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Obama Vs. Romney; Prostitution Scandal Rocks Secret Service; Zimmerman Trial Twist; Pippa Gun Pics Stir Controversy

Aired April 17, 2012 - 05:00   ET


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

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: And good morning, everybody. I'm Kate Bolduan, in for Ashleigh Banfield today.

Good morning, again, lovely.

SAMBOLIN: I'm so happy to have you.

BOLDUAN: Thank you.

Good morning, everybody. It's 5:00 a.m. in the East, if you needed a reminder.

So, let's get started, shall we?

Mitt Romney telling President Obama: start packing. Those are his words.

But a new poll shows Romney has a lot of catching up to do if he wants to win the White House.

SAMBOLIN: The military's top general now apologizing to the commander-in-chief for a sex scandal in Colombia.


GENERAL MARTIN DEMPSEY, CHIEF OF STAFF CHAIRMAN: We let the boss down because nobody is talking about what went on in Colombia other than this incident.


SAMBOLIN: That is true. The Secret Service now yanking security clearances for several agents accused of bringing prostitutes to a hotel before the president arrived.

A new fallout from the scandal ahead.

BOLDUAN: And a new legal move by George Zimmerman's attorney. Trayvon Martin's accused killer asking for a different judge. Plus, new concerns for Zimmerman's safety.

SAMBOLIN: And watch out. They were just in the onions. A man under arrest after an attempted hold-up with hot dog tongs. Seriously, folks.

BOLDUAN: We are not making this stuff up.

SAMBOLIN: Dumb criminal file. We need one of those and just dump these stories in there for your viewing pleasure.

BOLDUAN: I always love to see them.

SAMBOLIN: All right. So, we begin with politics this morning and a look at a general election matchup between President Obama and Mitt Romney. A new CNN/ORC national poll of registered voters shows the president with a near double-digit lead overall, 52 percent to Romney's 43 percent.

Meantime, in an ABC interview, Romney fully embraced his role as the presumptive GOP nominee, delivering a blunt message to the president.




ROMNEY: That's what I'd like to say.

Obviously, we have a very different view. The president, I'm sure, wants another four years. But the first years didn't go so well and they've added trillions of dollars of debt because he doesn't understand the economy. He doesn't understand what it takes to get jobs for the American people.


SAMBOLIN: CNN political editor Paul Steinhauser is live in Washington for us.

And, Paul, we've been talking a lot about gender lately. And our poll actually digs deep on really specific issues. But start with gender gap, what can you tell us about that?

PAUL STEINHAUSER, CNN POLITICAL EDITOR: Our poll indicates, Zoraida, that it's still alive and well. Take a look at this from our CNN/ORC poll. This is a national poll they conducted over the weekend.

Look at that -- among men, pretty much all knotted up between President Obama and Mitt Romney. But look at that among women, a 16- point advantage for the president. We saw that in our poll two weeks ago and we saw that in other recent polls as well.

Here's one reason why. Go to the next board. You can see here who is more in touch with the problems of women? Look at that. Mitt Romney way behind Barack Obama when it comes to that question, Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: I saw this other tidbit that I thought was interesting. It says six in 10 women would prefer to have jobs outside the home than stay at home and take care of the house and family.

STEINHAUSER: Yes, we saw that because we asked that question after the controversy after Hilary Rosen's comments about Ann Romney. And that was pretty interesting. A little higher number for men on that but still, six out of 10 women feel that way. Yes.

SAMBOLIN: Yes, I thought it was a high number.

All right. It's not just gender that's pushing the president's numbers higher. Can you tell us about some other factors that are bringing them up?

STEINHAUSER: Likability is one. Take a look at some more of our numbers and you can see right here.

Who is the more likable person when it comes to the minds of Americans? President Obama.

Who is more in touch with middle class Americans? A lot -- look at that. President Obama. Maybe that has to do with the tax issue that we've been talking about a lot over the last couple of days.

Who is a stronger leader? President Obama.

Who stands up for what he believes in? Again, a double-digit lead for President Obama according to our new numbers.

SAMBOLIN: Hey, did Romney win anything?

STEINHAUSER: Yes, listen. An important issue here. They're all knotted up. And that is the economy. We know it is the most important issue.

Take a look at what our poll indicates. And you can see right here, it's basically a dead heat between President Obama and Mitt Romney when it comes to who is more likely to get the economy moving?

Also one other number important, of course important -- independent voters. And look right here. Among our poll indicates the president only has a very slight advantage among independent voters who as we know are crucial to the outcome of general elections.

SAMBOLIN: OK. So, I need you to explain something to me because I was looking at a Gallup poll this morning that actually puts Romney and Obama in a statistical tie. Why the significant difference between these two polls?

STEINHAUSER: You're going to see that a lot between now and six and a half months from now when we have the election. A brand new Gallup poll. This is their daily tracking poll. They just started.

Yes, look at that. Dead even. Our poll is very different.

Ours is more in line with an ABC/"Washington Post" poll that came out last week. Theirs more in line with a FOX poll that came out the other day.

