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Ariel Castro Sentenced; Edward Snowden Leaves Russian Airport; Cleveland Survivor Confronts Her Captor; Manning Waiting to Learn His Sentence

Aired August 1, 2013 - 16:00   ET


JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: You might want to put down your remote control so you don't throw it at the TV when you hear Ariel Castro try to justify holding three women captive for a decade.

I'm Jake Tapper. And this is THE LEAD.

The national lead. If you were hoping to hear this horror of a man take responsibility for his actions, well, you're going to be sorely disappointed. Ariel Castro today explaining himself with unmitigated, head-shaking gall just before the judge threw away the key.

And she was the first one Castro kidnapped. She caught some of the worst of his abuse and today she was the only one to face him down in the courtroom. Her brave words to the man who stole a decade of her life and trapped her in hell.

And our world lead, Edward Snowden escapes his purgatory for what passes for freedom in Russia, asylum granted after a 39-day layover. The world's most wanted man has a new home in Russia, at least for now. And what does Vladimir Putin's government expect in return?

Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

We will begin with the national lead. It's rare that after we read of an unspeakable evil that we get to hear from the perpetrator himself. Other than the occasional video from Osama bin Laden and the like, often, those who commit horrific acts are kept from the limelight and they disappear forever, like the Aurora shooter or the perpetrator of the Boston Marathon killings. Or perhaps they take their own lives, like the Newtown killer.

But today -- well, today, we all got a long, hard look at evil. We heard a man, Ariel Castro, who pleaded guilty to unspeakable crimes against three girls and their unborn children. He tried to explain himself. He tried to justify what he did. He even apologized, even as he left a distinct impression that he really didn't think he did anything all that wrong.


ARIEL CASTRO, DEFENDANT: (OFF-MIKE) I have an addiction, just like an alcoholic has an addiction. Alcoholics cannot control their addiction. That's why I couldn't control my addiction, Your Honor. These accusations that I would come home and beat her, beat them, those are totally wrong, Your Honor, because, like I said before, I am not a violent person. I know what I did is wrong, but I'm not a violent person. I simply kept them there without them being able to leave.


TAPPER: Castro's testimony reminded some of us of that famous phrase, the banality of evil, the notion that some can be both terribly and terrifyingly normal in having done these evil acts.

And while what Castro said today was infuriating and what he did to Amanda Berry, Michelle Knight and Gina DeJesus was incomprehensible, the fact is you might not think anything of Ariel Castro him if you met him at your local store. You might not even notice him.

There were no surprises when it came time for the actual sentencing, life in prison plus 1,000 years without the possibility of parole.

But you couldn't help but be struck today by the bravery displayed by Michelle Knight. She confronted her captor and she got her first chance to publicly shame him for the hell he made her endure.


MICHELLE KNIGHT, VICTIM: You took 11 years of my life away, and I have got it back.

I spent 11 years in hell, and now your hell is just beginning. I will overcome all of this that happened. You will face hell for eternity.


TAPPER: Joining us now live from outside the courthouse in Cleveland is CNN's Pamela Brown. She's been covering this horrific story from the very beginning.

Pamela, we got our first look at some of the evidence recovered from the crime scene today and it paints this, well, bone-chilling picture of what was going on inside that house. Tell us about it.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And to think, Jake, this wasn't even all the evidence that authorities had. In fact, they didn't want to show the full scope of evidence because it was simply too graphic and would revictimize the women.

But what we did see is our first glimpse inside Ariel Castro's home and we saw for the first time the conditions these women lived in, essentially, and we saw the rooms they lived in, the tiny rooms, 11.5- by-11.5 feet, one room where Amanda Berry and her daughter were kept and another room where Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight were kept.

They were bound, they were shackled. We saw the 99-foot chains that he talked about. And the fact these rooms barely had any ventilation at all. They talked about how there were just cutout in the rooms so that they could have some air. But there were no knobs, doorknobs inside the door so that the women would not be able to escape

In fact, Ariel Castro went to such great lengths to keep these women held captive that he set up alarms, set an alarm system that he created on his own so that the women, again, could not escape captivity.

