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Baseball Star Returns To Cuba; New Push For Immigration Reform; Police Chiefs Talk Guns At White House; Sheriff Tells Citizens To Arm Themselves; Senate To Vote On $50 Billion Sandy Aid; Armstrong Won't Talk To Doping Agency; Armstrong Doping; Levy Case Gets New Look; Deadly Nightclub Fires in The U.S. Immigrants Willing To Serve

Aired January 28, 2013 - 13:00   ET


PATRICK OPPMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: After a home run, the play is interrupted to look for the ball. The only one they have. And at the end, no one can even tell you what the score was. For a long lost son of Cuba, it doesn't matter. This was more than a game.


SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Suzanne Malveaux. Big day for immigration reform. Eight senators, four Democrats, four Republicans unveiling a new immigration reform plan. That's happening next hour, 2:30 Eastern. So, it includes what they call a tough but fair path to citizenship for those already living in the United States. But it hinges on improving border security. It also includes an employment verification system that would hold employers accountable if they hire undocumented workers. Also includes a guest worker program to fill jobs that Americans can't or won't do. Senator John McCain says the plan is similar to the one that he actually supported back in 2007. But the climate, the tone now has changed.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: There is a new, I think, appreciation on both sides of the aisle, including, maybe more importantly, on the Republican side of the aisle that we have to enact a comprehensive immigration reform bill.


MALVEAUX: So, during his inaugural address, the president said that immigration reform would be a major part of his second term agenda. And tomorrow, the president is going to make his push during his speech in Las Vegas. And we're also going to hear more about immigration reform in, of course, in his State of the Union address.

And we want to talk a little bit about what is taking place at the White House now. Police chief and sheriffs, this is from major cities across the country, meeting with the president at the White House right now. And they are talking about the administration's gun violence plan. Essentially, they include the chiefs of Newtown, Connecticut; Aurora, Colorado; and Oak Creek, Wisconsin. That is where -- as you know and recall, where the recent mass killings took place. You see those pictures there, that is from earlier today, some of those gathered with the president at the table around him. The meeting comes just two days after thousands of Americans marched along Constitution Avenue in Washington against gun violence.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No group is more important for us to listen to than our law enforcement officials. They are where rubber hits the road. And so, I welcome this opportunity to work with them, to hear their views in terms of what would make the biggest difference to prevent something like Newtown or Oak Creek from happening again.


MALVEAUX: I want to bring in our Dan Lothian at the White House. And, Dan, you have a very familiar face, familiar guest with you at the White House who attended some of those meetings with the president. One of those police chiefs, I believe it's Philadelphia's, Charles Ramsey?

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right. The Philadelphia police commissioner was also the police chief here in Washington, D.C. Thank you for joining me, --


LOTHIAN: -- Commissioner Ramsey. You had the chance to meet with the president, the vice president, all these police chiefs getting together. Is there a consensus about what needs to be done here?

RAMSEY: Well, there's a consensus that something has to be done about gun violence. And there are a lot of moving parts here when you talk about gun violence. It was a very productive meeting. The president listened. He also explained his position on various issues. The vice president spoke and listened. And we also had Secretary Napolitano and Attorney General Holder present as well. So, I thought it was very, very productive.

LOTHIAN: I know we've heard from the Newtown police chief talk about some of the things that he supports such as the ban on assault weapons, such as the ban on these high-capacity magazines. Are these some elements that the police chief seems to be in agreement on?

RAMSEY: Well, I mean, obviously, nothing is going to be 100 percent but these are issues that were discussed. There were other issues discussed as well, universal background checks, for an example, issues involving the sale and transfer of firearms. I mean, there are a variety of issues that we discussed. What ultimately winds up in legislation, I really don't know, beyond the assault weapons ban, obviously, that was just presented. But we do understand that something has to be done about gun violence. Something has to be done now. And we need to also look longer term. Maybe taking a more in- depth look at the whole issue of crime in the 21st century, including gun violence. LOTHIAN: What is it, at the local level, that you need to hear from the White House or from lawmakers? Because so many times, you know, there's a lot of talk that happens here in Washington. But back in the local communities is where the problem is and they're looking for help from the federal government. What is it that you need at the local level?

