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STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN

New Arrests Made in Boston Marathon Bombing Investigation; Wildfires Spread in Southern California; American Sentenced to Jail in North Korea; More on the Boston Bombing Investigation; JCPenny Wants You Back

Aired May 2, 2013 - 07:00   ET

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


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: I'm John Berman.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: And I'm Christine Romans. Our STARTING POINT this morning, three more arrests in the Boston bombing investigation. Friends of the surviving suspects accuse of trying to get investigators off his trail. Could more people be involved?

BERMAN: New this morning. Violence on the streets of Seattle. At least eight officers injured and 17 people arrested after protests turned violent. The dramatic details coming up in moments.

ROMANS: Flames forcing people from their homes as a wildfire burns out of control consuming nearly 3,000 acres in California. We are live there with the latest on this effort to put out this blaze.

BERMAN: Plus, a scary moment on the tarmac when two planes clipped each other. We will tell you what happened coming up.

It is Thursday, May 2nd, and STARTING POINT begins right now.

ROMANS: All right. Good morning, everyone. Up first, investigators in the Boston marathon bombing zeroing in on the Tsarnaev Brothers' inner circle. Sources tell CNN Tamerlan Tsarnaev's widow spoke to him after the FBI released his photo and publicly identified him as a terror suspect.

BERMAN: And that timing matters. Also, three of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's friends arrested yesterday. Two of them charge with conspiring to destroy or discard Dzhokhar's laptop, also a backpack containing fireworks. They were conspiring to do this allegedly after the attack. The third -- the third man arrested allegedly for making false statements to federal investigators.

You see him here in a yearbook photo. That yearbook also had a picture of Dzhokhar as well. Pamela Brown is live in Boston with these latest developments. Good morning, Pamela.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning to you, John. As you said, these three suspects now in federal custody for what they allegedly did after the attack. Following their arrest yesterday, the big question looms, will there be more arrests in connection with this case? The investigation continues to focus on the widow of Tamerlan Tsarnaev as new developments come to light.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: Two CNN sources familiar with the investigation say Katherine Russell, the widow of Tamerlan Tsarnaev, spoke with her husband the night the FBI released video of him in connection with the Boston bombing. Authorities questioning Russell trying to determine the nature of that call, what was said, and why didn't she notify authorities.

This as three friends and classmates of Tamerlan's brother Dzhokhar seen with the arrest. The third man arrested allegedly for making false statements to federal investigators. Immediately thought one of the suspects looked like their friend Dzhokhar. Dias Kadyrbayev texted Tsarnaev texted Tsarnaev saying he looked like the man on TV. Tsarnaev texted back, "lol." The accused three allegedly met at Tsarnaev's dorm room where they received another text from him. "I'm about to leave. If you need something in my room, take it." According to authorities, Azamat Tazhayakov never thought he would see his friend alive again.

In the dorm the three find fireworks in a backpack with the black powder emptied out, Vaseline, and a laptop. Authorities allege the three took the evidence out of the dorm room to protect Tsarnaev. The complaint also say the men then took the items back to an apartment in New Bedford, wrapped it in a garbage bag and put it in a dumpster along with some of their own trash the bag with the fireworks later recovered by investigators after a two-day search at a local landfill. It's unclear whether the laptop has been recovered.

This CNN exclusive video shows two of the men being taken into custody at the time on immigration violations. The third man, Robel Phillipos, is a U.S. citizen. At court hearings on Wednesday the three agreed to waive bail. Their lawyers say they did nothing wrong.

HARLAN PROTASS ATTORNEY FOR AZAMAT TAZHAYAKOV: He is just as shocked and horrified by the violence in Boston that took place as the rest of the community is. He did not know that this individual was involved in a bombing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My client Azamat Tazhayakov feels horrible and was shocked to hear that someone that he knew at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth was involved with the Boston marathon bombing. He has cooperated fully with the authorities and looks forward to the truth coming out.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: A month before the marathon Tsarnaev told two of his friends over lunch that he knew how to make a bomb, and according to the criminal complaint, one of those friends, the friend saw Vaseline in his dorm room, he thought that it was used to make a bomb. We've been talking to experts and we're told that Vaseline was likely used on the pressure cooker lid to prevent sparks which could set off explosives.

