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STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN
Interview with Jonathan Reckford; The Investigation Continues in Cleveland; Woman Tricked into Taking Abortion-Inducing Drugs; Four- Year-Old Massachusetts Mayor; Major Theft at Cannes; Candid Photos versus Personal Privacy; Arias Trial Delay; Teen Catches Record Alligator in Texas
Aired May 17, 2013 - 08:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JONATHAN RECKFORD, CEO, HABITAT FOR HUMANITY: We have spoken with them and we are still doing the early damage assessments.
Of course, John, our hearts go out to all of the families in the area who have been impacted by this terrible storm. And our goal with Habitat is to first support the assessment process and then help as many families as we can with the cleanup and the repair and then the permanent rebuilding.
BERMAN: How soon do you think they will be able to start rebuilding? We're hearing that people aren't even going to be allowed back in their homes in some of the hardest hit areas for a week now. When do you think they'll begin to be able to get up off the ground?
RECKFORD: You know, it's a slow process. And it depends. There will be some families that, you know, with repairs, can get back in relatively sooner. Here the utilities and water have been wiped out as well. So one of the toughest things in disasters, we always want to have an instant result. But it's a long process of rebuilding, as we've seen in the many, many disasters we've helped recover from.
BERMAN: Well, you bring up a good point here, because disaster response is a big part of what Habitat for Humanity does here. So walk us through some of the process here.
What will these people in North Texas be seeing from your organization over the coming days and weeks?
RECKFORD: Well, initially our disaster response professionals are on the ground, supporting in the assessment process. And then we'll have opportunities after the search and rescue initial relief.
We're not a relief organization. We're really part of the long-term rebuilding. But our teams will then be working with the local affiliate; we'll bring in some surrounding affiliates from the state of Texas.
And we will, after the assessments, tied to the amount of support we've been able to raise, we'll be working with the affected families, both the Habitat families and of course, all the other families in community who fit our low-income criteria to begin that repair and rebuilding process. BERMAN: You know, one of the things about Habitat for Humanity, the people who live in these houses, you know, they pour their hearts and literally their sweat into them. They help build them. So it's got to be doubly painful for them right now to see these homes so badly damaged and destroyed.
RECKFORD: You know, it's so true. We had -- and in a way, we could -- it's an answered prayer that they weren't in the home. But we had one young mother of four children, who had just finished all of her sweat equity, and done all of the training, all the preparation; her house was complete. And she was going to have the house dedicated and move in this weekend, and the house is gone completely.
But at least they are safe and OK and houses can be rebuilt.
BERMAN: Houses can be rebuilt. Indeed they can.
So how can we help? How can people around the country help you, help Habitat for Humanity, who will be going in to this community in North Texas to help rebuild?
RECKFORD: Well, we launched today a campaign to raise $5 million, to raise support. I'm very grateful to say that General Motors has made the first lead gift to start that process. And if people go to our website, habitat.org, they can learn about the disaster response process and also plug in and see how they can -- when the time is right, volunteer, but also donate and support that rebuilding process.
BERMAN: Jonathan Reckford, CEO of Habitat for Humanity, thank you so much for being with us this morning. Really appreciate it.
RECKFORD: Thank you, John.
ROMANS: Developing this morning, the first congressional hearing on the IRS scandal getting under way in less than a half an hour. Today's star witness, the fired IRS interim chief, Steven Miller. He will be grilled by the House Ways and Means Committee about how and why the targeting of conservative political groups happened.
A statement by the committee chairman says the IRS has demonstrated a, quote, "culture of cover-up and failed time and again to be honest with the American people."
Stay with CNN. We're going to bring you that hearing live at 9:00 am Eastern.
BERMAN: We're now learning about three dogs that Cleveland kidnapping suspect Ariel Castro kept in the home where he held three women captive for years.
Cleveland reporter Ed Gallup (ph) tells CNN that a chihuahua was found in the car the night that Castro was arrested.
Two other dogs, which are terrier-poodle mixes, were found inside Castro's house. They could eventually go up for adoption, but first the FBI is going to ask the former hostages if they would like to claim the dogs as pets. And meanwhile, donations are pouring into a new trust fund to help Gina DeJesus, Michelle Knight and Amanda Berry and Berry's daughter. The fund has already taken in more than $480,000.
