got it.  Thank you very much.

CAIN:  OK.

COSBY:  Warden Burl Cain, thank you.  Doing a good job.  It just shows what you have to do.  You have to be creative in these type of times.

And of course, a lot of people are looking not just at the looting situation but particularly also looking at FEMA‘s response.  We know that Mike Brown, who is the former director of FEMA, just resigned yesterday—lots of turmoil and lots of finger-pointing as to who to blame.

Joining me now is Representative Sheila Jackson Lee.  She‘s a Democrat of Texas.  Representative, first of all, I got to get you, first of all, on news of the day.  I don‘t know if you‘ve heard this.  But if we can show some pictures of the nursing home?  First batch of charges, criminal charges coming down, multiple counts against -- 34 counts taking place against this nursing home that you‘re seeing right here.  This is St.  Rita‘s nursing home in St. Bernard‘s parish, basically saying that they allowed 34 elderly patients to drown.

Are you happy, obviously, to see that there‘s a focus?  And do you think this is just the beginning, Representative?

REP. SHEILA JACKSON LEE (D), TEXAS:  Well, you know that I‘m going to send my deepest sympathy and concern to the families of those who lost their lives, particularly this heinous and horrific situation.  The allegations are such that there was a possible abandonment.  Absolutely.  Absolutely.  I‘m convinced that the situation needs addressing. 

Accountability is an absolute must.

I do want to acknowledge the great charity and generosity of Americans, Houstonians, Texans, and certainly, people who are working in Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana, and certainly to the media.  I thank you all so very much for exposing to us the hardship of people, but also, this tragedy.

Yes, Rita, as a member of the House Judiciary Committee...

COSBY:  Oh, thank you.

LEE:  ... I truly believe that we must hold these individuals accountable.

COSBY:  Absolutely.  And I‘ll tell you, it has been very hard seeing some of the folks, just see who‘ve lost so much here, Congresswoman.  You know, President Bush is obviously speaking out.  He made some comments a few hours ago.  I want to show them and have you react.  Here‘s the president.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE WALKER BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Katrina exposed serious problems in our response capability at all levels of government.  And to the extent that the federal government didn‘t fully do its job right, I take responsibility.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSBY:  Congresswoman, what‘s your reaction to what the president had to say?

LEE:  Well, A couple of days ago in Houston, I apologized to a group of survivors.  I‘ve been spending a lot of time with them since they arrived in our community almost two weeks or 10 days ago.  And frankly, I think the president is right on the mark.  I‘m sorry that we didn‘t start out that way, not because an apology heals all, but it does begin us to start afresh and it also acknowledges that we do need a full investigation.  We need to know the particulars.  And I think the point is well taken.

As a member of the Homeland Security Committee, we absolutely need to know the facts on behalf of the American people.  The Homeland Security Committee was put together for the purposes of saving lives, to be proactive, to be in front of the tragedy, in front of the horrific act, whether it‘s man-made or possibly a terrorist act, to thwart the terrorist activities.  And certainly, if it‘s a man-made disaster, sometimes those are surprises.  But certainly, the natural disaster, where we‘re on notice, we should have deployed troops.  We should have had assistance for the local government.  We should have engaged state and local government to be more effective.

And even though criminal charges are being pressed against the owners of the nursing home, the lives could never be brought back.  Who knows what would have happened if resources had gone in earlier and on time, in a more organized fashion.  That is a job that we‘re going to have to do with an independent inquiry, which I support enthusiastically.  But at the same time, we have the needs of the people that have to be addressed, and particularly, Rita, might I note, the 300,000 to 400,000 homeless children whose needs have to be addressed long term.

COSBY:  Yes, I know there‘s a lot of kids.  I‘ve seen a lot of them even here, Congresswoman.  Let me show you—this certainly is hurting the president, where it counts.  I mean, if you look at the poll numbers—and let‘s take a look at some of the new polls.  This is “The Washington Post” poll.  Overall job approval is 42 percent.  And in terms of Katrina response, how the public feels about that, 44 percent.

What do you make of the president‘s role?  And do you believe race?  You brought up, you know, a lot of them are African-American.  I‘ve seen so many of them are.  They‘re from the poor communities.  Do you—are you happy with how he‘s responded in terms of race?

