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CNN NEWSNIGHT AARON BROWN

New Orleans Police Chief Eddie Compass Announced Retirement; Dolphin Found in Cameron Parish Louisiana Ditch; John and Renee Grishams' Rebuild the Coast Fund; Animals Sheltered in Prison; DeLay Indicted

Aired September 28, 2005 - 23:00   ET

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


(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
ANNOUNCER: STATE OF EMERGENCY with Aaron Brown and Anderson Cooper.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

AARON BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: And good evening again from New York, I'm Aaron Brown. We welcome you to the second hour of NEWSNIGHT's STATE OF EMERGENCY.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Anderson Cooper, tonight, in Biloxi, Mississippi. Here's what we have coming up for in the next hour. We're going to try to set the record straight about what happened at the New Orleans Superdome and the convention center. There were reports of rapes and murders. The question is, were any of them true. We'll look into that.

Also, John Grisham, the best selling author. He and his wife tour the damage the hurricane to his beloved Mississippi. He tells us what he is doing with his wife to rebuild the area.

And a little later, a dolphin suffers days in a tiny water ditch and the rescue effort to save it. All that and more, but first here's what's happening right now at this moment. Let's get you up to date.

In New Orleans, Mayor Ray Nagin has announced a new reentry plan. Business owners in eight zip codes will be welcome back tomorrow and residents on Friday. Nagin says that by next Wednesday all other parts of the city will be open for residents except the lower ninth ward which was flooded after both hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco is choosing not to fight former FEMA chief, Michael Brown, before Congress. When asked if she'd like to respond to Brown's accusations yesterday, that Louisiana was quote, "dysfunctional" after Hurricane Katrina, Governor Blanco said she would rather use today's hearings to talk about job creation.

And speaking of Michael Brown, and audit by the acting inspector of the Department of Homeland Security shows Brown was warned weeks before Hurricane Katrina hit, that FEMA's backlogged computer systems could delay supplies and put people at risk. According to the "Associated Press" Brown and one of his deputies rejected the audit calling it "unacceptable, erroneous, and negative." And the National Guard's top commander told a House committee today the Guard needs up to $7 billion to buy what it needs to respond to natural disasters and terrorist attacks. He says due to the war in Iraq, the Guard only has one third of the supplies it needs for Homeland Security.

Well, some of the most horrific images from Hurricane Katrina were of the suffering in the New Orleans Superdome and the convention center. There were those reports of babies being raped and dozens of murders and dead bodies all around. Recent articles are calling into question, however, those accounts from New Orleans, strongly suggesting that the very worse things we heard weren't real at all, just rumors. Tonight, we take a look at the facts.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: It was Monday, August 29. There was much warning, of course. Most assumed there would be extensive damage, it's safe to say, no one even began to imagine the extraordinary devastation.

No one imagined how Katrina would so efficiently and so thoroughly vaporize all the very basic things we count on: Food, water, shelter, electricity, phones, communications and safety.

So in the four days after Katrina hit, these are the words that come to mind: Chaos, bedlam, rumors and terror -- a lot of terror.

(voice-over): Telvis Sam had run to the Convention Center for shelter, and says as soon as he walked in the door he heard a frightening story about a little girl.

TELVIS SAM, EVACUATED TO THE CONVENTION CENTER: Maybe three or four people that were looking for her and they never found her and when they did finally find her she was cut by the throat underneath a blanket at the end of the -- like, at one of the ends of the Convention Center.

COOPER (on camera): Did Telvis Sam see all that or did he just hear about it and believe it? When CNN producer Jim Spellman entered the Convention Center he described a scene of massive darkness, stench and fear. Everyone, he says, was afraid. The rumors fueled the fears even more.

JIM SPELLMAN, CNN PRODUCER: There was a dead body in the median right in front. Nobody seemed clear on how this person died and all these people had lost their homes, their lives and there was no food there, no water.

COOPER: Just last week we found a woman by the name of Kate Millosovich, who had also found shelter against the storm in the Convention Center.

KATE MILLOSOVICH, EVACUATED TO THE CONVENTION CENTER: I didn't see any violence, per se. You could feel the tension. We saw people with guns. That was scary and alarming. And you could just feel the despair and the tension rising. COOPER: Patti Melton was in that dark and terrifying place, as well.

PATTI MELTON, EVACUATED TO THE CONVENTION CENTER: What we did see at the Convention Center was there were armed, young men roaming in packs at the Convention Center. The tension and the -- combined with all the despair was so volatile that we knew that at any moment anything was liable to happen.

SPELLMAN: There was a lot of speculation built on a few things like a dead body. I mean a dead body -- face it -- is not something any of us are used to seeing sitting out in the middle of the street unattended. So I think it was definitely a little bit of violence, a little bit of -- I think it was definitely a little bit of violence mixed with a lot of rumoring.

But everything compounded by the fact that there was no television, no radio. The images that people were seeing at home were completely foreign to the people there. They had no idea the bigger picture. All they knew is what was right in front of them. And they were hungry, they were thirsty, they were tired. They were worried about their loved ones.

