Return to Transcripts main page

ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

Racial Injustice?; New Terror Tape; Cops Go Too Far?; By His Side

Aired September 20, 2007 - 23:00   ET

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


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: We start, though, with the march today. Thousands, some people say as many as 20,000 people, showed up in the small racially-charged town of Jena, Louisiana. It was triggered by a series of incidents at a deeply polarized high school -- black students meeting under a so-called whites-only tree, nooses later hanging from that tree, a black-on-white beating, and now charges that the white kids are getting off easy and the black kids are facing serious felony charges.
One of the suspects is due in court tomorrow.

CNN's David Mattingly is in Jena tonight with the latest on that and all the marchers as well.

David, good evening.

DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good evening, Soledad.

You can drive through the town of Jena tonight, something you couldn't do at all earlier today. State troopers believe that there may have been 15,000 to 20,000 marchers descending on this town. They started arriving before dawn. They absolutely filled up the streets here, walking around town. Caravans of buses blocked the roads leading into town, there were so many buses. Marchers leaving here very satisfied they did exactly what they came to do, call the eyes of the world to this town and to the prosecution of six young teenagers that they call the Jena Six.

They also are happy that they were able to leave without spending any money here while they were in Jena. They wanted to boycott the town as well. They left without spending a dime. But that might have been a hollow victory, because most of the businesses here in town were closed for the entire day. This town absolutely shut down while this demonstration was going on -- this very peaceful demonstration, I might add -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: David, we talked about that one student, Mychal Bell, who is going back to court tomorrow. What could happen there?

MATTINGLY: That has been a huge change of fortune for Mychal Bell. He's 17 years old, the last of the Jena Six to remain in jail. He will be back in court tomorrow.

Just hours ago, an appeals court here in Louisiana decided he needed to go back before a judge. That judge tomorrow will decide whether or not he can walk out of jail with a bond. And that is, again, a huge change of fortune, because, in the past few days, he had a very serious charge against him that he was convicted of, vacated by a higher court, and he could now possibly face some juvenile charges, much lesser charges than what he was convicted on.

So, again, the marchers feeling like they achieved some victory here today because of the coincidence of that decision from that appeals court -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Many people are going to be watching that tomorrow.

David Mattingly for us -- thanks, David.

You obviously cannot escape the fact that Jena, Louisiana, is in the South, the Deep South. And the Deep South has a history, of course, both of racial ugliness and of people saying that there wouldn't be any racial ugliness, except for outside agitators and reporters who are blowing the whole thing out of proportion.

But, even if you discount all of that, even if you could, there are some immediate facts to this story, facts to be weighed in court, but facts all the same.

We have got more on that tonight from Susan Roesgen.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SUSAN ROESGEN, CNN GULF COAST CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): At Jena High School, a small patch of dirt has become part of modern civil rights history. This is the spot where the trouble began.

Last year, a tree stood on this spot, a tree that had traditionally been a gathering place for white students. But, when black students challenged that, three white students hung nooses from the branches and were suspended. The incident divided the town.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was very offended, because that's a racial slur against us.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think a couple boys made a mistake, you know. I think it's all being blown out of proportion.

ROESGEN: Racial tension escalated, and, last December, a white student named Justin Barker was knocked unconscious and kicked as he lay on the floor. These are photographs of Barker's injuries taken by the police.

KELLI BARKER, MOTHER OF JUSTIN BARKER: Several lacerations on both sides. Both ears was kind of really damaged, and both eyes. His right eye was the worst. It had blood clots in it.

ROESGEN: Barker was taken to the hospital, but was released the same day and attended a school ceremony that night. Six black classmates were eventually arrested and initially charged with attempted murder.

In the last few weeks, the charges have been reduced to aggravated battery, but that's still a felony that carries a prison term of more than 20 years. One of the Jena Six, as they're called, told CNN he didn't even see what happened.

ROBERT BAILEY, ACCUSED: You know, like, when a fight break out, all the kids just run to see a fight. That's just how it was. And everybody was in one part. You really couldn't see nothing. So, when I'm running to see what's going on, I got down there, the fight was over.

ROESGEN: A state appeals court last week overturned the conviction of one of the six black teenagers, Mychal Bell, but Bell is still in jail, and the local District Attorney Reed Walters says he should stay there.

REED WALTERS, LASALLE PARISH DISTRICT ATTORNEY: He was the instigator of this attack. And, given his previous criminal history, I felt like that was the appropriate thing to do.

ROESGEN: The future for all of the Jena Six is still very much uncertain, with the teenagers still facing the possibility of years behind bars. And even one white family in Jena says that's wrong.

