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Could a Deal be Coming?; Egypt in Crisis; Parents Wants Investigation on the Death of Son; Blind Man Beating

Aired October 11, 2013 - 04:00   ET



REP. ERIC CANTOR (R), MAJORITY LEADER: We had a -- we had very useful meeting. It was clarifying I think for both sides as to where we are.

SEN. HARRY REID (D), MAJORITY LEADER: Let's wait and see what the count does. When they send us something, we'll look at it as clearly as close as we can


ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: A very useful meeting. So could this be a breakthrough? The possible new path this morning to avoiding economic disaster. Is Washington on the verge of actually working?

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Chaos in Egypt. Protesters preparing to hit the streets marking 100 days since a violent military coup took out the president there. We are live.

SAMBOLIN: Freak accident or murder cover-up. Parents demanding answers after facts of their teenage son's death just don't seem to add up.

BERMAN: This story gets more and more interesting every day.

SAMBOLIN: It's incredible. Incredible.

BERMAN: Good morning, everyone. Welcome to EARLY START.

SAMBOLIN: It's Friday.

BERMAN: It is. I'm John Berman.

SAMBOLIN: And I'm Zoraida Sambolin. It is Friday, October 11th. It is 4:00 a.m. in the East.

BERMAN: Which is early, folks. But let us start with the very latest from Washington. Because this morning after a standoff now in its 11th day there are signs of crucial progress.

Overnight on Capitol Hill, they have reportedly been working. At a minimum they are not finger pointing and that in itself is a huge, huge development. This after Republican leaders emerged from a 90- minute meeting with President Obama at the White House and called the meeting useful. SAMBOLIN: Useful. Yes.

BERMAN: Useful might not sound like much to regular human beings but in Washington these days, honestly I think those words are close to epic.

On the table right now is a possible temporarily deal to raise the debt ceiling which could avoid what most economists believe would be near-certain economic disaster.

SAMBOLIN: Well, what about the government shutdown?

BERMAN: Ending the partial government shutdown is another matter completely, but there are signs there might be some movement on that this morning as well.

Senior White House correspondent Brianna Keilar has the latest.


BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): An encouraging sign after House Republicans met with President Obama at the White House.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would characterize this as probably the most constructive.

KEILAR: And pledge to keep the talks going.

CANTOR: We'll have more discussion. We'll come back to have more discussion.

KEILAR: On the table a compromise that would increase the debt ceiling for six weeks. The White House said the president looks forward to making continued progress with members on both sides of the aisle but the government shutdown is still up in the air. President Obama and congressional Democrats insist the government reopen as part of a deal. Republicans want concessions from the president to make that happen.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Republicans were pretty clear earlier today they want to negotiate for you to reopen the government. Is that --

REID: Not going to happen.

KEILAR: Even as they were meeting, more signs the Republican strategy is hurting them in the public's eye. In a new NBC/"Wall Street Journal" poll, 53 percent of Americans now blame Republicans for the shutdown, 31 percent blaming the president. Only 24 percent have a favorable opinion of Republicans, 21 percent have a favorable view of the Tea Party. Both numbers at an all-time low.

And governors in states where national park closures are hurting tourism are starting to get fed up.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Come on down to southern Utah. The parks are open.

KEILAR: Utah brokered a deal with the Department of the Interior to fully fund park service personnel and reopen its parks. Colorado, Arizona and South Dakota may follow suit.

On Wall Street, the Dow soared to its biggest one-day gain for the year. Hungry for good news just one week before the U.S. is set to hit the debt ceiling. A six-week debt ceiling deal would take us to November 22nd just as holiday shopping season gets under way.

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president said the other day that if they were to send them a clean debt ceiling extension, no partisan strings attached, he would sign it.

KEILAR: Brianna Keilar, CNN, Washington.


SAMBOLIN: Our thanks to Brianna.