COOPER (voice-over): Producer Jim Spellman describes the scene like being in the eye of a growing hurricane. No one knew anything but it was getting worse and worse. It was a perfect environment for terrible rumors to grow.

SPELLMAN: When we spoke with police officers, they actually told us worse stories. Police officers told us of home invasions in the Garden district and the Uptown district. They told us of women being raped in the -- there were people staying in houses and women were being raped in those districts.

They told us of gangs following the sounds of generators and doing home invasions, taking over their homes and robbing them. They were not really able to respond to very much of this. Their police cars didn't have gas, the police cars couldn't drive through the standing water from the flood and they had very crippled radio systems.

COOPER (on camera): Remember, that's what the police were telling our reporters. Of course, now, we know there was no real way the police could have been certain of any of that. Reporters always go to government and local authorities to find out what's going on. Listen to the just retired chief of police, Eddie Compass, told Oprah.

EDDIE COMPASS, RETIRED CHIEF OF POLICE, NEW ORLEANS: We had babies in there. Little babies getting raped. (CRYING)

OPRAH WINFREY, TALK SHOW HOST: No, no, no. I had not heard that.

COMPASS: You know how frustrated it is being the chief of police.

WINFREY: Oh my God. I hadn't heard that.

COMPASS: And you know inside these things are being done. And you don't have enough manpower to go in there.

COOPER: Then, there was Mayor Ray Nagin. Listen to what he told Oprah.

MAYOR RAY RAGIN, NEW ORLEANS: About three days we were basically rationing, fighting, people were -- that's why the people, in my opinion, they got to this almost animalistic state because they didn't have the resources. They were trapped.

You get ready to see something that I'm not sure you're ready to see. We have people standing out there, that have been in that frickin' Superdome for five days watching dead bodies, watching hooligans killing people, raping people. That's the tragedy. People are trying to give us babies that were dying.

COOPER: So why were the authorities, the first people we rely on to confirm or deny rumors often the sources of this speculation? The "New Orleans Times-Picayune" newspaper published an in-depth investigation of just what went wrong in sorting fact from fiction at the Convention Center and the Superdome, and found the main problem was the complete lack of communication.

Phone lines were down, police radios didn't work. There was simply no contact with the world outside of New Orleans. So, today, 30 days after Katrina struck, what is true and what is false? Jim Spellman says we may never really know.

SPELLMAN: I see a lot of people trying to maybe cover their tracks. Body count of dead bodies is not the same as fear, intimidation, and the panic that came from just one or two people that are armed shooting, I think creates a significant amount of fear and a significant amount of panic.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: So, here's what we do know about what happened in the Convention Center and the Superdome. Six people died in the Superdome that we know of, four of natural causes, one of an overdose, and one apparently jumped to his death in an apparent suicide attempt that the Convention Center, so actual suicide not just an attempt. There were four deaths at the Convention center that we know of and at the Superdome; one confirmed attempted rape of a child.

Aaron, it is also, you know, one of those things that with all the people who have shipped to other states and other cities, it's very hard to actually know how much we know or don't know. I mean, there could have been rapes, there could have been assaults on people, but with some 200 or so thousand people spread across the United States, it's sort of impossible to tell still.

BROWN: I (UNINTELLIGIBLE) someone down there two days ago, I guess, and he described it as it, at some level, and again well never know precisely at what level, but at some level it became like a giant came of post office. One person saw a body and they say, "I saw a body" someone else say a body and they said "I saw a body too" and now all of a sudden you have two bodies and then that becomes three and that becomes four, but they were all looking at the same body, and in the -- in the incubator that that was with the guns, you know, people -- nobody disputes that guys were running around with guns and stuff, and the hunger and the desperation, that is the sort of thing that happens and in truth, it was compounded by authorities and one of the really interesting questions to me is, did they do that at some unconscious level to make the situation seem more desperate than it was in order to get help?

COOPER: Yeah, and you know, the people who were covering the Convention Center, I think, have this sense, especially when they read that article in the "Times-Picayune" which was a great article and very well reported, but it's -- you -- one shouldn't lose sight of the fact that horrific things happened in that convention center, I mean, people were left abandoned without medical care, old people and adult diapers left for days just to sit there in, you know, in their waste. I mean, it was a nightmare in there. You know, the body count is one thing, I don't think anyone is doubting or debating the -- just the horror of the people in there -- Aaron.

BROWN: That is was. It was a horrible place and it's just a question of how horrible. The storm of question continues, those and other, not just what happened but also who did what and who did not do their jobs. In the case of as many 250 police officer in New Orleans who apparently just walked off the job for one reason or another. Good reasons some, bad reasons others. In any case, the failed to protect those they had sworn to serve. And the questions just keep coming in part because the police chief, Eddie Compass announced he's retiring. Was he a hero? Was he a failed leader? Is it somewhere in between? Here's CNN's Chris Lawrence.

BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT, (voice over): Howard Robertson spent 35 years on the New Orleans police force and retired as a major. He says former Chief Eddie Compass did not voluntarily resign.

HOWARD ROBERTSON, RETIRED NEW ORLEANS POLICE MAJOR: I've never known Eddie to quit anything. Anything. I don't care how bad it got, I don't care what it was. If you were in a fight, you wanted him with you because he wasn't quitting.

LAWRENCE (on camera): Then why would he walk away now?

ROBERTSON: Politics is a nasty game. Nasty, nasty game. And, you know, just my guess, I'm not going to say this is reality, but just my guess, politics played a role more than anything else because Eddie would not have left his troops during this time. He wouldn't have done it.

LAWRENCE (voice-over): Other law enforcement sources tell CNN, Compass met with Mayor Ray Nagin earlier this week and was told to resign or be fired. The man who takes Compass' place is Warren Riley. In 1996, then Chief Richard Pennington (PH), suspended Riley for neglective duty following an independent investigation. Felix Loicano was Riley's commanding officer.

(on camera): At the time of this incident in 1995, did you agree with the official action that was taken in Warren Riley's case?

FELIX LOICANO, WARREN RILEY'S FMR. SUPERVISOR: If you're asking me, did I agree with the decisions that Chief Pennington (PH) made regarding discipline, yes, I did or I did at that time. And I still do today based upon the knowledge I have with the information I have.

LAWRENCE (voice-over): Riley only faced internal discipline and went on to become deputy chief during Hurricane Katrina.

Chris Lawrence, CNN, New Orleans.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: In a moment, the power to move cars and houses, and as it turns out, dolphins. A survivor of the storm discovered a very long way from home.

Also coming up, the best selling author John Grisham and his latest project helping friends rebuild his state, Mississippi. We'll take a break first. This is a special edition of NEWSNIGHT: STATE OF EMERGENCY.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Over in Louisiana lies what is left of Cameron Parish. It's really Hurricane Rita's ground zero, but fortunately the storm didn't kill any people there but it has taken a very heavy toll on the animals. Thousands are helpless including a dolphin found in a ditch, of all places. CNN's Randi Kaye joins us live from Lake Charles for more on the mission to save the dolphin -- Randi.

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, if it was any other situation and someone were to tell you that a dolphin was trapped near a high school, you wouldn't believe it, it wouldn't make any sense. But in the case of Hurricane Rita, it makes perfect sense. That's because nothing here is where it belongs; everything is displaced including the dolphins.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KAYE (voice-over): For five days this watery ditch has been home to an animal that doesn't belong here, a seven-foot long dolphin that usually calls the Gulf of Mexico home. Marine biologists have been searching for this dolphin for days after someone reported it stranded near South Cameron High School.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We got a report of a dolphin that's stuck in a ditch-like area by where the Cameron High School used to be.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Where are we at? Right here.

KAYE: On Tuesday, Heidi Watts and her team from the Dolphin Rescue Network searched for hours by boat. No luck.

HEIDI WATTS, MARINE BIOLOGIST: It's disappointing that we haven't found it, but we're going to do everything we can as soon as we get back to land and we're not going to give up on it certainly.

KAYE: Twenty-four hours later we spot the dolphin from our helicopter during a flight with the 82nd Airborne. We land and find Watts on the ground.

(on camera): What is the condition of the dolphin?

WATTS: Seems to be doing really well. We've been monitoring it, monitoring its behavior, its respirations, and it seems to be doing good.

KAYE (voice-over): The 300-pound dolphin is trapped, confined to a shallow ditch. The dolphin is running out of time and Watts is running out of ideas.

(on camera): Could you airlift him out on a helicopter?

WATTS: Yes.

KAYE: It's a possibility.

WATTS: That's a possibility.

KAYE (voice-over): That possibility turns into a plan. We watch as rescuers slowly make their way into the water, then form a straight line to corral the dolphin and then trouble -- the dolphin starts swimming down the canal created by the storm.

The dolphin is about to get tangled in the weeds when they grab him. Struggling and scared, they load him on to a stretcher in the water. It takes 10 to lift him out and into the back of a pickup truck.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On three. One, two, three.

KAYE: Another problem. The dolphin is too long for the truck, but Watts won't turn back now.

(on camera): Now that they gotten him out of the water they're loading him on a Coast Guard helicopter. It'll be a two to four-mile flight before they can safely land on the beach.

(voice-over): A quick trip, but the dolphin must be kept cool and kept in place.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm holding down it fluke because it is very powerful and if it gets loose it can break bones.

KAYE: In just minutes they're off to the Gulf in search of a beach. The sponge baths continue on board and the dolphin is named Igor after the helicopter transporting it. Safely on the ground, Igor is unloaded and released into the waters where he belongs. It doesn't take long for Igor to find a friend, just what his friends back on dry land were hoping for.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KAYE: It really was an amazing rescue to witness. And they have to be so careful, they actually did a dry run, Anderson, with a person in that stretcher, practice lading that person into the helicopter to make sure they knew how to do it. That's because the dolphin can get easily stressed from loud noises and a lot of people in their eyesight, so they have to be so careful, in fact, dolphins, I found out today, can also get vertigo, so they have to watch how quickly they actually turn the animal in the stretcher. So, a lot work went into it and thankfully it turned out to be a success -- Anderson.

