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Epidemic of Mental Illness in U.S. Military?; War and Women; DePauw University Kicks Out Delta Zeta Sorority

Aired March 12, 2007 - 20:00   ET


PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everybody. Thanks so much for joining us.
Out in the open tonight: a ticking time bomb affecting tens of thousands of troops coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan.

A city tells illegal immigrants: You can't live here or work here. Go away.

Plus, a university kicks out a sorority that kicked out women who just happened to be minorities or overweight.

Out in the open first tonight: an alarming new study about how the war on terrorism is hitting home. In the midst of a scandal over medical care for this country's wounded veterans, it points to war wounds that aren't out in the open, but may be academic.

The study says, nearly one in three U.S. troops coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan has a mental problem. Consider these alarming numbers for a minute. The study looked at almost 104,000 troops who served in Iraq or Afghanistan and received care from the Department of Veteran Affairs.

Thirty-two thousand of them -- perhaps someone you know -- were diagnosed with mental health or social problems.

Senior Pentagon correspondent Jamie McIntyre now joins us with the disturbing details.

So, Jamie, these -- these numbers seem absolutely outrageous. Put -- put some perspective to them this evening. How concerned is the Pentagon about them?


And -- and they are somewhat surprising, but also not surprising, when you consider the -- the really intense conflict that these soldiers are in. Guerrilla warfare is some of the most intense warfare. They're facing IEDs that could go off at any time. Death is around every corner. And many are sent back for multiple tours.

So, the key, the Pentagon says, is catching these problems early and treating them early, early diagnosis.

ZAHN: What kinds of mental health problems are we talking about here?

MCINTYRE: Well, the number-one one is what's called, you know, post-traumatic stress disorder. That's everything from, you know, nightmares, night terrors, not being able to function normally.

But -- but there are also a list of other problems, including anxiety, just problems adjusting. Depression was a big one, and substance abuse. And, of course, many of the returning veterans displayed more than one of these symptoms, some as many as three different symptoms.

And you say the Pentagon is concerned, but they're not alarmed about this?

MCINTYRE: Well, you know, they're alarmed, but they're also trying to deal with this in a -- in a sort of organized fashion.

And, again, part of it is the screening. And -- and, while you mentioned the fact that these are people who went to VA hospitals and got a diagnosis, they're worried about other people who maybe didn't go to the hospital and seek treatment. There might be even a larger number of people suffering from some of these, what may seem like fairly simple problems, but -- like anxiety or trouble adjusting -- but could be something that's -- that's -- that's much more insidious, if they don't seek treatment.

So, they're concerned about that as well.

ZAHN: As they should be.

Senior Pentagon correspondent Jamie McIntyre, thanks so much.

Now, that study of veterans' mental health looked at the records of both men and women. Female soldiers still can't take part in infantry, armor, or artillery offensives. But this war on terror has put women closer than ever to the line of fire.

And, as Randi Kaye reports, some are coming home with problems that you don't see at first glance.


RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For more than a year, Keri Christensen hauled tanks up and down the dangerous roads of Iraq.

KERI CHRISTENSEN, IRAQ WAR VETERAN: It was very scary, because you always had to be on alert. You were always thinking, you know, is this going to be my last mission? Am I going to make it home?

KAYE: Today, this mother of two from Illinois is back behind the wheel of her minivan, hauling her most precious cargo, 4-year-old Olivia and 8-year-old Madison.

But, from the driver's seat, what Keri sees, most other moms would never even want to imagine. CHRISTENSEN: Trash bags, like, if they're laying in the middle of the road or on the side of the road, they -- to me, they could be IEDs.

KAYE: Since returning home, Keri says she sleeps an average of four hours a night and takes both sleeping pills and anti-depressants.

(on-camera): Had you ever experienced depression before in your life?

CHRISTENSEN: Not major depression like this, no.

KAYE: Keri says she's had imaginary conversations with her husband and dropped and rolled at the sound of a neighbor's nail gun.

CHRISTENSEN: To me, it sounded like a machine gun. And I initially just got down on the ground.

KAYE (on-camera): Keri says she was diagnosed in Iraq with post- traumatic stress disorder.

Did you even have it in you to nurture your children when you got back, when, really, you were the one who needed the nurturing?

CHRISTENSEN: Not really, no. I know that's horrible to say, but I was so lost.

KAYE: At any point, did you seriously consider taking your own life?

CHRISTENSEN: When I got home, yes.

KAYE (voice-over): She says she was already experiencing anxiety or mild depression when she was reassigned to duty at the Kuwait Airport because of a noncombat injury. She says that only made her feel worse.

CHRISTENSEN: Every day, I had to walk pass the theater mortuary. And they had coffins stacked up that were empty, but you know they were just waiting for bodies to come in. And we would see coffins being placed into a trailer that was a cooler, and waiting for the next flight to come in, to have the bodies shipped onto the plane and taken home.

KAYE: Keri says she also had been dealing with sexual harassment. The military tells CNN it found her allegation to have no merit. Then, while in Kuwait, Keri was arrested by military police for wrongfully consuming alcohol. She says she was just groggy from taking prescription medicine.

