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Judges Caught in the Celebrity Storm; FAA Investigates Safety of Medical Helicopters

Aired June 8, 2005 - 20:00   ET


PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everyone. Thank you for joining us tonight.
Tonight, from O.J., to Kobe Bryant, to Michael Jackson, we've seen courtrooms as stages for high drama. Now judges have to learn just how to deal with it.


ZAHN (voice-over): A superstar on trial, the fans, the media circus, judges in the eye of the storm.

TERRY RUCKRIEGLE, COLORADO JUDGE: My wife opened a letter starting off with: We'll kill your family and burn your house down.

ZAHN: Tonight, judges learn the art of celebrity justice.

And medical choppers saving time and lives. But with tragedy on the rise...

BOB ARNESSON, SON OF VICTIM: When I heard the helicopter crashed, I thought they were to save lives, not take lives.

ZAHN: When is a rescue worth the risk?


ZAHN: So, if you live if a big city and you're seriously injured, it may take an ambulance just a few minutes to get you to an emergency room, but, for about 50 million Americans who live an hour or so from the nearest trauma center, it's a different story. And for them, a helicopter can mean the difference between life and death.

But, as Drew Griffin learned, there's a been a disturbing rise in the number of air ambulance accidents, a big enough increase that Federal Aviation Administration is taking a very close look.


DREW GRIFFIN, CNN INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Bob Arnesson Jr. is no softy. He builds motorcycles, operates heavy machinery for a living, not a guy to break down in the middle of his kitchen, unless you get him talking about his father.

BOB ARNESSON, SON OF VICTIM: Everything I know, he taught me. I mean, when I was an apprentice, he was a journeyman. We used to go to union meetings together. Everything that I am, he helped mold me.

GRIFFIN (on camera): Here is in the...

ARNESSON: Marine Corps.

GRIFFIN: Marine Corps, huh?

ARNESSON: That'S just before he shipped out to Korea.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): The tough Marine who fought and survived in Korea was in a serious car accident in February, rolling over his SUV in rural Arkansas. But the accident isn't what killed him.

ARNESSON: He was combative. He was alert. He didn't want the neck brace on or the backboard or any of that.

GRIFFIN: Arnesson's father was a 45-minute drive from the nearest hospital. So, paramedics called for an air ambulance. According to the National Transportation Safety Board, Arnesson was loaded in a medical helicopter operated by the private company Air- Evac Lifeteam. The chopper rose to 100 feet, began to spin, and dropped, with all three crew members on board seriously injured. Bob Arnesson Sr. was killed.

ARNESSON: When I heard the helicopter crashed, I thought they were to save lives, not take lives.

GRIFFIN: Arnesson is not alone. Last July, a patient and three crew members died in South Carolina when a Med-Trans helicopter crashed into trees. In April of last year, another Air-Evac helicopter crashed in Indiana. The patient died after being ejected from the helicopter.

In September 2002, four people, including a patient, died when a CareFlight air ambulance when down in South Dakota. And the number of crashes is increasing; 19 accidents killed 18 people last year, compared to just five accidents a decade ago. But with 47 million Americans living at least one hour form a serious trauma center, the air ambulance business is booming.

And private companies are now competing for patients and the $5,000 to $10,000 decide transport fees insurance companies will pay.

TOM JUDGE, PRESIDENT, ASSOCIATION OF AIR MEDICAL SERVICES: The increase in the number of accidents has drawn people's attention.

GRIFFIN: Tom Judge runs LifeFlight of Maine, a nonprofit company, and is president of the industry trade group the Association of Air Medical Services.

JUDGE: We don't know if the rate of accidents has actually increased or not, because there's a lot more helicopters flying a lot more patients.

GRIFFIN: Judge's group doesn't keep records on how many times these helicopters are flying. But what he does know is, the number of helicopters is skyrocketing, from just 119 in 1985 to more than 650 today.

The association estimates, those helicopters will fly 350,000 patients this year. Some paramedics, hospital administrators and doctors say that is just too many. One recent study looked at 37,000 patients transported by helicopter and found that nearly two-thirds had only minor injuries; 25 percent of them were actually released from the hospital within 24 hours.

Judge points to other studies, like one that found one in four patients flown by air might have died without a helicopter rescue. But, he says, there is always a risk, which is why he says companies should onto fly when absolutely necessary.

JUDGE: The call is made for life- or limb-saving intervention. That's at the heart of every kind of call, that there's something that's a life threat or a limb threat.