COOPER: I cannot get my mind around the fact that this dolphin was in that pond or that puddle in that ditch for so long. I mean how it got there, that is a remarkable story. Randi, thanks very much and glad to see the dolphin is out where it should be, back in the Gulf.

I want to talk about a resident here in Mississippi, a man by the name of John Grisham, no doubt you know him, he's a best selling author. He was actually born in Arkansas, but he's made, really, his life her in Mississippi, along with his wife Renee. He went old Miss, he practiced law in South Haven, he was in the legislature and now he resides with his family in Oxford, Mississippi. And when Katrina deviated the state, Grisham was there to help, he and his wife, Renee have set up a fund to rebuild the shattered coastline. I spend part of the day, today, with them both to talk about their deep, personal connection to this state.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOHN GRISHAM, AUTHOR: Is it open?

COOPER: When John Grisham walked into Biloxi's library today ...

GRISHAM: Oh my goodness.

COOPER : ...the best-selling author was at a loss for words.

GRISHAM: What a mess.

COOPER: The clock remains frozen; a silent reminder of the moment Katrina came ashore here one month ago. The floor is littered by books and debris brought in by the storm. The shelves that once held John Grisham's many best-selling books are empty. Only a few mildewed copies of his work remain.

GRISHAM: I'm in bad shape. I was on the bottom shelf.

COOPER: Grisham first came to this library in 1989. He was a lawyer and a struggling author then trying to sell his first book, "A Time to Kill."

GRISHAM: I went to 35 libraries all over the state of Mississippi and we'd have little punch and cookie parties and a good day was like, you know, nine or ten books would sell. COOPER: Charlene Longino remembers it well. She's been the librarian here for more than 20 years.

CHARLENE LONGINO, LIBRARIAN: Well, this was a collection of about 45 to 47,000 just regular books and we probably lost more than half of it. You can see at least the first two or three shelves are wet and just not fixable. And we're hoping the top two and possibly three shelves we can salvage.

COOPER: Charlene is optimistic but says it will be years before this library can reopen.

GRISHAM: You know, the sad part, Anderson, when it comes to rebuilding, you know, your libraries and museums and places like this, you know, homes and schools will get a priority to get people, you know, back in decent housing but libraries and museums are always kind of on the tail end of the funding.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Shot this from the third floor.

GRISHAM: I heard about that. Someone told me you were the wild man up there.

COOPER: A city official stops by to show Grisham the video he made when the storm came ashore. Grisham and his wife, Renee, live in Mississippi and have started a campaign to raise money to help rebuild the Gulf.

RENEE GRISHAM, REBUILDTHECOASTFUND.ORG: You know, we realize that there would be people who would come in early and do things, but we want to be here after those folks are gone because I know with hurricanes in Florida, there's still people trying to get roofs on their house and we want to make sure those people get their roof on their house.

COOPER: The Grishams have donated $5 million of their own money and have already saved many million more. Walking around Biloxi, it's easy to see the needs are enormous.

GRISHAM: Every law firm has the southern report and federal report. This is south report. All Mississippi cases are in the southern reporter from the Supreme Court. Mississippi, Louisiana and this is what's left of the guys -- the guy's law office.

COOPER: Just down the block we meet the Grisham's friend, Bob Mahoney. He's determined to rebuild his family's restaurant.

BOB MAHONEY, RESTAURANT OWNER: This is the bar right here.

COOPER: Bob's restaurant, Mary Mahoney's, has been serving southern delicacies for 41 years now. When I was just eight in 1976 I came here with my dad, a Mississippi native. Bob Mahoney was here then.

MAHONEY: I still remember you walking up here. You had a -- you just came from the water park and you had your bathing suit on and your towel around you.

COOPER (on camera): I remember that.

MAHONEY: And your daddy was sitting in here having dinner.

COOPER: This is the room we ate in.

MAHONEY: This is the room you ate in, yeah back in 19, I guess, 76. I want to say when Wyatt Cooper came in the establishment, especially down in Biloxi, Mississippi, in the '70s, you know, it kind of got your attention.

COOPER (voice-over): John Grisham has been eating at Mahoney's for the past 15 years. Grisham even wrote about Mahoney's in his book, "The Runaway Jury." Bob has memorized every passage.

MAHONEY: They dine on crab cakes, grilled snapper, fresh oysters, and Mahoney's famous gumbo, and all went back to tell about the lovely lunch.

GRISHAM: So, brilliant. That was good.

(CROSSTALK)

MAHONEY: That's good writing.

COOPER: Bob Mahoney survived Camille and despite the damage he says the restaurant will survive Katrina as well. He hopes to be open for business by Thanksgiving.