You're going to see these discrepancies, different methodology. One thing interesting about Gallup, though, their tracking poll is very different than their battleground poll that Gallup put out just two weeks ago. So, you're going to see a lot of differences between now and then.

One thing that's different between ours and theirs, independent voters in theirs go for Romney, independent voters in our poll seem to be going for the president more.

SAMBOLIN: You know what? We're going to dig in deeper in our 6:00 hour. So we invite you to stick around and join us then.

Thanks, Paul.


BOLDUAN: And in an attempt to hike taxes on the richest Americans, not going anywhere in the Senate. Last night, Senate Republicans voted down a plan to move ahead on the so-called Buffett Rule which would require millionaires to pay a minimum 30 percent tax.

The president is responding to the vote blaming Republicans for, quote, "choosing one again to protect tax break for the wealthiest few Americans at the expense of the middle class." That's end quote.

The GOP argued, though, that it wouldn't make a dent in the federal deficit and it would also hurt small businesses. Even though the Treasury says it would only hit about 1 percent of those small businesses.

A new CNN/ORC International poll shows an overwhelming amount of Americans support the Buffett Rule, 72 percent in favor of the tax hike. Only 27 percent oppose.

I promise you that debate is not over.

SAMBOLIN: Oh, yes.

Five minutes past the hour here.

A honcho at the GSA exercising his try to remain silent. Pleading the Fifth at a Capitol Hill hearing that looked into wild spending at a $800,000 Las Vegas conference that he organized two years ago.

Jeff Neely and other officials grilled about mock-up videos and parties that included taxpayer-funded booze, meals, a clown, even a mind reader.


REP. JASON CHAFFETZ (R), UTAH: I think that's the fundamental problem that America gets and that government doesn't get. There are a lot of good federal employees who work hard, they're patriotic, and they're frugal with their money. But when you see this widespread abuse of money and then you -- you as the former administrator say, well, they were entitled to it, that's where there's frustration just steaming out of our ears. It is totally unacceptable.

And for the president of the United States to look the American people in the eye and say, well, we've got a pay freeze in place while you're getting bonuses and going on trips is totally unacceptable.


SAMBOLIN: The head of the General Services Administration, Martha Johnson, said she found a badly managed GSA when she took over in 2010. She resigned over this mess.

BOLDUAN: And now to the prostitution scandal that's staining the Secret Service

Eleven members of the agency have had their security clearances now revoked, accused of bringing prostitutes back to their hotel rooms in Cartagena, Colombia, just two days before the president arrived for the summit that he was there for that has now been far overshadowed. Ten members of the U.S. military are also being investigated now.

Congressman Peter King, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee telling CNN's Wolf Blitzer, this is the worst kind of transgression for a Secret Service agent.


REP. PETER KING (R), NEW YORK: No matter what the ultimate penalty is, this is a serious, serious violation of everything the Secret Service stands for. What these 11 agents did put the -- potentially puts any presidents at risk for some -- or themselves at risk, leaves themselves open to blackmail and to threats.

Obviously, finding out who those 11 women are and exactly what their backgrounds are, what their connections or associations is extremely vital to this investigation.


BOLDUAN: Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr is live in Washington for us this morning.

Hey, Barbara. Where do things stand with this investigation this morning? There seems to be a new turn every day.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Indeed, Kate. Now, of course, the Secret Service now has begun its investigation into the matter. The agents back in Washington with those security clearances revoked.

It has spread to the U.S. military. Here at the Pentagon, they tell us at least five military members belonging to the Army are being questioned about this, believed to be involved, and perhaps as many as five more. That brings it up to 21.

Just yesterday, the president's top military adviser had to issue an extraordinary apology.


DEMPSEY: We let the boss down because nobody is talking about what went on in Colombia other than this incident. So to that extent, we let him down.


STARR: We've let him down. That from General Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, speaking here yesterday at a press conference.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, General Dempsey, both saying that this kind of behavior is not acceptable.

And, of course, as we've talked about, the big concern is -- did these people leave themselves open to the possibility of blackmail or other threats by engaging in this type of behavior while they were on a presidential trip? Kate?

BOLDUAN: And it seems we still need more detail and information to really determine how, you know, how serious this kind of infraction was, if you will. I'm really amazed how candid General Dempsey was there and that was in response to your question, Barbara.

Real quick. Do you anticipate getting any updates on the investigation today, or is it -- are they really kind of hunkering down to go into that investigative mode?

STARR: Well, there's an investigating officer already on the ground in Colombia, U.S. military official. He is gathering facts, trying to talk to people that he can. And will bring that back and deliver his report.

And then at that point, they will decide in the military how to proceed. Do they have enough to go further? Do they believe that there were infractions of military regulations?

And this will become -- if that is what happens -- a military disciplinary proceeding. Very strict rules governing that about the disclosure of information.

But what's really seems to be happening here is this is falling into a different category because it's a presidential trip, because it involves presidential security. They are not saying a lot about what these military people were doing there in their official capacity. But, of course, they often support security and other functions during these types of trips, Kate.