LEE:  Well, I think, Rita, a picture is worth a thousand words.  We‘re never going to get away from the question that is in the minds of so many Americans, African-Americans and others, about whether race played a part.  As I said, as a member of the Homeland Security Committee, I am frustrated and disappointed because it impacts all of America.  I don‘t think many people realize that in Houston, we have thousands of Vietnamese who we‘re now addressing their needs, thousands of Hispanics who‘ve come from New Orleans and other places in the stricken area.

So this is both multi-cultural, but I think what it does speak to is the question of poverty and those who have less resources to be able to help themselves.  The government has a special responsibility.  The poll numbers are reflective of Republicans and Democrats alike who are frustrated and disappointed that America did  not rise to the challenge, particularly after the focus of 9/11 and the kind of leadership that was shown locally and seemingly by Washington in this instance.  They wanted to see something better, and we did not give them something better.

We have to go back to the drawing board.  We have to know how to better coordinate with local and state government.  And might I say that one of the chief responsibilities we have is the long-term response.  I‘m convening in Washington this week I hope a good 10 dozen or so or more child advocates from around the country, and particularly here in Washington, D.C., to begin on craft an agenda for the thousands upon thousands of children.  The victims‘ assistance fund must be considered, bankruptcy relief.

So we have a long way to go.  And the president is right to take responsibility today.  I hope that responsibility will translate into action on behalf of the Congress and, of course, the administration.

COSBY:  All right.  Well, Congresswoman thank you very much.  We appreciate you being with us.

And everybody, remember, the president is going to be speaking Thursday night.  We will, of course, carry that live.

And stick with us, everybody.  Hurricane Katrina isn‘t the only hurricane that may hit the East Coast.  Hurricane Ophelia now has stepped up and may be hours from landfall on the Carolina coast.  We are monitoring it closely.  And flushing out the crooks.  This is very interesting, folks.  I was with the U.S. Marshals last night.  We followed them day and night.  These guys are terrific.  We‘re going to show you in action when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COSBY:  And we‘re back here live in New Orleans.  And you‘re looking at a shot of a nursing home where now two owners of that nursing home are facing 34 counts of involuntary homicide, negligent homicide, saying that they allowed 34 elderly patients to drown.  Joining us now is the sheriff of St. Bernard‘s Parish where that nursing home is located.  Sheriff Jack Stevens joins me now on the phone.  Sheriff Stevens, very quickly, first of all, do you know these two individuals that we‘re seeing pictures of on the screen? 

JACK STEPHENS, SHERIFF ST. BERNARD‘S PARISH:  Yes, I do. 

COSBY:  You do.  What can you tell me about them?  Are they responsible individuals? 

STEPHENS:  Well, I mean, the operation in the nursing home, to the best of my knowledge has been good.  I‘m not aware there‘ve been any complaints of abuse of any of the residents there.  As far as I know, their license has never been threatened by neglect or any other regulatory infraction that would require lifting their license.  Tragically, in this situation, and I really don‘t know what went into their thinking, but the position—their decision not to evacuate—

COSBY:  Do you think there charges—

STEPHENS:  I‘m sorry? 

COSBY:  Do you think the charges are correct?  Because as the sheriff of that county, I would imagine you know the case. 

STEPHENS:  Yes.  As a matter of fact, I do think the charges are correct.  Involuntary homicide has been the charges that have been offered by the attorney general and signed by a state district court judge in St.  Bernard.  I think the fact that those residents were not evacuated, certainly, put them in extraordinary jeopardy with regards to the weather event that we experienced down here.  As a matter of fact, today, flying back from Baton Rouge I was advised by one of the pilots that winds in that area had been clocked, sustained at 182 miles an hour gusting to 195, which, you know, maybe in the history of the country exceeds anything that‘s happened.  So, I mean, this is just a horrible event.  And on top of everything else to have to deal with the tragic loss of life under these circumstances to people who were compromised physically and in some cases mentally is just almost too much to bear. 

COSBY:  It certainly is.  And Sheriff Jack Stephens, I really appreciate you being with us on this breaking news development.  Thank you very much, sir.  We appreciate it.

And now let‘s talk about the guys who go after the bad guys, the U.S.  marshals.  I was able to spend a lot of time with them yesterday during the day and the night.  Take a look at these guys in action.  They are amazing.  They seem to be one of the only ones on the street.  I see them and I see the 82nd Airborne.  And these guys are terrific.  Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Police.  Police.

