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San Diego Mayor Under Fire; Ariel Castro Accepts Plea Deal

Aired July 26, 2013 - 15:00   ET


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BALDWIN: Here we go, top of the hour. I'm Brooke Baldwin.

We begin with breaking news, as we are awaiting a press conference from the mayor of San Diego, Bob Filner. Let's show you the live pictures. We can tell you we're watching and we're waiting for him in City Hall in the mayor's conference room.

Why are we waiting for the mayor? Here's the deal. He's in a bit of hot water because of some accusations that have been flying against him from a number of women. In total now, seven women have come forward with different stories. These are the last four, more recent to come forward, talking to KPBS.

A prominent businesswoman in San Diego, rear admiral in the Navy, dean of San Diego State University, the final four here to come forward with allegations of unwanted sexual advances against this mayor. When you listen to these different women's stories, you hear about the infamous headlock, attempts to kiss them, slobbering. One woman told a story to KPBS about him tracing a finger along her cheek.

But these, again, are just allegations. We are awaiting and we have been trying -- Casey Wian is in San Diego. He's been trying to get a comment from the mayor.

So far, Casey, as we wait for this man, what has he told you?

CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, he hasn't told us much. He said he wanted to wait until the legal process plays out.

One of those women who accused him of sexual misconduct has a lawsuit against him. She's represented by Gloria Allred. The mayor has said he's not going to talk about these allegations while that legal process is playing out.

However, as you mentioned, there was a hastily called news conference for noon local time today. That come on the heels of mounting pressure for this mayor to step down from powerful members of his own party. Last night the Democratic Committee of San Diego County voted overwhelmingly to call for Mayor Filner's resignation. This morning the chairwoman of the national Democratic Party, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, also called for his resignation.

And just a few minutes ago, a citizens group brought a letter to the mayor's office in full view of all the reporters who had gathered for this news conference demanding the mayor resign by Monday at 5:00 p.m. or else face a recall petition. We're waiting to hear what the mayor will say. There's a lot of speculation he may be taking a leave of absence. Some people think he may resign. Some think he may just continue this combative attitude and say I'm going to stay in office as long as I can.

BALDWIN: We have no idea. That is the $50 million question as they test the mikes there in this room in City Hall and we await the mayor. Casey, we're not going to go too far from you and this picture on the left-hand side of your screen. As we stay honed in on that picture, Casey, let me go ahead and bring in Poppy Harlow, because as we continue hearing the stories of these women coming forward and the accusations, you today talked to one of the women. She came forward Wednesday.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right. She's the third one to come forward out of seven. Her name's Morgan Rose. She's a psychologist for the Unified School District of San Diego.

Her story is this, that she met with then Congressman Filner back in 2009 because she had an initiative to help children, this group. He said he could help her bring it to first lady Michelle Obama. She met with him publicly in a group forum for about half-an-hour. Then she said he called her at home.

BALDWIN: Let me cut you off. Here he is, Bob Filner.


BOB FILNER (D), MAYOR OF SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA: Let me be absolutely clear.

The behavior I have engaged in over many years is wrong. My failure to respect women and the intimidating contact -- conduct I engaged in at times is inexcusable. It has undermined what I have spent my whole professional life doing and working on.

And that is fighting for equality and justice for all people. It is simply not acceptable for me to try to explain away my conduct as the product of the standards of a different generation. I apologize to my staff. I apologize to the citizens and staff members who have supported me over the years. I apologize to the people of San Diego. And most of all, I apologize to the women I have offended.

Over the last week, I have reached out to the men and women who have served on my staff and others who I have worked with over the years and apologized for my behavior. In addition, we have instituted changes in how the mayor's office is run.

However, words alone are not enough. I am responsible for my conduct. And I must take responsibility for my conduct by taking action so that such conduct does not ever happen again. So, beginning on August 5, I will be entering a behavior consulting -- counseling clinic to undergo two weeks of intensive therapy to begin the process of addressing my... BALDWIN: So, obviously, they're having audio issues sort of at the crux of his message. He was just saying he's going to take action in August. He's going to enter this behavior counseling clinic, undergo these two weeks of intensive therapy.

