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EARLY START WITH JOHN BERMAN AND ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN

Deadly Indiana Plane Crash; Devastating Fire in Tennessee; RNC "Autopsy" Report; Ohio Teens Convicted of Rape

Aired March 18, 2013 - 05:00   ET

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


ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: New this morning: a small jet crashes into a home. Take a look at those pictures.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Wow.

SAMBOLIN: Details on the deadly accident. We are live from the scene. This is South Bend, Indiana.

BERMAN: Raging wildfires happening right now. The National Guard preparing to deploy. Dozens of cabins already destroyed.

SAMBOLIN: And the RNC releasing its autopsy this morning. Where did the party go wrong, and will the results be enough to get the GOP back on track.

BERMAN: And what we're really doing this morning, filling out our brackets. March Madness is set. And, of course, it does not come without some controversy.

SAMBOLIN: You know, I think I won last year our anchor bracket. Somebody remind me --

BERMAN: That's because I wasn't here. That's the last time that will happen.

SAMBOLIN: That, too. Let's see who wins this year.

BERMAN: Good morning, everyone. Welcome to EARLY START. I'm John Berman.

SAMBOLIN: And I'm Zoraida Sambolin. It is Monday, March 18. It is 5:00 a.m. in the East.

New this morning, a private plane taking a deadly dive. Take a look at that. Slamming into two homes, damaging a third and winding up inside one of those homes.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: 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 clothes and we ran out.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have a big picture window and the plane was coming right toward me. I was afraid it was coming in the house. And it swerved and went across the street.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I thought that was it. I mean, when I looked up, the plane was right over the top of me right then. And my wife was standing in the door and I just hit the ground. I thought it was going to explode when it hit, but it didn't.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAMBOLLIN: Oh, my goodness. Jim Spellman is live on the scene in South Bend, Indiana, this morning. You have the very latest. Good morning to you.

JIM SPELLMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Zoraida. Take a look at this. It's totally surreal scene in this neighborhood. We're in the backside of these homes. And you can see a section of the wing or rear stabilizer of the plane right here in the middle of this home. All the other homes around it are fine. It's hard to believe there was a plane crash yesterday.

What we know is that two people are confirmed dead. Another person seriously injured. Our understanding at this point is that all of those people were on the plane. At this point, we believe that everybody on the ground is safe. There was one additional injury here.

What we understand happened is yesterday around 2:00 in the afternoon, plane reported some sort of trouble, tried to do a landing, was not able to do that, went to do a circle around and obviously, never made it. Landed here in these homes, Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: Jim, do we know who the victims are here? Have they identified them?

SPELLMAN: We do not know yet. But we know that the plane originated in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and it was coming right here to South Bend, Indiana. But we don't know the identities of anybody aboard yet.

SAMBOLIN: That is just a horrific site there, the pictures that we have. When will people are going to be able to return to their homes in that area?

SPELLMAN: They hope later this morning. But they've got a lot of work to do. The NTSB investigators are already on the scene. They're going to complete their on-site investigation before they remove the plane from the house. They have to make sure jet fuel is safe and everything is structurally safe, and that they have room to do their work before they let people back in, Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Jim Spellman reporting live from South Bend, Indiana -- thank you very much.

BERMAN: Happening right now, the National Guard in Tennessee preparing to deploy two helicopters to help fight a huge fire in the mountain resort town of Pigeon Forge. It broke out yesterday afternoon and destroyed more than 30 cabins so far.

Andrew Spencer has the story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANDREW SPENCER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: From the air, you can see the scale of the wildfire, house after house after house up in flames. This is Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, near the Great Smoky Mountains national park, Sunday's fast-moving fire caught both visitors and locals off guard.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't know if it's our property or not. And then some of our friends live up there.

SPENCER: There's also concern for those on the front lines.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I've been sending him text messages telling him I love him and I want them all to come home safe.

SPENCER: So far, more than 200 acres burned, 150 people evacuated.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a huge fire, large amount of resources up here. We've had our -- it's been rough. I mean, it's been as rough as I've ever seen it.

SPENCER: On Saturday, some of the same firefighters battled a smaller brush fire at the nearby Dollywood Theme Park.

