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STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN

Oscar Pistorius Hearing Adjourned Today; Kansas City Explosion; Winter Storm Watch; Incredible Jewel Heist

Aired February 20, 2013 - 08:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Let's go first to Robyn Curnow outside the courthouse in Pretoria, South Africa, to break down some of the latest developments. Good morning, Robyn.

ROBYN CURNOW, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Our CNN producer inside the courtroom has been sending me messages on my Blackberry and says Oscar Pistorius is now sitting upright, seems more confident. He's not bent over, heaving, sobbing with tears as we know he's been doing throughout this bail application.

And he perhaps has good reason to be confident because his defense team seems to have punched holes into the evidence put across by the senior investigating officer in this case. A number of points that he made and submitted as evidence have been literally hammered down by Oscar's team.

He basically admitted he didn't have any facts. He also said that he conceded to a lawyer close to the family that he didn't think bail should be opposed. And more importantly, he also conceded that he didn't disagree with Oscar's version of events. So we'll see just how much this impacts on the magistrate's decision.

Back to you.

O'BRIEN: All right. Thanks, Robyn. Appreciate the update.

All right. So, let's walk through this case. And I recognize that this is an early presentation of what they know, but as Robyn points out, when someone says I don't know the facts, and that is the prosecutor who is going to be prosecuting, presenting the case before a single judge -- the investigator, excuse me, presenting before a judge, how much does that damage the case that's going to follow?

MICKEY SHERMAN, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: I think it's death to the government's case. I mean he doesn't oppose bail, which is amazing, he has an opinion on that, but then he says he doesn't disbelieve what Pistorius said. I mean, game over. Call the next case.

JOSH BARRO, BLOOMBERG VIEW: I think we need to take a step back here. There's this quote about we don't have any facts. He shot this woman several times. Nobody disputes that, and so the idea that this is a wrongful prosecution, the investigation is ongoing and there's going to have to be a lot of evidence uncovered. But the idea that you wouldn't arrest this guy who shot his girlfriend through a bathroom door with this sort of bizarre story about how he thought she was an intruder, it sounds like overreach to me.

O'BRIEN: All right. So, let's walk through what we've learned in day two of the hearing. I'm surprised they've gone now in -- they'll go into a third day without deciding on bail. It's going to resume tomorrow morning, 4:00 in the morning, our time.

Here's what they learned: the prosecution said that two boxes of testosterone and needles were found in the house. They said shots had to be fired at an angle in order to hit the toilet, you wouldn't fire straight through the door. That you'd have to aim for the toilet and Pistorius has offshore accounts and a house in Italy and that would make him a flight risk.

The defense came back and said, no, it was not testosterone, that it was a legal herbal medication and still being tested so how could the prosecution claim it to be testosterone.

They also said any ammunition taken from the home belonged to Pistorius' father, the prosecution never attempted to figure out who actually owned it, and that that offshore account is dormant and there is no house in Italy, which the prosecution eventually, the investigator eventually admitted that he just had heard it.

So -- and then there's more details that I thought were interesting. Reeva Steenkamp found dressed white shorts and a black vest by the time she died so if she got out of bed and went to the bathroom, she fully dressed?

SHERMAN: Maybe that's the way she was sleeping.

O'BRIEN: In shorts and a vest on Valentine's night?

SHERMAN: It's Valentine's night.

O'BRIEN: I don't know.

OK. And then the defense claiming that the door that was locked, right, that was the $64,000 question, why would someone who is going to the bathroom lock the door in the house where they were staying, they said that when Oscar screamed for help that she locked the door, that's the defense' take on this. There's no signs on her body of any kind of assault which would throw out any kind of idea that they were fighting physically in an altercation beforehand.

And then there's a question over the distance for the nearest home because there were reports of noise and screaming, but when they tried to figure out the distance between and the neighbors reporting it, it was actually quite far.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR, "EARLY START": The two most interesting facts that are pertinent to the murder case itself are the distance of the neighbors who claim they heard fighting for an hour before, anywhere between 300 meters and 600 meters depending on who you believe. It's still a pretty big distance and then again, the investigators conceding there were no marks of any kind on Reeva Steenkamp's body. The facts you presented there, though, about the ammunition, about the testosterone and about the house in Italy, they don't deal with the murder case at all. They are tertiary, only deal with the bail hearing itself and that may be why the defense is so eager to poke holes in them because they have something they can refute. But, again, it doesn't get to the issue of killing or not killing.

