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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Mike Huckabee; NFL Star Killed; MySpace Suicide
Aired December 3, 2007 - 23:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: This weekend I spent a day on the trail with Huckabee to see what it is the voters are seeing. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: You travel with a candidate like Rudy Giuliani and he's got a huge entourage of people or even John McCain.
MIKE HUCKABEE, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Yes. But you know...
COOPER: I mean, you've got this guy.
HUCKABEE: Yes. Boy, that's a real hurt, isn't it? That ought to hurt, right? I got this guy. You see this guy, he's so much better than the next 10 guys.
COOPER: What do you think the biggest challenge you face in New Hampshire is?
HUCKABEE: Just simply being known. I'm an obscure governor from a southern state, but I'm not the first one that's ever been up here, either.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: More on the new leaders of the pack in a moment.
Also tonight, thousands come together to mourn NFL Star Sean Taylor. We'll bring you all the latest develops in the case that authorities say they have against four young men charged in his killing. In particular tonight, we're going to look at what connection they may have had to Taylor.
Plus up close, the MySpace suicide of Megan Meier. Her mother speaking out tonight here live after authorities today decided whether or not to file any charges against her adult neighbors who set up a MySpace page posing as a teenage boy, a boy who taunted Megan before she took her life.
We begin though with a striking turnaround on the campaign trail. A reminder that the race for president suddenly seems a whole lot more open than it was just a couple days ago. We're digging deeper, telling you not just who's now ahead, but new insight into why.
The latest "Des Moines Register" poll shows former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee out in front leading former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney and ex-New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani. That is stunning.
A month ago Huckabee was Mike Who? He's gained 17 percentage points since then.
Fred Thompson, meantime, sees his support among likely caucus goers cut in half.
On the Democratic side, Barack Obama is on top of a statistical tie. Three percentage points up with a margin of error of 4.4. That too is a 180-degree change from a month ago when Hillary Clinton was narrowly out in front. Obama is leading among women voters as well.
Now Hillary Clinton says the fun begins as she ratchets up attack on Obama, and Mitt Romney gets ready to address his fate.
"Keeping them Honest" tonight, CNN's Candy Crowley.
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: If you don't like the politics in Iowa, wait a while, it will change.
SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's amazing how you go from being DOA to being a genius in about three weeks.
CROWLEY: He was never dead on arrival in Iowa, but Barack Obama now tops the "Des Moines Register" poll, giving him a burst of mojo.
SEN. HILLARY CLINTON, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm on my way to Mason City and then to Sioux City and then to Council Bluffs and then out and around.
CROWLEY: And threatening her aura of invincibility.
CLINTON: I got to run, dear, see you later.
CROWLEY: She's not nearly so shy on the stump.
CLINTON: So you decide, which makes more sense, to entrust our country to someone who is ready on day one to make the decisions and the changes we need, or to put America in the hands of someone with little national or international experience who started running for president as soon as he arrived in the United States Senate.
CROWLEY: Hillary Clinton still leads Obama slightly in two other Iowa polls, but she's trying to jam him up enough to make a mistake. She's all over him in matters big and small.
OBAMA: I had not been planning to run for president for however number of years some of the other candidates had been planning for it.
CROWLEY: Camp Clinton responded, citing stories that in third grade, Obama wrote a paper saying he wanted to be president, a charge Obama aides labeled the Kindergarten attack.
Clinton's roughest critic, John Edwards, is counter programming -- Mr. Positive, Mr. Laid Back.
JOHN EDWARDS, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: In third grade, I wanted to be two things, I wanted to be cowboy and I wanted to be Superman.
CROWLEY: Moving on, Clinton also went after Obama over his political action committee, Hope Fund. Clintonites accused Obama of taking lobbyist money and giving it to Democratic candidates in key early primary states. She says it goes to character, contrary to what we have been hearing now for a year, she said, Obama's PAC had lobbyist money and they were more than happy to take that money and use it to try to influence elections.
OBAMA: All these accusations that are starting to come out, seem to correspond to shifts in political fortune.
CROWLEY: "Keeping them Honest," Obama did give PAC money to candidates or state parties in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada. That's illegal only if the contributions were coordinated with his presidential campaign.
Still, one expert says it's unusual for a presidential campaign to maintain a political action committee.
A big polling surprise as well for Republicans and suddenly everything we knew about the presidential race we don't know anymore.
Lookie who's on top, Mike Huckabee, formerly known as the little known governor from Arkansas, now fending off critics who say in a very un-Republican way he raised taxes.
HUCKABEE: Well, it's a lot better than being ignored and if the target comes to the truth, then it will be good for me.
CROWLEY: Huckabee did raise taxes on gasoline and state services for a grand total of $505 million.
