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Castro Hangs Himself in Cell; Revised Use of Force Bill; Ariel Castro Found Dead; Authorizing Force Against Syria

Aired September 4, 2013 - 08:00   ET


ANNOUNCER: What you just have to see.

This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo, Kate Bolduan and Michaela Pereira.


KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. Welcome back to NEW DAY, everyone. It is Wednesday, September 4th, 8:00 in the East.

We are awaiting a live press conference from President Obama and the Swedish Prime Minister. He'll be speaking about 8:30 eastern from Stockholm and you can expect tough questions from the president on that -- the U.S. position on Syria. We'll bring it to you live when it begins.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: We're going to start right here with breaking news this morning.

Ariel Castro dead from an apparent suicide. Ohio prison officials say he was found hanging in his cell.

Castro, you remember, pleaded guilty to holding three women captive in his home for about a decade. A plea deal motivated at the time for his desire to avoid the death penalty. His sentence was supposed to be life plus 1,000 years in prison. But it did not turn out that way.

CNN's Pamela Brown working the story for us.

What do we know so far?

PAMELA BROWN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A puzzling, shocking story twist in the case, Chris and Kate.

We've heard from Castro's attorney, Craig Weintraub, this morning, and he is saying that he is stunned by the news and says he doesn't understand why he was only checked on just every 30 minutes and not put on suicide watch at the state prison where Castro was being held for less than 30 days. And at this hour, Ohio state police investigators are on the scene at that state prison, trying to piece together how this could have happened.


BROWN (voice-over): Ariel Castro's last public words delivered a month ago. ARIEL CASTRO: I'm not a monster. I'm a normal person. I am just sick. I just act on sexual instincts.

BROWN: Last night, he was found dead, discovered at 9:20, hanging in his jail cell at the Correctional Receptions Center in Orient, Ohio, near Columbus.

His attorney, Craig Weintraub, is questioning whether or not it was suicide.

CRAIG WEINTRAUB, ARIEL CASTRO'S ATTORNEY: I think it's so unusual for a prisoner who is in the system for only 30 days to be found dead in a cell. We don't know whether or not it's suicide. I understand that the prison is claiming that it's suicide and they're going to conduct an investigation, but we're also going to try find out really what happened there.

BROWN: He had been sentenced to life in prison plus 1,000 years for kidnapping and sexually assaulting three women for over a decade. Castro was being held in protective custody, the only one in his cell, with guards checking on him every 30 minutes.

Prison medical staff tried to revive him and rushed him to the Ohio State University Medical Center. He was pronounced dead at 10:52 p.m. Castro received few visitors while in prison. His daughter told CNN back in May that she wanted nothing to do with him.

ANGIE GREGG, ARIEL CASTRO'S DAUGHTER: My father's actions are not a reflection of everyone in the family. I have no problem cutting him out of my life. I have no problem doing that. I never want to see him again.

BROWN: Earlier this month, the house where Castro tortured his victims was torn down. Neighbors rejoicing during the demolition of the so-called "house of horrors".

At his sentencing he apologized to his victims, but remained defiant about keeping Gina Dejesus, Amanda Berry and Michelle Knight locked up in his home for around a decade.

CASTRO: (INAUDIBLE) I have a family. I do have value for a human life because every time I came home, I would be so glad of the situation. As crazy as it may sound and I'm truly sorry for what happened. To this day, I don't know why.

BROWN: Only one of his victims showed up in person to confront him saying she wanted him to spend the rest of his life in prison.

MICHELLE KNIGHT, VICTIM: The death penalty would be so much easier. You don't deserve that. I spent 11 years in hell. Now, your hell is just beginning.

BROWN: For his three former captives, Ariel Castro's death is yet another gruesome chapter in a tragic story.

(END VIDEOTAPE) BROWN: And, again, Castro was in isolation, but he was not on suicide watch like he was initially right after his arrest. His attorneys are saying they were denied two requests for a psychiatric evaluation on Castro. And also, we're just now learning that the three victims have been notified of this news, but not to expect any statement any time soon from them.

Obviously, still trying to come to grips with this shocking news this morning.

BOLDUAN: Yes, of course.

