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Boston Bombing Suspect; Raids in Russia; Opening Statements in Jacksons Versus AEG Live, Militant Linked To Tsarnaev?

Aired April 29, 2013 - 06:30   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Heavy guns, fired possibly in response to the Boston marathon attacks. New this morning, Russian special forces taking aim at militants that might be linked to the bombing suspect.

Plus, clamming up. New clues from the Boston bombing suspect since he's been read his Miranda rights. He is now sitting in a 10x10 cell.

ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: Searching for a killer who killed 8- year-old Leila Fowler. The manhunt intensifying right now, as her mother makes an emotional plea.

And it's a triumphant milestone. It's now just hours away. New York's new World Trade Center building about to become one of the tallest in the entire world. Looking forward to that.

Welcome back EARLY START. Glad you're with us. I'm Zoraida Sambolin in New York.

BERMAN: And I'm John Berman in Boston this morning. It is Monday, April 29th. About half past the hour right now.

And we're getting new developments in this investigation. We want to bring you that news right away here. Take a look at this man. This picture about to show you is reportedly a key part of a militant group based in Russia.

Now, this group may have ties to alleged Boston bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev. And we're about to show you some video here, dramatic video that shows Russian special forces bombing the building in Dagestan where that group was hiding out. We are just getting that video now and the raid comes as the FBI joined forces with Russian security to figure out where Tamerlan Tsarnaev's every move may have been during a six-month visit to Russia back in 2011.

Even though they believe the brothers were self-radicalized online watching videos, they're still looking into the possibility that other people in Russia or the United States may have been influences. Among the people they're looking into, the mother of the Tsarnaev brothers, also Tamerlan's wife Katherine Russell who converted to Islam when she married Tamerlan in 2010.

We've also learned that the Tsarnaev's father has postponed his trip to the United States. He told Russian state media that he's in the hospital because his blood pressure spiked.

It has been two weeks now, of course, since the Boston terror attack, and two weeks to the day after the marathon, two dozen people are still in the hospital today recovering.

Right now, this morning there are also new developments inside the prison hospital where 19-year-old bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is being held. He's locked up in a tiny 10x10-foot cell about 40 miles west of Boston.

Pamela Brown is there live in Devens, Massachusetts, with the latest on the investigation there. Good morning, Pamela.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning to you, John. Nineteen- year-old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev arrived here at federal medical center Devens early Friday morning and we have learned from prison officials he is now talking and interacting with medical staff here. He is currently living in solitude in a 10x10-foot cell that is tucked away in a restricted area of this facility reserved only for high risk inmates. He's being observed through video surveillance 24 hours a day.

Accommodations are spare, with only a toilet, sink and bed within his cell, a slot for food and a small window.

As authorities investigate how and why the attacks were carried out the Justice Department's role in this investigation is under intense scrutiny. According to sources, Tsarnaev has stopped giving substantive information ever since being read his Miranda rights last Monday.

Attorney General Eric Holder said a judge was following what the law says but one Republican congressman says we could have learned so much more if interrogators had more time. Let's take a listen.


BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Can you comment on the suspect being mirandized and whether that was appropriate?

ERIC HOLDER, ATTORNEY GENERAL: Well, I mean, the decision to mirandize him is one that the magistrate made and that was totally consistent with the laws that we have. We had a two-day period we were able to question him under the public safety exception. So, I think everything was done appropriately and we got -- we got good leads.

REP. PETER KING (R), NEW YORK: It's absolutely disgraceful because that interrogation could have ended up saving many American lives. We don't know what the full consequences are going to be, who else is involved, who was involved then, who could be involved in the future, and we may not know because of Eric Holder.


BROWN: Now, even though we know Tsarnaev is now speaking and interacting with medical staff here, what we don't know is whether he's talking with investigators. Prison officials won't tell us that. But now that he has representation, sources say that's highly unlikely -- John.

BERMAN: All right. Pamela Brown in Devens, Massachusetts. Thanks so much, Pamela.

Of course, the investigation continues in Devens, where Pamela is, and Boston where I am, and on the other side of the world, in Russia, where there's a lot going on.

Let's bring all these threats together right now and bring in CNN law enforcement analyst Tom Fuentes, former assistant director of the FBI.

