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O.J. Simpson in Court Again; A Culture of Rape, the State of the U.S. Military; Ending Military Sex Assaults; Interview with Rep. Jackie Speier

Aired May 16, 2013 - 09:30   ET


CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. I'm Carol Costello. Thanks for being with me this morning, it's 31 minutes past the hour. We just might see O.J. Simpson taking the stand once again in a Las Vegas courtroom. It could happen as early as Friday. As you know, Simpson is seeking a new trial after his 2008 convictions on robbery, assault, and kidnapping. CNN's Paul Vercammen is covering the appeal. What is on tap today, Paul?

PAUL VERCAMMEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Carol, we'll hear from several witnesses, including David Cooke. Who is David Cooke? He is the lawyer, the forensic accountant if you will, who is hired by Fred Goldman, as you recall. O.J. Simpson, while acquitted of murder, lost the civil case to the Goldmans. David Cooke never misses a chance to rip into O.J. Meanwhile, O.J. himself, was tearing apart his former attorney, Yale Galanter as he was relaxed and released all those bottled up emotions that was yesterday on the witness stand.


VERCAMMEN: More than for and a half years after being sentenced, O.J. Simpson testified for the first time in a bid to win a new trial with only one arm free to gesture. The disgraced former football star said he repeatedly told his then-lawyer Yale Galanter about plans to confront memorabilia dealers to get back mementos.

O.J. SIMPSON, SENTENCED TO 33 YEARS IN PRISON: The overall advice he gave me was -- is you have a right to get your stuff. He gave me an example, that if you were walking down the street and saw your laptop with your name on it in a car, you can use the force to break the window of the car to get the laptop. He told me on -- not only then, but even the night before that I couldn't go in a person's dwelling. Because that would be trespassing.

PATRICIA PALM, O.J. SIMPSON'S LEAD ATTORNEY: Does the plan you have to retrieve your property evolve based on his advice to you?


PALM: All right. And you talked to him how many times do you think?

SIMPSON: Four, five, six.

VERCAMMEN: O.J. reasserted he wanted no guns involved when he led the raid. PALM: Did that plan ever involve a discussion of using weapons?

SIMPSON: Never no weapons. Weapons was never an issue.

VERCAMMEN: Simpson was at times jovial. The former actor said following his arrest, Galanter constantly assured him he would not be convicted of armed robbery, kidnapping, and assault for his role in the confrontation.

SIMPSON: He said, relax. Relax, O.J., I got it, I got it, I'll take care of this. I'm getting you out of this. You are not going to be convicted.

PALM: Did you trust Mr. Galanter?


PALM: Did you believe he would get you out of it?

SIMPSON: I believed I was innocent, yes.

VERCAMMEN: Simpson also said Galanter failed to properly inform him about a prosecution plea deal offer.


VERCAMMEN: And what's the prosecution's take on all of this? While, they're being quiet outside court, in court documents, you can read that the prosecutors say it's up to the defendant in regards to plea deals and testifying. Carol.

COSTELLO: Paul Vercammen, live from Las Vegas, thank you so much.

Still ahead in the NEWSROOM a culture of sexual harassment, even rape. That's how one female army veteran describes her experience in the U.S. military. You will hear her story.

And you'll also hear now a Congresswoman and a retired major general are trying to change that culture.


COSTELLO: They are supposed to protect their military colleagues from sexual assault, but now they themselves stand accused of perpetrating the crime. An army sergeant being investigated for abusive sexual contact, and possible involvement in a prostitution-related activity at Ft. Hood, Texas. Seperately, an Air Force officer in Virginia was arrested after he allegedly attacked and groped a woman. Both come as a recent Pentagon report showed a sharp jump in sexual assaults last year -- up 30 percent from 2010. But, despite an estimated 26,000 incidents, just 3,300 were actually reported. Army veteran Nicole Bowen is all too familiar with this topic. She was assaulted, allegedly by her sergeant, during a tour of duty in Iraq. She joins us live now. Nicole, welcome.

