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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

Florida Double Murder Investigation; Tracing Michelle's Roots; Jackson's Scarring Moment; Abuse of Public Funds?; Christians Targeted in Iraq

Aired July 15, 2009 - 23:00   ET

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


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight, we begin with breaking news: just moments ago, the sheriff from Pensacola, Florida announcing a new arrest in the brutal murders of Byrd and Melanie Billings at their home apparently during a robbery with nine of their kids in the house.

This woman, Pamela Long Wiggins -- first sought and then brought in for questioning -- now under arrest as an alleged accessory to the crime. We have details ahead.

Also ahead tonight, video -- seen for the first time -- of the accident, that sets Michael Jackson's hair on fire. Was it a turning point for him? Did it set him on a path to drug addiction and eventually death? New details on that and we'll show you the tape. It is frankly unbelievable.

Also, a powerful, emotional journey: 360 traces the roots of first lady, Michelle Obama, descendant of slaves and slave owners, back to her great, great grandfather in a rice plantation in South Carolina.

We begin, though, with breaking news.

Another shocker in the Florida double murder that has horrified the nation; the Escambia County Sheriff just minutes ago making the brief announcement. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SHERIFF DAVID MORGAN, ESCAMBIA COUNTY, FLORIDA: Tonight, we are taking into custody Miss Pamela Long Wiggins and she will be charged with accessory after the fact for felony murder. And again, tomorrow morning at 10:00 a.m. we'll hold a joint press conference with the state attorney's office and the Escambia County Sheriff's office. We will fill you in on the specifics of these charges and Miss Wiggins.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Pamela Long Wiggins. Authorities located her in Orange Beach, Alabama where she was apparently keeping a low profile. She'd allegedly rented property to one of the seven suspects in custody, six of them shown here because one is a juvenile.

Her tenant, the alleged ring leader Leonard Gonzalez Jr., a man with a dark past and a long record of criminal violence. We'll talk live with the sheriff in a moment.

But first: David Mattingly with more on the key suspect.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Watch the chilling video of masked intruders breaking into the home of Byrd and Melanie Billings, just minutes before their violent deaths.

And authorities say you will see Leonard Patrick Gonzalez Jr., the man who allegedly organized the apparently well-rehearsed and deadly attack. County authorities say this is the same man teaching children martial arts in a special program aimed at protecting kids from abduction.

LEONARD PATRICK GONZALEZ JR., MURDER SUSPECT: If they grab your wrist you...

MATTINGLY: We heard from a number of people who'd met Gonzalez. They say he made a great first impression. That's what Joann and Larry Gers thought, too.

JOANN GERS, FORMER LANDLORD: He just looked like a very confident young man but that was very honest.

MATTINGLY: The Gers say they rented their Gulf Breeze home to Gonzalez and his family in 2004 after Gonzalez claimed to have lost his family's home in hurricane Ivan.

Gonzalez, seen here with his family and his current MySpace page, even introduced someone as the county's top law officer to vouch for him. It turns out the couple says none of it was true.

GERS: They didn't even have a house of their own. They had no real estate in this area.

MATTINGLY: And the man who vouched for him wasn't a police chief or a sheriff at all. The Gers say they only recently learned it was actually his father, Leonard Patrick Gonzalez, Sr. who is now one of the co-defendants charged in the Billings double murder.

GERS: He had his father posing as the chief of police.

MATTINGLY (on camera): Leonard Gonzalez, Sr....

GERS: Right.

MATTINGLY: ...was posing as the chief of police?

GERS: Was posing as the chief of police and told us he was Wendell Hall and we believed him. He was sitting right down on the couch next to me.

MATTINGLY (voice-over): Gonzalez Jr. was articulate and seemingly credible in stating his innocence but not enough to get a county judge to lower his million dollar bond. GONZALEZ JR.: There is no hard evidence that links me to the scene of the crime that occurred July 9th. All I ask for is an opportunity to clear my name.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: David, Gonzalez Jr. had a previous criminal history including prison time. How was he able to fool the community so easily?

MATTINGLY: You saw how credible he was, how composed and articulate he was in laying out his case, saying that this case is built on circumstantial evidence, that he doesn't belong in prison.

But we know of at least 10 arrests, including one for some violent crimes, some robberies, some drug possession; so he has a long history on the wrong side of the law.

When someone asked the sheriff today what they thought about his remarks before the judge, the sheriff simply said, well, people in hell want ice water.

COOPER: All right. David Mattingly, I appreciate it.

David, Sheriff Morgan said it himself; the complexity of this case in his words is staggering.

We've been getting new developments almost hourly in the case yet, for every arrest, every news conference, every question answered, a new one seems to come up. Was robbery really the only motive?

What were the killers after? Why wasn't the Billings elaborate surveillance system disabled and what was in the safe that was stolen?

