Wednesday, March 23, 2005

'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for March 23

Guest: Jay Wolfson, Glenn McGee, Michael Musto, Vanessa Morrisset, Linette Stewart, Steven Gildin


KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST (voice-over): Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?

In Georgia, the federal appeals court votes 10-2 against reinserting Terri Schiavo's feeding tube. But in Florida, Governor Bush introducing another opinion from another new doctor and seeking another new law to overrule all the other laws.

And in Texas, President Bush says the government is done all it could.

The story behind the story. Who is paying for the endless lawsuits on behalf of the woman's parents? The answer may surprise you.

The marriage made in tabloid heaven. Michael Jackson working for Donald Trump?


OLBERMANN: And scratch off. The newspaper promotional game disaster. This one will turn into a class action suit against the paper. You may be a winner but probably not.

All that and more now on Countdown.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We really want our money. I'll never buy "Daily News" again.


OLBERMANN: Good evening.

Tonight, as the latest set of judges agrees with all the other judges that the law is clear and the feeding tube for Terri Schiavo cannot be reconnected. Tonight, as the politicians say that the laws must be changed, this minute after 15 years, to overrule the judges. Tonight, as the Schiavo case continues to spiral upwards, our fifth story on the Countdown, the closest thing, perhaps, to a neutral voice, the former court appointed guardian for Terri Schiavo, Jay Wolfson. He will join us in a moment.

And we will also ask, who is paying for the seemingly endless appeals on behalf of Terri Schiavo's parents?

First, despite the political calculus, the courts are not playing that game. Early this morning, two judges of the 11th Circuit Appeals Court in Atlanta, one appointed by President Clinton, the other by the first President Bush, refused to order that Mrs. Schiavo's feeding be resumed.

This afternoon the full 11th Circuit Court confirmed that decision by a vote of 10-2.

And in Florida this afternoon, the State Senate rejected a bill that might save Terri Schiavo's life, 21-18. The Schiavo family now says it will appeal to the Supreme Court, outside of which protesters began gathering early today.

Governor Jeb Bush of Florida promised to keep exploring legal options for reinserting that feeding tube. This afternoon, he cited a new evaluation by a clinic doctor, Mayo Clinic doctor, who viewed videotapes and spent one hour by Mrs. Schiavo's bedside. The doctor did not examine her, but he still concluded she might have been misdiagnosed and could be in a state of, quote, "minimal consciousness," unquote.

Based on that, the Florida state division of social services tried to gain legal custody of the woman today. A judge, a county judge has already ruled against that. No word on whether the department will refile with a higher court.

But it appears the federal government is out of the picture.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is an extraordinary and sad case. And I believe that in a case such as this, the legislative branch, the executive branch ought to err on the side of life, which we have. And now we'll watch the courts make its decisions.


OLBERMANN: Outside Terri Schiavo's hospice, 10 people, including a few children, were arrested for trespassing after symbolically trying to bring glasses of water into the facility for her.

As for how Mrs. Schiavo is actually doing after six days without water or food, reports are mixed.


BOBBY SCHINDLER, TERRI SCHIAVO'S BROTHER: My sister is very much alive. And she responds and she's alert and right now, she's speaking to us.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She is dying. The color is gone from her face.

She has lost her rosy complexion.


OLBERMANN: The story is missing only one thing, an obvious and respected neutral observer, a fact finder, someone acting not for Schiavo's husband or husband or parents, nor for her congressman, nor for politicians, but acting for her.

Actually, it had such an individual, a man who in October 2003 was appointed by a Florida court to spend 30 days reviewing every aspect of the Schiavo case, legal and medical, two areas in which he is fully accredited, and then recommend to Governor Jeb Bush how to proceed. He is Jay Wolfson, professor at the University of South Florida, a Ph.D. in public health with a law degree, as well. And he's been good enough to join us here tonight.

Thank you for your time, sir.


OLBERMANN: Let me start with this news of the day, the governor's announcement that there is a neurologist who thinks that perhaps Mrs. Schiavo is not in a persistent vegetative state but might have been misdiagnosed and could be minimally conscious. Is that plausible to you, or is it a red herring?

WOLFSON: There are several physicians across the country who have expressed that very opinion. I'm not familiar with what he did nor when he did it, nor how he did it. I understand from what you just said that he did not actually evaluate nor examine Terri.

People are going to have different opinions. And honest people are going to differ about their opinions. The fact is we're dealing with 15 years worth of medical evidence and legal evidence that were admitted through the Florida judicial system, based on laws that were created by the legislature, rules of evidence in the Florida courts, rules of civil procedure and the guardianship law in particular, which over 15 years evolved with very carefully designed bipartisan political and religious cooperation.

