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Weather Whiplash; Engineer "Nodded Off"; School Shooting 911 Calls; Florida Bear Attack; Celebrity Chef On The Stand

Aired December 4, 2013 - 08:00   ET


ANA CABRERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Official temperatures in the teens and single digits across much of metro area here in Colorado, and we're expecting a deep freeze to set in over the next few days, making what could become the longest cold stretch Colorado has seen since 2009.

The homeless shelters of course opening up, including some of the emergency shelters to help people get out of the cold, the snow creating other challenges for drivers in particular. We saw I-70, the main East/West corridor that goes through Colorado shut down for parts of yesterday because of accidents up in the mountains and the dangerous conditions that drivers are having to deal with.

And, again, this is a system that is widespread. It's not just Colorado that is really feeling the impact. It's crossing through the Rockies, across Colorado, across the plains up into the Midwest, down into the South. Some dozen states or so experiencing this arctic air mass and again expected to sit around a little longer -- Chris and Kate.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right, Ana. Thank you so much for that. A beautiful scene behind you. But let's get the latest, as Ana said, it's not just Colorado, but it's elsewhere. Let's get the latest on the track of this winter weather.

How's it looking, Indra?

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: A lot of people expected to get really uncomfortable, as the storm really brings in that cold arctic air. But, really, lots -- tons of snow expected in Colorado again today, additional foot of snow possible if not over a foot, also out towards Minnesota, same thing. We're going to be talking about heavy snow in the region.

But the biggest concern remains to be the freezing rain. Will we see that freezing or an ice storm? This is the threat as we go through Thursday at noon, notice where you see the pink. We're talking about southern portions of Missouri, extending all the way back in through Texas.

As I take you through Thursday evening, you notice it expands further, all the way up to the Ohio Valley, most likely the farther north you are, possibly just sleet, farther down to the south, of course, the threat of freezing rain. And as we continue even through the weekend, we still be seeing the threat, if we have that ice storm, if we do have those power outages, keep in mind, there is a second wave even after the break of Saturday and Sunday of another ice storm potential that is still out there. So, lots to be thinking about.

Also the big story will be the temperatures. Notice, Dallas goes from 80 to 31. But look at this -- Billings goes from 5 to negative 10 when they should be in the upper 30s. This is a dangerous situation. Look at these temperatures in the early morning hours. We're talking about negative, almost 30 degrees, Bismarck, negative 31. Even through Denver tomorrow morning, they're going to be waking up to negative 14 degrees. So the temperature alone also is dangerous out there.

BOLDUAN: That's a fast dip in just a few days.


BOLDUAN: Thanks, Indra.

CUOMO: We have breaking news overnight for you in the deadly rain derailment in New York. NTSB kicking the rail union out of the investigation for breaking confidentiality rules after a union representative told CNN that the train driver William Rockefeller, Jr. apparently nodded off.

CNN's Nic Robertson has the latest.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We got a major train wreck, 5 cars on its side, multiple victims.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): We're hearing for the first time from the firefighters as they arrived at the scene of Sunday's deadly train derailment in the Bronx.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All victims have been removed from the train.

ROBERTSON: This morning, new details about the man at the controls. The train's engineer, William Billy Rockefeller. His union representatives saying he was nodding off and caught himself too late.

ANTHONY BOTTALICO, GENERAL CHAIRMAN, ACME: He's extremely distraught over it and he feels for the families.

ROBERTSON: In the minutes after the derailment, according to a senior law enforcement source, Rockefeller told first responders, "Going along and I'm in a daze. I don't know what happened."

NTSB investigators say that 10-year veteran driver was on the second day of a five-day shift.

EARL WEENER, NTSB: The day was typical nine hour day and these days were routine days. There's every indication that he would have had time to get full restorative sleep.

ROBERTSON: His lawyer says he went to bed at 8:30 p.m. the night before and got up at 3:30 a.m., that his client had a good night sleep and is cooperating in every way.

BOTTALICO: I think it takes a strong man to come down and be honest. And that's what Billy is doing.

ROBERTSON: On the question of the brakes, Rockefeller had initially claimed according to a source that they didn't work.

WEENER: We've determined that the Metro North Mechanical Department performed a proper brake test prior to the accident train leaving the station and there were no anomalies noted.

ROBERTSON: And now the federal rail administration is expressing serious concerns about Metro North's recent series of accidents.