ROMANS: A man accused of tricking his girlfriend into taking abortion pills to end her pregnancy, he is facing federal murder charges this morning. The alleged victim says she was thrilled when she found out she was pregnant with her boyfriend's baby. But she wasn't ready for what happened next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROMANS (voice-over): Twenty-six-year-old Remee Lee was a woman in love.
REMEE LEE: He was my everything. And more.
ROMANS (voice-over): Elated that she and her boyfriend, John Andrew Welden, were expecting a child.
LEE: Every woman dreams of becoming a mom.
ROMANS (voice-over): This sonogram taking at the obstetrics clinic owned by Welden's father, a certified OB-GYN, showed she was six weeks pregnant. But Lee says her boyfriend begged her not to have the baby.
LEE: I was never going to do anything except go full-term with it, and he did not want me to.
ROMANS (voice-over): In a matter of days, she says, her boyfriend called to tell her that blood tests revealed a bacterial infection, and she believed him. She started taking what she thought was the antibiotic amoxicillin that she says he gave her.
LEE: And he came over to my home with the pills that he had, weapon of choice.
He told me to have -- to keep taking them. I was supposed to take three a day for days.
ROMANS (voice-over): But the pills in that bottle were not amoxicillin. Detectives at the Hillsboro (ph) County Sheriff's Office say Welden later admitted to switching out the antibiotic for the pill known as Cytotec, that can cause abortions.
After taking one pill on her way to work, Lee was quickly hospitalized with bleeding and abdominal pain. Soon after, she lost the baby. Doctors who inspected the bottle of pills told her the shocking truth.
LEE: Everybody knew it wasn't amoxicillin. Medical professionals saw that it wasn't quite right.
ROMANS (voice-over): Earlier this week, a grand jury indicted Welden on charges of first-degree murder and product tampering. He's being held without bond but has not yet issued a plea. The murder charge under the Federal Unborn Victims of Violence Act carries a possible life sentence.
Lee is left grieving and in disbelief.
LEE: I can't believe that someone did something so malicious to me, and not only to me but to himself. That was our baby.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROMANS: CNN (inaudible) wasn't able to get a comment from John Welden's attorney. Remee Lee has also filed a civil suit against Welden, her former boyfriend, seeking damages for the trauma, psychological and emotional injuries he allegedly caused her.
BERMAN: So fast food, even faster justice. A Washington State McDonald's employee didn't have to wait long to get her stolen SUV back. Virginia Mayton's (ph) Toyota, taken from her apartment complex Tuesday morning.
She was working the drive-through window just a few hours later at the local McDonald's, when the thief pulled up in her SUV. Virginia quickly called police and cops arrived just as the thief was pulling away, and they arrested her. That is crazy.
ROMANS: That is good luck. Bad luck to lose your car, good luck to get it back.
All right. It's a waffle; no, it's a taco. No, it's actually both, sort of. Take a look at the new waffle taco. Taco Bell testing it out in three California stores; it's 89 cents. You get a sausage patty, scrambled eggs folded into a waffle with a little hot sauce on the side. But would you choose, sir?
BERMAN: I'm going without hot sauce.
ROMANS: And if you're really feeling bold you can wash it down with this new Mountain Dew AM, that Mountain Dew mixed with orange juice. And did we figure out, what, 46 grams of sugar? Forty-six grams of sugar in the Mountain Dew AM.
ROMANS: (Inaudible) orange juice. That's a --
BERMAN: But I'm going to be staring at that waffle. Can we put the waffle back up for a second (inaudible)?
ROMANS: You're going to have to get on a plane and go to California where they're testing it out. If Californians love this, you might be able to get it.
BERMAN: Come on, California, help me out here.
All right, 37 minutes after the hour.
You might see him riding his little Tykes around town, but make no mistake. Robert "Bobbie" Tufts is a mayor for all the people of Dorset (ph), Minnesota. Yes, he's just 4 years old. Each year the town's 23 residents pick the mayor out of a hat and this time it was Bobbie's name that came up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERT "BOBBIE" TUFTS, MAYOR OF DORSET, MINN.: Looks pretty safe.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How long have had you that stick, Mr. Mayor.
TUFTS: Not long, but now I have it forever.
BERMAN (voice-over): I can't wait to see the first scandal that the mayor has there.
ROMANS: I think some Hollywood agent is already calling his parents right now. This kid is adorable.
BERMAN: Awesome. Bobbie's mom says he told everyone at daycare that he is going to be mayor forever. See, there's already a scandal there. He's going to hang onto power.