We also were able to see some of the objects that Ariel Castro used. We saw the brown wig that one of the victims wore when -- so that they would be under disguise. We had learned earlier when I was covering the story that the women were brought out to the garage in disguises, so we saw some of that today.

And it was chilling, Jake, to see the gun that Ariel Castro kept in the home and used to threaten the girls if they ever tried to escape. He showed them that gun and as he admitted to police, he used the gun as a way to control the women. We also saw a model of the house. Now, this was created by experts at Quantico.

They created a model of what Ariel Castro's home looked like. Authorities were able to walk the judge through every room and show us what went on in the basement and the various rooms. It really brought reality to the surface, the horror, the terror that these women went through for a decade and even longer -- Jake.

TAPPER: A horrific story. Thank you, Pamela Brown.

Let's bring in our panel to walk us through some of what happened today.

We are joined by forensic psychologist Dr. Renee Sorrentino live from Boston and joining me here in Washington, D.C., is Allison Leotta, a former sex crimes prosecutor and author of the book "Speak of the Devil," and also Angela Rose, a sexual assault victim and victims advocate and founder of the group PAVE.

Thank you one and all for being here.

Let's go through some of what happened today. We will play some of the testimony from Ariel Castro, who despite all of his denials and rewritings of history, at one point he actually did manage to try to apologize to the women he tortured.


CASTRO: I would like to apologize to the victims, to Amanda Berry, and Gina DeJesus and to Michelle Knight.

I am truly sorry what happened. To this day, I'm trying to answer my own questions. I don't know why a man that had everything going on for himself -- I had a job, I had a home, I had vehicles, I had my musical talent, I had everything going on for me, Your Honor. I had a good history of working, providing. I just hope they can find it in their hearts to forgive me.


TAPPER: Dr. Sorrentino, I want to go to you first.

Explain to me what we heard today. What was this man saying? What were his motivations?

DR. RENEE SORRENTINO, FORENSIC PSYCHOLOGIST: I think intellectually we all were not surprised by what we heard Mr. Castro say.

Intellectually, we knew from his behaviors that he would, again, talk consistent with what I would call a narcissistic personality disorder. I would say emotionally we had all hoped to hear something different. But even the small period of time in which Mr. Castro says he apologizes, literally within seconds, it's back to him and what's wrong with him and the problems and the need for attention to himself.

So I think today unfortunately it's just another example of his pervasive personality disorder, which I would best identify as narcissistic personality disorder.

TAPPER: Angela, as a victim and a victims right advocate or I suppose I should say survivor and survivors right advocate, what if anything does an apology like this have -- what effect does it have on the survivors?

ANGELA ROSE, FOUNDER, PAVE: Well, I'm sure it's probably a little bit helpful, but at the end of the day when you listen to the apology, it was extremely narcissistic.

Everything went back to what impact it had on him, not any mention of the impact that it had on these three women. So I don't think at the end of the day that that really would help.

TAPPER: Here's what might be considered one of the more infuriating moments in Castro's testimony, when he actually asserts that the women he chained up, he beat, who he intimidated at gunpoint, whose hands were bound with plastic ties, that they not only wanted to have sex with him, but they asked for it.


CASTRO: Most of the sex that went on in the house and practically all of it was consensual.

These allegations about being forced upon them, that is totally wrong, because there was times that they would even ask me for sex, many times. And I learned that these girls were not virgins from their testimony to me. They had multiple partners before me, all three of them.


TAPPER: Allison, given your years as a prosecutor of individuals charged with sex crimes, you have seen some pretty horrific people. Were you shocked in any way by what Castro had to say?

ALLISON LEOTTA, FORMER FRIEND SEX CRIMES PROSECUTOR: I wasn't shocked, because so many defendants, they try to minimize, they try to blame the victims. They do what Castro did.

