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Social Media Helps Convict Teen Rapists; Jet Hits Homes, Two Aboard Killed; Cruise Passenger Rights Proposed; Hasselhoff Protests at Berlin Wall; GOP's $10M Push for Minorities; Arrest in American Tourist's Death; Perez To Be Nominated as Labor Secretary

Aired March 18, 2013 - 10:00   ET



CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now in the NEWSROOM, two teenagers convicted of raping a 16-year-old girl break down in court. But Ohio's attorney general says tears are not enough. This has to stop. Do our young people know what rape is?

A corporate jet slams into a house in Indiana.


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


COSTELLO: Fifty families forced into emergency shelters.

And welcome to Miami. It's the capital of the basketball universe and we would love to share. You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.


COSTELLO: Good morning to you. I'm Carol Costello. We begin this morning with a story about the cruelty of two cultures. The voyeurism of social media and idol worship of high school sports stars.

Today Trent Mays and Ma'lik Richmond begin the 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.


MA'LIK RICHMOND, CONVICTED RAPIST: I would like to apologize to you. I had no intentions to do anything like that. I'm sorry to put you guys through this. I'd just like I just want you to realize that I'm sorry. I know I ruined her life, for life --

(END VIDEO CLIP) COSTELLO: The prosecutors say the boys and their friends celebrated the girl's assault on social media. They say the postings first alerted the victim to what really happened while she was passed out cold.

Here's what the girl's mother said to the boys after they were found guilty.


STEUBENVILLE RAPE VICTIM'S MOTHER: Human compassion is not taught by a teacher, a coach or a parent. It's 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.


COSTELLO: Joining us now is the Ohio attorney general, Mike Dewine. Welcome.


COSTELLO: As the state's top law enforcement officer, you're going to present this case to a grand jury. What do you hope will happen?

DEWINE: Well, I think the Steubenville community needs really two things. One is to get this over with. But the other is to believe that justice has been done, that we've left no stone unturned and that anyone who is criminally liable has been brought to justice.

What we are looking, will be looking at in the grand jury is really what happened in the aftermath of this. Did anyone have any information that they should have reported to the police? In Ohio, it's a crime to fail to report a felony if you know it has occurred. That will be certainly one of the things we'll be looking at.

We've had a very extensive investigation looking at this. But we still had 16 people who refused to talk to us in that investigation. So we want to get this over with, but we also want the community to believe that everything has come out that needs to come out and the truth has come out. So we'll be convening a grand jury and trying to finish this up.

COSTELLO: These two boys were tried as juveniles. One will spend two years in a juvenile detention facility and the other a year. In your mind, were those sentences harsh enough?

DEWINE: Well, that's up to the judge. You know, my job as the prosecutor is to seek justice. I believe that justice was done yesterday. This is a very fine judge. I respect his opinion.

COSTELLO: I ask you that because you had strong words over the weekend. I'm going to read a bit about what you said after these sentences were handed down. You said rape is not a recreational activity. We as a society have an obligation to do more to educate our young people about rape. They need to know it's a horrible crime of violence and it simply is not OK. In this day in age, it seems impossible that you would have to teach young men what rape is.

DEWINE: These young men, this was really what's referred to as digital penetration is what happened. They did not think it was rape. I think most of the people around them did not think it was rape. You know, if we think that this is a Steubenville, Ohio, unique problem or unique to Steubenville, we're dead wrong.

That's one of the points I made yesterday. I'm afraid people are going to walk away say this is all about Steubenville. It's not. It's a cultural problem. I guarantee you that there are crimes very similar to this that occur every Friday night and every Saturday night in communities across this country.

Where you have people, young people particularly, who are drinking much too much and a girl is taken advantage of. A girl is raped. This happens all the time. So to me what's interesting is that there's been so much media attention on this case and that's fine.