KRISTY BOYETTE, RESIDENT OF JENA, LOUISIANA: Because of the racist stuff that's going on here, we're not going to keep our children in the public schools here. So, we have bought a house, and we're moving.

ROESGEN: But others are determined to stay in a small town being torn apart.

Susan Roesgen, CNN, Jena, Louisiana.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

O'BRIEN: And that's the story up until now.

We're joined now by Donald Washington. He's the U.S. attorney for the Western District of Louisiana who reviewed the recent series of incidents and declined to make this a federal civil rights matter.

Thanks for joining us, sir. Appreciate your time.

There are many people, as you well know, in Jena and outside of Jena who believe that, in fact, the noose hangings and the beating of the white student are linked. And you have said, no, they're not. Why do you believe that?

DONALD WASHINGTON, U.S. ATTORNEY, WESTERN DISTRICT, LOUISIANA: Well, you say I say it. Actually, the Department of Justice says that.

And the reason we arrived at that conclusion is that, if you look across the -- the course of time, from August the 31st, when these nooses were hung, to December the 4th of 2006, a lot of things occurred. Lots of water flowed under the bridge, if you will, including a successful football season that at least makes it look like these kids enjoyed themselves together.

They had enough brotherhood, if you will, to play football and things of that sort. And what it really looks like is that, on that weekend, beginning on December the 1st of 2006, some things began to occur which sort of culminated into the incident on December the 4th.

O'BRIEN: The students, the white students, who hung the three nooses from the tree three months earlier, before the brawl, never faced charges. People would say, at the very least, that's intimidation and maybe a hate crime. Why didn't you think that was -- that was a hate crime?

WASHINGTON: Well, we certainly treated it as such. We felt that they -- that, when you hang a noose in a tree in this area of the world, in particular, you can at least infer the possibility that a hate crime has been committed.

However, we also look at who commits those crimes. In this particular case, they were 17-year-olds, and under federal law, you are a juvenile until you reach the age of 18. As a juvenile, you're accorded certain rights that others are perhaps not accorded if you -- and once you reach -- reach adult status.

But at 17, what we need under our processes in the federal system, is to see a juvenile who has a history of some type of violent crime and/or drug trafficking. And, if we see those kinds of things, then we may, in fact, move forward and propose to the federal court that they be treated as adults. In this particular case, there was none of that -- that kind of support to do that.

O'BRIEN: The principal wanted the white students expelled. And in fact what happened was they were suspended and it seems to have been just dismissed as a prank.

Then you look at the black kids, the so-called Jena Six now, they were arrested and charged with felonies. And, as you clearly know, sir, there's a sense that the white kids get a slap on the hand, and the black kids get the book thrown at them.

WASHINGTON: Well, in fact, the school system has a disciplinary program, if you will, where they appear to take these kinds of incidents very seriously.

Most incidents end up in their administrative disciplinary process, where the -- the principal makes a recommendation, which goes to a review committee, and then that review committee makes another recommendation to the superintendent. And in almost every instance, the superintendent accepts the recommendation of that committee.

And there are a number of those kind of incidents that go on through the course of a school year.

I think what the school looked at with this particular case on December the 4th was the quality of the violence that -- that was presented there. And, on top of that, of course, this particular student was unconscious. Medical authorities had to be called and things of that sort. And, so, you can expect that the law enforcement system may, in fact, get involved in those kinds of incidents.

O'BRIEN: He was unconscious, but he was taken to the hospital, then released, I think, three hours later, and actually showed up at a school event later that night.

When you look at, not only the injuries that we're seeing there on the tape there, but -- but the aftermath, do you think that justifies attempted murder charges against these young men?

WASHINGTON: Well, see, you're asking me a question, as a prosecutor, that I'm afraid I cannot answer. You know, every district attorney, every prosecutor, at the end of the day, has got to look into his heart and decide what he wants to charge in a particular case consistent with law...

O'BRIEN: And, if this were your case and...

WASHINGTON: ... and consistent with the...

O'BRIEN: ... and you were looking into your heart, would you say, yes, that's attempted murder, in my mind, or would you say, no, that was -- that was overcharged?

WASHINGTON: You know, Soledad, what I'm going to do is -- is sort of dodge that question in a sense, but not because I'm afraid to answer it.

What I want to say is that there are people who will disagree with what this district attorney has charged. And you can see that by the thousands that showed up here today. There are also people who would agree with what this district attorney charged in this particular case, and that is obviously not evident by -- by the folks who sort of stayed home today, if you will.

All I can say is that those kinds of charges could be under the bell curve of charges that a particular district attorney could bring based upon the allegations made in this particular case.

O'BRIEN: All right, I will take it. That was a dodge.

WASHINGTON: Whether that's right or not -- yes.