ROMANS: He's going to be the mayor of STARTING POINT forever. We'll give him that title right now.
Ahead on STARTING POINT, Bill Gates is back on top as the world's richest person. Details on his net worth. Let's just say he will not be playing Saturday's Powerball.
BERMAN: And it was his first time hunting alligators, and that is what he caught. A record-breaking 800-pound, monster of a gator. We're going to talk to the teenager and his father, find out how they did this, find out why they tried. You're watching STARTING POINT.
ROMANS: Welcome back to STARTING POINT this Friday morning. I'm Christine Romans, "Minding Your Business".
Stock futures point to a strong open for stock. But markets took a break yesterday from the record run on weaker housing and jobless claims data.
Also a lot of debate among officials at the Fed over moves to prop up the economy to the tune of $85 billion a month. When is that going to end? That's what concerned stocks yesterday.
But overall, look at this run, 16 percent is the gain for the Dow this year; the Nasdaq, 14 percent. The S&P 500 is up 15 percent this year. American Airlines is rewarding passengers who travel light. The carrier says it will now allow early boarding for passengers who don't stash any items in the overhead bins. This applies to traveler who board the plane carrying only small items, items small enough to fit under the seat in front of them. American says the plan will help ensure that packed flights will depart and arrive on time.
Bill Gates, once again, the world's richest person.
BERMAN: Who's (inaudible)?
ROMANS: The 57-year-old founder of Microsoft, reclaiming the title from Mexican business tycoon Carlos Slim, this is according to the Bloomberg Billionaire's Index. The last time he held the title was back in 2007. His fortune is now valued at -- OK, ready? $72.7 billion, up largely because of the increased value of his stock holdings, that's right, stock holdings. Been a good year for stocks; it's been a good year for him.
This just in, a major theft at the Cannes Film Festival. More than $1 million in jewels stolen from a Novatel (ph) hotel in Cannes, France, last night. The jewels belonged to the Swiss firm Schopar (ph) and they were meant for celebrities on the red carpet. Police say the thieves broke into an Schopar (ph) employee's hotel room, stole the items from a safe. This sounds like a movie.
Ironically, the new movie "The Bling Ring," based on a group of teenaged thieves in Hollywood, premiered last night as well.
ROMANS: I know.
BERMAN: I think we're going to hear more about this soon.
ROMANS: I think I'm going to rent "To Catch a Thief" -- it's a perfect time --
BERMAN: Always good to rent that one.
ROMANS: All right.
BERMAN: All right. So here's a question that some New Yorkers are trying to answer right now.
Is there a point when art violates personal privacy? Residents of one apartment building have discovered that they are part of a photography exhibit, only they didn't know they were being photographed.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN (voice-over): In the 1954 classic "Rear Window," Jimmy Stewart took photos of his neighbors, in part because he was bored. Now a New York photographer says he took photos of people living across the street for art.
From his second floor apartment, photographer Arnie Svenson (ph) was able to peer inside the apartments of residents living across their street without their knowledge.
The result? Intimate moments captured in photos: a couple eating breakfast, a man taking a nap, a woman in a rocking chair. And now some of the photo subjects are furious about having their privacy violated.
MARIEL CREO, PHOTOGRAPHY SUBJECT: In my case, it was my bedroom, so, you know, I change here, I -- you know, I do a lot of things here that, you know, some -- you know, and to know that somebody was not only looking at me, but photographing me.
BERMAN (voice-over): Mariel Creo, seen here, says she felt extremely vulnerable because she has a young child.
CREO: The biggest concern is a 60-year-old man was you know observing us, including minors.
BERMAN: Even more infuriating for the unwilling subjects Spenton could profit big time from these photos. They are being sold for up to $8,400 each. The photographer would not be interviewed, but said this in a statement. "For my subjects, there was no question of privacy. They are performing behind a transparent scrim on a stage of their own creation with the curtain raised high."
And the owner of the gallery where photos are being shown says the photographer was extremely careful not to reveal the identity of his subjects.
JULIE SAUL, GALLERY OWNER: Somebody has asked me, have the people in these photographs come into the gallery? I would have no idea. No one would. You could never recognize. And Arne was very cognizant of that.
BERMAN: Privacy experts say the residents may actually have little legal recourse.
PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: They have to be able prove that the pictures are identifiable. That's the starting point for a lawsuit in New York. I don't see it in most of these pictures.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: So can the people in the photos sue the artist for selling their images? Attorney Paul Callan who you just heard from there says New York does have a criminal statute that would protect people from being filmed for sexual purposes, but you know this is clearly not what is involved in this situation. And he also says the subject could sue -- you heard him say it -- if his face was identifiable, but he doesn't think that is applicable in this case.
CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Meanwhile the entire neighborhood is (inaudible) he had to get Roman blinds. BERMAN: Well I got a lot of tweets about this and you know some people said what about curtains? You know make a big difference.
ROMANS: I know well it certainly will be looking over your shoulder where I am.
Ahead on STARTING POINT, a Texas teen sets out on his first gator hunt. First gator hunt ever and he gets this -- an 800-pound monster. The high school senior and his dad are going to drop by next. You're watching STARTING POINT.
ROMANS: New delays in the Jodi Arias murder trial. Defense witnesses scheduled to testify on her behalf have been pushed back to Monday. But not before two siblings of the man she killed delivered emotional victim impact statements to the court.
Our Casey Wian reports.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Stephen Alexander was in the U.S. Army in 2008 when he found out his brother Travis had been murdered. As his killer an emotional Jodi Arias sat and watched, Alexander told jurors about the unanswered questions that haunt him to this day.
STEPHEN ALEXANDER, BROTHER OF TRAVIS ALEXANDER: 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?
WIAN: Next, sister Samantha Alexander approached the podium, crying even before she spoke.
SAMANTHA ALEXANDER, SISTER OF TRAVIS ALEXANDER: Travis was our strength, our constant beacon of hope, our motivation. And his presence has been ripped from our lives.
WIAN: Defense witnesses are expected to speak about several mitigating factors that could spare Arias' life, including her lack of a criminal past, her past efforts to convert to the Mormon faith and her talent as an artist.
KIRK NURMI, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: This is a girl right here that you pledged when you were selected as jurors that after hearing or after possibly convicting her of first degree murder and finding aggravating factors that you would consider giving Miss Arias life.
WIAN (on camera): In a trial full of gripping moments, one of the last is likely to come from Jodi Arias herself next week when she's expected to beg for mercy from a jury that has already convicted her of an especially cruel first degree murder.
Casey Wian, CNN, Phoenix.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROMANS: All right coming up, the unbelievable moment a soldier dad surprised his little girl as she threw out the first pitch at a Tampa Bay Rays game visit -- you know a full disclosure. This is a tearjerker. You do not want to miss it. It's super heart-warming.
BERMAN: An 18-year-old Texas high school senior made the catch of a lifetime. Look at to this a 14 foot, three inches 800-pound alligator, 800 pounds. Take a look at the size of this thing. It turns out this is the heaviest alligator ever caught in Texas in the history of ever. Braxton and his father Troy are joining us now.
And talk about beginner luck for Braxton. I mean this is the first time you go alligator hunting. So level us with. You see this 800- pound alligator. What were your feelings? Scared at all?
BRAXTON BIELSKI, CAUGHT 800 LB ALLIGATOR IN TEXAS: Well yes, we were pretty scared, but I mean we had our head on straight, and we were going out there to hopefully get a big one. So when we saw him, we knew what we had to do.
BERMAN: So how do you go about catching an 800-pound alligator?
B. BIELSKI: Well it's basically just your typical hook and line, you know --
BERMAN: It doesn't sound difficult for me.
B. BIELSKI: -- and you just get about 50 yards -- you just get about 50 yards of rope.
BERMAN: 50 yards, I'm sorry. Explain it, how -- walk us through it.
B. BIELSKI: Right, you get about 50 yards of rope pretty much and you just bait a hook with some raw chicken on the end of the line and hang it a good foot over the water and then you just let it sit overnight, and then the alligators will get on top of it.
BERMAN: Troy, you also caught one. You caught a 10.5 foot long alligator yourself. There are a lot of alligators caught in your family. You know we're you proud of your son? We're you jealous of the size of his?
TROY BIELSKI, SON CAUGHT 800 LB ALLIGATOR IN TEXAS: Oh I was excited for him. This was once in a lifetime type trip and I was glad that he was able to harvest an alligator. But the trip was -- we had a great time, it's a lot of fun.
ROMANS: Did you ever feel in danger? I mean this is -- this is a lot of alligator and they have very sharp teeth. Braxton, do you ever feel scared?