GRIFFIN: That's why the next part of this story may surprise you. The company Air-Evac Lifeteam is actively recruiting patients, selling low-cost memberships in towns across the Midwest, towns like Hermann, Missouri, telling customers, if they have a medical problem, just call us. We're free to members.

Elliott and Marion Chamberlain paid Air-Evac's $45 membership this year.

ELLIOTT CHAMBERLAIN, AIR-EVAC MEMBER: In essence, it's $45 and it's good insurance.


GRIFFIN (on camera): Peace of mind.

E. CHAMBERLAIN: Peace of mind, yes.

M. CHAMBERLAIN: Yes, because...

GRIFFIN: You know you can get there.

And, in Hermann, Missouri, where the closest major hospitals are a half-hour to an hour away, emergency officials here say it's hard not to buy into that sales pitch and join up. But, they say, there's only a tiny fraction of people who will ever need air ambulance service. What they're finding is people calling helicopters now for minor problems.

CLIFF ROST, MORRISON FIRE DEPARTMENT: Small stuff. They have got the number. You know, it's an extremely rural area. And for $50, they can call and they will fly a helicopter.

GRIFFIN: What are we talking about, broken arms, pain in the stomach?

ROST: Yes. Yes.

GRIFFIN: Really? ROST: Pretty much. Pretty much anything. You got the number. Call.

GRIFFIN: And they call the helicopter first before they call EMS.

ROST: Right. Right.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): Air-Evac says it will only transport patients for life- or limb-threatening emergencies. And it says that just 2 percent of calls come directly from its members.

But, to Doug Clark, who runs the local ambulance service here in Hermann, the whole idea of air helicopter memberships is unnecessary. If anybody needs to be evacuated by air, he says they will be, whether they have a membership or not. He's concerned about the increased risks to all those people who call for helicopters that he says they don't need.

DOUG CLARK, HERMANN AMBULANCE SERVICE: I don't think it's the best policy to leave to the patient whether they need the helicopter or not, to call specifically and say, hey, send the helicopter out here to my house. And, one, it's expensive. And, two, it's not safe.

GRIFFIN: Air-Evac declined to talk on camera with CNN, but, in a written response, said it has recently changed its membership program and now encourages members to call 911 first, adding that nothing is more important than the safety of their patients and crew.

Still, Air-Evac's own recent accidents highlight the risks involved in air ambulances. Its helicopters have crashed three times in just the last 14 months. Two of them were fatal. The most recent was the crash that killed Bob Arnesson's father. He now plans to sue Air-Evac. His father, he says, wouldn't want it any other way.

ARNESSON: He would want me to make things right to where nobody else had to die unnecessarily.


ZAHN: That was Drew Griffin reporting for us tonight.

Meanwhile, the NTSB has not yet determined what actually caused the crash that killed Bob Arnesson's father.

When we come back, something most judges don't learn in law school. And that is how to handle that media circus. That's right. There's actually a class for that these days. And then, a little bit later on, we'll be strapping on the skates and really getting rough and scrappy. With names like Baby Ruthless and Margaret Thrasher, roller derby is still rolling.


ZAHN: Tomorrow will be day five of deliberations in Michael Jackson's child molestation trial. The jury called it a day just a couple of hours ago.

And throughout the trial, Judge Rodney Melville has kept a tight lid on the case. There are no cameras in the courtroom. And during deliberations on Monday, when the jury actually asked a question, he even refused to let the media know what that question was. That's his way of staying in control of an extraordinarily high-profile case.

Now, many judges, faced with the possibility of such intense media attention, are actually going to school these days to learn how to deal with it.

Here's our senior legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Aren't you feeling just a little bit sorry that you let this guy out?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SR. LEGAL ANALYST (voice-over): A reporter at a courthouse news conference. Only, this is just role-playing, judges pretending to be journalists, learning what it's like to be caught up in a high-profile case. This is the National Judicial College in Reno, judge school.

TERRY RUCKRIEGLE, COLORADO JUDGE: Before I was officially involved in the Bryant case...

TOOBIN: Judge Terry Ruckriegle is teaching other members of the bench what it is like to preside over a case like the one involving basketball star Kobe Bryant.

RUCKRIEGLE: And when my wife opened the letter, starting off with, you white trailer trash B., you know, we'll kill your family and burn your house down if your husband rules thus and so, I knew that I was up against something like I had never seen before.

