LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, Hulk Hogan exclusive — family under siege, his son behind bars for a car crash. A friend brain-damaged as a result for life. Jailhouse conversations between parent and child revealed for the world to hear.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NICK BOLLEA: I’m going crazy in this room. I can’t stay here.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Are they as cold and calloused as they sound?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HULK HOGAN: For some reason, God laid some heavy (EXPLETIVE LANGUAGE) on this kid.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: And exploiting a tragedy for a TV show.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
N. BOLLEA: Will you work on that reality deal for me?
H. HOGAN: Yes.
N. BOLLEA: Will you get that line up so the minute I walk out of wherever I walk out of it’s there — boom.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: What else is on those tapes?
Hulk next on LARRY KING LIVE.
I want to welcome Hulk Hogan, pro-wrestling legend, entertainer and reality TV star.
Hulk’s 17-year-old son, Nick, is in jail. He’s sentenced to eight months behind bars after pleading no contest to felony reckless driving. A car crash last August — excuse me — left his friend, John Graziano, with serious brain injuries. David Houston, Nick’s attorney, is also with us. We’re going to have a couple of questions for David. And if a question is asked of Hulk that might enter into a legal area that he can’t discuss, David will jump right in.
First, how are you doing?
H. HOGAN: Well, we, you know, we’re making it through another day here, Larry. It’s — to say this has been a tough one is an understatement. You know, the whole family and — two families have been, you know, totally devastated and it’s not easy.
KING: Does it ever leave your mind?
H. HOGAN: No it doesn’t. It’s something that’s constantly there. It’s every minute.
KING: When did you last contact Nick?
H. HOGAN: Right before we came on the air. I was lucky enough to get a phone call from Nick. He has finally been moved where…
KING: From where to where?
H. HOGAN: Well, my gosh, if you rewind back to the original sentence from the judge, the judge sentenced Nick to eight months minimum security. And from the moment he was sentenced, he walked out of jail. And we were all thinking he would be in minimum security for eight months.
They took him straight to the mental part — the mental ward of the hospital and put him in a very small padded cell. And from that padded cell, we worked all through that weekend — because it was on a Friday, waited until the next week and we thought were having him moved to a better spot, but they moved him to a maximum security area, where most of the prisoners were altogether in cell with pods, and 10 or 15 prisoners per pod that they had the use of a phone and they could see a TV.
But Nick was moved to maximum security, but at the end of the hallway in a solitary confinement, so — which is usually used for punishing hardened criminals.
KING: Where is he now?
H. HOGAN: Well, now, after, oh my gosh, 20 to 29 days, you know, the sheriff’s legal department made the decision to put him in a circumstance where there is some relief.
Where Nick now is in with other inmates. And he’s being treated now like the other inmates in this maximum security type situation.
KING: And this happened right today?
H. HOGAN: No, sir. This — the move — this final move happened probably about four or five days ago. KING: Did you talk to him today?
H. HOGAN: Yes, sir. Right before I went on the air.
KING: He’s doing all right?
H. HOGAN: Yes, he’s hanging in there. Thank you.
KING: Larry, not, sir.
He’s now sharing a cell with other juveniles, as we said. He was in solitary, segregated from the general population. And he talked about that situation with his mother in a taped jailhouse conversation.
Here’s an excerpt.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
N. BOLLEA: But it’s like…
L. HOGAN: Oh my god, Nick.
N. BOLLEA: I’m going crazy in this room. It’s like — it’s like sitting — it’s like half the size of my bathroom.
L. HOGAN: Oh!
N. BOLLEA: It’s no windows or nothing and like just one little like, you know, like cot bed thing.
L. HOGAN: Oh my god.
N. BOLLEA: And, you know, I don’t know, tell like Kevin either I have to get a work release or we have to appeal it or something, because I can’t stay here.
L. HOGAN: OK. OK.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Do you know why we hear those tapes?
H. HOGAN: I have no idea why we’re hearing those tapes. I mean if you — well, it’s never been done before and — that I know of ever in the United States. I mean between O.J. and Charles Manson and Paris Hilton, Ted Bundy, I’ve never heard any private recordings that were supposed to be used only for jail purposes of security. So we’re hearing these tapes because, from what I understand, it was a decision by the legal department — the sheriff’s legal department, not the sheriff. The sheriff was unhappy these tapes were out.
KING: They released them, David, to a TV station?
DAVID HOUSTON, NICK’S ATTORNEY: Yes, they did. There was a request for a release of the tapes under some sort of Freedom of Information Act request in the State of Florida. And for the first time — I’ve done this for a long time. For the first time, the sheriff agreed to release these private conversations.
KING: What can you do about it?
You can’t do anything about it now (INAUDIBLE)?
