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Florida Bullying Charges Dropped; The Most Popular President

Aired November 22, 2013 - 07:30   ET



CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): The charges against two teenage girls in Florida may be dropped, but the fight against cyberbullying is far from over.

SHERIFF GRADY JUDD, POLK COUNTY, FLORIDA: Our stance has not changed one bit.

CUOMO (on camera): Right.

JUDD: If you bully, if it rises to the level of stalking we'll arrest you.

CUOMO (voice-over): Last month Sheriff Grady Judd arrests the teens now 13 and 14 for aggravated assault after allegations they bullied Rebecca Sedwick online, leading her to commit suicide.

JUDD: If the same set of circumstances occurred today, I would make the same arrest.

CUOMO: Investigators say they tormented Sedwick for months with messages like "Why don't you go kill yourself."

TRICIA NORMAN, VICTIM'S MOTHER: I just don't understand how anybody could be cruel to another human being like that.

CUOMO: Now the youngest girl's attorney, Jose Baez.


CUOMO: Well known for representing Casey Anthony says his client is the victim, calling the sheriff, quote, "reckless" after he publicly identified the girls and showed their mug shots. The sheriff fired back.

JUDD: In the state of Florida, they are public record. It is against the law for me not to release names and photographs.

CUOMO: Baez demanded an apology from Judd, but the sheriff isn't budging.

JUDD: We did exactly what we set out to do. Had there been no arrest, there would be no counseling for these two girls who bullied Rebecca Sedwick and that's what we were after.


CUOMO: So joining us this morning is 13-year-old Katelyn Roman, her dad, Emilio Roman and her mother, Michelle Gill, as well as, of course, Criminal Defense Attorney Jose Baez. Thank you to all of you for joining us.

Now when you watch that story, Katelyn, everybody has seen this in terms of the arrest and what it meant and what happened. What does it mean to you, what you lived through here? What do you take from all this?

KATELYN ROMAN, CLEARED OF CHARGES IN "CYBERBULLY" CASE: Well, all this that has happened, I want to make all this negative stuff a positive. I want to move on from this and become a better person.

CUOMO: When you look back and we now know what happened to Rebecca, when you look back on things, what do you think it was? Do you look back on things that happened with you and the other girls and Rebecca and say I wish this hadn't happened?

KATELYN ROMAN: I mean, yes, there were some things I couldn't change, but I didn't really do anything wrong.

CUOMO: When you say you didn't do anything wrong is that you didn't do anything that you thought would make this happen?


CUOMO: Because I know it can get rough with kids, right?


CUOMO: Especially girls, boys, too. I have them both as children, but girls can be mean to each other, right? And what do you think you've learned here because of everything that's happened?

KATELYN ROMAN: Well, maybe you should watch what you say and words do hurt. You should use them carefully and try not to hurt people's feelings.

CUOMO: Certainly this is a hard thing for you to live with also now, right?

KATELYN ROMAN: Yes. It was very hard to deal with this.

CUOMO: And what do you do, what do you tell yourself in terms of how to move forward from this? How to live your life because you're still so young?

KATELYN ROMAN: I want to stop bullying and I want to help anyone that's getting bullied because I don't want this to happen to anyone else.

CUOMO: You're one of those kids now. You walk around the school. If you see somebody saying things or doing things, you'll be one of the kids who step up now? KATELYN ROMAN: Yes.

CUOMO: Not easy, right?

KATELYN ROMAN: Not that easy.

CUOMO: Because the pressure is always telling us as long as it's not me who's getting bullied, keep on moving. So it's hard to stand up. Do you think you can do it?


CUOMO: Now, of course, it comes to the question of whenever a child is involved in something, as old as you are, you're still somebody's child. You still have your parents. In this situation there was a lot of shock to you because there was an arrest. You're all of a sudden in the system. When you look back as parents, Emilio, I'll start with you. When you look at the situation, you understand now the totality of the circumstance as we say in the law. What is the lesson as a parent and what you have to watch for with kids?

EMILIO ROMAN, DAUGHTER WAS ACCUSED OF BULLYING: Well, you know, you really have to be on top of them a lot more. You know, I feel real bad about what happened to Rebecca. I had a child that got killed by a car. I know how she must feel right now. But I think that, you know, you really need to look at everything they do. You need to be on top of them more. That's all.