More now on what we know and still don't know, moment by moment from Ed Lavandera.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Thursday evening Byrd and Melanie Billings are at home with nine of their children; the time, approximately 7:00 P.M. Outside, a red van pulls into the end of the driveway; three individuals exit the vehicle and burst through the front door.

From the woods, more cross the lawn and enter through an unlocked utility door. They're inside the house for less than four minutes. Within that brief time span, the men confront Byrd and Melanie, several shots are fired at point blank range, both husband and wife now dead.

So what were they after?

BILL EDDINS, FLORIDA STATE ATTORNEY: I think the safest, easiest, clearest thing to say that the primary motive in this case is robbery; home invasion, robbery. LAVANDERA: But it doesn't seem that simple. Authorities say a medium-sized safe was taken from the home but won't reveal the contents of the safe including how much money may have been inside.

And as for any connection to narcotics, a federal law enforcement source tells us, quote, "This was not a drug hit. There's no connection we know of to the Mexican mafia. It appears to be money driven."

Another big question -- why didn't the killers disable the Billings' security system? The suspects allegedly planned the operation for weeks. Two had military training. Others were familiar with the property. How, then, could they let themselves be recorded on tape?

The answer, it seems, reveals the group's gaping mistake.

MORGAN: I believe that they entered that compound -- and this is the theory that we're currently working on to conclude this case -- they entered the compound with the belief that they were not under surveillance.

LAVANDERA: Sheriff Morgan said this crime was planned out to the smallest detail except they thought the system was off and it wasn't. What happened? Authorities believe the person assigned to the task abandoned the mission.

MORGAN: We are now looking at anyone that may have had an involvement with the security system, everyone from the company that installed it on back.

LAVANDERA: The final question, the future. With their parents gone, what will happen to the children? The family attorney says they're in a safe, undisclosed place and being well cared for. A trust has been set-up and the oldest daughter promises to keep the family intact.

ASHLEY MARKHAM, DAUGHTER OF MELANIE BILLINGS: I feel like my mother is working through me. She -- everything that I do I can feel her there with me. And if I have to be a matriarch, then that's what I'm prepared to do.

Whatever I need to do to keep our family together and keep these children happy and in their every day lives, I'm prepared to do it.

LAVANDERA: Ed Lavandera, CNN, Pensacola, Florida.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: There's still so many questions. We're going to put them directly to Sheriff Morgan who joins us next as well as asking the questions that you send in. We've made it simpler to do; just text them to AC360 or 22360.

Later, the Michael Jackson video you've never seen before. Images of that fiery moment filming the Pepsi commercial and the moments that followed when his hair caught fire and some say it marked the beginning of his dependence on high-powered painkillers.

The video and all of the latest from the Jackson investigation; the LAPD now confirming they are not calling it a homicide investigation. We'll have the details ahead. Stay tuned.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Continuing with our breaking news coverage in the brutal murders of Byrd and Melanie Billings in their home outside Pensacola, Florida during an outwardly clockwork, operation -- and chillingly so -- with robbery as the alleged motive, or an alleged motive.

Just a short time ago, Escambia County Sheriff David Morgan announcing the arrest of Pamela Long Wiggins, charged with accessory after the fact to murder.

Sheriff Morgan joins us now. Thanks for your time tonight.

You arrested a woman -- this woman, a local realtor, Pamela Long Wiggins an accessory after the fact. What was her involvement?

MORGAN: Well, she has had a long association with one of our primary suspects, Mr. Leonard Patrick Gonzalez Jr. And that was why she became the person of interest because of that long-term association as a landlord and through her realty company.

And she also was a very good family friend, transporting him and his wife and children around. And so that's how she became a person of interest.

We wanted to find out exactly what is that tie between the two of them and of course, she was with him -- we've developed up on through the day of the murder and so one thing led to another.

We will be holding a joint press conference tomorrow morning at 10:00 a.m. Central time...

COOPER: Right.

MORGAN: ...with the state attorney's office and he will release the specifics on that.

COOPER: Can you say if she turned herself in?

MORGAN: Yes, sir, she did. She was located in Orange Beach, Alabama, at a marina there. We put out earlier today what's called a BOLO or "be on the lookout" order and the Orange Beach PD received a call-in tip. And also I want to thank you, Mr. Cooper and your station.

You were one of the stations that published her photo and put it on the air. People are watching this newscast as well as others. And a maintenance man called the tip-in and so we managed to get to the Orange Beach PD down there. And she was held for us pending the arrival of our investigators and she complied -- I want to add.

She complied in coming back to Pensacola, Florida.

COOPER: You say there is a distinct possibility there are more people involved, who are out there. Do you know specifically who they are -- I mean, you've been talking about looking for somebody who may have had knowledge of the security system because it seems that those who were -- the accused in this case believed the security system was off. It didn't.

So maybe somebody was supposed to turn that off and did not fulfill that part of the mission. Is that correct? And do you know who that person might be?