Across the country, more wildfires. In Florida on Sunday, smoke from a forest fire mixed with fog to cause numerous traffic accidents on I- 95. Saturday in South Carolina, a brush fire destroyed more than two dozen buildings, including a housing complex, displacing more than 180 people. And in Colorado on Friday, fierce winds helping fuel a wildfire at a state park near Ft. Collins, forcing hundreds of evacuations.

The wildfire season off to an early and dangerous start.

I'm Andrew Spencer, reporting.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SAMBOLIN: It is four minutes past the hour. Developing overnight, Canadian police arresting the fourth and final suspect in a daring prison escape. This happened Sunday afternoon at a maximum security prison outside Montreal. Police say two inmates, 36-year-old Benjamin Hudson-Barbeau, and 33-year-old Danny Provencal climbed a ladder dangling from hijacked helicopter and were flown away.

BERMAN: That is crazy.

SAMBOLIN: Isn't it insane? So, the chopper was flown about 50 miles from the prison. The inmates, along with two unidentified suspects are all in custody now.

BERMAN: An investigation under way right now to figure out what caused a deadly bus crash carrying a college lacrosse team in Pennsylvania. The vigils were held last night in Seton Hill University near Pittsburgh. The women's lacrosse team was travelling to a game Saturday when their bus skidded off the Pennsylvania turnpike and crashed into a tree. The bus driver and team's head coach, a young mother who was six months pregnant, were killed.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CODY HERALD, SETON HILL STUDENT: Everyone's devastated by the losses. And almost seems like we're coming together, you know, as a school.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: Kristina Quigley's unborn child did not survive. They say they did not know what caused the crash and that no other vehicle was involved. They're examining the bus for possible mechanical problems right now.

SAMBOLIN: The little boy that she was carrying, that's what reports say, and she had another little boy at home. So, she survived by a little boy and her husband.

President Obama expected to announce his pick today for labor secretary. It's Tomas Perez, the assistant attorney general, who heads up the Justice Department's civil rights division.

The president is preparing for a visit to Israel tomorrow. It will be the first international trip of his second term and first of his presidency to the Jewish state. After visiting Jerusalem, he'll head to Ramallah and Amman, Jordan.

BERMAN: In just a few hours, the Republican National Committee unveils what some are calling an autopsy report. This is the internal review detailing where the party went wrong in 2012 and how to reverse its fortunes for the next election.

RNC chairman Reince Priebus offered a preview on the Sunday talk shows.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REINCE PRIEBUS, RNC CHAIRMAN: We have to relate things to people's lives. We have to win the math war, which we do a good job of. But we're going to have to learn how to win the heart war. And that's in presidential elections what is plaguing our party.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: This comes after the first, sort of, votes of 2016 were cast this weekend with Kentucky's Senator Rand Paul winning the CPAC straw poll.

All right. So, Mark Preston, CNN's political director, joins now live from Washington. And, Mark, I took a look at embargoed copy of this report that's coming out today last night. There are more than 200 recommendations. Why is the Republican Party doing this type of soul- searching? MARK PRESTON, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Well, John, it comes down to demographics. If we look back at the numbers from November, Republicans got shut out across the board when you look at the youth, when you look at African-Americans, when you look at Hispanics. What was very troubling for them as well is Asian-Americans as well.

What Reince Priebus said yesterday on "Face the Nation", it's going to cost money. This is what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PRIEBUS: We'll be announcing a $10 million initiative just this year which will include hundreds of people paid across the country from coast to coast in Hispanic, African-American, Asian communities, talking about our party, talking about our brand, talking about what we believe in.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PRESTON: There you have it. Reince Priebus on Sunday talk shows yesterday, John, previewing the report in just a couple hours that would be made public.

What's also interesting from what I understand from the report, from those that have seen it, is that they're going to open up an office out in San Francisco to really try to harness the technology brain power we see out there in Silicon Valley.

BERMAN: Technology data a big part of it, also messaging, and also sort of the mechanics of picking a president. They're talking about sort of redoing the entire primary process.

PRESTON: They are, John. You know, there was a big frustration among establishment Republicans when they saw 20 presidential debates happen in the past campaign. They thought that these debates were very destructive to the eventual nominee, Mitt Romney. They wanted to reform that.

