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CNN CONNIE CHUNG TONIGHT

Mother of Dirty Bomb Suspect Speaks Out; How Valid is Holiday Threat?

Aired July 1, 2002 - 20:00   ET

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


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CONNIE CHUNG, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, I'm Connie Chung.

Tonight, for the first time, the mother of the man suspected of planting a dirty bomb attack.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER (voice-over): The accused dirty bomber.

DONALD RUMSFELD, DEFENSE SECRETARY: Here's a person who unambiguously was interested in radiation weapons and terrorist activity and was in the -- with al Qaeda.

ANNOUNCER: His mom says he's innocent.

Tonight Connie reveals details of a phone conversation with the so-called Dirty Bomber's mother.

Terror watch.

CONDOLEEZZA RICE, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: We should be aware that it's the first July Fourth since September 11, and try to be vigilant.

ANNOUNCER: How valid is the July Fourth threat?

Tonight, a coast-to-coast look at what Americans are facing in uncertain times.

Foreign star exposed. Jennifer Aniston takes on the magazines she claims are stalking her.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER: This is CONNIE CHUNG TONIGHT.

Live from the CNN Broadcast Center in New York: Connie Chung.

CHUNG: Good evening. We'll have those stories in a moment.

But first, an update on a breaking story CNN has been following for the last hour. A mid-air collision between two planes over southern Germany just after midnight. It's not clear how many casualties are involved, but both were large planes, and at least one is thought to be a cargo jet.

The planes were a Russian-made Tupolev and a Boeing 757. Officials do not yet have definite numbers of the dead or injured from the planes, or on the ground. But police reportedly said the two planes together carried a total of 82 people.

We will, of course, keep you updated on the developing story throughout the hour and the evening.

And now to the mother of Jose Padilla, the man accused of plotting a dirty bomb attack. She says she and her family have been verbally attacked in a way that is destroying her family.

For the first time, Estella Ortega Lebran (ph) agreed to speak to me on the record by telephone. Padilla has been held for almost two months with no charges filed, and without his family or legal counsel permitted to see him.

U.S. officials are treating him as an enemy combatant. That's what they call him. And they say he was planning to spread radioactive material somewhere in the U.S. He has a long criminal record.

As you would expect, his mother insists that her son is innocent. She knows of no evidence against him. She wants people to know that she had reared him as a Christian, and he comes from a family of doctors, police officers and military.

She also said she was disappointed with Padilla's conversion to Islam. Since his capture, she said she and other family members have been harassed, her grandchildren were taken out of school because they were called members of the bin Laden family.

Joining me now with additional information from Padilla's family is her lawyer Victor Olds.

Thank you for being with us.

VICTOR OLDS, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Thank you Connie.

CHUNG: Has Jose Padilla's mother been able to, at any time, talk to him, and has his status changed?

OLDS: Unfortunately, she has not been able to talk to him since his detention on May 8 of this year. She's made several attempts to do so, but none of those attempts has met (sic) with success.

In his present status, apparently not even his lawyers are permitted to talk to him. So this is a very distressing thing for her, as you might imagine, not being able to communicate at all with her son.

CHUNG: Have government authorities questioned her?

OLDS: They have questioned her. Mrs. Lebran was issued a grand jury subpoena. I was appointed by the court to represent her in connection with that subpoena. And she testified before the grand jury without immunity. She went in and told them what she knew.

And I think what a lot of people don't understand is that there've been a lot of inferences drawn from the fact that Mrs. Lebran (ph) was subpoenaed to the grand jury. And that's a fairly common thing; prosecutors will do that in investigations of this nature. They'll talk to anyone and everyone.

She is not a target, which is a term of art that's used by the government.

CHUNG: But does she know anything? What does she know?

OLDS: She knows nothing that would lead her to believe either now or in the past that her son was, or is, connected with any kind of terrorist activity. We've made certain attempts to gain information from the government, but they've not shown us anything. Nor are they obliged to.

CHUNG: The government does say that he was arrested carrying $10,000 in cash; that he had been doing research on the Internet regarding dirty bombs; and that thirdly, that he met on several occasions with al Qaeda representatives.

Do you know, or does his mother know, any of that to be true? I mean, there are two parts. One, of course, we know that he did -- he was arrested with the $10,000 in cash.

OLDS: His mother doesn't have any facts other than those that have publicly been disclosed to the media by the government. That's part of the problem here, is that we've just not seen quote-unquote the evidence supporting the allegations going to Mr. Padilla.

