Guests: George Peterson, Janet Pelasara, Rod Wheeler, Oliver Thomas, Charles Foti, Valerie Jenkins, William McNeice, Trevor McNeice, Ardan Devine, David Arendall, Tesana Lewis, Arthur Anderson, Liz Taylor>
RITA COSBY, HOST: Tonight, the mayor of New Orleans drops a bombshell on thousands of city workers. Their jobs won‘t be waiting for them when they come home. Is he laying them off? You‘ll find out.
And some shocking details about the deadly tour boat catastrophe.
Wait until you hear how small of a punishment the boating company could face for what some say was a big mistake.
And an explosive situation. An accused bank robber gets it in the teeth after claiming he had a bomb in his mouth. You have to see this dramatic video. It‘s coming up.
But first, some late developments in the case of a missing college student in Virginia. Tonight, we‘re learning that a grand jury is being convened as early as tomorrow to look into the disappearance of Taylor Behl. And we know now that some subpoenas have already been sent out. They were sent out yesterday. Taylor Behl has been missing now for more than four weeks. Are investigators are closing in and finding out what happened to her?
Joining me now live is Taylor‘s mother, Janet Pelasara, and also the family attorney, George Peterson, and also former homicide detective Rod Wheeler.
Mr. Peterson, let me start with you. How do you think a grand jury could help this case?
GEORGE PETERSON, BEHL FAMILY ATTORNEY: Well, I think in several respects. The chief one is the fact that they have the subpoena power to bring witnesses before them and take sworn testimony. They can get them on the record and locked in. They can also determine whether anyone‘s going to take the 5th Amendment, or plead the 5th Amendment.
COSBY: Why are there still a lot questions, particularly about these folks who seem to be skateboarding, this community with Ben Fawley, the photographer with whom Taylor Behl had a relationship with? Seems like this group of guys—there‘s a lot of questions.
PETERSON: Well, I think there certainly is. I mean, the fact is there are a lot of suspicious circumstances surrounding them. The fact that Ben Fawley, in my view, has made up what may be a false alibi shortly after Taylor‘s disappearance, the fact that the dog tracked a scent from Taylor‘s car, when it was found, to the home of one of the skateboarders.
COSBY: Yes, brings up a lot of questions. This is this Village Cafe, this place where a lot of them used to hang out, may have worked?
PETERSON: It‘s my understanding that one of the skateboarders, or a couple of the skateboarders do, in fact, work at the Village Cafe. It‘s also my understanding that Ben Fawley may have worked at the Village Cafe, as well, but certainly, I think, certainly hung around in those circles.
COSBY: Now, Janet, we‘re hearing that some of these subpoenas are related to some—how this skateboarding community—we‘re not sure if it‘s Ben Fawley or other people involved. But your daughter went, what, skateboarding just a few days before she disappeared. And something unusual happened. What happened?
JANET PELASARA, MISSING GIRL‘S MOTHER: Something unusual happened?
COSBY: Did she—did she say anything about hanging out with these guys, that anything bizarre happened to her or anything unusual?
PELASARA: She said that she went skateboarding with three guys and that she got “air,” which they—she said they were impressed by. But I don‘t know unusual.
COSBY: Nothing—but do you believe that ties go to the skateboarding? Do you believe that somehow, this group of guys or Ben Fawley is connected?
PELASARA: I believe there has to be—well, yes, I believe there is a connection. I don‘t know how, but I do believe there is.
COSBY: Why do you believe that, Janet?
PELASARA: Everything is too close, too connected—the Village Cafe, the fact that Ben supposedly had five skateboards—you wouldn‘t collect five skateboards if you weren‘t a skater—and then the skateboarders themselves.
COSBY: Yes, there seems to be a lot of ties there. And George, you know, I keep going back to also some of these lie-detector tests. What do you know?
PETERSON: Well, as you know, on September 17, Taylor‘s car was found.
And they tracked—had a dog track a scent from Taylor‘s car to a house. It was owned by the aunt and uncle of Jesse Schultz. Jesse Schultz apparently took a lie-detector test and failed in two key respects—one, whether he knew Taylor Behl, and two, whether he was in her car. So I believe that, certainly, there‘s suspicious circumstances. We believe that he may have been one of the ones that she was going skateboarding with that night.
COSBY: OK. And Rod, let me bring you in. And both of you, please stick with us. Rod, what do you make of this? I think this dog scent tracking thing is interesting, you know, from the car that she was missing in to this house where the skateboarders was in. She skateboarded with one of the guys. More than coincidence?
ROD WHEELER, FORMER HOMICIDE DETECTIVE: Well, I think it‘s a little bit more than just a mere coincidence, Rita. Let me tell you, you‘re exactly right when you say that there appears to be some kind conspiracy going on amongst all of these guys with these skateboards.