In a letter to the head of the MTA saying four serious accidents in less than 7 months is simply unacceptable.


BOLDUAN: All right. Nic, thank you so much for that update. Let's have a closer look at what the union rep and the engineer's attorney said in Nic's piece.

Let's bring in CNN senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen for that.

So Elizabeth, they're talking about nodding off or that the engineer was in a daze. Is this the same thing? What's your take on this? Is it just a matter of being exhausted?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: You know what, Kate? It's actually not a matter necessarily of being exhausted. People think of it as a one or two kind of situation. You're either awake or you're asleep.

But there is something sometimes a little bit in between where parts of your brain might kind of switch off and so you seem awake, but for example for any one of us, we could put sugar in our coffee and we put salt in instead or you go to put the milk in the refrigerator and instead you put it in the freezer. So little parts of our brain can go off line just for a matter of seconds, but it can be very problematic.

BOLDUAN: And his attorney also said that he had a good night's sleep. I want to get your take on how you think that plays into this. Because he also says that this is because of highway hypnosis. It's a kind of phrase that maybe folks have heard of before. But what do you think of it?

COHEN: Right. Highway hypnosis is where you're driving and you're driving and you're driving, a train or often you hear it in regards to a car. And it's monotonous. You've seen this before, and it's been -- you done this many times and nothing bad has ever happened and you start to fall into a daze. You become sort of, layman's terms, a little bit hypnotized.

And it can happen whether you're fatigued or not fatigued. So there is some debate about how much role of fatigue plays here, but it's a matter of monotony, just sort of being board and seeing the same thing over and over again.

BOLDUAN: And despite fatigue, we should say again the NTSB, they have been clear they said they have not established what was the cause behind the crash, but we'll be looking for that in the days to come

Elizabeth, great to see you. Thank you so much.

COHEN: All right. Thanks.

BOLDUAN: Of course.


MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Let's take a look at our headlines at this hour. Right now, Vice President Joe Biden is in Beijing meeting with China's president. Biden is trying to smooth relations after tensions increased with Japan, following China's declaration of control over disputed territory. Biden says the move could lead to an uptick in tension or even an accidental start of a conflict.

The Obama administration is prepared to allow Iran engage in a limited nuclear enrichment program, but that applies only to the nation's peaceful energy needs. In a statement, the White House says it would negotiate with Tehran as long as it holds up its end of an international agreement to curtail its nuclear capabilities.

The Obamacare Web site woes may be in the past, but, boy, the hearings continue. Four scheduled today in Washington as the president tries to resell his signature legislation to the American public. Tuesday, former President Clinton told CNN he is a full supporter despite comments he made last month challenging the president to honor his words and let all Americans hold on to their insurance if they want to.

Two skydivers were killed in Arizona, a third injured when they collided in midair. Witnesses say those skydivers crashed into one another. But 200 to 300 feet up, the pair's parachutes collapsed and that sent them plummeting to the ground.

The first person thought to be the first driver to get a ticket for wearing Google Glass has pleaded not guilty. Cecilia Abadie of San Diego is charged with speeding and distracted driving. Her defense? There is nothing illegal about simply wearing Google Glass when it is not turned on. However, when she looked up at the officer, her glasses were activated.

Kind of throw her argument out of the window. CUOMO: Although she had a good counter argument. She said it's my head movement that made them turned on. But I wasn't looking at them while I was driving. That's all I should be held responsible for.

PEREIRA: Have you seen anybody wearing them not?

BOLDUAN: I will not --

CUOMO: Tell it to the judge.

PEREIRA: Yes, tell it to the judge.

BOLDUAN: I will not be wearing them.

CUOMO: I will, I find them very --

BOLDUAN: Like you need more to distract you.

CUOMO: Yes, I do. I do. Wouldn't you say?

BOLDUAN: Exactly.

CUOMO: Coming up on "NEW DAY": the 911 calls from the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary. They will be released. That's the law.

The question is, what if anything should be done with them? We're live in Newtown with reaction from people there.

BOLDUAN: And a massive hunt happening now after a rare bear attack in Florida. Police have just released the 911 calls detailing the minutes after a woman was attacked in her own neighborhood.


CUOMO: Welcome back to "NEW DAY".

