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U.S. Attorney Launches Investigation Into Georgia Teen School Mat Gym Death; Toronto Police Link Drug Video to Mayor; Tunnel Found From San Diego to Tijuana; Woman Stabbed While Video-Chatting with Husband

Aired November 1, 2013 - 11:00   ET


ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: A Georgia high school student found dead in a rolled up gym mat. An accident, or a murder? Ten months after Kendrick Johnson's death, a U.S. attorney agrees to a federal investigation.

Plus, huge developments in New York City's controversial stop-and- frisk policy. A federal appeals court not only blocked sweeping changes to the policy, but injects a personal tone by removing the trial judge who ordered those changes.

And a drug tunnel as long as six football fields, equipped with an electric rail system, lighting and ventilation, built to smuggle drugs from Mexico and discovered in California.

Hello, everyone. I'm Ashleigh Banfield. It is Friday, November 1st, and welcome to LEGAL VIEW.

They will never have Kendrick again, but they will settle for the truth at the very least, and today, Kendrick Johnson's grief-stricken parents are savoring new hope that they might finally learn how their healthy, athletic 17-year-old son ended up dead and rolled up in a gym mat in his own high school in the middle of the day.

As a lot of people expected, and the Johnson family very much wanted, the top federal prosecutor in southern Georgia has decided to launch his own investigation.

And we get the details now from a reporter who has pushed very hard, nonstop, in this case, four months. Perhaps we might get some answers, too.

Here's CNN's own Victor Blackwell.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Ashleigh, at this very moment, relatives of Kendrick Johnson's are standing on a street corner in downtown Valdosta with a sign that reads, "What happened to Kendrick Johnson?"

But today is different, because for the first time in months they know that a law enforcement agency is come in to get an answer to that question as well. Not just any law enforcement agency, the FBI.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) BLACKWELL: After months of rallies and protests, an announcement that the family of Kendrick Johnson hopes will lead to what they consider to be justice.

MICHAEL MOORE, U.S. ATTORNEY FOR MIDDLE DISTRICT OF GEORGIA: At this time, however, I am of the opinion that a sufficient basis exists for my office to conduct a formal review of the facts and investigation surrounding the death of Kendrick Johnson.

BLACKWELL: U.S. Attorney Michael Moore, supported by the FBI, will soon head to Valdosta, Georgia, to conduct a federal investigation into the death of 17-year-old Kendrick Johnson.

MOORE: I will follow the facts wherever they lead. My objective is to discover the truth.

BLACKWELL: Kendrick's grandmother watched the announcement on a portable TV on the street corner where the family continues its eight- month sit-in demanding answers.

BARBARA ENGLISH, KENDRICK JOHNSON'S GRANDMOTHER: I'm so happy. And I know we trust in the Lord, and we just haven't been down here, railing for 32 weeks for nothing.

BLACKWELL: The Johnson family never believed the local sheriff's explanation that Kendrick suffocated after squeezing his 19-inch shoulders into the 14.5-inch center of a rolled gym mat to reach for a shoe in the middle of a school day.

BENJAMIN CRUMP, JOHNSON FAMILY ATTORNEY: His parents have always maintained that their son was killed. And the only question we want to know is why they covering up for whoever killed their son.

KENNETH JOHNSON, KENDRICK JOHNSON'S FATHER: I believe, indeed, that he was murdered.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR, "THE SITUATION ROOM": Do you have any idea who may have murdered him?

JOHNSON: No, I don't. That's what we wanted to get down to the truth.

BLACKWELL: CNN has been reporting on this case for months, uncovering details of the sheriff's investigation, like why these shoes found yards from Kendrick's body were not collected as evidence, and how this blood stain got on this wall in the gym and why investigators never found whose blood it was.

BLITZER: And you don't believe there was a thorough investigation by local authorities, Mr. Johnson?

JOHNSON: No, I don't.

BLACKWELL: In a statement to CNN, the attorney for the Lowndes County sheriff's office writes, in part, "While Sheriff Prine has every confidence that his officers' investigation was handled with the necessary diligence to assure that all leads were examined and exhausted, he welcomes the U.S. attorney's further review of the case."

On Wednesday, a judge ordered Lowndes County sheriff's office to hand over its full investigative file, including never-before-seen surveillance video from inside the gym where Kendrick died.