NICHOLE BOWEN, WAS SEXUALLY ASSAULTED WHILE IN MILITARY: Thank you. COSTELLO: You -- you characterized your tour as a, quote, "constant rape threat." Tell us what that is like.

BOWEN: You know, it wasn't easy serving in the military. I'm proud to have served the country and at the same time, there was nothing really put in place to protect anyone, men and women, or to make it easy to report a situation. So I chose not to report, and -- rather than go through the chain of command that I didn't feel would protect me and keep my information safe.

COSTELLO: Can you sort of outline for us how you were treated by the people around you as you were serving your country in Iraq?

BOWEN: Sure. I mean, there were amazing people that I made great friends, but there were people that weren't. It was like I was almost a piece of meat. I would every day get propositioned for sex, by people that I was serving with. Every day was -- there was -- every day was harassment in some form.

COSTELLO: And I mean, you are accusing your sergeant of sexually assaulting you. Can you -- it's hard to believe, this was the person you would probably trust the most, right? And you say he betrayed you?

BOWEN: Well, anyone that is above higher ranking is someone that is supposed to look out for their soldiers, and I was lower enlisted and that didn't happen. So, yes, it was shocking.

COSTELLO: And I know the case is still dragging on, two years later, because you did file a complaint, and do you know what the status is? Are people in contact with you?

BOWEN: Yes. The claim is being processed. It's actually progressed, so I should have an answer within the next few weeks I'm hoping.


BOWEN: But it's been almost two years.

COSTELLO: What about the man, the sergeant? Do you know what his status is now?

BOWEN: Not at all. I -- I mean, I know that he was eventually promoted and that's really all I know. I didn't follow up. I -- yes. I don't know anything about him.

COSTELLO: So we have heard from more than one defense secretary that sexual abuse within the military will not be tolerated and something will be done. Yet, two officers who were put in place to help solve the sexual assault problem within the military have now been accused of sexual assault themselves. When you hear that kind of stuff, what -- what goes through your mind?

BOWEN: I wish that I really had a -- an upset reaction, but it just seems like that's very typical. I'm not surprised. COSTELLO: Is -- you know, I was wondering, when these two men were being interviewed for these positions, what questions were they asked? I mean, it's just mind boggling this could happen twice.

BOWEN: Agreed. Agreed. And I'm sure it's not just twice. But that's what is in the media. So it's -- there's a problem. It needs to be addressed.

COSTELLO: Is it sort of like --

BOWEN: And there are real people -- real people that are impacted.

COSTELLO: And, you know, 26,000 cases reported. That's mind boggling too. What is it about the military culture that allows this kind of behavior?

BOWEN: I think a lot of the control is in the commander's hand, so commanders, in order to get promoted will not report rapes, it reflects poorly on them, so I think the control needs to be taken away from the commanders and put more in a civilian system. So that people are more protected. Men and women.

COSTELLO: I was just wondering, as I was reading about your story, that you were propositioned many times, and it continued. It never stopped, and was it -- was it by underlings, was it by everyone? Was it sort of a pack mentality? What do you think it was?

BOWEN: It was -- it was by everyone. It wasn't just a different rank or officers or enlisted. It was just really normal. I was one of the few women out there on the deployment, so, you know, it was like acceptable to be overtly kind of harassing women. It was very normal. And other people were around.

COSTELLO: What do you think should be done?

BOWEN: That's really difficult. And I know the problem is not just for women being raped in the military, it's men too. More men than women, and I just think we need -- we need Congress and our military people running the military to get together and maybe work on changing the system. Changing the laws in the military, which are separate from the civilian laws, like the uniform code of military justice is totally different and it protects -- like it's a boy's system, and it's -- it's not -- it's not working obviously.

COSTELLO: Obviously.

BOWEN: And people are getting hurt. yes.