And one consequence of the shutdown that had many people angry is now resolved. The president has signed a bill allowing the Pentagon to once again pay death benefits to families of fallen service members. A private foundation has stepped in to provide the money with the promise of government reimbursement to once the shutdown ends. That will remain in effect until the Pentagon is able to once again get its program up and running.

BERMAN: You know, as Brianna mentioned, one sign that a lot of people like this deal Wall Street was very happy with the news that both Republicans and Democrats are talking and potentially close to a possible deal on averting at least the default.

Stock index shot up more than 2 percent. The Dow climbed 323 points. The Nasdaq was up nearly 83 points and the S&P up 36.

SAMBOLIN: So right, John. But that does not mean that the markets are not still nervous.

JPMorgan Chase is the latest big-time money manager to pull out of short-term government bonds amid worries the country could default. The company sold off all of its government debt that might come due in late October or early November. Fidelity investments have also sold off its holdings in short-term bonds.

BERMAN: Five minutes past the hour. And some different news out of Washington. A report accuses the Obama administration of taking unprecedented steps to block reporter access to government information. The report by the Committee to Protect Journalists says that President Obama has fallen well short of his promise of government transparency. It found sources in government officials are increasingly afraid to talk to the press and a group said anti-press measures are the most aggressive since the Nixon administration.

SAMBOLIN: Americans are slowly getting on board with Obamacare. CNN has reached out to officials in Washington, D.C. and the 14 states that operate their own insurance marketplaces. And their numbers show more than 122,000 people have created accounts and over 75,000 have made their selection and they have signed up.

The federal government is not releasing figures for the other 36 states.

BERMAN: To Egypt now where it has now been a hundred days since President Mohamed Morsi was ousted from power. Violence there has only been increasing ever since. And now with the U.S. planning to withhold some aid to the military there, tensions really could not be higher.

Ben Wedeman in Cairo this morning. He joins us on the phone.

Ben, we understand in the city there they are gearing up for what could be some very large protests today.

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that is the fear that there could be big protests. For instance, last Sunday, there were large protests where more than 50 people were killed. Now there are, for instance, armored personnel carriers, stationed on bridges leading to Tahrir Square. The government has made it clear it has a zero tolerance policy toward these demonstrations, but has to step back and look at the situation is, indeed, very difficult since the military overthrew the rule of President Mohamed Morsi.

More than a thousand people have been killed in violence. More than 2,000 members of the Muslim Brotherhood have been imprisoned including most of the senior leadership. And there doesn't seem to be anything in the way of an olive branch being extended by the government here towards the Muslim Brotherhood. Quite an impasse and it appears that most of the political action is really just street action and street violence.

BERMAN: Ben, we mentioned in the toss to you that the U.S. has cut off some aid to the Egyptian military. There have been a lot of criticism here in the U.S. from like Senator John McCain and others that the U.S. had not cut off this aid earlier.

I'm wondering what the reaction has been on the ground in Egypt to that?

WEDEMAN: Well, there's a variety of reaction, sure. Yesterday we heard from the Egyptian Foreign Ministry saying in a statement that it was an ill-advised decision certainly given the fact that the Egyptian army is currently in a low-level fight against what they call terrorists in the Sinai Peninsula.

Yesterday four soldiers were killed, five were wounded when a car bomb went off in the Sinai and the Egyptian government is saying this is the worst possible time to cut off aid when they are fighting terrorism. So there really is a sense of anger at the United States which really predate that decision.

Many Egyptians angry because the United States is perceived to have been supportive of the government of Mohamed Morsi and on a personal note, I first lived in Egypt back in 1980 when sort of the relations in a honeymoon phase. At this point it's really gone downhill. I've never seen such a high level of anti-Americanism in Egypt ever -- John.

BERMAN: Well, Ben, fascinating to get that perspective 33 years later. Appreciate it.

Ben Wedeman, in Cairo this morning, thanks so much.

SAMBOLIN: Very compelling images there. Terrible.