MORGAN: That's true -- that's true, Anderson. We have -- at this time we've developed two persons of interest along those lines. And again, at this point in the investigation, it's something that we could share with the press, with the media, I should say.

And that, again, when you review this operation, the one gaping hole in this is why was that system left on? And we are of the opinion that they thought upon entering the Billings' compound, that in fact, the system had been disabled.

COOPER: Are you in touch with those persons of interest or are you searching it for them?

MORGAN: No, sir. Not at this time. We hope to begin the interviews of these persons of interest very shortly and hopefully within the next day or so.

COOPER: But you know where they are?

MORGAN: Yes, sir. We do.

COOPER: Ok.

MORGAN: Yes, sir, we do.

COOPER: Now, we've looked at some of Byrd Billings business documents filed with county courts. And they indicate an intention to shield his assets from taxes. Is it -- there are those who believed he may have been hiding cash in that safe.

A, can you confirm that? And B, was that what was taken from the safe?

MORGAN: No, sir. We cannot. And I want to state here and refocus for the public what we have done throughout this investigation. People need to understand that the focus of our investigation has been the murder of Byrd and Melanie Billings, specifically that.

Who are the perpetrators of this crime and we believe we've got the seven suspects that are involved this violent crime in custody today.

We are working on those folks now that worked on the periphery of this who may have had some involvement that aided and abetted in some way the commission of this felony.

We have not -- and I repeat -- not investigated any member of the Billings family for any crime nor have we even looked at that. We've received no complaints and at this point and juncture in this investigation, we have no reason to do that.

COOPER: In some interviews you've said that robbery was a motive, maybe it's just a syntax thing. You didn't say the motive. Are there other possible motives?

MORGAN: Yes, sir. We believe there are. And again, we're developing those in conjunction with the state attorney's office.

COOPER: There are other -- there's also the DEA had said that someone had -- from your office or from a law enforcement had contacted them for help in this investigation. You've said you did not do that. Do you have any knowledge of any other agency that contacted the DEA?

MORGAN: I believe, Mr. Cooper, there was some confusion in that. Last week we held a joint conference in my office, in my conference room where we brought in the bureau, the DEA, ATF, IRS, ICE, almost every federal investigative agency was there.

During the conduct of this investigation, one of the things that was intriguing to us and also very frustrating was the amount and volume of information that we had developed on other individuals, other crimes that may have been committed, et cetera.

And so I have both the legal and ethical responsibility to pass that information on to the appropriate agencies. Now, we have, in fact, briefed agencies along the way during the conduct of this investigation as a courtesy to keep them updated on our investigation.

I think somehow it was confused that the DEA somehow was involved in our investigation. And I want to state here that to the best of my knowledge as a Sheriff of Escambia County, they are not.

COOPER: Ok, we've been getting a lot of emails from viewers who are kind of scratching their heads and say, if these folks were out to rob this couple, A, why kill them? And also, why have this military operation?

We've got one question from a viewer from text 360, their question was why kill the parents if this was just a simple robbery? This is from Candace in Georgia.

MORGAN: Well, again, if you're not present at the crime scene, or not involved with the crime, you're not really sure what spins out of control. I can tell you that in law enforcement there's many things that start out as a simple street buy on drugs that turns violent very quickly and a death occurs.

So unless someone was actually in that home at the time of this robbery, you're only speculating as to why it devolved into a murder. COOPER: Finally, at this point, do you feel like you have your hands around the overall -- I mean, what happened and why it happened and at this point you're kind of trying to just put the pieces together. Or is there -- and has that information been released -- or do you feel like there's more to this story that the public has yet to learn?

MORGAN: There will be more to the story in Florida, sir, because we work with the prosecution at this stage in this case. We have basically deferred to the state attorney on the release of much of this information. But it will also come out at trial once the prosecution begins their case and of course, the defense also.

And so the elements that we can't speak to today will, of course, come out during the trial. But what I want to assure the public of is this; we have the seven individuals that entered the Billings' compound and committed this violent crime. They're in custody in the Escambia County jail today.

And again, we're working on those folks who may have had some peripheral involvement with this; who may have such as with the alarm system had a key component or element to play that chose not to but our community is safe from that perspective.

We do not have any violent offenders associated with this case that are still at large to the best of my knowledge.

COOPER: All right, Sheriff Morgan, it's been a long couple of days for you. And I appreciate your time tonight. Thank you very much, sir.

MORGAN: Thank you sir, it's an honor to be here.

COOPER: The conversation continues online. You can join the live chat right now at AC360.com. I'm about to log on myself.

Just ahead tonight: journeying through Michelle Obama's past and that of countless African-Americans. She's descended from both slave owners and slaves, as the president pointed out during the campaign.

Tonight, we'll show you the world of her great, great grandfather.

Also, the video behind the picture, that picture. Never shown before, the video of Michael Jackson, his hair on fire. Did his injury set in motion the chain of prescriptions and addictions that may have led to his death?

That and more, when we continue.

