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George Zimmerman's Legal Team Quits; Santorum Quits, Romney Shifts; 8.7 Magnitude Quake Off Coast of Indonesia; New Evidence Coming

Aired April 11, 2012 - 05:00   ET


ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to you. And welcome to EARLY START. I'm Zoraida Sambolin.

ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. And I'm Ashleigh Banfield. We're bringing you the news from A to Z this morning. It is 5:00 on the dot in the East.

So, let's get started.

George Zimmerman's attorneys have quit, and we hear there could be new evidence presented in the shooting of Trayvon Martin in just a matter of hours. But did they quit because were they ever officially hired? We've got details of a news press conference that was hastily organized by those former lawyers just yesterday.

SAMBOLIN: And it is now Mitt Romney and the rest after Rick Santorum says it is over.


RICK SANTORUM (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This presidential race is over for us, for me, and we will suspend our campaign effective today.


SAMBOLIN: Now the main event, Mitt Romney about to charge full force at President Obama.

BANFIELD: It was one of the most horrifying crashes ever witnessed. This, a plane dive bombing into a crowd at last year's Reno air show. Now, there's talk of changes that might just ensure this never happens again.

SAMBOLIN: North Korea defying the world and fueling a long range rocket. The U.S. is saying the North isn't fooling anyone with its space program.

BANFIELD: Up first at one minute past the hour, the Trayvon Martin case, a brand new twist.

The legal team representing George Zimmerman, the man who shot and killed the Florida teenager, has quit. They say they have lost contact with Zimmerman and that they can no longer speak for him. Attorneys Craig Sonner and Hal Uhrig say their client went rogue, contacting the media, contacting the special prosecutor who's investigating the case, doing this on his own.

They told CNN's Anderson Cooper that George Zimmerman gave them no choice.


HAL UHRIG, GEORGE ZIMMERMAN'S FORMER ATTY: We felt we had an ethical obligation to kind of step aside. We got nothing against George Zimmerman. We believe in his case. We believe in his innocence. We were prepared to defend him all the way.

But we simply cannot defend somebody who won't communicate with us and who is off the reservation, talking with people we've advised him not to talk to.


BANFIELD: In the meantime, special prosecutor Angela Corey is planning to release new information on the Trayvon Martin shooting sometime in the next three days.

CNN's George Howell is live in Sanford, Florida, following these details.

And they seem to be coming fast and furious, George.

GEORGE HOWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning. Indeed they are.

And, you know, here's the thing. If this announcement turns out to be a decision, there are a lot of questions. First of all, how would the prosecutor contact George Zimmerman? Clearly, it wouldn't be through his attorneys because they're no longer on the case.

Also, where is he? Would he be considered a flight risk? Just some of the questions that the special prosecutor, the state prosecutor, must be looking into.

You can imagine, as she looks at that bombshell announcement that came out yesterday from his former defense team. We even had some experts come on our air to suggest that we shouldn't be surprised if the prosecutor were to make a decision sooner in this case. But all along, she has stated she is going to have a very thorough investigation, a very methodical look at all the facts.

Here's what she had to say.


ANGELA COREY, SPECIAL PROSECUTOR, TRAYVON MARTIN CASE: If you make an arrest on probable cause and you couldn't prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt, then that's a short window of time the perpetrator will serve in jail. We always try to work with the police to build stronger cases before we make the arrest.


HOWELL: Now, we know that, again, those attorneys no longer have contact with George Zimmerman. In fact, they lost contact on Sunday.

We do also know from that news conference yesterday that Zimmerman apparently contacted Sean Hannity with FOX News. He also reached out to the prosecutor, but the prosecutor did not speak to him because, again, he does not have a defense team at this point.

We also learned from his former defense team that he set up a Web site, "The Real George Zimmerman," that they were unaware of. In fact, they thought it might have been a fraud at some point, but they determined that it was legit. All of this caught them off guard.

At this point, they say they are also concerned about his mental stability. Take a listen.


UHRIG: George Zimmerman, in our opinion and from information made available to us, is not doing well emotionally, probably suffering from post-traumatic stress syndrome. For those engaged in the late Easter egg hunt looking for him, you can stop looking in Florida. Look much further away than that.


HOWELL: That is the question this morning, where is he? Is he still in the state of Florida? We've been given indication that perhaps he is not in Florida.

That will be the challenge, clearly, for prosecutors as a decision comes in this case, Ashleigh.

BANFIELD: And, of course, the special prosecutor in this case announcing late last night that in the next 72 hours there will be a press conference. Is she tipping her hat at all as to what she's going to announce at this press conference?

HOWELL: You know, just reading into the release that we received, it's just an announcement. So, it could be information maybe about evidence in the case. You can speculate.

