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tv   Nightline  ABC  September 15, 2010 11:35pm-12:05am EDT

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tonight on "nightline," escape from the mob. his father was the boss, his brother an fbi informant. but he made millions of dollars a week as the leader of one of new york's most feared mafia families. "nightline" has his inside story on how he left the life without ending up in a body bag. rogue waves. they're the monsters of the ocean, giant walls of crushing water. but why do they happen? we go inside the jaws of the beast. and, power struggle. a day after big tea party election upsets, republican leaders still seem shocked while democrats wait to see how the chips fall. we look at the political power shakeup. >> announcer: from the global resources of abc news, with terry moran, cynthia mcfadden and bill weir in new york city, this is "nightline," september 15th, 2010. >> good evening. we begin tonight with an incredible story from the world
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of organized crime. it's about a man who pledged himself to the mafia at age 22 after his father, a nor or the use new york city crime boss, was sentenced to 50 years in prison. he devised a scheme that brought the family hundreds of millions of dollars but then came a woman, and a moment, that made him walk away. >> reporter: most wise guys quit the mob in one of two ways. witness relocation or a body bag. but michael franzes ze has managed to avoid both and still can show his face on the streets that he captained. >> some around here, too, in this section, too, but this was our town. this was us, so -- we had it wrapped up. >> reporter: this mobster turned minister has come back to brooklyn on a mission from god. to pay a jailhouse visit to his mafia boss father in an effort to save his soul from hell. and that would be no small feat.
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because sonny is a living legend. fbi wiretaps have captured this underboss ofbragging about the dozens of men he killed and bragging about his favorite ways to dispose of bodies. >> terrible. he wasn't indicted for that but terrible. >> reporter: so when you sit down with your dad, can you imagine him doing these things, these heinous things? the father you love? you can imagine it? >> i can, yeah. you know why i can, bill? because i was part of that life. and i understand. am i ashamed of it yeah. >> reporter: so, how are you instructed in the differences between right and wrong? what was your moral cold in your house growing up? >> believe it or not, my dad told me it's wrong to lie, cheat, steal. but he put something in my head which was the wrong thing to do at that age. i don't ever want you to be in
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law enforcement, because police take an oath to lock up their own parents, and how could you ever do anything like that? >> reporter: in 1970 sonny got a 50-year sentence for master minding a string of bank robberies a crime michael insists he didn't commit. it was then, on another prison visit, that michael offered to take up the family business. >> for about a year i was in a pledge period where i had to do everything i was told to do to prove myself to them. and then a year later, 1975 i was called into room and that's the night i got made. >> reporter: what did you have to do in that first year? did you have to kill somebody? >> you know, bill, it's -- you're expected to do that if you're called upon to do it. you're expected to do it. they were bringing so many guys in, there probably wasn't enough guys to kill, so -- they just -- a lot of guys ss ss -- >> reporter: not enough hits to go around. michael concocted a scheme to skim tax money from billions of
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gallons of gasoline. how much you make? >> at one point in time $8 million a week into our operation. and, bill, for seven years, i never lost an argument. >> and you had nicky eyes. >> what's up guy? >> and mikey. >> reporter: it's no quince dense there's a character named after him in the movie "good fellas." by the early '80s, he established a mythical reputation. >> i'm not going to lie to you. when i was in that life, people ask me all the time, michael, what do you miss? the money, the power? i had a jet plane, i had a helicopter, a lot of things. but i miss the camaraderie i had with the guys back then. i mean we were a tight-knit group, and, to me, there's nothing more powerful than a brotherhood among guys, you know? >> reporter: at what point did it stop being enjoyable? >> well, you know, along with that, because i became so high profile, you know, i was constantly under investigation.
