'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for July 26
Guest: Jennifer Berman, Harvey Levin, Raoul Felder
ALISON STEWART, GUEST HOST: It was two weeks late, but so what? The United States is back in space. Right now the shuttle "Discovery" and its crew of seven astronauts are orbiting the earth after a two-and-a-half-year absence from the heavens.
It was all high-fives at Mission Control. But amid the celebration, there's still a very real question. Did everything go off without a hitch?
Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
Analyzing the debris. Something fell off the shuttle. What the "Discovery" left behind as the families who lost loved ones aboard "Columbia" looked on.
Wally and the Beav never had to deal with this, a Colorado man facing serious jail time for throwing weekly parties where she supplied booze, drugs, and the sex for her teenage daughter's classmates.
And the divorce making headlines around the world.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm priceless. And that's the way I look at it. I was a good woman. I, you know, I took care of this man, waited on him hand and foot.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEWART: And apparently kept a list while doing it. The mother of all invoices, coming up.
And the sweet price of victory. When you're tops in the world at this. Oh, boy!
All that and more, now on Countdown.
And good evening to you. I'm Alison Stewart, in for Keith Olbermann.
When Sally Ride, the first American woman in space, was asked to describe her first trip aboard the space shuttle, she said, quote, "This is definitely an E-ticket." Well, any kid who visited a Disney's theme park in the '60s or '70s knew exactly what she was talking about. And tonight, it's safe to say that anyone who was watching this morning's launch of space shuttle "Discovery" now has a pretty good idea as well.
Our fifth story on the Countdown, America's return to space flight.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: T minus 10 seconds. Go from eight engine start. Seven, six, five. Three engine up and burning. Three, two, one, and liftoff of space shuttle "Discovery," beginning America's new journey to the moon, Mars, and beyond. And the vehicle has cleared the tower.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEWART: "Discovery" thundering into orbit at 10:39 a.m. this morning, a launch described as clean and pristine, every angle of liftoff captured by more than 100 cameras, looking for falling debris that might hit the shuttle, at least two of those cameras capturing images that may be cause for concern.
What looks like a chunk, a large chunk, flying off "Discovery"'s external fuel tank about two minutes into the flight. The object does not appear to hit the shuttle itself. NASA is also looking into whether a small piece of tile fell off the shuttle itself, a problem that might be reminiscent of what happened during space shuttle "Columbia"'s liftoff two-and-a-half years ago.
For more on where things stand, we're joined now by our own Chris Jansing at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, tonight. Hi, Chris, thank you so much for staying up late at the end of a long but exciting day.
Let's start by talking about that debris. Any concerns of damage to the spacecraft?
CHRIS JANSING, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Of course. And I have to say, that's the exact word that Mission Control used when they told the astronauts, before they went to bed. They said the ascent team had some concerns about some of the images they're looking at.
And so even as we speak, people are going over them frame by frame, both radar images and video images.
I want to look real quickly at those two pieces of tape again. The first one is that piece of tile that came off. We should put it in perspective, however. It is about an inch and a half, according to NASA. The piece that caused the damage that it turned out to be fatal on "Columbia" was actually the size of a briefcase.
And according to NASA, in the 113 previous missions, 15,000 pieces of tile have come off. So we don't know that this is anything serious. But they are certainly looking at it.
Then that second piece of imagery, and we looked at this even before NASA made the announcement that they were concerned, this is definitely a much bigger chunk. It's coming off the external fuel tank. And it may be a chunk of insulation. That's something they're going to look at very closely.
They have 110 cameras. They are looking at images that they've never seen before. So that may a part of what's going on here, that these are things that have happened that they just never had the ability to take a look at. But again, they're looking at them frame by frame. It'll probably be two or three days before they know if this is really a very serious problem, although we'll get a preliminary analysis maybe as early as tomorrow morning, Alison.
STEWART: So Chris, if it is a problem, what happens next?
JANSING: Well, they have a couple of options. And this is what they've been working on in the two and a half years since the "Columbia" disaster. But neither of them is certainly anything that they want to even think about.
One would be that they'd have to attempt a repair. They've been practicing these repairs, but they're extraordinarily risky, and obviously they've never been done in space. These were developed, again, since the last shuttle mission.
The second thing is that they'd go and live aboard the International Space Station for probably about a month. The space shuttle "Atlantis" is already gearing up. They would have to go and essentially rescue this shuttle team. They're hoping, obviously, that neither of those things happen, and they're not looking at this and saying that's a possibility. But they do have these contingency plans in place, Alison.
STEWART: Well, Chris Jansing, we wish you a safe and restful night, as of course (INAUDIBLE)...
STEWART: Thank you.
STEWART: You're welcome. Of course, we do that for the rest of the "Discovery" crew as well.
