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CPAC Continues; Rapper Lil Wayne Still in Hospital; Pentagon Increasing Missile Defense Against North Korean Threat; Search Continues for Missing Teacher; Movie on Phil Spector to be Released; Little Boy with Disability in Inspiring Video; March Madness Set to Begin

Aired March 16, 2013 - 10:00   ET


SUSAN HENDRICKS, CNN ANCHOR: Good Saturday morning to you, great to see you. I'm Susan Hendricks in today for Randi Kaye. It is 10:00 on the east coast, 7:00 out west. So glad you're with us.

We begin just outside Washington this morning where conservatives are gathered to set their course for the future. It is the Conservative Political Action Conference or CPAC. This is the last day of the conference which has featured Republican heavyweights offering their advice for the party.

CNN political editor Paul Steinhauser is back with us. He joins us now from CPAC. A lot of buzz around Sarah Palin, of course, Paul. So what have you heard so far this morning besides that?

PAUL STEINHAUSER, CNN POLITICAL EDITOR: Well, speaking right now is Michele Bachmann, the Republican Congresswoman from Minnesota, who you remember she ran for the Republican presidential nomination. She's talking right now.

A couple minutes ago, Scott Walker the Republican governor of Wisconsin was talking and he got a big -- a big ovation. One of the things he was talking about was that the future of the party is not going to come from here in Washington but rather the state houses, from the Republican governors. There are 30 of them right now. Take a listen to what Scott Walker had to say.


GOV. SCOTT WALKER (R), WISCONSIN: There are now in America some 30 states that have Republican governors and nearly as many that have Republican legislatures.


WALKER: That's the good news. The good news is we have success and it's happening in our states, and we could learn from that to tell our friends and colleagues in Washington how to move forward because in the states, to be successful in the states we have to be optimistic. We have to be relevant. And most importantly, we have to be courageous.

(END VIDEO CLIP) STEINHAUSER: And that's one of the themes here. CPAC is the largest annual gathering of conservative activists and supporters across the country. And the theme here is what does the party do after losing the presidential election last year? Does it moderate or stay true to the conservative principles.

HENDRICKS: That's the big question, Paul. And what do you expect today on the last day after Bachmann?

STEINHAUSER: Well, you gave a little tease right here. Sarah Palin will be speaking. She was the 2008 vice presidential nominee. She wasn't much of a factor in the last election, but she's a big hero to a lot of people on the right. She had a big speech at CPAC last year, and I expect this crowd behind me is going to be into her speech again this year.

One other thing, at the end of the day we get the results of the straw poll, the Republican nomination 2016 straw poll. Susan, 2016 is a long way away, but a lot of people are thinking about it. There are 23 names on that ballot. CPAC is part conference and also part carnival. You can get t-shirts, you can even get coffee mugs "CPAC 2013." It's a real festival here in so many ways.

HENDRICKS: I like that, a conference and a carnival. Paul Steinhauser, thanks.

Two high school football players on trial for rape are back in a Steubenville, Ohio, courtroom today this morning. Trent Mayes and Malik Richmond are accused of raping a 16-year-old girl twice last summer. Three teens testified about the alleged abuse yesterday. They were all granted immunity, and one admitted taking disturbing pictures like this one and sharing them with friends.

One of the witnesses also admitted to recording a cell phone video of Mayes sexually abusing the girl in a car while driving from one party to the other. If convicted, the teens could be held in juvenile detention until they turn 21.

To Washington now where the Pentagon is taking threats from North Korea very seriously, so seriously, in fact, that Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has committed $1 billion to expand the west coast missile defense system. Tom Foreman has more on the threat and how the defense system is supposed to work. Tom?

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. How does the military want to respond to that? 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 satellites all watching to see if North Korea is going to launch at some point our way.

How would that work? Well, if North Korea launches a missile, all the 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 the last resort way over here. What they want is numerous shots at it so they can stop it. That's really the goal.