BOLDUAN: All right. Barbara Starr at the Pentagon -- thanks so much, Barbara.

STARR: Sure.

SAMBOLIN: It is 10 minutes past the hour.

Still ahead on EARLY START: a new twist in the Trayvon Martin shooting. The attorney for George Zimmerman, who is charged with second-degree murder, wants the trial judge removed.

BOLDUAN: And he has tongs and he is not afraid to use them, people. A hold-up attempt that had the customers laughing.

You're watching EARLY START.


SAMBOLIN: Welcome back to EARLY START. It is 14 minutes past the hour. Time to check the stories that are making news this morning.

The attorney for George Zimmerman asking for a new trial judge in the Trayvon Martin case. Mark O'Mara filed a motion to have the judge recused because of possible conflicts of interest. Zimmerman is being held on a second-degree murder charge in the teenager's death.

Attorney O'Mara says his client is frightened.


MARK O'MARA, ATTORNEY FOR GEORGE ZIMMERMAN: There's been a lot of emotions that have come forward in this case, and some of those emotions are showing themselves in bad ways. And I'm just hopeful that we can get him out, keep him safe, and then give me the time to do my job.


SAMBOLIN: O'Mara says he hopes Zimmerman will get bail at a hearing that is scheduled for Friday.

Australian troops will be pulling out of Afghanistan way ahead of schedule. Prime Minister Julia Gillard says some of the 1,500 Australian soldiers now stationed in Afghanistan could start coming home within a few months. And all of them could be out by the end of next year. That is 12 months sooner than planned.

And a powerful 6.7 magnitude earthquake rocked Chile overnight. It hit near the coastal port of Valparaiso but it was strong enough to shake buildings in the capital city of Santiago. That's about 70 miles away. There are no immediate reports of damage or injuries.

That same region in Chile was devastated by an 8.8 magnitude earthquake in February of 2010. There are pictures there. Hundreds were killed in that disaster.

BOLDUAN: And the California teenager locked up after she claimed she was raped is now finally free. It's an amazing story. The 17-year-old was thrown in a juvenile hall for 20 days because prosecutors feared she would not show up to court to face her alleged attacker.

Prosecutors say the man, 37-year-old Frank Rackley, is a serial rapist. And they are hoping the teen's testimony will help convict him. But when she failed to show up at two court hearings, a judge ordered her detained. That judge is now apologizing. The teen's attorney says she shouldn't have been locked up in the first place.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I am truly sorry for all that you've been through.

AMINA MERRITT, TEENAGER'S ATTORNEY: I do believe it should not have happened in the first place. I do believe that there were less extreme measures to obtain her statement.


BOLDUAN: The teen will now be monitored by GPS.

And an assault with a hilarious weapon. A man was arrested after attempting to hold up a convenience store in Ft. Smith, Arkansas, with a pair of tongs, folks, he grabbed from the hot dog tank. Hot dog tank, is that what we call it these days?

You can se him on surveillance camera chasing customers around with the tongs when someone called 911.


CALLER: He's trying to stab us and keep saying, keep me some money.

911: What does he have?

CALLER: He has like a tong thing. I don't know. It's like a silver tong thing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He attempted to rob a place but really nobody took him serious enough to actually give him money because of his state of intoxication.


BOLDUAN: Of course. There we go.

SAMBOLIN: A little more to the story.

BOLDUAN: A little bit of background on the story. Police say the man dropped the, quote/unquote, "weapon" and was waiting outside for them when they arrived. Police say he will be charged with two counts of attempted aggravated robbery despite the apology note that he scribbled.

SAMBOLIN: Good gracious.

BOLDUAN: Sorry, buddy.

For an expanded look at all of our top stories, head to our blog,

And Jacqui Jeras is here with your weather headlines in for Rob Marciano this morning.

Hey there, Jacqui.

JACQUI JERAS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Hey, good morning. That guy was having a hard day.

BOLDUAN: I know. A bad day that only got worse. It's a little levity in the morning.

JERAS: He wrote a little note. That's so great.

BOLDUAN: Leave the tongs.

JERAS: Leave the tongs.


JERAS: Indeed.

All right. This morning, we've got a wet start across some parts of the Southeast. We're looking at showers and thunderstorms, some of which are going to cause street flooding for you. You're going to have to be real cautious as you leave the house and head out for work this morning.

West of New Orleans, that's where we're seeing the heaviest of rainfall. It should be moving into the city, say, in about an hour or so. We do expect to see some of that flooding. That's why we've got the watch which is in effect. Additional one to three on top of what you already have.

So, the ground is very saturated. The rain is needed though as it heads into parts of Atlanta up toward Charlotte. So that will be good news. Not if you are traveling necessarily but great for your lawns. That's for sure.

Drying out into the Northeast, still mild but nothing compared to where you have been for the last days. High temperatures today are going to be up there in the 70s as opposed to those 80s and 90s. Lots of records fell yesterday.

All right. We're going to end the weather forecast with some incredible video I want to show you guys. This is out of Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. One of our iReporters catching a huge sandstorm.