Hoping to stop his slide, former Iowa front-runner, Mitt Romney, a Mormon plans a speech on religion later this week, aiming to bring back the conservative Christians he's been losing to Huckabee. Stick around, it could all change again.
CLINTON: We are really getting into the exciting period of this campaign.
CROWLEY: After 11 months of campaigning, the beginning is near.
Candy Crowley, CNN, Des Moines.
COOPER: Beginning of what is the question. So why the turn around in Iowa as well as the tightening race in New Hampshire. Digging deeper tonight, our Senior Political Analyst Gloria Borger is in Manchester and with me here, CNN's newest Political Analyst Carl Bernstein, author of "A Woman in Charge, the Life of Hillary Rodham Clinton," as well as a string of other bestsellers. He's actually got his own section at the library. And Mark Halperin who writes "The Page" at time.com, a tip shit for election '08 and has a new book out, "The Way to Win, Taking the White House in 2008."
Welcome all of you.
Carl, it seemed like Washington insiders were -- had crowned Hillary Clinton as the nominee months and months ago. That all seems upside down now. What is happening in Iowa to the Democrats?
CARL BERNSTEIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: It's the old lesson, stay away from Washington insiders because Mark has written very brilliantly in the "New York Times" last week. You know, polls are just a snapshot and they tend to be behind what's really going on and I think people are digging deeper now, they're trying to learn who these candidates are.
COOPER: And the more they're seeing of Hillary Clinton, the less they like?
BERNSTEIN: Well, I -- clearly, her numbers have been going down in Iowa. And in New Hampshire as well, but I think it's very difficult to generalize too much. I would not say that she has lost the election at this point as some people seem to be ready to predict. What we have is a situation where Obama might create a two-person race. If he's able to do that, all of the dynamics change because that is the way for him to perhaps win the nomination.
COOPER: Mark, Karl Rove actually in an op ed over the weekend offered some free advice to Senator Obama. I'm not sure he's going to be listening to Karl Rove, but he suggested the strategy for beating Senator Clinton, was: Americans want to see you scrapping and fighting for the job, not in a mean our ugly way but in a forceful and straight forward way. Hillary may come over as calculating and shifty but she looks in control. Sharpen your attacks and make them more precise.
MARK HALPERIN, "TIME" POLITICAL ANALYST: I thought Rove's op ed was actually pretty good advice. Maybe Obama doesn't like the source, but he said a lot of things in there that I think are true.
One thing has not changed in Iowa. Hillary Clinton can win the Iowa caucuses, Obama can win them and John Edwards can win them. That's still true. What's changed is Clinton now feels that the only way she can win is to try to destroy Barack Obama. After she had been attacked for several weeks, she decided she had to attack back. That's why this last month on the Democratic side is going to be so intense, because the attacks are going to be fierce.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: And Anderson, I think that's very dangerous for Hillary Clinton because her Achilles' heel is her likeability. There are lots of folks who say that they don't really like her so she's got to walk a fine line. Because as a woman, she's known as the toughest Democratic candidate. But now she's fighting back and she doesn't want to be known as the meanest Democratic candidate and Barack Obama today has started a Web site cataloging what he calls her negative attacks on him. So he's going to make her into the meanie and that doesn't play well in Iowa.
COOPER: And Gloria, Obama now has more support among women and potential caucus-goers than Hillary Clinton does. And that is a sea change.
BORGER: Well, it is a sea change. I think initially women were flocking to Hillary Clinton, because of course it's historic, you might want a woman to become president, you naturally would tend to look at her. But I think they have the same problems with her that men do, the question of likeability, the question of honesty.
I think the real battleground is among older women. Hillary Clinton really needs those older women and Barack Obama is trying to appeal to them and Oprah Winfrey may help him with that when she goes on the campaign trail.
BERNSTEIN: You've got an interesting thing going on with three candidates right now, which is to say Obama, Huckabee and what's happening with Hillary Clinton and Giuliani -- four -- is that the two candidates who have been known in the past to have difficulties with questions of trust, of candor, are seeing dents and taking some hits and appear very vulnerable, especially Giuliani right now. He's in a kind of free fall while this back story is going on about his security detail and what expenses might have been reported and what might not, but the real thing is he hasn't given a satisfactory explanation and it's taken a toll.
COOPER: It's interesting, though. I mean, I spent the day on Friday with Huckabee on the campaign trail in New Hampshire where he's trying to broaden out his base from Iowa. And the word that everyone I talked to in the crowds who would come to see him, the word people used was authenticity. He's jumped 17 points in Iowa. What is he doing right there and can it move over to a New Hampshire?
HALPERIN: He's set apart from all the other candidates because he's so comfortable with himself. All the other Republican candidates seem awkward at times, some consistently awkward. He seems authentic, he seems like a nice guy. He's also a governor. Remember, governors typically do pretty well. We're dealing with guys who were, with the exception of Giuliani, Senators with a different mentality.
