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Social Media Convicts Teen Rapists; A Republican-Style Makeover; U.S. Markets Brace for Lower Open; March Madness is Here; Winter Blast Across Midwest, East; Pope Francis Winning over the Faithful

Aired March 18, 2013 - 09:00   ET

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


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Jon Secada is going to join us. Military veteran and actor Dario Martinez will be our guest as well.

"CNN NEWSROOM" with Carol Costello begins right now.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now in the NEWSROOM, breaking overnight. A small jet cut in half, crashes into an Indiana neighborhood.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My roof is caved in, there was glass everywhere.

COSTELLO: Two are dead and a town left reeling this morning.

Also, what's a name worth?

REINCE PRIEBUS, RNC CHAIRMAN: Across the country, from coast to coast --

COSTELLO: Happening this morning, new initiatives from Republicans.

PRIEBUS: And Hispanic, African-American, Asian communities.

COSTELLO: The heart of the party and the heart of the problem, rebranding the GOP.

Plus, market watch. The Dow up 8 percent for the year. We're tracking your money.

And the heat, LeBron and company Boston-bound. The court red hot and ready as CNN's bracket challenge goes for the three-pointer. March Madness is here.

You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.

Good morning. Thank you so much for being with me. I'm Carol Costello. We begin this morning with the story about the cruelty of two cultures. The voyeurism of social media and the idle worship of high school sports stars.

Today Trent Mays and Ma'lik Richmond begin their first full day of serving their sentences in juvenile detention. A judge in Steubenville, Ohio, found the football players guilty of raping a drunk 16-year-old girl and then celebrating her assault on social media. Prosecutors say those postings first alerted the victim to what really happened while she was passed out. And they used that evidence to expose the privileged lives of sports stars in small towns.

And the state's top prosecutor, he's calling for a gland jury to take another look at the case to make sure the whole truth has been exposed.

CNN's Poppy Harlow has more for you.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

POPPY HARLOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The mother of the 16- year-old victim spoke out for the first time since Trent Mays and Ma'lik Richmond raped her daughter saying this after court ended.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It did not matter what school you went to, what city you lived in or what sports you've played. Human compassion is not taught by a teacher, a coach or a parent. It is a God-given gift instilled in all of us.

You displayed not only a lack of this compassion, but a lack of any moral code. Your decisions that night affected countless lives including those most dear to you. You were your own accuser through the social media that you chose to publish your criminal conduct on.

This does not define who my daughter is. She will persevere, grow and move on. I have pity for you both. I hope you fear the Lord, repent for your actions and pray hard for his forgiveness.

HARLOW: The convicted rapists, both teenage boy, showing remorse after being found guilty.

TRENT MAYS, DEFENDANT: I would truly like to apologize to (bleep), her family, my family, and the community.

MA'LIK RICHMOND, DEFENDANT: I would like to apologize to you, too. I had no intentions of doing anything like that, and I'm sorry to put you guys through this. I'd just like to -- I just want you it know that I'm sorry.

HARLOW: The 16-year-old girl was raped during a series of late-night parties in August when she was drunk.

JUDGE THOMAS LIPPS, JUVENILE COURT: The court is able to view the demeanor of the witnesses, judge their credibility, and weigh the evidence presented to the court. The court has done so in this case and it is the court's decision that both of the defendants are hereby adjudicated delinquent beyond a reasonable doubt on all three counts as charged.

HARLOW: Ma'lik Richmond sentenced to a minimum of one year in a juvenile correction facility for rape. Trent Mays to a minimum of two years guilty of rape and of taking and distributing an illegal nude photograph of the victim. Both Mays and Richmond will also have to register as juvenile sex offenders. Prosecutors said the girl was so intoxicated she wasn't capable of consenting to anything.

MARIANNA HEMMETER, PROSECUTOR, OHIO ATTORNEY GENERAL'S OFFICE: 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.

HARLOW: Eyewitness testimony from three teenage boys, all friends of Mays and Richmond, and all granted immunity from criminal prosecution, was damaging. One witness saying he videotaped Mays performing a sexual act on the girl during a car ride between parties. Two others testified they saw Richmond do the same later that night while she was lying naked on the floor. In a state of Ohio, this act performed without consent constitutes rape.

MIKE DEWINE, OHIO ATTORNEY GENERAL: There seems to be unbelievable casualness about rape and about sex. It's a cavalier attitude. A belief that somehow there isn't anything wrong with any of this.