They have to have numerous shots because this is all still fairly new technology and not all entirely reliable. 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. This is what we would launch out of Alaska or California. And it would release something like this. This is called an exo-atmospheric kill vehicle. You see it's got those little propulsion units around it there. And it also has an infrared guidance system 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 17,000 miles an hour and tear it apart.

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

HENDRICKS: All right, Tom Foreman, thank you.

The body of late Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez will not be embalmed and put on display for everyone to see. Venezuela made that decision after doctors said it would be quite difficult to do. In order to do that procedure, Chavez's body would have been flown to Russia and remain there for about months. The leftist icon died last month after battling cancer. He was 58.

Pope Francis told reporters that he wants the Catholic Church to be poor. The new Pope spoke to the media for the first time since his election on Wednesday. And he explained why he picked the name Francis, saying it reflects a concern for the poor. He says that name keeps the spirit of St. Francis of Assisi alive, calling him, quote, "a poor man, a simple man, as we would like a poor church for the poor," end quote.

Rapper Lil Wayne is recovering this morning after having a seizure. His friends and fellow rapper Drake came to visit him in a L.A. hospital, set up a vigil outside of his room, they did. Reports from gossip site said Lil Wayne was in a medically induced coma and was near death, but the rapper and his camp debunk that. A tweet from Lil Wayne's account went out last night reading this, "I'm good, everybody. Thank you for your prayers and love." And the president of the rapper's record label tweeted "Don't believe the nonsense about comas and tubes to breathe. That is false."

The four-time Grammy winner is also known as Wheezy. Listen to his song "Mirror."




HENDRICKS: He's also known for his distinct style, as you can see, tattoos and diamond teeth.

Elton John is also on the mend this morning. His rep tells E! News the British singer canceled his concert in Birmingham, Alabama, last night for medical purposes. But there were no details given about what those issues were. Ticket Master announced the cancellation hours before the show. Refunds will be issued to all those disappointed fans out there.

He is the man behind some of the music industry's biggest hits, but it's the darker side to Phil Spector's story that is headed to the small screen. Why it's already generating plenty of controversy.


HENDRICKS: Next weekend's debut of the new HBO movie "Phil Spector" is bringing with it protests and plenty of controversy. The crime biopic stars high profile actors Al Pacino and Helen Mirren. Take a look.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did you kill Lana Clarkson?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why would I kill that girl? Why?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You're going to jail for the rest of your life.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've played this game a million times before. I know how the game is played!


HENDRICKS: Talented actors involve Pacino, of course, playing the music genius and convicted murder Phil Spector. Spector shot and killed aspiring actress Lana Clarkson inside his mansion back in 2003. Spector has always maintained that Clarkson killed herself. Joining me now are Alan Jackson, the prosecutor who helped convict Spector, and former prosecutor Beth Karas. She covered the trial. Great to talk to you both.



HENDRICKS: Beth, I want to start with you. Lana's publicist tells the "Hollywood Reporter," "To see that film was going to be made was a slap in the face, we were so happy that Phil Spector was in prison." Beth, why do you think this group is so mad about this picture, this movie? KARAS: Well, it's because the movie takes literary license, they have a right to do that, but they portray Lana Clarkson's death as a suicide, not a murder. And that was the defense in the case. That's the defense that the jury outright, flat out rejected. And nothing in this movie is going to affect the integrity of the evidence and that verdict that sent Phil Spector to prison for the rest of his life.

HENDRICKS: And Alan, I want to get your take on this. Phil Spector's life was on Piers Morgan last night, and we're going to listen.


RACHELLE, SPECTOR, PHIL SPECTOR'S WIFE: But I will say the one thing that was accurately depicted through the film and was reiterated was the fact that Lana Clarkson was loaded on pills and alcohol, was in a very desperate and bad mental state, and killed herself. So at the end they actually showed forensic evidence that supports that.


HENDRICKS: By the way, they got married after the fact. So Alan, what do you think about that? Your thoughts?

