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Man Says Cops' Mistake Ruined Life; Conservatives Gather for CPAC; Rape Trial for 2 Football Players in Steubenville; Man on Medical Leave Fired After Rescuing Kids; California Seizing Illegal Guns.

Aired March 14, 2013 - 11:30   ET


ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Now Van is suing in federal court. He claims he suffered, quote, "embarrassment, depression, and shame."

Time to bring in two of the best in the bus on this, TV judge and former juvenile court judge, Glenda Hatchett, and Ryan Smith from HLN's "Evening Express."

I often look at cases like this and my first reaction is I think Mr. Van should bring a wheelbarrow for the money he'll get on this lawsuit. Is that one of these cases?

GLENDA HATCHETT, TV JUDGE & FORMER JUVENILE COURT JUDGE: I think so. Of course, I think the city will say they are protected by immunity and they couldn't be sued. This is such a gross injustice. I mean negligence to the first degree. After he's been thrown in jail for three days, they know he's not the person on the list, but then for six months he's on this most-wanted list. I hope he gets a huge judgment in this case.

BANFIELD: Here is the other thing, Ryan. Not only did they make the mistake and put him in jail and leave him there all that time, they put out a press release just to grind the salt into his wound, like we got this dangerous criminal off the street. Here's my question. He said emotional distress and lost employment. Which of the two makes you more money when you see?

RYAN SMITH, HOST, EVENING EXPRESS: Emotional distress if you can quantify it.


SMITH: It can be exorbitant, depending on what you have gone through, depending if you can prove how you have been advantaged in the public. He has a great case. Do you know what I think will happen? Settlement and a big one.


HATCHETT: Yes. I agree.

SMITH: They don't want to see it go to court. The big thing here is --


BANFIELD: They'd lose, right? They'd lose.


SMITH: Of course. Of course. So settle and fast.

HATCHETT: They would be seen as very incompetent. How can you do this for six months?

BANFIELD: That was my next question, Judge Hatchett. Incompetence versus intentional actions. One is criminal. Can you look for a criminal prosecution with incompetence or do these prosecutors and these police officers all get immunity because they are government? Government people get immunity.

HATCHETT: Immunity is the wild card in this case, Ashleigh and Ryan. I think there is such incompetence and gross negligence because, after three days -- count it, three days, they let him go. They knew he wasn't the person on this most-wanted list and they still left him on for six months. Not six hours, six months. I think he has a case of all of the above.

BANFIELD: We'll have to come back to this one once that size of the wheelbarrow is determined.


Ryan Smith and Glenda Hatchett, thank you.

Don't go anywhere. I have more ahead.

Right now, thousands of conservatives are gathering outside Washington, D.C, talking politics and what went wrong in the last election. They are talking about how to fix it and fix the GOP itself before the next election. More on that coming up.


BANFIELD: It's the biggest conservative bash of the year. Thousands are taking part in CPAC 2013, including big names like Marco Rubio, Paul Ryan, Jeb Bush, Rand Paul. One or all four of those men could end up fighting it out for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016.

But this CPAC, or better known as the Conservative Political Action Conference, sometimes is described as part rally, part political revival, part family reunion. Thank you, Ana Navarro, for giving us that qualification.

One thing they do is they have a vote, the straw poll, of all the big names in the Republican Party to see who is potentially up there in the big names for 2016. Sarah Palin, on it. Won it way back in the day. Jeb Bush, not on it.

Wolf Blitzer joining us now from Washington, D.C. Jeb Bush not on the list. He's one of the biggest names talked about constantly. Why.

WOLF BLITZER, HOST, THE SITUATION ROOM: He would be formidable if he were to seek the Republican presidential nomination in 2016. He's promoting his new book on immigration.

We are told from sources that he asked that his name not be on that straw poll. That was his basic decision, though he's a major speaker there. We'll see who wins the straw poll. It's just a straw poll. It doesn't necessarily mean that whoever wins will get that Republican presidential nomination.

Former Congressman Ron Paul almost always used to do really well in the CPAC straw polls. He used to win the Libertarian supporters of his. They would show up in big numbers and he would do well. Last time, around Mitt Romney did win the CPAC straw poll. He went on to win the Republican presidential nomination, but lost the election.

BANFIELD: Other names on the straw poll, there are the obvious ones, but there are also the new guys like Ted Cruz. Then, of course, Chris Christie is on this list of the ballot makers. But he wasn't invited. Is there a disconnect here?

BLITZER: There probably is. And I know that CPAC has been getting some grief because they invited all sorts of other conservatives but they didn't invite arguably one of the most popular conservative leaders in the country. He has approval numbers in the 70s in a Democrat-leading skate like New Jersey, Chris Christie, but for some reason he wasn't invited. I think it's probably because before the election he was nice to the president, grateful to the president for coming into New Jersey, offering help for victims of the Superstorm Sandy, and some of the other comments, some of the other positions he's taken. So he's not necessarily in favor now. But he's spoken previously at CPAC. And presumably, he will be back down the road because he's a strong Republican candidate out there, although, he was dissed in effect by CPAC this year.

BANFIELD: Wolf Blitzer, thank you for that.

