Return to Transcripts main page


Will San Diego Mayor Resign?; Nidal Hasan Found Guilty

Aired August 23, 2013 - 15:00   ET


BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Top of the hour now, I'm Brianna Keilar in today for Brooke Baldwin. We begin with breaking news. The army sergeant who admitted to gunning down 16 Afghan civilians last year has been sentenced to life in prison without parole. Robert Bales pleaded guilty to 16 counts of murder and a military jury has been deciding whether he would be able to get parole.

During the sentencing phase, Bales admitted to using steroids, sleeping pills and alcohol and slipping off base to go on a house-to- house killing spree. He called his rampage a -- quote -- "act of cowardice."

And, again, in the last hour, the jury has sentenced Bales to life without parole.

Meantime, more breaking news out of Texas. Another jury has found Major Nidal Hasan guilty in the Fort Hood massacre, a rampage that took lives of 13 of his fellow soldiers back in 2009. Frankly, it is the verdict that Hasan wanted.

And CNN's Ed Lavandera was in the courtroom when this happened.

You said earlier, Ed, it was very intense.

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It was intense for those family members, many of which have been sitting inside that courtroom listening to gruesome, graphic testimony. In fact, one of the things that really stood out, it was yesterday during closing arguments that prosecutors showed an FBI video that lasted I think probably closer to between like seven to 10 minutes just walking through what was left over of the shooting scene inside the room, the processing center where all these soldiers were massacred and wounded.

They had to sit there quietly and watch that as it was played for the jury before the jury started its deliberations. It took nearly seven hours of deliberations, but the jury has found that Nidal Hasan is guilty, unanimously on the premeditated murder charges, and guilty of 32 attempted murder charges.

So that means that Nidal Hasan is now eligible for the death penalty, which means this trial moves into the sentencing phase. That is scheduled to begin Monday morning here once again at Fort Hood. We're told by prosecutors that they will be calling and putting on witnesses, at least one family member from each of the victims that was killed, to give their statements here to the jury. And it is interesting. As we have said, the prosecutors are fighting for the death penalty, and in many ways, many people believe that Nidal Hasan is fighting for the exact same thing. In papers that he has released he says he would still be considered a martyr if he were to be lethally injected.

And so that is where we stand. So it will be interesting to see if Nidal Hasan, who has had very little to say since the very opening of this trial, whether or not he testifies on his own behalf or whether he makes any comments. For the last few weeks, he's refused to speak at all -- Brianna.

KEILAR: And much to the surprise of some people.

Ed Lavandera, thank you so much.

And another fast-moving story, a state of emergency declared in California. The fast-moving Rim fire, they're calling it, is now about eight miles inside Yosemite National Park. It doubled in size overnight to a mind-boggling 100,000 acres.

Scott Gediman is the public information officer for Yosemite. He joins us by phone.

Scott, tell us a little bit about what kind of progress fire crews are or are not making today.


This is a fast-moving wildfire. And as of last evening, the fire has entered Yosemite National Park. And there's approximately 11,000 acres of Yosemite National Park that have been affected by the Rim fire.

KEILAR: So, Scott, I'm a Californian. I have been to Yosemite. I have hiked Half Dome. It is one of the jewels of the national park system. It is absolutely beautiful. You have a lot of people concerned. How close is this getting to obviously the sites there of the valley there in Yosemite?

GEDIMAN: Right now, the fire is well over 20 miles away from Yosemite Valley.

The fire entered the park last evening in Hetch Hetchy-Lake Eleanor area, which is in the northwestern portion of the park. This is a fairly remote area. There's not a lot of visitor services. But then you mentioned Half Dome, El Capitan, Yosemite Falls, Yosemite Valley, well over 20 miles away from the fire.

KEILAR: All right, Scott Gediman, the PIO there for Yosemite, we appreciate you being on the phone with us.


KEILAR: Well, for weeks now, he has refused to step down, but now in less than two hours, we may know if the mayor of San Diego will give up his office.

There's been no comment from the 70-year-old Democrat while he's been in mediation talks with the city. This all stems from a torrent of sexual harassment claims from 18 women now. And at 4:00 p.m. Eastern, the city is going to make an announcement. It is expected that's when we will hear that Filner is resigning.

CNN's Casey Wian has the latest from San Diego City Hall.

And, Casey, this is something that's been going on for a long time. Tell us the latest.

CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Brianna, we do not know many of the specific details that are in this proposed settlement that will -- should lead to the resignation of Mayor Bob Filner, if in fact the city council approves this agreement later this afternoon.