MAHONEY: A long time, you know, I just see the, you know, the casino industry coming back and employing people. That's the biggest thing, you know, people can't come back and rebuild their homes if they don't have jobs and right now that's basically our No. 1 economic engine is getting these people back to work and rebuilding their homes and just getting back to normal.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

Coming up, more of my interview with John Grisham and his wife. You're gong to meet a fried of theirs Lucy Benton who has had their house -- or Denton, who has had her house destroyed.

Also, later tonight, a prison opens its gates to orphaned animals after Hurricane Katrina. This is NEWSNIGHT from Biloxi and New York, STATE OF EMERGENCY.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER: You're watching a special edition of NEWSNIGHT: STATE OF EMERGENCY with Aaron Brown and Anderson Cooper.

(END VIDEOTAPE) COPPER: Best selling author, John Grisham and his wife, Renee, have stated a fund called RebuildTheCoastFund.org, that's the website, to try to help rebuild parts, here, of the Gulf Coast. This is -- I spent part of the day with him today, this is part two of my interview.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER (voice-over): John Grisham and his wife Renee come to Biloxi today to see how they could be of help.

GRISHAM: I mean, we see it all of the time on televisions, different storms and disasters and you kind of get numb to it, but when you're here on the site amidst the rubble with a friend, it's -- you can really understand what they're going through.

COOPER: They visit their long-time friend, Lucy Denton, whose house has been completely destroyed.

GRISHAM: This is the pool house and...

LUCY DENTON, FRIEND OF GRISHAM'S: Yeah, the arbor was there with the fireplace and the pool was there.

COOPER: Lucy's husband, Will, who died this past December was an attorney in Biloxi and helped fact check several of Grisham's best selling books.

GRISHAM: We'd usually have coffee or tea or something and sit here on the porch for long periods of time talk about everything, you know, mainly lawyers, lawsuits, and stuff like that. That's what Will was, he was a great trial lawyer.

COOPER: Lucy Denton wasn't going to evacuate her dream home until a friend convinced her to leave the day before Katrina hit.

DENTON: I really was in denial. I didn't think it was going to happen to me and I didn't even want to leave until Sunday morning when a friend called and said I had to. And then when I got word that, you know, my son called me and he said, "Mom, I hate to tell you this, it's gone." And I said, "How do you know that?" And I didn't want to -- and he said, "Because a friend of mine drove by there who works with the power company and he said it was flat." And so, you know, you just don't think it's going to happen to you.

COOPER: Like many residents of Biloxi, Lucy doesn't have flood insurance.

DENTON: Well, we're hoping the insurance companies are going to be fair. But I can't do anything until we see what's going to happen with the insurance industry.

GRISHAM: And that's why most of these homes there's no cleanup underway.

DENTON: We can't -- we've taken pictures and we've met with adjusters, and we're just waiting to see what happens.

COOPER: The Gresham's set up a relief fund for this region and have donated $5 million of their own money. They hope to raise another $5 in donations.

GRISHAM: You know, a lot of folks whose losses are not nearly going to reach what their insurance -- a lot more than their insurance levels, so you're going to have some gaps there where people need, you know, $25,000 here or there for a roof or something that we can step in and maybe make the grant.

COOPER: Everywhere the Grisham's went in Biloxi today, they ran into their old friends. At their favorite restaurant, which is already busy rebuilding and at the local library, that's been flooded by the storm.

Grisham and his wife, Renee, are determined to help however they can, insure that the gulf will rise again.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Well, if you'd like to contribute to the John and Renee Grishams' Rebuild the Coast Fund, here's how you can go on-line to www.rebuildthecoastfund.org, or send donations to Rebuild the Coast Fund, Inc., P.O. Box 4500, Tupelo, Mississippi, 38803.

And Aaron, there is certainly a lot of work to be done here. And a lot of people kind of falling through the cracks and I think that is what the Gresham's are hoping that they'll be able to, you know, what insurance doesn't cover they may be able to give a grant to some people to build a roof or something so people don't fall through the cracks quite so much.

BROWN: It'd be interesting to figure out, quite apart from the federal government, how much individuals have given in total from the Red Cross to the smallest charity and fund out there. It'll certainly be in the billions of dollars.

A legal thriller now of a different sort; one that Mr. Grisham might turn into a pot boiler someday. The central character a very tough Texas Republican by the name of Tom DeLay, one of the most powerful men in Washington; one of the most powerful men in the country. The majority leader of the House of Representatives -- until today. He now faces a bitter legal fight and the Republicans in the House in Washington have a new acting leader, the Majority Whip Roy Blunt, of Missouri. From the Hill tonight, CNN's Joe Johns.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: On the grand jury's final day Travis County's District Attorney RONNIE Earl dropped the hammer on Tom DeLay.

RONNIE EARLE, TRAVIS COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY: Criminal conspiracy is a state jail felony punishable by six months to two years in a state jail and a fine of up to $10,000. JOHNS: The immediate impact was pure politics. DeLay was forced to temporarily give up his position as House Majority Leader, his title, his suite of offices, his control over the house floor and he lashed out at the man who took it all away.