Whether that's right or not, you know, we have a judicial system in this state. And, when a prosecutor steps out of line, we expect the judicial system to correct that, the appellate courts, as well as the Louisiana Supreme Court, and, if necessary, to jump over into the federal system to fix that.

O'BRIEN: In other words, you're not going to tell us your personal opinion on it.

Donald Washington is the U.S. attorney for the Western District of Louisiana.

WASHINGTON: Thank you.

O'BRIEN: Thank you for your time this -- this evening. We appreciate it.

WASHINGTON: Thank you very much, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: And, certainly and sadly, racial incidents and protest marches are nothing new, but, in a very important way, this particular event is really the first of its kind.

Once again, here's CNN's David Mattingly.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You have got to move. Let's go.

MATTINGLY (voice-over): Before the streets clogged with people, before fleets of buses jammed the roads, news of the Jena Six was burning up the blogosphere, and a new generation of young activists was paying attention.

SHANELLE MATTHEWS, DEMONSTRATION GROUP LEADER: Yes, we missed class. We missed work. We skipped every obligation that we had to come down here and seek justice on behalf of the Jena Six.

MATTINGLY: To Shanelle Matthews and thousands of others online, it was an irresistible story of youth, claims of injustice and racism. It first caught the interest of a few select bloggers and quickly became a sensation, a viral story that turned into an epidemic.

JAMES RUCKER, COLOROFCHANGE.ORG: We saw, with our membership, you know, an e-mail go out that maybe 10,000 or 20,000 people read and took action on, and they spread that to over 200,000 people in a matter of weeks. So, that wouldn't have happened without the Internet; that's for sure.

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: No justice.

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: No peace.

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: No justice.

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: No peace.

MATTINGLY: Before the national media picked up on the story, Matthews was already spreading the word through her accounts at MySpace and Facebook. She began networking with fellow students at LSU.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's right. Tomorrow, big day.

MATTINGLY: And when national radio shows started promoting the march on Jena, Matthews rented two buses on her own; 110 young online activists joined the ride, bringing their own plats to tell the Jena story.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You have got a lot of powerful young kids that have a lot of ideas, that they need to get them out. MATTINGLY (on camera): Because of the Internet, this group of young people has a power that the generations before them didn't have. They're creating their own video, their own photographs, and writing about their own experiences to be sent out to the world. They have become their own media machine.

(voice-over): Everywhere we looked, we could see video rolling for potential podcasts. Digital cameras clicked away by the hundreds, capturing images that can resurface in blogs.

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: Free Jena Six!

MATTINGLY: And, for this group of young activists, the highlight of the march turned out to be a photo-op, a symbolic pose of defiance destined for the Internet on the spot where the tree used to stand that started it all.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MATTINGLY (on camera): Experts saying that this case here, this demonstration that we saw today, an example of a powerful message and a powerful medium working in tandem -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: David Mattingly for us tonight -- thank you, David.

For some facts now on the town itself, let's check the "Raw Data."

The Census Bureau says that 2,867 people live in Jena; 85.6 percent of the population is white; 12 percent is black. The median household income is $35,100.

Meantime, there's some breaking news tonight at the other end of the country in Alaska. The Republican Senator that they have had since Richard Nixon was president is now in hot water. He's on tape, an FBI tape, and that's not all.

The details on a developing corruption scandal, and also these stories:

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN (voice-over): New tape, another target. And he's acting like he's on a roll. See who bin Laden's gunning for now, and why it adds a chilling new dimension to the war on terror.

Later, the cop hits her with a taser again and again and again.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're going to walk to that car, or you're getting tasered again.

O'BRIEN: So, who's really out of control here, the woman or the cop? And what are the rules for pumping 50,000 volts into you and me?

When 360 continues.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: That is Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska. He's been in the news a lot lately, for all the wrong reasons.

Back in June, Stevens acknowledged that he was under scrutiny as part of a public corruption investigation. Then, July, FBI agents raided his house outside of Anchorage.

And, tonight, we have got some breaking news to report. We have learned that the FBI secretly taped phone calls between Stevens and a wealthy businessman, who happens to be the Senator's political patron. Here's where it kind of gets very juicy.

That businessman, Bill Allen, apparently sold his friend out after pleading guilty to bribery.

Joining us this evening, CNN's Joe Johns.

All right, Joe, what exactly can we say about this investigation into Stevens at this point?

JOE JOHNS, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Soledad, it's a remarkable situation, if you think about it. The idea of the government eavesdropping on the longest-serving Republican in the U.S. Senate.