Big reminder as well to all of the political junkies and news junkies to watch CNN's brand new show coming your way, called "The Lead" with our colleague, Jake Tapper. It starts Monday afternoon at 4:00 p.m.

Coming up, you know, sometimes you just can't resist video of a guy wrestling a shark. But then, to find out that he helped kids and lost his job for it -- well, you have to see the video and hear the story to believe it. It's coming up next.


BANFIELD: Some disturbing testimony from women serving in our nation's military. Four service members, female, spoke out on Capitol Hill about their alleged rapes by fellow service members. Bridget McCoy said she was raped on her first military assignment just two weeks before her 19th birthday. Former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta says that of 19,000 sexual assaults each year in the military, perhaps surprising, 56 percent of those victims are actually men.

What happened at an overnight teen party last August has two star football players on trial in Ohio today. You may remember it as the Steubenville High School rape story. Trent Mays and Ma'lik Richmond are accused of sexually assaulting a girl who witnesses say was beyond intoxicated. The prosecutor says the young men treated her, quote, "like a toy," unquote. Some of the alleged abuse was captured in cell phone image. Some so graphic, we can't show you them.

Our Poppy Harlow recaps the first day of testimony.


POPPY HARLOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, Ashleigh. This rape case in the small town of Steubenville, Ohio, garnered national attention. As you know, the first day of the trial has concluded. The second day is now under way in this small town that is certainly in the national spotlight.

On the first day, the state called six witnesses, four of them teenagers who attended parties the night of the alleged rape. The prosecution in its opening statement saying the alleged victim, a 16- year-old girl, was too drunk to make decisions, saying she was degraded, several times over. Also saying she was, quote, "treated like a toy by the two defendants," 17-year-old Trent Mays and 16-year- old Ma'lik Richmond. The defense counsel for both of those boys maintains that they are innocent. The state bears the burden of proof in this. They have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that this girl was raped by the boys.

One of the witnesses testified, saying the alleged victim, quote, "got drunk extremely quickly that night," that they shared about half a bottle of Smirnoff vodka over the course of the night. Another witness, talking about the infamous photo of Trent Mays and Ma'lik Richmond holding the girl who was seemingly unconscious. A witness did say the girl was conscious at the time the photo was taken but she was drunk and could not lift her head.

Now, the defense has tried to poke holes in these witnesses' testimony in multiple ways, but namely by saying the witnesses have reconstructed their memory of what happened because they have seen so much social media coverage and general media coverage of that night. Also the defense saying that the alleged victim was not as in incapacitated or as drunk as the prosecution is making her out to be. Those are the two main arguments by the defense.

The alleged victim nor either of the defendants have taken the stand yet. We could hear from the alleged victim at some point in court today. That's still to be seen -- Ashleigh?


BANFIELD: Poppy Harlow covering this juvenile proceeding for us.

I want to take you now to another case, one about a guy who was so stressed out that he went on medical leave from his job. This is what his medical leave looked like. He's frolicking in the water and rescuing kids from a shark attack. So you're his employer and you see the video. Do you fire him? The story is coming up.


BANFIELD: Now here is what is never supposed to happen when you are skydiving. Look at Craig Stapleton. He's made thousands of successful jumps. Spinning and freefalling under a tangled chute is not one of the jumps he expected to make. His reserve shoot only made the tangle worse. His partner watched from a few thousand feet away. But it was not Craig Stapleton's time. It turned out, miraculously, he landed in a vineyard with a dislocated shoulder only.


CRAIG STAPLETON, SKYDIVER: I completely lucked out. God watches out for idiots and puppy dogs. And he just let me live and walk away.


BANFIELD: Can you imagine? I know what you're thinking. Stapleton will stay on the ground for a couple more days. But he's probably going to jump again the weekend after next. You go, Craig.

OK. This one comes from the awesome video, awesome legal story file. A guy at the beach with his wife sees a shark swimming towards s group of kids, and he gets in the water, he wrestles the shark. Look at this. Look at him. And he sends the shark away from the kids, grabbing it by the tail. This is really honorable. I think all of us would agree. But apparently, he got fired because of it. Turns out, he and his wife were both on sick leave when this happened. And a TV crew that just happened to be shooting nearby caught the whole thing on camera. It made big headlines. Went viral. His employer saw it and then said, wait a minute, you're unfit to work but you're fit enough to wrestle a shark? And that is when he got the axe.

I want to bring in HLN's Ryan Smith and Judge Glenda Hatchett on this one.

First of all, let's talk about why he was on sick leave. It wasn't like he had a sore shoulder. He had doctor's orders apparently after being diagnosed with stress. Shouldn't you be going to the beaches of Australia?

Glenda, I'll start with you. This sounds like it's not fair?

HATCHETT: Well, he's out of the country. He says, though, which I think is fascinating, look, my doctor ordered this vacation, but that's going to be a stretch. He's too sick to work but, yet, he's well enough to go and be on the beaches of Australia.

As a footnote, I'm thrilled he helped these kids on the beach.


(CROSSTALK) BANFIELD: It's a mitigator.

