Return to Transcripts main page


Coping with a Child with Mental Illness; Prosecutor: Jordan Graham Wanted Out of Marriage; College Student Dead after Fraternity Hazing Ritual; Senator's Chief of Staff Arrest for Child Pornography.

Aired December 12, 2013 - 11:30   ET



ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to LEGAL VIEW. I'm Ashleigh Banfield.

A Navy Yard shooting in Washington, D.C., a movie theater massacre in Colorado, and the Sandy Hook tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut one year ago this week, all of these tragic events have one common denominator, a young person who suffered from mental illness. More than 60 million adults in American and 15 million children suffer from some sort of mental disorder. If you do the math, that is one in five children. Most who suffer from mental illness are not violent. Certainly, not. Still, it can be a daily struggle.

Our chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, spent time with a family who copes with this on a day-to-day basis.


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: It's really remarkable. We talk about these types of stories, these types of issues at the time when we're faced with some national tragedy, but we really wanted to get an idea, Ashleigh, of what life is like on a daily basis in a situation like this. Take a look at what we found.


STEPHANIE ESCAMILLA, MOTHER OF DANIEL: When people meet my son, they don't see the mental illness.

DANIEL, DIAGNOSED WITH MENTAL ILLNESS: Hey, Mom, it's not ready. I'm going to go.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): I want to tell you a story about the love between a mother and her son.

ESCAMILLA: They don't see the 20 hospitalizations. They don't see if he hallucinates. He strives to be a normal kid. But he has something that holds him back from doing that.

GUPTA: To protect his privacy, we're not going to show you his face or use his real name. For the next few minutes, he'll be known as Daniel.

We wanted to get to know Daniel and understand what life is like for a teenager with mental illness.

There's laughter.


GUPTA: Fights about homework.

DANIEL: That's all I got.

GUPTA: Daniel's in the eighth grade.

But also, this.

ESCAMILLA: Is there any way that I could just show up there and just wait in the waiting area? I don't want to be driving around with him like that.

DANIEL: I was hearing voices and, all of a sudden, I had the urge to cut. So I started cutting my arm.

GUPTA: He was cutting himself again. It ended with a trip to the hospital. Daniel stayed for a week.

If Stephanie seems to take it all in stride, it's only because she's seen worse, even worse than what you're about to see.


DANIEL: Please.


DANIEL: Go away. Please go away.

GUPTA (on camera): What is that like to record your son?

ESCAMILLA: It was horrible. What gets me the most are his eyes on the video. He's got these huge pupil eyes and he's just crying. And you see the fear in his eyes. It breaks my heart.


BANFIELD: Sanjay, you had a chance to spend a fair amount of time with Daniel and his family. Being a medical doctor, you're the perfect person to ask. What is the situation looking like for Daniel as he moves forward? Will he get better? Will it get worse? Do we even know?

GUPTA: The tough part of it right now is that it's still a fluid situation. You heard Stephanie talk about what life is like. But she also comes home every day not knowing whether Daniel attempted suicide that day. Imagine the psychological toll of that.

But also this idea that he may need to live with her well into adulthood and she would really be his primary caregiver for a much longer time than for most children. But having said that, he seems to have plateaued in terms of he is not worsening. He is in the eighth grade. He is 14 years old, at a regular public school in his area. So he has seemed to have improved significantly since some of the video that you've seen there. But it is that daily sort of concern and struggle that I think was quite jarring to me, even, as a reporter and as a dad.

BANFIELD: What about notion that there's so much complain about, it seems, about access to the proper kind of mental health services that so many people need and either aren't seeking or aren't getting or are avoiding? Did the looks that you took at Daniel and his situation shed any light on the crisis in this country?

GUPTA: There's no question, Daniel, at this point, is one of the lucky spectrum of things. He is getting more of the care that he needs. It was not easy. It was not easy for Stephanie, his mother, to get him that help initially at all. I think the larger issue, Ashleigh -- we've talked about this -- this idea of parity, putting physical health on par with mental health. Obviously, there's been mandates in the last months but unless you have enough health care professionals, unless you have enough beds to simply get people hospitalization if they need it, that parity starts to ring more and more hollow. That's also a reality. It's tough to get someone to pay attention in the first place. Even if you're diagnosed, tough to get the treatment you need, especially if you're a young person like Daniel.

BANFIELD: I'll say.

Sanjay, thanks for that. It's really great. Did some terrific insight, insightful work.

GUPTA: Yeah. It's not just around Newtown but what life is like every day.

BANFIELD: As we approach that awful anniversary on Saturday, it was great that you did this work. Because that was such a key element of that story.

And, Sanjay, permit me, if you will, I can promote your program where you'll have a lot more on this story this weekend. Saturday, 4:30 pm, eastern time, "SANJAY GUPTA, M.D." The repeat is Sunday, 7:30 in the morning, right here on CNN.

