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Alleged Rape Victim Could Testify; U.S. Responds To North Korean Threat; Final Day of CPAC; 23 People On Straw Poll Ballot; Sarah Palin Addresses Conservatives; Conservatives Soul Searching; Visiting Vatican City; Prosecutor: Arias 62-Second Timeline "Impossible"; Jodi Arias: 18 Days On The Stand; Court Throws Out Prenup; Associate Degree Pays Off; Witnesses Drop Bombshell In Rape Trial

Aired March 16, 2013 - 12:00   ET

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


SUSAN HENDRICKS, CNN ANCHOR: St. Maarten may make it a little bit better.

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, I know, right? I wouldn't mind be stranded there.

HENDRICKS: "CNN NEWSROOM" continues with Fredricka. Hi, Fred.

WHITFIELD: Just a little wrinkle in their plans. They didn't expect on getting on a plane.

HENDRICKS: Exactly. They're happy.

WHITFIELD: I know. Have a great day.

HENDRICKS: You, too.

WHITFIELD: We're going to begin with something that folks rarely see on a Saturday, everyone. We're talking about court in session and it involves a fairly disturbing case involving two teens accused of raping a 16-year-old girl in Ohio. She may actually take the stand today, the alleged victim.

The rape allegedly happened last August during a full night of partying, and witnesses say the alleged victim was drunk. But the high school football players from Steubenville, Ohio, say they are innocent. Yesterday, the suspect's friends testified, saying they saw the whole thing.

Here's Poppy Harlow, who has been in court in Steubenville.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

POPPY HARLOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We have been told by attorneys they will call the alleged victim not -- a decision hasn't been made whether or not those two defendants will take the stand, we're talking about the this case of a 16-year-old girl allegedly raped back in August by two star high school football players here, Trent Mays and Malik Richmond. Yesterday, guys, I was in court for more than 13 hours. It was explosive in terms of the testimony. The first day the prosecution has brought eyewitnesses to the alleged rape to the stand, three teenage boys.

All three of them friends of the two co-defendants, one of them testifying that he saw Trent Mays, one of the defendants, in a car engaged in sexual activity with this girl, activity that would be considered rape in Ohio if it is not consensual.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: That's Poppy Harlow. Those witnesses testified under immunity and later this hour, we're going to talk to our legal guys, Avery and Richard, about this case and the use of texting, text messages that will also be brought to the fore here.

OK, the other big story we're following today. The U.S. answers that threat of a nuclear first strike from North Korea. The Pentagon says it will spend a billion dollars to ramp up America's missile defense, but will it work? Here's Chris Lawrence.

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Fred, the Pentagon plans to spend up to a billion dollars to beef up its missile defense system, but the big question is, will these missiles actually work?

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LAWRENCE (voice-over): If a nuclear missile is ever fired at the United States, this is the best hope to stop it, 30 interceptor missiles, which can be launched from ground silos in Alaska and California. Now, the Pentagon is deploying up to 14 more.

CHUCK HAGEL, DEFENSE SECRETARY: The reason that we're doing what we're doing, and the reason we're advancing our program here for homeland security is to not take any chances, is to stay ahead of the threat.

LAWRENCE: North Korea tested a long-range missile in December. It conducted its third nuclear test in February. And just this month, it threatened a pre-emptive nuclear strike on the U.S. that caught the Pentagon's attention.

JAMES MILLER, UNDER SECRETARY OF DEFENSE FOR POLICY: North Korea's shrill public pronouncements underscore the need for the U.S. to continue to take prudent steps to defeat any future North Korean ICBM.

LAWRENCE: But as far back as the "State of the Union" speech, President Obama said the U.S. would --

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Strengthen our own missile defense and lead the world in taking firm action in response to these threats.

LAWRENCE: But Republican congressional sources say the president's actions have been anything but firm. In 2011, the administration bought one Alaskan missile field arguing intelligence showed there wasn't enough of a threat, a short-sighted move, say the congressional sources.

Quote, "The intel didn't change. This is right where we expected North Korea to be." And that is in possession of a missile that could travel nearly 5,000 miles, in theory, since North Korea has never successfully launched a long-range ICBM.

STEVEN PIFER, DIRECTOR, BROOKINGS ARMS CONTROL INITIATIVE: I think what you see here is mainly a political signal to North Korea that no one's going to be intimidated by their December launch and in the subsequent nuclear test.

