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Suspected Killer Freed Four Years Early; Slain Texas District Attorney Replaced; New York State Senator, Others Arrested; NRA to Unveil School Safety Measures; Oil Spill Displaces Families; Connecticut Could Have Toughest Gun Laws; North Korea Raises Nuclear Stakes; Madoff Victims Get $500 M More; Kids; Fallon & Leno Do A Duet; Pope Embraces Disabled Boy

Aired April 2, 2013 - 10:00   ET



CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now in the NEWSROOM, not what you'd expect on your way out the front door. Crude oil in your front yard.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To see oil running down the road like a river all along that side there. It's just black crude oil, and it smells terrible.


COSTELLO: Green activists say it proves the Keystone Pipeline is a dangerous idea.

Plus, the case of Michael Jackson back in an L.A. courtroom. Jackson's mother says the concert promoter is to blame. She wants the company to pay.

And no hospital here, wounded American heroes healing on the open road.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's just amazing. If you can get someone to sign up and do the events with us, the difference is unbelievable.


COSTELLO: And a mother's instinct to protect her son.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was just devastated because I couldn't look at him or speak to him right then and there to see if he was OK.


COSTELLO: Kevin Ware's mom on her son lying helpless on the basketball court. You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM. Good morning. Thank you so much for being with me. I'm Carol Costello. We begin in Colorado where a very upset widow says a public apology will not bring her husband back. Katherine Leon, the wife of murdered pizza delivery man is irate after learning the man accused of killing her husband and the state's Prison Chief Tom Clements walked free from prison four years early because of a clerical error.

Evan Ebel was supposed to serve additional time for punching a prison guard, but because of a paperwork error, Ebel got out early. CNN affiliate KUSA spoke with a very emotional Katherine Leon. Here she is in her own words.


KATHERINE LEON, MURDER VICTIM'S WIDOW: A simple sorry isn't going to suffice in my book. I'm a 30-year-old widow with two little 4-year- olds that I have to go on the rest of my life explaining what happened to their dad that this could have all been prevented. It makes me sick and it angers me something fierce, to sit there and think this all could have been prevented.

It happened once. It's going to happen again. I mean, they -- clerical error. Clerical error isn't going bring my husband back. It's not going to bring Tom Clements back. It's not going to bring my children's father back.

How do I tell my 4-year-olds, "Daddy was murdered because of a clerical error, because of something they failed to look into?" How do you tell your 4-year-old daughters that and have to go on the rest of your life knowing that this could have been prevented.

If somebody would have done their job and stood up and went through that paperwork before they ever released this monster into society. Outraged doesn't touch how I felt, it doesn't even touch, sick to my stomach, irate. How do you feel when something like this happens?

I mean, really, every day it's been getting worse. Every day I find something new out, and this was just the cherry on top of a really messed up month to say the least. My husband never held a grudge against anybody. He saw the light in everybody no matter how evil that person was.

He was the most amazing father and the most amazing husband that anybody -- I mean, there's good people out there, but my husband topped them all. He was 27 years old. He was the light of my life. He was the light of my children's life.


LEON: He was -- he was the greatest person I've ever had the pleasure of meeting by far.


COSTELLO: The alleged killer, Evan Ebel, was killed in the shoot-out with Texas police last month in the days following those murders in Colorado.

To Texas now, where an interim prosecutor will head the Kaufman County District Attorney's Office following the second murder of a prosecutor in just two months. Brandi Fernandez was chosen following the death of her boss, District Attorney Mike McLelland.

McLelland and his wife Cynthia were found murdered on Saturday. Investigators are struggling this morning. No new leads in the case. The clues are hard to come by, as well, in the death of McLelland's deputy prosecutor.

Mark Hasse was shot and killed outside the courthouse in January. George Howell is here with more. Good morning, George.

GEORGE HOWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Carol, good morning. You know, as you mentioned, no new information from investigators at this point, but we do now have new insight into this case because of a search warrant affidavit. We now know that Mr. McLelland and his wife, Cynthia, their body were discovered by friends who had been trying to reach them for some time.

We also know that McLelland talked to relatives on Friday. That is according to this affidavit. Now investigators there are trying to work with a judge to get mobile phone records from a cell phone tower near the home. That's the new information that we have, Carol, according to the affidavit.

COSTELLO: I understand, too, George, there's a touching tribute to the McLellands.

HOWELL: Indeed. You know, we know just the other day the hearse arrived here to basically let people see -- see this is really a family for a first time. In many ways, this is law enforcement losing family. We saw full police escorts.

We saw police saluting the victims of this crime as they prepare for events later this week, Carol. We know that on Thursday there will be a public memorial that will be held at 1:00 p.m. in Sunnyvale, Texas, and then on Friday, the funeral and burial to follow.

