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Joe Biden Speaks After Gun Meeting; Ferry Crash Injures 50; CA Rape Law Only Protects Married Women; Results of Baseball Hall of Fame Results Due Today.

Aired January 9, 2013 - 11:30   ET


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: It's a score that tells the banks how likely you are to pay your bills on time every time.

ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: So I'm going to harp away on this, honestly, because I still don't understand how you can do this in a timely fashion because, if boring is better, you would think it's going to take you a certain number of payments in order to become that perfect --

ROMANS: Right.

BANFIELD: You know what? Hold one second.


BANFIELD: I'm just hearing about Joe Biden. Let's go live to some of Joe Biden's comments.


JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, let me start on behalf of the attorney general and the president and I thanking you for taking the time today. This is important work. We've got a lot of work to be done.

And I know that several of you around the table have lost loved ones or have been the victims of gun violence yourself. It's been almost four weeks now since the tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut. And I've been doing this a long time. I can't think of all the tragic events we've endured, I don't think anything has touched the heart of the American people so profoundly as seeing those young children not only being shot but riddled with bullets. Every once in a while, there's something that awakens the conscience of the country, and that tragic event did it in a way like nothing I've seen in my career.

So we're here today to deal with a problem that requires immediate action, urgent action. And the president and I are determined to take action. This is not an exercise in a photo opportunity or just here to ask you all what your opinions are. We are vitally interested in what you have to say. And as the president said, if our actions result in only saving one life, they're worth taking, but I'm convinced we can affect the well-being of millions of Americans and take thousands of people out of harm's way if we act responsibly. And today I want to hear about your experiences firsthand. I have taken the time -- I go back, having authored the Brady Law and Jim Brady -- and the Bradys are friends of mine for a long time. He used to be my colleague, Bill Ross's secretary, worked in Delaware. So I've been chairman of the Judiciary Committee for a long, long time. I've been working in an area for a long, long time.

I want you to know that we are meeting with a number of advocacy groups. And we've reached out beyond the issue of just gun safety. We've reached out to the mental health community. We've reached out to doctors and nurses. We've reached out to the religious community, and I'm heartened by the incredible response we've received from Southern Baptist Conference, the Catholic Conscious of Bishops, evangelical groups. I've not seen, again, anything quite like that occurring before. And we didn't even have to reach out. They reached out to us and said, we want to participate because this is a moral issue as well. So you're going to read and hear that I'll be conducting meetings today and tomorrow and Friday and beyond.

And I want to make it clear that we are not going to get caught up in the notion unless we can do everything, we're going to do nothing. It's critically important we act. And there's certain things I know a great deal about almost all of your organizations. I've read what you have published and spoken to. And there is a pretty wide consensus on three or four or five things in the gun safety area that could and should be done around this table.

You should know that tomorrow I've also invited the gun owners and the NRA to come and make their case as well before us. I want it clear to the American public that, on behalf of the president, we'll be reaching out to all parties on whatever side of this debate you fall.

The president is going to act. There's executive order, executive action that can be taken, we haven't decided what that is yet, but we're compiling it all with the help of the attorney general and all the rest of the cabinet members, as well as legislative action, we believe, is required.

So I appreciate you very much being here. And with that, what I'd like to do is thank the press for coming on in. And maybe we can get to work, OK?


BIDEN: Thank you. They'll be able to tell you that. OK. Thank you.


BANFIELD: So the vice president sitting alongside the attorney general, Eric Holder, with those comments about this series of meetings that he's holding to try to assess the mood and the thoughts in terms of any kind of policy that the federal government comes up with. In particular, saying that the president is going to act, that executive action can be taken. I think that's very significant. So we will watch to see as these meetings continue to unfold.

One of those meetings, very important, the request for Wal-Mart to send representatives to be a part of these meetings. And the response from Wal-Mart originally was, we're busy. Truly, we're busy. This is one of the world's -- if not the world's largest retailer. In fact, the person who knows most about this happens to be the person that I just interrupted.


