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LEGAL VIEW WITH ASHLEIGH BANFIELD
Race Discrimination Dismissed in Deen Lawsuit; Oprah Apologizes to Switzerland; Florida Sinkhole Swallows Resort Buildings; The Sinkhole Lottery; Fan Falls to Dead at Turner Field; New Information in Hannah Anderson Case; Should Filner Keep his Job?
Aired August 13, 2013 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. Nice to have you with us. I'm Ashleigh Banfield. It's Tuesday, August 13th and welcome to the LEGAL VIEW. This is where we cover the day's top stories and we dig in to the crime and justice stories of the day, as well.
How about this for the top story. Paula Deen, she just got one legal burden lifted right off of her shoulders, because a federal judge has decided to dismiss the racial discrimination claims that were part of a lawsuit filed against her by a former employee.
Those allegations that Deen and her brother had discriminated against black workers had shocked a lot of people and it really got worse when Deen admitted that she had used the "N" word in the past.
Our Michaela Pereira has more on the story.
PAULA DEEN, CELEBRITY CHEF: I want to apologize to everybody.
MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Some good news for Paula Deen in the case that brought down her multimillion dollar empire.
DEEN: My goodness.
PEREIRA: The embattled TV chef has been cleared of the racial discrimination claims filed in a lawsuit by a former employee.
On Monday, a judge ruled that a former manager of her savannah restaurant couldn't be the victim of racial discrimination targeting African-American employees because she is white, writing, "At best, plaintiff is an accidental victim of the alleged racial discrimination."
DANNY CEVALLOS, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: It was a very big victory because summary judgment motions are incredibly rarely granted.
It tells us a lot about the strength of the plaintiff's claims, that they were very weak.
PEREIRA: Deen's reps tell CNN they are pleased with the ruling.
"As Ms. Deen has stated before, she is confident that those who truly know how she lives her life know she believes in equal opportunity, kindness and fairness for everyone."
It was in the deposition for this lawsuit that Deen first acknowledged using the "N" word and so Deen was thrust into a second trial of sorts, this time in the court of public opinion.
DEEN: The day I used that word, it was a world ago. It was 30 years ago. I had had a gun put to my head.
PEREIRA: Deen and her family went on the defensive.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our mother is a compass compassionate, good- hearted empathetic person that you would ever meet.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is completely absurd to think that there's an environment of racism in our business.
PEREIRA: The scandal led to a devastating domino effect, as Deen was dropped from deal after lucrative endorsement deal.
CEVALLOS: The sad truth is that, even if you are wrongfully sued in America, your best recourse, ultimately, is to just lick your wounds and move on.
PEREIRA: Well, Deen's legal troubles are not over. The woman who filed the lawsuit claims she was the victim of sexual harassment at Deen's restaurant. The judge hasn't decided if that part of the suit will go forward.
BANFIELD: All right, Michaela Pereira for us on the Paula Deen story, thank you for that.
I want to bring in our legal panel. They are far better at this than I.
I'm joined by criminal defense attorney Danny Cevallos and CNN legal analysts Paul Callan as well as HLN's legal analyst Joey Jackson.
Joey, you're not on the set with us today, so we're going to have to play with you by remote, OK? You're in the monitor between us, my friend.
JOEY JACKSON, HLN LEGAL ANALYST: It's all good.
BANFIELD: It's all good. It's good to have you on the show, too.
JACKSON: Thank you.
BANFIELD: Let me start with you, Danny Cevallos.
You just said in the story that Michaela Pereira filed for CNN, there is just not a whole lot you can do if you're wrongfully sued. I'm not suggesting for a moment that this lawsuit was wrongfully filed, because only part of it has been dismissed. But what do you -- it's very disheartening. What do you mean by that?
CEVALLOS: Think about it. In this case, this is a case where now ultimately these claims were dismissed because -- and you have to understand, and Paul can agree with me and Joey.
When you file a motion for summary judgment, they are granted in the most exceedingly rare cases. I can -- I've filed maybe 50 of them. Between the three of us, we have maybe had two or three granted. It's that rare.
