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Convicted Rabbi Killer May Be Set Free; Soon: Peres Hosts State Dinner for Obama; Obama Speaks Frankly to Israel; Raw Emotion in Gun Control Debate; Biden: Think About Newtown; Another Town, Another Rape Case

Aired March 21, 2013 - 14:00   ET


FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN: Where does the time go? Hard to believe Twitter turns 7 years old today. 200 million followers post 400 million tweets every day. We've seen the rise and fall of trends, celebrities, and major news events all in 140 characters or less. Like this photo of survivors of the U.S. Airways flight that crashed into the Hudson River back in 2009. Remember that? It was snapped by Janice Krumm, a commuter on a nearby ferry. One of the first images the world saw of the crash.

Then famous iconic voice of the AFLAC duck was fired for tweeting jokes about Japan weeks after the tsunami hit. This was the tweet, "I was talking to my Japanese real estate agent, I said is there a school in this area, she said, not now, but just wait." May 2, 2011, an I.T. consultant inadvertently tweeted helicopter hovering above Abbottabad at 1:00 a.m. is a rare event. Anthony Weiner famously stepped down as a Congressman after tweeting this shirtless photo and more to a female follower. At first, he said his Twitter account was hacked, but eventually 'fessed up. And President Obama posting this photo with the first lady with the words "Four more years," after he won reelection just last November. It was the most retweeted tweet.

All right, rumors of Jimmy Fallon taking over for Jay Leno had the late night war talk in high gear now. Jimmy Kimmel weighs in on "THE LEAD" with Jake Tapper today at 4:00 Eastern Time, but first "CNN NEWSROOM" with Don Lemon begins right now. He's tweeting right now, too.

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Live during this show, a man convicted of killing a rabbi could walk free and prosecutors say it's the right move.


NIKKI TAYLOR, SUPERMODEL: I was a passenger on an extremely devastating one-car accident.


LEMON: Supermodel Nikki Taylor thanks the people who saved her life.

Plus, the CEO of Xerox suggests women should marry older men to succeed at work. My hot topics panel weighs in.

And curing cancer, find out why dream teams of scientists are closer than ever.

Hello, everyone. I'm Don Lemon. In one hour, a New York judge may free a man convicted 22 years ago for a murder many believed he did not commit. Among the believers, not just defense attorneys, but the Brooklyn D.A., who is going before the court today to ask for the release of this man, David Ranta, who was convicted in 1991 for the murder of Rabbi Chasco Warsburger, who was 58 years old, a reporter survivor of Auschwitz and champion for Jews in Brooklyn.

The rabbi was at the wrong place at the wrong time when a robber gunned him down and got away in his car. Detectives say they had Rantas' confession, eyewitnesses, and more. But as the D.A. began digging, he determined Ranta was the wrong man.

Let's got to CNN's Mary Snow now, she is in Brooklyn. Mary, how did this case fall apart?

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, really, Don, the turning point and what set this in motion was an eyewitness who identified David Ranta in a police lineup came forward two years ago to say that he was told by police who to pick. He was 13 at the time of that lineup.

He phoned David Ranta's attorney two years ago to say it was weighing on him and a that a police detective had told him, this is his words, to pick the guy with the big nose. The attorney for David Ranta then went to the Brooklyn D.A.'s office relaying this information to the Conviction Integrity Unit.

They were looking to review cases. They took up this case, and in their investigation, they say they found two other witnesses who admitted lying, and they found holes in the police work.

Now, the chief detective in the case at the time, his name is Louis Scarcella, and he is now retired. We caught up with him a short time ago to ask him about claims David Ranta was framed. Here's what he had to say.


LOUIS SCARCELLA, RETIRED NEW YORK POLICE DETECTIVE: Ma'am, I didn't do anything wrong. I stand by my investigation, and I don't know what else to tell you.


SNOW: He would only speak to us briefly, Don, but he says that he secured a confession from David Ranta at the time. He says he stands by that, but Ranta and his attorney said that Ranta never made any confession and always maintained his innocence -- Don.

LEMON: OK, then the obvious question, who do investigators think killed Rabbi Werzberger?

SNOW: They have a lead, but the bottom line is we may never know with 100 percent certainty. Here's why. A woman came forward in the 1990s and said that her husband had confessed to killing the rabbi, but her husband was killed in a car accident shortly after the murder.

The police investigators and prosecutors say that they have no evidence to contradict what she's saying, but no evidence to prove what she's saying. And that information that she came forward with was used in a hearing in 1996.