JACKSON: Well, I think it's ridiculous. Look, Rachelle's got a dog in the fight as it were. But if David Mamet was attempting through this film poke holes in the integrity of the case, I've got to say bless his heart, he should stick to entertainment, because he couldn't find a hole if he stepped in one.

Other than -- the treatment in this film was almost childlike. Other than playing dress-up with Al Pacino, everything else in the film was complete fantasy. And he seems to work in this fiction fantasy and fairy tale world and in the court of law, we work in fact, we trade in fact. The facts are undisputed, the scientific evidence, the circumstantial evidence established beyond a reasonable doubt to a jury of his peers that Phil Spector put a gun in Lana Clarkson's mouth and killed her on February 3rd. That is uncontroverted.

HENDRICKS: Yes, I think both sides don't like this movie no matter what they believe. Alan, during the trial your opening statement, I believe you said Lana was murdered twice when she was killed and during the trial with her character assassination. A review on this movie, is he successful in introducing doubt? I know you believe that he killed Lana, but there are people out there who believe that she was under the influence of alcohol and pills and killed herself. Your response to that?

JACKSON: The evidence couldn't be more clear. The evidence could not be more straightforward. David Mamet ignored basically everything that was presented in the trial that was based in fact. Again, the movie and I saw the movie -- I've seen a screening of it, a cut of it last night. It's just complete fantasy.

And I think it goes beyond just being irresponsible. I think it's offensive. It's offensive to the memory of Lana Clarkson, it's offensive to the family of the victim. There are four or five things that David Mamet and the production just completely ignored. The relative positions between Phil Spector and Lana Clarkson showed she could not have held the gun. Her hands had to be outstretched like this, her palms away from her. She could not have fired the gun herself.

Number two, he never called for help. He had an opportunity to call 911 during a 45-minute period before the police got there, not one time did he reach for a phone. Three phones were within 10 feet of him. Number three, he tried to stage the crime scene. He clearly got rid of his jacket, tried to wipe the gun down, placed the gun under her feet.

Number four, he walked outside and said "I think I killed somebody" within seconds of the gun going off. He literally had the smoking gun in his hand and said "I think I killed somebody." He confessed to it.

And finally, the best indicator of what someone's going to do in the future is what they've done in the past. And for 30 years, Susan, for 30 years Phil Spector has been putting guns in women's faces and threatening to kill them. Lana Clarkson on February 3rd simply got the bullet.

HENDRICKS: Wow. And Beth, during this trial, I know you covered it. Was there a lot of speculation maybe as to why did they know of his abusive past? His alleged abusive past, Beth?

KARAS: Oh, yes. And there was a lot of litigation Alan was involved in before trial to have the jury here to get some of these prior acts admitted. And the jury did hear from five of these women in his case in chief and in his rebuttal case. They heard from these women who had guns held to their heads who feared that the gun was loaded and that he might actually pull the trigger. And as Alan just said, Lana Clarkson is the one who got the bullet.

HENDRICKS: Alan, what was the thrill you found when trying this case that he did that? What was it? Because I guess the question when you think about this crime is why would he do this? What was the motive to kill her?

JACKSON: I don't know that he had a motive to kill her. I think he had a motive to scare her. I think he had a motive to bully her. I think he had a motive to intimidate her. It was never my theory and I never propounded the theory he put the gun to her face in order to kill her. That would have been first-degree murder. He was convicted of second- degree murder.

I believe his motivation was to bully her to overcome -- look, there was a recipe involved. Every single time he's historically gotten drunk, amorous and gotten rebuffed by a woman he was interested in, he turns to violence, he pulls a gun. I think that's exactly what happened in this case. He'd been drinking all night long. He found a beautiful young woman that he was interested in, invited her back to his place under the auspices of helping her career. She went to his Alhambra mansion having no idea was his violent propensities were and when she rebuffed his advances, he pulled the gun and put the gun in her face. A struggle ensued, and it doesn't take much for the gun to go off, and that's exactly what happened.

HENDRICKS: Such a tragic loss. Appreciate your time. Thank you.