The focus for the next 12 days shifts from Florida to Texas, and to the Johnson Space Center.
We're joined now from Houston by MSNBC space analyst James Oberg, a former space shuttle mission control engineer, who spent more than two decades at NASA.
You're a great person for us to be talking to tonight. Thanks for joining us.
JAMES OBERG, MSNBC SPACE ANALYST: Thank you, Alison.
STEWART: Before we talk about the mission, let me ask you about the debris and the potential damage. Really, how worried should we be about that piece of - let's start with the tile that might have fallen off.
OBERG: Well, Alison, worry is the right kind of question, because the NASA needs to be worried. They weren't worried enough in the past when they made mistakes that destroyed shuttles and killed the crews. So they need to be worried.
But I don't think we do, because although the cameras showed a lot of things - and we'll see some of those, you saw some a few moments ago - it's up to us to say what the camera did not see. It did not see a piece the size of a briefcase tumbling off at the worst possible moment, hitting the shuttle at the worst possible point, and causing, as happened in "Columbia," lethal damage. That wasn't seen.
They'll keep looking now for damage in the coming days. It's important to do that. But they're going to find dings like this.
STEWART: Let's look at the other potential issue, that chunk that appears to have come off the external fuel tank. Is that any more or less of a concern than the tile?
OBERG: Let's keep an eye on the goal posts here. In the hockey metaphor, no blood, no foul, because the piece came off the tank, the tank was thrown away and burned up. So it doesn't matter that the tank has lost a piece, and the piece didn't hit the shuttle. We can see where it went. It was tumbling down and away from the shuttle.
The interesting piece, Alison, was the piece that was shown, a little ding coming off a tile near the doors, the cover of the nose gear. And I've made a high-fidelity mockup here, sparing no expense for our viewers.
STEWART: Let's see.
OBERG: Of the chip, that...
STEWART: Oh, James, you shouldn't have.
OBERG: Yes, I went without dinner to do this. But it's about the size of what came off of a tile. Tile's about eight inches across, these ones. This one came off a corner, and it was seen - and most amazing to me, it was seen on radar as well.
So the radar was watching for things as small as this, which I was impressed by. And it only saw apparently two pieces coming off, this piece, and, like you see it coming off, like so, and the bigger piece.
Now, we're going to look more closely. The NASA folks will, over the days to come, more and more pictures will be coming back in. This is the most-photographed shuttle picture ever. And we're seeing things on this mission we've never seen before, some of them of stunning beauty, not just of anxiety.
STEWART: So these cameras are a good thing, I'm hearing you say, these 110 cameras.
OBERG: Better to know - it's better to know than not know, in terms of damage. It's better to know that you're OK than like last time. Let's remind ourselves why the "Columbia" crew died, because the NASA team chose not to know. They chose ignorance over knowledge, and over - and a Cavalier attitude over prudence.
And they're not going to do it again, not this time, at least. We've seen them fly this mission, canceled the last launch, replan, check things out, and fly today's launch, so smoothly, so boringly, that we're looking at chips of that size as all we have to worry about.
STEWART: All right. And before I let you go, about 30 seconds for this essay question, NASA as an institution. How important is the success of this mission for NASA's future?
OBERG: This mission is - it's all on this one roll of the dice. I mean, that's not a roll of the dice, because the NASA people have loaded that dice to come up the way they want it, to come up sevens, because they've worked hard at it.
The thing they have to do now is not forget the lessons that they've learned. They should never have forgotten them before. But they did. They've learned them again. They've got to fly the shuttle safely through the final five years of the program, as it gets older and more persnickety.
STEWART: MSNBC space analyst James Oberg at the Johnson Space Center in Houston tonight, big thanks to you. I'm sure we'll be talking to you again over the next 12 days or so.
OBERG: Thanks, Alison.
STEWART: Have a good evening.
OBERG: We'll see. Good night, goodbye.
STEWART: This morning's launch, an emotional flashpoint for the families of the space shuttle "Columbia." On the one hand, certain their departed loved ones would have wanted the shuttle program to continue, on the other hand, the wounds of that horrible February morning still tender.
Their story tonight from correspondent Martin Savidge at Cape Canaveral.
MARTIN SAVIDGE, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The last time there
was a countdown, the crew that went up didn't come back.
For families of the "Columbia" disaster, a return to flight is also a return to pain.
DOUG BROWN, BROTHER OF "COLUMBIA" ASTRONAUT: I know that for some
family members, it was - it would be quite stressful.
SAVIDGE: Doug Brown's brother Dave died on "Columbia."
BROWN: And I think that it's a day of celebration to be back into space. So for me, it's a day of excitement.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And T minus 33 minutes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SAVIDGE: Excitement is just one of many emotions Jonathan Clark said he feels thinking of launch day. But since losing his wife, Laurel, to "Columbia," liftoff is bittersweet.
