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Man Arrested for Shooting Security Guard at Family Research Council Offices; New Poll Shows President Obama Still Ahead of Romney in Wisconsin; Brothers Free After Facebook Post

Aired August 16, 2012 - 19:00   ET


ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT next, a blame game following a shooting at the conservative family research council. Did politics motivate this gunman?

And it could be a turning point in the race for the White House. A brand-new poll is out. Guess what, it shows there is a much tighter race in a key battleground state.

And we've got this for you. Two brothers, 25 years for them both, in prison, for murder. But a post on facebook may have actually led to their freedom. And tonight we've got the exclusive interview with those brothers. We're going to take you OUTFRONT.

Good evening, everyone. I'm Ashleigh Banfield in for Erin Burnett tonight.

An OUTFRONT tonight, the blame game at its worst it seems. Just one day after Floyd Lee Corkins allegedly said "I hate your politics" and then shot a security guard at the conservative Family Research Council offices, Tony Perkins, who's the president of that group, is blaming the Southern Poverty Law Center.


TONY PERKINS, PRESIDENT, FAMILY RESEARCH COUNCIL: Corkins was given a license to shoot an unarmed man by organizations like the Southern Poverty Law Center that have been reckless in labeling organizations hate groups because they disagree with them on public policy. And I believe the Southern Poverty Law Center should be held accountable for their reckless use of terminology.


BANFIELD: Well, those are fighting worlds. But the Southern Poverty Law Center is fighting right back. And this evening they're saying this, and I quote, "Perkins accusation is outrageous. The Family Research Council and its allies on the religious right are saying in effect that offering legitimate and fact-based criticism in a democratic society is tantamount to suggesting that the objects of criticism should be the targets of criminal violence."

To be clear, there is quite a little history between these two parties. The Family Research Council and the Southern Poverty Law Center. It's a group that monitors hate and bigotry.

The center put the Family Research Council on their, quote, "hate watch list in 2010." And again I'm quoting, because it has knowingly spread false and denigrating propaganda about lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

For its part, the council was a vocal supporter of chick-fil-a when the restaurant chain came under fire for the president, for the president of that restaurant, saying that the marriage that we classically see in the United States should be between a man and a woman. But Lord, how is all of this connected to the shooting that's not even two days old yet? Barely even evidence in the case?

Well, police say this. They have now recovered a nine millimeter handgun and two rounds of ammunition from Corkins, 50 rounds more of ammunition, and guess what else was in the backpack? 15 chick-fil-a sandwiches in his backpack. OK. So there's a connection.

This afternoon, Corkins was charged with assault to kill with intent to kill. And also charged with interstate transportation of a firearm and ammunition. And this is a federal case, folks.

Here now is Sandra Endo who is covering the case from outside of the Family Research Council in Washington D.C. As well joining us, former FBI assistant director Tom Fuentes and CNN legal contributor Paul Callan.

All right, Sandra. I want to begin with you because I know you're learning some more about how this alleged shooter actually got himself into this building. Walk me through it.

SANDRA ENDO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the 28-year-old, Ashleigh, Floyd Corkins apparently walked into the building and stopped in the lobby and that is when he was approached by the building manager who, he said that he was interviewing for an internship. 28 years old, interviewing for an internship. And that is when the building manager, Leo Johnson, said that Corkins opened fire. And that's of course -- we know what happened after that.

But clearly new details coming out as to the investigation and investigators try to figure out how he exactly got into the building because it is a pretty secure building for modern standards. It's very up to date with security cameras around the building as well as a card swiping system for employees to get in -- Ashleigh.

BANFIELD: Well, fascinating that the allegation right now is he had yelled out before he opened fire, I hate your politics. This is going to play in heavily to our next part of the conversation.

Tom Fuentes, I want to ask you a couple things. First of all, with your FBI background. Does this look to you like domestic terror?

TOM FUENTES, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, Ashleigh, if that's the exact statement is true, then it's almost by the definition. If you try to kill somebody based on their ethnic background, racial background, political or religious beliefs, then that makes it pretty much domestic terrorism. So, if he actually said that statement and that's actually why he was motivated to do the shooting, he's defined the act himself as domestic terrorism.

BANFIELD: All right so Paul Callan, if you wouldn't mind, he's done some very quick reading on this, weigh in on this whether this was domestic terror or potentially hate crime. There's a hate crime statute in D.C. what does it say?

PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well D.C., like most other jurisdictions in the United States, has hate crime statutes. Ironically in this case, the statue was created in part to protect gay people from discrimination and to enhance the crime punishment when a crime is committed against them.