O'BRIEN: Right. But don't they get to the issue of whether or not investigators botched the case? My sense from this is the defense is clearly trying to make the investigators seem like they have screwed up in a number of ways.

SHERMAN: We always do that, it's part of our job. It's like number three on the criminal defense lawyers handbook.

This is the worst investigation I've ever seen in my life. I can't believe the police were so shoddy.

O'BRIEN: Because the goal is to make the judge later say I could believe some of the stuff is not as presented.

SHERMAN: They're also appealing to the court of world opinion as well. This case is going to be tried and heard in public. So they're trying to get as much public support for this man as possible.

BARRO: I think it's worth to remember we're talking about an incident that happened six days ago. So it's not surprising that the investigation would be somewhat disorganized. Now, they're going to have a lot of time before they go to trial.

O'BRIEN: Not wearing protective booties, that's like investigation 101.

SHERMAN: They shouldn't be admitting they didn't know the facts.

O'BRIEN: Even that on the stand itself is incredibly compelling. In any case, the third day of the bail hearing continues and that will start tomorrow, 4:00 a.m. our time, 11:00 in the morning in South Africa.

Another stories making news and John has got an update on that.

BERMAN: Thanks, Soledad.

We're continuing to follow a developing story out of Kansas City: one person unaccounted for following an explosion that leveled a restaurant there. The woman is an employee of JJ's Restaurant. Rescuers and cadaver dogs are combing through the rubble.

On "EARLY START" a short while ago, Kansas City's mayor says they're still trying to determine exactly what happened.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAYOR SLY JAMES, KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI: We can't say for sure it was a gas explosion although there's certainly some evidence that might support that. But again, we don't want to speculate. There was certainly an issue of gas involved in the incident.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: CNN's Ted Rowlands in live in Kansas City. Ted, what's the latest?

TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, they'll resume the search for this missing employee of JJ's Restaurant in the next few minutes. They wanted to wait until the sun came out so that it would be more safe. They're bringing in some heavy equipment to move some debris out and then they will bring the cadaver dogs back in to help with their search.

This explosion took place at 6:00 last night at this very popular restaurant in Kansas City, and you could imagine, when you look at those pictures how bad it could have been, with people seated in the restaurant.

Luckily, the smell of the natural gas had been permeating the area for upwards of an hour, so there weren't very many people in the restaurant at the time of the explosion. In fact, just a few minutes before the explosion, people were cleared out, about 15 people got out of the restaurant and got to about three blocks away before they turned around and saw the restaurant blow up -- John.

BERMAN: Indeed. So lucky for so many, they did have that warning. Ted Rowlands in Kansas City this morning.

Another big city of a massive winter storm brewing -- a large part of the country under a winter storm watch with the system expected to drop snow, rain or ice over 16 states affecting millions from California all the way to Arkansas.

Let's get to Jennifer Delgado now. She's tracking the system from the CNN weather center in Atlanta. Hey, Jennifer.

JENNIFER DELGADO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Hi, John. Well, we're calling this our triple threat for weather, and this is going to be going on through tomorrow. I want to point out to you the areas we're watching, two areas of some snow and we're also talking about severe storms setting up later into the evening across parts of Texas. But, yes, snow is the big story.

We're going to see a system coming out of the four corners and that is going to combine with the system right now affecting parts of Texas as well as Oklahoma. You can see where the snow is from south of Oklahoma City, up towards Interstate 70.

Well, this is just the beginning. As we go later into the evening, especially in the overnight hours as well as into tomorrow morning, we are going to see significant snowfall in addition to a lot of freezing rain out there. And some of these locations, we could see accumulations of ice between one half and three-quarter inch and for the snow more than a foot of snowfall for areas, including Salina, Wichita, even Kansas City could pick up six to eight inches of snowfall. Combine the winds could be bad for power lines and trees. John, lot out there.

BERMAN: A lot --

DELGADO: Triple trouble.

BERMAN: A lot of the places out in the country right now need to get ready. Jennifer Delgado, thanks very much.

DELGADO: You're welcome.