It's kind of hard when you're computer illiterate. I'm going to take a class so I know all that stuff. I'm not really good with the computers and all that stuff. That was one of the -- but she didn't do any bullying is the thing. He keeps saying that she was and basically it was a fight a year ago and that was it. There was no contact between her and the other girl, none.

CUOMO: What did you know about what was going on between the girls because something happened. There was some dynamic in play over the course of just about a year that was obviously very painful to this kid, Rebecca Sedwick. So what did you know at the time?

MICHELLE GILL, DAUGHTER WAS ACCUSED OF BULLYING: I knew that Katelyn and Rebecca were probably best friends, that they had had some issues together that they ended a friendship, but Katelyn and Rebecca were best friends. This is a tragic thing that happened to Rebecca's mom. But I also have a kid that was also affected by this whole thing and how did I feel about did Katie do something, is that what you're asking me?

CUOMO: What the dynamic was. We have to move past the blame because in these situations you have to start understanding how to parent, you know, through these types of situations. They're going on whether your eyes are open to them or not. So the question is, what do you see now and what you could have done in this situation as kids dynamics, one day we're best friends, the next day we hate each other. You know, it goes back and forth. GILL: I think this was a typical teenager fight. I think that what happened with Rebecca happened with any child that goes through depression. I think that Rebecca was depressed and I know that all the other girls that were involved in this probably made the situation worse, but I think that Rebecca was also depressed.

CUOMO: Well, kids can be fragile.

GILL: We need to watch our children for depression.

EMILIO ROMAN: She was very fragile. I knew her.

CUOMO: Those are things we can't anticipate, but it's why you have to check your behavior. I know it's hard with all the cyberbullying and everything. But what would you do differently going forward? Your husband was speaking to the fact you want to be able to check the devices.

EMILIO ROMAN: Cell phones.

GILL: Ask your child how they are every day after school. See if they're having problems in school. See if there are any problems with other children.

CUOMO: Because sometimes it's not aware. Is that a fair to say that sometimes even though you're smart and sophisticated, you're a teenager now, you weren't when this was happening that you may not know that you're being mean the way you're being. You may not know that this is a problem because you're just living your life and this is how kids are?

Do you think that's a fair -- not a criticism but a fair observation of what can happen with kids, after the fact you know because you got yelled at. After the fact you know because someone told you it was wrong. In the moment, did you ever think I wonder what this is doing to Rebecca?

KATELYN ROMAN: I did I felt bad but you know, I can't change it now, but I want to move past it.

JOSE BAEZ: CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Chris, let's -- let's separate the cause from the actual facts. The facts are that they got into a school yard fight almost a year prior.

CUOMO: I got it. Jose, I'm not cutting you off. I want to do another segment on this. Stay with us. Let's take a commercial now and I want to discuss how you see the case, how it developed and what's going on now with Katelyn going forward because it's not over for her yet either. OK? We'll take a quick break. Stick with us. More of this discussion on the other side.


CUOMO: OK, back with me is 13-year-old Katelyn Roman, her dad, Emilio Roman, and her mother, Michelle Gill as well as Criminal Defense Attorney Jose Baez. As we were talking, there is frustration on your part because I'm asking what have you learned, what have you learned? It is important for people to know, Jose, you say that don't treat her like something she did was wrong because that's not what has been reflected by the investigation.

BAEZ: I've gone through all of the evidence. The thousands of pages of discovery that are clear and the one thing that is clear is that Katelyn, there's not one single incident of Katelyn cyberbullying anyone.

CUOMO: So the sheriff's contention that yes, we dropped the criminal charges, but that's only because these kids are young enough to be in juve and they're going to get the treatment they need in juve. It's being dealt with there. You are saying that is not so.

BAEZ: Let me see if I can be clear. That's a lie, OK. What he's doing is trying to put a spin on this. We, as the defense team, have arranged for Katelyn to get counseling, not only because of losing her best friend, but for what this sheriff has done to her. He's trying to say how glad he is that she is getting counseling and that was his goal all along.

Well, I'm sorry, I don't think his job is to traumatize children by putting their mug shots on them, calling them little felons, and then going on TV every chance he gets to talk about how they are attackers and so forth. I'm outraged by his conduct. There was zero evidence against Katelyn. They got into a fight in school almost a year prior and that was the end of their interaction with the exception of a couple of text messages.