Always good to see you, Sanjay. Thank you.

GUPTA: Thank you, Ashleigh.

BANFIELD: Also, you can read more of Sanjay's work at Terrific stuff. Anything Sanjay does is terrific.

Coming up next, day four in the trial of the bride accused of pushing her husband off a cliff just one week after she promised 'til death do us part. Friends of her husband's took the stand and said this bride planned to kill, and even gave off some cryptic signals. You'll find out what those are in a moment. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BANFIELD: Prosecutors say a bride in Montana, a new bride, wanted out of her eight-day marriage so much she planned a murder. It's day four of Jordan Graham's trial for the murder of her husband, Cody Johnson, who fell off a cliff at Glacier National Park. But how he did it is at question in this trial, pushed or fell?

Kyung Lah has been in the courtroom as one by one witnesses are painting a picture of a panicked bride who just wanted out.



KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Cody Johnson's friends arrived for the third day of his murder trial. Their grief still visible and raw. They testified that Jordan Graham was not an overwhelmed newlywed who accidentally pushed her husband of eight days off the cliff but a regretful bride who planned to kill.

Eddie Calone (ph) said he saw his friend, Cody Johnson, the day he died and asked him to go golfing. Johnson said he couldn't because Jordan says she has a surprise for me. Three witnesses testified the same thing, including Steven Rutledge, Graham's own stepfather, who says his new son-in-law said the son-in-law also mentioned the surprise to him. The defense downplayed it, and Graham later told the FBI the surprise was a barbecue with friends.

But later that day, Johnson plunged to his death off the steep cliff at Glacier National Park. Graham's lawyers call the death an accident, that the couple was fighting on the cliff. Johnson grabbed her, she pushed, and he fell to his death. But prosecutors have a different version. They say Graham wanted out of her marriage and plotted to kill her new husband. Deputy Coroner Richard Sein (ph) testified, downstream from Johnson's body, he found a black cloth. Prosecutors have raised the theory that, at the cliff, Graham blindfolded her husband, possibly with the black cloth, before pushing him in the back with two hands, face first to his death. Defense attorneys have already begun fighting how this cloth was handled by police, alleging contamination of evidence.

Prosecutors say Graham spun a web of lies, lying to one of the groomsmen, Cameron Fredrickson, who said in court what he told CNN this summer.

CAMERON FREDRICKSON, FRIEND OF CODY JOHNSON: She actually changed her story and stated that she was at the house when Cody left and that she saw him leave in a dark-colored car. So between the two days, two completely different stories. And at that time, that's when I became suspicious and then actually went to the authorities.

LAH: Where she continued lying to Detective Cory Clark.

(on camera): Have you had many people lie to you?


LAH (voice-over): But he did talk on the stand, testifying Graham created a fake e-mail account so she could send e-mails that would cover her tracks.

Jordan Graham continued the lies to police, friends and family until an FBI interrogation, where she was shown this image. It's a snapshot off a surveillance camera at the entrance of Glacier National park. At a higher picture resolution, it's clear, Graham is a passenger in the car, sitting next to her husband, putting her at the scene of the crime.

Kyung Lah, CNN, Missoula, Montana.


BANFIELD: Coming up next, a college student is dead after a fraternity hazing ritual. The authorities are kind of dodging what that ritual entailed. But they are saying the man suffered extreme brain trauma. What happened to him? And, maybe more importantly, is somebody going to be blamed for it? We'll be back after this.


BANFIELD: Have you ever heard of this fraternity hazing ritual called the glass ceiling? I had not. Looking into it, it's a game where someone is blindfolded, and then weights are put onto that person's back and then he has to make his way, he or she, I suppose, through a path while at the same time repeatedly knocked to the ground. Doesn't sound so awful, maybe, unless you're this young man. Because according to "The New York Times," it's exactly how authorities say Chun Michael Thane (ph) died over the weekend after being put on life support and then being taken off life support. A hazing ritual. The 19-year-old Baruch College student was on a fraternity trip to the Poconos and that's the last we know about it. All of it happening apparently Sunday, Monday.

I want to bring in correspondent, Fred Pleitgen, working the story.

It just seems so mysterious. So many questions. I gave you everything that we've got. And there's a lot more.

FRED PLEITGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah. Exactly. That's all we've got. Authorities are being not forthcoming with describing what exactly this hazing ritual is, this glass ceiling. We're trying to discern how exactly this was played. You outlined how they usually do this. But they wouldn't confirm how exactly these guy had done all of this.

However, what we do know is that apparently they were playing this game, he got knocked out in some way, shape or form, suffered some brain injury, and they brought him inside the house, laid him down, and waited for a very long time --


BANFIELD: No one called 911?