HARLOW: Text messages, tweets and photos were at the center of the trial. Fellow teens vulgarly joked about the rape. "Song of the night is definitely 'Rape Me' by Nirvana."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, what if that was your daughter?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But it isn't. If that was my daughter, I wouldn't care. I'd just let her be dead.

HARLOW: Witnesses read text messages including this one about the victim from Trent Mays to a friend. "Yes, dude, she was like a dead body. I just needed some sexual attention."

There was no jury. This was a bench trial with visiting Judge Thomas Lipps rendering the verdict because this was a juvenile case.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COSTELLO: And Poppy Harlow joins us live from Steubenville.

Let's talk a little bit about Mike DeWine, the Ohio attorney general. He's going to present this case to the grand jury. What does he hope to find?

HARLOW: Well, he wants to make sure that, as he put it yesterday in the press conference after this verdict came down here Steubenville that every stone is overturned and nothing is left uncovered in this. The Ohio attorney general's office has prosecuted this successfully.

It is concerned because 16 people that they tried to interview in this investigation leading up to the trial refused to talk to them. So by convening this grand jury in mid-April, they said indictments could be filed, charges could be made, or they may not. But they want to make sure they at least go through the process fully here in the community. In terms of what they're looking for, he wouldn't name specifically, but he did mention possibly tampering with evidence, you know, that cell phone video that was taken testified to being taken of the rape, that was deleted. So possibly tampering with evidence. Other charges. He said there is no limit to what the Ohio attorney general's office will look at in this -- Carol.

COSTELLO: It's not over yet then. Poppy Harlow reporting live from Steubenville, Ohio, today.

We're going to continue to follow this story all day. Later this hour, I'll be talking with clinical psychologist Dr. Jeff Gardere as well as Katie Hannah of the Ohio Alliance to End Sexual Violence. And in the next hour of NEWSROOM, we're going to talk to the Ohio attorney general, Mike DeWine.

Other stories we're following this morning, morning classes have been canceled at the University of Central Florida after homemade bombs were discovered inside a dorm. The bombs along with an assault rifle were found after a man there committed suicide. We're still waiting to find out if the victim was a student.

The explosives forced 500 students to be evacuated from their dorm last night.

Residents of an Indiana neighborhood have not been allowed back home after a corporate jet slammed into several homes. The plane was carrying four people when it crashed into a row of homes in South Bend last night. Two people on board that plane were killed. Three homes were damaged.

The jet was circling to land after failing the first time when it crashed. That's when those inside got out.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My roof just caved in, there was glass everywhere. I just grabbed my son and got him some clothes and we ran out.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSTELLO: Fifty homes are still evacuated over concerns about gas leaks. All gas and electricity shut off in the area.

The Tennessee National Guard now helping crews fight a massive wildfire in the popular mountain resort city of Pigeon Forge. Two helicopters are being used to drop water on the planes. More than 30 cabins have already been damaged since the wildfires started Sunday. So far about 150 people have been evacuated.

Just call it a makeover. GOP style. The Grand Old Party, the Republican Party, is ready to spend $10 million to rebrand, refocus and reach out to minority voters coast to coast.

RNC chairman Reince Priebus focused on the problem his party needs to solve. Here's part of what he had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PRIEBUS: There is no one reason we lost. Our message was weak. Our ground game was insufficient. We weren't inclusive. We're -- we were behind in both data and digital. And our primary and debate process needed improvement.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSTELLO: CNN's political director Mark Preston has just stepped out of the room where this announcement took place.

So, Mark, what else are you hearing?

MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Well, you know, Carol, this is a major if not controversial step by Republican Party leaders. There certainly is an acknowledgment within the Republican Party that they needed to do more to get younger voters, black voters, Hispanic voters, Asian American voters, women voters, just basically every type of voter besides white voters.

But where it gets a little sticky and where could become controversial is that they're talking about a more inclusive party, specifically being more tolerant to gay Republicans which we have not seen in past years.

This could be specifically controversial, Carol, when you're talking about social conservatives who do have a lot of sway in the party. They're the ones who do put the boots on the ground. So while this report will be seen favorably by many in the Republican Party, there are also going to be those who are opposed.

COSTELLO: Sarah Palin, she was popular with the young crowds at CPAC, that large conservative gathering, that influential gathering over the weekend. Listen to what Sarah Palin said to the young crowd.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SARAH PALIN (R), FORMER VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Bloomberg is the not around our big old stage. 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? Yes, you young college Republicans, especially you, who went Greek.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSTELLO: OK, Mark, as you heard, this young crowd loves Sarah Palin. I mean, does that present a dilemma for this new messaging that the Republican Party wants to getting across? Because Sarah Palin seems to represent the old way.

