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"Person Of Interest" in Texas DA Murder; Rutgers Univ. Coach Under Fire for Player Abuse; Ware Back On Campus; NRA: Expansion of Background Checks on Table; Louisville's Ware Back on Campus; "Mountain Man" in Custody

Aired April 3, 2013 - 05:30   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: So could it be the break that cops are looking for? A person of interest identified in the murder of two Texas prosecutors.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Out of bounds and maybe out of a job. A college hoops coach called out nasty behavior on the court all caught on camera.

BERMAN: You can call him the comeback kid. South Carolina's former governor, Mark Sanford, takes a big step towards putting his scandalous past behind him.

Welcome back to EARLY START, everyone. I'm John Berman.

ROMANS: I'm Christine Romans in for Zoraida today. It's Wednesday, April 3rd. We're about 30 minutes past the hour.

A new development this morning in the case of two murdered prosecutors in Kaufman, Texas. Investigators are now focusing on a person of interest, they say, a former justice of the peace named Eric Williams (ph) who was fired in a corruption probe and prosecuted by the two men who are now dead.

CNN's George Howell live from Kaufman, Texas, this morning. George, tell us about this person of interest.

GEORGE HOWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Christine, good morning. So CNN spoke with his attorney, David Sergi, and we learned that investigators, they met at a local Denny's here to take swab samples from Williams' hand to test for gun residue. At this point, CNN does not know what the results of those samples revealed to investigators, but Sergi, David Sergi tells us that his client did cooperate voluntarily because he has nothing to hide.

But it's important to put all of this in perspective. Williams may be one of several people of interest that investigators are looking into that these two men, that Hasse and McLelland, may have prosecuted over their careers, and also, there are several other theories that are still out there, the possibility of the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas may be being connected, the possibility of a drug cartel or was this an inside job? We just don't know because, again, no suspect is in custody. But, Christine, fair to say that these investigators have a lot of angles that they can look into.

ROMANS: I'll say. So George, what sort of differences are you seeing as the investigation moves forward?

HOWELL: You know, just yesterday, this was very, very apparent, but you see these public officials being flanked by law enforcement as they enter the courthouse, as they exit. And we spoke with one district attorney in nearby Anderson County who told us about the mood, what it's like to do his job in this environment. I want you to take a listen to this.


DOUG LOWE, ANDERSON CO, DISTRICT ATTORNEY: I feel like Mike was murdered for what he did, and so it makes it kind of -- it's a little scary to people like me, but it's not going to change the way I do business. And I'm not going to walk in fear. I'm not going to not prosecute the people I prosecute. But you've got to be careful.


HOWELL: So Christine, the person that is filling Mike McLelland's position now, Randi Fernandez, she will be filling that position for 21 days until Governor Rick Perry here appoints a new district attorney for this county, but we understand that Fernandez is being flanked also by security, 24-hour a day security.

ROMANS: All right. George Howell for us in Texas this morning. Thanks, George.

BERMAN: So we're following developments this morning in the story that is just shocked and surprised so many people that has to do with Rutgers University and the video surfacing about its basketball coach, Mike Rice. This video shows Rice screaming at players, grabbing them. He kicks them, throws balls at them, including their heads throwing them from point blank range during practice, and if that's not enough, he uses some gay slurs to reprimand them.

Now, Rutgers officials have known about this disturbing video since last fall. So a lot of people are asking why does the coach still have his job? This is how the school's athletic director explains it.


TIM PERNETTI, RUTGERS DIRECTOR OF ATHLETICS: The moment that we became aware of the video in November, when it was presented to us by Eric and his lawyers, we immediately commenced an independent investigation into the matter. We talked to everybody in the program. We evaluated the situation, and we suspended Mike in a more significant way than coaches have been suspended in recent memory.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BERMAN: So that punishment, just three games had some people pretty angry right now. So now, the pressure is growing on Rutgers to fire the coach.

ROMANS: Wow. I mean, it's just -- you hear tales of tough coaches who use real hard language, but that's a bully -- that's not leadership. It's like bully territory.

BERMAN: Look, I've been to a lot of practices and I've seen a lot of sports action, you know, up close. I've never seen anything quite like that. And there've been tweets. They've been talking about this, about players like Lebron James, Ray Allen, people around the league. They're all shocked by this also. It's not like this is something that everyone sees all the time.

ROMANS: And some players actually said they have moved schools. They left the program because of this.

BERMAN: There were transfers who are now saying that was part of the reason they left.

ROMANS: All right. We'll continue to follow that all morning only on CNN.