A source with knowledge of the investigation does tell CNN and the Associated Press is reporting that the government has tape- recorded conversations between Senator Stevens and a disgraced oil executive who's already pleaded guilty to bribing Alaska state legislators.

But whatever the Senator may have said on the tape hasn't been made public. The former executive's name is Bill Allen. He used to run an oil field services company called VECO.

Allen is the government's star witness in a wide-ranging corruption probe involving a number of Alaska politicians. Stevens hasn't been charged with anything.

O'BRIEN: Why exactly is he the star witness?

JOHNS: Well, it helps to have a guy on the inside, and Allen is the guy on the inside.

In the trial of a former Alaska Statehouse Speaker, Allen said he and/or VECO helped remodel Senator Stevens' house in Girdwood, Alaska, and there's audiotape of Allen's testimony.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In helping Senator Ted Stevens remodel his house in Girdwood, you and/or VECO paid a number of bills that were involved in remodeling that residence; isn't that true?

BILL ALLEN, DEFENDANT: You know, if you say material, I -- I -- I gave Ted some old -- old furniture, but, you know, I don't think there was a lot of material. There was some labor.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, you -- there wasn't a lot of material, but you paid some labor bills that went into remodeling Senator Stevens' house?

ALLEN: Yes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JOHNS: So, it's clear the feds are looking at the house. They executed a search warrant there, and they have interviewed contractors who worked on it. But Stevens says he paid all the bills he received. There's no evidence of a quid pro quo, that Allen or VECO got anything in return from Stevens in exchange for any work on the house.

But legal observers say the alleged free services raise a lot of questions for the Senator. There's a potential IRS issue. There's also an illegal gratuity statute on the books. But, again, Senator Stevens denies wrongdoing and hasn't been charged with anything. His office declined to comment tonight.

His attorney, Brendan Sullivan, has not returned our calls -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: So, at the end of the day, Joe, you're saying it could all come down to that basic point, whether this company paid for work on the Senator's house?

JOHNS: Well, there's definitely a possibility of that, but this is, like I said, a wide-ranging investigation. There are a lot of other issues involved and to be considered.

We don't know what the United States Justice Department is looking at in this investigation, because, by nature, it's secret.

O'BRIEN: Yes. We don't know yet.

Joe Johns for us tonight -- thank you, Joe.

In Iowa tonight, several presidential candidates were meeting under one roof. Five of the Democratic hopefuls attended a forum that was sponsored by the AARP, the usual faces on hand, except for Barack Obama.

The candidates covered many topics, including the economy and health care.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN EDWARDS (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think her health care proposal is actually a very good health care proposal. It's very similar to mine, so it's very hard for me to be critical of it. (LAUGHTER)

(APPLAUSE)

EDWARDS: And I'm proud of the fact that, you know, six, seven months later, Senator Clinton came out with a plan that is very similar to mine.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN (D-DE), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don't question the integrity of a single person on this stage, but what's the record of being able to get folks in those red states to vote for this stuff?

Because, folks, think about it, there is no possibility of getting any one of our plans unless you get 15 or 20 percent of the Republicans to join us, unless you're going to give us 100 Democrats.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: And they weren't the only people in power or seeking power who were talking today.

CNN's Tom Foreman has more in tonight's "Raw Politics."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Republicans are trying to recapture their reputation as financial conservatives. And what better way than to attack Democratic spending?

(voice-over): Bring on the dancing socialists. President Bush says he will veto a deal to expand a health care insurance program for children. He supports the program, but says Dems want to make it needlessly bigger, taking millions of kids out of private insurance, and driving up your taxes.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I believe this is a step toward federalization of health care.

FOREMAN: The Dems say this is a necessary measure to help many families, and they are howling, especially Hillary Clinton, who is making her second at-bat on health care reform a cornerstone of her campaign.

Camp Clinton cannot be happy over the latest news about that former fundraiser Norman Hsu. Already picked up for fraud, he's now facing new charges of bilking investors out of $60 million in a scheme linked to fundraising. The Hill is giving back money he raised for her and insisting the scandal will not hurt her quest for the White house.

Meanwhile, she's slinging mud down Pennsylvania Avenue over what she clearly sees as administrative meddling in Congress.

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You can always tell when the Republicans are restless, because the vice president's motorcade pulls into the Capitol, and Darth Vader emerges.

(LAUGHTER)

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

FOREMAN: Vice President Cheney himself has joked about his image. So, his response...

(DARTH VADER BREATHING)

FOREMAN: And bulletins from farm country: The first Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns is quitting, going back to Nebraska to run for the Senate.

(on camera): And the second headline? We have a secretary of agriculture named Mike Johanns -- not a big newsmaker, that guy.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

O'BRIEN: "Raw Politics" is always fresh on the 360 daily podcast. To watch it and all the day's headlines, just go to CNN.com/AC360podcast, or download it from the iTunes store. It's great to exercise along with.