TOOBIN: Two years ago, Ruckriegle prepared for the media and public frenzy that hit his courtroom in Eagle, Colorado, by coming to Reno and taking this course. And he's reminding the 20 judges here that, if you can get a high-profile case in Eagle, you can get one anywhere.

RUCKRIEGLE: You had better expect and understand that there is going to be scrutiny put upon you, both professionally and personally.

TOOBIN (on camera): Success for these judges means running a fair and efficient courtroom under the glare of the media spotlight. Failure? Well, think Lance Ito.


JAY LENO, HOST: I know who has O.J.'s knife. Judge Ito's barber.


LENO: Apparently.


TOOBIN (voice-over): Judge Ito became the punchline for too many jokes while presiding over O.J. Simpson's criminal trial. He was accused of playing to the cameras and appeared, to many legal experts, to lose control of the courtroom during the 11-month-long trial.

GARY HENGSTLER, CENTER FOR THE COURTS AND MEDIA: For better or worse, Judge Ito has become the topic of judicial education conferences on what not to do.

TOOBIN: Gary Hengstler runs this particular course at the National Judicial College.

HENGSTLER: What we hope to accomplish throughout our workshops is to instill the confidence in the judges and the knowledge of how to balance these court-media issues and not lose -- or appear to lose control.

TOOBIN: So, there's plenty of advice here from judges and journalists, even a former court spokesman involved in the Simpson case.

JERRIANNE HAYSLETT, MEDIA RELATIONS CONSULTANT: You notice that I did take control of the press conference by setting the ground rules right away.

TOOBIN: And there's lots of role-playing. Here, Judge Ruckriegle pretends to be a reporter, grilling Idaho Judge Ron Bush about a courthouse scandal.

RUCKRIEGLE: What has been the specific ramification of this fiasco?

TOOBIN: After the Q&A, a critique.

HAYSLETT: You might even move into the interviewer just a little bit.

TOOBIN: Not long ago, Judge Bush sentenced a woman who had abandoned her newborn baby, which died shortly afterward. The case brought the judge face to face with intense public scrutiny, which he says no judge can ignore.

JUDGE RONALD BUSH, IDAHO DISTRICT COURT: It's there. It's like the elephant in the corner.

TOOBIN: It was enough to bring Judge Bush here. Bush and his fellow judges learn to write news stories, discuss whether or not they should ever give interviews.

RUCKRIEGLE: But I want to show you a video of a judge.

TOOBIN: Even see some TV stories where fellow judges come out looking bad or worse. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you leave work early and you come here to this bar, how do you justify that to taxpayers?


TOOBIN: Even with all the practical advice, Bush flinches when he hears about the threat that Ruckriegle's wife received during the Bryant case.

BUSH: Oh, I don't think I'm ever going to be prepared for having my family get drawn into what I'm doing on the bench.

TOOBIN: In an ideal world, says Judges Ruckriegle and Bush, they'd like to be able to shut out all that attention and handle the high-profile cases the same way they deal with more routine matters.

(on camera): Could any classroom setting really prepare you for the onslaught of camp Kobe outside your courtroom?

RUCKRIEGLE: No way. Nobody could anticipate that. The same thing with the Jackson case and the Peterson case.

TOOBIN (voice-over): Ruckriegle says the media left his family alone. And he was grateful for that. Still, he was astonished that friends were sending him clippings from the case from as far away as Turkey.

(on camera): Do you think it's a sign of your success in supervising the Kobe Bryant case that you are not a household name?

RUCKRIEGLE: I think so. Hopefully, I won't see something like that come along again.

TOOBIN (voice-over): And that, he reminds his pupils, is a passing grade for any judge in a high-profile case.


ZAHN: Interesting story by Jeffrey Toobin tonight.

Still to come, a story of one family's courage, their children killed by U.S. forces. And, yet, this Iraqi couple found reasons to actually admire Americans.

First, though, just about 17 minutes past the hour, you might know what that means. It's time to check in with Erica Hill at Headline News to update the other top stories tonight.

Hi, Erica.


The deal between Democrats and Republicans still stands. The Senate confirmed Judge Janice Rogers Brown to a federal appeals court today, after two years of opposition by Democrats. Now, last month, they agreed to stop blocking some of the president's judicial nominees, if Republicans backed off on a threat to change Senate rules.