COSBY (voice over):  Whether it‘s the cloak of darkness or daytime, the elite heavily armed special operations group of the U.S. Marshal Service is working hard in New Orleans helping local cops, who right after the hurricane hit, found themselves under fire. 

DAVID BALLAIRE, U.S. MARSHAL:  One police station was actually torched and burned down, in one neighborhood where there was—nothing else was touched except the police station.

COSBY (on camera):  So they—these bad characters specifically targeted the cops.

BALLAIRE:  Targeted the cops.  Right.

COSBY:  So they don‘t care who they go after.

BALLAIRE:  Well, you know, law enforcement to them is a threat.  Take out the law enforcement, they are the law.

COSBY (voice over):  We followed the marshals in action as they patrolled the now deserted streets in their heavily-armored vehicles.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Lay down your weapons and step out of the house using the front door.

COSBY:  One of our first surprise stops was a local residence which quickly became cornered.

(on camera):  What was the report that you got of this house?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  That this was a house being used to hold looted goods, just a place to operate out of during the night and a place to sleep during the day.

COSBY:  Sort of a base of operations for looters.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Police.  Get down.

COSBY (voice over):  After a search, they found an empty house.

(on camera):  What does that say about—nobody inside, but the back door was opened.

SCOTT BEGGHIO, U.S. MARSHAL:  That could mean they‘re coming at night.  We don‘t see them.  We don‘t know.  So this is a house we‘ll probably have to watch now. 

COSBY (voice over):  Next a reported bank robbery and a visibly gutted bank. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  We came here, saw that the ATM had been, you know, apparently, they ties it to a bumper or something and ripped it off.

COSBY (on camera):  This is where it was at one point? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Correct. 

COSBY:  What about the vault inside? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Well we went in and cleared the building and kept the vault—the vault is still secure. 

COSBY:  What are you carrying there? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  This is an M-4 semi-automatic rifle. 

COSBY:  And I would bet when anybody sees you guys so heavily armed, they know it‘s business? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  We were only here to try to help you, right. 

COSBY (voice over):  But the marshals also try keep the peace with innocent residents like Willy Thomas (ph) and his dad who refuse to leave their formerly flooded home. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The water was up over (INAUDIBLE)

COSBY (on camera):  And this is where it was right over here? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  That‘s where it was when it stopped completely filling up. 

COSBY:  The U.s. marshals also took us here to St. Bernard‘s Parish.  I was here one week ago when the water was about 15 feet high up to this rooftop.  Today, the damage is incredible.  This home, as you can see, is now located in the middle of the street, before Hurricane Katrina hit, it was located over there.

Why are you guys now touring this area? 

JEFF BAPTISTA, U.S. MARSHAL:  This area just recently the water has receded to the point that we were able to come in here.  The public is still restricted from being in here.  So our concern now is that there could be some looters, people that would want to come in and take some things of value that belong to others. 

COSBY (voice over):  The marshals say especially the first few days they arrived, it was a city out of control. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  It was like the wild, wild west.  It was pitch black.  It was a dead sea.  You couldn‘t hear anything.  But you put on the night vision and you can see every body move.

COSBY (on camera):  So there were lots of people reeking havoc, but trying to do it under the cloak of darkness? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Absolutely. 

COSBY (voice over):  And that‘s why we also followed the marshals with their heavy gear at night.  First, through this eerie cemetery.  We did not find the vandals.  But, sadly, found plenty of open crypts. 

(on camera):  In this case, the water didn‘t go as high? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  No.  What it appears, somebody has been coming in here and possibly vandalizing it.  Hopefully we can be here next time they come or—we‘ll be the welcoming committee. 

COSBY (voice over):  They later combed the city streets, and found this business broken into in a creative way. 

(on camera):  So what do you think happened here? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Either the people who were trying to get into the building made entry, through—they broke through three doors to get into this office.  Couldn‘t get through the double pane glass door in the office behind you.  They improvised, went up through the—went up into the roof area. 

COSBY (voice over):  The marshals look for criminals through their night vision goggles, but on this night see only friendly forces. 

(on camera):  These night vision goggles are critical for the U.S.  Marshals to spot someone like me in the complete darkness of this virtually empty city. 

Some of the dead bodies will not be from flooding?  What will they be from? 

WALTER SANBORNE, U.S. MARSHAL:  Oh, yes.  I‘m imagining quite a few of them might have some gunshot wounds in them, because who knows what these people were up to before we got here? 

COSBY:  Tough place? 