But our attention as a people and as a society and as parents and grandparents ought to be on what our bigger problem is. We have a societal problem about a lack of understanding of rape, a lack of respect. It is very, very prevalent and it's a major problem.

COSTELLO: So as a father and a grandfather -- I know you have a lot of kids and you have a lot of experience, what do you tell your kids about what happened that night? What lessons do you teach your children about rape and what happened?

DEWINE: Well, I think it is about human decency as the victim's mother said. It's about morality. It's about doing what is right. One of the things that was so apparent is you look at this story and as we investigate what happened that night was that no one was looking out for this victim, really not her friends.

Certainly not the two individuals who raped her and one of them at least she thought was a friend. She thought that this one would protect her and instead of protecting her he took advantage of her. No one was taking care of her.

One of the lessons of life is we have to take care of each other. We have to try to help people and we have to do what's right and there are precious few people that night do were doing what was right.

COSTELLO: Mike Dewine, Ohio Attorney General, thank you so much for joining us this morning.

DEWINE: Thank you.

COSTELLO: Now let's head to South Bend, Indiana, where 43 homes are still evacuated near the site of a fatal plane crash. The corporate jet slammed into a row of single story homes yesterday killing two people aboard the plane and injuring the other two. Remarkably, there was only one minor injury on the ground.


PATRICIA KOBALSKI, HOME STRUCK BY PLANE: My roof has caved in. There was glass everywhere. The front of the house, windows busted out. I just grabbed my son and got him some clothes and we ran out. At this point, I'm not worried about material things. I'm just glad my son and I made it out and we're alive.


COSTELLO: CNN's Jim Spellman is in South Bend. People still aren't allowed to go back home?

JIM SPELLMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's going to be a little while before they are able to go back home. It's a really surreal scene here, Carol. Take a look. So you can see firemen around the tail section of this plane right up against the house. You can see a damaged house, the blue one to the right.

The NTSB as well as the fire and police here in South Bend all got together a couple hours ago to put together a plan to, one, have NTSB finish their investigation and two, get the plane out of the house that comes after the initial parts of the NTSB investigation.

And then open up this neighborhood to people over here on the other side of this field they are bringing heavy equipment in backhoes and stuff. They are going to have some serious structural issues with these homes, of course.

And the Red Cross here tells us that one of the problems is that the basement of the main house that has the plane in it is full of jet fuel in the basement. So they have their hands full here.

What I'm really amazed at, Carol, is that we know that two people in the plane died. But the people in that home were able to walk away, the fire department here tells us. It's just amazing.

COSTELLO: Any cause of the crash yet?

SPELLMAN: No. Here's what we know happened. Yesterday around 2:00 in the afternoon this plane had taken off from Tulsa, Oklahoma, was set to land at the airport, which is really not far. It's just less than a mile in that direction.

It said it had mechanical problems, attempted to land, pulled out, did not touch down, was circling around to try again and that's when it went down. Obviously they will look at some sort of mechanical issue since they did radio in they were having problems.

About a week to ten days before we get initial assessment from NTSB, it could be a year before they come to a final conclusion -- Carol.

COSTELLO: Jim Spellman, reporting live from South Bend, Indiana, this morning. Other top stories for you, 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 committed suicide. We're still waiting to find out if that victim was a student. The explosives forced 500 students to be evacuated from their dorms.

A state of emergency has been declared in Tennessee as the National Guard helps crews fight a massive wildfire in the popular mountain resort city of Pigeon Forge. Two helicopters being used to drop water on the flames. More than 30 cabins have already been damaged since the wildfire began on Sunday. So far 150 people have been evacuated.

And 2,500 Dodge owners are being told to park their cars. The 2013 Challenger V-6 is being recalled because the cars could catch fire. There's a short circuit problem that can cause a wire harness to overheat leading to a fire. It happened seven times already. Owners are being urged to stop driving and call their dealers.