Take a look at that. It's just a wall of dust. This is also known as a haboob. It's something that kind of quite common-ish. It happens out there quite a bit. We get those out here in the U.S., in the Arizona desert, in particular.

BOLDUAN: Also known as stay indoors. Turn off the air conditioning.

SAMBOLIN: I've seen a haboob before but that thing is massive. How do you drive through that?

JERAS: You can't. I mean, visibility is nothing, really.

BOLDUAN: That's an amazing image. A lot of amazing weather images these days.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Thanks, Jacqui.

JERAS: Sure.

SAMBOLIN: It is 19 minutes past the hour.

And we're getting an early read on your local news that is making headlines. And this morning, we have papers from Oklahoma, Alabama, Illinois. We're loaded this morning.

We're going to start with "The Oklahoman." Two Oklahoma day care workers are accused of feeding hot sauce to a 13-month-old child and then laughing as the toddler screamed and cried. There are their pictures right there for you to see. Both women not only reportedly confessed, but the incident was caught on video.

The women reportedly put habanero hot sauce on the toddler's green beans. The child screamed out in pain. One woman also reportedly admitted to pushing away a table that the child was using to hold himself up, causing the child to fall down.

Both women will be charged with child abuse.

We did a little research to find out if they have to be licensed there in order to work in a day care. They don't. Not to work. But they do go through criminal background checks.

So, this is just shocking, right? You put your kids in a place and you think they're safe and this happens.

BOLDUAN: That's just horrible. Absolutely horrible. Poor thing.

OK. Very different story from "The Tuscaloosa News". Roll tide question mark? More like drop tide.

The University of Alabama's $30,000 BCS championship trophy shattered. A player's poor father accidentally tripped and knocked it from its stand. The university is working to get the $30,000 Waterford crystal trophy replaced. My question: who is going to foot the bill?

This is not the first time a coveted sports trophy has been destroyed. Our wonderful producers and writers, they came up with this. In 2008, the captain of the Spokane Chiefs broke the memorial cup, right there. After winning the tournament.

And last year, go to another piece of video. Real Madrid Sergio Ramos --

SAMBOLIN: I remember this.

BOLDUAN: Oh, you do?


BOLDUAN: Dropped the Copa del Rey trophy into the street during a celebration and it was run over by a bus.

On the Alabama story, just a little additional bit. They are going to the White House Thursday to meet the president.

SAMBOLIN: And they're supposed to take the trophy.

BOLDUAN: One thing they will not be taking, the beautiful trophy.

SAMBOLIN: Thirty thousand dollars of Waterford crystal trophy. Maybe, I don't know --

BOLDUAN: Maybe if your that poor father, or the player who is --

SAMBOLIN: I know, that's terrible.

BOLDUAN: One of those moments. Anyway, there will be a collection for that.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Twenty-one minutes past the hour.

Still ahead: the Buffett Rule is dead on arrival in the Senate. Republicans say it would not even dent the trillion-dollar budget deficit. We're going to take a look at the real impact.


SAMBOLIN: Twenty-four minutes past the hour.

Welcome back to EARLY START. We are minding your business this morning.

An upbeat, that is, retail sales report failed to boost Wall Street's mood yesterday. That's why I was leading myself.

Stocks ended mixed, but the NASDAQ falling the most, about three quarters of a percent. (INAUDIBLE) have a lot of tech stocks and big names like Apple, Google and Sprint took a hit yesterday.

BOLDUAN: We're also following your money all the way to Capitol Hill where the Senate blocked a procedural rule on the so-called Buffett Rule.

Alison Kosik is in for Christine Romans, easy for me as usual.

That bill -- this bill is dead but I don't think the debate is over.

ALISON KOSIK, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Right. You said it. You know, you're going to see this issue really take on a life of its own as the election cycle moves forward. And as you said that, effort to sort of squeeze more tax revenue out of the wealthy, it's dead for now. But this Buffett Rule, it's going to live on.

You know, and what this rule would basically do, what it would look to do actually was anyone earning $1 million or more would have to pay 30 percent of their income in federal taxes. And we remember how all this came about. You know, it's to make sure that no one is earning more than $1 million a year pays a lower effective tax rate than anyone in the middle class.

This came after billionaire investor Warren Buffett said, you know what, I'm paying a lower percentage of my income to the IRS than my secretary. And then, of course, it came out President Obama said the same thing on Friday when his tax return came out. He said, you know what, this is why this rule was needed.

But you know what? And this is why you're going to see this live on because Americans are in favor of this Buffett Rule. Take a look -- 72 percent of Americans in a CNN/ORC poll say that they are in favor of this Buffett Rule.

And what's interesting, you look deeper into this poll. It's right along party lines. Democrats are 90 percent supporting this Buffett Rule versus 53 percent of Americans who say they want that millionaire tax.

Now keep in mind, though, a lot of critics coming out and saying that this Buffett Rule, it wouldn't do much to reduce the deficit. Take a look at this. It would raise less than $5 billion a year in taxes if the Bush tax cuts expire as they may on December 31st. And that that barely chips away at a projected deficit in 2013 of $901 billion.