This is what Reince Priebus had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PRIEBUS: I think our debate calendar needs to be shrunk. I think we had way too many debates, candidates slicing and dicing each other. I think they had to wait too long to get to the convention. I'm calling for a convention in June or July.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PRESTON: And there you have it. Reince Priebus talking about moving up their convention. Now, our viewers were used to seeing Republicans and Democrats hold their conventions at the end of August, beginning in September. Reince Priebus is talking about doing that now at the beginning of the summer. John, it will greatly alter what we're used to in seeing how a presidential campaign operates.

BERMAN: Really will front-load the whole process, giving us a few months of just intense, intense campaigning.

Mark Preston, great to see you this morning. Thanks for coming in.

Later on "STARTING POINT," we're going to talk more about the Republican blueprint with Ari Fleischer. He's a former Bush White House press secretary. He co-chaired the RNC project, helped write the report.

Also, CNN's Jake Tapper, whose new show "THE LEAD" launches this afternoon at 4:00 Eastern Time, right here on CNN. He will be on the show at 8:00 talking about the Republican plan.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Listen up, Berman. Calling all bracketologists, the field for NCAA men's basketball tournament is now set and the team that won it all a year ago is not even in the tournament. Kentucky left out of the whole thing as Louisville gets the overall number one seed. Their tops in the Midwest region, the other number one seeds, Gonzaga in the West, Indiana in the East, and Kansas in the South.

And March Madness is in full swing at CNN Center in Atlanta. Look at this. This is time-lapse video and shows the construction of a giant NCAA tournament bracket. This year's final four will be at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. And the tourney gets under way tomorrow.

We're all filling in our brackets. You can compete against us. You can beat Berman. Go to CNN.com/brackets and join the CNN group.

BERMAN: I might be an easy target. I had to tell you. It's a really hard bracket.

SAMBOLIN: Do you ever win?

BERMAN: I have never won.

SAMBOLIN: Ha! I have.

BERMAN: Because I care too much.

SAMBOLIN: Oh, is that it? Really, or you're no good.

BERMAN: That's either one of the other thing.

A big story this weekend out of Ohio. Coming up, we're going to talk about that verdict in the Steubenville, Ohio, rape case. Two teenagers will be locked up. And soon, even more people could be charged.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SAMBOLIN: Welcome back to EARLY START. It is 14 minutes past the hour. And it's a case that has captured the nation's attention. Two teenagers accused of raping a drunken 16-year-old girl during a booze- fuelled night of partying in August. They learned their fate Sunday morning.

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

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

(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 Malik Richmond raped her daughter, saying this after court ended.

STEUBENVILLE RAPE VICTIM'S MOTHER: It did not matter what school you went to, what city you lived in or what sports you 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 decision 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, CONVICTED OF RAPING DRUNK CLASSMATE: I would truly like to apologize to (NAME BLANKED OUT) her family, my family and the community.

MALIK RICHMOND, CONVICTED OF RAPING DRUNK CLASSMATE: I would like to apologize. I had no intention to do anything wrong. I'm sorry to put you guys through this. I would just like -- I just want you to understand that I'm sorry. (INAUDIBLE) like.

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

JUDGET THOMAS LIPPS: 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. Trend Mays to a minimum of two years, guilty of rape and of taking and distributing and 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 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 even 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.

TEEN 1: What if that was your daughter?

TEEN 2: But it isn't.

TEEN 1: It wasn't.

TEEN 2: If it was my daughter, I wouldn't care. I'd just let her be dead.

HARLOW: Witnesses read text messes, 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.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SAMBOLIN: Oho Attorney General Mark DeWine announced after this verdict that a grant jury will be convened April 15th to determine if other crimes were committed in this incident, -- meaning more people could be charged here.

BERMAN: Nineteen minutes after the hour.

Right now, let's bring you up to speed on all the news happening around the world.

A horrifying scene in South Bend, Indiana. A private jet slamming into two homes, possibly damaging a third, and ending up nose first inside one of these houses. The body of the plane almost really split in half right there. An FAA spokesman says there were four people onboard, two of them are dead, at least three other people, including one person on the ground are injured.