Christine Romans, as we were talking about credit scores, I want to, if I can, switch your focus to what the vice president was just talking about, and particularly Wal-Mart because man, did that change. And you broke that.

ROMANS: Yes. Wal-Mart originally said they were busy, they had a scheduling problem, wouldn't be able to go to these meetings, but they had a phone conversation earlier in the week with the vice president's staff. Then after our reporting all morning about how people were questioning that. Wait a minute, all the other groups had phone meetings this week, but they're showing up in person. The vice president said this is not a photo op, as you just heard him say. This is a real conversation among stakeholders.

Wal-Mart is the largest retailer in the world, likely the largest retailer of guns and ammunition. Wal-Mart tells us it's had a voice in the gun safety debate for a very long time. Now Wal-Mart, changing its calendar and will be attending. Wal-Mart originally said their monthly meetings in Bentonville, executives wouldn't be able to go. They will send an appropriate person now. A change there.

BANFIELD: That's about the fifth breaking story I've had. For anyone who wanted an answer to your credit score and how quickly you can repair it, will you tweet that?

ROMANS: I will absolutely.

BANFIELD: @christineromans, @christineromans.

ROMANS: I will. @christineromans.

BANFIELD: @christineromans, there you go.

The information on how you can speed the process and do the best you can to fix your credit score. We will deliver it, just in print.

Got to take a break. Be right back after this.



BANFIELD: We're keeping a very close eye on the situation in Lower Manhattan, specifically at this location. That is Manhattan's Pier Number 11. It's also a place where at least 50 people had to be attended to for injuries. One of them critical condition at this point. All this after a ferry that they were on crashed into the pier right during the peak commuting time just before 9:00 this morning. And right there, the evidence of that crash on the C Street/Wall Street Ferry, a gash in the front of that vessel. The witnesses reported to CNN that several passengers had been waiting at the top of the a staircase as that ferry got near to the dock, and then when the impact was made, a lot of those people were sent flying off their feet, all the way down the staircases. And that could have caused some of the more serious injuries. But it's not clear at this stage why, why this ferry crashed in the manner that it did. The NTSB is on site. And if this sounds at all familiar, you might remember back in October of 2003, the Staten Island ferry missed its dock and hit a maintenance pier, in fact, and 1 people were killed. 70 people were injured in that ferry accident in New York as well. So we're going to keep an eye on that.

And we've got another story for you, a head scratcher, honestly. In California, a convicted rapist got his sentence overturned all because of a law that was written just a few years after the Civil War, a law that had been on the books since 1872, and a law that protects rapists who impersonate the boyfriends of unmarried women. Apparently, back then, it was really only considered an offense if the rapist impersonated a married woman's husband. The single ladies were just out of luck. So here we are, 2013, why do you suppose a law like that would still be on the books today? It seems insane, right? The simple answer is overcrowding in the jails. More complicated, however, how to clean up this disastrous mess.

Here's CNN's Kyung Lah.


KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: What happened on the streets sounded like rape to police. Julio Morales slips into the bedroom of an 18- year-old woman. In a handwritten note, Morales writes, "She started to confuse me with her boyfriend." The woman at first consents but then resists when she realizes he's not her boyfriend. She tells police Morales raped her.

But according to a California law dating back to 1872, what happened is not a crime. An appellate decision overturning Morales' conviction spells out why. "Has the man committed rape? Because of historical anomalies in the law and the statutory definition of rape, the answer is no, even though, if the woman had been married and the man had impersonated her husband, the answer would be question."

SCOTT BERKOWITZ, PRESIDENT, RAPE, ABUSE & INCEST NATIONAL NETWORK: My first reaction was, you've got to be kidding. We're now prosecuting rape based on 140-year-old laws that long ago stopped making sense.

LAH: The case may shock advocates but not this Assemblyman Katcho Achadjian. He already had heard about the old 1872 law from an upset prosecutor in his district. So in 2011, he introduced a bill in California's assembly that would protect all women, whether married or single, against rape by impersonation.