Today, seven 911 calls placed from inside Sandy Hook Elementary School will be made public. Next week is the first anniversary of the massacre there that left six staffers and 20 children dead. Now, a Connecticut state attorney tried for months to shield families from the tapes arguing they shouldn't be released, but now those families must brace for a painful reminder of that day.

Our Pamela Brown is here following the situation. What do we expect to happen today mechanically?

PAMELA BROWN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Chris, at 2:00 p.m. Eastern today, those recordings will be released from attorneys in Newtown. They're expected to be nearly half an hour, seven phone calls, seven 911 calls made inside Sandy Hook Elementary School on the day of the shooting last December 14th will be in those recordings.

The longest call from a custodian inside the call lasts more than 10 minutes. These are just calls made to Newtown police. The calls made to state police will not be released today. But this is very difficult for the families, you know, the timing of the release of the calls with the anniversary right around the corner, with it being the holidays. In fact, the superintendent e-mailed the families yesterday and warned them that this was going to happen, that this could be an emotional trigger for the families, and he said, you know, like you, I haven't listened to them and it could be very difficult.

CUOMO: It's always a discretion for the judge, but the law usually comes out this way in these situations. The real question is discretion, right? I mean, what are you hearing from the families about their concerns are and what their hopes are?

BROWN: Well, I just got off the phone with one of the families, Mark Barden. He's the father of Daniel Barden. He was killed in the shooting.

And essentially, he's not happy about this. He told -- he says, 'We don't want to hear them, I hope my children don't have to listen to that. This is a unique case and deserves unique treatment. It's unfortunate they weren't able to see that."

And he said he's going to work hard to do everything he can to protect his kids from having to listen to that. And he also says he believes the potential harm of having the children listen to this outweighs any definable good that could come out of this, Chris.

CUOMO: It gets tricky for the media when the matters in question are no longer in dispute, so the calls don't necessarily shed light on what you're still trying to figure out.

Anything in there about what they hope for from the media? Were there any pleas from the families to the media about this?

BROWN: You know, bottom line is I think that they're just going take the necessary steps to avoid the media.

CUOMO: Protect themselves.

BROWN: To protect themselves and not listen and do everything they can.

You know, when you look at the other side of this, the Freedom of Information Commission in Connecticut and the judge both ruled that these recordings should be released.

CUOMO: The law is pretty clear and the judge made an interesting point. He said when you don't do this, when you don't release things like this, maybe some questions remain, maybe it undermines confidence in law enforcement and that was the policy that the judge believed motivated the law in the first place, but very tough for the families. Big sensitivity issues and tough calls for the media to make.

BROWN: Yes. And the court recognizes sensitivity of this, but -- and certainly devastating for these families.

CUOMO: All right. Thank you, Pamela. Appreciate your reporting.

BROWN: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Let's turn to Florida now where there's a hunt under way there this morning for a dangerous bear after it mauled a woman in Longwood. Attacks like this are rare in the state, but now authorities are warning that those attacks, that they're on the rise. CNN's John Zarrella is live in Miami with the very latest. So, what are you learning, John?

JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, Kate. You're absolutely right, they are rare, but this one wildlife officials say may be the worst they have ever seen. What a nightmare for the Florida woman. Imagine, she's out walking her dogs, suddenly the dogs start barking, they bolt, the next thing you know, she's attacked by a black bear.


ZARRELLA (voice-over): Traps have been set, wildlife officers, biologists and sheriff's deputies are combing the woods around the community of Longwood north of Orlando. They're trying desperately to catch a black bear that has become not just a nuisance but a danger. A woman identified as Susan Chalfant is attacked while walking her dogs. Her face bloodied, she makes it to a neighbor's house. He calls 911.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A woman's, I think, been mauled by a bear. She's bleeding and she needs immediate help.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK. Are you still with her right now, Steve?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. My wife is with her right now. We have her in the house. She's pleading for quick, quick help. She's in severe pain.

ZARRELLA: Chalfant is going to be OK. Neighbors say bears are no strangers to the community which sits near wildlife conservation area. There's even a bear alert sign at the neighborhood's entrance. They've been spotted in trees, and here, one is just casually walking down the street broad daylight. They have become way too comfortable with the surroundings says one resident, Richard, who didn't want his last name used.

RICHARD, LONGWOOD RESIDENT, FLORIDA: There's an actual walkway of the bears between my home and the immediate neighbor's. We see them on a regular basis especially the night before garbage pickup.

