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STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN

Ariel Castro Bail Set to $2 Million Per Charge; Was Castro Undercharged?; Escape from Captivity; Boston Marathon Bombing Hearing; Benghazi Hearing

Aired May 9, 2013 - 08:30   ET

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


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And to the best of my knowledge, he has no convictions for felonies or serious misdemeanors.

BRIAN MURPHY, PROSECUTING ATTORNEY, CUYAHOGA COUNTY OHIO: Good morning, your honor.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Good morning.

MURPHY: Brian Murphy, prosecuting attorney, Cuyahoga County prosecutor's office for the record. I would like to say (ph) that the charges against Mr. Castro are based on premeditated, deliberate, (INAUDIBLE) decisions to snatch three young ladies from Cleveland's west side streets.

He used whatever assault (ph) -- gratifying self-serving way he saw fit. Two of the victims incurred a horrifying ordeal for more than a decade. A third for a close to a decade, and the ordeal eventually resulted (ph) in a little girl believed to have been born to one of the women while in captivity.

And also along with captivity, there were subject (ph) to (ph) repeated beatings, they were bound and restrained and sexually assaulted. Basically never free to leave this residence. Just as suddenly, unexpectedly and quite frankly, as inexplicably as they disappeared, they reemerged thankfully, miraculously three days ago, from the home of Mr. Castro. This home served as Mr. Castro's residence, and a prison to these three women and eventually that child.

Today, the situation's turned (ph) your honor. Castro stands before you a captive -- in captivity, a prisoner. The women are free to resume their lives that were interrupted, and also with the promise and the hope that justice will be served. To ensure that justice is served, to protect the victims and the community that Mr. Castro manipulated and deceived. The state is asking bond be set at $5 million (INAUDIBLE). Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you.

MURPHY: And also it is ordered (ph) that he have no contact with the victims or their families. Whether he's out on bail or not.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you very much.

Bond will be set at $2 million on each case. Two million dollars cash or surety (ph) on each case. Thank you very much.

MURPHY: You're welcome, your honor.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There is absolutely no contact with the victim or the victims' families.

(END LIVE FEED)

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Wrapping up the hearing there in Cleveland. The judge just issuing $2 million bond on each case against Ariel Castro, totaling $6 million I believe, if he wants to get free on bond which seems unlikely. It was very interesting to me, Zoraida, Ariel Castro standing in the court several minutes, his eyes gazing down at all times. Almost never lifted them at all. Other than that, virtually no reaction from them. Pam Brown is at the courthouse.

ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: What we saw also, the two brothers appearing quickly as was anticipates. I believe it was Pedro first and then Onil, and they said there were two minor misdemeanors or something of the sort and they were immediately removed from the courtroom. But then, of course, what we were waiting for was Ariel Castro, and what he was going to be facing, and we heard at the end, the $2 million. I want to bring in Pamela Brown. She is live right outside of the courthouse. We were having some difficulty, Pam, really understanding who was saying what. Can you walk us through a little bit more what just transpired in the courtroom?

PAMELA BROWN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Zoraida, we were having difficulties here as well. What we heard and saw first is that Pedro and Onil Castro, the brothers of Ariel Castro, made an appearance before Ariel. They're facing misdemeanor charges. They were taken into custody initially. And there no charges filed against the two brothers in connection with this case. But as we heard in the hearing, they are facing some misdemeanor charges, open container, drug abuse, so forth. It appears they will be released after they pay their fines and so forth.

But now we saw Ariel Castro making his first appearance before the judge. This is the initial appearance, the judge reading Castro's rights to him, and will tell him the charges that he's facing, asks him if he understand the charges, and as we heard there setting bail at $2 million per charge there. We're still waiting to hear if he will enter a plea. He does have the right to waive that, however.

SAMBOLIN: And, Pamela, is your understanding the same as mine, so $2 million per that would be $6 million.

BROWN: That's what it appears, Zoraida. It appears $6 million.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Let's head over to John Berman. He is in New York.