CUOMO: Right. So, we're trying to figure out why this happened, what the circumstances were and also what's going to matter most is the impact on the victims.

Later this hour, you're going to hear from one of Ariel Castro's cousin. Her emotional reaction to this latest shock to her family and what she says about what Castro's fate should have been and how she is thinking about the victims this morning.

BOLDUAN: Turning to Syria now. Right now, President Obama is in Stockholm, Sweden, and in less than 30 minutes giving a news conference where Syria will undoubtedly be a main focus and we'll bring that to you live when it happens.

Meantime, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee will take up a plan to use force in Syria. And Russia's president tells "The Associated Press" if there is proof that Syria used poison gas, he could support a U.N.-led strike.

CNN national security correspondent Jim Sciutto is live in Washington with all the latest developments on this.

Good morning, Jim.


The administration has another busy, challenging day making the case for military action in Syria. As you say, the president holding a press conference in Sweden and at the bottom of this hour, sure to be challenged about his proposal. Secretaries Kerry and Hagel and General Dempsey will appear before the House Foreign Affairs Committee today, where there are many skeptics, particularly among House Republicans and the Tea Party faction.

And in the Senate, the Foreign Relations Committee will take up that draft authorization for military force setting a clear definition of exactly how far these strikes would go.


SCIUTTO (voice-over): The revised authorization limits strikes against Syria to 60 days with an option for a further 30 days and explicitly bans U.S. troops on the ground, though, it would permit a rescue mission if needed.

The bill comes after Secretaries Kerry and Hagel and General Dempsey, three veterans who know the immense cost of war, delivered an impassioned case to senators that limited military action is right and necessary.

JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE: Are you going to be comfortable if Assad, as a result of the United States not doing anything, then gases his people yet again, and the world says, why didn't the United States act?

SCIUTTO: Attempting to thread a political needle, the administration had something for both supporters and skeptics of military action, who dubs strict limits on the scope and duration of any attack.

For hawks, reassurance that the administration's larger strategy also includes strengthening the Syrian opposition. But the administration faced stiff opposition from both sides. Senator Rand Paul demanding that the president abide by the congressional vote, win or lose.

SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: If we do not say that the Constitution applies, if we do not say explicitly that we will abide by this vote, you're making a joke of us. You're making us into theater.

KERRY: Senator, I assure you there's nothing meaningless and there's everything real.

PAUL: Only if you hear what we vote on. Only if our vote makes a difference.

SCIUTTO: From Senator McCain, a long supporter of more vigorous U.S. involvement, bitter criticism of the president's decision to delay military action as he seeks congressional approval.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: When you tell the enemy you're going to attack them, they're obviously going to disperse and try to make it harder.


SCIUTTO: If you're getting a sense of some momentum towards a yes vote in Congress, the president received two powerful endorsements for military action from senior Republicans, House Speaker John Boehner and House Majority Whip Eric Cantor both going on the record saying they will support the organization. The question is, can the administration sway more skeptical members of the House, as well as the American public that is equally skeptical of any military action, however limited against Syria? Chris?

CUOMO: Jim, you're asking the right question. Thank you for the reporting this morning. One of the big concerns facing lawmakers is, would a strike on Syria cause a domino effect in an already unstable region?

Let's bring in Fareed Zakaria, host of "FAREED ZAKARIA GPS", to help us with this. Good morning, my friend.


CUOMO: So, let's begin at 30,000 feet here. Since June, you were saying, I don't know if military action was the right move. Do you still feel that way?

ZAKARIA: I think that doing something to respond to the use of chemical weapons does make sense. The danger is, can you keep it limited because at heart, we may want to look at this as a story about dictators and Democrats about universal laws and values.

At heart, this is a sectarian civil war. And by getting involved militarily, we're taking a side in a sectarian civil war. And have we thought that through? I heard a lot of senators saying we should do this because we don't want these chemical weapons to fall in the hands of al Qaeda-affiliated groups.

But, remember, if Assad gets toppled, many of the groups that are fighting him are al Qaeda affiliated and, so, ironically, the toppling of Assad are which would presumably be the best outcome from these strikes could result in new groups coming to power in Syria that are quite clearly ambiguously affiliated with al Qaeda.