Now, one thing that I actually learned today was that a lot of these individuals that worked at that cafe knew each other, and they also hang out together after work. So the police, I can tell you right now, believe the exact same thing that you believe, that these guys are connected in some way. Now, the thing we‘ve got to be careful about, though, in this investigation is not developing tunnel syndrome and focusing specifically on that one guy. But what we need to do is focus on the entire group because it appears at this point, Rita, that more than one person may have the answer as to what happened to Taylor, also, the fact that Taylor still may be alive somewhere.
COSBY: Now, the point is also about these lie detectors, Rod. We hear now that one of the guys is Jesse Schultz, one of the others who was skateboarding, that he passed—that he did not pass two key questions. First of all, Do you know her, which would seem to be a pretty straight question. The other, you know, Was she in your car? Or vice versa, Was he in her car.
WHEELER: That‘s right. Those are excellent questions. Now, the polygraph test, which is the lie-detector test—usually, we use that as an investigative tool. And what that‘s going to tell us, by this guy particularly failing those two relatively easy questions, tells us that either he‘s not coming forward with the correct information or he‘s hiding information for one reason or another.
I suspect, Rita—and this is obviously experienced speculation—that this guy knows a whole lot more than what he‘s telling the police. And I can tell you right now the police believe that, as well.
COSBY: Janet, do you believe that Taylor may still be alive after all this time?
PELASARA: I hope to God she is. I hope to God she is.
COSBY: Absolutely. And right now, no evidence. You know, it must be so hard for you, but relieving in some ways, no evidence that she is not with us anymore. It seems that there still could be a very good possibility that she‘s held maybe against her will, right?
COSBY: You‘ve also had some wonderful support, Janet, and I think this is terrific. There was a big fund-raiser just a few days ago. How wonderful is that for you, as a mother, just to see all these people turning out for your beautiful daughter? And what was raised?
PELASARA: The benefit was held at Jim and Java (ph) on Sunday at from 1:00 to 4:00, and the people—there were hundreds of people that came out, and yes, friends, family, people I didn‘t know. One young girl had met Taylor once and wrote a beautiful poem and gave it to me. The donations that were raised were over $8,200. And that‘s incredible for—you know, more than we had anticipated. Incredible. So thank you, Vienna.
PETERSON: And Rita, if I may?
COSBY: Absolutely, George. Real quick.
PETERSON: I would just like to add that the $8,200 goes on top of the reward fund started by Janet, and that reward fund is over $22,000, at this point. And so if anyone has any information that can help us find Taylor, please come forward. There‘s a reward to collect.
COSBY: Absolutely. And we‘re showing the tip line right there, everybody. Again, the number to call, 804-514-8477. Please call if you have any information. And again, we‘re hearing that a grand jury could come together as early as tomorrow. Let‘s pray that this beautiful family gets some answers soon and some good news soon. Thank you, everybody.
And just when you thought that New Orleans had suffered as much as possible, late today, Mayor Ray Nagin announced that the city had to fire half of its workforce. NBC‘s Donna Gregory joins us now live from New Orleans with the very latest. Donna, this was stunning, when they came out with this news today.
DONNA GREGORY, NBC CORRESPONDENT: It certainly was, Rita. You know,
yet another shocking blow for the people who are trying to rebuild this
city. Now, it depends on how you look at it as to whether this move will
hurt or help the city. Now, the people that he‘s talking about laying off
and he says pretty permanently—are non-essential workers. But think about it. These are the bus drivers and that sort of thing, the people who would actually bringing the lower-wage workers into the city to help jump-start the economy, the hotel workers, the restaurant workers.
It was at a news conference this afternoon that the mayor broke the news.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAYOR RAY NAGIN, NEW ORLEANS: New Orleans today announces it has been forced to layoff up to 3,000 classified and unclassified city workers as a result of the financial constraints in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GREGORY: The mayor is calling these nonessential workers. They‘re not going to do anything in terms of the police department, the fire department, ambulance services or health inspectors. They hope to get these restaurants up and running. And they‘re going to actually notify these workers by mass e-mail to let them know that their services will no longer be required.
President Clinton—former president Clinton spent part of his day in the Louisiana Gulf area. He was in a Baton Rouge shelter for a lot of New Orleans evacuees. He was shaking hands and talking to people, trying to figure out ways to spend the millions of dollars that he and former president Bush have raised to help these victims.
And we also want to let you know that the search for bodies, the door-to-door search, has officially ended here in New Orleans. A total of 972 bodies have been recovered. And Rita, they have put a private company on retainer in case more bodies need to be removed once they‘re discovered. Back to you.
COSBY: Donna, thanks so much.
And we‘re joined now by New Orleans city council president Oliver Thomas. Councilman Thomas, were you surprised when you heard about this mass layoff today? Three thousand people—that‘s a lot of people in your city.
OLIVER THOMAS, NEW ORLEANS CITY COUNCIL PRESIDENT : Well, Rita, my condolences go out to all the families who‘ve lost ones and all the 972 people bodies that we‘ve found. So my heart goes out to those families.
