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Florida College Student Kills Himself and Bombs Found Near Body; Wildfires from South Carolina to Colorado; March Madness Begins; Election Cyber Attack Raises Alarms; Arias Movie Reportedly in the Works; Evacuations Follow Plane Crash; Football Stars Sentenced for Rape

Aired March 18, 2013 - 13:00   ET



SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: A college campus dorm in Orlando, Florida has now been evacuated after a student shot and killed himself. The feds have found a bag of bombs and guns next to the body. We've got a live report coming up next.

Spring almost here but the wildfires have already arrived. They are burning now in Colorado. Tennessee has declared a state of emergency near the resort town of Pigeon Forge. More than 30 cabins now catching fire. And in South Carolina, a brush fire has spread to a housing complex damaging dozens of buildings.

All right, get your brackets ready. College basketball's most exciting time of the year, it is here. March madness kicking off with 68 teams vying for the championship. We're going to show you how to join the CNN bracket challenge in just a little bit.

This is CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Suzanne Malveaux. Up ahead, cyber attack on a Florida election is raising alarms about security at the voting systems across the country. So, this attack involved more than 2,500 phantom requests for absentee ballots during the August primary.

Our Chris Lawrence, he's been actually digging into this. And, Chris, what do we know? Election officials now being able to detect that something happened, something was wrong. How did they do that?

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Basically, two things really jumped out at them, Suzanne. They looked at two things. One, the fact that all of these requests were coming from what looked like the same computers. Also, they were coming in so quickly they figured no human being could enter that much information that quickly. Those were two big red flags. Then they started to look further and determine that the Internet -- the I.P. addresses of these computers were blocked.

Once investigators were able to dig in and look at them, it turned out that all of these I.P. addresses were going through what's called an anonymiser in India and the U.K. It's sort of a way to wash your tracks on the Internet and so you can never figure out exactly where -- what real computers these requests for coming from. But ultimately, what it boils down to is about 2,000 to 3,000 phony requests for these absentee ballots. And when they actually called some of these folks to say, hey, did you ask an online absentee ballot? The folks told them, I don't have any idea what you're talking about.

MALVEAUX: So, Chris, who was behind this? I mean, can they tell, was this some attempt at affecting the election results or was somebody trying to test the system? What was behind it, do you know?

LAWRENCE: It was definitely the first documented cyber attack on an online election system, Suzanne. But as to who did it and why and what their motivations were, impossible to tell 100% because, again, these anonymisers wash your tracks. It was the reason they couldn't even really pursue a criminal investigation, because they can never track back to see exactly where the computer originated from, no tracks to follow, nothing to do. And that's one of the scary things about this kind of crime.

MALVEAUX: Yes. So, I guess they are discovering, too, there are holes, right, in the security system when it comes to elections because they're vulnerable to cyber attack?

LAWRENCE: Yes, that's right. Here in D.C. a couple years ago, D.C. tested, just as a test, an online voting system and the testers were able to hack into that system and take control of it within about 48 hours. It just shows the vulnerabilities. In this case in Florida, there are already being recommendations made that you need to have a log in and a password to get into this system to be able to request that absentee ballot. But I think, you know, as you talk to some of these computer experts like we have this morning, --


LAWRENCE: -- it just shows the security is going to have to stay, you know, really far ahead.


LAWRENCE: Because this was considered an attack that wasn't all that sophisticated.


LAWRENCE: They said a more sophisticated attack probably would not have been caught.

MALVEAUX: Wow. OK. Lessons learned there. Thank you, Chris. Appreciate it.


MALVEAUX: Arizona, that is where the Jodi Arias trial back in session today. The jury is hearing once again from Dr. Richard Samuels who is testifying on behalf of Arias. Now, he says even though Arias admits killing her ex-boyfriend, Travis Alexander, she suffers from PTSD. So, she can't remember any of those details. Our Ted Rowlands, he is covering the trial from Phoenix. And, Ted, I understand that the judge is expected to rule soon on an issue that is related to Dr. Samuel's testimony. What is that about?

TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, we're going to have a hearing in just a couple minutes, Suzanne. Basically, the defense in this case wants Dr. Samuels to testify about what a crime scene can tell you about a crime, whether it was premeditated or if it was an act of passion. The defense believes that the crime scene is evidence that this is an act of passion because it was so messy, if you will and they want Samuels to talk about it. The prosecution says that is completely nonsense that this guy is not qualified, A, to do it. And there's nothing really there, it's junk science. So, the judge is going hear from both sides in the next 15 minutes and is expected to rule from the defense so the direct testimony can resume the direct testimony of Dr. Samuels. Whether or not the judge will allow this part of it in, we'll find out very soon.

MALVEAUX: And, Ted, even before we get any kind of rulings at all, there is buzz now, not surprising, of a T.V. movie that is actually in the works. What do we know about that?

ROWLANDS: Yes. Well, what we don't know is what it would be rated given all the graphic testimony in this case.

MALVEAUX: No kidding.

