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Jodi Arias Trial Continues; IRS in Hot Water; Sexual Assault Crisis in the Military; Toronto Mayor Denies Drug Use Allegations; Interview with Kevin Donovan

Aired May 17, 2013 - 11:00   ET


ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hi, everybody, I'm Ashleigh Banfield. Thanks so much for being with us today.

It's one of those days, a taxing day, especially for the ousted head of the IRS. Lawmakers want a pound of flesh for what looks to be a partisan bias in handing out tax-exempt status and some other treats that go along with it.

A dirty little secret in the military is not so secret any more and it is definitely not little. Sexual assault is a crisis. Now the top brass vowing to go to war and defeat it.

And the mayor of Toronto, Canada, denying that he smoked crack cocaine with Somali drug traffickers. Believe it or not, this is a story we are following. I'm going to interview the "Toronto Star" reporter who says he's seen an explosive video of just that.

But we are going to begin in Phoenix, Arizona, where Jodi Arias' life is on the line today, and the focus has now shifted far from her and, instead, to her victim's brother and her victim's sister.

These are people who have attended the trial every single day for over four months. They've had to look at graphic testimony, heartbreaking testimony of their brother, Travis Alexander, and how he was really just massacred.

It was a horrible thing that they had to look at in this courtroom. They've had to hear allegations that he was a pedophile. These were Jodi's claims.

They've had to hear allegations that he was verbally abusive and violent to her. Again, the claims of a liar.

And, yet, his siblings somehow stood up in that court and found the strength to go before that jury and pour out their hearts as that panel decides whether Jodi Arias should live or die.


STEVEN ALEXANDER, TRAVIS ALEXANDER'S BROTHER: Unfortunately, I won't ever get the answers to most of my questions about my brother's death.

Questions like, how much did he suffer? How much did he scream? What was he saying? What was the last thing he saw before his eyes closed? What was his final thought in his head?

The nature of my brother's murder has had a major impact on me. It's even invaded my dreams. I have nightmares about somebody coming at me with a knife and then going after my wife and my daughter.

When I wake up, I cannot establish what is real, what is a dream. I've even gone through the house searching through rooms, shaken my family to wake them up to make sure that they are alive.

My wife has woken me up out of nightmares because I was screaming in my sleep. It may sound childish, but I cannot sleep alone in the dark anymore.

SAMANTHA ALEXANDER, TRAVIS ALEXANDER'S SISTER: I am a police officer and some of these photos are more gruesome than I have ever seen in my 11 years of law enforcement.

Our minds are currently stained with the images of our poor brother's throat slit from ear-to-ear. Our life is stained with the image of Travis' body slumped dead in the shower.

Our lives will never be the same. We can never get him back.

We are so grateful for our wonderful brother, and we feel so lucky and blessed for the time we had with Travis, however short-lived.

We would give anything to have him back, anything.


BANFIELD: And people might forget that this is so much what prosecutions are all about, the people who have been left behind these crimes.

HLN's legal correspondent Beth Karas and Jean Casarez join me live now from Phoenix. They have covered this, gavel-to-gavel. They have not missed a thing.

You were both in the courtroom during Steven and Samantha's unbelievably impact statements.

I first need the ask you because we can't see the jury for all the right reasons. We can't see the jury, but how did they respond? What were they like during this? And I'll throw that out to you, Jean, first.

JEAN CASAREZ, HLN LEGAL CORRESPONDENT: I had a clear shot of the jury as I watched them, and as Steven and Samantha relived what they went through, because that's what you just saw -- these are victim-impact statements. They relived the impact that they have gone through.

The jury from my vantage point was stoic as they have been. I did not see tears running down their cheeks. I did not see their heads bowed. I did not see the Kleenex up to their nose.

But what I did see was, especially when Steven, this young man giving this victim impact statement, was reliving it all, I saw the male jurors turn away. They couldn't look at him.

They were listening, but they were turned away. Then they'd look at him, and they'd turn away again, and then they'd look at him. And then when he walked back to his seat, they followed him the entire way.

I know someone closer to them believed there were tears in their eyes as they walked through the door at the end of those victim-impact statements because that was yesterday. It was emotion in that courtroom.

BANFIELD: It was hard to watch and, obviously, Jean, that sounds just about right for those in the jury box who are looking at it straight on instead of through the lens of the camera.