BERMAN: So, China's military issuing a strong denial this morning, claiming it is not launching cyber attacks out of a 12-story building in Shanghai or from anywhere else for that matter.

A report from U.S. cyber security firm Mandiant claims that since 2006, a hacking collective with direct ties to the Chinese military has stolen data from 141 organizations around the world, and there was some tense moments today when a CNN crew tried to take pictures in that Shanghai neighborhood they found themselves being chased by security officers. Amazing pictures.

A body found in a rooftop water tank has been identified. Los Angeles say 21-year-old Elisa Lam was a tourist from Canada, last seen at the Hotel Cecil in downtown L.A. nearly three weeks ago. Her body found last night after people in the hotel complained their water pressure was low.

Police say they are not sure if foul play was involved, although obviously questions remain how you end up in a water tank.

After more than two years, Florida Atlantic University's football stadium finally has a name. It will be called GEO Group Stadium after this -- get this -- the nation's largest operator of for-profit prisons. They made a $6 million donation from the company's charitable foundation. So, a lot of people saying essentially they have a stadium in Florida named after prisons -- if they're willing to pay.

O'BRIEN: Because they do, because that's what they fund and they wrote the check.

Still ahead this morning on STARTING POINT: an unbelievable diamond heist plays out just like a movie, happened in Belgium, involves maybe $350 million worth of diamonds, and airplanes, crooks dressed as cops, sounds like "Oceans 11." How did they pull it off?

We're going to talk with Walter Shaw, up next. He's a former jewel thief himself. He'll tell us how they did it.

It's a highly anticipated debut. Sony is unveiling its new game console today, and Christine is going to join us with details on that in her business report. We're back in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) O'BRIEN: Experts say a stunning diamond heist was likely an inside job this morning. They're searching for an Audi that may have been the getaway car that drove off with $50 million in jewels.

Here's how it went down. Eight men in two cars burst through a fence and drove onto the tarmac at Brussels International Airport. They were disguised as police, brandishing firearms. They stole 120 bags of uncut diamonds. It all unfolded within three minutes. Not a single shot was fired.

Here's what the spokesperson at the Brussels airport had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAN VAN DER CRUYSSE, BRUSSELS AIRPORT SPOKESMAN: The operation at the airport has taken exactly three minutes so this was a very quick hit and run, very well-organized. We can only conclude that these people were, indeed, very well-aware of what they were doing, what they were looking for.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: Inside job many say.

Walter T. Shaw is former jewel thief and leader of a crime ring that gained notoriety for stealing as much as $70 million back in the late '60s and '70s. He's also -- now, he's a producer of an upcoming movie called "Genius on Hold."

Before we talk about the movie, I want to talk a little bit about what your take on what happened in Brussels. Brussels airport obviously is a gateway, but it's also very well-guarded.

What details of this crime that we now know give you clues about who pulled it off?

WALTER T. SHAW, FORMER JEWEL THIEF FOR THE MAFIA: Well, it's similar to what they did many years at the Lufthansa heist in New York, at JFK, LaGuardia, I can't remember now, so many years, but similar pattern.

But you've got to remember something, those diamonds passed through so many hands when you think about loading on the plane. It was like it wasn't a secret. So, they knew what they loaded from the manifest. There had to be a manifest.

So, there's -- all the way back to when they loaded the plane and unloaded it at the airport. I mean, that gives you clues right there. It's definitely -- they knew what they were going for, 120 bags. It's no accident. There was no coincidences.

So they knew what they were targeting with the efficiency of being in and out within five, six minutes. I mean, it tells you right there.

O'BRIEN: There are some people who said that you had some connection maybe to that Lufthansa heist back in 1978 when $5 million -- another roughly million dollars in jewels were snatched. You want to comment on that?

SHAW: No. No comment. Only the fact that I was reportedly supposed to be with the Lucasey Family (ph) and that's the only coincidence in that situation.

O'BRIEN: OK. So, in that particular case, and as you point out, there are some similarities. It was cracked because of a van that was supposed to be disposed of was never disposed of. When they went inside the van, they found fingerprints and they could kind of trace anything back. Is there anything that you see in this case in Brussels that would make you say this could help them crack this crime?