Tom, I want to start with this development we're just learning about overnight, Russian special forces raiding a militant group in Dagestan with possible connections to Tamerlan Tsarnaev. At a minimum, we know that Tamerlan had videos of this group on his YouTube channel.

What do you make of this development?

TOM FUENTES, FORMER FBI ASSISTANT DIRECTOR: I think, John, it shows that the Russians all along have been looking at that group very closely. They were monitoring Tamerlan's mother all along, going back to 2011 and the initial request of the FBI may have been not the Russian's way of alerting the U.S., but the U.S. may be attacked but maybe wanting background done on Tamerlan to see if he was going to make a link or connection to the group in Dagestan, and attack Russia.

And that that may have been their -focus so that when the FBI investigates there, and finds no U.S. connection to anybody that looks like they're related to terrorism, or possibly fund-raising for the Dagestani groups or any of that, that the FBI sends that to them and they figure, OK, they're satisfied with that.

Meantime, they're monitoring this group and his mother. So you would think they would be well aware of his travel when he goes there. And to monitor his movement, who he meets with, and what he does the whole time he's there.

BERMAN: Let's keep the focus on Russia for a minute. As I should say, a group of runners is passing behind me at the memorial site. Tom, with the focus on Russia, we got this news over the weekend that the Russians intercepted phone calls between the Tsarnaevs' mother and Tamerlan Tsarnaev and another source where they were talking about jihad in loose terms.

How effective or how useful would that information have been to the FBI if they had been told back in 2011?

FUENTES: Well, many aspects of that would have been very useful. First the fact that they had a wiretap covering the mother in the first place would have alerted the FBI that there's much more of a serious connection here than just hearing a rumor on the street that he might be becoming radicalized. And I think that it would have led the FBI early on to say what more do you know? I mean they did request twice additional information before closing the investigation here. But, it probably would have pursued that a little more strongly saying, wait a minute, you know more than you're telling us. You know, they're now telling us this information in the past week. Not two years ago when it really could have been useful.

BERMAN: What possible motivation could the Russians have had not to provide that information? It seems so basic.

FUENTES: Well, I think -- as I said, I think the motivation may have been they're only concerned about Russia, that they didn't see him as a threat to the U.S., that they saw him as possibly with U.S. connections, maybe he's raising money for the group in Dagestan or other support, and the threat was that he would go to Dagestan, get with that group, and maybe attack Russia. I think their whole concern from the beginning has been to protect Russia, and didn't see him because members of these groups have not come to the U.S., ever, in the past couple of decades of this whole battle between Russia and Chechen militants.

So I think that was probably their thinking. We're guessing at this point. We don't know exactly what they knew, and what they were thinking at the time.

BERMAN: We are guessing. But it does seem like a missed opportunity.

Tom Fuentes, CNN law enforcement analyst, thanks so much for being with us this morning.

Let's go back to Zoraida in New York for more of the day's other news.

SAMBOLIN: Good morning, John. It's 38 minutes past the hour. We're following a developing story in northern California where police are investigating the stabbing death of an 8-year-old girl. Leila Fowler was discovered on Saturday by her 12-year-old brother inside their home, in the rural community of Valley Springs. That's about 60 miles southeast of Sacramento.

Investigators say the parents were not home at the time, and police do not have a specific suspect. But they collected fingerprints and DNA from inside the house and say they are looking for a white or Hispanic male, who's considered armed and dangerous.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our searching, you know, extensively into attics and storage sheds. It is a difficult area to search. It's rural, remote. The grass is tall right now.


SAMBOLIN: Police say the DNA evidence that they collected will take about a week to process.

And Leila's mother released a statement saying, quote, "We are devastated. If someone is helping hide him, turn him in. Look at our baby girl. She didn't deserve this. She came from a large family with many siblings.

She loved her daddy more than anything in this world. She would joke that she would only be allowed to date when her daddy was dead. She was so full of life. We want everyone to remember the good in her, and not how she was taken from us."

If you have any information on this case you are urged to call police.

Thirty-nine minutes past the hour here.

And new this morning, a sign of hope for people in New York City and across the nation. Today at noon, construction crews will raise the spire to the top of Freedom Tower in Lower Manhattan. And once it is installed, One World Trade center will stand 1,776 feet, making it the tallest building in the western hemisphere, and the third tallest in the world.

And still ahead a new legal drama concerning Michael Jackson's death about to unfold in a Los Angeles courtroom. We're going to take you there live coming up next.