Beth, I want to turn to you about Steven and maybe some of the things we maybe didn't hear in that small cross-section of testimony that we just heard, and that is that his family life has taken an absolute pounding because of the impact of this crime.

What did he tell the jurors about personally how this has affected him?

BETH KARAS, HLN LEGAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, beyond what we heard, that he has nightmares and his wife has to calm him down, if he wakes up screaming and he has to check on his child and his wife in the middle of the night because he thinks somebody is going to come and stab them in the night, he has been hospitalized.

He suffered from ulcers. He said he's had sort of a brush with death he alluded to. He has taken anti-depressants. Nothing seems to help.

I mean, he says their lives were just spiraling out of control, and then, of course, everyone in that family, because they all live in California, put their lives on hold to come here.

He said his little girl begs him on the weekend when he's returning to Arizona not to go, Daddy, but, of course, he's coming to be here to be one of the faces for his brother, Travis.

This very emotional victim-impact testimony -- it's actually -- these are statements, not testimony -- is not appropriate at the guilt phase, understandably because you are not to sort of yank on the heart strings of jurors in the guilt phase when they're deciding just the evidence, guilty or not guilty.

But it's entirely appropriate at this point when they are deciding whether Jodi Arias should live or die.

Notice that these victim-impact statements did to the ask for death because that's entirely inappropriate. They can only talk about Travis and the impact his death has had on their lives.

BANFIELD: And they were told, as every judge will do that -- they will counsel what you are allowed to say to the jury. One thing, also, Jean, that we may not have heard on camera, but the jury is privy to, is that they not only lost -- this family, Travis Alexander's siblings, there are six of them -- or eight of them, rather. They lost their mother. They lost their father, and their grandmother died just before jury selection, so they called Travis sort of their glue that has gone.

And it was just so heartbreaking to hear that I can only wonder what it was like watching Jodi Arias having to listen to the effects of what she did.

What was that like, Jean?

CASAREZ: You know, Jodi, of course, we see her back as we were sitting in the courtroom, but I've seen her now through the camera lens, and she appeared to be very, very emotional.

Everyone on the side of the Travis Alexander family, they were crying so hard, Ashleigh. I mean, I sit on that side, and the Kleenexes were up, and they were crying.

On Jodi Arias' side, they were stoic. They were serious. I did not see tears.

But the emotion filled that room, and just what you're saying is Travis became the role model for that family, the leader of that family, with the grandma passing away on the eve of jury selection. This is information that the jury had never heard before.

BANFIELD: So troubling. Great job in covering what is a very difficult series of facts and emotions in that courtroom, Beth Karas and Jean Casarez, our HLN amazing correspondents, and attorneys as well, I may point out. They know what they are doing in that courtroom.

And we'll see you later on as well in the coverage of this case.

I want to move onto the mayor of Toronto, allegedly starring in a shocking new video. I'm going to talk to a reporter who says he has seen it. He's going to tell us what's in it, next.


BANFIELD: A story in a Toronto newspaper is sending shockwaves through the Canadian political circles and outside those circles as well.

The "Toronto Star" is claiming that there is a video of the city mayor, Rob Ford, smoking crack cocaine with a group of Somali drug dealers. You heard me right.

Here is what the website says. Quote, "Two 'Toronto Star' reporters have viewed the video three times. It appears to show Ford in a room, sitting in a chair, wearing a white shirt, top buttons open, inhaling from what appears to be a glass crack pipe. "Ford is incoherent, trading jibes with an off-camera speaker who goads the clearly impaired mayor by raising topics including liberal leader Justin Trudeau and the Don Bosco high school football team Ford coaches."

"Toronto Star's" investigative editor and senior reporter Kevin Donovan is on the phone from Toronto.

Kevin, this is really astounding. I watched your report on your website. I heard it from your own mouth. You have seen this video three times.

How can you be so certain that this is, in fact, video of the Toronto mayor and not something that's perhaps doctored?


Going into this, when we heard that there was video and began the process of trying to see it, I felt exactly as you are describing. How could you possibly know this is the mayor?

I spent a day looking at -- very closely of videos of him in campaigns and public speeches he's given and so, when I finally saw it, along with my colleague, Robyn Doolittle, both of us were left clearly believing this was Mayor Ford.