BANFIELD: Yes, there's some irony there.

CALLAN: So the expression of political opinion, quote, that you referred to earlier, puts it into the hate crime statute, which means ultimately that the federal research council is protected by a hate crime statute that was designed largely to protect gays.

BANFIELD: And when you -- when we're talking evidence, this allegation of the quote, "I hate your politics," so this would be sort of some really bad facts.

CALLAN: Well, the statute says that if you commit a crime based on hatred, based on somebody's politics, that's a hate crime. So the FRC is protected by this statute and the shooter actually can be prosecuted by a hate crime here.

BANFIELD: Tom Fuentes, real quickly. With your FBI background, once again what's going on with everything in this man's life, his hard drive, his apartment or his home, his mail, what's the FBI doing to look into this at this point?

FUENTES: Well, that's exactly right. They're looking into all of that to determine if he's part of a group, if there are others who are thinking the same way as he is and may commit other acts like that. So did he act all by himself, motivated personally to do this, or is he part of a group? And that also would be under domestic terrorism if he's part of an organization.

So that can be determined in large respect by interviewing everybody that knows him, worked with him, colleagues, family, neighbors, as well as examining his e-mail records and his telephone records.

BANFIELD: All right, Tom Fuentes, Paul Callan and Sandra Endo, thanks so much you for this reporting and this analysis tonight.

And till OUTFRONT, a new state is in play old goody. How the electoral map breaks down now that one state is truly a brand-new toss-up. We'll tell you which one it is and why.

Also, Apple makes a move to take over your television. Is this a move forward or backwards though? You'll find out. Also OUTFRONT tonight, an exclusive. Two brothers who have been rotting away in prison for the past 25 years for murder, but now a facebook post may be leading to their freedom forever. And those brothers are going to join me OUTFRONT ahead.


BANFIELD: Our second story OUTFRONT tonight, a major political development. One that drastically changes our CNN electoral map.

New CNN poll of registered voters in Wisconsin, yes that is Paul Ryan's home state, 49 percent of them are in favor of President Obama, 45 percent of them in favor of Mitt Romney. And that means Wisconsin which has been leaning toward, President Obama, is now pretty much up for grabs. You think about the margin of error. And Ryan is from Wisconsin so there's going to be a lot of attention there.

OUTFRONT tonight, our chief national correspondent John King joins me live.

Ha, the magic wall. I am such a - I mean, literally, I am your stalker fan. I love when you do the magic wall because you make it very clear and I like you to tell me -- clear this up for me on how this actually changes the race.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, just take a look, Ashleigh. This is a 2008 map. You notice all this blue in the middle of the country? The Midwest very much part of President Obama's big winning coalition. That's 2008.

So, I'm going to turn this up. I'm going to show you 2010. Look at this. This is the Senate races in 2010. Look at all that red in the very same states. That's 2010. That's 2008 in the race for president. So, that part of the country very much up for grabs.

So, let's go to our electoral college map when will show you what that means. We woke up this morning with Wisconsin, light blue, meaning leaning Obama. If you're looking at the big map, dark blue is solid Democrat or solid Obama. Light blue leaning.

Because of that poll, because of our reporting in the state, I was there for a couple days this week, we're going to call Wisconsin a toss-up state. What's that mean, it brings the math a little bit more in governor Romney's favor.

The president still leads 237 electoral votes we think are either soft or solid for President Obama. 206 for Governor Romney. It takes 270 to win. If you look, Ashleigh, remember, that area, this was all blue last time. We already say Indiana is leading Republican. Ohio's a toss-up, Now Wisconsin and Iowa. The Midwest part of the country open fertile ground for the Republicans. They hope the energy the party had there in 2010 continues on to November.

BANFIELD: What other scenarios can you cook up for me.

KING: Well, here's the fascinating scenarios. If you take this, you take this as the map right now, and you see these yellow states, the gold state you might look at home, those are your toss-up state. Almost impossible to see Governor Romney winning without Florida. So, watch this state it the president's going to spend a lot of time, a lot of money. The Paul Ryan pick exacerbates the Medicare debate. That will happen down here in Florida.

But, let's say Governor Romney wins that state. Let's say that the Ryan bump is enough and Romney gets Wisconsin. Well, look at that, then Governor Romney's ahead 235 to 237. And you will have the biggest battleground in Ohio. If Governor Romney can also win that, look how close it gets him.

So at the moment, the map favors the president. But if you talk to Democrats down in Florida, they're nervous. Talk to Democrats in Ohio, that's a true toss-up. If Governor Romney, Ashleigh, can just put those three states together, then the maps tilt in his favor and they fight it out over those handfuls of other smaller states if you will to the finish line.