CUOMO: Can you give some analysis to two points? One is, Senator Bob Menendez says 60 days is what we're given, because that's what's in the War Powers Act, that's what accorded to the president already. Is that, in any way, a limited duration?

And the perception of why we're doing this politically, the United States looks weak if they do not. Does that square with your perception which will be regarded as strength in the region?

The 60 days and how the international community will perceive this -- what's your take?

ZAKARIA: Great questions. The 60 days, I would cut the president some slack, which is, you don't want to signal to the adversary that, you know, if he waits a week, this is all over. You want, you want, that's why it's in the War Powers Act. I think that the president has a certain amount of room to maneuver.

On the other point, the image, the credibility of the U.S., it's a very important question. You do want to look strong, you want to look resolute, once the president has made these commitments. That's why I say probably we do have to do something.

But we can exaggerate this. We stayed in Vietnam for seven years because we were worried about credibility. It turns out the Soviet Union wasn't looking at our strategy in Vietnam. It feared us because we were strong economically. We were strong in terms of our defense posture.

At the end of the day, people are looking to see if you're smart, not if just going, you know, willy-nilly go invading country. CUOMO: So, let's look at the lay of the land here and what we're dealing with. Obviously, this is the immediate region. What I want to speak to, what I want you to speak to, Syria is not an oil- producing country. But when you look at what's around it, what does it mean for the implication for this action?

ZAKARIA: Well, here's a debate right? Syria is in a crucial region. It borders Iraq. It borders Israel. It borders Lebanon and Jordan. So, they could be spillover. Clearly, there's humanitarian spillover.

But let's remember, we have a decade of civil war in Iraq, which is one of the world's major oil producing countries bordering the Persian Gulf, which is the key outflow of oil and didn't cause the price of oil to go up very much. So, these conflicts do have a tendency in geo-economic terms to stay pretty contained.

You had a civil war going on in Syria for two years. It hasn't led to a spike in oil prices.

CUOMO: And when we talk about how this could spill over, obviously, we're showing the different regions that are unstable right now. So, this is something for us to keep in mind that you have Turkey, Iraq, Jordan, and Lebanon, they're already unstable situations politically and civilly in each of those countries.

ZAKARIA: That's the problem. The instability caused by the refugees who also add to the ethnic problem because they, they are of a particular background.

Again, the key thing to remember here. There's a lot of this is about sectarian issues.

CUOMO: And we have groups of people now moving into other areas, how would that foment there, because who is fleeing Syria.

And look how big the numbers are, to give you that -- which leads us to the idea of the task before the president. Just to give the punch points here. He's in Sweden, but these are still his mandate, even if abroad, yes?

ZAKARIA: Most important one is the most difficult one, which is Putin, because at the end of the day, the strikes are in military means. The end game presumably, unless you want to go and invade Syria and occupy it, ala Iraq, the end point is a diplomatic solution which gets Assad out of power, gets a new regime in place, elections maybe at some point. For all of that, you need Russia.

So, while we've been denouncing Russia and I understand they've been pretty nasty on this stuff. At the end of the day, the key to Syria lies in Russia.

CUOMO: Because the U.S. cannot be seen, as once again, forcing the situation abroad.

Fareed, thank you so much. Appreciate the perspective, as always.

ZAKARIA: Pleasure.

CUOMO: A lot of other news we're covering for you this morning. Always here, the case on NEW DAY. So, let's get right to Michaela.

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Chris, thanks so much.

More signs of progress on the fire lines and northern California, evacuation orders have been lifted now for several communities once threatened by that massive wildfire burning in and around Yosemite National Park. Officials call the so-called Rim Fire 80 percent contained. The size seems to be holding steady at nearly 236,000 acres.

A Montana judge under fire. He's ordering a new sentencing hearing for a former teacher that he originally sentenced to just 30 days in jail for raping a 14-year-old girl. Judge G. Todd Baugh has been blasted for his remarks, remarks that the victim who committed suicide was older than her age. Baugh admits state law requires 54-year-old Stacey Rambold to serve at least two years in prison and who was sentencing hearing is set to Friday.

Attorneys for Aurora theater shooting suspect James Holmes are challenging the death penalty in Colorado, arguing execution is cruel and unusual punishment and arbitrarily imposed. Holmes stands accused of killing 12 people and wounding dozens more in a movie theater massacre last summer. Holmes has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity.