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Still ahead, big bonuses totaling more than $1 million not on Wall Street but for government secretaries in Texas. Their boss says they deserved it. But was it legal?

Gary Tuchman tonight is "Keeping them Honest."

But first, Tom Foreman joins us with the "360 Bulletin" -- Tom.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi Anderson, we begin with breaking news out of Michigan. A highway in suburban Detroit is shut down after a fiery crash. A police official told CNN affiliate WDIV that two tanker trucks crashed on Interstate 75 in Hazel Park that's just north of downtown sending flames and smoke shooting hundreds of feet into the air. Authorities believe the smoke could be toxic.

On the third day of her confirmation hearings, Supreme Court Nominee Sonia Sotomayor strongly asserted her adherence to the law while dodging questions about her personal beliefs. Sotomayor was questioned today by Republican and Democratic Senators including Al Franken. She faces one more day of questioning tomorrow.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says the United States is appalled by Iran's crackdown on protesters after its disputed political election but she says direct talks with the republic are still on the table for now. Secretary Clinton's remarks came during a wide-ranging speech on the administration's international policy priorities.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HILLARY CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE: The question is not whether our nation can or should lead but how it will lead in the 21st century. Rigid ideologies and old formulas don't apply. We need a new mindset about how America will use its power to safeguard our nation, expand shared prosperity and help more people in more places live up to their God-given potential.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FOREMAN: That's what the Secretary says.

And in Thailand, a fashion show that literally went to the dogs. Dogs strutted their stuff in fetching outfits from swimsuits to evening wear. The company hopes to sell these products to people who treat their pets as family members.

I don't know, Anderson. We think our dog is a family member but as a reward I would not make her wear one of those.

COOPER: That looks to more like a punishment in some cases.

FOREMAN: Exactly, Anderson.

COOPER: All right, Tom thanks.

Another reminder. Let us know what you think. Join the live chat happening now at AC360.com. I finally logged on right now, just posted another comment. Still ahead, tracing the first lady's roots, Michelle Obama, graduate of Princeton, Harvard University and as the president pointed out, descendant of slaves. What we learned about her family history, we'll show you.

Also ahead, never before seen video of the accident that some say might have triggered Michael Jackson's alleged drug addiction. See what happened after his hair caught on fire, during that infamous Pepsi commercial. The video is just -- it's stunning if you haven't seen it, coming up on 360.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: We promised a report last night during our coverage of President Obama's trip to Ghana, exploring the First Lady's ancestry. Technical difficulties prevented it. We fixed the problem tonight, I hope. And in any case, the report we think is too fascinating not to air, even if it is a little bit late.

Now, I want to set the stage though, a little bit. First, by playing a portion of my interview with the President -- just a snippet -- at the Cape Coast Castle which is really a haunting place where countless numbers of enslaved Africans were killed and even more held before being sent-off on slave ships to America and the rest of the New World.

Mr. Obama talking about his wife's heritage and her reaction to the visit.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: That's something you referenced actually during the campaign in your speech on race about your own life, about Mrs. Obama, you said that she has the blood of slaves...

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Right.

COOPER: ...and also slave owners.

OBAMA: Right.

COOPER: How did she respond to being here today?

OBAMA: You know, I haven't had a chance to process it yet. I think we were both listening and talking to the children but I -- I can't imagine that for her, for her mother who's with us, our children's godmother who's with us, all of whom are direct descendants of slaves that seeing that portal doesn't send a powerful message.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Well, we don't know exactly where Michelle Obama's ancestors came from. Only that her great, great grandfather was enslaved on a huge rice plantation not far from Charleston, South Carolina.

Joe Johns picks up the story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Humid, wet, mosquito- infested, overgrown; it was a sprawling South Carolina rice plantation in the 1800s. This is where Michelle Obama's family believes her great, great grandfather Jim Robinson spent his life and where he toiled in the relentless Carolina sun.

It's called Friendfield Plantation but these fields would hardly have been a friend to Michelle Obama's great, great grandfather or to the other 350 slaves here. It was a hard life. Farming rice was back breaking, alligators, snakes and swamp fever everywhere, sun up to sun down, six days a week.

Historian Toni Carrier...

TONI CARRIER, LOWCOUNTRY AFRICANA: It was a terrible labor regime. It was that slavery itself was oppressive and it's left a very deep wound in our society because it's so unpleasant.

JOHNS: Slaves here likely spoke their own dialect and grew their own food. Typically, most had roots in the rice-growing countries of West Africa.

Today, this is what's left. It was called Slave Street. Their cabins whitewashed, bare bones, no plumbing, one or two families in a cabin.

ED CARTER, PROPERTY MANAGER: Shall we go in?

JOHNS: Ed Carter manages the plantation property. He's been here 20 years.

(on camera): So this is it, huh?

CARTER: Yes. This is the inside of the cabin. It would have had a fireplace instead of a stove there at one time. That was covered in. But the walls have been redone.