With the recent problems onboard several cruise ships, Senator Chuck Schumer thinks it's time for a cruise ship passenger bill of rights. His proposal follows the latest trouble with a Carnival ship that came into port yesterday. The Legend ran into some problems with the propulsion system.

Alison Kosik has more from New York. Good morning.

ALISON KOSIK, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDNET: Good morning, Carol. So there are two top things that Senator Schumer is calling for. He says passengers have the right to backup power if generators fail and they have a right to get off a dock ship if basic provisions can't be provided.

Of course, these all tied to those problems with four Carnival cruise ships recently and the most memorable was the Triumph, you know that one, no working toilets, no power for days. People hanging off the sides of the ship holding up signs saying get me off here.

He says that cruise ships in large part are operating outside of the bounds of United States enforcement. They become the wild west of the travel industry and it's time to rein them in before anyone else gets hurt.

Now with keys, Schumer wants the cruise industry to voluntarily sign on to this. Many think good luck to that because regulating cruise lines is a difficult thing because look at a company like Carnival.

It's based here in the U.S., but the ship can be registered overseas and when it's in international waters, yes, then the laws get really murky. But there are some guidelines that are already in place about safety, but Schumer doesn't think that's enough.

It may seem familiar because we've been here before with the airlines. Who can forget JetBlue's plane that was stuck on the tarmac for 12 hours in 2007. Eventually there was a passenger bill of rights that was passed limiting how much time you can be stuck on a plane on a tarmac. But it took three years to get that legislation going. So Carol, the bottom line with this is the cruise industry may be tougher to regulate and get that passenger bill of rights for the cruise industry -- Carol.

COSTELLO: Understood. Alison Kosik reporting live from New York.

We would like to end our first block of news this hour with David Hasselhoff. The television actor and singer and now fighter for the Berlin Wall, Hasselhoff was in Germany joining other protesters in support of saving one of the last remaining sections of the Berlin Wall. He has rock star status in Germany and as only Hasselhoff can he used song to pump up the crowd.


DAVID HASSELHOLF, ACTOR: More people down there. Hello.


COSTELLO: Now you stop that dancing. Developers reportedly want to move that chunk of the Berlin Wall to make room for a walkway for a luxury housing development. The Berlin Wall started coming down back in 1989.

It might have been difficult to get a hold of people outside of Austin, Texas, over the weekend because a bridge implosion led to serious side effects. We'll be right back.


COSTELLO: It's 16 minutes past the hour. The grand old party is gearing up to rebrand, refocus and reach out to conservatives and it's going to cost them about 10 million bucks to do it.

The Republican National Committee Chair Reince Priebus laid out his party's future and its strategy just a short time ago. Here's part of what he had to say.


REINCE PRIEBUS, RNC CHAIRMAN: It all goes back to what our moms used to tell us. It's not just what you say. It's how we say it. The promise of opportunity will be our message and a spirit of optimism will infuse everything that we do.


COSTELLO: CNN's political director Mark Preston was there for this morning's announcement. So Mark, how are Republicans responding to Priebus' remarks?

MARK PRESTON, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Well, Carol, that's the big question right now, how will this report be taken throughout the Republican Party not only to centrist but also the conservatives? As you can see, the room behind me now has cleared out. The report has been issued. They'll spend $10 million to try to really rebuild and rebrand the party. You know, we're lucky that someone did stay behind.

His name is Glenn McCall. He is a South Carolina Republican, Carol. He's also one of the co-chairs of the Growth and Opportunity Project, which is what this whole report is about.

I'm wondering if you can just talk to me just a little bit about some of the things that came out in the report. You emphasized that the Republican Party has failed to do well with minority voters specifically African-Americans and Hispanic voters, why have you failed so far and really what are you going to do to move forward?

GLENN MCCALL, RNC COMMITTEE MEMBER: Well, I think the chairman laid it out. Thanks, Mark for having me. We really want to be big and bold and not only -- we don't just want outreach programs. We've done that. We parachuted in four months before an election and asked for votes. That's the wrong thing to do.