Two Republican congressmen from Texas now making a big push to have the 2009 Ft. Hood massacre designated as an act of terrorism. Army psychiatrist Nidal Hasan was sentenced to death last week for killing 13 people, wounding more than 30. It has been designated an act of workplace violence. If it's changed to an act of terror, victims would be eligible for Purple Hearts and more benefits.


PEREIRA (voice-over): A woman apparently taken into custody by the LAPD for public intoxication is now suing the department saying that she was ejected from a moving cruiser back in March and that she couldn't have opened the door because she was handcuffed.

Showing you surveillance video from a nearby building. You can see the woman on the ground, and LAPD commander told the "L.A. Times" the department would now conduct an internal review.

And finally, a little something you probably won't see Peyton Manning doing any time soon. I'm please to tell you unicycle football lives, though. There's actually a league. Did you know that? It's the UFL. Of course, the Unicycling Football League. We're told the standard rules of football have been amended slightly.

There's still plenty of tackling and general unicycle mayhem, but it is so much more effective when it's in slow motion because it sort of like brings that intensity.


CUOMO: Yes. Unfortunately, not in slow motion when someone launches off a unicycle and hits you while you're trying to balance.


BOLDUAN: Shocking lack of padding.


PEREIRA (on-camera): And may I say in the appropriate areas.



CUOMO: X-games meet football.

BOLDUAN: There you go. That's what you get. That is what you get.

Coming up next on NEW DAY, the shocking news out of Ohio this morning. One of the most notorious criminals in the country found hanging in his jail cell -- prison cell. Ariel Castro's cousin shares her reaction to the news.

CUOMO: Plus, a heads up for you. President Obama and Sweden right now while the debate over Syria continues back home. We're expecting to hear from him live in the next few minutes. What will be his message to the world? You'll hear it here on NEW DAY.


CUOMO: Welcome back. Here's what you're looking at. We're awaiting President Obama to speak live in Sweden. That's the shot up on your screen.

But, first, we're going to give you -- when that happens, we'll give it to you. But first, we do have breaking news for you overnight. The man who held three women captive in his home for a decade was found hanged in his prison cell. Earlier, we spoke with the cousin of Ariel Castro, Maria Castro Montes. Here's a part of what she told us.


VOICE OF MARIA CASTRO-MONTES, ARIEL CASTRO'S COUSIN: Not a day has gone by that I haven't had all of these events just swirling around in my mind still wondering why and how and just kind of thinking back to the person that, that he showed the outside world. I mean, he lived two lives. That life that was the happy person, that was the talented musician, that was the supposedly good and loving father and grandfather.

And then, he had this dark war going on behind closed doors. And, you know, it was just -- it was just shock. And part of it was even relief in hopes that now this will just end all of it and that his name is not going to be out in the spotlight for years and years and years to come. I just hope these victims can move past this now. I know they wanted him to live out a life sentence, but really, what was he suffering behind bars

I mean, you know, getting three square meals a day, sleeping in a nice, warm, soft bed, you know, being basically watched over and guarded, making sure that he was safe? You know, those girls didn't even have that luxury when they were being held captive in his home. They were being raped. They were being tortured. They were being beaten. He wasn't getting any of that.

So, now he gets to meet his maker, and you know, the ultimate price he'll have to pay, whatever -- you know, I'm a God-fearing woman and whatever God feels is his punishment now, that's what he'll have to endure in his afterlife and maybe that's better punishment than he could have ever gotten here on earth.


CUOMO: You know, made so much more interesting because she is his family member and such perspective and such respect for the victims here and eloquence about what this could mean.

BOLDUAN: She believes, really, I think what a lot of people are thinking and struggling with this morning and when you hear that news and really still struggle with what happened in Cleveland in that home.

We're going to follow that obviously. We've got a lot coming up, though. Coming up next on NEW DAY, you're taking a look right now, taking a look here at President Obama. He's going to be making a stop in Sweden. He is making a stop in Sweden before he heads to a summit in Russia. We're going to take you live to a press conference with President Obama coming up in just a few minutes.