JOHNS: There's not a lot of change in here. So the rice plantations would have been back here?

CARTER: Right. When you come through the back door, these trees that are here would not have probably been here and it goes right on back to the water line which is where the rice field starts at.

JOHNS (voice-over): The original master's mansion burned down and was rebuilt in the 1930s. Old census records show Michelle Obama's great, great grandfather was born about 1850. His parents were born in South Carolina, too.

Jim Robinson married a woman named Louisa and had several children. Neither he nor his wife could read or write. In fact, they would be the last generation of the Robinson family born into slavery and the last illiterate generation. (on camera): Michelle Obama's great, great grandfather was born a slave but died a free man. He still came back to the plantation, though, and is buried here in all likelihood with his parents and many other relatives. You won't find his grave, though. Most of the graves out here are unmarked.

CARTER: There're about seven or eight marked tombstones and the rest of them are just impressions in the ground where you can see they're buried at. And most of the time when people back then couldn't afford a cement stone; they would do it out of wood or cypress.

JOHNS: That's what we know about Michelle Obama's ties to the Robinson family of Georgetown, South Carolina. But there's a lot we don't know. We don't know how many generations of slaves there were or what route they took to this hemisphere in the first place.

(voice-over): A research group Lowcountry Africana traced the First Lady's family history in the U.S. but could not make the link back to Africa.

CARRIER: That would take a lot of time to do and certainly not a shred of documentary evidence right now which would even suggest to us what the African origins would be.

JOHNS: In Georgetown, Margretta Knox attended this church with Michelle's grandparents, Jim Robinson's grandson and his wife but the family ties to the old plantation kind of got lost.

MAGRETTA KNOX, GEORGETOWN RESIDENT: Been around all of your life so you just don't even -- you minded (ph) -- it doesn't cross your mind. You're just living for today, I guess.

JOHNS: And in that way, it probably never crossed Jim Robinson's mind that one day his great, great granddaughter, too, would be living in a White House so very different from his own.

Joe Johns, CNN, Georgetown, South Carolina.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: A White House built in part by slaves. You can watch my entire interview with President Obama and our exclusive walk-and-talk through the Cape Coast Castle on our Web site right now at AC360.com.

While we were in Ghana with President Obama over the weekend, we looked at the increasing number of African-Americans who visit Ghana and some who have decided to move there.

They say it's a place for them to reconnect with their heritage. And for many happened to their ancestors at the Cape Coast Castle is still vivid, still so raw. Tomorrow you'll see my full story but here's a preview of a conversation with a woman named Imahkus Okofu who now makes Ghana her home.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) COOPER: What about the experience of being in that room made you want to live here?

IMAHKUS OKOFU, MADE GHANA HER HOME: I don't know. It was something that just came over me. That when I -- after I'd gone through that experience and after I had felt my ancestors, I felt -- I felt as though people were -- I felt as though people were putting their arms around me.

They were comforting me. They made known that this was my place. And that I had a responsibility in being here. And that I belonged here. That's what it says, "you belong here."

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: You can see the full report tomorrow on 360.

Over the weekend we are running an hour special, "PRESIDENT OBAMA'S AFRICAN JOURNEY" at -- I think it's 8:00 p.m. and also 11:00 p.m. repeated Saturday and Sunday night with more stories like that.

Still ahead: a Texas lawyer giving his secretaries six-figure bonuses; government secretaries. Is he just a generous boss or is he stealing from the public to pay his private payroll? We're keeping them honest.

Never-before seen video of the accident that may have changed Michael Jackson's life forever. See what happened after his hair caught fire during the taping of that 1984 Pepsi commercial. Incredible images -- the video you will see for yourself coming up on 360.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: As the investigation into Michael Jackson's death continues, so does the speculation about his addiction to painkillers. Tonight for the first time, we are seeing what that -- where that addiction may have begun.

Video obtained by "US Weekly" of the 1984 Pepsi commercial that went horribly wrong. It was the sixth take and the pyrotechnics went off early, causing sparks to hit Jackson's hair and explode into flames. Take a look.

At the time, he doesn't seem to notice, keeps dancing; his hair on fire for more than 10 seconds. Finally, crew members rush in, tackle Jackson to the ground, put out the fire. It is a chaotic scene. The security detail quickly surrounds him, everyone.

Finally, someone lifts him from the floor. You can see the second and third degree burns on his scalp and then he is taken off to a hospital.

Joining us now: Jackson's former publicist, Stuart Backerman; and CNN senior analyst, Jeffrey Toobin. So Stuart you say this moment really did change things for Michael Jackson. How so? STUART BACKERMAN, MICHAEL JACKSON'S FORMER PUBLICIST: I truly believe that. It was a seminal moment in his life, really, because that Pepsi commercial created such a painful situation, obviously. As his scalp was scalded, he couldn't grow his own hair. He had to wear wigs after that but the most important part of that was that he was prescribed Demerol to mitigate the pain.