And you're either going to believe the facts that have been accepted by the courts, using the standards of competent evidence and clear and convincing evidence, or you're not.

And there's a reason why you won't. The reason why you won't is because it's hard. For those of us who are parents, I've got three sons. It's - it's incomprehensible for to us imagine what it's like for these really good - the Schiavos are really good, decent people. I've got to tell you. They're the people I grew up with in Chicago. Their kids are the kids I played with. These are fine, decent people.

But I cannot imagine one of my sons or anybody's son in a position where they're - they're no longer capable of interacting and the idea of them dying by pulling a tube. It's extraordinary.

But the evidence that was submitted and the process that was used throughout the Florida judicial system and the federal judicial system substantiated that information about her state and about the evidence that was used to establish her intentions.

OLBERMANN: In your term as guardian at law, as the person asked by the court to represent Terri Schiavo and not her husband and not her parents, as good people as they might be, just her, what was the core issue about her health that you thought you needed to understand and what did you find out about it?

WOLFSON: Well, I sat with Terri for - I had only a month to do this, and I had to review 30,000 pages of document: medical records, legal records, extraordinary amounts of information. I spent time with her family. I tried to get to know Terri indirectly, and I spent about 20 days when I was in town by her bedside, as many as four hours at a time.

I spent time with her parents, with her husband. And I tried - I held her hand, and I held her head and I looked in her eyes and I stroked her. And I played music for her, and I asked her to help me.

I was looking for some consistent pattern of responsiveness, some consistent evidence that she was responding, as opposed to reflexing. And the clinical data, the clinical information about persistent vegetative states is that it consists of waking periods and sleeping periods.

And during the waking periods, the eyes move, the eyes are open. People make noises. And some of those noises sound like cries and some of them sound like laughter and some of them are groans, which some of your listeners may have heard.


WOLFSON: But there was - as hard as I tried, I couldn't get a consistent responses. I couldn't solicit any evidence.

And again, going back to the data in the files, the medical evidence and the legal evidence, there was nothing to indicate that she was not in a persistent vegetative state, given the standards of evidence and the medical knowledge that we have. The best we can do.

Justice Rehnquist said in the Cruzan case that we've got good law. We've got to apply the good law as well as we can. And I extrapolate that and say we've got to take best science and the best medicine we have.

This is not about - I've got tremendous respect for Governor Bush. He's a wise and conscientious man. In his heart, I know what he feels. I really do.

And the Schindlers are wonderful people. It's not about Governor Bush, and it's not about the Schindlers, and it's not about the decent people outside of the hospice, and it's not about the Florida legislature. It's not about the Florida courts. It's not about the United States Congress. It's not about the U.S. courts. This is about Terri. It's about what her intentions might have been.

And if you don't believe what Michael and others have said about what she expressed after two funerals of her family members, which would have been in context, who were on respirators and who died. And she said, "I don't want to be like that." If you don't believe that, then nothing is going to change your mind.

But if the evidence is credible, and it was deemed so through the legal process, as much as any of us would say, God - I'm not saying - people say, do you want Terri to die? Goodness, no. Any more than I want my mother to die or my children to die. You and I don't know each other. I don't want to you die.

But this is a family private matter. How do we - how do we resolve these terrible things? I just - I just pray that in the end, Terri's interests will be served best through this process.

OLBERMANN: You investigated, as part of this, not just the medical but the legal and the husband. How much insurance money this was worth to the husband? The children outside the marriage, his relationship that ensued outside the marriage. The conflict with the in-laws. What were your conclusions about the bona fides and the goodness of Michael Schiavo?

WOLFSON: I found nothing in the evidence, nothing - and some of the people who have been presenting evidence recently saying that there's been abuse. They shared that evidence with me a year and a half ago, as well. And I've seen it rather recently again.

There's no evidence to support that she was abused. For 15 years, she hasn't had a bed sore. Ken Connors (ph), who was the governor's attorney was a plaintiff's attorney who made a lot of success in nursing home - nursing home injuries. She's never had a bed sore in 15 years.

For many years, Michael kept such good care of her that the nursing home staff tried to get a restraining order against him at one point, because he was demanding so much. I think she's been cared for very much by Michael.

And you know, the issue of his other relationship, I'm not going to pass judgment on anybody, Keith. That's not why I'm here. But, you know, just because I love my mother doesn't mean I can't love my wife. Nor does it mean that relationships I had with people that were very intimate years ago, make it impossible for me to continue to care for those people.

Michael is not a warm and fuzzy man. His parents - the Schindlers are, but that doesn't make him a bad guy.

OLBERMANN: Ultimately, when you were involved in this case, what were your recommendations to Governor Bush and would you give the same recommendations under these circumstances today?