HOUSTON: Well, we have. I mean we can’t bring back what’s already been released. But what we’ve asked the sheriff in what we call declaratory relief is we’ve asked the judge to weigh in and give us an opinion, because we don’t think it’s correct and we don’t want anymore coming out.
KING: How did his early days in incarceration affect you?
H. HOGAN: Well, you know, the tape that you just heard was my son, who was — at the time of the accident, he had just turned 17. When he was sentenced, he was still a 17-year-old child, a juvenile, however you would like to, you know, classify him.
For him to walk out of the courtroom on a Friday thinking he was going to probably be following the guidelines of the judge’s sentence, minimum security for eight months — for him to be walked into the mental ward of the jail and be locked in a padded cell, it caught all of us off guard. We had no idea that, you know, there was not adequate housing for a juvenile in an adult prison.
So when he first went in there, it was on a Friday and there was — we panicked because this is — wasn’t what he was sentenced to. So we fought through this weekend and being locked up with no door or a window or no human contact, you know, for a 17-year-old, was tough when you didn’t expect that.
So as we — I mean I’ve sat in the same chair — you know, from the day he was sentenced, he would call me if he had an opportunity to get to a phone. And they’d let him call early in the morning, like 5:30 or 6:00. I would sit in that chair from the moment I got the call until 11:00, 12:00 at night making phone calls. And I’ve been there ever since, until he got moved to where he’s at now.
But it just — it just never ended, because after that move, he went to the maximum security solitary confinement, where even the hardened criminals…
KING: Why were they so harsh on him?
H. HOGAN: Well, you know, there were several statements made during the sentencing. The judge refrained to, “If you weren’t who you were.” The judge was torn between him being a juvenile and rehabilitation to, you know…
KING: Hulk Hogan’s son?
H. HOGAN: Well, he referenced Nick as, “If you weren’t who you were,” so whatever that means.
KING: Let me get a break.
Some accuse Hulk of enabling his son. We’ll talk about that after the break.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM “SHOWBIZ TONIGHT”)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I’m going to impose eight months in the Pinellas County Jail.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Back on May 9, Nick was sentenced to eight months in the slammer for this street racing accident that left his friend, John Graziano, in a semiconscious state. Since then, Nick was housed all by himself in a cell like this one. But Nick quickly started to go stir crazy, as we heard in his phone call to his parents.
N. BOLLEA: I’m in maximum. I’m going to ask them to at least put me in a cell with, you know, like maybe something with, you know, some bars where I can see some people or something. I’m really freaking out.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. All right. Don’t freak out.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Soon after, the sheriff’s department had a change of heart and moved 17-year-old Nick into a cell with other juveniles.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Hulk, he did wrong, did he not?
H. HOGAN: Yes. Well, he made a mistake and he’s accountable. And he stood up in front of the judge and accepted, you know, his sentence and was responsible and accountable for the situation. And what most people, you know, don’t realize is Nick did not leave my home that day ever planning on anyone being hurt or any intention of anything happening.
John and Nick were best friends. John was living with me at my house. We’ve been — John pretty much has been part of our family unit since he was 17 years old. He had clothes in our home in L.A. and in Florida and when we moved to Miami, his stuff was there.
So, we took him on trips and vacations with us. So John was like an extension of my family unit. So in no way ever did Nick ever intend for something hike this to happen. It was an accident, Larry.
KING: How did the drag racing occur, though?
Was he given to that? Did you know that he did things like that?
H. HOGAN: Well, he precision drives. That’s what he was doing for his career, the drifting situation. But, you know, the drag racing, we’ve got — as far as the situation legally, we’ve got witnesses that say there was not drag racing. We’ve got one…
KING: What happened?
What do you know happened?
What does he say happened?
H. HOGAN: Well, what I know happened is Nick hit this tree backwards with this Toyota Super that is — was a fiberglass shell on his car. It was a situation where it was raining. We don’t know exactly what happened. The prosecutor had his accident reconstruction team come out. We had ours come out. And it was a situation with the rain, with the conditions. We know the car — he lost control of the car and he was drinking.
KING: Was drinking involved?
H. HOGAN: There was alcohol in his system. Yes, sir.
KING: So as a parent, are you torn?
I mean you love your son and you care for him. I mean the dilemma you’re in is you’re (INAUDIBLE) — you love your son.
H. HOGAN: Yes, sir.
KING: You like the kid that’s hurt, right?
H. HOGAN: I love the kid that’s hurt.
KING: Your son had to be at fault somewhere.
I mean he crashed, right?
H. HOGAN: Yes.
KING: Do you have kind of — a lot of mixed emotions?
H. HOGAN: I’m torn. I’m torn, Larry, because it’s a 17-year-old child that’s with a 23- or 24-year-old mature adult that just came back from Iraq. So I’m trying to rationalize the situation. And knowing John the way I knew John, if there was any situation that was not right or out of control, you know, knowing John the way I knew him, you know, I figured John would take control if there was a problem. That’s why I thought it was an accident, you know?