Yes, I was really surprised. We‘ve had three storms in the last month. We‘ve had Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Rita and now “Hurricane Layoff.” You know, and this may sound kind of drastic, but you know, I think only the worst thing that could have happened to those 3,000 employees was for someone to take a loved one, for them to lose their life, because a lot of the life has just been knocked out of them.
COSBY: But isn‘t it a triple blow here? Here are these folks—as you pointed out, they go through the hurricanes. A lot of them haven‘t even come back. Why should they come back to New Orleans? They don‘t have a job now.
THOMAS: Well, I mean, you know, and that‘s why the mayor, parish presidents, everyone in this region, we‘ve been crying out for some relief. How many foreign countries has the United States bailed out? How many foreign governments have the United States bailed out? You mean to tell me you can‘t bail out southeast and southwest Louisiana? We‘re American citizens. We need to see our congressional leadership, Democrat and Republican, stand together, challenge their parties, challenge the Congress to make sure that these communities are made whole.
If you have not heard the pleas of parish president Rodriguez and parish president Broussard and Davis and Roussel (ph) and Mayor Nagin, then you haven‘t been listening. We need our country to bail us out. We need that help now.
COSBY: Yes, you bet.
THOMAS: This is one of the worst days in the history...
COSBY: I am astounded that...
THOMAS: This is one of the worst days in the history...
COSBY: ... the feds have not helped you, Oliver. And in fact, let me show a comment, if I could, from the mayor earlier today, and then I‘ll have you respond.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NAGIN: I think we can—we can limp along for another month or two. And then, hopefully, we‘ll get some understanding of what—if we can get some more federal and more state support. And then we‘ll have to make another hard call. Hopefully, we can get this worked out.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COSBY: Got a couple questions for you. First, Oliver, you know, why have the feds not helped you? I mean, New Orleans was a key spot. And can you handle—what happens if another hit comes in a month or two?
THOMAS: Well, you know, I really don‘t know. We keep—every news station in the world has broadcasted all of these billions of dollars that have been approved. We see all of these federal contracts being signed. We don‘t see any money by the way of relief coming to our local communities.
You know, when are the appropriations going to come? When is the bailout going to come? And we‘re not limping along right now, we‘re crawling. We‘re crawling. I mean, you know, if you want to kill half a state—half a state is almost dead. And I think in a couple of weeks, if we don‘t get some federal relief, we‘re going to kill parishes and cities and entire communities all across southern Louisiana. You know, I just want to see somebody at the federal level cry out, stop giving us political speeches and nice little talks, and really talk about how urgent this is right now. We‘ve only heard that from local leaders.
COSBY: Yes, no, listen, the police chief stepped down. A lot of people were surprised about that. Do you think Mayor Nagin should be getting a pink slip?
THOMAS: Well, no one‘s getting a pink slip. You know, I think people are suffering so much that probably every voter in the region is very frustrated. But the one thing people do know is that, you know, we‘re a Little Brother. There‘s a Big Brother out there that‘s supposed to be helping us. And right now, we‘re not getting the dined of relief that we deserve. How many foreign governments has the United States bailed out over the last (INAUDIBLE) the last 10 or 20 years?
COSBY: but are you pleased with the mayor, the way the mayor has handled this, too? Oliver, what do you think of the way the mayor‘s handling...
THOMAS: Well, you know, everybody could have done a little better and a few things a little more different. But they‘re officials at different levels, council, mayor, parish presidents, senator, congressman, president, everyone that—you know, we‘re about out of gas, and we‘re about out of gas for blame. We need some help.
Look, we need more than Kanye West out there screaming about how people need some relief. We need federal officials all over this country because guess what, Rita? And you‘ve done a good job broadcasting it. It could be them and their community next.
COSBY: You bet. And I will tell you, Oliver, I am astounded that federal help has not come your way. I think it is absolutely appalling. And we‘ll try to do our part to help you as much as we can, Oliver. Thank you so much for being with us.
THOMAS: And I thank you very much, Rita.
COSBY: You‘re welcome. And we‘ll keep at it, you guys.
And everybody, an explosive development into the investigations of patients who died while being trapped inside Louisiana hospitals and nursing homes. There‘s a lot of stories coming out of New Orleans tonight, and that‘s not all. Take a look at what‘s in store.
A cruise boat catastrophe. For the first time, the panicky voice of a terrified witness, watching as a tour boat loaded with dozens of people flips over.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, my God! Oh, my God!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COSBY: And new pictures of the amazing rescue, as two passers-by struggle to save lives. They join me LIVE AND DIRECT.
And horrific pictures capture the moments before a police officer dies at the hand of a fellow cop. For the first time, the officer‘s widow is telling the story.