SAMBOLIN: Louisiana's governor, that is, in a car accident last night in Baton Rouge. Bobby Jindal will was on his way home from his son's soccer game when state police say a truck made an illegal U-turn and sideswiped his vehicle. The governor was not hurt but a state trooper went to the hospital with minor injuries.

BERMAN: Vice President Joe Biden is in Italy, leading a U.S. delegation of the pope's inauguration mass tomorrow. But he's got some work on his agenda later today, meeting with Italy's president and prime minister.

Pope Francis meanwhile, giving his first noon blessing or Angelus yesterday with an estimated 200,000 worshippers looking on.

SAMBOLIN: People out in droves Sunday to honor Ireland's patron saint, St. Patrick. In Dublin, Ireland, a quarter of a million people line the streets for this parade. And more than a million showed up for celebrations in Boston.

Who knew? St. Paddy's Day was a hit in Shanghai. Look at this. With Irish songs and dances and, of course, green Chinese dragons.

BERMAN: My boys made leprechaun traps.

SAMBOLIN: Leprechaun traps.

BERMAN: They wanted to catch a leprechaun. They put leprechaun traps out Saturday night to see if they will catch anything. They did not catch anything, it turns.

SAMBOLIN: I just thought maybe you would put something in there. So --

BERMAN: The leprechauns some chain and candy for the boys.

So coming up, yes, a big market selloff in the Dow pointing down this morning.

SAMBOLIN: Bad, bad, bad.

BERMAN: And the teeny tiny country that may be responsible for it all. This is a really big story. We'll tell you all about it, back after the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: Welcome back to EARLY START, everyone. We are minding your business. And stocks around the world are selling off this morning. And we could see a drop here, too.

SAMBOLIN: And it's because of one tiny country in Europe. CNN's Alison Kosik is in for Christine Romans this morning. This is crazy.

ALISON KOSIK, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: And you're seeing the markets react right now. Asian markets are down 1 percent to 2 percent. The Dow looks like it's going to open about 90 points lower at least.

This is all about a tiny island country in the eastern Mediterranean Sea about the size of Rhode Island called Cyprus. It is below Turkey, west of Lebanon. It's so small that it accounts only for .2 percent of GDP for the entire E.U., but it's having a huge ripple effect. Now, we've often talked about the European bailouts. We kind of put that on the back burner.

But the issue is coming front and center again because the reality is Cyprus, itself needs a bailout. It's just the fourth country already, can you believe it, that needs a bailout. At this point, there is an international agreement on the table to give Cyprus $13 billion in bailout money.

Here's the thing though. Anyone with a bank account in Cyprus, they're going to have to chip in. There are reports that European -- euro-zone finance ministers, that they want people to actually hand over 3 percent of their money when they make a deposit of $129,000 or $100,000 euros or less.

So, let's say you make a deposit of $129,000. That would be $4,000 you're forking over to pay for this bailout. It's basically, OK, so we need to give a little. Every citizen has to give a little.

And, of course, this goes up and up if you deposit higher and higher. They actually go into the tens of thousands of dollars.

The big worry is, is that, could this set a precedent for other countries? Think about it, Cyprus is the fourth country to need a bailout. What about other countries that may need a bailout -- is this sort of opening up a can p of worms here?

So, what we saw happened over the weekend was, you know, citizens in Cyprus say, there was a run on the banks. They were getting their money out because of what's going on, very scary for a lot of people living there. At this point, it's just a proposal. Lawmakers are expected to try to vote on it today. It's been changing because of those actual amounts of taxation were actually higher and they're actually becoming more equitable.

Still a scary thing going on.

BERMAN: It's already created fear and the fear itself is creating problems all over Europe. They have done more damage than they want to correct.

KOSIK: Yes, you know, many are thinking that Cyprus is becoming the guinea pig of what to do for the bailouts. So, this is being watched closely.

SAMBOLIN: And it seems like such a crazy concept, right? KOSIK: It is. Can you imagine?

SAMBOLIN: No.

KOSIK: That happening here?

BERMAN: And you could see it in your 401(k) today.

KOSIK: Oh my gosh. That's true.

Twenty-seven minutes past the hour. The great cookie hoax. This is awful. Girl Scouts duped by an order for 6,000 boxes. Who does this?

BERMAN: Mean people.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)