On the CNN "Security Watch" tonight, the FBI says a father and son arrested in Lodi, California, were part of a larger al Qaeda plan to carry out terror attacks here in the U.S. Agents also say the son attended a terrorist training camp in Pakistan.

In Waco, Texas, former Baylor University player Carlton Dotson pleaded guilty to murdering his teammate Patrick Dennehy back in 2003. Dotson suggested it was self-defense. He faces five years to life in prison.

And Toyota saying it may raise sticker prices to help Detroit get out of its financial rut. Toyota's chairman says he worried a collapse of the American auto industry could actually hurt U.S.- Japanese relations.

Another CEO is working hard to shore up her own company. Here's Valerie Morris with tonight's "Market Movers."


VALERIE MORRIS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): After being released from federal prison, Martha Stewart is more in demand than ever.

Her latest gig, a serious deal with Sirius Satellite Radio to create a 24-hour channel. Subscriber cans tune in for advice on cooking, entertaining and gardening. This comes on the heels of two Martha TV deals. She plans to create a version of "The Apprentice" and a daily homemaking show. Stewart is trying to rebuild her business after serving five months in prison for lying to the government about a stock sale. Shares of Martha Stewart Living have more than doubled in the past year, but are down more than 30 percent since she was released from prison.


HILL: And, Paula, that's the latest from Headline News. I'll hand it back over to you.

ZAHN: See you in about a half-hour or so. Thanks so much, Erica.

Now it's time for your chance to pick the person of the day. Will it be Anne Bancroft for being such a legend that Broadway actually dimmed its lights tonight to mark her death, pizza deliveryman Thomas Stefanelli, who stayed on the job even after he was shot in the leg, or, new mom Stephanie Yarber, for being the first successful recipient of an ovary tissue transplant?

Please vote at The winner a little bit later on in this hour.

But coming up next, an Iraqi father's mixed emotions about the United States and its military.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't care of my story, but, in the other side, there is many American people.


ZAHN: We'll be right back with the story of love and loss in the fog of war.


ZAHN: Over the past few days, four Americans have died in separate attacks north of Baghdad. To date, nearly 1,700 Americans now have been killed in fighting in Iraq. But the toll has certainly been much heavier on the Iraqi people themselves.

Candy Crowley has the story of how one family's tragedy has led them to Missouri.


CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SR. POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): There are many stories in the Arabian nights, the interpreter who pulled Saddam from his spider hole, the waitress who fled Kurdistan, the electrical engineer who came to St. Louis by way of tragedy of Nasiriyah.

DAHAM KASSIM, IRAQI REFUGEE: There is a sandstorm there. And I don't see -- I see nothing because of the sandstorm. So, there is, I think, four of three tanks, American tanks, in the gate, Nasiriyah Gate.

CROWLEY: In March of '03, U.S. troops were battling for control of Nasiriyah. The fighting was intense, the scene chaotic. Hoping to find safety on his father's farm, Daham Kassim drove north, out of town, into a blinding sandstorm, straight at a U.S. checkpoint.

KASSIM: I stop my car and I wait. I wait less than one minute, really, and they shoot me.

CROWLEY: He was wounded in his face, his chest, his arm. He lost his right leg and so much more.

KASSIM: I don't know how one minute, two minute, still shoot my car. Then, my brother also with me. My brother and my wife and four kids, my kids.

CROWLEY: He bears unspeakable sadness, but cannot stop talking.

KASSIM: Two Americans come. One is Chris and the other is Joe. I remember them. And they took two of my daughters. And I saw by my eyes, they are dead.

CROWLEY: His brother-in-law helps sometimes with the translation, but Daham's broken English articulates his broken heart. KASSIM: And also, I saw them take my son, Mohammed, 7 years. It is difficult to breathing. And my daughter, the fourth one, my daughter is Zainab is still OK as I see her.

CROWLEY: Mohammed died within minutes; five-and-a-half-year-old Zainab, with her father and mother, spent several hours in a field hospital, but the trio was moved, just as chill took over the Iraqi night.

KASSIM: Then, my daughter Zainab said, pop, it is very cold. But, you know, I have nothing to help her, because I can't stand up. I can't -- this is broken, and my legs is also broken, and the other also. And my wife, also, the two arms -- two arms are broken. It is difficult to help my daughter, and also die.