I know pretty much what you know, which is just that there were certain facts that the government thought it was in possession of that made them think that it was necessary to detain Mr. Padilla.

But in terms of the bases for those facts, that's something that's still a bit of a mystery to us at this point. We just don't know what those facts are.

CHUNG: All right. A man was arrested on June 12; a man who has ties to Islamic extremist groups. There are phone records that show that Mr. Padilla had conversations with this man.

so the question is: Did Mr. Padilla belong to a wider network of some kind of terrorists? Does Mrs. -- does his mother know anything about that, Mrs. Ortega Lebran (ph)?

OLDS: Unfortunately, she doesn't know anything about that.

As you're aware, Mr. Padilla is represented by other lawyers. And I think that they also don't have the information that would either verify those facts, or that would refute those facts.

That's really part of the problem. You put your finger on the problem in this case. In most cases, a defendant is charged in a criminal indictment, and then that defendant can test the government's evidence, because the evidence has to be shown to the defendant.

In this case, Mr. Padilla hasn't been charged, he's simply been detained. So we don't know what the bases for the allegations are, and there's no way either to verify or to refute them at this point.

CHUNG: I know that when I spoke with Mrs. Ortega Lebran (ph), she kept saying, I'm an American, I'm just a mother. That was her message, basically. She didn't want anyone to continue harassing her. And she said, all I am is a mother.

She will probably continue to try and get in touch with him. Is she allowed to write to him, at least?

OLDS: She can write to him, but there's little chance that those letters will ever make their way to Mr. Padilla in his current status. My understanding is that not even his lawyers can write to him at this point.

But you're quite right: She is an American citizen, American- born, as is Mr. Padilla. And she is a mother. And I think any of your viewers who happen to be parents can understand a lot of the anguish that Mrs. Lebran (ph) is experiencing right now.

She Just wants to talk to her son and tell him that she loves and supports him.

CHUNG: All right. Victor Olds, thank you so much for being with us.

OLDS: Thank you.

CHUNG: Now: terror watch. The Fourth of July weekend. CNN has learned that U.S. intelligence has detected a level of communication chatter, they call it, among al Qaeda and other terrorists that's as high as it was before September 11. This has led to serious concerns of a new strike, that it might happen sometime this summer.

Officials have already suggested heightened caution for this week's holiday. The FBI issued a general alert to local law enforcement agencies about the possibility of Independence Day attacks, and the Bush administration says intelligence reports indicate a need for greater vigilance. Nevertheless, President Bush and mayors around the country are urging Americans to celebrate on Thursday.

On the story for us tonight in Washington is CNN's Jeanne Meserve.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The colors of this Independence Day: red, white, blue, and yellow. As in yellow, threat warning level.

After a spate of security warnings to law enforcement about items as diverse as chemical or biological attacks against subway systems, the use of fuel trucks or small planes as weapons of mass destruction, and the possibility that terrorists would pack explosives into apartment buildings, the FBI is now urging law enforcement to be vigilant on the Fourth.

Indications from across the country are that they will be.

MICHAEL BLOOMBERG, NYC MAYOR: The overriding message that we have concerning security in New York on the Fourth is: Relax and let our law enforcement professionals do the worrying for you.

MESERVE: An army of 4,000 New York City Police will provide security at the celebration. On land and water, patrols are already being stepped up around the statue of liberty. The FAA has banned air flights around the statue and other national landmarks, including the St. Louis Gateway Arch and Mount Rushmore in South Dakota.

In Boston, access to events will be restricted, and bags and coolers searched. The same holds true in Washington, where hundreds of thousands turn out every year to celebrate. Miles of snow fencing are being put up around the National Mall to restrict who and what gets in. Parts of the Potomac will be off limits to boaters, a subway station closed.

And that is just what's visible.

CHIEF TERESA CHAMBERS, U.S. PARK POLICE: People should not assume that just what they see is all that there are. We will have officers wandering the crowds, we have security cameras, and other parts of the plan that we won't discuss publicly.

MESERVE (on camera): Here in Washington, 2,000 officers from 16 federal agencies and local police departments will be on duty -- Connie.

CHUNG: All right. Jeanne, thank you. I just want to ask you one quick question and then we'll come back to you again. Can you explain these codes? I believe we would be in a code yellow, right, at this point?