BANFIELD: All right, I can't wait as this change because they probably will.

KING: Yes, they will.

BANFIELD: And John, great work as usual. Thank you, my friend.

Another key toss-up state, Florida. Florida, Florida, Florida. We always say that, don't we, when it's election time. It's ground zero of the Medicare debate as well. And that's where Paul Ryan is going to be campaigning on Saturday.

And are you ready? Probably no surprise, he's going to take his mother on the stump. I can't wait to see it. Ryan is insisting the Medicare issue is only going to help his ticket.


REP. PAUL RYAN (R), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This is a debate we want to have. This is the debate we need to have. This is the debate we're going to ring.


BANFIELD: You think so, do you? Because apparently, the Democrat seem to think the exact same thing. How that works?

The group that's working to elect Democrats to the house released its first ad today targeting Republicans for supporting Paul Ryan's plan.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Voted to essentially end Medicare. Forcing seniors to pay over 6,000 more a year.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BANFIELD: Yes, I'm confused too. You too? There is one thing that's pretty clear in this whole debate. Each side on this debate wants you to think that the other side is the real enemy of Medicare. But it seems like they're both using the same sets of numbers and that they're both guilty of doing what we like to call hear Medi-scare. That's not right, Medi-scare yes. Sounds about right.

John Avlon, Marc Lamont Hill and Hogan Gidley are my guests tonight. I like to say to talk me off the ledge.

Let me begin with you, Hogan. And I always give the disclaimer, my old friend, that you were my intern once upon a day many years ago in Dallas.

I was.

BANFIELD: You don't get a free pass though on TV.

So walk me through this. On Romney's plan, he is pretty short on the specifics when it companies to Medicare but not so much for Paul Ryan. He's very specific and he often quotes that $716 billion figure. Saying yes, Obama people are going to take that out of Medicare. It sounds hypocritical when he uses that same kind of figure for his own plan. Why isn't it?

HOGAN GIDLEY, FORMER SANTORUM COMMUNICATION DIRECTOR: Well, because he takes that money and puts it back into Medicare whereas Barack Obama took that money out of Medicare and put it directly into Obama care. And this issue's going to play out for a very long time and it's going to be nasty and ugly and these numbers are going to be batted around a million times as you well know. And I think Republicans can actually win on this issue. But right now, we kind of have somewhat of a problem in my opinion. And that is the fact that Paul Ryan is out there defending Mitt Romney's plan. But he hasn't really offered a plan with as much specifics as Paul Ryan.

So Paul Ryan stuck submitting to the candidate the nominee's plan. But yet the nominee himself doesn't have many specifics to put out there, so he's got to rely on and defend part of Paul Ryan's plan. If we are going to move forward with this and actually succeed in purposing this Medicare issue, making it waning issue for us, we have to have a united front. Both the principles and the vice president need to be, presidential nominee, need to be on same page pushing the same message. And it's so convoluted and so difficult, they have to get on the same page.

BANFIELD: Heck, yes. But I can tell you one thing. There are a lot of people who are doing this right now who want to get in on this conversation.

So, and Marc Lamont, I want to bring you in on this and not before I suggest to you right now and give you the information from today in which Mitt Romney described the president's plan today. Here's how he put it, take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: So this is the president's plan. $716 billion cut, four million people losing Medicare advantage and 15 percent of hospitals and nursing homes not accepting Medicare patients.


BANFIELD: Seems as though the Republicans do keep hammering away. $716 billion cut.

MARC LAMONT HILL, HOST, OUR WORLD WITH BLACK ENTERPRISE: And he broke out the black board. (INAUDIBLE). Never works out so good.

Here's the thing. First of all, these are supply side cuts. They would have you thinking that suddenly $716 billion is being taken out of the mouths of senior citizens --

BANFIELD: That's what Hogan just said. That the Obama folks are going to take 716 away from Medicare and Ryan wants to put it in.

HILL: And it's just not true. This isn't about efficiency. This is about getting wasting fraud. This is about restricting the amount of payments to suppliers. Not the beneficiaries. That is the point of station to make him also the very same cuts Obama's advocating, they're in the other side's plan as well. They are supporting these cuts. When they do them, and what Obama argues and they say there is still not from the elder.

BANFIELD: You know, and there you got everybody sitting at their living room sets in Poughkeepsie (ph) wondering, I got commercials that look the same on either side. Is it the wash? Is someone going to be able to win this, John Avlon? Is someone going to hammer away and win the Medicare scare?

