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STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN

Bartender Fired After Following State Liquor Laws; Remembering Trayvon Martin; Interview with Mark O'Mara; Justin Bieber Endorses Religious Book; Interview with Judah Smith

Aired February 27, 2013 - 08:30   ET

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


BERMAN: They think this 911 call might have been a hoax.

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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Coast guard, coast guard we are abandoning ship, this is the Charm Blow we are abandoning ship.

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BERMAN: Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Mike Lutz (ph) said after searching 48 hours cruise found no debris and no physical signs of any distress.

New court documents reveal the FBI is targeting an anarchist group in Portland, Oregon after a series of recent attacks. Just released surveillance video shows the attacks with assailants using rocks and projectiles to target banks and ATM machines. Police suspect they are to blame for tens of thousands of dollars in damage.

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CDR. ROBERT DAY, PORTLAND POLICE BUREAU COMMANDER: They clearly have a message and they have an intent. There certainly is a boldness that goes with that type of dramatic vandalism.

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BERMAN: Authorities believe a group of Portland anarchists are responsible for an attack on the federal courthouse in Seattle.

You see the signs everywhere telling to you report drunk drivers. One Ohio bartender Twyla DeVito (ph) did just that and as a result she got fired.

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TWYLA DEVITO, FORMER BARTENDER: I came into work, he was already there, pretty much hammered. He ordered a beer, I gave it to him and I started trying to slow it down.

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BERMAN: So when the drunk customer insisted on leaving and getting behind the wheel she called the police, and according to her two days later her boss called her and said she was fired for, quote, "being bad for business."

O'BRIEN: Her company is standing behind him. If customers have to fear a bartender calling the cops on them it's bad for business.

CHRIS FRATES, "NATIONAL JOURNAL": Isn't it illegal to serve somebody who is already inebriated?

O'BRIEN: Well, right. The police are saying if she had gone ahead and served and he had gotten into some kind of accident or, God forbid, killed somebody she'd be on the hook for serving him. She's between a rock and a hard place. She seems smart so right there, hire her.

Let's talk about vigils across the country that were held marking the one-year anniversary of the shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. We talked about this yesterday and in New York City last night Trayvon's parents were there, joined by hundreds of supporters for what they called the million hoodie march, Oscar award winning actor Jamie Foxx was among those who spoke last night.

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JAMIE FOXX, ACTOR: Don't think about the color of the child. Think about that child going to school, think about that child hanging out with his father, with his mom, skiing, skateboarding, doing all these fun things that a 17-year-old child does, and then think about that child on his way home to see his father and all of a sudden that child has his life taken from him.

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O'BRIEN: George Zimmerman is the man accused of killing Trayvon Martin on February 26th of last year. Now he's awaiting trial for second- degree murder, the trial is set to begin June 10th. Zimmerman's attorney Mark O'Mara is with us. Nice to have you with us, Mark, appreciate your time. So, walk me through -

MARK O'MARA, GEORGE ZIMMERMAN'S ATTORNEY: Good morning.

O'BRIEN: Good morning to you. How is George Zimmerman doing. He's been out on bail for a while now. How has his life been?

O'MARA: Well, very stressed. He's very worried. He's been living in hiding for the past year and can't go out in public unless he's either in disguise or with body armor. So when you compare it to the loss the Martin family is going through it seems to pale in comparison, but as to George, his life has been drastically changed as well because of the event.

O'BRIEN: I showed pictures a moments ago of a vigil and a number of vigils focusing on Trayvon Martin. I spoke to Trayvon's mom and dad yesterday and here's what his mom told me.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SYBRINA FULTON, MOTHER OF TRAYVON MARTIN: We're doing this for Trayvon but this also we need to also do this so that we can help other kids because we have seen since this happened last February to Trayvon that other kids, other teenagers have been shot and killed through senseless gun violence and we just feel like we need to do something about it as parents.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: That's Sybrina Fulton, and she was talking about trying to get the stand-your-ground laws overturned. Outside of the case you're in the middle of, do you see that as something that would be productive?

O'MARA: The stand-your-ground law that Florida passed five or six years ago did two things, allowed for an immunity hearing if you're the one who is arguing for self-defense. I think that's a great part of the law. It allows a judge to look at a case and say if you did act in self-defense you shouldn't even be prosecuted and certainly not go before a jury. The second part what they did, more controversial, they said under Florida law even if you have the ability to retreat, you don't have to and you can use force to like force. That's the controversial part of the law, and I understand people have concerns with the idea that you don't have to back away first. That part of the law may be revisited but the immunity part of the law I think is good.

O'BRIEN: Walk me through what's up next for the case. April 29th you'll ask the court to dismiss the charges under Florida's stand- your-ground law. Does that mean that you think the case applies, or are you going to argue that or contradictory evidence to that as well.