MESERVE: That's correct. Federal official involved in homeland security met today, decided that there was no credible and specific threat relating to July 4th. So they kept us on that yellow level, that's the elevated level. It's the midpoint on the scale. It means that there is supposed to be coordination amongst local jurisdictions about their security plans, also increased surveillance of key locations -- Connie.

CHUNG: Yes, Jeanne, was there consideration to putting our code into orange? And can you tell us what that means?

MESERVE: Well, orange would be the high condition. That would mean coordinating your security efforts, perhaps with the armed forces or other law enforcement. Also more restriction on public events and things of that sort.

I'm sure that they looked at the full range of possibilities, but giving the information that they had at this point in time, as I said, nothing credible, nothing specific, the decision made to stick where they are right on yellow. That's where the country has been since the color-coded system was unveiled back in March.

CHUNG: All right. Jeanne, I may come back to you, but I want to bring in CNN's Patty Davis at Reagan National Airport and CNN national security correspondent David Ensor, also in Washington.

David, let's start with you. You reported today that it was U.S. officials who were concerned that there might be attacks, possibly this summer, by terrorists striking the U.S. What basis did you have or did the U.S. officials have for this?

DAVID ENSOR, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, Connie, as Jeanne just said, they have no evidence, U.S. intelligence officials, that there's any kind of threat specific to this week. However, there is a lot of chatter, as they call it, in the system, a lot of U.S. intelligence intercepts, various conversations. It has agents in certain groups. It talks to other intelligence agencies around the world.

And the level of noise that they're getting, that gives them a sense that something is planned is back up to the levels that it was at this time last summer. And you know what happened at the end of last summer. So, they are concerned. But there's no specific information about this particular week. It's going to be a vigilant summer.

CHUNG: All right. Patty Davis, a quick question to you. "USA Today" had a story today suggesting that screeners were not able to detect 25 percent of items that looked like weapons in some 30 airports. Is the Department of Transportation concerned about this, and will the department do anything about it?

PATTY DAVIS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, they're absolutely concerned about it. Indeed, undercover agents did test security screening all over the country. Transportation officials say what they found was unacceptable.

What the DOT is saying will happen here is the airports that had the worst record here, those security screeners will be retrained, and I'm told, in some cases, they will be fired. But they are going to great pains to say that these are private security screening companies. The federal security screeners are not yet in place at these airports. They won't be phased in across the country until November.

Now asked if for passengers, is it safe to fly right now with these private security screening companies in those security screening slots, Department of Transportation officials saying absolutely. It is safe. There are stronger cockpit doors. There are other safeguards in place. They're checking some bags at this point. So they say that it is safe, Connie.

CHUNG: All right. Jeanne Meserve, back to you. Jeanne, I know you were mentioning various methods, for instance, the snow fencing around the Mall. I always thought that those were so flimsy, and I would be concerned about if I wanted to go to the Mall tonight -- I mean, on Thursday night, I'd be concerned.

MESERVE: Well, authorities say they don't want people to feel like they are fenced in. And what they're doing is putting a double layer of snow fencing all around the perimeter of the Mall. There's going to be about a six-foot spread between the fences. There will be security personnel walking within that six-foot area.

The point is so if someone breaches the first perimeter, they'll stop them before they breach the second. Also, it's wide enough to prevent someone from passing something from one side of the fence to the other. That's the object here. They hope it's going to work. First time they've done it here though, so we'll see.

CHUNG: All right. David Ensor, one last question for you. I'm sure on one level, it's important that the media disseminate this information. But on another level, is the government concerned that we are basically making the public a little too concerned or preventing them from enjoying their 4th of July?

ENSOR: Well, there is some concern about that. And that's perhaps one of the reasons why you're not seeing the threat level raised, although the other and most important reason is they don't have specific and credible evidence.

You know, another thing that's happening because of this July 4th phenomenon is the media is talking about how this is a period of heightened security for the United States. And I'm hearing from intelligence officials that as a result of the media talking about that, some of the people that the United States intelligence listens in on are also talking about it. That doesn't mean they're planning anything. It just means it's out there. So, there's a sort of echo going on that may not signify all that much, except that Americans are wary.

CHUNG: All right. Thank you, David Ensor, Patty Davis, and Jeanne Meserve.

In a moment, what you need to do about these terror threats.