He has a very distinctive look about him. The lighting is very good in this video, streaming in from blinds, shot in the afternoon. And it's him.

BANFIELD: Have we got Kevin's cell phone signal back up and running. I just want to check.

Kevin, we can't hear you. I think you've dropped off.

While we try to reestablish contact with Kevin Donovan from the "Toronto Star," I just want to let you know ...

DONOVAN (via telephone): Yeah, I can hear you.

BANFIELD: You've got me back. I'm glad we've had this moment to break in because I've got some breaking news that I want to just give you for a moment.

And, Kevin, in the fast last few minutes, the mayor was approached for comment. He -- let's see. He was asked for comment about the allegations that he was smoking crack cocaine in this alleged video.

His quote is, "Ridiculous." He went on to say, "It's another 'Toronto Star' ..." And then, unfortunately, it trails off, and there's mumbling.

He climbed into an SUV and sped off, but as he was leaving, he was able to tell reporters, see you down at city hall.

Were you able to get any kind of comment out of the city, out of his deputies, out of anybody regarding this?

DONOVAN: No, Ashleigh, we weren't. We had a rocky relationship between my newspaper and the mayor and his staff and so, no, we weren't able to get comment.

The one thing I might mention, several years ago, there was an incident at a Toronto Maple Leaf hockey game where people were watching the game complained about a person they described as then Counselor Rob Ford acting like he was drunk and being quite rude and offensive. He denied that immediately saying that was ridiculous. Then later on, ended up when more proof was provided by the people who actually had been given his business card by another person sitting in the seat, he owned up to it and said it was him. There is a bit of a pattern if denial of this public official.

BANFIELD: So, Kevin, I have to ask you, look, there are Somali drug dealers who are offering to sell this video. It is an extraordinarily unorthodox way to report when you can't actually show the video unless you pay them for the video. So this is a very difficult journalistic line to try to walk. I got to ask you. You have put the reputation of the "Toronto Star," a reputable newspaper. I read it all of my life having lived in Canada. You have put the reputation on the line. You are 100 percent convinced. You and your editorial bosses that this is, in fact the mayor of Toronto smoking crack with drug dealers?

DONOVAN: Well, as our story, it certainly, everything we have seen that it is Mayor Ford. We interviewed the person who says that he is a drug dealer who shot the video. We were very careful in this story to say that he, he looks impaired. He is said to be smoking crack. He appears to be smoking crack. His lawyer Dennis Morris (ph) said when I interviewed him last night, you can't know what a person is actually doing.

BANFIELD: All right. I appreciate your time, Kevin Donovan on the phone live with us this morning on this incredible breaking story. As I was mentioning to Kevin while his cellphone dropped out, we were told of video that were shot, I believe we're just getting it into our offices now, and rhis reporters trying to get a comment from Mayor Rob Ford as he was on his way to City Hall this morning. Do we have that video? Are we able to roll that? Let's look at it.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mayor Ford, are the allegations true? Are the allegations true?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are the allegations true? Are the allegations true?


BANFIELD: All right. Well, that is as we just got it in, the raw video, the very first remarks we are hearing about the incredible controversy. Some strong allegations. I think we have a comment from the deputy mayor he spoke out earlier, if we can get that up and rolling. We will get that to you as well.

We have our own sparks flying here in the United States on Capitol Hill over the IRS scandal, because under fire the Acting Commissioner Steven Miller, you want to call that a hot seat? You go ahead. It was. The question was, did he mislead Congress and ho far up the chain does if go and is it a scandal? A live report from the hill coming next.


BANFIELD: You know, it's really not often you see lawmakers on Capitol Hill holding a bipartisan hearing, actually organizing it between them. At least not in recent years, anyway. I will tell you this, both parties have come together in calling the first House hearing on this IRS scandal.

This morning, the Republicans and the Democrats, both with their very sharp knives wielding them, venting their outrage over the IRS and the allegation that that organization targeted the Tea Party and other conservative groups that were seeking tax exempt status. Also, the kind of status that allows you not to disclose your donors. It might be more important in this story. In the hot seat, Stephen Miller, the acting IRS commissioner who was forced to resign yesterday was forced to answer a lot of questions. Right off the bat, he rejected accusations that he has misled anybody about this whole story.


STEVEN MILLER, IRS ACTING CHAIRMAN: Mr. Chairman, I did not mislead Congress nor the American people. I answered the questions as they were asked.