O'MARA: Yeah, aside from putting the stand-your-ground provision I talked about aside because this is not a stand-your-ground case and what I mean by that, is it is a defense immunity case, it is certainly a self-defense case. It's just that George did not have the opportunity to retreat so calling it a stand-your-ground law is really not accurate but as far as the process, we do have an immunity hearing set in April. We are considering whether or not to use that opportunity or not. We'll have that decision made soon and either way, if he is not granted immunity at the hearing, then we'll have a trial in June and the same issue of self-defense will be presented to the jury.

O'BRIEN: How has the public opinion gone in this? I know you've given a bunch of e-mails to CNN showing a range of how people feel and this is a case where I think people's feelings about it is really relevant. What are you finding? Do people hate your client? Are they supporting your client?

O'MARA: I think it's gone very well, and here's what I mean by that. When this first happened, the first couple of weeks there was an onslaught of information, all of which was opposed or against George Zimmerman that he was a racist murder, that he had no injuries that Trayvon was literally the 12-year-old in the Hollister T-shirt and that was a real groundswell against George Zimmerman. And I think what's happened in the past year, people have finally decided to wait or they've looked at the other information that has come out to see there are not only two sides to the story but it really looks at though the evidence supports George did not do anything wrong and that he was after the initial coming together confronted and injured by Trayvon. I know it's horrible to say when you're talking about a young 17-years-old who's now passed away, that he may have caused his own death, but the injuries George had support nothing but that he was attacked by Trayvon and was fighting for his life.

O'BRIEN: And as you know, the attorneys on other side would completely contradict the way you framed that, but of course that why you are -

O'MARA: Except the evidence doesn't support anything that George is the aggressor in the fight. Trayvon no injuries on him but for the fatal gunshot and George had significant injuries to his face and to his back. I know the prosecutor's position but they have to have the forensic evidence to support it.

O'BRIEN: It'll be interesting to see how it all ends up when you guys do go to court. Thank you for talking with us Mark O'Mara, always nice to have you, we appreciate it.

O'MARA: Thanks, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: You bet. Coming up next we'll talk about Yahoo! this was a little bit of a kerfuffle if you will ending the policy of working from home has touched a big nerve nationally. We'll talk about the outcry from the folks about Yahoo! That's ahead. We're back in a moment.

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O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody. Melissa Meyer is shaking things up at Yahoo! which is what she was brought in to do. It's created an uproar not only on the internet, but across the country. Really, the company's new CEO forbidding employees from working at home. We told you about this yesterday. It created a national discussion now about whether or not telecommuting is a good idea.

Yahoo! responds with this: "This isn't a broad industry view on working from home. This is about what is right for Yahoo! right now." What do we think?

FRATES: Makes sense. Would this even be a discussion that we'd be having if it wasn't a woman CEO and if it was a guy who said no more work from home, would it have created as much of a firestorm? I don't think so. If you're Yahoo! you're going to do what's good for your company, they're lagging. They're not the top tech company anymore and there was talk about putting these guys back on the job so that they can begin to innovate again. It's too difficult to innovate without collaboration. Right?

BERMAN: The theory being you innovate in the hallways, by the water cooler, when you're around other people. O'BRIEN: Which is how it went for her at Google. She talked a lot about how sort of the bumping into people spurred these short conversations that would show up as bigger ideas.

MARY BONO MACK, (R ) FORMER CALIFORNIA CONGRESSWOMAN: The environment is really set up out there and it's amazing to see it happen. I used to think if Congress would tear down the cubicles and collaborate like they do but good for her. She's proving she's serious.

O'BRIEN: But the dilemma comes in, right, is what you started off by saying, which there is a sense that as a female, a young female CEO, she should be doing things that I guess are perceived to be beneficial to working moms in some ways which would be telecommuting. Do you think that's a fair assessment in some way she's damaging that?

FRATES: I don't think she is damaging that. I think she came from Google which designs their workplace to be very family friendly. They have breast pump rooms, they have chefs who make lunch there. There's a sense that they want to keep people on campus to innovate. So she's coming from that culture. I don't think she puts anybody back by saying I want to bring the spirit here.

BERMAN: It does seem though, and I don't have the numbers to back this up, there is this movement towards allowing more flexibility in the workplace and it seems somehow that she's bucking some sort of trend that is out there with companies being somewhat more flexible.

O'BRIEN: I don't know, I think you're right the fact she's a woman it making it a bigger story, but hey, she's a CEO, if this is what she thinks will help Yahoo! which by the way needs to be brought around, that's why they picked her to be the CEO, go with God, Melissa. We support you. At least I support you.