JONATHAN CLARK, HUSBAND OF "COLUMBIA" ASTRONAUT: Sadness, joy,
wonderment, bereavement, all those things kind of just instantly.
SAVIDGE: Emotions his 10-year-old son couldn't take.
CLARK: That is beautiful.
SAVIDGE: Ian still misses Mom too much, and didn't come.
RONA RAMONE, WIFE OF "COLUMBIA" ASTRONAUT: It's too soon for me.
SAVIDGE: Neither Rona Ramon, the widow of Israeli astronaut Elan Ramon, who was also aboard "Columbia." She too is torn by emotions.
RAMONE: Mixed feelings, that - pride, and a little bit of worry and fear.
SAVIDGE: Fear rooted in those moments two and a half years ago in the sky over Texas, when a machine became meteors, and dreams became memories.
BROWN: I think all of "Columbia" crew's up in heaven will come down over this day.
SAVIDGE: Doug Brown remembers asking his brother what to say if he didn't make it back.
BROWN: And he said, Well, I would hate to think they would slow this program down on account of me.
SAVIDGE: NASA can't go forward without taking this next step.
Neither can the families.
For both, it's not just a return to flight, but in a small way, a return to life.
Martin Savidge, NBC News, at the Kennedy Space Center.
STEWART: New concern in London tonight. Did the suspects behind last Thursday's failed attacks head back to their apartment to pick up more explosives before going into hiding?
And Osama bin Laden's plot against America. Have you heard this one?
Bin Laden planned to take cocaine before shipping off to the U.S.?
We'll get out the Countdown BUSINESS detector after the break.
You're watching Countdown on MSNBC.
STEWART: There is increasing evidence that the attacks in Britain and Egypt were not the product of a foreign extremist element, but something far more insidious and much harder to eradicate, homegrown terrorism.
Our fourth story on the Countdown, an Egyptian suspect in Egypt, British suspects in Britain. Investigators identifying one of the bodies of the suicide bombers behind Saturday's deadly attack in Sharm el-Sheikh as Musa Badaran (ph), a known Egyptian militant.
And they have ruled out the involvement of a group of Pakistanis in the attack.
It also appears that authorities were warned about an imminent terror attack days before the bombing, but they only beefed up security at casinos, not hotels, believing that militants would target Israeli gamblers.
Now, while in London, there's new evidence tonight that Thursday's would-be suicide bombers are, if not British born, then at least British raised.
And as NBC senior investigative correspondent Lisa Myers reports, it looks like they are gearing up to try again.
LISA MYERS, MSNBC SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):
Police sources tell NBC News they now think three of the four suspected bombers returned to this London apartment building immediately after the bombings, most likely to pick up more explosives.
Today British authorities found chemicals, raw materials, potentially, for more bombs, in the underground garage of the building linked to two of the suspects.
This neighbor claims she saw at least one suspect the day after the attempted attacks.
TAYNA WRIGHT, SUSPECT'S NEIGHBOR: There were three men standing at Number 58 Curtis House. As soon as they see me, I thought they looked very suspicious.
MYERS: Intelligence sources say so far, there is no direct link between these suspects and the July 7 bombers. But they expect to find at least some common denominator.
BILL HARLOW, FORMER CIA OFFICIAL: Chances are that the first team was the A-team. The second group was probably a backup team, or a group that was perhaps less trained than the first one.
MYERS (on camera): Western intelligence sources tell NBC News, that the plot appears to be homegrown, probably inspired by al Qaeda, but not directly ordered by bin Laden's commanders.
Lisa Myers, NBC News, Washington.
STEWART: Moving on from serious terrorism news to pseudoterrorism news, let's just set something straight. This was the front page of the "New York Post" this morning, the headline screaming, "Bin Laden Coke Plot." Inside, details from, quote, "law enforcement sources," who allegedly knew about an alleged drug enforcement agency probe of an alleged 2002 plot by bin Laden to allegedly poison cocaine supplies, thus killing thousands of Americans.
Now, according to that tabloid, bin Laden personally met with Colombian drug lords to discuss the poison plot. But the cartels realized that poisoning their customers would be bad for business and pulled out of the deal.
Sound implausible? That's what we thought, especially when the DEA formally denied the whole thing. So we put it to the experts, asking Countdown's expert panel of terrorism analysts for their assessment.
Did bin Laden try to poison the U.S. cocaine supply? Steve Emerson's response, quote, "As far as the 'New York Post' story on bin Laden and coke, a Martian must have told them that." Juliette Kayyem, quote, "It's a silly story, and the evidence is pretty thin and tenuous." And Evan Kohlmann, well, he laughed out loud before saying, quote, "If you believe the 'New York Post' story, then I've got some Nigerian uranium to sell you."