It's unclear exactly what that announcement will be. Could be a decision in this case, but we know that things are moving quite quickly, especially after the big surprise announcement we got from his former defense team yesterday.

BANFIELD: And also, George, just quickly, the mood in Sanford, because every day there's either a protest or some showing of support for one side or the other, but mostly for Trayvon Martin.

Do we know how the news is sort of being digested for those who want an arrest right away?

HOWELL: I think that at this point, regardless of what your opinions are on this case, I think everyone is, quite frankly, surprised at that announcement yesterday. No one expected for the defense team to walk out and tell the public that they are no longer speaking for George Zimmerman.

That came as a surprise to everyone. And at this point, people just waiting to hear how the state prosecutor will deal with that information.

BANFIELD: OK. George Howell, thanks -- live for us in Sanford this morning.

And at the top of the next hour, by the way, at 6:00 Eastern, we're going to talk live with George Zimmerman's now former legal team. You just heard George Howell talking about them. Attorneys Craig Sonner and Hal Uhrig will be with us live to explain a little bit about what that press conference was all about and where does this case go from here?

SAMBOLIN: It is six minutes past the hour. There's a much clearer picture of the 2012 race this morning.

Mitt Romney now expected to go full force at President Obama after Rick Santorum ended his bid for the GOP nomination yesterday. It was a bitter fight that put Republican against Republican, and in the end, Rick Santorum didn't even mention Romney in his concession speech.


RICK SANTORUM (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, this presidential race for us is over, for me. And we will suspend our campaign effective today. We are not done fighting.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This has been a good day for me. I had the chance to speak with him this morning. We exchanged our thoughts about going forward, and we both have a great deal of interest in seeing the country take a very different path.


SAMBOLIN: Well, now the healing perhaps, and already at least one of Rick Santorum's big money donors has reportedly swung to team Romney.

CNN political editor Paul Steinhauser is live in Washington, D.C., for us.

That big donor happens to be Foster Friess. There's a lot we want to talk about today, Paul. Let's start with whether or not Rick Santorum is going to throw his support behind Mitt Romney.

So, his adviser John Brabender says Santorum campaign does want to help Mitt Romney. However, his communications director Hogan Gidley says the endorsement not an inevitability. Santorum's not saying anything.

So, what's the deal here?

PAUL STEINHAUSER, CNN POLITICAL EDITOR: Yes. I guess the real story will be whether -- it's job number one for Mitt Romney, Zoraida, no doubt about that, is to get Rick Santorum on this team, to get the two men together to get endorsement from Rick Santorum.

Brabender, you mentioned him, he's a longtime adviser and trusted adviser to Santorum. He told CNN last night, when Romney and Santorum spoke yesterday morning, Romney asked to meet with Santorum, and that meeting is now going to be put into the works. So -- and then at that meeting you would think that you would get a Santorum endorsement.

Remember four years ago, after Mitt Romney and John McCain had a bitter battle in the primaries, McCain came to Boston, Romney's headquarters. The two men met. They had a public appearance. Romney endorsed him and then became a big supporter of John McCain.

I think Romney would like to see the same thing from Santorum. Why? Because, look, Santorum had some major support in the primaries and caucuses from social conservative voters, from Tea Party supporters, a base of the party that Romney really needs help with.

That's why it's really job number one now for Romney to get Santorum on board -- Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: I know. But that's going to be a tough one, right, because they are social conservatives.

Let's talk about suspending, rather than ending the bid. Just for our viewers, can you explain the difference?

STEINHAUSER: There is a technical difference here. The campaign is not over. It still technically lives on.

Most importantly, Rick Santorum can still raise money if he needs to, and just as important the delegates -- the delegates that he's grabbed and he's won in the primaries and caucuses over the last couple of months, well, they -- most of them remain in his camp. And it's going to be up to him to release them or hold on to them if he wants all the way to the convention -- Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: All right. I know you're a poll junkie. I can't let you go without reviewing the polls. In case there's a matchup here, right, Obama-Romney. What does it look like?

STEINHAUSER: Let's take a look. A brand new poll from NBC/"Washington Post" came out yesterday morning. Of course, it was conducted well before this news. But take a look, right off the bat, at the horse race, what would it look like?

Well, the president has a seven-point advantage according to this poll. Our CNN poll from two weeks ago and Gallup poll from last week also had the president on top. Go to this screen, and this is interesting, though.

The gender gap -- Zoraida, we've been talking about this over and over and over. And here it is again, in this poll, you can see among men polled nationwide, Romney ahead. Among women, a very large advantage for the president and it's probably why you saw Romney yesterday at his event talk about women's issues and blame the president for job losses among women -- Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: Yes, trying to explain the war on women.

So, at 6:00 we want to talk about potential running mates. So, get ready for that one.