RAMSEY: Well, I mean, it's easy to say you need more money. But, you know, things are tight for everyone, including the federal government. So, let's use the tools that we currently have. Let's get meaningful legislation on the books that's going to actually make a difference. Even -- you know, it's things like universal background checks which may seem simple on the surface but is something that would be of help. Knowing when a gun is lost or stolen or transferred to another owner. We lose an enormous amount of man hours just tracing a gun only to find out it was lost or stolen five, you know, five years ago or 10 years ago. So, there are some meaningful things that can be done relatively soon, I believe. Straw purchasing, plugging the loopholes that currently exist. So, there are some things that can be done that I think are pretty much low-hanging fruit.

LOTHIAN: Every time there is a big shooting, a mass shooting, there's a lot of discussion about doing something now. What is different this time?

RAMSEY: I think the fact that 20 babies were murdered this time. I think that got people's attention. Not only got their attention, it's going to hold their attention. I believe that the American people are ready for some reasonable changes to occur so that we can get a better handle on violence in our communities that affect everyone. I mean, it's not just the big cities. It's smaller towns now that are experiencing the kind of violence that we saw in Newtown and Aurora.

LOTHIAN: Commission Ramsey of the Philadelphia Police Department. Thanks for joining us.

RAMSEY: Thank you.

LOTHIAN: Suzanne, back to you.

MALVEAUX: All right. Thank you, Dan.

Of course, a lot of people have different ideas about how to deal with gun violence. And this one from Milwaukee county sheriff, taking a different tactic when it comes to guns. He is encouraging citizens to actually arm themselves. That's right. This is Sheriff David Clarke. He put out this public service announcement, this was on his radio station. And he says, calling 911 is, quote -- and I'm quoting here, "no longer your best option because so many officers have been laid off." Well, CNN spoke with the sheriff this morning. Here is how he put it.


DAVID CLARKE, SHERIFF, MILWAUKEE COUNTY, CALIFORNIA: We're not putting any more guns on the street. The guns are already there. My message is for law-abiding citizens in certain situations not to go out and enforce the law. I said, inside your home when the wolf's at the door and the intruder comes in or someone sticks a gun in your face when you're on the street to take your property, there are certain things that you can and should do to protect yourself. It's always been my belief that personal safety is an individual responsibility.


MALVEAUX: So, Milwaukee's mayor absolutely furious about this. He released a statement saying, apparently Sheriff David Clarke is auditioning for the next "Dirty Harry" movie. Not kidding there.

And then, moving on to another story. Hard to believe it was October, right? October when Superstorm Sandy hit New Jersey and New York. And they are still a lot of folks who are waiting and who need help. They have to make repairs. They've got to replace their homes. And relief could finally be coming in the form of $50 billion in federal aid. Our Jason Carroll, he's on Staten Island right now. You know, folks are looking to the money. Fair to say $50 billion that the Senate is going to vote on later today. It's going to help folks out but certainly is not going to deal with some of the frustration and the anger that people are having and feeling because they're just trying to get their lives back together, and they haven't seen the money.

JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And that's because they've been waiting so long. I think it's been three months for so many of these people out here in Staten Island. We were in an earlier -- we were in another street earlier today, right now we moved to Topping Street. And it's the same situation wherever we go. If you look down the street there, you can see that looks like a vacant lot, but there used to be a house there. That house was red tagged and it was then condemned. And a lot of these people on this block are still waiting to see what their status will be, waiting to see if their house will be condemned or if it can somehow can be saved.

Right now, I'm at Nicole Chati's house. Nicole lives here with her husband. Take a look inside here, Suzanne. This is the situation for so many people here. Basically, this house has been gutted. You, at this point, are still waiting to see if your home will be red tagged. And when it comes to financial aid, this is a frustrating topic for you.

NICOLE CHATI: It's extremely frustrating for all of us.