JOHN AVLON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: This is the problem. Both side using Medi-scare, they're both kind of playing to the lowest common denominator here. And the problem is we got to use some facts to cut through it. So, let's really look at the difference between the two plans. That $716 billion. Mark Lamont Hill is right and Hogan's right to the extent that these are specific numbers put forward and guess what, the Ryan plan and the Obama plan, both would reduce these payments by $716 billion over ten years. This isn't raiding Medicare. It's two different versions on how to actually save the system.

BANFIELD: Can you just repeat that? Both of these plans would reduce Medicare by $716 billion over ten years?

AVLON: Right, spending.


AVLON: So this is very important, right. This isn't coming out of beneficiaries. This is a reductions and payments to insurers and doctors and hospitals.

BANFIELD: And the waste and fraud -- AVLON: And the waste and fraud and abuse. These are very important. Republicans traditionally get giddy over the subject of saving taxpayer money and getting increased efficiency. So this is where the politics of Medicare scare you can really start to pull back the curtain. And see that this is politics.

Instead of having a great debate as a nation about two different paths to reform Medicare, instead we get politics of Medi-scare. And it's particularly hypocritical on the Republican's side.

BANFIELD: And when Hogan said and I will give you this credit, Hogan. I got to wrap it up. It is about 100 more segments on. But you know what, when you said this is convoluted and complex, you are absolutely right. We need an hour or three to actually debate this properly. Will you come back, my friend?

GIDLEY: Absolutely, always Ashleigh.

BANFIELD: It is always good to see you. Thanks.

GIDLEY: In the morning, for your show.

BANFIELD: I changed to 11:00 a.m., by the way. Tease.

Marc Lamont Hill, thank you. John Avlon, thank you as well.

And head, Mitt Romney is telling us something he hasn't told us before. A hint. A hint about his taxes. You got to stay tuned for this one. It's been the best kept secret.

Also, Apple may be one step closer to taking over your television. But is it a step in the wrong direction for this company? More in a moment.


BANFIELD: Third story OUTFRONT tonight.

Apple is going after your TV. Now, in a way, they already have, with Apple TV. It's a little box that connects to your TV and accesses cool stuff like iTunes and Netflix, Hulu, plus whole bunch of other apps. But Apple wants to do more than just that.

"The Wall Street Journal" reports that Apple is now in talks with cable companies to build a set top box that would carry live TV in addition to all the other content. So basically, instead of, you know, paying your cable company 15 bucks a month to lease the cable box, you could just go out and buy an Apple TV box. It means you'd still have to pay for a cable subscription but you'd also likely have access to all those extraordinarily cool apps.

We will see if it actually happens. But you know, there has been talk about Apple trying to do more with television for years now.

Here's the only weird part. In a way, you know, viewing television is changing. Exponentially in fact. More and more people are watching TV on different devices. Like their laptops and their telephones and here's something that will freak you out a little bit, their tablets. I can actually watch me right now on Erin Burnett. Kind of creepy.

So tonight, it leads us to the number. 1.5 million. According to Nielsen, that is the decline last year in the number of U.S. households paying for multichannel TV service providers. Because you can watch, there, look, there we go, because you can watch this stuff on your tablet. You can watch it on your phone. You can Hulu it. You can get it on the internet. A number of those are likely called cord cutters. That is what the term is for people who just say I'm out. No more cable. People would stop paying for cable or satellite and rely instead on broadcast and internet services.

Coming up next, two brothers spent the last 25 years in prison for murder. And tonight though, they are free and they may have thanks to facebook. Believe it or not. The whole thing could have been because of facebook. They're also live with me next to tell me their story coming up.

And new problems in Louisiana where a massive sinkhole has devoured land and forced people to run from their homes.


BANFIELD: Welcome back to the second half hour of OUTFRONT. We start the second half hour with stories that we care about, where we focus on our own reporting from the front lines.

And a story we've been following closely here on OUTFRONT: Mitt Romney's taxes. The GOP presidential candidate addressed the topic on the campaign trail today, saying guess what? You never paid less than 13 percent in taxes ever.


MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I did go back and look at my taxes. And over the past 10 years, I never paid less than 13 percent. The most recent years, 13.6 percent or something like that. So, paid taxes every single year. Harry Reid's charge is totally false.


BANFIELD: So that's important. Not paying taxes ever in those ten years because the ten years is what everybody's been criticizing him for. His wife Ann Romney also addressed this tax issue in an interview with NBC's "Rock Center."