COSTELLO: I know you are writing a book called "The Lady Warrior Project" as part of your recovery and you have a website of the same name. Tell us about that.

BOWEN: I do. I'm creating the book with other female soldiers that have served in combat. So, it's a story of about 22 women in combat, and what their experiences were like, serving overseas.

COSTELLO: All right. We look forward to that. Nichole Bowen, thank you for sharing your story. We appreciate it.

BOWEN: Thank you.

COSTELLO: We'll talk about what can be done, we're going to talk to a retired general and we're also going to talk to a sitting lawmaker, we'll be right back.


COSTELLO: My next two guests are speaking out publicly so that stories like the one you just heard from Army veteran Nichole Bowen will become a thing of the past. They are Congresswoman Jackie Sphere and Robert Shadley, a retired Army General and author of "The Game: Unraveling a Military Sex Scandal." Welcome to both of you.


COSTELLO: Congresswoman Speier I want --


MAJ. GEN. ROBERT SHADLEY, U.S. ARMY (Ret.): Thank you.

COSTELLO: -- thanks for being here. Congresswoman I want to begin with you, you blasted Congress as an enabler of sexual assault. How so?

SPEIER: Well, we've known about this issue for 25 years. There have been plenty of scandals, Mr. Shadley will talk about Aberdeen (ph). We have historically held hearings. We've had the brass from the Pentagon come up to Capitol Hill. They've all said the right things, zero tolerance and then nothing changes. And I made a commitment three years ago that I was not going to let go of this issue until we did something real. And I really feel for the first time both in the Senate and the House that we have traction now on this issue and that we will address it.

Not by just doing more of the same which is training and that kind of activity is not enough. Training is not going to solve this problem. It's a cultural problem. Until we take these cases out of the chain of command, we are not going to be seeing any dramatic change.

COSTELLO: And General Shadley, do you agree with the Congresswoman?

SHADLEY: I agree with just about everything Representative Speier had to say. She's exactly spot-on. We have known about this problem for 25 years. It's about abuse of power and part of the problem that -- part of the culture that needs to be corrected that she accurately portrayed is that there are people in organizations who know this unacceptable behavior is going on and they don't do anything about it.

And so I think as long -- we need to treat this problem as a force protection issue not a woman's rights issue or a human relations, a human resources issue or a personnel issue.

It's a force protection issue because our military cannot operate with all the great women we have serving in our country.

COSTELLO: And Congresswoman, it's mind boggling. I mean maybe the military is trying to change the culture but when you hire two people or put two people into positions who are -- who are supposed to solve the problem and then those two people are accused of sexual assault, I mean how do you put those kinds of people in those positions?

SPEIER: Well Carol when you also appreciate that these individuals were pointed as being the tip of the spear so to speak. They were given 80 hours of training. There was background checks done on them. They were supposed to be the creme de la creme. They were supposed to be the ones that were going to be the -- the new leadership of the military. And they turn out to be sexual predators. That's how endemic this problem is within the military.

And you know more training is not the answer. And that's typically what you will hear from everyone in the military. We're going to recertify everyone. We're going to do more training. You know in the private sector, if someone sexually harasses, they're fired. In the military, they look the other way. And the conduct continues and then it turns into sexual assault and rape.

COSTELLO: Why weren't women put into those positions, do you think?

SPEIER: Why are women put into?

COSTELLO: Well no, no, I mean those -- those men held those positions, now they stand accused. But why wasn't a woman put into that position to try to stem --

SPEIER: Well, I think, in part, because you know the -- the problem is with the men, for the most part. I mean we also have to underscore the fact that this is happening to men. Men are being sexually assaulted and raped as well as women. In fact in terms of numbers, more men than women. It's all about power. And the power structure is held by men.

