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Judge Orders Release Of Arizona Mom; Thousand Acre Wildfire in California; New Photos of Boston Bombing Suspects; TSA Removed Body Scanners; Two More "American Idol" Judges Leave

Aired May 31, 2013 - 05:30   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): And believe it or not, still more trouble for Justin Bieber accused of dangerous driving, partying all night. Oh, no. So, is this finally reason for alarm?


BERMAN (on-camera): Welcome back to EARLY START, everyone. I'm John Berman.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Christine Romans. It's 30 minutes past the hour.

Breaking news this morning, the American woman jailed in Mexico accused of smuggling drugs is now free. Overnight, a Mexican judge released Yanira Maldonado.

BERMAN: We're going to go live now to Nogales, Mexico right now where the family spokesperson is making a statement. Let's listen.


BRANDON KLIPPEL, FAMILY SPOKESPERSON: -- character would only allow those (INAUDIBLE) to blow them down. It takes effort and strong belief of right and wrong to go through what they've experienced -- what they've experienced and remain faithful and steadfast again. Thank you to all who join with us to bring Yanira home safely and thank heavenly Father, for answering our prayers. And that is our statement.


BERMAN: All right. I'm not sure now whether we're going to hear now from either the family -- there we go. Yanira is sitting down here with her husband, Gary Maldonado. Let's listen to what they have to say.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We'll start with some questions, guys. So, fire away.

(SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE) BERMAN: All right. Obviously, the questions and answers are in Spanish. We will bring in Rafael Romo right now who is in Nogales, Mexico. Rafael, what is the latest in this? And again, we may stop at any moment if we start hearing speak in English.

RAFAEL ROMO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, let me begin by saying that it has been an incredible night for the Maldonados. Something that -- it was a moment of such incredible emotion when we witnessed that first hug between Yanira Maldonado and her husband, Gary. They gave each other a big bear hug. They separated, and then, they realized that they were together again. And then, there was another big hug.

It was a very emotional moment. And, as you can imagine, it was very difficult for this couple who's only been married for one year. She got arrested a week ago on May 22nd, last Wednesday, she was first taken to federal custody in the capital of the state of Sonora right across the border from here, from Nogales, Arizona, then she was sent to a state prison.

And she was told that she was being accused of trafficking drugs because bundles of marijuana, more than 12 pounds, were found under her seat. But she said last night that everybody was praying for her and that she was very grateful, not only to her family, the people who supported her, but also to the media. Let's listen to what she had to say.


YANIRA MALDONADO, FREED FROM MEXICAN JAIL: I want to say thank you, first, to God, because I'm free now and (INAUDIBLE). And I'm very grateful that I'm free, for my family, for my children. And I really thank all the people and you guys, the media, who really, really, through you, was my situation extended to the whole world. And I thank you for that.


ROMANS: You know, just after she was released, she's speaking right now and answering some questions. Let's just listen to what she's saying right now.


MALDONADO: -- other people going through their own problems makes yours smaller, but, you know, so --


MALDONADO: Oh, they're so happy that I'm out. So, they can't wait to see me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What did they say to you?

MALDONADO: They told me that -- I don't know what time, 9:55, probably around 9:30 maybe, because I come here right after. Someone came from the court to sign papers to give notifications, so I signed the paper and he said that I'd be released.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What was your reaction?

MALDONADO: I screamed. I said like, yes!




BERMAN: So, Yanira Maldonado saying that when she learned that she was going to be released at about 9:00 p.m. last night, just several hours ago, her reaction, she screamed with excitement. Rafael Romo joins us covering this story from the beginning. Rafael, so, what is it this bus surveillance video that cleared her, video of her walking onto the bus?

ROMO: The video was introduced in court yesterday. And it essentially -- I was one of a handful of reporters who had an opportunity to actually watch the video because they don't allow cameras inside the courtroom. What the video essentially shows is the couple boarding the bus in the city of Los Mochis in Mexico. And they only had a couple of blankets, a couple of bottle of water -- a couple of bottles of water, and her purse, Yanira's purse.

And so, that was the basis for the defense's claim that it would have been impossible for the couple to smuggle packages of marijuana weighing more than 12 pounds. And it ended up being probably the crucial piece of evidence that the judge needed to see in order to release Yanira from the prison across the border where she spent quite a few days -- John.

ROMANS: Any possible blowback to the authorities that detained her?

