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LEGAL VIEW WITH ASHLEIGH BANFIELD
Felony Sentences for Cyberbulling Suspects; Charging Parents for Cyberbullying; Jay-Z Breaks Silence on Shopper Race Profiling; Conrad Murray Out of Jail
Aired October 28, 2013 - 11:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: A heartbreaking case of bullying ending in suicide, IT may be starting to sound all too familiar. But in Florida, there's a potentially precedent setting twist. Felony charges for two young girls not even old enough to drive. The victim in the case, Rebecca Sedgwick, was 12-year-old when she jumped to her death two months ago after investigators say she had been relentlessly bullied online. 13-year-old Guadeloupe Shaw and 12-year-old Kaitlyn Romans are now facing felony charges of aggravating stalking. Shaw entered a not guilty plea last week. Romans' arraignment on Friday was postponed.
Romans is being represented by defense attorney, Jose Baez, who also represented Casey Anthony. And he joins me live now from Miami.
Jose, thanks for being with us.
I just want to start off with the comments that you made recently in the press about your client. They sort of riled the sheriff in the case. You said that Kaitlyn is not what her mug shot or the headlines portray her to be, she's a child, and I'm not going to allow the system to bully her. And I wonder if you think that language is appropriate given the fact that we have a dead child who was bullied.
JOSE BAEZ, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: This is a tragedy all the way around. And what I'm trying to do and what our firm is trying to do is to make sure that this isn't compounded. The death of Rebecca is a horrible, horrible tragedy. And I don't think the answer is locking up a 12-year-old child, throwing her out of school, and then going around on national television with her mug shot and things like that, especially since there isn't, and there doesn't appear to be any evidence that my client specifically had -- is responsible for the death of Rebecca. You know, there's nothing worse that you can do than tell someone, "You're responsible for the death of your former friend." And I think it's extremely traumatizing for this young girl and I'm very concerned about it.
BANFIELD: It seems like some of the public comments that you've been making since you took on this representation that perhaps your defense is to shift more of the blame towards the 14-year-old, Shaw. And in this, I'm wondering if your client has made any overtures towards Rebecca's family, apologizing or taking any responsibility for what happened directly to Rebecca's family? BAEZ: First of all, my client has done nothing but express tremendous remorse from the very beginning. She, in fact, went to the vigil and actually went to Rebecca's home. She was very concerned. She was very sorry for the fact that they had gotten into a school-yard fight a year prior and they had a falling out in their friendship. But --
BANFIELD: Did she go to the home since the suicide? That's what I'm wondering.
BAEZ: Yes. She did. She --
BANFIELD: Has Kaitlyn went to the home and spoken with the parents since the suicide?
BAEZ: Absolutely. Absolutely. So, you know, this is a situation where you have two different girls and they're being lumped together. And all of the comments that have been made in the media as to their online bullying and their actions are none of which Kaitlyn is responsible for. Those comments are made by Guadeloupe Shaw. Now, I'm not shifting the blame on to Shaw. We just want to make sure that those people's actions -- the specific person who had this online activity should be responsible for their actions and not for those of someone else.
BANFIELD: Jose Baez, thank you for joining me. I appreciate your perspective today. We'll continue to follow the case and speak with you again about this.
In the meantime, the sheriff in this case has said that he would charge the parents if he could, but that there were no obvious charges that exist in the statute.
CNN's legal analyst and defense attorney, Mark O'Mara wanted to change that. He joins me now outside of Orlando.
And in fact, Mark, you have drafted real legislation. You have history in your experience and background of drafting legislation. And you've done this. You've drafted legislation that you think could be precedent-setting in terms of how parents need to be responsible not only for their children if they're bullying but also if they're children are going to be bullied. Can you give me a synopsis quickly about the legislation?
MARK O'MARA, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yeah, sure. Absolutely. Through a nonprofit we have, we've done basically a bill that first identifies and defines what bullying is and cyberbullying. Right now, in Florida, it's a prohibited act but it's not illegal. We ought to make it illegal. We will address an issue called revenge porn, which is out in California, where they're doing that, where you send out a picture of an act and whatever, and that could be a crime itself. But most controversial, I guess, is that we're are also saying, if the parents of people who are bullying or parents who are being bullied are negligent in watching over their kids' Internet presence, that they can be responsible from a criminal perspective as well.
BANFIELD: The natural question to come out of this is, what is reasonable? What is reasonable to expect of parents to today, who are so incredibly busy, many two income households, two working parents, you know, social networking devices that are as small as a credit card, what's reasonable in terms of asking parents to be on top of everything that their kids are doing?
O'MARA: First of all, parents have to be responsible for what their kids do. It used to be, you can't let them near the guns, we know that's a crime, you can't let them near the car, that's a crime. You have to make sure they get to school, that's a crime. We now have a brand new environment called the virtual reality or the digital world, and unfortunately, kids are getting into a lot of trouble there.