You have to -- the judge is going to assume everything the plaintiff says is true, and resolve all doubts against the defendant, and even under that standard, the plaintiff in this case loses.
So that gives us an idea about the strength of a claim that can be enough to bring you into court and bring you to a deposition.
BANFIELD: And if you're famous, bring you on the TV.
CEVALLOS: Where the rules of discovery are so broad, you can be asked a question that I think most legal experts would agree was pretty much stretching the scope of discovery, and have your career ruined.
BANFIELD: So what about the power of the fact that only part of this lawsuit has been dismissed?
Does that all of a sudden say to this judge, I really need to take a deep, dark look at the other claims made in this suit, or does it have no bearing at all on the abuse allegations and also the sexual harassment?
PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: This is very common, by the way, in these cases where there are multiple claims that are made on different theories, racial discrimination, sex harassment and so on and so forth.
A lot of times, you see one of the claims being dismissed. So I don't think it's going to have that kind of an effect on the judge. And --
BANFIELD: You're saying those others will stand and that they will be litigated.
CALLAN: They could very well stand. And I suppose a lot of people might look at this and say, you know something, even though that claim got thrown out, maybe the public learned a little bit about this person that we would all like to know.
BANFIELD: So the court of public opinion played a bigger role.
CALLAN: That's right, that's right. And it was a close enough question, I guess, as to whether or not a claim could be brought, that the attorneys won't be sanctioned for bringing it. So I think that's the argument they will make. BANFIELD: Joey Jackson, I was reading through this dismissal, and there is a lot of pretty strident language from the judge, basically suggesting -- I won't read it because it's kind of boring to read legalese on TV, but this judge basically said --
BANFIELD: That's a legal show, right? But the judge basically said, look, if you are white, do not come crying to me about being felt as if there is racism against you, because she made comments about black people.
Is this something we didn't expect, and, p.s., how did it make it in the first place?
JACKSON: You know what, I thought it was a great argument, Ashleigh.
And just to take a step back. Remember, the judge didn't pass on the factual significance of the claims, meaning they could very well be true.
The fact is, and, of course, the judge viewed them as true, that is, all the allegations that were made. But what the judge said was, listen, there's a zone of interest here and Title VII is to protect a certain class of people.
If you don't fall within that class, you have to be significantly affected or affected enough, where the suit can touch you. For example, there are those people who are white who file successfully discrimination claims, and it's in that lawsuit, Ashleigh.
For example, there's one person who filed a suit and said, I'm discriminated against because I'm in an interracial marriage. That can stand, even though you're white.
Another person who was white said, I support affirmative action and my employer was holding it against me that. That can stand.
Here, however, the court said, you're not within the zone of interest. We appreciate the fact you like the association, that you associate with groups of people to your liking or not to your liking, but you're not significantly impacted to have a claim here for discrimination.
And that was the point --
BANFIELD: So it's not enough. If you're offended by it, it is not enough to be discriminated against.
OK, hold that thought for a minute because I've got a whole lot more for all three of you young gentlemen. And thank you for being here on our brand-new program.
In the meantime, there's this other story. Again, we're sort of in the race column here. Oprah Winfrey is now apologizing for creating what she has pretty much characterized as an uproar after she says she felt she was discriminated against in a posh store in Switzerland. It was on "Entertainment Tonight" last week that Oprah said she asked to see a $38,000 handbag and that the clerk said, no, it's too expensive. You can't afford it or something to those words, anyway.
Oprah didn't name the store, but it did not take people long to find out what that store was, where it was, and who the manager was and who the employee was.
The manager said all of this was a misunderstanding, that it wasn't racism.
And while Oprah stands by her story, she does say it has been blown out of proportion.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OPRAH WINFREY, TV PERSONALITY: I think that incident in Switzerland was just an incident in Switzerland. I'm really sorry that it got blown up.
I purposely did not mention the name of the store. I'm sorry that I said it was Switzerland. I was just referencing it as an example of being in a place where people don't expect that you would be able to be there.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BANFIELD: You know, it's amazing that Oprah has also mentioned she felt discrimination on Madison Avenue in New York when some folks would not open the door for her.
