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STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN

Rutgers A.D. Will Not Resign; Statue Of Liberty Security; A Family's Nightmare; Spurs Advance To NBA Finals; Griner Dunks Into History; NFL Star Says "Thanks!"; Fire On Royal Caribbean Cruise Ship; Boston, Six Weeks Later

Aired May 28, 2013 - 07:30   ET

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


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: -- the motivation of players bringing up that turmoil 17 years later, she says she has no plans to resign from Rutgers, and the president of Rutgers at this moment is backing her.

Senator Chuck Schumer and New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly are warning that a new security plan for the Statue of Liberty could leave the monument vulnerable to attack. This is a live look right now at the Statue of Liberty on this beautiful morning. Since September 11th, visitors have gone through airport-style security checks before boarding a ferry to the statue. The New Park Service plan would instead screen visitors on Liberty Island and nearby Ellis Island. Senator Schumer thinks that's a bad idea.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SENATOR CHUCK SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: Can you imagine if airplane passengers were not screened before they boarded a plane and instead they were screened after the plane landed? That makes no sense. It would be unimaginable, but that's what the park service, in effect, is doing here, with trips to the Statue of Liberty.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: Park service officials say the plan does not compromise the safety of visitors, or the security of the Statue of Liberty or on Ellis Island.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Updating you now on a developing story, an American wife and mother of seven accused of smuggling pot in Mexico. She may find out today if she'll go free or remain in jail until her trial.

BERMAN: There is a hopeful development for Yanira Maldonado and her family. A Mexican state official now believes she was framed. Joining us is her husband, Gary, and her father-in-law, Larry. They are live via Skype from Mexico. Gentlemen, thank you so much for being with us. First, let me ask you how's she holding up? How are you holding up?

GARY MALDONADO, YANIRA'S HUSBAND: It's been tough, but Yanira seems to be strong and holding up. She's not happy where she's at, but she has high hope that she'll be free of this falsely accused accusation against her. I got to see her yesterday. ROMANS: Gary, can you tell me? What do you think happened here? You got on this bus. You were coming back from your wife's aunt's funeral. You were going back to the United States on this bus. And what do you think happened here? Do you think someone else put a package of marijuana on that on that bus? What do you think happened?

GARY MALDONADO: It was either that the packages were already on the bus or they were never on the bus, and we were just framed, set up for those packages.

ROMANS: Why would someone frame you?

GARY MALDONADO: It's about getting money here. So, the military was the only one there at the checkpoint. So from what I hear that's a regular occurrence.

ROMANS: So you think they expected some sort of bribe so that you could go home and instead this is all just spiralled into a legal proceeding?

GARY MALDONADO: Correct.

BERMAN: You have a court appearance today or your wife does. What do you expect will happen?

GARY MALDONADO: She'll go before a judge at 10:00 a.m. today, in Gales, Arizona, and -- not Arizona, Mexico, and she will present her case with our attorney. I'll be a witness. We have a few witnesses coming, and it's just to gather up information to give to the judge. The judge will -- has until Friday at 6:00 p.m. to decide whether she goes free or if she is processed back into the system. But she'll be transferred to Hermosillo, Mexico federal prison at that point.

BERMAN: This is just crazy. Authorities are saying they found twelve pounds of pot on the bus. You guys have said you never even used drugs let alone sold them and now you think you're being fleeced. This has just got to be infuriating.

GARY MALDONADO: It's very upsetting that this happens to innocent people and from what I hear there's 65 percent of the people in the federal prisons here are innocent. Similar situations like this.

ROMANS: Larry, can you tell me how helpful have been authorities in all of this? This, at some point becomes an international incident, right? So how, how, helpful have the authorities been for you?

LARRY MALDONADO, YANIRA'S FATHER-IN-LAW: We have contacted the consulates and they were first set up, if you will. Gary was the one that was arrested and accused of having the pot under his seat. And so I first called the consulate in Hermosillo trying to get things going there, and then afterwards, they released Yanira -- excuse me, released Gary, and charged Yanira with this crime. And then I contacted the consulate in -- in Nogales for help, and they've assisted, and lawyers, recommending lawyers, et cetera.

ROMANS: All right, Gary, you know, we're seeing these beautiful wedding photos of you guys. I mean, what are you telling the kids? How are they holding up?

