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STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN
Major League Baseball Embroiled in Steroid Scandal; Natural Disasters Sweep Across U.S.; Cop Accused of Killing Wife; Interview with Star Jones
Aired June 5, 2013 - 07:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. I'm John Berman.
CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Christine Romans. It's Wednesday, June 5th. Welcome to STARTING POINT.
This morning we begin with Major League Baseball's new cheating scandal. It may be the biggest one ever. Reportedly it involves two former MVPs, the Yankees Alex Rodriguez and Ryan Braun of the Milwaukee Brewers. According to ESPN they're among 20 major leaguers facing suspension for alleged involvement with a Miami area clinic that was dispensing performance enhancing drugs.
The report says the clinic's founder, Tony Bosch, has now agreed to cooperate with baseball's investigators. Pamela Brown has more on this developing story. She's live for us this morning at Yankee stadium. Good morning.
PAMELA BROWN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning to you, Christine. We are talking about the highest paid player in baseball history as well as one of the league's most valuable players at the center of this widening steroid scandal. Now, if this happens, this could be one of the largest scandals in American sports, a record breaker that no player wants to be a part of.
BROWN: ESPN is reporting that Major League Baseball is preparing for an unprecedented wave of player suspensions that include Yankees star Alex Rodriguez and the Brewers' Ryan Braun. Rodriguez, Braun, and some 18 other players are allegedly links to a Miami area clinic at the center of an ongoing performance enhancing drug scandal. On Tuesday night Ryan Braun refused to talk about it after his game.
RYAN BRAUN, MILWAUKEE BREWERS: I'm not answering any further questions regarding the whole situation, you know. I've dealt with it for a long time, over the last year and a half. And aside from that I don't really have anything further to say.
BROWN: Yankees manager Joe Girardi was peppered with questions at a postgame news conference.
JOE GIRARDI, NEW YORK YANKEES MANAGER: I think we all had hoped that we kind of got through it. But obviously we're not through it yet. BROWN: Major league baseball issued this statement following the ESPN story, "We can't comment on an ongoing investigation." ESPN reports that Tony Bosch, the founder of this now closed clinic near Miami, has reached an agreement to cooperate with the league's investigation. The Miami new times first reported in January that Bosch's Biogenesis Clinic was a pipeline to performance enhancing drugs for several players.
TIM ELFRINK, "MIAMI NEW TIMES": It's clear that Biogenesis, like a lot of anti-ageing clinics, was selling an awful lot of HGH, a number of other drugs that are widely banned in sports.
BROWN: Representatives for Alex Rodriguez issued a denial after the January report, "The news reports about the purported relationship between Alex Rodriguez and Anthony Bosch are not true. Alex Rodriguez was not Mr. Bosch's patient. He was never treated by him and was never advised by him."
According to ESPN, players could be suspended for 100 games, a penalty usually given to second offenses. If upheld the suspensions may be the largest in American sports history. A-Rod fans, disappointed.
TREVOR KAUFMAN, YANKEES FAN: I looked up to him when I played baseball because he was really good player before and I really liked him. Seeing that, it just like saddens you kind of.
BROWN: Not only is the legacy of these baseball giants at stake, but more importantly, that of America's pastime.
GIRARDI: I worry about baseball being affected as a game, the whole thing, and what it's been through in the last 15 years. And that's my concern.
BROWN: Now, a-rod admitted to using drugs when he played for the Texas rangers, but he has denied using any drugs since he's been with the Yankees. Right now he's out recovering from an injury. But if these suspensions are upheld, no matter what he would be out for pretty much the rest of the season here.
Just to put this in perspective, according to his contract he's making $28 million this year. We don't know if these suspensions are upheld if he would get paid or not. That's all according to his contract. Again, we don't know what's going to happen here until Bosch sits down with investigators. Back to you.
ROMANS: Pamela Brown, thank you, Pamela.
BERMAN: For more now on the stunning report about this possible cheating in baseball, we want to bring in Rachel Nichols. She is in Miami just down the road, by the way, from this Biogenesis company that is right in the middle of this all. Rachel, let me start with this company, Tony Bosch, the man who runs it. Explain to me why he is so central for major league baseball here. No athletes have tested positive for drugs that are tied to this case that we know of. RACHEL NICHOLS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Exactly. And they found records, but, hey, anybody can write down a bunch of major league baseball players' names and make some notations against them. They need Tony Bosch to say what those notations mean, to swear under oath that he sold or maybe even injected these players with performance enhancing drugs.
But they also probably need some more physical evidence from Bosch, and they won't know if they're going to get that until they meet with him later this week. Remember, right now it's just going to be he said versus he said, and traditionally, those kinds of suspensions don't hold up in major league baseball. They're going to need phone records, receipts, maybe even something with DNA evidence on it. But they don't know if they're going to get that until they sit down with him.