SAMBOLIN: Paul Steinhauser live in Washington for us. Thank you.

BANFIELD: Ten minutes now past 5:00.

And a major scare in the air. A Korean Airlines jet was forced to make an emergency landing in British Columbia after a bomb threat. The Boeing 777 had just taken off last night from Vancouver International Airport. It was headed to Seoul, South Korea, but U.S. Air Force fighter jets had to be scrambled and divert that plane to land at a nearby Canadian military base.

Officials say 149 passengers were on board, and that the bomb threat had come into a Korean Airlines U.S. call center based in Los Angeles. Authorities were searching the plane. So far, haven't found anything, no explosives.

SAMBOLIN: Ten minutes past the hour.

New developments this morning from North Korea. The communist country has begun fueling a long range rocket for a planned launch sometime this week. Pyongyang insists the rocket is designed to put a satellite in orbit and not, as the U.S. and South Korea believe, a nuclear missile that could bring a nuclear warhead as far as Hawaii and Alaska.

The U.S. officials say North Korea would violate a U.N. resolution and have threatened to take appropriate action.

BANFIELD: We're waiting for the bell. This is your daily gas price check, folks. I've got good news.

Lucky enough, we're on a five-day winning streak if you want to call it that. National average for a gallon of gas, $3.92. I know that's high, I'm sorry to report.

But here's the good news, it's down 0.7 of a cent from yesterday, five days running now. We've had dips.

Gas prices are still up, though, more than 19 percent since the start of the year. So, I have to Debbie Downer that. Sorry about that.

SAMBOLIN: All right. So, still ahead, new rules for air races. The feds are looking at these few seconds over and over again. They want to make sure the horror of last year's Reno air show crash never happens again.

BANFIELD: And a big time college football program canning its coach. Calls himself a family man, but he crashed his motorcycle with a woman half his age riding on the back. That's never a good thing.

You're watching EARLY START.


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

SAMBOLIN: We have breaking news just into our newsroom. An 8.7 magnitude earthquake right off the coast of Indonesia.

Our Rob Marciano has more details for us. Good morning to you.

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Good morning, guys. This is a big one.

Any time you get one over 7.0, and you think immediately about the tsunami threat. And sure enough, a tsunami watch has been posted for much of the Indian Ocean basin, including India itself, Sumatra, of course, and local area.

You may remember 2004 -- take Google map to give you perspective as far as where this is. Just to the north and east of that red dot, which is the epicenter, is Banda Aceh. So, that rings a bell. 2004, 9.4 quake there, and a resulting devastating tsunami across this entire basin, killing tens of thousands of people.

This is a little bit weaker, 8.7 versus 9.1 is actually much, much weaker, but still very strong, and likely a tsunami resulting from this. We have gotten reports already of tremors being felt al the way to Thailand and southern India.

So, again, tsunami watch up for much of the Indian Ocean because of this. If there was a tsunami generated in Banda Aceh and northern Sumatra have likely seen that. We'll be waiting for reports from that country. Serious situation, 8.7 magnitude quake off the west coast of northern Sumatra.

We'll keep you posted as we get information, guys.

BANFIELD: That is scary.

SAMBOLIN: We'll continue checking in with you. Thank you, Rob.

BANFIELD: That's bad for Kuala Lumpur either, heavily populated area. So, obvious, very scary.

Seventeen minutes now past 5:00 in the East Coast. Time to check the stories making news this morning. Christine Romans doing that for us.

Hi, Christine.


The attorneys representing George Zimmerman quit, saying Zimmerman ignored their phone calls, e-mails, and ignored their legal advice. But he did reach out to the special prosecutor investigating the Trayvon Martin shooting last night. She said new information on the case will be released in the next 72 hours.

At 6:00 Eastern, we'll talk live with George Zimmerman's now former legal team, Craig Sonner and Hal Uhrig.

All right. Dozens of wildfires raging all along the East Coast this morning, scorching thousands of acres. Officials say close to 100 fires are still burning in Florida. Firefighters also put out a fire on Easter in Long Island on the grounds of the Brookhaven National Laboratory. That's a nuclear physics facility.

Several homes were damaged in that area of Long Island. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo declaring a state of emergency there.

And the University of Arkansas fired head football coach Bobby Petrino for, quote, "reckless behavior". This comes one week after the 51-year-old, married, father of four, crashed his motorcycle with his 25-year-old girlfriend on board.

The athletic director saying he hired the woman to work for the team just a few days before the accident and that that affair was affecting university business.

Petrino, Bobby Petrino, is out.


BANFIELD: That will affect business, I'll bet.

ROMANS: Among other things, the marriage. Your relationship with your kids, et cetera, et cetera.

BANFIELD: All business.

SAMBOLIN: Thank you, Christine.