BERMAN: Pamela Brown, thank you. The question is, how did the suspect know that Vaseline was used to make a bomb. Interesting piece of knowledge to have there. Begs the question, who are these new suspects? A friend of Robel Phillipos says there's no way he would be involved.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAMES TURNEY, ROBEL PHILLIPOS' FRIEND: Robel is a very good kid himself. He went to school, never got in trouble. He took care of his, played basketball. Quiet kid. That's about it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: Meanwhile, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick reassuring people in and around Boston the new arrests does not mean the threat continues.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. DEVAL PATRICK, (D) MASSACHUSETTS: This should not raise any concerns in anyone's minds about continuing threat to the public. This is about getting all the way to the bottom of the story of what happened at the marathon.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: Brian Todd is in Boston with us following the latest developments. Brian, piecing together who these three guys are and relationship with Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, explain that to us.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John, what we're getting are indications that these three guys who went to school with Dzhokhar Tsarnaev gravitated toward him. At least if two Kazakhstani students did. They didn't know the language very well when they started going to the college. His attorney told us previously he kind of showed them the ropes, that he helped them simulate into the culture in Massachusetts and get used to the language and he showed them around, did some things with them.

The complaint said one of them, Kadyrbayev, met his family members. There's that picture of the three of them in Times Square in 2012. Now the relationship between the third suspect, Robel Phillipos and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, while they were friends, he may not have been as close to them as the Kazakhstani students were, John. But we're getting a strong feeling here, the impression that at least the two Kazakhstani students were close to Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. Could that have been motivation for them allegedly trying to cover his tracks? We'll find out more about that in the coming days.

BERMAN: Investigators clearly digging into every aspect of that relationship this they can uncover. Brian Todd in Boston, thanks so much.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: In just a few moments we're going to talk with CNN's law enforcement analyst and former FBI assistant director Tom Fuentes about the latest developments in that case. BERMAN: New this morning, chaos in the streets of downtown Seattle where a May Day protest turned violent last night. Police say demonstrators tossed rocks, bottles, metal pipes fireworks, even a skateboard at officers who used pepper spray to disperse the crowd. Zoraida Sambolin here with more now this morning.

ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning to both of you. Seattle police say the demonstrators who marched last night did not have a permit. It followed an earlier May Day demonstration in the city that was actually peaceful. For safety reasons, police officers gave the unauthorized demonstrators an escort as they headed downtown. But when the crowd turned violent and officers went in to make arrests, things got really ugly.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CAPT. CHRIS FOWLER, SEATTLE POLICE DEPARTMENT: The crowd surged around several officers on foot. Those officers felt that their safety was in danger so they deployed what we call a blast ball. That created some distance and we were able to then coordinate a response to the crowd.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAMBOLIN: Police also used flash bang grenades and pepper spray to disperse the crowd. And 17 people were arrested for property destruction and assault. Eight officers sustained injuries, but those are mostly bumps and bruises, although one female officer was hit in a knee with a large rock.

These May Day protests happen all over the world. It's been national holiday in more than 80 countries, also known as International Workers' Day. Hundreds of thousands take to the streets each year to celebrate the labor movement and demand better working conditions. This got out of hand.

ROMANS: It certainly did. Thanks, Zoraida.

BERMAN: We're also watching extreme weather this morning from fires to snow. Strong winds and extremely dry conditions are fuelling a wildfire right now in southern California's Riverside County. The fire has already consumed 3,000 acres and it keeps growing. One home in the town of Banning, California, has been destroyed. Hundreds of others are threatened right now. CNN's Kyung Lah is live for us in banning right now. Good morning, Kyung.

KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, John. The home you were just talking about is this home right behind me. This is Joe Keener's home and this is what a California wildfire can do in just a matter of minutes. This house completely gutted. You can see the roof caved in right there. This fire peter saw coming. As I said, the house was engulfed in just minutes.