ANNOUNCER: Coming up, 4th of July terror alert. How credible are the threats? CONNIE CHUNG TONIGHT is coming right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANNOUNCER: Terrorist mastermind Abu Nidal lost support in country after country, and in 1999, fled to Saddam Hussein's Iraq. His current whereabouts are unknown. And rumors put him anywhere from helping Hussein to helping Egypt as an antiterrorism consultant.

CHUNG: A quick update on that breaking news out of Germany. Two planes collided in midair over southern Germany after midnight local time. Early reports from local officials are that one of the jets, a Boeing 757, was a cargo jet. The other jet, a Russian-made Tupolev, was thought to have been carrying passengers from Moscow to Spain. There is no word of survivors, and German police now report 140 fatalities. Also, no word on whether any Americans were on board. Stay with CNN for details as they break.

Now back to our terror watch. With all the talk of heightened vigilance this 4th of July, Americans may wonder what exactly are they supposed to do differently? CNN security analyst Kelly McCann joins us with some answers. Thank you so much for being with us tonight.

Tell me, what should we do? I mean, what should the general public do, because I can tell you that I'm one of those who would probably just stay home because I'd be afraid?

KELLY MCCANN, CNN SECURITY ANALYST: Well, certainly, Connie, if people are disinclined to go, then that's their right answer. The significance of the day, Independence Day, we should remember, you know, the people that made us independent and what they were made of, and the kind of not wanting them, anybody, to win over us in that way.

So, if people are genuinely disinclined, that's fine. If they do go to an event, if they choose to go, then certainly going and staying in a place that is near exits and where they could make a hasty exit, if they needed to, would be important. But overwhelmingly important is for people not to panic.

Right now, the condition exists that if anything inadvertently happened, as things do with fireworks celebration and whenever you have a lot of people together, the condition is right now that people could panic and, in fact, more people could get injured from people blindly trying to get out of a venue. So, I think taking a deep breath and evaluating your own existence and what's important to you is the way to go here.

CHUNG: And what should we look out for, that the government wants us to keep our eyes open?

MCCANN: Sure. I think that we should not be persuaded to look at particular kinds of bombs. For instance, Richard Reid was one case of a sneaker bomb. And now, every day, half a million people globally have to take their shoes off. You know, explosives are malleable and can be shaped into anything. But it's the particular behavior as someone sizes up a target or as they attempt to deliver an explosive device that is the true signature. So, it's actually a misnomer to look for a backpack or sneakers or any particular kind of thing. Focus more on behavior.

CHUNG: What do you think? Do you think people should avoid flying on the 4th, even on the 5th, or the day before?

MCCANN: No. I personally won't be deterred from anything that I would do normally, and nor would I suggest that anyone else does either. There are some things we can affect and there are other things we can't affect. But we can affect our own existence. And to live the one life you get, you know, in fear isn't the right answer here. You only get one shot at life. So you should live it fully and go about your business. I mean, you'll get more worth of a day than you would, you know, being fearful. CHUNG: I'm beginning to think you're a philosopher instead of a security expert.

MCCANN: Not at all. Not at all.

CHUNG: Do you foresee other warnings in the future?

MCCANN: Absolutely. I think, Connie, that this is the landscape as we know it now. And this isn't going to change. Even if the al Qaeda were not in the mix or that the Hezbollah was not in the mix or any of these groups, the illusion of invincibility that we had here in the United States is now gone. So, different splinter groups, domestic groups, now can see their way to doing something that would traumatize the whole nation. So I think this is the state.

CHUNG: But some of these warnings that we get are actually not public. The one for July 4th was not public. It just was leaked.

MCCANN: It was leaked, Connie, but it wasn't a secret. In other words, it was not -- secret has a connotation. This was just not -- it was withheld. In other words, it was colloquial among police officers, agencies, et cetera, that we should be at a heightened state. And that's a sensitivity, I think, of the administration. It's people's patience wearing thin.

CHUNG: All right. Kelly McCann, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

MCCANN: You bet, Connie.

CHUNG: And now, still ahead, a case of murder. The mother accused of leaving her kids in her car, killing them both.

ANNOUNCER: Still ahead, revealing photos of Jennifer Aniston. And now, she takes the publishers to court. Celebrities and privacy, when CONNIE CHUNG TONIGHT continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHUNG: Let's quickly check in with Anderson Cooper for a look at the latest news, "To the Minute" -- Anderson.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks, Connie. Thanks very much, Connie.