COOPER: Right. He has publicly said that he became addicted to painkillers to soothe the pain from that.

BACKERMAN: That's right. I mean, when you think about it, as we just witnessed he had a fire on his head in essence and like I mentioned his scalp was scalded badly and he was in deep pain. And so initially his prescription drug situation started out in a very innocent way in a sense by virtue of him trying to mitigate that deep pain that he had.

COOPER: When you were representing him, how important was his physical image to him? I mean, clearly he must have thought a lot about it because of the surgeries he underwent.

BACKERMAN: Oh, it was really important to him, how he looked. I mean, as a celebrity and as a person who unfortunately wasn't really secure in his own skin, nonetheless, you know, he felt that he had to look good. And so his visual image was very important to him.

COOPER: Jeff, seeing this video for the first time, you have covered...

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: I was just astonished but, you know, this is true, that when you talk to people about Michael Jackson, this event was considered the biggest event of his adult life. The implications of it, not just physically, but emotionally, and his life really did change after that.

COOPER: Do we know how?

TOOBIN: Well, it just -- he became more withdrawn, more paranoid, more isolated from other people. And physically, this was something that, you know, did not heal quickly or well or totally. And it just scarred him in every sense of the word for the rest of his life.

COOPER: What do you make of the -- the LAPD has now come forward, Jeff, and said this is not a homicide investigation or we are not considering this a homicide investigation?

TOOBIN: I never understood why anyone was talking about this in terms of a homicide anyway. If you define homicide in the traditional way of some sort of intentional killing, this doesn't seem like anyone tried to kill Michael Jackson.

Sure, LaToya was talking about it but, you know, LaToya often doesn't make a lot of sense. There's no one who had any access to him who seemed to want him dead. You know, maybe the doctors didn't treat him as well as they should have. They should have done something else but the idea that someone killed Michael Jackson always seemed preposterous to me.

COOPER: If someone mis-prescribed medication or oversaw the administering of medication that he should not have been receiving, they could be up on charges.

TOOBIN: They could be civilly charged -- there could be a civil lawsuit for malpractice. There could be medical disciplinary proceedings.

The idea that you could criminally prosecute someone even for manslaughter for giving drugs to someone who himself had tremendous access to drugs...

COOPER: But if somebody overseeing the, you know, IV use of Diprivan, isn't that criminal?

TOOBIN: You know, I think you would have to know the circumstances. If you had, say, an individual who demanded Diprivan, who said I have used it in the past, who showed you records that he used it in the past, I mean, you just don't know what the circumstances are. This does not seem like a criminal case to me. And the LAPD, which by the way has a record not so great in celebrity cases, they might want to stay away from a criminal case unless they really think they have it dead rights but I don't think they would in these circumstances.

COOPR: Stuart, given your experiences in working with Jackson, I don't know how many interactions you had with the family, does it surprise -- I guess, it shouldn't surprise many people but I'm going to ask the question anyway. Latoya is getting paid for an interview, with a British tabloid. Joe Jackson's receiving, I guess, $200,000 from ABC allegedly for the use of video. But also an interview went along with it.

It does seem like people are kind of making money off of this.

BACKERMAN: Well, it doesn't surprise me to tell you the truth. I remember a time we were in Las Vegas and Michael called me to say that Joe Jackson was on the way with a videographer who wanted to sell a documentary to a network. And he told me, "It's all right. You can tell my father to come up to the Mirage where I was staying, but between you and me, Stuart, I'm not going to be there."

Michael didn't want to play that game anymore. He wanted to avoid his father because he knew his father was in essence using him as a prop to, you know, procure, acquire moneys for -- at Michael's expense basically to Joe Jackson's benefit. I'm sorry to say that but that's the truth.

COOPER: Stuart Backerman, appreciate you coming on again. Jeff Toobin as well; thank you very much.

There's much more on Michael Jackson and his family on AC360.com right now including an in-depth look at Michael's parents, their relationship with each other and with their son. More details on that.

Next, dramatic developments in a story we've been following: a former Texas D.A. using money seized from crime suspects to pay his secretaries' massive bonuses. Did he go too far? We're "Keeping Them Honest."

And shark attack survivors headed to Capitol Hill today but their mission may surprise you. Specifically, which side they're taking when it comes to humans and sharks. Details on that, ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Did a former district attorney in Texas use public funds as his own private piggy bank? It is a story we broke and tonight new details and new surprises. Now, we want to be clear about one thing: in Texas and in several other states, it is legal for police to spend money seized from crime suspects. But in this case, did this D.A. go too far?

As you'll see he used the cash to pay his secretaries to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars. Gary Tuchman tonight is "Keeping Them Honest."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Joe Frank Garza was a district attorney in south Texas who gave his secretaries shockingly large bonuses. He says he had good reason to write them checks totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars.