It's 18 minutes past the hour.

And we're getting an early read on your local news that is making national headlines. This morning, we have papers from "The Las Vegas Sun", "Detroit Free Press", and we also have the "L.A. Times".

BANFIELD: Yes, we do.

Let's take you to "The Las Vegas Sun", though, because you'll probably remember the pictures we were airing after this incredible crash. There's some new safety measures that the NTSB is now considering.

Do you remember back in September when that awful crash just devastated the Reno air show? Have a look.


BANFIELD: It was just a devastating accident that claimed the lives not only of the pilot who was flying that plane, but 10 spectator spectators, and 60 other spectators were hurt in this accident as well.

The reason this happened was that the pilot had modified his World War II plane. That made it very fast and very dangerous. At the time of the crash, he was estimated to be going as fast as an F-16 pilot, about 530 miles an hour.

So, the investigators believe it might have been the G-force that incapacitated him before the accident, a couple of things that play in there. The NTSB is now saying that they're going to suggest safety checks for all those pilots who bring modified aircraft to the air shows, but also the pilots wear flight suits to offset the G- force.

SAMBOLIN: (INAUDIBLE) good gracious.

BANFIELD: Yes, awful.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Let's move on to the "Detroit Free Press," shall we?

Civil rights leaders are rallying for this woman, a Pontiac teacher, she was fired after a Trayvon Martin student fund-raiser that she sponsored. Brooke Harris is her name. And she lost her job teaching after trying to help students she says raise money in honor of Trayvon Martin.

So, apparently, they were allowed to wear a hoodie. They donate a dollar for that privilege, and then the school would donate the money to the teen's family. Harris says that she was fired for what she said were claims that she was being an activist and not a teacher.

The school superintendent has a different story. She said the fundraiser is not why the teacher was fired. She said that she violated the rules by having the fundraiser. She did not follow proper protocol there. So --

BANFIELD: Hard to placate everyone in a situation like that.

It is now 20 minutes past 5:00 on the East Coast.

And with President Obama set to talk about taxes and rich people again this morning, President Bush is talking about the tax cuts that bear his name.


GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: I wish they weren't called the Bush tax cuts.


BANFIELD: What does he want them to be called? He had something to say. We've got more on what the former president said after the break.


BANFIELD: It's 24 minutes now past 5:00 on the East Coast. Nice to have you with us.

We're minding your business this morning, as we like to do. It was a bit of a dismal day. It was a really dismal day.

SAMBOLIN: Everybody would agree on that one.

BANFIELD: Yes. Dow had its worst one-day drop since November. All three indices losing 1.5 percent. That's five straight days of losses in U.S. markets, if you're keeping track. And a lot of it concerns about further slowdown in Europe and China.

SAMBOLIN: So, let's bring in Christine Romans now. More of the same on stocks today?

ROMANS: I think you might see things look up a little bit today and here's why because Alcoa had an earnings report that was a surprise, $100 million in the quarter. That was something for industrial companies. We'll see if that leads to a higher day for stocks today.

And remember, the first quarter was the best one in 10 years. So, I'm not really surprised that people suddenly are looking at things happening around the world and taking money of the table in some stocks because we had a really great first quarter.

So, I wouldn't get too worried about just this last five-day period. That's what I would say.

BANFIELD: Hard to top that.

ROMANS: But yesterday, we're all talking about taxes. Less stocks, more taxes, because taxes -- center stage of the campaign trail. Of course, the president is going to be speaking today, talking about the Buffett Rule. Tax the rich. Make them pay their, quote-unquote, "fair share".

BANFIELD: Millionaires and billionaires. You know, a quarter of millionaires and billionaires pay a less tax rate than the middle class, a quarter.

Listening on the campaign trail, it was everybody. But it's a quarter.

And yesterday, President Bush, former President Bush talked about the tax cuts that bear his name, those Bush tax cuts that expire at the end of the year. Listen to what he said.


BUSH: I wish they weren't called the Bush tax cuts. If they're called somebody other's tax cuts, they're probably less likely to be raised.

But if you raise taxes, you're taking money out of the pockets of consumers. And it's important for policy makers to recognize that all the doubt about taxes causes capital to stay on the sidelines.


ROMANS: Two polar opposite political views that are playing out and will play out for the rest of the year as we go through this campaign.

The Republicans say, don't raise taxes on anybody. It's about fixing the tax code, lowering taxes. It's not -- this whole fair is fair thing is just going to hurt the wealth creators in the country, and it's not going to lead to higher -- it's not going to lead to jobs. It won't raise more revenue than $5 billion a year. It's just -- it's the wrong kind of approach.

But on the other side, the president saying, look, it's time for fairness to attack income and equality in this country. We're going to raise taxes on people who got a lot of money.