TOM DELAY, MAJORITY LEADER, HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES: This act is the product of a coordinated, premeditated campaign of political retribution. The all-too predictable result of a vengeful investigation led by a partisan fanatic.

JOHNS: The one count indictment related to an impressive bed of political choreography; a Texas two-step. First the Political Action Committee that DeLay founded helped take over the State House in 2002. Then the Texas Legislature redrew Congressional Districts. It paid off big. In 2004 Republicans picked up five extra Texas seats in Congress, adding to DeLay's power. But was it legal? Earle says DeLay broke Texas campaign laws by conspiring to funnel corporate money into state elections through the National Republican Party. $190,000 in all.

RONNIE EARLE: The law says that corporate contributions to political campaigns are illegal in Texas. They make -- the law makes such contributions a felony.

DICK DEGUERIN, DELAY LAWYER: These corporate contributions were not illegal. They were made properly, they were made at a proper time and they were spent on proper things.

JOHNS: Behind the legal fight a clash of two very different and powerful personalities, DeLay is known as the "hammer" for his ability to impose discipline on House Republicans and his impressive legislative track record. Earle is a true believer in the cause of getting the big money out of politics. Some say he's a zealot. Earle is a democrat. He's raised money for the party and he's also a classic Texas populist.

EARLE: I think every American has the duty to run the money changers out of the temples of the democracy.

JOHNS: Winning the indictment against DeLay was the easy part. Earl now has to make it stick.

DEGUERIN: When we get to trial, any fair jury is going to find that Tom DeLay did nothing wrong.

JOHNS: But even if the legal case goes away Tom DeLay has already suffered a political blow and recovering from that may be even harder than winning in court. Joe Johns, CNN, Capitol Hill.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: Well it's not just politics that makes for strange bedfellows, so it turns out it's the weather. Coming up how Hurricane Katrina turned a full-time prison into a part-time animal shelter. And later tonight, memories of a town and a home and a life. A very first special edition of NewsNight: State of Emergency. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BROWN: This is the scene tonight in Chatsworth, California in the San Fernando Valley. It's in the Western part of the San Fernando Valley in Los Angeles. Wild fires there. At least one home and it would be at least that home has been destroyed, perhaps others as well. A mandatory evacuation in effect in the Box Canyon area of the San Fernando Valley. It's one of a couple of wild fires that are burning in the Los Angeles area. There is another burning in Riverside, California, or at least Riverside County which is to the East of Los Angeles. It is that season, too. So we've had hurricanes and now fires in the West. What is next?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

Some of those answering the call to help animals abandoned and left behind in Louisiana are in some cases in pretty unlikely places including a state facility accustomed to housing convicts, not canines. Here's CNN's Ed Lavandera.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: There are strange sounds coming from this old prison dairy farm, tucked away in the backwoods of Southeast Louisiana. That makes warden Jimmy LeBlanc smile.

JIMMY LEBLANC, WARDEN: Of course we have 160 dogs. We have four legged and two legged, and then we have our chickens in this part here which they all seem to be getting along real well at the moment. And then the geese. And the geese are doing well, too.

LAVANDERA: The Dixon Correctional Institute is a full-time prison and now a part-time animal shelter. The Humane Society started bringing animals rescued from New Orleans to this prison after area shelters filled up.

RICHARD PALMER, INMATE: Yeah boy, you don't want to run anywhere.

LAVANDERA: Inmate Richard Palmer couldn't be happier. It's not often a prisoner gets to feel like a warden.

PALMER: I often reward them when they do good, so I give them like dog treats when they do good. If they be bad I won't give them a dog treat till later on that evening. Tell 'em you ain't turning down nothin'.

LAVANDERA: Palmer is one of 13 inmates assigned to help care for this stable of orphaned animals. He's just weeks away from finishing a 13-year prison sentence for armed robbery and says this experience is preparing him for life on the outside.

PALMER: You know the Lord was just telling me, He said, "Well look, you know what? This going to learn you patience with these dogs." He said, "Because I can't get you to learn patience no where else. And I'm going to get you to learn patience right here." Because you got to be gentle with them. You got to take up a lot of time with them. Show me some love!

LAVANDERA: Palmer feeds the dogs.

PALMER: You just said you ain't want none. You just turned down my cookie and now you want it now?

LAVANDERA: He walks them.

PALMER: What you want to do, girl?

LAVANDERA: And usually does a whole lot of talking.

PALMER: We haven't given them no names. We just call them out of love. I just give them names I want. I just call them Little Love, Little Feisty, Little Trouble. I give 'em...

LAVANDERA: Warden Leblanc says caring for these animals makes the inmates feel they're helping people recover from the hurricanes.

LEBLANC: There's no way that they can help out, you know, from prison so this kind of brings it to them a little bit and they're able to contribute back something from the natural disaster from Katrina down there.