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>> reporter: two things changed his life. prison and a woman named camille. as the felts closed in, he fell in love with this devout christian, accepted her faith, and a plea deal. as he served a five-year sentence, he sent word to his dad he was leaving the mob and the family was furious. his father approved a contract on his head. but he didn't reach bottom until a parole violation sent him back inside. >> when they locked me up that night, it was the worst night of my life. and that's the night that i really, first time, cried out to god, said, if you're really up there, you need to help me, because i can't deal with this. >> reporter: he spent 29 months in the hole, reading his bible all the while. >> wave to mommy. >> reporter: after his release, he moved to california, grew his family, and began lecturing athletes on the dangers of gambling. >> tomorrow's a new day. >> reporter: four books and thousands of sermons later, he packs megachurches with his tale of redemption --
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>> there's no blueprint for leaving the mob, the way i did and publicly survive the way i have. i attribute that to god. >> reporter: and that contract on his head? never fulfilled. because he never testified against anyone in his former life. don't believe that it's my job to help the government and go around and put people in jail. i don't believe that. i don't think scripture demands that. >> reporter: but that seems like the right thing to do, whether scripture says it or not. >> you know, bill, i don't feel that way. >> reporter: but his own brer does not adhere to his code of silence, and that's why their father will likely die in prison. would have grabbed car mine and told him, look, you mother [ bleep ] rat bastard, i would have gone out there and get the municipal and bring it here. >> reporter: at the fbi paid him $50,000, john secretly recorded their 93-year-old father -- >> no $25,500, and if he don't
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give it, leave him on the floor. >> reporter: it was evidence, as sonny was convicted of shaking down two manhattan strip clubs. >> my dad is broken hearted. even until a half an hour ago when i was with him. he said, mike, i just can't believe it. he's so hurt over what happened. he -- that's the part that he can't live with. >> reporter: if your younger brother is found in a dumpster somewhere tomorrow, you suspect your father -- >> no. i don't suspect that. and it will never happen, because my brother's not important enough. >> reporter: were you able to broach the topic that you had hoped to? in terms of his owlsoul? >> actually, we were. i got to go easy with him, you know? but i really -- you know, bill, i've seen something in him recently that i've never witness witnessed in my dad, and that is humility. and i they's aink that's a big first step. and my dad did 30 years for a
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crime that he did not commit. >> reporter: you got to admit, he got away with an awful lot of crimes that he never got tried for, so -- carkarma kind of evened out. >> i agree with that. is it justified in the moral respect, maybe, but i'm not god, i don't play god. so this is where i live now. kind of a million miles away from brooklyn. >> reporter: when was the last time you were approached by somebody,iter in the fbi or from the family, trying to pull you back in? >> a guy called me up used to be in my crew. i haven't seen him in 20 years, and it was funny. he said to me, chief, you need to come back. there's nobody out here, nobody's making money. they'll welcome you with open arms. >> reporter: wasn't tempting? >> not in the least. >> reporter: not even a little twinge? >> not even a -- i'd have to be -- i'd need a lobotomy if i thought of that again. i believe with all my heart, 1,000%, that god had a different plan and purpose.
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i don't know where it's going to end. i could walk out the door tomorrow and somebody shoot me in the head, especially in brooklyn. who knows. but -- and if it happens, so be it. i fulfilled my purpose and i go to heaven. that's where i believe i'm going anyway, i hope so. >> michael is speaking around the country, churches and prisons, while working on his latest book, while his father will likely receive the last prison sentence of his long life early next month. and when we come back, danger on theering waves that come out of nowhere to chew up ships. we'll meet a survivor, and the man who lives to ride them. (announcer) chug that coffee bolt that burrito. no matter what life throws at you you can take the heat. until it turns into... heartburn. good thing you've got what it takes to beat that heat, too. zantac. it's strong, just one pill can knock out the burn. it's fast the speed you need for heartburn relief. and
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in the odyssey, the sea god poseidon summons the fury of the ocean to terrorize the hero and his men, the waves come out of nowhere. the story's of another age, but ocean goers today says the sea is breeding more of those waves. here's bob woodruff. >> reporter: they are the giants of the ocean. deadly, hard to predict, and maybe more common than you think. the crew of the deadliest catch encountered a rogue wave in the middle of the night. but it's not just fishermen that suffer poe sighseidonposeidon's wrath. so do students on the popular school program semester at sea. and spectators get a shocking ride at a maverick surfing competition.
