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Big Storm Threatens Thanksgiving Travel; Tanker Derails, Leaks Chemicals; Parents Held Girls Captive; O.J. Simpson Denied New Trial; Zimmerman Had Guns, Ammo When Arrested; New Jersey Cop Rescues Man From Burning Car; Planes, Trains, and Automobiles; Teen Hitman Released to United States; Storms Delay Holiday Travel for Many

Aired November 27, 2013 - 11:00   ET


CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: I don't know if that bolstered your argument, but hey, happy Thanksgiving.

Thanks for joining me today. I'm Carol Costello.

LEGAL VIEW with Ashleigh Banfield starts now.

ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. I'm Ashleigh Banfield. It is Wednesday, November 27th, and welcome to LEGAL VIEW.

We're going to begin with icy roads, and howling winds, and flooding, and, oh, just some more than 40 million of you trying to battle through all of that for our revered holiday, Thanksgiving.

This storm, this series of storms. is deadly, and it is pounding the eastern half of the country, shutting down whole sections of interstates going both ways.

It's canceling hundreds of flights. It is delaying thousands more flights, and even rail traffic has hit the skids. At New York's Penn Station, just take a look at what that's like.

Yeah, dozens and dozens of stranded riders just staring up at the train schedule, as Chris Cuomo calls it, it is a "board of broken dreams."

And all of this could only get worst.

CNN's team of correspondents and meteorologists is lined up like only CNN can be, the full power of the network up and down the East Coast with the latest on this travel nightmare. We're going to tap into each one of these correspondents.

In the storm's path right now, some of the nation's busiest airports, where delays and cancellations could have ripple effects right across the country.

Our Rene Marsh is live right now at Reagan National. All right, how is it looking so far, Rene?

RENE MARSH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I can tell you here, Reagan, it's not that bad. However, we are seeing some delays. We are seeing some cancellations.

But looking at the big picture of what's going on around the country, flight tracking websites are saying that roughly more than 1,300 delays, although not all of them necessarily have to be weather related.

But that's the snapshot that we have for you at this point. And they're also reporting more than 300 cancellations.

Now these delays, they can last anywhere from 20 minutes to, for example, this flight here going from D.C. to Norfolk, about an hour.

And we actually have a passenger who has a seat on that flight that is delayed for an hour. Ulrick Casseus, thank you for joining us.


MARSH: Tell me where are you headed?

CASSEUS: I headed to see my father in Virginia Beach. I'm going through Norfolk to see him. Just regular Thanksgiving with the family, you know?

MARSH: And so you came here and you saw at first it was a two-hour delay?

CASSEUS: Yes. It was a two-hour delay. And then I guess they're doing what they can to actually get everything back on flight, back on status.

So it dropped from a two-hour to like an hour, fifteen minutes. And now it's less than an hour, so it worked out.

MARSH: And all you want to do is get home to the turkey.

CASSEUS: Yes. Get home, relax, be with my family, my friends, that's the main thing.

MARSH: All right, thank you so much. Hoping you get there quickly, sooner rather than later.

And Ashleigh, we can tell you as far as how other airports are looking. Newark, LaGuardia, Philadelphia, Boston, O'Hare, Detroit, Charlotte, those are the airports, as well as Atlanta, we're noticing a lot of delays there.

We spoke to the airlines, however, and they told us yesterday they're expecting more delays than they are cancellations.

They are not, according to the airlines, as of yesterday, expecting severe cancellations.


BANFIELD: That is much better news and so is the image behind you, Rene. I expected to see almost pandemonium behind you, but it looks like things are as good as they could be in a circumstance like this.

Rene Marsh, live for us, thank you, at Reagan National Airport in Washington, D.C.

Now, I want to take you to the highways, because this icy, winter storm has already proven deadly.

Our Pamela Brown is in the thick of one of the country's busiest driving corridors. I love that you're live doing this. You got the assignment driving New York to Washington on I-95.

I started the morning at 5:00 in the morning on I-95, and it was brutal, just brutal. How are things looking now?

PAMELA BROWN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, you know, Ashleigh, we've been on the road since 5:30 this morning, Eastern time, and it just depends on where you are.

We were on the outskirts of Connecticut. We were in central New Jersey. Really, all over the place. We did see some backups, and a lot of that was because of accidents and slick conditions on the roads.