Tonight's developing story, the collision of two airliners over southern Germany. There are conflicting reports about the number of casualties. Right now, Reuters quotes police as saying at least 95 people have been killed. A German press agency reports says the number of dead is closer to 140. The planes hit just before midnight, German time, with the debris falling near Lake Constance, which is along the German/Swiss border.

The Associated Press says one plane was a Boeing 757 cargo jet belonging to the carrier DHL. German press reports say it was carrying freight from the Persian Gulf state of Bahrain to Brussels, Belgium. The AP says the other plane was a Russian-built Tupolev TU- 154 belonging to Bashkirian Airlines. A German television network says that plane was carrying passengers from Moscow to Barcelona.

Witnesses tell of seeing a pair of fireballs in the sky. Debris apparently has spread over a 20- to 25-mile area around Lake Constance. Some of the debris was burning as it came down and set buildings on fire. Once again, a pair of jetliners collided in the sky near Lake Constance in Germany. There are conflicting reports about casualties ranging from 95 to 140 dead. The planes involved reportedly were a cargo jet belonging to the carrier DHL and a Bashkirian Airlines TU-154 passenger jet reportedly on its way from Moscow to Barcelona.

CNN will continue following this breaking news story throughout the night. Join me for more on "NEWSNIGHT" at 10 p.m. Eastern. Now back to you, Connie.

CHUNG: Thank you, Anderson.

Still ahead, a part-time firefighter is being blamed for setting thousands of acres ablaze. We'll take you to Arizona.

ANNOUNCER: Coming up, a mother does the unthinkable: leaves her kids locked in a sweltering car.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can't leave a child in a car, in the heat, and expect that nothing bad is going to come back and happen to them.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: CONNIE CHUNG TONIGHT returns in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHUNG: This next story is almost impossible to believe. Very, very hard to take.

Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KATE MCNAMARA, OAKLAND COUNTY ASST. PROSECUTOR: She put the kids in the car, she cracked the window, and she spent almost three hours in the salon, never checking on them once.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHUNG: How could a Detroit mother leave her two young children alone in a hot car for so long while she was getting her hair done, that it killed them?

Tera Jean Maynor took her 10-month-old daughter and her 3-year- old son to the hospital that night, but allegedly not right away. Joining me now with more details is Oakland County Prosecutor David Gorcyka.

Thank you so much for being with us.

DAVID GORCYKA, OAKLAND COUNTY PROSECUTOR: Good evening.

CHUNG: Can you tell me, what did she tell authorities she did?

GORCYKA: Well, originally her story was fabricated, that she was abducted and raped and taken away from her children for several hours.

That story soon fell apart. And they questioned her about the inconsistencies in her story. And eventually she came forward and told the truth.

CHUNG: Now she's charged with two felony counts of murder. Why wasn't she charged with manslaughter?

GORCYKA: Well, in this case, under Michigan law, if you commit a felony and the resulting acts of that felony result in death, we have a statute called felony murder.

In this case, the underlying, or predicate offense, would be first-degree child abuse, which is knowingly or intentionally causing physical harm or death to your children.

As a result of her leaving the kids and the children, knowing that it was an 88-degree day, and leaving them for three-and-a-half hours, we felt the appropriate charge was felony murder.

CHUNG: I see.

What was -- do you have any idea of what the temperature might have been in that car?

GORCYKA: I believe the police did a quick study. Now, you have to cognizant of the fact this is an 88 degree day and the humidity levels are high, and she's in a black Neon -- four-door Neon.

Studies suggest that the temperature rose up to about 120 degrees in that car in about 15, 20 minute time span.

CHUNG: Has she been able to at all explain what she was thinking?

GORCYKA: No. In fact, Connie, she did the contrary.

When she came out and discovered the children, she put the one 10-month-old back in the child seat. They were already dead, obviously. They had spent three-and-a-half hours in a 120-degree car.

She then began to drive around for about three hours, three-and- a-half hours to concoct and fabricate a story as to her whereabouts and to explain what had occurred, and why she left the children for that period of time. CHUNG: She actually drove around in the car with the children already dead?

GORCYKA: Deceased children, lying dead in their vomit in hot -- a very hot car. There was vomit in the front and the back seat, on the children, on the windows. And, in fact, police reports suggests that the window was cracked about an inch, inch-and-a-half. And they detected latent prints on both sides, meaning, well, that we think the 3-year-old grabbed the window, was trying to get some air out of that little crack, because there was also face and lip marks on the window.