LAVANDERA: All the inmates working in the shelter volunteered for this job but when the workday ends some of them can't shake off the sounds of the farm.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I hear dogs barking in my sleep. (Laughter) Really I do.

PALMER: Oh, you're going to try to roll on your stomach, boy?

LAVANDERA: Richard Palmer can't get enough though. He plans to volunteer to take care of these animals even after he's released from prison.

PALMER: A lot of guys, you know, they don't find love no where else. You know we have people that's been in prison all their life and they don't know nothing. They don't know nobody, you know, so they're finding a place of stability when they come around these dogs, you know. It's like they have a friend now.

LAVANDERA: There's a special bond here between these men and these animals. Some say they love and understand each other. Maybe that's because right now they all live behind bars. Ed Lavandera, CNN, Jackson, Louisiana.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: Anderson, this reminds me of a story that we told, I think maybe the first week of all this, a month ago about a guy who was a prisoner in a jail in Mississippi and when the flooding came they let him out and he affected several rescues and the sheriff said, "You know what? He should be pardoned." We should now follow up and see what the state did.

COOPER: Yeah, I mean to see those prisoners with the animals, you know, just about everybody I know here as at point or another thought very seriously about adopting some of the dogs or the cats that they have seen. I've come very close to doing it myself. A couple of crewmembers actually have adopted animals, or rescued animals. It's a hard thing to just kind of close your eyes to. There's so much need here.

The Gulf Coast and the Mississippi Delta where the river meets the sea were always very special places before Katrina and then Rita barreled through. Now so much is gone, houses, businesses and shrimp boats and shrimp. They may be very special places again someday but they will never, never be the same places and that, in large part, is because many of the people, the survivors will not come back. CNN's Keith Oppenheim has their story.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KEITH OPPENHEIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The sign by the road is one of the few things still standing. Port Sulfur, a fishing village of about 3,000 people that was already struggling economically was washed away by 20 feet of water. Now the main highway is covered with a sea of contamination. Nearly every home is in pieces.

What are you trying to do here today? What are you trying to accomplish?

JIMMY CAPIELLO: All I'm trying to do is collect some memories.

OPPENHEIM: Jimmy Capiello's memories are scattered. He's lived in Port Sulfur all his life.

CAPIELLO: This is the garage, the entrance to my house. I just remodeled that house, spent $27,000 in the kitchen.

OPPENHEIM: Jimmy took me through the remains of the three- bedroom home he built himself, the place where he and his wife Paula raised two children.

CAPIELLO: I don't even know what this is.

OPPENHEIM: It's hard to know what, if anything, he can salvage.

What you got in there?

CAPIELLO: There my little boy's cars. I'll be damned.

OPPENHEIM: Along with toy cars, some old records...

CAPIELLO: I had a bunch of old joke records, My Maybelline (ph).

OPPENHEIM: Things of sentimental value.

CAPIELLO: This was my workshop. My pride and joy right here. This is where I did all my woodworking.

OPPENHEIM: Things he spent years creating. Today all Jimmy can really do is say farewell.

CAPIELLO: I've already had my cry. You know, when I saw the aerial view of this area down here I knew it was nothing to come back to.

OPPENHEIM: 'Cause you spent your whole life...

CAPIELLA: Right.

OPPENHEIM: ...62 years living in this area.

CAPIELLA: Oh yeah.

OPPENHEIM: It's got to be so hard to say goodbye.

CAPIELLO: Right. I knew all the people and yeah that's the hard part.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It turned a quarter of a turn, my house. It sat right back on the block, one inch from the ceiling.

OPPENHEIM: Down the road neighbors are mourning an entire town. In the face of this much destruction, few of them are talking about rebuilding.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Port Sulfur's dead and it's going to be deader.

OPPENHEIM: Some use boats to recover what they could. Gail Brian rescued a few of her antique dolls, grasping for something from her past.

GAIL BRIAN, PORT SULFUR RESIDENT: It's not just my house, it's the whole Parrish. All of south Port Sulphur is gone and I just can't imagine people rebuilding here. I just don't see it, you know?

CAPIELLO: Man we had so many parties back here with all our friends and family.

OPPENHEIM: As Jimmy Capiello reminisced he told us he realized before the storm his life here was going to end.

CAPIELLO: I was standing about right here. My truck was parked right there and I just went, "See you in another life, I'm gone." And that, in a few words, represents the tragedy of Port Sulfur. Even if it is rebuilt someday, many of its residents who spent a lifetime making memories will no longer live here. Keith Oppenheim, CNN.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: And yet so many people say that they will return, especially here in Biloxi. When we come back I'll show you what it's like here when the lights go out. From Biloxi in New York, this is NewsNight.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Welcome back. We are in Biloxi. I wanted to give you a sense of what it's like here. You know, we're using lights to broadcast from. I wanted to show you a little of what it's like for people here when we're not around because there are no lights. Let's turn the camera light off and it just gives you a sense of what people who are still living here are trying to deal with.