(on camera): What did you expect would happen to the bill?

KATCHO ACHADJIAN, CALIFORNIA ASSEMBLYMAN: I thought, we'll go through this. As I said, no-brainer. Everybody will support it wholeheartedly. There was no question about it.

LAH: He was right, sort of. The bill passed without a single no vote in the state assembly. But then it moved on to the Senate side to the Senate Public Safety Committee.

(voice-over): The seven members never took it to a vote. Why? A policy adopted in 2007 by the Senate's Democratic leadership. It's called ROCCA, or the Receivership over Crowding Crisis Aggravation Policy. This committee will not vote on public safety bills that could put more prisoners in California's already crowded prisons, even something as seemingly simple as Achadjian's bill.

(on camera): What does it say to you about policies, about Sacramento, about lawmakers when a no-brainer bill can't get out of committee?

ACHADJIAN: Unfortunately, red tape and bureaucracy exists, and sometimes that overwrites something that makes such a sense.

LAH (voice-over): Critics believe the Senate Public Safety Committee misuses ROCCA. Members could have voted on this issue but chose not to.

But according to a spokeswoman, the committee's Republican vice chairman, Senator Joel Anderson, wants to get rid of ROCCA so that all bills get voted on.

JANN TABER, SPOKESWOMAN FOR CALIFORNIA SEN. JOEL ANDERSON: There might have been in the past -- there might have been a good excuse for the ROCCA file in the past, but it was abused. It's basically now being used as political cover so that members of the commmittee don't have to take tough votes.

LAH: We went to the office of the committee chairwoman, Democrat Lonnie Hancock.

(on camera): Hi there.

(voice-over): Who took time to try to explain that it's not as simple as it looks.

(on camera): It looks like the legislature, the committee, just chose not to act to protect women. Is that what's happening here?

LONNIE HANCOCK, (D), DEMOCRATIC STATE SENATE: No. We are walking that tightrope between a federal court order to reduce our prison population by tens of thousands of prisoners and a mandate not to build new prisons either because we can't afford it.

LAH: Assemblyman Achadjian just this week reintroduced a new version of bill hoping that now because of public outrage, it will actually get voted on this time.

ACHADJIAN: We're not able to put that woman's right in this 21st century. It's like, what's next?

LAH: Kyung Lah, CNN, Sacramento, California.


BANFIELD: Pretty amazing stuff, right? So clearly more discussion needed. And we're going to have it. A bizarre law. Darren Kavinoky going to address this with me right after the break.


You tell me what other things are out there.



BANFIELD: Right after this.


BANFIELD: An 1872 law that was possibly penned with a quill and is still on the books is causing a really big mess in California. It actually protects rapists who impersonate the boyfriends of unmarried women. Not the same, though, for the married women if you're impersonating the husband. It's very weird.

But trial attorney and host of "Investigations Discoveries" "Deadly Sins," Darren Kavinoky is here with me.

This one is one where first you can't believe the law is still on the books.


BANFIELD: Then you can't believe that they can invoke it. But if a law is on the books, you can invoke it. Why would it still be on the books?

KAVINOKY: Well, there's a lot of crazy laws on the books, when you look around the country. For example, in Ohio, in Cleveland, women are still not allowed to wear patent leather shoes in some -- I know, crazy --


BANFIELD: Guilty as charged. What would exactly be the reason for that?

KAVINOKY: Well, because they don't want an unintentional peep show, according to the legislature. In certain places in the south, for example, you cannot change a store mannequin in the window during daytime hours because that may be too titillating as well.

BANFIELD: I get it maybe in a bygone era that made sense, but today is it onerous on the governments to change these laws? Isn't it just the stroke of a pen to make sure that you don't have this disaster in California? KAVINOKY: It's either up to the legislature or these cases arise in the setting of a courtroom which is what happened in California. And as much as this may be the outrage of the week because people are really incensed that here we have this rape case and there's a technicality that applies, really this court decision was about statutory construction as much as it was about rape. It was about how an unconscious person is defined. And in this particular case, the law allowed a definition two different ways, either somebody would be asleep or --

BANFIELD: By fraud.