It's too bad. It's so hard I thin for women in these high-powered positions every movement they made is not only read in terms of a business decision, it's read the prism of are you doing well for the women, are you part of the sisterhood which I guess is a fair question but maybe not how to always judge her on everything and I'm not sure it's bad for the sisterhood.

BERMAN: Is it okay if I work from home tomorrow?

O'BRIEN: Yes. Know what? Since I'm not in charge of anything yes, you may. You should feel free to do what you like.

Up next, this man who is friends with Justin Bieber preaching the word of Jesus. Pastor Judah Smith, is going to join us. He's got a new book called "Jesus Is, Bank." You're supposed to fill in the blank. Talk about his unconventional outreach methods up ahead.

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BERMAN: Welcome back to STARTING POINT everyone.

Checking in on some of the top stories this morning. In just a few hours President Obama and congressional leaders will come together for the dedication of a statue to honor Civil Rights pioneer Rosa Parks. She will be the first African-American woman to have a full length statue in the Capitol Statuary Hall.

New Jersey is now the third state in the country to legalize Internet gambling, this allows any game played in Atlantic City's 12 casinos to be played on the Internet exclusively in New Jersey at first, then expand it to other places that are willing to partner with New Jersey.

We have some scary video to show you right now, a pregnant presenter on a children's television show in Croatia, she passes out on live television. Look at that. That's terrifying. She was actually introducing a segment on the importance of oxygen. The good news is she was not seriously injured and believe it or not, she went back to work.

O'BRIEN: Wow, glad to hear she's ok.

Well this morning, we have a -- we have a new book about Jesus to talk about and it's getting a very big celebrity endorsement from the singer Justin Bieber. Justin shared a message with his seven million plus followers on Instagram, and the message was this, "So proud of my pastor. This book comes out on the 26th. Judah is the best speaker of our generation, read this book. You won't regret it."

You spelled as "U" the book is called "Jesus is Blank". And it's written by Judah Smith. He's the lead pastor of the City Church in Seattle. Nice to have you with us.

JUDAH SMITH, AUTHOR, "JESUS IS": Thanks -- thanks for having me.

O'BRIEN: That's kind of an awesome endorsement to come. I know you've been his pastor for a couple of years.

SMITH: I don't know if I agree with that endorsement but yes it was very nice.

O'BRIEN: Trust me accept it, agree with him. Why a book about Jesus where you're basically asking people to fill in the blank. So many books about the church would be a pastor saying Jesus is in fact this, I'll as the pastor fill in the blank for you.

SMITH: Yes, probably first of all Jesus I think is the most formidable person in human history and whatever you're -- wherever you are in the religious landscape he's someone to consider. And I think being a pastor people probably assume I've got a slanted view and maybe I do. But I think it starts with a dialogue and hearty conversation about who Jesus is. And I think it starts with listening too and taking time to listen to people and I think we can certainly learn from -- from each other.

So this is you know me filling in a blank in a couple of hundred pages. But the idea is hey, how would you fill in the blank?

O'BRIEN: Is the idea to reach out to more younger people. I mean, you're in your early 30s. And Justin Bieber obviously is a young man.

SMITH: Right.

O'BRIEN: When you look at the statistics on young people and religion it's something like almost a third say they're not affiliated with any religious group and compare that to about 10 percent for folks who are you know significantly older. So you see a big gap that if you're a pastor could be problematic.

SMITH: Yes and I think we -- we've got our work cut out for us as pastors and spiritual leaders and yes the book obviously is for all ages but I certainly had Justin in mind when I was writing it. And we talked quite a bit about it. And certainly I think what young people are looking for today is probably not just truth and information forced down their throats so to speak but they really want an honest conversation and a dialogue and that's -- that's what we're hoping to do here with this project.

O'BRIEN: When you ask millennials I think this is really interesting sort of graphic, millennials' views on Christianity, 73 percent say Christianity has good values, 63 percent says Christianity shows love for others, 64 percent say Christianity is anti-gay, 62 percent say Christianity is judgmental.

And many Evangelicals that I've met and worked with over the last couple of years have said they are trying to really make people think differently about what comes to their mind, anti-gay, judgmental, when it comes to Christianity. Is this part of your strategy as well?

SMITH: Yes I think it's keeping the main thing the main thing and --

O'BRIEN: What's the main thing?

SMITH: -- well, that there is a God and that he loves humanity. And there is pain, there are problems in humanity that's unquestionable, really un-debatable. What is going to be the antidote, what's the answer? And obviously I'm persuaded that it's -- it's God, and his name is Jesus and he has an extraordinary grace and forgiveness and love available to all of humanity.