But we are getting some idea about the issues that the city council is going to be struggling with. Kevin Faulconer, one of the city council members who is actually involved in these negotiations, put out a statement saying that he has had to try to craft this agreement with the best interests of San Diego taxpayers in mind, but also with an eye toward ending this dysfunction that the city of San Diego has endured, the dysfunction, the fact that Bob Filner still remains in office.

The taxpayer issue? How much of the potential legal bills that Filner faces from a sexual harassment lawsuit, the one that has been filed, and any others that could come forward, how much of that will city taxpayers be on the hook for. Gloria Allred, the attorney for the former city employee who has filed that sexual harassment lawsuit, says she doesn't want any taxpayer money to actually go toward settling any of these claims against Filner, but city council members believe that they need to do something to end this stalemate, to end this dysfunction that has been gripping the city of San Diego for weeks -- Brianna.

KEILAR: Casey Wian following this developing story for us from San Diego, thank you.

Now, tens of thousands of American e-mails scooped up by mistake, that is the latest oops that we have heard on NSA surveillance programs. Just this week, the NSA released classified documents revealing the e- mail snafu and the stern response from a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court judge back in 2011.

And now President Obama is talking about this NSA revolution -- or -- pardon me -- revelation, I should say, in his exclusive interview with CNN "NEW DAY"'s Chris Cuomo.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: What was learned was that NSA had inadvertently, accidentally pulled the e-mails of some Americans, in violation of their own rules, because of technical problems that they didn't realize. They presented those problems to the court. The court said, this isn't going to cut it. You're going have to improve the safeguards, given these technical problems. That's exactly what happened.


KEILAR: Let's go ahead now and bring in Candy Crowley. She's CNN's chief political correspondent.

Candy, the president has gotten so much flak on this NSA program lately. And it kind of feels like we're seeing him say the same thing in a way over and over. Did you hear any new assurances here?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: I didn't. But you're right. I think that the problem is, it seems to me, that no one knows really what Edward Snowden has.

Every week, every couple of weeks there's some new revelation. And a lot of people have said to the president, Mr. President, get out there ahead of -- you must know what this guy has, because what's really killing them is that with every revelation, the group that wants to do something about reforming the NSA or curtailing its surveillance or its data collecting, that group grows bigger.

But I think what the president has on his side and what he knows is that nobody wants to be the person that stops or curtails the program that might stop the next terrorist. So there is that...


CROWLEY: Yes. There is that balance in there that is on the president's side in terms of changing, because what we are not hearing at all -- yes, we're hearing about, oh, maybe we ought to have an advocate in the courtroom when the secret court says, OK, this surveillance is OK. And maybe we ought to do this or that.

What you're not hearing is maybe we ought to change this program. And I think that's the victory that the administration sees. There are those who think that this, particularly the e-mail, and U.S. e-mails, as well as the U.S. phone calls, that that data collection is way too broad. But those folks at least on Capitol Hill are still in the minority.

So time has kind of run against the president. But the theory of security vs. privacy weights in his favor.

KEILAR: Sure. And Democrats and Republicans saying enough with the drip, drip, drip. Get it all out there. Tell us what's going on.

So I want to switch gears now, Candy. I want to play sound of the president talking about Rush Limbaugh and his private talks with what he calls Republican friends about shutting down the government in order to defund Obamacare.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) OBAMA: Sometimes, they say to me privately, I agree with you, but I'm worried about a primary from somebody in the Tea Party back in my district, or I'm worried about what Rush Limbaugh's going to say about me on the radio.


KEILAR: Pretty fascinating stuff, Candy. What do you make of that?

CROWLEY: I think that there are a lot of Republicans who have publicly said I agree on the president with this problem or that problem. There's always this disagreement in the broad picture. And then they get down, and they even agree where the goal is, but they never quite agree how to get from the problem to the goal.

That's where it always is. So certainly there is a commonality that looks at the problems. And there's a commonality among the parties. It's how to fix the problems where they kind of separate. I think that the other part, it's very true. And, again, Republicans will tell you this, that what is most troubling right now to many Republicans, particularly on the House side, which is very district centric, obvious, is that the further they go towards something in the more moderate vein or if they were to vote for something with Obamacare or vote against defunding it, that they would draw a challenge in their district from the right.

I think that is very true. And they will tell you that. And we have already seen it happen. It's not only happening in the House. It's happening in the Senate. So, look, next year is a political year. And you know what that means. There's going to be a lot of political calculation, a lot more political calculation, I should say, going into it.

KEILAR: That's right, and the top Republican in the Senate, Mitch McConnell, facing it as well. Candy Crowley, thank you.