So you -- they probably figured out that they needed a man in those positions because you have to educate the men. If you put a woman in one of those positions, they will be dismissed as being just tokens. And for the most part these sexual assault prevention and response offices within the military have been tokens. They haven't had any power, any clout, any investigative authority. They are there to just basically provide training videos and that's not what we need. What we need is to see heads roll.

COSTELLO: General Shadley, I want to get sort of behind the psychology of this I mean because most men are not abusers, the vast majority of men are not abusers. I mean is it when they entered the military that this pops into their head that this is acceptable behavior or is the military attracting a certain kind of guy?

SHADLEY: Two points, Carol. One, if you look at those 26,000 cases and 1.3 million service members, that's about two percent are causing the problem. Any -- one sexual assault is one too many. The -- the fact that this is a relatively small number should make it very -- easier for us to sort out who those bad actors are and get them out of our Army and our military.

The -- the challenge that you have is, again, sexual assault is about power. And so you put people in positions in a hierarchal structure where the rank structure just emanates power over subordinates that you facilitate this abuse of power by people who have a propensity to do that. And that's why it's so essential that, first of all, we get care for the victims of sexual assaults and make sure that we get them proper care.

I'm having lunch with a lady who came to a book signing who was raped at the Air Force academy 25 years ago and she just wants to talk and we've been communicating ever since. It's a terrible, traumatic experience that these people suffer both men and women from the sexual assaults.

And -- and so if you take care of the victims, then from their statements, you can find out who the perpetrators were and I agree with Congresswoman Speier I suspect and I don't know but this is probably not the first time that the individual at Ft. Hood exhibited this behavior.

COSTELLO: Yes ok. Well -- we're glad that both of are you carrying on the fight. Thank you so much for being with us this morning -- Congresswoman Jackie Speier and retired Army Major General Robert Shadley. Thanks so much.

We'll be right back.


COSTELLO: Fifty-seven minutes past the hour. Time to check our "Top Stories".

In Philadelphia, a toddler is safe this morning after her stroller fell onto subway tracks. Take a look the surveillance camera caught that whole thing. The 14-month old girl's mother says she simply lost grip on the stroller. The mother jumped down, lifted her child to safety. A bystander hit an alert button stopping a train that was less than a minute away.


SCOTT SAUER, SEPTA DIRECTOR OF SYSTEM SAFETY: It was really a smart thinking on her part that she made a conscious effort to hit that button.


COSTELLO: You're not kidding. CNN affiliate KYW reports the little girl will be just fine.

Keep an eye on the right-hand side of your screen, you're about to see a deer crash through the windshield of a public transit bus in Johnstown, Pennsylvania. Wow the frantic deer scrambled to escape the moving bus but had to wait until the driver pulled over and opened the door. The bus driver and a lone passenger were not hurt and the deer seemed to be yes, he seemed to be fine, too. He fled without any obvious injuries. Oh.

More than 600 firefighters are trying to contain a fast growing wild fire about 75 some miles north of Los Angeles. It has already swept across more than 3,000 acres in Kern County. A high school and some homes are under evacuation orders. Flames also threatening transmission lines that supply power to Los Angeles.

Only one crossover SUV aced a new crash tested by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. The small overlap front crash test simulates what happens when a vehicle's front corner hits another vehicle or an object like a utility pole. The only SUV to earn the top rating of "good" was the 2014 Subaru Forester. The 2013 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport also passed. But five of the 13 vehicles tested flanked. Experts say small overlap crashes accounted for almost a quarter of all front-end crashes that involved serious or fatal injuries to people who were sitting in the front seat.

The next hour of CNN NEWSROOM starts now.

And good morning to you, I'm Carol Costello. Thank you so much for being with me. We begin the hour with breaking news. A Russian security agent says another us diplomat was expelled from Russia for trying to recruit Russian agent. This expulsion happened before American diplomat Ryan Fogel was detained earlier this week by Russia and he was accused of being a CIA agent.

CNN's Jill Dougherty is following this latest story from the State Department. Tell us about it.