A court martial found her guilty, and she was reprimanded, an ordeal she says intensified her inner trauma.

CHRISTENSEN: "Amazing. My mother knows French."

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Uh-oh. KAYE: Keri has decided to leave the military. In the year she's been home, she says, there's been little improvement in her condition. There are still the nightmares and the phobias -- no way to live for this suburban mom, whose war at home, just like the one in Iraq, has no end in sight.

Randi Kaye, CNN, Oakwood Hills, Illinois.


ZAHN: Paul Rieckhoff is also an Iraq war veteran. He writes about his experiences as a platoon leader on the streets of Baghdad in a book called "Chasing Ghosts." He's also the founder and executive director of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.

Always good to see you. Welcome back.


ZAHN: These numbers are so heartbreaking. And you have been exposed to so many of these soldiers who have come home so broken. What's your reaction to these numbers?

RIECKHOFF: Well, it's not surprising. I think anybody who looked at the studies conducted after the Vietnam War, or looked inside the VA, would tell you that this is predictable. When you send people into combat, they come home with mental health issues, especially in a dense, urban environment, when you send people back for repeated tours.

These numbers are -- are entirely predictable. And -- and the problem is that the pieces weren't put in place ahead of time, as a part of a complete war plan, to embrace these veterans and give them the proper care, resources, and transitional services that they need when they come home.

ZAHN: It appears, if you look at the statistics -- and we will put a graphic up now -- right now that will reinforce that -- that -- that those who are the most vulnerable are the younger soldiers. They seem to be at higher risk for these mental health problems. Is it more difficult for kids who are 18 or 20 years old to process the kind of carnage that they're exposed to?

RIECKHOFF: Absolutely.

ZAHN: We heard this one soldier describing the reality of seeing empty caskets lined up.

RIECKHOFF: Sure. Seeing carnage, seeing people close to you wounded and killed, seeing civilians wounded and killed, is a very traumatic experience.

And younger soldiers traditionally are also in the frontline units at the lower ranks. So, that may contribute to that factor as well. And, when they come home, they may not be married. They may be back in college and more isolated than somebody who is older, who might have a wife or a husband and some children to be around them. And it could also raise red flags if they see signs of mental health issues, like post-traumatic stress disorder, and others.

ZAHN: And, apparently, you're at a distinct disadvantage if you're one of these soldiers coming home, and you live in Western states or in rural areas. It is so hard for the walking wounded to get help, period. How many of them will actually seek help, if it is so difficult in -- in some of these areas where there are fewer mental health services?

RIECKHOFF: A number that is definitely too low.

The study that you outlined only explores the number of people who have actually gone to the VA so far. And those numbers are about 200,000 of the 1.6 million people who have been through Iraq and Afghanistan.

So, in the next few years, we're going to see an increasing flood of these folks coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan with mental health issues. And, right now, the VA is already overwhelmed. The rural areas, Western areas are particularly overextended, because they're not adjusting to the new demographic shifts from a new war.

The VA is still running to catch up. Walter Reed and the problems there have illustrated how our country is unable and unready to receive them. But I worry that that's just really the tip of the iceberg.

ZAHN: How is the VA caught off guard with this, if -- if you say this is so entirely predictable, particularly because of the kind of warfare that's being fought?

RIECKHOFF: They haven't been listening. They haven't adjusted the resources accordingly. The secretary of the VA, Nicholson, have continued to downplay the urgency and scope of these problems.

And, in many ways, it seems like they haven't learned their lesson. The president's new budget actually projects cuts to the VA budget for 2009 and 2010, cuts after that. They want to cut prosthetics research and other badly-needed research areas. So, the pieces aren't in place right now. And, if we don't make a dramatic change, they won't be in place for the years to come either.

ZAHN: Very quick answer to this: How bitter are you about all this?

RIECKHOFF: I'm not bitter. I'm just disappointed. And -- and I'm trying to work hard, like other veterans, to -- to effect change, and try to make it better for the people coming behind us.

ZAHN: We wish you luck.

RIECKHOFF: Thank you.

ZAHN: Paul Rieckhoff, thanks... RIECKHOFF: Thank you.

ZAHN: ... for your time tonight.

On to another subject now: A city is telling illegal immigrants: You can't rent here or even work here. Coming up next, will this controversial crackdown hold up in court?

Out in the open later: women who insist they were kicked out of their sorority house just because of the way they look. Find out what happened to their sorority because of that -- when we come back.


ZAHN: We have some amazing pictures for you tonight to bring out in the open: one guy on the right beating up a 100-year-old woman on her way to church, another hitting a store clerk. Guess who's charged with a hate crime?

Out in the open tonight: a landmark legal case in the nationwide crackdown on illegal immigrants. About 80 towns have taken matters into their own hands and passed laws that make it harder for immigrants to rent apartments or even find jobs. Some claim those laws are unconstitutional.

Well, today, the mayor of Hazleton, Pennsylvania, went to federal court to find out what his town can or can't do to curb illegal immigration.