All right, a government warning about Edward Snowden. Apparently slipped through the cracks years before he leaked thousands of classified documents. Back in 2009 when he worked at the CIA in Geneva, a supervisor wrote that he suspected Snowden was trying to break into classified computer files. That report wasn't in Snowden's personnel file but apparently it went unnoticed. It was four years later when working as an NSA contractor that Snowden leaked the information about the U.S. surveillance programs.

BERMAN: Snowden's father is actually in Russia today, hoping to meet with his son for the first time since he became an international fugitive. Russia granted the 30-year-old temporary asylum. You'll remember last August he's not been seen in public since.

Snowden is wanted in the U.S. on espionage charges. His father said he's not sure if his son is will ever return to this country.

BERMAN: So you're wondering what it's like outdoors?


SAMBOLIN: Let's get an early look at our weather with Samantha Moore.

SAMANTHA MOORE, AMS METEOROLOGIST: We have a nor'easter working its way up the coast for the end of the workweek and that's going to bring in the clouds and the rain and New York City and to D.C. Philadelphia as well. And Houston is going to be low clouds that could slow you down if you're heading in or out of international or out of Houston Hobby Airport.

It is going to be a wet kind of gray end to the workweek and start to the weekend across the northeast and we will see coastal rain from this nor'easter that's just lingering why off the coastline. That'll bring in those unsettled conditions there. Plenty of sunshine across the southeast in through the central plain states but we have a series of systems working their way through the intermountain west that will bring rain and the snow and those cold conditions continuing here across much of the Rockies in through the Wasatch.

Ahead of that front, some showers across. Texas will -- just want to keep those umbrellas handy if you're out and about in the Austin area. And then across the Pacific Northwest it is still cool and damp. I mean, these temperatures are on the coolish side across much of the Pacific Northwest in the 50s as we head this day on our Friday. Pretty nice across Southern California and upper 60s there. Cool for them. Across the southeast incredible temperatures. We'll be looking at 79 in Atlanta, just perfect conditions, 83 in Memphis. We should make it up to 87 in Dallas and in Houston still a little hot and sticky there. We'll let's stay cool and gray and damp in the northeast. I hope you guys have your sweaters handy.

Back to you.

SAMBOLIN: Actually, I thought it was kind of warm this morning when I walked out.

BERMAN: Really?

SAMBOLIN: Maybe I'm just a little crazy.


BERMAN: Yes, a little -- yes, other things going on there, I'm sure.

SAMBOLIN: Apparently. I don't know what you mean by that.


Coming up, angry and ignored. Parents demanding justice when questions about their teenage son's mysterious death go unanswered.

SAMBOLIN: And three rabbis accused of kidnapping, torture for a price. Who paid the holy men to get them help from hit men? Coming up next.


SAMBOLIN: Welcome back to EARLY START.

We've been telling you about the new disturbing evidence in the case of a Georgia teenager found dead in a high school gym. Police insist that this was an accident despite an independent autopsy concluding that it was murder.

And as Victor Blackwell tells us, all the family wants is the truth about what happened.


VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): On the day Kendrick Johnson would have turned 18 his family still is seeking answers in his death.

KENNETH JOHNSON, FATHER: I walk into his room and I kiss his picture and say, happy birthday, Kendrick.

BLACKWELL: In January, Kendrick was found dead in the center of a rolled gym mat at Lowndes High School. According to paramedics it was a crime scene and they noticed bruising on Kendrick's right side jaw. Lowndes County Lt. Stryde Jones was on the scene that day. LT. STRYDE JONES, LOWNDES COUNTY, GEORGIA SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT: We examined all the alternatives that were presented to us and the only one that fit, the physical evidence and the forensic evidence and the testimonial evidence we received was this an accident.

BLACKWELL: Investigators believed Kendrick climbed on to these rolled mats, slipped his 19-inch shoulders into the 14-inch center of a mat to reach for a shoe they say that got stuck upside down.

K. JOHNSON: Accident. We just didn't believe. You could tell he was beaten.

BLACKWELL: Now the family is asking the school board to release any surveillance video from that day in order to see if any clues could be found there.