ANN ROMNEY, MITT ROMNEY'S WIFE: We have been very transparent to what's legally required of us. But the more we release, the more we get attacked, the more we get questioned, the more we get pushed. And so, we have done what's legally required. There's going to be no more -- there's going to be no more tax releases given. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BANFIELD: So, in addition to paying at least 13 percent in taxes, Mitt Romney also said that if his charitable donations are accounted for, his tax rate is, quote, "well above 20 percent."

Do you remember that massive sinkhole we talked to you about in Louisiana? We told you about this last week and today, it swallowed an additional 50 feet of land. It caused two cleanup workers to have to be rescued and moved to safety.

The Assumption Parish Police and Texas Brine Company tell us two workers were removing debris from the top of the water filled sinkhole when suddenly they became aware of trees that were shifting all around them. That is freaky.

They were forced to move to an air boat to make sure they could stay safe. Nobody was hurt, thank God. But the cleanup efforts have been suspended because it's a little too dangerous for the time being.

And it's not looking likely that the executives at that bankrupt brokerage firm MF Global are going to be charged with any kind of a crime. All of this according to "The New York Times", a newspaper that's reporting that the criminal investigation into why more than $1 billion of customer money somehow just went missing at the brokerage. That investigation is coming to a close.

The top executives, including former CEO Jon Corzine will likely not be criminally charged. "The Times" reports that investigators are concluding that a chaotic environment and poor risk controls were at the problem here. That was what caused the money to disappear and not the accusations of fraud.

Mark Fernz (ph), a criminal defense attorney, tells OUTFRONT that not prosecuting the executives is actually the right result in this story, adding that evidence of criminal wrongdoing on Corzine's part was just scant or completely absent.

We have an update for you on Facebook as well. Last night, if you were watching, we let you know that Facebook shareholders would be freed up, a whole bunch of them will be freed up to unload about 271 million shares in the market today.

So did it get flooded? Well, it looks like some people did unload, Facebook hit a new closing, an all new closing low of $19.87. That's a loss of more than 6 percent.

So, now, it's been 378 days since the United States lost its top credit rating. What are we doing to get it back?

Well, it might have been a rough day for Facebook overall. It was a pretty good day for stocks actually the Dow rose 85 points, and the tech heavy NASDAQ was up by 1 percent.

Time now for the fourth story OUTFRONT tonight and it's an exclusive. Two brothers who spent almost 25 years in jail for a murder they say they did not commit. And tonight, they're out on bond after a Facebook posting cast some doubt on their guilt.


BANFIELD: OK. That is one sweet moment if you're those two men. Thomas and Raymond Highers. There they are walk out of jail on Monday. Those first degree murder convictions that had them trapped there for a quarter century? Gone. Overturned. Thrown out.

The Highers brothers were convicted of killing a drug dealer. But that was way back in 1987. It happened in Detroit's east side.

But since 2009, Facebook posting -- well, a few other witnesses came forward. And they had something else to say, including one man who said, yeah, the shooters weren't white. They weren't white. They were black.

Now, that is a massive difference in a case. And today, the prosecution filed an appeal, because they're not happy about this. They worked hard to put them away. They don't want to have to do this all over again. But you know what? They might have to do it all over again depending on how this appeal goes.

So, OUTFRONT tonight, let's talk to Thomas and Raymond Highers, along with their attorney, Valerie Newman.

Wow, Thomas and Raymond, this is an amazing story. Just truly amazing and I can't talk about the case before I ask you how you're feeling, how you're doing and how those last few days have been.

RAYMOND HIGHERS, MURDER CONVICTION OVERTURNED AFTER 25 YEARS: Well, we're feeling very happy and elated and the last few days have been like a whirlwind of some activity. Just meeting new family and getting to know everybody once again.

BANFIELD: So it's a very odd story. When we hear the new witnesses saying -- I mean, clearly you two are white and the people who committed this crime, they say, could have been four or five black guys who jumped a fence and committed this crime.

How on earth did you get embroiled in this? And do you know any of these black suspects who somehow are out there somewhere?

THOMAS HIGHERS, MURDER CONVICTION OVERTURNED AFTER 25 YEARS: Absolutely not. We got embroiled in it by just -- being in the neighborhood that night basically.

BANFIELD: And that was it, being in the wrong place at the wrong time?

T. HIGHERS: That's basically it, yes.

BANFIELD: OK, so obviously this would be a good time to lend some clarity into how this whole thing shook out. Here's how it started. Robert Karney was a drug dealer. I think they called him "Big Bob". Back in 1987, on June 26th, he was shot to death.

In 1993, there was a man named John Hielscher. And John told his roommate, Kevin Zieleniewski that he was there when Karney was killed. He witnessed it. He tells Kevin that he and a high school buddy had gone up to Karney's house looking for some weed, when all of a sudden, four or five black guys hopped the fence and put a gun to his head and then told them to get out, scrum.