Cameron Diaz wins her lawsuit against the man charged with trying to blackmail her into buying her own topless photos. So what effect will this verdict have in the big business of selling celebrity skin shots?
But first, the craze sweeping the world, soon to be how all international disputes will be settled. Toe wrestling ahead (INAUDIBLE). Ooh, (INAUDIBLE).
STEWART: Back now, and we pause the Countdown to delve into the creamy no-news-value center of the show. They're the gratuitous yet gratifying stories you could certainly do without. But would you really want to?
Let's play Oddball.
To Ashborn (ph), England, where we're just in time for the World Toe Wrestling Championships. The object, a lot like arm wrestling, only with a lot more bacterias and fungus. You need to get your opponent's foot to slap the side of the todium. Best two out of three wins.
This year's finals pitted Alan "Nasty" Nash against three-time champ The Toeminator. Looks like he's wearing sort of a Toxic Avenger mask. These two little piggies in an epic struggle. And in the end, he Toeminator said, Hasta la vista, Nasty. He finished off his opponent two-nothing. So what is the secret (INAUDIBLE)?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I won. The referee's decision is final. That's the way it goes.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What does it make, take to make a toe wrestling champion like yourself?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A lot of beer.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEWART: Duly noted.
To the Red Sea, off the coast of Israel, for extreme hair-cutting. Israeli hair stylists Ori and Kobi (ph) are hoping to capture the spirit of their sweet haircuts by performing them while they perform extreme stunts. Here they are under the sea, taking off a couple inches. That's what we call the trim and swim.
And here's your own sail-on while parasailing. You can get yourself a permanent wave before you crash into the waves. And here, you can get your For shaped while dangling off the side of a cliff. Walk-ins are welcome. And in case you were wondering, Ori and Kobi run a unisex extreme salon.
Although we're not recommending the straight razor shave.
And finally, a reminder that in Oddball, no one gets hurt. And that's why we can show you this early-morning Los Angeles police chase. Here we see the bad guy making a quick right down a side street. The patrolman, in pursuit, does not. The cruiser failed to make the turn and then disappears into a furniture store, while the chase continues on.
Eventually the chasee was nabbed after he blew out a tire. The California Highway Patrol says a mechanical failure could be to blame for the crash. There we go again.
And again, CHP spokesperson confirmed that the officer seen crashing here, not hurt.
Ahead on Countdown, new information tonight in the search for Natalee Holloway. We'll go live to Aruba to find out what's leading police to drain a pond close to Holloway's hotel.
And the case of a sexed-up and messed-up Colorado mom. This mother admits to throwing parties for her daughter, where she supplied drugs, alcohol, even slept with the teenage boys, all because it made her feel, quote, "cool."
Those stories ahead.
But first, here are Countdown's top three newsmakers of this day.
Number three, Stephen Night of San Antonio, Texas. He called police because his apartment was broken into by three men who hog-tied him with Christmas lights, stole his plasma TV and his weed. Police found some of the weed the burglars didn't find at the scene and then arrested Stephen.
Number two, Roy Williams, a plumber from West Sussex, England, who was at a job when nature called. Williams, he found a vase, relieved himself in it, and then deposited the contents of the vase into the home's central heating system.
What Roy didn't know was, the house was set up with these closed-circuit cameras. Busted, given a fine, and sentenced to do community service.
And number one, unnamed German man who, in his haste to catch a train from Freiburg to Cologne, tried to get his hand in the train's door as it shut. Unfortunately, the door shut on his hand, chopped off his finger. The finger then took the train to Cologne, where it was found by the other passengers and rushed back to be reunited with its rightful owner, as opposed to someone who might put it in some chili to make a buck.
STEWART: It is hard to quantify what is most messed up about our third story on the Countdown, that an adult woman sexually engaged and abused five teenage boys, that the victims were her daughter's friends or that she explained the act by saying she just wanted to be a, quote, "cool mom." For a whole year, Silvia Johnson threw parties for eight high school friends of her teenage daughter, supplying the boys with alcohol, methamphetamines and marijuana. She had sex with five of them and only got caught when one of the boys finally told his mommy what was going on.
On Monday, Johnson pled guilty to two counts of misdemeanor sexual assault and nine felony counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor. That is enough to get her 58 years in jail. As to why she molested the boys, she told detectives that, in addition to wanting to be a cool mom, quote, "She was never popular with classmates in high school, and now began 'feeling like one of the group,'" end quote.
I'm joined by now Dr. Jennifer Berman, the director of female sexual medicine at Rodeo Drive's Women Health Center. Dr. Berman, thanks for being with us tonight.