And this is something that firefighters are really worried about today, that it may be repeated because the weather here is so extreme. High winds, low humidity, until 5:00 p.m. local time. Here's what firefighters told us.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JULIE HUTCHINSON, BATTALION FIRE CHIEF: Because there's a lot of fuels out there, the grass, the brush, the trees, that have not had a lot of moisture. So they are like they would be toward the end of the summer already. They're dried out. They don't have a lot of moisture. And it's going to make it that much more receptive for a fire when it comes through.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LAH: So that condition being today, as well as throughout the summer, John. Because there has been so little rain this year. Firefighters anticipate that this is something they're going to have to deal with throughout the summer.

BERMAN: Kyung Lah, Fires right now in Banning, California, thanks for being with us this morning.

ROMANS: This was a scene in Denver, Denver yesterday, wild winter weather on the move. Jennifer Delgado tracking the storms for us. And our Jim Spellman is live for us in Roberts, Wisconsin. Let's start with Jim this morning. What are you seeing there?

BERMAN: Oh, my.

ROMANS: I don't know if Jim can hear us. Jim, are you there?

BERMAN: The snow is so thick in Wisconsin right now --

JIM SPELLMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's whiteout conditions here. We left Minneapolis this morning where it was dry. As soon as we made it on 94 east, yep, as soon as we made it on 94 east, this intense, heavy snow. Take a look at this. It's serious. There's probably six or seven inches of snow on the ground at this point. Still good snowball snow.

This is not too bad really up here except for this driving when you get passed this. It's melting pretty fast. The warms are still warm, a 30-degree drop in temperatures yesterday. The roads are still warm. A lot of this is going to hit downriver from here in Missouri and Illinois where they've already been dealing with flood conditions. That's going to be a major concern as this really crazy spring system continues to make its way across the country. John?

ROMANS: May 2nd, it's so wild.

BERMAN: It's so thick it's obviously affecting our communication with Jim.

ROMANS: You know, the place he's talking about downriver, they didn't have any water last year. Last year was a big drought and this spring they're getting a lot of water. For more, let's go to Jennifer Delgado in the CNN Weather Center. Good morning, Jennifer. JENNIFER DELGADO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Good morning, guys. Just a couple hours ago Jim was in Minneapolis. Minneapolis, they're not going to get the snow today but you can see where Jim is in Roberts. They are getting pounded. Look at the snowfall totals over the last 24 hours. 20 inches in Buford, Wyoming, as well as 5 inches came down in Denver. Still that snow coming down on the radar very good right now.

For areas like Wisconsin as well as into southern Minnesota into Des Moines, look at the bright banding there. This is our cold front coming through, and it's changing that precipitation over to snow and some of these locations, six to 12 inches. I think, Jim, you're going to be doing shoveling later in the day. As we zoom in a bit more, here's Eau Claire, you are going to dodge this one. As we go through today and tomorrow, still more of that snow. Later tonight, that snow works into parts of Kansas City. You know what, guys, the last time they had snow through Kansas City was back in 2005, May. They've only had snow fall down four times in May throughout the record books, four times. This is rare.

BERMAN: May is not for snow. Jennifer Delgado, our thanks to you.

It's 11 minutes after the hour. A new round of tension to tell you about this morning with North Korea after the sentencing of American citizen Kenneth Bae to 15 years hard labor. Bae is a tour operator from Washington state accused of attempting to overthrow the North Korean government. Our senior international correspondent Dan Rivers is live in South Korea. Dan, attempting to overthrow the North Korean government those sound like pretty serious charges against a tour operator.

DAN RIVERS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, they are. And we don't really know what exactly he did to generate those charges. We know he's been in and out of North Korea a lot running these tours from China where he lives. We know that he had a valid tourist visa. It's not like previous case where's people have either mistakenly wandered in or illegally entered North Korea. He was there. He should have been there. He obviously did something to anger the regime. Now he's been sentenced to 15 years hard labor.