JACKSON: Of course.

HENDRICKS: Coming up, investigators try to figure out why a small plane crashed in the Ft. Lauderdale parking lot killing three people.

Also, the latest in the search for a missing young teacher in New Orleans, what is being done to aid in the search.


HENDRICKS: Investigators are looking into what caused this, a deadly plane crash in Ft. Lauderdale. Three people died yesterday when that twin engine aircraft went down in a parking lot shortly after takeoff. That is the aftermath. The crash shook nearby buildings and sparked a fire that engulfed several parked cars. Here's what witnesses saw.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I couldn't even describe it. It was a sound I've never heard before.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It went straight down into the ground and it was boom and explosion.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You see the plane just sideways. And then it just goes just behind the building and then you just hear the --


HENDRICKS: Remarkably no one on the ground was hurt. Officials say the plane hit a tree and a fence before slamming into seven vehicles and a boat.

To New Orleans now where there is no sign of Terrilyn Monette. A Houston search firm is bringing in more sophisticated sonar equipment to comb that area's waterways on Monday. CNN's Nick Valencia is in New Orleans. And Nick, what are people saying about their efforts to find Terrilyn?

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Police aren't saying anything publically, at least, other than to say they have no new information and no new leads. As you mentioned, Susan, today is exactly two weeks since she was last spotted. Surveillance cameras caught her leaving the bar in the Lake View area of New Orleans around 4:00 a.m., and that's the last anyone has seen her.

In fact, we attended a prayer vigil outside of that bar where organizers were passing out these missing signs, and at least in the area where she went missing, Susan, these signs are everywhere.

In terms of the search, they're concentrating the search in a nearby park. Police think she might have used that path on her way home. But there's just no telling the investigation and search will continue throughout the weekend. You mentioned Equisearch, the Texas based search and rescue team have been using sonar equipment to comb the waterways and the bayous in and around that area. So far that serge hasn't turned up anything at all.

On Sunday, tomorrow they'll bring in more high-powered sonar device that's going to allow them to check a wider area at faster pace. This sonar device can look as far down as 1,000 feet and identify a coke can. The bayous around that area are only about 6 feet in the deepest portions, but still, having said that, they haven't been able to turn up any new leads or information or signs of Monette.

HENDRICKS: I know her mom has spoken out publicly, literally crying and pleading on camera, and also her students are lost without her. Also, I understand discoveries were made in certain bayous, but, Nick, they're not connected to her disappearance.

VALENCIA: No, that's right, Susan. They are not connected at all about at least eight cars were found in a bayou, but those cars were probably there since hurricane Katrina. They don't match the description at all that black two-door Honda, the 2012 Honda that she was last seen driving in.

Also, it's worth noting in an unrelated case yesterday, the New Orleans police department told us that a body washed ashore in the industrial canal. No details on that but we do know that has nothing to do with the investigation.

You mentioned the mother, it's just a terrible tragedy for this family and she was here in our bureau, in our New Orleans bureau yesterday talking about how frustrated she was. In most missing persons cases, there's that 24-hour rule by police department that they don't conduct a search within that first period. She thinks if police have conducted searches that maybe there might be leads as to the whereabouts of Terrilyn Monette. She's very, very frustrated right now and no answers for this family. There are not answers for this family which is growing increasingly frustrated.

HENDRICKS: And our thoughts are with them. Nick Valencia, thanks so much from New Orleans.

Getting conservatives energized again. Mitt Romney offers his advice on this, saying Chris Christie may be the guy to follow. But CPAC organizers apparently don't agree. Maria Cordona and Amy Holmes weigh in on the CPAC snub, next.


HENDRICKS: Welcome back, everyone. I'm Susan Hendricks in for Randi Kayte. And here are the five stories we are watching for you this morning.