DR. JENNIFER BERMAN, RODEO DRIVE'S WOMEN'S HEALTH CENTER: Thank you.
STEWART: Johnson's claim that she wanted to be cool and popular and then her subsequent actions - now, is this the behavior of a pedophile or someone who qualifies as mentally ill, or both or neither?
BERMAN: I mean, well, clearly, a pedophile is when someone is drawn to an infantile - sexually, an infantile person. In this case, these 15 to 17-year-olds are clearly sexually mature individuals physically, maybe not emotionally or mentally. I think that this represents - and I'm not here to pass moral judgment on this woman, but as a health care provider, a woman and a mother, I mean, this clearly represents somebody that was not thinking cohesively, was not of sane mental body or mind and definitely has self-esteem issues, emotional issues, relationship issues, and could be temporarily insane. I would imagine that's what she's going to plea.
STEWART: Well, the law will take care of her. What about these boys? What advice would you give their parents to them now, in terms of their own mental and sexual health?
BERMAN: Well, in this case, you know, to some degree, the sexual encounters were not forced, consensual, if that's even - if you can even call it consensual with a teenager. For them to understand or know what the implications are is questionable. And what I would encourage parents to do would be to openly communicate with their teens about the risks, about the implications, about how it affects them emotionally, personally, and how they feel about it because it can have long-term consequences in how they feel about themselves, how they feel about themselves sexually and how they negotiate sexual relationships in the future, in particular, the children of this particular woman.
STEWART: Something that's sort of interesting in terms of the culture, we have movies like "American Pie," glorifying the concept of a high school boy hooking up with a friend's mom. There's that kind of fun song, "Stacy's Mom Has," you know, "Got It Going On." Is there a certain acceptance for teenage boys who might score with someone's mom? And is that healthy?
BERMAN: Well, clearly, it would be much more distressing to us, as Americans, had this been a father with young teenage girls. We would probably all be much more up in arms than we are about this. But that being said, there can be negative emotional and sexual consequences on teenage boys. Just because they're boys doesn't mean that they're equipped mentally or physically to deal with these consequences.
So yes, it's portrayed as cool. And yes, there are some kudos to maybe, you know, scoring with an older woman, so to speak. But in this case, you know, the consequences can be definitely damaging, particularly if the teenagers do not have the psychological and emotional tools to deal with it.
STEWART: And you touched on this briefly, and it's something that has been just bothering me about the story. What about this woman's daughter? What hurdles will she face in terms of her own sexual growth?
BERMAN: Well, clearly, there's a lack of boundaries in this family -
I mean, the boundaries between the mother and the daughter, the boundaries between the mother and the peers. I think that this child particularly faces issues with boundaries, issues with her own self-esteem and sexuality, and probably issues related to, you know, substance abuse.
STEWART: You've brought up so many great points, Dr. Jennifer Berman.
We thank you so much for joining us...
BERMAN: Thank you.
STEWART:... the director of female sexual medicine at Rodeo Drive's Women Health Clinic.
Now, in Aruba tonight, there is new activity in the search for Natalee Holloway, the Alabama high school student who has been missing for nearly two months. Our correspondent in Aruba is Michelle Kosinski. Michelle, tell us the latest.
MICHELLE KOSINSKI, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Alison. This started very
late this afternoon, all of a sudden. What we're seeing on this island as we speak is a large-scale pumping operation of a flooded field not far from the Marriott Hotel, where the Kalpoe brothers say they dropped off Natalee Holloway and Joran Van Der Sloot early in the morning that she disappeared.
We see the Aruban fire department out there. These are live pictures. This is what's going on right now. That's the fire department. You see them installing these enormous pumps. They say they're going to pump out this flooded area at a rate of about 3,000 gallons a minute. But even at that volume, it's going to take them into tomorrow morning or tomorrow evening. There are a number of officers out there also on the scene taking pictures, supervising the area.
Why are they pumping out this field? We're told this is all based on a new witness that has come forward recently and the statement that he gave. This witness was found by two private investigators that were hired actually by the local newspaper. They say that this is a witness who was afraid to come forward. They convinced him to finally talk to police on Friday.
Here is what they say he told them. He was driving around early the morning Natalee disappeared. He used this field that they're now pumping as a cut-through. There are several dirt roads on there, and he was trying to get to a friend's house.
And he says up ahead, he sees a car blocking his path on the dirt road. He tells investigators the car wouldn't move. He goes to drive around it slowly, and that's when he sees what he says were Joran Van Der Sloot in the driver's seat and the Kalpoe brothers also in the car. The investigators say at the time, he said he thought it was strange, but it wasn't until days later he saw these suspects' photos in the paper. That's when he realized. He felt sure they were the same people that he saw that night.