Here's Jason Carroll with more.


JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Eighteen years ago, Amilcar Arroyo, an immigrant from Peru, moved to the small hillside city of Hazleton, Pennsylvania. For several months back then, he was an undocumented worker. He came here looking to become a U.S. citizen, which he's now been for more than a decade.

He's also owner of a Hispanic paper, married, and lives in a community where he never felt like an outsider, until now.

AMILCAR ARROYO, RESIDENT OF HAZLETON, PENNSYLVANIA: It's just racist. It's fear for people.

CARROLL: Arroyo says, since last fall, when the city first adopted an ordinance cracking down on illegal immigrants, he and other Latinos have been victims of racial slurs in public.

ARROYO: They say, Hispanic. And why you coming here? Go back to your country.

CARROLL: The ordinance, which is being challenged in federal court, imposes fines on landlords who rent to illegal immigrants, denies permits to companies that give them jobs, allows the city to investigate complaints over a person's immigration status. The city also declared English as its official language.

The city's mayor, Lou Barletta, supports the ordinance, because, he says, the federal government isn't doing enough.

(on camera): What do you say, Mr. Mayor, to those who -- who look at what you're doing, or trying to do, and they say that it's racist, that's it's discriminatory?


CARROLL: How do you respond to that?

LOUIS BARLETTA, MAYOR OF HAZLETON, PENNSYLVANIA: There's no race in illegal. Illegal is illegal. And our ordinance clearly states that a -- a complaint cannot be based on the way someone looks or the way they talk.

CARROLL (voice-over): Civil rights groups challenging the ordinance say it's unconstitutional, that it unfairly targets people based on their ethnicity, and that it's the federal government's job to enforce immigration law.

Nichey Castro, a legal immigrant from Puerto Rico, says it's already had a negative impact on her community.

NICHEY CASTRO, RESIDENT OF HAZLETON, PENNSYLVANIA: It's a lot of tension. Now there's a lot of houses for rent, because everybody -- just, a lot of people got scared and left.

CARROLL: It's too soon for the city to have numbers on how many Latinos have left Hazleton, but Amilcar Arroyo showed us Latino-owned businesses now closed.

(on camera): So, you're saying that this ordinance is just, basically, economically hurting Hazleton?

ARROYO: Exactly. Exactly.

CARROLL: But the mayor says, some new businesses have opened, too, and says, if some stores shut down because of not catering to, not hiring illegal immigrants, so be it.

BARLETTA: I don't have any sympathy for businesses who are trying to profit from -- from paying somebody low wages.

CARROLL: Mayor Barletta also claims crime has dropped as a result of some deciding to leave town.

(on camera): Hezbollah's police department did not return several calls asking for statistics showing a recent drop in crime.

Even without those numbers, there is a feeling among some of the people we spoke to in Hazleton that crime has decreased because of the city's illegal immigration ordinance.

BERT SCHAFER, RESIDENT OF HAZLETON, PENNSYLVANIA: You used to always see some kind of crime going on, between drugs and murder, et cetera. And it seems like, since the council passed this resolution, things have -- seemed to have quieted down.

CARROLL (voice-over): The decision made in this federal courthouse is being watched by dozens of other communities nationwide, who are waiting to see what happens before adopting their own laws against illegal immigration.

Jason Carroll, CNN, Hazleton, Pennsylvania.


ZAHN: Time to turn this over to tonight's "Out in the Open" panel, Steve Malzberg, radio talk show host and columnist for; Joseph Phillips, conservative commentator -- which is why they're both to my left tonight -- and author of "He Talk Like a White Boy"; Jeff Johnson, host of BET's "Cousin Jeff Johnson Chronicles."

Good to have all of you with us tonight.

All right, so we have heard...


JOSEPH PHILLIPS, AUTHOR, "HE TALK LIKE A WHITE BOY": It sounds like they gave you my -- my authorship.




PHILLIPS: All right.

ZAHN: All right.

JOHNSON: It's -- it's his book. But I -- I am Jeff Johnson.

ZAHN: All right. Well, so, we messed that up. We won't mess up anything from this point on.

JOHNSON: It's a good book.

ZAHN: It's a good book.


ZAHN: He's going to -- he's going to sell it for himself tonight.


ZAHN: So sorry.

What -- what there is no disagreement on is, this ordinance certainly has inspired a lot of controversy. A lot of people think it is unfair, because they think they're targeting people simply based on race. It is racist. But, once again, here is how the mayor defends what he is doing.

He says -- quote -- "I have been called a bigot. I have been called a racist. I have been called the grand wizard of the KKK. But I took an oath of office to protect and defend the people of my community."

Is this mayor promoting racism?

STEVE MALZBERG, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Oh, come on. Absolutely not.

This mayor is protecting his community. Crime has gone up significantly. One-third of the drug arrests have been attributed to illegal aliens. Murder has gone up considerably. You have the hospitals overcrowded, schools overcrowded. The people want help. They're crying out all over the country, because towns all over the country have passed these kinds of ordinances.