There was some credibility, questions that came into play, and the conviction of David Ranta, obviously, wasn't overturned there and his lawyers said he thought David Ranta was going to die in prison and believed him all the way along that he was innocent.

LEMON: Mary Snow in Brooklyn, thank you very much for your reporting.

At any minute now, President Barack Obama will be honored by the Israelis at the state dinner in Jerusalem. It is just beginning and this comes on the heels of a very frank address to the Jewish state as a whole where he seemed to be speaking as an older brother, dispensing advice to a sibling. Over and over the president said, I'm with you, have no doubt about this. But this was his bottom line.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: The only way for Israel to endure and thrive as a Jewish and democratic state is through the realization of an independent and viable Palestine.


LEMON: The president said the Palestinian people must have a state of their own, just as the Jewish people do. And for that, he got a sustained applause. In Jerusalem, CNN's John King is with us now from Jerusalem. John, it was a very interesting talk. It seemed the president selected his audience well.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Smart politics, Don. The president bringing to Israel some of the personal style we've seen on the political campaign trail and the policy campaign trail, if you will, back home.

Traditionally, an American president visits here when he wants to speak to the Israeli people. He goes into the Knesset, that's the parliament. What would be in Knesset? Older people, right? Older people, no offense to older people, but the president's trying to put pressure on the politicians.

He said flat out in that speech, trust me, I'm a politician. We don't do risky things unless we get pressure from the people. So he's trying to rally the younger generation of Israelis, who as you noted, was interesting.

The president was saying the Israeli government mistreats Palestinians and he was getting applause from young Israelis. He's trying to get them to put pressure on their prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, a conservative, somebody unwilling to say stop settlement building.

One of the obstacles to peace talks to say, rise up to your government and said, we want a new Israel. We want a different Israel. Don, we could talk an hour about the obstacles of peace, but nudge your side to move forward, hopefully young Palestinians will nudge their side.

So many people have tried at this and failed. You might say the president trying a new grassroots approach here in Israel.

LEMON: A new approach, I want you to listen to this, John, again to the president. He spoke of a meeting he had with a group of Palestinian youth.


PRESIDENT OBAMA: Talking to them, they weren't that different from my daughters. They weren't that different from your daughters or sons. I honestly believe that if any Israeli parent sat down with those kids, they'd say, I want these kids to succeed. I want them to prosper. I want them to have opportunities.


LEMON: John King, that's all well and good, lovely words, but let's talk about actions, specifically this. Iraq has fired at Israel from Palestinian soil today during the president's visit.

Fired, in fact, from Gaza, whose Palestinian leaders refuse to accept Israel's right to exist so despite the applause the president got, his new offensive, as you said, new approach is use offensive. A lot of Israelis will say this is our reality, correct?

KING: They would, Don. They would say this is our reality. Rockets fired in from Gaza, which is controlled by Hamas, a Palestinian faction that frankly says Israel has no right to exist. So that's what Israelis would say is their reality.

Palestinians would say, you keep building settlements in the west bank, that's way beyond Israel's 1967 borders. You keep building highways that go right through our communities so you connect Jewish communities. So the Israelis point to rockets, Palestinians point to construction and other offenses.

Both sides have their reasons, some would call them excuses, some would call them, whatever, but both sides have their objections to getting back to the bargaining table and making the concessions necessary for peace. So what is the president trying to do?

Not talk to the politicians, but talk to the parents. Again, will it bring a peace process about tomorrow, no, next week, no, next month, probably not, but the president's trying to change the dynamic and get people to stop talking about it in a political terms.

Land for peace, settlement, rockets that have dropped progress in the past to try to start a new conversation about what is this tiny little neighborhood going to look like in 10 years, 20 years if we don't change the way we think about it.

LEMON: All right, John King in Jerusalem. John, thank you very much. Let's go to politics now. Politics gave way to raw emotion today as Vice President Joe Biden, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and the families of the victims of the Newtown massacre pushed for tighter gun control.


NEIL HESLIN, FATHER OF NEWTOWN VICTIM JESSE LEWIS: My son Jesse's life was taken by a cowardly deranged person with an assault weapon. No child deserves to be murdered or brutally slaughtered the way these children were. And quite honestly, I'm really ashamed to see the Congress doesn't have the guts to stand up and make a change and put a ban on these types of weapons and universal background checks.

LYNN MCDONNELL, MOTHER OF NEWTOWN VICTIM GRACE MCDONNELL: In the immediate aftermath of the shooting, there was a sense of what happened in our town might be a tipping point, and that real meaningful progress in the area of gun safety might result. And we know that a lot of good people are working very hard to try to make this happen, and we thank them for that.