And those were not even inflammatory. So for him to come out and -- he's really trying to save his public image here. At this stage, you don't make arrests first and get evidence later and especially when you're dealing with children.

CUOMO: So Michelle, where does that put your head and your heart in this situation?

GILL: It makes me mad. My kid has been put up with another child as one of the most wanted criminals in the world. I've had people at my house. I've had death threats on my child. I've had to be afraid to come back to my own home, all because her photo was released --

EMILIO ROMAN: And address.

GILL: Photo, address and phone numbers. My child couldn't go anywhere without people seeing her face. Everyone knows her face because, isn't everyone innocent until proven guilty in this country?

CUOMO: That's the way the system is supposed to work. The question is how do we apply the system to these situations? Look, nobody's going to believe it more than you now that bullying is a problem.

BAEZ: I get it. I get it.

CUOMO: We see it with kids all the time. We're always trying to figure out how to take the next step to show it's not tolerated. This sheriff became a heroic figure because he took the steps to make sure it wouldn't happen again. What do we do? What's the answer?

BAEZ: In an attempt to try and bring awareness and do the right thing to a very serious situation, these two children, specifically this child --

CUOMO: It's important to distinguish, right?

GILL: Yes.

BAEZ: I don't represent --

CUOMO: The facts lead in different directions when we're talking about the other girl involved.

BAEZ: Correct.

CUOMO: True?

BAEZ: Correct. This child here did nothing wrong, did no criminal acts and I think -- I certainly believe that there's possibly a place in the justice system for bullying, but this was not the case. She's here to show her face, a face of innocence, not on a mug shot. That's important to Katelyn.

CUOMO: And in talking to you, Katelyn, it seems like it's also important to you that, look, you're so young. You don't want to be what this incident is about. You want to be what your life is going forward. You say you're going to choose to make this something that's positive for you and something that can help you moving forward. How are you going to do that?

KATELYN ROMAN: Well, I want to start a campaign. I want to help other kids stop bullying. I want to do lots of things.

GILL: Tell him about --

KATELYN ROMAN: I want to see if I can work with the anti-bullying guy.

CUOMO: As somebody who you understand the problem. You may not have been the problem, but you understand it by living through all of this. What do you want to tell other kids if they're listening and saying I don't know what happened there but I can say what I want, that's just how kids are. What do you say to them?

KATELYN ROMAN: I want to tell them that you can bully and maybe not even know you're doing it. You just need to look at yourself and say, wait, am I doing something wrong here.

CUOMO: If we start looking at ourselves even when we're young maybe that's the best remedy we have right now for this situation. Thank you, Katelyn for being here, Michelle, Emilio, I appreciate you coming here. I know this is hard. I know that you feel like victims also in this situation. Jose, thank you for representing the interest and telling us the legal side of it. Appreciate it. Kate, over to you. KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks, Chris. Coming up next on NEW DAY, the nation looks back a half century after President Kennedy was killed in Dallas. We're going to talk with a Kennedy expert about why his assassination still fascinates the country.


MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: It has been 50 years since the death of President Kennedy, a CNN poll has reveal him as the most popular president of the last half century. The poll conducted earlier this week reveals that while JFK has easily won our hearts with 90 percent. The remainder of the top five really aren't that much of a surprise.

Kennedy's rival for the White House in 1960, Richard Nixon rounds up the list with 31 percent probably not exactly a shocker. What is more shocking perhaps is that Kennedy's vice president and successor, Lyndon B. Johnson is also low on the list.

Another surprise perhaps to many, Jimmy Carter, polled in a 60 percent approval rating. Here to discuss all things is -- all things Kennedy, welcoming him back to the show, Phillip Shenon, author of the "Cruel and Shocking Act." It's so good to have you back here on such a significant day as we pause and reflect these 50 years that have passed.

What do you think about, let's look at these poll numbers again, it's interesting to see that since his death, his approval rating was 58 percent. It's 90 percent now all these years later.