JOE FRANK GARZA, FORMER DISTRICT ATTORNEY, JIM WELLS COUNTY, TEXAS: They were my eyes and ears in the community.

TUCHMAN: Over a five-year period, Garza wrote the three women checks worth more than $1.1 million because he says they were loyal and exceptional workers. The money came from a so-called forfeiture fund.

Certain people suspected of serious crimes must forfeit cash and valuables to the state. Many states including Texas allow police and DAs to spend the money so law enforcement can benefit from such arrests. But DAs are only supposed to spend this money on, quote, "official purposes."

Armando Barrera is the current district attorney of the county who beat Garza this past Election Day.

ARMANDO BARRERA, CURRENT DISTRICT ATTORNEY, JIM WELLS COUNTY, TEXAS: Most of the money that was used by him was for three secretaries.

TUCHMAN (on camera): Most of this forfeiture money?

BARRERA: Most of it. TUCHAM (voice-over): CNN has received a report from an auditor hired by the county which indicates that's correct; that more than half of the forfeiture money went to the secretaries. The report's saying between 2004 and 2008, the former D.A. wrote one secretary checks totaling $380,000; another $378,000; a third $376,000.

As for Garza, he also wrote himself $81,000 worth of checks according to the report, which he says were for expenses.

Look at the checks for just 2007. One secretary received an extra $103,000; another $108,000; the third, $98,000. County officials say these secretaries received base annual salaries around $35,000 a year. When we met the former D.A. two months ago, he acknowledged paying these women a lot of extra money.

GARZA: I saw nothing wrong with it.

TUCHMAN: Remember, the law says the D.A. must spend forfeiture money for official purposes only but Garza says that's not as clear cut as it sounds.

GARZA: There's no definition. Nobody can tell you what an official purpose is.

TUCHMAN: In a written statement to CNN following the release of this report, the former D.A. said, "There is no question that the operation of the D.A.'s office depends on an effective and competent staff. The whole purpose of paying the salaries that I did was the achievement of getting such a staff. This is an official purpose of the D.A.'s office."

We've been provided 1099 forms showing the secretaries did report income to the IRS. CNN's repeated attempts to interview the three women were unsuccessful. Garza says he has talked to them about our report and that none of them want to talk to us.

He says this audit was a witch hunt that was politically- motivated. The new D.A. and the auditor deny that and the D.A. says he has sent this audit to the Texas attorney general's office to investigate these huge paydays for the three secretaries.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: So how did the D.A. pay these women and was there a regular schedule for these additional paychecks?

TUCHMAN: Well, Anderson, Mr. Garza spent a lot of time writing checks. In 2005 alone, we counted the number of checks he wrote to these three women. More than 300 checks, 100 checks to each of these women roughly. That's about one check every three or four days.

And I asked him, reasonable people might think maybe he didn't want to write a few checks with a huge amount, rather he would like to write smaller checks more times. I said, why did you write so many checks? He said, "Well, it depended on the account. If there was a lot of money in the forfeiture account, I'd write checks. If there wasn't, I wouldn't write a lot of checks."

But it is fair to say that this man is in a county where a lot of people, a lot of members of the public are very shocked and surprised by what they're learning from us and other members of the local news media there.

COOPER: It is stunning. Gary Tuchman did it again. Gary thank you.

Next, coming up, the story about churches under attack: CNN's Michael Ware taking us inside a renewed wave of violence targeting Christians in Iraq; extremists ratcheting up their efforts to drive out what's left of the Christian minority.

And an unlikely defense team, shark attack victims lobbying Congress in support of sharks. We'll tell you why.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Tonight, a fresh reminder of the uncertainty and bloodshed in Iraq. Bombings in Baghdad and Ramadi today killed at least 12 Iraqis and as you know in recent weeks, the uptick in violence has also included a renewed wave of attacks on Christians.

They're being marked for death; the killer sending a message to the faithful. Michael Ware has more in tonight's "360 Dispatch."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MICHAEL WARE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A church bombed in Baghdad. One of six struck by Islamic militants in less than 24 hours. Here, in Catholic Bishop Warduni's rectory, his curtains shredded by shrapnel from a car bomb; part of long-running campaign of attacks with a single, clear message from the extremists. Christians are not welcome in Iraq.

Attacks that began not under Saddam Hussein regime, but only after the U.S. invasion.

BISHOP SHLEMON WARDUNI, CHURCH WAS BOMBED: This is a question just attack the church. Why? We don't know. So all this sudden actions against Christians; sure, it will be not so easy for Christians.

WARE (on camera): On Sunday evening, dozens and dozens of Iraqi families fill these chairs here in the Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Baghdad. They come for 5:00 p.m. mass as they do every week. When mass finished, they came out here into this court yard.

This church is protected by Iraqi checkpoint; the closest one just outside there on the corner. When the car detonated, two young men had just stepped outside to collect their cars and take their families home. Those two men lost their lives and according to the Iraqi government so did two others from the Muslim family living nearby. And among the congregation, the church says at least 25 people were wounded.