Number one, the Pentagon is expanding the missile defense network on the west coast in response to threats from North Korea. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel says that could spend as much $1 billion on the expansion. North Korea test fired two short-range missiles this morning. Number two, rapper Lil Wayne is recovering after having a seizure, his record label fought back against reports he was in a medically induced coma and near death. Lil Wayne tweeted last night saying this, "I'm good, everybody. Thanks for the prayers and love." His friend and fellow rapper Drake came to visit him in L.A. and set up a vigil outside of his room inside the hospital.

Number three, the most influential celebrity of the year is Oprah. "Forbes" magazine crowned her with the honor for the second straight year. She beat out names like Steven Spielberg and Clint Eastwood, as well. And 48 percent of people surveyed rated Oprah as influential, down from one point last year.

Number four, people aboard a Greyhound bus to New York say a swarm of roaches came crawling out of the air vents and infested the bus.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I sat down, roaches started crawling up on our clothes, falling out the ceiling, everything.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just like 1,000 roaches. When I say infested, I mean infested.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The man had roaches on his coat. The lady had a roach on her hat. It was just terrible.


HENDRICKS: That'll make you cringe. The bus driver pulled over and another bus got the passengers. Greyhound said we're sorry and refunded the passengers and is investigating how the roaches got in there in the first place.

Number five, Sarah Palin is the main attraction at the Conservative Political Action Conference today. She's slated to speak at noontime. Also on tap for today is the annual CPAC straw poll. For the last six years it was won by either Mitt Romney or Ron Paul, but this year we're guaranteed to get a new pick for party flag bearer.

And here are some of the highlights, speaking of, from yesterday at CPAC.


MITCH MCCONNELL, (R-KY) SENATE MINORITY LEADER: I know folks have a lot of opinions about what happened in November. But, seriously, how many conferences and lunch panels do we really need to have about it? I'm starting to wonder if the caters union is behind it.

DONALD TRUMP, ENTREPRENEUR: Anybody who is a member of my club, I love. Maybe President Obama should join one of my clubs, I would love it.

REP. PAUL RYAN, (R) WISCONSIN: The Senate, they call their budget a foundation for growth, restoring the promise of American opportunity. Wow, I feel like saluting already. But when you read it, you find that the Vatican's not the only place blowing smoke this week.

WAYNE LAPIERRE, VICE PRESIDENT, NRA: The one thing a violent rapist deserves to face is a good woman with a gun.


HENDRICKS: Joining me now our CNN contributor Maria Cardona and Amy Holmes, anchor of "Real News" on "The Blaze." Great to talk to you both.


HENDRICKS: Mitt Romney spoke yesterday and said that the GOP needs to learn from their governors, names like Bob McDonnell also New Jersey Chris Christie, neither of whom, by the way, were invited to CPAC. Are you shocked he brought up those two names? Amy, I'll start with you.

AMY HOLMES, ANCHOR, "REAL NEWS" ON "THE BLAZE": I'm not, and I'm glad he did. But I also notice that Bob McDonnell and Chris Christie are getting as much mileage as not being invited as if they had shown up and given a speech.

I think there's something important to understand about CPAC that the mainstream media really doesn't tell its audience, which is CPAC is really a youth event. It's packed to the rafters with young people who have come from all over the country to hear these folks speak, touch on politics and policy. And to the extent that CPAC is influential, it's for rising stars to be able to make their names on that stage and get young people really excited, you know, about the conservative movement more so than having to do with the GOP.

HENDRICKS: Maria, what are your thoughts on that? And is Donald Trump a rising star or already a star?

CARDONA: It is all right. I think it's kind of a joke, frankly, and the fact he was one of the headliners at CPAC I think underscores the fact they should not be the organization that the Republican Party looks to in terms of giving them a formula to win. And the fact they did not invite governors who did know how to win in more moderate states like McDonnell and like Christie, I think underscores that.

Now, it is a place, certainly, for rising stars to make their mark in the conservative movement. But when you have people like Donald Trump and when you underscore people like Sarah Palin with the overall population and especially the growing demographics in this country that the Republican Party needs to attract more of in order to win, it certainly does not underscore seriousness to get to the White House or to win as a national political party.