And you won‘t believe your eyes, amazing video of a bank robber who bit off more than he could chew. We‘ll tell you why this bomb-sniffing robot was searching in the suspect‘s mouth. It‘s ahead LIVE AND DIRECT.
COSBY: Tonight, news on those shocking claims that patients at 19 facilities may have been neglected during Hurricane Katrina. The state of Louisiana is in the middle of the investigation. The only people charged so far are the owners of St. Rita‘s nursing home in New Orleans. We told you about that, where 34 patients were trapped inside and died there. But more charges could soon be on the way.
Louisiana attorney general Charles Foti joins us now live. Attorney General Foti, what are some of the worst claims that you‘re looking into in hospitals and nursing homes?
CHARLES C. FOTI, JR., LOUISIANA ATTORNEY GENERAL : Well, we‘re looking into all of the deaths that happened to hospitals and nursing homes in the affected area. We think that if you, as a patient, go into medical care, you deserve the best possible care that any American should give. And we have investigated. We have sent out search warrants in a number of locations.
We have—this Saturday, we found potentially another victim of St. Rita about 100 or so feet away from St. Rita that had a feeding tube in them at the time. We have not identified that as being in St. Rita, but it was found right next to St. Rita. And also in another hospital in Chalmette, we found a body in a closet, wrapped in a blanket. So we‘re trying to—it was badly decomposed, and we‘re trying to see what happened to that particular person.
As we‘re going through this investigation, we will determine whether further criminal charges or civil action will be taken. We‘ll also, at the end of it, write a report to tell not only to the state of Louisiana but to the nation what we should do with our hospitals and our nursing homes in a time of disaster and why it is deficient if we have a terrorist attack. And I think that‘s extremely important because we‘ll look at regulatory changes and legislative changes to make this better.
COSBY: You bet. And...
FOTI: When Rita...
COSBY: You know, how tough is it, sir in terms of, you know, determining, you know, when things happen? I would imagine a lot of it depends on autopsies. And how long until these investigations are done? What kind of timeframe are you looking at?
FOTI: We are working feverishly around the clock at the present time. And we will be able to determine whether or not there are any further charges probably in the next three or four to five weeks. Hurricane Rita caused us a problem because we had to divert some energy from that to help and do patrols down in the affected area.
But one of the good things that happened is that when they started to talk about the evacuations, you may have noticed that both the governor of Texas and the governor of Louisiana, as the first thing, said to evacuate the nursing homes and make sure the hospitals were provided for.
COSBY: Now, one of the hospitals—Tenet Healthcare, which runs one of the hospitals, provided a statement just kind of describing sort of just how desperate and how tough this situation was. It says, “For four days after the levee failures, the hospital was without law enforcement, security, power, proper sanitation and air-conditioning. The hospital‘s administration team and Tenet put together an evacuation force using privately hired helicopters, boats and also buses.”
You know, it seems like, you know, some hospitals do seem like they were trying to do the right thing. I‘m sure it‘s tough juggling who did the right thing and who didn‘t.
FOTI: Well, we‘re looking at that, and maybe those hospitals should have had an evacuation plan. Maybe that—the joint commission that looks at hospitals should say what an evacuation plan should be. When you have a hospital and the water goes off and you just—you‘re just on the generator power, is that generator powering the whole hospital or just powering some lights and maybe one elevator? What happens to the air-conditioning for critically ill patients that—that need a constant temperature? What happens to those people that are just coming out of surgery?
So I think that in (INAUDIBLE) -- I‘m not pointing any fingers. I‘m saying I‘m raising questions that we hope to answer and hope to make suggestions to about—when you go in a hospital, you‘re in their care. When you go in a nursing home and someone calls you up and said, Are you going to evacuate? And you say, Yes, and you don‘t evacuate, does that not give rise to the ordinary person to say, Well, something‘s wrong here?
We‘re not pointing figures. We‘re (INAUDIBLE) we‘re doing inquiries and investigations. We have served subpoenas and search warrants, and we‘re looking through the wreckage. We‘re doing autopsies. We‘re not doing them personally, but they‘re doing autopsies on the patients to determine what went wrong and how that should not happen again any place in the United States.
COSBY: All right. Well, Charles Foti, you keep up the good work and keep us posted. We thank you so much for being with us, sir.
And I want to show everybody, too, you also found your first case of price gouge. If we can go to that shot on the screen? I think this is pretty incredible—found his first case. It was a campground. And the campground—and the general has filed suit on this—raised the price $350 to $900 a month for evacuees. Absolutely outrageous! And that attorney general is doing a heck of a good job looking into all of this. Thank you so much.
Meantime tonight, the widow of a police officer killed in a horrible accident at a football tailgate is speaking out here LIVE And DIRECT for the very first time. University of Central Florida police officer Mario Jenkins was shot by an Orlando policeman as he tried to stop a dramatic scuffle outside the Citrus Bowl. This weekend, friends and family gathered to say good-bye to a man they say that they loved so much.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAJ. RANDY MINGO, UCF POLICE SUPERVISOR: Mario believed in everything associated with this badge, and he believed in enforcing the law.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COSBY: As the authorities investigate Jenkins‘s death, his family now has new concerns over the officer‘s final resting place. Joining me now for her first television interview is Valerie Jenkins, the widow of Mario Jenkins.