So, what the mayor is doing is trying to go after people who break the law. It has nothing to do with what color they are or where they come from. If they're illegal aliens, they have got to get out.

JOHNSON: And while I appreciate the passion, I think, at the end of the day, I -- I applaud the mayor for, I think, trying to bring about new tactics to deal with a problem that's happening all over the country.


ZAHN: But is it his job or the feds' job?

JOHNSON: No, no, no, but the question is, not only that, but is the answer -- even if we have people that are putting forth progressive policy, is the answer to remove civil liberties? Is the answer -- is the answer to put us in a place where people are being targeted who are law-abiding citizens, who are people that have come to this country and worked honestly and contributed honestly, but are now being...

MALZBERG: Which law-abiding citizens are being targeted?


ZAHN: Well, the ACLU would argue, the way they're being targeted, in a lot of cases, they are -- are throwing out legal immigrants. You're destroying their livelihoods.

PHILLIPS: Well, the ACLU is wrong. As the mayor pointed out, the -- the -- the law is very clear, that you can't just accuse someone based on their race or based on their ethnicity. You have to have some more substantive proof than that. And they're not going to listen to charges -- you know, charges leveled just because of the color of someone's skin. JOHNSON: But we hear that -- we hear that in -- we hear that in theory.


PHILLIPS: No. What I want to know is, what civil liberties are people being denied? If they're here illegally...

JOHNSON: But I think that's the very point. This becomes a witch-hunt.

And, at the end of the day, I believe like you believe, that those that have broken the law need to be prosecuted. But does that mean that we isolate and target those who have not, putting them in than environment that we both know...


MALZBERG: No one is being targeted, except the lawbreakers. You mean, because the lawbreakers look like the non-lawbreakers, you're targeting the legitimate immigrants? That's nonsense.

JOHNSON: It's called -- it's called profiling. And it happens all over the country on a daily basis.


MALZBERG: So, you know what they do? So, you know what? In this environment, to -- to make the town better, someone who lives there legally should say: All right, you want to see my papers? Here's my Social Security card. Now make the town safer.

Big deal.

PHILLIPS: No, here's -- here's -- here's the thing, though. The thought just went right out of my head.


ZAHN: Well, let me help you with another one.


PHILLIPS: The thought went right out of my head.

ZAHN: You know, if -- if the federal government can't control illegal immigration...

PHILLIPS: This is what I was going to say.

ZAHN: ... then, why is it that the...


ZAHN: ... landlords and the business owners are the ones that are going to get fined? PHILLIPS: No. The...

ZAHN: Whose job is this?

PHILLIPS: The municipalities across the country, this is a sign of their frustration, frustration at the federal government for not doing what they are supposed to do: protecting the rights, lives, and property of their citizens.

And, therefore, it's incumbent upon the municipal governments to do that which the federal government is not doing. What they're simply doing is -- is asking the city workers, the police, to enforce federal immigration law. That's what they're doing.

JOHNSON: They're going to beyond that to say that, if you don't speak English, you're not welcomed in that town.

PHILLIPS: That's -- there's nowhere in the ordinance that it says that, if you don't speak English, that...

JOHNSON: And that speaks -- that speaks to the spirit -- that speaks to the spirit of the policy itself.



ZAHN: The official documents, according to this ordinance, would have to be written in English...


ZAHN: ... English only.

MALZBERG: But you know what? That's a great thing, because, when my grandparents and great-grandparents came, nobody gave them their language, their native language. They had to learn English.

ZAHN: Gentlemen, we have got to move on. But we're not done yet -- a lot more to debate ahead.

A college sorority wanted to change its image -- the result, rejection, humiliation, even hints of racism -- out in the open next, what one university is doing about what happened to these young women, who claim they were thrown out just because of the way they looked.

A little bit later on: Who is in worse trouble, the guy caught on camera hitting a store clerk on your left or the one beating up a 100-year-old lady, Rose, on her way to church? This just makes me sick.


ZAHN: Tonight, a stunning new development in a story we first brought out in the open a few weeks ago: 23 women kicked out of the Delta Zeta sorority house at DePauw University. And they say it was because they weren't attractive enough. Their humiliating rejection sparked nationwide outrage.

Well, today the university kicked the sorority itself off campus.

Here's Keith Oppenheim with more.


KEITH OPPENHEIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Near the heart of DePauw University stands a sorority called Delta Zeta. Last fall, the women who lived behind the stately columns thought of themselves as accomplished, but knew, on campus, they had a different reputation and a mean nickname.


OPPENHEIM (on camera): The doghouse?



RACHEL PAPPAS, FORMER DELTA ZETA MEMBER: Yes, that's the biggest one.

OPPENHEIM: That you're -- that you're a bunch of ugly women?


LEE: Yes.

OPPENHEIM: Rachel Pappas, Kim Lee, and Joanna Kieschnick are former members of Delta Zeta. They said, for some time, leaders from their national office had been concerned membership at the DePauw chapter was too low.

Last August, the students said those leaders suggested the way to recruit was to change their image, with appearance, with drinking, and with sex.