ANNOUNCER: You're watching NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo, Kate Bolduan, and Michaela Pereira.

CUOMO: Welcome back to NEW DAY. It's Wednesday, September 4th. Right now, we're awaiting a news conference with President Obama and Sweden's prime minister. They're set to speak any moment and we're going to bring it to you live from Stockholm, because obviously, the message that the president projects to the world right now could not be more important, but we also have the five things that you need to know for your NEW DAY, so let's get right to Michaela.

PEREIRA: Yes, let's give those, too, before the president speaks.

Number one, Ohio prison officials investigating the death of Ariel Castro who was found hanging in his cell Tuesday night. Castro was just sentenced to life plus a thousand years for holding three Cleveland women captive for more than a decade.

President Obama's push for military strikes against Syria appears to be picking up momentum. A Senate committee takes up a resolution this morning that authorizes the use of force for 60 days with no boots on the ground.

A man police say was responsible for driving into a crowd at California's Venice Beach due back in court today. Nathan Campbell (ph) has pleaded not guilty to killing an Italian tourist and injuring nearly a dozen others.

Bill Clinton speaking today at his presidential library in Arkansas. He's going to go in a bat for Obamacare. Clinton tried and failed to overhaul health care during his presidency.

And at number five, rapper, actor, 50 Cent due in a L.A. courtroom today for pretrial hearing on domestic violence and vandalism charge. His ex-girlfriend says he attacked her during an argument back in June, but his party has entered a not guilty plea.

We will update those five things to know, so be sure to go to for the very latest -- guys.

BOLDUAN: All right. Michaela, thank you so much.

Let's take you back now. We're looking live at Stockholm, Sweden where we're awaiting a news conference with -- press conference with President Obama and Swedish prime minister, Fredrik Reinfeldt. We're going to be -- obviously, we're going to take that to you the moment they walk in, but let's talk about this really what's at stake here in this press conference.

Joining us now to talk more about is CNN chief national correspondent, John King, and CNN's chief political analyst, Gloria Borger, joining us from Washington. Good morning.


BOLDUAN: John, first to you, obviously, we were talking about this earlier in the show. There is a lot at stake in this press conference today. Everyone is calling, it seems, for the president to come out and make his case on the question of force in Syria. What are you listening for? We could expect that could likely be the very first question that he's going to get.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, first, you'll listen and see if the president has any update on his assessment of the mood on Capitol Hill. But what you see is also as important on this trip as what you hear in the sense of, can the president show any additional international support that might make the American people and the U.S. Congress say, OK, we're building a coalition here.

But at the very beginning of this trip, not so much progress. Even the Swedish government. He's got to be standing there with the prime minister. The foreign minister has said they believe Assad is responsible, but they believe the United Nations inspectors should report to the United Nations and that there should be a U.N. process before there is any consideration of military action.

So, even if the first stop here with the friendly government, there's a bit of hesitation to military action at least at this time. And does that impact the debate back home? I think that's a legitimate question for members of Congress. They're mostly looking back at their own districts. What do people back home think?

But if the president can show momentum on the world stage, it would affect the dynamic here at home. However, he's in Sweden now, then he's going to Russia to see Vladimir Putin. The optics of progress don't seem -- he and the president of France, excuse me, I think they're going to spend a lot of time together. Those are the two guys on the same page, and at the moment, that's really it.

CUOMO: And Putin isn't creating an issue. You know, he just gave his big interview to the AP where he's saying, hey, look, if you can show that Assad did it. He's throwing all these ifs in there, but he's not creating the condition. Let's bring in Gloria Borger. You know, the issue is the international community still waiting to hear definitive proof in the U.S. We're hearing lawmakers kind of dismiss the U.N. and their investigation. What do you think the dynamic is?

BORGER: Well, John Kerry has dismissed the U.N. You know, he said publicly, we don't need to wait for them. We can establish a chain of custody. He said that again over the weekend. I think what's going to be interesting for me to watch as this continues and they do get to Russia, they do get to the summit is the way the president of the United States tries to kind of isolate Putin from the international community.

You know, as John points out, France, France will be with us. And Cameron is with us, personally, although, he didn't get his parliament to go along. The president right now is in an international campaign to shift public opinion. Not only in this country, but worldwide.