CARROLL: Now, when we talk about aid coming through, aid trickling down, do you believe even if this financial aid package is passed you will see the benefits of that?

CHATI: Absolutely not. That's like -- it's like a giant lollipop that's waiting to be licked and everyone's going to lick it on the way down. And by the time it gets to the people who really need it, there's not going to be enough.

CARROLL: Tell me about what you -- what would help you -- what is it -- what is it that you need at this time that you are not receiving?

CHATI: I need my house to be red tagged. I have engineer's reports and architect's reports telling me that the house needs to come down and I need the DOB to cooperate with me on that and red tag it and take it down.

CARROLL: And, Suzanne, I know you mentioned -- you talked about frustration and when I spoke to Nicole earlier -- I mean, one story really struck me and that's when you had an inspector down in your basement.


CARROLL: Tell me about what happened at that moment. Tell me that story (INAUDIBLE.)

CHATI: The first one, when he walked in, he -- I walked him toward the cellar doors and he said, I can't go down there. I don't have waterproof shoes on. And I just looked at him, like, what are you doing here then?

CARROLL: So, you know, obviously, that's got to be a moment that made you very angry. But also there are moments that -- where you felt at least a little bit more encouraged. You said you did receive some help from FEMA. FEMA is here, by the way, in the neighborhood, Suzanne. Just a few blocks away here in the neighborhood in Staten Island. So, you have received some help?

CHATI: Yes, we have received some from FEMA. But if it wasn't for my husband and his hard work, we wouldn't be able to pay the mortgage and pay our rent and still live.

CARROLL: And I think what a lot of people don't realize is when this bill -- even -- if this bill is passed -- this financial aid bill is passed it, it will be up to the state -- up to the city to decide how exactly the money is allocated. Mayor city officials, if any of those folks are listening at this point, what would you want to tell them?

CHATI: Just treat us as if we were your family. You wouldn't leave your family out in the cold. Don't leave us out in the cold.

CARROLL: All right. I want to thank you very much for sharing your experience with us.

CHATI: Thank you very much.

CARROLL: And again, Suzanne, the experience of people like Nicole Chati and others here out in Staten Island, there are thousands of people in a state of New York and in places like New Jersey who are dealing with this same sort of area, this gray area, where they're waiting for financial aid, still deciding if a house like this should be red tagged and whether or not it can be saved. So, a lot of questions. This really is the 11th hour for these people.

MALVEAUX: So, you know, Jason, I -- it is so familiar, when you listen to those stories and see -- you see folks from Hurricane Katrina and what folks were going through, this whole experience seven years ago. It's amazing how some things just really don't change all that much. So, I mean, there's still a lot of red tape that they've got to get through to get that money to them. Jason, we wish -- we wish her the very best. Thank you very much.

Here's what we're also working on this hour. LeBron James heading to the White House. This time, it's not to shoot hoops with the president, but the president is welcoming him and, of course, the NBA champions, the Miami Heat. We're going to bring that to you live.

And new information in the Chandra Levy murder case, the man convicted of killing the former congressional intern now meeting with his lawyers.

Plus more than 230 people killed in a nightclub fire in Brazil. How this is eerily reminiscent of a fire in Rhode Island back in 2003. What survivors are saying.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can't believe someone has actually done that in a crowded nightclub again.



MALVEAUX: So, did Lance Armstrong lie during his interview with Oprah Winfrey? Well, there's going to be a new investigation into the murder of former congressional intern, Chandra Levy, as well. Those are just a couple of the legal cases that we're keeping our eye on.

I want to bring in Faith Jenkins. She was a former Manhattan assistant district attorney.

I want to start off with the first story, Lance Armstrong. So you've got the head of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency saying that he didn't come clean during the Oprah Winfrey interview, at least not completely. So, Travis Tygart says that Armstrong has until February 6th to reveal everything he knows if he wants to get this lifetime ban rescinded. And here's how he put it in "60 Minutes."