So you have a lot of critics coming out and saying, you know what this is? This is pure politics. This does nothing for the economy.

It doesn't grow the economy. It doesn't grow jobs. It doesn't cut what we're spending at the gas pump.

They say, let's focus on streamlining the tax code. And a lot of critics say that even if this rule would have gone through, it doesn't streamline the tax code, it adds yet another layer to the tax code and makes it even more complicated.

But once again, this is going to heat up because a lot of people, Americans across the board, can relate to this. We all pay taxes. It's a relatable issue. You're going to see it play out strongly in this election.

SAMBOLIN: And also, the people that make the most money pay more. I mean, that seems to be what everybody is jumping on, right?

KOSIK: Right. Exactly.

BOLDUAN: I think -- and from the political perspective, it's no surprise that on Tax Day they are coordinating and debating a tax issue like this. And to be honest, it benefits both sides. Republicans and Democrats were happy to have this debate because they both see a political advantage here. Also why it's not going to away any time soon.


KOSIK: You've said it.

BOLDUAN: All right. Alison, thank you so much.

KOSIK: Sure.

BOLDUAN: Still ahead on EARLY START: more confusion in the Trayvon Martin shooting. Details on why the trial judge might be removed.

SAMBOLIN: And still ahead: a scientist tells a cop your entire theory is faulty. How he used basic physics and a four-page paper to beat a ticket. You want to hear about that?

BOLDUAN: I'm impressed already.

SAMBOLIN: You're watching EARLY START.


SAMBOLIN: It is 31 minutes past the hour. Welcome to EARLY START. I'm Zoraida Sambolin.

BOLDUAN: I'm Kate Bolduan in for Ashleigh Banfield again this morning. Good morning, everybody, and let's get a check of the stories making news this morning.


BOLDUAN (voice-over): A new legal challenge, a new legal move, rather, by George Zimmerman's attorney. Trayvon Martin's accused killer asking for a different judge, adding new confusion to the case. We will take a look at why Zimmerman wants this judge off the bench.

SAMBOLIN (voice-over): Mitt Romney telling the president to start packing. That's an interview with ABC News, but a new CNN/ORC national poll shows President Obama has close to a double-digit lead on the likely GOP nominee, 52 to 43 percent.

BOLDUAN: And space shuttle "Discovery's" final flight, this time, as a passenger on the back of a jumbo jet, soaring into retirement this morning. We are live at the Kennedy Space Center coming up.

SAMBOLIN: That's the ultimate piggyback right.

BOLDUAN: Ultimate.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Pippa Middleton, what's up with the pistol? Police are investigating a photo that shows her friend pointing a gun at the paparazzi.

BOLDUAN: More on that as well.


BOLDUAN (on-camera): It has divided a community and the country. Now, a new legal twist in the controversial Trayvon Martin shooting.

SAMBOLIN (on-camera): The judge at the center of the case is being asked to take herself off the case. Alina Cho is here with this latest development. Good morning.

BOLDUAN: Good morning.

ALINA CHO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning. Good morning, Kate. Nice to see you. And good morning, everybody. You know, the case against George Zimmerman has been controversial from the very beginning. Zimmerman, of course, now officially charged with second- degree murder in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin. It happened on the night of February 26th. And now, this latest twist.

Zimmerman's new lawyer, Mark O'Mara, is asking the judge who is hearing the case, Judge Jessica Recksiedler, to step aside. Now, listen carefully, because it gets a little bit complicated. Judge Recksiedler's husband works at the same law firm as CNN legal analyst, Mark Nejame. Zimmerman originally asked Nejame, the analyst, to defend him.

Now, he declined and instead referred Zimmerman to several lawyers, including the one who is ultimately representing him, Mark O'Mara. He took the case. On Monday, O'Mara filed paperwork with the court requesting that Judge Recksiedler step down and give the case to another judge. O'Mara told our Anderson Cooper why last night.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Earlier this afternoon, you filed this motion to recuse the judge. Are you confident that your request is actually going to be granted?

MARK O'MARA, ZIMMERMAN'S ATTORNEY: Yes, I do. The way the rule is set up is that once the presentation is made by a verified motion, the court should grant it. She could have an inquiry if she wanted to. I don't think she will. I think she's going to go ahead and grant it and move the case on to another judge.


BOLDUAN: A very interesting legal twist on this one. What do we know about Judge Recksiedler and who might even replace her?

CHO: Well, there are three potential judges. First, I mean, just to be clear, obviously, what people are concerned about is the potential conflict of interest, right? The association between Nejame and Recksiedler and whether that could become problematic even the scrutiny in the case nationwide, right, but to the potential replacements, right?

First, a little bit about Judge Recksiedler. She only found out last Thursday, if you can believe it, that she had been chosen at random to hear the case. And here's what we know about her. She's 39 years old, relatively new to the bench, elected just in November of 2010. But, we should be clear that she's been a lawyer for 15 years.