Now, this is about 3:00 o'clock in the morning, he claims, and that would be after the time the Kalpoe brothers said that they were already at home. This is also the same witness statement that sparked this re-enactment yesterday, a complicated operation involving the FBI and local police in which they used a chopper and also brought out the Kalpoe brothers' car to this very same area. So obviously, authorities are taking this witness statement very seriously. Alison, back to you.
STEWART: All right. We can see it as the action is going on there live. Michelle Kosinski from Aruba, thank you so much for bringing us up to speed on all those details. And of course, we'll keep watching these live pictures for you at home.
And the man charged with the kidnapping and molestation of Elizabeth Smart was declared mentally incompetent to stand trial. Brian David Mitchell will be sent to a state hospital until he is deemed capable of standing trial. That's according to Judge Judith Atherton. The judge's decision came after six days of hearings, during which Mitchell shouted lines from the Bible and he sang hymns. He had to be removed several times. Mitchell's family also has a history of mental disorders.
Mitchell, of course, is accused of kidnapping Elizabeth Smart from her bedroom in 2002, when she was just 14, and later sexually assaulting her and calling her his wife. He and his legal wife, Wanda Barzee, are charged with kidnapping, aggravated assault, sexual assault and burglary..
Cameron Diaz gets the verdict she was looking for. Guilty! Now the photographer accused of trying to cash in on her topless photos could do some serious time behind bars. What this means for the business of celebrity skin. And it's being dubbed "the invoice divorce," this wife taking a stand for all women she says, and handing over a bill to her soon-to-be ex for all her hard work over the years. Wait until you hear what she says five-and-a-half years of marriage is worth.
The first, here are Countdown's top three sound bites of this day.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You wouldn't hit the road without buckling up, would you? Well, what about your pet?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good boy.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You should be prepared for any weather condition. And take suitable clothing along for your pet. I'm Dave Yelverton for NBC News.
DAVID LETTERMAN, HOST, "LATE NIGHT WITH DAVID LETTERMAN": I know we
have a lot of tourists in the audience. Security undeniably is tight here in New York City. So here's a little tip. Before you submit to a full-body search, make sure it's a cop.
LOU SAND, KUNG FU GRANNY: The first time I threw someone, I had a really good feeling about it. It's fun. It makes you feel like, you know, you have control of things.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In fact, she knows 228 different ways to get someone off of her.
STEWART: It is not a photograph you would likely find in "People" magazine. The woman wears a bustier, leather boots and fishnet stockings. She holds a chain around the neck of a male model. She is a 19-year-old aspiring model and actress, and 11 years later, the photographer tries to sell her those photos for $3.5 million. Why would she even have that kind of scratch? Because she is Cameron Diaz.
Our number two story on the Countdown: celebrity skin. First John Rutter, the photographer who took topless photos of a young Cameron Diaz, was convicted of forgery and attempt grand theft for trying to sell the shots back to the actress. Rutter could get up to six years in prison. In 2003, Rutter gave Diaz a chance to buy the photos before someone else did, but she soon suspected blackmail and realized her signature had been forged on the release forms. Still, she testified that, quote, "I didn't think of them as pornographic. My boobs looked good, and at least I had that going for me."
And actor and generally randy fellow Colin Farrell just as eager to keep his adventures under wraps. Last week, the actor he got a temporary restraining order to stop a woman from distributing a videotape of her and him having sex. Farrell claimed the 15-minute tape was supposed to be jointly owned by him and his lady friend. And it gets a little bit better, people. The woman in question is a "Playboy" playmate, Nicole Narain, who, according to one account, says she has no idea how that tape got into the wrong hands and wants to keep it from going public.
And there are other celebrities suffering from this kind of
overexposure. Fred Durst of Limp Bizkit - hackers got a video off of his
computer, doing the deed with an ex-girlfriend, and Paris Hilton's infamous
X-rated frolic all over the Internet, although it didn't seem to injure her
· now, it says "career" on the teleprompter, but I'm not sure.
I'm just joined now by executive producer of "Celebrity Justice" Harvey Levin. Harvey, good to talk to you.
HARVEY LEVIN, "CELEBRITY JUSTICE": Hello, Alison.
STEWART: Let's talk about the Cameron Diaz case. Now, according to one account, she considered jointly maybe selling these photos with the photographer, Rutter, and then the case became about blackmail. What exactly happened?
LEVIN: Well, I don't believe that report that Cameron Diaz was in on it and agreed to try and sell it. It's ridiculous. I mean, I don't think S&M for Cameron Diaz at this point is a good career move. Basically, you've got a guy who knew he had a fortune on his hands with these photographs and was trying to strongarm her into either giving him $3.5 million or take your chances on these going public. It didn't work too well for him.
