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LEGAL VIEW WITH ASHLEIGH BANFIELD
U.N. Says Humans Cause Global Warming; Congress Prepares Short- Term Budget Fix; Kenyan Terror Attack Investigation Continues; Tainted Cantaloupe Charges; $300 Million Grant to Detroit; 20 Years for Warning Shot; Extortion Charges for Miss Teen USA Alleged Blackmailer
Aired September 27, 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: Islands are sinking, downtown Miami is drowning, ocean levels rising fast, and the planet is heating up.
A new U.N. report by a thousand scientists says we are the cause of all of this, and the damage is done for the next 1,000 years.
A stunning revelation in the Kenya massacre, the terrorists who did it were reportedly running their own store inside that mall, operating it for a full year before that deadly attack.
And Down's Syndrome didn't keep Brittany from joining her high school cheerleading squad, so she doesn't understand why school officials want to keep her off the sidelines and, frankly, we don't quite understand it either.
Wait until you hear their reason.
Hello, everyone. Welcome to the LEGAL VIEW. I'm Ashleigh Banfield. It is Friday, September the 27th.
And here's a fact about our planet from an exhaustive new U.N. report on climate change. I do hope you will listen closely. Each of the past three decades has been warmer than all previous decades since 1850.
That is beyond any kind of uncertainty. It is beyond political spin. Do not tweet me to defy me. You can look it up. It's just a fact.
The effects of the heat, you can debate it to a point. The cause, well, now we're getting somewhere.
Hundreds of the world's top scientists say they are more sure than ever, in fact, 95 percent sure, that humans, you and me, are primarily to blame for all of this, humans who drive cars, humans who burn coal and otherwise spew stuff like that, lots of dirty carbon, into the atmosphere.
Chad Myers joins me from Miami with one undeniable effect of the warmer Earth, rising oceans.
I saw you on television this morning telling a story about walking through what you thought were puddles. Those were not puddles in the street.
What were they and why is it so significant?
CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: We arrived on Wednesday and I drove down or up Alton on Miami Beach, not so much the beach part, but the back bay, kind of like near Biscayne Bay.
And I drove there and I saw water in the street and I went, oh, wow, there must be a busted water main like we get in Atlanta all the time.
And we stopped and pulled over. And I said, What's going on? And I said, Are they going to fix the water main?
They looked at me like what are you talking about? This is the ocean. This is the high tide backing up the sewers and flooding our streets. It happens every fall when the water's warm and the tides are high.
And I thought, wow, we did not really think we were going to drive into flooding because of the higher water, but that's what we saw.
It's undeniable here in Miami, Miami Beach and Hollywood. The water is going up.
MYERS: The ocean is rising quicker than in decades past. And predictions made by some research scientists make the situation sound pretty dire.
HAROLD WANLESS, UNIVERSITY OF MIAMI: By the mid-part of the century, 2050, 2060, most of the barrier islands in the world are going to have to be evacuated.
MYERS: That includes Miami.
It's hard to imagine iconic Miami Beach deserted, but it is obvious that rising water is already a common problem here.
On a sunny day, a high tide is enough to flood some streets.
JAMES MURLEY, SOUTH FLORIDA REGIONAL PLANNING COUNCIL: We live on limestone. Limestone is like a porous sponge, so we really can't use levees to hold back the water.
MYERS: While the city continues to find ways to deal with the excess water, many experts say there's no way to stop it.
MYERS: And we saw barricades and sandbags all along Alton because the water just sits there during high tide.
Let's put one more foot of water on top of this for just say one foot sea level rise from here for Miami Beach.
What does that look like?
So you're telling me every single street here that's blue is going to have water in it if we get a one foot rise in sea level?
PETER HARLEM, FLORIDA INTERNATIONAL UNIVERSITY: Yeah. And the tides if we get king tides, it will be a little higher than this.
But this is essentially showing you the places that are going to be affected first.
MURLEY: The important thing is to keep observing what's happening, to look at all the ranges and projections, and then come back to the policymakers and say, here's the actions you have to take.
MYERS: The Southeast Florida Climate Change Compact has been created to monitor and help mitigate the harsh consequences of climate change.
MURLEY: They're not sticking their heads in the sand. They know this is a real problem.
MYERS: Ashleigh, if you think about it, the ocean's seven miles deep in some spots, four miles deep in others.