CHUNG: I just can't imagine.

What does she face if she's found guilty of two felony murder counts?

GORCYKA: Life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.

CHUNG: What is the burden of proof for you?

GORCYKA: Beyond a reasonable doubt. First we have to establish the underlying, or predicate felony. And if the resultant acts resulted in death, as in this case, the jury can come back with felony murder.

And the penalty attached to it is life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.

CHUNG: Now, one thing that I read which really surprised me: She's pregnant.

GORCYKA: She's pregnant with another child, yes. And if she were...

CHUNG: What will happen to that child?

GORCYKA: If she's convicted and incarcerated for any term of years, we will terminate her parental rights and take the child into custody, place it with a nearest relative, if they're willing to accept custody and control of the child, or place it for adoption.

We first have to discern the father, too.

CHUNG: Yes.

Do you know anything about this woman? Has she been able to tell you her background? I know that she lived with her father, I believe.

GORCYKA: Right.

She's 25 years of age. She attends University of Michigan in Dearborn, and is currently studying business.

So this is not someone with learning disabilities -- someone who is capable of going to college and taking college courses. So she's very cognizant of the fact, and real potential for harm, knowing you're going to leave your kids in a very hot car with no water.

In fact, the child safety doors were engaged in the back. And this 3-year-old could not extricate himself from the vehicle using the rear doors.

We know for a fact that the child -- left the 10-month-old in the car seat, but was found on the floor. She put the 10-month-old back in the child seat. But the 3-year-old went so far as to help the 10- month-old out of the child seat in an effort to help the baby.

Unfortunately, he was incapable of helping either one of themselves.

CHUNG: David Gorcyka, it's just a horrible, horrible story.

GORCYKA: You know, it's unconscionable. This mother bears no maternalistic instincts. She placed these two children in a little inferno, and had to know that there was going to be dire consequences.

In fact, when she was in the hair salon, never once said she had children in the car, never once checked on them, never once said, You know, can I leave for a minute and go check on the kids and provide them water? And then fabricated a story afterwards.

This is a pretty callous woman. But she knew the consequences of leaving the children in that vehicle.

CHUNG: All right, David Gorcyka, thank you so much for being with us.

GORCYKA: Thank you.

CHUNG: Still ahead: We'll take you to the line of fire.

ANNOUNCER: Next, Jennifer Aniston in a real courtroom drama, when CONNIE CHUNG TONIGHT returns.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHUNG: For the second time this summer, a government-paid worker charged with protecting America's forests has been charged with torching them. Leonard Gregg, a part-time firefighter, said in court yesterday, I'm sorry for what I did. What he did, Arizona officials say, is strike a match and touch the flame to dry grass.

That fire has since grown, destroying hundreds of buildings, chasing thousands of people from their homes. On the story for us tonight is CNN's Thelma Gutierrez.

THELMA GUTIERREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Connie, Leonard Gregg is 29 years old. He is a resident of the town of Cibecue, which is on the Fort Apache Indian reservation. Now, he's described there as a quiet man, a man who seldom drinks, a person with a ninth-grade education.

But most disturbing to the people out there is the fact that he is a part-time firefighter, a man who's paid to fight fires and to protect their sacred lands, not a person who would actually start them. Now, we went to the Fort Apache reservation yesterday. This is the place where 10,000 people live. It is a very depressed economy, 62 percent unemployment. And according to a statement of probable cause, Gregg allegedly started two fires to gain employment.

Now, he's paid about $8 an hour. He lives with his girlfriend and her six children. Ironically, he was one of the first people who was called out to help put out the Rodeo fire. Now, the investigators have said that he was hoping to generate a day's wages as a seasonal firefighter. He never thought that it would grow into this kind of a fire.

Investigators also say that they went out to the origin of the fire, that they saw bootprints that allegedly belonged to Gregg, and that he started this fire, they say, with matchsticks. Now, a family on the reservation we talked to, did not want to be identified, told us that Leonard Gregg's parents had very severe drinking problems, that he was given up for adoption as a young boy. And, apparently, he told investigators yesterday that he was angry about that very thing. Connie, back to you.

CHUNG: All right. Thelma, thank you so much. Thelma Gutierrez in Show Low, Arizona.

Joining me now are two people who can help us put some faces to the numbers. We're talking about when we say hundreds of people have lost their homes in the raging fires. Barbara and Jerry -- can you help me with the pronunciation of your name, Barbara and Jerry, your last name? LeCompte (ph)?