She lives in Sanford, Florida, with her husband, a personal injury attorney who, as I said a bit earlier, works with one of our legal analysts. Now, there are three judges who could possibly replace her. The first is Judge John Galluzzo (ph). He was appointed to the bench by then Governor Jeb Bush back in 2006.

Another possibility is Judge Kenneth Lester (ph) on the bench since 1996, and the third, Judge Debra Steinberg Nelson (ph). She was appointed back in 1999.

SAMBOLIN: And I'm sure we're going to hear a lot more about those three potential candidates there. So, can we expect a decision any time soon here?

CHO: Well, you know, there will be a court hearing later this week. You know, the judge did not say when she would make a decision, but there will be a bail hearing. That's set for Friday for Zimmerman. It is possible that he could make bail at the time, but the issue of this potential conflict of interest would have to be resolved before that ruling could be made.

And what's interesting about that is that in Florida, I believe that the -- let's see here. Under Florida law, all a person needs to show is a reasonable belief that the judge might not be fair. And it does not appear at this point that the judge is fighting it. So, it appears --

BOLDUAN: It's that appearance of conflict of interest or something.

CHO: That's right.

BOLDUAN: I don't think either side wants that involved in the case.

CHO: That's absolutely right. And in fact, Zimmerman's lawyer, O'Mara, said listen, let's handle this now. Let's not find out two months down the road.

SAMBOLIN: And he's the one who disclosed the relationship --

CHO: That's right. That's absolutely right.

SAMBOLIN: -- because he thought it could potentially cause a problem.

CHO: That's right. And she said -- you know, O'Mara said, let's not find out two months down the road that this is a real conflict of interest.


CHO: Let's settle this now. (INAUDIBLE) what happen.

BOLDUAN: All right. Thanks so much, Alina.

CHO: You bet.

BOLDUAN: So, another story that we've been following. Sarah Ganim and her colleagues at the "Patriot News" in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania have been awarded a Pulitzer Prize for their coverage of the Penn state sex abuse scandal.


BOLDUAN: Exactly. The 24-year-old Ganim also serves as a CNN contributor and became one of the youngest reporters ever to win journalism's top honor. It's really, really impressive. Ganim broke the news that former Penn state assistant football coach, Jerry Sandusky, was under investigation for alleged child sexual abuse.

Sandusky faces more than 52 counts involving sexual acts with boys dating back to 1994. A horrible story, but a well-deserved award for Sarah.

SAMBOLIN: Oh, yes. And she was relentless with the coverage.

BOLDUAN: Relentless.



SAMBOLIN: All right. Thirty-seven minutes past the hour here. Remember when you were sitting in class and you asked, when am I ever going to need this in real life? Well, here's you go. Here's a story. A scientist from the University of California just got out of a $400 ticket for running a stop sign with a four-page paper he drafted in his own defense on the laws of physics.

He argued that the police officer mistakenly thought he ran a stop sign because he was approximating his angular velocity rather than his linear velocity.


SAMBOLIN: Well, duh.


DMIRTI KRIOUKO, UNIV OF CALIF. PHYSICIST: I didn't use any knowledge beyond the elementary physics and mathematics. These angle of speeds that he was observing were indistinguishable.


SAMBOLIN: Well, of course. The scientific approach worked and the judge dismissed the ticket. Moral of the story, do a little homework, write a paper.

BOLDUAN: I checked his math and all checks out.


SAMBOLIN: Love that story. Really great.

BOLDUAN: Another story getting a lot of attention, still ahead, one tabloid called it the smirking gun. Pippa Middleton, Paris, pistol, and a big problem for the royal family this morning. We'll be back.


BOLDUAN: The sister-in-law of England's future king is under fire this week for a series of photos released by a British tabloid, "The Sun." The pictures show Pippa Middleton riding through Paris next to a man who appears to be waving a pistol. And in one image, even points it at the photographer.

You're seeing some file video of her there. According to ABC News, the gun was fake and no complaint has been filed with French police. But, followers of the royal family say the silence from Buckingham Palace has been deafening.

Mark Saunders has been covering the British royal family for 25 years, and he joins me now from London. So, first off, Mark, show me what we're talking about here.

MARK SAUNDERS, ROYAL BIOGRAPHER: The press, obviously, as you can imagine, have got these pictures all over them today. I mean, we're looking here. This is "The Sun." The actual picture of the gentleman pointing the pistol is this bottom one here, but what is most astonishing, the two pictures above it. I don't know if you can see them.

He's actually waving the pistol around. Now, we're talking about the center of Paris in an Audi convertible, waving what does appear to be a semiautomatic pistol in the air. In the current climate, you can imagine how crass and stupid that has been. This man really must be so moronic. And astonishingly enough, Pippa doesn't seem (ph) to be doing anything to stop him. I mean, I saw what you consider a roll of film yesterday, and I assumed Pippa would, in some way, be saying, don't do that. What are you doing? Don't be so stupid. Not at all. She just laughs all the way through it.