STEWART: Why did he get convicted?
LEVIN: He got convicted because the jury says he forged the release form, and essentially, this was grand theft, trying to basically - trying to get property, namely these photographs, and ultimately money, that wasn't his. He didn't have a right to sell them. He tried doing it, and he got nailed for it.
STEWART: All right, let's move on to Colin Farrell's lawsuit. It says the release of the videotape would cause irreputable harm to his reputation and his career. Is this a good argument for this gentleman?
LEVIN: Only if he's bad in bed, Alison. It seems to me that the only thing that could hurt Colin Farrell is if he's not performing particularly well in the sex video because this is a guy who is partly known for sex. I mean, that's his calling card, or at least one of them. He's a fabulous actor, but his exploits have been splashed all over the front page.
And I'm really serious about that. I think, you know, on a level - and I'm not saying anything about Colin Farrell because I haven't seen the tape. But if this tape is not flattering for him, if it's not good for his career - meaning if it's not sizzling - it really could hurt him as a leading man. But I don't think sex tapes in and of themselves hurt celebrities at all. Paris Hilton, best example.
STEWART: How do these things end up going public, usually? Is it somebody steals them?
LEVIN: It's all about this. It's all about money. And there are brokers now who have become pretty famous, at least on the Internet, for hawking these things and getting them on the Internet. And people are savvy. I mean, you would think, Gee, how would somebody figure this out? Well, you know what? They're having sex with celebrities to start with, and they're probably talking about how much money - look, Rick Solomon, Paris Hilton's video sex partner, Alison, just paid $4.3 million for a house in the Hollywood hills. I'm told he got over $10 million for that sex tape. This kind of information goes around town real quick, and you learn to figure out, you know, who's selling it, who's peddling it. And the celebrities, you're shooting these at your peril.
STEWART: What recourse do celebrities have? Let's talk about people who aren't making these videos. They might just be out canoodling on the beach or just getting a little up close and personal, and someone gets a snap with a cell phone camera or one of those long-lens cameras. What recourse do they really have?
LEVIN: Well, you know, if they're on the beach, they really have none because it's in a public place. But it's becoming so invasive, Alison. I mean, there are high-end gyms now that prohibit people from bringing cell phones in because they're afraid they're going to bring them into the locker room, take revealing pictures of celebrities, and then sell them for a fortune. So there really is peril out there. And I think in a situation like that, if somebody really did take advantage of a celebrity in a place where they're not really trying to put themselves out as being public, I think they could sue for invasion of privacy. I absolutely believe that. I do think they could win a lawsuit like that.
STEWART: Always interesting and entertaining. Harvey Levin of "Celebrity Justice," thanks a lot.
LEVIN: See you, Alison.
STEWART: Yet another smooth segue into those stories of celebrity and gossip we call "Keeping Tabs." Sony BMG music entertainment caught with its pants down and wide open, the record industry giant agreeing yesterday to cough up $10 million after being busted for bribing radio stations and deejays to play their artists' music. Pay to play? I believe they call that payola, people!
The suit was brought after an investigation by New York state attorney general Eliot Spitzer uncovered dozens of e-mails from Sony BMG promising free trips, laptop computers and straight-up cash in exchange for radio play and air time. Artists perhaps benefiting from the company's musical tactics? Jennifer Lopez, Jessica Simpson, John Mayer, Whitney Houston, who is now also known as that chick from the Bobby Brown show. (INAUDIBLE)
A divorce putting "The First Wives Club" to shame, the future ex-wife who has now presented a bill to her husband for all her services rendered over five-and-a-half years, including those services in the boudoir. We don't make this up.
STEWART: The average cost of a typical American wedding, 26,000. The average cost of a typical American divorce, $30,000. The average cost of a jilted housewife's time, devotion and love? If you guessed priceless, I'm so sorry. You're wrong.
Our number one story on the Countdown tonight: That's $494,800, people. And that's the amount of an itemized bill one Indiana woman sent to her husband after he called it quits. But as she told our correspondent, Kevin Tibbles, she'll settle for 30 grand.
KEVIN TIBBLES, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In the black-and-white
'50s world of "Leave It to Beaver," Dad went to work while Mom cleaned, cooked and kept the house running. But times have changed. Or have they?
KATHERINE THOMPSON, IN DIVORCE PROCEEDINGS: I'm making a stand for
women out there, you know? Women need to be paid for their wifely duties.
TIBBLES: In 1999, when Katherine and Gary Thompson got married, you couldn't put a price on their happiness. Now Katherine's done just that.
KATHERINE THOMPSON: I'm priceless, and that's the way I look at it. I was a good woman. I - you know, I took care of this man, waited on him hand and foot.