KIESCHNICK: Her whole idea is, basically, that you need to be more sexually appealing. You need to make the guys want you. You need to -- I don't know -- to get sloshed, and then have them, you know, whatever, just be more attractive. Get the men to like you. Get them to want you.

OPPENHEIM (on camera): By late November, some of the Delta Zetas began to believe that their national leaders were so consumed with image, that their ultimate goal was to get rid of most of the girls in the sorority.

Some of the former members told me that, when national leaders held an open house for freshman women, only the more attractive students were asked to stay downstairs as hosts.

KIM LEE, FORMER DELTA ZETA MEMBER: Those of us who won't chosen to give tours were asked to not come downstairs, unless we were -- and, if we were, that we needed to dress really cute.

OPPENHEIM (voice-over): In early December, just before exams, the bombshell: The national chapter sent a letter to 23 members, two- thirds of the sisters living at Delta Zeta, stating they had failed to meet standards for recruitment, so their status was changed from active to alumna. That meant they had to move out of the sorority house by the end of January.

The former members say, included in the 23 were all of the overweight students and three of the four minorities in the house. They say the ones who were not told to move were generally pretty and slender.

For some, it was a blow to self-esteem.

LEE: I have done everything I was supposed to do. I'm a good student. I'm involved. And -- but, you know, in your heart, you take that really hard.

PAPPAS: Image is the new racism, of sorts. You know, image is the be-all and end-all of everything. And sorority life is just where it appears the most.

OPPENHEIM: After an investigation, the university today severed ties with Delta Zeta.

President Robert Bottoms said, in a letter to the sorority -- quote -- "We do not like the way our students were treated" -- end quote.

In a Web message that might be too little, too late, the sorority apologizes to members at DePauw and says it never meant to disparage or hurt anyone.

Keith Oppenheim, CNN, Greencastle, Indiana.


ZAHN: And DePauw's president says the sorority's suspension will take effect in the fall.

I have got some pictures to show you tonight that you have got to see to believe: A woman walks into a convenience store and calls a clerk names. Her companion actually hits the guy. Was it just the liquor talking or a hate crime?

And, then, a little bit later on: A mugger hits a 101-year-old woman, not once -- look at this -- not twice, but three times, before she finally falls to the ground.

We are going to bring both stories out in the open when we come back.


ZAHN: Tonight we're bringing "Out in the Open" two surveillance videotapes showing two shocking and ugly attacks. The first tape you're about to see comes out of Seattle, where a man and a woman are now charged with hate crimes after attacking a deli owner while screaming racial slurs. But just wait until you hear what the two suspects are offering up as their defense.

Ted Rowlands has their story.


TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): This surveillance video from a Seattle convenience store shows a couple getting out of a taxi and walking in.

STEVEN SALEH, STORE OWNER: These two individuals walked in, and they appeared to be intoxicated.

ROWLANDS: On the tape, the woman seems to lose her balance as she reaches for a six-pack of beer. Then when she gets to the counter...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Let me get a pack of Marlboro Reds box.

ROWLANDS: ... she has trouble paying.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You didn't give him a card yet.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I did give him a card but the mother (EXPLETIVE DELETED) didn't run it through.

SALEH: She was intoxicated to a point where she was giving us a Safeway card to pay for her beer.

ROWLANDS: It's hard to see everything that happens next, but you can hear most of it. First, the woman calls the store owner "un- American".


SALEH: Excuse me?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's what I just said. He didn't grow up here. He's un-American.

SALEH: You know, I hate to do this to you, but if you're going to be like this, I'm going to ask you to leave.

"You're un-American. You're not American. You should go back to your own country." Sometimes she called me Gandhi.

ROWLANDS: Things quickly escalate with the store owner telling the couple to leave.

SALEH: Don't be like that, OK?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Kiss my (EXPLETIVE DELETED). OK? Guess what? SALEH: Get out. Get out.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Guess what, you un-American mother (EXPLETIVE DELETED)?

SALEH: She's drunk. She's drunk. Get her out of her of here.

SALEH: When I was fed up with that, I told her that I will not serve her.

ROWLANDS: It eventually turns physical.

SALEH: Get your woman out of here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You don't want me to kick (EXPLETIVE DELETED)? You really don't -- you really don't.

ROWLANDS: The male customer takes off his coat and then reaches for the store owner.


SALEH: Don't touch me.

ROWLANDS: In the scuffle, the store owner hits the man at least twice with a metal rod.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You (EXPLETIVE DELETED). You Arabian (EXPLETIVE DELETED) Gandhi. Go back to your own country, you (EXPLETIVE DELETED) Arabian.

ROWLANDS: At one point, he pushes the woman to the floor. The police end up taking the couple away. They now both face felony hate crime charges.

MIKE HOGAN, PROSECUTOR: If someone is targeted because of their national origin, then everybody of that national origin is going to feel uncomfortable by that crime. And that's why it's a felony.

ROWLANDS: They both pled not guilty. The attorney for the woman, 25-yea-old Nicole Kirk (ph), says don't believe what you see and hear on that tape.