HATCHETT: Well, I don't think so.


Legally, I don't think so.

BANFIELD: OK. So, Ryan, they work for a Boys and Girls Club. Both his wife and he work for the club. And the club wrote a letter saying this was a breakdown in trust, which left them no alternative other than to fire both of these people. I have to return back to this notion that if you are stressed and if your treatment is "get away from it all," what difference is that from "I have a sore arm and I have to go to physical therapy"?

SMITH: You have work-relate stress, right, so you go to a doctor. I'm sure somewhere along the line someone said this man needs work- related stress leave. There's nothing wrong with him going on a vacation at that point. If he happens to do something heroic on that vacation, why does that matter? To me, he had work-related stress so he was sent somewhere to take that time off. Whatever he does doesn't matter. He has that ability to do that. And I don't think this was right at all.


HATCHETT: I think if he had to get permission to leave the country, right?

SMITH: I assume he did.

HATCHETT: You have to go and take the doctor's note. I don't think he did.

BANFIELD: So this happened in the U.K. We can't even apply the good old United States jurisprudence of this case. We'll have to see what the Brits do, if at all, he fights them on this one.

Take a break for a second, both of you.

The government coming for your guns. This is a huge argument in this country. What if you're not supposed to have those guns anymore? Should the government come for your guns? Should you allow this to happen? Who is doing this the most? We're going to find out in a moment.


BANFIELD: Several important developments to tell you about regarding gun control laws in the United States. A New York State Supreme Court judge has upheld the state's stricter new gun control laws. The judge refused to grant an injunction sought by supporters of the Second Amendment who argued that the legislation had been rushed into law. Still confined an appeal, even though the Supreme Court, that's actually the lower court in New York. And in Colorado, the governor says he will sign legislation passed yesterday that limits ammunition magazines to 15 bullets. That is half the size of this 30-round magazine on your screen.

Right now, all across the country, there are as many as 200,000 Americans who have lost their right to have a handgun or even access to a handgun. Most of them are convicted felons. But some of them have been deemed mentally ill. And others have restraining orders against them. Here's the problem. Many of these people obtained the guns legally before they became disqualified. So how do you take their guns away? Should you be taking their guns away? And just what's legal if you want to take their guns away?

Well, California figured something out, the only state that systemically goes after these people to confiscate the weapons that they may have and that they may have access to. And that's key.

I want to bring in Judge Glenda Hatchett on this one.

Here's the question that first crossed my mind when I looked at California. And the attorney general in that state has asked Joe Biden to look to make her state an example for the whole country in this "go get the guns right out of their houses."

And here's the question, why is it not easier for officials to actually go and get those guns? They have to go through all sorts of hoops like knocking on the door, talking real nice. They can't just get a warrant and say, give me your gun, you're not fit.

HATCHETT: Yes. Because the way the statute is designed in California, they didn't provide for that, Ashleigh. You have to go in and get access. And if the person doesn't let you into their home, these agents don't have a way to get in because they don't have warrants, which doesn't make sense to me. So you're having to rely on someone cooperating with you, opening the door and consenting to searching or voluntarily giving these weapons over.

So you have to wonder really how effective this is in terms of getting these guns back. And it's also just not you. It may be a person in the home who has the gun legally. But if you fall into one of those three categories you talked about, then you have access to the gun.


BANFIELD: They've gotten a few thousand back, as far as effectiveness goes. But you know what, Judge? I worry what if they go to the door and knock on the door prepared to be all friendly and nice and get access, and they're not home every subsequent time they go --


BANFIELD: So literally they're relying on good will and luck.

HATCHETT: You are.

(CROSSTALK) HATCHETT: You are. And somebody knocks on the door or they look out the window and say I'm not opening the door, you're expending a lot of time doing this. So I don't get the part about there not being some way to access the courts to get warrants to go in.

But in a way, you can't because it's the fact that they are now not eligible to have a gun, but had they broken a law that gives you an access to get a warrant? I think it's a complicated situation.

BANFIELD: You are a perfect person to ask this because, as a judge, you're the person I come to as a law enforcement officer to ask for permission, to ask for a warrant -- Judge, I think I have probable cause, will you give me the warrant to go and get that gun? And it turns out, in California, even in California that has this program, the disqualifying event, like I'm a violent felon, and the cross reference of the database of you being a registered gun owner, isn't enough for probable cause? Is that your fault, Judge, or is that just the statute?

HATCHETT: Well, I think the statute is problematic. And I think they're going to have to go back and do some revisions if they want this to be effective.

But really, Ashleigh, technically, if you are a convicted felon and you are not supposed to have the gun, even if you got it legally before this restriction, before you became a felon, then it's illegal for you to have that gun. And I would argue, under those circumstances, that they would be justified in getting a warrant in those circumstances.

BANFIELD: I think we're going to hear a lot more about California's program.

HATCHETT: Yes, I think we are.

BANFIELD: Judge Glenda Hatchett, I always love having you. Thank you for being on the show today.

HATCHETT: Thank you. Thank you so much.

BANFIELD: And thank, everyone, for watching as well. We are fully out of time. But AROUND THE WORLD is next.