There were suggestions from his friends down here in South Korea perhaps it was something as nocuous as taking pictures of children begging on the streets which the regime thought he was going to use to criticize the regime when he left. We don't know for sure. All we know is the Supreme Court started this case on Tuesday. Already it's finished. Already he's been sentenced. It gives you a kind of idea how justice goes in North Korea.

BERMAN: Dan, again, an American citizen I side the North Korean prison right now. Kenneth Bae sentenced to 15 years.

ROMANS: And 15 years hard labor.

New this morning, trouble on the tarmac at Newark Liberty Airport. Two planes collides last night as they were taxiing for takeoff. The incident involved a United Express jet headed to Nashville and a Scandinavian airline flight headed to Germany. The wing clipped the tail of the united jet. Both planes returned to the gates and no injuries reported.

BERMAN: Developing story out of southern Kentucky, a two-year-old girl is dead, accidentally shot and killed by her five-year-old brother with a rifle that he received for his birthday. State police have ruled this an accident. CNN affiliate WLEX reports the children's mother was cleaning and had just stepped out of the house when she heard the gun go off.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LINDA RIDDLE, CAROLINE'S GRANDMOTHER: He just picked it up before he realized.

DAVID MANN, CAROLINE'S UNCLE: It's just a tragic accident. Just tragic. It's just -- it's something that you can't prepare for.

RIDDLE: I just know she's in heaven right now and I know she's in good hands with the lord.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: Family members say the gun was kept in what they considered to be a safe spot. State police say children in that area are often introduced to guns at an early gauge.

ROMANS: New this morning, President Obama set to announce two new members of the cabinet. Administration officials tell CNN he's chosen Penny Pritzker to be commerce secretary and Michael Froman for U.S. trade representative. Froman is the deputy national security adviser for international economy affairs. Pritzker is a successful businesswoman who runs a real estate investment firm.

BERMAN: It's 14 minutes after the hour. New this morning, the legal battle over Plan B getting a little more complicated now. The justice department is now appealing a judge's ruling to force the FDO to make the morning-after pill available over the counter with no age restriction. They say the New York judge overstepped his bounds. Before that appeal, the FDA itself relaxed rules concerning the emergency contraceptive allowing females as young as 15 to buy Plan B without a prescription or without parental consent.

ROMANS: Ahead on STARTING POINT, with three of the Tsarnaev friends in custody, is this a sign the Boston bombing suspect did not work alone? We're going to talk to CNN's law enforcement analyst, former FBI assistant dirctor, Tom Fuentes about that.

BERMAN: And then JCPenney misses you. The company's new apology strategy to get you back. Please, please come back. We'll tell you all about it. You're watching STARTING POINT.

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ROMANS: Good morning, back to our top story. Three more arrests in the Boston bombing investigation. Let's bring in Tom Fuentes, he's CNN's law enforcement analyst and former FBI assistant director. Good morning, Tom. The issue here, what are you hearing from your sources about whether this is some sort of conspiracy before the bombings, or just a conspiracy by a few guys after the fact to try to keep they're friend out of trouble?

TOM FUENTES, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Good morning, Christine. I think so far they believe it's after. And they helped him by disposing of some of the evidence, the incriminating material that he had in the room which the backpack which contained some of the powder and other paraphernalia, the fireworks, that they put that in a dumpster for him and removed his laptop.

BERMAN: These charges have been described as easy charges to make right now and holding them on immigration charges up until this point. Any indications to you -- anything you're hearing that suggests there could be further charges? Additionally, there could be other people involved other than just these three?

FUENTES: Well, there could be. I think right now, you know, the charges that they brought on these three are to hold them. So they could add more charges to them at a later date. They obviously would keep investigating to see to what extent before the bombings happened that they might have been knowledgeable, that he intended to do the bombing, and not just were out with him doing fireworks together and talking about making bombs or that he knew how to make a bomb.