(voice-over): Attacks virtually certain to continue.

WARDUNI: They are almost doing against us. We have no job. We have no security.

WARE: With U.S. troops now restricted to bases outside of Iraq cities, able to operate only at the invitation of the Iraqi government, the security the bishop seeks must now come from the Iraqi security forces.

Those forces are being trained by Americans led by this man, Lieutenant General Frank Helmick and the general says these church bombings shouldn't be taken as an indication of how the Iraqis are fairing.

LT. GEN. FRANK HELMICK, COMMANDER, MNSTC-IRAQ: Our combat forces have just left the city. It's been two weeks, if you will. So again, these, quote, "attacks," these high profile attacks are not unexpected at all.

WARE: In the end, there will be one true measure of success, how well the Iraqi forces can protect Iraqis.

HELMICK: In some cases, they are reverting back to the Iraqi way but that's not the wrong way. It's the Iraqi way. And what our goal is and our mission is to leave a credible security force in this country to provide the protection for the Iraqi people. So the Western way may not be the right way for the Iraqi military.

WARE (on camera): No one knows the exact figure but most agree that at the time of the U.S.-led invasion, Iraq's Christian community was about a million strong. Now, almost seven years later, most believe there's only a few hundred thousand left.

After years of sustained attacks on their communities by Muslim militant extremists, a witness to another recent attack on a church here in Baghdad said that if this continues there will be no Christians left in this country.

WARDUNI: I, for myself, I will stay here until the last drop of my blood.

WARE (voice-over): Courage he will need for the fate of Iraq's remaining Christians and their churches will be one of many barometers of the new Iraq's success or failure.

Michael Ware, CNN, Baghdad.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Let's check on the other stories following right now.

Tom Foreman joins us with another "360 Bulletin" -- Tom.

FOREMAN: Hi, Anderson, a Russian-made airliner carrying 168 people crashed in northwestern Iran today killing everyone onboard. Among the passengers: 10 members of the country's youth judo team. Some witnesses say the plane caught fire before crashing into a field creating a huge crater. The plane's flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder have both been found.

After more than a month's delay, the space shuttle "Endeavour" is on its way to the International Space Station; a beautiful launch this afternoon. Seven astronauts on board are bringing equipment to Japan's space station science lab. They will reach the space station on Friday.

Strange allies on Capitol Hill; nearly a dozen shark attack victims urging Congress to protect the animals that hurt them. The group wants to strengthen laws protecting sharks from finning. The growing market for fin meat which is a popular ingredient in a soup delicacy in Asia threatens many shark species around the world.

Smokers know that cigarettes are not cheap but wait until you hear this. This New Hampshire man says he swiped the debit card at a gas station to buy a pack and was charged more than $23 quadrillion dollars. He says he went online to check his balance and saw the 17- digit charge and to add insult to injury, a $15 overdraft fee.

COOPER: Wow.

FOREMAN: And just to get an idea here, Anderson, of what his bill looked like, here's the number; $23,148,855,308,184,500. Luckily he called his bank, Anderson, and they fixed it.

COOPER: They believed him, luckily.

FOREMAN: Yes, that is quite a bill there.

COOPER: I was once charged a googolplex for a beer. Do you remember a googolplex? Kindergarten number. Googolplex, googolplex and one.

FOREMAN: Yes, you had those giant numbers when you were kids. They weren't real numbers, you just made them up.

COOPER: Right. All right, Tom.

Up next, a debate -- a debate you can dance to. Take a few lawmakers, a bill, add a little music and what do you get? It's our "Shot of the Day" coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Tom, for "The Shot," making laws and getting down. A couple of guys created something called "Auto Tune the News" buy adding a drumbeat, bass line and a little electronic mix to the vocals. Or electronomix -- I'm not sure what that is.

They've made the debate over the climate bill fun to watch. Check it out.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just remember these four words of what this legislation means jobs, jobs, jobs and jobs. Let's vote for jobs. And jobs. Those in favor say aye. Those opposed no.

Vote no vote no. The fight that we have between the two sides comes down to one word, freedom, freedom, freedom. Freedom to allow the American people to live their lives. Let's allow America to flourish and freedom to flourish (END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: I love that.

FOREMAN: That's great. Like more cow belle, huh?

COOPER: I know. Boehner should get a record deal from that.

FOREMAN: That was good. We should do that every night.

COOPER: That's right. We should.

FOREMAN: That would certainly simplify our coverage for about 30 seconds.

COOPER: It's from autotunethenews.com if you want to check it out online. Pretty cool stuff.

Tom, thank very much for your help tonight. Appreciate it.

You can see the most recent shots at our Web site AC360 and also the "Beat 360" which we didn't have time for tonight. It will be on the Web site a little bit later.

That does it for 360. Thanks for watching.

"LARRY KING" starts now.

I'll see you tomorrow night.