GARY MALDONADO: It's been tough. It will be better when Yanira is free from these unfalsely accusations against her and that she's back home with all of us, just thankful for all the love and support that everybody's reached out and shown us. It's amazing.

BERMAN: We wish you the best.

GARY MALDONADO: Thank you.

BERMAN: We wish you the best and hoe hope this ends soon and ends well for you all. Gary and Larry Maldonado, thank you so much for being with us.

GARY MALDONADO: You're welcome.

ROMANS: All right, ahead on STARTING POINT this morning, thousands of cruisers stranded after a fire on a Royal Caribbean liner. But the terrifying ended to their vacation. The latest and what's being done to get those folks home.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROMANS: Welcome back to STARTING POINT this morning. Let's check in with Indra Petersons to see how today is shaping up. Good morning.

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Good morning. Still wet in the Midwest, it's been so soggy the last 48 hours, 8 to 10 inches of rain. We're talking so much rain they're saturated and yet more rain in the forecast again. We show you those graphics there. Look at all that again, another two to four inches possible. No question here we're talking about the flood watches and advisories with more rain continue to pound the area.

Also speaking of rain, in the northeast, it was gorgeous yesterday. What happened, right? Today, rain now with the warm front cruising in to the area, not too much, most places are not seeing much farther up to the north. We could see about two to four inches. Most places only about half an inch down towards Jersey and New York.

But here unfortunately is the setup we continue to watch and it is the severe weather threat. Today, again higher than yesterday and each day developed a little bit stronger. The reason for that, look at the warm moisture again pulling it out of the gulf. All that cold air clashing as the system that was over the west coast yesterday made its way over towards Colorado, exiting the Rockies and once it makes its way right over the plains by tomorrow, we're talking even more enhanced weather threat for tomorrow bull's-eyeing over Wichita and Oklahoma.

ROMANS: All right, we'll watch it.

BERMAN: And they do not need that, important for a lot of the country to stay alert over the next few days. Thanks, Indra. Appreciate it.

So age is only a number, at least that's what the veteran group of San Antonio Spurs are proving right now. Man, they've been around forever and they advance to the NBA finals again last night.

ROMANS: Andy Scholes joins us now with more on the "Bleacher Report," geriatric version.

ANDY SCHOLES, "BLEACHER REPORT": Good morning, guys. Last night's win over the Grizzlies this group of Spurs players have really cemented themselves as one of the greatest teams of all time. Just to put it in perspective of how great they are, Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili are the first trio not to play for the Celtics or Lakers to reach the NBA finals four different times together.

In last night's closeout game it was the Tony Parker show. The Spur's point guard scored a season high 37 points as San Antonio led this game wire to wire. They won game four 93-86. Parker says he promised Duncan last year that they would make at least one more great run together and sure enough the Spurs are back in the finals for the first time since 2007.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TONY PARKER, SAN ANTONIO SPURS: Every year it gets tougher and tougher. Every team wants to beat you and that's why it makes it even more special to go back after all those years playing at a high level with the same coach, with the same big three.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHOLES: One of the top stories in the lineup on bleacherreport.com today is Britney Grinner's WNBA debut. Last night in the fourth quarter of the Mercury Sky game, Grinner throws it down with the one- handed slam. Moments later she goes up for the two-handed dunk. This was the first time in WNBA history that a player dunked twice in one game. Despite Grinner's above the rim play Phoenix lost to Chicago 102-80.

The French Open, the call was ruled out and Stakhovsky was so sure it was in he took out his smartphone and snapped a photo to prove to the world that he was seeing it right and the umpire was wrong. He eventually tweeted out the pic to get the Twitter world behind him. It looks pretty close. It's certainly debatable whether the ball was actually in or out.

A week ago, Robert Griffin III tweeted out a pic of him laying on all of the empty boxes from the wedding presents he received from fans filling orders off his Bed, Bath & Beyond registry. Now he's busy sending out thank you notes. One of the fans who sent RG3 and his fiance a gift received a thank you note and they tweeted it out and included a nice handwritten message and an awful from RG3.

Guys, pretty school deal when you can send your favorite team's star quarterback a wedding gift and get an autographed thank you note in return.

BERMAN: And he's so punctual, too? Don't you have a year to send the thank you notes after you get the wedding gifts?

SCHOLES: The wedding hasn't even happened yet.

ROMANS: That's amazing. He's got a copy of Emily Post on manners or something there on his bedside table. Thanks so much, Andy Scholes.