PRESTON: Well, she does, but you know she is a crowd pleaser. And that was definitely her forum, that's the Conservative Political Action Conference which just wrapped about 48 hours ago.

And, you know, Carol, as I said at the top there, that's where we're going to see some problems with conservatives, social conservatives, who are not very happy about the idea of being a broader tent party than what it is right now.

But I've got to tell you this, Carol, as well, Sarah Palin did sneak a line in there that said basically we don't have to agree with everybody who wants to be in the party, as long as they're with us on most of the issues. The big question moving forward now is, can the Republican Party rally behind these new changes.

COSTELLO: Mark Preston reporting live for us this morning.

(LAUGHTER)

I was waiting before it came up. The Opening Bell just about 20 minutes away. And it's already looking like it could be a rough day for the markets.

Alison Kosik joins me from New York.

So the big rally is officially over for now at least.

ALISON KOSIK, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Oh, yes. Especially with what happened overnight. If over night is any indication it's going to be a rough day on Wall Street today. Asian markets tumbled 1 to 2 percent and it's all about this tiny little island country of Cyprus. It's located south of Turkey and it's the latest country in Europe Carol, that needs a bailout.

But this is going to be watched very closely because there is a condition to get its $13 billion bailout, that's especially controversial, because if this proposal that lawmakers are considering, if it passes, those who have bank accounts in Cyprus would be taxed one time on their deposits. So if someone has, say, an account with $129,000 or less, they would have to fork over almost $9,000. That's a 6.7 percent tax.

People who live there, as you can imagine, they're really nervous about this tax. And over the weekend, many rushed to withdraw their money out of the bank. This is what's unnerving the markets right now. About 15 minutes before the Opening Bell -- Carol.

COSTELLO: All right. Alison Kosik live at the New York Stock Exchange.

It's 22 and counting for the Miami Heat, the reining NBA champs beat Toronto yesterday, that tied a league record for the second most consecutive wins. The 1971-'72 L.A. Lakers hold the all-time record of 33 wins in a row. The Heat will try to extend their streak in Boston tonight where the Celtics have their own run going, 11 straight home wins.

Another Miami basketball team is also on a roll, though. The University of Miami Hurricanes beat North Carolina to become Atlantic Coast Conference champs and advance to the NCAA tournament. Sixty- seven other teams are in the big dance which tips off tomorrow. That means it's time to fill out those brackets.

Carlos Diaz of HLN Sports is checking a huge one here in the CNN center.

(LAUGHTER)

Wow, Carlos.

(MUSIC)

CARLOS DIAZ, HLN SPORTS: That's right, Carol. We're down here -- OK, hold on. OK. Easy, easy, easy, easy, easy. Because, yes, we're having -- it's a live shot here on CNN and they're not wearing Indiana colors, they're wearing CNN colors, all right? That's what I want to make sure here.

But, yes, we're down here, Carol, for March Madness and we have the biggest bracket you have ever seen in your life down here.

Let's go over some of the number one seeds that we have. Louisville, the number one seed overall in the NCAA tournament after winning the Big East Tournament over the weekend. Then you've got Indiana, the Indiana Hoosiers. They're the number one team in the east. The number one team in the south, the Kansas Jayhawks, and number one out west, Gonzaga. Number one team out west.

Now there are a few surprises, if you will. Kentucky, the national champions from last year, not in it again this year. It's the only second time in the last 22 years -- stop laughing.

(LAUGHTER)

DIAZ: The Indiana fans, they're laughing the rivalry between Indiana and Kentucky

Only second time in 22 years Kentucky has not been in the big dance.

And then, of course, the most interesting story. St. Louis, after winning the Atlantic 10 Conference Championship yesterday in Brooklyn, they couldn't get to the airport fast enough to see the selection show because they were stuck in traffic. So they had to stop by a Best Buy in New Jersey to watch the selection show from a Best Buy in New Jersey. A great story there.

All right. So I got to ask you, do you think Indiana will do well this year in the tournament?

CROWD: Yes!

DIAZ: And full disclosure, Carol, I went to I.U. and these guys made me a little poster here. I have my own fat head. It's -- because high head's all fat and the body is actually thin. They put it on head actual size, body not so much.

Carol, back to you.

Go Hoosiers!

(CHEERS)

COSTELLO: Carlos Diaz, thanks as always.

I'm sure you're ready for March Madness, but you can test your bracket skills against mine and other CNN anchors in our official NCAA March Madness Bracket Challenge Game. Go to CNN.com/bracket. Join the CNN group to see if you can pick the NCAA bracket better than moi.