What's reasonable is this. It's not that we're looking to hold parents responsible for one tweet or status update. But if, in fact, the parents are what we culpably negligent -- and that is a concept in the law that if you're truly acting without any reasonable care whatsoever with the kids -- and that has to happen over a length period of time -- and if you are negligent in supervising your children and they do something that either gets them in trouble, causes trouble, even injury or a death, then you can be held responsible.
And I do believe it will pass Constitutional muster. I know it will be somewhat controversial, but we have kids causing the death of other kids and we cannot ignore that as parents or as a society.
BANFIELD: I sense that the most controversial will be holding accountable the parents who end up victimized. It's very painful and obviously it's a crisis we all find ourselves in.
We'll definitely talk more about at another time as well.
Mark O'Mara, good to see you. Thanks for joining us.
O'MARA: Great, Ashleigh.
BANFIELD: High-end department stores under fire today for profiling shoppers, and some black customers are coming forward saying that they were questioned by police right after they made expensive purchases. Is there legal recourse? And how is rapper, Jay-Z, involved in all of this? That's coming up next.
BANFIELD: Two major department stores are under fire this morning, accused of racially profiling shoppers who bought expensive items. One of the stores is Barney's and the other store is Macy's. And now there is a petition calling for rapper, Jay-Z, to break up a partnership that he has with Barney's. He has a fashion line that's set to sell there, and he's remained relatively quiet about the claims, until now.
National correspondent, Deb Feyerick, joins me live now. Get me up to speed on all of this, what happened and how Jay-Z ended up involved in all this.
DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: First of all, we want to say Jay-Z -- his first reaction was to wait and find out the circumstances of what's being called "shop and frisk" are. He's collaborating with Barney's on a fashion line, set to come out at Christmas. All of its proceeds are going to charity.
What happened was two African-Americans, ages 21 and 19, in separate incidences, were stopped by security officers after buying expensive items. And in each case, they were accused of using fake or fraudulent credit cards. Now, Jay-Z was forced to respond and he said couldn't understand why he was being demonized. He issued a statement, saying, quote, "I'm against discrimination of any kind, but if I make snap judgments, aren't I committing the same sin as someone who is profiling."
Macy's also in hot water after two people stepped forward, accusing officers of racially profiling them -- Ashleigh?
BANFIELD: Get me up to speed on the two cases in question. Where do they stand?
FEYERICK: The first was a woman, Kayla Phillips, a college student, who brought a $2500 handbag with a credit card. She went to the register, showed her I.D., then she walked out the Madison Avenue store after paying and she was stopped by four officers, who actually checked the debt card and then had the gall to ask her how she got the money to afford to pay for such a bag. And she described it as being attacked. She is suing the store for $5 million in punitive damages. Here's what she had to say
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KAYLA PHILLIPS, ALLEGED SHOP AND FRISK VICTIM: I had good intentions. I bought my favorite bag. I wanted this bag. I deserved this bag. And then to find out, you know, I'm being accused of using someone else's card? I just really felt demeaned.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FEYERICK: And the other person who was stopped was a 19-year-old college student. He bought an expensive belt. He had seen it worn by a rapper, he wanted it, he used a credit card. The officers at Barney's say they were alerted, and once they stopped him, they asked him also how he was able to afford it.
Again, also Macy's, and HBO actor, Robert Brown, said he was stopped after making a legitimate purchase. In his case, he was actually accused by NYPD officers of using a phony card. He was detained in a holding cell.
And another man stepped forward just this morning, Ashleigh. So it seems to be a pattern that is now under investigation.
BANFIELD: What about the stores? What are they saying publicly?
FEYERICK: Barney's apologized. They say they have zero tolerance for discrimination, quote, "No customer should have the unacceptable experience described in recent media reports." Macy's issued a much shorter statement. They said that they're investigating but they don't comment on matters in litigation. And that's because the actor, Robert Brown, has filed a lawsuit for unspecified damages against the NYPD -- Ashleigh?
BANFIELD: Deb Feyerick, thank you for that. Appreciate it.
Coming up, what if this happens to you? What are your rights? Do you have any rights? And what about the whole $5 million suit? Our legal panel is going to take up this case next.
BANFIELD: Back to our story about Barney's and Macy's digging out from under a barrage of criticism today after claims shoppers were racially profiled after buying expensive items, like a $2500 purse, a $349 designer Ferragamo belt.
I want to bring back CNN legal analyst and defense attorney, Danny Cevallos, and criminal defense attorney, Heather Hansen.
Heather, let me begin with you.
Is there any case that can be made in terms of defense from these stores that these were young people, aged 19, aged 21, and in the case of the HBO actor, 29, but could look fairly young, that young people can't typically afford almost a $3,000 handbag, is that the kind of defense they would mount or is it way too difficult to battle this?
HEATHER HANSEN, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: I think, Ashleigh, that would be a difficult defense. The better defense is whether or not they had policies in place as to how they're supposed to check identification. Barney's has said they didn't do anything with regard to after the sale, and that it was the police department that actually stepped in and pursued that young gentleman. So there's going to be some sort of a conflict here I think between the police and Barney's, and that may be part of their defense, to say we weren't the ones that did this, it was the NYPD. And the NYPD will respond and say the same thing.