ENGLISH: Just continue to fight on until justice is done for K.J.


BLACKWELL: And today, a tech expert is working with the attorney for the sheriff's office to try to get the Johnsons all that surveillance video, 48 hours from up to 40 cameras in and around the gym, close to 1,900 hours of surveillance.

For tech savvy people, that's about a terabyte of information. Now, that will go to the Johnson, also to CNN, as a result of the lawsuit the Johnsons filed, one that CNN joined. We could get it as early as today, most likely, next week.


BANFIELD: All right, CNN's Victor Blackwell, thank you for that. And just phenomenal reporting as well. Victor and his producers have been on this for 10 months and it's why it's a national news story now.

And I want to bring in a former federal prosecutor to see what happens next, our own Jeffrey Toobin, CNN senior legal analyst and a writer for "The New Yorker" and a bestselling author many times over, and the first person I thought of when it came to this case.

I don't quite get it, why ten months after the fact we now have the announcement that, yes, we'll look into it.

When I first read the story months ago, it sounded weird to me, and it sounded like there were unanswered questions.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Political pressure, media pressure, that's how the system worked.

Because of the work that CNN has done, the work that other journalists have done, this has become a big issue in Georgia and around the country.

And I think the U.S. attorney, quite properly, responded to that pressure by saying, let's look into it, because there is a lot to look into here.

BANFIELD: Oh, is there ever. Some of that -- the way the evidence was treated. some of the mystery still surrounding the evidence.

But before I get to that part of the mystery, just the political part of the mystery, the family cheering on the street just to hear that the feds will take another look.

There's no federal murder statute. They can't come along and say, we're going to charge someone with murder, so what can the feds do? TOOBIN: The most obvious potential crime, if there is a crime at all, would be some sort of violation of Kendrick's rights. That would be a racially-motivated crime, is something that the feds could prosecute, if they found it.

But I wouldn't dwell too much on the technical, legal aspects of this. What they're going to do with the resources of FBI, which are considerable, is say, what happened here? How did Kendrick die? Did someone kill him? If so, who did it?

If the feds can answer those questions, and if they can say he was the victim of a murder, someone will prosecute them, whether it's the feds or the local authorities.

BANFIELD: So what you're saying is that, all of a sudden, money bags shows up with all the resources that you said about the FBI, et cetera, and they could effectively deliver a criminal case to the local authorities and say, here are some of the things you missed that you might want to take a second look at.

But they cannot order them to do that?

TOOBIN: That's true. The federal government cannot order the state to bring a murder case or any other kind of criminal prosecution.

But let's just -- that's a bit ahead. Let's see what happens. Let's see if the feds discover any crime at all took place here. Then we can worry about who would prosecute it.

BANFIELD: And like you alluded to, the evidentiary issues here, so many things not tested, not collected, mysterious blood stains, et cetera, there's plenty for them to look at.

TOOBIN: But, unfortunately, 10 months later. it's very hard to see what's left to investigate.

BANFIELD: Stick around. There's another legal case I want you to weigh in on, as well, if can, Jeffrey Toobin. Thank you for that.

But also, a woman at home talking with her soldier husband serving overseas about the baby that they're about to have that's about to be born is stabbed and beaten.

It is a bizarre story and a tragic story. I'm going to bring it to you, next.


BANFIELD: Now, to a fast-growing scandal, and honestly, there's no other way to put it than scandal, north of the border, a mayor allegedly behaving very, very badly. And not just any mayor, Mayor Rob Ford of Toronto, the largest city in Canada.

Back in May, a newspaper reported the existence of what they said was cell phone video showing Mayor Ford smoking crack.

He promptly denied any such thing.


MAYOR ROB FORD, TORONTO: I do not use crack cocaine, nor am I an addict of crack cocaine.

As for a video, I cannot comment on a video that I've never seen or does not exist,


BANFIELD: Well, that was then, and today is today. See the headline? "It's real and Ford is in it."

Toronto police say they've actually found the video on a hard drive in a deleted file. They say the video's real and it may just be the video that everybody's been talking about and that it, in fact, is Ford.

Have a listen.


CHIEF BILL BLAIR, TORONTO POLICE: The video digital file that we have recovered depicts images which are consistent with those that had previously been reported in the press.


BANFIELD: My colleague Ivan Watson is following this story from New York.