ROMO: Well, I've been here for the last few days and what I sense is a tug-of-war, if you were, between the state government and the federal government. The soldiers who originally detained the couple did not show up to testify in court on Wednesday. And that was the beginning of the end for the prosecution's case.

Also, the governor of the state of Sonora publicly expressed sympathy for Yanira, which was probably very uncomfortable for the federal government. There's a lot of traffic between the state of Arizona and the state of -- a lot of Americans who cross the border to go to Sonora's beaches, to go shopping, and the state of Sonora, the government was very worried that this was going to create a lot of bad publicity for this part of Mexico, Christine.

ROMANS: Certainly, I think this has been a lot of bad publicity and also a reminder that a great deal of illegal traffic is going across the border in commercial vehicles. And you've got a drug smuggling problem and a gun smuggling problem, too. Those are all sorts of the bigger pictures here that she just was caught up a very small part of it. Let's listen to a little bit more. She's having this press conference right now. Rafael, let's listen a little bit more to what she has to say.


MALDONADO: -- to get to where they wanted to get, you know, the staff, but they should be more honest and do things right.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You think you were targeted or were you just unlucky to sit there?

MALDONADO: No, I don't think I was targeted. Maybe -- (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)


ROMANS: All right.

BERMAN: Yanira Maldonado right there just released from prison a few hours ago. These are her first minutes of freedom here. She's speaking to the press again. When she was told she was going to be set free, she says she screamed. Very nice to hear. Very nice to see her out, finally.

Thirty-eight minutes after the hour. Also developing this morning, the threat of persistent severe weather across so much of the country. Storm trackers say at least two tornadoes touched down in Oklahoma yesterday and conditions could produce even more today. The storms also dumped rain on the Tulsa, Oklahoma, metro area.

ROMANS: In Arkansas, a tornado tore through the town of Oden, ripping roofs away, snapping trees. A total of nine people injured because of bad storms in that state.

BERMAN: And in California's Angeles National Forest, more than 500 firefighters trying to get the upper hand on the 1,000-acre powerhouse fire. At one point, firefighting planes dumped fire retardant when flames threatened power lines there. It sounds very dangerous. Some good news to tell you about right there, and for that, let's go to Indra Petersons who has all that covered.

ROMANS: Good morning.

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Good morning. Unbelievable. We are going to start with the severe weather. I mean, the radar itself shows the story, typically, in the overnight hours is when we start to see a little bit of a break in the afternoon is when we see things firing up. And take a look at all the instability right now. A lot of thunderstorms already on the map, but unfortunately, today, it looks like this setup is still with us.

It's a tough time of year. We typically see tornadoes this time of year. We see all that warm, moist air really banking (ph) up against the cold air. We're going to switch this map for us real quick, my producers, right there. There we go. We saw a lot of rain. In fact, we actually saw in Toledo, we actually saw just escape a large tornado yesterday. Heavy rain, even four to six inches of it seen yesterday.

So, again, the conditions are that warm, moist air banking up against that cold, dry air out there. The jet streamlining up and the low, all of that producing that cold air. Having a little trouble, though, there you can go and can see. And I do want to tell you, the severe risk area today, unfortunately, is another bull's-eye

And again, this is right over Moore, Oklahoma. Oklahoma City, Norman, typically the time of year we do see this and even Joplin now today into the bull's-eye, but a good 35 million of you seeing the slight risk. It is a little different today than yesterday since we're looking at the threat going a little bit more towards the Great Lakes regional all the way down through Texas.

So, again today, we see that severe map, that's, you know, especially that moderate risk today, just as powerful as yesterday. Hard to believe I'm still saying this. I feel like a broken record, but everyone, stay vigilant.

BERMAN: All right. Thanks so much, Indra Petersons with a look at the weather for us this morning.

And then, also new this morning, chilling video of the Boston terror suspects just days before the bombs went off. We're going to have these new details straight ahead.


BERMAN: New this morning, chilling surveillance video obtained by CNN showing the Tsarnaev Brothers working out at a Boston gym 72 hours before the explosions at the Boston marathon finish line. The Boston bombing suspects worked out with a friend at a mixed martial arts center on Friday, April 12th. The manager says that Tamerlan Tsarnaev was so difficult that he wanted to ban him from the gym. CNN's Deborah Feyerick has more now.


DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Seventy- two hours before the bombs detonated almost to the minute, suspects, Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, worked together out at a gym in Boston. Security cameras at the Wai Kru Mixed Martial Arts Center showed the brothers arriving with a friend just before 2:45 Friday afternoon.