BERMAN: Thank you so much, Zoraida. I'm joined by former prosecutor Wendy Murphy. Wendy, you know, we're hearing the figure for bail -- $2 million per case. I want to know what you make of that. Is that the normal amount you would see in a case like this?

WENDY MURPHY, FORMER SEX CRIMES PROSECUTOR: I think it's an extraordinarily high amount and an appropriately high amount, that not only ensures he will never walk free prior to trial which is a good thing, but sends a message that the judge expects the punishment at the end of the day to be substantial. That's what bail is an indication of, how much do we want to ensure this man's appearance for trial? A lot. We expect him never to walk free again once punishment is instilled.

But, here's an interesting issue. I'm not sure if it is $6 million or $8 million because there were four kidnapping charges, remember, and three sexual assault charges. We have to remember there are four victims here, three adult women and one child. Now, if the judge meant those -- to say $2 million per case, then one could say there are four cases and it's an $8 million bail. Either way, I don't think there is any chance this man is going to pay any amount of bail and get out pending trial.

BERMAN: That's excellent point. We need clarity on that -- $2 million per case, not sure if there are three cases or four. At least $6 million, then we can assume, and maybe as high as $8 million. I'm joined in here in the studio by Paul Callan, former prosecutor here. Eight million dollars, maybe $6 million still a lot of money here.

PAUL CALLAN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I have to agree with Wendy. I think it's a perfectly appropriate bail. The judge is treating this as the functional equivalent murder case. Set bail that is an unmakable bail. It's the equivalent of just remanding him. And I think he's sending a message. It's almost like he took the lives away from these girls by holding them captive for so long and he's -- he's really treating it like a murder case as it should be treated.

BERMAN: The prosecutor there, in fact, was making the case that now Ariel Castro is on the other side of his alleged crime, he is now the captive after allegedly keeping these women captive for so long.

CALLAN: Absolutely. Judges do this all the time in very, very serious cases, they set high bail, and it's doing two things: it's ensuring that the defendant returns to court for trial, but it's also sending a message to the community that we take this very, very seriously and this is going to be a very serious prosecution.

BERMAN: Wendy, I don't know if you had a chance or Paul to see if this was unfolding before us. Looking at video right now. I was taken that Ariel Castro his eyes staring down the whole time.

MURPHY: You know, he should have his head down, and it should be a head hanging in shame. It's interesting that this was such a short event. Would you imagine that with ten years' worth of crimes to talk about, the prosecution might have gone on and on and on. I wasn't surprised that his attorney didn't try to argue against it or say things like he doesn't have a prior record, he has ties to the community or for that matter, he may well be the father of the little girl which means he probably can't be charged with kidnapping. I don't think you can as a matter of law, kidnap your own child. It's an interesting legal question. But clearly his own lawyers don't even want to try to stand up for this guy, even if he does have a valid legal argument to make against the current charges. The other argument.

(CROSSTALK)

MURPHY: People are saying he's undercharged.

CALLAN: I think that's -- Wendy, that's unfair -- that's an unfair knock on the defense lawyers in the case, I'm a former prosecutor and defense lawyer myself. They certainly want to stand up for him, but I think they have made obviously an assessment that it would be pointless to even argue for lower bail at this point in time. It's such a brutal case and sometimes lawyers are just practical about that. So I think they made a judgment that it's the right way to go at this point in time.

MURPHY: That really was my point. But I want to add one thing, I think folks are going to become very angry about the woeful undercharging of this guy. Ten years' worth of crimes, only four kidnapping charges, that's a volume discount if you ask me. More importantly, only three sexual assault charges for ten years? If he raped these women only once a month, that's again a huge volume discount that does not adequately reflect the severity of his crimes. I don't understand. And what about that he beat one of these women repeatedly until she miscarried fetuses? How is he not charged with something related to that? I don't understand these charges. It's woefully insufficient.

BERMAN: These are good questions to put to a prosecutor, Paul. Of course, the investigators there, the prosecutors say there could be more charges eventually, but do you think that's likely?