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>> for the longest time, no one knew they were out there. >> reporter: they'd never been seefr been? >> no, they hadn't been seen. nobody leaves the stories. >> reporter: sue say casey, an author and journalist, who has been covering surfing for years, became fascinated with rogue waves. she couldn't get over one little known fact. >> sometimes the ships don't even have time to send an s.o.s. that's pretty common. >> reporter: because the waves some so fast? she discovered ships disappear in the ocean without a trace every single week. do we know how many were destroyed by waves? >> they don't exactly, because they are just gone. >> reporter: while researching her new book, "the wave," she decided to follow someone who heads straight into the jaws of some of the motion's most dangerous walls of water. >> i tell people to see a wave that is 80 or 100 feet and be out in those waves, it's like being among the dinosaurs.
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>> reporter: laird is a big wave surfer has tackled waves no one thought possible. does he know more than anybody else you know? >> laird knows about waves the way birds know about the sky. you know? that's his element. i wanted to visit it, and so i needed him to take me in there. >> reporter: susan was a competitive swimmer and laird helped her get into waters normally off-limits to amateurs. hamilton believes susan is right, that something is brewing, something new. >> this last winter in hawaii was as big a winter as we've ever seen. >> reporter: bigger storms, meaning bigger waves. some of the biggest swells on record. >> i can say i've been waiting a few decades to have a winter like this. >> reporter: we visited him on his home turf, in hawaii. surf this big is always risky. >>ive had stitches and broken bones and, you know, punctured cheeks. the conditions give you a
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certain power and strength that you wouldn't have if they weren't there. so -- look at this one. oh, yeah. >> reporter: but it's not only climbing the highest mountain -- >> it's a little bit like ballet. there's so much to do, even the most minute movement is something to be refined. >> reporter: so you will surf little tiny waves? >> absolutely. >> reporter: here's our chance. ready to go. >> similar. >> yeah, look. >> reporter: the water that day was safe, but so flat. both of us were hoping for excitement, but laird really wants other really big ones. >> i've been out in waves that were bigger than 100 feet. >> reporter: how did you find those? all in hawaii. >> they came to us, unforecasted. >> reporter: lock reedy was the first meat on a 45-foot sailboat when he made his 16th trip across the atlanta. at the top of the wave, you fall down? >> the boat slides, yeah, the boat absolutely slides down. almost like surfing.
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what would it look like if we saw that kind of rogue wave that you were in? >> muchaler than that mast. >> reporter: taller than -- >> oh, absolutely. >> reporter: he mu he might encounter stormy weather, but the forecast did not prepare him for hurricane force winds. >> this one giant wave came crashing down on the boat and never saw it, never heard it, it just happened. and it just engulfed the boat. it rolled the boat upside down. >> reporter: all indications say it was the dreaded rogue. and the conditions were ripe for that monster wave that towers over its neighbors. >> the steeper the wave, the more like i it is to go haywire. that's what a wave is. >> the wave came over the boat, and flipped the life raft upside down and me out of it. and it was dead quiet, absolute dead silence and i knew i was under water. >> reporter: lock was swept into the caldron. he bobbed up and down swells 30
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feet and higher. >> i was down under so deep that my ears actually hurt. >> reporter: the boat's captain, thomas, was swept overboard. he died at sea. in lock's arms. >> he just couldn't fight it. he ingested a lot of water. and couldn't -- i couldn't save him. >> reporter: did you then unclip him? >> no, no, i kept him with me. i kept him with me the rest of the time. i promised him that i would get him home and i had to do that. i had to get him home to his family. >> reporter: after 24 hours, the coast guard and a commercial ship managed a daring rescue amid the rough seas. do you have any regret that you did this, that you sailed into the storm? >> no, no. not at all. when you go out in the ocean, things happen. almost always good. but you have to be prepared for the time when it may not be good. >> reporter: in truth, scientists still don't understand what's causing such huge waves.