First of all, I‘m sure it must have just been overwhelming. It must have been just a horrible nightmare when you found out that he was killed by another officer. How—just how did you find out the news? And how heartbreaking has this been for you?
VALERIE JENKINS, WIDOW OF SLAIN UCF POLICE OFFICER: Well, Rita, one of his fellow officers and a close friend of both of us told me. And Mario is my entire life. That‘s all I can say. He‘s everything to me. He means everything.
COSBY: Tel us about what he was like as an officer and as a man.
We‘ve heard a lot of great stories. Just people really loved your...
JENKINS: Everyone who knew him loved him. I mean, I know a lot of times, when people lose somebody that they love, they have a lot of regrets and they think, I should have done this better or I should have done something else. But I don‘t regret a single second of mine and Mario‘s time together. I mean, in the six years, eight months and eleven days we had together, we had more happiness than a lot of people have in their entire lives. And he was just a wonderful husband, friend, police officer, Marine and American. He was just amazing.
COSBY: Well, we‘ve heard a lot of great stories about him the last few days, and I know a lot of people agree with you on that. I know you wanted to give him a military burial. Why did you think that was important? Why are you disappointed that that can‘t happen?
JENKINS: Well, because of the work that he did. I come from a police family, basically. We talked about what he wanted, and he specifically told me what he wanted in case this happened. And of course, I didn‘t want to hear it because, you know, nobody wants to talk about that. But he told me very specifically what he wanted. And he wanted to be buried at the national cemetery in Bushnell, Florida.
And what‘s really made this extremely heartbreaking for us, on top of everything, is that we‘ve been told, yes, that he could be. And then that was taken back again. We got on the phone with a lot of people, and we were told once again that, yes, he could be there as his final resting place. And then the next day, one of his fellow Marines and his fellow officers had to tell me that, no, he could not be buried there.
COSBY: And I‘m sure that was heartbreaking. You know, the National Cemetery Administration, which sort of oversees all the military burials, had a statement. And I want to put that up. It says, “Federal regulations determine eligibility for burial in a national cemetery. For reservists and National Guard personnel, those regulations require at least 24 months of active duty or fulfillment of an entire active duty obligation. Individuals must meet this regulatory threshold for eligibility.”
I know that he had seven months of training in the Marines, but he doesn‘t fit this. But if the president is watching tonight, if the White House is watching tonight, what do you want to say, Mrs. Jenkins?
JENKINS: Well, I want to say that on paper, he doesn‘t fit the current standards. From what I understand, these were different before, when did he go into the military. He fulfilled his six years of reserve duty. And during that time, any day of that time, the president could have called him up and asked him to give his life for his country, and he would have done that very willingly.
And when his obligation, time obligation was up, he became a police officer in order to serve his country in a different way. He was very proud of that, and I was very proud of him for that. But after September 11, I mean, he was outraged, and like a lot of Americans have been, and he wanted to go back in. And I convinced him that he was serving his country in the same capacity by helping people here, that his time was up. Luckily, during his time in the Marines, our country was not attacked and we didn‘t need him to go fight a war. But now he was needed here, and that it is the same honorable duty that being in the Marines would be.
But he—I can‘t say he was a Marine. He is a Marine. He is a Marine in every aspect, always faithful. And he‘s an amazing American. And what I want to ask the president, who Mario respected very deeply. Even at a time when sometimes people don‘t always agree with the president‘s decisions, Mario always respected him very deeply.
What I want to ask him is to please—I know he‘s very busy and I know a lot of Americans need him, but I want to just ask him to please just take a moment and learn a little bit more about what a wonderful American that Mario was and is and to please help us to fulfill his wishes and honor him by putting him to rest where he really should be, in the national cemetery in Bushnell.
COSBY: Well, I hope that the White House is watching tonight. And Mrs. Jenkins, thank you. Please keep us posted. And you should be very proud of your husband.
JENKINS: I am.
COSBY: Sounds like he‘s done a lot of wonderful things for our country. Thank you very much.
JENKINS: He has. Thank you.
COSBY: And still ahead, everybody, new details about the (INAUDIBLE) tour boat catastrophe. Twenty people died. But get this. The fine for negligence could be less than the cost of a ticket for a boat ride. It is outrageous!
And a suspected bank robber gets a mouthful from a bomb-sniffing robot. We‘ll tell you what he told bank tellers was in his mouth. And it‘s all caught on camera. That‘s coming up on LIVE AND DIRECT.
