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Dead Body, Explosives Found in UCF Dorm Room; Growing Wildfire in Tennessee; Teens Found Guilty of Rape

Aired March 18, 2013 - 11:00   ET


CAROL COSTELLO, ANCHOR, "CNN NEWSROOM": Thank you so much for joining me today. I do appreciate it.

CNN continues right now with Ashleigh Banfield.

ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, ANCHOR, "CNN NEWSROOM": Hello, everyone. Thank you, Carol.

Two guns, a body and a bag of bombs, all found in a dorm room on a college campus in Florida, we are live in Orlando in just a moment.

Also, send in the national guard. Out of control wildfires are racing up the Great Smoky Mountains of eastern Tennessee.

And Lindsay Lohan racing, literally across the country, to Los Angeles to a courtroom and hoping to avoid a fast track to jail. Her hearing begins this hour. Tick tock, Lindsay.

It has been a very tense morning at the University of Central Florida in Orlando. The campus was closed down because potentially deadly explosives found in a dorm room were there along with a dead body.

Joining me now from Orlando is Kristin Kane of our affiliate Central Florida News 13.

Kristin, what exactly have police found there and who was this dead body?

KRISTIN KANE, REPORTER, CENTRAL FLORIDA NEWS 13: Well, let me start by first telling you, Ashleigh, that definitely a very crazy and tense situation out here.

I want to show you what's actually going on behind me right now. It doesn't look like a lot, but this has been a very active scene since 12:30 this morning. That's when 500 students were evacuated from the Tower One dorm room here on UCF's main campus in Orlando after police responded to a student suicide that took place inside one of those dorm rooms.

The Orange County bomb squad and the FBI have been out here working with local law enforcement all morning long. Campus officials say there's no threat to the campus community at this time, but a spokesman describes this as a very sketchy situation.

Listen to what he says police found when they arrived at the dorm earlier this morning.


GRANT HESTON, UCF SPOKESMAN: A call came in to UCF police about a fire alarm in Tower One. On the way to respond to that, a 911 call in about an armed man in the tower.

When UCF police responded to the dorm room, they found a victim of what appeared to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

We've interviewed people who had knowledge of the situation and, during those interviews and searching the dorm room, we found an assault weapon and we found what appeared improvised explosive devices.


KANE: Now the latest that we've heard is that a resident of the dorm actually found that handgun and that assault rifle. We also heard that those explosives were found in a bag.

We also know that the Orange County medical examiner and the coroner just arrived on scene to remove that body, so it is going to be quite some time before they allow students back into that Tower One dorm.

Now, when they were evacuated very early this morning, they were first sent to the student union and then to the campus arena with literally just the shirts on their back. We know that food and water was given to them, but again, don't know when they'll be allowed back in that dorm.

We do know that the main campus here will be reopened in just under an hour around noontime so that afternoon classes can resume, and we also know that UCF will make counselors available to students throughout the day.

Now, as far as the suicide victim, we don't know much right now. The only thing we know is that he was, in fact, a student here on campus.

That's the very latest from UCF. I'm Kristin Kane. Ashleigh, back to you.

BANFIELD: All right, Kristin, thank you for that.

Also happening now in eastern Tennessee, a massive and growing wildfire and, just this morning, a state of emergency. The fire has already destroyed 30 cabins outside of the resort town of Pigeon Forge.

One firefighter says they're, quote, "going like dominos," one after another. The National Guard is bringing in Black Helicopters now to help fight this spreading wall of flames.

Another wildfire in northern Colorado whipped by stiff winds and destroying homes, forcing evacuations. This happening over the weekend. The fire season is getting an early start in drought areas like this.

And then to South Carolina, here is a brush fire spreading to an apartment complex and destroying 26 buildings there, as well.

Chad Myers joining me from the Extreme Weather Center. Chad, this does seem like very early in the season to be reporting on this many different areas with wildfires.

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: When the winds blow, that's when we can actually see these wildfires pop up and that's what's happened all weekend long.

And it's been a crazy weekend. I tried to play golf here this weekend. The winds were blowing like 60-miles-per-hour. I was using a driver on a par 3 to keep it out of the wind.

And the winds start the wildfires. And when they go, they go from cabin to cabin to cabin. And that's what's happened all weekend from South Carolina through Tennessee and, again, even into Colorado. And another storm system coming in there, making the low and the high pressure, making significantly big winds today.

BANFIELD: Not going to suggest that you can see that far into the forecast, but there is one report that's saying these kind of fires this early is a very bad omen for the whole season. Why is that?

MYERS: Well, because we've already been very dry. Let me take you to where it's -- what's going to happen today for Pigeon Forge. We're going to be fine.

We're going to see a lot of rain coming in and those wildfires in Tennessee are going to be put out by the rain. And the winds are still going to be 15-to-20-miles-per-hour.

But look at where we've been here. This is the drought monitor for the past couple of months, and we've seen winds and rain across the east and that's good because the eastern half of the U.S. is now almost clear of the drought.