Here's John Roberts now with what's coming up tomorrow on "AMERICAN MORNING."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN ROBERTS, CO-HOST, "AMERICAN MORNING": Tomorrow, we bring you the most news in the morning, including a visit with a man once held like a prisoner when he was one of the sickest patients that you could imagine. He spent nearly a year in detention, before finally being treated, lost a lung, and yet his legal troubles are not over.

We will find out why on "AMERICAN MORNING, beginning at 6:00 a.m., Eastern.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: And coming up next on 360, a new tape from Osama bin Laden with a new target. Who al Qaeda is going after now and how it could be a game-changer in the global war on terror.

Also ahead, this: A police officer tasers a woman again and again and again, and it's all caught on tape. Did the cops go too far?

The story behind the dramatic video -- ahead on 360.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) O'BRIEN: Osama bin Laden is talking again. He released a new message today, the third message from al Qaeda this month. Now, this time, bin Laden called on Muslims to wage jihad against Pakistan's president, General Pervez Musharraf.

And here's a little bit of what he said.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

OSAMA BIN LADEN, AL QAEDA LEADER (through translator): When the American foreign minister, Powell, came to you, you cowered, bowed and submitted to him like a lowly slave. So, woe to you and away with you. It is obligatory on the Muslims in Pakistan to carry out jihad and fighting to remove Pervez, his government, his army, and those who help him.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: Al Qaeda has called for Musharraf's removal before, but today's message comes at an especially dicey time for Musharraf, who is facing a tough reelection fight -- Musharraf, of course, a key U.S. ally in the Middle East.

And those other messages from al Qaeda this month were all directed at Americans.

So what should we make of this virtual flood of communication?

Joining us tonight, Paul Cruickshank, the terrorism analyst at New York University Center on Law and Security.

Thanks for talking with us. Appreciate your time.

Realistically, a call like this by Osama bin Laden, al Qaeda, do you think it's effective or not?

PAUL CRUICKSHANK, NYU CENTER ON LAW AND SECURITY: I think that it will have some effect in Pakistan. Bin Laden is a inspirational figure for Pakistani jihadists. He's basically saying you either wage jihad against Musharraf or you're an infidel, so I think it will have an effect.

Ayman al-Zawahiri in 2003 released a tape where he said, I want Musharraf to be killed. In 2003 in December, there were two assassination attempts on the president of Pakistan. So al Qaeda tapes do have an effect here. That's for sure.

Now, the problem is that this might be sort of overreached by bin Laden in Pakistan because in this tape, for the first time, he's calling for attacks directly on the Pakistani military. And the Pakistani military is a very popular institution within Pakistan.

O'BRIEN: Generally or of late, we've heard Osama bin Laden rail against the U.S. and Americans. So why Pakistan now, and what's the import of that? Is the only message there for Pakistanis and Pakistan? CRUICKSHANK: Well, bin Laden has been interested in Pakistan for a long time, and he's probably there. He believes that President Musharraf, the leader of Pakistan, is an American stooge. He calls him a crusader slave.

So what bin Laden is doing here is he's calling for a toppling of the Pakistani regime. And so that's really what's going on here.

O'BRIEN: Bin Laden in this tape talks about Pakistan as a target. And really even specifically mentions nuclear weapons. If, in fact, there were even to be a minor attack or, relatively speaking, some kind of minor attack, how destabilizing could that actually be?

CRUICKSHANK: Well, it could be somewhat destabilizing, but al Qaeda are not about to topple the Pakistani military. The Pakistani military are just too strong for that.

Now, bin Laden did talk about nuclear weapons in this tape. When Pakistan announced it had nuclear weapons, bin Laden was sort of elated in the late '90s. Now he feels these nuclear weapons are wasted. They're in the hands of a U.S. ally. So that's why he's talking about them in this tape.

O'BRIEN: The third tape in a month as we mentioned. What do you think is the message in that fact alone?

CRUICKSHANK: I think the message is that al Qaeda very much back in business, that bin Laden feels comfortable enough to release all these tapes. A National Intelligence Estimate recently said that al Qaeda had very much reconstituted itself in the tribal areas.

Now, bin Laden mentions Waziristan a lot in this tape. You know, maybe that's a pointer that maybe he's in Waziristan.

But clearly they feel comfortable, clearly they feel they can now go on the offensive, whether that's in Pakistan or whether it's calling for an escalation of attacks against the United States, as bin Laden announced just before the sixth anniversary of 9/11.

O'BRIEN: Paul Cruickshank, terror analyst for us tonight. Thank you for talking with us. We appreciate it.