COSBY: Tonight, shocking new developments about the deadly capsizing of a boat that killed 20 elderly tourists over the weekend. Investigators are saying that weight may have been a factor. And get this: The boat‘s operator could only end up paying a fine of $25 for having one crew member on board instead of two, which is the regulation.
The accident happened in Lake George, New York in the Adirondack mountains, about 50 miles north of Albany. And just today, we‘re hearing the frantic 911 calls made just minutes after the accident.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CALLER: Oh, my God, oh my God! A boat, a boat, a boat went under. The Ethan Allen, just outside of Green Harbor. Oh! A lot of people, they‘re hanging onto the front (INAUDIBLE) went over. Oh, please hurry.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COSBY: And joining me now are two brothers, William and Trevor McNeice—McNeice?
TREVOR MCNEICE, RESCUER: Yes.
COSBY: Who helped save some of those poor victims. Let me start with you, Trevor. Firefighter?
T. MCNEICE: Yes.
COSBY: What went through your mind? We have some home video, too, in fact that you guys shot. What went through your mind when you saw this happen?
T. MCNEICE: Initially, we didn‘t know what was really going on. We just saw the boat overturned and we actually saw people gathered. And we didn‘t know it was a boat overturned. We got a little closer, we saw the boat. And then we knew we had to get in the water to see what we can do.
COSBY: How soon until you got into the water?
T. MCNEICE: I mean, as soon as we got up there. We just—we went pretty quickly up to the scene. And we just jumped right in. And when we got closer, that‘s when we realized the extent of the tragedy and how many victims there really were. And it was just overwhelming. And we just went to work, did the best we could to get everybody off the boat, and the victims were down in the boat. And we got them out. But some didn‘t make it who were down there.
COSBY: What did you see and hear?
WILLIAM MCNEICE, RESCUER: You know, as we approached the turn, I saw what looked like boats congregated together. And I just saw some people signaling for us to come in. As we came closer, I saw some people in the boat holding victims above water. I said, Trevor, we‘re going in. And we dove right in, grabbed life jackets. And I was surprised at the extent. I was wondering why these bodies all—some face down in the water, we were turning them over, trying to keep their heads above water and just doing everything we can to get these people to safety, because we were one of the first on the scene.
It was a great effort by everybody there, and, you know, those that were still alive were brought onto other boats. And those that weren‘t were brought aboard and CPR was attempted on many, and it—you know, it was a good effort. It was just a very unfortunate accident.
COSBY: It must have been just so unfortunate for you both to see.
We have some still pictures too that I think your sister took...
W. MCNEICE: Yes.
COSBY: (INAUDIBLE) on the lake. You‘re familiar with this lake. And now that you hear—the two new things we‘re hearing that maybe there was extra weight on the boat, Trevor? Also, that they were supposed to have two people on board, two crewmembers instead of one. The fine could maybe be $25 for this horrible accident. What do you think?
T. MCNEICE: I—well, I mean, I‘ve seen that boat on the lake since I was a kid. I‘ve grown up on that lake since I was a baby. And, I mean, nothing has ever happened before. So nobody suspected this was going to happen. It‘s just shocking, and I really have no—I can‘t imagine how it could happen.
COSBY: I‘m sure your prayers go out to those folks too.
T. MCNEICE: Yes.
COSBY: Good job, both of you, that you hopped in there. And I know that you both are responsible for helping a lot of people. And we really appreciate...
W. MCNEICE: Thank you.
COSBY: ... you being with us tonight. Some real heroes. Thank you very much for being with us.
T. MCNEICE: Thank you.
W. MCNEICE: Thank you.
COSBY: And now to a dramatic arrest after a bizarre and frightening robbery attempt, all caught on tape, and the alleged robber is actually an Army sergeant. Thirty-three-year-old Jeffrey Leon Lewis Jr. tried to rob a Tucson, Arizona bank, claiming that he was holding a bomb in his mouth. Police quickly arrived on the scene, and sent in a robot to diffuse the bomb, which ended up being a fake.
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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There was people from the bank that were very nervous. The bank tellers—we felt in danger, though.
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COSBY: And joining us now on the phone is Sergeant Ardan Devine. He is the head of the explosives unit for the Tucson Police Department.
Sergeant, first of all, this is so stunning and such a bizarre crime. What went through your mind when you heard that this guy was claiming he had something in his mouth?
SGT. ARDAN DEVINE, TUCSON POLICE EXPLOSIVE UNIT: Initially, we were shocked. It was an amazing call. And the response of my department and the first responders was just incredible.
COSBY: Have you ever encountered anything like this?
DEVINE: No, I have not.
COSBY: What do you think went through his mind? And what do you say his motivation was? Here‘s an active duty, you know, he‘s a guy in the Army?
DEVINE: You know, I‘m not sure. Initially, when we responded to the scene and were briefed by the incident commander, we were under the impression he was a victim. And we treated him as such. We were trying to assist him and trying to reassure him that we‘re working towards at least removing the item from his mouth.