Think about a thermometer that you hold on to the bulb as you warm the thermometer, the stuff goes up, mercury, alcohol, whatever it is. That is what's happening to the ocean.
The ocean is a four mile, seven mile long, tall, thermometer and all of that water is expanding. The expanding water is making the sea level rise and it's evident here and it's going to be evident in New Orleans and all the cities up the East Coast. All you have to do is look. The water is going up.
BANFIELD: So you know, Chad, after super storm sandy hit and of course, after all of these infamous storms, Katrina and the like, the conversation keeps returning to climate change as well. Is that also something that can be blamed on climate change, these mass storms?
MYERS: You know, the 95 percentile is a really good number because 12 years ago, our number was 60, 66. Five or six years ago, it was 90.
Now it's 95, 95 percent chance that Americans, that everybody across the world, all the people that use energy across the world, burning fossil fuel, are responsible for this.
If there's a 95 percent chance of rain, would you take an umbrella? Yes, of course. We don't know all the other things that might happen.
There might be fewer hurricanes. There might be more in some areas, less in some areas. We simply don't know that. Our models aren't that good.
You have to have some history to get a good future. There hasn't been a history of this. This climate has only started changing for about 50 years.
People will tell you it's been warmer than this 50,000 years ago, 200,000 years ago. Yes, but it took 50,000 years to get warmer.
Here, we're talking 50 years to get warmer. That's the ramp. That's not a slope.
BANFIELD: Yet there is always this huge debate, in fact, my Twitter will be electrified by this, people arguing there are plenty of scientists who will say otherwise, but this is hard to refute.
When you have this many countries, are they all in collusion together with their scientists? It's very hard to refute this.
Chad Myers, thank you for such distressing news about that.
Also, some other news that I think we should be distressed about, to say the very least. Within the next couple hours, the Senate will very likely send a very, very short-term government spending bill.
And when I say short-term, it's a month and a half, a month and a half of government spending. That's what all this hullabaloo has been about.
That spending bill is going to be headed back to the House and ObamaCare will be intact. It will not be excised the way the House sent it to the Senate. No, it's going back clean with ObamaCare in it.
So what happens then? Because that's going to determine whether all the federal offices that you use or need and the agencies and the parks and museums that we all want to go to will, in fact, stay open for business when the new fiscal year begins on Tuesday.
Our Dana Bash is watching, so, Dana, here's the question. It feels as though today is not as much of an issue as this very bad work weekend for the House.
Is there any inkling at this point of a budge or a longer agreement or something that will get us past this obnoxious deadline which is now becoming boring and repetitive?
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The thing that is most disturbing is that nobody knows the answer to that right now.
In fact, my colleague Jamie Dupree who has covered Congress for years and years just had a great line. He said he just went over to the House and talked -- he's never talked to so many lawmakers who answered his question with "I don't know."
And I've had the same experience. Part of the issue is, and the big issue is, Republicans who run the House really feel like they can't act, they can't decide, they can't convince their restive caucus of what to do until they actually see in black and white, they hear, the Senate actually take the vote, which we expect them to take, which is taking out the defunding of ObamaCare from the bill funding the government.
So we're basically after that, we're going to be in a holding pattern. In fact, actually, the House which you would think maybe would wait for the Senate to act in a couple of hours, stick around, pass this bill since we're so close to the government shutdown, no. They're going to recess until tomorrow morning. Some members of Congress are going back to their districts.
BANFIELD: Of course. Of course. I raised this question when I was talking to Gloria Borger and Wolf last week thinking about this third option. I read it in "The National Journal."
It was the third option which gives everybody a little bit of wiggle room, which gives the House an option to say, all right, look, we'll capitulate on this, we'll pass this clean bill.
But we're going to attach to it the notion that we get to delay ObamaCare for a year, and add in a whole bunch of other special things. Is there any legitimacy to that?
BASH: Yes. That's what's happening and that's precisely why yesterday we were reporting that the House leadership made a very clear point of announcing to their caucus in a private meeting their plan for the debt ceiling.
They were going to raise the debt ceiling, but adjust, like you said, delaying ObamaCare, the Keystone pipeline, basically the entire priority list on that.
That's a way for the Republican leadership to say to their members, stick with us on this one; keep the government open; the next fight is around the corner.