The NRA's Asa Hutchinson telling our Wolf Blitzer the expansion of background checks is on the table. Hutchinson is a former congressman who's heading up the NRA's national school shield task force, while his new position on background checks appears to be a concession. It comes with a giant, giant caveat.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm open to expanding background checks. You can do it in a way that does not infringe upon an individual and make it hard for an individual to transfer to a friend or a neighbor, somebody that, if you're in Montana and have a casual sale, we don't want to infringe upon those rights either.


ROMANS: Hutchinson's loophole for so-called casual gun sales amounts to a rejection of Democratic senator, Chuck Schumer's, bill that would require universal background checks for all gun sales.

BERMAN: A grisly scene on a busy Brazilian highway. A passenger bus plunging 30 feet from a via duct in Rio De Janeiro onto its roof. At least seven people were killed, six others injured. Rush hour traffic at a standstill yesterday as the victims were removed from the bus. A witness told Brazilian TV station the driver had a dispute with the passenger right before the crash.

ROMANS: All right. Day 40 -- day 40 -- 40 days now of the Jodi Arias murder trial. Plenty of drama continues here. The judge denying a defense request for a mistrial, but a juror was thrown off the case and left the courthouse sobbing. Arias' defense had argued juror number five, a female in her 30s, jeopardized this case by gossiping and exhibiting bias in front of other jurors. That juror is now gone.

BERMAN: Former South Carolina governor Mark Sanford continues his somewhat improbable political comeback. Sanford beat Charleston City councilman Curtis Bostic last night in a Republican Congressional runoff. He will now face Democrat Elizabeth Colbert Busch in a May 7th special election. As we all know now, she is the sister of comedian Stephen Colbert.

Here's what Sanford told supporters last night.


MARK SANFORD (R), S.C. CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: I'm incredibly humbled, incredibly gratified, incredibly thankful for this night, for what it means at many different levels, and I just want to thank everyone of you for your part in making it possible. Thank you very much.


BERMAN: Sanford's career and personal life sort of left in shambles after he disappeared from office and lied about an extramarital affair back in 2009.

ROMANS: The president and first lady are getting ready to welcome one of their favorite singers to the White House, part of a star-studded concert next week that will pay tribute to Memphis soul music.




ROMANS: Justin Timberlake will be there along with Cyndi Lauper. They're going to be joined by soul legend, Sam Moore of Sam & Dave, Mavis Staples, and guitarist Steve Cropper, and the legendary Al Green will be there, seen here performing for a Capitol Records concert, which means President Obama could face pressure to get on stage. He might just be Al Green's number one fan.





ROMANS: The concert will be recorded and broadcast later this month on PBS.

BERMAN: Not bad, but I do prefer the Al Green version --


ROMANS: Neither of them should quit their day job.

BERMAN: So 37 minutes after the hour. His gruesome injury stunned sports fans all over the country. Coming up, Louisville's Kevin Ware takes a big step towards recovery. Good for him.


BERMAN: After suffering that awful leg injury on national television, Louisville's Kevin Ware is back on campus in Kentucky this morning. The sophomore guard left the hospital and returned to Louisville yesterday after suffering a compound fracture of his right leg during Sunday's elite eight game.

Now, Ware is expected to be off the court for about a year while his Cardinals continue on to the final four in Atlanta this weekend.

ROMANS: All right. CNN's Joe Carter is live in Louisville. Joe, the Cardinals head to Atlanta today. When will we know if Ware will join them?

JOE CARTER, BLEACHER REPORT: Hi. Good morning, guys. Well, we might find out more information today when the team says they're planning on holding a joint press conference. Both Coach Pitino as well as Kevin Ware are going to sit down with the media around 1:30 Eastern Time. We're hoping to find out more information. Really, the hiccup is whether or not doctors medically clear him to get on an airplane later on tonight to fly to Atlanta.

The doctors have some fear that there might be an infection in the wound. They're going to give him one last check, and then they'll medically clear him to get on the plane tonight. But it was so great to see him yesterday arriving at this facility on crutches. He was actually in really good spirits, believe it or not.

His mom by his side carrying that championship trophy that they won Sunday night after beating Duke. He spent about three hours with the team, reuniting with them in practice. He left the facility yesterday. We saw him get into a van with his mother and his girlfriend. His mom gave us a double thumbs up. Him and his girlfriend both waved at us, gave us a big smile.

There was a handful of fans here to wish him well, to wish him off. And one of the fans said, you know, she was really, really encouraged by how positive he seemed in this whole situation, and she says that she believes that this team is going to use that as motivation to cut down the nets in Atlanta on Saturday and Monday.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think this right here is making them push even harder to bring the championship home. I mean, we're a great team regardless, anyway, I'm proud of them, but this is the year, and this happening, I think, has just pushed them more to bring it home.