How do you handle a hungry garbage truck? Feed it a Pontiac Grandam, of course. This is awesome YouTube video. Shows the car being fed into one of the new refuse trucks as proof it can digest even the more challenging trash. Desserts not pictured.

BERMAN: I don't even know what to make of this.

ROMANS: I know.

BERMAN: That's crazy. It's like Wall-E. You ever see the movie where Wall-E just eats garbage.

ROMANS: That is nuts. Nuts.

BERMAN: Amazing. We'll see that again and again and again today. It's 44 minutes after the hour. Ahead on STARTING POINT, six weeks after terror ripped through the Boston marathon, we check in with a family whose life was really changed forever. All three of them wound up in the hospital.

ROMANS: Wow.

BERMAN: You're watching STARTING POINT.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: Welcome back to STARTING POINT, everyone. More than 2,200 cruise ship passengers are stranded in the Bahamas this morning waiting to be flown back to Baltimore after a near disaster at sea. Royal Caribbean's "Grandeur of The Sea" catching fire off the coast of Freeport yesterday. The cause of the fire is still not known. Passengers are being offered refunds and vouchers for a future cruise if they want it.

ROMANS: Six weeks after the bombings at the Boston marathon life on Boylston Street is getting back to normal. Survivors are moving ahead even though they carry reminders of the attacks with them. And investigators are working on the complicated answer to one very simple question, why. CNN's Jason Carroll has more from Boston this morning.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Federal investigators continue to focus on Tamerlan Tsarnaev's extended visit to Dagestan last year. Tsarnaev had told friends he could not relate to American culture. Did he spend six months there to reconnect with his homeland or was he trying to make contact with Islamic militant groups?

We do know he visited this mosque so did Mahmoud Masser Nadal. He later joined a militant group and was killed in a firefight with Russian forces, still unknown, whether Tsarnaev met Nadal or any other militant. Investigators believe he and his younger brother Dzhokhar, who awaits his next court appearance in a federal prison, may have acted as so-called lone wolves.

But they are still investigating Tamerlan Tsarnaev's contacts overseas and at home. His wife, Katherine Russell, according to her attorney, continues to cooperate with investigators, but the constant questioning may be taking its toll. It's very difficult. She is a young woman trying to bring up her baby without a dad and dealing with all this.

The sooner all this is over, the better. The bombing killed three people, and injured 275, one remains hospitalized, some of those released still in rehabilitation, challenging at times for JP Norden who we first met two weeks ago.

JP NORDEN, BOMBING VICTIM: I hate going down there. When I get down there, I feel awesome.

CARROLL: JP and his brother Paul both lost a leg during the bombing. Jacqui Webb's injuries would have been worse had it not been for the brothers.

JACQUI WEBB, BOMBING VICTIM: They were throwing me over the barrier when the second one went off ultimately saving my life.

CARROLL: Weeks into the healing, shrapnel and other debris literally starting to surface.

(on camera): These dots that we're seeing here those are tiny bits of metal that's still in your fingers.

WEBB: Yes.

CARROLL: So this was a BB.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, right here and this one is trying to force its way out, this one in my elbow, forcing its way out.

CARROLL (voice-over): The brothers honored at a Bruins playoff game on Saturday. As for the city, Boylston Street looks normal again, but to some Bostonians, it will never be.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is a place that will also hold a special place in my heart and someplace will never forget.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CARROLL: Now the reality of having to pay mounting medical bills is starting to set in for many victims. Insurance will only cover so much. The Norden family, they are struggling financially. So what they've done is they have set up a fund to help meet expenses and also this Thursday, the "One Fund" concert for all the victims will be taking place, the long road to recovery for many of these victims, just now beginning -- John, Christine.

ROMANS: All right, Jason Carroll, thanks, Jason. Some people aren't working, you know, just all the -- all the different attendant problems with recovery.

BERMAN: There are so many people affected by this. You know, six weeks ago, the Brassards were enjoying their first Boston marathon. They were there to cheer on their friend Carmen, but just 10 minutes after this picture was taken, 10 minutes, everything changed. The Brassards were just 10 feet from the first explosion. All three woke up in the hospital.

Now, though, they are back at home and recovering. The Boston terror attacks, even all this time later have changed their lives in so many ways. They join us now live from their home in New Hampshire. Ron and Karen, thanks so much for being here. Six weeks later, how are you doing?