BANFIELD: Well, the House Ways And Means Committes Chairman David Camp put it the way -- the IRS failed the American people. A ranking Democrat Sander Levin agreed. He took issue with the Camp assertion that the scandal is rooted in the Obama administration in the warning we must seek truth not political gain. That's his quote.

Dana Bash is live on Capitol Hill. This is one of those days, where committee hearings can be really boring or they can be really electric. I think this is the latter. Give me the headlines from what you have been watching.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I think the first question people want to know, is did we learn anything new about why this happened? The answers that the acting commissioner is giving, Steven Miller, is he insists it's because they got flooded with applications for tax exempt status, they doubled back after the Supreme Court decision allowing some of these groups to engage in political activity. They used a shortcut. He said over and over, it was fought targeting tease conservative groups, but they used a shortcut they shouldn't have done.

But as you can imagine, that's one issue that members of Congress are not satisfied with. Most importantly, they are not satisfied with the fact that Congress had been investigating this for years and he did not and nobody at the IRS gave them the information they were looking for, even after they found out that this kind of selective scrutiny was going on.

One thing this just happened, Ashleigh, is that the questioning turned to why did he actually ask -- why did the IRS disclose this information, not to Congress, but at an American Bar Association, a week ago Friday. And the answer was, well, we were going to do it all at the same time and the question came from a Republican Congressman, well, why didn't you just call us? He said, well, I called to get on the calendar. The response, was really? That's what you got? So that is the kind of exchanges going on. Maybe it wasn't political. But it seems as though what went on at the IRS was tone deaf. No question.

BANFIELD: Well, hold that thought for a moment. I want to get our chief national political correspondent John King to chime in on this as well. What Dana just said about the politics of it all, whether it was politics at the offices of the IRS or politics in the committee hearing room today, how much of what we were seeing today, John, was actually a search for the truth of something that really could be massive and how much of this was chest thumping (ph), albeit bipartisan chest thumping (ph)?

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: It's a little bit of both. Look, Congress, whether you have a Democrat or a Republican president or a Democrat or a Republican House or Senate, it is the job of the legislative branch to conduct oversight of the executive branch. Ashleigh, we can go back to weapons of mass destruction, we could go back to Franny and Freddie, we could go back to many other issues that caused our government and caused our country problems and say, maybe we might have been better off if we had a more congressional oversight.

We should applaud good congressional oversight. They should find out what happened and who did it at the IRS. That's what the committee is about today. Senate committees will get about it too, and this will be with us throughout the spring and into the summer. You can guarantee that.

As part of this, though, as anything, we see this in Benghazi, we see this in other questions, there are legitimate oversight questions, then it delves into the politics. What Republicans are trying to find out is the answers so far from the IRS, they didn't do it for partisan reasons, they did it because they were stupid. They were trying to come up with a few filing system. They made bad mistakes, they had a bureaucracy that went awry, but not for political reasons. The Republicans want to say this is part of a broader administration problem -- it can't manage its agencies.

BANFIELD: All right. I wish I had more time. I wanted to get into the whole tax issue. A lot of this doesn't have to do with tax at all. It has to do with disclosing who your donors are. And that gets conveniently left out of the conversation. I'm flat out of time. Jonathan, nice to see you as always, thanks for joining the program.

So you probably won't find many people willing to stand behind a woman named Jodi Arias, not anymore. She is facing a death sentence for murdering her ex-boyfriend slashing his throat from ear to ear, stabbing him up to 30 times, but another ex-boyfriend of hers is coming forward to support her and he's going to do so in public in court on her behalf next week. Who is going to watch or care? We are going to find out what he's going to say and who else is going to stand up for her next.


BANFIELD: I want to take you to Phoenix, Arizona, where we could soon find out whether Jodi Arias is going to get the death penalty for the horrible and vicious murder of her ex-boyfriend. She testified for 18 days. It was a very lengthy account of lies, it turned out.

Next week, she is set to speak to the jurors again. This time around, we know for her, it truly is a matter of life an death.

We want to bring in HLN legal correspondent Jean Casarez and Beth Karas who have covered the trial, are both lawyers, they've been there gavel to gavel. Beth, this woman told a TV station minutes after her conviction she preferred to die. How on earth does she stand up next week and say anything other than that without a massive challenge from the court?