SANBORNE:  Oh, yes.  Definitely.  Definitely.  Lawless.  There was nobody to stop them. 

COSBY:  If you, U.S. Marshals, did not come in and play a big role in keeping the peace in the city, what could have happened to New Orleans? 

JASON TARWATER, U.S. MARSHAL:  It‘d still be in chaos.  You‘ve got homes that good people have gotten out and left and gone to other places, and the people are left here, they have no food or water other than what‘s being provided to them.  It‘s not (INAUDIBLE)  It‘s not (INAUDIBLE) for criminals to get out and go in to steal other people‘s possessions.  And you have the predators that were preying on the weak that are still here. 

COSBY:  You proud of the hard work you guys have done? 

TARWATER:  Absolutely. 

COSBY:  You‘re seeing a dent already? 

TARWATER:  Absolutely.  It‘s gotten quiet.  It‘s gotten real quiet in the last couple of days. 

COSBY:  Do you think it‘ll stay this way? 

TARWATER:  Hope so.  If it did, we did our job. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COSBY:  And I can tell you they have definitely done their job.  I‘m now here live in New Orleans joined by the special operations group sent here in New Orleans of the U.S. Marshals.  Ed, first of all, I have got to ask you, it‘s a big ominous presence when you see these guys, do the bad guys take warning when they see this on you? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes, they definitely know that we‘re a force in presence and we‘re prepared to do the job down here. 

COSBY:  How tough has it been—you know, when you first came in, this is America.  And I don‘t think anybody who hasn‘t been here doesn‘t have a sense—it‘s so hard to get a sense of—this is deserted.  This is a ghost town.  You know, this isn‘t Iraq, this isn‘t a war zone, this is America. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Well it actually does compares to Iraq with the destruction, but without the people.  I mean, it‘s really—it is deserted like you said so—

COSBY:  What‘s the toughest thing you‘ve seen? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Well the dead bodies and the smell.  It‘s—you can patrol an area and you can smell the death, but you can‘t see the bodies because you know they‘re in the house somewhere but—you just don‘t have time to clear a house to check for bodies. 

COSBY:  Heartbreaking? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Very. 

COSBY:  I can tell, you know, you‘re getting choked up talking about it. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  It‘s tough. 

COSBY:  Yes, very tough.  Tell me also—you‘re wearing heavy gear.  In the piece you guys also—I was wearing a bullet proof vest.  I was sweating afterwards.  You guys are in better shape than I am.  But this is intense heat.  Heavy gear. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  It‘s tough conditions to work in.  The heat just takes it out of you.  We‘re out here 16 hours a day.  But our hardships nothing compared to the people in New Orleans.  We‘re trained for this.  And we‘re just going to get the job done.  You know, it‘s all worth it in the end.  You feel pretty good when you go home.  You made a difference.

COSBY:  Yes.  And when you first came to the city, what did it look like to you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Complete devastation.  You know, what the hurricane didn‘t get, the looters got.  And it was just people who needed help, I mean, and you just couldn‘t help enough of them.  It was tough.  You do your best.  And now it‘s stabilized, and they just got to work on rebuilding.

COSBY:  What are some of the biggest concerns for you now?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Well, what the next job is.  We go from one to another.  This isn‘t the first time we‘ve done this; it won‘t be the last.  

COSBY:  You guys are in the special operations, just for folks at home.  These guys are the best of the best of the U.S. marshals.  Talked to a lot of the folks, from Sherman, Texas, lots from Louisiana, basically both coasts and everywhere in between. 

How do you get picked for this elite group? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  There‘s a selection process.  It‘s similar to—most of the people have a military or some type of SWAT background.  And the Marshall Service goes through the normal academy process.  They work in districts.  And then we have a selection class—course.  If you survive that course, then you go on to work on your specialties in this unit. 

COSBY:  How long are you going to be here in New Orleans? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Until they send us home. 

COSBY:  This is one of the head guys.  How long are they going to be here? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  We‘re waiting to hear. 

COSBY:  How long do you think? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I would guess at least until the end of the month. 

It‘s just a guess, though.  I have no idea.

COSBY:  Do you guys want to say hi to anybody at home real quick? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Hello, mom. 

(CROSSTALK)

(LAUGHTER)

COSBY:  All right, you guys, terrific.  Great job, all you guys. 

Thank you so much.

The U.S. Marshals, the best of the best.  And it was great spending some time with them. 