Do we have his audio back up? This isn't -- here's a last-minute audible. We are just all sitting here and watching this together. All right, guys. Just get in my ear when we think that the mayor's audio is working. I hate to talk over him. OK. Still nothing. No one wants to sit in silence.

So, as we sit and wait, Francine Busby, she is on the phone with me. She's chair of the San Diego County Democratic Party.

Francine, we're going to talk until the mayor hopefully cuts us off once his microphone gets working again. This is unfortunate. But since I have you, quickly just react to what we have heard so far.

FRANCINE BUSBY, CHAIR, SAN DIEGO COUNTY DEMOCRATIC PARTY: Well, you know that we have called for him to step down and get the help he needs so the city can move forward.

He's made it pretty clear previously he wasn't going to step down. And I think that this whole -- everything's in his hands right now. There is no other action anyone can take other than a recall which is highly expensive and a very high threshold. I would say he's not going to resign and he's determined to follow that path that getting the help he needs is the first step. Then he has to he has to behave himself. He has to respect everybody he works with and prove to the people of San Diego that he's their mayor or there will be more of this effort to continue to try to recall him.

BALDWIN: How does he do that? How does he prove to the people of San Diego, how does he prove to his constituents? This is a man who's been in office just, what, since December of 2012. Has the trust been built up enough yet?

BUSBY: No, it hasn't. I don't think anyone's going to excuse or forget the behaviors that have led to this. And the legal process will continue. There may be more charges and more women coming forward.

But considering he's made it clear he doesn't want to resign, I would say that this is the first step he absolutely needs to take for himself first. And then if he's going to prove to the people that he can actually govern effectively, he needs to start respecting people. You know, he's been very, very difficult to work with many different groups in the city. He needs to be respectful to them, as well as the women. Again, because of the way the charter is in San Diego, there are only two ways to remove a mayor. That is through resignation or recall.

And the recall is just a huge, huge challenge to pull off. So if he is determined to remain mayor, this is the next best step he could take. BALDWIN: And we saw that he walked out. I'm being told in my ear from my control room. Thanks, guys. Apparently, they're working on his audio as I just talk live on TV. They are working to get his audio fixed. So there's more. OK. That's correct.


BUSBY: One other comment.


BALDWIN: Go ahead.

BUSBY: The people of San Diego are going to weigh in on whether or not this is enough for them right now or if the call for his resignation will get louder or it will settle down. That's something else we will be watching along with you.

BALDWIN: Stay with me, Francine, if you can. Stay with me on the phone.

For people who are just joining us and wondering what the heck's happening here, they're trying to fix the microphone to the podium behind which we saw for about a couple minutes the mayor of San Diego talking about all these allegations, seven women now publicly coming forward with these allegations of sexual misconduct.

We have just heard the mayor saying the behavior he's engaged in is wrong, that he's failed to respect women. Intimidating conduct is inexcusable.

Casey Wian, you're still with me. You're sitting there. What more did you hear? Also what's going on?

WIAN: It's really bizarre, Brooke. This whole episode couldn't be more bizarre. It just has gotten ramped up a bit.

They're having audio problems with the mayor's microphone. They brought a new microphone out. That doesn't seem to be working either. The mayor disappeared back behind a closed door. I guess he decided they will come back out once the technical issues are worked out.

It was right at the height of his statement when he was going to say exactly what he was going to do. It's very clear that he's going to enter some sort of a two-week rehabilitation behavior assessment program. He said that. But he didn't talk about how long he's going to be gone from the office of mayor, whether that's going to be a temporary thing, just a couple of weeks, or whether it may be longer.

He came out and gave a very, very clear and forceful apology to all of the women that he has offended. There was none of the sort of waffling about, you know, maybe I treated women badly, but I have not engaged in any sexual harassment. He did not deny those claims by some of the women.