And when we talk about the alcohol, Nick wasn’t charged with DUI. They didn’t — the one…
KING: He was not charged with DUI? H. HOGAN: No. No, sir. The limit was a point…
HOUSTON: .03. And there was alcohol in the system. And certainly, I know we don’t condone that.
H. HOGAN: Not at all.
HOUSTON: But some people have a misunderstanding of what actually occurred as far as trying to believe there was a DUI-type accident here.
KING: He was not charged with that?
HOUSTON: No, he was not.
H. HOGAN: No, sir.
KING: Did he deserve, in your opinion, jail time?
H. HOGAN: You know, in my opinion, Nick wanted to be accountable. And he said, dad, I want to be responsible for this. I understand the feeding frenzy, the lynch mob mentality of the small area we’re in, with the media jumping all over the — actually, it was almost like irresponsible reporting because no one ever came out and told the whole story, you know?
And so Nick wanted to be accountable. And I know from the legal experts that I’ve talked with of reckless driving with serious bodily injury or reckless driving with vehicular homicide where the passenger actually died, every case I’ve seen so far is everybody always gets six months probation. And if we’re different and if Nick sentences eight months, minimum security, we accept that. And we’re grateful for that because now we know what we have in front of us. Nick wants to put this behind him and move forward to help John with all the charities and stuff he’s been part of.
KING: Do you think if the name were not Nick, but were John Jones, that he would have gotten probation?
H. HOGAN: Well, before we went to court, you know, things were done. Nick pre-qualified for an ankle bracelet. You know, if it — if you want to…
KING: To be worn at home?
H. HOGAN: Yes. You can look at the case history and see anybody else in Nick’s situation and see what happened to them. But like I said, we’re not ducking and dodging. Nick is accountable. He stood up like a man. I’ve got so much respect and I’m so proud of my son, that he stood there like a man and said, dad, I accept this and I want to move forward.
And if that’s what the judge thought was fair — the judge was torn, like I said before, between rehabilitation and criminal punishment, even though Nick was a child — a juvenile. The judge had him in adult court, sentenced him as an adult. So we were torn. KING: What do you make, David, of what the judge did?
HOUSTON: Well, I think the judge certainly tried to send a message to the community that there would be no preferential treatment. And truly there was a catastrophic accident. And as Terry said, Nick’s goal was to accept responsibility for what happened. And I think the shock of this came when Nick was sentenced and advised by the court he was headed to a minimum security facility, which would be ordinary, and then he winds up in what amounts to solitary confinement.
KING: Now, that was a necessity?
What, they couldn’t put him in the adult population, right?
HOUSTON: Right. And the jail, you have to understand, is not really set up for juvenile offenders because most of the offenders there — in fact, all are adult unless…
KING: So were they…
HOUSTON: …(INAUDIBLE) out.
KING: Were they between a rock and a hard place here?
H. HOGAN: Yes, they were. Yes, sir. And the thing that really added more fuel to the fire is as we moved forward and tried to rectify the situation, the judge signed off that this was not the right place for Nick to be. The prosecuting attorney signed off that this was not the right place to be. And the sheriff said I’m not happy where Nick is at. They tried to send him to DJJ, the Department of Juvenile Justice.
But when Nick went to go to the Department of Juvenile Justice in Pinellas County, the Tallahassee lawyers came down and said he was sentenced as an adult, so we can’t take him unless you reclassify him.
So Nick was torn in between the systems of what — where to put him.
HOUSTON: That’s right.
KING: There were reports that you bought alcohol for Nick on the day this happened.
H. HOGAN: No, sir. I did not.
KING: Never happened?
H. HOGAN: No. I bought alcohol and took it out on the boat for the adults. Nick is a minor. Nick does not drink in my presence.
KING: Did you allow him to drink?
H. HOGAN: No, sir.
KING: So all those reports were wrong?
H. HOGAN: No. There’s — there’s been a lot of reckless reporting that isn’t accurate.
KING: Had Nick had problems driving at all?
H. HOGAN: Nick had a couple tickets. You know, one of the tickets he had when I was with him — there’s a section of Florida called Alligator Alley. It’s between Tampa and Miami. We were trying to make the transition between homes. As you drive on Alligator Alley, the speed limit is between 65 and 55 at different times. And it is very normal on that stretch of straight highway, with no lights and no — nothing but straightaway — people will go by you 85 and 90. You know, that’s just — if you’re in the flow of traffic, that — we got a ticket during that time.
KING: Are you generally — generally — a doting kind of spoiling father, being one myself, I might add?
H. HOGAN: Well, you know, there’s nothing more important to me than my children, Nick and Brook. If I’m overprotective, that’s my greatest fault. If I worry, if I’m compulsive, as far as beating things into them, as far as making things that are right and their choices are right, that’s my biggest fault. I am — maybe I am a doting father.