COSBY: How long did it take to remove the item from his mouth? And had you ever dealt with something where you had to bring in a robot for something like this before?
DEVINE: It took us probably about 20 minutes to be—to maneuver the robot to a position. The way it actually rolled out with us is there was four threats identified at that location. We had to deal with a bag. After which—after bunkering that bag, we were able to approach him. We used the robot to communicate with him and keep him on video surveillance, and to reassure him that we‘re going to help him.
And we were dressing out one of our bomb techs at this point to go down and begin the manipulation of removing it.
We were able to see that the tape, an edge of the tape was exposed. And we had decided at that point to use the robot pincher to remove the tape. And we asked the individual to then to spit out the item.
COSBY: Now, I understand this guy also tried to rob—is it the same bank back in January? Have you linked him to any other crimes?
DEVINE: Actually, the investigative—the investigation is still ongoing. And I know that they‘re still gathering intelligence on that. And I‘m not aware of that. I dealt specifically with the explosive ordnance operations.
COSBY: All right, well, Sergeant Devine, just incredible pictures, to see this. Thank you very much for being with us.
And still ahead, everybody, can being pregnant get you fired? A woman who says a school gave her the boot because of her unborn child is now filing suit. She‘s outraged, and she joins me next.
And thousands of hurricane victims need money, but this woman is wondering why she got a big check. What‘s really happening to the disaster relief money? Stay tuned.
COSBY: You‘re fired! That‘s what Tesana Lewis heard almost two years ago from her boss at an Alabama school. Leaders at the Covenant Classical School of Trace Crossings say Lewis was fired for being pregnant and married. They say that it violates the school‘s moral beliefs.
Now, Lewis is suing the Hoover, Alabama school, saying that she was wrongfully fired. LIVE & DIRECT tonight from Dallas, Texas are Tesana Lewis and her fiance, Arthur Anderson. And from Birmingham, Alabama, Tesana‘a attorney, David Arendall.
Let me start with you, Tesana. This happened almost two years ago.
Why are you doing this now?
TESANA LEWIS, FIRED TEACHER: We‘ve been filed. And it‘s just now coming up for court.
COSBY: So just the legal timetable. Why did you think it was important to file suit?
LEWIS: Just to make justice served, so other individuals that‘s had similar situations that have encountered the same problem as well as myself, so we can put justice—put an end to this.
COSBY: I bet it‘s been tough. Arthur, how did they find out that Tesana was even pregnant?
ARTHUR ANDERSON, TESANA LEWIS‘ FIANCE: Well, basically it was obvious when she first applied for the job. They were aware of it. And they immediately—they basically asked her all the basic questions, would it interfere with you doing your duties, and stuff like that. And at the time, I was in Oklahoma working. But I live in Texas. We live in Texas. And what basically came of it was that she just basically went to work, and she was commended for doing a good job for the short period of time, and told she was being released because she was pregnant.
COSBY: After they—after they said it was OK? You know, that is a turnabout.
Let me show you a comment also. This is sort of the school‘s moral policy. Remember, it is a Christian school; it is a private school. And this is a copy of the termination letter. It says: “It is obvious that you had sexual intercourse outside of marriage, which conduct is inconsistent with the school‘s Christian values and religious precepts.”
Did you sort of know going, though, it‘s a private school, and maybe we got to be careful? And I love your little one. She‘s very cute there.
ANDERSON: Yeah, he‘s very active.
COSBY: He‘s very active. We like that. High-spirited there.
ANDERSON: Yeah. Basically, from my understanding of it, it wasn‘t a question of her beliefs or any convictions as such. It was basically a matter of, could she perform the duties of tending to infants and toddlers, you know, far beyond the way they were expressing it. And one thing led to another, in the sense of basically it was just a matter of termination, period, because she was pregnant. And so given by that—go ahead.
COSBY: Let me bring in the attorney. And by the way, your little boy is just great. He got a little fire there, I love that .
LEWIS: Thank you.
COSBY: David, let me go to you real quick, because is there a double standard here? If it was a guy, how would they ever know that somebody was having a romantic affair outside of wedlock?
DAVID ARENDALL, ATTORNEY: Well, that‘s part of the problem with the way they handled things. They follow a policy of do not ask, do not tell with men so that they would not know. They look for a woman who becomes pregnant, and then they apply the policy. So it is a gender-type policy.
COSBY: When is this going to go to court, David? When is this going to go to court?
ARENDALL: February the 6th.
COSBY: OK, great, well, we‘ll be watching all of you very, very closely. Please keep us posted, everybody. Thanks so much.
And still ahead, a check for thousands of dollars is just what thousands of hurricane victims need. So why did the owner of this apartment complex get the money? You‘ll be stunned to hear why.