BOLDUAN: And in the current climate, you are talking about they're in Paris. They're in France. France is still reeling from gun violence that shooting tragedy just recently. With that in mind, I want to know more about what you make of this, and is there any sense that Pippa could be in any serious trouble here? "The Sun" initially reported she could face charges.

SAUNDERS: Well, I understand that she could still face charges. There has been a formal complaint made to the police, though, no one has actually confirmed that. But, the charges she would face possibly would be accessory. I think it's more of a chance, if this does -- if the police do proceed with an action against this man, I think she will be questioned by the police.

Now, that would actually take place here in England and it would be done by the British police who would then pass the statement on to the French counterparts. But, let's not forget, if Pippa refused to cooperate, she could find herself being extradited back to France to answer the questions, and that really would be bad news for the royal family.

BOLDUAN: As you know, Mark, probably better than anyone, there's always a lot of -- use whatever word you want -- scuttlebutt, hullabaloo around really any movements, actions by the royal family and their relatives. Do you think this is much adieu about nothing, more an embarrassment for the royal family or is this potentially serious for her?

SAUNDERS: No, I don't think it's an embarrassment. I think it's potentially serious. I think they're worried. Pippa Middleton has become a media creation. She has become something basically that she isn't. She's become an A-list celebrity with a very tenuous link to the royal family.

I mean, she is simply the sister of the future queen of England. She enjoyed her celebrity to begin with, but I don't want to be unkind, but Pippa Middleton is a painfully ordinary looking girl and --

BOLDUAN: Ouch, Mark.

SAUNDERS: And we seem to be -- well, I'm trying not to be unkind, but the papers are building her up into this astonishing beauty. And it was always going to -- they're always going to turn against her. If you make a deal with the devil, you'll have payback. And Pippa today is suffering. I went to Bucklebury yesterday, her parents' house, and the place was virtually (ph) shut down.

There was a police car there, but the family are reeling from this. This is the first really bad piece of publicity we've had since the wedding, which, remember, is nearly a year ago now. And it's astonishing how fast people have turned against her, especially the French who see this as simply a bunch of upper class British twits riding around Paris with a pistol.

BOLDUAN: Well, and her appearance and looks aside, focusing on her actions, she is the target of paparazzi constantly. Do you think this is evidence, although, possibly would be unprecedented that she should have protection? She should have protection?

SAUNDERS: Well, I mean, I've been saying this from the start. Pippa is in a very strange twilight world. She's out of the protection of Buckingham Palace. She doesn't come under their protection, and yet, at the same time, her actions reflect on Buckingham Palace. Now, we know that there was a Buckingham Palace (INAUDIBLE) to the family price for the wedding and said, look, whatever you do now will reflect on Catherine.

So, you basically have to behave yourself. But that's as far as it goes. We've kind of gone back a little way to that Diana thing where Princess Diana always said that no one ever told her what to do or what not to do. Well, she was at least the senior (ph) member of the royal family. Pippa isn't. So, Pippa is really out on her own.

BOLDUAN: And straddling two worlds, really. But, there's much more on this investigation, of course, and really is the gun real? Is it fake? Is there formal charges? I'm getting far ahead of us, but we'll be following it closely. Mark Saunders in London, thanks Mark.

SAUNDERS: Thank you, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: I got to tell you, I'm tweeting out wondering how many people believe that Pippa Middleton is painfully ordinary looking. Thank you very much.

All right. It's 47 minutes past the hour here. Time to check the stories that are making news this morning.


SAMBOLIN (voice-over): Eleven secret service agents accused of bringing prostitutes to their hotel rooms in Cartagena two days before the president's arrival have -- they've had their security clearance revoked. And at least ten members of the U.S. military are now being investigated as well for their possible involvement in that scandal.

And Mitt Romney has some ground to make up he wins the GOP nomination and goes head-to-head with President Obama in November. Romney is sounding really confident telling ABC News the president should start packing. But a new CNN/ORC national poll of registered voters shows President Obama with a near double-digit lead over the presumptive Republican nominee, 52 percent to 43 percent.

And a high school in Indiana is now paying its students $100 for every advanced placement science Math or English test they pass. The money to fund this new program comes from part of a $7 million grant. The school says it's hoping to create incentives for kids to make good grades.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We can now break down barriers for students who may not have looked at AP courses.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If I pass this class, this class, and this class, I could be looking at $200, $300.

SAMBOLIN: OK. So, the operative word there is pass, not get an "A." Teachers also get $100 for every one of their students who pass the AP test. Grant money also pays for teacher traing and new classroom equipment.


SAMBOLIN (on-camera): Maybe it's because it's an AP test. All right. That makes a little more sense.

Forty-eight minutes past the hour, still ahead, the shuttle, "Discovery's," final flight from the Kennedy Space Center to its new home at the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C. Take a look at these pictures. We are live in Florida this morning for that launch. You're watching EARLY START.


SAMBOLIN: Fifty-one minutes past the hour. Welcome back to EARLY START. Just an hour or so from now, we're so excited --


SAMBOLIN: The space shuttle, "Discovery," will embark on its final voyage to a retirement home in Washington, D.C.