BANFIELD: OK. Stay tuned, and get your sneakers. I think you're working a weekend shift, Dana Bash. Sorry to announce it. You already knew.
Dana Bash, live for us on Capitol Hill, as always.
Talk about boldness and daring, officials in Kenya say those involved in the deadly Westgate Mall attack actually rented a shop inside the mall for a full year in preparation for this horrifying assault.
And investigators just this morning announced that they now have eight suspects, not 11, eight still in custody. They let three people go.
I want to go straight to CNN's Arwa Damon, who is live for us in Nairobi.
So the latest details on the people they have, the information they're getting, and then, of course, the identification process and the involvement in Interpol, this is a very intricate post-crime analysis.
Where are they at?
ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It most certainly is, and they are being quite tight-lipped about a lot of these specifics taking place here.
There are forensics teams that are on the ground, combing through the rubble, taking photographs, trying to presumably fingerprint, positively i.d. the attackers and potentially any other victims who may still be inside the mall complex. Remember, there are more than 60 people who are still missing or unaccounted for.
Now the road right behind me, that leads straight to Westgate Mall. It is over to the right around 500 feet down. This is open for the first time since the attack took place. We walked down there.
The police and military onsite won't even let you stop to take a look, but we were able as we were walking by to see some of the bullet holes on the exterior of the mall around one of the smaller windows.
A lot of questions about how it was that these attackers were able to rent out that store for an entire year. Also giving us an idea of just how sophisticated this attack potentially was.
It's also raising questions as to whether or not the attackers were able to smuggle weapons into the mall prior to the attack taking place.
Of course, a lot of concern right now about more threats coming from Al-Shabaab.
A lot of people are very worried, wanting to know what kind of plan the Kenyan government and the security forces here have to prevent this kind of a security lapse from taking place, once again, Ashleigh.
BANFIELD: Very distressing, those pictures are just remarkable as well.
Arwa Damon, live for us in Nairobi this morning, thank you.
I want to check some other top stories we're following as well today.
Two former cantaloupe farmers are facing federal charges that are tied to the deadliest outbreak of food-borne illness in decades. At least 33 people died after eating cantaloupe that was tainted with listeria back in 2011.
The cantaloupe from the now bankrupt Jensen Farms in Colorado was the culprit. The brothers, Eric and Ryan Jensen, could face prison if convicted of selling something they called "adulterated food."
They, however, say in their defense that all of this was a terrible accident.
The White House is sending bankrupt Detroit more than $300 million in federal aid, but don't go calling this a bailout.
Officials say the new and repurposed grants come from existing programs Detroit is eligible to tap.
It is not a miracle cure, either, because that city's liabilities top $18 billion with a "B," $18 billion.
Still to come, Miss Teen USA is just one of several women authorities say a college student threatened with "sextortion." Our legal panel is going to take on this case and explain why it matters to you and your children.
But first -
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARISSA ALEXANDER: Had I not discharged my weapon at that point, I would not be here.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BANFIELD: That is Marissa Alexander on the right, serving a 20-year sentence for firing a gun during a domestic dispute with the man on the left.
Now, however, she's getting a new trial, but will she be allowed out of prison and will the trial end any different?
That, in a moment.
BANFIELD: When Marissa Alexander alleged that her abusive husband was coming at her to strangle her, she picked up a gun and she fired a shot. Not at him, into the wall, warning shot, get away. Protecting myself, I'm standing my ground.
Trouble is, there were kids, her own kids, in the room where that shot was fired and that, my friend, is actually a charge. It's an assault, and she got 20 years for it. But now, that result has been thrown out and she may be completely retried. Gary Tuchman explains how this all happened.
GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: She walks down the jail hallway in handcuffs. Marissa Alexander has been sentenced to 20 years behind bars, convicted of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. She says she was defending herself, standing her ground, from a husband who had been arrested before on charges of abusing her.
He was arrested for doing what to you?
MARISSA ALEXANDER, SENTENCED TO 20 YEARS IN PRISON: He choked me, he pushed me forcefully into the tub, he pushed me so hard into the closet that I hit my head against the wall and I kind of passed out for a second.
TUCHMAN: Her husband received probation after that incident. Months later, Alexander says she was in the bathroom at their home here in Jacksonville, Florida, when her husband started pounding on the door. She says he was in a jealous rage over text messages on her cell phone.