Coming up next, a strong winter storm slams the Midwest. Where the heck is spring? We'll tell you after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COSTELLO: It's 19 minutes past the hour. Time to check our top stories today.

President Obama plans to announce he's nominating an assistant attorney general to become the nation's next labor secretary. That will happen around 11:40 a.m. Eastern this morning.

Thomas Perez currently heads the civil rights division for the Justice Department. Before joining the Justice Department, Perez led Maryland's Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation.

Spring may soon be here, but winter's fury is sticking around for now. Snow, ice and severe storms in the forecast for much of the eastern half of the country.

Meteorologist Jennifer Delgado is here.

At least we won't be in misery alone.

JENNIFER DELGADO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: That's right. We are going to be enjoying the rain. But some areas right now are already dealing with severe weather out there. As we look at the radar right now, we do have a tornado warning in place for parts of middle Tennessee, and that is going to be in place until 9:00 a.m. Eastern Time.

On a wider view, now what's happening, a severe thunderstorm watch. You can see all these storms with the lightning just firing up through parts of Kentucky, Tennessee. Now, that's going to be good news for those areas that are recovering from the wildfires that were burning yesterday.

But for this afternoon, we do have a risk for severe storms anywhere from Mississippi, all the way up towards Kentucky. And some of these storms, of course, could produce some large hail. You're already seeing reports of some damaging winds and can't rule out the possibility of an isolated tornado.

So that's what you expect out of spring, right? But snow is still coming down through parts of the Northern Plains. Look what's happening there, a lot of snow, a heavy band moving through parts of Minnesota. And with this combined with winds at 50 to 60 miles an hour, we are talking about a blizzard warning in place until 1:00 a.m. on Tuesday, combine that with four to eight inches of snowfall, this is not going to be pretty.

Now, across the mid-Atlantic, still looking at some of that light snow departing out of the region of Pennsylvania, but as we go through tonight, we are going to see more of that snow coming in and for areas including New England, we could see -- Carol, get this -- a foot or more of snowfall for areas like Vermont, Maine, as well as into parts of Massachusetts.

Of course, the ski resorts are going to like this. But I'd rather see spring come. That's on Wednesday.

COSTELLO: We want daffodils.

DELGADO: I know, flowers, spring, bloom, allergies. Ugh!

COSTELLO: Well, maybe this will be the last blast. Who knows?

Jennifer, thanks so much.

Just ahead, Pope Francis, a meeting earlier this morning may be another sign that the new pope is trying to put the past behind him. We'll take you live to Rome.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COSTELLO: Pope Francis has a big week ahead. He's going to have the big installation mass tomorrow, and he's really trying hard to win over Catholics, and some are even calling him the people's pope already.

Our senior international correspondent Ben Wedeman is live in Rome. Good morning.

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, good morning.

And people's pope he seems to be. We saw him yesterday at the Angelus mass where there were more than 200,000 people on this road behind me and in St. Peter's Square. Earlier, he had gone to a mass at a nearby church within the Vatican and afterwards, he shocked his security by walking down the street and meeting a mob of well wishers who were just outside the gates of the Vatican.

For the security, however, it's becoming something of a nightmare. One member of the pope's security detail saying that if he continues with behavior like this, "we are going to go insane" were the words he used -- Carol.

COSTELLO: It seems to be working, though. He has to be among the people. And Catholics are desperate for change -- let's just put it that way. WEDEMAN: Yes, certainly, if you talk to the people who have been coming here, they're very excited. All over Rome really, the talk is about him, about the example he's setting.

I spoke with a taxi driver this morning who told me he hopes that the pope will shame Italian politicians into getting their act together. Now, regarding tomorrow's ceremonies, the Italian authorities are expecting over a million people to come to St. Peter's Square in the area around the Vatican. They've declared that public transport will be free.

So we're expecting quite a large crowd, in addition to a large number of VIPs -- U.S. Vice President Joe Biden will be here, other people on the list of guests. Not the so popular, Robert Mugabe, the president of Zimbabwe will be here. Angela Merkel, the chancellor of Germany.

So lots of VIPs, lots of ordinary people expected here tomorrow.

COSTELLO: And you will be right in the middle of it all I'm sure. Ben Wedeman reporting live from Rome.

Coming up next in THE NEWSROOM: Republicans getting ready to rumble. Well, at least it seems that way for Sarah Palin and Karl Rove. But who will come out on top in a head to head match-up? Our political buzz panel weighs in.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)