ZARRELLA: If homeowners are not really careful with their trash, wildlife officials say it's a no-brainer. The bears are going to keep coming.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Unless we get full cooperation with everybody and every neighborhood around here, the bears are going to come in for a free lunch. They're going to stay where the food is.

ZARRELLA: Unprovoked black bear attacks in Florida are extremely rare. The first ever documented by the wildlife commission was last year. The problem biologists say is that people are now living in areas the bears once called home. And bears like to roam. Biologists have been capturing bears.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. We got him. Let's back off.

ZARRELLA: Hitting them with GPS collars and microchips to better understand their movements which inevitably means at some point they'll cross paths with people.


ZARRELLA (on-camera): So, if they catch a bear, how do they know if they've got the right one? Well, they'll do some DNA testing, match blood from the victim on the bear or fibers, hairs on the victim. So, there are ways to do that, and of course, if they get the bear, it will be euthanized. But you can imagine, Chris and Kate, just how bold these bears are.

You saw that video of the one just walking down the street in broad daylight. They absolutely have no fear.

BOLDUAN: Sure seems like this at this point. That's right. Thanks, John. We'll check back in.


CUOMO: Just looking for food. Habitat shrinking.

BOLDUAN: Yes, I know.

CUOMO: Only a matter of time.

Let's take a break here on "NEW DAY". Oh, that Joe. Vice President Joe Biden is in China trying to lower tensions, but he's also raising eyebrows. We'll tell you what he said ahead, which is why I say oh that Joe.

BOLDUAN: Oh that Joe.

And we also have the dramatic new testimony this morning from celebrity chef, Nigella Lawson. She's responding to allegations that she used cocaine and she is not mincing words.


You're watching "NEW DAY" with Chris Cuomo, Kate Bolduan, and Michaela Pereira.

CUOMO: Welcome back to "NEW DAY". It's Wednesday, December 4th. Coming up this hour, a remarkable story of innocence and redemption. The truth finally set Michael Morton free after 25 years behind bars. He will tell us how he survived all of it.

BOLDUAN: And Vice President Joe Biden in China trying to diffuse a dangerous situation there, but it's his comments on everything else that's making headlines this morning.

PEREIRA: Let's give you the five things you need to know for your "NEW DAY".


PEREIRA (voice-over): The NTSB kicks out the train union from the investigation into the deadly New York train derailment. A union rep had said the engineer nodded off before the accident. That comment violated confidentiality rules.

Powerful winter storm dumping piles and piles of snow in the Midwest and the Rockies. Heavy snowfall hampering road conditions. Extreme cold is gripping much of the nation.

The man accused of killing a TSA agent and wounding two others at LAX last month is due in court today. Prosecutors say Paul Ciancia should be held with no bond. The 23-year-old could face the death penalty.

President Obama is putting a renewed focus on the income gap between the rich and the poor. Today, he will give a speech to argue his case that income inequality and wage stagnation are threatening upward mobility and retirement security.

The holiday season will be in full swing tonight. The Rockefeller Center Christmas tree will be lit for the season. 45,000 L.E.D. lights will illuminate the 76-foot tree. Beautiful.


PEREIRA (on-camera): We're always updating the five things to know, so be sure to go to for the very latest -- Chris.

CUOMO: All right, Mich.

Dramatic new testimony this morning from celebrity chef, Nigella Lawson. Lawson's two former assistants are accused of fraud, but the most explosive details are about Lawson, herself. She says her ex- husband would destroy her if she didn't appear at the trial, and she also faces questions about alleged cocaine use. CNN's Erin McLaughlin is in London. Erin, what happened in court today?

ERIN MCLAUGHLIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Chris. Well, earlier today, Nigella Lawson arrived here at the courthouse. She was dressed in black. Her face expressionless amidst the flash bulbs of the world media. During that testimony, as you mentioned, she testified how her former husband threatened to destroy her if she did not give evidence at this trial and come back to him and clear his name.

That, of course, following their very public breakdown of their marriage which happened earlier in the year. She also talked about how it was difficult for her to appear at this trial saying, though, that she felt that it was important to do for their children, saying that at times that she felt it was though she was on trial when, of course, in actuality, the defendants in this case are her former personal assistants, Elisabetta and Francesca Grillo. Prosecutors allege that those two former assistants spent over a million dollars fraudulently on Saatchi Company credit cards. The defendants deny those allegations saying that Lawson knew about their spending habits and alleged her habitual drug use. It's not until today, though, that Nigella Lawson finally taking the stand to answer some of those allegations. The court currently adjourned for lunch. We expect her to continue to testify after that lunch break -- Chris.