SAMBOLIN: Welcome back. Forty-three minutes past the hour. Christine Romans joining us with a look at what is ahead on "STARTING POINT."

ROMANS: Good morning again this morning.

Zoraida, the surviving Boston bombing suspect sits in a 10x10 foot cell. Investigators are looking at the life of his late brother Tamerlan. U.S. and Russian officials working together to figure out what he was doing in Russia in 2011 and how an overnight raid there could be connected.

Former CIA officer Gary Berntsen weighs in on that. Then, it's six months to the day superstorm Sandy slammed into the East Coast. How are people recovering?

We're going to talk with Congressman Michael Grimm from Staten Island. And we're also going to speak with a woman who lost her family and her home in that storm.

And the president shows off his sense of humor, taking shots at himself, the media and Republicans at the White House Correspondents' Dinner. Don Baer who served under President Clinton and attended this big event joins us live -- Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Thank you very much, Christine.

Forty-four minutes past the hour.

Michael Jackson's life and death will be back in the spotlight today. Opening statements in a wrongful death trial pitting Jackson's family against concert promoter AEG Live set to begin in just a few hours from now. Jackson's family claims AEG is liable for his death. Billions of dollars are at stake here and the potential witness list is star-studded, we understand.

CNN's Casey Wian is live outside the courthouse in downtown Los Angeles. What can you tell us?

CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Zoraida, as you mention, we're expected to hear opening statements this morning, first -- this morning, first from attorneys representing Michael Jackson's family, then from attorneys representing the giant entertainment real estate and sports conglomerate, AEG Live. The key question in this case is who actually employed Dr. Conrad Murray, the physician who was convicted of manslaughter in Michael Jackson's death.


WIAN (voice-over): Michael Jackson was in the last weeks of rehearsal for what was to be his grand comeback. The exhausted 50-year-old insomniac died in 2009 from an overdose of sedatives and the surgical anesthetic, propofol. Dr. Conrad Murray was convicted of involuntary manslaughter for giving Jackson the fatal dose in an effort to help him sleep. He is in prison.

Now, the company that promoted the comeback tour, AEG Live, is fighting legal claims by Jackson's mother and children that it shares responsibility for the singer's death because it hired and supervised Murray.

PIERS MORGAN, CNN ANCHOR: What do you think as his mother caused his death?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't know. All I know is they used propofol and they shouldn't have used it. They're using the wrong setting. That's all I know and that's what caused his death.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The just of the plaintiff's claim against AEG is that you control Dr. Murray and you used your control over Dr. Murray to pressure him into taking unnecessary and excessive risks with his patient, Michael Jackson, leading to Michael Jackson's death.

WIAN: AEG Live's attorney says there was never a signed contract with Murray, and that Jackson was the only one who controlled him.

MARVIN PUTNAM, AEG ATTORNEY: He was chosen by Michael Jackson. He'd be there at Michael Jackson's behalf. He'd be Michael Jackson's doctor alone. That this was only being done because Michael Jackson asked for it. Michael Jackson was the only person who could get rid of him at will.

WIAN: Potential witnesses include Jackson's teenage children, Prince Michael and Paris. Producer, Quincy Jones, could testify about the billions of dollars Michael Jackson would have earned if he had lived, money his heirs now want from AEG, a multibillion dollar sports entertainment and real estate conglomerate.


WIAN (on-camera): Now, this trial is expected to last two to four months, perhaps, even longer. Jackson Family's attorneys want to call Dr. Conrad Murray to the stand, but he has said he would take the fifth if he is called. That's because his appeal of his manslaughter conviction is ongoing -- Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Casey Wian live outside the courthouse for us. Thank you very much.

Forty-seven minutes past the hour. It was a season to remember in L.A., but for all the wrong reasons. A bitter end for the Lakers. That's in today's "Bleacher Report" coming up.


BERMAN: Welcome back, everyone. I'm John Berman live in Boston this morning. I'm standing in Copley Square, the site of the memorial for the victims of the Boston marathon bombings. We've been here all morning. And when you come out as early as we do, you see some really, really interesting things. I want to show you this picture we took from a little while ago.

This is a truck that we saw a short while ago that was delivering flowers here. This is a truck full of flowers. Now, this is two weeks since the bombings here in Boston. And this truck from the Boston Public Works Department arrived here a short while ago, and these men may brought out these, you know, bouquets of flowers, that have just been piling up at different sites around the city for the victims here of this blast.