By the way, she does say she is not expecting an apology from the store over all of this.
And this hour, also, on the LEGAL VIEW, several women have accused San Diego's mayor of sexual harassment, and right now he still has a job.
But what if he worked in the private sector? Would he be fired right away? And, by the way, he's in the public sector. Shouldn't we be able to fire him right away? What's all the basis behind this?
Also, transgender children in one state can now choose whichever bathroom they want to use, and they can play on whichever sporting team they want to play on.
For them, that might be fabulous, but for others, they say that's not fair to my child. We're going to dig into that debate, as well.
And what if you saw this sign in a shopping mall parking lot? It flicked for a minute, but you're right, it said, "No Muslim parking. Your car will be towed."
Are you kidding me? Does a business have the right to say this, to do this? It's 2013.
More stories ahead on the LEGAL VIEW. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
BANFIELD: Welcome back to LEGAL VIEW. I'm Ashleigh Banfield.
When you see this, you may shake your head in absolute amazement. Take a peek.
You don't want to be staying in that resort. That's an instant sinkhole that swallowed part of a Florida resort complex.
And this is one of the first 911 calls that came in when this happened Sunday night.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Where's the patient located at at Summer Bay?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's not a patient. We have a building that's potentially collapsing.
I don't know if it's a sinkhole or what, but we've got people in the building. We're trying to get it, but -- we're trying to get them evacuated and they're saying it's collapsing so fast they don't know they'll be able to get to all these rooms.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK. And I am going get the fire department on the way. Is there a specific building number?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's Building 104.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
BANFIELD: Yeah, but the fire department better not be looking for Building 104 because look at it. It's not there.
Incredibly, even as you look at this destruction, nobody was hurt. But this story is not over because the sinkhole is still growing. It is now 100 feet wide.
So a question is, what about the other buildings? What about the other people? What about the other potential damage in this area?
Our Martin Savidge got there very quickly to report on exactly those questions. Are we getting any answers to that yet, Marty?
MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: No, they're still trying to figure out exactly the engineering team, private company, has been brought in, and they're trying to determine, is it stable?
They think it is. They don't believe it actually is growing. But 100 feet, that is a huge hole, even by Florida sinkhole standards.
And so now they are worried about other buildings on the property. They've evacuated two others. It's a lot of people who've been displaced. And then on top of that, there are items people had to leave behind, such as passports, which they're likely never to get back again. It's just too dangerous.
But as you point out, the most important thing, nobody lost their lives. In fact, nobody was injured, and a lot of that was due to Richard Shanley, the security guard who I spoke to, the man who went in and literally went door to door to get people out.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICHARD SHANLEY, RESORT SECURITY OFFICER: I honestly didn't know what to think it was. I just knew the building was coming apart. I had no understanding, no reason, no why of why it was happening.
SAVIDGE: But you acted.
SHANLEY: Yes, I did.
SAVIDGE: What did you do?
SHANLEY: I went door to door, beating on the doors, trying to get people out, making sure they were safe.
I went floor to floor, getting everybody out. And at the time I got done, I didn't really think about it, just got them out and got out myself.
SAVIDGE: And we have to remind people, it was late at night.
SHANLEY: Yes, sir, it was 11:00 at night.
SAVIDGE: Not a time when people are normally around.
SHANLEY: No, sir. There were people sleeping in rooms. I actually physically had to wake them up and get them out of the building.
SAVIDGE: And what was their reaction?
SHANLEY: They thought I was kidding. They thought it was a joke.
I said, it's no joke. You can look down the hallway and see it. And they looked down and they got devastated and they -- I took them out to each end of the stairwells.
I wasn't going to let them come through the breezeway. I said, get out to the stairwells as quick as you can. Don't worry about grabbing your stuff. Just get out.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SAVIDGE: And the damage is staggering, but, again, it is really miraculous that nobody was killed. And a lot of that due to the man you just saw. So what is going on today is really trying to ascertain, could there be other problems on the property?
Most of this resort has been unaffected. It serves about 4,000 vacationers. And they estimate only three percent of those people have been impacted as a result of just that one building that was lost, Ashleigh.