CRUICKSHANK: Good to be with you.

O'BRIEN: Thank you.

And we're following several other stories for you tonight, as well.

Joe Johns back with a 360 bulletin.

Hey, Joe.

JOHNS: Hey, Soledad.

Facing objections, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad says he won't push to visit New York's Ground Zero during his upcoming visit to the United Nations. His comments coming in a "60 Minutes" interview that airs on Sunday.

New York officials have denied his request to lay a wreath at the site, citing safety concerns, since construction crews are in the pit.

Cyclist Floyd Landis has decided to forfeit his 2006 Tour De France win after arbitrators have upheld the results of a doping test. Landis has repeatedly denied he used performing enhancing -- enhancing drugs and will attempt one last appeal.

And in Chattanooga, Tennessee, a corporate plane crashes into a shopping center parking lot. Amazingly, all four people on board survived, thanks to bystanders who helped them out of the wreckage -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Wow. That looks pretty bad.

All right. Joe Johns for us.

Thank you, Joe.

When we come back, yet another enduring mystery in the O.J. Simpson saga -- the woman in his life.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN (voice-over): She's no mystery to the media or the tabloids.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How's he holding up?

CHRISTIE PRODY, O.J. SIMPSON'S GIRLFRIEND: Very well.

O'BRIEN: He's O.J. Simpson. She's his girlfriend. She's left him once before, shown doubts about his innocence. So what's the mystery? Why she keeps coming back to him.

Later, the cop hits her with a taser again and again and again.

RICH KOVACH, POLICE OFFICER: You're going to walk to that car or you're getting tasered again.

O'BRIEN: So who's really out of control here, the woman or the cop? And what are the rules for pumping 50,000 volts into you and me? When 360 continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KOVACH: Get down! Get down! Get down! Down!

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (SCREAMS)

(END VIDEO CLIP) O'BRIEN: That woman you hear screaming is screaming because she's being tasered by a police officer in Ohio. The incident was caught on tape by a dash cam. It's now under investigation. I'm going to show you the tape now.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KOVACH: Get down! Get down! Get down!

O'BRIEN (voice-over): A woman tasered again and again and again. It is hard to watch, and some would say difficult to justify.

Standing over her, Patrolman Richard Kovach repeatedly tasers the woman while she crawls from the side of the car before slamming her head against the police car. Even then he doesn't stop jolting her with the device.

The woman, who was thrown out of a bar, was then handcuffed and placed in his cruiser. In the back seat, she can be seen trying to kick the window out. That's when Officer Kovach tasers her another time.

As she pleads for him to stop, Kovach gives her a warning. When more officers arrive, he removes her from the cruiser with one more threat.

KOVACH: You're going to walk to that car or you're getting tasered again.

O'BRIEN: Kovach tasers her one more time.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: That woman was taken by ambulance to a hospital, then later pleaded not guilty to the charges against her. Now, as for the officer, he's on paid administrative leave. We should note that, in the report that he filed -- he filed, rather, he says his taser misfired repeatedly during the incident.

This is the second time this week that the tasers are in the news.

And earlier I spoke to John McCrie of the John Jay College of Criminal Justice here in New York.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

O'BRIEN: So what do you think of the video?

JOHN MCCRIE, JOHN JAY COLLEGE OF CRIMINAL JUSTICE: Soledad, it's very distress -- it's very distressing, because the prisoner was handcuffed. She was confined. And the police officer shot her in short range and did it repeatedly. And as a result, she was injured and had to be hospitalized.

O'BRIEN: Are there basic rules about when you can taser people, like when you're handcuffed, it's not OK?

MCCRIE: Well, there may be some occasions when, even if a person is handcuffed, it's an acceptable procedure. But that certainly isn't usually the case.

If a person is threatening a police officer or threatening someone else or threatening his or her own life or about to do something dangerous, throw a bomb, for example, obviously, to use a taser in a circumstance like that is reasonable.

O'BRIEN: This clearly comes on the heels of the other well-known tasering case now, which is Andrew Meyer, the student who was at a rally. And he was a protester, a heckler, and he gets tasered.

Why do you think -- I mean, did you think that was clearly excessive use of force in your mind?

MCCRIE: That also was excessive use of force, yes. And police have long sought to have a non-lethal weapon, and this is the weapon of choice. They also have pepper spray, which they could use. It's of a lesser danger to use it.

And so they're just inclined to use it -- overuse it sometimes. But large police departments train better, select better and supervise better, so that events like the one we saw in Warren, Ohio, don't occur so often in big cities.

O'BRIEN: It seems like we're seeing more and more lately. Is that because of YouTube, and we just want to have more access to the videotape? Or is it because there actually are more incidents?