KAREN BRASSARD, INJURED IN BOSTON MARATHON: Good morning.

RON BRASSARD, INJURED IN BOSTON MARATHON: Good morning. We're doing well, doing well.

KAREN BRASSARD: Taking baby steps moving forward.

BERMAN: I see a cast still on your leg. Walk me through your injuries.

KAREN BRASSARD: For myself, I had shrapnel that went into both legs. It appears that I got part of the device, not the BBs or the things that were in it. So I had an injury into my right shin, three-inch piece of shrapnel was in this leg. Ended up having to take it out, I developed compartment syndrome. So they ended up having to actually put incisions on my leg, four inches on either side to release the pressure and that's healing pretty well right now.

I had another piece of shrapnel in my left ankle. A nickel size around piece of pipe and it was protruding and they were able to take that out right away, but two weeks later, I developed a bone infection and torn tendon that was also related from that. And so I had to go in for my third surgery to have that taken care of just a couple of weeks ago.

BERMAN: And Ron, your legs are still up.

RON BRASSARD: Yes, I had a -- kind of a chunk of the lower leg which taken out with the explosion and they had to do skin grafting and I've got some nerve damage in the foot, and it's just been a slow process because of the skin grafting. You have to take care of that and make no issues with the leg accepting the skin graft. It's been a long road, a little slower than I'd like, but we'll get there.

BERMAN: You will get there. I know you will, maybe slow, maybe frustrating, but there is progress nearly every day. You had a lot of support, sometimes from people you have never met. I want to read you this message that was left on your fundraising web site from a 12- year-old kid. It says this is a terrible thing that happened and I wish you full recovery. I'm 12 years old, and I live in Missouri. I've saved up my allowance for something important and I thought this was it. How does that make you feel when you read something like that?

RON BRASSARD: It's unbelievable. You know, such an emotional time in the hospital and that was one of those -- that was one of those things that when we read that, I mean, the tears just -- just started to flow, just amazing, the outpouring that we've seen from -- from really everywhere. You know, folks that know us, folks that don't know us, and, you know, it's been so appreciated.

KAREN BRASSARD: I just -- I just think it's -- just such a great sign of hope, you know what? We have youngsters coming up behind us that they will do well for us and we'll be okay as a -- you know, community and as a country because we've -- we just have so much positivity around us.

BERMAN: Even after everything you've been through, all of the injuries you have to fight and battle every day, is that the message? The message of hope you want to take from this tragedy?

KAREN BRASSARD: Absolutely.

RON BRASSARD: No question about it. In fact, you know, I said from day one, that's all I'm interested in talking about. I'm not interested in talking about kind of before the event or who or why. Just the people who have been so amazing from the moment it happened. I mean, from the minute it happened and, you know, a minute later we had people there helping us and everybody that we encountered through the entire process has been just absolutely amazing.

BERMAN: OK.

KAREN BRASSARD: I say 2 minutes of negativity and hundreds of hours of positivity since then. So it just overshadows it, you know.

BERMAN: Well, we are in awe of your positive outlook and all behind you here as you make progress every day in your recovery. Ron and Karen Brassard, thank you so much for joining us. Really appreciate it.

KAREN BRASSARD: Thank you.

RON BRASSARD: Thank you, John.

ROMANS: Best of luck to them, best of luck to them. All right, ahead on STARTING POINT, thousands forced to flee from a wildfire in California, Santa Barbara County. We're going to have the latest on what is being done to control this. This is moving quickly here.

BERMAN: And then this guy is playing guitar, you know what else he's doing? He is getting brain surgery. We're going to speak with the surgeon who made this absolutely unbelievable image possible.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROMANS: Our STARTING POINT this morning, after their cruise ship caught fire, more than 2,000 passengers return home today. What do these cruise disasters, why do they keep happening? BERMAN: It's such a nightmare for an American family as a mother and grandmother sits in a Mexican jail cell accused of trying to smuggle marijuana. Could she go free today or she might force to stand trial?

ROMANS: Plus, incredible new video from inside a tornado. How the photographer was able to capture this powerful force of nature.

BERMAN: And then there is this. And that is actor Brad Carter, he is playing guitar there, but the really impressive thing. He is doing it during open brain surgery, my word. How is that even possible? Good morning, everyone. I'm John Berman.

ROMANS: And I'm Christine Romans.