BOLDUAN: It sounds so serene. "Discovery" is making the trip piggybacked on top of a 747 jumbo jet. It's the first of three NASA orbiters set to become museum pieces. "Discovery" will be on permanent display at the Smithsonian. CNNs John Zarrella is live at the Kennedy Space Center. So, what do you know, John?

JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Kate, Zoraida. You know, what's that old saying about riding off into the sunset? I guess "Discovery" is really going to be riding off into the sunrise this morning here. Right at about 7:00 a.m. eastern time, just as the sun comes up, "Discovery" is going to lift off.

You know, the oldest of the three remaining orbiters, flew more than 148 million miles. 39 flights, including being the shuttle that was used for both of the return to flights after the accidents of "Columbia" and "Challenger."

Now, "Discovery" again going to the Smithsonian this morning. Once it lifts off the ground here, what's going to happen is it's going to actually fly over pad 39A where it lifted off from so many times, fly down the beach, then back up over the Kennedy Space Center to the visitor complex. We expect hundreds of people out here in the next hour to watch "Discovery" leave. And then, of course, it's going to head up the east coast of the United States and arrive in Washington. We believe probably right around 10:00 a.m. eastern time this morning. Big ceremony there planned at Dulles upon its arrival there as well -- Kate, Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: And a bittersweet moment, I would imagine, for a lot of people, right?

ZARRELLA: Oh, yes. You know, absolutely. Everybody says -- you know, that word is overused, but, clearly, it was time to move on to do something different. And you know, with these orbiters -- the other two orbiters are going to be retired as well. "Endeavour" goes out to California at the end of this year.

"Atlantis" stays right here. And interestingly enough, enterprise which was a test shuttle that never actually flew in space has been in the Smithsonian. They've got to move it out and they're going to piggyback it up to New York next week because it's going to go into the intrepid air and space museum up there. So, you'll get to see one of the shuttles up in New York as well. Yes, (INAUDIBLE)

BOLDUAN: You're talking about bitter sweet moment. Bitter sweet for this guy right here, John Zarrella, a space lover. I've been down there for a few launches and landings, and he's been there. One of the smartest guys I know and all that stuff. So, I'm sure it's been terrific for you as well, John.

ZARRELLA: Without a doubt.

BOLDUAN: All right. Thanks, buddy.

SAMBOLIN: We're going to check in back with --


SAMBOLIN: We will take that launch live when it happens.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely. We're looking forward to it. And if you happen to spot the shuttle on its journey to Washington, D.C., we want to hear it from you. Send us your iReports at or you can tweet us using #spottheshuttle.

SAMBOLIN: -- called it a launch but it's a flight, right?

BOLDUAN: It's a flight. It's not really -- this is not a launch.



BOLDUAN: This is a flight.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Fifty-four minutes past the hour. Time to take a look at what is trending on the interweb.


SAMBOLIN: So, a 17-year-old high school senior named Austin Fisher (ph) will be allowed to walk at graduation after his story went viral and the school had a bit of a change of heart. Listen to back story, Fisher was banned from his graduation ceremony for racking up 16 unexcused absences this year, and the limit there is 14.

So, he missed all those days because he was working two jobs and taking care of his mother. He was taking her to her cancer treatments. All of this while still playing varsity baseball.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You never know how much time you have left. I mean, that was one of her big ones to see me walk and get my diploma.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He's been my hero. My rock.


SAMBOLIN: Oh my goodness. Fellow seniors started an online petition at to help convince the Carrollton School District to change its policy. And indeed, they did. So, his mom will get to watch him walk at graduation.

BOLDUAN: What a sweet, sweet, sweet boy. Different story. I'm not handling all the sports today.


BOLDUAN: There is now a way for drunken NFL fans, you know who you are, who are kicked out of stadiums to be allowed back in. According to "The New York Post," under a new NFL program, unruly fans will now be required to complete an online course costing $75 to get their seats back.

And, they'll have to pass the test at the end of it. I can't believe this. Now, questions can vary from team to team but "The Post" had a couple of these brain teasers. So, let's play along.

SAMBOLIN: Let's go.

BOLDUAN: True or false, behaving badly towards other fans such as fighting, swearing or threatening them is OK as long as they deserve it.



BOLDUAN: And every fan has a right to like any team they wish using abusive language toward fans who support teams you don't like will not be tolerated.

SAMBOLIN: False. BOLDUAN: Oh, Zoraida, you're such a bad example.


BOLDUAN: I think that's a hilarious story.

SAMBOLIN: I love that. I love that. Those will not be the questions on the test, right?

BOLDUAN: If you're drunk, that $75 probably, you're going to shell it out. Why did I pay $75 to do this?


SAMBOLIN: All right. Fifty-seven minutes past the hour. The prostitution scandal that's shaking up the secret service is widening now. Ten members of the U.S. military are also under investigation. We have a live report from the Pentagon ahead. You are watching EARLY START.