We spokes to the manager who asked we only use his first name, Michael. He says Tamerlan, who you see in the hat, looked different. Noticeably missing, Tamerlan's full bushy religious beard, which he had for about two years. The manager describes Tamerlan as extremely opinionated and outspoken about his Muslim religion.

And says, he didn't ask Tamerlan why he'd shave because he didn't want to engage in what was likely to be a long, heated debate. Now, he wonders if Tamerlan shaving the beard may have been of an Islamic ritual purification prior to death. PAUL CRUICKSHANK, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: Shedding the beard may be a way to blend in, not to attract scrutiny from security services in carrying out the Boston attacks.

FEYERICK: Tamerlan trained at Wai Kru several times a month for free, professional courtesy to the nationally ranked golden gloves boxer. Dzhokhar rarely came, showing up just two or three times in roughly two years.

CRUICKSHANK: We've seen with western militant wannabe jihadist a real emphasis on physical training, physical fitness, wanting to be prepared for jihad.

FEYERICK: Almost immediately, the manager who is off-screen to the right asked the men to follow posted gym rules and take-off their shoes. Younger brother, Dzhokhar, complies right away. Tamerlan does not, arguing instead, not giving any ground. The manager later e- mails the owner asking him to ban Tamerlan, calling him arrogant, selfish, never helping anyone else.

The argument doesn't seem to face (ph) Tamerlan who's the first one in the ring. His years of training are evident. Watch how skillfully he handles the jump rope. Dzhokhar has more difficulty, less stamina as he struggles to hold up the oversize shorts. The manager says the man in the middle was introduced as a friend. We blurred his face.

He was later questions and released by the FBI. Tamerlan remains focused, barely missing or breaking stride. It's right here that the brothers interact. They seem relaxed, Dzhokhar resting at times. Tamerlan, moving, moving, working out 72 hours before two bombs exploded near the finish line of the Boston marathon.

Deborah Feyerick, CNN, New York.


ROMANS: Wow. It's something to see them just working out 72 hours before the bombing.

New questions this morning from the father of a man shot dead by the FBI while being questioned about the Boston marathon bombings. Abdulbaki Todashev is waiting for a visa so he can come to the U.S. and bring his son's body back to Chechnya. He says he doesn't understand why Ibragim Todashev died. He says he was unarmed and surrounded by four or five agents when he was shot seven times.


ABDULBAKI TODASHEV, FATHER OF IBRAGIM TODASHEV (through translator): He didn't pose any threat to them, but even if he threatened him with his fists, couldn't they shoot his leg? My son couldn't attack them because he's not crazy. I don't know how they could shoot him like that.

(END VIDEO CLIP) ROMANS: The father also says his son was not close with the Boston bombing suspect, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, only knowing him from training at the same gym. But the U.S. says both were involved in a previously unsolved triple murder.

BERMAN: Forty-seven minutes after the hour right now, and up next, TV's biggest, bawdiest (ph) brawl, it's going off the air. Two judges saying goodbye to "American Idol."


ROMANS: Good morning. Nine minutes until the top of the hour. Welcome back. The man who emerged as a hero in the kidnapping of three women in Cleveland is taking his show on the road. Charles Ramsey is already getting free McDonald's burgers for a year, but he says other people have been cashing in on his fame and his name without his permission. Now, he signed a contract to be a motivational speaker at $10,000 an appearance.


BRUCE MERRIN, CELEBRITY SPEAKERS AND ENTERTAINMENT BUREAU: He's so charismatic. I just totally adore him. His charisma just shines through. And I think he has a very touching and emotional message. He had the courage and the motivation to go and help somebody out when they were in a disastrous situation. And I really admire and respect that.


ROMANS: Ramsey says he hopes to inspire people with his message and raise money for the kidnapping victims as well.

BERMAN: Good for him.

So, the search is on this morning for a bad Samaritan who scooped up more than $2,000 after it fell out of a man's truck. This video shows a man named John walking into a restaurant in California's Central Valley unaware that he's dropped the wad of cash in the parking lot. $2,000, not bad. A man runs over and scoops up the money. Crazy.

To make matters worse, this man, John, remembers running into the guy in the restaurant while he was searching for his cash. Crime stoppers offering a $1,000 reward for information leading to an arrest in this case.

ROMANS: Karma, not good in that situation. All right. The former owner of a monkey who was famously photographed in an Ikea store in Canada fighting in court to get his monkey back. And Yasmin Nakhuda says she might have a good case. The animal sanctuary where Darwin the monkey has been living is no longer pursuing charges that he was mistreated while in her care.