KING: Hulk has been criticized for make go questionable remarks about the victim in this case. We’ll discuss that ahead because so far, he has not.
Don’t go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
H. HOGAN: Nick is going to have to live with this experience the rest of his life. But I would ask to you give him a chance to prove to you and all society that he can be a responsible member of our society and to be judged fairly, just like anyone else’s situation that’s a minor. I would ask you that you do not make him a convicted felon. I’m not asking that he be given any preferential treatment. But I don’t want him treated more harshly because of who his dad is.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: What do you think of fairness of Nick Hogan’s jail sentence?
We invite to you comment at CNN.com/larryking.
By the way, just so we clear this up, it was reported he was racing another car. Reported the second car was a Dodge Viper. And that car was also yours.
H. HOGAN: Yes, sir. KING: Do you know who was in that car?
H. HOGAN: Yes, I do. Danny Jacobs and their friend Barry (INAUDIBLE).
KING: And they were racing?
H. HOGAN: No, sir. They were not.
KING: They weren’t.
That’s a — these were just two cars out on the road?
H. HOGAN: Well, these were two cars heading to a restaurant.
KING: I see.
H. HOGAN: With…
KING: But they weren’t zooming?
H. HOGAN: From everything that we have and the videotapes of the businesses along the route, everything from the witnesses that said they were racing is not true, what we’ve seen on the video.
KING: The young man injured in the car crash that landed Hulk Hogan’s son in jail is John Graziano.
Hulk talked about him shortly after the August 2007 crash at an event to kick-off the National Wave campaign to help unite the United States.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM MYSPACETV.COM, SEPTEMBER 2007)
H. HOGAN: Now, this is such an honor to give the flag (INAUDIBLE). But a lot of you guys have seen the news out there and you know my son Nick got in a car wreck. And they’re dedicating the towel, the flag and (INAUDIBLE) to John Graziano. And he’s a very good friend of ours. He’s a United States marine. He just came back from Iraq. And he was on the racing team with my son, Nick. And they got in a very bad car accident.
So I want you guys to please say your prayers for John Graziano. You know, hopefully, he’ll be getting better soon.
I’m heading back tomorrow morning. I’ll be back at the hospital with my family. We’ll be there each and every day, like we’ve been all week. We’ll be there every day until John gets up and walks out of there.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: What’s the situation now with you and the Graziano family?
What are your thoughts about John?
H. HOGAN: Well, you know, my thoughts haven’t changed. Like I told Debbie Graziano from day one (AUDIO GAP) is for John to say, come on, Hogan, let’s go downstairs and train, is what he would say to me every day.
I mean, you know, like I said, we love John. You know, we pray for him. That’s the last thing I told Nick a few minutes ago, before we got on the air. Nick, make sure you pray for John. I tell him that every day.
We love John and in no way would we ever want to hurt John or the Graziano family. That’s why I’m so upset that, you know, irresponsible media sources have taken, for whatever reason, the legal department of Pinellas County, the sheriff’s department, decided to release these tapes and take short snippets of a conversation and so many irresponsible media sources say they’ve heard conversations with me and my son or my wife and my son. And they haven’t heard a hello. They haven’t heard a goodbye. They haven’t heard an I love you or how are you doing? They haven’t heard, out of the 27 hours, 90 percent of that is me reading my son from positive reinforcement books from National Wave Beckwith or James Ray or talking about the bible and explaining to my son about forgiveness, for they know not what they do. Forgive, you know, everyone, because, you know, they don’t understand what this is all about, that we have to stop the tragedy now.
KING: On the day that Nick was sentenced, John’s family had a chance to speak in court.
Here’s an excerpt.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ED GRAZIANO, JOHN GRAZIANO’S FATHER: What Al Qaeda could not do to my son, Nick Bollea did in a matter of minutes. He destroyed my son’s future. Not only did he destroy my son’s — my son’s life, he destroyed the lives of those who John love.
DEBBIE GRAZIANO, JOHN GRAZIANO’S MOTHER: Since the crash, I have not seen one tear or heard one apology. I have heard my son’s traumatic brain injury described by Nick as a bump on the head when he knew firsthand how close to death he had come. Within weeks, Nick was bragging about sponsors and asking fans to wish him well in ’08, with only a small postscript for a prayer for John at the end.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: That’s a pretty riveting.
How do you react?
And they’re now suing, I understand.
H. HOGAN: Oh, yes. Of course. That’s, you know — and I’ve told Debbie all along I totally understand whatever the situation ends up being, that nothing has changed about how I feel about John or what we’ve done for John all along.
KING: So you completely understand, though, how his parents feel?
H. HOGAN: Yes. I just didn’t understand that they could be in a situation where they were united in the courtroom, when up until that day, I had no idea that they were of the same mindset, because I was following Debbie’s wishes from…
KING: Debbie is the mother?