So I think that part of the investigation, more of that will be revealed. But so far, it doesn't sound like that there's any indication that they helped him to do the bombing itself. That they knew that was going to happen. I think another interesting here is that the belief that Dzhokhar was so much under the spell of his big brother and influenced by Tamerlan and controlled by Tamerlan, here you have him out with his other friends and they're using fireworks and they're involved in helping get rid of the stuff afterwards. So you do see somewhat more independent knowledge or independent action on the part of Dzhokhar as it's revealed by his friends.

BERMAN: I think that's a great point. Plus, Dzhokhar had the fireworks. Empty fireworks there. Dzhokhar had a laptop.

ROMANS: And Vaseline.

BERMAN: Let's talk about the Vaseline because one of the suspects, one of the three men just arrested somehow identified Vaseline as a component that goes into making bombs or at least assist them. You know, I didn't know that. I've covered this type of thing for a long time. How did this college kid know that? Is that in and of itself suspicious?

FUENTES: That's a great point because people that work with explosives or know how pipe bombs and other explosives are put together realize a couple of grains of the gunpowder or the black powder material may be on the screw. So as you're screwing on the cap to create the pressure, to create the hold, if there's friction in the screwing process that might spark one of those things and ignite the whole bomb up in your face. By putting the Vaseline on the threads of the screw as you're putting it on, it lubricates it and keeps it from making that spark.

In the affidavit, they mention they're aware of throwing away the Vaseline and that that's used to make a bomb. The affidavit does not tell you how he knows that. The authorities would know because they would have asked them about that. But that will be revealed later. Again, the complaints that are filed yesterday are just the bare minimum to maintain the charges, to keep them from leaving the country and fleeing prosecution.

ROMANS: Tom Fuentes, thank you for that. We're going to talk next hour with former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and part of his reaction is the timing of this. When allegedly the guys were throwing the evidence was before Sean Collier was killed. The timing of that is critical, he says, because if it's after the fact trying to protect your friend's conspiracy, another life was still lost after that that could have been prevented. That's Rudy Giuliani's take on that. We'll talk to him about it next hour.

Ahead on STARTING POINT, come back. JCPenney apologizing to customers, begging, begging for their business. The company's new strategy, next. You're watching STARTING POINT.

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ROMANS: Welcome back. I'm Christine Romans. "Minding your business." Yesterday's sell-off on Wall Street must have been too much because stock (ph) futures this morning indicating a modestly higher open. This follows yesterday's 140 point drop on the Dow. Wall Street will be watching for GM earnings, new jobless claims today as well.

Ford is boosting production. And that means more jobs. The automaker adding a third shift, it will hire 900 workers at a Kansas City, where the F-150 truck is made. Truck sales are picking up, because the housing market is recovering. Ford will also hire another 1,100 workers at the same plant to make the transit cargo van.

A public apology from JCPenney. The retailer is airing commercials acknowledging it made too many changes too quickly and customers did not approve. And then it asks you this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Come back to JCPenney. We heard you. Now, we'd love to see you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: JCPenney heard your wallet slam shut and now they're trying to get you to open it again. This comes just weeks after former CEO Ron Johnson stepped down. He overhauled pricing, got rid of sales, got rid of some brands and got rid of a whole host of customer, and as a result, the stock price tanked. You can see it there. That is not pretty.

BERMAN: We're so, so sorry. Please come back. ROMANS: In some stores, they got rid of the some of the checkout registers because they wanted people to have the mobile payments and stuff walking around the store. And long-time JCPenney customers are like, where's my check out. It didn't work. It didn't work.

BERMAN: And now they're very, very sorry. Twenty-seven minutes after the hour. Ahead ON STARTING POINT, when police went looking for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev at his apartment, one man watched the whole thing go down and filmed it. He joins us next with his exclusive footage.

ROMANS: Then the unbelievable moment a cargo plane crashes to the ground in Afghanistan. Seven Americans dead. This moment caught on video.

BERMAN: In a surprising new statistic about the number of young, unmarried mothers in the United States. We'll tell you what it is, next on STARTING POINT.

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