(END VIDEO CLIP) CARTER: Now on a side note, guys, there was a lot of concern that obviously mounting medical bills with the amount of time that he spent in Indianapolis at the hospital, and obviously, the amount of rehabilitation that he's going to need over the next year. The university president here at Louisville says that the school will cover all of his medical expenses, both at the hospital as well as at the rehabilitation care that he's going to need for about the next 12 months, guys.

ROMANS: Wow! All right. Joe Carter. Thanks, Joe. Live for us in Louisville this morning. Kevin Ware and his mother are going to sit down with CNN's Rachel Nichols this afternoon in Louisville. Watch for that here on CNN later today.

BERMAN: So Kevin Ware's ordeal may have helped inspire the Louisville women's basketball team. The lady Cardinals upset Tennessee last night 86-78 to advance to the Final Four. That victory coming just a couple of nights after the team took down Brittney Griner and the defending champs, Baylor. That was a huge upset, too.

Next up for Louisville, the University of California on Sunday. The other women's final four matchup, Connecticut versus Notre Dame.

ROMANS: All right. Caught after years on the run, the elusive fugitive known as the "Mountain Man" is in custody this morning. There he is. More on his alleged life of crime and his capture, coming up.


ROMANS: Good morning. Welcome back. It's a battle over school safety. Former Arkansas congressman Asa Hutchinson unveiling an NRA report that suggests we should fight guns with more guns. It calls for more armed police officers, security guards, and staffers at every U.S. school.

The NRA also wants to loosen restrictions so teachers can carry weapons. But President Obama is on the road pushing a very, very different approach. Jim Acosta has the latest.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: John and Christine, later today in Colorado, President Obama will meet with victims and families of victims from the shootings at Columbine and Aurora. Votes in Congress on new gun control measures expected later this month, it's now coming down to a battle between President Obama and the NRA.


ACOSTA (voice-over): In a hard push for new gun control laws, President Obama is heading to two states still reeling from mass shootings. Up first, Denver, Colorado, near the scene of the movie theater massacre at Aurora, and where the president, one White House official says, wants to put the issue back on the front burner. Then on Monday, he goes to Hartford, Connecticut, about an hour from Newtown.

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think he believes that that passion, that urgency still exists around the country.

ACOSTA: The NRA has other plans. Among the main recommendations from its school shooting task force, at least one armed guard or employee, like a teacher per school, and an NRA program to train school personnel to use firearms.

ASA HUTCHINSON, NRA NATIONAL SCHOOL SHIELD TASK FORCE: The presence of an armed security personnel in a school adds a layer of security and diminishes response time.

ACOSTA: The task force released its findings surrounded by more than a dozen security guards and with the backing of one father of a child killed at Newtown.

MARK MATTIOLI, FATHER OF NEWTOWN VICTIM: This is recommendations for solutions, real solutions that will make our kids safer.

ACOSTA: But there were holes in the NRA's report such as no cost estimates for the armed personnel. Task force leader and former Republican congressman, Asa Hutchinson, insisted while his group's findings were not influenced by the NRA, it did look at gun control measures pending before Congress. Not even universal background checks, something supported by 90 percent of Americans, according to a recent CBS News poll.


ACOSTA (on-camera): Why did you not consider that piece?

HUTCHINSON: Because our focus is on school safety and making our schools a safer environment.

ACOSTA (voice-over): But, later on, in a twist, Hutchinson, who's also running for governor of Arkansas, told CNN's Wolf Blitzer he personally supports expanding background checks.

HUTCHINSON: I'm open to expanding background checks. You can do it in a way that does not infringe upon an individual.


ACOSTA (on-camera): But an NRA spokesman immediately told CNN Hutchinson was not speaking for the NRA. The gun lobby says Hutchinson was simply calling for more data going into the existing system, so it includes records of the mentally ill -- John and Christine.

BERMAN: All right. Fifty minutes after the hour right now.

The "Mountain Man" is behind bars. Fugitive Troy James Knapp on the run for seven years finally tracked down in a remote area of Utah. Authorities say Knapp fired shots at a helicopter that was tracking him and finally gave himself up after being surrounded. Knapp is a survivalist who's suspected of breaking into dozens of cabin in Southern and Central Utah over the last seven years. He now faces 18 criminal charges. ROMANS: L.A. trying something new to fight gridlock. Synchronized traffic lights. The city has synced up 4,500 traffic signals across 470 square miles. There are some seven million people on the road during peak rush times in L.A. Seven million. Still too soon to see if this is going to work.