And of course, as they talked about their brother jobs ahead, maybe even Hurricane Ophelia, which is heading to the Carolina coast.  She‘s expected to slam there in the next couple of hours.  We‘re going to have Michelle Kosinski coming up next to talk about where that could hit.  A live report right after the break. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COSBY:  Is that it? 

And you‘re now looking at a satellite loop following Hurricane Ophelia.  This is a satellite loop showing where Ophelia may be hitting landfall in the next few hours. 

And our Michelle Kosinski joins us now live from Atlantic Beach, North Carolina, one of the places that could get hit hard.  And I can see it looks like the winds are already blowing there quite a bit, Michelle? 

MICHELLE KOSINSKI, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT:  Yeah, it really is.  In fact, it‘s starting to feel like a hurricane for the first time tonight.  The wind has been increasing steadily for about the past two hours.  Right now, the sustained winds are at about 20 miles an hour, gusting up to 30 miles an hour. 

Driving up and down the coast earlier today, it was sunny, there was a little bit of rain here and there, but you‘d never know that anything like this was coming.  That tends to prevent people from really preparing for this storm. 

But now tonight, you really feel like Ophelia is on her way.  Some people we‘ve been talking to said, no, they haven‘t boarded up their houses or businesses, but tomorrow they might start doing that.  Problem is, by tomorrow morning, we could be feeling tropical storm force winds, and things could be starting to deteriorate pretty quickly. 

Keep in mind, this is a low-level Category 1 hurricane at this point. 

But there‘s still a lot of danger out there, especially with flooding. 

Also, troublesome with this storm is the way it just hangs around.  Moves so slowly.  Slower, in fact, than you can walk.  When you get a storm like that, it really pushes the water back into the sounds and into the rivers in the area, similar to what happened back in Hurricane Floyd. 

Now, keep in mind, that storm was much, much, much more powerful than this one, but it hung around.  It was very slow moving, and some of the worst flooding in that storm came further inland, because all that water gets pushed back out there.

Also, some of the officials tonight are saying that we could be experiencing tropical storm force or hurricane force winds for about 24 hours straight.  And the effects of that could be pretty rough.  So we‘re having to wait and see. 

But officials around here are not taking this lightly.  We‘re seeing evacuations, both mandatory and voluntarily, up and down the coast of both South and North Carolina.  About 300 National Guards people are on alert in four different locations along the coast of North Carolina.  And for the first time, a Coast Guard admiral is going to be in charge of operations once this storm passes, to make sure that people are going to get the services that they need, to make sure things are OK if there is widespread flooding.  And they‘re expecting flooding with Ophelia. 

COSBY:  Michelle, thank you very much.  Michelle Kosinski, reporting live from Atlantic Beach, North Carolina.  Keep us posted.  Thank you, Michelle. 

In the meantime, they are cleaning up in Mississippi, in Biloxi, Mississippi, which was, of course, hit very hard by Hurricane Katrina.  Ron Blome joins us there.  And Ron, I will tell you, I was astounded by this comment from the transportation secretary saying that, what, this was the worst disaster in transportation basically in U.S. history.  That‘s a very strong comment.  When you see the damage that we‘ve been showing these last few weeks, I understand why. 

RON BLOME, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT:  Well, it is.  It‘s huge damage to the highways.  And he was really not even referencing the bridges when he was talking about the dollars today and what might be needed. 

The big concern is, is getting these major highways back open and rebuilt.  Highway 90, for instance, along the coast.  I drove down it between here and Gulfport the other day.  And it‘s barely two lanes, half of it is either buried under sand or upended at a 20-degree angle as the storm surge came over, and then as it washed back, it was just ripping up it.  In fact, the transportation secretary was saying today that it‘s vitally important not to let transportation be a bottleneck.  They‘ve got to get the roads fixed.  Let‘s listen. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NORM MINETA, TRANSPORTATION SECRETARY:  Our federal highway people had looked at, oh, the—in terms of, you know, a studied estimate, and as I recall for Mississippi, we‘re looking at something like $1.3 billion. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLOME:  Again, that doesn‘t include the two U.S. Highway 90 bridges that were just folded up by the storm.  All you see now are the piers that stretch like soldiers marking out across the water.