H. HOGAN: …from day one, you know, and…
KING: So you thought she was on your side?
H. HOGAN: Well, no. She explained to me that she knew how we felt about John. And some of her earlier statements to the press, that these are just two families going through a tough time and trying to get through together, that we love each other. And everything from day one — even before the accident, my wife Linda, when he went to Iraq the first time, gave him money for his car payment, to help with the bills so it wouldn’t be a burden on his mother.
When we were at the hospital, after the accident, we were there 24 hours a day.
KING: Are they separated, the mother and father?
H. HOGAN: Yes. They’ve been separate for quite a while.
We were there 24 hours a day and, you know, we could only see John for five minutes at time. Then 10 hours later, five minutes at the time. Debbie would be sleeping on the floor. I had no idea she was homeless at the time, living out of her car and between friends.
So as soon as we found that out, my wife and I rented her a townhouse for a year, bought her furniture…
KING: So are you saying she’s turned on you?
H. HOGAN: No, I’m not saying that at all. I’m saying the situation changed because up until this month, I still had been giving her $5,000 a month for her living expenses, helping put her other son, National Wave, through college. A month ago, when her father died and she asked for help with her father’s funeral, we were there with the money.
Nothing has changed with the way we feel about the Grazianos. Even when they sued me civilly, I kept helping her with her living expenses and her rent is paid for a year.
Nothing has changed with the way we feel about the Grazianos. So that’s why I’m so upset that these snippets that were taken out of context when I was desperate. Even when the sheriff and the prosecuting attorney and the judge says Nick shouldn’t be there. And then when they didn’t move him and the powers that be — the lawyers came in and said we can’t move Nick, panic came over me a hundredfold. And that’s why I was doing anything I could…
KING: So do you think…
H. HOGAN: …to help my son get through every moment and not mentally unravel.
KING: Do you think the Grazianos are basing what they heard on the tapes, to turn — in other words, do you think they’re — let’s say no tape ever released.
H. HOGAN: Yes.
KING: Nothing ever happened.
H. HOGAN: Right.
KING: That they would not have gone through this, they would not have sued?
Are you saying?
H. HOGAN: Oh, no, no, no, no. I’m not saying that at all. But what I’m saying for the tapes were never released. I know when John first went in the hospital, you know, when all of a sudden Debbie Graziano and her son National Wave and their daughter Christine found out that Ed Graziano’s father had John’s truck, they were appalled and they were panic-stricken. We’ve to get John’s truck back. If John knew Ed had John’s truck, he’d be very upset. So I’m just, you know, trying to figure out…
KING: Are you angry at them?
H. HOGAN: No, I’m not. I’m not angry at all. I understand people. I just want to know, you know, and I want them to know that I was desperately trying to keep my son from unraveling, you know.
KING: What was…
H. HOGAN: And we would never do anything to hurt them.
KING: We’ll have more of those tapes, when we come back.
KING: Before we get to these tapes, and we’ll play more excerpts as we go along. Have the tape been released before, conversations, to your knowledge?
HOUSTON: Larry, I haven’t heard of it in 29 years. And certainly there have been a lot of high profile cases in Florida. And we haven’t heard of that.
KING: The sheriff said his legal team told him it is OK to do it or adviser? We have another excerpt from those taped jail house conversations. This one involve Hulk and Nick talking about John. Listen. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HOGAN: I don’t know what type of person John was, or what he did to get himself in the situation. I know he was pretty aggressive and used to yell at people and do stuff. But for some reason, god laid some heavy (EXPLETIVE DELETED). I don’t know what he was in to.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: John was a negative person.
HOGAN: He was what?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was a negative person.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Obviously, what does that mean? He was negative? So what?
HOGAN: Well, at the end of the day, if you were in my situation, a desperate father with this tragic accident that happened with John, who we love to death, especially when I knew Nick couldn’t be moved, when the sheriff and the judge and the prosecuting attorney said yes, we should move him, when the legal team shut us down. We were desperate. It was like the whole world crashing around my son.
Solitary confinement; most hardened criminal unravel after two or three days. Nick survived in there 28, 29 days. During that period of time, as I’m sitting there, 28, 29 days with hardly any sleep, I did everything I could, from laugh to cry with my son, to try to tell jokes, to try to be serious, to try to keep him present and aware and walking in the spirit of god and say, be grateful if we get a break. Be grateful if somebody hits us with another slam-dunk where emotions do — be grateful that we know what is in front of us.
As I was going through these motions, I was trying to help give Nick some type of relief, because he is consumed with the unknown, solitary confinement, where nobody ever agreed this would be the punishment to unravel this kid mentally. As I was just digging to try to find a way for my son to get through another day or another hour, you know, I was trying to explain to him that it is in god’s hand or god’s will or it is what people have said for thousands of years.
Did I say thing wrong? Yes.