SHAW: Well, I think the fact that they dressed as policemen, that knew exactly how they were going to do this. I'm sure they rehearsed it several times before they got there. There's the point of entry, knowing right where they were going when they cut the hole in the fence to get it and they targeted what they were looking for and they got it and they were gone within five or six minutes. So, they knew exactly what they were doing.

O'BRIEN: I heard it was three minutes. I heard it was three minutes start to finish.

SHAW: Yes.

O'BRIEN: So, then what kind of -- since you've been in the game a bit, what kind of practice runs do you do to make sure -- I mean, that's coordination, right? I mean, that's some kind of choreography in and out and what kind of -- how long does that take to rehearse that so you can pull it off like that?

SHAW: I think they did this for weeks, and I think that they were on a clock, absolutely. All the way through, they were on a clock. Even when they rehearsed, they were on a clock. That's why they knew three minutes was where they had to be to pull this off.

O'BRIEN: Eight people on this --

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: -- apparently, which is pretty big if you think about it. Does that make you feel that someone is going to crack and that that might in of itself be a way to figure out, you know, that will be the leak there that one of eight people is bound to slip or make a mistake?

SHAW: Well, you know the old adage, a fish wouldn't get caught if it hadn't open his mouth. So, I mean, I feel when you have that many partners, you've got to be worried. Absolutely.

O'BRIEN: I have not heard that saying before. It's very mobesque a little bit. So, how easy to get rid of the --

(LAUGHTER) O'BRIEN: -- fish wouldn't get caught. How easy is it to get rid of these diamonds? I mean, are they gone already? Are they already on the market?

SHAW: I think they unloaded them. I think they knew where they're going to unload them and they got to be careful because you're talking about $50 million. It's a lot of partials and you have a lot of trust when you're unloading that to one guy. You got to make sure he gave you a nice, hefty deposit, you know, down stroke.

O'BRIEN: Do you think they're going to get caught?

SHAW: Yes. I do. I absolutely do.

O'BRIEN: Why?

SHAW: We never did commercial jobs. We did estate homes. We never ventured into commercial because it's like the great train robbery. I mean, they all get caught sooner or later. That's my opinion.

O'BRIEN: Can I ask you a quick question about the movie?

SHAW: Yes.

O'BRIEN: I mean, how did you become -- how did you go from jewel thief to movie producer?

SHAW: When I got out of prison, I hooked up with a kid by the name of Mickey Rourke at the time. And Mickey introduced me into the business and I wanted to tell my dad's story and I wanted to learn how to be a producer to keep control of the content of the story being told right and not being swayed either way and that's how I got into this.

O'BRIEN: Walter T. Shaw, former -- I'm looking forward to it. It sounds like it's a great film. The film is called --

SHAW: It comes out on Friday.

O'BRIEN: The film is called "Genius On Hold." It comes out on Friday. He's also the author of "A License To Steal" and he's a former jewel thief for the mafia. Wow! Quite a resume --

(LAUGHTER)

O'BRIEN: -- you have going. It's so great to have you. Thanks. We appreciate it.

SHAW: Thank you for having me on. I appreciate it very much.

O'BRIEN: You bet. You bet.

Still ahead on STARTING POINT this morning, gamers are rejoicing as Sony set to unveil a new PlayStation. In just a couple of hours, we'll have details on some of those new features. That's coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Welcome back to STARTING POINT.

Sony's got game. It will unveil its next generation video game console this afternoon already dubbed PlayStation 4. One of features will allow users to play games streamed over the internet as well as on discs. The biggest criticism about the streaming is it relies too much on your internet connection which can be slower sometimes add all together.

There are also reports that Smartphones could be used as controllers for some games and that the controller, itself, may include a touch pad and a light that could add some motion-based functionalities. It all expected to go on sale in the fall seven years, seven years now after the launch of PlayStation3.

DallasNews.com says sources tell them there will be two models. Priced at 429 bucks and 529 bucks, but that could change. We don't have any pictures. But I'm telling you, right now, the anticipation in the blogosphere incredibly, incredibly happiness.

O'BRIEN: That's why you do it, play it at work, right, because you have a really good T1 connection --

(LAUGHTER)

O'BRIEN: -- as opposed to your not great Internet connection at home. I mean, that's what they're asking people to do --

BERMAN: But this is a huge deal. Sony has sort of ceded this ground for so long now to the Wii and to Xbox and this is their chance to get back in the game that they dominated.