CUOMO: Erin, we often say, every story has at least three sides and this one certainly does. We have the assistance, we have Nigella, what about Mr. Saatchi? What is his response?

MCLAUGHLIN: Well, Nigella Lawson's former husband, Charles Saatchi, testified on Friday. During that testimony, he talked about an e-mail that he sent to Lawson in October. In that e-mail, he alleges that Lawson used drugs daily, marijuana and cocaine, and allowed her assistants to spend at will.

Though, he clarified that e-mail in his testimony saying that he was very upset when he wrote it, heartbroken, in fact, over the breakdown of his marriage and that he was merely speculating as to the Grillo's defense. And he also said that he had never at any point in time seen Nigella Lawson do drugs -- Chris.

CUOMO: All right, Erin, thank you very much. Appreciate the reporting. Keep us in touch with what happens there when she gets back this afternoon.

PEREIRA: It is important once again to point out Nigella, herself, isn't on trial. She is, though, in the midst of defending herself against these allegations of drug use. We're going to bring in HLN legal analyst, Joey Jackson. It's interesting to hear what Erin just said, Joey, that she feels like she's on trial. The allegations from her ex so potentially damaging. They can really damage her brand and her empire.

JOEY JACKSON, HLN LEGAL ANALYST: You know what happens, Michaela, is that -- and I'm guilty of it, too. What you do on trial is you put the victim on trial, right, because what you want to do from a defense perspective, it's oftentimes used because you want to shield your client and you want to bring to light allegations about the other. But at the end of the day, it's about character and it's about courage.

Is she able on that stand to really connect with the jurors and really connect with everyone else when you look at the larger picture which is about her brand and about her future? So it depends on how she does, but by all indications at least earlier, she did very well.

BOLDUAN: In terms of her brand and her reputation, that seems to be the big thing that is the question mark for her. But the allegations of cocaine use and marijuana use, that's not part of this case. Could she face any problems with that, any legal trouble with that even though it was brought up during something that had nothing to do with it? JACKSON: You know what, Kate, I don't think she'll face any legal problems herself. I wouldn't foresee in the future her being prosecuted about anything. But it goes to the point that you just mentioned and Michaela touched upon and that's the issue of her branding. And so, it really depends in large measure how she handles this, OK? Because, you know what, people like human beings.

Even though you're a celebrity, if you're relatable, if you have issues and problems like them and if you can overcome those issues and problems and be frank about them and have character, I think it could relate to people. But you know what, the defense will attack her credibility on the grounds of you're a drug user, aren't you.

But so far, she said no. And she's been very successful. Books and her, you know, her show and everything else. She's overcome a lot already.

CUOMO: So if you put the lawyer hat back on, take the psychologist hat off --


CUOMO: If they're making allegations about her drug use, she says it's not true. In London, is the law the same as here where she could now sue for saying that she uses drugs? At United States, that's a slander automatically.


CUOMO: I mean, all you have to do is prove someone --

JACKSON: It is, Chris. And you know that when it comes to defamation, because it's about character, right, and what happens is defamation lawsuits are out there to protect the integrity of the individual, because you don't want people saying things that are salacious, that are untrue and that are going to be in-injurious to your reputation. So you know, it depends at the end of the day how much she's damaged by.

You can argue that she won't be damaged. In fact, she may be enhanced as a result of what happens here -- well, as a result of what happens here, depending upon how she handles it. More people could have an interest. More people can focus on her show. More people may read her books. And as a result of that, you make money at the end of the day because of the fact that people accuse you of something even though it's not --

PEREIRA: OK, so we're going to continue with the hat thing, take off --


PEREIRA: The lawyer hat and put on the fortune teller's hat.

JACKSON: OK. PEREIRA: Do you think that this is going to have a side-effect of other famous people out there are going to be reluctant to pursue lawsuits because they know that all this kind of dirt could potentially come out in a very public and embarrassing fashion?

JACKSON: It's very troubling, Michaela, because listen, you don't want your neighbors to know what's going on if it's a negative thing. Now, think about the world knowing exactly what's happening. And so, it's an individual thing.