KING: Are you saying you were in such a situation that things were said that you would never have said normally?
HOGAN: Yes, sir. I said it incorrectly because my son, every could tell, every time I called or every time he would call me, that as the days went by and we couldn’t get him out, especially when the sheriff, the prosecuting attorney, everybody said we want to move him and then there was no movement. We were desperate. I didn’t, even though they were trying to protect him physically because he’s a juvenile in an adult prison, his mental state was unraveling. And I just had no way to help him. I was desperate. And I never meant to hurt John or the Graziano family. KING: Were you shocked when the tapes were released and played?
HOGAN: Nobody ever expected it. This was —
KING: Where were you when you first heard it?
HOGAN: I was at home. My lawyers called me. This was the only thing Nick had left. This was privacy that everybody else has ever had in prison, between the final bond between his mother, his siblings, his sister, and his mom. To have that taken away, he had no recourse. And I was more worried than ever about his mental state. Physically, he is protected. But what good does it do? When did we ever decide to punish the child this way?
So I was doing everything. Did I say things wrong? Yes. Am I sorry? Yes.
KING: This is dad Graziano’s statement, “if Terry Bollea cared about John Graziano, he wouldn’t be blaming his semi-conscious state and his life long battle to survive as bad karma. If Nick Bollea cared about John, he wouldn’t be describing him as a negative person. These people are the biggest phonies and two faced individuals that I’ve ever seen.”
That’s pretty angry for someone you say you’re still helping.
HOGAN: Well, things — the tide has changed on one side, not on ours. We still feel the same about John’s family. I would never do anything to hurt John. I would never do anything because we love John.
KING: How did the — I don’t understand. Who got the tapes released? A reporter?
HOUSTON: You have a reporter who makes a request to the sheriff to release the tapes. The sheriff then I guess hesitated for a period of time, but was advised by his legal team that they did constitute public records. So they released they will.
KING: Why are people taped in prison?
HOUSTON: People are taped in prison because they monitor their conversations for the security of the jail, the institution, the inmate security. They want to make sure nobody is smuggling in drugs and weapon. I cannot think of another case where tapes have been released. Really, that’s the major problem that we have here. It is not because we’re trying to hide something. What we’re dealing with is statements taken out of context that frankly are statements made in desperation.
KING: Won’t that affect a civil case?
HOUSTON: It can. It certainly could turn people’s mind in a different direction. And I would hope people would be smart enough not to form opinions based on seconds of sound bytes out of 26 hours. HOGAN: I’m worried about my son’s security. I asked him, how is it going? He said good stuff and bad stuff about inmates, good stuff and bad stuff about guards, telling me the truth.
KING: He go into adults in July.
HOUSTON: So he is capable then of being transferred to the adult side of the jail.
KING: Hulk has talked about the effect this has had on everyone except himself. How is he doing? That’s ahead.
KING: I’m told by Hulk that Nick is devoting his life to a foundation to help John, right?
HOGAN: Yes. It is the J and J foundation. Nick loved cars, loved precision driving, and his whole focus before he was incarcerated, his whole focus has been to take his career and change it into a life plan for John. And in our plan, we always envisioned John being with us every step of the way. John loves being around cars. Everything.
KING: Do you ever feel personally responsible as a father? Do you ever say, maybe I could have done something different.
HOGAN: Yes, I do. It is a constant soul searching mission, you know. Because we’re to a point with my life and everything that I have — I was almost in a situation where I’m not trying to be a control freak but knowing what I had at hand with the family, being married 23 years, for everything just to disappear on me, for my wife to file for divorce and the marriage to be broken long before that, and then the accident happened and the civil case, and my son getting put in jail; I just soul searched figuring out what could I have done. It’s just hard.
KING: We have an e-mail from Lou in Flagstaff, Arizona, “suppose the positions were reversed, how would you react if it was John who had been speeding and crashed and Nick who was brain damaged and needing life long medical care.”
HOGAN: If it was me, I would feel the same way I do now. I would feel, simply because of religiously and spiritually where I’m at — I would forgive.
KING: You can say that unequivocally.
HOGAN: I could say that unequivocally. If Nick was in the hospital and John was with me right now, we would work hard to raise a charity for Nick.
KING: You would have forgiveness.
HOGAN: I couldn’t do that. I could not spiritually and religiously be who I am today and say that I would want John Graziano hurt or the tragedy to continue any more. It is not part of my religion, my spirituality or the type of person I am.
KING: Email question from Cassandra in Tampa, Florida; “are you surprised that the media seems to neglect the fact that John knew your son had a history of drag racing, yet he not only chose to be a passenger in the car but also decided not to wear a seat belt?”
HOGAN: Well, I don’t know how much of that statement is true. I don’t know if John decided not — decided not to wear a seat belt or maybe he forgot.
KING: You’re not even sure they were drag racing.