WOLFSON: My recommendations were that additional swallowing tests and neurological tests should be performed for the purpose of resolving the dispute between the parties. Because the legal process and the medical process, I felt, had been competent and had met the standards of proof. But only - only if the parties agreed in advance as to how the results of those tests could be used.

If you'll look at my final report, we had a draft agreement. And we almost got there. At 11:50 p.m. on the 30th of November, Sunday night, before my report was due on the first, all of us were pretty much agreeing to walk into that room and talk about how we would do that.

Mr. Felos called me at 11:50, Michael's attorney. And he said, "Jay, I can't do it. I can't do it, because I'm challenging the law that appointed you, the constitutionality of it. And if I accept anything that you're proposing, then I am diluting my legal and constitutional challenge. I can't."

He was right in doing that legally. And as you know, the law was deemed unconstitutional and then everything I did was technically moot.

OLBERMANN: What about now? What would happen - what would - if someone said to you, we need your opinion on this and we need it in a hurry, what would it be?

WOLFSON: My opinion doesn't count. I'm just a guy. You know, I just attempted to use the modest legal skills and clinical and technical skills and scientific skills I have. And I brought to the table the issue of using good medicine, good science and good law.

This is not about me. It's not about anybody else. It's really about Terri.

OLBERMANN: And that, sir, is perhaps the best answer to the question, "what is your opinion" that I have heard yet in this case and the coverage of it.

Jay Wolfson, Terri Schiavo's former guardian at law. We appreciate your efforts in that capacity and your time and your perspective tonight.

WOLFSON: My pleasure.

OLBERMANN: This long protracted legal battle comes with an extraordinary price tag. Who's been helping the parents of Terri Schiavo foot the legal bill? We'll get some answers to questions you probably haven't heard asked before.

And answers in Minnesota. More information tonight about the missed signs and the troubled life of the suspected shooter at Red Lake High School.

You're watching Countdown on MSNBC.


OLBERMANN: How did the legal case over the life or death of Terri Schiavo last 12 years? And who paid for lawsuit after lawsuit? And who has bankrolled this story into such international prominence? Stand by for answers.


OLBERMANN: Whatever you may believe or hope about the Schiavo case, this is an undisputed fact: for more than a decade there was more than enough middle ground to keep what is, in essence, a family dispute over the continuation of care for a very sick woman out of the media and out of politics. No longer.

How did it change? How did this become the thing that after four years, finally got the president to cut short a vacation, against overwhelming public opinion? A CBS news poll coming out tonight, showing 82 percent of all respondents believed the Congress and the president should not have gotten involved in the Schiavo case, including 76 percent of conservatives, who think they should have stayed out; 72 percent of Republicans who think they should have stayed out; and 68 percent of white evangelical Christians opposed to federal intervention in the case.

Our fourth story on the Countdown, lawsuits and plenty of them, obviously, all of them filed by the parents of Terri Schiavo, Bob and Mary Schindler. And they have cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. Where has that money come from?

Glenn McGee may have the answer, or at least part of it. He is the director of New York's Institute for Bioethics, editor-in-chief of the "American Journal of Bioethics."

Mr. McGee, good evening. Thank you for your time.


OLBERMANN: Do you know where this money is coming from? The Schindlers can't possibly have afforded this on their own, can they?

MCGEE: Well, Keith, my research group at Albany Medical College has been looking for the past couple of days into the question you just raised. Namely, if there were 30,000 persistent vegetative state patients around the country, how is it that this one case attracted so much attention and so much litigation?

And what we found is that on both sides of the aisle on this set of legal actions, there's been an enormous amount of money. Some of it's actually been money to support lawyers but most of it has been gifts from large law firms and lobbyists to enable multitasking firms, the kind of thing we saw in the O.J. trial, on behalf, mostly, of the Schindlers.

OLBERMANN: Do you know where that money came from? Do you know how much it amounted to?

MCGEE: Well, we don't know exactly how much it amounted to. Because as I said most of is it what you would call in kind contribution by lawyers who, in essence, agree with the cause.

So for example, among the representatives of Michael Schiavo's side, the American Civil Liberties Union most recently, and a number of different lawyers who work for firms that specialize in this sort of thing.

But more interesting, the Schindlers have enlisted legal assistance that's amounted to millions of dollars at this point, mostly from national right to life associated groups.

OLBERMANN: Millions of dollars.

MCGEE: At least $20,000 for each filing. And on top of that, there's procedural funding and funding for each and every action that moves up through the system.

You have to remember, Keith, when a case gets to the 11th District Court, it's moved through at least 25 different judges. And appellate lawyers have examined constitutionality questions in teams of 20 and 30. Many of these lawyers billing as much as $500 or $600 an hour.