ROBERT JOURDAN, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: The fact of the matter is, I have no concern she's a racist. And I believe that the primary force behind this was her use of alcohol that night. She was extremely intoxicated.

ROWLANDS: Prosecutors say it wouldn't matter if the couple was drunk. The lawyer for the man, 35-year-old Brian Lapin (ph), says this was not a hate crime.

RANDALL HALL, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: The facts, in my opinion, aren't really something that would justify the charge. It's usually for something that's more extreme than what happened here, such as cross- burning or a gay-bashing, or something along those lines.

ROWLANDS: The store owner, Steven Saleh, has been the victim of hate before. In 2003, someone wrote the words "Towel Head" on a dumpster outside his store.

Steven was born in Yemen and has been in the U.S. for 23 years. He's a naturalized citizen with 14 and 9-year-old daughters. He's owned the Seattle store for 11 years.

Since the attack, Steven has received flowers and cards from concerned customers.

SALEH: You wouldn't know how hard it is to be discriminated against and to be in a situation where I've been for years. I think they should be punished by whatever law there is for hate crime. This is as hate crime as it gets.

ROWLANDS: According to the law, if convicted, the couple could each face between three and nine months in jail.

Ted Rowlands, CNN, Seattle.


ZAHN: And a little bit earlier today we received a statement from Nicole Kirk (ph), the woman who was charged in that attack. She says she is not a racist and has never been one. Kirk (ph) also says she'll go into rehab for alcohol abuse.

Time for our "Out in the Open" panel now to weigh in. With me again, Steve Malzberg, Joseph Phillips and Jeff Johnson.

Welcome back.

So I think everybody out there would agree what this couple did was hateful, it was wrong, it was disgusting. But in your judgment, does it qualify as a hate crime? What is so hateful about calling someone un-American, Gandhi, Arabian?

PHILLIPS: Or call them Gandhi. And I think that I can testify that I've been called much worse than Gandhi.

But what I find really fascinating about this is here is a woman who is drunk beyond imagination, staggering around, using the most filthy language, cursing like a sailor, and yet she doesn't apologize for that. She wants everyone to know that she's not a racist. I may be a raving drunk and an ugly person, but I'm not a racist.

ZAHN: Is she off the hook on this whole issue -- "I'm going into rehab"?

JOHNSON: I don't give her off the hook. I think that alcohol sometimes is truth serum.

ZAHN: Of course.

JOHNSON: And that what came out during this rage was how she really felt. And so I -- I would disagree.

I think that -- I think that there's a fine line, clearly. But I think that when we're talking about intent -- and the intent of this attack was connected to this racism that I think existed there. And I think that -- I think we get in trouble when we continue to tell people that -- that in this country, there is tolerance.

PHILLIPS: No. This is where we get in trouble. One of the great freedoms that we have in America is freedom of conscience. We are allowed to believe in anything that we want, whether it's believe in god or not believe in god, whether we believe in some of the ugly things that this woman had to say, or we don't believe it. And we're allowed to say it.

When we get in trouble is when we begin putting people who behave like jerks in jail, because if we do that, the jails would be overflowing. We're allowed to be jerks in America.

MALZBERG: Hate crime legislation is misguided enough, but when you throw alcohol into the mix it really is -- you know, opens up a can of worms that I don't know where it falls. But here's the deal. Somebody murders someone in your family, god forbid. Well, as long as they don't say, "I did it because..." -- you know, "You darn woman," "You darn Jew," you darn whatever -- good thing they didn't say that, so it's not so bad.

So let's penalize them less. That makes it less of a crime, the murder, just because they didn't say you know, you dirty this, you dirty that.

That makes no sense.


ZAHN: Let me just ask you this. Let me just ask you this. If...

JOHNSON: This question is absurd, because at the end of the day we're saying not lessening the crime.

MALZBERG: You are.

JOHNSON: No, we're saying increase the crime when it's motivated...

MALZBERG: No, no, no, no. But if they don't -- how do you increase murder? Murder one, how do you increase that?

JOHNSON: Murder is not the only hate crime.


JOHNSON: And you're dealing with college campuses all over this country where men and women are being attacked based on who they are ethnically.

PHILLIPS: OK, fine. But in this instance...

JOHNSON: And that is where you increase the crime.

PHILLIPS: ... in this instance -- in this instance, the woman...

JOHNSON: Which was assault.

PHILLIPS: Exactly. The crime here was assault. The crime here was battery. The crime was public drunkenness and destruction of property.

JOHNSON: And it was exacerbated by her racism.

PHILLIPS: But that doesn't...

MALZBERG: No, no, no.

PHILLIPS: But what was the worst thing that she called him? Gandhi. She called him Gandhi.

Are we going -- you can't even keep a straight face.

ZAHN: Hang on one second.


ZAHN: Are you going to really tell me if you had been on duty and you were the owner of that shop that night and you were accosted and someone called you Moses...


ZAHN: You know, you obviously have said you were Jesus or Abraham, that would not -- that would not be punished as a hate crime?