We'd ask everyone who has power to influence legislation in this area and, of course, those whose job it is to vote on the legislation to ask themselves if they are doing enough to bring about real and meaningful change, and if they are not, to ask themselves, why not?


LEMON: Well, the White House has been urging Congress to pass an assault weapons ban, but Senate Democrats dropped it this week from the gun control package that will be debated on the Senate floor next month.


JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Three months ago, a deranged man walked into Sandy Hook Elementary School with a weapon of war. That's what we walked in with, with a weapon of war.

And that weapon of war has no place on American streets. And taking it off American streets has no impact on one's constitutional right to own a weapon. No less than Justice Scalia acknowledged the government has a right.


LEMON: The vice president says that the will of the people will prevail and he reminded the room that the original 10-year assaults weapon ban had long been written off long before it eventually had been adopted in 1994.

Days after a judge convicted two high school football players of rape, another town, another case of alleged rape. And this time the victim was called a whore and a snitch. We're on the case next.


LEMON: All right, I want to get you now. There is the president of the United States and Israeli President Perez. They are at his private residence holding a state dinner. As soon as they start speaking, we'll bring it to you.

In the meantime, as they get ready, we're going to move on here with our show and talk about some very interesting cases in the news. Two football players accused of rape, small town police under national scrutiny, and the alleged victim under fire.

We're not talking Steubenville, Ohio, this is in Connecticut. These two 18-year-olds, there they are, Edward Gonzalez, he is on the left, and then there's Johan Taribio. They have pleaded not guilty to the sexual assault of two 13-year-old girls. Some big differences, though, from Steubenville.

The players are charged as adults and this is an apparent case of statutory rape. We're going to talk about this. On the case now with attorney and anchor of HLN's "EVENING EXPRESS," Ryan Smith, and Defense Attorney Joey Jackson are here.

The brothers are back on the couch to talk about some very serious things. To you first, explain statutory rape and how, Joey, that's vastly different from what happened in Steubenville.

JOEY JACKSON, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Yes, it's vastly different for this reason. The law gives you a certain age upon when you can't consent. When you're 13 years old, you don't have the legal capacity to say, OK. So in essence even if you do say it's OK, the law says you don't know enough, and therefore, it's not OK.

LEMON: Ryan, just like in Steubenville, social media is playing a part here in all of this, some say re-victimizing the alleged victims here. Here's one of the tweets, it says, even if it was all his fault, what was a 13-year-old girl doing hanging around with 18-year- old guys? It's tough on the victims.

RYAN SMITH, ANCHOR, HLN'S "EVENING EXPRESS": Yes, it does. Because you know, it gives them a sense of what really happened in this crime. They are going to investigate and look into everything and social media gives them certain leads. When you see comments like that, you say they don't understand what happened here.

As Joey said, that 13-year-old cannot consent. That's how we judge them in the law. They are not at the age where they can consent. So it's not about hanging out with somebody, it's about the fact these young boys, if, in fact, they are guilty, should not have done this.

LEMON: Let's talk about the culture of athletes, especially football players. What does it say about the culture among young people, is that a factor here?

SMITH: I think in the responses it's a little bit of a factor because maybe people are responding, oh, these guys are such great players, how can we take their youth away from them? It's not about that, this is a crime if they are found guilty.

So in terms of the response, I don't look at this is doing something to football. I mean, not all football players are bad people, we know that. I played football and we're good people. You know, here you've got a situation where I think people don't understand that this is a crime.

LEMON: Right. Joey, he brings up a good point, because when, you know, yes, you may be great on the football field or basketball court, but when you're home, you're my child. Is there something that the parents aren't doing with these particular young people?

JACKSON: You know what, Don, I think it takes an entire community. It certainly, starts at home. You know, when you're a parent, you want to make sure your children know right from wrong that they have respect whether male, female, anyone else.

And then of course, it carries over into schools with teachers who are constructive, who give constructive criticism, who give guidance with coaches and everybody else because at the end of the day, it's about protecting our children and our communities.

LEMON: Thank you. Great conversation and on a lighter note, you guys could have called me with a purple and lavender.

SMITH: Yes, tried to arrange it with you.

JACKSON: Next time, Don.

LEMON: Three brothers on a couch, now two. Thank you, guys. Appreciate it.

We have to get to Israel now, Shimon Peres speaking at his private residence. Let's listen in.