The other thing is he is an authentic religious conservative on many issues that are important to religious conservatives. None of the other candidates can say look at my lifetime record without blemish.
BERNSTEIN: And as Bill Clinton said, he's from Hope.
HALPERIN: He's the Man from Hope, part two.
BORGER: You know, it's also interesting to me that Mike Huckabee is a populist who's now doing well in a Republican field. And that's because he's a populist with a positive message that appeals to Republicans, but also might appeal to some independent voters. He may be quite conservative on social issues, but people who don't like the bickering like what they see from Mike Huckabee when he goes to those debates and those debates have been really, really important to him and to his campaign.
COOPER: How important is the speech Mitt Romney is going to make on Thursday about his faith?
HALPERIN: Really important because he's taking it on and saying to people who have concerns about this, listen to me at this one big moment, I'm going to explain it to you and make you feel comfortable. If he doesn't do it in this speech, given how close the voting is, given what the nature of our media culture is like, I am not sure he'll get a second chance.
BERNSTEIN: I don't think it's just about his Mormonism, I think it's an opportunity for him to say take a look at all of me. He knows that he's going down right now in some polls that really count and that they reflect a trend that's been going on for a while, he's got to find a way back up.
COOPER: I mean, after all the money he's spent in Iowa, he's just got to be stunned at this moment.
BERNSTEIN: Well, I don't know how stunned he is.
BERNSTEIN: You know, politics -- these guys are used to stuff and they're used to getting banged around a lot and they've got ways of coming back and if the way to come back is to say, you know, here's what you need to know about me as a Mormon, but here's really what you need to know about me as a person, I'm going to show you.
HALPERIN: Five different people could be the Republican nominee. All five of them have had great success inside and outside politics. None of them are losers, they're all going to fight really hard.
BERNSTEIN: And all of them come in with great disadvantages against the Democrats.
COOPER: It's going to be -- I mean, the most fascinating race I've ever covered. I think it's going to be remarkable.
Gloria Borger, appreciate.
Mark Halperin, it's great to see you.
Carl Bernstein, good to have you with us. Thanks.
In a moment, more on the Huckabee factor. He was in New Hampshire this weekend trying to build on his Iowa surge. I spent the day with him to see how he campaigns on a shoestring budget, but arguably getting a lot more bang for the buck than some of the other bigger names. We'll have that for you in a moment.
And later she was a victim of a cruel hoax. Megan Meiers seduced and dumped online. But it wasn't a teenage boy who did it. It was a bogus MySpace page set up by a grownup neighbor. Now she is dead and her parents understandably want justice. But will that happen? I'll speak with her mom when 360 continues.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: What would Jesus do, would Jesus support the death penalty?
HUCKABEE: Jesus was too smart to ever run for public office, Anderson. That's what Jesus would do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: That right there is what people call the "Huckabee Factor." Sure, he didn't really answer the question, but his response made some people like him all the more.
Just about every time the Republicans debate, Giuliani goes after Romney, Romney goes after Giuliani, Fred Thompson gets in a shot or two and Mike Huckabee gains a little ground.
People say they like his even temperament, his authenticity. Even those who disagree with him on hot button issues like religion and abortion.
Recently, I got a look at Governor Huckabee's style and substance up close traveling with the candidate in New Hampshire.
COOPER: Do you feel the momentum on the campaign trail?
HUCKABEE: I do. I mean, I really do.
COOPER: Crowds are bigger?
HUCKABEE: It's several things, not only are the crowds bigger but they're very enthusiastic.
COOPER (voice-over): Soaring in the Iowa polls, Mike Huckabee is reaching beyond the Christian conservatives who first ignited his dark horse campaign. He spent the weekend in New Hampshire, a Southern Baptist minister stumping for Yankee votes.
First on Friday at the Chamber of Commerce in Concord.
HUCKABEE: Great to see you, John.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What are all these cameras around?
HUCKABEE: You know what?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What's going on?
HUCKABEE: It's a new day. Used to I was lucky if I had one print guy from a weekly. COOPER: The focus this morning, taxes and education, not abortion, same-sex marriage or religion, the issues that have lifted his campaign so far.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How do you like your surging number in Iowa?
HUCKABEE: I like it a lot.
COOPER: In New Hampshire it will be a tougher sell. Faith isn't as much of a factor here.
Other candidates have spent millions on commercials, built formidable political machines.
HUCKABEE: Anderson, do you want to get in the back seat with me?
COOPER (on camera): Sure. That would be great.
(voice-over): Huckabee's campaign is bare bones.
(on camera): You travel with a candidate like Rudy Giuliani, and he's got a huge entourage of people, or even, you know, John McCain used to. I mean you've got this guy.
HUCKABEE: Yes. Boy, that's a real hurt, isn't it? That ought to hurt, right? I got this guy. You see this guy, he's so much better than the next 10 guys.