But you get from Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Texas to places where the -- really the winds happen and the wildfires happen, back into Colorado, Utah or even Wyoming and New Mexico, that's where it' still been very dry.

It's still dry. The drought's there. Things are dying. Trees are dying. Grass is brown and, when that happens, wildfires start and, when the winds blow, those wildfires spread very, very quickly.

BANFIELD: That is not a good looking map.

All right, Chad Myers, thank you.

MYERS: You're welcome.

BANFIELD: Want to check other top stories for you now.

Two people killed when their corporate jet crashed into a row of homes. It happened in South Bend, Indiana.

Two other passengers were able to survive this if you can believe it, and a person on the ground was also injured in this wreck.

The National Transportation Safety Board is already looking into this.

Another Carnival cruise nightmare and it's over. The Carnival Legend docked in Tampa, Florida, yesterday after technical problems hampered its speed.

Carnival offered full refunds to all passengers. This is the third Carnival ship to have major problems in just the past month.

Hundreds of hours are being wasted at work today and for the next few weeks as the NCAA men's basketball tournament bracket plays out. A lot of you and your co-workers are deciding today who will win this championship.

Happens every year. We get very excited. We lose a lot of sleep. Even at the CNN Center in Atlanta, The Atrium is one huge bracket so visitors can keep track of their favorite teams.

"March Madness" is here and, beginning tomorrow, you can watch every game live on TruTV, TBS, TNT, CBS, You get the idea. This is huge.

As we move on in the newscast, a girl is raped and two boys are going to juvenile jail. And one attorney general says, parents, it is time to listen up. You need to tell your kids that rape is a crime, not a recreational activity.

Hear his plea coming up in just a moment.


BANFIELD: When you hear about audacious prison breaks for the record books, you might think about Quebec, Canada. Did you hear what happened yesterday at a prison northwest of Montreal? It's like a scene right out of "Mission Impossible."

A helicopter swooped over the prison and lowered a rope and hoisted two inmates to prison while guards stood there and watched the jail break.

It only took police a couple hours to track down the chopper, question the pilot and find both escapees along with two alleged accomplices. The whole gang is due in court today and unless spider-man comes they are in a lot of trouble.

Let's take you to Arizona now. Dr. Richard Samuels is testifying on behalf of Jodi Arias. He's had a lot to say. It's all about memory lapses and how they are understandable because Arias suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder.

She admits to killing her boyfriend in 2008, but she says it was in self-defense. You can watch that trial today on HLN and Two teenagers accused of raping a drunken 16-year-old girl during a booze fueled night of partying in august learned their fate on Sunday morning.

The high school football players for Steubenville's Big Red never took the stand, but maintained their innocence throughout. The judge found them guilty on all counts.

Poppy Harlow was in court for the entire trial and has the story.


POPPY HARLOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: 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.

STEUBENVILLE RAPE VICTIM'S MOTHER: It did not matter what school you went to, what county you lived in or what sport you played.

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. Your decisions that night affected countless lives not only that of my daughter.

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 showing remorse after being found guilty.

TRENT MAYS, CONVICTED RAPIST: I would like to apologize to (INAUDIBLE), her family, and my family and the community.

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 am sorry. I know I ruined her life for life.

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

JUDGE THOMAS LIPPS, PRESIDING JUDGE: The court is able to review 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 say 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 laying naked on the floor.

In the state of Ohio, this act performed without consent constitutes rape.

MIKE DEWINE, OHIO ATTORNEY GENERAL: There seems to be an 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: What if that was your daughter?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What if it was?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 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. "Yeah, 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.

Poppy Harlow, CNN, Steubenville, Ohio.


BANFIELD: So you heard the Attorney General. You heard what he said about what kids think about rape these days -- unbelievable casualness about rape and about sex. That this is just cavalier. So will this be the case that changes that? After all, it is all over social media.

We're going to talk about that in just a moment.


BANFIELD: Want to get back to that verdict in the Steubenville, Ohio, rape case. Guilty across the board. But this case could impact more than just the victim or the two boys headed to juvenile detention, or even the other people who could face charges if a grand jury that's planned decides to indict. This could also shake up teenagers all across the country, shake them into a reality.

I want you to listen once again very closely to what the Ohio Attorney General, Mike DeWine, said right after those verdicts were reached.


DEWINE: 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 is a horrible crime of violence and it's simply, simply not OK.


BANFIELD: And then there's the social media aspect of it all. Prosecutors admitted that without those texts and those awful cell phone pictures, they really didn't have much of a case.

Judge Glenda Hatchett once presided over one of the largest juvenile court systems in the country in Atlanta before becoming a television judge, and Kathryn Redmond is founder of the National Coalition Against Violent Athletes.

Judge Hatchett, I thought of you immediately when I heard these verdicts and when I saw those kids and when I heard the reaction from the victim's mom. And I wondered, because this was so powerful and there was so much coverage on TV and social media, will this be the wake-up call that's needed for young people, many of whom you've seen come through your courtroom?