TRAVIS TYGART, U.S. ANTI-DOPING AGENCY: There's a five-year statute on a fraud criminal charge. So the five years today would have been expired. However, if the last point of his doping, as we alleged and proved in our recent decision, was in 2010, then the statute has not yet expired and he potentially could be charged with a criminal violation for conspiracy to defraud.


MALVEAUX: All right. So you have, on the one hand, saying that he's going to cooperate with the international anti-doping agencies, but he's not going to be meeting with the U.S. agency before the deadline. So what does that mean for him in terms of being prosecuted?

FAITH JENKINS, FORMER MANHATTAN ASST. DISTRICT ATTY.: It means that Lance Armstrong is, of course, still looking out for himself and putting himself number one here. Listen, he knew that if he went in front of millions of people on television and said, I actually did use performance-enhancing drugs in 2009 and 2010, he could be subject to criminal prosecution. And so he wasn't going to do that. He was adamant. He said, you know what, after 2005, I didn't use any more performing-enhancing drugs. So he's trying to protect himself. He's like the boy who cried wolf. All the times that he has lied and lied repeatedly and now he says, but believe me this time. This time I'm coming clean. And I believe that they have evidence to support the fact that his blood was altered as late as 2009 and 2010. But he's not going to confess to that.

Another charge that he could be looking at is perjury. Because you think about the fact that he's testified under oath numerous times and then the moment that he set foot in front of Oprah and the television cameras around the world and he said, I lied, he committed perjury. Look, the problem is, again, the statute of limitations, Suzanne. In most jurisdictions, it's three years for perjury. So he basically admitted what he could not deny and he denied what he could not admit. It was very convenient for him.

MALVEAUX: I want to talk a little bit about this other case that we're following. This is the case of Chandra Levy. And I remember covering this back in Washington some time ago. I want to remind our viewers what this was all about. She was a 24-year-old former congressional intern. She disappeared back in 2001 amid rumors that she'd been having an affair with then Congressman Gary Condit of California. That was never substantiated. Well, now there's some reports that several prosecutors and lawyers for the man whose actually convicted of murdering Chandra Levy, they've met twice since December and court hearings. What does that mean for the criminal case?

JENKINS: There are apparently some secret hearings going on. We don't know a lot about what's going on inside of these hearings, but we do know that the judge has said that he has some questions and concerns about safety and we also know it involves the credibility of witnesses.

Now, as you might recall, this -- Ingmar was convicted based largely on the testimony of a jailhouse informant who said that the defendant confessed the crime to him. There wasn't a lot of scientific evidence. There wasn't a lot of DNA. But he fit the profile of the female joggers who had been attacked in the park on the days leading up to Chandra Levy's attack. So the fact that we have a jailhouse informant here who, you know, his credibility is always going to be an issue. So, what we may have here is someone else who's come forward who knows some information about this supposed confession or some information about the jailhouse informant that's leading the prosecutors and the judge to take another look at this case to see if, indeed, the right thing happened here.

MALVEAUX: So, Faith, I thought this case was closed. But apparently it has either reopened or has remained open. Is that right? JENKINS: Well, the case -- he's been convicted and he's serving time in jail. But if -- the bottom line in our criminal justice system here is to get justice. You don't want the wrong person sitting in jail if he's not the person who actually committed the crime. So if there's new evidence, if there's a new person who's come forward and it's legitimate and it's credible, the prosecutors and the judge, they're under a duty, an obligation, to listen to that evidence, to see if the case should be reopened or if, in fact, this person, they indeed should be released from prison.

MALVEAUX: All right. Faith Jenkins. Thank you very much, Faith. Appreciate it.

JENKINS: Thank you.

MALVEAUX: This is what is left after a nightclub fire, killing more than 230 people in Brazil. Look at that. We still don't know what caused this fire, but it broke out during a fireworks show. And it is eerily similar to a nightclub fire that killed 100 people in Rhode Island 10 years ago.


MALVEAUX: In southern Brazil right now, three people are now under arrest. Investigators are searching for a fourth in connection with the tragic nightclub fire that left at least 231 young people dead. Police have not identified those that they've detained, but they are going to hold them five days for questioning.