COOPER: What do you think the biggest challenge you face in New Hampshire is?
HUCKABEE: Just simply being known. I'm an obscure governor from a southern state. But I'm not the first one that's ever been up here, either.
COOPER (voice-over): He's talking about Bill Clinton. Both men were born in Hope, Arkansas. Huckabee took over the governor's mansion shortly after Clinton won the White House. And though a Republican governor from predominantly Democratic Arkansas says something about his appeal, many Republicans remain unconvinced.
Economic conservatives charge on taxes and spending, Huckabee and Clinton are cut from the same cloth.
(on camera): There's a quote from a Republican state senator in Arkansas who said that you have a preacher's mentality when it comes to spending, that you see needs and you believe it's government's responsibility to fill those needs.
HUCKABEE: I don't see it that way.
COOPER: But you did raise taxes on fuel, on sales, on cigarettes, on beer.
HUCKABEE: When we raised taxes for fuel, we did it to rebuild our road program.
COOPER: Is it possible to be too compassionate a conservative?
HUCKABEE: A conservative means you want to conserve the best there is. We make government the best it can be and the most competent it can be, we make it limited, we don't make it non- existent.
COOPER (voice-over): In New Hampshire, fiscal discipline isn't Huckabee's only soft spot. His evangelical faith also draws some suspicion. We watch as he defends himself to one reporter.
HUCKABEE: There's this fear that if a person has faith, that they are going to impose it on everybody. Quite the opposite.
COOPER: Huckabee freely admits, however, religion is central to his life.
(on camera): Do you have a favorite Bible passage?
HUCKABEE: I do. New Testament. Philippians, chapter four, verse 13. "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."
That verse came to me at a very important time in my life when I was a teenager. I grew up without a lot of self-confidence, you know, being the kid that didn't have sometimes what I thought I needed to be as good as the other kids. And that verse really kind of gave me the understanding that, you know, it's not what I have. But I can do anything.
COOPER (voice-over): Which is why perhaps this is Mike Huckabee's moment.
COOPER: On the campaign trail, he comes off as authentic, a natural. He's quick to point out he may be a preacher, but he's no prude. He loves his rock and roll and all but worships Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards who years ago got a ticket in Arkansas.
(on camera): You pardoned Keith Richards.
HUCKABEE: I pardoned Keith Richards for a $162 misdemeanor traffic violation.
COOPER: That may come back in the general election.
HUCKABEE: I hope it does.
COOPER (voice-over): Huckabee even does an excellent Keith Richards impression.
HUCKABEE: We get to talking, and Keith says, hey man, you know I've been here before. You know the (UNINTELLIGIBLE)... COOPER: He hopes one day to jam with Richards, but for now, he's content to strum along with the high school rock band in Tilton, New Hampshire.
Winning over Republicans, one note at a time.
COOPER: We have found out some interesting facts about Mike Huckabee. Let's check the raw data. His campaign has spent about $1.7 million so far or about $52 million less than Mitt Romney's. His consulting firm once advised Bill Clinton and former Russian President Boris Yeltsin. Huckabee was diagnosed with Type Two diabetes in 2003. Since then he has lost more than 100 pounds and has completed four marathons. And he has never had a sip of beer.
My visit with Mike Huckabee was punctuated by a story that nobody in New Hampshire saw coming. The hostage drama at Clinton headquarters IN Rochester, New Hampshire. Erica Hill has an update on that and more in a 360 bulletin -- Erica.
ERICA HILL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, a judge is ordering a mental evaluation for the man accused of taking five people hostage Friday at a Hillary Clinton campaign office in New Hampshire. Leeland Eisenberg's attorney says his client had visions she was sacrifice himself to bring awareness to mental health issues. Prosecutors say he has a long criminal record including two rape convictions.
New insight on Iran from a newly declassified U.S. report which shows Iran actually stopped working on a nuclear weapon in 2003 while under international pressure and likely won't have enough enriched uranium for a bomb for two to seven years.
In Sudan, a presidential pardon. A British teacher convicted of insulting Islam has been released from prison. She served nine days of her 15-day sentence for allowing her students to name a teddy bear Mohammed. Some had called to for her execution.
And in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, a surprise homecoming. While waiting to see Santa with her baby daughter, Sam Miller was shocked to see her husband, Army Specialist Adam Miller. He took early leave from Afghanistan so he could meet his daughter, Anderson, for the very first time. I think the Christmas wishes have already come true in their house.
COOPER: Better than seeing Santa Claus, seeing him coming back. That's great.
360 next, more with Erica. We ask what were they thinking when a thief stoops to a whole new low.
Plus, honoring Sean Taylor as thousands gathered today for his funeral. Tonight, the latest on the four men accused of killing the star NFL player. What was it that connected them to Taylor or his family, when 360 continues.