TIBBLES: When the marriage ended, Katherine sat down and tallied up an invoice for five-and-a-half years of services rendered and is demanding payment. Meals, $20 each. Housekeeping, $50 a day. The total for the marriage, almost $495,000. Katherine says she's worth every cent.
KATHERINE THOMPSON: I mean, that's all the cooking and cleaning, doing dishes, and I think that's pretty cheap.
TIBBLES: Reached by telephone, Gary calls Katherine's lengthy bill outrageous.
GARY THOMPSON, IN DIVORCE PROCEEDINGS: I paid the electric bill, the phone bill, the gas bill. I paid everything.
TIBBLES: Family law attorney Neil Hearst (ph) suggests the courts are the place to decide spousal support.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When he went to the market and picked up a loaf of bread that she didn't have to do, does she owe him those moneys, and how much?
TIBBLES: There's one other item on that bill, $160,000 for intimate marital relations. Katherine says she had to think twice about that one.
KATHERINE THOMPSON: I started thinking about it, and it wasn't that great, so I charged him for it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When they had intimate relations, why does she get paid and he doesn't?
TIBBLES: Even though the final tab is close to half a million dollars, Katherine says, in the end, she'd settle for a lot less, say $30,000.
KATHERINE THOMPSON: I guarantee you, every housewife would agree they're worth a half a million dollars. Look at what we put up with.
TIBBLES: Kevin Tibbles, NBC News, Chicago.
STEWART: And I believe it was the great sage Jennifer Lopez who once sang "Love Don't Cost a Thing," and she's been divorced twice. Attorney Raoul Felder has handled more than his fair share of high-profile divorce case. Raoul, thanks for joining us this evening.
RAOUL FELDER, DIVORCE ATTORNEY: Pleasure.
STEWART: Have you ever heard of anything like this invoice wife?
FELDER: Well, not in jurisprudence. But all over America, there are wives are saying, Unless you give me a mink coat, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha. But it has no basis in law, though. I don't know. As a matter of fact, it's illegal to pay for sex in America.
STEWART: I was about to ask that you question. Even though they're married, that would actually be illegal, correct?
FELDER: Yes, you can't exchange money for sexual pleasures. But you know, she's ready to take $30,000 for $500,00. That's a better deal than you get at K-Mart. I'd just tell her to grab it.
STEWART: All right, this guy, the husband, Gary Thompson, he claims he paid for everything. You heard him - gas bill, every kind of bill. Does that matter legally in any way? Would it affect the outcome in divorce court if one person paid for everything?
FELDER: Not really. It's called marriage. You're supposed to do those things in marriage. But could you imagine this household, Alison, each one walking around with a calculator or a pad and writing down everything they do? This must have been one heck of a marriage.
STEWART: I guess we shouldn't be that surprised these two folks were getting divorced, huh?
FELDER: Oh, they were planning it, it looks like, from the day they got married.
STEWART: All right, let me take this outside of the home. Let's say this woman had a cleaning or a catering business, then she gave it up to be his wife for five years. And she estimated that she lost in earnings about the same amount, $495,000. Is that a stronger leg to stand on in divorce court, the fact that maybe she didn't get this income, versus her doing this at home?
FELDER: Yes. Now we're talking about something serious. Yes, the courts consider that. And particularly in Indiana, they have rehabilitative maintenance, and judges factor that into the award. Did you give up a business? Did you lose something because you got married? You're 5 years older now or 10 years older. You can't go back to the business. All these things are legitimate. What isn't legitimate is when you tot up all the stuff, you add in your sexual favors.
STEWART: Let's talk about when women sometimes get these huge settlements. We've seen it with a lot of corporate CEOs' wives. You saw it - Steven Spielberg paid his wife, Amy Irving, $100 million. When do wives get these huge settlements, under what cases?
FELDER: Because divorce is such a pleasure. No. Seriously, there's lots of money involved here. Lots of money was earned during the marriage. California, you have community property. You divide by two. Some of these people may have paid up because they had a pre-nuptial agreement that had a schedule of payments in there. There's all sorts of legitimate reasons. But basically, is because the pot is bigger with rich people.
STEWART: And in this case, you think this one's just going to end up him paying her off a little bit of money?
FELDER: Well, she's only asking for a little bit of money, and I guess it's going to go nowhere.
STEWART: Raoul Felder, divorce attorney to the stars and beyond. We thank you so much for helping...
FELDER: Thank you, Alison.
STEWART:... us make heads and tails out of this case. We do appreciate it. Have a good evening, sir.
FELDER: You, too.
STEWART: And that is it for Countdown. I am Alison Stewart, in for Keith Olbermann. And I'm going to summon up my superhuman anchor powers and conjure up "THE SITUATION" with Tucker Carlson.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END