CALLAN: I think it's likely. Because what happens normally is, police move quickly to put the case together, present it to a judge so you can keep the defendant in jail, and then a grand jury is opened. A continuing investigation occurs and they can up the charges at some point in time.

Bear in mind, any one of the charges, these kidnapping charges that has been lodged would lead to a life sentence, so in a way, you know, the rest of it is sort of cosmetic, most certainly, additional counts will be added and frankly to me the biggest mystery is the brothers, why weren't they involved? What is going on with the brothers? a lot of questions about that too.

BERMAN: We'll get to that with Wendy in one second. Wendy, I should tell you, you are you 100 percent right on the issue of bond -- $2 million in each case. In this case there four cases, the first case -- three cases of kidnapping and rape with the three women and one case of kidnapping involving the daughter as well, so a total of $8 million bond in this case, which you both seem to think is impossibly high. But let me ask you about the issue of the brothers. Because it happened right there before Ariel Castro's charges, simply dismissed there. Was it odd to have that happen it right there? Is it odd for investigators to give up on them so quickly? MURPHY: It's a very important question. And, you know, people like me are trying to infer things about the relationship and the timing of the charges and so forth. The possibility exists that the brothers were picked up on those outstanding warrants because the cops wanted to speak to them about what, if anything, they knew. Maybe they are cooperating and maybe provided evidence to help prove the case against their brother.

I tell you this much. I don't understand why it was such a quick decision to say they won't be charged. Among other things, even if they never hurt any of the victims, they can be charged under Ohio law, we saw this in the Steubenville case, the gang rape case in Ohio, under Ohio law, if you know that a felony has been committed or is being committed and you don't report it to law enforcement, that is a crime. I don't understand at least we're entitled to the answer of the question, did they know anything and how could they not know? For ten years this is their brother. How could they know nothing? I don't buy it.

CALLAN: You know, on the issue of the brothers, it's shocking the police would have this press conference yesterday, essentially saying we don't have a case against them and we're going to release them. Usually prosecutors play very close to the vest and say there is a continuing investigation, not launching charges at this time, so for Cleveland police to say, you know something? We're walking away from the case of the brothers. Hey, somebody was trapped in that basement in chains for ten years. And if those brothers were in and out of the house, and they were bringing food or drink or anything else, there is an argument here that they aided and abetted in the captivity. Now, maybe you can't make that case out through the captive girls in the basement, but there may be other avenues to explore that, and I would certainly hope that prosecutors are going to take a second look at the liability there.

BERMAN: Okay, we have a lot of questions about this case, about this investigation, again, we just saw the suspect Ariel Castro, $8 million total bond. His eyes gazed down. What it was to be like there with him, just a few feet away inside that courtroom? We'll get the answer from someone standing very close by, when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SAMBOLIN: Just moments ago, that arraignment that we have been waiting for of Ariel Castro just happened inside the courtroom here in Cleveland.

Our Brian Todd was inside. And Brian, you were there, you experienced this. We saw actually his two brothers appear first. Pedro and Onil and then we saw Ariel Castro. Could you walk us through what was happening inside of that courtroom?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I can, Zoraida. It was a very fast proceeding. It was almost a blur with the two brothers coming in and entering their pleas on the misdemeanors, that was quickly disposed of. And then Ariel Castro walked into the court he was in handcuffs, he was not in leg shackles he was despondent looking, he looked down, he never looked up, he never spoke.

The charges were -- were looked at there, they were -- the prosecutor started to go into the litany of allegations against him, saying that he acted in a self-gratifying, self-serving way. That these women suffered years of horror inside his house that they withstood beatings and were bound and were sexually abused as well. This is what the prosecutor said, Bryan Murphy.

Then the defense attorney Kathleen Demets spoke up and said that -- that he lives alone, that he is unemployed, that he is on unemployment compensation, and at that point, they -- they started to ask -- they started to go over the bond amount.

The prosecutor asked for $5 million bond. But the judge granted a bond higher than that, actually. The judge said that the bond would be $2 million for each case, and there are four cases against him. So the bond, the total bond for Ariel Castro is $8 million.