Ivan, I don't even know where to begin. Why -- first of all, the police are not saying. flat out, we have the video, it is the mayor and this is exactly what he's doing. They're couching this.

IVAN WATSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah. But they are make it very clear that the video is consistent with the previous press reports, definitely alluding to the reports by the "Toronto Star," for example, saying that they said seen, their reporters. videos of what looked like Mayor Rob Ford smoking crack cocaine.

So the -- also the Toronto police chief going one step further, saying he's very disappointed by the results of this investigation into drugs and gangs, an investigation that has led to the arrest of -- this week of one of Mayor Rob Ford's friends and occasional drivers, a man named Sandro Lisi, who we're waiting to see where he's going to be in court any minute now on bail charges.

This photo you're looking shows the mayor, Rob Ford. It's part of this 400-something page police report, investigation, and it shows the mayor in front of what the police describe as a crack house with two suspected drug gang members who were both shot last March, one of them dying and the other wounded in that incident.

So, as Mayor Rob Ford stands strong and denies ever using any crack cocaine, on the other hand, there's a lot of evidence showing that he's been hanging around with people with multiple convictions and believed to be affiliated with gangs.

BANFIELD: And hanging around? My goodness, his driver, a man named Sandro Lisi, was arrested yesterday, charged with extortion, apparently accused of using extortion to retrieve a recording, although the details of the recording aren't public yet.

This is a driver who apparently is also suspected of drug trafficking. They've been seen at hockey games together.

Is this a matter of time before the noose really tightens around the mayor of Toronto, or does he seem inoculated still at this point?

WATSON: I think it's important to note that the mayor himself is not really facing any charges at this time. There's just an awful lot of suspicion and scandal swirling around him, and he's insisting that he's innocent of these charges.

But, yeah, this Sandro Lisi gentleman, who has multiple convictions before, he's been charged with assault in the past.

And during this surveillance of this man, as part of this sprawling investigation by the police, he is shown repeatedly with Mayor Rob Ford, believed to be exchanging packets or documents or things like that. And of course, even more suspicion that he's now facing extortion charges for allegedly trying to get back some kind of evidence.

The big question I guess many people will want to know is whether or not the alleged video of the mayor smoking crack, whether that could be released as the court procedures move forward against him. That's something everybody is going to be waiting for.

BANFIELD: Dear God, that will be a headline in both countries. By the way, Ivan, just as you were saying that, there was some breaking news that cam across our wires from "The Toronto Star." That man I just quoted, Sandro Lisi, the driver affiliated with Mayor Ford, he's just been released on bail according to "The Toronto Star." So, some developments there. We will await that court proceeding today to see if that video becomes public.

Ivan Watson, thank you for that.

And just ahead, a tunnel the size of six football fields used to haul marijuana and cocaine from Mexico to the United States, but not anymore. That thing has been shut down, but we're taking you on a tour, next.


BANFIELD: Welcome back to LEGAL VIEW. I'm Ashleigh Banfield. Highly sophisticated is what officials are calling a massive drug tunnel found connecting San Diego and Tijuana, Mexico. U.S. officials say that it was built by one of Mexico's most notorious drug cartels.

The tunnel stretches the length of nearly six football fields underground. CNN's Miguel Marquez has more on the discovery and why officials are saying this is just the tip of the iceberg.


MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Ashleigh, that's the door that agents broke through. And behind there is where the tunnel ended coming up from Mexico. It's always in one of these nondescript warehouse areas it seems. It's about 600 yards that way on the Mexican side. And the same thing, another nondescript warehouse where this tunnel began. Officials say there were three arrests made, but they are small fish. These are individuals who they describe as diggers of the tunnel or transportation. One thing they did promise here in a very big press push they made for this bust is that there will be more arrests.

DEREK BENNER, U.S. IMMIGRATION AND CUSTOMS ENFORCEMENT: I would offer this to the drug cartels, we are, by no means, finished here. And don't say we didn't warn you. You go underground, you're going down.

MARQUEZ: Law enforcement insists that this investigation is only beginning and they do expect more out of this investigation. They also say that the Sinaloa Cartel is responsible for the digging of this tunnel. They say that it zig-zaged and points, which seems to indicate that it was sophisticated at some degree, they also got off target and had to right themselves to get to this point here.