CROWLEY: This is the death certificate for the 5-and-a-half- year-old Zainab, cause of death, blast injury causing penetration of skull and exposure of brain. The space for Social Security number is all zeros, ending in 27. Verifying Daham's records, an Army spokeswoman says that means Zainab, in March of 2003, was the 27th civilian casualty at the Nasiriyah Air Base hospital, ages 5-and-a- half to 9. Four children were dead.

(on camera): I'm a mother. I think that I would hate Americans if I were you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She says, the person, whoever did this, she says she hate that person, because what he have done, because he is not careful. And she love the people who help her. So, it's not country. It is individual.

CROWLEY (voice-over): Daham and his wife, Gufran (ph), are in the U.S. now staying with her sister and brother-in-law on a six-month visa sponsored by a manufacturing company, so Daham can update his skills. They are two years and a world away from the day of the sandstorm. But the pain is just a breath away.

KASSIM: Thank you very much.

CROWLEY: In January, they went to Tennessee to vote in the Iraqi collections. Few have paid so dear a cost to cast a ballot.

KASSIM: I feel the same feeling for the Americans which they lost sons or daughter. I have same feeling, sad feeling. But we must see the hope for many million peoples in Iraq also. This is the goal.

CROWLEY: The U.S. military found an incident fighting Daham's description of events. No one would talk on camera. But the Marines provided a written statement. It was determined, the statement said, "that the shooting did not violate our rules of engagement, nor the law of war."

KASSIM: They don't care my story. And the American government, I mean, and the American Army and the American -- and they don't care of my story. But, in the other side, there is many, many American people help me. CROWLEY: There are the Americans aboard the USS Comfort, who cared for the couple, the American who owns the electrical company that sponsored the visas, the ones who coaxed him, free of charge, through rehab.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You step into the gray and then back.

CROWLEY: And there is the American company which gave him a new prosthesis and something he dearly wanted.


KASSIM: Uh-huh.


CROWLEY: The ability to kneel down to pray. This is not a story that can have a happy ending. But there are reasons to smile.

(on camera): You have some big news.

KASSIM: Yes. My wife...

CROWLEY: Tell me.

KASSIM: My wife pregnant now, I think, before two months.

CROWLEY (voice-over): Her health is delicate. They are trying to extend their visa in the U.S., at least until the baby comes

KASSIM: The name is not so difficult. But, I am sure -- I mean if she -- if come a daughter, the same name of my big daughter. And if come a boy, the same of my boy. This is sure.

CROWLEY: By one estimate, as many as 25,000 Iraqi civilians have been killed since the start of the war. No one knows how many have been injured.


ZAHN: That was Candy Crowley reporting.

In addition to getting the statement you just saw on screen from the military, we made several requests for an on-camera interview about this incident. We were denied.

If you want to know more about this story, please go to our Web site at

We'll be right back.


ZAHN: Boy do they ever move. "She Devils," "Reservoir Dolls," "Mob Squad," just a few of the names the roller derby teams that have sprung up in at least 20 states. Yes, that wonderful combination of sex, violence and roller skates is back.


ZAHN (voice-over): Equal parts, grit and glamour, elbows and attitude, Roller Derby is sport and spectacle.

BABY RUTHLESS, ROLLER DERBY: My name is Baby Ruthless. I'm with the Manhattan Mayhem.

MARGARET THRASHER, ROLLER DERBY: I skate under Margaret Thrasher, Prime Minister of Your Demise.

ZAHN: These are the Gotham Girls, New York's first, all-female roller derby league. With names like Carbon Monoxide, C.S. Bullets and Susy Hot Rod, these girls mean business. And they are out to recreate Roller Derby's heyday.

For Natalie Blair aka...


ZAHN: ...going derby was instinctive.

NATALIE BLAIR, ROLLER DERBY: You don't become a Derby girl, really, you realize that you are one already.

ZAHN: Ginger's epiphany came last summer.

BLAIR: I realized all of a sudden realized I had a derby girl inside of me that was screaming to get out. I know it sounds stupid, but, I saw them at the Mermaid Parade in Coney Island. There were able seven girls on skates beating each other up in the street in the parade. And I saw them, and -- I was -- I was transfixed.

ZAHN: Transfixed and hooked. It was only a matter of time before Ginger's husband, David Hyatt, caught the fever too. Now, David is head referee, or Rules Monkey for the Gotham Girls. His monicer, Hambone.

DAVID HYATT, ROLLER DERBY: There was a kid in high school was known as Hambone. And I always thought it was a great name.