Those are the two themes that will be central to this election.

SAMBOLIN: I know yesterday you provided a bit of an education on these taxes. Today, it would be great if you would tweet it out. If folks are listening to all the rhetoric, they can figure it out.

BANFIELD: Absolutely, and remember, it's rhetoric. Oh, boy. You're hearing the two sides.

Taxes are so complicated and murky. There's nothing simple or fair about taxes, mess in there. But the tax code is a mess.

So, when you hear someone try to make it simple, don't believe them.


BANFIELD: Christine Romans -- I only believe you. Thank you, Christine Romans.

She's the one who knows how to speak money. Trust me. She wrote the book.

Twenty-seven minutes now past 5:00.

And still ahead, no one seems to know where George Zimmerman is hiding out, apparently not even his ex-attorneys. Last night, they hinted he has left the state of Florida. So, what happens now if there's an arrest warrant that's issued? We'll have that coming up.


SAMBOLIN: Welcome back. It is 31 minutes past the hour. Welcome back to EARLY START. I'm Zoraida Sambolin. It is time to check the stories that we are watching for you this morning.


SAMBOLIN (voice-over): An announcement from the prosecutor in charge of investigating the Trayvon Martin shooting. This coming as George Zimmerman's lawyers say they quit and that they lost contact with him. Will he come out if an arrest warrant is issued? We're going to talk to his former attorneys live in the next hour.

And we have breaking news. An 8.7 magnitude earthquake reported in Indonesia. It happened off the coast of Aceh, the Indonesian province that was devastated by a tsunami that was back in 2004. The quake triggered a tsunami watch for the Indian Ocean. Residents along the Indonesian Northern Coast are being asked to move to higher ground.

Apologizing in two languages. Ozzie Guillen saying he is sorry for betraying the Latin community with his comments about Fidel Castro.


OZZIE GUILLEN, MIAMI MARLINS MANAGER: This is the biggest mistake, so far, in my life I made.


SAMBOLIN: The New Miami Marlins manager offending a huge chunk of the team's fan base and being punished for it with a suspension.

Was it a meteor? Was it Baby Superman? NASA ending the crazy speculation about a fireball spotted on tape over Texas -- Ashleigh.


BANFIELD: Thanks, Zoraida.

It's 32 minutes now past 5:00 on the East Coast. Where is George Zimmerman? The man who shot and killed Trayvon Martin has gone even deeper into hiding, and not even his own defense team, or shall I say former defense team, knows where he is, which is why they say they are dropping this bombshell announcement yesterday.


CRAIG SONNER, FMR. ATTORNEY FOR GEORGE ZIMMERMAN: We've lost contact with him. Up to this point, we've had contact every day. He's gone on his own. I'm not sure what he's doing or who he's talking to. But, at this point, we're withdrawing as counsel. HAL UHRIG, FMR. ATTORNEY FOR GEORGE ZIMMERMAN: In this case, I will not tell you where George Zimmerman is because I don't know, but for those who are engaged in the late Easter egg hunt looking for him, you can stop looking in Florida. Look much further away than that.


BANFIELD: Wow! Stop looking in Florida. That news has some people worried that Zimmerman could skip town, skip state, maybe even skip country if an arrest warrant is issued, including Trayvon Martin's family and their attorney, Benjamin Crump.


BENJAMIN CRUMP, ATTORNEY FOR TRAYVON MARTIN'S FAMILY: If the charges come forward like we believe and think rightfully should come from the special prosecutor, then the question is, can they get him to be hold him accountable? Will he escape justice by fleeing? He is a flight risk right now, and we are concerned about that.


BANFIELD: Well, at the same time, another major development. The special prosecutor in the case started the clock ticking to some extent, about an announcement that she plans to make before the end of the day on Friday. And joining us now to talk about this, Kendall Coffey, who's a former U.S. attorney in Southern Florida and also criminal defense attorney, Midwin Charles.

Kendall, I want to start with you down in Florida. When I heard that there was a 72-hour notice that went out for some kind of announcement from the special prosecutor, I was a bit surprised just in that the special prosecutor has not yet spoken to the only key witness who's alive in this altercation, and that's George Zimmerman. Is that a surprise to you?

KENDALL COFFEY, FMR. U.S. ATTORNEY: It's not a surprise because, at this point, at least, up until the time he still had lawyers, George Zimmerman would have been told by any counsel in America, don't talk to the prosecutors. In fact, we've heard that his attorneys communicated that he wasn't available to talk to them nor should he at this point.

Frankly, standard operating procedure is do not talk to the prosecutors at this point. Besides, Zimmerman has already spoken to police, and for better or for bitter, Angela Corey already has his account of what he says happened that night.