COSBY: People are still reeling from the news of massive layoffs in the city of New Orleans. Joe Scarborough is the host of “SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY,” and coming up at the top of the hour, Joe, you have to wonder how this could happen. I don‘t know if you heard, we just had the councilman, Oliver Thomas, on. Said they hadn‘t gotten any federal money yet. That is astounding.
JOE SCARBOROUGH, HOST, SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY: It really is astounding. And, again, everybody is pointing at Washington, D.C. I have got a guest on tonight, though, a powerful Republican, who is starting to point at the mayor of New Orleans, saying this guy shouldn‘t be inviting everybody back in when they don‘t have essential services up. It‘s still dangerous down there, and now he is basically admitting they don‘t have enough money, New Orleans, even to pay state employees.
On top of that, a new—new rains may come in that could breach levees in the future. We are going to be talking about that tonight, Rita, and also, a powerful Republican may be breaking ranks in the Tom DeLay case. We just got this information in a few minutes ago, and may be getting other Republicans to come out and tell Tom DeLay, even if he is acquitted, he is not welcome back as leader of the Republican Party on Capitol Hill. So shocking developments.
COSBY: Yes, some good stuff. We will definitely be watching both of those big stories tonight on your show. Joe is coming up in a little less than 10 minutes from now on “SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.” Make sure you watch for that.
And everybody, we are still continuing with all this coverage of the hurricane. One apartment owner in Florida got a big surprise when the Red Cross sent her nearly $6,000 in the mail. It was supposed to be reimbursement for housing hurricane victims, but Geraldine Taylor never housed a single evacuee, and never pretended to. We are joined now by Geraldine‘s daughter, Liz.
Liz, first of all, good for you and your mom. You did the admirable thing by returning the money, but how did this happen in the first place?
LIZ TAYLOR: That‘s the thing. We have no idea.
COSBY: How did you find out? First of all, you get the check in the mail. And what was your reaction?
TAYLOR: Shock. And I saw the American Red Cross logo on the check, and I saw there were names of people that had—that I guess had stayed somewhere, but it was made out to my mother‘s property, Sandcastle Apartments. So I knew it had to have something to do with Hurricane Katrina victims, but she was empty the entire month of September.
COSBY: Now, you could have cashed the check, is that right? Was there anything preventing your mom from actually depositing this?
TAYLOR: Her conscience.
COSBY: But other than that?
TAYLOR: There was never a thought—there was never a thought of cashing the check, so we want to make sure that the money goes to the people that really need it.
COSBY: You bet. In fact, you know, we reached the Red Cross. You talked about it said Red Cross on there. We didn‘t hear back from them, but the company that actually sent the check did release a statement, and I want to show that. This is a quote from that company. It says, “we are aware of incidents where checks have been erroneously sent to the wrong property in a handful of cases, and have rectified them as soon as we have become aware of them.” This is a statement from the company that was actually sending it out. Do you believe there are any safeguards in place?
TAYLOR: I don‘t think the safeguards are enough. I went on their Web site, and it looked like it would be way too easy for fraud to occur.
COSBY: I would bet, I mean, based on how easy it came to you. Unfortunately, not everybody is going to be as good of a Samaritan and do the right thing and have the conscience that you and your mom have.
What would you say to other folks out there tonight who maybe got the check improperly?
TAYLOR: Just do the right thing. Think about the people who really lost everything in the storm and need help.
COSBY: And what was your mom‘s reaction? I know your mom is 87. She sounds like a good woman. When she saw those pictures of the hurricane, what went through her mind?
TAYLOR: Well, she felt terrible for the people, and we‘re living right on the beach, she has been there for 41 years, that‘s where I grew up, and we are very grateful to be OK here in Florida, and our hearts go out to them.
COSBY: Liz, thank you very much to you and your mom, and I hope folks at home, anybody else who did improperly get this check, especially that kind of money, that they absolutely listen to you and do the right thing. Thanks so much.
TAYLOR: Thank you for calling attention to this.
COSBY: Oh, you‘re welcome.
And up next, everybody, wait until you hear what Britney Spears is doing to help hurricane victims. She is using some of her most famous assets, hint, hint. Stay tuned.
COSBY: Well, you can now wear Britney Spears bra, flip-flops, and even cuddle with her favorite teddy bear, all for a good cause. The pop star and brand-new mom is helping the victims of Hurricane Katrina. She is doing that by auctioning off her personal items on eBay.
Now, all the money raised will go to the Mississippi Hurricane Recovery Fund. So far, the most popular item on the auction block is this. This is the white diamond-studded bra that Britney wore in one of her videos, the famous video that a lot of us saw. It‘s already raised, get this, more than $17,000 since the bidding war began over the weekend. Other items on sale include her jewelry and some furniture. Britney grew up in Louisiana, which, of course, was hit very hard by the hurricane.
And that does it for me here on LIVE & DIRECT tonight. I am Rita Cosby. Have a terrific night, everybody. My pal Joe is coming up right now from Pensacola with some big news on Tom DeLay and also the hurricane.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.