ZAHN: By day, Ginger Snap is a graphic artist. But, three nights a week, Ginger is at the rink, sporting fish nets and putting on her gear.

BLAIR: Once you put your skates on and you have your uniform on, you're not vulnerable Because, People know that you are a girl who can kick their butts.

ZAHN: Kick butt they do. The fascination of Roller Derby is nothing new. America's first spectacle sport evolved from skating races during the depression when promoters Leo Seltzer realized it was the collisions between skaters that the fans really loved.

BLAIR: To see a woman who is powerful and aggressive and sexy and femine all at the same time is a big knot in people's head. And they can't get their heads around it. So, they are fascinated.

ZAHN: Through the '50s, '60s and '70s, Roller Derby grew into a TV staple. Even the subject of movies.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Get in here you big, fat big mouth.

ZAHN: But eventually, the country moved on, tastes changed. Today, slowly, Roller Derdy is being revived. The Gotham Girls are relatively small, only 28 skaters. But, they join more than two dozen women's leagues that have sprung up around the country within the last four years.

The L.A. Derby Dolls have about 60 skaters. So do the Lone Star Roller Girls from Austin, Texas, the subject of an upcoming cable reality show.

The object of the game is simple, each play is called a jam and lasts no longer than two minutes. The defensive players, or blockers from both teams form a path. When the first whistle blows, they take off. Jammers, one from each team, score the points. They wait behind the pack for the second whislte, then take off furiously to break through the pack. After that, every to opponent a jammer passes, a point is scored.

But, when blockers try to prevent them from passing, that's when the fun begins, and that's what the crowd loves. But, how real is it?

HYATT: There's absolutely no knowing before a game who's going to win. How many points they are going to have. That's all absolutely legitimate. If somebody gets a little hit hard, they come back and start a fight. They are not really hating each other. But, don't let that get out.

ZAHN: Pain is part of the game. And despite all the protective gear, skaters get hurt. Just ask Ginger Snap.

BLAIR: I was whipping this girl around the corner, and she started to fall. And then I started fall. And somebody said they heard it snap.

ZAHN: She broke her wrist and got her derby name, Ginger Snap. After two operations, she was back in the ring.

BLAIR: Couldn't keep me away. It is all worth it, strangely enough.

ZAHN: So why would smart, professional women want to do this?

THRASHER: I'm Margaret Thrasher.

ZAHN: Actress Ashley Atkinson was never into sports until she skated with the Gotham Girls here.


ZAHN: She became empowered and found comraderie. ATKINSON: I started skating. And I was like, I kind of like my body. And I kind of like what it can do, you know. And that was a really powerful thing. That, and I thought I would never need more girlfriends. And then, of course, I ended up with, like, 35 more girlfriends.

ZAHN: For Ginger Snap, it's all that, and the pure love of the game.

BLAIR: It is -- it's the best thing ever. My husband says that it's -- the third best thing in life. Our engagement, our wedding, and then Roller Derby.


ZAHN: And what about those names? Margaret Thrasher, can't do much better than that. If you have Roller Derby dreams, well, New York's Gotham Girls are looking more new recruits. Don't worry if you can't skate, that's not the point, there's a three month traing period. But you better have health insurance.

Still to come, she's got a new fiance, a new $5 million ring, and cameras on her wherever she goes, what more could Paris Hilton want?


ZAHN: You can't tell by looking at this beautiful picture that it is a very steamy night out there. Not complaining, though. A nice spring night, albeit a little warm.

Still to come, whether she's down on the farm selling burgers or just being herself, some people can't seem to get enough of her. We'll try to figure out why everybody, well, at least they say they like Paris. But, now it's time for the news with Erica Hill at HEADLINE NEWS.

HILL: Thanks, Paula.

Human rights groups are wondering if the president may be having second thoughts about his Guantanamo policy. In an interview today, he seemed to leave open the possibility of changes in the indefinite detention of terror suspects without charging them or putting them on trial. The policy has been criticized in much of the world. Some Democrats say it is becoming a terrorist recruiting toll.

More signs that the war in Iraq is stressing out the Army. Not only did it miss its recruiting goals for the fourth straight month, but says the divorce rate among Army officers has more than tripled in the last few years.

They never actually got off the ground, but, two former America West pilots were convicted of operating an aircraft after downing 30 beers in an all-night drinking binge two years ago. A security guard tipped off police just as their flight was about to leave Miami for Phoenix. Actor Macaulay Culkin pleaded guilty to misdemeanor drug charges in Oklahoma, a half-ounce of marijuana and an anti-depressant without a prescription. The 24-year-old faces probation and a $900 fine.