BANFIELD: But here's what strange, and I understand that any attorney worth his or her salt will advise to invoke your Fifth Amendment rights if police or prosecutors want to speak to you before there are any charges out there or even if there are.

However, these attorneys indicated yesterday that George Zimmerman made an overture to the prosecutors themselves, wanted to come in, wanted to talk to them without representation. Doesn't it seem strange that they wouldn't, in some way, try to reach out to get his side of the story, or at least, say, we'll hold off on the 72-hour thing until he can retain counsel and come in and talk to us?

COFFEY: Well, I think the what the prosecutors probably decided is she has enough evidence, and that trying to deal with George Zimmerman right now, with or without a lawyer, where he's behaving erratically, almost desperately, could just complicate facts and complicate whatever decision she's going to make, and if there are proceedings down the road to bring.

So, I think she's ready to pull the trigger on what's got to be the most difficult decision of her career.

BANFIELD: All right. One of the things that -- one of the attorneys mentioned to our Anderson Cooper was that he feels like George Zimmerman has gone off the radar. He mentioned this last night. Have a look at this.


UHRIG: You cannot be the first physical aggressor, not the first, hey, I want to call you a bad name or call your mama a bad name, the first physical aggressor. The only evidence and most of the forensics support the fact that that was Trayvon Martin.


BANFIELD: Our apologies. What I was trying to get to is the sound bite from Hal Uhrig on Anderson Cooper last night where he said our client has gone off the reservation, will communicate with us, and he's talking to people we've advised him not to talk to.

So, Midwin Charles, when you have a client or when you have someone who you're legally advising, because at this point, we really don't know what the role of these two attorneys has been and is currently.


BANFIELD: And you have someone who's behaving like this. It is troublesome. Do these two attorneys have the right to do what they did, and that is, walk away from the case and tell everybody who's tweeting, texting, calling them incessantly that they're no longer available to talk?

CHARLES: Well, first, let me just say that I think yesterday, what happened yesterday is a clear example of how much of a debacle this case has become, and it's just unfortunate, and it's a mockery of the justice system. But what I thinkthose two attorneys did yesterday is absolutely despicable from the perspective of a defense attorney. They are supposed to represent their client zealously, and they're not supposed to throw him under a bus.

What it looks like happened is that George Zimmerman no longer wanted to be represented by them. They want the limelight. They want to be on TV, and they decided to hold this press conference to kind of literally throw George Zimmerman under the bus.

BANFIELD: And I know that there has been a lot of criticism that has been leveled against these attorneys, and they're going to join us to talk about their motives, et cetera. But, Kendall, just quickly weigh in on whether it makes a difference. Them stepping down from whatever it is that they were, whether they were legal representatives or attorneys, and there's some question about whether they were retained or not.

Does it make a difference to the prosecutor? The fact that George Zimmerman has reached out to them, does it still suggest that he could be a flight risk, that they now have to step up their game and issue an arrest warrant so that he doesn't skip town, skip state, or skip country?

COFFEY: Well, prosecutors probably not relying heavily on yesterday's press conference to make their decision, but to the extent this is a very, very close call. You got two signals from that press conference yesterday. One is that this guy is in hiding, away, apparently, from the state of Florida.

More often than not, somebody who's hiding is seen as evidence of guilt. And the other thing that's troubling is just the way he's acting sort of erratically, desperately, almost panic stricken.

BANFIELD: But you've got to admit, Kendall, acting erratically and hiding, in this particular case, it's not the typical case where someone is evading arrest or evading questioning. This guy is evading the new Black Panthers who have a $10,000 bounty on his head and others who really want to see harm done to him.

COFFEY: Well, that's the explanation, but it's still troubling the way he's acting so erratically. And the other thing that I think plants in the mind of the public or somebody at some level is if he is capable of erratic, panic stricken action, does that make it more likely, perhaps, that he pulled a trigger that fateful night when he shouldn't have been pulling a trigger?

BANFIELD: And that is a fascinating conversation as well. Kendall Coffey and Midwin Charles, thank you both for your time and your perspective this morning. Always love talking to both of you.

CHARLES: You're welcome.

COFFEY: Thanks, Ashleigh.

BANFIELD: And at the top of the next hour, six o'clock eastern time, we're going to speak live with the gentleman at the center of this discussion, George Zimmerman's now former legal team, attorneys, representatives, whatever you want to call them.

Craig Sonner and Hal Uhrig will be here to tell you why they said what they said yesterday, what it means for the case, and if they may end up still legal representatives for George Zimmerman -- Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: Thirty-nine minutes past the hour. Miami Marlins manager, Ozzie Guillen, now suspended for five games after saying he loves Fidel Castro. Guillen told "Time" magazine, quote, "I respect Fidel Castro. You know why? A lot of people have wanted to kill him for the last 60 years, but that (EXPLETIVE) is still there." Guillen apologized for those comments a second time yesterday at a press conference in Miami.