COSTELLO: George Howell reporting live from Kaufman County, Texas this morning.

Also this morning, in New York State, federal agents arrested a state senator in New York and several other elected officials. They now face public corruption charges. The FBI says Democrat Malcolm Smith offered bribes to Republican leaders in order to get on to the GOP ballot for the upcoming New York City mayor's race.

Next hour, the NRA will unveil the last part of its school safety initiative in Washington. It comes nearly four months after the Sandy Hook School massacre. The measures include putting armed guards in every school in the country. The pro-gun lobby group has been pushing that idea after 26 teachers and children were killed in Newtown in December. Also, in reaction to the Newtown shootings, Connecticut lawmakers are expected to vote on a bipartisan plan being called the strongest and most comprehensive in the entire country aimed at curbing gun violence, parents of Sandy Hook, of the victims, voicing their support.


JACKIE BARDEN, SANDY HOOK PARENT: It's our job to make sure it doesn't happen for our son.

MARK BARDEN, SANDY HOOK PARENT: Everybody needs to think about it and look into their hearts and try to do what's necessary to make the changes that have to happen.


COSTELLO: The proposals include adding more than 100 guns to the state's assault weapons ban and limiting the capacity of ammunition magazines to just ten rounds.

In the meantime, the small Georgia town of Nelson has just passed a law requiring all households to own a gun and ammunition. Now this is mainly seen as a political statement on gun ownership. City officials have made it clear they won't actually enforce the law. Residents can opt out if they choose without facing a fine or penalty.

It still could be several days before more than two dozen Arkansas families displaced by an oil spill are allowed to go back home. Crews are working to clean up about 12,000 barrels of heavy crude that's flowing like a river through the town of Mayflower. The spill happened on Friday with a two to three-inch gash in a pipeline that runs underneath the ground from Illinois to Texas.

Joining me now are Amber Bartlett and Glen Hooks. Amber and her family are among those displaced, and Glen Lives nearby in Little Rock and is with the environmental group, the Sierra Club. Welcome to both of you.


COSTELLO: Good morning. Amber, I want to start with you. Tell me what your yard looks like.

AMBER BARTLETT, EVACUATED HOME AFTER OIL SPILL: My yard is not affected near as badly as those up the road from me. A little bit of oil got just in the very front of the front yard, and that's it.

COSTELLO: So tell me about the rest of your neighborhood.

BARTLETT: Well, if you travel up to the cul-de-sac, it was just covered Friday in nothing but oil. And it looked like a river flowing down the road.

COSTELLO: What does it smell like? BARTLETT: It -- the smell is -- it's very intense. The rain actually helped it out I think from over the weekend. But I went back in for a few minutes to get things yesterday, and it was smelling -- it was more intense than it was on Saturday.

COSTELLO: So does this pipeline runs underneath your neighborhood, were you ever concerned that this might happen?

BARTLETT: I can't say that I was concerned because I do not recall being told that it was there so no.

COSTELLO: So you were totally surprised by this. Glen, you represent an environmental group, what critics would call greenies. Those same critics say your group is trying to politicize the spill in Arkansas to stop the Keystone pipeline, which will be running through Oklahoma and Nebraska. Are you connected and if you are, why?

GLEN HOOKS, SIERRA CLUB: Well, certainly we are connecting the two because this is a great example of what could happen if the Keystone XL pipeline is permitted and built. What happening here in Mayflower is not a simple crude oil spill. What's flowing through these pipes is oil from Canada.

This is viscous, thick, nasty stuff that is really dangerous. That's the same kind of thing that the Keystone XL pipeline is slated to bring from Canada. The dangers are analogous.

So we think it's worth talking about the risks, especially to Arkansas elected officials who are in favor of the pipeline. This has happened in their backyard now and we really need to let them know that this is not OK.

COSTELLO: Well, in fairness, the Pegasus pipeline that runs through Amber's neighborhood. It's 850 miles long. It's a decades' old pipe and some might say, you know, old pipes are bound to leak. The Keystone pipeline will be brand new. It will be able to electronically catch leaks before they become serious. Could an answer to this problem just be new technology and new pipes?

HOOKS: Well, every pipe no matter how new it is, is going to leak. Even the proponents of the Keystone XL pipeline are talking about how many leaks will there be not will there be leaks at all. And there are dangerous leaks to our water systems and so forth.

This pipe that we're talking about now actually continues on and runs into the little rock water supply. So it has a lot of danger that we're concerned about. Really if we're talking about big picture issues, Keystone pipeline would move tar from Canada, affect the climate change problem that we're battling.

But also adds to the risk of leaks and water pollution and a lot of environmental damage that is entirely avoidable just like this problem in Mayflower was.