HOGAN: In my mind, I believe they were not drag racing.
KING: Here’s another excerpt from the jail house tape that has troubled a lot of people. It involves Hulk and Nick discussing a possible reality show for Nick. Check this out.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
N. HOGAN: Will you work on that reality deal for me and get that thing lined up, so the minute I walk out of wherever I walk out of, it’s there. Boom.
HOGAN: Can you do it while you’re on probation?
N. HOGAN: Yes, of course.
HOGAN: Yes. OK, you want to do it with Pink Sneakers or you want to do it with someone else.
N. HOGAN: I want to do it where I will make the most money.
HOGAN: Then you need to do it with me, Jason and Eric.
N. HOGAN: OK.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HOGAN: I just wish that someone would play the two hours before, or the hour after, and please put everything into proper context.
KING: Breaking it down, what did happen? What were you saying two hours before?
HOGAN: Everything we would talk about were possibilities, trying to keep his spirits up, trying to get him to move forward. John was part of our last reality show. John was on camera with us all the time in “Hogan Knows Best.” He was in Key West with us. He was at the house. Sometimes we had to cut around the scenes with John in them. He was in the show so much.
As we talked about possibilities, always having John in our vision. And you know, there were time when I told Debbie, I would not accept a doctor’s opinion. Debbie, we prayed for a miracle. We prayed for Jesus’ healing for the final outcome. Not did we pray for Jesus’ healing. We thank Jesus for healing John 150 percent. And throughout all these conversations, whether it was reality show or whatever, I was trying to help my son get through this. I was trying to give him some hope.
We talked about going to the beach with John. We talked about reality shows with John. We talk about getting back up and running, getting back to where we started. If you look at the hello, the goodbye, I love you, and all the content in these conversations. We can be fair. You would have a whole different thing.
HOUSTON: That was the danger of out of context.
HOGAN: That statement? If that was something too cut and dry, I apologize for that. If I was wrong, I was wrong. But the whole intent was to keep my son going.
KING: The television station has the whole tape.
HOUSTON: Yes, but what they did, Larry, is they cherry picked what they wanted.
KING: I got it. What about Hulk’s daughter Brook? We’ll hear from her dad about her next.
KING: Another excerpt from the press statement issued by the attorneys for John Graziano and then we’ll move to other thing. But they say “the reason he was put in jail was to think about my son. The last thought on his mind is obvious. All he is thinking about is how he can make the most money.” Their bitterness is not going around. You say you forgive that.
HOGAN: Yes, sir. You forgive them for they know not what they do. It is a situation of they’re not conscious; they’re not present. They don’t understand that by creating more tragedy, it will not help John. We need to move forward. We need to work as hard as we can to help John recover, to keep praying, to establish some type of life plan for John, so that when John is back up and running with us, all we can do is focus positively on moving forward and helping John.
KING: We have an I ask question from Crawfordville, Florida.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why do you not take more responsibility as a parent? You bought him the race car. That scene on your reality TV series, “Hogan Knows Best,” before he was even 16. He’s had two tickets prior to the accident. Yet, he is still driving the same car. And he gets in this accident. You’re seen on video allegedly going to the liquor store with your son and he goes out on the boat. Gets off the boat, goes driving and gets in this accident. And they say he had alcohol in his system. Now to me, that pretty much points a finger right in your face. And I would like to see how you feel about that.
(END VIDEO CLIP) KING: That, Hulk, is in essence what all the thing that have been said publicly against you.
HOGAN: I did not hear the whole question.
KING: That you were drinking with your son, that you were on the boat with your son. Why don’t you take responsibility for this? You put him on the reality show when he was 15. In other words, this is your baby.
HOGAN: Well, as I look back over what has happened with my family, we had been in the entertainment business, show business. Should we have changed course and direction? Should Nick have done something different than a professional baseball player, been an accountant? Maybe so, Larry, but we were following the course of what my family does. When I talked to my family about a reality show, three of the people raised their hand in my family, Brook, Linda and Nick. We want to do the show. I was trying to provide for my family what was best for them and what we knew. This is what we do. We work in this business.
KING: How is Brook dealing with this?
HOGAN: It is really tough on her. It is really tough on here, because Brook is not part of this mix. She is pretty much the odd man out. And Brook doesn’t understand how two families that from day one were friends, you know, and going through this together, all of a sudden, you know, there could be a situation where Brook doesn’t understand that they wanted one thing for nick and then when the civil case, you know, was brought about, then the wishes changed.
KING: Howl is Brook?
HOGAN: Brook is 20. She just doesn’t understand how this whole situation of celebrity and the money changed people’s intents and what they want.
KING: We’ll be back with our remaining moments with Hulk Hogan. His attorney, David Houston. is also with us. Don’t go away.