MALZBERG: Well, punished to the fullest extent of the law, whether or not they called me Moses. They should be punished the same for what they did. Why should they be punished less for beating me the same way as long as they didn't say Moses?

In other words, you're not that bad. It's ridiculous.

PHILLIPS: My point is this -- it is not a crime to be a jerk. It is not a crime to hold racist thoughts. It is not a crime to say stupid things.

MALZBERG: There's a good one...

PHILLIPS: The crime is beating people in -- exactly.

MALZBERG: The guy who beat the old lady, if he said to her, "Dirty old woman. I hate old women," he'd be punished more than for what he did now?


MALZBERG: No. He should be punished the same.


JOHNSON: The bottom line is the most un-American thing that happened was not the fact that they were racists, but the fact that the attack was racially motivated.

PHILLIPS: It wasn't racially motivated. She went in there to get beer. When she wasn't allowed to purchase the beer...

JOHNSON: The sale was not motivated by racism, but the attack had racist undertones. And that's the point.

PHILLIPS: But what was the -- all right.

ZAHN: All right.

PHILLIPS: You know you can't even keep a straight face in this.

JOHNSON: My face is as straight as can be.

ZAHN: It's pretty straight.

PHILLIPS: You Gandhi.

JOHNSON: I'm not dealing with your historical ignorance.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Didn't Hillary say Gandhi owns a gas station down the street? I remember that joke Hillary made.

ZAHN: Oh, yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And now we're off and running into a whole other...

ZAHN: OK. I've got to go. I've got to move on.

Steve Malzberg, Joe Phillips, Jeff Johnson, thank you all.

I have another security camera video to show you. Steve was just talking about it. "Out in the Open" next, a mugger who is attacking a 101-year-old woman on her way to church.

Doesn't this make you guys sick? It's just disgusting to watch.

The question tonight is, why can't police find this guy?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Or how far under the jail they should put him once they do.

ZAHN: Yes. Well, I think we'd all agree on that, wouldn't we? That's where he belongs.

Also ahead, a shocking story of innocence stolen by a Catholic priest.


ZAHN: Before the break, we showed you a brutal crime caught on video in Seattle. Now we're bringing another surveillance tape "Out in the Open" that is causing a lot of outrage. I'm sure you'll feel the same way when you see it.

Police in New York released it over the weekend. It shows a man beating and robbing a 101-year-old woman. The cops say he did the same thing a short while later to an 85-year-old.

Tonight, the hunt is still on for the suspect, but as Carol Costello reports, the victims are getting praise for their courage and bravery.


CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Rose Morat, a spry 101 years old, is one amazing lady, fighting off a mugger one day, becoming the talk of the nation the next. On "The View" it was clear, Ms. Morat is America's latest lesson in courage.

ROSIE O'DONNELL, "THE VIEW": Rose, if you're watching this, we love and adore you. We want you to come and be a co-host.

Would you, Rose?

COSTELLO: Morat, now a minor star, is avoiding the media while millions marvel at her moxy. Take a look at the surveillance tape. Morat was on her way to church when a young man attacked her, punching her in the face, stealing her purse.

ROSE MORAT, ATTACKED BY MUGGER: I'm 101 years old. How are you going to run after a mugger?

COSTELLO: Instead, she reached for her purse, and the mugger knocked her off her walker.

MORAT: I got a little angry, you know. And I said, "Oh, that so and so. I hope you get caught."

COSTELLO: She was not the only victim that day. Police say the same man attacked 85-year-old Solange Elezee, who has Parkinson's Disease, as she came home from the grocery store. The mugger followed her to her apartment door.

SOLANGE ELEZEE, ATTACKED BY MUGGER: I'm closing my door, and he pushed me, closed the door, began to beat me on my face, give me -- oh. And then he say, "I'll get you."

COSTELLO: He got away with $45 and Elezee's wedding ring, one she'd worn for 60 years. It's the kind of thuggery that lights up the phones at the police station. The commissioner alone has received more than 1,000 calls. HELEN MARSHALL, QUEENS BOROUGH PRESIDENT: Every person that talks to me stops me and says, "Marshall, I wish I could get my hands on that guy. Pick on me. I'm his size." You know, that kind of thing. People are very outraged about it.

COSTELLO: So, take another look. If you know him, call New York City police.

Carol Costello, CNN, New York.


ZAHN: And please, call soon.

Rose suffered a fractured cheek bone. Solange, a split lip. They were lucky it wasn't -- no worse than that. Both were checked out at the hospital and both are home tonight.

Moving up on the top of the hour. "LARRY KING LIVE" coming up just about 13 minutes from now.

Hi, Larry. Who is going to be joining you tonight?


We have a great show coming up. One of my favorite people, Bill Maher.

They don't call him America's most controversial comic for nothing. He'll take on all the latest news.

We'll take viewer calls, too. Bill Maher, always welcomed, at the top of the hour, right after you.

ZAHN: I wonder if he'll make news with you tonight, Larry.

KING: He usually does.