COSTELLO: So amber, what would make you feel better? Would new piping make you feel better if Exxon listening to the neighbors' concerns and trying to get this cleaned up as quickly as possible?

BARTLETT: Exxon has been great in aiding the residents and information. You know, at this point I couldn't tell you what would make me feel better about the situation. I think I'm still kind of in shock as most residents are at this point.

I think it will just take some time to set in. I do know that there are probably some homes that will not be livable, which that makes the rest of us in the neighborhood wonder about the value of our homes.

COSTELLO: I can understand that. Amber, Bartlett, Glen Hooks, thank you so much for being with us this morning.

Jay Leno and Jimmy Fallon can do more than just tell a joke. They can sing one, too. Let you hear right after this.


COSTELLO: It's 15 minutes past the hour. Time to check our top stories, North Korea state-run TV is showing images of communist troops opening fires of symbols of the United States and South Korea. It's the latest test of the strained relations between the two nations. North Korea also saying it will restart a nuclear reactor for its weapons program.

Victims of Bernie Madoff's Ponzi scheme are getting more money back, another $500 million according to the Securities Investor Protector Corporation. That brings the total returned so far to almost $5.5 billion. Investigators say more than $17 billion was lost in Madoff's scam.

Just in time for spring break, tanning beds for kids under the age of 17 now illegal in New Jersey, that's according to several reports this morning. The governor, Chris Christie, has signed the bill into law noting the risks of skin cancer and the need to protect the safety of minors. The law also bans children under 14 from getting spray tans in those same tanning salons.

Two comedians plus a lot of network drama equals one classic performance by Jimmy Fallon and Jay Leno. It sounds like the two are pretty tight as they swap "Tonight Show" rumors over a duet. Let's listen.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hi, Kid. How you holding up?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know, I've been through this before, you know. Got to admit, I get a little sick of all this.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Jay, can I ask you something? We're still friends, right? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. Of course -- of course, we're still friends.



COSTELLO: I needed a laugh this morning. I hope you did, too. The lip syncing was a little off, but that was really funny. Why they keep -- why do they keep making fun of these rumors when everybody pretty much knows the rumors are probably true?

NISCHELLE TURNER, CNN ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT: Well, listen, you know, the message here is when the going gets tough, the tough sing show tunes. Me, too. Why not? The sun will come out tomorrow. I think what they're trying to do is deal with this issue of will Fallon replace Leno the best way they know how. That's by making a joke about it.

You know, despite his popularity, Jay Leno is a pretty polarizing figure. He's always had his share of detractors inside and outside of the industry. But Carol, he is a survivor. You know, in '92 he out maneuvered Letterman to get the job. A couple of years ago he survived the attempt to replace him with Conan O'Brien.

Although NBC does seem to be ready to move on with Jimmy Fallon as the host of the "Tonight Show," I would say don't ever count Jay out because his ratings are higher than Letterman's on CBS or Jimmy Kimmel's on ABC.

And he's also got a contract. And that reportedly runs through the fall of next year so all of that adds up to a sticky situation for NBC executives.

COSTELLO: OK. Well, it's fascinating to watch. It will bring ratings in the meantime, right? Yes.

TURNER: And there has been a ratings bump, by the way, for the "Tonight Show" through all of this. Yes, you're right. We love to watch a train wreck. Yes, we do.

COSTELLO: You're right. The sun will come out tomorrow. Nischelle Turner, thanks so much.

TURNER: Say it with me now --

COSTELLO: We'll be right back.


COSTELLO: Now is your chance to talk back on one of the big stories of the day. The question for you this morning, will America ever come together on guns? America's big discussion on guns illustrates one thing -- we live in two very different Americas, one that lives in Nelson, Georgia, where council members just passed a law requiring people to own guns although there's no penalty if you don't.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If anything should happen, they would have to use a firearm that they are backed up by their government.


COSTELLO: It's a symbolic gesture, right, but not in Tucson. If you want a gun and couldn't afford one, you may be in luck. There's a new plan to give guns away for free to help fight crime.

Now the other America, it lives in Connecticut where state lawmakers agreed to a deal on some of the strictest gun laws in the entire country. Fifteen weeks after Sandy Hook. For the families there, it's personal.


JACKIE BARDEN: It's our job to make sure it doesn't happen for our son.

MARK BARDEN: Everybody needs to think about it and look into their hearts and try to do what's necessary to make the changes that have to happen.


COSTELLO: Exactly what those changes are depends on which side you're on. Today, the NRA is coming out with its plan for school safety including guns in every school in America. Not exactly a priority for the Obama administration.

It's focused on background checks and gun trafficking. It's like Americans live in two totally different worlds. The talk back question today -- will America ever come together on guns? or tweet me @CarolCNN.