JUDGE GLENDA HATCHETT, FORMER JUVENILE COURT JUDGE: Absolutely. I presided over far, far, far too many cases like this. And as I said last week, this really needs to be a teachable moment. And I say that not just as a judge but as a parent, that we need to have these conversations: "No means no means no," and that if an alleged victim is out cold, as the judge found she was not in a position to give consent, then we need to have these conversations with our young people, coaches and teachers and mentors, but particularly parents. This is a major problem throughout this country.

BANFIELD: You know, Kathy Redmond, you heard the judge say that this needs to become a teachable moment, and I know this is what you do. You go from school to school to university and you talk to students about these teachable moments. Is this one of the most powerful teachable moments you might now have in your arsenal, something people will really listen to? KATHY REDMOND, FOUNDER, NATIL. COALITION AGAINST VIOLENT ATHLETES: Well, it could be but I lean more on the pessimistic side because we've had so many teachable moments in this country. We had Penn State as a teachable moment; we've had Notre Dame as a teachable moment; we've had Kobe Bryant as a teachable moment. And nothing seems to get better. You still have schools and you still have coaches and you still have parents that cannot and do not talk to their kids, that do not use the right messages to talk to their kids.

And when I go in and I talk to these athletes and I talk to these coaches, the messages that they get from the media, the messages they get from entertainment, completely contradict the law. So we're dealing with a society that really has no idea how to even address it and also thinks, "It's not going to be me. I'm not goint to be held accountable. It's not going to be my school."

And so I'm more pessimistic because we have so many of these teachable moments and look what happens? Then we end up with a Steubenville and it will be another school.

BANFIELD: Well, but here's why -- Glenda, maybe, Judge Hatchett, answer this for me. What we're talking about are teachable moments and past teachable moments and clearly Kathy makes a great point. We've had many. Many of those came before this explosion of social media and this thing was almost -- literally did come to light because of social media. That's why I wonder if this one might be different.

HATCHETT: I do think it will be different, and I really understand your frustration and I understand the amazing work that you've been doing throughout the country. But at some point, we have to say it's got to get better. It has to get better. And so I tend to be on the side of optimism and hopefulness, although I don't think it will change overnight. I think this case is very dramatic. The fact that it was open to cameras, which is unusual in juvenile proceedings, and that people see this and see the effect that it has on the defendants as well as this victim in this case. I think we're going to --

BANFIELD: Great point. Actually, I wanted to mention the camera on Ma'lik Richmond. And let's show this picture. He got up to address this girl and her family. He started apologizing as he walked towards them and he literally began to collapse in court. Kathy, this is one of those big, powerful football players, you know, perhaps to whom you refer where they're almost too powerful to or too strong to fail. You have an image like this, almost finally.

REDMOND: Right. And a few months ago, we had an image of an Oklahoma State basketball player doing the same thing. And we've had the images before. I think what I'm trying to say is it's time that all of us as a society get behind and use messages that are consistent with the law, rather than consistent with what the entertainment world tells us, with what the media tells us. It's time that we start focusing on the victims and the devastation and damage it does to them, instead of, you know, here are these boys, here's how it hurt them, here's how -

You know, I think we've gotten off track when we stop thinking that men are the ones that we need to be talking to. And that's who I talked to. I talked to so many men and the messages that they get are frightening. The messages they get, the expectations that they have, are frightening. And social media has made it to where they're less socially adept and so now what we have to --

HATCHETT: I think there's another side of this, when we have time.

BANFIELD: Sadly, I have to wrap it there, only because -- I mean, I could talk about this case all day. I mean, this is what justice is supposed to do. It's supposed to be a deterrent for others as well. I'm sad to hear that, Kathy. I hear you, though. There was talk about those young men yesterday, not quite as much talk about the young woman, and obviously she wants to remain anonymous for obvious reasons.

Kathy Redmond, thank you. It's good to see you. And Judge Glenda Hatchett, I'll see you a little bit later on in the program.

Let's move to the Grand Old Party for a moment. It's spending millions upon millions in hopes of recruiting young people to come to the Republican Party. Find out who it is they're worried about in particular and how young people may not remember him.


BANFIELD: The president is expected to fill a key Cabinet post today: Labor Secretary. And his choice, Assistant Attorney General Tom Perez. You're looking at some live pictures right now. Mr. Perez specializes in civil rights and will play an important role as the administration takes on immigration reform.

We're going to take you live to the White House as this gets underway, this big announcement.

The Republican Party has brand new marching orders, and they come from a new report from the RNC just released this morning on what went wrong in the 2012 election. They say it is time to follow the ideas of the nation's 30 Republican governors, and to modernize the message for people who are too young to have ever voted for Ronald Reagan. They're also going to implement a $10 million minority outreach program.

And to that point, you might want to check out this brand new Pew poll, found that 62 percent of American people think the GOP is out of touch.