HENDRICKS: Amy, I want your thoughts on this one.

HOLMES: I think that's the mistake to think that CPAC is an organization that's meant to be political and explicitly partisan and about elections. Certainly there was a lot of conversation about elections and you did see GOP stars on that stage. I think where CPAC made the mistake with Donald Trump is believing that his celebrity would draw these young people to come listen to him. And in fact, turned out the room was half empty. These folks -- and we're talking about college-aged kids. They want to go and hear meaty discussions about conservatism. And they don't support necessarily Republicans, they would call themselves independent. This is really a movement event. Not a partisan party-based one.

HENDRICKS: Amy, do we think it's time we move on, though? Mitch McConnell is tired of hearing about 2012 and talking about the GOP failures. Is he right? Should we move on from that?

HOLMES: Absolutely, and CPAC is a place you would hope some of that would happen, about having policy discussions about moving our country forward, conservative solutions to a lot of our social, economic, national security issues. And there were panels all through these days in Washington, D.C. to address those very things. I think CPAC made a big mistake by not including Go Proud and Log Cabin Republicans to be a part of that conversation. Hopefully it's something they'll rectify for next year.

HENDRICKS: Maria, I want to talk about Wayne LaPierre quickly here. He had a prime speaking spot. Should that be a message that no Republicans will ever vote for any means of gun control? Your thoughts on that?

CARDONA: Well, I think it should be more of a message to voters in this country that a political party, and I know that Amy keeps talking about how CPAC is not focused on Republicans or political politics. That's right. But you can't get away from the fact that it is -- it is part in parcel of the GOP, of the Republican Party.

And so when you have people like Wayne LaPierre speaking at this, it's clearly a message from the NRA warning Republicans they should not focus on any type of gun violence priorities or legislation. And I think what it tells the American people is, once again, that these are leaders, call them Republican leaders, call them conservative leaders, whatever you want, but these are not leaders that are in tune with where the majority of Americans are. The majority of Americans want sensible gun violence legislation so that -- so that all of the gun violence that we have seen in the past several years doesn't happen again or at least there is a dent in there. And -- people like Wayne LaPierre who are focusing on zero solutions is not the way to get there.

HOLMES: Very quickly, Harry Reid is endorsed by the NRA. Wayne LaPierre campaigned on behalf of Harry Reid. The NRA is not a partisan organization. It is an organization for second amendment advocates. And you can find them, actually, on the other side of the aisle with very explicit NRA support. Again, we need to get away --

CARDONA: And the majority of NRA members also support sensible gun legislation.

HENDRICKS: It certainly sparks enthusiastic conversation on both sides. Maria Cardona and Amy Holmes, thanks again. Great to talk to you again both always.

I do want to share a light moment from CPAC's first day. It was back and forth with Paul Begala and Tucker Carlson. The issue of Hillary Clinton came up, and Begala, a Democratic strategist and friend of the Clintons was asked if she was going to run in 2016. Listen to the response.


PAUL BEGALA, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I have no idea if she will. I think she's actually going to first, like live a life, write her book, reacquaint herself with the real world having been traveling the world, but I think this is really -- no, not get a facelift, she's not a Republican society lady. She's a real woman.


HENDRICKS: Oh, that apparently did not end the Clinton attacks. Yesterday during his speech Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell joked he couldn't consider the Democrats as the party of the future because their 2016 ticket with Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden would be just like the golden girls. Can't we just get along?

For much more news from inside and outside the beltway, we want to remind you that CNN chief Washington Correspondent Jake Tapper has a new show. "The Lead with Jake Tapper" makes its debut this coming Monday, March 18, 4:00 p.m. eastern.

And coming up next, this story and the little boy behind this viral video -- this little guy is just four years old and he certainly is inspiring everyone with his remarkable spirit. Gavin Stevens and his parents join me next.


HENDRICKS: We are all guilty of it to some extent, taking the simple things in life for granted every day. But one four-year-old California boy could change your outlook on life, and it's all because this viral video. Take a look.