OLBERMANN: You said 30,000 persistent vegetative cases in the

country. Do you have any idea how often two parts of a family in a case

like this disagreeing about whether or not to continue care? And are those

cases resolved simply in the courts? Simply by arbitration? Or are there

· all the other cases going to wind up in the public eye like this one has?

MCGEE: Well, in all my years in bioethics, I've never, of course, seen a case that's as much of a train wreck or has involved so much national grief as this one.

But it is regularly the case that when a patient ends up in a persistent vegetative state, the family is aghast. I mean, they don't know what to do. And even relationships that are good can fall apart, because people want the best for that family member, and they can't quite recall what someone said.

And particularly, in my own state of New York, where there's no real law about who's in control, those fights can be exacerbated.

OLBERMANN: What do - what do the very carefully crafted tenets of bioethics say?

MCGEE: Well, these days, we're not feeling like we've done such a great job. But I can tell you that bioethics does agree on one thing. And that is that this kind of decision needs to be made early. It shouldn't be made in this kind of last-minute fashion.

And you know, it sounds like Monday morning quarterbacking, to not be glib about this horrible situation, but frankly, a lot of this really could have been avoided. And around the country, people are asking themselves, do they have it written down? Have they really express what had they want?

In this case, Michael Schiavo may very well be relaying what he believes that his wife said. But the very possibility of those doubts is what's created this problem.

OLBERMANN: Glen McGee, director of the New York Institute for Bioethics, editor-in-chief of the "American Journal of Bioethics." Our great thanks tonight.

MCGEE: Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN: Also coming up, help was there five minutes after the accident but not before a 911 operator told the caller, "Too bad" and hung up on him.

And she is not trying to cause accidents on the highways. She's just spreading good cheer.

"Oddball" is ahead. We mean nothing personally.


OLBERMANN: We're always grateful for the people who do weird things in public, especially when the news is tough. Without them, this world would be a completely grim place, and all of us would be in court suing someone or being sued.

Let's play "Oddball."

We begin along Highway 41 in Fresno, California, where for the past six years, Miss Monique Turks (ph) has showed up every day to stand on the Gettysburg overpass and wave at the cars. It is just one woman's small contribution to society. Turks (ph) says she's just sharing the love, helping to uplift commuters in their otherwise meaningless existences.

For many, it works. Some have called her inspirational. Others have been so surprised to see her, that they have driven off the interstate and sustained serious personal injuries and automotive damage.

I've made the last part up.

Speaking of inspirational, it's Faith in America week here at MSNBC. And have you noticed the Virgin Mary has been making quite a few appearances lately?

This was the famous Virgin Mary grilled cheese sandwich that sold on eBay in November for $28,000. And now Diana Duyser, the woman who cooked the holy sammy, is back. Now she's selling the pan. Yes, the very frying pan that cooked the Virgin Mary grilled cheese sandwich.

There's no Virgin Mary on the pan. No holy scorch marks, Batman, but that did not stop bidding to go to $20,000 before the auction ended this afternoon.

And if like me, you burned down a house while making a grilled cheese, you know just how valuable a good frying pan can be.

Think of trying to cook up this catch. You may remember the legend of Hogzilla, the hunter in Georgia who claimed to have killed a 12-foot, one thousand pound oinker last year but had only this photo as evidence. He claimed to have buried the super pig, and the story was quickly dismissed as a fraud and the photo as a fake.

But the urban legend grew. And Hogzilla took on new life in Alpaha (ph), Georgia, where the town's fall festival was renamed in its honor.

The "National Geographic" society even sent a team of experts to investigate. And they exhumed the supposed carcass from the supposed gravesite. They performed DNA tests, and they determined that Hogzilla was real.

He was slightly smaller than the original claim, just eight feet long and 800 pounds. It was a mix of wild boar and domestic breed pig. They say he may have been a descendant of Arnold Ziffel, the pig who escaped from the set of the old TV series "Green Acres" after a tense stand-off with show producers in 1971.

Made that up, too.

Also tonight, star witness in the case, arrested. Someone in the courtroom taken on the hospital on a gurney. Donald Trump enters the fray. Just another normal day at the Michael Jackson trial.

Never normal again in Red Lake, Minnesota. The memorial and the recovery of more missed signs in the short and bitter life of Jeff Weise.

These stories ahead. But now here are Countdown's top three newsmakers of this day.

No. 3, Jason Dawson. Found a cell phone in Kennewick, Washington. Soon, it rang. It was the woman who lost it, asking for it back. And in the interim, Mr. Dawson had noticed something interesting in the cell phone, quote, "explicit photos," which Mr. Dawson told the woman he would publish unless she gave him $50. He's now under arrest.

She is now the latest person whom we remind, naked pictures of yourself or friends sound like a good idea but they may have unforeseen consequences.