And he said that his behavior is inexcusable and has been inexcusable. And it must change. So it seemed like he was addressing the issues very straightforwardly before, as we all know in this business, the audio went out.

BALDWIN: As I have been watching and talking to you, we have a new podium. I know these audio guys are working as fast as humanly possible to try to get a functioning microphone. As you point out very appropriately, this is very bizarre, because this was sort of the crux of his message where we heard the mayor sort of leave off saying I -- he said I must take action. Beginning in August he will enter this behavior counseling clinic, undergo two weeks' intensive therapy and then the microphone went out.

As we wait for that, Poppy Harlow, let me just bring you back into this. You were talking about the woman who came forward on Wednesday.


BALDWIN: And she was working with the mayor trying to get her message to the first lady of the United States. Let me ask you this, though, because a lot of people are saying why did it take so long?

HARLOW: So this woman, as I was telling you before, her name's Morgan Rose. She was a school psychologist. And she was working with him to try to get her message and her program to the first lady. And then Congressman Filner said I can help you.

She met with him once. Then he called her and he said, I need to get to know who the heck you are. That's what he said to her. We need a one-on-one meeting. So they did in a restaurant. She said that he came over to her four times and tried to forcefully kiss her, had her sort of pinned back, very aggressively, even in public. And I said to her, why didn't you come forward first?

She said, you know what? I had to figure out a way to do it that was respectful to me, to my family, with integrity. People are scared to come forward. When two other women came before, she finally said, that's it. I'm going to tell my story. She did that Wednesday, then spoke to us. And then four more women have come forward. I think it takes more than one. This is a man in great -- a position of great power.

BALDWIN: But when you look at the women, I watched these interviews on KPBS. When you look at the women who come forward, you have the president of the San Diego Port Tenants Association, you have a prominent businesswoman in San Diego, a rear admiral, and a dean of one of the schools, San Diego State University. These are prominent women in this community who are all sharing their stories now.

HARLOW: And she told me, Brooke, that them coming out after her made her feel just so much better about it, because she spoke about those women's authority and their roles and thought that that would put even more credibility to their stories. Again, these are allegations.

BALDWIN: Yes, allegations.

HARLOW: But listening to what Mayor Filner just said, he talked about his behavior being wrong, a failure to respect women being inexcusable. So he didn't come out there and deny what he has heard in the past days.

BALDWIN: Also, Casey Wian, are you still with me?

WIAN: Yes, I am, Brooke. It appears that the audio problems have been fixed. We should see the mayor reemerge any moment.

One of his aides just knocked on that door behind that podium. As you pointed out, there's a whole new podium, whole new microphone,whole new setup. They got the thumbs up from all the photographers in the room. We're expecting at any moment the mayor will reemerge and continue with his statement, Brooke.

BALDWIN: Quickly, guys, as we watch for the mayor to emerge through the door again, the tone he took seconds ago -- no, not him. Not him.

WIAN: There you go.

BALDWIN: And here we go. Let's watch again.

FILNER: I apologize for the inconvenience.

For the sake of, I guess, those who want a clean tape, I'm going to start over.

Let me be absolutely clear. The behavior I have engaged in over many years is wrong. My failure to respect women and the intimidating contact at times is inexcusable. It has undermined what I have spent my whole professional life working on, fighting for equality and justice for all people.

And it is simply not acceptable for me to try to explain away my conduct as the product of the standards of a different generation. I apologize to my staff. I apologize to the citizens and staff members who have supported me over many years. I apologize to the people of San Diego. And most of all, I apologize to the women that I have offended.

Over the last week or so, I have reached out to the men and women who have served on my staff and others who I have worked with over the years and apologized for my behavior. In addition, we have instituted changes in how the mayor's office is run.

However, words alone are not enough. I am responsible for my conduct. And I must take responsibility for my conduct by taking action so that such conduct does not ever happen again. So beginning on August 5, I will be entering a behavior counseling clinic to undergo two weeks of intensive therapy to begin the process of addressing my behavior.