ALEXANDER: He managed to get the door open and that's when he strangled me. He put his hands around my neck. TUCHMAN: Alexander got away from her husband and then made a fateful decision. She could have run out the front door and escaped. Instead, she went into the garage but says she did not have her car keys and the garage door was stuck. So instead, she grabbed her gun she kept in this garage.
What did you think you were going to do with it?
ALEXANDER: I thought that I would have to protect myself. I --
TUCHMAN: Were you thinking you might have to shoot him?
ALEXANDER: Yes. I did. If it came to that. He saw my weapon at my side, and when he saw it, he was even more upset and that's when he threatened to kill me.
TUCHMAN: How was he going to kill you if you're the one with the gun?
ALEXANDER: I agree. I thought it was crazy, too.
TUCHMAN: Why didn't you run out the door at that point?
ALEXANDER: There was no other way to get out the door. He was right there threatening to kill me.
TUCHMAN: What if you ran around him to go out the door -- your life would have been easier today if you did that.
ALEXANDER: Yes, but the law states I don't have to.
TUCHMAN: The law she's talking about is the controversial "stand your ground" law. Instead of running, she did what she thought was allowed by law; she believed she stood her ground and fired the gun into the wall. Nobody was hurt, but it was enough to scare her husband, Rico Gray, and he left the house with his two young children from a previous relationship.
Alexander was safe from her husband, but not from the law. She was arrested. Her "stand your ground" defense, rejected, and found guilty by a jury.
Marissa Alexander's husband Rico Gray agreed to do an on camera interview with us to counter his wife's allegations, but a few hours later, he made the decision not to do the interview, claiming that going on camera would put his life in danger.
However, later he sent us an e-mail saying he would do an interview if he got paid, which CNN does not do.
But he has already said quite a bit. During a deposition with the prosecutor from the office of State Attorney Angela Corey and a defense attorney for his wife, Rico Gray acknowledged hitting his wife in the past, and said this about the shooting incident. Quote, "if my kids weren't there, I knew I probably would have tried to take the gun from her. I probably would have put my hand on her." Marissa Alexander's attorney then asked the husband what he meant about putting his hand on her, and Rico Gray responded, "probably hit her. I got five baby mamas and I put my hands on every last one of them except for one."
ALEXANDER: I believe when he threatened to kill me, that's what he was going to do. That's exactly what he intended to do, and had I not discharged my weapon at that point, I would not be here.
TUCHMAN: But later, at a court hearing to determine whether Marissa Alexander should get immunity based on the "stand your ground" law, Rico Gray changed his story, saying he lied repeatedly in the deposition to protect his wife, claiming he did not threaten to kill her, and testifying quote, "I begged and pleaded for my life when she had the gun."
The jury deliberated for 12 minutes before convicting her. The Jacksonville NAACP wrote a letter to the trial judge, saying Marissa Alexander may not have received justice because of her gender, race, or economic status. Some African American news web sites are saying much the same thing; that if Marissa had been white, her "stand your ground" defense would have been accepted and she wouldn't be facing 20 years in prison. But Alexander will not say if she agrees with that possibility.
ALEXANDER: I'm going to be honest, I'm uncomfortable answering that.
TUCHMAN: For now, Marissa Alexander's main hope is that an appellate court agrees to hear her case. She had a baby girl with Rico Gray three years ago, but she only sees her child in photographs. Rico Gray has custody. He's considered the victim. His wife, the criminal.
ALEXANDER: This isn't my life I'm fighting for. This is my life and it's not entertainment. It is my life.
TUCHMAN: The 20-year sentence is a mandatory 20 years, meaning no chance of parole.
Gary Tuchman, CNN, Jacksonville, Florida.
BANFIELD: You may fall somewhere on either side of this story. I don't think that's the point of this issue. That is 12 minutes of deliberations? Twelve minutes? My coffee doesn't cool in 12 minutes of deliberations. When it comes to a federal sentence which is just about total 20 years.
So Marissa Alexander's lawyer was kind enough to respond to CNN, come on NEW DAY and talk to Chris Cuomo about what they're doing because she's still sitting in a jail cell.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FAITH GAY, ATTORNEY FOR MARISSA ALEXANDER: The first thing that's going to happen is we're going to make a new bail application so maybe she can get home and see her family.
CHRIS CUOMO, HOST, CNN NEW DAY: What are the chances?