They also underscore that the reason that they're coming out so strong and making such a big public push about this tunnel being found is that there's been a lot more drugs in the last couple of years, hard drugs, cocaine, methamphetamine, and heroin coming into southern California. This is also, keep in mind, the eighth big tunnel or super tunnel and 75th tunnel they've found across Arizona and San Diego or southern California.

So, it is a problem and it is growing and they want to warn drug dealers that whether you go under the border, over in ultralight planes as they have about or around by ocean and by boat, there will be surveillance and they will be busted. Ashleigh.


BANFIELD: Okay, Miguel Marquez, thank you for that really remarkable pictures.

Got other stories for you right now. A monster storm hitting the northeast and bringing severe thunderstorms. These strong winds already causing flight delays out of New York and Philadelphia. Boston is also getting bashed as well. If you are traveling. You know the domino effect. Make sure you check before you go.

A terrifying ordeal for some children. That's their school bus in a ravine in Kansas after plunging off a bridge and into a creek and flipping on its side. Despite the pictures you're seeing, it is amazing that the ten children on board were not injured. All managed to climb out through a hatch and were safely rescued from on top of the bus, but listen to this boy's account.


UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: We climbed out and got on top of the bus. I thought I was going to die.


BANFIELD: The driver was trapped for more than an hour before being rescued. He is now being treated for hypothermia.

And this is going to come as good news for a lot of people. You're soon going to be able to use your laptop, your tablet, your Nintendo, all the way from takeoff to landing onboard your next flight, because the FAA has ruled that each airline is soon going to be deciding on whether to let passengers to use portable electronic devices while up in the air and on the ground and in between as well. That's gate-to- gate, folks. But there is still a ban on cell phones. You can only use them in the airplane if they are in airplane mode and not actually using the cell option.

In other news, a baby on the way and a brand new puppy. This was supposed to be one of the happiest times of this expecting mother's life. But a heartfelt video reunion with her husband deployed overseas turned into something terrorizing.

Police say 31-year-old Rachel Pool was video chatting with her husband, who is serving as a soldier overseas, when a fellow soldier back here brutally stabbed her with the camera still rolling, Pool's husband could only witness the attack and sit by helplessly as his wife cried out for help. Our affiliate KFOX has more.


BILL MELUGIN, KFOX REPORTER: El Paso PD says this Fort Bliss soldier, 19-year-old Corey B. Moss came to this home Wednesday night to confront 31-year-old Rachel Pool, who is nine months pregnant, about money he owed her. Police say Pool wasn't home. So Moss broke in through her back door and waited for her to come home.

Pool walked into the kitchen and started face-timing on the phone with her husband, a soldier who neighbors tell me is currently deployed overseas. Police say that's when Moss attacked her from behind with a knife. Pool immediately recognized her attacker and began screaming his name to her husband over the phone who police say could hear everything that was happening.

Police say Moss continued to beat and stabbed her until he finally fled the scene and returned to Fort Bliss. Pool was able to call 911, and when officers arrived, she told them her attacker's name. Moss was later found with the knife, arrested, and reportedly admitted to the entire attack.

Pool suffered several stab wounds and bone fractures, and was last listed in critical condition in need of surgery, though police say her baby is in good condition. Investigators were still on scene today bringing out bags of evidence from the home. And Pool's husband had a steady flow of support from friends on his Facebook page. He made several posts including one asking which hospital his wife was at. And another with a picture of the wife's attacker asking the public to help police find him.

Police charged Moss with criminal attempted murder booked him into the El Paso County jail on a bond of $60,000.


BANFIELD: And again our thanks to KFOX for filing that report. We'll keep you updated on this story, and our thoughts go out to this family. Also our thanks to Bill Melugin from that affiliate for filing the report for us. Just unbelievable what that soldier is going through and his wife.

By the way, I've just got breaking news that I'm coming into contact with here. And apparently that soldier has returned home. He has been brought home to be reunited with his wife as she recovers. I'm going to keep a look on this breaking news file and make sure I update you throughout the program as to what's transpiring in this case. That's one bit of silver lining that he's been able to come home after this ordeal.

Switching gears here. Controversial police technique, you've heard about it. It's called stop and frisk. It's also called racist, it's called a bunch of other things as well, but you can call it almost in effect yet again because it's coming back possibly to the streets of New York City, and it all has to do with judges and how they don't see eye to eye. I'm going to explain in a moment.