Fast forward to 2009, Kevin sees a Facebook posting, this is pretty random. But he sees a posting that says something to the effect of "It's too bad that the Highers brothers are in prison for life."

But that's when he decided, wait a second, I've got to do some digging here. I remember something about this. And he found out it was actually for the murder of that drug dealer that he remembered from so long ago. It spawned the conversation that he had with his old roommate John. Remember John said he was there and he saw it, that it was four or five black guys, it wasn't two white guys at all?

So, Kevin tracked down John. And Kevin said, John, you have got to come forward.

And in July of 2012, Thomas and Raymond's murder verdicts were reversed. And on Monday, they are granted bond. And today, they're sitting in a studio talking to me because of it.

And before I go on any further, Valerie, today, the news hook to this story is that there is an appeal. Those prosecutors do not want to go back into that courtroom again.

You're the appellate attorney. If your -- these two gentlemen sitting, you know, beside you do go back into a courtroom, can they win this case, given all this new material from Kevin and John?

VALERIE NEWMAN, APPELLATE ATTORNEY FOR THOMAS HIGHERS: Absolutely. The prosecutors don't want to go back to a new trial because they can't retry this case. The case has been destroyed.

The original case was based on two promises. One, there was a gentleman waiting to go buy weed from Mr. Karney. And he was standing in the street. He saw two white guys. He saw a car pull up, two white guys walk up the driveway, heard a shot. And saw the same two white guys running back, get in that car and leave.

So, the first presumption is that they're the killers.

The second presumption in the original trial was that they were Raymond and Thomas Highers. With the new witnesses, those presumptions have evaporated.

So the prosecution has, now, absolutely no case against Raymond and Thomas Highers because even at the original trial, the trial judge had enormous doubt. But not enough doubt that he wasn't willing to convict, but a lot of different disparate facts that he could not answer. And what this new evidence has done is answer almost every single question that judge had at that time.

BANFIELD: So, Thomas and Raymond, do you think perhaps it might have been -- Kevin and John, if their story's true, and they are the new witnesses in this case -- if their story is true that they were amscraying (ph) for their lives, they might have been the two white guys seen running from the scene of the crime and you two were fingered as the two white guys running from the scene of the crime?

NEWMAN: Hang on. Actually, just one thing, it was -- Kevin Zieleniewski wasn't there.


BANFIELD: Right. Beg your pardon. It was John and his friend. And John told the story to Kevin. So, I beg your pardon.

NEWMAN: Right.

BANFIELD: Same question again. Do you guys think this was a mistaken identity? John and his friend, two white guys, running from the crime, and they thought it was you, two white guys running from the crime?

R. HIGHERS: Yes, that's exactly what happened. They were there and -- they were more or less victims themselves of the crime and was told at gunpoint to leave. And they ran back to their car, got in and drove away. And we were mistaken for them two young white men.

BANFIELD: And not just young, they were teenagers, so they didn't really bother to follow the case. I mean, they're kids, right? So why follow a court case to find out what happened.

I have a question for you, and, Thomas, I'd like you to weigh in on this really honestly. Facing what you were facing 25 years ago, knowing what was going down in that courtroom, did you or your brother ever consider a plea bargain just to hopefully get the time down and just do the deal even though you say you're innocent?

T. HIGHERS: No, never. It never entered our mind.

Something was asked to our attorneys at the time. And they didn't even consider it. I don't -- there was no doubt in me and Raymond's mind that we wasn't going to do that. So, when they told us there was a plea on the table, we said absolutely not.

BANFIELD: Valerie, just quickly. This appeal that the prosecutors have launched -- and, again, it's a little convoluted. It's an appeal of what that judge just did, tossing out those verdicts. This appeal, if it's successful, it brings back those verdicts and sends these two men back to jail.

Does this appeal have a shot?

NEWMAN: No. I would say there's virtually no chance of this appeal moving forward. Judge Talon who is a trial court judge in this case, heard exhaustive and extensive testimony about what happened that evening, from numerous witnesses. And their stories all coalesced. They're folks who have not talked to each other for 25 years.

The only theory the prosecution had during the evidentiary hearing was there a vast conspiracy. And how can there be a vast conspiracy among people who don't know each other? There's no -- they don't talk to each other. And why would -- if anybody wanted to conspire to free them, why would they wait 25 years? So --

BANFIELD: Thomas Highers, Raymond Highers, and, Valerie Newman, I've got to cut it there. But this has been fascinating. And a lot of legal twists to it. I think a lot of people are learning a lot about the process and how it doesn't always work the way we like it.