He just took it to another level, though, didn't he, the way he was saying they were consenting, they were asking for sex. He had these women chained up in the basement. And when he said, I had a hard time not yelling at the TV.

TAPPER: Renee, what was the point of Castro mentioning that the women, the girls had had sexual partners before he kidnapped them? Does he think, as much as you can speculate about someone like this, do you think that even if that's true it justifies the rapes that he has already admitted to having committed?

SORRENTINO: In Mr. Castro's world, there's nothing that's his fault.

And in order to get the approval and appreciation of the audience, again at this time when he's speaking at the sentencing, he's throwing out what he thinks will pull people in so that they can understand that really that house was harmony, as he said, and that certainly he wasn't victimizing and perhaps maybe even taking care of those individuals.

TAPPER: We're going to take a quick break. We're going to say with our panel though and talk more about this horrific man and his day in court, thankfully locked up for the rest of his life.

Coming up, don't call her a victim, call her a survivor. We will hear more from the woman who just faced down her captor.

And, later, he sauntered out of the airport into the streets of Moscow, so what is next for Edward Snowden and what if anything can the White House do to stop him?


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

Back to our national lead now. With remarkable courage and unimaginable poise, kidnapping survivor Michelle Knight today faced the man who took her away from her family, including her young son.

She was the only one of Ariel Castro's three captives to confront him in court, but her sentiments no doubt spoke for the brutality they all suffered at his hands.


KNIGHT: I cried every night. I was so alone.

I worried about what would happen to me and the other girls every day. Days never got shorter. Days turned into nights. Nights turned into days. The years turned into eternity.


TAPPER: Let's get back to our panel now, victims rights advocate Angela Rose. And, of course, I will start with you. Does making that statement help Michelle Knight take the power back from her captor? Is there something strengthening, empowering about standing there in court?

ROSE: Absolutely.

And I can speak from my own experience that any time you can shatter the silence of sexual violence, it definitely gets to reclaim that sense of power.

TAPPER: You were kidnapped. You were abducted when you were 17 years old from a mall outside Chicago before obviously becoming an advocate.

Tell me about what it feels like to see the attacker in court and stare him down and be the one in control.

ROSE: It is very difficult to see your attacker in court, but to be able to look at that person and face the court and say, "This is what he did to me," it absolutely helps to reclaim that sense of power.

TAPPER: Forensic psychologist Renee Sorrentino in Boston -- explain why Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus may have chosen not to confront Castro. I'm sure it was a very difficult decision for all three of them.

DR. RENEE SORRENTINO, DIR., CLINICAL SERVICES, HARVARD MEDICAL SCHOOL: Yes, as can you imagine, this would be the first time they would have the opportunity to speak up without any threats, and they're still adjusting to being in an entirely different environment. Oftentimes individuals who confront their perpetrator will experience PTSD or post-traumatic-like symptoms.

In this large arena, it doesn't always feel very supportive. It may just overall make the experience much more difficult than the gain they receive.

TAPPER: And, Allison Leotta, former prosecutor, especially of sex crimes -- do you often advice victims of these crimes to confront their attackers? Is that something you as a prosecutor suggest that is good for them to do?

ALLISON LEOTTA, FORMER FEDERAL SEX CRIMES PROSECUTOR: Absolutely. I think there are studies that show that confronting your attacker helps the healing process along the way. And I do think it's helpful both for the victim, and for the community and for the judge in sentencing and deciding what to do. To hear from the victim in their voice what she did. And I think as Angela is saying, it really just helps the victim, it gives her that sense of power that was taken away from her for so many years.

TAPPER: Perhaps one of the most poignant moments today was hearing Sylvia Colon, a relative of Gina DeJesus, described these women as survivors, not as victims.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SYLVIA COLON, RELATIVE OF GINA DEJESUS: Today is the last day we want to think or talk about this. These events will not own a place in our thoughts or our hearts. We will continue to live and love.