JENNIFER STEVENS, GAVIN'S MOTHER: Come on, find the curb.


JENNIFER STEVENS: Find it. You got it. You got it.

GAVIN STEVENS: I can do it.

JENNIFER STEVENS: You can do it.

GAVIN STEVENS: I can do it.

JENNIFER STEVENS: You can do it, baby, go ahead. You're safe. Good job. You got it. Turn. Good job. I'm so proud of you. (END VIDEO CLIP)

HENDRICKS: That is Gavin Stevens. He was diagnosed with an extremely rare retina disorder in 2009 at just six months old left him nearly blind with no cure. But there's no stopping Gavin and his passion to live his life like any other kid, to challenge himself one small step at a time. His mom Jennifer documented this major steppingstone in Gavin's growth last week conquering his fear of curbs. The video has inspired thousands of people all over, including myself. We wanted to invite them on our show to share their story.

Joining me now four-year-old Gavin along with his parents Jennifer and Troy. Thank you all for being here.

JENNIFER STEVENS: Thank you, Susan.

TROY STEVENS, GAVIN'S FATHER: Thanks for having us.

GAVIN STEVENS: Thank you, Susan.

HENDRICKS: Gavin, way to go, how did you feel making it over that curb?


HENDRICKS: Were you a little bit afraid?


HENDRICKS: What made you finally in your mind think I can do this? Did your mom help you out?

GAVIN STEVENS: I did it by myself.

HENDRICKS: Wow. And we saw it firsthand. Jennifer, the moment you captured there is beyond inspiring. I tear up when I see it. Was it hard for you, Jennifer to hold back and not assist your son down the curb?

JENNIFER STEVENS: Yes. Originally, I did -- I was holding his hands because he hadn't really gone down that curb particularly. That's the curb out of his school. He had not gone down that independently. And so I was holding his hand and that day he told me, no, I can do it. He literally pushed me away and I said, OK. So I grabbed my camera and I shot that video.

HENDRICKS: Well, it is touching, and I love when he says I can do it, I can do it. Troy, as his father, tell me about how it's been on the family and also explain the genetic eye disorder. How rare is it?

TROY STEVENS: Well, the eye disorder itself is very rare. There's only 3,000 people in the country that have LACE. And even more rare in Gavin's gene mutation, there's only about 150 cases of it in the nation. So it's very rare.

HENDRICKS: And Jennifer, you and troy have been raising money for research that could lead to a possible cure. Talk to me about the foundation. I love the name, by the way, Gavin's Groupies. Tell us about that.

JENNIFER STEVENS: Thank you. Yes, our Gavin's groupies are basically all of our supporters and our friends and family. Hi, guys. The Gavin R. Stevens Foundation, we started it because we felt we need to do something and need to heal. And the only way to do that is just spread awareness there's a very rare condition that affects our son and get the name out there and try to just do the best we can with the situation we were dealt with and try to make the best of it.

And so we're just fund raising and fund raising and fund raising with hopes that we can be in a clinical trial for this particular gene and for it in general. There's children and individuals who live with this. And we're doing this all for them, as well.

HENDRICKS: I'll put it on my Facebook page and tweet it, as well. Gavin, I understand you're a singer and you like to play the piano is that right, Gavin?


HENDRICKS: Well, you're good at it too. We're going to hear some of your singing right here.




HENDRICKS: Is that Bruno Mars, Gavin? Is that one of your favorites?


HENDRICKS: Who else do you like? Do you like playing the piano, Gavin? He's really good at it too.


JENNIFER STEVENS: He's listening to the piano.

HENDRICKS: How did he get into music, Jennifer?

JENNIFER STEVENS: You know, basically -- when he was months old -- I mean weeks old, I think, he just music was just -- he would hear music and a different side of our boy would come to life. I can't even put it into words. We -- it would make him happy, he would lay on the floor as a baby and just kick his feet. He couldn't even talk. And, you know, punched his little arms in the air and just wiggle around as a baby and it's continued to be his passion. He absolutely loves music. It's his life.