As you witnessed yourself, Ashleigh, the rain was coming down pretty hard earlier today, and there were several accident.

In fact, I-76 in Philadelphia, the westbound side of the highway has been shut down due to a deadly accident there. One person was killed. The other side of the highway, one lane open due to flooding.

And we've seen standing water pooling all over the place, and so it's been a really a headache for holiday travelers trying to reunite with their families.

And, Ashleigh, I've heard a lot of stories from people who left last night, thinking they were going to beat the rush. But you know what? A lot of other people had the same idea.

One friend told me that he was driving from D.C. to Ohio, usually takes eight hours. It took him 13 hours. So we're hearing a lot of those kinds of stories.

But a lot of people are going to have to just be patient.

BANFIELD: You know something, Pamela? You might be going the right direction, because I left work yesterday to go home, and it's about an hour drive. And it took three hours and 45 minutes to get home yesterday.

So maybe some people heeded all the worries and actually started getting out early.

Good luck on your journey, my friend, and I hope you make it back here safe. And have a lovely Thanksgiving.

By the way, the eastern half of the country may be feeling the brunt of all of this right, and certainly out Pamela's window you could see some of it.

But this storm isn't showing any mercy in a lot of places. Get this. According to CNN's Severe Weather Center every single state in the union, except Hawaii, is expecting temperatures to dip below freezing at some point on Thanksgiving morning.

Our meteorologist Jennifer Gray has been keeping her eye on all of this. She joins me live now.

Listen, I kind of thought that we were deal with a nor'easter that was having sort of effects all over the country, and then I hear this about the temperatures. This is far more than a quasi-nor'easter.

JENNIFER GRAY, AMS METEOROLOGIST: You know it's cold when places along the Gulf Coast have freeze and frost watches and warnings.

These are the advisories across the I-10 corridor, anywhere from south Louisiana to New Orleans, Panama City, even to Jacksonville will have the freeze threat for tomorrow morning, watches and warnings all across the Gulf Coast.

So, yes, it is cold, but the big story, this rain-maker across the Northeast, and that's basically what it is. The biggest part of it is rain. And that's what we're seeing from Raleigh all the way to New York, Boston.

The good news is, this will start to make its way out of here over the next couple of hours. By tonight, into tomorrow morning, we will look much, much better.

But it's still not over yet. The next 48 hours, we'll see an additional three to eight inches of snow across portions of New York and then down across the mid-Atlantic, possibly one to two more inches of rain. And then as you get high into the Northeast, two to four more inches of rain.

But here is a time label of what we're looking at. By Wednesday, 6:00, this is this evening, New York, the rain should start to move on out. And then by tomorrow morning, we should be clear. The sun should come back out.

But what we'll really be watching, the winds behind all of this. Here's is at noon today, 27-mile-per-hour wind gusts, 36 in Boston, and then they should be peeking out tonight and then start to taper off tomorrow.

We will keep our eye on those balloons, though. The winds right now forecasted to be right on that cusp of whether they're going to fly or not.

BANFIELD: I heard it was actually on the actual number. The prediction is the wind will be on the call number.

So I guess they're going to have to watch from the beginning of the parade and see if they can -- I hope they do it, Jennifer. Fifty million people watch that parade. GRAY: I know. I hope they do, too. And I'm in the city and I'm looking forward to it so --

BANFIELD: Thank you, Jennifer. Keep up the good work. And we'll tap in and find out what you find out, later in the show.

By the way, since we've been talking about travel and airports and everything, check out your screen. This is good stuff.

CNN decided to make the world's busiest airport -- that's Hartsfield- Jackson Atlanta International, folks. We made this our destination for a fascinating look at the guts and the belly of the beast, what it's like to travel in the places you can't see.

On August 28th, more than three dozen journalist descended upon that airport and documented every single part that they could.

It's stuff that you absolutely can't believe goes on as you're just about ready to take off and everything seems smooth. Check it all out on Again,

OK, do you have a lot to do around the house today? How would you like to be evacuated ? Because that's actually happening to hundreds of people right now, forced from their homes on the day before Thanksgiving.

I'm going to tell you what is going on and why these people now need disaster relief.

Also, an officer runs towards a car engulfed in flames. This is why they're called our "Bravest."

I kid you not. What happens next is amazing. Stay with us. You'll see.