GAY: It should be good.
CUOMO: But she's not convicted if there's a new trial, what's the grounds for keeping her?
GAY: Well, the seriousness of the charge and also, certainly the prosecution will cite past record in her altercations with her violent ex-husband.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BANFIELD: Stay tuned to this space. We will absolutely continue to follow this story to find out how this adjudicates.
Does your laptop or your tablet have a web cam? Most of them have them right in the middle. If so, what do you do when it's open or nearby? Do you even think about it? Miss Teen USA, Cassidy Wolf, learned the hard way that pictures can be taken of you whether you're clothed or not in the privacy of your own home without you knowing, and you can be extorted by them. You're going to find out who did it and how they got him, next.
BANFIELD: I have said this before and I will say it again. In fact, I will say it until I'm blue in the face. If you have a web cam and you're not using it, put some tape over it like this. It's so simple. It doesn't cost much. Black electricians tape. Nothing, no hacker, no brilliant computer scientist, not even the FBI, can shoot a picture of you through this.
The trouble is, Miss Teen USA did not know that and there was a 19- year-old guy who allegedly just hacked right in and started snapping away, then went even further, extorted her, saying I got the pictures and I'm going to ruin your life unless you give me more.
Now they found him. It's not looking good for the guy who is now being accused, 19-year-old Jared James Abrams is accused of doing this to this young woman, and many others, and now Miss Teen USA, Cassidy Wolf, said this on the "Today" show.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CASSIDY WOLF, MISS TEEN USA: It's weird for me to be able to put a face to the person who did this to me and to know that it was somebody that I went to high school with. That's just -- it's weird and it makes me -- it's a mixed emotion, honestly. He terrorized me and many girls for so long and I just think that now, you know, it's coming to real life for me as well that this person did this to me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BANFIELD: Well, young Jared James Abrams is actually charged officially with federal extortion charges. That enough? Could there be more? And how did they find him, anyway? CNN MONEY's Laurie Segall joins me now live, CNN legal analyst and defense attorney Danny Cevallos. First to you, the reporter, who knows a lot about the internets and the series of tubes. How did they get to him?
LAURIE SEGALL, CNN MONEY: A lot of ways. They were able to track down his IP address. His IP address, they were able to associate with him, then take it a step further, look at the e-mails, look at the correspondence. They were able to actually find him in forums asking about malware attacks. Now, you look at this story, he was able to attack using malware. They found him asking how to control web cameras. They had enough to actually go and arrest him, Ashleigh.
BANFIELD: So Danny, I said it, federal extortion charges. At first blush, that sounds very serious, but I was waiting for child pornography charges, because some of these victims are allegedly under 18 years old, trafficking, which could lead to someone ending up being a registered sex offender, I don't care how old you are. Was this the lesser of a lot of things he could have faced?
DANNY CEVALLOS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: There are theoretically a lot more federal charges and remember, there are also state charges. The state is a separate sovereign. California has a very specific extortion statute in this instance. You see, when people came up with extortion and blackmail as crimes, they never contemplated Skype or the internet or the fact that someone would demand not money, but a video of someone in the nude. That just wasn't contemplated.
BANFIELD: This is allegedly what he was doing, he was contacting these victims, again allegedly, saying look what I have on you, I'm going to completely destroy you unless you set up a live Skype session with me and let's have some fun.
CEVALLOS: Amazing. Originally when contemplated, blackmail involved handing over a bag of cash. Now the statutes have to evolve and the courts have to evolve to include the idea of not giving up property, but actually giving up private I guess information in the form of a video.
BANFIELD: Get this. Apparently again, according to the allegations, one of the victims, while she was downloading the Skype and complying with this blackmailing, said please remember I'm only 17, have a heart, to which he allegedly replied I'll tell you this right now, I do not have a heart. Also, age doesn't mean a thing to me.
Before you go off the rails, his family and his attorneys say he's autistic. Does that mitigate anything at all in what looks like a horrifyingly premeditated evil aggravated case?
CEVALLOS: First, if you're talking about insanity, I think that's a tough call because it's not that the actual defendant doesn't know something is right or wrong. If he's aware that society knows it's wrong, then he's not going to be able to claim insanity. If you just look from that little verse right there, he seems pretty aware, or he's been told, at least, that what's going on is not cool.