BANFIELD: What a great guy for doing that. We need more Americans like that.
Martin, thank you very much, and update us if you hear anything change in those statistics, about 100 feet and growing.
Martin Savidge for us, live in Florida.
There is still a lot of interesting questions that swirl around the sinkhole. I like to say this day in sinkhole news, because it seems like we're having one a day, at least.
I want to bring back our attorneys Danny Cevallos and Paul Callan to talk about what some people are calling the sinkhole lottery. I can't even believe I'm using that term, the sinkhole lottery. Let me explain what 's going on that some people may not know about, swallowed up by all the headlines of the destination and damage.
It turns out some people are actually fleecing the government with phony insurance claims, or at least insurance claims they have no intention of actually using properly. They get the sinkhole damage, right? And they file a claim for the sinkhole damage. They get the payout for their sinkhole damage. They may have a crack in their floor, in fact, but then they don't actually repair it.
They take the money, they don't repair the house. What happens when you have crumbling houses? The neighborhood, crumbles too. Values go down. Our premiums all go up and get this: 57 percent of homes in Florida that filed sinkhole damage claims still have not been repaired. And many never will. Wow, 57 percent.
Some of them are bogus and the owners just pocketed the money. But some of them weren't bogus and the owners pocketed the money and didn't do the repairs.
So I say that's morally corrupt. But that doesn't matter when it comes to the law.
Danny, what can anybody do about this, or is this just the insurance companies, they're not doing the due diligence that they need to?
DANNY CEVALLOS, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, there is another side to the coin. Consider this. If you have an insurance policy and it just doesn't cover enough, if you have $100,000 worth of damage and the max is $25,000, they may not pay you enough to make the required repairs to your home.
So while we do have a lot of abuse of the system, and it's not just sinkhole insurance, it's all insurance since the beginning of time. People have always been taking payouts, and they don't go back and buy all the CDs that were stolen out of their car. They pocket it.
So this has been going on for a long, long time. But there is that possibility that people simply don't have policies that cover the amount of actual damage to their home. So there may be some actual innocence here. Florida has tried to pass some legislation, but there are mixed reviews as to whether or not it has addressed the problem by requiring people to use those payouts to repair their home.
BANFIELD: Sometimes, as I understand, not always, but some insurance companies require, Paul, that you use their contractors and there have been all sorts of complaints their contractors stink.
PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: You know, it's a free market out there. And particularly in places like Florida. If an insurance company -- if you want to buy that, you know, less expensive insurance policy, and you have to use their contractors, you know, you can do that. But --
BANFIELD: Caveat emptor.
CALLAN: And the insurance policies are the ones with the problems here. They should cancel insurance if the people don't fix the sinkhole damage and not write another policy.
BANFIELD: So don't just send the adjuster out, send out the completer as well, who comes to make sure that you use the money properly
CALLAN: Well, yeah, or cancel the policy going forward and then the person has no insurance. That would put the pressure on them to --
BANFIELD: What if you live beside this, what if you're the neighbors and that's now your neighborhood and you're trying to put up your for sale sign -- and God forbid it's up right now -- you're out a lot of money and you don't really have recourse.
CALLAN: Personally, I think it looks like a nice place to move Casey Anthony into so --
BANFIELD: Oh, I knew that was coming. More legal news there, too.
You just -- you just guaranteed yourself a guest appearance on an upcoming program about Casey Anthony's civil legal woes.
OK, you two. Thank you very much for that.
We still have other news coming up. In fact, I have seen this happen before, and I still can't believe it happens, a fan falling to his death at a stadium, this time at the Atlanta Braves stadium, not the first time. We're going to take you live to Turner Field and tell you what happened next.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BANFIELD: Welcome back, everybody, to LEGAL VIEW, I'm Ashleigh Banfield in New York.
We are learning a lot more now about a man who fell to his death Atlanta's Turner Field. All of this happening last night during the game against the Phillies. It was about a 60-foot drop -- actually, 65, from the upper level to the ground below.
Our Alina Machado is live now at Turner Field, digging around to find out just how this happened, as there were security measures in place where the man dropped.