KAVINOKY: -- by trick or by fraud.

BANFIELD: This guy is going to be retried. That's one of the issues. If they pass a new law, is it guaranteed the new law will apply in the retrial? Is it retroactive?

KAVINOKY: It's not guaranteed. Generally speaking, laws are not retroactively applied. We apply the law that was in existence at the time.


KAVINOKY: Exactly.

BANFIELD: We don't know, in this case, whether that will happen?


KAVINOKY: This would be the third trial. The first time this guy was tried, it was a hung jury. This case was actually the retrial.

BANFIELD: It is a very odd circumstance. That is for sure.

Darren Kavinoky, great to see you. Good luck with the launch of your show.

KAVINOKY: Thank you.

BANFIELD: We are back right after the break.


BANFIELD: Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa on the ballot for the Hall of Fame. All three accused of using steroids. The steroids stain probably means they won't be getting the voted into the Hall of Fame.

Joining us with his tame on this, Emmy-award winning sports caster, Len Berman.

It is great to see you.

May I say your new book, "Greatest Moments in Sports: Upsets and Underdogs." LEN BERMAN, SPORTSCASTER & THATSSPORTS.COM: Thank you.

BANFIELD: You will have to write a second part of the book to talk about this story.

BERMAN: This is the first referendum and Bonds and Clemens will not get in when the vote comes in. The irony is they are both Hall of Famers, even if they never touched steroids, they make the Hall of Fame. They obviously hurt their own chances and the sports writers are going to find them guilty.

BANFIELD: And this is one of the things where it is a vote. They don't have anything in the court of law.

BERMAN: The Hall of Fame is the only one with the morality clause. If it is up to me Pete Rose belongs in the Hall of Fame. But I think, on the field, the accomplishments should dictate things and leave those other judgments to a higher authority.

BANFIELD: Depends on what you think accomplishments are. Since we are talking about morality, Brent Musberger made comments about the lovely Katherine Webb (ph), the girlfriend of --

BERMAN: A.J. McKaren.

BANFIELD: -- A.J. McKaren during the game. He's had to apologize. This seems to be so massive.

BERMAN: It does. Here you have a beauty queen in the stands and the sports caster called her beautiful. I think they should shoot him. They shouldn't have apologized.

BANFIELD: She is beautiful --


BERMAN: The P.C. police went too far on this one. They shouldn't have apologized. This was fine.

BANFIELD: She said she doesn't hold him to any blame. A lot of people were freaked out by it. Thought it was creepy.

BERMAN: Well, he did fawn over her. OK, he drooled over her.

BANFIELD: A little bit.

BERMAN: Sports, you know.

BANFIELD: I think it will make it into your hits. I love your weekly hits. If you are here in New York you need to watch. He's awesome.

Len Berman.

Nice to see you.

BERMAN: Thanks, Ashleigh. BANFIELD: It's been a long time.

BERMAN: We worked the Olympics together.

BANFIELD: We did. Many moons ago. We're old.


The results of the Baseball Hall of Fame voting expected at 2:00 p.m. eastern. We'll have that news for you.

Back in just a moment.


BANFIELD: Flu season is coming fast and furious this year. Almost every state in the union is reporting wide spread cases and hospitals are starting to have serious problems. In Allentown, Pennsylvania, there is a tent sitting in the parking lot. It is heated but they had to get the tent up to use it as a portable flu clinic. The CDC says the proportion of people seeing the doctor for flu-like symptoms jumped to 5.6 percent in the past month, up from 2.6 percent in the month right before it.

Thanks for watching, everybody. It is nice to have you with us. That has been the NEWSROOM report today. But NEWSROOM INTERNATIONAL starts with Michael Holmes right after this break.


MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, and welcome to NEWSROOM INTERNATIONAL. I'm Michael Holmes, sitting in for Suzanne Malveaux.