MCCRIE: Well, there are more tasers out there, for one thing, and there's the urgency of using them to see what will happen.

But all police officers are trained in using tasers before they're given them. They -- they have a session in the police academy...

O'BRIEN: Trained enough, do you think?

MCCRIE: Maybe not enough. They need to have sensitivity to it. They need to know that this is a non-lethal weapon, but sometimes it is lethal. If the person is thin, if the person is -- has skin exposed, if a person has a preexisting heart condition, if the person is on certain kinds of drugs, there can be death resulting from the taser.

O'BRIEN: There's another case. It's a family in Florida which, in fact, is now suing the police department. Woman, 56 years old, wheelchair bound, schizophrenic, holding a hammer and some knives. The police are called in.

MCCRIE: Yes.

O'BRIEN: And they taser her almost a dozen times.

MCCRIE: Yes.

O'BRIEN: And she dies.

MCCRIE: Yes.

O'BRIEN: Why would you ever taser a wheelchair-bound schizophrenic?

MCCRIE: Because you're not trained properly. You haven't been selected properly, and you haven't been supervised properly. It's absolutely unacceptable behavior on the part of the person holding the taser and using the taser to do so under those circumstances.

O'BRIEN: Well, we've seen in all the videotape that we've showed, the goal is to get someone to calm down, to comply.

MCCRIE: Yes.

O'BRIEN: You know, get out of the car, if you walk, otherwise I'm going to taser you. And you see her get out of the car, and she's starting to walk. Tasers her anyway. It seems to not really -- it goes against what you're trying to do, get the person to comply.

MCCRIE: What's happening in police academies these days is a lot of training in non-confrontational behavior, how to calm people down without using any kind of a weapon, giving them time, using soothing words, not being in your face kind of aggressiveness.

O'BRIEN: So the ones that we've seen on videotape in this lawsuit, as well, are those the exception, or are those the rule?

MCCRIE: Well, those are -- those are the exceptions, but as you point out, Soledad, there are too many exceptions.

O'BRIEN: Professor Robert McCrie from the John Jay College. Nice to see you. Thanks for talking with us. We appreciate it.

MCCRIE: Thank you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

O'BRIEN: Coming up next, you couldn't turn a TV on this week without seeing O.J. Simpson, but tonight we're going to tell you about the woman you didn't hear a lot about, his much younger girlfriend. She's been with him since the first trial. So who is she, and why is she still standing by her man? We've got some answers, 360 next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Tonight, O.J. Simpson is back in Florida, but he's not alone. A caravan of reporters and cameras are trying to track his every move.

Simpson arrived on a U.S. Airways jet from Las Vegas. He flew economy, we're told. He slept through the flight. Of course, he didn't leave his troubles behind. Simpson is charged with multiple felony counts stemming from an alleged armed robbery.

By now you've all been introduced to all about these players mixed up in the latest Simpson saga, but there's one other person you need to meet -- O.J. Simpson's girlfriend. She stood by his side for years, and she's not shy about sharing her opinions.

CNN's John Zarrella has more.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The woman in the sunglasses and red baseball cap tried keeping a low profile as she waited for the luggage at Ft. Lauderdale airport.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How is he holding up?

CHRISTIE PRODY, O.J. SIMPSON'S GIRLFRIEND: Very well.

ZARRELLA: That's not easy when, for more than a dozen years, you have been the woman nearly always seen with O.J. Simpson. That didn't change this week. Simpson's girlfriend, Christie Prody, stood by her man in court in Las Vegas and at his side on the trip back home to Miami.

STEVE DUNLEAVY, COLUMNIST, "NEW YORK POST": She was just resting her head on his shoulder. That's about it. So it was very uneventful.

ZARRELLA: Their lives together have been anything but uneventful. From Minnesota, Prody met Simpson in Los Angeles during his first trial. She's more than 20 years his junior.

By 1999, they were both living here in Miami. That year, a 911 call, placed by Simpson, from Prody's apartment.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Does anybody there need rescue?

O.J. SIMPSON, FORMER PROFESSIONAL FOOTBALL PLAYER: She's been doing drugs for two days with (EXPLETIVE DELETED), who just got arrested on cocaine, and I'm trying to get her to leave her house and go into rehab right now.

ZARRELLA: Police said the woman was Prody. From behind her door, Prody says she wasn't even there.

PRODY: The thing has been a total misunderstanding. This had nothing to do with O.J. and I. No problems between the two of us. This was a friend of ours.

SIMPSON: It had nothing to do with me, nothing to do with my girlfriend and me. So don't go there.