Now after the hearing, we spoke with Kathleen Demets off camera and she said "Essentially that's a no bond move because he doesn't have the money to post bail at this time." So bond set at $8 million.

This was considered an arraignment hearing Zoraida but essentially he was not -- he did not enter a plea. He was not read his charges. He did not enter a plea. That will come within 30 days.

At this point this goes to the Cuyahoga County grand jury, and that -- so that's the way the case will disposed of for now. The City of Cleveland's involvement on this is now over. The defense attorney says that he's going to get a new attorney when this goes to the grand jury in Cuyahoga County. She was here just for this hearing.

But again, you know a very fast hearing. He never showed any emotion. He looked actually fairly despondent. He looked down and he never looked up. He was in handcuffs not in leg shackles. He did not enter a plea in this hearing. That's really the highlight of it and bond is set at about $8 million -- Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: All right and just one question because this happened very quickly also, at the top. The two brothers, Onil and Pedro, were they released?

TODD: They were -- they were let in, the first -- first into the court and they each had misdemeanor counts of carrying an open container. Each had a count of that and one of them had a count of drug abuse. One of them pleaded no -- no contest I believe to the open container, the other one, I believe that's Onil, his attorney pleaded asked for the case to be dismissed because it was a 12-year- old charge. Now I'm not clear of whether that was the drug abuse charge or whether that was open container but that case was dismissed.

And then Ariel Castro was quickly led in. The brother's cases were essentially disposed of within probably a minute or minute and a half and then they were led right out of the courtroom.

SAMBOLIN: All right Brian Todd I'm glad to have you there inside the courthouse thank you very much for all of those details.

Now I'm joined by former prosecutor Wendy Murphy and CNN legal analyst Paul Callan. So you know a slam-dunk case is what a lot of people are calling this. That is a huge bond.

So Paul, I'm going to begin with you. He'll never be able to -- to pay that bond.

CALLAN: Well that's an extremely high bond but you can never say never. Remember with bonds, what happens is you go to a bail bondsman and if you have adequate collateral, in most places you only have to put up about 10 percent or 15 percent of the cash value of the bond, so arguably if it was $2 million, he would put up $200,000 and his house as collateral.

But having looked at that house, you know you've got garbage bags covering the windows, somehow I don't think that house is adequate collateral for a $2 million bond, much less $6 million so this is the functional equivalent of no bail.

SAMBOLIN: No.

CALLAN: And I think we can safe to say he's been remanded until trial at least for now. There will be another hearing on this if he wants but later on.

SAMBOLIN: Actually -- yes the details on that house is when he bought it, I believe it was for $14,000 and also we heard there that he is on unemployment benefit now as well.

So, Wendy, what do you make about what just happened and what's going to happen next?

MURPHY: Well this was a formality, primarily meant to ensure that his rights are protected and to get something in place to hold him. And the most important thing is just get him locked up. Because obviously he has a strong incentive to flee, you know.

He knows he's likely to face the rest of his life behind bars, so when you want to make sure the guy doesn't take off to avoid punishment you really do have to impose a very high bail and you have to do it quickly. He's entitled as a constitutional matter to a very quick decision on bail.

And Paul is right that that could change but I don't -- I don't think it's likely to. You know it's interesting we didn't hear much about the fact -- and it's been reported, the fact that this man apparently confessed.

And it's so strange to have prosecutors to say things like "This is a slam dunk." You don't hear that. I mean it's almost unethical to announce on day one of a case that there is no hope for the defendant to prevail. So you have to believe that it's because the police did speak to him and he did make the confessions that we've all been hearing about as have been reported. Again, that leads to us believe that this high bail is an indication that there won't likely even be a trial here. It will ultimately be a guilty plea and some kind of negotiated very long punishment that will keep him behind bars for the rest of his life.