We'll follow the case and hopefully, you'll come back and we'll find how it finally is adjudicated. Thank you to all three of you.

T. HIGHERS: Thank you.

NEWMAN: Thank you.

BANFIELD: And coming up OUTFRONT next, an international battle over the founder of WikiLeaks. Not only that but a celebrity chef who teamed up with Mario Batali and has a big idea for the food world. Yum.


BANFIELD: We're back with tonight's "Outer Circle" where we reach out to our sources all around the world.

And we want to take you to London, where Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, has been granted asylum by Ecuador. The country's foreign minister said the decision was based on concerns that if he were sent to Sweden where he'd be questioned on a sex crime charge, he'd eventually be extradited to the United States where he could be charged with espionage and treason.

Atika Shubert is at the Ecuadorian embassy in London and I asked her what happened next to Assange.


ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Ashleigh, Julian Assange has now been granted asylum in Ecuador. Unfortunately, he's stuck inside the Ecuadorian embassy here in London. He can't step outside. If he does, British authorities have said he can and will be arrested and extradited to Sweden for questioning.

Now, Julian Assange may have upped the ante just a bit. In its Twitter feed, WikiLeaks has said Julian Assange will be making a live statement, his first public appearance in two months, on Sunday in front of the embassy. We'll be here to see what happens.


BANFIELD: Our fifth story OUTFRONT, the man who got his start cleaning sidewalks in the Bronx. But he had an idea that has made him one of the most successful restaurateurs in the world.

Here he is. His name is Joe Bastianich. He's a longtime partner of that iron chef you all know, Mario Batali. He's the self- proclaimed restaurant man between iconic favorites, like New York's Babbo, Del Posto, and the largest Italian food market in the world called Eataly, right here in New York.

Erin Burnett asked Bastianich about the crazy idea that ultimately led him to millions.


JOE BASTIANICH, CO-OWNER, B&B HOSPITALITY GROUP & PARTNER, EATALY: I was born into it. It's one of those things that was just kind of like thrust upon me. So, my parents were immigrants, Italian immigrants, who came after the war. As most immigrants did, they did what they did in the old country.

So, they know how to be waiters ands cooks. They opened up a restaurant in the '60s. I was born. They put me in the restaurant. And here I am -- 40 years later, here I am.

ERIN BURNETT, HOST, "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT": You're inhaling it at three months so here you are.

BASTIANICH: Yes, I basically grown in a restaurant.

BURNETT: But it took a lot courage, because when you started out, you know, it sounded like, look, I'll go the traditional route, I'll go to Wall Street. I'll get some experience. And --

BASTIANICH: Right, right, it was not in the cards for me.

BURNETT: A lot of people don't, at year end, say, OK, I'm going to go off and do my own thing, but you did.

BASTIANICH: No, but like, you know, when you have a love for food and wine, when it's in your DNA, even though, you know, Wall Street may be alluring and, you know, it was the late '80s and it was like what people did.

You know, people who were successful, where I grew up, they went and work on Wall Street. They bought big houses. They have nice cars. The rest of the people were miserable. So, I thought I would want to be one of them.

BURNETT: The Gordon Gekkos.

BASTIANICH: The Gordon Gekkos.

So I did that. Then realized that, even if it was a great path, and it was every educational, at an early age, I figured I had this incredible passion for food and wine and for making wine. I knew I had to kind of follow my genetic imperative, if you will, to go back to Italy and that's what I did.

I quit my job. I bought a one-way ticket to Italy in 1992. You were probably still in grade school.

BURNETT: Not quite, but hey, I'll take the compliment.

BASTIANICH: And then I lived in my VW bug and traveled Italy from north to south for two years, making wine, working in restaurants, food, whatever, and just kind of fell in love with it and realized, had my epiphany, that's what I needed to do with my life.

BURNETT: OK. So then you opened a restaurant.

BASTIANICH: My first restaurant, I opened in 1983 in the theater district. It was called Becco. I borrowed $80,000 from my grandmother, which was like a lot of money back then.

And I opened a restaurant in the theater district which was not very glamorous and very kind of, you know, It was a job. I had to make a living.

And I opened a restaurant that probably in its first year, it did a million or $2 million if I was super lucky. But that was the stepping stone. It's the first restaurant I have. It's celebrating its 20th anniversary.

BURNETT: Still there.

BASTIANICH: Twenty years later, I opened up a store with some of my partners, Mario, and some folks from Italy, called Eataly. Have you been to Eataly?

BURNETT: I've been to Eataly.