BERMAN: Rachel, it's been exactly ten years, just about 10 years since the Balco scandal broke. That was Barry Bonds, Jason Giambi. We're ten years into this steroid mess. Now there's 20 possible players, some of them big time players implicated here. Is this just a huge black eye for baseball?
NICHOLS: Yes. Certainly it's something nobody wants to see. You could say that major league baseball is taking more aggressive steps, and that's a good thing. Back in the Balco era or even before that, baseball was really criticized for being last to the table on this, for turning a blind eye. And obviously they're being very aggressive. They've reportedly spent over $1 million on this investigation, had teams of people down here in Miami.
However, if you're at home, if you're a sports fan, and let's face it, Americans love sports. It's the number one rated television show every year is the Super Bowl. It's disillusioning to feel like the game is rigged. And if you have two MVPs who are, in essence, cheating, that's how you're sitting at home and feeling. Even if you're not a sports fan, if you're a parent and you're trekking your kid to soccer practice and swim meets and little league, you have to be concerned because kids are getting the message between Lance Armstrong, this kind of investigation, hey, if you want to succeed, if you want that college scholarship, if you want to make the pros, maybe you have to take drugs that are going to hurt your body. Nobody wants to hear that.
BERMAN: Rachel, if I may, I think that's exactly why it's important for these sports to crack down when they can on this kind of cheating. So kids don't get that kind of message, because it could be very, very dangerous for them. Rachel Nichols for us this morning in Miami just down the road from really what is ground zero for this incredible scandal engulfing Major League Baseball. Thanks, Rachel.
ROMANS: To Oklahoma now where authorities say 19 people were killed in last Friday's storms and 2.6 miles wide. That's how big this tornado was. The National Weather Service says at 2.6 miles wide, the powerful ef-5 tornado that hit El Reno, Oklahoma, is the widest tornado ever recorded in the U.S. CNN meteorologist Chad Myers is live in El Reno with more on that wild weather that's taking place across the country. Good morning, Chad.
CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Good morning, Christine. This storm, this tornado that we had, 2.6, two-and-a-half miles wide from one side of the damage to the other, was like a carousel with horses on it. The horses going around, those were small tornadoes. And think about that going 185 miles per hour, two miles around, then those horses spinning at 110 miles per hour getting a wind speed for that storm of 295 in some of those major vortices, those satellite vortices going around these satellite tornadoes.
An incredible day there, that was Friday. It is going to be another couple of days we have severe weather here in Oklahoma City. But it's been a crazy couple of weeks.
MYERS: In May a devastating tornado ripped through Moore, Oklahoma, leaving 24 dead, including seven children from a leveled elementary school. Raising questions about why more storm shelters weren't available.
MIKKI DIXON DAVIS, PARENT: There should be a place that if this ever happened again during school, that kids can get to a safe place.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There is a tornado on the ground.
MYERS: Just two weeks later this monster storm, an ef-5, touched down in El Reno, Oklahoma, less than 30 miles from Moore. When the unthinkable happened here in Moore it was a mile wide. EF-4 and EF-5 damage as far as you can see. The storm in El Reno was 2.6 miles wide, twice as far as here. That's wider than the island of manhattan. And the widest tornado ever recorded in the U.S. the El Reno storm surprised chasers by shifting directions suddenly.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, turn now! If you don't stop we're going to die!
MYERS: They were lucky. Three other professional chasers lost their lives including Tim Samaras.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's an amazing sight.
MYERS: He was an experienced chaser caught in this mangled car. On the west coast wildfires are raging. Firefighters have battled more than 2,000 wildfires this year, nearly twice the five-year average. The powerhouse fire burning near Los Angeles has charred more than 32,000 acres and destroyed six homes so far.
MONIQUE HERNANDEZ, FIRE VICTIM: The flames were 200 feet high. It was -- it was horrible. We couldn't breathe. It was nothing but smoke.
MYERS: Hundreds of homes are also threatened in New Mexico and Colorado fires. And now dangerous flooding along the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers. Several levees have been breached and officials have urged the evacuation of more than 300 residents in the St. Louis area.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I want to be safe than sorry, you know. I don't want to take the chances.
MYERS: More rain is forecast for that area this week, a week that also marks the official start of hurricane season.
MYERS: You know, even though some kids are not out on summer break, it is still spring. Mother Nature still says spring. We're still going to get springtime severe weather. More to come today for sure. Christine.
ROMANS: Unbelievable few weeks. Thanks, Chad.
BERMAN: It's crazy. We were down there a few weeks ago covering the tornado in Moore with those thunderstorms knocking us off the air in the morning. They're still getting hit just every day with them.
ROMANS: Then the hurricane season, hurricane season coming up. Unbelievable.