GUILLEN: I'm very, very, very sorry about the problem (ph), about what happened. And, I will do everything to make it better. This is the biggest mistake, so far, in my life I made. And when you make a mistake this big, you can't sleep. You constantly think about it for four days. If I don't learn from this, then I will call myself a dummy, but not yet.


SAMBOLIN: Guillen blamed the comments on bad translation. He says he was thinking in Spanish and then misspoke in English. He says, quote, "What I wanted to say was, I was surprised Fidel Castro stayed in power so long considering what he's done." Guillen has been suspended for five games.

And coming up, an update on this morning's breaking news. An 8.7 magnitude earthquake reported in Indonesia. We're going to have much more on this developing story right after the break. You're watching EARLY START.


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.

BANFIELD: And it's 44 minutes past 5:00. We've got breaking news. A major earthquake off of the coast of Indonesia this morning.

SAMBOLIN: And we're getting the first video into our newsroom. Let's check in with Rob Marciano. What can you tell us, Rob?

ROB MARCIANO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Well, first, I want to show you the video just coming into the CNN newsroom. Actually, pictures coming out of Banda Aceh, people feeling the quake, and no doubt, getting out of their buildings. They're being told -- certainly at the time were being told to get to higher ground. And a scary site over there right now in Northern Sumatra.

I can tell you this, by our calculations, if there was a tsunami generated, it likely hit this area, at least, the coastal areas of Banda Aceh minutes ago. So, this is taped, obviously, coming in right when the earthquake happened, which happened about one hour ago, around 4:30 or so eastern time.

And, since then, a tsunami watch has been issued for all of the Indian Ocean, and the closest to that, land mass to that epicenter, about 250 miles to the east, is Northern Sumatra, and that includes Banda Aceh, which is where you saw that video coming from. And that would be the first area hit by a resulting tsunami.

This is very close to where the 2004 Banda Aceh tsunami hit. The quake then was a 9.1 quake. This is an 8.7. Very, very strong, but a 9.1 is four times stronger. It's a lot greater than the scale. So, it's four times stronger than an 8.7 quake. So, that gives us some optimism. But a quake of this time, anything over 7.0 or even 8.0 in magnitude, is likely to generate a tsunami, depending on how the bottom of the ocean, those plates reacted.

Back in 2004, we had a thrusting of the plate and that created that huge wave. If we had more of a slip, then that would create less of a wave if at all. So, we're waiting to get reports of a tsunami. We're trying to tap into our data list of buoys out there to see if there's been any lift in the ocean. Right now, I can't tell you that for sure.

But, Banda Aceh would have gotten hit by a tsunami if one was generated. Other spots in Indonesia that could see a tsunami, Padang at 6:17 eastern time, so in about a half hour, Bali at 8:53 eastern time, points further to the south and east, in Australia, the northwestern point of Australia, 9:15 eastern time.

These waves, guys, travel at 500 miles an hour. So, about the same speed as an airline jet plane. So, if you can imagine that, that's how this wave would be generating. Again, no reports of a tsunami yet. There hasn't been a tsunami warning issued yet because we're waiting to see some sort of at least lift in the water levels, if not a wave coming onshore.

A tsunami watch has been issued for all of the Indian Ocean. The western hemisphere, including the U.S., of course, there is no threat of a tsunami coming here to the west coast of the U.S.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Rob Marciano, we appreciate that. We're going to check in now with Kathy Quiano. She is in Jakarta now. Kathy, what can you add to that? We're concerned, because we're being told that folks are being told to evacuate to higher ground. We were taking a look at some pictures, and everybody seems pretty steady there.

KATHY QUIANO, CNN REPORTER (on the phone): That's right. So far, we can say that there are no reports of that tsunami being generated yet in the northern coast of Sumatra. We just spoke to officials from Indonesian National Meteorology and Geophysics Agency, and he said that they were anticipating a wave or a tsunami as high as, what, six meters to hit Simola Island which is just off the coast of North Sumatra.

And so far, he said, he cannot confirm if that has happened. They would have expected that to happen just a few minutes after the quake hit. But again, we cannot confirm if that has happened. Communication lines are down.

Electricity and power has been shut down in parts of Sumatra, particularly, Banda Aceh and (INAUDIBLE), and the other islands just off the coast of Northern Sumatra, including West Sumatra. A warning has been issued for everyone who lives near the coast there to go to safer ground, higher ground. As from the reports, we've been seeing people have been doing. They know what to do. They've been trained to do this. Of course, what they're feeling now is the trauma again of feeling the earthquake of this magnitude and the fear of the tsunami coming next.