CHEVENE B. KING, JR.. JOHNSON FAMILY ATTORNEY: We believe that these videotapes would clearly answer many of the questions that have surfaced over these many months.

BLACKWELL: In June, the Johnsons exhumed Kendrick's body. They hired Dr. Bill Anderson to conduct an independent autopsy and he checked that bruised right side jaw.

BILL ANDERSON, PATHOLOGIST: We're able to diagnose to check. There was indeed blunt force trauma to that area.

BLACKWELL (on camera): So he took blows to the neck?

ANDERSON: He took at least one blow to the neck.

BLACKWELL (voice-over): Lowndes County investigators stand behind their investigation.

JONES: We found an area on the wall that appeared to be blood and we tested it and it was blood. Now we did DNA testing, it was not the blood of Kendrick Johnson.

BLACKWELL (on camera): Did you find out who it was or any --


JONES: No. As of now, we haven't. No. But it doesn't appear to be related to our crime in any way.

BLACKWELL (voice-over): Now the Johnsons have new questions about what happened when Kendrick's body was removed from the gym.

ANDERSON: When we got the body for the second autopsy, the organs, the heart, liver, et cetera, were not with the body.

BLACKWELL: A spokeswoman for the state tells CNN after its autopsy the organs were placed in Johnson's body, the body was closed and then the body was released to the funeral home.

(On camera): What was in the place of the organs? JACQUELYN JOHNSON, KENDRICK JOHNSON'S MOTHER: Newspaper.

BLACKWELL: Newspaper.

(Voice-over): In a letter to the Johnsons' attorney the owner of Harrington Funeral Home which the Johnsons hired to prepare Kendrick's body for burial says he never received Kendrick's organs. He writes, in part, "His internal organs were destroyed through a natural process and henceforth were discarded before the body was sent back to Valdosta."

It's another tragedy for a family forced to find a new way to celebrate a birthday.

K. JOHNSON: Only we can celebrate his birthday is pushing and trying to get justice for Kendrick.

BLACKWELL: Victor Blackwell, CNN, Valdosta, Georgia.


BERMAN: Our thanks to Victor for his continued fantastic reporting on that story.

Seventeen minutes after the hour. A strange new twist in the case of Ariel Castro. He of course is the Cleveland man who admitted holding three women hostage for upwards of a decade torturing and raping them. You'll remember he was found hanged in his jail cell last month.

Now a new report on his death from the Ohio Department of Corrections gives indications it may have been the result of autoerotic asphyxiation. But the coroner disputes that insisting she believes that it was suicide.

SAMBOLIN: She said that they were actually out of their lane and even discussing this without talk to her first.

Eighteen minutes past the hour. New revelations in the Aurora movie theater shooting case. A digital forensic detective testified that there were Internet searches on James Holmes' computer for the words rational insanity. The detective also said he found Web searches related to weapons, firearms, ammunition and movie theaters. Holmes, as you know, is accused of killing 12 people and injuring some 70 others. He has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.

BERMAN: Two former Navy football players will face court-martial in the alleged sexual assault of a fellow midshipman while she was incapacitated. Midshipman Eric (INAUDIBLE) faces an abusive sexual contact charge. Joshua Tate is charged with aggressive sexual assault. Both -- they're also charged with making false statements. All charges against a third ex-player were dismissed.

SAMBOLIN: A huge court victory for Toyota. A jury in Los Angeles ruling in favor of the auto giant rejecting claims that a Camry involved in a fatal accident in 2009 was defective. There are pictures right there.

The case was brought by the family of Noriko Uno. They claimed the 66-year-old California woman was killed because her car accelerated suddenly and slammed into a tree. After four and a half days of deliberations, the jury disagreed.

BERMAN: A really bizarre story now from suburban New York City involving Jewish religious leaders. The FBI has now arrested rabbis accused of pressuring reluctant husbands into getting religious divorces.