OK< ahead on STARTING POINT, a shocking response from Chrysler after the feds recommend Chrysler recall more than 2.5 million jeeps on the road. Chrysler is saying no.
BERMAN: And then a murder mystery in Kansas. A husband accused of killing his wife and setting their home on fire. He says his wife set the blaze and then committed suicide. Nancy Grace breaks down this bizarre case.
Plus, we're joined by Star Jones. Her friend's sister murdered, the body left in a lake. She's asking anyone with knowledge to come forward. All that and more after the break.
ROMANS: Dramatic dash cam video is the center piece at the trial of a hero cop accused of killing his wife. CNN's Ted Rowlands has that story from Kingman, Kansas.
TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is Brett Seacat in action as a Kansas sheriff's deputy in 2006. At the time, Seacat was congratulated for subduing an unruly defendant in a courtroom. Now he's the one on trial for murder in the death of his wife and high school sweetheart, Vashti. Prosecutors say Seacat used this 44 magnum handgun to kill his wife as she slept in her bed. Then with their four and two-year-old boys still in the house they say he started this fire to destroy evidence.
A police dash cam recording shown to jurors Tuesday picked up the voice of Seacat telling an officer that his wife killed herself and that she's the one that started the fire. BRETT SEACAT: She's dead. She shot herself. Her head's gone.
ROWLANDS: Seacat told investigators in a seven hour videotaped interrogation his wife, who had just filed for divorce, killed herself because she was depressed. Seacat's half-brother Robert testified that was evident to him in the days before her death.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She acted depressed. She looked like she'd lost a great deal of weight. Looked sleepy and acted depressed.
ROWLANDS: Seacat's defense is expected to argue that her depression may have been caused by the diet supplement HCG, a hormone produced by pregnant women used for weight loss, that they claim Vashti was taking before her death. Three friends and a therapist testified that Vashti had lost weight but was excited about her post-divorce life ahead without her husband.
When court resumes, a defense handwriting expert will be on the stand in an attempt to refute the prosecution's claim that Brett Seacat forged his wife's suicide note. It's also expected that Seacat will at some point testify on his own behalf. Ted Rowlands, CNN, Kingman, Kansas.
BERMAN: We want to talk more about this case with Nancy Grace. She's the host of HLN'S "Nancy Grace," of course. And she's also a former prosecutor. Nancy, the prosecution, they finished their case yesterday. They talked a lot about Brian (ph) Seacat. Raised a lot of questions. A lot of people talking about the tone of voice you hear Seacat use on the tapes. Now it's the defense's turn. What do you think they need to do here, and can they overcome what the prosecution laid out?
NANCY GRACE, HOST, HLN'S "NANCY GRACE": I think they're off to a good start with the half brother who was a former police officer as well. He says that the morning after Vashti was found dead that Seacat was shaky, but very stoic. Almost militaristic. He also knew Vashti very well. He said that Vashti seemed depressed and sleepy.
I predict what they're going to try to do is tie in this HCG. A lot of people aren't familiar with that. I had to research it myself. It's human chorionic gonadotropin. And it's a very common diet aid. They found that all over the house. One of the side effects according to the defense is depression. But even with that, I don't think they're going to be able to overcome the prosecution's testimony. The prosecution evidence. I mean, come on. He called his marriage counselor almost immediately after the murder and said, I killed her. Now, he's trying to say that that was more theoretical, that he killed her with his verbal and emotional abuse. But come on. Please. I killed her?
ROMANS: Okay. I know this is -- the interesting thing about this trial in particular is his own words, both in the dash cam video and also in the video with his interrogation, initial investigation. A lot of people saying he doesn't sound very sincere. Sounds like he's almost acting. The question will be what he looks like when he takes the stand.
I want to turn to the murder, though, of Rosaline Ransom Lee, another case we've been following here. Friends calmed her Rhonda. Nancy, yesterday we spoke to you about this case. We want to bring in now Star Jones this morning. She's a friend of Richelle Ransom, Rhonda's sister. Star, why did you reach out to Nancy for help in this case?
STAR JONES, ATTORNEY AND FORMER PROSECUTOR: When my girlfriend, Richelle, let me know that she had lost her sister in such a tragic and horrific manner, I immediately knew that the way we were going to help the investigation move forward would be to bring some attention to the case. I've worked in media for now over 20 years, and I know how this thing works.
And so in my efforts to comfort Richelle, I wanted -- you feel very helpless in that situation. I love Richelle with all my heart. She's my sorority sister. I said to her, would you allow me to use my friends and colleagues in the media and ask for their help. She said go right ahead.
I sent out 150 e-mails and letters. I posted to my Facebook. And literally within an hour of sending out a letter to my friend Nancy Grace, you know Nancy hit me right back. What can I do? I have children of my own. And I identify with this woman. And that's what I wanted people to do. I wanted people to know that Rhonda, which is what her family called her, was a person who leaves three children in a tragic set of circumstances. And that we want attention on this case so that we can find the people who did it.