BANFIELD: The horrible weather is our main story today, but here is a check on some other big news that we're following here at CNN, as well.

A tanker car began leaking a flammable chemical after a train derailed yesterday, late yesterday, and forced the evacuation of more than 400 homes in Willard, Ohio. Yes, on the eve of the Thanksgiving holiday.

The spill is now contained, people are expected to be able to return to their homes, hopefully today, and lucky to report that there were no injuries.

Two people are under arrest in Arizona after three girls told police that they had been imprisoned in a Tucson home for three years. Our affiliate KOLD reports the girls are siblings, age 12, 13, and 17.

Police were apparently alerted after two girls escaped and ran to a neighbor's house.

Their stepfather and their mother are now charged with kidnapping and emotional and physical abuse. And the stepfather is also now charged with sexual abuse.

O.J. Simpson will not be getting a new trial for that robbery and kidnapping conviction. A Nevada judge says there's an overwhelming amount of evidence against him that would outweigh any possible mistakes that could have been made in this case.

A parole board partly reduced Simpson's sentence earlier this year, but he still has at least four more years to serve before any chance of parole.

It turns out George Zimmerman had ammunition and five guns with him when the police arrested him last week, according to the court documents in the case. The weapons were in a locked case at his girlfriend's house where deputies responded to a domestic dispute.

George Zimmerman is out on bond and he is facing multiple charges in that case, as well.

Take a look at this remarkable rescue video from New Jersey. That is Cape May Police Officer Scott Krissinger, running towards a burning car and pulling an unconscious driver out. Wow.

As the smoke billows, the first-responders took that 6 1-year-old man to the hospital where he was in critical condition, but stabilized.

And that officer, officially, if he weren't already a hero, is definitely a hero now. Check that out. Even checking the passenger door to see if there's anyone else. Wow. Wow! That's why they're our "Finest" and our "Bravest."

OK, when the weather is like this and you have fair warning, do you sometimes wonder, am I crazy to fly? Should I maybe take the train? Should I maybe drive instead?

These are the kinds of decisions that millions are trying to make right now with this horrible weather pattern that is just ruining our lives.

So you know what? We are right there with you. And what we decided to do is take three of our finest correspondents here at this network and send them out in three different directions using three different modes of transportation.

And in fact, they are just about ready to go. That's Brian Todd on the left and Nic Robertson in the middle and Lisa Desjardins on the right- hand side.

Hey, guys. I just want to get a quick note of who is doing what. Which one is flying?


BANFIELD: That's Nic. And who is driving?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I got the short stick.




LISA DESJARDINS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm going doing the train. I'll have the most leg room and most access to the food car.

BANFIELD: And all of this is to race into the loving arms of Wolf Blitzer on "THE SITUATION ROOM?" Did Wolf come up with this?

DESJARDINS: No. I think it was the brainchild of some folks in D.C.

ROBERTSON: When we get there, we're going to get an answer. We will get an answer.

BANFIELD: I don't even think Wolf is working today in fact.

DESJARDINS: That's true.

TODD: If you win, it's your idea.

BANFIELD: This is great. You'll get what about 45 minutes from now you're going to hit the start button and run out of the building and we're going to trace your progress.

DEJARSINS: And there's money on this I hear in the NEWSROOM.

BANFIELD: Who do you think who is going to get there first?

DESJARDINS: I think the train.


ROBERTSON: If I catch the plane, 59 minutes from leaving this building, I'm golden. If I miss it, I might as well take the horse.

BANFIELD: That man fights the Taliban. My money is on Nic. The CNN great race home, is that it today? Good luck.

What an assignment. I think this was Jeff Zucker's (ph) idea. I think he should be there at the finish line. Okay, so we have other things that we're covering as well. We will start the button with them in about 45 minutes. We'll find out which mode of transportation worked out at least today.

Here is another story we're watching for you. It really is a head- shaker. A boy who was just 11 years old when he began carrying out assassinations. I'm talking real assassinations. Murders. That boy is now a teenager and that boy has just been sent back to the United States to roam free on the streets among you and me. You're going to find out how this happened, where he is, and if you need to be concerned about it. In a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BANFIELD: He is an American teenage hitman with a bloody rap sheet a mile long. And I did say teenage. He's known as The Cloak. He was convicted by a Mexican court of torturing and beheading at least four people. Again, a teenager. And now, this teenager is back in this country. Experts on Mexican gangs say that he is just one example of how drug lords recruit the young to carry out their deadly attacks. Our Ed Lavandera repors on how all of this shook out.


ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Even in a country ravaged by years of drug cartel-fueled violence, it was a shocking scene. In Mexico, three years ago, a baby-faced American teenager accused of working as an assassin for the South Pacific drug cartel was paraded in front of reporters.

Edgar Jimenez Lugo was just 14 years old when this video was filmed. Jimenez Lugo is known by the nickname "El Ponchis." He laid out gruesome details of his life in organized crime. He said he was 11 years old when he started killing and slit the throats of four victims himself.

He said that drug cartel leaders picked him off the street and forced him into carrying out the assassinations and that he was high on drugs when he killed cartel rivals. He was convict as a juvenile and sentenced to three years in prison. Now he's 17 and was released from prison Tuesday in Mexico.

News cameras captured the release. He was quickly deported back to the United States and flown to San Antonio, Texas, where he disappeared back into American society. U.S. Customs and Border Protection official say they helped to facilitate his return, but say privacy laws prohibit the agency from releasing more details.

He was born in San Diego. He's a U.S. citizen. He served his prison sentence and does not face any criminal charges in the United States. So he's free to move around like anyone else. He isn't the only American teenager lured into the violent world. CNN told the notorious stories of two American drug cartel assassins in exclusive jailhouse interviews a few months ago.

(on camera): In all, how many people did you kill?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have no idea.

LAVANDERA: No idea? You lost track?


LAVANDERA: Gabriel Cardona is serving a life sentence in Texas. He and a childhood buddy, Rosalio Reta worked as assassins for the infamous Zetas drug cartel as teenagers. Their stories highlight the frightening trend of cartel leaders luring young kids with the promise of money and power to carry out the cartel's dirty work.

After he was arrested, the teenage Rosalio Reta told the Loredo, Texas police detective that killing made him feel like Superman. Today Reta knows his life is wasting away in prison.

ROSALIO RETA, CARTEL HITMAN: The first day I had to take somebody's life, that's a day I'll never be able to forget. After that, I have no life.

LAVANDERA (on camera): But you kept on killing after that first time at that ranch.

RETA: I had to. That's what a lot of people don't understand.

LAVANERA: Reta and Cardona are locked away for life, but the kid known as El Ponchis is getting a second chance.

Ed Lavandera, CNN, San Antonio, Texas.


BANFIELD: Thanks, Ed, for that.

If you've got plans like all of these people to go somewhere for Thanksgiving, get in line. Look at those faces. You just want to cry for them. They're either hitting the road, or the rails, or the skies, just like you. And this northeast storm is no picnic. We're going to have a travel and weather update for you. Things have been changing every 15 minutes or so. After the break, you're going to find out if they're going to change for you. Especially if you're waiting in that airport right now. Sorry.


BANFIELD: Welcome back to LEGAL VIEW. I'm Ashleigh Banfield. The crowded waiting rooms and frayed nerves and confusion among the passengers. Then there's that dreaded board with the red lights with that one terrible word, delayed, or maybe the worst word, canceled.

This picture was posted on Twitter, and my colleague Chris Cuomo may have put it best. I don't think we have the picture yet. There it is.

Chris Cuomo called this "the wall of broken dreams." I think that's fair. It's the one thing that stands in the way of turkey dinner with your family. In fact, we have another shot of what it looked like at Penn Station yesterday. Look at all of those people. It's another great shot from Instagram. What a nightmare for them.

It is how so many New Yorkers chose to get home for the holidays, the rail system, but it was a disabled train, that's all it took last night to create that mess at Penn Station.

Alexandra Field was sent to Penn Station to see if anything cleared up. I see people behind you but it looks like nothing like it was last night. Did they fix the issue?

ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right, Ashleigh, they did fix it. And dare we say it, this morning things are going pretty smoothly here. That "board of broken dreams" is actually pretty full of promise. Take a look at this right now. You'll see that just two trains are delayed. The rest the trains are running on time. That's something a lot of travelers are thankful for today. Amtrak says that people do need to be aware, though, that because of the weather there are some delays between New Haven and Boston, but otherwise Amtrak says that service in the northeast is actually operating pretty well.