B. BIELSKI: You know, when we saw the alligator and once you pulled him up to the boat, it was a pretty big shock to see something that big up close, you know. But I mean we were in a boat, so, yes, my adrenaline was going, but we were just having fun with it, really.
ROMANS: I have a question about how you catch him so -- so you have the raw chicken on the end of the rope, right, and then it eats the chicken and then what?
B. BIELSKI: Yes ma'am.
ROMANS: You pull it in?
B. BIELSI: Right. Well, what the alligator does is he swallows the chicken hole. Once they swallow it, you pretty much have them, and you can just pull them right up to the boat.
BERMAN: Oh, wow. You're been a big fan of these gator shows, reality shows, for a while -- "Swamp People," "Gator Boys". You know, is this your calling? Are you destined for a life of mammoth alligator hunting?
B. BIELSKI: Yes, you know, now that I have my 14-footer, if "Swamp People", you know Troy Landry wanted me to go to Louisiana and help him harvest a 14-footer, I wouldn't be against it. I'll just see.
BERMAN: Right. Sounds like you're raising your hand for a job.
ROMANS: Your dad is rolling his eyes. Braxton, how old are you?
B. BIELSKI: I'm 18 years old.
BERMAN: Your father is not so sure about that as a lifetime profession. We'll let you guys work that out together. Braxton and Troy, thank you so much for joining us, great to see you this morning. Congratulations.
T. BIELSKI: Thank you.
B. BIELSKI: Thank you.
ROMANS: It sounds like a lot of great father-son bonding and that's the most important part.
And speaking of parents -- tissue alert. Check out this dad who secretly returned from Afghanistan to surprise his little girl. Right after she throws out the first pitch of the Tampa Bay Rays games. And get this -- he's the catcher. Alayna Adams said she thought there was something weird about how the catcher caught the ball.
Then Lieutenant Colonel Will Adams lifted his mask. Then she knew it was him. Adams was stationed in Afghanistan for most of the past couple of years. Tears flowed after the pitch, and the Rays fans, you can imagine. Rays fans went crazy. They gave the whole family a standing ovation.
BERMAN: Look at that hug. Can you imagine?
ROMANS: Love it. That's it for STARTING POINT this Friday. I'm Christine Romans. BERMAN: And I'm John Berman. Stay with CNN for live coverage of the House Ways and Means Committee hearing into the IRS scandal. That begins at 9:00 a.m. Eastern time.
In the meantime "CNN NEWSROOM" with Carol Costello begins right now.
CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: I thought Christine was going to cry. She always does.
ROMANS: I know.
COSTELLO: I was waiting for the tears. But that was touching.
Thanks to you both. Have a great weekend.
Here in Atlanta, CNN's "NEWSROOM" gets to work with a special edition, right now on Capitol Hill, Congress launches its first hearing on the IRS and its abuse of power. Just one week ago today, the IRS admitted to the bombshell allegations that workers unfairly subjected conservative groups like the Tea Party to special scrutiny.
The big question this morning, was this targeting really the work of rogue agents as the IRS claims? And did this man try to cover it up by lying to lawmakers. Steven Miller was the IRS acting commissioner until the scandal forced him to resign on Wednesday. Here he is just the day before, getting hounded by reporters.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi Mr. Miller.
STEVEN MILLER, FORMER ACTING IRS COMMISSIONER: Hi, guys. How are you?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can you tell us why you never told Congress --
MILLER: I don't have a comment. Thank you, guys. I'll be here on Friday.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sir, Senator Hatch said that you purposely misled him by not informing him about this.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He's not going to be able to do an interview now. He will be back.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Commissioner Miller, why didn't you tell the truth when you were asked directly by Congress?
MILLER: We'll talk on Friday.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COSTELLO: Well, here it is Friday, and that gauntlet of questions is just a taste of what Mr. Miller faces today on Capitol Hill. Chief congressional correspondent Dana Bash looks ahead to what is sure to be a day of ruthless questioning and taking a look at the big picture, our chief political analyst Gloria Borger is in our Washington bureau.
Dana, I want to start with you, Steven Miller is already there in the hearing room. He was early. Tell us what you expect he will face today?
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: What he is going to face is something that you don't normally see when there's big controversy which is really a bipartisan grilling. Democrats and Republicans are equally outraged. But, you know, sometimes when you have these hearings, it's more of a partisan show, members of Congress trying to make political points.
In this particular hearing, they genuinely have a fact finding mission.