CROWLEY: Thanks.

KEILAR: You can catch Candy on "STATE OF THE UNION" this Sunday. That is at 9:00 a.m. Eastern. Be sure to check it out.

And coming up, a group from Newtown asking Starbucks to ban guns inside all of its shops nationwide. Starbucks is now responding.

Plus, the brother of the alleged gunman who opened fire at a school in Georgia raises questions about the president's role. I will talk with an expert on what he said next.


TIM HILL, GEORGIA SCHOOL SHOOTER'S BROTHER: He should be more focused on trying to get to the bottom of what he can help or how he can help these kids in today's society, instead of calling somebody up just to thank them for what they did.


KEILAR: Accolades are pouring in for the Georgia school bookkeeper credited with averting what could have been a national tragedy. Antoinette Huff -- or -- pardon me -- Tuff calmed down a gunman who walked into her school carrying hundreds of rounds of ammunition.


ANTOINETTE TUFF, GEORGIA SCHOOL SHOOTING HERO: We all go through something in life. No, you don't want that. You're going to be OK.


KEILAR: Now, Tuff talked the man into surrendering. Her calm, collected bravery in the face of an extreme threat has earned her the title of hero and also a personal thank you from President Obama. He called Tuff while she was in the CNN makeup room getting ready for an interview with Anderson Cooper.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: What did he say to you?

TUFF: He just wanted to let me know that him and his wife and his family was very proud of what I had did, and everybody wanted to thank me.

And they were happy and glad for what I did and that it was for me being a hero and that hopefully that one day he would be able to get to meet me. So that was real -- that would be -- oh, just to see his face was awesome -- to voice to hear his voice, but to see his face would be even more awesome.

COOPER: Well, if the president wants to meet you, he will figure out a way to make that happen.

TUFF: Yes. Yes. Yes. He figured out a way to call me, right?

OBAMA: When I heard the 911 call and read the sequence of events, I thought, here's somebody whose, not just courage, and not just cool under pressure, but also had enough heart that somehow she could convince somebody that was really troubled that she cared about him.

And I told her, I said that not only did she make Michelle and me proud, but she probably saved a lot of lives, including the life of the potential perpetrator.


KEILAR: Well, not everyone is as thrilled about President Obama's call, specifically the brother of the alleged school gunman. Here's what he said on CNN's "PIERS MORGAN LIVE."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) HILL: He should be more focused on trying to get to the bottom of what he can help -- how he can help these kids in today's society, instead of calling somebody up just to thank them for what they did.

Yes, I'm pretty sure she's been thanked by hundreds and hundreds of people.

PIERS MORGAN, HOST, "PIERS MORGAN LIVE": Are you grateful to her?

HILL: Yes.


MORGAN: I mean, effectively, she may well have saved your brother's lives and the lives of countless children in the school.

HILL: Yes, sir, I really am, but I honestly did not see it necessary for President Obama to call her up, when he could have been focusing more on what could be done to prevent things like this.


KEILAR: I think some people might agree with both of those things. But certainly this is a story that begs us to look at the mental health angle here.

Now, J. Von Ornsteiner is a forensic psychologist. You might know him better as Dr. Buzz.

Dr. Buzz, this is what I want to talk to you about, my first question to you. This alleged shooter admitted he was off his meds. His family says he has a long history of mental illness. And we have seen, I would say, somewhat similar cases like this in some of these other shooters or potential shooters. How does someone like this fall through the cracks?

J. VON ORNSTEINER, FORENSIC PSYCHOLOGIST: Well, in actuality -- first off, I understand the frustrations that his brother expressed. I certainly run into that constantly with the families of many of my clients.

When we talk about people who fall through the cracks, we have to remember that people that live with mental illness are often stigmatized, they're often in isolation. They often lack the connections they need to feel that they are being supported.

And, in addition to that, many people, unlike this individual, don't admit they're mentally ill and also do not want to take medication. So there's many different issues and concerns that happen to the individual who has mental illness, but also to the family members who feel frustrated, who feel that no one's helping them, and underlining really anger because they want their son or daughter to get treatment and their son or daughter is either not willing to form an engagement or they feel that they are kind of falling through the cracks because they're either middle class and they aren't eligible for insurance or they're on the poverty level, they're homeless, but they won't go to the steps to stand in line to get the government benefits that are being offered.

KEILAR: And also, Dr. Buzz, this suspect, as we mentioned, he seems to have some things in common with other potential shooters, other recent shooters. They're men in their 20s. They have a history of mental illness.