PLEITGEN: That's it. No one called 911.


PLEITGEN: No one called an ambulance. At some point, they brought him to the hospital. As you know, you call an ambulance. He gets medical care while he's inside the ambulance. It took a very long time. That's where authorities believe some of this could turn into a criminal case because, how long can you wait before you provide someone help in.

PLEITGEN: This is the issue. Whether it ends up being a criminal case or civil case, we have a lot of players involved.

BANFIELD: Absolutely.

PLEITGEN: Maybe that's part of the problem. We have a lot of kids involved here who are present.

PLEITGEN: 30 kids. 30 kids present from the fraternity. The college, Baruch College, says it had no knowledge at all this was going on. They say they don't sanction events like this, they didn't know it was going on.

I want to read a statement that they gave us. They said, "Baruch College has zero tolerance policy regarding hazing. Michael's death is a deeply painful reminder that no individual should ever be put into a position where his or her personal safety is in jeopardy."

So they've been trying to crack down on stuff like this. They have a zero-tolerance policy. They say they're cooperating with the authorities to try to get to the bottom of what happened there. And if someone is responsible for all of this, and will be held accountable.

BANFIELD: This is tough. If you're a lawyer, I'd be saying, are they squeezing these kids to get to the person who ultimately might have been --


PLEITGEN: That's the thing. Who is the ring leader? Who is responsible for all of is?

BANFIELD: Are all of the kids doing this?

PLEITGEN: Or all they all doing it?

BANFIELD: It was the other guy?


PLEITGEN: Was there peer pressure? There's many, many, fascinating points about this.

BANFIELD: 30 kids.

PLEITGEN: 30 kids.

BANFIELD: It's going to take some time to get to the bottom, if they ever do. That's the hard part, if they ever do.

Fred Pleitgen, great to see you in person.

PLEITGEN: Thank you.

BANFIELD: You're usually so far flung, overseas.

PLEITGEN: Usually, very far away. It's good to be here.

BANFIELD: Thank you for coming and doing the research, too. Appreciate it.

Coming up, a Tennessee Senator, Lamar Alexander, his chief of staff led out of his apartment in handcuffs yesterday. Again, a chief of staff, after a child porn investigation focused on his house. We'll take you live to D.C., outside the district courthouse, try to get to the bottom of what is going on here, next.


BANFIELD: The chief of staff for Senator Lamar Alexander has been arrested on child pornography charges. Jesse Ryan Loskarn was led outside his home in front of the media and, under the jacket, handcuffs, federal agents on either side.

Chris Lawrence is live in Washington with more on this story.

Chris, maybe clear up, for starters, what happened and why this is a post office issue, and I think those federal agents were postal agents taking him out of his home.

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right. They were. Basically, what we saw were postal agents going into the house early yesterday morning, seizing computers, hard drives, several bags of evidence. They also went to the office of Senator Lamar Alexander, of his chief of staff, to look at that computer. Senator Alexander's staff allowed the federal agents to examine that computer. But it seems like this investigation is really centered on his personal effects, the computer, the hard drive, items that he had there at his home.

Basically now, he is no longer the chief of staff. He was basically fired. Lamar Alexander not waiting for an arraignment, much less a conviction in the case, and releasing a statement saying, "I am stunned, surprised and disappointed by what I have learned. The courts will judge Mr. Loskarn's gill or innocence. But under these circumstances, he cannot continue to fulfill his duties as chief of staff."

In a couple hours, we expect Ryan Loskarn will be here at court, where he will be arraigned, likely enter a plea, and set up some sort of bail arrangements -- Ashleigh?

BANFIELD: I know a lot of the material is just coming in to us all, including you. But is this part of a sting? The home is one thing. Here they able to get much material out of his office, the Senator's office?

LAWRENCE: Well, you have to look -- if you look at how a lot of child pornography cases are prosecuted and investigated these days, you don't necessarily have a lot of physical material. Much of it is conducted online. So a simple hard drive may contain, you know, more evidence than any amount of physical evidence that you would have saw, you know, 10, 20 years ago. We think that basically this was centered on his personal computer. That was taken into custody by the investigators.

BANFIELD: Wow. Distressing, no matter how you slice it.

Chris Lawrence, keep us posted on the next developments in this case. Thank you for that.

We are flat out of time. Thanks for watching, everyone.

AROUND THE WORLD with Suzanne Malveaux and Michael Holmes starts right now.


THAMSANQA JANTJIE, FAKE SIGN LANGUAGE INTERPRETER: I've never, ever, in my life have anything that (INAUDIBLE).


SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: Being called a fake. But the sign language interpreter at Nelson Mandela's service says it's not true. You'll hear from him next.

MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: Also, debating cell phones on plane. Soon you may be able to make calls while flying. But do you really want the person next to you chatting on the phone?