BERMAN: The tragic set of circumstances, her body was found in a lake in a very public area outside Detroit. Star, you've spoken now to the sheriff's department there. Can you give us the status on the investigation?
JONES: Well, the investigation is actually moving forward. The sheriff wanted to assure me that, quote, "he was dogging this case." Those were his words. He said, "Star, I've got the best people on this. I am using everything at my fingertips. We're going to use all the investigative techniques we have from polygraphs to DNA analysis to every single aspect."
And he wanted to assure me, and I actually wrote it down. He said, "we intend to solve this and hold the person who did it accountable." And I told him I was going to hold him to that. Because oftentimes we don't hear about these kinds of cases. But Rhonda was a very loved person with her family. My girlfriend Richelle talked about her constantly. She could have been my sister. And I want people to understand that these are cases that matter to somebody. And they should matter to us all. Women have to be thought of as needing to be protected no matter what color, creed, religion, age, we deserve the protection.
BERMAN: Nancy, you've seen far too many cases like this. What do you think will help solve this?
GRACE: Well, I think that someone out there knows something. As is so true in many cases. However, that somebody may not realize what they know. Think about this body of water. It was only 12 acres big. And it was in the middle of a residential community. It was not so much a lake where you would go boating or fishing, as a center piece for a residential area. I really believe that someone saw the perpetrator with Rhonda. And I think it's going to be pieced together.
ROMANS: Star, tell us, what should people try to rack their brains for? What do the sheriffs want? What time of day? What do they think might have happened there?
JONES: The sheriff said to go back to the entire Memorial Day weekend. Think about where you were. If you were in that Pontiac, Michigan, area. Anywhere around the Lake Terry area. If you saw a white van at all. If you were outside taking video of friends. Because that was a holiday weekend. And you might have a photograph or video on your camera that you don't know about. Go back through that particular weekend.
If you can remember whether or not you heard any loud voices raised. You didn't think of anything at the time. You know, thought maybe a little boyfriend or girlfriend dispute. That's what the sheriff is looking for. They want to be able to send their forensic team out to alternative areas to find out if there was any forensics that could lead to the perpetrator.
You know, for me, I know that the police are doing what they're supposed to be doing. My job at this point is to now do what I can do. And I don't want another family to suffer the way the Ransom family is. There's so much bureaucracy that goes on after a tragic death if you don't plan for it. So I have created what I've termed Rhonda's Rules. And it is a checklist for women who might find themselves in this situation when the unthinkable happens. You can go to my website for free, NAPW.com. Click on Star's Corner. You will have the checklist.
BERMAN: You're a good friend. Star Jones, thank you so much for being with us. Nancy Grace, thank you for your insight on this case. We do have this one programming note. Stay tuned for Nancy's special on HLN, "Nancy Grace: Behind Bars." That airs tonight and tomorrow night at 8:00 p.m.
ROMANS: This just in. A senior administrative official tells CNN's Jessica Yellin that Tom Donilon will be resigning as President Obama's national security adviser and will be replaced by Susan Rice. More on that as it develops.
BERMAN: Essential, that job does not require any kind of Senate confirmation. The problems she had when she was, you know, people thought she might become the secretary of state, they do not exist here. Keep that in mind.
Ahead on STARTING POINT, Michelle Obama confronted by a heckler at a speaking event. Wait until you hear how the first lady handled the situation. Let's just say she doesn't have much patience for disruption. Not like her husband does. Meanwhile, passengers aboard a routine flight from Singapore to London last week jolted. Their plane hitting a rough patch of air. Look at the results here. More on how that chaos unfolded just ahead. You're watching STARTING POINT.
ROMANS: Welcome back to STARTING POINT. Minding your business this morning, the super Tuesday rally is over. The Dow had posted gains for 20 Tuesdays in a row. But concerns about the slowing global economy hit stocks yesterday. Today Dow futures are down --
BERMAN: It was good until you started talking about it. You ruined it.
ROMANS: I should have kept my mouth shut. Yesterday we told you about that Tuesday rally.
BERMAN: Look what happened.
ROMANS: Look what happened. Some Apple products could soon be banned. The iPhone 3, 3GS, the iPhone 4, the iPad and iPad 2. At&T versions only. This comes after the International Trade Commission rules those products violated a Samsung patent. Apple is appealing. The ban only goes into effect if the decision is upheld. Some analysts say it shouldn't hit the company's bottom line too much because it doesn't affect Apple's new or more popular models, but it is a blow for Apple in what has been an endless patent war with Samsung.
BERMAN: One that goes on and on.
Ahead on STARTING POINT, the first lady heckled by a protester. How did she handle it? Wait until you see how she took care of the situation.