BERMAN: And he wants those meatballs in Ikea.

(LAUGHTER) BERMAN: The TSA says it has removed all 250 body scanners that critics once called virtual strip searches. The back scatter machines raised privacy and health concerns after over radiation exposure and revealing images, maybe too revealing in some cases. The TSA decided to begin pulling them out of airports in February.

That's when Congress voted to require all scanners have privacy protecting software. The contractor could not meet that demand.

ROMANS: How much did we spend on those? I got to look that up.

BERMAN: That's a strange expensive chapter in airport security.

ROMANS: I think it is. I think it is.

BERMAN: So, coming up, take out half and add a woman? The intrigue swirls around "Two and a Half Men." We will tell you who's coming and who's going.


ROMANS: Good morning. Welcome back. Fifty-seven minutes past the hour. Trending this morning, LeBron James is looking for an intern, but you'll need an MVP-level resume, folks. The Miami Heat star is hiring for You have to be proficient in Spanish, proficient with Photoshop, Indesign and have experience in journalism or marketing. Berman, can you do it?

BERMAN: Maybe.

ROMANS: This will -- it's going to read out a lot of student. You must be from Ohio, sorry John, a LeBron's home state, from (ph) New York or South Florida.

BERMAN: I'm from New York, sort of.

ROMANS: I thought you were from Boston. No word on whether you'll be paid or not either.

BERMAN: Again, that doesn't matter.


ROMANS: "American Idol" quickly running out of judges after weeks of rumors Mariah Carey and Nicki Minaj both confirmed it's one and done for them. Neither will stick around for a second season. What a loss? Veteran judge, Randy Jackson, also exited this year, leaving just Keith Urban.

It was an eventful 12th season with Mariah Carey and Minaj sparring on and off the set. Their feud, however, did not translate into higher ratings for some reason. "Idol" reported a record low audience for its season finale in May. No word yet on replacements. Again, another job opportunity.

(LAUGHTER) ROMANS: You're funny enough and smart enough.

All right. A new female will soon be the half in "Two and a Half Men." The actress hasn't been chosen yet, but she'll replace Angus T. Jones' character, Jake Harper, in the show up next season, claiming to be the daughter of the recently deceased Charlie Harper. Charlie Harper, of course, was played by former cast member, Charlie Sheen. We're told the new character will move into the home of Walden Schmidt played by Ashton Kutcher.

BERMAN: Job opportunities everywhere.

ROMANS: There you go.

BERMAN: All right. You can check other trends on

ROMANS: EARLY START continues right now.


MALDONADO: I'm very grateful that I'm free.

ROMANS (voice-over): Finally free. This just happening overnight. The Arizona grandmother falsely accused of smuggling drugs in Mexico, she's out of jail and she just spoke moments ago. We'll tell you what she said.

BERMAN (voice-over): A brutal night leads to a dangerous morning, tornadoes, wildfires, and a sizzling heat wave. What you need to know about the severe weather assaulting so much of this country?

ROMANS: And a developing story this morning. A man being questioned after a poison laced letter is sent to President Obama and New York mayor, Michael Bloomberg.


ROMANS (on-camera): Good morning. Welcome to EARLY START this Friday morning. I'm Christine Romans.

BERMAN (on-camera): And I'm John Berman. It is Friday, May 31st. It is 6:00 a.m. in the east.

ROMANS: Let's begin with breaking news this morning. An American woman who spent a week in a Mexican jail facing pot smuggling charges, she is free this morning. All of this developing overnight. Authorities in Nogales arrested Yanira Maldonado after they said they found 12 pounds of marijuana under her bus seat last week.

But new video evidence introduced yesterday in court apparently sent the prosecution's case up in smoke. Rafael Romo live from Nogales, Arizona this morning now. Maldonado just finished speaking to the media, Rafael. What did she say now that she's finally released?

ROMO: Well, more than anything, Christine, is the sense of gratitude, a sense of, even when she was in jail, there were many people sending her messages and praying for her, and the first words out of her mouth when she walked out of that prison and when we had a chance to speak with her, it was, that she was just very grateful, very glad to see her husband.

She spent nine days in custody, and so, as you can manage, she's just happy to be back with her family. Let's listen to what she had to say just a few moments ago.


MALDONADO: I'm free! I'm like, I'm free, I'm free, I'm free. i Was innocent, so I was very, very happy to be out.