ROWLANDS: We know that Lifetime -- yes, Lifetime is making a movie about this, a made for T.V. movie, the Jodi Arias trial. They are in works on that and they've done this before. They did it with the Drew Peterson case, Rob Lowe was in that. And they also have one coming out in a couple weeks on the Casey Anthony case. Rob Lowe is also, ironically, in that one. We'll have to see what role he would play in this one if he is. But bottom line is it's getting terrific ratings on television and it makes perfect sense that they would want to exploit that and make a T.V. movie out of it.

MALVEAUX: All right, not surprising at all. Ted, thank you. Appreciate it.

In Orlando this morning police discovered a bag of homemade bombs, an assault weapon, a handgun, and a man who they say killed himself in a dorm room at University of Central Florida. Police were responding to reports of a person with a gun, that was shortly after midnight. Well, what they found was a student dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound in his room next to a bag of explosives.

Kelli Cook of Central Florida News 13, she's joining us live from Orlando. Kelli, what do we know about this? What have we learned?

KELLI COOK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Oh. Well, right now, they're not saying much about the student that was found dead with a self- inflicted gun wound, simply saying he was a male and that he was a student here at the University of Central Florida. The FBI, the Orange County sheriff's office as well as campus police, are trying to figure out exactly what he was doing in that dorm with those IEDs and handguns and that assault weapon. Now, campus just reopened right around noon to students here on campus, however, that dorm room, tower one, right there where we're pointing it to you right now, remains closed at this hour. And we're not quite sure, Suzanne, where they're going to reopen it again. Back to you.

MALVEAUX: Kelli, what do they say about this student? Do they have any idea of why he would have these explosives in his room or if there was any connection at all to any particular groups or something he was involved in?

COOK: Sure. They are being very quiet and very tight lipped about what they know about this student. A lot of rumors are swirling around as I talk to students but nothing that is official. What we know is a call came in to campus police for a fire alarm and somebody with a gun on campus. They immediately evacuated the area and transported them to the Student Union until they found out more information -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: All right. Kelli, thank you. Appreciate it.

At least 43 homes remain evacuated. This is near the site of that fatal plane crash that was in South Bend, Indiana Sunday. A small corporate jet slammed into a row of single story homes. Two of the four people aboard that plane died on impact. The two others were injured and so was another person who was actually on the ground. Neighbors say, it was just unbelievable.


JANE NIELSON: It was surreal. You could see the whole house was just -- a plane was inside a whole house. And I could see part of the second house -- the back part of it from where I was standing, I could see it was taken out.


MALVEAUX: The pilot had radioed for help, was trying to circle back to a local airport when that plane crashed. Investigators are looking into a fiery crash in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Late Friday afternoon, a twin engine piper crashed into a parking lot full of cars killing all three people on board.

And here is also what we're working on for this hour. President Obama just hours away from flying to Israel for the first time since he's been in office. I want to take a look at why this trip is important from Middle East peace to Iran nuclear worries.

And a very emotional moment in the courtroom as two high school football players are sentenced for rape.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I had no intention to do anything like that, and I'm sorry to put you guys through this. I'd just like to --

(END VIDEO CLIP) MALVEAUX: We're going to take a look at this crime and how it is impacting one Ohio community.


MALVEAUX: Ohio's attorney general says more people could face charges in the Steubenville rape case. Two teens were found guilty yesterday of raping a drunk 16-year-old girl last August. The judge called the whole incident profane and ugly.

Our Poppy Harlow was in the court from the very beginning.


POPPY HARLOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Hi there, Suzanne. Well, as you know, this case has put the town of Steubenville, Ohio and the victims in the spotlight for months now. The judge has now rendered his final decision for all to hear.

(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 boys, showing remorse after being found guilty.

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

MA'LIK RICHMOND: I would like to apologize to you. I had no intentions to do anything like that, and I'm sorry to put you through this. I'd just like -- I'm sorry. I ruined her entire life (INAUDIBLE.) I'm sorry (INAUDIBLE.) I ruined her entire life.

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 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: 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 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: If that was my daughter, I wouldn't care. I would 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 just 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 a verdict, because this was a juvenile case.


HARLOW: The court also ordered that Mays and Richmond undergo treatment while they are serving time to ensure they do not commit another sex crime. And on top of that the Ohio attorney general's office announced after the verdict came down that it will be convening a grand jury here in Stuebenville to determine whether or not any other crimes such as tampering with evidence or any other crimes was committed in relation to this rape. Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Thank you, Poppy. The rape case has divided this town as you can imagine, of Steubenville. What are the parents doing? What are the lessons for some of those parents as well? Watch "PIERS MORGAN LIVE" at 9:00 eastern. He's going to be covering that. And tomorrow is the tenth anniversary of the beginning of the Iraq war. We're going to look at one former U.S. marine how he is struggling now that he has returned.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: After Fallujah try to act like it never happened.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It shows a kid that basically gone through a horrifying experience, traumatic experience.


MALVEAUX: President Obama is set to leave tomorrow on his first trip to Israel as president. He's going to meet with the new Israeli government and also make stops in the West Bank and in Jordan as well. The president is facing a skeptical Israeli public and perhaps a strained relationship with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Athena Jones has a preview of the president's trip and what he hopes to accomplish.


ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Five years after he visited Israel as a candidate, President Obama is going through to reassure skeptical Israelis about where he stands on Iran.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I have been crystal clear about my position on Iran possessing a nuclear weapon. That is a redline for us. It's something that would not only be dangerous for Israel but would be dangerous for the world.

JONES: While he says all options are on the table to stop Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, the president also wants to convince Israeli leaders to allow more time for diplomacy.

OBAMA: What we're going to be doing is to continue to engage internationally with Iran understanding that we've set up the toughest sanctions ever. It's having a significant effect.

JONES: A tough sell analysts say when Israel believes Iran is closer to a nuclear weapon than the U.S. does. And the tense relationship between the countries' leaders doesn't help.

HAIM MALKA, CENTER FOR STRATEGIC & INTL. STUDIES: President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu have had a strained relationship for the last four years. It's difficult to see, but this visit is going to change the underlying dynamic in that relationship.


MALVEAUX: Here at home President Obama putting the finishing touches on his cabinet. Today he nominated Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Perez to be the next labor secretary. If he's confirmed by the Senate, Perez would be the only Hispanic cabinet choice. He's the son of Dominican immigrants and worked his way through college doing various jobs.

And reminder to watch CNN's new show "THE LEAD" with Jake Tapper starting today at 4:00 eastern.

Tomorrow marks the tenth anniversary of the start of the Iraq war. The question of course, was it worth it? Depends on who you ask. Thousands of American families suffered immeasurable loss. According to the Pentagon more than 4,400 U.S. troops were killed in action. For every U.S. combat death seven were wounded. More than 32,000 Americans came home with battle wounds.

And of course, we know not all battle wounds are physical. Many troops came home with post-traumatic stress disorder which made it really hard to adjust to normal life. One is James Blake Miller (ph). He is dubbed "The Marlboro Marine." His battle-weary face photographed by Luis Sinco of the Los Angeles Times. Now, Sinco caught up with Miller years later. And what you're going to see is how the Marlboro Marine left the war and then the war was not able to leave him.


LUIS SINCO, LOS ANGELES TIMES: I find myself involved in the assault in Fallujah in November. We were under constant enemy fire.

BLAKE MILLER, "MARLBORO MARINE": To look back at it now and think about firing at another human being, how do you justify.

SINCO: We were up on the rooftop and in a break in the action he propped up next to me and started smoking a cigarette. I took the photo.

MILLER: After Fallujah, I tried to act like it never happened.

SINCO: It shows a kid that basically had just gone through a horrifying experience, traumatic experience.

MILLER: The first time I ever thought about committing suicide was in Iraq, maybe a week after we came out.

SINCO: I did not see him for a good year after Fallujah. His company was deployed to Katrina. I did not know he was suffering from PTSD.

MILLER: Vets connect with other vets. I didn't have another vet I could lean on.

SINCO: When I was there for the first visit he said you should come to my wedding. So I ended up going to his wedding because it was so emotional for him. Within a two, three-week period he was completely spinning out of control.

MILLER: There was so much counselling that had to be done for myself that I really couldn't deal with mine and Jessica's problems on top of it.

SINCO: His wife ended up calling me saying she hadn't seen him in days, could I come help look for him.

MILLER: I felt it was something that I brought on myself and that that was, you know, my weight to carry. Not hers. And before I put her through that, I'd rather be without her.

SINCO: I went to his uncle's house. He looked horrible.

MILLER: I had more or less planned out my death. And I was actually kind of happy for a moment thinking that I wasn't going to feel anything soon.

SINCO: There was a lot of carnage in that battle. There were a lot of young men, boys dead in the street and I thought one more death out of that? Am I supposed to hang out long enough to get the photo of him putting the gun to his head? I cannot do that. So I stepped in and said let's get you some help.

MILLER: I'm glad that I'm still here. Confused as to why I'm still here. And why other people aren't.

SINCO: He is intensely private now. He had been under the spotlight for many, many years beginning with the publication of that photo. I think he just wants to move on.

MILLER: As much as you want things to be the same, they can never be that way again.

SINCO: He is doing all right. He is back together with Jessica. He's met a doctor that has helped him with his physical problems. And actually gained enough trust from Blake to have Blake go see a doctor about his mental issues.

MILLER: Any day aboveground is a good one. There's no promise of tomorrow.

SINCO: It's going on nine years since I took that photograph. There hasn't been a day that it hasn't crossed my mind. The meaning that I find in it is that it's about survival. I mean, when you survive that, that's the sweetest victory.


MALVEAUX: That is so touching. CNN interviewed L.A. Times photographer Louis Sinco for the story and the comments from former Marine Blake Miller are from a 2010 L.A. Times media storm online documentary. It's important to know Blake has declined all further interviews from the media, but Louis made sure that Blake was not opposed to actually using his earlier interviews and stories surrounding this tenth anniversary of the war.

Firefighters in four states fighting off flames right now from South Carolina to Colorado. We're going to look at all the damage up next.