O'BRIEN: Is it too late, do you think so?

BERMAN: We'll find out. It depends on the product. And they've been so secretive, so far, about what's in it.

ROMANS: And has been very secretive. So, we should learn (ph) more today.

O'BRIEN: Interesting. Still ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, the U.S. facing drastic forced budget cuts in nine days if Congress doesn't act. So, what exactly do they need to do? We're going to talk with Erskine Bowles. He's the co-chair of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform. He says he's got a plan for Capitol Hill.

And a touching update this morning on that homeless man who returned the engagement ring. Remember, we told you that story earlier in the week. It was dropped in his donation cup accidentally. We'll tell you how he's doing. That's ahead.

You're watching STARTING POINT. We're back in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Good morning, everybody. Explosive testimony this morning in Oscar Pistorius' bail hearing the second day. The court has now adjourned for the day. They'll resume tomorrow morning at 4:00 a.m. our time, eastern time, and a ruling on bail for the Olympic track star is expected at that time. This morning, Pistorius' defense shot some holes, some big holes in the prosecution's case.

They are also now claiming that he's been arrested for no reason, say, they're considering malicious prosecution charges, wrongful arrest claims as well, and then, there was some shocking revelations from the lead police investigator in the case. First, that they found two boxes of testosterone and needles in Pistorius' house.

Next, that the gunshots that killed Reeva Steenkamp were specifically aimed at the toilet where she was sitting not randomly in the area of the bathroom, right in the front door of the bathroom, and also that Pistorius was considered a flight risk because he has a house in Italy, an offshore bank accounts.

But, the defense this morning battled back. They say those boxes that police found were not testosterone. They were a legal herbal medicine. The ammunition that was found in the home belonged to Pistorius' father. That offshore bank account was dormant and that there is no house in Italy. So, there's a number of issues in which, I think actually, both sides got some very important, and in some ways, damning evidence out. Let's talk first about what she was wearing. Some of the earlier reports said that Reeva Steenkamp she was clothed and it sounds like she was fully clothed in a vest and shorts, but now, it looks by other reports that maybe it wasn't a vest. It was more of a tank top.

BERMAN: It looks like it was shorts and a tank top. It just depends on how you, you know, read the language that they use there in South Africa. But shorts and a tank top, that would make a lot more sense, you know --

(CROSSTALK)

O'BRIEN: And the big question, of course, was was there some kind of a fight at which point that she was departing and was she fully dressed to leave and that would explain sort of what the prosecution is alleging or was she -- had she gotten out of bed and Pistorius had no idea and then --

BERMAN: Investigators do say there were no signs of a struggle. Investigators say no signs on her body that she --

ROMANS: No assault.

BERMAN: Well, no assault other than the gunshot, but there were no signs of a struggle at all. No marks, no nothing.

O'BRIEN: From the prosecution's side, indications that the angle of trajectory of the bullets into the bathroom, we talked about that a little bit earlier, according to the prosecution, if you were just firing at the door you wouldn't hit the toilet. You would fire straight through into the bathroom -- excuse me.

But if you were going, in order to hit the toilet, you actually had to aim that direction, but then, there's also the angle at which that those shots were fired.

BERMAN: Investigators suggesting the angle was downward indicating that they say that Pistorius would have had to put on his prosthetic limbs before he made the shots, that would indicate, they say, some sort of premeditation. The defense, their entire case, says, no, that is not true at all, that Pistorius actually fired those shots before he put his prosthetics on.

SHERMAN: And the head investigator says he does not disagree with Pistorius' version.

BERMAN: He says he has no evidence that dispute, that would necessarily dispute Pistorius' version of the case.

O'BRIEN: That angle would be evidence that would dispute the Pistorius' version. The reason it matters, right, is the fact that he didn't have his prosthetic legs on gives this atmosphere of fear. He was afraid. He felt very vulnerable. It's why he grabbed his gun. It's why he sort of made his way the best he could to the bathroom. It really changes the story if, in fact, they can prove --

SHERMAN: Which you're relying on a CSI Johannesburg here. I mean --

O'BRIEN: And they seem have made some big errors that we can see, so far.

SHERMAN: And they admit that they don't have a lot of information.

ROMANS: This is a bail hearing. So, this isn't a trial. This isn't a long careful plotting out of what happened.