The investigation finding that orthodox women would pay the rabbis up to 100,000 to convince their husbands to divorce them in that convincing came at the hands of armed thugs who used karate and even cattle prods to get the message across.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is unspeakable crime any time you have individuals who go against other legal lawful people who are just living their lives and violence is committed it's just something that is unspeakable and something we will try to stop.


BERMAN: Prosecutors claim that the shakedown happening for some 20 years. The rabbis could face life in prison if convicted.

SAMBOLIN: All right. So this is an incredible story. A family reunion eight decades in the making. Eighty-year-old P.J. Holland meeting blood relatives for the very first time in his life. He was born right outside Cincinnati during the great depression the child of an unwed mother. Before faking his age and joining the Army at just 16 he lived in an orphanage.


P.J. HOLLAND, FOUND FAMILY AFTER 80 YEARS. But all of the orphans had people visit them on people's day except knee but there was no -- no relatives. That is the first time I've seen a picture of my mother. It's been a long, long time, I was wondering where are they? Who are they? Why?


SAMBOLIN: Oh, my goodness. Holland searched for decades while making a family of his own. A DNA test finally led him to a cousin who had taken the test on a whim. So now Holland says he has a clear picture of who he is for the very first time. What a sweet story.

BERMAN: Never too late.

SAMBOLIN: Yes. And never give up. Never give.

BERMAN: Never. (INAUDIBLE) long time coming.

SAMBOLIN: All right. Coming up a blind man brutally beaten right on the street in broad daylight and what witnesses did may shock you.


SAMBOLIN: Welcome back to EARLY START.

We have a truly disturbing story for you now. It hails from Philadelphia. A blind man simply walking down the street kicked and stomped. He was seriously hurt and the worst part, witnesses whose side happening did absolutely nothing.


SAMBOLIN (voice-over): The pictures are horrifying. A blind man seen here on police surveillance video being savagely beaten on a Philadelphia street. Police have now released pictures of a suspect, Mustafa Guyton. Officers say Guyton lives near the intersection where that beating took place. They say the 33-year-old victim was walking down the block when the suspect approaches him.

Though the camera panned away you can see in the next shop the suspect kicking the victim and stomping on him. Enduring his face and head. Police say after the brutal attack the suspect picked up a backpack and walked away. Police did not say indicate any possible motive for the attack.

Even more shocking is that it appears that three people walked witnessed it and seemingly did nothing.

It's -- you know, despicable, really.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And then the guy that does it just walks away. Like nothing happened. It's kind of ridiculous.

SAMBOLIN: Residents of the neighborhood were just as disgusted that this happened.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is really bad. Especially people that can't defend themselves. The guy is blind.

SAMBOLIN: This is not the first case of bystander apathy. In Queens a Good Samaritan, homeless man was fatally stabbed coming to a woman's aid and was ignored by people walking by. And in this surveillance video a Philadelphia transit officer struggled with the fare evader as multiple witnesses watched without calling police.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People just might not to want to get engaged because they think that the perpetrator may be carrying a gun. Being a Good Samaritan these days is riskier than it used to be.

BLACKWELL: So when you see something like that, you want to jump but is it the right thing to do for your end safety?


SAMBOLIN: And police are now hoping that the release of the surveillance video and the photo of the suspect will help them find the man who did this. The victim apparently has told them that he did not recognize his attacker's voice so they are searching for any information they can get from the public about this horrific and brutal crime.

BERMAN: You Know, social scientists have been dealing with this phenomenon for decades. You know, since (INAUDIBLE) hear in Queens, people see something going, know something is going on but choose not to get involved. Sometimes it's fear, sometimes it's the thought of someone else will take care of it, sometimes it's just apathy.

SAMBOLIN: It's terrible. It's terrible to watch when you have video like that and we see it, and somebody is being brutally beaten and nobody takes action. get it, you never know if somebody has a gun. There is that fear factor.

BERMAN: All right. Coming up next for us. They put their lives on the line for our country but now the government shutdown is leaving these wounded vets shut out. That's coming up next.