And so I think people are looking for an honest conversation in that regard. I think everybody is looking for some sort of hope or some sort of answer to the challenges that this life offers.

O'BRIEN: I'm going to read a little bit from page, my eyes are so bad, I almost can't -- I think it's 126.

SMITH: It's your generation.

O'BRIEN: Yes, your generation and not my generation. "I want people in my church to welcome everybody -- the gay, the straight, the rich, the poor, the good, the bad and the ugly. I want my church to be a place where people can come in from all kinds of backgrounds and issues and shortcomings and addictions and bondages and we don't have to get them all fixed up before they sit on the front row."

And when I read that I thought this is so different than I think what a lot of people hear -- I'm Catholic -- which a lot of people hear when they go to different churches that that is not necessarily the message that is given.

SMITH: Yes I think the message of Jesus is that you belong long before you believe or behave. And I think that's often how it works really that as long as people feel like to have a place they have a place at the table, a voice to be heard I think they develop real relationships. And God is a real person who wants a real relationship with people and that the life of Jesus is very compelling in that he -- he hung out with well, disreputable people for sure.

O'BRIEN: I love that, he hung out at all I think some people might have issue with. But let's as a monsignor, would you say -- what, you don't like to me calling you monsignor?

MSGR. RICK HILGATNER, U.S. CONFERENCE OF CATHOLIC BISHOPS: Just the way you say it.

O'BRIEN: Did I say it badly. I'm sorry.

HILGARTNER: No, no it sounds wonderful.

O'BRIEN: Is this the book that you would say, listen I want every young Catholic to be thinking about the role of Jesus in their life?

HILGARTNER: Absolutely because when we talk about membership in the church we don't talk about having a membership card and signing on a dotted line first. We talk about a personal relationship with Jesus who has an impact on our lives.

And I think that's been Pope Benedict's message. He said it this morning. He said it's all about listening to Jesus and what Jesus asks and as you just said that then it affects behavior, it affects what we do. If Jesus has a real place in my life and I have a personal relationship with him, then it's going to be revealed and be demonstrated in how I live day to day and the way I choose to make decisions and what I do with my life.

I think it sounds like an awesome book. I can't wait to read it.

O'BRIEN: Get your hands off my book. The Monsignor is trying to steal my book. It's so nice to have you with us, Judah Smith, as a pastor.

SMITH: Thank you.

O'BRIEN: We appreciate your time this morning. I like your book a lot.

SMITH: Thank you very much.

O'BRIEN: You bet.

We've got to take a short break. "End Point" is up next. Back in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: As we wrap it up this morning, I'm going to let Chris start for us. What is your "End Point"?

CHRIS FRATES: "End Point" is sequester is going to happen. No way to get it done in two days What you want to watch going forward --

O'BRIEN: What did you hear today that you thought they wouldn't get it done?

FRATES: What possibly brought me to that conclusion?

O'BRIEN: Yes.

FRATES: So I think what happens is this gets played out. I don't think that the sky will fall hard enough to force Congress to act. I think this is going to be a week's long story for us and this could even roll into the summertime.

BERMAN: This week is fascinating and the week after. What do you do if you're the White House if things aren't as bad as they have predicted?

FRATES: Then you're in trouble and you try to highlight that without going so far as to crash the economy while you're doing it.

O'BRIEN: Right. We'll see, we'll see.

Monsignor, I've tried to say that in the best way possible.

HILGARTNER: I love it.

O'BRIEN: What is your "End Point" this morning?

HILGARTNER: I think All eyes are on sequestration and also on the church as the clock is ticking there too as we're watching Pope Benedict's final hours.

O'BRIEN: Who do you pick as the next pope?

HILGARTNER: Oh wow.

This is a crapshoot at this point. I mean it's all over the place.

O'BRIEN: African, Latin America.

HILGARTNER: I really think there are two schools I could go really outside Europe, and they're going to start really -- it means the church is going to think outside the box. And we see African or Latin American or -- I mean the real long shot would be an American but I'm not holding my breath on that one. Or, they're going to just kind of circle the wagons and stay European and who knows?

O'BRIEN: This is partly why I love watching all that happens.

BERMAN: So it's fascinating. Last 20 seconds to you Congresswoman?

MARY BONO MACK: Sure, Good for Marissa at Yahoo! I think she's there, she's running the company. I think soon enough we'll know whether or not she's successful. More power to her.

O'BRIEN: That's how she's ultimately judged, right? Not all these other the little things. It's like did you make Yahoo! work? If you did, then you're a hero.

FRATES: Did the stock price go up.

O'BRIEN: Yes, yes, yes. All right. Thanks, guys, appreciate it.

That's it for us. "CNN NEWSROOM" with Carol Costello begins right now.