So, it's this kind of market/restaurant. It's kind of like the mecca of all that's great about Italian food and wine and lifestyle and people. And it's on 23rd Street and Fifth Avenue.

And Eataly in its first year did $80 million in sales.

BURNETT: But it is an incredible -- so it's in your DNA, I get it. But, you know, you're being very humble because even if it's in your DNA, starting a restaurant and having it be successful is incredibly rare and difficult to do. Never mind starting a restaurant starting a bunch of other restaurant starting --

BASTIANICH: I've been fortunate. You know, it's been 20 years. My parents did it. I grew up in it. I did it for myself.

I joined with my partner. We've done many restaurants. We have 25 restaurants all over the world. We've been very successful, and that's not an easy thing to do. BURNETT: How do you? So, when you say I'm going to open another restaurant, how do you figure out that you can -- what is the magic?

BASTIANICH: Well, you know, it's kind of our business, a grow or die business. So, you can't kind of standstill, because if you want to attract talent and you want great people and you have a future, and the only way they have a future, if they know there's other opportunities.


BASTIANICH: So, to be successful in the restaurant business, you kind of have to grow. And, you know, we're passionate people. We love food and wine.

So, it's always that idea. That trip to Italy. That little eatery you find in Sicily where they serve X, Y, and Z, like wow, that should exist somewhere in the west village. And then you come back and you find a spot and you do it.

And they are born out of a combination of necessity, to grow your company, but also out of passion about experiences and about transmitting and creating what you find so beautiful about the culture of Italian food and wine for your public and New York. So, it's not always so business savvy. A lot of it is about passion.

BURNETT: Right. If someone was coming in now and had your passion, had to start out -- to start a restaurant --

BASTIANICH: Yes, I would say don't do it, no, go back to Wall Street.


BASTIANICH: No, of course, you can do it. It's just -- it's much more difficult. 20 years ago, world, at least New York, was a little bit simpler. There was a little bit less bureaucracy. It was a little bit onerous.

BURNETT: Really?

BASTIANICH: Yes, it easier -- it was a little bit easier. Now, you know, New York has become a very precious global commodity and everyone wants to be here. And every inch -- everything we do is very regulated and that's good because it preserves our quality of life and out great city --

BURNETT: But you're saying red tape has really --

BASTIANICH: Bureaucracy means more money, less margin, more difficulty and it's very difficult to compete. There's a lot of restaurants who are really great, doing a lot of great things. So, it's a tough racket. You know, coming into it, it's not easy.


BANFIELD: Joe Bastianich.

I got a question for you, did you at any point today complain about the weather or that your feet hurt or the traffic or that your back hurt or you were tired or any of those things we really complain about a lot? I have a story coming up after the break. And you may never complain about those things again.


BURNETT: There was a story out of Syria today that I had planned on bringing to you. I'm sorry to say, it dealt with destruction and violence in Aleppo that is tragically so familiar and really it's becoming very hard to keep up with it, so I want to bring you a twist on this story. It's all too rare that I get a chance to step out of reporter mode and become a TV viewer, even just for a couple of minutes, but it's exactly what happened to me today when I watched the incoming feed of my colleague's report, Ben Wedeman, who's in Aleppo, Syria.

I want you to take a look at a small part of it.


BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESONDENT (voice-over): Nerves still on edge. The possibility the plane will strike yet again.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Go in, go in, go in. Anyone in the next entrance.


WEDEMAN: The rounds smash into crowded neighborhoods far from the front lines.

(on camera): The random nature of the shelling and the air raids on the rebel-controlled part of Aleppo means that any building, anywhere, in this part of the city could be hit at anytime.


BANFIELD: Including where Ben was just standing.

Well, the truth is, as callous as this sounds, we Americans, we often become very jaded towards statistics like death tolls and destruction night after night after night. But unfortunately, the sheer number of miles that separate us and the catastrophic events that are going on in Syria, it can tend to create a buffer of disassociation.

So when someone like Ben Wedeman who's exhausted and hungry and sporting a 5:00 shadow at least three days old is literally jumping into these wrecks of buildings and dodging bullets in order to bring us a report, not just about Bashar al-Assad and the things he's doing, but about the citizens, the people of Syria, who are currently not able to go to school, they are not able to get on the bus to get around.

They're not receiving paychecks. And even if they did, they can't spend them anywhere. There's no food in the stores. There's barely clean water. Seemingly all the money these people have is towards getting out of dodge.

So, thank you, Ben Wedeman. It takes a person like you to give me a little perspective to complain about anything going wrong in my life.

"A.C. 360" starts now.