No. 2, Josiah Johnson of North Dakota. The police in Morehead, Minnesota, say they pulled him over because he was driving drunk. He says they were just harassing him because of his personalized license plate which reads, quote, "Tipsy," unquote.

Thank you, Department of Motor Vehicles.

And No. 1, Brandon Parmer and Darrell Maxfield of Tyler, Texas. For nearly three months, neighbors and passers by noticed the two construction workers slowly dismantling the house on Highway 69. Very slowly dismantling it, often just a car load of bricks at a time or of shingles or of bathroom fixtures.

It turned out Mr. Parmer and Mr. Maxfield were not construction workers, they were thieves. They were stealing their house there. Their cover story? They were making room for a new store, a Lowe's home furnishing center, of course.



OLBERMANN: There's no question that the media attention to the worst school shooting since Columbine has been significantly less in the coverage than Columbine, even of some of the lesser incidents since. Our third story on the Countdown, that has been criticize in the many quarters as a racial or economic or even geographic slight.

In fact, it proves that police acting on behalf of the Red Lake Tribe, arrested at gunpoint, two photographers who were attempting to take pictures of a memorial adjoining a Minnesota state highway. Other media members have been told that if they leave that highway, they, too, will be arrested.

The tribal chairman in fact stopped the sister of the slain school guard as she made her way to give a statement to reporters. Against that back drop, a memorial for the nine victims was held about 35 miles to the south of Red Lake. And our correspondent there was Kevin Tibbles.


KEVIN TIBBLES, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): At a memorial service at the church of Saint Philip in Bemidge, Minnesota everyone knew someone caught up in Monday's school shootings.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And thanksgiving for the consolation that we will meet again.

TIBBLES: Many, too, knew the shooter, Jeff Weise, and describe him as a troubled, even depressed 16-year-old starved for attention.

In this photo taken at school just last month, Weise had gelled his hair into two horns.

Students also say Weise, linked to this neo-Nazi Web site, had become more and more threatening.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: On 4/20, he said he said he was going to shoot up the high school, but we didn't believe him.

TIBBLES: Why 4/20?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because it was Hitler's birthday. And he was his hero.

TIBBLES (on camera): Investigators continue to seek the motive behind this deadly rampage. There is new information the young gunman endured years of personal upheaval and grief.

(voice-over): According to his stepfather who spoke today to NBC News, Jeff Weise had a complicated life. His parents never married. He was raised by his mother in Minneapolis. In 1997, his father committed suicide. A year later, his mother gets married.

Then in 1999, she suffered brain damage in a car accident in which his cousin was killed.

Later that year, his stepfather filed for divorce. And Jeff was sent to live with his grandfather in Red Lake.

KIMBERLY DES JARLAIT, JEFF WEISE'S AUNT: I don't know if he ever had

the chance to really talk to somebody. From the way it sounds, he didn't

TIBBLES: Weise's aunt believes these experiences changed him.

DES JARLAIT: He was never considered a loner. He had no depression, as far as I knew, until a lot of the accidents and everything started happening in his life.

TIBBLES: Five of Weise's victims remain in the hospital, two in critical condition. Today, an entire community mourning its victims.

Kevin Tibbles, NBC News, Red Lake, Minnesota.


OLBERMANN: Once again, Michael Jackson is unknowingly providing the comic relief amid the unremittingly terrible legal headlines. It's your tax and entertainment dollars in action. Day 492 of the Michael Jackson investigations.

You know they keep an ambulance outside each day for the defendant, right? One of his attorneys needed it today. According to courtroom observers, Brian Oxman became pale and ill as the jury was leaving the courtroom for the day. No word on his condition. Now he knows how the rest of us feel.

And in yet another seeming setback for the prosecution, one of its star witnesses has been arrested. Former Jackson bodyguard Chris Carter being held in a Las Vegas jail on charges of burglary, robbery, and first degree kidnapping with a deadly weapon. The prosecution hoping his testimony would bolster that of the accusers.

And the bad news just got worse for the D.A's office today. Judge Rodney Melville ruling that the Internet pornography that had been found on computer hard drives in Jackson's Neverland Ranch would not be permitted at the trial. The judge saying there was no way to tell who if anyone even looked at the Web site addresses.

Again, we are denied the pleasure of seeing any of this play out because TV coverage of the trial is not permitted. Of course, clever recreations of the trial are permitted as well as "Michael Jackson Puppet Theater."


OLBERMANN (as Michael Jackson): I made I had in early today and without anybody helping me, so the judge rewarded me.

OLBERMANN (as Judge Melville): I have severe reservations about you introducing adult material found on those computers as evidence.

OLBERMANN (as Michael Jackson): Thank you, Mr. Judge.

Guess what? If I get acquitted - huh? Oh, yes, when I get acquitted, I may get a new job.