And, Paula, you know that age old question, what does a Scotsman wear under his kilt? I can't answer that, although I think we all have a good idea. However, customs agents in Australia say a woman in a long skirt tried to smuggle 51 rare tropical fish in these specially made -- what would you call them, aquarium underpants? Yeah, let's just hope this one doesn't start a fashion trend.

And that's the latest from Headlines, Paula. Back over to you.

ZAHN: Oh, no doubt about it. Those are aquarium underpants are going to be doing hot business here soon. Right. Thanks, Erica.

"LARRY KING LIVE" is just ahead at 9:00. Hi, Larry. Who do you have on tonight?


Tonight, we are going to have a major panel discussion on that disturbing case in Aruba. We're going to have the defense attorney for one of the proposed defendants -- they haven't really been charged yet. We'll have an assistant state attorney from Florida, reporters in Aruba of that young high school girl who has gone missing on that Dutch, beautiful Dutch island. That's the whole hour tonight with phone calls. Paula?

ZAHN: I guess the most impressive thing is to see the volunteer effort on the part of the islanders, and how they've chipped in to try to find her.

KING: Yeah, it's a great -- they're great people.

ZAHN: Nice to see you. See you at the top of the hour. Thanks, Larry.

Coming up next, why Paris fascinates so many people.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She's clearly an it-girl. There's something about her that draws you in.


ZAHN: Coming up, we're going to try to define what that something is.

And, you still have time to vote for the "Person of the Day." That would not be Paris. They dimmed the lights on Broadway tonight for the late Anne Bancroft. She's one of the choices. Or you could pick the pizza delivery guy who kept delivering even after a would-be robber shot him. Or, the first successful recipient of an ovary transplant who's just had a baby. Please cast your vote at



DR. PHIL MCGRAW: Congratulations on 25 great years.


ZAHN: Paris, Paris, Paris. Paris does this. Paris does that. Why is it that some people are so fascinated by Paris Hilton?

Well, before we consider that question, you may want to get the kids out of the room now. We've learned that Hilton has picked out her wedding ring. According to "US Weekly," it is a 24-karat emerald- cut diamond with a platinum band. I'm trying to figure out how big that is because they haven't provided me pictures yet, but it amounts to $5 million worth.

She got engaged just over a week ago to a guy with the same name, a Greek shipping heir, Paris Latsis, and it's been a very busy spring indeed for Hilton who's kept herself in the headlines with her engagement and a risque burger commercial. She's the subject of tonight's "People in the News" profile.


ZAHN: She's the saucy socialite who's become one of the most recognizable celebrities in the world.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She's clearly an it-girl. There's something about her that draws you in, at the same time that she's sort of the outrageous party girl.

MICHELLE LEE, GLAMOUR MAGAZINE: And the public looks at that and they say, oh, that's the most despicable thing. Look at her posing for that camera. But at the same time, it's such eye candy and you can't help looking.

MATTHEW FELLING, CENTER FOR MEDIA AND PUBLIC AFFAIRS: She is great at camera hogging, and that's about it. Unless you count cursing and being crass as a talent in which case, she's heads and shoulders above the crowd.

ZAHN (voice-over): Paris Hilton, on the carpet, on the runway, and in the headlines.

That look. That attitude. That name.

MAUREEN ORTH, "THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING FAMOUS": I don't think anybody would have paid much attention to Paris Hilton if her name was Mildred Clump.

ZAHN: Our fascination with the rich and famous is obviously ingrained in our culture. From the flappers that roared with the band in the 1920's, to the party-hopping celebutants (sic) of today. But, the phenomenon of celebrity is ever-evolving, ever shifting. Where we once hailed accomplishment, we now see more focus on the trials and tribulations of our celebrities.

FELLING: I think that there has been a real shift in media now. I take it back, actually, to the O.J. trial, where, O.J. was a celebrity, but then he became really known for the notorious aspect of his life. Then, you had people who became known strictly for notoriety, and that's when you had the Heidi Fleiss's, and the Monica Lewinsky's, and the Bobbits.

ZAHN: Fame hasn't only become more scandalous, it's also become more salacious.