SHIMON PERES, PRESIDENT OF ISRAEL: -- from here, I want to convey our love to the south along Gaza. And continue to plans, raise their children, it is an inspiration to each of us. Today the enemies of peace spoke in the only language they know, the language of terror. I am convinced that together we shall defeat them.

Dear Barack, your visit here is a historic event. We are so happy to receive you and your distinguished delegation. I'm glad to see Secretary John Kerry, John, I know you are and I know you will be successful.

I'm not sure that the prophets have had idols, but if they have, they would have said actually he has said, and in that occasion, and I'm quoting him. "How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation."

Well, you have to be satisfied with my diet language. I cannot speak like him. It is my privilege to present you with our country's highest honor, the medal of distinction. This award speaks to you, to your tireless work to make Israel strong, to make peace possible. Your presidency has given the closest ties between Israel and the United States a new height, a sense of intimacy, a vision for the future. The people of Israel are particularly moved by your unforgettable contribution to their security.

You're defending our skies, to your relegation and to remain intelligence, which is the right way to pre-empt bloodshed. The diplomatic and military bonds between us have reached an unprecedented level.

When I visited you in Washington, I thought in my heart, America is so great, and we are so small. I learned that you don't measure us by size, but by values. Thank you. When it comes to values, we are you and you are us. On occasions when we were alone, you stood with us, so we are not alone.

We are alone together. We shall never forget it. During your previous visit to Israel, you asked me if I had any advice to offer. Well, it's not my nature not to let questions go unanswered. So, I suggested that while people say that the future belongs to the young, it is the present that really belongs to the young. Leave the future to me. I have time.

I think I was right. Because the moment you came into office, you immediately had to face daunting and demanding challenges day in, day out. I prayed that you would meet them with wisdom and determination. Without losing hope, without allowing others to lose hope.

You know, the prayers were answered after it came from Jerusalem and they came to us as a great message. It is a tribute to the strength of your character, to your principles that you have never surrendered to hopelessness. You stood and stand firmly by your vision. Your values serve your nation. They serve our nation, as well.

So, I know that you will never stop to strive for a better world, as you say today -- we have reached heritage. As I look back, I feel that the Israel of today has exceeded the vision you have had 65 years ago. The reality has surpassed the dreams. The United States of America helped us to make this possible.

Still, the path to tomorrow may be fought with obstacles. I believe that we can overcome them by our determination and by your commitment. I'm convinced that you will do whatever is necessary to free the world's horizons and disguise Jerusalem from the Iranian threat.

Iran denies the Shara and calls for a new one. Iran is building a nuclear bomb. The Iranian regime is the greatest danger to the world peace. Time and again, peace, prosperity, and stable society cannot flourish when threats and belligerency abound.

Ladies and gentlemen, tonight, the Iranian people are celebrating their new year. I wish them, from the depths of my heart, a happy holiday and a year of freedom. Israel will seize any opportunity for peace. Being small, we have to maintain our edge. I know that you responded and will respond to it. The strengths of Israel is its defense forces. Therefore, the ability to seek peace and North America has contributed to Israel's security is the best guarantee to end the march of fury, the march of terror and bloodshed. We march with admiration the way you lead the United States of America, the way you stayed true, time and again, to your bonds of friendship with us.

Your commitment indeed speaks volumes about the principles that guide America to strive for freedom and democracy at home, but also all over the world. You send the boys to fight for the freedom of us. What is uplifting is that the United States brought freedom not only unto its own people, but never stops and never will stop to help other people to become free.

Your present democracy at its best, you have deepened its meaning, namely, that democracy is not just the right to be equal, but the equal right to be different. The democracy is not just a free expression, but is self expression, as well.

You exemplify the spirit of democracy by striving for justice and equality and opportunity in the American society and the world has now become global and yet remains individual, and you offer those principles. You have shown global responsibility and individual sensitivity.

On Monday night, Mr. President, we shall celebrate Passover, the festival of freedom, the celebration of spring. The celebration of spring means our journey from the house of slaves to the home of the free. This started more than 3,000 years ago. We remember it every year.

We are commended to feel as though each of us personality participated in the journey. We shall not forget where we came from. We shall remember always where we are headed to, which is to make the promise land a land of promise, a land of freedom, justice, and equality.

While reality calls for vigilance, Passover calls to remain believers. Israel is an island in a stormy sea. We have to make our island safe and wish the sea will become tranquil. We converted our desert into a garden. It was achieved by our people and the potential of science.

What we have done, Mr. President, can be done all over the Middle East, as we have rightly said tonight. Israel is described as a start-up nation. The Middle East can become a start-up region.