OLBERMANN (as Donald Trump): Michael, I want to you come and perform at my new hotel in Las Vegas.

OLBERMANN (as Michael Jackson): Perform what? Oh, thank you, Mr.


OLBERMANN (as Donald Trump): You're hired.

OLBERMANN (as Michael Jackson): You know, your hair, it is exactly the same color as those gates from Central Park in New York. Whoo ho ho!


OLBERMANN: You know, we did not make that last stuff up about Trump and Jackson in Vegas. The magazine "US Weekly" is reporting that Trump's partners in his soon to be completed Las Vegas hotel have approached Jackson's representatives about becoming the house performer at the new facility. That's if he is acquitted.

Phil Roughin (ph) and Jack Wishna (ph) currently own the New Frontier Hotel and Casino. They estimate the entertainer could rake in as much as $80 million a year, Wishna (ph) adding there would be moral clauses in the contract. You bet there would.

For analysis, I'm joined by the columnist of the Village Voice and social commentator to the stars, Michael Musto. Good evening, Michael.


OLBERMANN: Donald Trump and Michael Jackson, I believe the Bible forecast this as part of the end times, correct?

MUSTO: The Bible did indeed warn against this in a section of the Bible that was even bigger than the morals clauses in this contract. However it makes sense to me, the Donald and the wacko, or if you will, the Donald Duck loving child arrested child. It makes sense, the Donald has a nose for this kind of publicity opportunity. And he'll probably get Robert Blake as an opening act.

And I actually think it is good for Jacko, because he has to remind people if he does get off, and I have every suspicion that he will the way this trial is going, he has to remind people, he actually was famous at one point for singing and dancing, not just for allegations of child molesting. He can enter on a stretcher, maybe, and singing "I Hurt My Back" to the tune "I Want You Back." It could be great.

OLBERMANN: But the timing of this - you know, you're Donald Trump.

You associate yourself with Michael Jackson now in the middle of the trial?

I mean, we may have our assumptions as to how this is going to turn out,

but does he know something about the outcome that the rest of us don't? Is

· actually this trial just another reality show on NBC?

MUSTO: I think any of us following the trial know, especially with some of the new developments you just talked about, that this is going in Michael's direction, whether he did it or not. And I think Donald likes to be a little controversial, and he also wants the first dibs on Michael, so maybe he can get his fingers into this potential cash cow before the trial is resolved, everybody might say, I want you to preform in my casino. So, it's actually a smart move on Donald's part.

OLBERMANN: All right, when we talk about this again, let's just drop that phrase, fingers into. About Vegas, I'm flashing back to that night of his surrender to authorities, when he flew back to Vegas and either he or the double was driving around though the city, and was being greeted by fans and there were people running out of the casinos. Michael Jackson as a house act for years in Vegas would work, wouldn't it?

MUSTO: Absolutely. Vegas is the land of surrealness and unreality. It's the land of $8 all you can eat buffets and dancing waters. I happen to love the place. I find it a very welcome alternative to reality. And it's where his family live. And it's where he belong. He was on that Martin Bashir documentary, buying up everything that wasn't nailed down. And he belong in Vegas. I'm not convinced he's not already there in some form in spirit.

OLBERMANN: I'm just free associating, but hear me out on this.

What about Michael Jackson replacing Roy Horn of Siegfried and Roy.

Why not Siegfried and Michael?

MUSTO: OK. Well, that would be the ultimate magic act, wouldn't it?

OLBERMANN: Well, maybe he can bring his own - bring own animals.

He's got the animals already, right?

MUSTO: Although, Bubbles unfortunately died of neglect. But yes, Michael, in itself, he doesn't need a side kick. He doesn't need Sieggy. Michael, in himself, can read - interpret the readings from porn magazines, toast the audience with Jesus juice, and samples some of Pat O'Brien's - no, he can actually sing some of his hits like "Ben," which was a lovely love song to a rat. And PYT, which actually stood for pretty young things, and I'm not even going to go there.

OLBERMANN: I know. I know, it's - the restraint is remarkable. Michael Musto, of the "Village Voice," As always, the lone voice of reason in an increasingly madding crowd.

MUSTO: So, true.

OLBERMANN: Thank you, Michael.

MUSTO: Thank you.

OLBERMANN: A voice of reason was missing in an exchange with an emergency operator. Nothing like calling 911 and getting hung up on.



OLBERMANN: The 911 operator who gives what is decidedly the wrong answer. And a newspaper running a contest and it gave the wrong answer to thousands of contestants who had the proverbial winning numbers. Standby.