ZAHN: He seems to have a way of getting in the newspapers. Give him our best.

KING: Dull, he isn't.

ZAHN: Dull, he is not. He's actually a very, very interesting guy to listen to.

See you at 9:00.

KING: Thanks, Paula.

ZAHN: Also coming up, my colleague Anderson Cooper is about to preview a special you're not going to want to miss. Tonight he is helping HEADLINE NEWS anchor Thomas Roberts bring a story of abuse by a Catholic priest "Out in the Open."

We'll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: I want to give you a heads up about a really important program on a little bit later tonight on CNN. At 10:00 p.m. Eastern, HEADLINE NEWS anchor Thomas Roberts opens up about the abuse he suffered as a boy at the hands of a Catholic priest. "Sins of the Father" is the focus of tonight's first hour of "ANDERSON COOPER 360," and Anderson is with me now to tell us a little bit more about this horrible journey Thomas Roberts has taken.

Now, this abuse happened 20 years ago, right?

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Right, when he was a teenager going to a school called Calvert Hall in Maryland. And, you know, we all heard abuse stories of priests, but rarely do we get such an in-depth look at one specific case and sort of the grooming that this Catholic priest engaged in with Thomas in order to basically get him into his home and begin this -- this history of abuse, which went on for years.

ZAHN: And in the process, build a sense, unfortunately, of trust with him.

COOPER: Absolutely. Trust, which was, of course, trust that was broken. And it all began when Thomas' family, his mother and father separated. Thomas was going through problems related to the separation and his mother thought, well, who better to turn to than the Catholic priest? We have a short clip.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I thought he needed a male influence. And who better, you know, than the Catholic priest, who's charming and kind and wonderful? You know? I wanted Thomas to be just like him.

COOPER: Who better?


THOMAS ROBERTS, CNN HEADLINE NEWS ANCHOR: That night, I remember getting dropped off at Father Jeff's house, and we began a conversation in his den, where he just started to ask, "What's going on with you?" And so he took a kind ear, you know, and listened to me.

I remember it was a conversation that I cried. I let Father Jeff know that my relationship with my parents wasn't where it should be. From this conversation forward, he pretty much knew that I was a kid without anybody, you know, to talk to.

COOPER (voice over): No one to talk to, except, of course, Father Jeff. After that first conversation, Thomas believed he finally had someone he could confide in. He trusted Father Jeff and continued to return to the priest's house on Cottage Lane.

(on camera): When you see the house, what do you think?

ROBERTS: I wish I'd never seen it. I wish I'd never seen this house.


ZAHN: That has to be so painful for him to share the story with an audience.

COOPER: Yes. It's really the first time that he has done this. And this is something which has been with him his entire life. I mean, since this abuse happened, he -- after he went away to college, he just tried to shut it out, tried to forget about it, move on. And what he found, of course, is that it's not something that you can move on from until you really deal with it.

And then he learned later on that, in fact, he wasn't the only young man abused by this priest. And so the -- the story really follows Thomas' journey throughout this, to the point where he's trying to seek justice against the Catholic priest.

ZAHN: And what happened to the priest?

COOPER: Well, the priest did -- did finally admit to the crimes that he committed and did serve time.

ZAHN: Against Thomas and the other men as well?

COOPER: Just against -- against Thomas. And he was given a five-year sentence. He only served some 18 months of that sentence. Actually, didn't even serve the entire 18 months.

ZAHN: Why?

COOPER: Well, that's the legal system. His confinement -- he was in a solitary confinement for his own safety, and his lawyer basically went before a judge and argued, you know, this is extreme confinement, this is, you know, unfair to the priest, and could he serve the rest of his sentence out at home? So he's -- he's in his home now, he's out of jail, and he's still amazingly -- he has not been defrocked. He's still a Catholic priest.

ZAHN: So how bitter is Thomas about this?

COOPER: Well, you know, I don't think he's bitter. You know, I think there's certainly a lot of anger, not only at this man, at Father Jeff Toohey, but at the way the church dealt with this over the years.

But I think, you know, for Thomas, this is really about getting to a place where this is not who he is. This is just something that happened to him as a young child. And he wants people to know about it, you know, because there are a lot of other people out there who have gone through this and have still to this day have not come forward.

ZAHN: What a raw, raw journey he's gone through.

Thank you. We look forward to seeing your special tonight. It's called "Sins of the Father." It airs at 10:00 p.m. Eastern Time here on CNN.

I think we can all learn a lot from it.

Right now, though, we're going to change our focus and take a quick "BizBreak."


ZAHN: Just minutes away from "LARRY KING LIVE". Tonight, outspoken comedian Bill Maher joins Larry, and he will take your calls coming up that top of the hour.

We'll be right back.


ZAHN: Coming up tomorrow, why is Rudy Giuliani considered America's mayor for his role in 9/11? Coming under fire from the heroes of 9/11. We will bring it all "Out in the Open" tomorrow night.

That's it for all of us here tonight. Thanks so much for dropping by. Hope you'll join us, same time, same place, tomorrow night.

Until then, have a great night.


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