BERMAN: Let's get a check at today's weather. A very confusing spring it's been, so far. It was warm, and now, not all anymore. Jennifer Delgado, explain to us what's going on here.

JENNIFER DELGADO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Oh, yes. Absolutely confusing. But for today, we are talking about spring showers out there and look at the radar here. It is lighting up across parts of the south, from Texas through Louisiana, getting pounded this morning. It was a rough overnight where we saw reports of softball-sized hail.

Now, what we're going to be looking at is rain across the Deep South, and we're talking potentially some of these storms could become stronger later in the day, but much of the lightning offshore, and we're also looking at the chance for just a little bit of snow to set up right near the Texas panhandle. Now, as we go through today as well as through Friday, we're talking potentially some flooding problems.

Three to five inches for areas just to the north of New Orleans, and then for Florida, we're talking Central Florida, two to four inches of rainfall. Of course, that has to go somewhere. It will affect the northeast on Friday. And speaking of the northeast, you're going to have a little weather problem today. I know it was windy, it was cold yesterday. Well, once again, it is still going to be cool.

But wind gusts 30 to 40 miles per hour. What you're seeing in the pink and the red shading, that is actually a red flag warning, and that means no burning out there. And this is going to be in place really until about eight o'clock this evening. On a wider view, cold air still in place courtesy of this ridge of high pressure. In fact, today, temperatures are still going to run about 10 to 15 degrees below average.

Here's a look at the numbers for Wednesday, 44 for Chicago, 46 for New York, and that's the same for the Yankees and the Mets game. Washington, D.C., 51. But as we move through Friday, look at that, some of that warm air trying to surge back in. And we'll start to see some 60s working in for areas including Illinois as well as into Missouri, and then for New York with 51 degrees.

So it is going to be wild out there. We'll continue to track those storms in the south, but, the good news is, guys, as I said, rain moving through. But it looks like for the weekend, final four, I know some people are paying attention to that. Looks like the weather is going to be spectacular for Atlanta this weekend.

ROMANS: Oh, good.

BERMAN: Fantastic.

ROMANS: You can be inside watching television, not outside. All right. Jennifer Delgado, thanks.

BERMAN: All right. Fifty-two minutes after the hour right now. Jay- Z already part owner of basketball's Brooklyn Nets. Now, he's making another high profile play in the sports world. Surprising, too. We'll have the details next.


BERMAN: All right. Welcome back, everyone. Fifty-six minutes after the hour right now and trending online this morning, Yankees slugger, Robinson Cano, the all-star second baseman, has fired his agent, Scott Boris (ph), and replaced him with Jay-Z, sort of. Cano is the first big client for Jay-Z's Rock Nation Sports, a new sports agency founded by Mr. Z.

Jay-Z, of course, owns the piece of the Brooklyn Nets, but the NBA says it has no problem with him representing athletes who are not professional basketball players. And for now, Rock Nation Sports is concentrating on baseball players like Cano who could really easily command close to $200 million after this season. That's when he becomes a free agent. He is due a giant payday.

ROMANS: Jay-Z, a savvy businessman and on track for world domination. This is true (ph).

All right. President Obama, Chris Christie, North Korea, and "The Walking Dead," time now for late night laughs.


CONAN O'BRIEN, HOST, "CONAN": Atlanta is the place where they film "The Walking Dead."


O'BRIEN: Yes. Producers got the idea to film "The Walking Dead" here when they saw people coming out of a waffle house at 2:00 a.m.


O'BRIEN: Jaw fell off.


JIMMY FALLON, HOST, "LATE NIGHT WITH JIMMY FALLON": This isn't good. Yesterday, President Obama shot baskets at the White House and only made two shots out of 22.


FALLON: Even Dick Cheney was like, that guy needs to learn to shoot.



FALLON: My bad, buddy.

JAY LENO, HOST, "THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO": The United States sent a Navy destroyer towards North Korea as Kim Jong-Un threatens to strike America. Even China stepped in. China warned Kim Jong-Un. They told him flat out, hey, those missiles, they better not hit any Wal-Marts or you are in trouble, buddy.



FALLON: Well, today, New Jersey governor Chris Christie signed a new law that bans children under 17 from using tanning beds. Then the kids told Chris Christie, fine, then stop blocking the sun.


FALLON: And I thought that was mean. Rude little brat. Come over here.


ROMANS: That was mean.

BERMAN: EARLY START continues right now.