OLBERMANN: When you say explosion in Texas City, Texas, people run. There must have been flash backs today. News tonight, that officials now believe 14 people were killed in this afternoon's explosion at a B.P. oil refinery there - dozens more injured. The cause still being investigated. Everybody in Texas City knows what happened on April 16, 1947. A ship blew up in the port. It set off a series of explosions in the town. At chemical plants and oil refineries, 600 nearly were kill, 4,000 more injured. It basically, leveled the city. This one almost certainly nothing on that scale. But still, 14 believed dead at Texas City today.

911 dispatchers supposedly have the same kind of job stress levels as air traffic controller. They are not only the first line of defense when crisis escapes it's cage, they not only hear the dying words of victims, they don't just to have help the occasional 4-year-old save her mother. But mixed in with all that, they get constant calls about traffic jams, noisy neighbors, unrecognized fishy smells and requests for directions to the local Winn-Dixie.

Our number two story on the Countdown tonight, you may have heard about this case from Connecticut, as you hear it reported by our correspondent, Peter Alexander. A reminder, only to consider that the 911 dispatcher who evidently wigged out had been doing this for 18 years. That's a lot of Winn-Dixies.


PETER ALEXANDER, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): With 21-year-old Justin Sawyer (ph) dying on this Connecticut road, he's friends did what anyone would do in an emergency, they called 911 and got this.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: State police, 911.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I'm on Incinerator Road in Taftville.

Someone crashed on their street bike.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Incinerator Road in Taftville.


ALEXANDER: Too bad, the dispatcher says, then hangs up. A second friend tries again.




UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I need to report a street bike accident.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is that one on Incinerator Drive?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Help will get there.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:... be playing games.

ALEXANDER: Although there was no delay dispatching paramedics to the scene, Justin Sawyer died from his injuries a week later. His family is furious.

BRANDY DONAHUE, MOTORCYCLIST'S SISTER: I am just shocked. I am just shocked at the blatant disregard for how important that officer's job was. It was just appalling.

ALEXANDER (on camera): The Connecticut State Police suspended the trooper for 15 days for what it called unprofessional, rude and inappropriate comments. The trooper, an 18-year veteran, declined our request for an interview, but the state police union says the penalty is severe. It wasn't until the third emergency call that another dispatcher assessed the situation.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Tell people not to touch him.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No one touch him.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I will start the ambulance out there to you, OK.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All right. Thank you.

ALEXANDER (voice-over): Finally, an appropriate response after twice being rudely dismissed.


ALEXANDER: Peter Alexander, NBC News, New York.


OLBERMANN: Pro golf providing an easy segue into our nightly round up of celebrity and entertainment news, "Keeping Tabs." And for the second time, the Fox series "American Idol" has a controversy over whether or not its fan voting system was on the level.

With tensions running high, and only 11 potential winners left in the game, last night's vote on the phone was crucial. But Fox says a typo on screen stacked the deck against three of the contender. If you dialed the number for Anwar Robinson, Mikalah Gordon or Jessica Sierra, you actually cast votes for Anthony, Carey, Scott. Oops!

Fox says it would not count - will not count any of last night's votes. And thus it just had to schedule a do-over tonight. And add a previously unscheduled edition tomorrow night to announce tonight's results. Or maybe this was all just an excuse to milk another night out of his train of American entertainment. Just a thought.

Speaking of milking it, a day without Oprah Winfrey news is like a day with Oprah Winfrey firing one of her 3,000 publicists. Today's story, she's going to go live in the projects in Chicago for a month as part of a TV series on the housing crisis in inner cities. They say that during the move, she will be flanked by a team of security guards. Otherwise, she'll be on her own.

The last TV character to try this, of course, was Councilman Benjamin Fisk played by the actor George Coe on "Hill Street Blues." And he wound up falling out a window of the project so she should watch out.

In New York, some must have felt like jumping out windows this week. They thought they had struck it rich in a scratch and match game. And then the newspaper said sorry, wrong number. All heading to the courts.


OLBERMANN: If you're someone who has long felt you cannot believe everything you read in the papers. There are tonight hundreds, maybe thousands of people who agree with you and are prepared to go to court over it. Our No. 1 story on the Countdown, the liberal media again, the conservative fiction machine - no, this is about money.

In New York, cash prize games have been used to lure readers to either the "New York Post" or the "New York Daily News" since at least the early '80's when how you fared in something called Wingo was far more important than the political or factual content in the paper itself. Now, something went terribly wrong in the latest game bribe the reader. At least 2000 people showed up in the office of the daily news thinking they had won as much as $100,000 each. Only they didn't.

Several of them who had already spent the money in reality or in their heads will join us in a moment. First, prize winning report about prize winners who were not from our correspondent Rehema Ellis.


REHEMA ELLIS, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): New Yorkers lined up to collect a dream.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I couldn't believe it. I mean, I was like - I had to look at the paper 200 times.