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all they really know is that they happen in deep water with strong winds and flowing currents. are they changing a lot because of global warming? >> well, hotter water means expanded, higher sea level. i think of it as this way, everything in the ocean is rising right now. temperatures, sea level, tsunami risks. the oceans are just more and more volatile all the time. >> i don't conquer them. i'm among them. >> reporter: do you celebrate when you're at the very top of the wave? >> very mildly. i don't celebrate too much. i'm thankful. >> reporter: thankful to experience the giant, and live to talk about it. i'm bob woodruff for "nightline" in new york. >> in hawaii, laird is an adjective of all things good. you can see susan and sea god laird on "good morning america" tomorrow. our thanks to bob for that report. and up next, the canadian singer that's drawn comparisons to the greats, and she's only 16 years old.n it to the gecko. gecko: a
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everyone knows a fee is a tax. you raised some taxes during that period particularly the property tax as well as a lot of fee increases. as you know, there's a big difference between fees and taxes. but...they're the same. it's a tax. it's a tax. it's a tax. it's a tax. there's a big difference between fees and taxes. fees and taxes are one in the same. if it comes out of my pocket it's a tax. now he says it isn't true. we didn't raise taxes. what? still doing the same thing paying out more money. typical politician. definitely. >> announcer: "nightline" continues from new york city with bill weir. >> the 16-year-old canadian
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singer seems to have the ability to take audiences to another place in time, whether she's performing in a nightclub she's otherwise too young to get into or at the olympics in front of 3 billion. jeremy hubbard joins the teen, and her mom, for a day on the town. ♪ sweet lovely ♪ ♪ lady be good ♪ ♪ oh lady be good to me ♪ >> reporter: say the name ella fitzgerald to a teen, you'll get a blank stare. billie hollholliday they'll ask, who is he? but nikki not only knows the jazz great ss, she might be one of them. ♪ who can ask for anything more ♪ >> reporter: a tv audience of 3 billion people watched her sing at the opening ceremony of the olympics. ♪ o canada ♪ >> reporter: she had a number
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one song in her home country of canada. ♪ i believe in the power that comes ♪ >> reporter: with a voice that would leave simon cowell speechless. >> i don't consider myself to be a big deal. i'm just nikki, you know? >> reporter: we spent a day on the town with the 16-year-old and her mom. and, at every turn, she found musical inspiration beyond her years. >> billie holliday is playing. >> reporter: you have an ear for it? >> it's disticket. it's like leal, you hear it once and you know it's her. and her time is so good. nobody has time like that. >> reporter: this ability came early to nikki. she's been singinging since age 11. then, at 12, a music teacher turned her onto jazz. she learned ella fitzgerald's "airmail special" by heart. then vowed the crowd with it at a jazz festival in montreal. now, as she prepared for her last year of high school, she's traveling the globe, hoping to
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become the latest in a long line 0 canadian exports who have all conquered the music world. i heard you scat, too. >> i do that. >> reporter: can you teach me? >> i actually learned from listening to horn solos. you have a horn solo, it's the same thing, but what you mouth. >> reporter: can you do it? >> it's like -- >> reporter: i have heard of this other canadian teenager who is sort of become a gigantic star and become a household name. you probably know who i'm talking about -- >> justin bieber, right? >> reporter: are you hoping to unseat him? >> no, no. i don't hit the you can have a competition for talent. i sing stuff that's completely different, but i would never want to do that. ♪ i'd be rich as rockefeller. ♪ >> reporter: her sound is no
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coincidence. she's worked with guys that worked with billy joel. her manager, her parents, but they say, don't get the wrong idea. people are going to wonder is this the 2i7ypical stage mom and dad? >> not really, but don't tell. but not really. absolutely not. this is nikki's gig. totally if she wants it, we're there for her. if she doesn't, we're wrapping up shop and off we go, for sure. >> reporter: it is her choice, they say. perhaps, even her calling. belting it out in a seasoned nightclub voice that makes you forget she's not even old enough to get into a nightclub. ♪ i've got a cool ♪ >> reporter: i'm jeremy hubbard for "nightline" in new york. >> thanks to jeremy on that. let's see what's coming up next on "jimmy kimmel live." jim? >> jimmy: tonight, dr. phil, nathan fillion. we've have music from trace adkins, and it's mexico's 200th birthday, so feliz navidad.
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host: could switching to geico really save you fifteen percent or more on car insurance? was abe lincoln honest? mary: does this dress make my backside look big? abe: perhaps... host: could switching to geico really save you fifteen percent or more on car insurance? host: is having a snowball fight with pitching great randy johnson a bad idea? man: yeah, i'm thinking maybe this was a bad idea.


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