What have you been able to find out, Alina?
ALINA MACHADO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Ashleigh, we have learned a little bit more about the victim. His name was Ronald Homer. He was 29 years old, and he was from Conyers, Georgia, a town about 25 miles east of Atlanta.
I want to give you a sense of where this all happened here at Turner Field last night during this rain delay. Police say Homer appears to have fallen 65 feet in the area behind those seats you are looking at from an upper level platform to a secured parking lot.
At this point, Atlanta police are not suspecting foul play. Homer's death, according to them, appears to be an accident. It is also too soon to tell, according to police, if alcohol played a role in this death. According to the medical examiner's office, it could take up to eight weeks for toxicology reports to come back. Ashleigh?
BANFIELD: So Alina, I'm just looking behind you, and what you're really pointing out here is that long, long drop at the very back of the highest point of the bleachers.
Would that be where he's looking at some kind of play or trying to catch a ball? It looks awfully high for that.
MACHADO: We don't know exactly where he was standing in that area behind those bleachers. Investigators are still sorting through witness accounts and we, of course, are trying to get more information, as well. But we don't know also what he was doing in that area. We hope to learn that information as the investigation progresses.
BANFIELD: Such an odd place, not at all what I expected. Alina Machado, live for us, thank you, at Turner Field.
Got some stunning new details this morning about the ordeal and the rescue of this girl, Hannah Anderson. She is that California 16-year old who was held captive for six days by someone who was supposed to be a family friend, James DiMaggio -- turned out not to be at all.
That young girl did not know that her mother and her brother had been killed and that their bodies had been burned in his home before he whisked her away to the Idaho wilderness. Her captor apparently at least got off one shot at the rescuers before he himself was gunned down. And by necessity, the rescue operation came together very quickly. Have a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEVE JURMAN, U.S. MARSHAL/SAN DIEGO FUGITIVE TASK FORCE: Because they were spotted so quickly, everybody was kind of taken off guard. We really were trenching ourselves in for a long, drawn-out search. I was in the command post at the time, listening live when we got confirmation that she was OK. It was like a weight lifted off of everybody's shoulders and the job well done.
BANFIELD: A weight lifted off by so many people, as well. We all followed this, and now Hannah Anderson is back with her family members, the ones who have survived all of this, anyway, in Southern California. And her dad is asking everyone for some time and some space as they try to heal from all of it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRETT ANDERSON, HANNAH ANDERSON'S FATHER: The healing process will be slow. She has been through a tremendous, horrific ordeal. I am very proud of her and I love her very much. She is surrounded by the love of her family, friends and community. Again, please, as a family, give us our time to heal and grieve.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BANFIELD: And I'm sure so many people's hearts go out to Brett Anderson and what he has gone through.
Coming up, several women have accused San Diego's mayor of sexual harassment. And as of now, he is still the mayor.
So what if he worked at a private company?
Would he still be holding his job and his desk?
And, by the way, if he's in a public position, why can't he just be fired?
That story coming up next.
BANFIELD: So what if this guy worked for your company?
Would he still be on your payroll?
I'm talking about Bob Filner. He's facing a long, very long list of sexual harassment allegations and an ever-increasing resounding call for his resignation. But he is still the mayor of San Diego. And so far, we're not hearing that he's got any other plans but to stay as the mayor of San Diego.
Meanwhile, that city yesterday, a crowd held a rally to make it clear they're not happy he's still the mayor of San Diego and that he's planning to return to the mayor's office after a stint in counseling. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BEN KATZ, FILNER PROTESTER: Two weeks is not a cure. Two weeks is not enough for us to forget. We are not going to forget. We are not going away and we will keep repeating, "Bob must go! Bob must go! Bob must go!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BANFIELD: You heard it. Two weeks is not enough.
What's he referring to? The rehab, the rehab he apparently left early.
Our lawyers are back with me now. Danny Cevallos and Paul Callan.
And a lot of people shake their heads at this, thinking, wait a minute, if you do something naughty, you're out.
That's not the case when it comes to public office anywhere, and particularly this jurisdiction, right, Paul?
CALLAN: Not true at all.