During this time period, I will be at the clinic full time, though every morning and evening I will be briefed on city activities. This intensive counseling will just be the first step in what will be a continuing program that will involve ongoing regular counseling. I must become a better person. And my hope is that becoming a better person, I put myself in a position to some day be forgiven. However, before I even ask, before I even think of asking for forgiveness, I need to demonstrate that my behavior has changed. And that will only happen over time and only if such incidents never, ever happen again.

So when I return on August 19, my focus will be on making sure that I am doing right by this city in terms of being the best mayor I can be and the best person I must be.

Thank you.

BALDWIN: And you hear the reporters -- hear the reporters shouting the question, what about all the people who've called on you to resign? And he walked away.

We just heard the last little bit of where he had left off before and basically saying that he's taking this two-week break where he's going on a break from really being a full-time mayor and going to intense behavioral therapy. It's part of the counseling clinic for two weeks. He will still remain, you know, briefed on the goings-on in the city of San Diego. He will be back on the job, it sounds like, August 19, talking about how he has to -- he realizes he has to demonstrate that his behavior has, in fact, changed.

Francine Busby, still on the phone with me, chair of the San Diego County Democratic Party, I know your group was leading the charge calling for his resignation. Is the two weeks in this counseling clinic, I'm just asking this again now that we have heard the thing in its entirety -- is the two weeks in the counseling good enough for you and the city of San Diego?

BUSBY: Let's put it into perspective. Right now the mayor either -- this ball is in his court. He -- we can all ask him to resign. But he is the only one that can make that happen.

The next -- if he's not going to resign, the next best thing is to get the help that he needs. The question is whether the city of San Diego want to wait for him to do this and see if he can prove himself or if they feel that, you know, he has had his opportunity.

So, you know, I think the Democrats are more likely to give him the benefit of the doubt simply because they put so much trust and faith in him to promote the progressive agenda that we have waited 20 years to present. We will see what happens when he comes back. If he can change his behavior, it doesn't erase what he's done.

It doesn't erase the charges against him or the legal liability. But the ball is in his court. And he definitely needs to get this help. We will see what happens.

BALDWIN: Francine Busby, thank you again. Mayor Bob Filner saying, I must become a better person.

Poppy Harlow still with me here in Studio seven. HARLOW: Yes. I think it's important that people hear some sound from one of his accusers, one of seven. This woman we have been talking about, Morgan Rose, I just interviewed her a few hours ago before this announcement. I'm going to call her after and see what she thinks about this decision.

BALDWIN: Yes. Please do.

HARLOW: She told me she thinks he should resign, no question. But this is her describing what happened to her in a public restaurant in San Diego in 2009 in her second meeting with then Congressman Filner. Listen.


MORGAN ROSE, ACCUSING FILNER OF SEXUAL HARASSMENT: I don't remember if he directly asked for a kiss or tried to kiss me. But it became -- it was very uncomfortable. And I was saying to him initially, what would your wife do if she was sitting here? And he laughed a very crazy laugh. And then for the next few minutes, I just remember him trying to get my face towards his to kiss me on the mouth.

And what we now know from the stories of the other women, it wouldn't have been on my mouth. It would have been more likely in my in my mouth or down my throat.


HARLOW: Those allegations are harsh. And they jibe with what a lot of other women says. He hasn't directly answered her allegations or the other ones. But we did call his office repeatedly this morning. We e-mailed asking for a response directly to her allegations. We heard nothing.

In the press conference we didn't hear anything direct. But she told me no question he should step down. I know a lot of people are asking why are they coming forward now? This happened in 2009. It's not easy. It's not easy to come forward. When someone's in a position of authority -- she told me even after that happened she tried to just finish the meeting so her agenda, her goal of getting this program forward wouldn't stop, because you need people in power. We will see if he directly addresses those allegations.

BALDWIN: Let us know what she says.

HARLOW: I will.

BALDWIN: Call her and let us know.

HARLOW: We will have much more of her interview tomorrow morning.