COOPER: NFL Star Safety Sean Taylor was laid to rest today. Thousands of mourners, including his Washington Redskins teammates and the NFL commissioner attended his funeral in Miami.
A week ago today it was Taylor was shot during an apparent robbery at his Miami area home. He died a day later. His girlfriend and their 18-month-old daughter went unharmed in that attack and four suspects have been arrested.
CNN's John Zarrella joins me now with the latest information. John, what do we now know?
JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, I am at the Orange Bowl here in Miami and this is where Sean Taylor played football for the University of Miami. Thousands of people cheered him during his career and today, not far from here, thousands of people paid tribute to him, mourned him, his friends, his family, his former coaches, the entire Washington Redskins team was here along with O.J. Simpson and the Reverend Jesse Jackson. There were some very solemn moments and tributes. There were also some moments a bit lighter.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If the Lord wants to set up a first-class all-star football team in heaven, I think he's all set, the Lord is all set at safety for eternity.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZARRELLA: Taylor was laid to rest a short distance from where he grew up at 24 years old in a very private ceremony -- Anderson.
COOPER: John, as we talked about on Friday, police have four suspects in custody. How do they think the suspects came to target Taylor's property?
ZARRELLA: Well, it turns out that the events that triggered this may have happened solely by accident. Turns out that his half sister, Sasha Johnson held a party at Taylor's house. She had his permission to hold that party. It also turns out that Sasha Johnson dated the cousin of one of the men now in custody believed to be one of Taylor's killers. And it is also said that she may have bragged about her brother.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICHARD SHARPSTEIN, TAYLOR FAMILY FRIEND: She, like the rest of the family is devastated, emotionally overwrought with grief and pain. For her it's quite a bit. For Sasha it's even more because she was possibly the one who led the thieves into the house. Unwittingly.
(END VIDEO CLIP) ZARRELLA: Strictly by accident, totally unwittingly as you heard there. Now it is not clear if any of the suspects attended that party. But what we do know now, Anderson, is that the suspects will be in court tomorrow morning here in Miami at 9:00 a.m. They made an appearance in Lee County over the weekend. Tomorrow they'll be making an appearance here in Miami. They were transported here about an hour ago -- Anderson.
COOPER: Have police said anything more or new about the evidence that they have or don't have?
ZARRELLA: What we know now is that they believe they know who the shooter was, which one of the four was the shooter. What they do not have is the murder weapon. They believe that it's very possible that the murder weapon was dumped somewhere along Alligator Alley that stretches between Miami and Fort Myers, and they may never find that murder weapon.
They also say there is a very good possibility there was a fifth suspect involved. No more details on that.
And they're also telling us now that it is very possible that these men may well have also been responsible for the break-in at Sean Taylor's home eight days before he was killed -- Anderson.
COOPER: It is so sad. John, appreciate the reporting. John Zarrella.
Tomorrow on 360, disturbing memories of life inside a cult, a cult notorious for the twisted family values it preached. Here's CNN's Randi Kaye.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): You're watching a man unravel.
RICKY RODRIGUEZ, CULT MEMBER: I'm just loading some of my mags here. Hope you guys don't mind if I do that while I talk.
KAYE: Ricky Rodriguez had belonged to a sect that calls itself the Family International. He made this chilling tape two years ago.
RODRIGUEZ: This is my weapon of choice, the K-bar knife.
KAYE: Just days after this taping, two people will die.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Who Ricky Rodriguez wanted to kill and why and how he dealt with his demons, the chilling story. That's tomorrow on 360.
Now here's John Roberts with what's coming up tomorrow on "AMERICAN MORNING."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JOHN ROBERTS, CO-HOST, "AMERICAN MORNING": Thanks, Anderson.
Wake up to the most news in the morning, including a new push for safer toys. Nonprofit groups are stepping in and doing their own independent testing. Why would the government have a problem with that? We'll find out and have a list of the toys the groups say should be off the shelves.
"AMERICAN MORNING" begins at 6 a.m., Eastern. We'll see you then -- Anderson.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Up next tonight, one of the more shocking stories you'll ever hear, one we've been following on 360 for more than a week. A teenage girl who took her own life after falling in love, then falling victim to a bogus MySpace page set up by a neighbor, a grown-up neighbor, it turns out. Should these neighbors be prosecuted? The prosecutor's made a decision. We'll tell you what he said when 360 continues, and we'll talk to Megan's mom live.
COOPER: Up close tonight, new questions and more anger in the death of Megan Meier, the 13-year-old girl who committed suicide after becoming the target of an Internet hoax.
Megan's mother is with us tonight. We'll talk to her shortly. She's here to talk about the latest developments in this disturbing case. Today a decision from the prosecutors. Now we're going to get to that in a moment. But first, how an act of deception ended in this tragedy.