JERRY LECOMPTE, LOST HOUSE IN ARIZONA FIRE: LeCompte.

CHUNG: Thank you. They lost their home in Pinedale and they join me now from Show Low, Arizona. Jerry and Barbara -- Barbara, I'll start with you. What is left? Is nothing left of your home at all?

BARBARA LECOMPTE, LOST HOUSE IN ARIZONA FIRE: Nothing is left.

J. LECOMPTE: Just rubble. Burnt items. Shattered lives.

CHUNG: And how long have you lived there?

B. LECOMPTE: Almost five years.

CHUNG: And tell me about your family. How has this affected your family?

J. LECOMPTE: Well, we have three boys. Our two older children are with my parents in Phoenix. We needed to get them out of the situation. They were just -- a little too traumatic for them, and pretty excited about the whole situation and rambunctious, as you know boys can be. And we've kept the baby with us, and we've been in and out of hotels and other relatives' homes, and are staying with another relative right now until we can find some other shelter, and bring our other children back up with us.

CHUNG: Barbara, it must be so difficult for you to be without your boys.

B. LECOMPTE: It is. I cried when I left them yesterday.

CHUNG: I'm sorry?

B. LECOMPTE: I'm cried when I left them yesterday.

CHUNG: Yes, yes, absolutely.

B. LECOMPTE: It's hard to leave them behind.

CHUNG: Were you able to leave your home with a good deal of your belongings or did you just have to run?

B. LECOMPTE: I was given about 30 minutes' notice and I was able to get pictures and a few videos of the kids growing up and a change of clothes and that was it. Everything else was left behind.

CHUNG: Oh, Barbara, what did you leave behind that you really feel badly about? Tell me what was left there.

B. LECOMPTE: One thing that I miss was the baby books, from the kids growing up, keeping track of every first footstep, the first time they got a tooth. Those things are important. And I don't have that to give back to my kids.

CHUNG: I know what you mean. Oh, Barbara, you do have your family though, which is a blessing. Tell me, what do you think you're going to do now?

B. LECOMPTE: I think we're planning to rebuild. We -- I was raised in Pinedale and it's my home. And I want to raise my kids there.

CHUNG: Sure. Well, good for you.

B. LECOMPTE: So, we're planning to rebuild.

CHUNG: Good for you. Jerry, you have heard, of course, about this man who was arrested for starting the fire. Any thoughts about him?

J. LECOMPTE: I've calmed down a little bit. Unfortunately, a lot of things go through your mind, racist-type thoughts, and this and that. You know, why does one culture need to attack another one? I don't understand that. I've tried to work through that myself and not take it that way.

Unfortunately, our forest service system has built fighting fires to be so financially positive for these people that they would actually take these acts in order to make some more money. It really seems absurd to me that we would promote something like that. I don't know we were meant to promote this. But there's two people in a row that have lit these fires in order to help their financial situation. It seems absurd to me. I don't understand why somebody would behave that way.

CHUNG: Barbara and Jerry LeCompte, we thank you so much for being with us. And we wish you luck. You take care.

B. LECOMPTE: Thank you.

CHUNG: Take care out there.

When we come back, Jennifer Aniston's battle to punish the guys who published photos of her topless.

ANNOUNCER: Jennifer Aniston's next public appearance isn't in a movie debut or an episode of "Friends." She's going to court tomorrow, part of her lawsuit against publishers who printed topless pictures of her. She says that a photographer climbed an eight-foot wall and then took pictures of her sunbathing in her own backyard. The pictures then appeared in a couple of little-known magazines.

Does she have a case? Well, we've asked CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin to join us. I know people out there are saying, oh, you know, what is this all about? It's nothing really to cry about or scream about or whatever. But it's a very interesting legal question, isn't it?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: You know, that was my reaction at first. But I spent the day doing some research on it. It's very complicated. These cases have been around for a long time. The courts have gone all over the place on them. And it's hard to know exactly what the rules are.

CHUNG: So, let's start with the first question. Does she have a case?

TOOBIN: She might. I'm going to have to hedge on that. She makes two claims. One is that her right to privacy was violated. The other is that her right to publicity was violated. And the courts look at them very separately and there's a history behind both.

CHUNG: Right to privacy and right to publicity. I've never heard of right to publicity.