LAWRENCE: The existing interceptors have had technological problems and haven't performed a planned. The Pentagon is testing a new missile and won't by the additional 14 until officials are sure they can fly.

JOE CIRINCIONE, PLOUGHSHARES FUND: We spend $10 billion a year on missile defense. We spend about $250 billion over the last few decades. We still aren't anywhere close to a system that can actually protect the United States from the determined adversary. Yes, I'm saying we're wasting our money.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LAWRENCE: The Pentagon expects these 14 new missiles to be ready to go by the year 2017. Officials are also scouting locations for a potential third launch site on the east coast of the United States -- Fred.

WHITFIELD: Thanks so much, Chris Lawrence.

All right, it's the final day of the Conservative Political Action Conference meeting in National Harbor, Maryland, and today CPAC holds its annual straw poll. The vote is considered a gauge of who conservatives think may be a good future presidential candidate. There are 23 people on the list.

Plus, room for write-ins. The list includes New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who still wasn't invited to speak at that conference.

CNN political director Mark Preston joining me live from National Harbor. OK, so Mark, the tone has been very different, hasn't it, this go-round at CPAC.

MARK PRESTON, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Yes, it has. Right now, Fred, the Republican Party is on a bit of a fact-finding mode at this point. You have more than 4,000 conservatives behind me who want the party to stay true to what they believe are the beliefs of the Republican Party on social issues. They do not want to see the Republican Party to moderate its views.

Meanwhile, just a few miles up the road in Washington, D.C., you have the Republican establishment who's really struggling with what to do at this point. Obviously looking ahead to 2014 through 2016, you have Republicans right now really struggling about what direction the party should go in and where I stand right now. They want to say as conservative as possible.

WHITFIELD: Even though after the last presidential, you know, election, the indication was perhaps the party needed to change quite a bit, be more inclusive, et cetera. If we've got something like more than 20 people who are on this list for this straw poll this evening, does anyone stand out as being a potential, I guess, most serious contender because they have, I guess, views that are less conservative, more in the middle or seeming to be more inclusive?

PRESTON: Well, Fred, there's 23 people on the straw poll. You have to figure about 10 of them are really serious candidates for the Republican presidential nomination. As you said, Chris Christie, who is not at the conference, is on the straw poll. A lot of people think his type of politics and republicanism is what's needed if the Republicans are to take back the White House.

But, again, the folks who are here tend to be more to the right. They want the Republican Party to stay true to what they say are really the ideal conservative values. I've got to tell you, we've put a lot of talk into this straw poll and really the folks who really could benefit the most are the likes of Rick Santorum and Rand Paul.

Rand Paul does very well with libertarian-minded Republicans, young kids, a lot of whom are at this conference, and Rick Santorum does very well with the social conservatives, another major bloc at this conference. But I got to tell you, the real breakout stars -- as we're talking right now, Sarah Palin is about to take the stage -- the real breakout star will be Ben Carson. He will be the new face of the conservative movement.

He is a neurosurgeon at Johns Hopkins. He just told us about an hour ago that he is going to leave his practice, and he left it open whether he would run for the White House, and also Ted Cruz in a few hours, who really has become the face of the conservative movement within the United States Senate. He's a freshman from Texas -- Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right, Mark Preston, thanks so much. We're going to talk more about politics and get the influence of the CPAC conference with David Gergen, our political analyst will be joining us a little bit later on this hour as well.

All right, a Maryland man is dead after contracting rabies from a donated kidney. Three other patients from Florida, Georgia and Illinois also received organs from the same donor. They are now being given anti-rabies shots. The organs were not tested for rabies before being delivered for those transplants.

As the Conservative Political Action Conference winds down, what is the political future for the Republican Party? We'll get some insight from political analyst David Gergen.

And Jodi Arias on the witness stand for 18 straight days. Is it a good thing or a bad thing? We'll ask our legal guys. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: All right, today is the final day of the Conservative Political Action Conference, and why not go out with a bang? Sarah Palin back in the spotlight, as you see right there, and one of the keynote speakers. Let's listen in to the former Republican vice presidential candidate.

SARAH PALIN, FORMER REPUBLICAN VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: -- like a good Texan, he comes to town, he chews barbed wire, he spits out rust. That's what we need and I was just thinking how much I like Texans, one reason? They don't mess around with our second amendment rights.