Most of the fire victims died of smoke inhalation. Others were trampled. Investigators think the disaster started when the band's fireworks show set the ceiling insulation on fire.

When we heard about the fire. We immediately, of course, thought about what happened in a nightclub in Rhode Island almost 10 years ago. One hundred people died at The Station nightclub. This was in West Warwick. That is where the band Great White was performing. We're looking back at that disaster in a moment. But first, want you to listen to what a survivor of that nightclub fire told CNN this morning.


TODD KING, SURVIVED RHODE ISLAND NIGHTCLUB FIRE: I can't believe someone has actually done that in a crowded nightclub again. But also the way that people could not get out the doors, the stampeding, the look on people's faces in the videos of just the panic, trying to help people get out and not -- the hopelessness of being able -- not being able to help people escape from that situation.


MALVEAUX: Another person who survived the Rhode Island fire says that families of those lost in the Brazil tragedy, they are not alone.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GINA RUSSO, SURVIVED RHODE ISLAND NIGHTCLUB FIRE: The 230 that have passed away, those families, they've got a lot -- oh, a lot to do ahead of them. There's a lot that they're going to go through. And we want them to know here in Rhode Island that they're not alone. They are definitely in our thoughts and prayers.


MALVEAUX: It is a terrifying scenario, if you can imagine it. You are hanging out with friends at a nightclub. Suddenly, you are trapped by a fire. You're surrounded by that fire. Well, that Rhode Island fire that we mentioned, it is only the most recent example of these deadly nightclub fires that are here in this country. And Susan Candiotti explains.


SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In 2003, 100 people died at The Station nightclub in West Warwick, Rhode Island, where the band Great White was performing. Pyrotechnics ignited soundproofing material. Smoke filled the room.

In 1990, arson was the cause of the Happy Land fire in New York. It killed 87 people. Authorities said the Bronx club was operating illegally, two years after it was ordered closed because of safety violations.

In 1977, fire at the Beverly Hills Supper Club in South Gate, Kentucky, killed 165 people, among 2,400 waiting for entertainer John Davidson to perform. What's believed to be an electrical fire went undetected at first. There were no fire detectors or sprinklers. At the time, they weren't required.

The deadliest nightclub blaze in U.S. history happened in 1942 at the Coconut Grove Club in Boston. Four hundred and ninety-two people were killed. The cause of the blaze to this day remains unknown.


MALVEAUX: People from around the world, they are sharing their thoughts and their prayers online for the victims of the Brazil fire and their families. These are just some FaceBook pages that got started after news of the fire spread. For the complete timeline of the Brazil fire, go to

Well, there's a bipartisan group of lawmakers meeting to discuss immigration reform. And one idea on the table, create a so-called fair path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. We're going to hear from one who is willing to fight and die for his country.


MALVEAUX: Renewed push for immigration reform picking up speed. The next hour, a bipartisan group of senators is going to unveil a plan to overhaul the nation's immigration system. Earlier today, civil rights groups, labor organizations, called for action. Among those who'd be effected by immigration reform are the young, undocumented workers who are willing but unable to serve in the military. Rafael Romo, he's got the story.


CESAR VALDEZ, UNDOCUMENTED IMMIGRANT: I went to the registering office and they just let me know, you know, you're undocumented. The laws have changed. You can't register.

RAFAEL ROMO, CNN SENIOR LATIN AMERICAN AFFAIRS EDITOR (voice-over): Cesar Valdez says he's willing to fight and die for the United States of America. There's just one problem. The Arizona resident does not have legal documents to live in the country.

VALDEZ: If you believe in something and you're willing to die for it, that's all it comes down to.

ROMO: As an immigrant who was brought to this country by his parents when he was four, the 19-year-old qualifies for what is known as "deferred action." President Obama's policy allows some young immigrants who meet age, education, and criminal background requirements to stay in the country temporarily without fear of deportation. But it does not allow them to serve in the armed forces, which is something that Arizona resident Maria Diaz (ph) is also trying to do.