TOOBIN: Well, right to publicity is basically your right to -- someone can't take a picture of you and put it on an ad for Cheerios and say, Connie Chung endorses Cheerios. Basically, you have a right to the commercial exploitation of your own self. And she's claiming that they are commercially exploiting her photograph.

That's actually a pretty weak claim because there's -- even though these magazines you don't usually think of, you know, as deserving of protection of the First Amendment, any sort of public figure, their photograph in a magazine is generally thought to be permissible. It's not considered an endorsement of a company just to have you appear in a magazine, even if it's a sleazy magazine.

CHUNG: So, are you suggesting that perhaps she could win the invasion of privacy part, but not the right to publicity?

TOOBIN: That seems like -- that seems more possible. However, she's got a problem there too because right to privacy is, again, one of these weasel words. You have a reasonable expectation of privacy. What's reasonable?

She seems to have a pretty good case in that if they went over her eight-foot wall and took a photograph of her sunbathing in her own backyard, I think most people would say that her right to privacy was violated. The problem is, the photograph had been published previously in even other more obscure publications first. So, the publishers of the magazine are saying, well, go sue those other publishers first. All we ever did -- all we did was republish the photos. That's a tougher question.

CHUNG: OK. Does this threaten us, you know, freedom of the press, whatever?

TOOBIN: You know, I don't think much. I think there's a pretty clear sense of what's reasonable and what's not. But just as -- this has gone on for so long, these battles between paparazzi photographers and their subjects.

I mean, the most famous case still involves Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. When she moved back to New York after President Kennedy was assassinated, she lived on Fifth Avenue, and there was a photographer named Ron Galella (ph) who followed her, followed her children, who were then little kids, all over New York.

And Jackie Onassis, she had money for lawyers, and she fought him for years in the courts. Ultimately, the courts found that he had to stay 100 yards away from the children. But an appeals court said that 100 yards is too far. Twenty-five feet is as far as he has to stay away. It just gives you some idea of how difficult these rules are to enforce. Even she, the rules were unclear.

CHUNG: All right. So, actually, it's not clear what is off limits, you know, what public figures have a right to or don't have a right to.

TOOBIN: Right. It is pretty much clear that you can't trespass. I mean, it's clear you can't trespass. And Arnold Schwarzenegger won a criminal case that he had brought against some people who followed him after his surgery, who physically sort of came on to him. That is clearly improper. But in terms of in public, it is pretty clear that paparazzi, that photographers, can do pretty much what they want as long as they don't physically assault you.

CHUNG: So, in the last say 20 seconds we have, if she loses, is that going to cause the paparazzi to just go wild with everyone?

TOOBIN: I think not. They know, by and large, that at public events, sure, they can scuffle for photographs. I think this is pretty far over the line. They don't want to have legal fees. Over someone's backyard wall, it's pretty clear that it's a bad idea. And just bringing the lawsuit is like a penalty on the tabloids as well. CHUNG: OK. Thank you, Jeffrey Toobin.

TOOBIN: We'll see what happens.

CHUNG: All right.

When we come back, a word about suds and stogies.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHUNG: So, last Friday night, my husband calls me after our program and says, Coronas are beer. Your first interviewee said a pack of Coronas, meaning beer, not cigars. Oh, I said. Well, I don't drink beer that often. I drink hard liquor.

When I do have a beer, I have a Bud. Not Bud Light, a regular Bud. How ya doing? How you doing? You know, that ad. As for Coronas, they are the shape of a cigar as opposed to a brand. So any way you look at it, I do not do Coronas.

And that's our news for tonight. I'm Connie Chung. Tomorrow, you must see this story. It's a horrifying story about a mother who lost custody of her kids after the nanny she fired accused her of abuse.

And before we turn things over to Larry King, I want to give you a quick update on that breaking news out of Germany. Two planes collided in midair over southern Germany just before midnight. One of the jets was a Boeing 757, a DHL cargo jet. The other jet, a Russian- made Tupolev, was reported to have been carrying passengers from Moscow to Spain. There is no word of survivors, and German police have been reporting at least 140 fatalities. It's not known how many, if any, of those occurred on the ground.

CNN will stay on this story as it develops. And coming up next, you must see "LARRY KING LIVE." Angela Ricci, the wife of the handyman being questioned in the kidnapping of Elizabeth Smart, will be on.

We'll see you here tomorrow. Thank you for joining us. And for all of us at CNN, good night.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com



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