All the stuff coming lately from the White House to take away the good guys' freedom and the right to protect ourselves with the most naive notion that the bad guys, who ignore the laws, that all of a sudden they're going to follow some new laws.

It's not about the bad guys. No. It's all about the lead. It's like that chunk of metal did the crime. That's like saying that fork made me fat and background checks, yes, I guess to learn more about a person's thinking and associations and intentions?

More background checks? Dandy idea, Mr. President, should have started with yours. Well, it is great to be back at CPAC. I'm so happy to be here. It feels like it's coming home even though it is only my second time here, but kind of hoping I can get the hang of it.

I can spot those liberal media folk here to right their annual conservatives in crisis story. How many of you guys are here? Raise your hands! Come on! Raise your hands. Be proud. You're loud. We're used to it.

Certainly you're not ashamed to raise it high. Don't worry. We would never dream of making you wait outside on the party bus. It is an honor to be here. We can come together, folks, for an adult conversation about the future of our country, and heaven knows we need this.

So much of what passes for our national conversations these days is anything but. Remember no drama Obama? If only. Now it's all drama Obama. We don't have leadership coming out of Washington. We have reality television except it's really bad reality TV, and the American people tuned out a long time ago.

Entertainment TV is a good description of what's going on in D.C. because more than ever it all feels like a put-on. Every event feels calculated to fool us somehow. Every speech feels like a con. Washington politicians, too many of both parties, have a bad habit of focusing on the process of politics instead of the purpose of politics, which is to lead and to serve.

Even our guys in the GOP too often have a habit of reading their stage directions, especially these days. They're being too scripted, too calculated. They talk about rebuilding the party. How about rebuilding the middle class?

They talk about rebranding the GOP instead of restoring the trust of the American people. Now, we can't just ignore, though, that we just lost a big election, came in second out of two. Second position on the dogsled team is where the view never changes and the view isn't pretty.

But we need to figure out then our job. What will we do next? As we go about that, as we talk to one another and listen to what the speakers have to say, let's be clear about one thing. We're not here to rebrand a party. We're here to rebuild a country.

We're not here to dedicate ourselves to new talking points coming from D.C. We're not here to put a fresh coat of rhetorical paint on our party. We're not here to abandon our principles in a contest of government giveaways. That's a game we will never, ever win.

We're here to restore America, and the rest is just theatrics. The rest is sound and fury. It's just making noise. And that sums up the job President Obama does today. Now, he's considered a good politician, which is like saying Bernie Madoff was a good salesman.

The difference being the president is using our money. You know, I spend most of my time in flyover country, the heart of the heart land of America. And I have news for the permanent political class in Washington. While they're busy worrying about their own political future, things are bad out here, nearly 8 percent unemployment rate.

It doesn't begin to capture how bad things are. Even the dismal rates announced of 0.1 percent economic growth. That doesn't tell the story of the pain that Americans feel. Our president fancies himself as a champion of the middle class, yet since he came on scene even those lucky enough to have a job, they're working more for less.

The median income of families has dropped over $5,000 since '07, even as we work longer and longer hours and job creators are being punished. Tell me, how does punishing the job creators create more jobs? It costs nearly 100 bucks now to fuel up your truck, costs tens of thousands of dollars to the send your child to college.

The price of a case of diapers today nearly -- I just -- these prices, the costs, the impacts on the American family budget, and while the middle-class Americans, while they're breaking their budget, the Democrat-controlled Senate refuses to pass a budget. That was how many years ago that they did? How many trillions in debt ago?

All in violation of Article I, Section 9, clause 7 of our U.S. constitution, no budget for four years? No budget for four years is not just bureaucratic bungling. Refusing to pass a budget is government refusing to declare what it intends to do with the people's money. Barack Obama promised the most transparent administration ever. Barack Obama, you lie.

WHITFIELD: Listening to former vice presidential nominee, Sarah Palin, at the last day of the CPAC conference there in National Harbor, Maryland. We'll talk more about all she has to say there. This is not, she says, about restoring the GOP party, but instead about rebuilding America. Going to ask our political analyst, David Gergen, who will be with us, to find out what he thinks his take is on her appearance there.

Just a reminder, watch Monday for the launch of Jake Tapper's new show, "The Lead." It starts Monday afternoon 4:00 Eastern Time.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: Talking American politics now, the Conservative Political Action Conference is wrapping up in National Harbor, Maryland, right now. One of the keynote speakers of the day still on the stand right now, former vice presidential nominee, Sarah Palin, talking about reforming not just the party but America.

Our political analyst David Gergen is here. So David, what's your take on this? A, is Sarah Palin's voice and point of view still relevant?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, Sarah Palin is still popular among conservatives. It's notable that the conference organizers here at CPAC gave her the longest speaking time of any speaker in the three-daytime.

But I have to say, Fredricka, what's more interesting, what's more eye catching about this conference is there are new heart throbs coming onto the stage among these conservatives. Certainly Rand Paul widely expected to win the straw poll today in their -- who should be president among all the people at this conference.

Then there is Marco Rubio, who's building up a national following. And Ben Carson, who could imagine a pediatric neurosurgeon, African-American, Johns Hopkins, has announced this week he's quitting his practice.

People at this conference love him. They think maybe he ought to be president. I've known Ben Carson a long time. He is an inspirational figure, and he could really stir things up.

WHITFIELD: He is inspirational, and he would represent in large part what it means for this party to be much more inclusive, trying to appeal to people of color Latinos, blacks.

GERGEN: Absolutely.

WHITFIELD: It would take more than that. There has been so much criticism within the GOP and outside of the GOP so say that it's more than just the facade. It really is about the approach that this party is taking to appeal to people. And Sarah Palin just said moments ago it's not about reviving, restoring the party. It really is about rebuilding the country.

GERGEN: Well, it is about rebuilding the country. You don't have a chance to do that until you reconnect with the voters. And this party does have a serious problem, as everyone now recognizes. After all, Democrats at the presidential elections have won the popular vote in five out of the last six presidential elections.

And the off-year elections they've won now, you know, handily in '06, lost ten, but, you know, they think they may come back here in '14. The Republicans have a problem. They have to figure out how to reconnect. It's not surprising that there would be so much disagreement about that.

Normally when a party loses as many elections as Republicans have, they do spend time in the wilderness trying to find a new way, trying to find ways to apply old principles to new problems.

Just checked out the Democrats during the Reagan/Bush senior years, they were in the wilderness, had a lot of disagreements. It's not chaos. I actually think it's a healthy, constructive way to reargue within a party as Democrats once did, and Bill Clinton led them out of the wilderness.

They'll find somebody, whether they can find somebody to take them all the way out, that's a big, big question.

WHITFIELD: Well, you know, I guess, I bring up her quote when she talks about reviving the party and rebuilding the country because it seems like there isn't a consensus about the real objective here, whether it be those who are in attendance at CPAC or those who have not attended, but are critical about the GOP.

In order for there to be any kind of reform or direction, it seems like there has to be a coming together, a real common ground on which direction we're going, if there is going to be a GOP that's looking for a new face.

GERGEN: Well, that's hard to do when you're out of power. There is no Mr. Republican or Mrs. Republican leader at the moment. You know, John Boehner and Mitch McConnell speak for their own caucuses, but they don't speak necessarily for the party as a whole.

That, too, is very familiar. When Democrats were out of power, they held a convention, a mini convention, two years after the presidential election, trying to find their voice. Normally it takes the presidential primaries and then a candidate who emerges as the new leader, pulls up the banner, and tries to march to victory.

And if you don't get there, as Mitt Romney -- you know, he failed to do that, you're no longer leader of the party. Mitt Romney was given a light reception here, a trip down memory lane, but he's no longer seen as the leader of the party. That probably won't emerge for two, three years.

WHITFIELD: All right, David Gergen, but we'll be talking about it over the next two to three years.

GERGEN: We'll be talking about it incessantly. Ben Carson to think about that, out of nowhere --

WHITFIELD: Quite the surprise.

GERGEN: He's a very, very interesting fellow.

WHITFIELD: He is a very appealing person. All right, David Gergen, thanks so much. Appreciate it from Harvard University.

GERGEN: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: We'll talk again.

We're going to talk some legal briefs coming up. Jodi Arias says she murdered her ex-boyfriend in self-defense after a struggle. But evidence says it all happened in 62 seconds. You're going to see that re-enactment. You're looking at right now. Is it possible she would have a decent defense particularly after being on the stand for 18 days?

But first, with the selection of Pope Francis, there is renewed interest from Catholics around the world to visit Vatican City. Holly Firfer shows us why this place is worth visit even if you're not religious in this week's "On The Go."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HOLLY FIRFER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's the capital of Catholicism, but you'll find more than just the faithful coming to the see the architecture, history and artwork of Vatican City.

GABE SAGLIE, TRAVELZOO.COM: The first thing you see when you enter the Vatican is, of course, St. Peter's Square, which is this massive plaza. The most prominent there is St. Peter's Basilica, one of the largest churches in the world.

Some 50-plus acres of beautifully manicured gardens, several museums and end up at the Sistine Chapel, which of course, is famous for the frescos that Michelangelo painted there on the ceiling.

FIRFER: Vatican City is located right in the middle of Rome. It covers about 110 acres, making it the world's smallest country. More than 20,000 people visit every day. So expect large crowds and long lines.

SAGLIE: One way to jump to the front of the line is to actually make reservations through the Vatican office. Many people would give themselves an entire day so they're not missing any of the sorts of fascinating, historic, artistic and religious nooks and crannies that are part and parcel to the Vatican City experience.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: More gripping testimony this week in the murder trial of Jodi Arias, who is accused of repeatedly stabbing and shooting her lover. Two photos could be the linchpin in the case. Two photos that are time stamped 62 seconds apart.

One was taken of the victim just before his killing and the other photo shows the victim dead. Prosecutor says Arias' description of what happened in that minute and two second is simply, quote, unquote, "impossible."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JUAN MARTINEZ, PROSECUTOR: In 62 seconds, you get body slam and get away, you run down the hallway, you go in the closet, you grab a gun, you back up, you shoot Mr. Alexander, you pick up the camera, because you said his only possibility, and he's already down the hallway with his throat slit, right? That's what you're telling us happened?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: All right, HLN's Mike Galanos put Arias' timeline to the test in this re-enactment.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MIKE GALANOS, HLN: All right, Jodi's taking pictures of Travis in the shower, she stumbles, drops the camera, you stupid idiot. A 5- year-old could handle that better than you and he comes at her, never seen him this angry. Knocked down, gets herself together enough to run out of there.

Where do I go, do I leave, the closet? I'm in the closet now, I've created some space. I remember the gun. She gets the gun. She's heading back to the bathroom, hopefully point it at him, get him to back off, the confrontation.

Travis comes at her like a linebacker, she says. Boom, the gun goes off. He's shot in the head but they're down now. She somehow gets off, gets up, but it's time to get out of here. In the midst of all that, she's got to find a knife and it's time.

One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29. He's down. Now we've got to slit the throat and then now begin the drag back of the body, dragging back the body. The picture is taken. Can all that be done in 62 seconds? We shall see.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WHITFIELD: Again, that was a re-enactment of Jodi Arias' account of the killing. She spent an unprecedented 18 days on the stand trying to explain why she killed Travis Alexander. But will spending so much time testifying save her own life in this death penalty case?

Let's bring in our legal guys, Avery Friedman, a civil rights attorney and law professor joining us from Cleveland. Good to see you, Avery.

AVERY FRIEDMAN, CIVIL RIGHTS ATTORNEY: Hi, Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: And Richard Herman in New York, a criminal defense attorney and law professor, joining us from Las Vegas. Good to see you as well, Richard.

RICHARD HERMAN, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Hi, Fred.

WHITFIELD: OK, gentlemen, is it possible because the jury spent so much time listening to Arias in such close proximity that they will not be able to sentence her to the death penalty if they find her guilty of premeditated murder -- Avery.

FRIEDMAN: Well, that's the theory of the defense. I don't know that there's any case in American jurisprudential history that in a capital case has a defendant on the stand for 18 days. Then you top that off with 200 questions from juror, which basically only happens in three states. I think no experienced lawyer will ever tell you what the jury going to do, but this is a pretty good idea that they're very unhappy with this defendant.

WHITFIELD: And then Richard, when you talk about that timeline. That was a re-enactment by HLN. You know, it's unclear exactly how the jurors will kind of piece together that 62 seconds because it is really critical. How impactful might that be? That her account of all that took place in that 62 seconds, will this case boil down to that element?

HERMAN: No, Fred. The 62 seconds I don't believe has really any impact on this particular case. We know she's a liar and it's proven she's a liar. The question here is whether or not she felt imminent fear of severe bodily harm or death, which caused her to react. That's the issue.

Do you think this woman who loved this man with all her heart and soul, do you think she really planned and premeditated to kill him or did she just snap out in the house that day because if she snapped and went crazy all of a sudden like that, that's second-degree murder.

That's 10 to 22 years in prison. If you think she went there with the intention of killing him or formed that intent while she was in the house there just out of the blue, I'm going to kill you, Travis, because your body looks so good.

And you're going away with this girl and I'm not going with you so I'm going to kill you, wouldn't she have done it earlier? It doesn't make sense. I don't think it falls down to first-degree here, Fred. I really don't.

WHITFIELD: OK.

FRIEDMAN: Wow, really?

WHITFIELD: OK, you clearly both disagree on the potential outcome of this one. We will have more time to talk about it I know next weekend.

Let's move on to another case. This one is involving an appellate court in New York, which essentially rips up the pre-nup agreement between a New York woman and her multimillionaire husband. Six weeks before Elizabeth married her husband he presented her with a pre-nup that offered her $25,000 for every year they were married. She signed the pre-nup on the verbally stated condition it would be invalidated once they had children, but he never got rid of the pre-nup so she took him to court alleging fraud. Richard, you first, is that fraud?

HERMAN: This is so shocking and inconceivable to me, Fred.

FRIEDMAN: What?

HERMAN: That this decision could come down like this. The allegation is fraudulent inducement into signing the agreement. He defrauded her into signing because he promised he'd tear it up. But these agreements are written so carefully, she had a lawyer with her when she signed it.

In the agreement, there's a specific clause that says neither party is relying upon any oral representations. She signed that agreement. This is an outrageous decision. It's going to open the floodgates to nullify all prenuptial agreements now.

WHITFIELD: Really.

HERMAN: It really is. It's pathetic, this decision.

WHITFIELD: Do you see it as far reaching as Richard, Avery?

FRIEDMAN: I totally disagree. I mean, there was a 13-day trial that proved the events leading up to the signing even up to the point where we're very close to the wedding -- very close to the wedding. It certainly overrode the language of the agreement.

Frankly the Trier of Fact believed it. The Court of Appeals, the three-judge panel agreed that there was fraud in the inducement. I don't think it opens the flood gates. It's specific to the case. Elizabeth prevailed, good for her.

WHITFIELD: All right and she's opened her own business to help other people about to embark on very difficult divorce cases. Avery, Richard, thanks so much. We'll see you again.

Back in a few minutes to talk act a potential lawsuit from the Iranian government. They're so outraged over that Oscar-winning movie "Argo" that they want to take it to court, sort of, all that and more after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: College may be the key to a brighter future, but it is expensive. We'll show you how getting a better paying job doesn't have to break the bank.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: Students pay an average of $160,000 for a degree from a private four-year college. A two-year associate degree from a community college costs about $6,000 for that two years.

As Christine Romans shows us in this week's "Smart is the New Rich," many are taking advantage of the cheaper path to a well-paying job.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I didn't realize why I liked I.T. or where it was going.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Ethan Dumeyer chose a two-year degree liberal arts at the borough of Manhattan Community College.

ETHAN DUMEYER, COMMUNITY COLLEGE GRADUATE: I thought it would be a great place to find my direction.

ROMANS: He found a lot more than that. His degree landed him a job in the college's computer center and later a promotion.

DUMEYER: I was making $62,000. I felt pretty good about how things went even without having a bachelor's.

ROMANS: Ethan is one of many community college graduates proving that a four-year university isn't the only gateway to the middle class. According to a Georgetown University study, 28 percent of Americans with associate's degrees make more than those with bachelor's degrees.

ANTHONY CARNEVALE, DIRECTOR, CENTER ON EDUCATION AND WORKFORCE: Associate's degrees are for fast starters.

ROMANS: That's exactly what it was for Ethan -- a start. He went on to get his bachelor's degree on his employer's tab.

DUMEYER: Because of my role, able to wave the tuition.

ROMANS: His salary now, $76,000. Not a bad return on a $10,000 investment. His sister chose a different path, an expensive master's degree from New York University.

DUMEYER: She went in biology and I believe she's opting more into wanting to teach so pretty expensive way to switch gears.

ROMANS: Enrolment at community colleges spiked during the recession. Now it's beginning to fall as the economy improves, but tuition at four-year colleges is rising. The job market is still struggling, and student loan debt is skyrocketing.

CARNEVALE: Attending a community college and getting an associate's degree is a more practical decision.

ROMANS: So if you're trying to trim your college costs, start at a community college.

CARNEVALE: Where you went to school matters less and less. What matters more and more is what you take.

ROMANS: Second, learn a practical in-demand skill like computer science. Finally, see if your employer will chip in.

DUMEYER: That was essential to help me finishing my bachelor's.

ROMANS: Christine Romans, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WHITFIELD: It's a rare Saturday in court for two high school football players accused of raping a teenage girl. Our legal guys will dissect some of the damning evidence in that case.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: Any minute now in Ohio, two teenage rape suspects could face their accuser in court. The 16-year-old girl who says two high school football players sexually abused her is expected to take the stand today.

Our legal guys are back, Avery Friedman in Cleveland and Richard Herman in Las Vegas. OK, gentlemen, the prosecution called eye witnesses to the stand who say they saw the teens perform a sex act on the girl who they say was drunk and barely responsive at that time.

These eye witnesses are close friends of the suspects as well. How does the defense try to counter that, Richard?

HERMAN: Well, the problem is, Fred, number one, she has to testify in the case, absolutely must testify. Number two, the statements and the testimony that came in were all done by people who were admittedly intoxicated that night. So the level of reliability on what they're saying is questionable.

There's no jury here. It's a judge only in juvenile court. And the picture they show of the two men holding the girl like that, that's the devastating picture all over the press. Well, it turns out after that she got up and was talking with them.

Friends said come with us, and she said no, I want to go with them. The issue is not consent. It's whether or not those boys knew that she was too intoxicated. That's the issue, very difficult case to prove. I don't think they're going to be convicted.

WHITFIELD: Really. And so, Avery, we're also talking about not only just the graphic images but graphic text messaging as well.

FRIEDMAN: Yes.

WHITFIELD: This will be a very interesting case if it is -- I guess if it is buttoned up based in large part on the kind of text messaging that was taking place.

FRIEDMAN: Yes. I mean, women have been fighting sexual abuse for an eternity, forever, and this is a case where social media will become a very important part of the evidence for prosecution. You couple that will with testimony of three other young men, I mean, this is Steubenville, known for two things -- Dean Martin and a great football team year after year.

So a judge from Dayton, another part of the state, is trying this case. But I do think the evidence is very powerful. The other surprise here, yes, you're going to see from the victim, but by the end of today, the defense will have to make a decision, Fredricka, if the actual defendants will be testifying in this case, and that's a possibility.

WHITFIELD: All right, let's move on. We have a little bit of time left for the case of Iran taking on Hollywood. Iran saying it didn't like the depiction of the hostage crisis in the movie "Argo," and so it may be pursuing a lawsuit, whether it be in the U.S. or maybe even in France? Avery, where do you begin on this one? How realistic is this suit?

FRIEDMAN: Well, yes, it has about as much chance as Sonny Corleone in a phone booth. The whole idea the zany, Iran is thinking this has something to do with the United States government because Michelle Obama presented the Oscar? Goodness gracious, this case, no matter what forum, whether it's Switzerland, France, The Hague, or certainly the United States, not a chance.

WHITFIELD: Richard?

FRIEDMAN: Going nowhere.

HERMAN: Yes. There will be a jury trial. Will it be in the United States? Would it be federal court state court? It's absolutely preposterous, Fred. This is absolutely just laughable and that's what we should do when we read this story. We should all just sit back and have a hearty laugh, St. Patrick's Day tomorrow. Happy St. Patrick's Day. This case, there is no case. It's stupid.

WHITFIELD: All righty --

FRIEDMAN: We agree.

WHITFIELD: An agreement. There you go. All right, Avery, Richard --

HERMAN: Avery's wearing a green tie.

WHITFIELD: All ready for St. Paddy's weekend. Thanks so much, gentlemen. Good to see you.

The legal guys are here every Saturday. Don't miss them at this time, noon Eastern hour, to give us their take on the most intriguing legal cases of the week.

A reminder to watch CNN's new show, "The Lead" with Jake Tapper, it starts Monday afternoon at 4:00 Eastern time.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) WHITFIELD: All right, coming up later on in the CNN NEWSROOM, Valerie Harper brave in the face of a terminal cancer diagnosis.

HLN's Jane Velez-Mitchell on the Jodi Arias case and breaking down the NCAA March Madness brackets.

Speaking of March Madness, it's also hitting Washington in an entirely different way. With no budget deal in sight, is a government shutdown less than two weeks away? Ali Velshi has answers. I'm Fredricka Whitfield. "YOUR MONEY" with Ali starts right now.