BANFIELD: Danny, one of the allegations from at least one of these three is that it came after a phone call from the store and that they were actually stopped outside the store by the NYPD. So if a phone call is made, is that in itself the offense or does there have to be the policy?
DANNY CEVALLOS, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY & CNN LEGAL ANALYST: This is such an important issue with these cases. In many of these cases the first contact is not made by the police but a team of private security forces hired by Macy's, or any store, called LPOS, loss prevention officers. Their job is to walk around and profile the heck out of everybody. Why? Because they can. The Constitution doesn't apply to them the way it would a police officer in measuring whether or not they have enough reasonable suspicion to make an initial contact, a Terry stop to stop and question a suspect. These private loss prevention officers run around essentially unfettered by really any rules, and they're paid to be suspicious. So when they make a call, often the police simply adopt that suspicion that's been raised and then they stop, question and detain. On some level, the police are relying on information from these loss prevention officers from the store itself.
BANFIELD: All right. Well, certainly it is not a good pr issue for either of those stores with regard to what's been going on.
Danny, Heather, thank you both. See you soon.
Coming up, Dr. Conrad Murray got plenty of attention when he went into jail. But this morning, it was a private motorcade that drove him away in the dark. The man convicted in the death of Michael Jackson is now a free man after serving just about half of his sentence. His lawyer is going to join me next on "Legal View."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VALARIE WASS, ATTORNEY FOR DR. CONRAD MURRAY: A majority of Jackson fans get it, a small majority don't. My client received the maximum term possible. This is a man that had no prior record. He had 20 years of exemplary service as a physician. He was given the maximum term. He served every possible day. They didn't let him out a minute early.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BANFIELD: That was hard to hear because there were a lot of hecklers at that late news conference. Hecklers upset because Conrad Murray is now a free man after being released over night in Los Angeles. You'll remember that a jury found Murray guilty in 2011 of causing Michael Jackson's death. He served nearly two years of a four-year sentence for involuntary manslaughter. And now that he's out, Murray would like to get this medical license back.
The woman you just heard is Conrad Murray's attorney. Valerie Wass joins me live now.
Valarie, thanks for being with me.
How is it he got out so soon?
WASS: Well, he served every day that he was required to serve. He was entitled to one day of custody credit for each day that he actually served. So he couldn't have served any more than he did.
BANFIELD: And I know he's appealing this conviction, but in the interim, it's fascinating to a lot of people that Dr. Murray would like to get his medical license back. In that vein, I just want to read for you -- I know you've probably heard it, but for the viewers -- what the superior court judge actually said during the sentencing. Michael Pastor said, "Dr. Murray created a set of circumstances and became involved in a cycle of horrible medicine, engaged in a recurring continuous pattern of deceit, of lies. And regrettably that pattern was to assist Dr. Murray. Jackson died not because of an isolated one-off occurrence or incident, he died because of a totality of circumstances which are directly attributable to Dr. Murray, because of a series of decisions that Dr. Murray made."
Does Dr. Murray actually think, with words like that on record, that he could ever get his license to practice medicine back?
WASS: Well, that was the comment of Judge Pastor. That was one individual. And I was at the sentencing hearing. And I believe that that statement was orchestrated for a live television audience. He was quite harsh. I disagree with his perspective.
BANFIELD: Understandably, you disagree, but it's record, and it would come up in any hearing, because it's the judge who originally would hear the application to get a medical license back. And Dr. Murray would have to be cross-examined, which means his orders would be on the record, which means they could come into any appeal. Don't you find this a very tricky wicket to be in?
WASS: Gosh, that's a hard question because a medical board proceeding is an administrative hearing, not a court proceeding. And the sentencing, what happened at the sentencing, isn't evidence. That was just the judge's commentary. The medical board proceeding looks at what occurred, and we believe that the evidence does not support what the prosecution contended and that he was not on a Propofol drip. I strongly disagree with Judge Pastor's take on the situation.
BANFIELD: I want to ask you just quickly, your client appeared on Anderson Cooper in April and sang a song about a little boy. I think we have video we can just show while I'm asking you this question. It struck of as very odd. We'll listen to a little bit of it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BANFIELD: I think when we listen to that, the question has to be, Valerie, does he have the mental fortitude to practice medicine? What's his mental state like at this time?
WASS: I believe he does have the mental fortitude to practice medicine. He's -- I talked to him about 3:00 a.m. this morning. He was -- he was elated to be out. He's -- I've talked to him, spent many, many hours talking to him during his incarceration. I believe he's perfectly capable of practicing medicine. Just because he sang that song doesn't mean he's an adequate doctor.
BANFIELD: Valarie Wass, we'd like to continue this as it progresses through the system. We invite to you come back at another time.
Valarie, thank you for being with us.
WASS: Thank you.
BANFIELD: And thank you, everyone, for watching. I'm flat out of time. AROUND THE WORLD starts right now.
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