LEO BRAUDY, AUTHOR: If anything has changed in the idea of the poor little rich girl right now -- and if Paris Hilton exemplifies anything -- it's really the injection of more sexuality.


ZAHN: Paris Hilton, perhaps forever, became linked with sex and scandal when an X-rated video she made with former boyfriend Rick Solomon, surfaced on the Internet.

Later, Solomon released and personally hosted a full DVD of the couple's steamy romp entitled, "One Night in Paris." The video was certainly revealing, certainly embarrassing, but it was in no way career ending.

JESSICA SHAW, ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: I actually think she's sort of put that behind her and has come out on top. I mean, Rick Solomon is the one that looks really sleazy now.

SOLOMON: Paris. How did I get to be so lucky?

RICHARD JOHNSON, "THE NY POST": I think the sex tape helped her in a way, because it made her even more famous.

ZAHN: With the Internet, and the explosion of other outlets; with so many avenues to peek into celebrities' lives, the media of the 21st century has made nearly all of us voyeurs, to some extent.

ORTH: With the advent 24-hour cable TV and the 24/7 news cycle, combined with the wired world of the Internet, it has really speeded things up. And celebrities are increasingly sought after. They have a shorter shelf life.

ZAHN: But why are we so willing to forgive our celebrities when they get into trouble.

ANTHONY MORA, AUTHOR: The public loves its celebrities. They love to build them up, and then they love to knock them down. And then they love to bring them back up again, because it's --it's basically like a soap opera being run in real life.

ZAHN: For her part, Paris seems to have moved on from this scandal surrounding her much-viewed sex tape. She starring in her first major motion picture, "House of Wax."

ZAHN: And she's gearing up for the fourth season of "The Simple Life." But, she's doing so without Nicole Richie. Paris wont why the former pals are feuding, only that Richie is going to replaced on the show and that the two are no longer friends.

HILTON: No, I don't really want to talk about it, but I just hope that she's happy and healthy. And I've done the past three seasons, it's been great. And for season four, I just want to freshen things up and make it new. And it's going to be really exciting.

ZAHN: Television, movies, fashion. For Paris the heiress, the quest for fame is now, more than ever, a full-time job.

HILTON: When I was 16 years old, I moved to New York city, and I was invited to all these clubs and openings and parties. And, you know, any young girl is going to be like, "Wow," and go.

And I did that, you know, years ago, so now I'm over it.

ORTH: Paris has accomplished that goal: To be famous at age 21.

Let's see where Paris is when she's 31.


ZAHN: And last we heard the two Paris' have not yet set even set a wedding date.

We are going to be back with your pick for "The Person of the Day."

Please stay with us.


ZAHN: Now it's time for "The Person of the Day." Who did you pick?

Anne Bancroft, for having Broadway's lights dimmed to mark her death? and her very special career?

The pizza man, who kept making his rounds despite having been shot in the leg by a would-be robber?

Or the first woman to give birth thanks to an ovarian tissue transplant?

And 54 percent of you picked Anne Brancroft.


ANNE BANCROFT, ACTRESS: Would you like me to seduce you?


BANCROFT: Is that what you're trying to tell me?

ZAHN: This is how most movie-goers will remember Anne Bancroft, opposite Dustin Hoffman, in 1967's "The Graduate."

HOFFMAN: Mrs. Robinson you're trying to seduce me. Aren't you?

BANCROFT: Well, no, I hadn't thought of it.

ZAHN: A couple of years ago, Bancroft said she was surprised and quote, "Just a little dismayed that people aren't beyond it yet."

Considering the staggering variety of her work, she had a point. Bancroft mastered comedy, drama, even song and dance.

In a career that stretched from the early 1950's until 2003. Most notably, she won a Tony, and then an Oscar for her portrayal of Anne Sullivan, the woman who teaches Helen Keller, in "The Miracle Worker."

Bancroft not only had a long, successful career, she had a long successful marriage to comedian Mel Brooks.

As the theaters along Broadway dimmed their lights tonight, New Yorkers paid tribute to Anne Bancroft.

And so did you, she's "The Person of the Day."


ZAHN: What an amazing actress. And was so successful in so many different venues: on the stage, on film, on television. She did it all.

Thanks, so much, for joining all of us tonight.

Appreciate your dropping by.

Tomorrow night, we'll have the countdown to the Michael Jackson verdict and then we'll have a lot of things you didn't know Agelina Jolie.

Please join us tomorrow night.

Coming up next though, "LARRY KING LIVE."



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