ELLIS: A printing mistake led a lot of people to believe they had the winning numbers for the New York Daily News $100,000 prize.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We don't want to hear nothing about no mistake. We buy their papers all the time to play this. Now, they want to play with our feelings.

LUCY PIZZINGAILLO, SCRATCH AND MATCH PLAYER: I came here this morning hoping they'd change their mind and pay everybody off.

ELLIS (on camera): So, how did this happen? When people opened their newspapers to get their lucky numbers, 13 was one of those listed, that was the mistake. It was supposed to be number 12.

LES GOODSTEIN, PRESIDENT, NY DAILY NEWS: I would just hope that, you know, our readers understand that mistakes do happen. This was a big mistake.

ELLIS (voice-over): Hoping to make things right, the paper is sweetening the pot with an additional $1 million in winnings giving those with the unlucky number 13 another chance.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And it'll go into a raffle, and hopefully you get lucky.

ELLIS: Lucky next time for real. Rehema Ellis, NBC News, New York.


OLBERMANN: So what would you do if you thought you'd actually won money? Big money. You'd spent spend it, or at least plan out how to spend it. New York City lawyer Steven Gildin is representing nearly 100 clients who say they hold winning game cards and they want their money. Some of those clients are with him tonight.

Mr. Gildin, good evening.

STEVEN GILDIN, ATTORNEY: Good evening. Thank you.

OLBERMANN: Before we talk to a couple of your clients, has to your knowledge, the New York Daily News offered any kind of settlement besides this second game?

GILDIN: Well, they're asking their readers to send their tickets off to Nebraska. Really, their response has been quite unsatisfactory. It's been insulting, it's been insensitive. And we're here to take justice into our own hands and pursue a remedy for these innocent victims.

OLBERMANN: OK Mr. Gildin, stand bay.

Where's Linette Stewart? Linette, are you there?


OLBERMANN: Did you spend any money after your winning numbers turned up in the paper?

STEWART: Yes, I did.

OLBERMANN: What did do you?

STEWART: I, um - it wasn't a significant amount of money, yet it was money that I probably would not have spent had I known that I wasn't a winner. It was a couple hundred dollars, just to treat myself. Me and my boyfriend went out, grabbed some food, couple of movies, enjoyed the day basically, celebrating our success.

OLBERMANN: A couple hundred dollars is a couple hundred dollars one way or the other.

Let me ask Vanessa Morrisset something. Vanessa, if I won a lot of money, I would be tempted to quit my job. I think anybody would. You're a medical assistant. Did you quit your job or come close to it?

VANESSA MORRISSET, MEDICAL ASSISTANT: I almost did quit my job the day I found out I won $100,000. Luckily, one of my co-workers told me, just wait until you find out you exactly won and then quit. If I didn't listen to her, I would have been out of a job.

OLBERMANN: What, Vanessa, were you going to do with the money?

MORRISSET: I was going to go back to school. I was going to pay my student loan, go back to school, help out my mother with the other student loans that she had for my other siblings as well. I was going to try and better myself, start a family.

OLBERMANN: As much as the money hurts and the lack of the money, or they claim they're not going to give you the money, is that loss of opportunity what's really eating at you right now?

MORRISSET: That's what's eating at me right now. Because I called the student loan department on Saturday telling them I'll be able to pay off that loan. I was making preparations to go back to school. I even went out and bought the nursing book that I have to buy to start school back again, to study for the entrance exam.

GILDIN: You know, there are just so many stories. We've gotten 300, 400 calls alone today. And I don't know how many people are out there, but the response by the newspaper has been deplorable. They've played with people's emotions.

These are hard-working, blue collar people. All they want to do is get home, take care of their kids, work hard. And now they're given the opportunity to have a piece of the American dream and it's taken away from them. How can that be? And their response has been terrible.

You know, these people, they woke up, they thought they were going to be bathing in bucks. And now the newspaper, all they're doing is pointing the finger and trying to pass the bucks. We can sometimes forgive an isolated mistake, a sincere mistake, but there's a pattern here. This has happened several times in the past by this newspaper. And I don't understand what's going on here.

You know, every state in this country, every day runs a lottery. Why is it that this newspaper has had so many problems running a sweepstakes. I think they're really taking advantage of the New Yorkers that have been very dedicated and loyal. And they have to be held accountable.

We're looking into a multitude of claims, we're evaluating it very carefully and we're going to stand up for these people.

OLBERMANN: All right, Mr. Gilden, I'm out of time. Good luck to you and to your clients. Particularly to Linette Stewart and Vanessa Morrisset and everybody who joined us, thanks greatly for your time.

GILDIN: Thank you.

OLBERMANN: That's Countdown. Thanks for being a part of it. I'm Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck.