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CNN NEWSROOM

Charter Bus Crash In Southern Pennsylvania; Stubenville Rape Trial Continues; Pentagon Announces Major Expansion In Missile Defense; Body Of 31-Year-Old Found In Elevator Shaft At Tampa International Airport; Senator Rand Paul Leads the CPAC Annual Straw Poll

Aired March 16, 2013 - 22:30   ET

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


(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Happening right now on CNN, a college sports team on the way to a game when their bus crashes. Two on board are dead. Many others are hurt.

Another crash in Florida, this one a hot air balloon. Among the injured, an NFL player. The latest on his condition.

SARAH PALIN (R), FORMER ICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Oh, Bloomberg's not around. We're cool.

LEMON: Sarah Palin takes on New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg and the GOP.

Plus, a grisly discover at a Florida airport. Maintenance workers had discovered a man's body in an elevator shaft.

You're in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Don Lemon. Those stories and more on this hour on CNN.

Accusations after rape, a torn, a town torn apart. Marathon trial days, it is all come down to a verdict that's happening in 12 hours. Tomorrow at 10:00 a.m. eastern, a juvenile court judge, Thomas Lipps in Steubenville, Ohio, will give his decision in the trial of two high school football players, Trent Mays and Ma'lik Richmond, are accused of raping a 16-year-old girl who was reportedly passed out drunk. The prosecutor says it made her, quote, "the perfect victim," while the defense called her credibility into question.

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WALTER MADISON, DEFENSE ATTORNEY FOR MA'LIK RICHMOND: She has a reputation -- I'm not saying this, I'm not blaming or smearing this witness. Her friends told this court that she has a reputation for telling lies.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CNN's Poppy Harlow has more on today's testimony which included the accuser taking the stand - Poppy. POPPY HARLOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, Don. Well, after four days of testimony, some of it very emotional in the Steubenville, Ohio, rape case that has divided this town and really captured the national spotlight, the fate of Trent Mays and Ma'lik Richmond, two teenage boys accused of raping a 16-year-old girl back in August lays in the hands of judge Thomas Lipps. The prosecution and the defense both resting tonight after more than two hours of testimony from the 16-year-old alleged victim saying that she recalls very little from the entire night of the alleged rape and says she doesn't remember anything from when the alleged rape may have occurred.

After that happened, we heard closing arguments from both sides. I want you to listen first to some of the closing arguments by both of the defense teams. First, you'll hear from the attorney for 17-year- old Trent Mays and then the attorney for 16-year-old Ma'lik Richmond.

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ADAM NEMANN, DEFENSE ATTORNEY FOR TRENT MAYS: No one calls the police. No one calls the alleged victim's parents. No one calls their own parents. No one even contacts anyone. Why is that? Are these all bad kids?

MADISON: And there's no DNA of Ma'lik Richmond anywhere, anywhere.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARLOW: And in its closing statement, the prosecution arguing this case is not about consent. It's about substantial impairment. How drunk was this girl when these incidents allegedly occurred?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARIANNE HEMMETER, SPECIAL PROSECUTOR: This case isn't about social media. This case isn't about big red football. This case is about a 16-year-old girl who was taken advantage of, toyed with and humiliated. And it's time that the people who did that to her are held responsible.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARLOW: And this is a bench trial, meaning there is no jury. And it is the judge that will make the final decision. We will hear his decision at 10:00 a.m. tomorrow morning. That's when he'll hand it down. If these boys are found guilty, the maximum sentence they face is to serve until they are 21 years old because they are juveniles - Don.

LEMON: All right, Poppy. Thank you very much.

And as Poppy said, make sure you stay tuned to CNN for the verdict in this case. It will be at 10:00 a.m. eastern tomorrow morning.

A bus carrying a university sports team to a match this morning crashed on a Pennsylvania highway. The bus smashed into a tree of obliterating the driver's seat and ripping open the site. Police don't know what caused the bus to leave the road. But the crash killed the driver and the women's lacrosse team coach who was six months pregnant.

CNN's national correspondent, Susan Candiotti, with details tonight -- Susan.

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Don, there were 23 people aboard the bus carrying Seton Hill's women's lacrosse team. The team's head coach, 30-year-old Kristina Quigley, was six months pregnant with her second child and airlifted to a hospital, but attempts to save her and her unborn baby boy failed. The bus driver, 61-year-old Anthony Guaetta, died at the scene. The rest of the passengers were rushed to area hospitals.

The team's charter bus was heading east on the Pennsylvania turnpike from Seton Hill in Greensburg, just east of Pittsburgh on its way across state to a game in Millersville in Lancaster County. State police say the driver veered off the road, hit a guardrail, went about 70 yards through grass and slammed into a tree. The front of the bus appears to have taken the brunt of the impact.

The bus company, Mlaker, says it is also investigating and issued a statement expressing its sorrow. We checked the company's safety record with federal authorities. There are no accidents shown online for the past two years. And the 40-year-old bus line has a satisfactory rating, which is the highest allowed.

Investigators are taking a look at everything, including the weather. Police say there was a mix of rain and snow at the time of the accident but it is not clear whether weather played a role. Authorities will be talking with survivors, those lacrosse players and other members of the team, to see if they can shed any light on what happened. The NTSB has not yet decided whether to get involved. And tomorrow, there will be a mass at Seton Hill for the accident victims - Don.

LEMON: All right. Susan, thank you very much.

A pro football player was seriously burned today in a hot air balloon accident near Miami. Dante Stallworth is hospitalized in stable condition after the balloon collided with some power lines. So, its girlfriend also was burned and is also in stable condition. Earlier I talked with his agent about the accident.

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DREW ROSENHAUR, AGENT FOR INJURED FOOTBALL PLAYER (via phone): Really, a freak occurrence that happened here. He is out on a leisure ride and there was some type of malfunction and the balloon got tangled in some power lines and he suffered some burns, some serious burns. But thank God he's expected to make a full recovery.

(END VIDEO CLIP) LEMON: This isn't Stallworth's first south Florida tragedy. Almost four years ago, he hit and killed a construction worker while driving under the influence. So, he was sentenced to 30 days in jail under a plea bargain. His agent says the injuries from today's accident won't jeopardize his football career.

It has been two excruciating weeks for a family of a missing Louisiana woman. 26-year-old, Terrilynn Monnette, was last seen outside a New Orleans bar. She had been celebrating her teacher of the year nomination. Investigators have come up empty but her mother is still clinging to hope.

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TONI ENCLADE, MOTHER OF TERRILYNN MONNETTE: Because I know my daughter is still here. She's still here. I can't think about her not being here, not seeing her face ever again. I can't see that. No, I can't. I'm not thinking about that. I'm saying that someone's going to find her and someone is going to bring her back to me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: More sophisticated sonar equipment is now being brought in so crews can better search bodies of water in that area.

Sarah Palin brings down the house at CPAC.

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PALIN: So this go-round, he's got the rifle, I got the rack.

(LAUGHTER)

LEMON: Her take on guns, mayor Bloomberg and the GOP, straight ahead.

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LEMON: President Obama selling a creative way to pay for research into alternative energy sources. He used his weekly address to present a plan to use the money collected from private companies who drill for oil on public lands.

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BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Now, this idea isn't mine. It actually builds off a proposal put forward by a nonpartisan coalition of CEOs and retired generals and admirals. So, let's take their advice and free our families and our businesses from painful spikes in gas prices once and for all.

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LEMON: The president said he supports increased domestic oil production along with more research into solar power, wind power and bio-fuels. In the Republicans weekly address, Congressman Paul Ryan talked about his plan for balancing the budget. Ryan said a balanced budget would make a difference, far beyond just crunching numbers.

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REP. PAUL RYAN (R), HOUSE BUDGET COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: But the crucial question isn't how we balance the budget, it's why. The budget is a means to an end. We are not balancing the budget as an accounting exercise. We're not trying to simply make numbers add up. We're trying to improve people's lives.

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LEMON: Ryan's proposal includes a repeal of the Obama health care plan and makes dramatic changes to Medicare through those changes -- though those changes wouldn't affect current enrollees.

Congressman Ryan was overshadowed by senator Rand Paul at this week's gathering of political conservatives known as CPAC. Paul won the group's annual straw poll of potential presidential candidates with 25 percent of the vote. Senator Marco Rubio was a strong second at 23 percent. Rick Santorum was next and then Governor Chris Christie. And there is Ryan is in fifth place. There he is with six percent. Senator Paul apparently benefited from his 13-hour filibuster to potential use of drone on U.S. soil. His dad won the CPAC straw poll in 2010 and 2011.

Sarah Palin proved she still knows how to fire up the conservative faithful at CPAC. She urged conservatives to reach out to their friends and neighbors even those who disagree with them. She also rattled off a series of one-liners that had the audience laughing and on its feet. Take a listen.

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PALIN: We can't just ignore, though, that we just lost a big election. Yes, came in second out of two.

(LAUGHTER)

PALIN: Second position on the dogsled team is where the view never changes and the view isn't pretty. You should have seen what Todd got me for Christmas.

(LAUGHTER)

PALIN: Well, it wasn't that exciting. It's a metal rack, case for a hunting rifle to put on the back of a four wheeler. And then, though, I had to get something for him to put in the gun case, right? So this go-round, he's got the rifle, I got the rack.

(LAUGHTER)

PALIN: Oh, Bloomberg's not around. Our big gulp's safe. We're cool. Shoot, it's just pop with low cal ice cubes in it. I hope that's OK. What did you think was in it?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: As for political strategy, Palin took a not-so-veiled swipe at party guru Karl Rove and suggested that party strategists could back off their plans to help so-called electable candidates win Republican primaries.

The Pentagon announcing it will spend a billion dollars to protect against North Korean nuclear threats. I will explain next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: North Korea says its nuclear weapons are not a bargaining chip and it will not negotiate with the U.S. over its nuclear program. The angry rhetoric comes a day after the U.S. announced plans for new missile defense interceptors to guard against a possible North Korean attack. North Korea reportedly test fired short range missiles today. South Korea's state-run media say North Korea fired missiles into the east sea.

Defense secretary Chuck Hagel says more than a dozen new missile interceptors will be on the west coast by 2017 to guard against a possible North Korean attack.

CNN's Tom Foreman takes a closer look at how the U.S. is beefing up protection against North Korea.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The Pentagon is acknowledging that North Korea is becoming more of a global threat because of the speed at which it is developing its missile program and its nuclear weapon program. So, how does the military want to respond to this?

At the front line, by going to the Pacific Ocean where the fear is that North Korea on its best day might be able to launch a missile that would go all the way out to hit some parts of the United States. What are they going to do about that? First of all, they want more radar support. They want a new base in Japan here, to be tracking early on what's happening. They want to beef up missiles in Alaska and California. And of course they want steady monitoring from ships at sea, from airplanes overhead and from satellites, all watching to see if North Korea is going to launch at some point our way. How would that work?

If North Korea launches a missile, all those early warning systems would send the coordinates of the flight back to these response missiles which would then fire and go up and try to hit it and take it out. Ideally, they would like to hit it early on or in the middle and at a last resort, way over here. But they want numerous shots at it so they can stop it. That's really the goal. And they have to have numerous shots because this is all still fairly new technology and it's not all entirely reliable. As I said, we don't know that the North Koreans at this point can really get a missile to go this far. But our ability to intercept it and stop it is also a tricky, tricky thing to pull off. Look at the things we would use for this. There is a two-stage missile. This is what we would launch out of Alaska or California and it would release something like this. This is called an XO atmospheric kill vehicle. It is made by Radiant. You see, it's got those little propulsion units around there. It's also has an infrared guidance in the nose. And that, when it gets released, locks in on the nuclear warhead in this missile. And it will guide this in to actually smash into that at about 17,000 miles an hour and tear it apart.

It does not explode. This is about as big as a refrigerator. It just smashes into it and tears it apart. You can imagine how difficult that is to pull off. But this is the technology that we are trying to perfect so that we can stop the North Korean technology if and when they ever get it perfected and actually can threaten the U.S. mainland.

LEMON: Tom Foreman, thank you very much.

Straight ahead, a grisly discovery at a major airport, the body of a man found in an elevator shaft. Police are looking for clues on how he could have gotten there.

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LEMON: The discovery of a body in an elevator shaft at Tampa international airport has police puzzled. The body of 31-year-old Chad Wolf was found yesterday. Police think he pried the elevator door open and then fell to his death. Detectives have said there's no evidence of foul play. But Wolf's father doubts their theory. Medical examiner is determining the cause of death.

The first major western wildlife of the season raging in Northern Colorado tonight about 1,000 acres west of Ft. Collins have been chewed up by the fire that started yesterday and was immediately whipped up by high winds. Hundreds of families evacuated their homes but many of them are being allowed to go back home.

And now it's time to meet our hero of the week.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KAKENYA NTAIYA, CNN HERO: I avoided the ceremony as far as I could. Most of the Maasai girls undergo this mutilation when they are 12. I really liked going to school. I knew that once I go to the cutting I am going to be married off and my dream of becoming a teacher was going to end. My mind said drawn away but I had to face my dad and say I would only go through the cutting if he lets me go back to school.

It was done in the morning using a very old rusty knife with no anesthesia. I can never forget that day. Eventually, I was the first girl in my community to go to college in the U.S.

I am Kakenya Ntaiya, and I return to my village to start a school for girls so they, too, can achieve their full potential. When they start at school they are very shy, but over time you see them very confident.

How are you girls?

They are doing very well. It is the most exciting thing. Our walk is about empowering the girls. These girls are saying no to being cut and dreaming of becoming lawyers, teachers, doctors.

My daughter will do better than my son.

Why should you work hard to achieve your goals?

I came back to the girls in my community don't have to negotiate like I did to achieve their dreams. That's why I wake up every morning.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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LEMON: An unsuspecting car salesman gets the ride of his life. Take a look.

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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK, all right, ease off just a little bit. Ease up. You are liable for any damages to the vehicle. So, please stop the car. Stop, stop, stop! Oh, (bleep)! You're an idiot. I'm going to kill you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was all just fun.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARLOW: OK. We should note the man behind the wheel has serious experience. That's NASCAR Jeff Gordon. He disguised himself and took this poor car salesman on a wild ride. The entire thing was recorded for a Pepsi max commercial. It's gotten more than 22 million hits since being posted just five days ago.

We should note that many critics believe the video to be a fake. Many people in NEWSROOM think it's fake. I think it is real. But, Pepsi and Gordon are remaining mum on that. Either way, we thought it was cool enough to be our moment of the week, that poor guy.

I'm Don Lemon at the CNN world headquarters in Atlanta. Thanks for watching.

Good night.