And I have talked with some psychologists in the past, because unfortunately in news you just end up covering so many of these unfortunate shootings. And many psychologists say there aren't a lot of resources when you know that you have a loved one or a friend who is mentally troubled. What can you do, though, if you do know someone who is mentally ill and maybe they haven't done something wrong, but you would like to at least alert someone to the potential that they could?


And there are things you can do. Within your community, there should be a city hospital. Within that city hospital , there should be a crisis unit. There should be a crisis intervention department that you can call and that you can meet with during a calm period with the person that you're trying to get services for and find out what their regimen is and what their services is for someone when they're off their medication or say that they have a break or they go through a manic phase and they definitely need intervention.

You also can look into non-for-profit mental health agencies and get in contact with a case manager and form an alliance with that case manager. The bottom line is, we have to form relationships and alliances, and that individual who suffers from mental illness must feel that they have a connection and a support.

KEILAR: Certainly. You almost got the sense in a way that that was I think how this was averted in a way, that Tuff made a connection with him.


KEILAR: And we're so thankful it turned out as it did.

J. Von Ornsteiner, thank you for your insight.

VON ORNSTEINER: Oh, thank you for having me.

KEILAR: OK. This is an interesting and troubling question. Should a rapist have rights to see a child born from an attack? Coming up next, we will look at a case in which one victim says the state is forcing her into a legal relationship with her attacker.


KEILAR: A teenage rape victim is suing to try to stop her rapist from visiting the child conceived in the attack. The victim was just 14 years old when this man, Jamie Melendez, raped her inside her Massachusetts home. He pleaded guilty. The rape victim got pregnant, and she decided to have the baby. Courthouse News Service reports the rapist has filed a petition seeking visitation rights after a judge ordered him to pay child support. Now the rape victim is suing the state of Massachusetts to get the rapist out of her child's life.

Let's bring in our legal panel, criminal defense attorney Rebecca Nitkin joining us in Washington and HLN legal analyst Joey Jackson joining us from New York.

First off, Rebecca, does the legal system here offer any protections for a rape victim's child?

REBECCA NITKIN, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, it's my understanding that this is the only decision in the United States of America that has fallen this way.

So I hope that the laws in Massachusetts are going to change, because they need to. This was a 14-year-old baby. And she was raped in her own home. And the last thing she needs is a relationship with her rapist. And the last thing she needs is to continue to have a child that has a relationship with a rapist.

And if she gets into family court, which is going to have to happen to work all of this out, she cannot choose not to participate. If she doesn't participate, she is going to lose her child. So that means she's going to be forced to have a relationship with a rapist. And that just cannot be.

KEILAR: No. It's unfathomable.

So, Joey, I want to ask you about this, because you look at this case and you get the sense that a lot of it is about money, if not all of it. The victim's lawsuit claims that the rapist offered to withdraw his visitation request in exchange for not having to pay child support.

JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Exactly. And that tells you right there that it's a monetary matter.

But I think in taking a step back what has to happen, Brianna, is that it's a legislative issue. The reason I say that is because in Massachusetts, it's perfectly lawful, even in the event that you have a child and it's due to rape, for you to acquire custody of that child.

And so if the legislature would change the law, then we wouldn't be dealing with the problem. However, to the extent that the law is what it is, I think it's still a viable lawsuit for public policy reasons. Why on earth should a mother be forced to endure a relationship with a rapist as a result of a byproduct of this whole process? It just doesn't make sense.

And so from a public policy perspective, I certainly can see where the lawsuit could still be viable, Brianna.

KEILAR: That seems like a no-brainer and that it has to change.

Joey Jackson, Rebecca...


KEILAR: Sorry. Rebecca?

NITKIN: It's excellent timing, because we all saw that animal Ariel Castro ask for the exact same thing.


NITKIN: And he was denied outright. So it's perfect timing. And I'm pretty sure that now that everybody sees that it's still on the books, it's the perfect time to change the law. And I think that's going to happen.

JACKSON: Seize the moment.

NITKIN: Seize the moment.


KEILAR: Thank you guys so much. Really appreciate it.

JACKSON: Thank you, Brianna.

Be well, Rebecca.

NITKIN: Sure. Thank you. Thanks.

KEILAR: So coming up, an anti-hate group claims a worker at Homeland Security spends his off time preparing for a race war and promoting anti-gay causes. So what's the government doing about it?

Plus, it's not very often that you hear silence on the news. But we have just gotten some video in from Syria. And it's so shocking, you will be seeing it without words. Could this very piece of tape be the ultimate game-changer? That is next.