And they're so carefully placing them and keeping this, really, a beautiful, beautiful site. Again, two weeks since the bombing. They we're covering every development in the investigation. There were some new developments overnight from Russia.

Russian Special Forces raided a militant group with possible links to Tamerlan Tsarnaev. They took out this man, reportedly a key part of the group, and these are new images of that operation in Dagestan. This was a pretty violent operation. You can hear the shelling of that building. You see it going down in flames and explosions.

Again, this is a group with possible links to Tamerlan Tsarnaev. Right now, Russian security forces are working together to piece together Tamerlan's trip, his six-month trip to Russia which began in 2011 and 2012. That could be key to unlocking what went on here in Boston -- Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Thank you very much, John.

Fifty-two minutes past the hour. The Los Angeles Lakers knocked out of the playoffs last night by the San Antonio Spurs. And of course, they lost in true Hollywood dramatic fashion. Jared Greenberg is here with more in today's "Bleacher Report." Do tell. More details.

JARED GREENBERG, BLEACHER REPORT: Good morning, Zoraida. A turbulent season that ends as bad as it really possibly could have. Before the season, the so-called experts said the Lakers would easily make it to the NBA finals. Now, they're like the rest of us. They'll need to buy a ticket if they want to go. And what could have been Dwight Howard's final game in a Laker uniform, he was ejected from the game. Temper, temper, temper.

A blockbuster trade brought Howard to L.A. in August. This summer, he'll be a free agent. Now, shortly, after Howard hit the showers, Kobe Bryant, made his first appearance at a Laker game since undergoing Achilles surgery. He was courtside as the Spurs handed the Lakers a beating sweeping L.A. right out of the playoffs. With what was supposed to be a magical season is now over. A year that seemed surreal.


DWIGHT HOWARD, TALKS ABOUT "NIGHTMARE" SEASON: Like a nightmare. Just like a bad dream. And they couldn't wake up out of it. That's what it felt like. You know, just felt like nothing can go right from the start.


GREENBERG: Hall of famer and arguably the greatest Laker of all time doesn't disagree with Howard. Magic Johnson saying on Twitter, quote, "I'm so happy this season is over. With the talent on this team, this could go down as one of the worst seasons in Laker history," end quote.

The basketball season continues in Boston after blowing a 20-point lead. The Celtics needed overtime to beat the Knicks, extending their season for at least one more game. Jason Terry scored nine of Boston's 13 points in the extra session. The Knicks still lead the series three games to one. Game five in New York on Wednesday.

Minus one superstar, the defending NBA champs are one step closer to repeating. Dwyane Wade sat out with a knee injury, but Miami still has the best player in the world. Lebron James shot the lights out, hitting 65 percent of his shots, scoring a game-high 30 points. The Heat sweeps the Bucs and advanced to play the winner of the Chicago- Brooklyn series.

And that pegs the question, could the Heat possibly sweep their way to the NBA finals? You can check out that conversation right now on

Shamu move over. San Diego has a new favorite animal. The world's fastest squirrel. Don't believe me?


Just watch the squirrel a.k.a. Eric Ties (ph) with a ton of ground to make up. And look at Ties go!

SAMBOLIN: Wow! Check that out.

GREENBERG: A former college sprinter, Ties giving padre fans finally something to cheer about. Look at that.


SAMBOLIN: Love, love, but correct, indeed. Jared Greenberg, thank you very much. We appreciate it. Love the squirrel. That was fun. Thank you. We'll be right back.


SAMBOLIN: Fifty-seven minutes past the hour. President Obama tried his hand at stand-up comedy Saturday night at the Annual White House Correspondents' Dinner, targeting not only his critics, but himself, as well, entering to the sound of rap music.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you. How do you like my new entrance music?


OBAMA: Rush Limbaugh warned you about this. Second term, baby.


OBAMA: I recognize that this job can take a toll on you. I understand second term need a burst of new energy, try some new things, and then my team and I talked about it, we were willing to try anything so we borrowed one of Michelle's tricks.



SAMBOLIN: Oh, no. Not a good look on the President of the United States.

That is EARLY START. I'm Zoraida Sambolin. John Berman continues our coverage live in Boston with "STARTING POINT" right now.