HENDRICKS: Gavin, is that what you want to do when you get older? Would you like to sing more and pursue a career maybe?


HENDRICKS: Well, you're off to a great start. It was great meeting all of you. And again, we hope that we can bring some knowledge to the general public about this so you can raise the funds that are needed. And Gavin is such an inspiration.


HENDRICKS: Jennifer, Troy, and Gavin, great to talk to you, nice to meet you. I'm sorry?

GAVIN STEVENS: Are you home?

HENDRICKS: I'm going home soon.


HENDRICKS: Gavin, nice to meet you. Good job, by the way.

JENNIFER STEVENS: Say "thank you."


JENNIFER STEVENS: Thank you, Susan. We appreciate it.

HENDRICKS: He's the cutest. We appreciate it too for coming on.

Well, a must-see Friday night slam dunk and a big loss that could change how your March madness bracket looks. That's next.


HENDRICKS: March Madness kicks off tomorrow with Selection Sunday, meaning Duke's big loss last night in the ACC tournament came at a pretty bad time for the Blue Devils. Joe Carter joins me now. And Joe, could the early exit affect how high duke gets seed?

JOE CARTER, CNN SPORTS ANCHOR: I know many think duke should be the number one overall seed, but getting bounced in the first round really hurts that cause. But I think they'll be the number one seed, at least, in the tournament. A lot of people think this team can win it all. And obviously if they play like they did yesterday, they have no shot at winning it all.

But the positive, I guess, getting knocked out after one round, they'll have one week to rest. As far as Maryland goes, the team that beat them yesterday, they are a bubble team, they need to win the ACC tournament or make it to the finals for a spot in the NCAA tournament. If they play in North Carolina today, it's going to be a tough game for them. The winner goes to the ACC finals. Longtime rival Syracuse and Georgetown, they play their final game against one another yesterday. They're going to the ACC next year, they'll play with Duke and North Carolina.

These two schools, these two programs have battled it out for decades and, of course, this game as it should go to script went to overtime. They move on to the big east championship game tonight, they'll play Louisville tonight.

And in my opinion, best dunk of the year, a lot of people saying best dunk of the conference tournament, Victor Oladipo, the 360 slam, this guy is actually a defensive player, the Big Ten defensive player of the year, he's clearly got game. They'll play Wisconsin later today, the winner goes to the big ten championship tomorrow.

A lot of people that otherwise wouldn't pay attention to college basketball all of a sudden are interested with their brackets, walking around, working with their brackets filling them out. An estimated $2.5 billion is wagered on March Madness. A lot of that is obviously done in illegal gambling and office pools and it's tolerated because it's small wagering, but my advice, go with your gut.

HENDRICKS: What's the system? Kind of close your eyes --

CARTER: There is no system. If you ask a friend, pick a mascot.

HENDRICKS: Home field advantage meaning the closest team to the -- he was trying to teach me. I think I'll close my eyes and pick.

CARTER: That's a good strategy.

HENDRICKS: Joe Carter, thanks so much. Appreciate it.

And for you college basketball fans, as NCAA March Madness kicks off this weekend, you can test your bracket skills against CNN anchors, go to and see if you can pick the NCAA bracket better than our CNN anchors.

Off the coast of Seattle, Washington, you've got to see this video. A few sea lion pups decided to hop on and take over a wind surfing board. The owner mounted the camera to catch it all, and he did as these stubborn little guys fought for space and struggled to stay on.

If prosthetic limbs can be made for people, why not animals? Meet an alligator with a new three-foot-long prosthetic tail at a reptile preserve in Arizona. His real tail was bitten off by another gator when he was a baby. It is believed to be the first time scientists have designed a rubber tail for a gator. A lot of science went into this, and his handlers say it could take up to six months for Mr. Stubs to learn how to use his new tail.

Thanks so much for watching. There is much more ahead in the next hour of CNN SATURDAY MORNING, which begins after a quick break.