KING: An e-mail from Rose in San Gabriel, California; “it has been suggested that this divorce is a calculated move to protect your family’s assets from a civil lawsuit by John Graziano’s family.” Any truth?
HOGAN: That’s not true at all. There is no calculated attempt by us to protect assets. The divorce — when my wife filed for divorce, the marriage was broken long before that. My wife has her own separate life. I’ve got my own separate life. I have nothing to do with my wife’s life at all. It is totally two separate worlds at this point.
KING: Brook has said she’s upset over your dating one of her friends. Is that true? HOGAN: No. It’s not one of her friends.
KING: Is your wife dating a 19-year-old?
HOGAN: Well, first off, Larry, the girl that I’m dating is 34 years old. That’s not one of Brook’s friends. And from the reports I hear of my wife, she is dating a 19-year-old.
KING: Does that upset you or it is over and it doesn’t matter?
HOGAN: At this point, my only focus is on John and Nick. And emotionally, I’m not — like I said, Linda has her own life and her own agenda. I am not part of it in any way, shape or form. My only focus is on my children and on John.
HOUSTON: It has never been our purpose to say anything negative about Linda.
KING: And you don’t.
KING: That’s still pending, right? You’re not divorced yet.
HOGAN: No, no. She filed and I’m just waiting for her attorney to do what they have to do, whatever.
KING: When he is 18 in July, he gets shifted to the adult community?
KING: Does he get time off for good behavior?
HOUSTON: Every inmate has the ability to earn time credits if they behave themselves, if they take advantage of program. Again, we go back to, we’re only asking that Nick receive the same treatment as everybody else.
KING: Hulk, you’ve been in the public eye for a long time. One could argue, you’re the most famous wrestler in the world. You could make a strong case for that. Are you shocked by all this? I’m talking about the publicity, the television, the whole attention in that area, the tabloid element of this?
HOGAN: If you would have told me a couple years ago, Larry, we would be sitting here and this would have been how my life unfolded, I would have thought you were crazy. I’m just grateful the sheriff understand and has done the right thing, even though his legal team had one opinion. The sheriff has given Nick some relief and he’s being treated fairly now. I’m so grateful for that. I’m so grateful that the people I surround myself with are positive. Michael Beck, James Ray. Yes, it has been hard.
KING: It is OK. This is hard. Who could ever imagine. HOGAN: It is the main focus is my son, my children and John Graziano. It has been a tough one, Larry. You know, you said to me during the break, this is the second part of the dance. So it is halftime and we’re positive. We’re moving forward.
KING: You believe in god.
HOGAN: Yes, I do.
KING: Do you believe in the second act? Do you believe in forgiveness?
HOGAN: Like I said, this is in God’s hand. Things happen for a reason. This is to make Nick a better person. In my belief, this is to make John a better person. It is like I said before, you know, it is god’s will where we’re at with this situation. I refuse to accept any negativity, any nay sayers. I firmly believe there is a plan. It is god’s plan and god’s will.
If you don’t have the spirit of god in you — everybody has it in them. Some people don’t bring it out. Certain situations like tragedies like this, certain situations like — different thing in life bring it out. Some people become aware and they become present through their faith. And that is the spirit that my son and myself and my daughter walk in. We walk in the spirit of Christ and we believe for a reason, you know, that things happen. And anything I’ve ever done, I’ve been an over zealous father. I apologize for it. I never meant to hurt anyone. I was over bearing to a fault, but I’m always trying to be the one to make the —
KING: We have about a minute left. Are you going to continue a public life? Are you going to make appearances?
HOGAN: I’m trying to get back to work, get back on track. The most overwhelm thing, Larry, is even with this irresponsible media, this tabloid terrorism, as I call it, and every shot they’ve taken at me and my family, when I walk out this door, the public knows the type of person I am. They know the type of person my son is. My son is a good child. My daughter is a good person.
The support from the public that is out there — and they know our focus is on John. And they know this was an accident. At the end of the day, the support and the people — the people that are outside of this building, they’re with us on this thing, Larry. So it’s going to be OK. It’s going to be OK.
KING: Thank you, Hulk.
HOUSTON: Thank you, Larry. Appreciate it.
KING: Is it going to be OK?
HOUSTON: He’s going to be more than OK. And so, we hope, will everyone else.
KING: Hulk Hogan, his attorney, David Houston. I want to tell you about a special commentary Alicia Keyes wrote for us that’s getting a lot of hits. It’s called AIDS, not killing hope in Africa. She’s made several trips there and sees the diseases impact first hand. It’s a moving and thoughtful piece that shows how one person can make a difference. If you want to read it, go to CNN.com/LarryKing. You’ll see Alicia tell it for herself.
*** *** ***
Dr. Keith Lipinski
Host Of The Dr. Keith Lipinski Show http://www.F4WOnline.com
Director of Public Relations – Wrestling Division – Big Vision Entertainment http://www.BVDVD.com