Let‘s talk about housing a little bit here, because in Mississippi, the numbers now, 115,000 evacuees still out of their homes in shelters, staying with friends, being housed in churches or in neighboring states.  They all need houses.  The governor here, Haley Barbour, wants 10,000 mobile homes here by the end of this month.  It‘s going to be hard to get there.  FEMA has 1,250 trailers in staging areas in or near Mississippi.  But only 135 have been set up according to their standards, and only 20 of those now have families in them. 

For instance, though, look at Biloxi -- 20 percent of the buildings in this city, many of them single-family housings, were destroyed.  And we visited with many people in the east end of Biloxi, who were living in houses, trying to clean them out, still waiting for relief from FEMA.  They called the FEMA number, they registered, they called back, and say, when is help going to come?  And FEMA says, we‘ll get there when we get there.

Over I think it was 160,000 cases had been filed with FEMA, -- or 16,000, rather, cases filed, and they‘ve got 300 inspectors to deal with that. 

Another housing number, Pass Christian, a city of 8,500, virtually ever house there is uninhabitable.  The mayor says they are going to need a trailer for every resident. 

So you can see, from just a few of these numbers, the housing challenge that‘s ahead. 

One thing that is frustrating people here on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, if you didn‘t have the huge disaster in New Orleans, this alone in Mississippi would still qualify as the largest natural disaster in U.S.  history. 

Back to you, Rita. 

COSBY:  Amazing.  Ron, thank you very much. 

And stick with us, everybody.  Coming up, incredible 911 calls.  People calling emergency services in those minutes when the floodwaters were just raging in, when the hurricane was hitting.  You have got to listen to them.  They‘re going to be coming up next. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COSBY:  So, what was it like when that massive wall of water came in?  Some people had minutes; others had only seconds.  And a number of them called 911.  Take a listen.  Mark Mullen has that story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MARK MULLEN, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  Tuesday, August 30th, many New Orleans residents who phoned 911 don‘t yet realize a levee has broken, and Lake Pontchartrain is severely flooding the city. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I‘m stuck in the attic and me and my little sister here and my mom, and we got water in the whole house.

MULLEN:  All they know is they must race upstairs for their lives. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Is there any way that you can get to the roof, ma‘am?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  We don‘t have nothing to get out of our home, out the windows.

MULLEN:  Some residents stay remarkably calm.  This caller‘s home actually floated off the foundation. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  The house is floating?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Right, it‘s floating, and from the top of it, we can always put a hole in the roof.  We can always break...

MULLEN:  The roof, the best place to be rescued, but not all families had that option. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  911, I need help in here.  I got a handicapped girl, and I got a baby that‘s on a pump machine.  And we on the bed, he‘s on a ventilator.  But he‘s in the bed, and the water is coming up. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Oh, there‘s an infant?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Yeah, the baby‘s eight months.

MULLEN:  In the days following Katrina, search teams and civilians rescued more than 34,000 people.  What is still unclear, how many of those people who phoned 911 that fateful day are still here to tell the rest of their story. 

Mark Mullen, NBC News, New Orleans.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COSBY:  Amazing to hear that.  And stick with us.  We are going to have more after the break as we continue live here from New Orleans.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COSBY:  And we are located here in Jackson Square Park.  This is a pretty popular area here in downtown New Orleans, really close to the French Quarter, which is just over there, and normally this area is bustling, even at night.  Lots of artisans, lots of Tarot card readers. 

You can see just a few lights on back here.  This is actually in a mall.  It was in a former brewery that‘s now been converted to a mall.  And to the left of it, you can see some lights on in one of the office buildings and one of the local hotels, something we did not see too long ago, a sign that life is slowly coming back here to New Orleans. 

Tomorrow, we are going to take you on a tour of the FBI headquarters.  It was severely damaged.  The roof was ripped off.  The main comm center was totally destroyed.  But these guys are amazing, they are resilient.  They are standing tall, and they continue the mission that is ahead, of course, of the headquarters here in New Orleans.  Jim Bernazzani, we‘re going—takes us on an exclusive tour tomorrow.  We‘re going to show you that tomorrow.  And that right there is one of the main comm centers.  It is incredible, if you look at the damage that was sustained at that area.  Also, in the conference room.  And we‘re going to tell you all about that tomorrow night.

And on Thursday night, the president is going to be back here in New Orleans, talking about of course Hurricane Katrina, so make sure you stay tuned for that.

But right now, I‘m going to pass it off to Joe Scarborough, for

“SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.”  He continues with Hurricane Katrina and a lot more. 

Take it away, Joe.

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

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