COOPER (voice-over): Megan Meier was like many girls her age. But the smile you see masked a difficult childhood.
RON MEIER, MEGAN'S FATHER: She had big self-esteem issues. She had struggled with depression since she was in the third grade.
COOPER: When Megan was 13, and with the supervision of her parents, she created a page for herself on MySpace.com, the popular networking site says it's a place for friends. For Megan, it became something more.
She met a boy on MySpace. His name was Josh Evans.
TINA MEIER, MEGAN'S MOTHER: He thought she was really pretty, posted on her comments on her pictures, you know, "This is beautiful. Your eyes are beautiful."
COOPER: Their online relationship seemed to quickly blossom. In one instant message, Josh told Megan, "Lucky me and lucky you, because you are my number one."
But suddenly everything changed and, for reasons Megan's parents couldn't explain, Josh turned on her.
T. MEIER: It was a whirlwind. It was Josh saying horrible things to Megan, Megan saying things back to him.
COOPER: Megan's father recalls one particularly ugly message.
R. MEIER: "The world would be a better off place without you, and have a (EXPLETIVE DELETED) rest of your life."
COOPER: Megan was crushed. The hurt was too much to bear.
T. MEIER: She was looking for me to help calm her down, like I normally always did and be there for her. And she just said to me, you're supposed to be my mom. You're supposed to be on my side.
COOPER: Megan then ran to her room. Her parents describe what happened next.
R. MEIER: Tina left, walked upstairs. I didn't really pay much attention to it, and then I just heard a blood-curdling scream.
T. MEIER: I just saw her hanging from her closet.
R. MEIER: It's like, please, please, Megan. Breathe.
COOPER: Megan died on October 16. Her parents wanted to tell Josh Evans what he did to their girl, but when they checked his MySpace page, it had been erased.
A few weeks later, a neighbor told the Meiers a story that stunned them. Josh Evans did not exist. He was a creation of a woman who lives just a few doors down from the Meiers, the mother of a female friend of Megan's.
According to police, the woman says she and her 18-year-old employee invented Josh Evans to find out why Megan was fighting with her daughter. The woman, who's now become the target of public outrage over the hoax, says she's not responsible for Megan's death. Megan's father disagrees.
R. MEIER: As if my daughter would have killed herself with a gun, they loaded the gun for her.
COOPER: If you're asking whether the woman now faces criminal charges, the prosecutor says it won't happen.
JACK BANAS, ST. CHARLES COUNTY PROSECUTOR: We can't put it in the box for harassment, either by the Internet or by just basic harassment.
COOPER: There is no disputing, however, this sad fact: Megan Meier is gone.
COOPER: Megan's memory is alive. Her parents are hoping to make sure that what happened to her will not happen to anyone else.
As I said, Megan's mother is with us tonight. She'll join me in just a few moment.
But as you heard, the prosecutor said there was no harassment in this case. Find out why and if there's any legal action the parents can take against the woman behind the hoax.
Let's turn to or Senior Legal Analyst Jeffrey Toobin.
I mean, I've got to say, I mean, I don't know much about the law, but I was stunned to hear that there's essentially, legally, no charges that can be brought against this other woman, this family.
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: And it's very difficult. I had to say I was sympathetic to the prosecutor there, because there is not a box, as he said, that you can put this in, whether it counts as harassment.
Because now the facts have gotten a little muddier, because as he said, it is not clear that the mother of the neighbor set up the Web site, the MySpace account. It may have been that 18-year-old girl.
COOPER: An employee of the mother.
TOOBIN: An employee.
COOPER: But it does seem like she directed it. It was at her direction.
TOOBIN: Again, I don't know the facts. But you have to have intent to harass someone and commit an act that the law considers harassment. And sending messages, at least in this circumstance, doesn't appear to be it.
COOPER: That's what it boils down to, the key is intent?
TOOBIN: Yes, when it comes to harassment, it's intent. And there are federal anti-stalking laws that I know the FBI has looked into in this case. But again, I'm sympathetic to the FBI that this is not what stalking was defined by Congress to be.
COOPER: But if you know somebody is, you know, emotionally, has problems or has emotional difficulties, as this mother must have because her daughter was friends with Megan, I mean, isn't it sort of reckless disregard for someone's well-being?
TOOBIN: It's -- it's terrible cruelty. And certainly, I do think that the Meiers may have a lawsuit against this family, in a civil context, with the lower burden of proof. And also you have torts, which are broader than criminal -- criminal laws. Something like intentional infliction of emotional distress is something you can sue for.
Now, whether the Meiers want to go through the pain of reliving this all, and whether this family has any money that makes it worth suing for, I don't know. But certainly, a civil remedy seems possible, whereas I do think that the criminal is very unlikely. Well, now impossible.
COOPER: It is such a horrific case.
TOOBIN: You see this case and you just want the law to get involved because it's so awful.