We need to be in the community as the chairman said. It's a year-long activity. When you build relationships, you have to start with building mutual respect and rapport and then you build on that relationship where we can agree to disagree, but we still can be friend.

So the party is going to invest as the chairman said this year in 2013, $10 million building out the infrastructure, not parachuting folks in again using that analogy from D.C. into communities, but we want to use folks within the state, within the communities that a grassroots activist that have relationships and that's why.

The reason we failed awfully with people of color is because we haven't gone sustained relationships, building those sustained relationships in the community. We're not asking for folks to switch parties, to come to the Republican Party.

We do hope we can have a dialogue. They can understand who we are. They can understand our candidates and some will support our candidates and we build upon that.

PRESTON: Another thing in the report that you emphasize heavily was the idea to be more inclusive. It seemed to be an olive branch to gay Republicans and really it was noted in the report that young folks, young voters, tend to be more lenient when it comes to or more accepting of gay Republicans. How is that going to be accepted by the more conservative wing of your party?

MCCALL: I hope it will be accepted because we're not saying we're changing our principles. We have to change our tone and the way in which we engage folks even young people, women, and show that we're caring, we're compassionate but most importantly we're sincere about that. And I think that we can all agree to disagree. As President Reagan said, my 80 percent friend is not my 20 percent enemy.

PRESTON: You know, Glenn, I think Carol has questions as well.

COSTELLO: Just one. As far as minority outreach especially to African-Americans. Glenn, thanks for being with us. The rhetoric by some in the Republican Party, for example, calling President Obama a socialist, the whole birther movement and embrace of Donald Trump during the presidential election, doesn't that need to end if African- Americans are going to feel welcome in the tent?

MCCALL: You're absolutely correct, Carol. We're not here to make excuses. You are absolutely correct that tone matters. We've heard that throughout our listening sessions around the country with African-Americans, with Asians, with Hispanic. We have to do a better job in communicating and controlling that tone and as a national party we'll do that. State parties will do that and I think I'm excited about where we go from here.

COSTELLO: So do you think that Republicans will reject people like Donald Trump because he still embraces the birther issue.

MCCALL: Well, that gets back to Reagan 11th commandment. You know, we can agree on 80 percent of the things. He's not our 20 percent enemy. We need everyone. We have a big tent. We want to welcome everyone in. But as a party we're the ones that should be leading and we should set that tone and we will do that in our activity.

COSTELLO: So if Donald Trump has said what he said today, the Republican Party would have said, like, can it Donald Trump. We don't want to hear that kind of stuff? That would have happened?

MCCALL: Well, you know, you can't control candidates. They have their own campaign. So we will leave it at that. As a national party we want to set the right tone as we engage communities as we work to build rapport and relationships and diverse communities.

COSTELLO: Thanks so much, Glenn McCall, and thanks to you, Mark Preston, as well. We'll be right back.


COSTELLO: It's 25 minutes past the hour, time to check our top stories. Police in Turkey now have a man in custody following the death of an American tourist. The arrest comes nearly two months after the woman went missing. Her body was found several days later near Istanbul. The 33-year-old Staten Island woman had been touring Turkey alone.

Next hour, President Obama plans to announce he is nominating an assistant attorney general to become the nation's next labor secretary. Tomas 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.

It was a grand implosion, but in Texas cell phone and emergency radio service has now been restored after being knocked out following that bridge implosion. According to CNN affiliate KXAN, the U.S. 281 bridge outside of Austin came down over the weekend along with all communications, 911 calls were also affected. That blast was felt 26 miles away.

Spring may soon be sprung, but winter's fury will stretch again across the Midwest. Blizzard warnings are up for North Dakota, Minnesota and Iowa. A foot of snow could fall in New England. Snow, ice and rain are also expected from Ohio to the nation's capital and severe storms could pop up in the southeast too.