SAMBOLIN: And the watch seems to be something that's incremental here, right? It starts in that region, and then it continues?

QUIANO: Yes, that's right. So, they're saying that there's -- they're keeping, you know, they're telling everyone to continue monitoring to keep watch and not go back to the coastal areas yet until it's all cleared. But so far, as we said, there are no reports of that tsunami being generated yet.

SAMBOLIN: And I know you mentioned that some communications are down. Do we feel confident that everybody has received the warnings and are moving to higher ground?

QUIANO: Yes. You know, the first warning that the people get is the earthquake itself. And, we know that it was felt in these areas, Banda Aceh, parts of Western Sumatra as well. And people have been trained. They've been given drills, and they've done drills over the years since 2004. They know what to do.

Of course, announcements were made on TV, the same with, you know, through Twitter, through mobile phone communications, and there's a system in place. There's a tsunami warnings that are going to be place there, and we hope that has reached most people. I think all the people who live along the coastal areas of Sumatra.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Kathy Quiano live in Jakarta for us. We're going to continue checking in with you for any further developments. Thank you.

BANFIELD: Just going back to 2004, you could just see the fear on the faces of those people in the video. They have lived through this before when Rob Marciano said this was a 9.1. Today 8.7.

SAMBOLIN: But he said that weren't a significant difference, though. He said that's a real significant difference in size.

BANFIELD: Four times the difference significantly, but at the same time, if you've ever been to Indonesia, it is low-lying all around the coast. There's a lot of volcanic areas. There is a lot of high ground, but it's spotty. I mean, to get to high ground could be, you know, tens of miles, and it could be very close by as well.

So, for those people, it looked like they were sort of paralyzed in position where they were. We're also getting word as well that there are outer islands of India that are also being ordered to evacuate as well. So, imagine just how far those southeast outer islands of India are from this epicenter.

This is pretty serious, and as Rob Marciano mentioned, a tsunami watch for all of the Indian Ocean. So, we're going to keep an eye on this as well.

Something else we've been watching is this GSA scandal, the government services organization. Wow! Just one after another, the videos just keep coming out that is embarrassing that agency. Our Dana Bash got her hands on another one yesterday. When we come back from the break, we're going to tell you what it is and why the fallout just keeps getting worse. Coming up.


BANFIELD: Fifty-three minutes now after the hour. Time to check the other stories making other news this morning with Christine Romans.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, ladies. Happening right now, fresh violence in Syria.


ROMANS (voice-over): Just moments ago, mortar shelling in neighborhoods killing at least one person in this latest round of mortar shelling, according to a Syrian human rights group. This just 24 hours before a U.N.-brokered ceasefire is supposed to take hold. Dramatic pictures out of Syria this morning.

The awards program at the center of the GSA spending scandal is now suspended. GSA employees were given iPods, digital cameras, given other electronics. Congressional investigators say that violates the employee gift limit.

The GSA also in hot water for that 2010 Las Vegas conference that cost taxpayers more than $800,000. Eight GSA workers have now been removed from their posts.

NASA trying to explain this mysterious fireball in the sky over Texas. It was caught on tape a week ago, posted on YouTube. Look at that. NASA now says it was just a jet contrail. Some speculated it was a meteor burning up as it entered the earth's atmosphere or an alien ship that was shot down.

And for some reason, I think the people who believe it's an alien ship are not convinced by the fact it's now been decided.

BANFIELD (voice-over): It doesn't look like a jet contrail, Romans.

ROMANS: I don't know. You know --

BANFIELD: It's burning orange.

ROMANS: Ashleigh, are you one of those?


SAMBOLIN: Conspiracy theorists on this this morning. I've got to tell you. BANFIELD (on-camera): Du-du-du-du-du.


BANFIELD: Did you say that was over New Mexico, by the way?

ROMANS (on-camera): Texas.

BANFIELD: OK. Close enough. No, I'm taking off this conspiracy theory. If it's not New Mexico, I'm leaving that.

ROMANS: I know. You're going to keep your little tin foil hat in your office.

BANFIELD: You saw that, did you?


BANFIELD: I'm a nerd. I can't help it.

SAMBOLIN: All right, ladies. Fifty-five minutes past the hour here. Ahead in our next hour on EARLY START, it is the first day of the rest of Rick Santorum's political life. Mitt Romney's chief rival bowing out, giving Romney now a clear path to the Republican nomination.

BANFIELD: And no "Z" in team. George Zimmerman going rogue on his attorneys, cutting of contact just as the special prosecutor in the Trayvon Martin case says she's about to make a major announcement. George Zimmerman's former lawyers, Craig Sonner and Hal Uhrig are going to join us live in just a few moments to talk about that news conference that everyone is talking about. You're talking about EARLY START.