PHILLIP SHENON, AUTHOR, "A CRUEL AND SHOCKING ACT": It's remarkable. The assassination obviously has something to do with this sort of golden tragic legacy of the man. We're always going to remember him as this charismatic, handsome, movie star figure. If his presidency had gone on, it might not have been so successful and obviously it had great flaws.

PEREIRA: There is something about revisionist history. We tend to overlook the flaws of people that we've lost prematurely especially, don't we?

SHENON: Absolutely. You know, look at recent history, look at Princess Diana, for example, she will always be this golden figure because of the tragic circumstances of her death.

CUOMO: I think it's extension beyond the figure as well that winds up figuring into this. It was such a flash point in history. We started the segment with a song a man was singing it, but it was a song written by Moms Mably, the black comedian. It made John Kennedy to a reflection of all of us at that time and that, do you believe, is a big part of the enduring strength of the image.

SHENON: Absolutely. We just remembered this man at the absolute apex of his power and charisma and charm and we will always remember him that way because he didn't have the chance to live any longer.

BOLDUAN: You've studied the man, the president, and that day especially, more than most. It's a great book that you wrote. How do you think that day has, how that moment, how that day changed the country?

SHENON: I think it's been referred to as the day that America lost its innocence. I'm not old enough to remember it, but it was a much more innocent time in America and it affects my book in the sense the Warren Commission staffers come to Washington believing the government will tell them the truth, believing the CIA and FBI will not hide evidence from them. It's after the Kennedy assassination, after the Warren Commission that our national cynicism grows so strongly.

BOLDUAN: Do you think that also fuels why people continue to be so fascinated with the conspiracy theories around his assassination?

SHENON: Absolutely. It refers back to our original question, which is it is hard for people to imagine that the most powerful and glamorous man on the face of the earth could have his life ended in a millisecond and the course of history changed by this one young unstable man with a $21 mail order rifle.

PEREIRA: It's interesting, I've been thinking about the flame and how it burns on sort of in perpetuity and we talk about the evolution of a memory, these 50 years, and I'm sort of thinking about the next 50 years. There is concern that those, you don't have a memory of that time. Kate and I and Chris, we weren't alive at the time. So you think about how time protracts. I wonder how that will evolve going into the future, the memory of this president.

SHENON: Indeed, I think Kennedy is so iconic and Oliver stone made him iconic in many ways as well, that this will go on, our children and grandchildren will know about John Kennedy.

PEREIRA: I'm curious about the shape, it's become fairytale already. We talk about the Camelot and the family, et cetera. It will be interesting to see how that all plays out.

SHENON: We've learned many ugly things about the Kennedy presidency in the years since and as your poll shows it still doesn't affect his standing with the American public.

CUOMO: I think that's about extension of the symbol to the rest of society that if somebody remains just a man or just a woman, eventually they're going to get torn down because they're human and there's fallibility and we see it in him and us and everybody else. He represents where we were as a country after that.

In reading your book, now that I had a chance to get through it, I felt one of the reasons that the Warren Commission was a problem was that they wound up playing politics in a situation that really didn't benefit from it and so much of the speculation that came out of the lack of an answer is because people were covering for themselves during the commission itself. Did you find that?

SHENON: Absolutely. You also have the Kennedy family campaigning to preserve a golden memory of the president and that meant some evidence didn't get reviewed, the autopsy photos of the president don't get in viewed because the Kennedy family does not want to leave the American public with these awful images.

PEREIRA: The book that Chris is referring to and Philip Shenon is that author is of is "A Cruel and Shocking Act." Be sure to catch a CNN Film's documentary "The Assassination of President Kennedy." It will air tonight on this anniversary at 9:00 Eastern right here on CNN. Philip, thank you so much for joining us on this special day.

SHENON: Thank you.

CUOMO: We may have you stay around a little bit because as we go through the ceremonies going on, maybe a chance to have some more discussion. We'll take a little break here now.

Coming up on NEW DAY, continued live coverage of the 50th anniversary of the death of JFK, we'll take to you Arlington National Cemetery, a series of tributes you'll want to see, so stay with us.


CUOMO: Good morning, welcome back to NEW DAY. It's Friday, November 22nd, 8:00 in the east. It's been 50 years since the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. You're looking live at Arlington National Cemetery where the eternal flame surely burns at his grave. The fallen president remembered this hour with a wreath laying at Arlington National Cemetery.