ZARRELLA: We tried to reach people who knew Simpson and Prody. Only one, Prody's uncle, would talk with us. On the phone he says, quote, "She's a good kid, a nice person. She keeps a low profile. She doesn't seek the limelight," end quote.

But the limelight finds her. In 2000, Prody is caught using Simpson's handicapped parking decal, and she's arrested on a bench warrant for driving with an expired license.

They had an on-again, off-again relationship. And during one of the off periods, Prody gives an interview to "The National Enquirer" about cocaine use and abortion saying, quote, "For years I could never admit that the man I loved could have killed his ex-wife in cold blood," end quote.

She adds, quote, "But I no longer believe in his innocence," end quote.

But she always ends up back with Simpson. Between 2000 and 2006, Miami-Dade police have responded to 11 incidents involving Prody, from a hotel altercation with Simpson to allegations she stole Percocet and Xanax from a neighbor. Charges were never pressed.

PRODY: I'm in shock, still in shock.

ZARRELLA: Prody was a victim, too, of a break-in at her apartment.

PRODY: It must have taken place sometime while I was out. I was with O.J. all night.

ZARRELLA: And now, while Simpson remains secluded, it's Christie Prody, forced into the spotlight to defend her man, whether she likes it or not.

John Zarrella, CNN, Miami.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

O'BRIEN: Still ahead, meet a man who's become a CNN hero by helping women make scarves. Of course, these are no ordinary scarves. And there's also something unique about the women. The story, when 360 continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Tonight's CNN hero is familiar to many of our viewers. In fact, a lot of you helped him raise nearly $20,000 so that he can expand his mission. His name is Matin Maulawizada and he's a world renowned makeup artist who's improving the lives of women in Afghanistan.

Now, he's -- what he's doing is making him a CNN hero.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And explain to me everything you want to explain. MATIN MAULAWIZADA, CNN HERO: Afghanistan offered me a lot and I wanted to bring a little something back.

It's a tiny project, but I wanted to really make sure to bring something.

Afghan women have survived years of war, years of suppression. Still, they do and they prevail.

So to me, that the strength of Afghan women are just remarkable and I wanted to work with them.

(BEGIN GRAPHIC)

In Kabul, Afghanistan there are an estimated 50,000 war widows.

Many need to support their families. Yet four out of five Afghan women cannot read or write.

(END GRAPHIC)

MAULAWIZADA: Widows in particular rely on the mercy of their families so they kind of become servants. And I wanted to kind of change that one person at a time if I could.

My entire point was to -- to make sure that widows and women be able to proudly work and be proud of their work and work outside their house. And provide well for their families.

It's just amazing. It sells itself really.

(BEGIN GRAPHIC)

Matin founded Afghan Hands which hires women to embroider shawls and scarves for sale abroad.

Women in the program make about 50 percent more than the average Afghani government official. And receive tutoring.

Source: Afghan Hands

(END GRAPHIC)

MAULAWIZADA: They read and write equivalent of fourth grader now.

Mentally, they're prepared to go to work. They know how to take measurements. They know how to do -- to write measurements. Once they learn enough, they -- they will basically be business women.

And look at the embroidery on this.

I'm hoping that I would send them to courses that they could actually manage a business, grow a business. My whole dream is for them to basically have the confidence to see the beautiful outfits that they're making and know that people are enjoying and appreciating them.

They are doing the work and all I am offering is basically an opportunity for them to show what they have.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

O'BRIEN: Log on to CNN.com/heroes to learn more about Matin Maulawizada and be sure to nominate a hero that you know, but hurry, entries have to be in by September 30.

Coming up next, more on the Jena protest, thousands filled the streets of a Louisiana town, claiming racial injustice. You weigh in. It's what's "On the Radar" when 360 continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Checking the 360 blog tonight, a lot of you talking about the Jena protest.

"On the Radar," Doug in Seattle, Washington, writes this: No matter how many rallies we hold, many of us will never know the day- to-day trauma and the pain of institutionalized racism that is always there. It exists for some in a vague way, but for others, it's a nightmare.

Jeff in Cincinnati, Ohio, says it is truly sad that people are still racially influenced. However, there is no way that anyone can justify an attack by six individuals on one individual no matter what color they may be.

And, an anonymous posting: As long as injustice exists, so will these marches. If we continue to close our eyes and pretend like racism does not exist the problems of this country and throughout the world will continue to exist. Enough is enough.

To weigh in on this or any other story, go to CNN.com/360. That's where you could also send us v-mail -- that's video mail.

That does it for tonight. I'm Soledad O'Brien, in for Anderson.

For our international viewers, "CNN TODAY" is next. Here in the States, "LARRY KING" is coming up.

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