BALDWIN: "NEW DAY SATURDAY" 6:00 a.m. with Poppy Harlow. Poppy, thank you very much.

HARLOW: You're welcome. BALDWIN: And coming up here, big news out of Cleveland as we have now seen the man admitting to the crimes of kidnapping and raping these women who he held hostage in his home for a decade. Ariel Castro in his own words -- next.


BALDWIN: Ariel Castro has accepted a plea deal that will now save his life, the Cleveland man today in a courtroom with a beard and glasses admitting to kidnapping three women, raping them repeatedly and holding them hostage in his home for years.

For the first time, we heard him speak. He was talking publicly about his -- quote, unquote -- "sexual problem."


ARIEL CASTRO, DEFENDANT: My addiction to pornography and my sexual problem has really taken a toll on my mind. I knew I was going to get pretty much the book thrown at me. There are some things that I have to -- I don't comprehend because of my sexual problem throughout my whole years.


BALDWIN: Lawyers say this plea deal which calls for him to be sentenced to life plus 1,000 years is precisely what his victims wanted. Here they are. Amanda Berry, Michelle Knight and Gina DeJesus probably would have had to have faced this man in court, testify against him had this case gone to trial.

A law firm representing Castro's victims released this statement not too long ago -- quote -- "Amanda, Gina and Michelle are relieved by today's plea. They are satisfied by this resolution to the case. They continue to desire their privacy."

Under today's deal, I should also tell you that Castro's home right there, where the women were imprisoned for some 10 years, will be torn down.

Criminal defense attorney Anne Bremner joins me live from Seattle.

Good to see you, Anne.


BALDWIN: When you hear him in court, I mean, it seemed to me like this guy was having a hard time admitting he was a violent sexual predator. Did you hear that?

BREMNER: Absolutely. He says, my sexual problem. I'm like, oh, it's a lot more than that. There's like a murder problem in there and a kidnapping problem and everything else. Like, oh, maybe I can just go to rehab or something like we just heard in the prior conference. Unbelievable. Ted Bundy came in and pled like that way back with one of his murder cases in Florida. And he backed out of the plea. He came back so much not my problem, I didn't do it, et cetera. He ended up with the death penalty. You have got to be careful when you speak like we just heard from Castro.

BALDWIN: And the death penalty could have been a possibility had this gone to trial. It didn't.

I talked to a good family friend of one of these victims, Lydia Esparra, last hour. She is a friend of the DeJesus family. She actually talked about forgiveness. Here she was.


LYDIA ESPARRA, FRIEND OF DEJESUS FAMILY: Her mom was saying she forgave him. But they understand that they were going to wait for the judicial system to take its place and do what it had to do. I can tell you they are probably very happy about this because no one wanted to relive the horror that went on in that home for the past decade.


BALDWIN: Two points. One, I'm always just amazed by forgiveness, right, the ability to forgive.


BALDWIN: And also you can understand possibly where these young women would be coming from. Would you want to spend any more time staring at this man inside of a court?

BREMNER: Well, absolutely. You know, bless her for forgiving. I think it's just so hard.

This is one of the most horrific cases, as we know, we have ever seen, so especially the circumstances. Victims have rights in the U.S. They have victims -- by statute, by constitutional rights, all over the country. And they have the right to have input. A lot of victims, especially victims in this case, say, I don't want a trial. It's not closure, because you never have closure. It's too horrific.

But if they don't want a trial, they have a right to be heard. And they have a right to have input. I think that's what's happened here with the prosecutor. And I think their released statement was very appropriate under the circumstances. I think we all get it.

BALDWIN: I wish these three young women privacy and peace. Anne Bremner, thank you.

BREMNER: Very well stated. Thank you.

BALDWIN: Coming up next, from New York mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner's explicit text messages to accusations that San Diego Mayor Bob Filner sexually harassed multiple women, we're hearing a heck of a lot lately about men behaving badly, men in power. What makes them do it? We will discuss after this quick break.