COOPER: I mean, does changing the law as they have in this town, does that matter? I mean, not -- obviously, not for this case, but down the road?
TOOBIN: Yes, it does. I mean, it does, because given the unusual circumstance of dealing with people electronically, with -- in a circumstance where you know you can inflict this kind of pain on someone, this law -- this law would allow a prosecution. But that can't help Megan.
COOPER: Just ahead on 360, you nominated them and now they're in the running for our "CNN Heroes All-Star Tribute." Three amazing people making a huge difference in the lives of children who desperately need help. Our "CNN Heroes All-Star Tribute" countdown is next.
COOPER: Our "CNN Heroes All-Star Tribute" is just three days away right now. On Thursday night in a live global broadcast, we're going to honor six unsung heroes who were selected from more than 7,000 nominations of heroes in 93 countries.
Tonight, we have four more finalists for you to meet. We begin with three champions of children. Each is making a major impact on the world one child at a time. Take a look.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK. Here we go.
RICK HODES, CNN HERO: Ethiopia has about one doctor for every 40,000 people. There's about 2,000 doctors for the country. A lot of people just don't get to see a doctor or they don't get to see a good doctor.
82 percent of Ethiopians survive on less than $1 a day.
HODES: My mission on the planet is helping people that nobody else is interested in helping. That's the population that we deal with at Mother Teresa's. My name is Rick Hodes. I'm an American medical doctor. I've lived in Ethiopia for about 20 years. I've worked as a volunteer doctor at Mother Teresa's Mission taking care of sick destitutes, especially working with heart disease, spine disease and cancer.
Besides that -- I've turned my house into a bit of an orphanage and have 17 kids in the two houses that I pay rent on.
My goal is to give them a future and have a ripple effect so that this has a much wider impact on everything.
Life expectancy in Ethiopia is just 48 years old.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't think I would be still alive, you know, because of my back, I just hated my life.
When he told me I was going to have surgery he kind of just changed my life.
HODES: When you have kids who are sick and kids who are dying, that's a very sad thing. So at least I can give them a shot at life. And if I get a kid with lymphoma, I can give him chemotherapy and often they'll survive, you know, and it's great. And then when I can send them back to their village and say to the dad, listen, I'm happy to fund his education. Just, you know, contact me every six months, every year and we'll wire you some money and then they have a future. You know, this is a wonderful thing.
About 72 percent of school-age children in Ethiopia have no access to formal education.
HODES: I feel like I'm really making an impact. Not on a huge population basis, but I'm changing lives one by one, left and right. And that's what keeps me going.
SCOTT LOEFF, CNN HERO: I found I was diagnosed with Tourettes when I was 13 years old. It was unsettling each day not knowing what was going to be going on. And also every day it would be a battle sometimes for me to make it through the day.
It did isolate me both with friends and with my own family. (BEGIN GRAPHIC)
Tourette Syndrome is a neurological disorder that causes involuntary movements and vocalizations called tics.
LOEFF: My name is Scott Loeff. I am the founder, the director, the jack-of-all-trades master of none (ph) for the Tourette (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Organization.
It is for boys and girls usually ages 8 to 15, 16 that have Tourette's Syndrome.
Camp is really one week out of the year where the kids get -- well, to me get a hopefully 51 weeks of positive experience because as soon as they leave camp, the cruel world is going to start chopping away at that with their constant problems a lot of these kids face, being made fun of.
Tourette Syndrome can affect people of all ethnic groups.
Males are affected three to four times more often than females.
Source: Tourette Syndrome Online
LOEFF: The one thing you always hear from the parents that these children always feel that they're alone. They haven't met anyone else that has Tourette's. And that's one of the goals of the camp is so that the kids meet other kids with a similar condition, going through some of the same situations, make lasting friendships, and just to experience some fun times together and also to hopefully get some coping skills.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's so much fun to be around. And he's accomplished so much that it makes you proud that you've got Tourette's because you start to feel like it's an excellent asset.
LOEFF: I think it's very important to show them that they're not alone and that, you know, you're going to have -- you may have it a little tougher than somebody who doesn't have Tourette's, but you can still success. You don't need to -- you're not going to be a failure. You have a chance to succeed. All you got to do is apply yourself to it. And there's a world of opportunity out there.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. I'm rolling.
STEVE PEIFER, CNN HERO: Africa will change you. Africa gets under your skin and won't let go. Africa never lets you forget.
I remember the first time I delivered food to a school, and all the kids were lying on the ground. And it was a dirt floor. And I asked the teacher why. And she said, it's Thursday. And they haven't eaten since Monday. When they sit up straight, they faint. And that just like an absolute turning point in my life. I knew I could never go back to what I was.
More than half of all Kenyans, including 9 million children, live below the poverty line.
PEIFER: How many of you are working, get to go on the computer center.