We stand before you and promise you that our beloved family member cries, she laughs, she swims, she dances, and more importantly, she loves and she is loved. She lives not as a victim but as a survivor. Her insurmountable will to prevail is the only story worth discussing.


TAPPER: Angela, you know about this a lot more than anybody here. There was something so empowering about what we saw there and we saw with Miss Knight talking in court, it was almost as if they were finally able to assert dominance of their own lives, not necessarily dominance over this man but dominance and strength in themselves.

How difficult is this healing process going to be for these three young women and for their families?

ROSE: Well, everybody reacts differently to trauma, but I honestly feel the more that people can talk about it -- when you keep it inside and you don't speak about it, there are so many emotional aftermaths. We see a lot of cutting. We see a lot of eating disorders from survivors. We see a lot of alcohol and drug abuse.

And the more that people can process it, talk about it, and the families absolutely have to create that safe and sacred space to allow people to speak about these. I had an incredible support network. My grandmother called me a couple of days after I was kidnapped and said, Angela, this happened to you for a reason and it changed the trajectory of my life. I went on to become an advocate.

So, it's amazing how the power of the family makes sense a difference in this healing process.

TAPPER: Allison Leotta, Angela Rose, Renee Sorrentino, thank you all for being here and sharing your views on this important issue.

Coming up, she's the self-described poll dancing superhero girl friend of Edward Snowden and she may be reuniting with secret-leaking beau.

Plus, the State Department is shuttering embassies around the globe this weekend. What has got them so spooked?

Stay with us.


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

In world news today, arguments continued today in the sentencing phase of the trial against Private Bradley Manning, who's facing more than 130 years in prison for leaking approximately 700,000 files to WikiLeaks, including video of an attack in Baghdad by a U.S. helicopter in 2007 that killed a dozen people, among them two staffers with the news agency "Reuters".

Twenty-five-year-old Manning was convicted earlier this week of 20 criminal charges, including espionage, including six counts of violating the Espionage Act, though he was acquitted of the one charge that would guarantee life in prison without the possibility of parole, aiding the enemy. Today, the court heard from a state department official who said her reaction to the release of the documents was, quote, "horror and disbelief that our diplomatic communication himself been released and were available on public Web sites for the world to see."

At the time of the leaks, the Obama administration warned there would be deadly repercussions against the Afghans and Iraqis named in the cables and war logs as having cooperated with the U.S. and U.S. troops. Yesterday in court, the retired brigadier general who led the Defense Intelligence Agency Task Force to investigate what actual damage the leaks had caused, he was asked if he could name anyone physically harmed because of the release of the documents. He could not.

Something, it's not clear exactly what, has the State Department worried enough to shut down U.S. embassies around the world this weekend. The State Department today announced that it is issuing a broad warning to U.S. embassies and consulates to close on Sunday and possibly for additional days over what one senior administration official tells me are potential terrorist threats. We're getting towards the end of Ramadan, the holy month in the Islamic calendar, and violence has accompanied that in the past, which the senior administration official suggested may have something to do with this announcement.

Coming up, he's a free man, if you consider living under Putin's thumb free. We'll take a look at what Edward Snowden's options are now that he's out of the airport and on the streets of Moscow.

Stay with us for our world lead.


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

The world lead: Edward Snowden finally getting the taxi ride away from the Moscow airport that he's been waiting in for the past 39 days. The Russians have opened their arms to the man who has spilled some of America's deepest secrets.

Also in world news: what exactly was the CIA doing in Benghazi, Libya, when a terrorist attack claimed the lives of three of our Americans? The extraordinary measures the CIA is now taking to keep you from learning the truth. It's an exclusive CNN special investigation.

And our pop culture lead: daytime TV has never been the same since she gave up her talk show. At first, much of her audience did not follow her when she launched her own network, but you should know by now, Oprah -- well, she doesn't do failure.