CALLAN: Well you know Wendy, I don't think you can also rule out the possibility of some sort of insanity defense here. I mean obviously, this guy has got severe mental problems and issues and certainly if prosecutors are correct, that they've got him on the facts, it's a slam dunk case, his only refuge will be claiming that some sort of bizarre mental illness caused him to do these horrible acts if in fact he's guilty of the acts under -- under law.

MURPHY: Well -- you know, good luck with that defense.

SAMBOLIN: I want you to stand by for a minute -- for those -- if you could -- stand by for just a moment here. For those folks who were not able to see the arraignment, we want to replay that and it begins here with Ariel facing the judge.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ariel Castro, charged with kidnapping and rape on one charge, kidnapping and rape on the second, kidnapping and rape on the third and kidnapping on the fourth.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: With respect to Mr. Castro, he is waiving examination on each case. With respect to bond on Mr. Castro, Mr. Castro is 52 years old he has lived in the area for 39 years. He is on unemployment compensation. And to the best of my knowledge, he has no convictions for felonies or serious misdemeanors.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good morning, your honor.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good morning, Mr. Murphy.

BRIAN MURPHY, PROSECUTOR: Brian Murphy, prosecuting attorney, Cuyahoga County prosecutor's office. Concerning the charges against Mr. Castro, based on premeditated, deliberate and depraved decisions to snatch three young ladies from Cleveland's west side streets, to be used in whatever self-gratifying, self-serving way he saw fit.

Two of the victims incurred this horrifying ordeal for more than a decade, the third for close to a decade. And this eventually resulted in a little girl, believed to have been born to one of the women while in captivity. Also while in captivity, there were repeated beatings, bound, restrained, sexually assaulted, basically never free to leave this residence.

Just as suddenly, unexpectedly, and quite frankly, inexplicably as they disappeared, they reemerged, thankfully, miraculously from a home of Mr. Castro. That was the home that was the residence of Mr. Castro's that was a prison to these three women and eventually a child.

Today the situation's turned, Your Honor. Castro stands before you a captive, in captivity, a prisoner, and the women are free to resume their lives that were interrupted and also with the promise and the hope that justice will be served. To ensure that justice will be served to protect the victims and the community, that Mr. Castro manipulated and deceived the state is asking the bond be set at $5 million concerning this matter. Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you.

And also ask that he have no contact with the victims or their families, whether he's out on bail or not.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you very much.

In these four cases, bond will be set at $2 million on each case.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAMBOLIN: It was a very quick arraignment hearing, $8 million bond. That is the final say there. We're going to take a quick break and we're going to bring you much more news ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: Boston police chief Ed Davis expected to be the first to testify in Washington today at the House Homeland Security Committee hearings on the Boston Marathon bombings.

Meantime the battle over what to do with the remains of suspect, Tamerlan Tsarnaev continues. Massachusetts governor, Deval Patrick says it's a family matter as no cemetery in the state has been willing to accept the body for burial.

Meanwhile the widow of Tamerlan Tsarnaev has hired a criminal lawyer with experience in handling terrorism cases. Katherine Russell She has not been charged in the case. Her attorneys say she is cooperating with investigators.

On the CNN Security Watch this morning, the State Department's second highest ranking official in Libya during the Benghazi attack is offering up a riveting account of what happened that night.

Gregory Hicks is the former deputy chief of mission in Libya. Hicks told the House Oversight Committee about a phone call he had that night with Ambassador Chris Stevens, one of the four Americans who died in Benghazi.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GREGORY HICKS, FORMER DEPUTY CHIEF OF MISSIONS, LIBYA: I found two missed calls on the phone. I punched the phone number I didn't recognize and I got the Ambassador on the other end, and he said, "Greg, we're under attack."

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: After 22 years as a foreign service officer, hicks claims he was demoted when he started questioning the State Department's version of the Benghazi attack.

That is all for STARTING POINT this morning. I'm John Berman.

Stay with CNN for continuing live coverage of the three rescued women in Cleveland. "CNN NEWSROOM" with Carol Costello begins right now.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now in the "NEWSROOM," home at last -- Cleveland reuniting and rejoicing.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are so happy to have Amanda and her daughter home.