You know, you see people walking down the roads or bicycling around at night with flashlights. It's very difficult to make your way around. Obviously there is debris just lying all around and as people think about coming back to their homes there simply is not much to come back to. I mean, some people are camping out or obviously staying in shelters and you can see why, I mean there is just nothing here. It's just these field of debris fields. Especially the closer you get to the water.

Earlier tonight I talked to the Governor of Mississippi, Haley Barbour, about a proposal that he has for helping Biloxi by getting these casinos up and running as quickly as possibly and letting them rebuild on the land because by state law, all the casinos that are in Biloxi and have a huge impact on the economy. They all have to be built over the water. The governor wants to change all of that. Here's my interview with him from earlier today:

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Governor, I think a lot of people who aren't from Mississippi don't realize the importance of the casinos here. Talk if you will a little bit about the impact on your state for these casinos and also why you want them rebuilt now on land. Yesterday you made that proposal.

GOVERNOR HALEY BARBOUR, MISSISSIPPI: Casinos are very large employers in our state. Just the 12 coast casinos employ about 15,000 people and by the time you take their ancillary workers and others involved it's about 50,000 jobs. And you can see from the many days you've been on our Gulf Coast, Mr. Anderson, that those casinos were totally devastated by the storms, thrown up on load, in the highway, bounced off hotels, ran over museums, vehicles. We simply can't go back to that so the question is what is the best way going forward? And I believe the best way is to let them come on shore.

COOPER: As you know the Mississippi Baptist Convention and the American Family Association oppose it. They say it's unnecessary, it's a taxpayer expense and it's also a way of just sort of creeping, encroaching more gambling in the state of Mississippi. You say what, it's for safety?

BARBOUR: In this case we're talking about allowing the casinos to move literally a few hundred feet. We're not talking about it; we're not going to expand gaming beyond where it is now into any other county. COOPER: Governor, in those dark terrible days right after Katrina you called the federal government's response and FEMA's response tremendously helpful. Given now what you know about Mike Brown, given some of the criticism that has been leveled at him and perhaps even his own testimony if you saw that yesterday, do you think he was the right man to run FEMA?

BARBOUR: Oh look, I've got a full-time job down here. I will tell you the federal government has been a great partner here. They haven't been perfect but they've done a whole lot more right than wrong. What I've done hasn't been perfect and if you talk to any of those mayors or county government officials down there they'll tell you that they haven't been perfect either.

COOPER: In the future, moving forward as the governor of your state, do you want to see the next head of FEMA should be somebody who doesn't have disaster experience or do you think that role is so important that it should be someone who has a long history of disaster relief?

BARBOUR: Well I think Congress is going to look back and decide should FEMA be restructured in the way it was structured before 9/11 where it was a separate agency. I'm going to let Congress tend to that, but I will tell you this. We, in Mississippi, do not need the federal government to take over when we have a disaster as every state will have in the future. We need the federal government's help and the federal government's been helpful and we need them to do more in the future in terms of restoration of our infrastructure and helping us rebuild. But we don't need the federal government to take over and run Mississippi or run our disaster relief. We're able to do that.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: These are pictures out of Southern California tonight in the San Fernando Valley to the North and to the West of Los Angeles in the Chatsworth area. Fire officials now saying two dozen homes are being threatened by these wild fires, at least one home has been destroyed. It wouldn't surprise me if by now more than just that one. In any case, two dozen other homes are threatened by the wild fires in Southern California, one of two significant wild fires burning, this one in the San Fernando Valley, the other in Riverside County, the East of L.A. A mandatory evacuation is in effect in the Box Canyon area of Los Angeles which is where this is. It's a difficult night in southern California.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

Take a look at morning papers, after the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROWN: Okay, quick check of morning papers from around the country and indeed around the world today. Some of you complain we don't do the international papers; some of you don't care at all. Washington Post: DeLay indicted in finance inquiry. Texan Steps aside as House GOP Leader as he fights his conspiracy charge. He's not very happy about things today. And the analysis piece for GOP, a troubled year gets worse.

The Guardian: The British paper, gives me an opportunity to mention one of the things the President said today. "Iraq violence likely to rise," says Bush before the vote on a National Constitution the President said today, "It could get bloodier in Iraq." A little hard to image it getting a whole lot worse.

Detroit News leads sports. Pain game. It's an analysis why football players get hurt as often as they do and it turns out that they run into each other at a really high speed and they're big guys.

The weather tomorrow in Chicago, if you're wondering, standoffish. What does that mean? It's going to be cold? When we come back, remembering those who perished in the storm. Take a break first.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROWN: Going back a section or two it does seem that the Governor ducked the question about whether the next FEMA director should have emergency management experience. It's a hard question to answer no to isn't it?

COOPER: Yeah it wasn't just a duck it was a complete avoidance, but yeah, absolutely, you know for the governor of a state clearly would want someone to have disaster experience. You know, it's been 30 days now since Katrina hit which is remarkable when you think about it. Just today we learned the names of 32 of the 896 confirmed deaths in the State of Louisiana. As we leave you tonight we want to remember those victims.

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