My name is Steve Peifer. We provide feeding for 25 schools in Kenya and we built ten solar computer centers.
Now, when you're going to type...
We thought, if we brought food to a school, maybe we could keep kids in school. It was tremendously successful.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Good morning, children.
PEIFER: Not only did the dropout rate drop to zero, but hundreds of kids joined the school because of the food. And we can feed a kid for a month for about $1.47.
Steve's organization feeds 11,000 kids in 25 schools nine months out of the year.
PEIFER: The future of the world is in computing. Every profession, it touches computers. And I wanted Kenyan children to do whatever they've been called to do. If they're doctors or pilots or teachers, they need to use computers. And learning computers is going to give them a step up and a chance.
What would you like to study?
I want kids to feel like they haven't been forgotten. I want kids to feel like they're a part of what we're all doing and that they're important to the rest of us, and their progress is important to the world.
COOPER: Three remarkable people.
When we come back, another unsung hero who came up with a simple solution to a devastating problem. We'll tell you how she's using plastic buckets to save lives. Her story is next on 360.
COOPER: As we said before the break, our "CNN Heroes All-Star Tribute" is just three days away in a live global broadcast this Thursday. We're going to honor six people selected from among 7,000 nominations of heroes in 93 different countries.
As part of our countdown to Thursday, we've been profiling the 18 finalists. And the woman you're about to meet was nominated for our defending the planet category. She's found a way to save lives with five-gallon buckets. Here's her story.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And we're ready.
FLORENCE CASSASSUCE, CNN HERO: My name is Florence Cassassuce and I developed a water purifier for the developing world.
It all started at UC Berkeley where I was doing my master's. We founded a group called Engineers of Frontiers (ph), and our first project was here in La Paz. We always were interested in knowing the water quality in the rural area.
In 50 percent of the wells, the water had been in contact with either human or animal excrement. That means half of the family has water that can give them diarrhea in the best case and cholera or typhoid or hepatitis in the worst case. And that was really convincing, by the end of the year, we knew we wanted to invent something to help the families.
During Southern Baja Peninsula dry season, 42 percent of wells have fecal contamination.
In the rainy season, the number swells to 100 percent.
CASSASSUCE: We wanted to invent something for $20 or $30 that one family could afford. We need a system inside a UV bucket, compact, affordable, very simple for the family to use.
This particular model was designed knowing that to guarantee the efficiency of the UV bucket, the fact that it's really going to purify the water, we needed those channels so that the water spends 30 seconds under the UV lamp.
Ultra violet light inactivates the disease causing organisms in water.
Source: UC Berkeley
CASSASSUCE: You always organize, like the distribution events in the villages as a one-day event. We take a few samples of the water, discuss the water quality in the village.
We decided as a strategy we're going to have to work with the kids right from the beginning because they're very good at going back to their house and saying hey, I used the UV bucket in the school. Mama, you know, you've got to use it also at the house.
The children, we know from the statistics of the school, that half of the kids cannot go to school at some time of the year, you know, just because they have some instance of diarrheal infection.
I think I want to help all the people that have less than me all around the world. So if I can give the UV bucket to every family in the developing world, that would be like a great achievement.
COOPER: I'm going to be co-hosting the all-star tribute with Christiane Amanpour this Thursday. I hope you join us.
Up next tonight, one on one with former Arkansas Governor, now presidential candidate Mike Huckabee. We'll take you behind the scenes. It's what's "On the Radar, when 360 continues.
COOPER: "On the Radar" tonight, a behind the scenes look at 360. If you haven't done so already, go to our blog, read the post by Associate Producer David Reisner. He shares what we faced Friday in New Hampshire when we interviewed Presidential Candidate Mike Huckabee and then we had to rush over to the hostage standoff at a Hillary Clinton office in Rochester, New Hampshire.
Lilibeth of Edmonds, Washington, writes: What a great blog post, David! Thank you for that. I felt as if I was there. That was scary last Friday, with the hostage crisis. Thankfully, it ended peacefully. What a day you had -- up and down like a roller coaster. The news just keeps you on your toes, doesn't it?
Lilibeth, it certainly does.
Terry at Fayetteville, says this about Huckabee: Finally a politician who has a mode of governing that seems both expedient and from the heart, AND he plays a bean base guitar.
While Jaime, of Memphis, Tennessee, writes: Anyone who pardons a Rolling Stone for speeding is OK with me. Rock on, brother!
A shout out there to Huckabee's pardon last year of fellow guitarist Keith Richards for a 31-year-old reckless driving ticket, as we mentioned earlier in the program.
To weigh in, go to CNN.com/360, link to the blog. We'd love to hear from you.
That's all for this edition of 360.
For our international viewers, "CNN TODAY" is next. Here in America, "LARRY KING" is coming up.
I'll see you tomorrow.
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